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Posts from the ‘Travel Trailer’ Category

Hot Stuff, White Sands, Amazon Goodies, Turning Back the Sun

What a busy and exciting time the past few days have been! After dealing with the furnace issue yesterday morning, I drove to the town of Hatch, just a few miles up the road, to meet my brother-in-law David for breakfast. He lives in Alaska and is visiting friends in the area, so it was a real treat to meet up with him. David and I  had breakfast at a quaint little place called “Hot Stuff” that offered Mexican curios and food. David and I had a lovely visit then he headed north to Santa Fe to meet his friends. Thank you for breakfast David!

Hatch is renowned for its locally grown chile peppers! I poked around the town a bit and visited a few of the chile markets. At Grajeda Farms I met Sergio and purchased a Listra, a string of chiles. The chiles are strung this way so they will dry naturally and last for a very long time. My mother had one that she used for years, occasionally plucking peppers off and tossing them in a pot of beans!  Listra take the shape of a traditional long rope, circles similar to a wreath, or are sometimes fashioned into crosses. I enjoy seeing all the bright peppers hanging together!

I’m fairly close to the Mexican Border here so there are US Customs Checkpoints scattered around the landscape. I have passed through these checkpoints several times in recent days. There are cameras set up and as you approach, these cameras take photos of your license plate so the agents know all about you before you even get to the stop! At one stop, they asked if I was a US Citizen and then waved me on. At another, they just waved me without any questions. My Dad was a US Customs officer and two of my brothers as well. Thank you for your service!

 

Dexter was waiting for me back at Wild Thing and after packing a snack and water we headed down the road to see the White Sands National Monument. It was about an hour drive from the campground, up and over the mountains with breathtaking scenery. Once over the mountains, a vast expanse of the desert floor made it easy to see why missiles are tested here. We drove by the White Sands Missile Range and Museum but didn’t have time to stop on this trip. I’ll save that for when DH is with me!

The White Sands National Monument is a spectacular sight,. As we approached the area I could see white sand dunes with low vegetation very similar to the dunes I’d seen at Cape Cod, but there was no water in sight, this is the middle of the desert! In the Visitors Center I watched a short film and toured the exhibits before heading out to the dunes. A $5.00 fee bought me the 8-mile drive into the dunes area and the ticket is good for 6 days making it quite a bargain.  As we drove, the vegetation became more and more sparse and the dunes became larger and larger. Before long I felt like I had been transported to the Sahara! Dexter absolutely loved this place. He has always enjoyed the sand at the beach but was not thrilled with water, so this place was absolute heaven for him! He also seemed to just love the feel of the sand under his paws…and on his nose! I too thoroughly enjoyed this tour and hope to return again in the future.

On our drive back to the campground, I stopped in Las Cruces to pick up a package of trailer stuff I ordered from Amazon. My Escape Trailer Friends Charlie and Lucy gave me some great advice when I saw them last week. They recommended an electric heater that they use instead of the furnace when they have access to electric power, as a way to save propane. Charlie also told me about a wireless thermostat that makes regulating this little heater very accurate. I placed an order for these items as well as a new water hose and water filter that my friends and fellow Escape owners Fred and Dora recommended. The hose I’ve been using has been a real struggle to wind up if it’s at all cold, so I’m anxious to try this cloth hose. The water filter will help keep my fresh water holding tank clean. I also ordered a 30 amp power extension cord. I don’t want to get caught short again and have to re-hitch to reach the power source.  I placed the order on Amazon with a shipping address of a local UPS Store. The package arrived in just two days and the UPS store didn’t even charge me for the service. Nice!

Lasko 754200 Ceramic Heater with Adjustable Thermostat

Nashone Wireless Thermostat for Heater

Zero-G 5/8″ Water Hose

Camco TastPure Water Filter

Camco 30 Amp Electric Extension Cord

This morning I tidied the camper and truck, then hitched up and moved to site 17…two sites down from where I was. It was worth it to be able to spend an additional night and enjoy the winter solstice program.  I’m going to stay hitched up tonight since I’m leaving tomorrow. This afternoon I enjoyed the “Turning Back the Sun” program sponsored by this state park. I ate buffalo stew (very yummy and spicy!) and pizza and bread baked in a Horno, a traditional adobe oven of the Pueblo People. I watched a presentation by Dr. Jawor about how animals adapt to the changing seasons and light and the Native Dances of the Pueblo People. I attended a presentation about the petroglyphs and the solstice, enjoyed traditional Navajo storytelling around the campfire, then gazed at the stars through powerful telescopes. It was a rich and rewarding day. I hope you enjoy the pictures and videos.  Tomorrow I will move on…somewhere down the road yet to be decided….

 

“Always Sadde Your Own Horse”

“Always Saddle Your Own Horse” is a quote made famous by an original Texas Cowgirl, Connie Reeves, who was still riding her horse every day at age 101! You can read about her life in the NY Times tribute published shortly after her passing in 2003. Connie was just one of the over 200 strong, independent women inducted into the Cowgirl Hall of Fame at the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame in Fort Worth, Texas where I spent several happy hours today! After being greeted by Ingrid Reynolds at the door, I wandered the exhibit halls spread out over two floors of this beautiful museum. Currently on display is a stunning photographic exhibit by Constance Jaeggi entitled “Aspects of Power, Light, and Motion”.  This dynamic body of work captures the beauty and artistry of horses. My snapshots of her photos do not do them justice but will provide you a tiny peek into the exceptional beauty of her photographs. Please visit her website to view quality images of her work.

I took some photos of the costumes, displays, and artifacts in this gorgeous museum to share with you. If you are ever in the area, I would highly recommend a visit!

Ingrid shared with me that there was a horse competition in progress in the arena across the street, the National Cutting Horse Association 2017 World Championships, that was open to the public. I wandered over and was able to capture a few photos and a video to share with you. It was so interesting watching these horses and riders work the cattle to “cut” specific ones from the herd and move the cattle with precision.

There was also a building with vendors to augment the show offering tack, boots, clothing, tractors, hats, blankets, trailers you name it! Anything horse related was there. There was a gigantic trailer to house people and their 3 horses while traveling on the road, complete with a tack room! Wild Thing would have fit in this trailer at least 4 times. You know you are a real Texan when you live with your livestock and your toilet matches your couch…I’ll let the photos speak for themselves!

Dexter was happy to see me when I arrived back at the camper and we took a long walk before I settled in to process the photos. I hope you enjoy this glimpse into the wonders of the west!

National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame, Fort Worth Texas:

(hint: click on photos to start slide show)

Constance Jaeggi Exhibit at the Cowgirl Museum:

NCHA 2017 Competition Fort Worth, Texas:

 

Vendor Wares at the National Cutting Horse Association Competition, Fort Worth Texas

 

Mind the Gap, Central Time, Interstate Convergence

When I awoke this morning I was surrounded by campers in the Walmart parking lot, most of whom had arrived after I went to bed.  This turned out to be quite a popular stop and there must have been 12 trailers as well as assorted vans and cars parked for an overnight stop. Dexter slept until 6 this morning, then burrowed under my blankets for another hour and a half. We were ready to go by 8:15 and had just over 200 miles to go. As I anticipated, traffic was heavy but we had plenty of time. It was still cool, 38F but sunny. Traveling on Interstate 40 West today across Tennessee, the route was hilly and we encountered several gaps along the way, the most notable being Crab Orchard Gap in the Crab Orchard Mountains. It was clear on the road but fog lay on the mountains and traffic was too heavy for me to get any photos, even with voice commands. There were electronic signs posted as I neared Nashville stating that there would be troopers every 20 miles and there were several folks pulled over for speeding. I am staying well within the speed limit with my rig!

Nashville was quite a challenge to navigate. It is one of only 4 cities in the US where six interstate legs converge within the city’s boundaries, I40, I65, and I24.  Five lanes of bumper to bumper traffic made navigation a challenge when the route demanded that I move from the far right lane to the far left lane and back several times. Most of the drivers here are courteous and I simply put my blinker on and waited for someone to let me in. I was happy to come through that gauntlet unscathed and look forward to the open road awaiting me in the southwest.

We arrived at our campsite around lunchtime having gained an hour when we passed into the central time zone. This campground is pretty basic, old and tired, but serviceable and safe. It’s forecast to be 28 tonight so I will not be flushing out the antifreeze just yet. I’m hooked into electric power and that is enough for now. Dexter and I spent several hours outside this afternoon just romping around the park. He found a horse in a pasture that he was itching to wrangle, but the mare was having none of it.

I want to play with the horse!

I had a hot shower, washed up my dishes from last night, and spent some time reorganizing cupboards. That will be an ongoing project. As I settle more and more into the camper, I will re-arrange things into a more logical order. I’m looking forward to a quiet day off the road tomorrow. We’ll hang out here in the Tanbark Campground for the holiday.  I have so much to be thankful for that it will be good to have a day to reflect on that.

Feeling Grateful this Thanksgiving!

 

Day 1, 334 Miles, Dexter Riding Shotgun

The sun has set on the first day of our grand adventure and we are cozied into the WalMart Super Center parking lot in Wilkes Barre, PA.  It was a balmy 55F and raining at 7 AM this morning as I hitched up the camper in Ashland, MA. The experience I gained on the trip home from Chilliwack has all finally meshed and I’m feeling at ease and confident with the procedures. Things went so smoothly in fact, that I had to triple check using my checklists. I thought I must be missing something because it was all just too easy! Dexter was eager to get started and felt right at home in his jump seat in the truck. He has traveled by car to Florida with me twice so he’s an old hand at road trips.

We left at 7:45 AM and headed to the Mass Pike (I90). It was still pouring rain but traffic was light.

I stopped at the first rest stop on the highway just to check inside the trailer to be sure all the cupboards had remained closed and all items were secure. I have never had an issue with this trailer, but I remember my Dad doing this in his trailer whenever he repacked.  I like the peace of mind knowing there isn’t some object flinging itself around inside the trailer as I drive!

The truck is riding a bit lower than before, which is not surprising since I now have all my craft supplies with me! It’s kind of poetic that I parked next to this rig at a rest stop.

I stopped at the Lee, MA rest stop to gas up and it was frigid! The temp had dropped to 34F and there were flurries mixed in with the rain. Granted this was in the Berkshire Mountains, but yikes, I think I’m getting out just in time.

Dexter was very comfortable riding shotgun today. He stayed in his front jump seat for most of the journey today down I90 to I87, then I84 to I81. The temps rose to 45F and the rain stopped an hour before we arrived here in Wilkes Barre, PA. Along I87, I saw two jet black chickens scratching and pecking along the highway embankment. What a crazy sight! There were no houses in sight, so maybe they have escaped captivity and are now free range chickens, or perhaps they just…crossed the road…

A message popped up on the truck today telling me that a brake light has gone out. I’ll need to get that fixed when I unhitch the trailer. It’s nice that the system in the truck can let you know when there are things that need attention! The brake lights are working fine on the camper so I’m still in good shape.

I met a lovely couple as soon as we arrive here for the night. Matt and Adrianne M. took the grand tour of Wild Thing. They are dreaming of a camper of their own and were impressed with the Escape. She is pretty fine and I do love it when folks show an interest. I love meeting new people!

It’s going to be a cold night, down in the low 30’s, but we will keep driving south and soon the temps will rise. Dexter and I are comfortable and warm in our cozy little house on wheels.   I have the lounge area set up so he can snuggle while I work on the post!

I’m  tired tonight after all the excitement of the last few days but so happy to be on the road. I’ll get a good rest tonight and be ready for what awaits tomorrow!

Sorting, Stacking, and Packing

Today was cold and windy, a good day to stay inside and pack! I have been sorting and stacking, auditioning things to take with me. It’s looking like I may be on the road until late next summer so that is influencing what I’m packing.

Clothes are easy: Casual T-Shirts, a few flannel and chambray shirts, sweaters, jackets, knit pants, jeans, and a few shorts.  I’m bringing just a few dressy things for when my DH visits. I’m packing my clothes in the soft-sided cubes used in organizing clothing for suitcases. They are a great help with organization and because they are soft-sided, they will fit nicely in the overhead bins in the bedroom area and make good use of the space.

My dishes arrived from Corelle and I’m very happy with this set. They should wear well and are microwave safe. I opted for a set of 4 and added the medium sized lunch plates, the large soup bowls, and lids for the bowls so they can now double as storage containers! I now have everything I should need for the kitchen.

I am also all set with items for the pantry, bathroom, and bedroom. My trip home in Wild Thing helped me sort out the details of what I needed for those areas.

I have found two things to help me secure items in the bed of the truck. The first is a Covercraft Cargo Bar. This tension bar stretches across the bed of the truck and will help hold my cooler, the clam house, and Dexter’s exercise pen in place and keep them from rolling around.  I also ordered a Core Cargo Sports Bag cargo net that can hold small items in the truck bed. Hopefully, they will arrive before I leave!

Now I’m left with deciding what to bring for art and craft supplies and books. Books are one of my biggest joys in life. My house is filled with them and my camper will most likely be too! I do read some on Kindle and love to listen to novels on Audible, but I’m still happiest when surrounded by paper books. Most of the books I’m bringing are resources on knitting, painting, and writing, field guides, and travel guides.

My process for deciding which books to bring works like this: First I make a pile of all the books I wish I could bring and realize it’s at least twice as large as what will fit in the camper. Next, visit the pile over the course of several days slowly whittling it down to a manageable size. I will place the books I’ve removed from my original pile in a box that my DH can ship if I get desperate!

This process will be repeated for my knitting supplies, quilting supplies, and art supplies. I’m leaving in 8 days so I better get going’!

 

 

Clam House and Winterizing… Winter is Coming!

The ability to switch gears and adapt to changing conditions is a helpful trait to have in general but I’d venture to say it’s an essential one for the RV owner. I originally had a rather easy day planned for today and then I heard the weather report!

The day began as planned, Glen and I set up my new Clam Screen Shelter to be sure it worked as advertised. I ordered the Clam Quick Set Screen Shelter with the intention of using it as a mobile art studio where I can set up a sewing machine or an easel and spend the day creating while I’m on the road. A screen room could also be a good way to keep Dexter safe and contained while I’m creating and allow him room to roam. The Clam is a generous 140″ x 140″ and is lightweight (34 lbs). It folds and stores quite compactly and was easy to set up. Once out of the bag, the 5 sides of the shelter pop out with the tug of a strap on the center hub. Once the sides are out, a simple push up of the center hub pops the top into position. It was very fast to assemble and although Glen was helping me, I could have managed on my own. The only downside to this screen house is that even when disassembled, it is too long to fit in the cab of the truck and will need to be stored in the bed of the truck. When the camper is hitched to the truck bed, the Tonneau cover must be rolled up leaving the truck bed open.  During those times, I’ll need to store it in the center aisle of the camper until I reach my destination and unhitch. I think it’s going to be worth the hassle to store. I’m very pleased with this screen house and I think it will work well as a mobile art studio!

I then spent a few hours at the camper sorting the clothes I took on my maiden voyage and culling out those I found I didn’t need. On my way to meet a friend for lunch, I heard the weather forecast indicating a hard freeze prediction for tonight. Yikes! I had hoped that I would be on the road before the temps got that low. I’d need to switch gears and spend the afternoon winterizing Wild Thing to protect the water lines from damage caused by freezing.

After lunch and a chat with my friend Cheryl,  I drove to Harbor Freight Tools to get the 1-1/16″ socket wrench I needed to remove the Hot Water Heater Anode Plug and drain the water from the hot water heater. While there I found the Pittsburg Portable Inflation Device. I hoped this might work to blow out the water lines. This is a 12v device, so I also purchased a 12v extension cord to help me access the 12v outlet on the exterior of the camper which is located on the opposite side of the camper from the hot water heater. I purchased several gallons of RV/Marine Antifreeze (non-toxic) at Walmart and with these supplies in hand I was ready to winterize.

Winterizing involves draining all water from the camper including the holding tanks (black and gray), the fresh water tank, and the hot water heater. Any residual water must also be removed from the water lines and antifreeze added to the drains to protect the water in the P-traps from freezing.

I had emptied the black and gray tanks before arriving home and had drained the fresh water tank before taking the camper in for service.  To drain the hot water heater, I first bypassed the water heater using the bypass valves located under the dinette bench seat. I was then ready to drain water from the hot water tank by removing the anode plug. When you do this be sure to open the pressure relief valve before removing the anode plug. I failed to do this and it resulted in a rather abrupt spray of water when the anode came loose.  I got quite a bath and likely won’t forget that step again! Once the water has drained from the hot water tank, I applied Teflon tape to the threads on the anode, replace it, and closed the pressure relief valve.

There are two ways to remove water from the lines  One is by blowing the water from the lines then adding RV antifreeze to the drains which will protect the P-traps from freezing.  The second way is to aspirate antifreeze into the water lines to force residual water out and then again adding antifreeze to the drains.

I was hoping that the inflation device I purchased would work to blow the lines clear since this seemed to be a cleaner process and used less antifreeze. Before attempting the blow out procedure, I fitted the freshwater port with my water hose pressure regulator to be sure that the pressure stayed within acceptable limits and an RV blowout plug. The 12v extension cord did not work so I had to find an alternate 12v plug to operate the inflation device. The truck has a 12v outlet but I could not park it close enough to the camper to use it. I was finally able to access a 12v plug inside the camper near the rear dinette by opening the window and removing the screen! With Glen’s help, we were able to use the inflation device to blow out all the water lines.

Each water line must be cleared of both the hot and cold water by turning on first one tap until all the water is out and air flows through the line, then closing that tap and turning on the other to repeat the process. This cycle is repeated for the kitchen sink (hot and cold), bathroom sink (hot and cold), shower head (hot and cold), toilet, and outside shower (hot and cold). Once this was done, I poured RV/Marine Antifreeze (non-toxic) into the kitchen sink drain, the bathroom sink drain, the shower drain, and the toilet to fill the P-traps.  I used one gallon of antifreeze shared between these 4 drains.

Wild Thing is equipped with a winterizing T-Valve that will allow me to use the camper water pump to aspirate RV Antifreeze into the water lines to force the water out. This method would leave the lines full of antifreeze ensuring that they would not freeze, but then to reverse the process, the antifreeze in the lines would need to be flushed out with water. This is not a problem, but I prefer to have the lines blown clear. It just seems a bit simpler. When I’m out of freezing temperatures, I’ll reverse the winterizing process by filling the fresh water tank, taking the hot water heater off bypass, and using the pump to fill the hot water tank and the lines with water again. this process should be simplified since the lines are not full of antifreeze. The small amount of antifreeze in the P-traps will be pushed into the holding tanks as freshwater flows through the system and dumped when I empty the holding tanks.

In light of the change in the weather, I’m adjusting my travel dates by reverting to my original plan to leave on Sunday, November 19th. I’ll enjoy an early Thanksgiving celebration with the boys then get going south so I can settle in before the snows come! Although I hadn’t planned to winterize Wild Thing today, I’m glad it happened so I now have the equipment, knowledge, and experience I need to take care of my camper in cold weather.

4 States to Hickory Hollow

I left Indiana this morning, drove through Ohio, cut across West Virginia, and into Pennsylvania. After leaving the highway near Donegal, PA and winding up through the mountains I find myself in the peaceful pastures of Hickory Hollow Campground in Rockwood, PA. The leaves are beginning to turn on the trees that surround me and it is quiet and restful here. The sun is dipping in and out of the puffy clouds and the rain has finally seemed to have moved on. I’m happy to be in an open grassy campground with a wide pull-through site. I have full hook-ups and a cable connection for two nights and my Passport America Discount is honored so I paid $33.00 for two nights. My kind of place!

Unhitching went smoothly today. I took my time and referred to my checklist. I realize part of my issue with the mishap a few days ago was partly precipitated by the angle of the truck. The back end of the truck was angled up and the nose down, so I should have taken some of the pressure of the hitch off by raising the kingpin of the trailer a bit higher than normal to compensate before driving the truck forward. I’ve made notes on my checklist for next time and the more I do this the easier it is to visualize the process and anticipate how I need to compensate.

I drove 340 miles today, through lots of construction,  and was happy to arrive at my destination about 2:45. It was a full day and I’m ready for a bit of a rest. While unhitching and setting up, my neighbors, Duane and Cheryl, stopped by to say “Hi”. This lovely couple live in the area but enjoy bringing their camper to Hickory Hollow for a weekend get-away! Duane is newly retired and Cheryl is not far behind so they are dreaming of the places they will go. They stopped by later for a tour of Wild Thing and we enjoyed getting to know each other. I just love the community of travelers I am meeting on the road. They shared some wonderful suggestions for places I might enjoy visiting tomorrow.  It’s supposed to be sunny so keep your fingers crossed. This is a spectacular area with mountains, state parks, and lots of country roads to explore.

For now,  I’m off to take a walk around the campground, enjoy a glass of wine and fix an omelet for supper. I plan to go to bed early so I’ll be rested for tomorrow. Adventure Awaits!

Belle, First Big Mistake, and Glamping in the Rain

I guess I was more tired yesterday than I realized. After posting, catching up with DH, and having some supper, I dozed through most of the evening, then I slept straight through the night until 7:15 AM. It was a warm 55F last night and raining, which made for good sleeping weather, even in a WalMart parking lot. Once in my camper, I’m in a world of my own so I can be comfortable anywhere.

I was on the road by 8 AM and drove 270 miles today to Millpoint RV Park in East Peoria, Il. It rained most of the day so I drove a bit slower (60-65) than I had yesterday (65-70) and found that my mileage increased from 12 mpg yesterday to 13 mpg today. I may be on to something!

I drove from Iowa into Illinois and crossed the mighty Mississippi river on my route today.

At the Spoon River Rest Stop, I met a lovely RV couple, John and Shirley, and their sweet dog Belle. They have a place near Seattle, WA and winter near Quartzite, AZ so it’s likely our paths will cross again in the near future! They were interested in seeing Wild Thing so I gave them the grand tour. John said he saw me yesterday driving on the highway and the camper caught his eye so he was glad to run into me and Wild Thing a day later at this rest stop. Trailer folks are so friendly! Belle was so sweet and graciously let me take her picture for the blog!

It was tiring to drive in the constant rain today so I was glad that I was well rested and had planned a short day. Millpoint RV Park sits on Upper Peoria Lake on the Illinois River and I have a shaded pull-through site. I made my first big mistake unhitching today but thankfully, Wild Thing and I are OK.

I haven’t unhitched in a few days so I was trying to be methodical going through the unhitching routine. I put the  X chocks on the wheels and lowered the front landing gear down onto the plastic “lego block” type blocks before opening the hitch lock arm and pulling the truck forward. When I did so, the landing gear slipped off the lego blocks and the landing gear of Wild Thing dropped down 4” to the ground. Yikes,  It was pretty startling, to say the least! The camper did not hit the truck nor was there any damage, but the landing gear feet were now sitting on the soft wet ground and I knew I couldn’t leave them there! I reviewed the routine and realized that I had not locked the hitch arm open with the cotter pin so there must have still been some tension on the locking mechanism of the hitch that caused the issue. Arrrgggghhhh.

After taking a break to think it through, and still my racing heart,  I hitched her back up to the truck, lifted the landing gear (which thankfully were ok), and placed wooden blocks under the landing gear feet (probably a better option in the rain) then lowered the landing gear back down, locked the hitch arm open, and disconnected the truck again. All went without a “hitch” this time! I apparently need a checklist for unhitching as well as hitching although I’m pretty sure I won’t (ever) make that particular mistake again!

I’m so thankful that there was no damage and after talking to my DH, I’m feeling OK. I have tried to be so careful with everything but we are fallible beings, aren’t we? I hate making such a big mistake but I’m hoping by sharing my mishap I’ll help keep someone else from doing the same. I’m sure it won’t be my last error but I’m going to do all I can to keep them to a minimum and hope for small ones in the future. I feel like a new Mom who just dropped her baby on its head! Thankfully, my new baby Wild Thing is strong and resilient and very well built!

I’m now happily “glamping” in my warm and dry Wild Thing as the rain continues outside.  I set up the back bed area to see what that would be like. My dining room table is mounted on a Springfield 3 Stage Pedestal that allows me to leave the table attached to the pedestal and just lower it into position to make the bed.  The lowered table-top is then covered with cushions from the benches and Voila, a second bed.  Adding some extra pillows along the back makes this a comfy “lounge” area. Side tables that flip up on either side give me space for a drink, a book, or my laptop. I’m using the King Jack Antenna to get local digital TV channels (16 here) for free. This is definitely not your Mama’s camping….this is glamorous camping aka Glamping!

 

I do hope the rain lets up tomorrow enough for me to get out and explore a bit. My travel time is dwindling and I’ll be back home in less than a week.

Dudes in Rocks Day

Brrr…it was 27F last night! No snow thankfully but cold! I woke early and snapped a few photos outside the trailer as the sun was washing the hillside behind me with golden light. The light lasted just a few minutes but was beautiful!

I was on my way to Mount Rushmore National Memorial by 7:45 am. The clouds began to clear as I approached the park and I was blessed with brilliant blue sky for my visit to the dudes in the mountain! I watched a short film about the history of the sculptures and followed the President’s Trail around from the observation deck to the bottom of the monument. This gave me several different vantage points from which to view and photograph the sculpture. In some of the photos, you will notice workers on the top of George Washinton’s head. According to the Rangers, they are winterizing the area by adding drainage ports to help direct the water flow. Thank you Hazel for helping me get my victory shot for today! I took many photos of the monument and here are a few of my favorites:

After several hours at Mount Rushmore I drove on to the Crazy Horse Memorial. This beautiful sculpture is still under construction but it was a sight to see. You can read more about it here

This site had a wonderful visitors center, a Native American Museum with many artifacts and Native American Artwork. I know my doll making and quilting friends will enjoy some of these photos! Such artistry!: Leatherwork, beadwork, feather work, sand painting, dollmaking, quiltmaking, and rugmaking. The lighting in the museum made photography a challenge but I wanted to give you a good taste of the beautiful art in this museum.

I drove 4 hours round trip today to visit these sites and enjoyed the local landscape along the route. The Aspen trees are in full fall color and they positively glowed against the green and rocky landscape. Their brilliant yellow leaves fluttered and twinkled in the breeze. I was able to stop frequently for photos on the long straight roads that I traveled today. I snapped a quick photo of more deer grazing beside the road and took a few photos of a unique antique shop in Deadwood!

Tomorrow I’ll hitch up my wagon and head on down the trail toward South Dakota!

Devils Tower and a Mud Bath

It was a chilly 36F and raining most of last night but my camper stayed warm and dry! After a big breakfast this morning, I set out for Devil’s Tower. The clouds were slung low over the hills and the rain continued to fall. As I approached Devil’s Tower, it was mostly obscured by low clouds and I feared I would not get a full look at this massive rock. I stopped frequently along the road leading up to the tower to take photos. At one point a flock of Sand Hill Cranes in a V formation flew right in front of the shrouded hill. Spectacular! Their distinctive cries filled the air. They must be heading for warmer weather!

The closer I got to the tower, the more the clouds lifted but the rain continued. I struggled to keep my Nikon D5200 dry today and finally draped it with a plastic bag I had in the car. I need to get a rain cover for it when I get home. When I arrived at the foot of the tower, the clouds had lifted enough for me to get some photos. I stepped out of the truck in the visitors center parking lot with my cell phone in a chest pocket of my vest and my Nikon in hand, took two steps and hit a patch of slick mud. My feet went out from under me and I pitched forward smacking my elbows and the camera on the pavement, and rattling my teeth! I thought the Nikon was a goner for sure but thankfully it’s a tough piece of equipment and suffered no damage. My cell phone received a small crack in the screen, my elbows were scraped, and I was covered in mud but otherwise OK! The front of my jeans from hip to ankle were caked in mud as was my jacket. Yikes! Well, my pride was hurt more than anything, so after washing up a bit I got back to enjoying the day. Despite the poor weather I managed to get some interesting shots of Devil’s Tower and the surrounding landscape. A nice young man, Andrew, took my photo in front of the monument. Thank you, Andrew! As I walked up the path to the Tower, a man was playing his Native American Flute and I got a few seconds of video. It was so beautiful to hear that flute while gazing at the sacred hill that I didn’t think to turn on the camera until he was almost done…. What a gift! I also captured a few shots of deer today. They are as plentiful here as crows are back home. They graze openly in the fields and stroll across the road unfazed by traffic, but will startle and duck for cover if they hear a vehicle stop (to take a photo!). I did catch one beautiful doe standing right by the road and a couple of bucks in a field using my 300 mm lens. Enjoy the photos!

My mud adventure encouraged me to take care of my laundry this afternoon so that chore is all caught up. 2.00/washer and 1.50/dryer here at Mountain View. This is a nice clean facility with new appliances.

Tonight it’s predicted to freeze (27F) and possibly snow but it should warm up to the mid 40’s during the day tomorrow. I have unhooked the external water hose and will use water from my freshwater tank instead. I also turned on the heat pads to help keep the water system in the trailer from freezing tonight.

Tomorrow I plan to drive to Mt Rushmore which is about 1.5 hours away.  I’m hoping for sun!