Orange Beach, AL, End of February, 2021

Progress

We saw the ortho doc for the last time a week and a half ago, all looked good. He had Susan switch to a soft brace — a laces and velcro sort of thing. She can now walk without the boot, the boot and crutches have been retired to our medical device hall of fame, the walker is mostly on standby duty and a new cane is now the mobility assistance of choice. She saw the PT person twice more as well.

A new soft brace.

Walking with a cane. Cold weather dress explained later.

Across the road the massive piles of concrete rubble have been ground up into even bigger piles of gravel. And every day the tree grinding machines are reducing the piles of hurricane damaged trees into mulch. The mulch piles are bigger than the tree piles. Semi sized trucks have been hauling loads of mulch off to somewhere and barges on the Inter-Coastal Waterway are getting filled with mulch or gravel. Most of the pile of building debris was hauled away but more keeps showing up. The rows of damaged boats are down to just a few. The big crane they were using to move them around has been busy.

When I went by earlier this week there was only one boat left and the crane was gone.

There is still much to repair in this area, every time we drive anywhere we see homes with tarps on the roofs. We checked out two campgrounds out on the road to Ft Morgan, cheaper, older, not as nice, more crowded. And we looked at a piece of property on the Lagoon which clearly had a home on it that had been destroyed and removed.

Heading for Nacogdoches.

The next thing we were going to do was to pack up and go to Nacogdoches in East Texas for some service work. Time to replace the suspension air bags, shock absorbers and the ride height control valves. We had an appointment for Monday Feb 15. It is an easy two day drive over there from Orange Beach, usually.

I am sure you heard about the big polar vortex thing that broke out of its arctic home and came flooding down into the US about the time we were getting ready to leave. On the Gulf Coast we had a couple nights just below freezing but nothing too bad. Then we started hearing about Dallas being below zero, ice storms, massive pile ups. Nacogdoches was in the single digit temperatures, it was snowing, power all across Texas was failing, water supplies in Nacogdoches were shut off.

The Mississippi River Bridge on I 10 was closed due to ice. Just 30 miles north of here there was freezing rain and ice. I 10 goes under the ship channel in Mobile Bay and it had ice on the roadway at the low point.

Everyone we know in Nacogdoches was without water and power, friends stayed overnight in their motorhomes because they could stay warm while their homes got very cold, some suffered frozen water lines and water damage.

This is what our friend’s back yard looked like. It just doesn’t seem right for Texas.

They got out the best of the snow removal equipment they had in Houston.

Needless to say we decided to stay put. Now it is a week later and warmer temps are coming. Power is back on in some places, water too. So we are heading to Nacogdoches in the morning, (2/20), a week later than earlier planned. But it is OK. We are pretty flexible. And our next stop in Fredericksburg, TX had snow yesterday! It is supposed to be spring time and the wild flower season. I guess we will see.

Life goes on. We somehow have no problem getting from one day to the next, always something to do.

We have been playing Skip Bo, a card game with numbers. Susan won 2, I said let’s do best of 3, then 4, then five. She won them all. Best of six? I finally won one. It is entirely luck of random cards turning up. As far as strategy goes, if there is one we haven’t discovered it yet. But of course winning 5 in a row means Susan discovered it and I haven’t.

I have been playing Words With Friends with several friends. I got sucked into this by my sister and have been wasting time, nope, that is, sharing time with others ever since. It is sort of like Scrabble but with a dictionary that makes no sense to a Scrabble player, much different from a Scrabble dictionary. And that is the reference of choice when we play Quiddler so there is always some confusion.

Some neighbors we won’t miss.

Susan has progressed to doing dishes, some cleaning and vacuuming. She is getting around mostly using her cane, even sometimes without it. It is very reassuring to see her progress. We will resume some level of PT in Fredericksburg, walk every day as much as we can and just keep getting better. There is lumberjack work and buckthorn removal to do when we get home. Maybe she will supervise.

More Later, Much Love,

Roger and Susan

Orange Beach, AL January-February, 2021

Our Big Break

Yup, Susan broke a leg bone on Friday 12/11. I picked more pain meds at the pharmacy the next day. Elevate and ice were the orders of the day. No weight bearing. Susan called the ER Room recommended Ortho Doc first thing Monday morning and we got an appointment for 10:30 AM. We had to get a move on to get there but we did. The Ortho Doc is next to the hospital so we sort of knew where we were going. It is a big practice with more than 30 doctors and several offices on both sides of Mobile Bay.

We got in on time, Susan was riding in a wheel chair. They removed the ER applied splint and took more X-rays of her leg. It was still broken, still aligned OK. Dr Eslava took one look and showed us where it was broken on the X-ray picture. He said surgery was going to be needed as well as some support for the tendons and ligaments that hold the ankle together. It was pretty swollen so he said to come back in a week. The splint and cast guy, Scottie, did a very nice job with the same sort of sock and wrapping and a fiberglass splint and more Ace bandage like wrapping. Elevate and ice. We got home and agreed we were comfortable with Dr Eslava and the direction care was going.

A week later the swelling had gone down enough for Dr Eslava to schedule surgery for the following week. A new splint and wrappings were applied. Elevate and ice. No weight.

Surgery

Surgery was scheduled for mid afternoon and then moved up a couple hours so once again we had to get a move on to make the new time. And then we had to wait as things were running late. Pretty soon they called Susan in to get started and then called me in before she went to pre-op. The nurse said they would call me when she went in to surgery, that Dr. Eslava would call when surgery was done and that the recovery room would call when she was awake in post op.

For all of us who have waited during a loved one’s surgery I think the anxiety is common. The nurse called when Susan went in for surgery. The surgery was supposed to take about an hour. Dr Eslava called when they were finishing up, all had gone well. It was another hour before the post op nurse called. The wait made me nervous. Susan was awake, I helped her drink water and eat crackers and take some post-op pain meds, the same we had used after the initial ER visit. Susan was pretty uncomfortable. Her foot and lower leg was splinted in much the same way as before but with much more padding. After a while she was able to get dressed. We gathered her things together, got her discharge instructions, no weight bearing, elevate and ice, a new prescription and another ride in a wheelchair. We got home, Susan crutched her way to the coach, sat down on the steps, backed up one step at a time, up to the passenger’s seat and then into the coach using her crutches.

We had a followup appointment scheduled for two weeks. We had found a dry cover for her wrapped up leg and a shower stool so showers were possible and welcome. We came home from the hospital with two high tech ice packs. They got a pretty good work out over the next several weeks. They go back into the freezer after use and are ready again in just a couple hours.

So ice, elevate, pain meds as needed, no weight bearing and wait.

Looks pretty gruesome on the post op X-rays. The first few days were painful but that eased up pretty quickly. Tylenol during the day, pain meds at night for a few days and then just Tylenol.

Two weeks went by, pretty quickly or slowly depending on who gets asked.

The post op splints and wraps were removed and the nurse washed Susan’s leg. More X-rays. Dr Eslava was pleased with the progress and ordered the stitches removed, a hard cast and a return visit in another two weeks.

A pretty snazzy job by Scottie. This is a water activated fiberglass tape wrapped over the black sock and cotton batting wrap. One white layer and a second of the wearer’s choice. Green. And a classy non-slip boot.

Another two weeks. Getting around was easier, still no weight bearing, but easier.

The Boot

And then, the boot. The green cast was cut off, another leg wash and a boot. A big black thing, lots of velcro straps, extra pads where needed and a pump to increase the compression and fit. The bottom of the boot is curved so it rocks as you walk in it. Some weight bearing was now OK. The Doc said to get a walker and start Physical Therapy. We saw the PT guy, Patrick, that afternoon for an initial evaluation and then the next day. Twice more this week. Susan is now doing some weight bearing, walking without the boot inside (and a crutch for a helper). We walked 1/3 of a mile yesterday with her boot and walker. Yesterday and today Susan went in and out of the coach standing up using one crutch.

Meanwhile

While all of this has been going on I have been gladly doing my part by doing the grocery shopping, laundry, cooking, cleaning, picking up take out on occasion and everything else I can.

We (I) have ordered quite a bit from Amazon as we needed it (or wanted it). It all comes right here to the RV Park.

It took me a few weeks to feel OK leaving Susan on her own for any length of time and then I started out on shorter bike rides. It is almost 8 miles if I do 3 complete loops through the RV park without ever leaving the park. And then I started back to the State Park. Those rides are 8-13 miles and I am doing that about 5 days a week. I am pleased to report knees and hips feel OK.

There are lots of armadillos here.

Quiddler

Quiddler is a card game whose cards have letters and you make words with the letters. All of the cards have a point value and you add up the value of all the cards you used minus the ones you didn’t at the end of each hand. There are bonus points for longest word and most words. You start the game with three cards and each hand gets one more card up to ten. It seems to work well using ZOOM, each site has their own game and an Official Scrabble Dictionary as a reference.

We play once or twice a week with our friends in Ohio, Oregon, Texas or Minnesota. Sometimes just four of us, sometimes as many as eight. We get to play a game, visit, stay in touch, see the dogs and laugh a bunch. We really appreciate the chance to stay connected.

Projects

I had some time and projects I had been thinking about. I added an automated electric valve at the incoming water supply that closes by itself when we are not using water and opens when we are.

I added Alexa enabled assists to lock or unlock the coach, turn on/off front step lights, outside patio light, red chili pepper lights and the awning lights. I also added assists to turn on/off and dim kitchen lights, dining room table lights, each side of the bedroom lights, each side of the bedroom window valence lights and the front and rear living room recessed ceiling lights. We replaced the recessed living room lights with new LED lights. About 2/3 of the original lights had burned out. All of this works in the coach using voice or from anywhere using our phones. Pretty neat.

I replaced the coach water pump, it was making an odd noise as it shut off. The new one had something wrong with it too so it is getting replaced again when we get to Fredericksburg. We are back to the first one now. They didn’t want the replaced pumps back so I am shipping them home.

Puzzles

Susan and I enjoy doing jigsaw puzzles together. It is a quiet, shared passtime.

Visitors

We had visitors while we were here too. My cousin Sue and her husband Lloyd drove over from Panama City, FL. They stayed overnight in a nearby hotel. We had a nice visit, a good take out dinner and breakfast at the Sunliner Diner in Gulf Shores.

Forest and Cindy Olivier came and stayed for a week in their Foretravel in the site next to us. They are from Louisiana and were on their way to Florida. It was nice to see them again. We actually went out for dinner one evening. Cindy made Key Lime pie which was spectacular, Thanks.

Moving On

We have made lots of progress. Next week we see Dr Eslava for the last time and get marching orders for what comes next. We leave for Nacogdoches in a week or so for some service work and dinner at Auntie Pasta’s, maybe twice and to see friends there. And then over to the north end of Houston to see our friends Scott and Carol. And if we can work it in, Rudy and Carolyn and Keith and Jo too. And then we are on to Fredericksburg. We will follow up with PT as directed. We are hopeful we can get our Covid-19 vaccines as well.

We are very thankful and grateful for the support of the RV Park staff, the EMTs, the ER care and Dr Eslava’s team. We could have been anywhere when this happened but here has seemed like it couldn’t have been much better.

More Later, Much Love,

Roger and Susan

Orange Beach AL, December 2020 – January 2021

When we got to Pandion Ridge at the beginning of December it was just over 1/2 full. I guess I expected it to be fuller but it was OK. We had no neighbors on either side of us for most of the month.

Christmas

This was going to be our first Christmas away from home in Minnesota. We are at home where we are in out coach but it was going to be different. Susan has a sister in Minnesota and there are some cousins on my side but that’s about it for Christmas. We usually celebrate with just a few family and friends so with just the two of us it seemed like it was going to be OK.

We had the usual Christmas group (the same folks come for Thanksgiving too) over for an early Thanksgiving dinner in mid November. We wanted it early enough to avoid any Covid-19 surprises. Traditional Thanksgiving dinner, perfect.

We were being really careful. Susan had cataract surgery on one eye in October and the second eye in early November. Covid-19 tested negative for both and we wanted to keep it that way.

We got out the red chili pepper lights for that Christmas feel.

And a very cool hat, just right.

All masked up, a nice wreath and we were set.

We had our favorite campfire DVD playing on the TV and seasonal music too.

And presents under our makeshift tree. We made lasagna for Christmas Eve dinner. And French Toast made with Bailey’s Irish Cream topped with maple syrup and whipped cream for morning breakfast.

We opened gifts, lots of nice additions. We got a National Parks Edition of Monopoly, a pair of new breakfast plates, several new jigsaw puzzles and much more. Thanks!

Best Laid Plans

We had a list of things we wanted to do while in the Mobile area. A ferry ride to Dauphin Island and a day of exploring. A visit to Bellingrath Gardens. A visit to Fairhope and more places to see. And with easy access to the bike trails in Gulf State Park lots of bike riding.

We started out riding in the RV park for a few days and then out into the park.

The trail from the RV park to the paved trails in the State Park crosses a marsh on a boardwalk and then on a sandy path through the woods over a small rise and down to the paved trails.

We rode east to the Powerline Trail, south to the Campground Trail, west through the campground past the campground offices and then north along the Gopher Tortoise Trail. The Gulf Oaks Ridge Trail leads up hill to the east to the highest point in the State Park and then downhill a ways to the Magnolia Trail back to Pandion Ridge. It is about an 8 mile loop.

I was just behind Susan as she slowed to make the turn on to the Magnolia Trail, a transition from pavement to sand where she stalled in the soft sand and I watched her fall over to her left. It seemed to be in slow motion. Her foot was caught under the bike, I thought she had sprained it or maybe worse.

I called the RV park office and they sent Jeff over in an electric cart. If it was just a sprain we could get a ride back. We both looked at her ankle and helped her up to sit on the cart seat. And then we called 911.

It only took about 10 minutes for two ATV like vehicles with four EMTs to arrive. They checked her out, checked blood pressure, got personal info, determined something was broken, administered some pain meds, applied a splint and wrapped it up in swaddling cloth.

The EMTs transferred her to one of their vehicles. I gave her a kiss and promised to see her soon at the South Baldwin Medical Center, about 13 miles north. Off they went. I loaded my bike on Jeff’s cart, a nice couple staying in the RV Park had taken Susan’s s bike back earlier. I never figured out who they were to thank them. The EMTs transferred Susan to a waiting ambulance for a lights and siren ride to the ER.

I grabbed Susan’s purse, my wallet, keys, a hoodie, some water for both of us and left for the hospital. It seemed to take a long time to get there, much longer than any of the subsequent trips but that is just the way the first time always is.

I found Susan in one of two ER evaluations rooms, full of machines, monitors and beeping things. They had her hooked up, drip fluids, more pain meds. The docs had seen her and ordered X-rays. The ER was busy, they rolled some guy in whose head was all wrapped up, bloody, no idea what was going on. Someone was having a heart attack, a car crash, a father was there with his daughter who was in serious distress.

We got moved to a smaller, much simpler room and we waited. We were a ways down on the urgency of the cases that showed up that night. The nurse was in and out checking on us, she gave Susan another dose of pain meds.

The Doc came in with X-ray pictures, Susan’s left tibia (shin bone) was broken about 3 inches above the ankle. It was aligned OK so they put on a sock and cotton batting wraps and a water activated fiberglass material that hardens in just a few minutes down the back of her leg and under the foot and another down one side and back up the other. That all got wrapped in an elastic wrap.

I went to get the car, they brought her out in a wheel chair with a set of crutches and some pain pills for that night and a prescription for more to get filled the next day. She made it into the car with lots of help and after about 8 hours in the ER we left for home in the dark.

We got back to the RV park about 10 PM. Susan was pretty unsteady after the pain meds she had gotten. She got out of the car and into a camp chair, not at all likely she would make it the 40 ft to the coach door even with as much help as I could offer. So I moved the table and everything else out of the way, turned the car around so I was backing up, folded down the bike rack, opened the back hatch and we got her the few feet needed to sit on it and propped her foot up on the tire holder. She held a flashlight and guided me as I backed up to the front door of the coach where we got her over to sitting on the steps. And then backwards “bum scooting” up one step at a time and then sitting on the passenger seat.

I moved the car back to its normal position and helped her get ready for bed, we were both tired. Crutches are not easy to use at first. She didn’t have far to go in the coach but there isn’t a lot of room to maneuver either. But we made it, foot up on pillows, her spare pain pill at the ready, water at the ready. She was asleep in a flash. My head was spinning for a couple hours.

So in one afternoon we had quite an adventure, not one we chose but stuff happens. And now our plans change to fit our new reality, better or worse sort of thing. We are safe and secure.

More later, Much love,

Roger and Susan

Orange Beach, AL Early December 2020

I apologize for being tardy getting our blog posts out. I will catch up.

There are lots of routes that go from Maumelle to Orange Beach. If we chose to stay on the interstate highways all the way it is about 850 miles. For us, three days. The more direct way was about 200 miles less and about 60% interstates, and only two days. We chose that route.

East towards Memphis and around the bottom of the metro area then head south towards Jackson, MS. It seemed like a long way around Jackson to get to US95 SE towards Hattiesburg and on to Mobile, AL. We stopped in Magee, MS at a camp Walmart for the night. That left us less than 4 hours the next day. We called ahead to the Walmart to make sure overnight parking was OK and it was. Most (all) of the 24 hr Walmarts are now closed at 10 and some that used to allow overnight parking now do not. Best to call ahead.

They suggested over on the garden side of the parking lot. When we got there there were no other RVs or trucks. By after supper we were surrounded on all four sides by semi trucks, in some directions two deep. Half of them had refrigerated trailers that run (on and off) all night. Several others left their engines or generators running all night. We thought there was no way we were going to get to sleep. I thought of a friend who was an engineer on an ocean going tug hauling barges up the Pacific Coast into the Columbia River. Those engines run all the time. Well, we crawled into bed and were fast asleep in no time. In the morning there was only one truck left, we never heard any leave.

This route takes us to the west of Mobile and then along I10 along the north side of the bay, through a tunnel under a ship channel and on a very long bridge over Mobile Bay. We passed next to the Battleship Alabama. Over the bay and another 20 miles or so and then south on the Baldwin Beach Expressway and then the Foley Beach Expressway. This leads right to the island where Gulf Shores and Orange Beach are located. You have to go over the Inter-coastal Waterway on high bridges to get to the island. The Expressway Bridge has a small toll. The other way has all of the traffic, stoplights and congestion but no toll.

We are staying at Pandion Ridge RV Resort which is about 1/2 mile west of where the expressway bridge reaches the island.

This area suffered from Hurricane Sally which came ashore right here at Orange Beach. And then only a short while later another Hurricane, Zeta, came ashore here as well. Most of the way down the expressway there were damaged buildings and enormous piles of tree remains and building rubble. The closer we got the more damage we saw.

Just across Canal Road from the RV park and out to the Inter-coastal Waterway there is a large area where they are collecting the rubble. Huge long piles of trees. Giant piles of concrete remains. And massive piles of the remains of buildings, fences. roofs and building materials. Huge trucks arrive all day with more rubble and it gets sorted out and put in the proper piles. And at the same time big machines are loading it into other truck to haul it to disposal sites. The tree piles are getting ground up into mountains of mulch.

Behind the rubble piles are rows of large damaged boats, most will be scrapped. And on the waterway, towboats are moving barges full of fuel, propane and riprap, boulders used for erosion control. The boulders are getting off loaded near the waterway on the other side of the piles of rubble. It is a busy place.

Lots of unhappy boat owners.

We got moved from site 19 to site 17, closer to the lake. Some folks whose home had been damaged were in 19 for several months. They expected to be gone but repairs are, well rarely finished on time.

We moved in. Our bike shelter tent gets set up in front of the coach. Very little damage in the park other than a few smaller trees blown over and several street signs that are no longer vertical.

There is a small lake south of us and a area of large long leaf pines in front of us. This site has a driveway that almost 100 ft long. The site is on the corner of the roadway and along the trees it is more than 80 ft wide. Very generous. Warm on the patio side in the sun.

The beach is a 10 minute drive away. The wide flat white sand beach goes both ways for miles.

In the distance over Susan’s shoulder you can see the robust concrete fishing pier at the Gulf State Park. Last year we walked all the way to the end. And then over the summer they did a $25 million dollar restoration. And then in the fall two hurricanes tore out a big section almost to the end.

There are high rise condos east and west of the State Park, most suffered damage, several are still being repaired.

The island we are on goes 28 miles to the west to Fort Morgan at Mobile Bay and the ferry to Dauphin Island. Near the fort end it is just a couple hundred yards wide on either side of the highway. Almost every home out that way is damaged, very few have been fixed. The cost of everything has skyrocketed, materials and supplies are hard to find, repair crews have all they can do at premium rates. The homeowners wait.

So we are settled in, starting to decorate for Christmas.

We are glad that we are not home where we would have been forced to get out the plow to deal with the snow.

So – More Later, Much Love,

Roger and Susan

Off Again, November 2020

In this time of Covid-19 pandemic with cases soaring, record numbers of people dying and the risks as high as they have ever been, we considered our winter plans (made long ago) with some care, actually lots if it. Can we stay safe? Will there be places we might have to avoid to stay safe? Who are we going to see and are they practicing good behavior? And many more questions.

We had some practice at this last spring starting in early March in New Orleans and Houston and then the rest of March and April in Fredericksburg, TX. We went from hearing about Covid-19 in NOLA to a 90% lockdown in TX by early March. We discovered we could wear masks, we could go to the grocery store in as safe a way as possible at that time. We could get out and walk and ride our bikes. We were as safe and isolated in our coach as we wanted to be. Sure our favorite restaurants were not open but you could get take out. A new batch of food trucks popped up in Fredericksburg with some tasty new choices. The DQ was an essential business and the drive through was open. So life on the road in a scary pandemic time is possible.

Because we would have been stuck pretty much at home all winter – the high school indoor walking track is closed, we are pretty burned out on take out, the roads will be icy and the opportunity for warm outdoors walking and bike riding almost every day was at the end of four days of driving – we decided to go.

And since three months at Pandion Ridge in Orange Beach, AL was only $175 more than twomonths we signed up for three and for the first time we left before the end of the year.

So we are off.

We left for Belton MO just south of Kansas City. It is a drive we have made several times before. We get up and get going and get to a familiar Camp Walmart just about dark. This year was not much different other than being earlier which gave us an extra half hour of daylight. We called the Walmart rather than going in to make sure it was OK to stay and it was. This is the time we start discovering what we forgot. There was a mixup on pillows so my preferred one got left behind. I forgot my favorite wooly socks and Susan forgot her third set of JimJams. We will survive. The next day was sunny and bright, south towards Belle Vista just into Arkansas and then on a new section of I49 that bypasses Bentonville and Fayetteville and some other smaller towns that used to be a pretty slow go. Even so it is a very twisty section of Interstate that requires close attention. More south to Alma then I40 SE towards Little Rock. We crossed the Arkansas River on I430 and then just a few miles north to Maumelle COE (Corp of Engineers) park. 889 miles from Hastings. We have stayed here before as well. A great place to take a day off from driving, flush out the winter water system RV antifreeze, flush out the fresh water tank and take on some fresh water.

We got out for a couple walks. The park was much fuller (Thanksgiving weekend) than we have seen in January. We got to see some of the less desirable light shows that some folks think is necessary.

The rope lights on the ground are to keep animals away. It is a marketing propaganda tool of the rope light manufacturers. And many recent RVs have bright ugly lights on the front that for some reason owners turn on and leave on all night just to annoy every other camper.

We just put down the shades and ignore them. It rained today until early afternoon. We got out for another long walk.

Lots of folks had left. There were still quite a few left. This is a very nice stop. We are off in the morning towards Memphis then south towards Jackson, MS and then SE towards Mobile. We go near but not through Laurel, MS, home of one of Susan’s favorite HGTV programs, “Home Town”. Please do all you can to keep yourselves, your family and friends safe and healthy. More Later, Much Love. Roger and Susan

Roundup, Roundup. Black Hills, September 2020

Every year they have a Buffalo Roundup in Custer State Park in the Black Hills of South Dakota. They really are not buffalo but actually bison. And if not that, the never ending hunt for a young boy named Rocky Raccoon who lived in these hills.

A year ago in September, 2019, Susan and I were at a Foretravel Motorcade Club Chapter event in the Black Hills at the Hart Ranch RV Resort.

See Summer Projects, 2019 Part 6, 7 and 8.

https://home2rv.com/2020/01/26/summer-projects-2019-part-8/

We made reservations with Ted and Karen while sitting in a burger joint in Custer for September 13-27, 2020 for the Game Lodge Campground in Custer State Park, SD so that we could go see the Roundup. The burgers were good.

Ted and I talked at length about posting our plan on the ForeForums website and in the end we did. Within a couple days nine coaches had signed up to also attend. No planning, no organization, just show up and play. There were coaches comi ng from North Carolina, Virginia, California, Texas and more.

Best Laid Plans

Ted and Karen decided they were going to sell their coach after 13 years full timing ao that they could be closer to their grand kids while they were young (the grand kids) in Ohio. They thought they would get a small travel trailer and still makeit to South Dakota.

Then Covid-19 arrived. Ted and Karen had not bought a trailer yet and decided that had to wait so they backed out. And then more folks started dropping out right up until the last minute. A few more found some time to fill in.

In the end Susan and I were there for the original time. Ed and Debby Wittleder used the first four of Ted and Karen’s Days. Joe and Dottie Allen stayed at a different campground and came to visit, Keith and Jo Newlin drove from Texas leaving Thursday at 2:30 PM and arriving the next day about 8 PM and used 9 of Ted and Karen’s days. 21 hours of driving time in 30 hours. Frank and Connie Willams came for four days from Nebraska, Mark and Bev Cooper came for a week from Colorado.

We were all doing our best to wear masks and practice social distancing as best we could. ‘ We kept meals to ourselves, d rove in our own cars and made the best of it.

Camping World

Ed and Debbie wanted to go to Camping World because they had a new grill on hold there. It is at the far north end of the Black Hills, a long drive. And then we came back down the Spearfish Canyon for the town of Savoy and had lunch at The Latch String Restaurant, I had a great buffalo (bison) stew. We were gone all day .

Burgers

Before Ed and Debby had to leave for Colorado Springs we drove about 12 miles to Custer for a burger at the Burger and Bun. We got there after one and got our name on the list. When they sent us a text to say our table was ready it was past 2, the sign on the door said Closed but they let us in, several tables were empty and we had a great lunch. There was no hurry we just enjoyed it.

So much so we went back with Keith and Jo for Keith’s 60th Birthday. This time we got in before closing and felt a bit uncomfortable. Very few masks anywhere. But we enjoyed our lunch. Keith had a buffalo (bison) burger. We stopped at the local grocery store and got a chocolate cake mix, white frosting and ice cream. On the way home we stopped to get an LP tank filled.

Later that afternoon Susan baked a two layer chocolate cake with white frosting for Keith. We put six candles on it and ate it while sitting around the camp fire (propane fire pit) that evening.

Fishing

In the morning of the day Keith and Jo arrived I got out all of my fishing gear and went up the Grace Coolidge Creek into the Grace Coolidge Walk-In fishing area. The stream runs down a canyon for about three miles and there are five small dams built in the 1930s by CCC workers to make small pools. The stream is stocked with trout each year.

I walked up the trail which was more like a rugged road to try my luck at each of the first three pools. It was good that the trail was well defined because there was poison ivy everywhere. It was easy to spot as its leaves had started to turn bright red. Danger! Danger!

I tried for three hours, no fish. My technique is OK I think, just the wrong bait.

More Fishing

A couple days after Keith and Jo arrived we had a day off. They had driven to Sturgis the day before and they needed it.

The campground host had driven by and talked to Keith about fishing in the ponds in the campground. These were all part of the Grace Coolidge Stream. He suggested some yellow/green/orange powerbait baits, He gave us some to try. They were like firm foam balls about 3/8″ in diameter.

It turns out there are different sizes, shapes and flavors for all sorts of fish. What happened to worms?

So we put on a #4 barbless hook on the line and a small weight about 18″ from the hook. Keith started out with a slip bobber. I just cast the line out and slowly reeled it back in.

I started out right along the dam. My second cast and a bite! I reeled it in, a gorgeous rainbow trout, about 9 inches long. Good thing I had a proper fishing net.

Pretty amazing. And in just five minutes I had another. Keith moved over to the next pool. He caught five, returned two to the pond. We had fresh troug for lunch.

Wildlife Loop

There is a Wildlife Loop drive around the south end of the park.

It runs from the Game Lodge Campground on the east side to the Blue Bell Entrance. The south part of the park is more open grass land and the 18 mile drive gives most drivers a chance to see wildlife, thus the name. We drove it a couple times and didn’t see much. I think the bison were all back in the small valleys and hidden areas getting ready for the Roundup.

There are unpaved roads that cross from one side of the wildlife loop to the other. We followed the Fisherman Flats Road as far as it went. It really wasn’t flat at all at the end, just at a high parking area above the French Creek valley.

We did see a prong horn antelope.

And deer.

And. Bison or two.

We backtracked a bit and followed the Swint Road to the North Lame Johnny Road to the French Creek Horse Camp.

When we crossed the French Creek we were met by fishing people.

That might be a good place to try for more fish. There were lots of horse trailers and horses in the campground. Lots here for the roundup.

On the way back toward Legion lake we came across another bison directing traffic.

He caused quite a stir and a bit of a backup.

Roundup

In order to see the Buffalo (bison) roundup we got up at 4:30 AM and left for the Buffalo Corrals at the south end of the Wildlife Loop. There are two viewing areas, a north side and a south side. They were really east and west of the Red Valley Road and south of the Wildlife Loop road. We drove in the Wildlife loop from the Game Lodge Campground loop. Only a few minutes and we caught up to the traffic.

The line of cars wound along the loop to a parking area and then we walked to a hillside where hundreds of people were already set up for the three hour wait.

We were masked up unlike most of the others who were buying into the maskless madness that seemed to infect South Dakota.

There was a big tent where you could get a pancake breakfast, two pale looking pancakes with a couple of sausages, $10. We passed. Long sleeved T shirts too, $36. We passed.

The sun was up.

And bison came over the far hills.

And down through the tree line.

The horse riders and pickup truck drivers moved them north into the sorting corrals.

Once there they drank water, ate grass and calmed down for an hour or two. Then the sorting began. Before that the exodus got going in earnest.

It took 30 minutes to get from where we parked to the Wildlife Loop road. Then another 30 minutes back to the campground. Then a nap.

If we had it to do over we would leave a couple hours later. It wouldn’t make much difference where we got to sit to watch the round up and the car would be much closer to the exit to get out.

There were many fewer bison than we expected. The herd size in the park was reported at about 1600 and they wanted to get it down to about 900. All that we talked to who were there estimated the roundup herd at maybe 400. Not sure where the rest of them were.

Time to go

Keith and Jo were up and ready to leave at 5 AM on Sunday. He discovered a leak in one of his slide seal bladders. Some duct tape was sufficient to get the slide in for the trip home. They drove more than 12 hours on Sunday.

We left at a much more reasonable 9 AM and drove about 7 hours. We changed time zones and lost an hour. We stayed in a small community campground overnight. Next day we stopped in Albert Lea for fuel and got home by 2 PM.

Keith and Joe got home just an hour or two after we did and they drove twice as many miles.

And like every time we get home there is the moving out and in. We had to get the coach ready to wait for a while until we leave again, get some service done, winterize the water systems.

And life at home resumes in a time of pandemic.

We are doing well, staying safe as best we can, stocking up for the next wave,

We hope you all are doing well too.

More Later, Much Love.

Roger and Susan

The Tetons, September 2020, Part 3

We really enjoyed our time at Gros Ventre, we have been there a couple times now and would go back.

We did check on reservations for next year in the Colter Bay RV park. The entire 2021 season is already sold out. The demand is very high.

For this year we do have another week at the Colter Bay RV park and that is where we are heading, just 40 miles or so away.

They put us in Row D towards the lake end. This row is just over the ridge in the middle of the park and we were surprised to get a cell phone signal, not great but sufficient to stream TV on occasion. Other times, even sending a text message was hard. I have no idea where it was coming from but at times demand was high and service minimal.

Snow

Most of these days were in the high 60s and low 70s. There was a cold front that came through and brought with it high wind warnings. 60 mph winds were expected, below freezing temps and snow was possible. Park folks came through and let campers know to secure their awnings and equipment. We put up the big patio awning but left the smaller ones down. They have never been a problem in the wind. I didn’t consider snow.

It got down to the upper 20s that night and the next. We were warm and cozy. There really wasn’t much wind at all. I turned on the porch light and opened the door about nine to check out side and much to my surprise it was snowing.

Sort of a yellow tint from the porch light, maybe an inch. I retreated to where it was warm, turned off the light and went back to another good book.

In the morning the sun was out, it was about 30 degrees. I grabbed my camera and a warm jacket and went out into a gorgeous winter scene.

The small awnings were covered with snow. This day was supposed to get into the upper 40s so melting was already under way in the warm sun.

I walked down towards the lake.

The mountains were covered in fresh snow.

The highest peaks of the Grand Tetons were trailing the last of the clouds.

Up in the marina the boats were covered with snow as well. It was very quiet as it is at home when we get fresh snow. Most had not ventured out yet, almost no other people or cars.

Susan got all bundled up in her Lake Superior gear for a walk later in the morning. Me too and we went for a walk.

It doesn’t get much better than this.

Fishing

I got two more one day fishing tags. They send them to your phone, no paper. I thought I would try on the Snake River again closer to the dam.

When I got there a fellow was across the river fly fishing. Only a few minutes later he had a pretty good sized trout on his line and spent a good bit of time bringing it in and netting his catch.

There was smoke in the air from fires in California, Oregon and Idaho. We have not seen it like this before but it only lasted a day and a half.

I was encouraged. The fish were not. When my arm got tired from casting we gave up.

We tried fishing another day further down the river at Dead Man’s Bar.

This sign says it all,about the drive down to the river.

It is a popular fishing spot and launch point for float trips and fishing boats going down to Moose Junction. It is listed as a section of the river for boaters, kayakers and rafters with considerable experience. I talked to a pair pf Park Rangers setting off who told me that at this time of the year it was a good time to learn. In June and July the flow is much higher and the section of the river was much more challenging.

Likely someone will get wet.

Lots of two and three person dory boats like this, one rows and gets paid, the others fish and pay. Several hundred bucks for a half day.

These guys seemed to know what they were doing.

It looked promising. I caught a very nice stick, a couple rocks, lost one lure and was further humbled by the fish and the skills yet to learn.

Susan waited patiently while I tried desperately to prove myself worthy of a fish. They were in their schools, distance learning, laughing.

I am determined to try again if for no other reason than the pleasure of being outside. Well, there is a limit to that, the sound of the rushing water has a certain effect that becomes hard to ignore after a couple hours.

Pacific Creek

There are two high mountain lakes on the eastern side of the National Park, Two Ocean Lake and Emma Matilda Lake. You get there by following a dirt road several miles up into the mountains to a small parking area. There is a picnic area, trailheads leading every which way and a rugged path down to Two Ocean Lake to launch a canoe or kayak. No motors allowed.

Two Ocean Lake is named because it is on the Continental Divide. Pacific Creek flows out the southern end and down towards the Snake River which eventually gets to the Columbia River and then to the Pacific Ocean. It wasn’t clear where the outlet on the other end of the lake went.

It was a nice ride up. Trails go around this lake and over to Emma Matilda Lake and up to a high overlook a couple thousand feet above the lake level. Just around Two Ocean lake the Moderate to Difficult rated trail was almost 30 miles. Back country permits required for overnight camping. And bear spray too.

The lakes and Pilgrim Creek are supposed to be good for fishing. The creek maybe more so in the earlier season.

Pilgrim Creek

Pilgrim Creek comes out of the Bridger Teton National Forest from the east and flows into the Snake River downstream of the Dam. We cross it every trip going south and see the gravel road heading off to points unknown. Where the highway crosses the gravel wash of the Pilgrim Creek is the only place we think we have seen a bear in the Tetons.

Points unknown no longer, off we went following the Pilgrim Creek road. It was maybe three miles to the Park boundary. Several turn offs, not much that looked very fishable at this time. There was a cabin at the end of the road, probably in the National Forest and two large steel structures maybe 20 ft high. The sign said to hang game animal at least 10 ft above the ground. So this was likely bear country, big bears who could almost reach 10 ft. And if you are hanging game from these would not that just attract anything interested any way?

I have never been a hunter, not at all likely I ever will be.

So we explored and saw Pilgrim Creek Road.

Lakeside Trail

One of the really nice parts about the Colter Bay area are the number of trails to walk on without having to drive anywhere. One is the Lakeside Trail which has two parts. One is about 2 miles and the other add another two miles. These trails go out along the side of Colter Bay and around the point.

You can cross a gravel bar to another island and continue on. The island loop adds a couple miles but gets you up into the woods and out further into the lake. We brought our bear spray but all we saw were deer. There was still snow in the woods.

This walk was full of amazing smells. Normally the warm dry pine smell is dominant. On this trail it was mingled with wet earthy smells. Quite a contrast. At the lake end of the island there are several small beaches and new views across Jackson Lake to the mountains.

From some of these perspectives it is easy to see the deep glacial valleys. This is one of the few places on the planet where mountains and lakes were formed in this way. The mountains literally rise up right out of the lake.

Near the end of the trail as it headed back towards the beach on Jackson Lake on this same hike 5 years ago we came across a decaying stump covered in brightly colored mosses. It is worth anothers look.

It is now long gone. Look carefully, there are so many things that are only in that moment,

Packing Up

This week went by fast. We are heading next to Custer State Park in the Black Hills. We did laundry, emptied our waste tanks, added enough water to get to Sundance, WY, our last stop before Custer where we emptied the waste tanks again and filled fresh water to 98% of capacity. We are going to be in The Game Lodge Campground in Custer State Park for two weeks. Electric only. So the challenge will be to last the whole time with what we have so we don’t have to move. We have done it before, it takes some care.

We are sorry to leave, we like it here.

More Later, Much Love,

Roger and Susan

The Tetons, August 2020, Part 2.

A Week at Gros Ventre Campground

We left Colter Bay by shortly after 9 AM on our way to Gros Ventre Campground at the southern end of Grand Teton National Park. Our water tank was full and waste tanks empty in preparation for a week of dry camping. That means no electrical, water or waste hookups.

We have stayed at Gros Ventre before. It is along the Gros Ventre River in a much more open, sage brush area with cottonwood trees along the river. We arrived at about 10 AM and there was no one in line! We asked for an open sunny site as we wanted to try to operate for an entire week on solar power only, no land line and no generator. At first we thought we might have to wait for a site but they found one that would work. We finished up the paper work and beaded down to the B loop. $17 per night for those with a Geezer Pass.

We had plenty of room. Sun from morning until later in the afternoon when a tree in the next site over started to shade our solar panels. It was a short walk to the tree line behind us to the Gros Ventre River.

The river varies from fairly wide in places to several narrow flows through the rocky bed. In the spring it must be quite big but towards the end of the summer it is more rocks than river.

The campground extends for more than a half mile along the river. There are bear in the area so each site has a bear proof box in which to store food and cooking things. One loop is for groups. One big loop of the campground is tents only. At least three loops are no generators allowed. Many of these were occupied by tents and smaller campers. One loop has electrical hookups for anyone who wants to pay extra for them. And the remainder is a mix of camping units, most with generators either built in to them or outside units.

It is a big campground and one of few that often doesn’t fill up every day.

Every day we walked or rode our bikes through the campground, some times both. It was not hard to get to three miles just walking. More if we rode our bikes.

Jackson

We went into Jackson (the city is named Jackson, not jackson Hole) to do some grocery shopping and discovered the Framers’ Market was open . It was in the main square in town and parking was a challenge but we found a spot. We found apples, peaches, blueberries, a cucumber and tomatoes. When we find Farmers’ Markets we like to shop for local stuff. I am pretty sure none of the fruit was local and maybe little of the vegetables either. Jackson Hole (as the valley is called) has a growing season of just over 90 days.

We put our purchases in the cooler in the car and walked back to Cafe Genevieve to have lunch. We got a nice outside table right away and a wonderful lunch. They make their own corned beef so a Rueben sandwich seemed appropriate to me. Honestly it was one of the best I have ever had. And it was huge. Susan ate part of it along with her beet salad with goat cheese and nuts.

We returned later in the week for another meal to celebrate our 45th anniversary of committed likey-likey. (1)

Then off to the Albertson’s for a week’s worth of supplies. Prices were higher than expected but not too bad compared to West Yellowstone. But in general everything is more expensive here because it can be. The average home price in the Jackson area is $1.5 million. If you want something with enough grass to mow, double that.

Apples, fruit, milk, oatmeal, bread, tortillas, vegetables, hamburger and ground turkey. Somehow the cart filled. There are no plastic bags when you check out and you have to pay for paper so it is a good thing we bring our own reusable bags.

Jackson is a busy town. Lots of activity and lots of people. The main street is crammed with shops mainly catering to tourists, some high end jewelry stores, a few real estate offices and lots of places to eat and drink. Like so many of the old west towns it has morphed from the old days of ranch stores and the feed and grain supply to feeding and supplying tourists.

A Dinner with Friends.

We met Dave Katsuki and Nancy Elkins for dinner on a Sunday evening at their coach at the National Elk Refuge. They are Foretravel owners who volunteer at the National Elk Refuge just south of the Grand Teton National Park. It is there because Jackson grew up where the elk used to migrate every winter. So now there is a huge area for them to congregate, not enough food so they get fed. Bison, big horn sheep, birds, antelope and many more species show up as well.

It was a bring our own dinner sort of thing. We brought food, bowls, utensils, napkins and drinks. We had a nice time visiting and sharing time together.

For more information on the National Elk Refuge please see

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Elk_Refuge

Fishing

While we were in Jackson I stopped at a couple of fishing shops looking for advice. Most seemed to think the Gros Ventre river this time of year would not be fruitful. They suggested closer to the dam might work. So I decided to wait a week to try fishing again.

String Lake

String Lake is just north of Jenny Lake. It is a glacial lake at the base of the mountains. They are hidden from view by the moraines pushed ahead of the glaciers as they came down the face of the Tetons. Jenny Lake is the popular one, everyone goes there. The parking lots are full by 9 AM and people park along the side of the highway for nearly a mile in either direction. We stayed in the Jenny Lake campground in 1980 in our camper. Now it is tents only and fills early every day.

In non-pandemic times there is a ferry boat that takes folks across the lake to several day hike trail heads. You can take the ferry back or walk back around the southern end of the lake, about 2 miles. The ferry boats leave both sides of the lake every 15 minutes for the 7-8 minute ride, disembark, load, go again all day long. Usually the line for the ferry boat – after you buy your ticket ($18 round trip, $10 one way) – is about a half hour wait. Crowded with lots of people. Many day visitors from Jackson.

But the next lake north is String Lake, there is a boat launch for kayaks and canoes, trailheads for hiking and quiet picnic areas. The parking areas can get full but 10 to 15 minutes away is too far for the Jenny Lake crowd. We drove there bypassing Jenny Lake, parked, walked along the lake to a bench along the trail and had a picnic lunch.

We have been here before, a much more relaxing place than Jenny Lake.

Laurence Rockefeller Preserve, Phelps Lake

The Laurence Rockefeller Preserve is in the SW corner of Grand Teton National Park on the Moose Wilson Road heading SW from the main Park Visitor’s Center. It is well worth your time to stop at this Visitor’s Center. The Moose Wilson road is narrow and twisty, no RVs or trailers. In some places it is even more narrow. The Death Canyon Trailhead is about half way to the Rockefeller Preserve. Someday I want to drive up there.

Once you get to the Preserve there is very limited parking. You can turn around and leave or wait for a spot. There is actually a parking person. There so no cheating. It is worth the wait.

The Visitor’s Center is more of a library and research center. The displays are there to inspire thought about the wonders of the park and the natural world. We really enjoyed the peaceful quiet and contemplative feel to the Center. Due to the Pandemic it is not open. But the trail heads to Phelps Lake are open. There are several ways to get to the lake, the Creek Side Trail and the Woodland Trail are pretty direct.

The Rockefeller Family quietly bought up large tracts of land in the valley and surrounding mountains. Most of it was eventually donated to the Grand Teton Park as it was in the process of being formed. The area around Phelps Lake was a favorite family retreat, there were cabins on the lake and other structures that made it an isolated and private place for them to come. Laurence was the last holder of this property and passed it on to be part of the park confirming his love for the land, nature and our part in it. The cabins are gone, the lake shore restored, the Visitor’s Center now awaits people, a few at a time, slowly, to absorb what is here.

We took the Woodland Trail to Phelps Lake. It was about 2 miles.

There is a trail all around the lake, about 30 miles. You need a back country permit to camp. We saw very few other people on this hike, very nice. I am sure there are fish here.

We returned along the Creek Side Trail. It was more hilly and lots more rocks and roots to be careful not to trip on.

Solar Power

One of the goals for our week at Gros Ventre was to test out our solar power generation, lithium battery storage capacity and how that balanced with our use. We had no electrical hookup in Gros Ventre and while we have significant generator capacity we wanted to not use it.

Bottom line – success. We had temperatures in the 30s every night except for two in the 20s on either side of a day that only just barely broke 50° and rained most of the day. Not much solar production that day but every other day saw more production than we used. By the end of the week we had not quite made up for the lost day but were getting there. I am thinking maybe we need a couple more panels. But if we were in the sun all week we would have had plenty. But that doesn’t always happen and those mid-winter days are when it would be nice to have the extra capacity.

We are pretty much self contained and independent. If we are careful we can go for two weeks with our water capacity and waste holding tank capacity. Sooner or later we need to empty those, get more water and supplies.

A week with no land line and no generator in a motorhome is a significant accomplishment. Some self patting on the back, I know, but this feels really good.

We are heading back to Colter Bay to the RV Campground for another week.

There are so many amazing places to visit. And we are blessed to be able to return to some of the more special ones more than once and stay longer and enjoy them even more.

More Later, Much Love

Roger and Susan

(1) Jane and the Dragon

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jane_and_the_Dragon_(TV_series)#Awards_and_nominations

The Tetons, August 2020, Part 1

We left West Yellowstone and entered Yellowstone National Park heading for Colter Bay, it was going to be an easy 80 mile drive. We headed east to Madison Junction and then south towards Old Faithful. When we got to Old Faithful the road was blocked and signs said Road Closed due to Wild Fire. A lightning strike started a fire west of the road between Old Faithful and the West Thumb of Yellowstone Lake. We immediately thought of a long detour through Idaho but the rest of the southern Grand Loop was open. So back to Madison Junction and then Norris. Going clockwise to Canyon Village then south to Fishing Bridge and along Yellowstone Lake to the West Thumb Junction and south to Grant Junction. It was an 80 mile detour through some nice scenery. Surprisingly the traffic was only congested in a few locations. And we saved going over the continental divide twice going this way. Then south towards the South Entrance of Yellowstone Park and into the John D. Rockefeller Memorial Parkway. Twenty seven miles to Grand Teton National Park.

Grand Teton National Park starts near the north end of Jackson Lake where the Snake River enters the lake. The Snake River begins in Yellowstone and is joined by the Lewis River. Together they flow south through the Rockefeller Memorial Parkway cutting some amazing deep canyons. The road generally follows the Snake River to where it heads off to Jackson Lake and the highway enters Teton National Park.

Jackson Lake is about 15 miles long and 7 miles wide. At 6700 ft elevation it is one of the largest high altitude lakes in the US. It is a natural lake which was made bigger by a dam in 1911. The dam was enlarged in 1916 and completely rebuilt in 1989. Part of the lake water is used by farmers in Idaho under water rights legislation that preceeded the park. The Snake River exits the lake at the dam near Signal Mountain Lodge.

Colter Bay Village

About half way down Jackson Lake you get to Colter Bay Village, our first destination. The Village has a gas station, a campground, an RV Park, a gift shop and grocery store, a laundry (the first laundry in any National Park), a Visitor’s Center, a marina, rustic historic log cabins and even more rustic tent cabins. You can even sign up to go on a horse back ride, a guided fishing activity or a river rafting adventure.

At the marina there are docks and moorings for private power boats and sail boats. You can get what you might need in the marina store including fishing tackle and fishing licenses. You can rent a kayak or a canoe or a small motor boat. You can get tickets for a mid-day narrated boat tour or a cruise for breakfast or dinner on Elk Island. You can bring your own boat, there is a nice boat launch.

The Visitor’s Center has orientation and history movies, Park Rangers dispensing information, a back country permit window and a nice book shop. They also have an area where Native American artists show and sell their work.

The grocery store is pretty well stocked with just about anything you might want. The ice cream counter always had a line. You can get your favorite adult beverages too. It wasn’t cheap, a bag of Starbucks coffee that we rarely pay more than $6 for at home was $15.99. And Bear Spray for the exorbitant price of $49. You cannot return it and you cannot take it home with you on the airplane. But for any hiking on trails it is a must have accessory hanging on your belt.

The laundry is the first of its kind in any National Park. Surprisingly not too over priced and quite convenient. There were also pay showers there too. $5 or a group of up to 5 for $15. I suspect that was for a family not just 5 of your best friends. You could even rent a towel and buy a bar of soap and some shampoo.

There is WiFi available outside the grocery and laundry. There is very limited cell phone service in this area but in some places it works.

The gift shop is quite nice, we bought nothing, but it does have a wide range of memorabilia, clothes, fishing gear and camping supplies. We looked but didn’t see anything that we just had to have. The last time we were here it was in the last week or ten days before everything closed for the season and most of the things you just had to have were half off. Who can resist a bargain.

And there are two restaurants, one is more of a cafeteria/fast food style and the other is a sit down order from a menu sort of place. The sit down place is probably a better value for what you get. We have eaten at both places and think it is better.

The historic rustic cabins are smaller log cabins with a bathroom. They come in a variety of sizes depending on how many people there are. As far as we could tell there is no cooking facilities or refrigerators. There is no TV, no Phone, no coffee maker nor WiFi. Like a motel, someone comes in every day to cleanup after you.

There are even more rustic tent cabins to rent. 66 of them. They have a nice wood burning stove inside and bunk beds. There is an outdoor fire pit and a place for your cooler and cook stove. They also have bear proof food enclosures to store everything while not in use.

Each has a broom for you to cleanup after yourself.

If you like great pizza, the Leeks Marina about a mile north up the lake has just what you want. It is not over priced and rates very high on the great pizza scale. Beer too.

If hiking is what you want then there are several trail heads starting in the village and give you choices of maybe 20 miles of trails to hike. We have been on all of them. None are too hard but you are at nearly 7,000 ft and those first few days you think you might need some oxygen. And yes, they sell bottled oxygen in the grocery store. After a few days you get used to the altitude and just pant like a dog after twenty steps.

The National Park campground has 330 sites at Colter Bay. They can accommodate everything from tents to a motorhome bigger than ours. There are about 20 sites with electric hookups. It is first come, first served. No reservations. It fills up most days by mid afternoon. Every morning by 9 or 10 there is a line of campers waiting to get in. Sites have a bear proof food storage box and a fire pit. Water is available nearby.

The RV park is a reservation only park with about 110 full hook up sites. This year all sites were sold out for the entire season by mid January. The sites are generous by RV park standards and in a well shaded forest of lodge pole pines. From most sites it is a very short walk (a couple hundred yards) to the swimming beach on Jackson Lake. It is called a swimming beach because people go swimming there. Rocks replace sand as the beach part. Some parts of the RV park have a cell phone signal and others do not. And it can be OK for part of the day and poor most of the day. We never did figure out where the cell phone signal comes from.

They are in the process of running fiber optic cable from one end of the park to the other. When it is done there should be good or better cell phone access almost everywhere. We can’t even get that at home.

That’s Colter Bay Village in a nutshell. This is the fourth time we have been here and it is a favorite.

The Village in a Time of Pandemic

So most of everything is open. One restaurant is closed, the other is carry out only. Sadly, Leeks Pizza is closed for the season. The Marina store is closed but you can still rent a kayak or canoe but no motor boats. No lake cruises. There are very limited Park Ranger activities. Most things are open and visitor counts are up 20% from last year. Even still Colter Bay never seems too busy.

Masks were required everywhere. And people were very good about it. They are from all over the country, not everywhere has the same rules but here they had people checking on masks and counting the number of people in and out. There was a maximum number inside and occasionally we had to wait for a minute or two for someone to exit.

We were here for five days. Then down to Gros Ventre campground for a week and then came back here for another week. We started with two nights reserved on our return trip from BC but when that got canceled we quickly started to try to add more time.

Signal Mountain

We drove down to Signal Mountain Lodge to get a fishing license. This is the only place in the park to get one face to face. Once you are in the Wyoming system it is easier to get one on line but wifi at Colter Bay made that tough. The Signal Mountain Lodge and its dining room are closed other than to check people into the campground and to sell fishing licenses. The two gift shops were open, what did you expect?

We drove up to the top of Signal Mountain, a narrow winding road that says “No RVs”. No matter at the top was one of those Cruise America RVs taking up half of the parking spaces and a good portion of the road. A bit further on to the summit there is more parking and great views in almost every direction. And a small forest of antennae for the Park Service and cell phones. Four bars here.

I need a haircut.

Fishing, First Try

You need a license to fish and the Wyoming State Fishing Licenses are good for one specific day or five consecutive days or all year. If you were here long enough to fish for 7 days it is cost effective to buy an annual tag. Since I had no idea when or where I was going to try fishing I bought a one day tag. I packed up my gear and we drove down to an access point on the Snake River about 1/4 mile below the dam. It looked good to me. Some swirling water on a curve in the river with calm areas at the edge of the current.

The people in the boat caught a fish.

As did the wading people.

My entire stream fishing knowledge comes from watching Mr. Foyle fly fishing on a pastoral stretch of stream in Hastings on the southern coast of England during WWII. (Please watch “Foyle’s War”, a Masterpiece Mystery Series from some years back. It is worth your time.) He always wore some cumbersome looking rubber waders, a shirt and tie, a vest and a Fedora. He had all the trappings of a true fisherman or so it seemed. I had my prized net, a Walmart plastic bag at the ready, a small scissors, and a plastic box with snap swivels and three lures that the guy in Minnesota assured me would work in Wyoming.

Susan brought a chair to sit in and wait. I worked my way along the river to a place where I could get down to the rocky edge. I snapped on a lure, got all my stuff organized and was ready to go. My first cast meant to tempt even the most reluctant fish went about two feet in front of me. Clearly I needed to review the YouTube lessons and try again. After a few more goes at it I had the lure out in the stream and started cranking in on the line. Suddenly the crank stopped and I was sure I had a whopper on the line. Actually the lure had cranked up to the end of the rod and wouldn’t go any further. Silly me. I spent several hours (it seemed) at it, Susan was very patient. I moved to several different spots trying to out think a fish. Who was I kidding. I saw lots of fish. They came right up to the surface and splashed water in my general direction. As I looked closer there was a bazillion bug bits in the water, an insect hatch of some sort. Some shiny lure offered nothing when fresh bugs were everywhere. Next time!

Every day here in Colter Bay we went for a walk, some days two. More than anything we wanted to just relish in the feeling of being there. We took our chairs to the beach to enjoy a pleasant late afternoon.

The first three days had the beach closed because of bears taking their turn. We did laundry, checked out the gift shop and grocery. Visited the Visitor’s Center and Book Shop. Went to the Marina and sat on a bench to watch the canoers and kayakers depart and return. We got an ice cream treat and sat out on the picnic tables to eat it as slowly as possible and use the WiFi from the laundry.

I was in the middle of rereading a newly released version of Steven King’s “The Stand”. We both read it while traveling in 1980 when it was first published. It is about a world wide deadly pandemic and the ensuing struggle between good and evil. Fiction then. Pretty close to reality today. The original book left out over 150,000 words from the original manuscript. Mr. King can run on a bit. The newest Kindle version has most of the original work restored and other updates. It was 1500+ Kindle pages. It took me a week to read it, every word. In the end very few survive the pandemic, good triumphs over evil, truth overcomes lies and evil is suppressed but as it is with human nature it does not go away.

Five days flew by, the high mountain air was intoxicating, warm pine smells, the sound of the lake, the majestic mountains rising right up out if the lake just a few miles away. We saw bison, no bears and no elk. We also saw deer. We were just very glad to be back.

We are heading for Gros Ventre, a big campground at the southern end of the park for a week.

More Later, Much Love,

Roger and Susan

West Yellowstone, August 2020

We left Columbus, MT heading west through Billings, past Bozeman and then south along the Madison River to West Yellowstone. We stayed there two nights to do some grocery shopping, explore a bit and look for a fishing net.

One of the goals for this trip is to try some fishing. The last time I went fishing was in 1966, 54 years ago with my sister. We went out on Whitefish Lake “up north” in Minnesota one evening when and where everyone said there would be no fish. But we did anyway and caught some Northern Pike. And there is a picture to prove it. Somehow neither of us looked too happy about it, it was more likely being forced to pose for a picture.

A Fishing Net

Back to today … I got most of what I needed before we left but just in case I actually caught something I figured I needed a net. My friend Chuck, suggested I wouldn’t need one. I think he knew just how futile this effort might be. Since Yellowstone is prime fly fishing country and September is some of the busiest I figured advice and a net couldn’t be too hard to find. Do you know that you can spend several hundred dollars on a net to scoop up a fish from a stream? I had no idea but in most of the fly fishing shops we went into that is about where the prices started. After checking out several shops I went into Jacklin’s Fly Shop. I was able to get a package of small snap connector swivels and there at the very bottom of the stack of nets there was one for about $30. I asked the proprietor what the difference between the $30 net and the ones ten times the price. He said “the price”. Like hand tied custom made flies vs mass produced ones they both work. If you can afford an expensive fly or net or rod or reel and you think (believe) you will have better success then they are for you. I coughed up $30 and now have a functional net. Well, we shall see.

I had no expectation of even catching a fish and if I did no idea what to do with it. I have no fancy stripped willow woven creel. I brought a Walmart plastic bag. I sort of remember cleaning a fish from 50 odd years ago so I supposed we could use our folding picnic knife, no fancy engraved filet knife here. I had no idea how to even use the reel I bought (a spinning reel) so I had to go on YouTube and find a video on how to use the reel, how to cast with it and even as an old Boy Scout, how to tie an appropriate knot to attach the snap swivel on the end of the line. Not quite like lashing some logs together. I guess I was set. Oh, there was no fishing advice in West Yellowstone for that activity in the Tetons.

Groceries

There are two grocery stores in West Yellowstone at least as far as we could tell. One had a big sign that said RV Parking. We figured that attracted more tourist/campers. The other one didn’t have much parking and looked bigger. Maybe it was where the locals shopped. Looked that way when we walked in but prices said otherwise. Maybe it is just really expensive in West Yellowstone. We figured cheaper here than in the small grocery store in Colter Bay so we got what we needed, loaded it into our own bags and walked back to the camp ground. The grocery stores in Wyoming charge a nickel a bag for paper bags. Not a plastic bag in sight. I like that especially since we use our own bags as much as we can.

The Last Supper

We had been hungry for a hamburger for some days. We haven’t been making them for ourselves for some time so we started checking out the local eateries. The Buffalo Bar got some favorable comments. There were others right on the main drag through town that may have been OK but the Buffalo Bar had a large outdoor dining area, just what we wanted. Quite a menu as well, Buffalo meatloaf was tempting

We ordered up a couple of hamburgers. Susan chose a mushroom swiss burger with fries. I had a mushroom swiss burger as well but chose Tater Tots. We ordered a couple O’Douls as well. The burgers were gigantic, we could have easily split one. The fries were hot and crispy. The Tater Tots were not little barrel shaped things we are used to but more like small crispy quarter sized hockey pucks. In any case they tasted like Tater Tots, they were hot and crispy. Great burgers, we ate half of each and took home the remainders along with most of the fries and tots. Dinner for two nights, the tater tot and fries got chopped up, reheated and found their way into breakfast burritos.

The Buffalo Crossing RV park was right behind the local movie theater. It was an OK stop, nothing special. Neat and tidy, only a block from the main West Yellowstone crossroads, gravel sites, good water, electric service and waste hookups. Each site had a small patch of grass and a picnic table. It is a new park, paved driveways are coming. And it was probably about $30 a night cheaper than the Resort Parks. Staying in the RV park got you discounts on movie tickets and in their gift shop. It also got a nice soft serve ice cream cone for 50¢. Lots of stuff out this way seems to be Huckleberry flavored.

Travel in a Time of Pandemic

We were pretty pleased to see that most people wore masks in town. Every store and restaurant required a mask to get in. Tables at the Buffalo Bar were spaced more than six feet apart. We can control our own space in an RV but need to depend on others to do their part everywhere else.

We are off to Colter Bay in the Grand Teton National Park next.

More Later, Much Love,

Roger and Susan