Saturday, March 30, 2013

Spring Trip Planning

Between household chores and projects, doggie day care, tax prep, and MD appointments, I've been planning my Spring trip .  Not sure when I'll be leaving yet or when I'll be back.  Other than that, I have it loosely figured out. 

My route is dictated by the National Park Sites I want to see.  That makes loose planning very simple.  Now that I have the GDB, I don't have to plan in advance where I'll be staying.  I proved to myself during my winter trip that I can overnight just about anywhere.  How liberating!

Alabama-Tennessee-Missouri

 
Fort Donelson National Battlefield - Dover, TN

Jefferson National Expansion Memorial - St. Louis, MO

Ulysses S Grant National Historic Site - St. Louis, MO
 
Harry S Truman National Historic Site - Independence, MO




Nebraska

 
Homestead National Monument - Beatrice, NE
 
Scott's Bluff National Monument - Gering, NE
 
Agate Fossil Beds - Harrison, NE





South Dakota


Badlands National Park - Interior, SD
 
Minuteman Missile National Historic Site - Jackson, SD
 
Mount Rushmore National Monument - Rapid City, SD
 
Jewel Cave National Monument - Custer, SD
 
Wind Cave National Park - Hot Springs, SD






Wyoming - Colorado 

 
Devil's Tower National Monument - Devil's Tower, WY
 
Fort Laramie National Historic Site - Fort Laramie, WY
 
Rocky Mountain National Park - Estes Park, CO
 
Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument - Florissant, CO
 
Salida, CO






That's 16 NP sites!  I'm beyond excited. 

Let me know if you have any other suggestions along the route. 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Date with the Buffalo


I have a score to settle with the bison.   
On my last camping trip, Sandy asked me why I decided to go from a tent to an RV.  I didn’t have to think about my answer.  Buffalo poop.  
"Listen to this story.  Wanna bet we're the bad guys?"
There I was in Theodore Roosevelt National Park.  Setting up my tent in the deserted campground.  I was having trouble finding a spot for my 8x8 tent due to these numerous mysterious mounds of brown stuff. 
What the ..... ?
It hit me like an electric shock what the piles were – buffalo dung.  Bison Scat!!!  I looked around – oh, surely not.  No way the buffalo roam through this campground!  And yet, here were the moist piles of evidence all around me. 

By now, it was getting dark.  I weighed my options.  Too warm to sleep in my Chevy Blazer with the windows up and too buggy to sleep with them down.  What to do?  I set up my tent and hoped I was wrong about my conclusions, and cursed myself for my naivete. 

Brushing aside my fears, I attended a ranger talk that night - along with a couple who had arrived late and were camped in a truck-camper across the way from me.  After the program I asked the ranger if buffalo ever came through the campground at night, hoping for a reassuring negative response.  He responded in a booming voice, “Oh, all the time!!!” 
Gulp.
“Just remember to stay in your tent”, he cautioned.  “Especially now”, he added with emphasis, “it’s rutting season, you know, and the males like to fight”. 

Uh-huh. 

His last piece of advice, “Just remember to stay in your tent.  And that they are bigger than you”. 

Got it.   

I returned to my tent in the dark.  My unease was magnified by 2 recent unsettling experiences. Several days before, I had read a front page story about a tourist who was just attacked and killed by a buffalo bull in Wyoming.

And earlier in the day, near the Park entrance, I had to stop the Blazer to let a herd of the huge beasts cross the road.  There were several young males who were strutting their stuff and dashing about erratically.  Anyone who has seen buffalo up close knows what a thrilling but intimidating site it is.
   
Believe me, these are scary animals even from the safety of an SUV.   They are massively massive. 
Web Photo

So here I was with nothing but a few microns of nylon between me and them.  I looked across the campground at that solid truck-camper with soul-searing envy.  That was the moment.    

The end of the story is anticlimactic.   No buffalo came through that night.  I suspect that was only because of the heavy rainstorm and ferocious lightening.  I didn’t get much sleep.
What with work and life interfering, I never made it back to where the Buffalo roam. And it took 10 years to get my buffalo surveillance van. 

I'll keep the promise I made to myself to return one day and face the buffalo on a more even footing.  I can’t wait till June and want nothing more than to see them up close.  Really close.  From the steel-encased safety of the GDB.
Badlands National Park
I plan to go where they are, make a pot of coffee, hang up the “Buffalo Welcome” sign, and sit back and wait. 

Oh Yeah.


 


Monday, March 18, 2013

Frugal-Minded


I’ve been going over my Southwestern trip expenses.  Again. 
Always looking for ways to cut costs.  I spent an average of $236/week on this last trip and I know now I can do far better. 
Knowing that 72% of those dollars went into my gas tank, I’m not sure how to lower fuel costs beyond what I’m already doing – driving 60 MPH and using Gas Buddy to find the least expensive gas along my route. 
 


Because the GDB is so comfortable on the highway, I’ll probably be using interstates more than I thought I would.  I usually prefer secondary roads but interstate driving will likely cut down on the miles while improving my MPG. 

 

Of course I could save fuel by never leaving the driveway but we all know that’s not an option.
I’m thinking I can easily get down to about $200/week.  That’s with fewer camping fees, fewer meals out, no sightseeing costs, and no souvenirs. 

I’ve learned I can dry-camp just about anywhere.  In the future, I should only need hook-ups if it's hot out and the A/C is needed.  Regarding food, I’ve had some really good meals on the road but most are mediocre, so I’m far less tempted to eat out in the future.  Except for the occasional value-meal maybe.  We never eat fast-food at home so it's kind of a treat on the road.  All the chains seem to have several items for $1.  I can do that once-a-week and not go up a dress size, right?   

I don’t mind paying to see an attraction I really want to see.  For example, the $50 for a day at the Kennedy Space Center was worth every dollar.  And I don’t regret buying those mementos at McDonald Observatory either.  But I’ll settle for coming away with only photos and National Park stamps from now on. 

I could have saved over $400 on this last trip had I taken all the above measures. 
I’m learning.  I've also been reading frugal travel websites.  If you have any other suggestions, please share!  
My real hope is to get the cost down to $170 – $180/ week.  

 

Friday, March 15, 2013

Kolomoki Mounds State Park, GA

 
Atop the Temple Mound

The get-together was major fun!  Eight members of a women’s solo camper discussion group met up at this remote Georgia State Park.  We had the campground to ourselves!  

The weather wasn’t ideal with moderate-to-strong winds and lows down to 32 one night.  It was a desperate last effort on Winter’s part to maintain its icy grip.  Good campfire weather though. 

Due to a stomach ailment the day before my scheduled departure, I arrived a day late.  Due to a work conference call and no cell service at the park, I left a day early.  But we packed a lot of fun into the 3 days of fellowship.   
 
 A variety of camping rigs were represented including a tent.   

Lorraine's PleasureWay.  Susan's Mallard to the right.

Peggy's Rig

Peggy's rig up close.  A 17-foot Apex.  She adores it and rightly so. 

Norma's Scamp
Actually, Norma has 2 scamps.


Here's the other one. 


Big Trouble.



Julie's Vanna-White

The campground is small with only  24 sites and nicely maintained.  Naturally, because it was just us, we all had lake-front sites.  A few of the ladies kayaked, a couple of us hiked the ceremonial Indian mound, and most made the one-hour journey to visit Providence Canyon.  (I was not among them as I had been before). 

The 57-foot tall Big Mound is a steep walk

My new hiking boots were up to the task
So was Julie

It was nice to just park and stay put for a change.  I sat in my camp chair more this past week than I have this past year!  Is this what they call camping?

Of course, the best fun was sitting by the lake, under the stars, next to the campfire and talking about everything.  The discussions mainly involved traveling, camping, gear, and RVs.  My kinda women! 
I left later Thursday afternoon than intended because Sandy & I sat and talked for a long time in the comfort of the sunshine.  We watched the lake, the birds, listened to the wind in the trees, and talked about our travels.  Sandy has done a lot of camping in the Black Hills so I got some great tips from her regarding my upcoming trip later this spring. 
I love meeting people like Sandy.  This is a lady who, in her 60’s, leaves her Minnesota home in the fall and heads south for the winter.  Tent-camping out of her sedan! 
That's Sandy, far right, between her car and house.  Wish I had a better photo.
 
She is possibly the sweetest, gentlest person I’ve ever met.  I so enjoyed learning a little about her life, her deep love of nature, and her travel adventures.  She intends to keep it up until she just can’t anymore.  I admire her enormously. 
I got home late yesterday and have spent most of today putting the GDB to rights. 

It never ceases to amaze me that it is just as much work to pack and unpack for a 3-day trip as it is for a 3-month trip!

 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

My Hero


Darling Hubby         

 
Lots of elbow grease
 


And love.


 

       I'm a lucky girl !

Friday, March 8, 2013

Armed and Ready!

Camping Trip Prep



I’ve spent the last few days getting the Good Deal Bus road-ready.  I leave Monday for a 3-night trip to meet up with a group of solo women RVers in Georgia.  It looks like there will about about 7 of us from around the Southeast.  Sounds like fun to me! 

I got the very empty propane tank refilled.  Then I performed a good interior cleaning.  The refrigerator gets moldy so I scrubbed it well, detailed with Q-tips, and placed a container of Damp-Rid in it. 



I also picked up a couple of plastic containers.  This one will serve as a table, ottoman, desk, and of course, storage.


And this one will protect open food packages from any evil-minded mice. 


I’m ready for mice any way you look at it.  Notice the peppermint oil-soaked cotton balls and the Fresh Cab Rodent Repellent sachet.  
 
 
 
We also have a neighborhood army of cats (which, I suspect, is the main reason I haven't had a mouse invasion at home).  If this wasn't enough, I've got mothballs in socks hanging over each tire.  And, of course, I now carry a couple of old-fashioned steel traps, just in case.   
Overkill?  Maybe.  That mouse invasion I had in Fort Stockton wasn't the worst thing that's ever happened in my life.  But it's not an experience I ever want to repeat. 
This weekend John & I will clean the exterior, scrub the floor, and do a thorough vacuuming.   

 

Friday, March 1, 2013

National Park Passport

I love history.

A big impetus for getting an RV and taking to the road was to experience history in its many forms - whether a man-made site or geological wonder.  Our National Park System is a living classroom and I wanted a way to commemorate my long-term pursuit of visiting as many NP sites as possible. 

In 2003, I got my National Park Passport. 




Since then I have collected 82 stamps. 

First stamps. 
From the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site in Plains, GA

The stamps aren't of the paper variety, but rather cancellations made with a rubber stamp and ink found at National Park Visitors' Centers. 



IMO, stamps are ideal souvenirs because they 1) are free ! and 2) don't take up much room. 

If you are interested in learning more about collecting, the parkstamps.org website is for rabid stamp collectors.  It contains a very active forum and has comprehensive info about where and which stamps are available at the NP sites. 

Wikipedia has an informative article about the stamp program.

Some people chase after the stamps just to chase them, as an end in themselves.  They dash in and dash out before the ink is dry.  Many though, like me, have rules.  Rather than stamp and go, I spend time at the visitor center exhibits and view any film that is on offer.  That's the minimum.  Of course there is always far more to do; for example, touring the ruins of a Native American village, gawking at glaciers, or plunging into underworld caverns.  You can explore for one hour or one week.   

Traveling in the GDB makes these experiences even better.  For example, I had some time to kill at the LBJ Ranch recently so I made some coffee, sat back, and watched the cattle graze.  A simple thing - but I'll always remember it.


Not all NP sites hold equal interest for me.  Military sites such as forts and battlefields are not high on my list (with a few exceptions).  But I still visit those places because I know I'll not be disappointed.  There is always something to learn.  I've lived long enough to truly mean it when I say 'you never know'. 

I only wish the National Parks Passport had been around a lot earlier.  What great mementos to have from our family road trips in the 60's and 70's!