While we staying at Lake Blackshear, Hurricane Matthew was approaching the Florida Atlantic coast. The relatively empty park became packed overnight as snowbirds fled the Florida coast. The family was concerned for us because we had made no plans beyond our current stay (so far, we’ve only made advance plans once in the whole journey), but we figured that with a state of emergency being declared in Florida, we’d find someplace to park even if it was just in a parking lot or on the side of the road. Fortunately, while driving down, we found this nice little Army Corps site on the lake at the border, and it had plenty of space to wait for the chaos of the storm’s refugees in the Panhandle to die down.
Nearly perfect. The campground allows campers to beach their boats for free. We have never done that (though we have seen other Montgomery 17s do it), so we figured this would be a good time to try. It’s even better than having a transient slip. Any time we felt like sailing, it was so easy to just untie from shore, kedge off, use the electric outboard to get in the channel (less than five minutes), and then raise the sails. Sometimes we’d anchor offshore to paddle board and swim in deeper water.
We celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary while in Carthage. I made korma, and we ate on the fancy china. To celebrate, we bought a 20″ sailboat (one can never have too many boats no matter the size). It needs some work before it will be ready for launch, but it gives me a project for rainy days. Since we were planning on being here for a while, we went ahead and had some other deliveries, too – random stuff from Amazon, a screen room, and the mail that has been piling up in our box back in Washington (which was mostly just junk since we have gone as paperless as we could). It was like mini-Christmas!
I cannot pass the occasion of our silver anniversary without expressing how fortunate I have been to be married all these years to my best friend and love of my life. There are not many folk who would take care of a nutter like me, who would put in all the study required to take care of our financial future, and who would build all the crazy things I’ve dreamed up. I have no idea why he hasn’t chucked me out (probably Stockholm Syndrome), but I am very grateful to have been able to share this time together, and I look forward to experiencing all the unknown adventures yet-to-come.
We needed a place to ride out the Labor Day Weekend, and we were able to snag a walk-in space at the Land Between the Lakes. We ended up moving to a more private site when one freed up, but this has been the most crowded Army Corp of Engineer site we’ve visited.
The town of Grand Rivers allows the user of golf carts in and around the town, so apparently everyone in the state of Kentucky that owns a golf cart vacations here. Folk like to just drive around and around the park in them. I don’t particularly understand because they aren’t very fast, they don’t go off-road, and there is no exercise when using them, but I am clearly in the minority in my thinking. Some folk even dress their golf cart up with flags, banners, and lights (Wildcat blue, of course). When they’d all start parading around, it reminded me (boy, am I dating myself here) of the end of the Banana Splits when the characters all ran around in their little cars. Every time one of them passed me, I started singing “One banana, two banana, three banana, four.”
We didn’t do a whole lot except ride bikes and walk around because Legion (the World of Warcraft expansion) came out, and we were just able to play (a little laggy sometimes, but not too many deaths because of it). I have to say that Blizzard does a great job with their data bandwidth because we were using a hot-spot (i.e., expensive data), and even with the two of us playing we easily stayed within our data allotment and still got both our druids and our hunters to max level. Holidays at RV parks are crazy, so it’s really best to be able to tuck-in and do something inside until everyone else leaves. Besides, the boat ramp was a little too steep and busy for us (plus there was no moorage); poor Eidolon had to sit and look at the water while staying dry.
Got to catch a few fireflies (no mayonnaise jar – strictly catch and release); they smelled exactly how I remembered.
Dam West is the Dam Best. Lake Carlyle has the reputation of being one of the best sailing lakes in the country and it did not disappoint. The winds were great (even went out in a bit of a storm for some extra fun), and there were sailboats everywhere. Normally, we’re excited when we see one sailboat for every five or six powerboats; here at one time I counted over 80 sailboats and 10 powerboats. Awesome. We were also able to watch several races.
The campground was another Army Corp of Engineer location. So far, we have not been disappointed with one, so we are now actively seeking them out as often as possible. Dam West has large wooded sites, bike/hiking trails, a beach, a marina, and showers/bathrooms/laundry WITH AIR CONDITIONING – really good A/C, too. Not only that, but they had soft toilet paper. Most campgrounds have sandpaper (80 grit). I have actually had my butt bleed on more than one occasion when I have forgotten to bring my own because the toilet paper has been that bad. I know that I talk a lot about bathrooms, but having taken them for granted my whole life, I have learned to really appreciate an excellent one.
This has been our favorite location so far. Lake Sakakawea is beautiful, the campground is free, the sites are private, and it is quiet and absolutely dark at night. Unfortunately, we got skunked on sailing again (the boat ramp was a little too shallow), but the site was so relaxing, we didn’t mind. We did once again have some crazy nighttime thunderstorms – the town a few miles away got 2″ hail, and during several days, the wind was howling (despite being completely sunny).
To get to the campground, there is a very long dirt road through some farmlands. I knew that ND was known for crude oil, but I did not know that they also had a lot of oil crops. I had expected nothing but miles of beige wheat fields, but they have sunflowers, safflowers, corn, soybeans and flax. The blue flax is fantastic. From a distance, the field seems to be a large lake that doesn’t quite obey the laws of gravity. I really wish we had gotten some pictures, but we kept thinking we’d do it when it was less windy.
We had a new experience. When sailing with the wind coming over the stern (“on a run”), it feels like the boat isn’t moving because the boat is going the same speed as the wind, so the people on board feel no wind at all. Now we know what that feels like on a motorcycle. The wind was blowing 30-45 miles per hour, and when that was in front of us, it was pretty horrible (especially when the Ag trucks passed and added their own wind), but when it was behind us, it was very odd to feel nothing.
We headed up to ND to a campground where we hoped we get some sailing in, but with the weather up, the shallow little boat ramp at this park was a little too risky to try.
Overnight, we had crazy thunderstorms again – we stayed glued to the TV weather broadcast to track their progress, and fortunately, the worst weather missed us. The storms in the Northland are amazing – it can go from a prediction of a clear, 5-10 mph wind night at bed-time to a full blown severe thunderstorm warning a few hours later with high winds (70 mph), hail (2-3″), tornadoes, and flash flooding. The weather reporting is different here from Western Washington; they have many more views of the weather – like 3D radar to show the height of the thunderstorms and colored wind direction maps that easily show potential tornadoes.
Parking: Dunn Creek Flats
There are several free sites around Libby Dam on the Kootenai River, and they are really nice. The river is lovely, the sheriff checks in every day and you can watch the fishers pull in some nice sized trout.
We had some nice conversations with a gentleman who had been full-timing for years in his custom converted horse trailer. His rig is a really nice idea because horse trailers are built so much more robust than a normal RV, and the horse stall area can be used for toys. He kept his motorcycle and beautiful wooden boat (that he built himself) in there. If we hadn’t needed the ability to pull the sailboat, I think we would have gone with a similar solution.
We went motorcycle riding up to the dam and along Lake Koocanusa. Despite it being a weekend, there was almost no one on the road or in the primitive camping sites. Then we stopped at the RV park at the marina (just to have a look around), and apparently that’s where ALL the tourists go. It was PACKED with people. We were flummoxed. There are so many beautiful, peaceful places around, but folk were choosing to pay to be in the crowd. Oh well, more free space for us!
There were rules posted all over about keeping dogs on a 6′ leash or keeping them fully restrained (and not allowing them to impede the enjoyment of the land by others). We went on a walk over to the dumpster, and at the site 100′ away come two aggressive dogs straight at us. We just stopped cold while the owner ineffectually kept calling out to them to “git over here.” They continued to growl and get closer and closer to us until I was sure we were going to have to kick at them (we had left the pepper spray and camera in the RV) when the owner was finally able to catch them. I do not care if you think your dogs are “just playing” – I do not want your beasts touching me. Keep them inside if you cannot keep control of them. Next time, they either get sprayed, shot or reported.
We had originally planned on going to the Clark Fork Drift Yard, but it was closed for breeding geese (because if there’s one thing of which the NW needs more, it’s Canada geese), so we headed to nearby Johnson Creek. This is a property owned by the Army Corps of Engineers, and it has a nice little boat launch and a couple of beautiful camping spots. It has a three day camping limit, but the other two RVs seemed to have already been there a while, and they were they after we left, so I don’t think it’s enforced.
The boat launch is pretty heavily used, but we did not end up launching because our 2.5 hp motor on the sailboat blew an oil seal. We did some canoeing/kayaking and some motorcycle riding pretty much spreading out as large as possible.
It has been really nice finding these free, beautiful, non-crowded locations. I’m sure things will change when we hit the East Coast, but so far, it has been great. Since we have plenty of solar power, we don’t require electrical hook-ups (or have to be the obnoxious folk that run the generator all day), so it gives us a lot of location options.