WA: Sequim – 02/17/2017 – 03/17/2017

Parking: John Wayne Waterfront Resort
Rating: 10

Sequim, WA
Sequim Bay

When we were living in Washington, I knew of Sequim, but I didn’t really know about Sequim. If I had, I would have bought property years ago. It’s in the rain shadow, and when the rest of Western Washington is cloudy and rainy, Sequim is bright and sunny. It’s interesting because only a few miles away, the rainfall doubles. Another few miles away, and the rainfall doubles again. A few more miles away and the rainfall is over 180 inches per year.

Sequim is mostly made up of older, retired folk, so it’s a slower-paced town. The views are spectacular, and there is a Rails-to-trails bike path that goes from Port Townsend, across the northern part of the peninsula, and will eventually go all the way to the coast.

John Wayne used to visit Sequim, and his heirs run the resort. They have set up a mini-museum in the RV park office with all kinds of memorabilia from his life and films. Though I am not generally a fan of private RV parks because of the sardine nature of the sites, the guests (at least the winter-time guests) were quiet and respectful, so it wasn’t too bad.

One of the questions that we are asked as we tour the country is “what has been your favorite state?” We keep answering “Washington” because of its beauty and variety. Although we have enjoyed travelling, we have been missing being able to spread out to build something. Both of those reasons combined with the desire to be able to sometimes leave the boat behind and to have a better zip code for health insurance made us realize that we want to have a Homebase. We want it to be somewhere in Washington where it’s not too wet, so the Sequim area seemed pretty ideal. We spent a lot of time walking, biking, and motorcycling to all kinds of lots in the area – raw land, houses that needed work, sites on the water, sites in the woods, ex-meth-lab lots, etc., but we could not find the right property. Sequim is a fairly hot market, and with the numbers of folk retiring to it from all over the country, it has just gotten a little ridiculous. Plus they have some serious nut-jobs working at the city. There was one lovely lot – 100 year old farmhouse, 3 acres, right on the bike trail – that we would have taken, but the city had zoned it High Tech Commercial though it is in a residential area. We talked to the city about the zoning, and they think they are going to get a software company to build there. They are smoking crack. No software company is going to be successful recruiting young talent into a town that is essentially a retirement community.

The rest of the Olympic Peninsula is too wet for us, so it’s off to Eastern Washington to try our luck there.

Sequim, WA
Sequim Bay
Sequim, WA
John Wayne Resort
Sequim, WA
Eidolon gets left behind

FL: Carrabelle – 10/09/2016 – 11/08/2016

Parking: Bungalow Lake Retreat
Rating: 8

Carrabelle
Town and river

In Florida state parks, it is nearly impossible to find a camping spot that wasn’t already booked a year earlier, so were were looking at some private parks. They were nearly all crowed with no green-space/trees between sites, so we decided to rent a house for a month instead. The place we found was just outside Carrabelle (walking/biking distance) bordering the State Forest and on a pretty little lake. The house was small, but to us (after living in an RV), it felt enormous.

My mother-in-law visited us at the house, so we could have some nice one-on-one time with her, but unfortunately we had some mishaps that marred her visit.

The first was right when she arrived. We had just put the boat in the water as she was arriving, and when pulling into the driveway, we hit a sand trap in the driveway. The sand was about 18″ deep with a sprinkling of gravel on the top making it look solid, and we sank like a rock. Needless to say, we were pretty upset after the initial attempt to free ourselves just dug deeper. Eventually, we did dig it out, and nothing was hurt, but now I hate loose sand even more. Even just cycling on the sand-covered dirt road from the driveway to the highway was horrible especially in a recumbent.

Since we were going to be at this place for a while, we had the kick-up rudder and the Porta-bote that we ordered shipped to the rental agency. We had taken my mother-in-law out sailing in the ICW when we got a call that the boat had arrived 5 days earlier than excepted, and the agency was just going to leave it outside because they were going home. So much for sailing – we had to rush back, get the RV, and go pick it up.

We also had a problem with the bears. They really liked our garbage and made a mess several times. Even after hauling it up a tree, they still got it, so we had to rig a higher mount with tow straps. They’re cute, but after the fourth or fifth time picking up garbage everywhere, the cuteness wears off.

My mother-in-law was a very good sport about all the mishaps, but I felt pretty terrible for spoiling her vacation with the chaos.

After she left, we settled into a routine. We kept the sailboat in the water at a marina (note: that’s too long to go without hauling the boat out of the salt water and washing it off), and we’d cycle over there, sail in perfect conditions, attempt to fish, and then cycle back. Sometimes we’d stop at a really good country buffet on the way home. It was a pretty idyllic life, but the open road still beckons.

Carrabelle
Mama bear
Carrabelle
Baby bear
Carrabelle
Bear piñata
Carrabelle
Marina
Carrabelle
Dolphin
Carrabelle
Dolphin
Carrabelle
Driveway of sand
Carrabelle
Deck
Carrabelle
Backyard
Carrabelle
Nook
Carrabelle
Living Room

GA: Cordele (Lake Blackshear) – 09/24/2016 – 10/07/2016

Parking: Georgia Veterans Memorial Park
Rating: 10

Georgia Veterans Memorial Park
Campsite

My partner’s family lives in Americus, but this was the closest available RV parking. It’s a lovely park with the ability to beach the boat right at the campsite like in TN, so we were happy with that. The only problem is that our rudder is too long for the drop-off angle, so we’re finally going to have to order a kick-up rudder. Oh, and for some insane reason, they have low power lines over the boat ramps which meant raising/lowering the mast while on the water.

My in-laws are really sweet people, and they graciously took us on a tour of all the family. I haven’t seen most folk in twenty years or more, but everyone was very welcoming, and they all cook amazing country food. We did a lot of catching up and had some time with various folk to play board games, go sailing, and sit around the campfire. It was great to trade stories with everyone and see how much all my nieces/nephews have grown. My mother-in-law is a fountain of knowledge about the doings of the family, so we got a great update on everyone. She is such a wonderful, hard-working lady, and I am constantly surprised at how much energy she has.

My partner drove his parents’ car while we were there, and the very first night, he hit a deer – or rather, the deer hit the car. Fortunately, the car and the deer were fine, but that certainly made me extra careful when motorcycling those highways, but I did take a spill when my tire got caught in a sand trap on a driveway. I am not used to loose sand being used on driving surfaces. Fortunately, only my dignity was injured.

Georgia Veterans Memorial Park
Lake Blackshear
Georgia Veterans Memorial Park
Small swamp
Georgia Veterans Memorial Park
Alligators

TN: Carthage (Cumberland River) – 09/06/2016 – 09/21/2016

Parking: Defeated Creek Campground
Rating: 10

Carthage, TN

(There I am on the trike.)

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!

Carthage, TN

Carthage, TN

Carthage, TN

Carthage, TN

Carthage, TN

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.
</barftastic>

KY: Grand Rivers (Land Between the Lakes) – 08/24/2016 – 09/06/2016

Parking: Canal Campground
Rating: 8

Grand Rivers, KY

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.

Grand Rivers, KY

Grand Rivers, KY

IL: Carlyle (Lake Carlyle) – 08/11/2016 – 08/24/2016

Parking: Dam West Campground
Rating: 10

Carlyle, IL

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.

Carlyle, IL

Carlyle, IL

Carlyle, IL

Carlyle, IL

ND: Hannaford – 07/19/2016 – 07/29/2016

Hannaford, ND

Parking: Clinton A. Brown Memorial Park
Rating: 10

The Isuzu blew a nasty puff of smoke and threw a code about cylinder 2 misfiring. Back when we got the truck, we had the fuel injectors for cylinders 1 and 4 replaced, but we had left 2 and 3 alone as they were still working at the time, so it was likely that the injector was going. Of course, being in the middle of the nowhere, there are no Isuzu specialists around, and we knew from prior experience, that we were probably looking at about a week in the shop. When we chose our rig, one of the advantages was the ability to drop the pods and take the truck in for service, so it was time to exercise that option. We had hoped to be able to get to Duluth, MN, so we could sail Superior during the shop time, but it was clear we needed to get it to the shop as soon as possible. We found a little city park in the small town of Hannaford where we’d be able to leave the pods (most private RV parks will not allow a truck camper to take the camper off the truck) on the way to Fargo.

Dropping the pods does not have to be a big deal, but once again thunderstorms with high winds were expected, so leaving the pods high on the jacks was not going to be a good idea, so it turned into a much bigger job, but since this was such a private park, we were able to get them off with no one coming over to gawk and bother us.

We then loaded the motorcycles on the flat bed, and the next morning headed to Fargo. At RDO Truck Center, we left the truck and geared up for the 100 mile ride back. Unfortunately, ND was in the middle of a serious heat wave. Most motorcyclists in ND don’t seem to wear a lot of gear – no helmets and shorts are common. I think they are crazy especially since the speed limit is 80 mph on most roads (and merely 65 mph in construction zones), so we wore full gear despite the heat. About 25 miles into the ride back, I started to feel light-headed and was getting tunnel vision because I was so hot. There is absolutely nothing but farmland once you’re about two miles outside of Fargo. On this stretch of road, there weren’t even any trees for shade. We rode a few more miles when there was finally a tree-lined driveway, and we pulled over. I stripped off all my gear and drank some water taking in the breeze under the shade of the trees. I unzipped the side zippers of my pants from hip to ankle to let in some more air, and we set off again. Fortunately, either the water or the extra air did the trick because I was fine for the rest of the ride. I did end up with a nice tuxedo stripe sunburn from where the pants were unzipped on the sides of my legs (I don’t think my thighs have even seen the sun in 10 years).

This city park was a very nice facility. For $12 / night ($200 / month), it included electricity which was nice because we kept the air conditioning blasting the entire time. It was also very quiet. There were five or six RVs that had no tow vehicle on site and that we never saw a single person enter or leave. We figured that since it was so cheap (the full hook-up sites were only $15 / night and the same $200 / month), some folk were just using it for RV storage. There were also some folk there that were staying there to work in the area which is what the point of the park seemed to be since it was sponsored by the Griggs-Steele Empowerment Zone.

Hannaford is a very small town, but nearby Cooperstown had a lumber yard, a hardware store, and a grocery store, so we were all set. It’s a nice area to motorcycle with paved roads and dirt roads. Also, it’s nice riding through the incredible wind farms.

RDO replaced the fuel injectors for cylinders 2 and 3 (we weren’t going to wait for 3 to go bad down the road), did our yearly service, and updated the firmware (which would fix the velocity sensor code we would occasionally get while idling). They needed to order parts for the fuel sender (the fuel gauge didn’t read below about a half-tank) and a secondary fuel filter (recommended by Isuzu to protect the injectors for the future), so as expected, the truck was in the shop for about a week. RDO did an excellent job at an incredibly reasonable price.

We rode back to Fargo (which was a much nicer, cooler ride), loaded up the motorcycles on the flatbed, and drove back to Hannaford. The next day we loaded the pods back onto the truck, and then we were ready to continue on our journey.

Hannaford, ND

ND: Garrison (Lake Sakakawea) – 07/07/2016 – 07/14/2016

Garrison, ND

Parking: Douglas Creek Campground
Rating: 10

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.

Garrison, ND

Garrison, ND

Garrison, ND

WY: Burgess Junction – 06/23/2016 – 06/27/2016

Burgess Junction, WY

Parking: Bear Lodge Resort
Rating: 9

Free dispersed camping in the Bighorn National Forest is excellent, but we decided to stay at a cheap little RV park to have access to showers. To get there, the road is winding and steep, so it was slow-going. Along the way, there are signs describing the various geological formations and how long ago they were formed and some of them were 500 million years old.

We spent some time on the motorcycles on several of the forestry roads. The scenery is excellent, and we saw an old splash mill and some moose. We walked up to the top of a dam for a drinking water reservoir; for servicing such a small population, the dam and resulting lake are very large and beautiful, and we were impressed.

The Wyo State Patrol had their convention at the Resort while we there, so we figured it was probably the safest place in the state to be.

We met a lovely Park volunteer who told us about her and her husband’s thirty years of full-time RVing and all the places they visited. He passed away 18 months ago, and she had moved back to their home base of Tampa. She was lunching with her lady friends and watching the Bucs’ games at the local pub when she realized that she hated that lifestyle and wanted to be back out in the wild. She couldn’t do the RVing thing anymore at her age alone, so she decided to volunteer at the Park despite all her friends thinking she was crazy.

Just before the steep trip back down the mountains, we had an engine light come on – that is not at all reassuring, and going down the 12 miles of 8% grade was especially nerve-wracking with the worry. In Sheridan, we picked up a code reader, and it turned out to be just some blip with the velocity sensor (i.e., absolutely no big deal) which was a great relief.

Burgess Junction, WY

Burgess Junction, WY

Burgess Junction, WY

Burgess Junction, WY

Burgess Junction, WY

Burgess Junction, WY

Burgess Junction, WY

(splash dam)

Burgess Junction, WY

(moose hidden in there – didn’t get closer because moose are dangerous)

Burgess Junction, WY

Burgess Junction, WY

Burgess Junction, WY

Burgess Junction, WY

Burgess Junction, WY

Burgess Junction, WY

Burgess Junction, WY

Burgess Junction, WY

MT: Libby – 06/09/2016 – 06/15/2016

Libby, MT

Parking: Dunn Creek Flats
Rating: 10
WoW: Hinterlands

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!

Libby, MT

Libby, MT

Libby, MT

Libby, MT

Libby, MT

Libby, MT

Libby, MT

Libby, MT

Libby, MT

Libby, MT

Libby, MT

Libby, MT

Libby, MT

Libby, MT

Rant:
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.