More Photos of Yellowstone – Part III

Miscellaneous pics from Yellowstone! Yellowstone General Store Upper -fantastic management team! The store that I managed – known as OLD FAITHFUL UPPER. Amazing geology! I could keep on posting photos, but you get the idea! Yellowstone is a magnificent place! Time to move on! See you soon!

Yes, We are Alive and Well!

Mega apologies for not surfacing since March! I just published a couple of posts from late March/early April (as we prepared to leave Texas for Wyoming) to fill in the void prior to our arrival at Yellowstone National Park. But we are here and it has been wonderful!

We arrived in West Yellowstone, outside of the park, on April 8th. It was cold and snow was everywhere as we pulled into the Hideaway RV Park. This was to be our home until the National Park Service RV Park opened, which did so at the end of April. This is now our permanent home until our late October departure. It snowed frequently and we had to dig out some of our site before we could back in the trailer!

As you may recall, I was hired to manage a Yellowstone General Store, owned by Delaware North Co. (Ironically he same company my nephew Daniel works for in Australia). Upon our arrival, I underwent several days of training, before being assigned to be a part of the retail set-up team merchandising the Canyon Store, another Yellowstone General Store, scheduled to open by the third week of April. My store, known as the Old Faithful General Store is, as implied by the name, near the famous Old Faithful geyser. We opened on April 27th after a week of merchandising and setting up the store.

Well, running the store as been quite the experience! This store is large and as the season has progressed, so has business, and it is one crazily busy store! We’ve been told to wait for July and August if we want to see real business, and with July tomorrow, the numbers of both shoppers and sales revenue will erupt like the geyser! It’s hard to believe the store can get any busier!!

Yellowstone National Park, a most gorgeous and diverse place, is a super place to be for 6 months. The habitat differs from place to place. We are actually in a caldera (crater) of a huge volcano! So, in the area where we are based, there are numerous geysers and fumaroles, a vent that blows steam (or vog — not fog, although it looks like fog!). When you see all of this steam just arbitrarily coming out of the ground, it seems like we are back to the birth of the earth! As we travel throughout the Park, there are boiling mud pots, clear turquoise hot springs, water cascades and falls, rivers (now with fly fishermen in them), and lush landscapes and deep valleys and high mountains.

The transition from winter to spring and now summer has been amazing to watch. The snow and snow covered mountains have given way to lush green landscapes. And the wildlife, oh my! Bison are spotted in meadows and along waterways, but they also stroll up and down the one main 2-lane road causing bison traffic jams, known to last for an hour or more!! Elk, moose, black and grizzly bears, wolves and coyotes and pronghorns are easily spotted if you travel to other parts of the Park. Ravens are as commonplace here as crows are on the east coast! And our birding has turned up osprey, bald eagle, numerous songbirds, and great ducks like Barrow’s goldeneye and wood duck and lesser scaup. Yellow warblers are pretty common and we’ve had several other warbler species.

So yes, so far this has been a fantastic experience! Even though work can exhaust me, I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything!

Now, sadly, I have lost all my photos somewhere in my tablet (I hope), except for some recent ones. Yes, I am upset, but if I can’t locate them, I will just start all over! So, here are some recent pics:

Looking across Lake Yellowstone.

Lichen.

Many wildflowers in bloom.

Bison with snow in the background!

More photos next time!! See you soon!

Wrapping Up Texas & Heading Northwest

It’s that time! Time to wrap up our stay in Texas and point the truck and trailer towards Wyoming and Yellowstone National Park! On Monday, April 2, we finished packing up, and said our goodbyes to Sam Houston National Forest. But first we had to make the trailer skirt! To build the skirt, we used Reflectix, weighted down with 2×3 boards. The upper part of the Reflectix skirt will be taped on the trailer frame underneath the trailer to form the skirt. We attached the Reflectix to the wood, but won’t install the skirt until we are situated in our RV spot. And we still need to install insulation material onto the tanks. This whole thing is a challenge regarding timing and weather. We check daily on Yellowstone temps, and they are very low, like teens and lower, at night, and in the 20’s to 40’s during the day. There seems to be snow almost every day, usually around 1″ to 3″. Now at some point as we get north, cold weather (possibly freezing) will occur and we hope we’ll be OK with no frozen pipes. Then when we arrive at Yellowstone on April 8, due to snow conditions the RV park where we will live might still be snow-covered. If that’s the case, we will dry camp in a parking lot to await the plowing of the RV area. Since we hit the road in 2015, we have had cold weather to deal with, just not as cold and snowy as Yellowstone might be. Our #1 goal when we arrive up north is to get our tanks, pipes and hoses wrapped with insulation. Also, we are going to cut Reflectix to the size of our trailer windows and install over the windows to keep the heat in and cold out. ] Monday was a short travel day, mostly because we were weary. You know how it is…you have all the time in the world to get things done and then wait until the last minute! So we called it a night in Fairfield, TX at a Love’s truck stop, which sounds worse than it really is! A bit noisy and crowded with all of those semi trucks, but it’s free! But we encountered some bad luck to start us off. We had gone to Escapees to dump our tanks, pick up mail and load up with water before heading out, but were distressed to find that the bike rack we recently bought [that goes over the spare tire], slipped and Michael’s bike flipped over and we had been dragging the bike like this unknowingly, until someone at Escapees noticed and told us about it. The end result: the bike needs new rims and tires. And one of the clipless pedals flew off at some point. The frame and other components all look good though. Tuesday was pretty uneventful. We wound up in Wichita Falls [in Texas still], sleeping at a Cracker Barrel restaurant. But the drive itself was smooth and scenic. One thing we like about rural Texas is the wildflowers along roadways. Patches of yellow, orange, pink and red, and purple flowers cheer us up and we realize we did get a jump on spring versus our more northerly friends. Some of the pictures look like paintings! Fast forward to Wednesday the 4th. Two hundred and fifty miles brought us to Amarillo [lunch break] and then later to a rest stop in Vega for the night. Just look at this view: What a beautiful sight! This area has many acres of grasslands and seeing these horses, the grass, and the wind turbines nightwas awesome. See you soon!

Less Than a Month

Yellowstone prep is starting! We keep checking temps currently in Yellowstone, and they probably will be just a little bit higher only by our arrival on April 9th. Temps now are lows like -10 degrees to teens with highs in the low to mid-thirties. Our plans are to build a skirt to go around the bottom of the trailer to help insulate the tanks and pipes. We purchased Reflectix, a material with reflective fabric on one side that will face the underneath of the trailer and reflect back the heat which will be provided by a space heater which we just received. A second electric space heater was ordered for use inside the trailer in lieu of the propane heater. We’ve done this to help conserve propane since we’ll have electricity. I’ve been receiving emails about arrival for employees. We will need to camp at an RV park outside the West Yellowstone entrance on the 8th of April as I will be checking in at 7:00am the following morning at the Human Resources office in West Yellowstone for orientation and the start of manager training. We’re anticipating that Michael will handle getting the trailer in place once we know the location of the RV park inside Yellowstone that we’ll call home for the duration of our stay. Yep, we are getting excited! We will probably move up our departure date from Texas from April 2nd by a couple of days to make the drive a little more comfortable in terms of hours driven per day. Our stay in Sam Houston National Forest in east Texas has been really enjoyable. Typically we see very few if any people where we are. But, the last few nights other campers have joined us nearby! Michael has grilled our dinner several times and we continue to stay outdoors as much as possible. The black swallowtail butterflies are out in force, plus we see gulf fritallaries, long-tailed skippers, checkered whites, zebra swallowtail, several monarchs and a few we can’t identify. We hear what we think are pickerel frogs often. Fast moving dragonflies that we can’t ID are around too, and bats are out in the evening. We know by checking online that ruby-throated (and other) hummingbirds are in the state so we’ve hung a nectar feeder hoping we will attract some. Black swallowtail butterflies: Bird migration is happening! We hear, but haven’t yet seen, black and white warblers, brown creepers, pine warblers, and yellow warblers. Red-shouldered hawks still call from high in the sky. The other night two great-horned owls (male and female) were calling back and forth for quite awhile. We hear other familiar bird song, but our birding by ear skills are a bit rusty for spring migration! Blackberry flowers are in bloom, but we’ll be gone before we can harvest any. Every morning we see these very neat cup-shaped webs in the adjacent field: Web is covered in pollen. Two neighborhood guinea hens, owned by a man who has a home in the forest! A beautiful day in the forest on this 19th day of March. with temps around 80 degrees, but a great breeze to keep things comfortable! Nights have been mild. Last night we had severe thunderstorms with a bit of hail! The lightening flashes were non-stop for about a half hour; can’t remember seeing something like this recently. Once the storm moved on, the humidity dropped and it was pleasant sleeping weather. Lots of new growth in the trees! Time for a short hike on the Lone Star trail! See you soon!

Texas Visit

Every year we return to Texas, where we are domciled, to handle vehicle inspection, medical appointments, trailer maintenance, etc. Happily we are in the Sam Houston National Forest boondocking. It’s one of our favorite spots!

We had a bit of a health scare with Michael recently so we were glad to be here on our home turf. After a few days of constantly being out of breath, we finally went to our primary care doctor. Michael had a head cold about a week or so before but was over it. So we erroneously diagnosed his shortness of breath and cough as a chest cold. Turns out he needed a 5 day hospital stay, and thankfully he is doing well now. Unexpected excitement!

And I have been working through my hip issues, with no firm diagnosis yet.

When we hit the road 3 years ago, our focus was on the traveling part and getting settled into the nomadic lifestyle. We kind of forgot about the realities of life! We have learned otherwise. Different challenges that we have faced while hopping around the country have been more and more manageable as time passes. It takes some time to figure things out, but being adaptable has made these hurdles less intimidating.

The Rpod is fine, thank you! We just bought new tires for her/him and will get them installed soon. The current tires aren’t that old, but one became damaged and isn’t fixable. Plus these were what’s called a load C tire. Adequate for traveling, but a load D is more adept at handling the trailer weight and whatever obstacles come our way. We decided on Goodyear Endurance, one highly recommended by the Rpod community.

In the past month it has rained seemingly every day, but we are in a stretch of sunny and mild temps. Spring is in the air as we see flowers starting to bloom, butterflies flitting about (black swallowtail seen today, and a few Gulf frittilaries), and yay, birds are beginning to migrate through! Had a thrush (species unknown due to distance) today and we hear chipping sparrows and red-shouldered hawks. This time of year brings the dawn chorus and we love hearing the bird song as the sun rises! We also have pileated and red-belly woodpeckers near us and we hear their calls and hammering regularly. Morning walks are becoming the norm!

On dry days we sit outside with our morning coffee.

Yellow/green pollen is suddenly everywhere thanks to all of the pines surrounding us!

Big fire (?) ant hills are everywhere and these teeny ants pack a mean punch when they bite!

Nevelle hanging out with us!

Our Yellowstone adventure is only about 5 weeks away! We expect to be on the road April 2, if not earlier, as my store manager training begins on April 9. We keep track of the current weather there now, along with average temps and snowfalls and snow and cold is the norm. By the time we get there, there will still be freezing temps, so we are noodling around ideas to keep our water and waste tanks from freezing. One strategy is to put a skirt all the way around the bottom of the trailer to keep some of the cold out. Use of a space heater under the trailer, and heat tape (who knew?!) on the tanks and pipes will hopefully thwart any problems with the tanks. Reflective panels will be cut to match the shape of the trailer windows and will be inserted inside to ward off some of the cold. We are excited though for this experience in Yellowstone!

Places we’ve been!

Will see you soon!

Catching Up!

I was able to finally publish a post from a few weeks ago! I kept running into issues, but all is resolved now. Apologies for the delay in posting the previous entry!

We are camping in Coldspring, TX after departing Escapees Campground, once again in one of our favorite national forests. While here we had a neighbor for the first time, a young man traveling in his vehicle while taking a gap year off. When he departed, due to heavy rain and lots of mud, he got stuck. He came back to us asking if we could pull him out. That was all Michael! And the awesome Tundra! Glad Michael could help him out.

Days have ranged from sunny and around 60 degrees, to today, January 31, where it will hit 70+ degrees with lots of sunshine. Nights have been cold though, so we’re dressing warm to sleep.

Due to the Yellowstone job, I have had to add “business casual” attire to my collection of t-shirts and jeans. That’s the dress code for store mangers. Fridays may be a jeans day for store employees, but that is yet to be decided. I’ve completed paperwork for the job and we’re getting excited. We’ll be living in the Rpod there with full hook-ups. Prior to heading out in March, we’ll have to do a major shopping for everything from toilet paper to food, since the nearest shopping is apparently 2 – 3 hours away, at a Walmart! There are some small grocery stores at Yellowstone, but we’re guessing that items there won’t be cheap. Maybe I’ll get a discount!?

Right now we are doing tasks around the trailer and working on getting our new trailer tires onto the trailer. Michael can do it, but we’re looking into a local shop as well. I am visiting doctors to resolve some health issues and we’ll get the truck inspected. We anticipate leaving Texas in mid-March to arrive on April 9th at Yellowstone. But, happily, dear friends Jane and Charlie will be “nearby”, ok, in Arizona, so we may visit with them first before heading north! Got to figure out the mileage.

Sorry for no pics this time around. Just wanted to touch base with you all to catch up!

See you soon!

Challenges & Comfort

We have had our real first taste of winter camping, something we didn’t plan on. In Texas, at the Escapees RV Campground, very cold temperatures had settled in. In east Texas, we didn’t expect snow either! But it happened, even if it didn’t measure up to a nor’easter!

View from our trailer of snow and ice on January 16th.

This cold weather has lingered in the 20’s during the day and teens at night, but today is the day temps are starting to rise a bit to a balmy 42 degrees! We will take it! Tomorrow, Friday, January 19, we’ll reach 50, and, yay, we hit 69 degrees on Saturday and 71 on Sunday! Go figure this crazy weather. The challenges with this cold weather are freezing pipes and tanks on the trailer. Unfortunately, our black water and gray water tanks have frozen, so yesterday when we went to dump our tanks, nothing came out. This is a big “uh oh”. We poured hot water down the toilet several times with no success, and the same with the gray water tanks. So we are using the campground restrooms until this issue passes. With warming temps coming we are hopeful all will thaw out. One benefit of being an rpod owner is the Facebook rpod owners group. Talk about an active group! I posted the problem on the site, and I received loads of responses on what to do. Things like using electric blankets around the exterior waste pipes, to something called heat tape which we will look for and carry with us going forward, to head further south (like that suggestion!!). Today we’ll hook up our hose to the tanks and hope that the higher temperature will begin to thaw things out. We have been running our heat regularly, not only to stay comfy, but with cabinets open to keep pipes warm. Heat runs on propane and we ran out at last night around 9pm. Off to Walmart we went to exchange our empty tank for a filled one. So these are our challenges for now.

It’s been great being at Escapees as we have full hookups, including electricity. It’s nice to have as many lights on as we want and to use our microwave! Going backwards, one of the towns we passed through on our way to Livingston was Comfort and I loved it there! Over 20 years ago we cycled through there on our loaded touring bicycles but I didn’t recall the charm of the town and surrounding area. In town there are cool shops and a popular coffee shop called High’s (on High St.) for breakfast and dinner. But what really caught my eye was a needlework shop called The Tinsmith’s Wife in a lovely historic home. Until it opened we hung out at High’s. Then I entered needlework nirvana! I spent an hour or so wandering through this old house with rooms transferred to knitting, cross-stitch, and needlepoint mini-shops. I bought a colorful needlepoint canvas of a cat that I am already working on. Nice group of ladies there and Terri taught me several new stitches. A great way to relax for me.

Needlepoint!

Charming Comfort, TX:

..Our big news that I alluded to in my last post! Michael and I are heading to Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming for six months!! I was hired as a store manager at one of 12 stores in Yellowstone, by Delaware North Companies. They tell me the store, across from Old Faithful, is their highest revenue store! Oh boy, no pressure there! We are very excited as we’ll really get to know the park, The Grand Tetons, and Jackson Hole. Surprisingly I am looking forward to working retail again — I love working with a team and dealing with customers! We need to be there by April 9th, and my contract runs till the end of October. Earning an income is especially important so we can continue to build up our nest egg. So that’s the scoop! See you soon!

Yes, We Have Left Arizona!

Happy New Year greetings from Texas! Make this year a happy one, finding time for those memorable moments. We wish you the best and thank you for traveling along with us! Sometimes it’s hard to move on. We had come to Arizona for a one month visit and stayed for two! It was tough leaving Mt. Lemmon and the Molino Basin Campground due to their beauty, and we really like all that Tucson has to offer, so picking ourselves up to head east towards Texas wasn’t easy. But that’s one aspect of full-timing that we like…flexibility! Thimble Peak, Mt. Lemmon We left Arizona on New Year’s, and spent our first three nights at a rest stop in AZ, but close to the border of New Mexico. As an aside, we were breaking the rules that were posted: maximum stay was 24 hours. But we were able to spend these days in milder temps rather than diving right into the cold weather. So, as a caveat, “do as I say, not as I do”! Michael had been checking the weather regularly to figure out the coldest locations and then planned our route to do shorter daily miles so we could stay behind the coldest weather that was east of us. Last night, spent in the Las Cruces, NM Cracker Barrel, was darn cold!! For the first time we actually ran our furnace through the night. It cycled off and on during the night keeping us and the kitties comfortable. Now in Texas, we are at another rest area and temps will be in the upper twenties, so the furnace will be running again! At least it isn’t 10 degrees out with snow and wind!! (Thinking of family and friends on the east coast getting hammered by a bombastic cyclone, or whatever it’s called.) While driving through NM, we saw cloud formations that were so unusual we could only think “Roswell”! If we didn’t know better we would have suspected UFO!! Check these photos out: Doesn’t that round circle, dead center, look UFO-ish? Very weird! The clouds were “bumpy”! And this one large opening looked like snow had been plowed! This diagonal “cloud” came right to the ground and didn’t change formation for quite some time! Stairway to Heaven? Larger than life Roadrunner in NM. On I 10 east; Franklin Mountains, we believe. New Mexico. So, why back to Texas at this time? Our truck inspection is not scheduled until April (we want to change that if we can to February, so time for spring birding and travel won’t be impeded by an inspection). I digress! We’re back for some doctor appointments. Those of you who know me may recall I had a hip replacement back in January 2014. Four years ago! Wow, time flies. But I digress again! Anyway, the hip basically has bothered me ever since the surgery, getting worse as each year goes by. And, sadly, my left hip had reared it’s ugly head, and I have pain there. Tie this in with chronic back issues, and you can see I am not a happy hiker. So it is time for me to take charge and leave the pain behind. I will be seeing a couple of orthopedic doctors for an evaluation and hopefully some resolution. I hope no surgery is in the cards, but it has become difficult to do simple walking. I forced myself to do a few short hikes with Michael while in AZ, but I suffered! So, here’s hoping my new year is filled with more pain-free moments. We may have some exciting plans for the summer, but I’ll hold off revealing anything until we have gotten it all figured out. Sorry…not nice of me to leave you hanging! But you’ll know soon enough one way or the other! And how can I sign off without a cute cat photo? Rice sleeping in her favorite spot! See you soon!