A Long Way Round

This is my little camper setup at Lake Texoma near Durant, Oklahoma. It worked well on the long road trip.

Now that I am back home again, I can write about my long roadtrip and the first long trip out with the new (to me) camper.

Much earlier this year, I started seriously looking at a camper. The requirements were straightforward — housing for The Girl and me, perhaps one other (most likely Older Son), not too heavy for my 4Runner, a galley, and a bathroom.

I did not want a pop-up camper with the tent bedrooms. I wanted a hardside.

I looked at a new Forest River Rockwood hardside, but did not want to pay new price only to find out I did not like it. But I found a used unit in Los Angeles, so I bought it. Older Son and I did a short, fast roadtrip to LA and back to pick it up.

We used it on Field Day as housing for our operation. It was only a couple of days in the field, so that outing was not a proper test.

But on this trip I left the house on 10 July. I returned home on 05 August and I think that was a suitable shake-down trip.

The first leg was from Carson City to Lubbock, Texas. On the way out I stayed at KOA campgrounds. I made the choice, but it was expeditious. My friends in Lubbock were planning a get-together of old friends and I wanted to be there on time.

Of course, I did not plan well and did not understand how long it would take me to assemble the kit for the new camper. So I was a day late in my departure. The trip out took me through Ely, Nevada (a favorite place), where I spent my first night. It was then off through Green River and Moab, Utah, and on to Cortez, Colorado where I spent my second night. Both KOA campgrounds were better than expected. I also began learning how to setup my camper quickly so that it would be easy to take down the next morning without too much fussing.

My third night I stopped at a state campground, Oasis State Park, near Portales, New Mexico. That was a real treat. The sites were much farther apart and it was very quiet. I liked that quite a lot. The showers were nearly new and because there are not too many sites at the campground, they are not heavily used.

I set up my radio and listened to a number of calls. I made a couple contacts before settling down for the night.

I set up the camper in my friends’ front yard between Lubbock and Tahoka, hooked up to their electricity and water. It was a hard test for my camper because it was in direct sun. I learned that the camper air conditioner will struggle with temperatures approaching 100F and when the unit is in direct sunlight. But it does fine after sunset even with elevated temperatures.

I was busy almost the entire time in Texas. I scheduled meals with most of my closet friends, missing only a couple of those I wanted to see. I will go again, God willing, and spend a little more time there. I really need to stay at least two weeks, but a month is better.

I learned that my favorite pastor and wife team, John and Sylvia, sold their place and bought a motor home. They were in Lubbock for medical care before heading out on the road. I got to spend some time with them, time always well spent.

Older Son was in Lubbock visiting with DiL’s family. I picked him up and we headed for Durant, Oklahoma, to spend time with my youngest and his girlfriend. It was a hot, uneventful leg from Lubbock to Durant. We spent a few days in Durant, went to the movies a couple of times (rare for me), and had a great visit.

My SiL graciously allowed me to park the camper in her yard. I had plenty of room and a tree in which to hang an antenna.
We left Durant and went north across Oklahoma to the southeastern corner of Kansas, where we found a municipal campground with power and water for a ten-buck fee. The power at the first site I chose did not work. On closer inspection, the utility box appeared to have been submerged, probably over the winter or with spring floodwaters in the adjacent river. A quick check revealed another site that was slightly (a couple of feet) higher with a clear utility box. We moved the rig and had power and water. Those jurisdictional campgrounds can be very inexpensive and have decent services. Plus they are not as developed as the commercial campgrounds, meaning the spaces are generally farther apart.

We met my uncle in Springfield, Missouri for breakfast the following morning. It was a good visit and I try to pass through there anytime I’m in the area to check in with my extended family.

The drive to Rolla was short (a couple of hours) and uneventful. Older Son and I found a decent spot at my SiL’s place and got the camper setup. We were able to get it level and used my generator to power the air conditioner. The weather was really humid, especially for a desert boy.

It was good to see family and I had all three of my children and both of my grandchildren together for the first time since Wife died. We had lots of laughs and lots of talk.

Too soon it was time to leave. We said out goodbyes and headed out. Older Son and I crossed Kansas on U.S. and state highways. I dropped him in Denver, said “hi/bye” to DiL, and headed north towards Wyoming to avoid the steep grades in the front range of the Rockies. Of course, there was an accident on I-25 north from Denver, so I stopped for the night at the KOA at Wellington, Colorado.

The camp is too close to the Interstate. Although I do not know if there was anything management could do about it, the campground was infested with common houseflies. It was bad enough that I had several get into my camper during the short time it took to raise the roof and sides. But the campground was available (I got the last spot) and I was tired. So it was a good stop.

I took US 287 north to Laramie, Wyoming the next morning. It is a stretch of road I love and the grades are not too steep. I took a few minutes to drive through Laramie, wondering if it was a place I could live if I decide to leave Nevada. Who knows, I might (leave Nevada)…

Sunset from the Lyman, Wyoming KOA.

I had planned to stop for the night in Lyman, Wyoming. There is a KOA campground there. It is one of the smaller KOAs I visited, but was far enough away from the highway to be quiet. It was also not full and that added to the quiet. It was nice enough that I spent an extra night to recharge a little.

I drove on to Wendover, Nevada then turned south to Ely, Nevada where I spent my last night on the road. The Ely KOA is pretty good. It is clean, quiet, and the spaces are far enough apart (not far, but far enough). I did a hasty setup and did not unhook from the 4Runner because I knew I would leave early to get home.

The Girl and walked a few rounds around the perimeter of the campground. Both of us needed some outside time.

I woke early, of course, hit the head, then got The Girl out (who looked at me like I was crazy being up so early). She brightened when she learned we would walk as we made a round about the campground perimeter. I finished loading out the rig, dropped the camper into travel mode, and we headed into town. It was a quick stop to refuel the 4Runner and grab a biscuit from McDonalds before we left town.

The drive home was uneventful. I turned on my handy-talkie when we approached Fallon, Nevada, thinking I might be able to hear the Mount Rose repeater. I was just in time to hear the Sierra Nevada Amateur Radio Service noon net. I was surprised that I could talk to the repeater with my HT and the magnetic antenna mounted to the roof of my rig.

I was able to check in and confirm that we would run the new operators workshop the following Saturday. My signal was not great (a little scratchy, no surprise), but copyable.

Another operator and I run a workshop for newly-licensed amateur operators every couple of months. We give them a chance to operate their handheld radios with assistance (and encouragement) from a couple of more experienced radio operators. It is common for new licensees to have mike fright. The only way to gain experience operating the radio is to operate the radio. The regular nets are there partly to provide operators experience in running their radios.

After another hour or so, I backed the camper into my driveway and unhooked. Before I unloaded, I got my air conditioner out of the garage and put it in my workroom. I do not need central air conditioning so long as I can keep one room cool. If I have a place to cool off, I am good.

It is good to be home.

Mead Cafe

I am sitting in my (new-to-me) camper at the KOA Journey in Lyman, Wyoming this afternoon. I am heading home after a long roadtrip that took me to Lubbock, Texas, to Duran, Oklahoma, to Rolla, Missouri, to Denver, Colorado, and now the last leg back to Carson City.

I have been on the road for more than three weeks. All of my nights were spent in my camper, a 2017 Forest River Rockwood. It is an A-Frame that folds down and is compact in the down position. The 4Runner pulls is pretty will, slowing only on the steepest hills. I will write more about it later.

I am learning a lot about the camper lifestyle. There is a lot for me to learn about setting up my rig. It is interesting to think about a small house and how to make it work for me efficiently.

One thing I learned is that there are many campgrounds operated by county and municipal governments that are very inexpensive. I stayed at a number of municipal campgrounds where I had both electricity and water for about ten bucks a night. That is a bargain compared to what I was paying for lodging.

But I am getting ahead of myself. I want to write about an interaction I had with Marylinn and Anna, who work the floor at the Mead Cafe. The Mead Cafe is located between Durant and Lake Texoma. Older Son and I stayed at one of the Corps of Engineers campgrounds at the lake. That was an interesting experience in and of itself that bears some additional writing, too.

We met Young Son and his girl at the Mead Cafe on a Saturday morning for breakfast. I was sufficiently impressed that it became our go-to breakfast place during our stay there.

On our last morning in Oklahoma, Older Son and I stopped in for breakfast. It was a quiet morning and both women working the floor stopped to chat several times while Older Son and I drank coffee and prepared for our day.

The younger, Anna, told us about the dog she lost to an automobile and the new dog she had taken in. She asked many questions about The Girl and her service work. It was my pleasure to listen to her story, share her grief for her lost companion, and share her joy with her new companion.

The older, Marylinn, told me stories about “service dogs” — one in particular about a dog whose handler put her plate on the floor for the dog. (Yes, that caused even my eyebrows to rise!) She asked many questions about The Girl, as well. She told me that she would not have known The Girl was there but for Anna telling her there was a dog under our table.

The Girl is the real deal. She is not perfect, but neither am I. We are a good team. She knows her job and she knows me, sometimes better than I know myself. She knows what I will do before I do and anticipates our comings and goings. She knows to stay out of sight when working and she knows to play like all hell is loose when we play.

Again this morning, while I had breakfast at the Cowboy Cafe near my campsite, one of the young women working the floor came by. She told me “If I had not seen her come in, I would not have known there was a dog in here.” The Girl looked at her from the top of her eyes, staying on the flood near my feet like she always does.

After breakfast, The Girl and I drove to the Lyman Cemetery. I figured there would be a geocache there and we both needed some outside time. While I was searching for the geocache, The Girl got all rowdy, running around me on the grass like a crazy dog.

I paused my search, crouched, and said “I’m gonna get you…” and we had a great chase there on the grass. Finally, exhausted, she laid on the grass, panting and enjoying the coolness of the green.

I found my geocache, signed the log, and we headed off to Fort Bridger to walk the site and enjoy some of the history of the area.

Yes, she knows how to work and how to play. She is a good teacher for me and the best companion I could ask for.

Wandering

This old highway atlas was one of two that I found in my cache of odd things in the garage when I sold my house. It dates from the 1980s and is seriously out of date. Yet, I used it a great deal when I was wandering a couple of years ago.

The highways are still there. It is possible to navigate without GPS. What that means is there will be wrong turns and some confusion about finding the next highway. What it also means is serendipity in finding places that I would not otherwise see.

I would pull up the rig at a turn or a turn out, roll down the windows for fresh air (if they were not already down), and pull out this atlas. I have another paper atlas that is current and has more detail, but there is something about this far-away view that attracts me. But I digress. I would find my location, more or less, and look at the highways and towns nearby. Then I would make a decision about direction and move out.

Many times on these pauses I would step out of the rig, camera or binoculars in hand, and just look around. The Girl would sniff about doing doggie-things while I did human-things.

I will keep this old atlas. I have a feeling that there will be another wander sometime in the not distant future. I might decide to put my things back into storage or just get rid of the lot. I might decide to buy an RV or a motor coach and give up a permanent place. I do not know yet. But in the meantime, this old atlas is in the rig, waiting, perhaps calling, and that wanderlust is still within me, in the background, waiting, perhaps calling.

The potential is always there.

Rocks on Driftwood

I found these stones stacked on a piece of driftwood on the Pacific Coast of Oregon.

A couple of years ago I drove up to Washington state to visit some friends and wander around. On my way home, I drove through the Olympic Peninsula, spending a few days working my way back south. I camped some and I stayed in hotels.

As I drove one morning, I came upon a bit of state beach on a cool, foggy morning. The Girl and I wandered down the path to the beach, enjoying the cool, moist sea air. Once on the beach, we found a lot of driftwood piled up from recent storms. I supposed we wandered around the beach for an hour, interacting with some fishermen working the surf and making photographs.

On the way back to the rig, I came on this group of stones that someone stacked on a log. In many ways, it is a stock image. I have seen many similar captures. But there was something about being there on that Pacific beach, finding something that someone else left behind. The image was not staged. The fog provided a wonderful background.

So, I made the capture. It was a good day.

A Pause by the River

On my trip to Washington state last year, I paused at Greenwaters Park along the Williamette River for a pit stop for both The Girl and myself. I got her out and we walked around the park, pausing at the river bank (or at least me) to watch the play of light on the water’s surface and to listen to the sound of moving water.

I never tire of the sound of moving water. I suppose I’ll never tire of the sight of moving water, either. Aside from the physics of flowing water, I just like it. I thought I should share.

Street

He was looking at something…

It was a year ago… actually a bit more than a year ago. I drove out to Denver from Carson City, leaving Carson on Nevada Day and heading east on U.S. 50.

The purpose was to visit the U.S. Geological Survey Water Science Center in Denver for an interview. I made the cut for a senior position in the center and so was scheduled for a face-to-face interview.

While there I spent a few days with my kids. One afternoon Older Son and I walked around a bit. I carried a camera for some street photography (or whatever). I managed this capture that afternoon.

I don’t know why I am just now processing this image. Well, actually I know… 2017 was a pretty busy year. After the USGS job didn’t happen, I moved into a small place in Carson City. The move and setup took a bit of time. Then 2017 brought plenty of work that kept me busy.

As 2017 comes to a close and 2018 looms, I know that I will work through the bulk of this work and have time to devote to the photography and other things that are important to me.

So, I’ll leave a wish for a safe New Year’s Eve and a Happy 2018 to those who wander by.

Crystal, Nevada

On the road to Pahrump, there is a little town called Crystal, Nevada.

On the road down to Pahrump, Nevada, we paused for a leg stretch and to watch the Sun set. Everyone else was hurrying on their way to wherever they were going. We watched them rush by while The Girl and Older Son puttered around the desolate landscape.

There are some odd places in this part of Nevada. Hoy’s “Lovership” appears to be one of them. [shudders] No, we didn’t stop there.

This morning it will be time to head back to the house. I think we accomplished what needed to be done here. Now it is time for me to work on the project and finish it up.

I’m going to enjoy the drive home. I love Nevada.

Pahrump

After a fun play, The Girl posed for me.

Work once again brings me to Pahrump, Nevada. I’ll have field work to do for the next couple of days. Then we’ll head back home again.

The drive down was uneventful, for which I’m thankful. The weather was good and the Sun felt good on my body. The Girl snoozed most of the way here, which means she slept most of the day. We did take a couple of breaks to get out of the rig and move around.

But she had quite a lot of pent-up energy. So after getting settled into our room (Older Son is with us), we had a big-old play on the floor. She bounced between Older Son and me, and we roughed her up really well. She was mildly mouthy, which is unusual for her, but she was so gentle that I couldn’t bring myself to admonish her.

In the end, she posed for me before I got out her food for the evening. She was hungry, having forgone breakfast in the nervousness of impending travel.

We then walked over to the sports bar and got supper for the big dogs. I really enjoyed my salad.

I had to correct several personnel there about how to *not* deal with a service dog. Everyone seems to think they can just approach a working dog and engage. So, once again I found myself having to train service personnel on the proper way to (not) interact with working dogs.

I’m pretty good at it. I’m not one of those handlers who loses their mind if someone looks at their dog. (There are many who will.) So I’m a good one for untrained service personnel to interact with.

It was good.

After a long time, our server finally reappeared with the check. She said “Sorry it took me so long. I had to break the bartender.”

I looked at her, raising my eyebrows, “Break the bartender,” with visions of her actually *breaking* someone. I began to laugh.

“No, no, no… I gave the bartender a break,” regardless of me giving her a hard time, she remained (mostly) nonplussed.

I laughed quite a lot. “You look pretty strong… I’ll bet you could break the bartender.”

I was still laughing about this as we paid the bill and headed back to the room. Normally, someone “verbifying” a noun makes me crazy. In this case, I thought it was hysterically funny.

I still think it’s funny.

What Is It?

This is what I saw just before the storm rolled in on my way back from southern Nevada.

On my way down to southern Nevada, I saw something bright against the horizon just north from Tonopah, Nevada. I had no idea what it was that I saw. I only knew that it was very bright, almost blindingly bright even in the distance.

I watched as I passed the location, drove through Tonopah, and continued toward my destination. My schedule did not permit me to stop and explore. It would have to wait for another time.

That time arrived a few days later, on my way home from the site work. I was hot and tired after working much of the morning in the southern Nevada heat, but I knew it might be weeks or months before I passed this way again. So I elected to take a few minutes and explore.

A summer thundershower was rolling in from the southeast as I approached. I could see that the structure was huge. I figured out what it was long before I got close enough to see it clearly. It is the Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project, privately owned. Of course, by the time I got in position to make a good capture, the dust was blowing and the sun was absent. So the impact was just not there.

Now I know I’ll have to return. Perhaps a sunny winter day would be a good time to visit Tonopah, make some captures of this wonder, and visit the mining museum there in Tonopah.

At least I solved the mystery.

Roadtrip

A random selfie when the sun was on me one morning…
After a couple months of absence from my space, I decided to post something. I was away from home last month and am still traveling. But I’ll be home soon. It will be a good thing.

Travel took me to the east coast for a project meeting. The meeting went well enough, I think. There was a lot of intrigue, or so it seems, in the project panel. There were definitely undercurrents I did not understand. I think I still do not understand them.

But, the meeting was completed. I spent some time with Daughter and her family. I worked on two proposals and one statement of qualifications. I have paying work to do.

Now I’ll go see Wife’s family for a couple of days. Then I’ll head home through Denver to see Older Son and DiL. That will be good, too.

Then I’ll be home for a bit. I’m ready for that.