CAMPING SEASON!

Lots has been going on in our world lately – while two spring blizzards put the kabosh on two separate spring camping expeditions, we’ve stayed plenty busy with yardwork, pool-opening, and front yard camping with our granddaughter (during the aforementioned spring blizzards). I will admit it was difficult to reconcile all those inches of heavy snow to the 80 degree weekend at Carter Lake a few weeks back, but hopefully we’re officially out of winter’s clutches now.

Two weekends ago, we took SV out on the road to Wyoming – they’d had buckets of rain, apparently, as the 160 point turn in the second loop of the campground can attest. The roads were under water and so the only way to get out of the loop was to turn around the hard way. Now, with just the RV, it would have been a snap, but with a 28′ RV AND a 22′ trailer with boat…it’s a bit less easy. Let’s add to that a 30 mile round trip out of our way excursion because the ship’s captain (spouse) didn’t listen to the navigational system (me), resulting in somewhat short fuses. *cough* Bygones. We got the rig turned around with nary a scrape nor scuff, and finally settled into a camping spot in a loop we haven’t been in before (and where someone had thoughtfully built an alternate road, well up from the overflowing lake).

It really was a grand weekend, if a bit rainy and chilly, and we were fortunate to be able to take an extra day to just BE, gathering firewood and burning it high because we were actually someplace wet enough to not be a fire hazard. You’ve gotta love THAT, right?

Advertisements

Carter Lake, Colorado

We spent the weekend at Carter Lake in Loveland, Colorado – such a beautiful spot! Freddy spent many hours fishing (catch and release which is mean, I know, but probably less mean than eating them? I struggle with it) and I spent many hours painting and reading. Oh, and a large (20+) herd of deer wandered through our campsite several times, so close we could have touched them (but didn’t because deer aren’t really all that jazzed about being touched by humans). Friday and Saturday were gorgeous and warm, but a front moved in Saturday afternoon, with gusting winds that ruined all prospects of an evening campfire. Ah, April…what were we thinking, camping before spring is in full bore?

Now, all happiness aside, we noticed something weird about camping this weekend. Do campers not really…camp….anymore? I mean, people showed up in the dark, set up camp by headlight glare without any consideration for whose windows were lit up in the darkness for hours on end. Then they would party loudly until 3am, back up before 9am when it was apparently the time to open more cans of beer to start all over again. Ugh. And the music. I am not a fan of country music by any stretch of the imagination, and when I’m camping, the only noise I enjoy is the sound of nature. So, imagine my irritation to have my wannabe redneck camp-neighbors crank their stereo up to the tune of something like "Chew tobacco chew tobacco chew tobacco spit." First off, morons, you’re driving a rather petite Toyota pickup truck. Not so redneck as you’re trying to convey. And that "cowboy hat" you bought at the gas station? Not really so cowboy, either. And then…they walked away from their site, left the radio blaring and didn’t come back for hours. We walked over to the marina to have some lunch and watch the water because it was quieter at a BUSINESS than it was at our CAMPSITE.

I will say that I’m all for "do your own thing." I am. But if "your own thing" infringes on me doing "my own thing," I have a problem with that. And really, if "your own thing" means cranking up your stereo at a national park and walking away from it for the enjoyment of everyone but you…well, just don’t.

She’s Back!

We’ve got our gal out of winter storage, her license plates are bought and paid for (can you say, “OUCH?”), and reservations have been made for the next two weekends: Carter Lake and Boyd Lake, respectively. The boat is newly registered for the 2016 season, and since we’re not a patient couple, we went for a few long roadtrips (but nothing overnight) this weekend.

Holy excitement, Bat Babes – we are so ready to roll!Carter Lake in Springtime_04022016

*sigh*

Well, there isn’t much to report these days on the Serenity Vagabond front. It’s been an unusually cold and snowy November in Colorado, so our gal has been parked and there she sits. I think we might go visit her in storage this weekend, so I can post some photos of her in her winter “sweater.” 🙂

Winterizing

Well, in light of this morning’s early temperature of 32 degrees, I’ve been in a bit of a panic. While I did sanitize and drain the RV’s fresh water tank, we have yet to evacuate all of the water from the plumbing. My guess is with all of the warm-ish daytime temps, I’m still relatively safe, but who wants to make a million repairs when those repairs are preventable?

This weekend, we’ll use the compressed air method to remove the water from any of the freshwater lines (with the exception of the washer, since apparently the pump inside it is impossible to fully purge using air – we’ll have to run the pink antifreeze through that), and then a combo of air/antifreeze in all the return lines and both the gray and black water tanks. BIG FUN, but it will be a learning experience, I guess.

We’ve been trying for the past 3 weeks to get a concrete contractor to install a parking pad for Serenity next to our existing driveway. Who would have thought that contractors are independently wealthy and don’t need to make money this close to winter? Let me say that we’ve been continually disappointed with the contractors who have shown up, as well as the ones who say they’ll show up and then do not. I’ve used Thumbtack to locate contractors, as well as just the plain old yellow pages.

Let me also mention that when Thumbtack tells you “We have located 3 qualified contractors in your area,” they have absolutely NO vetting process, so anyone can say they are a qualified contractor and Thumbtack will send them to you. And before you think that I am overly persnickety, I will tell you that all we are doing is pouring a 25’x45′ slab, 4″ thick, with tied rebar – no cut new cut-ins like for an actual driveway, and we’re totally fine with there being a step down from the existing drive since we want the slab to be pretty level for the RV and boat to park on. This is a very, very basic concrete job. Our issues have arisen when contractors are unable to produce a proposal/contract to bid the job and detail the work to be done, along with cost and warranty. Oh, and proof of GL and WC insurance. Only one has been able to provide any of the standard documents and after I called and left that company messages for a week, they finally called me a week later and I told them thanks, but no thanks. I figure if you’re too busy to reply to your voicemail, you’re probably too busy to squeeze our job into your super-tight schedule. Ya feel me?

Oh! And let’s not forget the guys who were going to start on Monday, and then called me Monday morning to let me know that the tree they agreed to remove (for additional cost) is now bigger than they remember (since Friday) and wouldn’t it make more sense for us to just narrow the span of our concrete pad (by TWELVE FEET), or to perhaps just cut the concrete in at an angle, widening toward the fence and thereby missing the tree? Ummmmmmmm. No. If you visited the job site like you said you did, and you bid the job, how is there anything to quibble about the day work is supposed to start? This was the result of an independent online search for a contractor.

Anyway. Worst case, Serenity sits in storage for the winter (which really, really, really sucks) and we try again in the spring. Or scrap the concrete altogether and put in gravel ourselves because really, in a world full of concrete installers who clearly do not need an extra $7K for three days of their time, perhaps gravel is the way to go…Work site

Yes, It’s Still Really Camping

I’ve heard it said on numerous occasions since we bought Serenity that we’re "not really camping."

*sigh*

While I can see how it can be viewed that way, I have to disagree. See, I have paid my dues in the realm of "real camping" since I was an infant. Growing up, we camped in my mom’s old army tent after traveling miles and miles in a hot, dusty car with little more than a cooler, a kettle, and a few sleeping bags. That tent tied shut, so it we had to share it with whatever hopped, crawled, or flew inside. We camped in my grandparents’ little Shasta trailer on their utterly undeveloped acreage at Indian Mountain (no toilets, no showers, no electricity, no generator, no people…but there were bears!). My little sister and I camped in our little orange pup tent in the back yard. We’ve been awakened in the middle of the night to a sudden thunderstorm creating a river through our tent, and we’ve sweltered in campgrounds on the hottest of days from Wisconsin to Colorado.

My husband and I took our own kids camping many times each summer (our older daughter was 4 weeks old when we took her to Lake Dillon in September for her first camping expedition). We were young and perpetually broke, so we only ever used a tent for camping when the kids were growing up. We cooked all of our meals over the campfire (the only reason I even LIKE camping), and perc’d our morning cuppa Joe in our old blue spatterware pot over roaring flames (and occasionally wet-wood smoke). I’ve used sand to scrub the skillet clean, and created new delicious treats to roast on the fire when the kids ran out of marshmallows.

Camping was, and has always been, a fun thing for us. We still cook outdoors in my giant cast iron skillet for our meals, and whether it’s on our portable grill or over a fire depends solely on whether there are burn restrictions where we’re camping. Can you blame me, though, for utilizing the convection oven inside the RV when it’s time for making biscuits? I mean, sure, I can bake biscuits in my dutch oven, but if I don’t have to build a fire that burns long enough to create coals, isn’t it more fun not to sometimes so I can get out on the lake sooner?

I have to wonder, what constitutes "real" camping? Being eaten alive by insects? Been there. Eating questionably safe hotdogs from a cooler with ice long since turned to lukewarm water? Done that (and survived with no ill effects). Sleeping on hard ground, sweating on top of a sleeping bag until somewhere around midnight when you wake up freezing and have to crawl inside? Yep, we’ve done that, too. It seems to me that the argument is really in favor of camping being an inconvenient hot mess, rather than focusing on what is, essentially, the point of camping: being outdoors with one’s friends and family, eating, fishing, sitting around a fire, communing with nature. THAT is camping to me, and hot showers or not, convection oven or not, queen sized bed with soft sheets and pillows or not, we really ARE camping.

New Mexico at Clayton Lake

New Mexico is stark in its loveliness. Not for everyone, this is a land of volcanic rocks, desert vegetation, cliffs, and bluffs, and mountains, with an occasional abandoned adobe house. Some will drive through and see it as a kind of barren no man’s land, but to me, New Mexico is fascinating. Once you leave larger-than-life “cowboy” Texas, you cross the border into colorful, peaceful Native American New Mexico. The whole mood changes that quickly! While in Texas, I could envision old Western movies and cattle drives; in New Mexico, I could imagine warriors atop horses standing on rocky ridges overlooking valleys. How could I help but wonder who may have lived in the caves overhead or what the volcano looked like when it erupted? Perhaps it’s more what is left in our imaginations that makes a place even more beautiful than it really is?

We arrived, safe and sound, at Clayton Lake in New Mexico Saturday afternoon. It was yet another unexpected oasis, smack dab in the middle of the high desert. You’re driving… and you’re driving… and you’re driving toward a smallish mountain on a very windy-twisty road, past antelope and cows, and then you come up over the mountain and BAM! Just like that: a lake.

Obviously we parked and set up camp, just like always. I will say that I’m beginning to think that campgrounds don’t particularly like RVs or perhaps they don’t have a lot of faith that RVers will ever get out of their vehicle to enjoy the outdoors, because we’re seeing many places that only have firepits at primitive sites. Kind of a bummer that RV sites tend to be set up in rows, much like a trailer park, but I guess it’s a lesson to us to get used to the noise of the genny if we want to have lights AND a campfire. All good, I suppose. We did run into a rather passive aggressive couple who seemed to be disturbed that we were using the onsite grill (provided to each RV campsite). We put some soggy woodchips on top of the charcoal and when it started to smoke, they carried on a loud conversation with each other about how fires weren’t permitted, to their collective knowledge. *sigh* I am very, very cautious about researching fire restrictions and at this park the only restriction was against ground fires outside of a fire pit. *sigh again* I’m assuming we will run into those snarky little oldies from time to time, but my experience with fellow campers until this point has been largely and overwhelmingly positive (particular thanks to Merle from Nebraska, and Terry and his grandson, Pickle, from Garden City, KS).

Before the sun set, we walked to see the dinosaur tracks – no kidding! About 1/4 mile away from where we parked, an ancient pond had been uncovered and there were hundreds of fossilized dinosaur tracks to be seen. And the thing is, they were OBVIOUS tracks – you didn’t have to tilt your head sideways, squint your left eye, and throw salt over your shoulder while patting your stomach to see them. Very cool, to stand someplace that was “The Place to Be” before anyone was around to start recording time. Oh, and the trees! You have to be made of some very stern, but also very hopeful, stuff to grow and thrive in an arid, rocky, virtually soil-less place like this. Respect must be paid, so we did pay our respects while listening to two separate packs of coyotes calling to each other from across the lake.

Long Weekend

This was such a fun weekend! Our plan was to head to Lake Scott in Kansas, about 30 miles south of Oakley on US83. We stopped at the I-70 Diner in Flagler, CO and had the BEST chicken fried steaks for a late breakfast before we made the state line. We haven’t been in years, but it’s still the same adorable “joint” with really, really good food. We did kind of miss the famous Chili Schpiel, but the fella who used to do that wasn’t there (we bought a pint, anyway). If you get a chance and you see the bright pink car atop a checkered pole in eastern Colorado, I highly recommend stopping.

We made it to Kansas just around noon, passing countless sorghum fields (and a few drying fields of corn), and mile upon mile of blue sky. Kansas gets kind of a bad rap, but I think it has its own unique beauty, especially if one wanders off the I70 corridor. We saw a few large herds of antelope, a few deer stragglers, and were nearly dive-bombed by a BIG hawk. Oh, and Kansas was the first stop on the Inman Insect Massacre of 2015. Our windshield…oh, what a mess…

The campground was immaculate – we, as is typical for us – somehow ended up entering at the wrong end of the park and took the scenic route to camp. Thankfully, we arrived early and there were lots of places to chose from. Freddy got us all parked and leveled, I put out the slideouts and we set up camp (he sets up outside, and I set up inside). We were kind of bummed to discover that there were no fire pits in the “prime” sites, and while the locals were aware of this, we, sadly, were not. Turns out, we brought firewood for naught (though I did immediately log in to Amazon and ordered us a portable firepit for future use). It’s always fun to set up – friendly people stop by to tell us what a pretty camp set up we have, and it’s flattering to be RV rookies with a place others enjoy looking at.

Believe me when I tell you, when the internet tells you this spot is an oasis, it truly is!  There is some really interesting stuff to see at Lake Scott. Granted, we were there in the off-season, but the lake is gorgeous (no wake, so don’t plan to waterski), the beach was immaculate, sandy, and combed, with a marina right there – I could imagine kids walking up to the window to buy ice cream on hot days. Really, very cool. We walked to El Cuartelejo, the ruins of a very old adobe settlement (I will not dwell on the tarantula we saw while walking, I will not dwell on the tarantula we saw while walking, I will not dwell on the tarantula we saw while walking), and saw a tiny lizard darting around in the underbrush. There are benches all over the park, just waiting for someone to sit a spell, so the whole place felt SO very welcoming – I’m sure we’ll be back quite often.

Well, we planned for Kansas, and ended up there, for sure, but my husband is a gypsy. After landing at Lake Scott, discovering that there were no fire pits in the “prime” sites (and consequently ordering one on Amazon later that night), wandering the grounds, meeting a few strangers, and sleeping the night through, the hubster woke up ultra early, brewed some coffee, and skimmed the atlas whilst I slept. Big mistake, sleeping past 5am when the man has an atlas…

Anyway, we packed up camp sometime around 7:30am, and were on the road toward Oklahoma and Texas, with Clayton Lake in New Mexico as our “most logical” destination. Have I mentioned my husband is a gypsy? Suffice it to say that the man’s decision led to him spending a long, LONG time behind the wheel for the past 4 days. I do owe him $5 after betting that Highway 54 was Pancake Blvd in Liberal, Kansas. He might actually get that money if I ever have any cash.

Tomorrow I’ll post more photos of our most recent foray into this RVing business – please note that there aren’t pictures of Oklahoma or Texas, aside from their state line signs, simply because it didn’t make seem fair to take photos when we were just passing through (and we didn’t see a real whole lot to take pictures of during the few hours we were there). We did make frequent stops to scrub the windshield at various truckstops along the way, but only managed to find tshirts for Kansas and Oklahoma. Texas and New Mexico? Get it together, people.

Kansas and Travel Fund Jar and Whatever Else

In the interest of collecting yet another state sticker for the US map on the side of the RV, we’ll be heading to Kansas this weekend. Might as well cover as much nearby ground as possible, right? We got ourselves a house sitter to hang out with the pooches (Phoebe is NOT a happy camper when camping), so we can head out tomorrow and enjoy the thrill of the open road (and s’mores).

I put together a little mad money jar, but the thing is, no matter how cute the jar is, I really dislike messing with cash. So it’s very likely to take a long, long time to fill that thing up. Ah well, I can pretend it’s the “real thing” while the real “real thing” is in the bank. I suppose if I were feeling VERY crazy, I could then pull funds from savings and put it in the jar to extract it from the jar for RV stuff. Ummmm…or perhaps that exceeds even MY high bar for insanity.

20151003_172232

Tomorrow, I’ve taken the day off so I can get the oil changed and tires rotated for my Denali, and perform various and sundry other “get ready” tasks for a weekend spent traveling and not at home. There is laundry to do, groceries to get, floating pool toys to deflate for the season, a pool to check chemical levels on…sounds like a hoot, doesn’t it? 🙂 But it will feel good to come home and not have any chores waiting for us.

I’ll be back Monday (or sooner) with photos of the latest out of state visit.

 

Autumn

It’s Wednesday, and we’ve had a few days of very chilly, very autumn-y weather. Typically this is my favorite time of year, with the cooler days, the goldenness of sunlight in the fall, and the frequent aroma of roasting chiles in the air. I love, love, LOVE autumn.

But.

This year, we have a pool in the backyard. And a simply beautiful garden. And we have an RV that will have to be winterized soon. And a boat. This year, I’m trying to enjoy fall, but I’m finding that my enthusiasm for the season is a bit…challenged. How can I be ready for winter snow when all I want to do is enjoy just a few more days of summer?

I’m sure that once we’re in full fall/winter holiday season I’ll be in the thick of things, but for now, I’m feeling a certain melancholy that the warm days are nearly gone and soon there will be snow on the ground where the roses used to be.