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Summer Travels Taught Us Flexibility

Summer Travels Taught Us Flexibility

St. Clair, Michigan
82° / 63° Sunny ☀
TODAY’S RV PARK: St. Clair RV Resort
OUR RATING: 3 Stars – Decent campground, cell signal is terrible on Verizon and 2 bars 5G on AT&T. Constant struggle with campground staff regarding Electrical. Our Watchdog surge protector has errors. So does our neighbors. Staff says they are about to ban all surge protectors because they cause them problems. ;-( Our 50amp breaker broke yesterday and has to be replaced. Nearby towns are quaint with the Great Lake Huron a short 15 minute drive up the highway.
PRICE: (Free) Thousand Trails resort
TRIP MILES DRIVEN: 30,593

Our previous post left us in the Washington Cascade Mountains on our way to Glacier National Park and Yellowstone National Park. Well, Mother Nature had other plans for us. The night before we were due to drive across the Washington/Idaho state border to Glacier, the floods hit Yellowstone and the park was closed. The popular Glacier “Road to the Sun” was closed within hours, due to flooding as well. Guess you can’t drive on a road when it’s been washed away. NOW WHAT?!

I won’t kid you dear readers, we did panic. For about 7 loud minutes. Then we swung into action. We needed to act fast as all those other RV travelers who are also being re-routed out of the national parks and are also looking for alternate accommodations. RV blogs were going crazy with the news. We re-routed ourselves south of I-90 to hedge our luck on securing good vacation-worthy accommodations. After all, Tara did fly clear across the country for this trip and held a non-refundable return ticket to Tampa out of Milwaukee… in just 14 days.

KOA Super Patio

Super PatioWe backtracked and went straight south, losing 2 days in our 14-day countdown. Landing in Idaho, in our first ever KOA Patio ® Super Site. WOW folks! If you haven’t tried this yet, you gotta stay in one of these just once. “Patio ® Super Site” is different then the normal patios and is so new, it’s not even on the KOA website as an RV Site yet. Fortunately, you can see the options in the online booking process. These gazebo-like covered patios are fully enclosed grassy areas with brand new comfy patio furniture. Both of the ones we stayed at had outdoor kitchens, multiple seating areas for guests and a propane fueled fire pit. Our dogs were in love with these, since they were able to sun-bathe leash-free. Something they haven’t done since they had their own backyard.

South Dakota

Since we missed out on Glacier and Yellowstone, all our vacation want-to sights were fully rested on Mt. Rushmore. South Dakota didn’t disappoint.

BadlandsThe drive to South Dakota led us through Wyoming and the Badlands (photo right). There was no need to pay an over-priced wild animal park fare somewhere, the Buffalo clearly liked to roam near the highways. At least we got a stamp for our National Park stamp book at this rest stop. If you are planning a trip, by the time you read this and go yourself, the roads around the rest stop should be freshly paved. However, the roads WEST of the rest stop were awful.

A good/bad RV park can set the stage for things to come, no matter how adult and mature we try to be about things. Sometimes emotions and expectations get the better of us. In this case, our expectations were EXCEEDED by the Hart Ranch Camping Resort.

I’m here to testify, that this is the park all other parks should be measured by! It was laid out like a perfect little grid-like RV neighborhood with brand new roads, super large concrete pads for every camper and a full-time Activities Director planning tons of events throughout their many amenities. Including a super-busy snack bar by the pool with REAL FOOD and ice cream, a bar with TWO BUSY bartenders, bicycle rentals, a rodeo arena and stalls with those rodeo horses. The list just goes on. Tara and I enjoyed Happy Hour each night at the bar, as each happy hour was themed with some planned activities and fun. We only missed the live music because, well, we needed a nap. This was the only RV park where we felt like we were on a cruise ship and needed to stay much much longer then our planned 4 day vacation. Dang it if I was on vacation, the Verizon MOFI WIFI was 100/50. Oh the amount of work I could’ve done!!!!

Mt Rushmore Henry in Tatakna window

Henry, our driving buddy, in Tatanka’s window at Mt. Rushmore.

Our first day trip in South Dakota was a bee-line to Mt. Rushmore. A short 30 minute drive from Hart’s Ranch Camping Resort. It was a once-in-a-lifetime excursion that we will never forget. The most awe-inspiring thing we discovered was the bronze etched 500-word winning essay written about the History of America for the dedication of Mt. Rushmore.

It starts…

“Almighty God, from this pulpit of stone the American people render thanksgiving and praise for the new era of civilization brought forth upon this continent. Centuries of tyrannical oppression sent to these shores, God-fearing men to seek in freedom the guidance of the benevolent hand in the progress toward wisdom, goodness toward men, and piety toward God.”

Goosebumps. I want to live in an America like that.

Needles highway Tour bus in tunnelOur second day trip took us on a white-knuckle drive through the Needles Highway. Just know this, our dually truck “Tatonka” is the same width as that tour bus! We measured just to make sure we’d fit before trying. Steve had to do this crazy maneuver 3 times. If you ever wanted to know what lies BEHIND the face of Mt. Rushmore… it’s the State park that the Needles Highway was built in.

 

RV Hack thankshanks

RV Hacks

At the tail end of our trip, we found a hack from Happily Ever Hanks on YouTube that we just had to try! While some windows are nice to have, the battle with privacy and constantly opening/closing blinds is just plain bothersome. Adding frosted/colored window tint to our RV windows was a game changer for us. What’s also great, is at night, you can’t see in!!! We have four windows that we treated, and the colored tint looks awesome from the outside – day or night. The white frosted film can’t be seen at either day or night from the outside. #ThanksHanks !!

Where We are Now

After dropping Tara off at the airport, we hung around Wisconsin for a bit and got really “cheesy”. Pun totally intended. We day-tripped to Amish country and loaded up on cheeses. Quickly passed through Chicago, and stayed only long enough to get take out deep-dish pizza from Pequods and a quick stop by a local hot dog stand. This took us to Indiana where we visited two groups of friends for lazy days by their pool. Followed by a very much needed 3-week break from the road at an RV park equi-distant between Indianapolis and Cincinnati. Since we discovered the carnival-like grocery store Jungle Jims in Cincinnati… we went twice. Just had to.

We are now in Michigan finishing up our summer Great Lakes tour and heading toward Niagara Falls for a couple of weeks. With our final destination of Maine in sights within 30 days.

Stay up to date with us on Facebook and Follow us on Instagram @RV_RoadKill as Steve is always sharing his culinary makings.

Third Goalpost – Blaine, Washington

Third Goalpost – Blaine, Washington

Blaine, WA
42° / 68° Always Rainy ☂
TODAY’S RV PARK: Birch Bay RV Campground
OUR RATING: 4 Stars – Decent campground, cell signal is ok on both Verizon and AT&T, nearby town are incredible with the bay only a couple of blocks away
PRICE: (Free) Thousand Trails resort
TRIP MILES DRIVEN: 23,249

Since leaving California, we’ve driven north through Oregon to Washington.  As soon as we crossed into Oregon, it started snowing and raining.  It hasn’t stopped raining in the past month, although there are moments of sunshine most days that we take full advantage of.

Multnomah Falls
While we passed through Oregon, we were delayed a week for RV repairs.  Having not been in any kind of wet weather, well, since Florida, any water leak soon reared it’s ugly head.  We were delayed in Portland, OR (of all places) while the repairs were completed.  We were very disappointed with the homeless situation in Portland.  Those poor folks are living on any stretch of highway they can find, including the grass in the highway exit cloverleafs, side of roads and entrances to shopping centers.  Homeless tent encampments everywhere.  Sad, that’s what remember most about Portland.

Fortunately, our campground was right on the Oregon Trail.  Which we followed on a day trip to visit Multnomah Falls – which was just a short 20 minute drive out of town.  There were a lot of waterfalls along the way, but this one certainly takes the cake!  The hiking paths leading up to the falls were super simple which made for a nice excursion.  We were not visiting in their primary season, so we missed out on any trolley adventures that run during that time.

We eventually made our way north to Washington, with a short weeklong stop just outside of Port Angeles.  We have never seen trees or forestry so tall before!  The campground at Dow Creek RV Resort was completely empty and we were one of only a few travelers staying that particular week.  Which meant we had no neighbors and nothing but forest to look at and the sound of a lovely creek nearby.  Dogs wandered off-leash (since there was nobody around to say otherwise) and enjoyed the private trails that climbed up the hills in the campground.  Puddin enjoyed running in and out of the stream every time the trails crossed over them.  Even Peanut delighted in the trail adventures.  Being that this camp was in the same forest as where “Twilight” was filmed, we were thankful not to run into any vampires.  Bats, however, are a different story.  We added this park to our Must Re-Visit list of campgrounds!

Blaine02

Peanut and Puddin watching Steve go “clamming”. Canada in the distance.

After our empty-handed vampire trip, we headed all the way north…. as far as possible that you can drive in America without crossing the Canadian border to Blaine, WA.  We stayed for three weeks and loved every minute of it, except the constant rain.  Our first free day in Blaine gave us time to enjoy the famous clamming sport that the area is known for.  One of the many things we loved about the area, is that Washington state is very very dog-friendly.  Most places encourage you to bring your dogs and really go above and beyond to give your dogs a great experience.  From terrific leash free areas to special dog parks, our puppies put this town on their Must Re-Visit list as well.

Steve got lost for hours in the bay shore, digging up clams for dinner.  Even came up with a handful of oysters for a raw-oyster bar appetizer later that night.

Peace ArchToward the end of our time, Tara flew out to join us as we make our way across the top of America toward the great lakes for our official summer vacation.  The first thing we did with Tara was take our Goal Post photo at the Peace Arch, which borders America and Canada.  This is a beautiful park that is maintained by both countries – apparently the only National Park in America that is maintained by two countries.  And the pride is obvious.  There are immaculate gardens all around to showcase the peace agreement.  Even border police were peaceful to us, as we took an innocent wrong turn out of a very busy traffic circle and accidentally ended up in the traffic line to cross the border.  They turned us around and let us back into America, after proving our citizenship of course.

Leaving Blaine and heading toward Glacier National Park led us down Highway 20 which snakes through the Cascade mountains.  Steve, of course, not happy with the mountain driving, I had to silently restrain my over-enjoyment of the beautiful cliffs and terrain that only mountains can provide.  We ran into a bit of winter at the top and enjoyed an impromptu snowball fight on the side of the road.  It was a gorgeous drive, and had we more time, we would’ve loved to have stayed at one of the many little rustic towns with adorable RV parks.  But… we are on a mission and have dates to meet on the calendar.  Tara has a flight to catch in a couple of weeks, and lots of ground to cover before then.

Cascades Dam - Laurean and Tara

Cascades Roadway

 

 

 

Family Double Dates

Las Vegas, NV
56° / 88° Sunny ☀
TODAY’S RV PARK: Oasis RV Park
OUR RATING: 5 Stars – a well thought out RV resort complete with private golf course, large dog run and upgraded free WIFI. Bonus for being a 4 minute Uber from the Strip
PRICE: $65/day with Good Sam discount
TRIP MILES DRIVEN: 20,779

A few years ago, my best friend taught me how to make plans a month or so out, so that I always have something on the calendar to look forward to. The get togethers this weekend have been on the calendar for over a month, and we have been looking forward to catching up with family and friends.

Last night, my Aunt Corrine and Uncle Art took us out for a lovely double-date kind of evening.

Aunt Corrine is my grandma’s youngest sister, the last of 12.  Rightfully so, my grandma has a strong fondness for this sister and maintains a close relationship with her.  Them and their other sister are the last three siblings left of their generation, and with every visit they take care to recite family heritage.  Who begat who.  Who married, or divorced who.   With 12 brothers and sisters, and each with 4 or 5 kids of their own, its easy to forget when all the names are similar.  Several “Edwards” mixed in with and “Edgar”.  And don’t forget a couple of “Frances” in there, one for each gender.  Aunt Lee gave me a blank family tree map to record all that begatting, it’s surely going to take several drafts!

There are some family members that are easy to get along with, and some that take effort to prepare to be around and time to recover from.  Fortunately, Aunt Corrine has always been very easy to get along with.  In some ways, this can be a hazardous trap.  She is well known as the family gossip and isn’t that one family member you tell your secrets to.  She’s nice to everyone, and makes it easy to fall into conversation with her.  She asks insightful questions prompting thoughtful answers.  Perhaps it was her 40 years as a high school guidance counselor.  At any rate, its easy to say too much to her.

I was prepared for this and was careful.  Sometimes the kindest thing to say is nothing at all, and to keep my big mouth shut.  Redirecting questions to “why are so many casinos shut down”?  Surely, a long-winded easy answer for a long-time Vegas resident.

My mind has moved on to our next calendared get together.  A highly anticipated reunion with an old high school girlfriend.  In school, we hung out often as we were both in marching band and shared common friends.  Since high school, I’ve only seen her at our 10 and 20 year reunions.  Our 30th was cancelled due to Covid, so our get together is just in time!

If it weren’t for our new lifestyle, I’d still be just keeping tabs on Facebook and watching events unfold.  Now, we are part of the events and reconnecting face-to-face.  I don’t, for a single moment, forget how lucky we are and how fortunate we are to be so privelaged to live this type of life – if only for a few years.

Post Wedding Dog Days

Post Wedding Dog Days

Siri, Which Way to the Dog Park?

Beaumont, CA
49° / 81° Partly Cloudy ☀
TODAY’S RV PARK: Cherry Valley RV Park
OUR RATING: 4 Stars because it was convenient off the highway, super cell signals, full hookups, nice friendly staff, and great county park within a 5 minute drive
PRICE: $13/day with RPI membership
TRIP MILES DRIVEN: 20,627

The dogs had a field day yesterday – both literally and figuratively. Their adventure started out at the dog park. They both got a good run in, and so did I as we played our favorite game “Chase me if you can”. It’s a game they both love that’s sure to get them running and worn out faster. Fortunately, both dogs love to run, but just for a short bit. They soon give up and fall into ground sniffing and territory marking. Or as Tara used to say “checking the bulletin board”.

The romp around the park left them both sufficiently worn out to endure the 1 hour car ride to Aunt Lee’s house.  They were to be her special guests of the day.  Being that this would only be the second stranger’s house that they’d been in, we weren’t sure how they’d behave.  Fortunately, they did quite well, after they settled down of course.  As Aunt Lee predicted, they were a riot in the beginning, barking at everyone and darting about the house.  Aunt Lee is a kind and patient lady as we introduced Puddin to the house and the people who lived in it.  Peanut was seemingly just fine and just quietly followed Pudding around.  “Darcy”, Aunt Lee’s little Scottish Terrier, however, spent those first few minutes hiding behind the draperies.

As one could expect, they eventually calmed down as they figured out we were staying awhile.  Of course, we humans taking our seats around the dining table must’ve been a good hint.  It soon became apparent that Puddin was not going to pull her usual M.O. and lay under my chair.  She had curiosity in her paws and wouldn’t settle – she kept pacing in circles around us, under one side of the large table and out the other side, making a path around the kitchen and back again.  At one point, I got the idea to put my FitBit on her collar.  When we put it on her, it had 1,458 steps.  When we took it off 6 hours later to leave, it had over 16,000 steps!  All from pacing the room!

callander-reception

Aunt Lee and Jeff Callander (sitting) Groom Travis King (standing)

We spent the whole of the afternoon and early evening pouring over historical family documents Aunt Lee has been uncovering.  She made it her hobby several years ago to trace her ancestral heritage.  She has a large folded family tree map that details the Callander marriages back 12 generations.  A path following her (and Steve’s father Jeff) father back – keeping mostly to the male lines.  This excursion shows the family arriving in America via New York shortly after the Civil War, having just missed the American colony days and settlement wars, but just in time to represent America in both Civil Wars.

Alexander Callander arrived from Falkirk, Scotland where the family resided for many generations.  Before that – at least two counted generations – the last two on the map – from Edinburgh.  Just reading the handwritten family tree map, you could tell that there was the same drama associated with some of the marriages.

There were more then two unions of Callanders to ladies from England.  And two Callander brothers married a pair of sisters!

The most interesting Callander – Alexander Callander d. 1910 – as almost every generation of Callanders has several Alexanders and a few Marys – was an educated man who was very interested in the sciences.  In his obituary, it is noted that he was a well received contributor to the “Falkirk Herald”.  Spending most of his columns describing the Falkirk of his youth.  When Aunt Lee and Jeff explored Scotland on their homage trip a couple years back, they spent a full day in the Falkirk library pouring over old editions of the “Falkirk Herald” searching for some of those columns.  Since the Herald was not indexed, it was a painstaking process.  One that yielded no results.  Aunt Lee and I agree its certainly worth a future trip by itself to continue the research.

The maternal line – following the history of Marie Slintak – revealed deep roots in Hungary a/k/a Slavakia.  Today, the country neighbors Ukrane and its citizens are taking in war refugees.  It’s a proud thought to think our family overseas is doing their part to help those poor people.

It does make me wonder – how did a girl from Southeast Asia meet a boy from Scotland?  They obviously met in America.  The story must be an interesting one!  Fortunately, I get to read all about it, as Aunt Lee hired Ancestry.com to do all that research.  It’s all finalized in a 12 page report that I kept a copy of.

As of today, Aunt Lee is convinced there are no more of our Callanders in Scotland.  In America, there are only 4 left.  A blood line that may surely run out with Steve’s son, Zachary, who has no romantic promises for his future.

A hard truth that draws us back to the maternal line.  Could there be relations in Slovakia?

 

RV Drama Continues On Wedding Day

RV Drama Continues On Wedding Day

Beaumont, CA
48° / 65° Partly Cloudy ☁
TODAY’S RV PARK: Cherry Valley RV Park
OUR RATING: 4 Stars because it was convenient off the highway, super cell signals, full hookups, nice friendly staff, and great county park within a 5 minute drive
PRICE: $13/day with RPI membership
TRIP MILES DRIVEN: 20,503

The drama continues….
Stephanie wasn’t able to help this morning since her corporate office was closed too. She offered to extend our stay one night until things can be figured out in the morning.

♫ Dunt-Dunt-Dunnnnn….. ♬

Last night’s wedding was an entertaining mix of beauty and humor.  If I had to guess, the groom’s family hand selected the beautiful location that was full of old-school charm and exquisite taste.  The venue was an old home turned into an event location with well-tended manicured landscaping and ages old shrubbery. The old trees were the focal points of the grounds.  It felt beautiful just to sit there with most of the guests dressed in their finest wedding clothes.

king bridal coupleAs everybody took their seats, we were surrounded by theme music from “Twilight” and then “Alladin” and then “Star Wars”.  Apparently, the bridal couple are big Star Wars fans – so the entire evening had an under current of related nostalgia.  They walked down the aisle to the famous theme song as the crowd of 150 all giggled and clapped.  A definite breaking of the ice in an otherwise traditional outdoor ceremony.

The reception itself carried the theme forward and even the most shy of guests couldn’t help but be pulled into the celebration festivities.  The very experienced wedding DJ had the guests playing games at their assigned tables.  Laughing and mocking as we engaged each other in the icebreaker group table games.

The entire evening continued in a comfortable ease, especially since our table had a good group of party goers and good humoured people.  We even sang a song as a group – a DJ game to get the bridal couple to kiss.  We sang the theme song to “Married with Children” since it was the only love song we could think of that included “love” and “married”.  We think we were the best singing table of the night!  We rocked the song!  Of all our singing and practicing, we were only awarded a small peck of a kiss.  Talk about feeling cheated over a job well done!

laurean-steve-weddingSteve ended the evening as a true man in love.  At one point, he took my hand and led me to the dance floor.  Apparently, the DJ didn’t have any slow romantic songs in his playlist for couples in love – even for a wedding – so we rocked out to some song my daughter would probably have enjoyed.

After all the hugging and tears and congratulations were shared, we left feeling satiated at having attended a thoughtful, well put together event.

 

Overcast Skies And Family

Overcast Skies And Family

Beaumont, CA
48° / 74° Partly SunnyTODAY’S RV PARK: Cherry Valley RV Park
OUR RATING: 4 Stars because it was convenient off the highway, super cell signals, full hookups, nice friendly staff, and great county park within a 5 minute drive
PRICE: $13/day with RPI membership
TRIP MILES DRIVEN: 20,361

Every morning this week it has been overcast.  A sheet of gray hanging over the whole town.  Not clouds – just a sheet with no particular shape or edges – just up there in the sky between the tree tops and the promise of a blue sky.  The sheet makes for very gloomy mornings where getting out of bed is a major chore.  It’s easier to stay cuddled under the soft blankets with my puppy curled up against my legs and my husband curled up against my neck.  It takes tremendous will-power to pull away from such a cuddle session.  If it were only a weekend, and another hour or two like that wouldn’t matter to anyone.

But it’s Friday and I need to be at work very soon.  Very Very Soon.  Like now.

I never thought today would come.  March seemed to have lasted forever.  It was so action packed that I have to catch my breath just thinking of it.  At some point, I’ll have to catch you up as this blog missed most of the RV action, which prompted the blog to begin with.

Last night’s rehearsal dinner was full of people asking us what our favorite part of RV life has been so far.  It’s such a tough question – that we just started reciting everything we did in California – just in March.  That alone would get people talking as they moved on to other topics or their own favorite California adventures.

Only Steve’s Aunt Lee seemed to be the genuinely interested in our California adventures.  As she admitted that for as long as she’s lived here, since the groom was about 3 years old, she really has never explored the state.  The way she was listening to us tell our tales, you could sense she was making some sort of mental list.  Either to list some of the places we described…. or she was bored and remembering all the things a mother of the groom still ahs to do before the wedding.

It has been years since we’ve been involved with a family wedding – especially one where their roots run a whole lot deeper than the ones in my immediate family.  The “kids” table next to us was full of college kids. Lee’s daughter, Angela, was surrounded by boys on either side.  She looked like the belle of the ball and very gitty.  She was in full control of her element.  If and when she ever enters the workforce, you can tell she will rule her world quite well.  She’s a tall thin Asian beauty wearing a slim dress that zipped up the back.  Smart pumps and wavy hair down her back.  She sat forward all night, ankles crossed under her and posture that would impress even Queen Elizabeth.  She was a sight to watch all night long – as she seemingly toyed with those poor boys at her table.

Unfortunately, the bride and groom were both indistinct and seemingly shy.  Although they stood near each other in the buffet line, they stayed pretty separate most of the night.  She talking to her friends; he to his.  They don’t seem to be a romantic couple, but you can tell there is a very fond friendship between them.  Both sets of parents showed more emotion then the bridal couple did.  Then again, both the bride and groom worked through a wedding rehearsal after a full day of work.  Or it could be nerves and excitement.  AT any rate, everybody was in high spirits from beginning to end.  A great ice-breaker for Saturday’s big event.