October 8-22, 2016
Viva Las Vegas! New Mexico that is. No Country for Old Men was filmed here. Scary. The Walmart parking lot makes a great hit and run overnight. No need to linger – pretty tough, time-trodden town. My main destination was Carlsbad and the National Park. Rolled in midday on Sunday just in time to watch the Broncos get spanked by Atlanta (after spending 1 hr on the phone with the idiots at Direct TV who don’t understand mobile satellite reception). Problem solved by the “supervisor”.
You only come to Carlsbad for the caverns. The town is a dump with lights. Strip City with horrible restaurants (La Juanita & Junior’s for Mexican weren’t too awful). Spent a full day at the Park. I’ve seen a number of caves and caverns but these are special. HUGE rooms with cool, lighted formations. Over 750′ under the surface so a long twisty downhill walk from the natural entrance. At 6:30 pm, hundreds of thousands of Mexican bats screamed out of the hole. Talk about illegal immigrants! Person next to me got hit by poop (aka guano). Some pics:
Next stop… Silver City, NM, an old AWE! stompin’ ground for Ricky, Marion and me. Coolest RV park yet- Rose Valley on Memory Lane. I had a lovely graveyard view (where Billy the Kid’s mom is buried). First thing I did pulling in was clip a juniper tree and take out my side patio latch! The juniper didn’t fair very well. No fear, found a good welder in town who fixed it good as new. Hard to maneuver this beast! Highlights were a hike up the historic Catwalk near Glenwood, a trip to the ghost town of Mogollon and a visit with an old outfitter – Leah Jones. Leah, retired now, is the best Dutch Oven brisket cook alive today (she has ribbons to prove it). Fun reminiscing about pack trips with her and Harley Paul (cool cowboy name). A few pics:
After a stop at the local welder, I’m off to my most anticipated RV campground yet – Rusty’s RV Ranch in Rodeo, NM. It was better than advertised. Had a site at the extreme southwestern edge far away from everyone else. Nothing between me and the eastern slope of the Chiricahua Mountains. Coyotes serenaded me at night and the Border Patrol checked my nationality every time I went into town. Down the road was where Geronimo surrendered in 1886 – thus ending the era of Indian wars. Another epic day of adventure when I drove across the AZ border to Portal (cool town), up and over the mountains and into Chiricahua National Monument (Wonderland of Rocks). Hiked the Echo Canyon trail amidst towering pillars of rocks. A real fantasyland of hoodoos and spires. Drove a dirt road back over Apache Pass and Fort Bowie site of many battles and Butterfield Stage attacks by Cochise and his warriors. I’m reliving my cowboys and Indians childhood! Here are some iPhone pics. Next journey into the past…. Tombstone, Boot Hill, Wyatt Earp & Doc Holliday! Post to come!!
Chiricahua National Monument from the top. In the distance to the west are the Dragoons.
October 13, 2016
Been a while since my last post. What was supposed to be a 3 week stop in Boulder County ended up being 5 weeks due to unforeseen warranty work that needed to be done on Big Mo. Had fun with friends but I learned that patience and an ability to roll with surprises is a virtue required by all trailer owners. All’s well now and I’m back on that long lonesome road. Look for my next post shortly on Carlsbad, New Mexico!
Many of you have asked about my new home and just how rough I have it. Believe me, most days are torture having to shower like I’m in the military, try not to get burned while heating my coffee water in the microwave, turn on the fireplace if there’s a chill in the air, search for dinner in my cavernous double door fridge and click thru 500 Direct TV channels looking for something good to watch on my big screen HDTV. But I have managed to survive. Being in new places, with cool parks, rivers, mountains and trails to explore seems to help.
Going from 4,000 sq feet to just over 500 (counting my 2 decks) took some doing but I’m getting use to it. Feels good to have jettisoned all that superfluous baggage and never used possessions. Try it sometime! And as for mobile comfort and having all the basics I now need, the following pics will enlighten you on my current living situation….
August 26 to September 4, 2016
Did you know the absolute world’s best huckleberry bear claw can be obtained at the Polebridge Mercantile – just a 42 mile drive down a scenic gravel road in the remote northwest section of Glacier NP. Worth the trip and while you’re at it, stop by and see Kintla Lake (wished I had brought an inflatable kayak – note to self). It was a great way to cap my visit to Kalispell and Glacier although a bear sighting would have been perfect (saw lots of mountain sheep, goats, antelope and deer). O, and some Moose Drool as well.
On to Great Falls, the place that gave Lewis & Clark a tizzy fit. Always wanted to see those infamous falls but little did I know there’s a whole lot more to take in. Checked into the strangest RV Park so far…. Dick’s RV (last) Resort (a resort it ain’t). Tucked between a freeway and the Sun River, just a skip and jump from the International Airport, it was NOT a quiet hideaway. Good cross section of gypsy America however… half million dollar super bus rigs parked next to 20-year-old dilapidated campers. One family was living out of a storage trailer (3 women covering 3 generations with 3 large dogs) towed by a 1960’s El Camino. Life on the road doesn’t get more interesting.
For anyone wanting to spend a day or two in north central Montana…. I put together THE PERFECT DAY IN GREAT FALLS.
- Start off with a morning visit to the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center overlooking the Missouri River. Watch one or more of the movies, walk the exhibits then head out to see one or more of the five falls that stopped L&C in their tracks. Note: they are no longer in their wild state – hydo-electric dams were built above 4 of them (the 5th is now under a lake). Still fun to see them.
- Next, grab a burger at the Roadhouse Diner (stayed away from the Frank Sinatra burger; topped with egg, bacon ravioli and a meatball).
- Fat and happy, head over to the Charles Russell Home & Museum for some culture and history. More than anyone he captured the spirit of the cowboy, the power of the bison, and the passing of the golden age of the Plains Indian.
- Mid-afternoon and it’s time for a hike. Drive a few miles south of town on I-15 to the First Peoples Buffalo Jump State Park. Tour the visitor’s center then take the 3 mile loop trail up the hill and to the site where tribes would fool huge herds of buffalo into stampeding off a cliff where they would be served later for dinner. Pretty amazing stuff. I kept thinking what a spectacle 200 falling buffalo would have been.
- Hungry? Point your pony back into town and have a Guinness and some interesting Irish fare (with a Montana twist) at the Celtic Cowboy. “Yech Mad” as they say!
- Now for the perfect topper for a perfect day… Drive down the street to the O’Haire Motor Inn and the world famous Sip ‘n Dip Lounge for a nightcap. Be sure to tip the mermaids swimming behind the bar in a window-walled glass tank. Believe it or not, it was named “The #1 bar on earth worth flying to by GQ Magazine!”
Whew! What a day, what a week in Great Falls. Next stop, Billings, Casper and then back to Boulder County for a month. There may be a break in the posts for a bit until I head into New Mexico in early October (before the snow flies). Yar Ho!
August 15-27, 2016
Why did it take me six decades to get up to see Glacier National Park? They say all the glaciers will be gone by 2020 so I’m glad I did. In this case it’s true, simple words fail to capture the awesomeness of this place. i-Phone photos as well.
Checked into Mountain Hi RV Park and first explored Kalispell and the Flathead Lake region. Big blue lake surrounded by endless cherry and huckleberry stands and mega million dollar homes. The five county fair was on so my pick-up truck fit right in. Would have taken the trophy had I entered it into the Demolition Derby. The big day was Saturday when I headed northeast into the Park to do Going-to-the-Sun Road.
I had my concerns. The width and length of my truck was pushing the legal limits on this restricted byway. But F**k it, I’m going anyway! A few sections were tight and thank God there were few oncoming cars. The scenery almost pulled me off the road a number of times. If you’ve never done it – YOU MUST! Trail Ridge in Rocky Mountain NP is amazing. This is just as stunning in a different way. Saw countless peaks, mountain goats, wildflowers, a broke down station wagon from Arkansas and more than a few giant ice-fields (former glaciers I guess). Drove the east side, north to Many Glacier and did a 6 mile hike around Lake Josephine near Grinnell Glacier. Sign at the start recommended you don’t hike alone due to the bears and such. Again, I threw care to the wind, strapped on my new can of bear spray and went anyway. Jaw-dropping scenery around every bend. No bears – just an aggressive chipmunk who wanted my almonds. A hiker did say a moose was sited 15 minutes ago down by the lake. Moose-schmoose. I wanted to see a Grizz
Checked out Two Medicine Lake and valley later that day enroute back to West Glacier & Kalispell. Another hidden wonder. North Fork Road on the remote northwest side of the Park is my destination this Friday. Plan to do a short hike to Hidden Meadow to see if I can use that bear spray. More later…..
Leaving hot and sunny Elko I have 422 miles to cover to get to my next destination: Wagonhammer RV Resort in North Fork, Idaho. I decide to break it into two legs so I booked a night in Arco, ID at Mountain View Park. Drove through Craters of the Moon NM and more lava anyone needs to see in a lifetime. Note on Arco: it was the first city in the world to be lit by atomic power AND the USA’s only fatal nuclear accident occurred here in 1961. Got out of there early the next day.
Forgot how gorgeous Idaho is. Mountains everywhere! Soon I was following the Salmon River and the route Lewis & Clark took to the Pacific. Didn’t know Salmon, ID was where Sacajawea was born, which bode well for L & C. Rolled into Wagonhammer and set up for a full week. The Salmon River flows just 150 feet away!
Had to check out the town of Salmon. Did a food run at Saveway and stopped in for some good Mexican food at Fiesta En Jalisco – long wait but worth it. Had the camarones combo and dos Negra Modelos. During the week I fit in some PR work (I’m not retired you know), met some fellow campers at happy hour (big question as I’m from Colorado was what I thought about legal pot which I indicated my wholehearted approval for) and did a good hike on a deserted and very pretty trail that followed the actual route Lewis & Clark took through the mountains here (felt the spirit of old Meriwether – did you know Lewis is my middle name?). Then took a drive down the Salmon River, past the confluence with the Middle Fork and to road’s end at Corn Creek (where folks put in for the 5-6 day Main Salmon trip). Saw day rafters, mountain goats, pictographs, some big fish and a few easy rapids. What a clear, beautiful waterway! Have to someday return to raft the Middle and Main.
Next stop? Rocky Mountain Hi RV Park outside of Kalispell, Montana and Glacier NP. Just 233 scenic miles through Missoula, past Flathead Lake and into the crown jewel of America’s National Parks!
Along the Salmon – Rt 93
Original L & C Trail
Confluence Main & Middle
Aug 3-7, 2016
Elko is a cool place. Get past (if you can) the casinos, fast food joints, mining rednecks in beat-up pick-ups, neon-lit brothels and 24-7 railroad noise and you have a little town with grit and heart. Home of the Western Heritage Center and the annual Cowboy Poetry Gathering (takes place in the winter when it’s cold so I won’t be there) this place has history and cowboy soul. Basque culture is huge here and when in town you have to dine at the Star Hotel where family-style Basque dining is the draw along with a killer drink called the Picon Punch – dare you to drink 2. (Thanks to Gene Kilgore for the tip!).
The real surprise were the Ruby Mountains just south of town. Incredible! Still had snow up high this late in the summer. Did a circumnavigation and drove up Lamoille Canyon. Lots of mountain mahogany trees, aspen and white pine. Stunning, glacier carved peaks. On my radar for a return trip someday when I figure out dry camping (boondocking without hook-ups or services). Check out these pics!
Next Stop: Salmon/North Fork, Idaho for a week (en-route to Glacier National Park)
Star Date July 31, 2016
Finally THE day has come. After two months of preparation, satellite dish and wiring fixes, two shakedown cruises, a raft trip and Moab vacation with my buddy Marion, two or three going away parties and some soul searching (am I crazy? Don’t answer that), I’m off. Thanks Ann E. for the wonderful sanctuary…. Salt Lake City here I come!
Heavy head winds in Wyoming (decided to do the northern route via I-80) and a white-out hail storm west of Rock Springs give me a whopping 6.7 miles per gallon. Filled up 3 times! Pulled into the KOA at 6 pm, made a killer cocktail and passed out.
Four days, two client meetings, a great meal at Spitz downtown (stumbled upon it – funky soul music on the sound system – yep JB, Smokey, Temps…) and memorable “Mediterranean street food” made it a quick but sweet journey. My rigs are performing admirably! Next stop Elko, NV home of the biggest Cowboy Poetry Gathering in the world.
Welcome to my blog, or perhaps more accurately… my ramblings as I ramble. At best you’ll find some fun stories, interesting facts, cool places to eat, sleep, hike and drink. At worst I’ll offer you things you’ll soon want to forget. But that’s life. Thanks for joining me as I cruise America’s back roads in my 43′ Fifth-Wheel I call “Big Mo” and if you are so brave – join me on the road during one of my many segments to help uncover what this country truly is. Be it magic or tragic, we are in for a wild ride!
Dave Wiggins – written somewhere along the Salmon River, RT 93 in Idaho.