I have been remiss in not keeping y’all up to date on our whereabouts and travels. I am starting at the beginning of our Great Western Adventure so some of the beginning of the blog may be a rehash but bear with me. I promise to do better in 2017 – and you may be surprised by a guest writer once in a while, too. We have such a good time and enjoy sharing our experiences with you.
Our trip out west began in late April. This year we were joined by our good friends Steve and Kathy Dresch who we met at Rolling Ridge RV Resort over the winter. Steve and Kathy were to begin their very first Workamping adventure at Canyon village in Yellowstone National Park. They had never traveled west before so we hitched up our 5th wheels and the caravan headed out. The Great Western Adventure had just begun.
Our first stop was the Ho Hum RV Park in Carrabelle, FL. This is one of those hidden gems that we come across from time to time. Carrabelle is located on the Apalachicola Bay of the Gulf of Mexico. The RV park is right on the water and has awesome sunrises and sunsets. Dogs are welcome but no children. A great place to soak up the warm sun rays and enjoy an ice cold beverage!
We spent several uneventful days traveling across Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas and finally arrived in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
The Coronado campground is located just north of Albuquerque in Bernalillo in the shadow of the Sandia Mountains and overlooking the Rio Grande River. http://www.townofbernalillo.org/depts/campground.htm We have stayed there a couple of times before and thought Steve and Kathy would enjoy it too. It was fun to share their delight and excitement hiking in the Boca Negra Canyon in the Petroglyphs National Monument. https://www.nps.gov/petr/index.htm https://www.nps.gov/petr/planyourvisit/bn.htm You cannot imagine the number of Petroglyphs. The next day we took the Road Runner train https://www.roadrunnershuttleandcharter.com/ to Santa Fe, visiting the farmer’s market and lunching at Del Charos a wonderful restaurant located in the Inn of the Governors, famous for their margaritas. Yes, we had a couple each! That’s why we took the train! https://www.innofthegovernors.com/del-charro-saloon/. We were having so much fun we decided to stay a couple of extra days. We took a day drive along the Escalante Staircase stopping to take a lot of pictures, Drove part of the Turquoise Trail stopping at Tinkertown Museum. tinkertown.com They have a ton of hummingbird feeders hanging in the trees and on the buildings so I spent my time photographing the birds. We took them to one of our hang outs, Kaktus Brewing Company – on Sunday night they have belly dancers come in so we, of course, had to go see them. We met up with our friend Patti Wade who winters in the area and had dinner at the Range Café.
Heading west from Albuquerque our next stop was the Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona. None of us had ever been here and it certainly was a different kind of place.
We stayed in a campground just outside the entrance and were able to collect some of the petrified wood pieces that were scattered all about. ( A little reminiscent of Lucy in The Long Long Trailer https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QNC5Dn0Dtnc) https://www.nps.gov/pefo/index.htm
The next stop in our Great Western Adventure was the Grand Canyon National Park. We stayed Williams, AZ which is about an hour’s drive south of the Grand Canyon. The Grand Canyon is huge. A lot of visitors hike down to the bottom but we were not that adventurous. The top was enough for us. We spent the day hiking the rim of the Canyon and stopped to have a picnic lunch. A must while hiking the rim is to stop at the Kolb Brothers Studio – The Kolb Brothers were probably the first to photograph the Grand Canyon from top to bottom in a “dearing do” fashion. The Kolb brothers were also Rotarians and allowed Rotary to meet in their studio. http://library.nau.edu/speccoll/exhibits/daysofarchives/film.htmlhttps://www.nps.gov/grca/index.htm
Rotary at Grand Canyon
At the Rim
We decided to stay an extra day so we could drive down to Sedona and check out that area. The drive through the gorge was breathtaking. In fact sometimes I was even hanging out the window to photograph the beautiful sights. We had a picnic lunch in a pretty park and did a little hiking too. We all said we would like to come back to this area and spend some time getting to know it. http://visitsedona.com/what-to-do/
We left Williams and headed to Flagstaff and then north towards Zion and Bryce National parks. Just outside of Flagstaff the road goes through the Painted Desert. Wow, what beautiful scenery in every direction. The colors were truly amazing. The Painted Desert https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Painted_Desert.
We were not able to bring our fifth wheels through the Parks so we stayed at Ruby’s Inn Campground next to the entrance to Bryce Canyon. A lot of Workampers work at Ruby’s which is open year round. Staying at Ruby’s Inn and campground https://utah.com/rubys-inn-rv-park-and-campground is very convenient while we explored both Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park. https://www.nps.gov/zion/index.htm https://www.nps.gov/brca/index.htm.
Kathy and Steve – Zion
Reflection in Zion
Tom, Steve and I hiked down into Bryce Canyon taking scads of pictures along the trail. Kathy doesn’t do heights well so she stayed behind but made a lot of friends at the top while waiting for us. The next day was spent at Zion. What a contrast, in Bryce you look down into the canyon and in Zion everything is above you. Both Parks are spectacular. Can’t wait to go back and spend more time. We were not able to hike the Narrows due to high water and chance of flash flooding….boo hoo.
We finally made it to West Yellowstone in early May. We weren’t starting our jobs at Homeroom at Madison Crossing for a few days giving us a bit of time to get settled. It was our 6th year working there. We said we would never work at the same place twice…but when you find a place that is wonderful, you just keep coming back. www.cabindecor.com
Steve and Kathy were able to begin their jobs a few days early so they only stayed one night in West. We had an awesome summer in West Yellowstone. We did a lot of hiking and eating out…We tried to get together at least once a week – usually going to the Wild West Saloon/Pizzeria for Pizza and beer and taking a few hikes and road trips together.
Due to the fires in the National Park, we did some nice hikes in the Gallatin National Forest. We were able to bring Finnigan with us into the National Forest so he got a lot of running, exercising and sniffing done. The only downside this year was all of the forest fires in the Park. Some were even visible at night from town and in the mornings you couldn’t see across the street because the smoke was so thick. We woke up one morning to the sound of chain saws and equipment across the street from us and were told by the firemen “they were doing fuel reduction…” They were finally extinguished but only after 400+ firefighters were brought in from all over the country. It certainly wasn’t good for breathing or business. http://www.destinationyellowstone.com/node/12659
Yes, that is the fire – so close to town
Finn with fire crew
Alison, Jeff and Annabelle came out to visit us in September. Finn went crazy when they came through the door. While we were in Bozeman picking up the kids, friends got the smoker ready for Tom’s famous ribs and chicken. A “welcome to Montana” dinner was planned for the kids and was being hosted by our friends, Diane, David, Pam, Leah and Clay. It was such fun. Diane makes outstanding River-Ritas… (margaritas she makes on the River when she and David camp)
Since we are at 6700 feet elevation, we wanted to get them acclimated so we stayed in town Friday and took them to the Grizzly-Wolf Discovery Center. http://www.grizzlydiscoveryctr.org/ Annabelle attended a 30-minute presentation on bears for the “Keeper Kids” program then got to actually go into the bear sanctuary and hide food for the bears to find. Sam, a 1,100-pound Grizzly found all the hidden goodies. I taught Annabelle how to use my Nikon 3300 to take pictures of the wolves and eagles – she is a fast learner.
Saturday we ventured over to Lewis and Clark Caverns. However, we had to stop in Ennis for breakfast at the town pharmacy. Sounds weird but they have a cute little restaurant in the store and it is a treat to eat there with the locals. It is a 2 mile walk through the caverns and you really don’t want the power to go out – the caverns are a treasure and our guide did a great job. http://www.visitmt.com/listings/general/state-park/lewis-and-clark-caverns-state-park.html
Sunday we went into the Park https://www.nps.gov/yell/index.htm and got caught in a bison jam. We weren’t even 2 miles into the Park… It took us an hour to go 7 miles…..We took the kids to the Geyser Basin and Old Faithful Inn. Old Faithful went off right on schedule and did not disappoint. We walked on the boardwalk out to Morning Glory Pool. As usual, just before we got to Morning Glory Pool, it started to rain and… hail…it didn’t dampen our trip, however.
The Artists Paint Pots was a highlight on our trip into the Park on Monday. Plop, plop, bloop, bloop, are the sounds that the bubbling pots make. Annabelle likes to take pictures so I showed her how to focus in and out and how to set up a picture again using my Nikon 3300. She got some good pictures of the pots bubbling up.
The road to Mammoth from Canyon was closed due to construction so we had to go the long way around through Canyon over to Tower/Roosevelt. It was an AWESOME animal day. We got to see two big black bears, grouse, female elk, two male elk chasing each other, of course tons of buffalo, deer, lots of mountain goats with babies and Bighorn Sheep. In Mammoth, elk freely roam the grass in the square, around the hotel and wherever they darn well please. In front of the Mammoth Visitor Center, we attended a ranger lead program on the introduction/importance of wolves into Yellowstone. During the presentation, the ranger kept looking over her shoulder and across the street because there were many female elk across the street and two male elk stalking each other. She said the “rut” was just beginning and if she said MOVE we were to MOVE. We didn’t have to move but it was fun to watch the two elk stalk each other.
Big Springs State Park is located in Idaho and we really like going there. It really is a very pretty setting. Annabelle got to feed some fish and ducks and then take a nature walk along Big Springs which flows into Henrys Fork of the Snake River which eventually flows in the Columbia River. We didn’t see any wild life other than ducks. We were hoping for a moose or two. It was a short day because Annabelle had to do some schoolwork. https://www.co.fremont.id.us/departments/parks_rec/big_springs/johnny-sack_big-springs.html
Driving through the Park over to the Grand Teton National Park is a very pretty drive especially because the fall colors were ablaze. The Laurance S. Rockefeller Nature Preserve https://www.nps.gov/grte/planyourvisit/lsr.htm is a wonderful place to do some hiking and learn about the flora and fauna of the area. Annabelle completed her first Jr. Ranger Badge while visiting the Preserve as it is part of the Teton National Park.
We met up with, Dan and Jonell Anderson, our friends from Amazon and who worked with us two years ago at Homeroom at Madison Crossing, for lunch at Dornan’s at the base of the Tetons. https://dornans.com/
Searching for Annabelle’s hidden food
Hiding bear food
Tom-Ellen with Jonell and Dan at Dornans – Tetons National Park
Lunch at Dornans
Taking Junior Ranger Pledge
Hiking in Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve
It was a great summer all in all. Lots of hiking and driving through beautiful parts of Wyoming, Idaho, Montana.
It was time to leave West Yellowstone in early October and after a delicious Good-Bye dinner at Diane’s house, we left West Yellowstone heading to Superior, WI to visit with the boys for a few days. We stopped in Minnesota to visit our friends Alan and Kathy Zimmerman along the way. We met them a couple of years ago in Florida at Rolling Ridge RV Resort where we stay during the “season”. This year they are staying near Naples, FL so we were happy we got to see them and look forward to visiting them in Naples.
As usual, the boys were great hosts. We stayed at Thad’s house and parked 3M at his shop. http://www.twwooddesigns.com/ (handsome fellow on the left is Thad) It was great to see the boys. We went out to eat a few times and Thad introduced us to Sclavi’s Italian Restaurant that was superb. The Hacienda was one of our stops and we came back one night to listen to music. We did a little hiking with Todd in Pattison State Park. Finn got to play with Daisy and Stuart, Thad’s dogs. Our time with them was short but we needed to get underway.
It is difficult finding open campgrounds after Labor Day and we wanted to go to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan hoping to get to Mackinaw Island and to see the locks at Sault St. Marie. Our goal was to stay in Munising at a lovely city campground on the Lake and do a bit of hiking and visiting lighthouses. BUT, a wheel shirred off 3M and we had to spend several days in Ishpeming, MI waiting for parts thereby cutting short our visit to the area. Since we had planned on going to the locks in Sault St. Marie we decided to just go ahead and go up and stay in a hotel while waiting for the parts. The locks were awesome – a couple of ships passed through. Here’s the link. http://www.saultstemarie.com/ Its pretty amazing to say the least watching the water drop and then rise lifting and lowering the ships.
After a night’s stay in Sault St. Marie we went back through Marquette stopping at Donckers https://www.donckersonline.com/ Restaurant and homemade candy store. You have to go upstairs to get to the quaint restaurant. We bought a small box of their chocolate assortment and are fighting over the last piece. I will probably win.
A most unusual place caught our attention while driving back to Ishpeming to pick up 3M. The Lakenenland Sculpture Park outside of Marquette- this is a lot of great “yard” art – y’all know I like yard art. One of a kind and a must see if you are ever in the area. Someone as a lot of time on his hands. http://lakenenland.com/
We got back to Ishpeming and picked up 3M in the early evening and decided to get underway right away – we don’t usually drive at night especially in the rain but we just wanted to get some miles under our belt so we got to the RV park in Munising, MI – not unhooking and stayed the night.
The next morning we got up early and were finally heading to Campbellsville, KY to start the Peak Season working at Amazon as pickers. Upon arriving in Kentucky, we were unable to stay at the Stables RV Park where we had reservations so we were fortunate to be able to stay at the Green River Lakes State Park. http://parks.ky.gov/parks/recreationparks/green-river/ A simply gorgeous, gorgeous park on a gorgeous, gorgeous lake. Lots of Amazon workers stayed there, too, and it was one big happy family – made it easy to car pool. Finn loved running like a mad dog and playing in the water. We had some Amazonians over for smoked pork. Lively group. The morning sunrise and evening sunsets were something to behold. Great place.
Lexington, KY is a little over an hour away. Doug and Kathy Brown, friends from West Yellowstone, moved near Lexington, KY last year so we drove over to visit them and stayed in their lovely home. They love to fish, as does Tom, so we went out on their boat. Tom, Doug and Kathy fished while I just sunned myself, sort of. Kathy and I stopped for a “break” and in the shallow water we searched and found geodes.http://wonderopolis.org/wonder/what-is-a-geode. The lake was really cold. We found some and brought them back for Annabelle to open. We were invited to come back and spent Thanksgiving with them and their family. Kathy and I did some Christmas shopping too. It was nice to have a friend to shop with. We were both exhausted when we got home. We are looking forward to visiting them again during our travels.
During our drive to Campbellsville, we talked seriously about trading in 3M for a newer model 5th wheel, especially after the wheel issue on the way to Campbellsville. We had been mulling over upgrading the Mobile Mountain Mansion for some time. 3M was showing wear and tear and it looked like we would need to do some major work to keep her in tip top shape. Over the summer, Tom started researching newer Fifth Wheels. We had a good idea of what we did and didn’t want. Finding the best one would be difficult because we were spoiled with the storage space in 3M and some other features we knew we wouldn’t be able to get in other models. We wanted to get a newer Carriage like 3M but Carriage went out of business in 2011.
Tom finally found a 2012 Redwood fifth wheel on e-bay. He contacted the dealership and negotiated a good deal. The 3M2 was in an RV dealership in Ottawa, Kansas. After the arrangements were made, we rented a storage unit in Campbellsville, unloaded a lot of our “stuff” so we wouldn’t have to deal with it in Kansas, packed up 3M, Finn and headed to Kansas to pick up our new home. Of course, we had to stop in Paducah, KY at the National Quilt Museum on the way. We had been to the museum a couple of years ago during their during their national quilt show and conference. The exhibits change every few months and it was a pleasure looking at all the beautiful quilts and admiring the handwork. http://quiltmuseum.org/ It is sad you cannot take pictures in the museum but we have the pictures of the beautiful quilts in our memories.
We arrived in Ottawa Kansas and 3M2 (Mobile Mountain Mansion II) was waiting for us. She is a lovely 38’11” 2012 Redwood fifth wheel. Black Beauty is happy too because 3M2 weighs a bit less and the paint on the body is black/tan and burgundy so Black Beauty looks good pulling her.
Now, to back track a bit, Tom and I terminated our employment with Amazon shortly after we arrived. Tom worked about 3 weeks and I one and a half week. We both were experiencing shoulder issues and we felt it just wasn’t worth relying on taking pain meds to get through the day and to sleep at night. We started work smelling like Bio-Freeze applying more throughout the day and ended each day smelling like Bio-Freeze! The issues we were experiencing were a result of the rear end collision last December. So we gave notice and left with the door open to come back for another season(s). We arrived in Florida about 3 weeks earlier than normal and it has been fun having time with Alison and Annabelle before Christmas.
We wish everyone a happy, healthy and prosperous 2017.
Keep in touch.
Tom, Ellen and Finnigan