Thursday, August 31, 2017


I drive with the window open whenever possible. Fresh air, natural aromas, and all that. This summer, more than any I can remember, I keep getting smacked in the face by errant bugs. Good thing I wear glasses. Eye protection.

Then I saw this on my Facebook feed and laughed. I think I'm that man.

Tail end

I need new wiper blades

I hate being the last one in line when traffic is stopped for road work, especially when it's on a curve. I worry the next person to come along won't be paying attention and they'll plow into me. So I've started turning on my emergency flashers. And I watch the mirror. I breathe easier when an attentive driver rolls to a nice easy stop behind me. Once that situation is under control, I can spend my energy being impatient and whining at the flagman, which is what one is supposed to do at times like this.

Nice place, better time

After being smoked out of Glacier National Park, I continued up the road and found a nice little campground by a beautiful lake. And there was sunshine.

Dickey Lake, Trego, Montana

Perfect temperature, light breeze, not flies, no crowds, not much smoke. It was good conditions for relaxing and contemplating where to go next.

Canada is just up the road. I have my freshly renewed passport. I don't have any Canadian stickers on the wall. So that was a possibility. But British Columbia looks pretty much like where I am now. And border crossings have become annoying.

As I was considering my options, the sky clouded over and there was the predictable summer afternoon thunderstorm. But it was brief.

Too bad the storm wasn't of the intensity or duration that would help with the wildfires in the region. But at least the lightning didn't ignite more fires.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Right place, wrong time

This morning I drove Going-to-the-Sun Road through Glacier National Park. If it hadn't been smoky, overcast and slightly drizzly, it would've been astounding. Instead, my drive was like a preview, a fuzzy hint of what could be seen another time. And I will return.

Now that I've had a quick look, here are my recommendations for those thinking of visiting Glaciar National Park.

- Go as soon as Going-to-the-Sun Road is clear of snow. The Park Service posts snow removal status reports. I say to go early in the season because the scenery is more dramatic when there's still snow on the mountains.

- Enter the park from Saint Mary, on the east side. Because things get wonderfully dramatic sooner. Entering from the west means a long, slow-ish drive before things get really interesting. And there's road work in several spots (this year) with lane closures and waits. The tradeoff is that the drive from Helena to Saint Mary is mostly rolling grasslands. It's not terribly interesting, but at least the speed limit is high and there's very little traffic compared to the approach from Kalispell.

- Ride the free shuttles on Going-to-the-Sun Road. It will allow you to gawk at the scenery all you want without needing to watch the road, which gets very narrow and twisty. The lanes are only slightly wider than a van in places. Only crazy people attempt it in anything wider. (There are length restrictions, but why not width restrictions?)

- Probably the best way to experience Going-to-the-Sun Road is as a passenger in a convertible driven by someone you absolutely trust.

- And the best way to experience the park (not just the road) is to backpack it. Head up the trails and away from the crowds. See what most people (including me) won't.

So, having had the preview, I'm off in a different direction. It was a long way to go for less than 24 hours there, but I'm glad I went. You will be too.

Ain't gonna be no grand vistas

The air at Glacier National Park is filled with forest fire smoke. So I won't be getting any photos worthy of travel magazines. They will be more like this.

Oh well. I knew that would probably be the case. That means less time taking pictures and more time just enjoying things. And shooting on a less sweeping scale, like this waterfall that comes out of a cave.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Montana and I have issues

Four years ago I was a brand spanking new van dweller. I had just spent a few days in Rapid City, South Dakota, setting up residence and touring the region. Now I was in Montana, just east of Butte, cursing west on I-90 with the intent of going to Glacier National Park. I was free. Life was good.

Then a wall of water fell from the sky.

Holy crap! I could barely see where I was going, even with the wipers madly flapping. I made it to an exit, parked on the shoulder and waited for the storm to pass. It didn’t.

The forecast had mentioned a chance of rain, but it didn’t say anything about a need to gather two of every animal.

I didn’t want to be in weather like that. So I turned around, drove out of the storm, then headed south into sunny Idaho. The next day I was in Boise, visiting old friends.

I was in Montana a year later, heading to Glacier National Park again. I had come up from Idaho, following the Salmon River, then the Bitterroot, through Missoula and northward. It was all beautiful. I was free. Life was good.

Then a wall of anxiety and existential despair fell out of nowhere.

I pulled into a gas station to wrestle with my emotions. After I calmed down all I “knew” was I didn’t want to continue to Glacier, I was somehow in the wrong place, and I was done with Montana. So I turned around and headed for those friends in Boise.

Last year found me in Montana again. Just barely. I had come from a wonderful few days in Grand Teton and Yellowstone parks. Now I was going to drive legendary Beartooth Pass. I was free. Life was good.

Then I was in a thick fog. Literally, not emotionally. The clouds were low in the mountains. I could only see about twenty yards ahead of me. Just enough to stay on the road as I crept along.

After I descended out of the clouds, I thought, “Enough of this,” and headed south to Cody, Wyoming, then back to Yellowstone (but not to my friends in Boise).


Yesterday I was in a parking lot in Bozeman, online, checking the fire conditions around Glacier National Park. It was hot. I was tired. I was thinking of reasons not to go up there. What if camping spots along the way are in fire zones? What if they’ve been burned? What if there are roadblocks? What if the park is so filled with smoke I can’t see anything?

Then there was a sudden gust of wind that blasted black grit into the Rolling Steel Tent and my face. Was Montana were trying to chase me off? Again?

Well, screw it! I wasn’t turning back again. I got back on the road. I felt much better. I am free. Life is good.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Taking the bypass

Getting north from last night's camping spot started with morning commute traffic into Jackson WY. If I had wanted to punish myself further I could've continued north through Grand Teton and Yellowstone parks. But I took the road west, over the mountains and into Idaho.

Perfect idea. Except for getting stuck in a line of traffic behind a large dump truck. It pulled over at the summit. Yay, except if it were to lose its brakes coming down the 10% grade, I would be in front of it. That didn't happen, though, because I'm writing this instead of being hauled from the bottom of a cliff.

What did happen was getting stuck behind someone whose sacred duty was to drive way below the speed limit and not use any turnouts.

That driver turned off just in time for the series of small towns with low speed limits. Hey, this route is a bypass, not a shortcut. Besides, it allowed me to visit the giant potato in front of the Spud Drive-In Theatre in Driggs. (Hmmmm, put a door and a couple of windows in that and I'd have a replacement for the Rolling Steel Tent.)

Things went well from Ashton until West Yellowstonewhere I once again found myself behind a slow-driving shunner of turnouts. It got so bad that I used a turnout just to get some space between us.

That means I'm in again Montana. We have some history together, which I'll cover in the next post.


Today's my fourth anniversary as a van dwelling nomad. It was an excellent decision. And it's an excellent life.

Here's a map of all the places I camped this past year.

Teton substitute

The entire Teton/Yellowstone area is a crowded tourist haven, yet everyone should see it at least once. But if you've been there, and you want some of that western Wyoming mountain goodness with fewer humans around, there's the Granite Creek area. Mountains, forests, stream, waterfall, wildlife, fly fishing, free dispersed camping, reasonably priced campground, hot springs...

43°18'45"N, 110°27'33"W

The downside is that Granite Creek is no secret. (And now that I've posted about it, it's even less of a secret. Rats.) It might be hard snagging a dispersed spot during prime season. I lucked out.

A fellow nomad came by to chat and he informed me the Forest Service had imposed a four day dispersed camping limit rather than the typical fourteen or sixteen days. Popular area, high season, Labor Day weekend coming, and so on. Well it was only a stopover for me. I want to continue north before it gets too cold. I discovered a little frozen condensation around the edge of the windshield (outside, not inside). That's a sign. Gotta go.

You have time

"How do you spend your days?"

That’s a question many soon-to-be nomads ask. Of course, what they really mean is, “I don’t know what I’ll do with all my time if I don’t have all the demands, time fillers and distractions of my old life.”

Sorry, I’m not going to tell anyone how to fill their time.

Some people don’t know what to do because all their life they’ve had others telling them. I’m not going to be another one of those.

Some people haven’t had a self-directed life. Maybe they didn’t think such a thing existed outside of fiction. Well, now it’s time to build one.

Deciding to be a nomad is a big self-directed step. But, whoa, then what, right? Okay, what have you always wanted to do if you only had the time? Because now you have it. What things do you want to see? What do you want to learn? Who do you want to meet? And so on. If those things can’t be done immediately, then what can be done to make progress toward them?

People engaged in something they love experience a thing called flow. They become so focused on what they’re doing, so immersed in it, that they lose track of time and their surroundings. “Oh my, where did the time go?”

What do you love? Do that.

My friend LaVonne thought she would use her nomadic freedom to write more. She had published a book and figured she should do another. But she hadn’t been making any real progress and was beating herself up about it. One day she “wasted” valuable writing time crocheting instead, and discovered that was what she really wanted to do. That’s what she loved. She crochets and she flows. And she’s happier.

Instead of asking, “What should I be doing,” ask, “What do I want to be doing?” Then do that.

Apparently, I just spent over two hours writing this. Oh my, where did the time go?

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Little surprises

There's a lot of Wyoming that looks like this:

But if you pay attention to the signs—both manmade and geologic—you can find escapes from seemingly endless sagebrush, like this:

This is a riparian area along the Green River, about 45 miles northwest of the city of the same name. There's a free campground with tables, toilets and trash pickup. Thank you BLM. This wasn't where I planned on being, but sometimes I just discover things along the way.

Go your own way

Marv misses being a project manager, Belle enjoyed her career as an accountant

Someone in the full-time RVer world, who likely had a career in some highly structured profession, came up with a system for proper travel. Some people call it the Rule of Twos and it's something like this:
Drive no more than 200 miles a day
Arrive at your destination before 2:00PM
Stay at least two days
Eh, that’s an adequate plan for the type of people who need plans. You probably don’t want to wear yourself out by driving long distances. You don’t want to arrive someplace too late to get a space or be setting up in the dark. And if you go to the trouble of getting somewhere, it doesn’t make much sense to be dashing off.

I’m not a systematized person. I resist structure unless there’s a compelling reason, like getting paid. So I give the Rule of Twos two middle fingers. This is my life, my golden years, so I’m going to do it however I please. And probably not the same way twice. At least not on purpose.

Here are some variations on the Rule of Twos.
Stay up until 2:00AM
Drive two miles
Stay two months 
Cross two state lines
Give a lift to two hitchhikers
Stay twenty miles from the nearest human 
Walk 2,000 yards
Take 200 photos
Publish two of them in the blog 
Plan tomorrow’s route twice
Change the plan two more times
Stay in bed another two hours
You could make your own Rule of Twos. And it doesn’t need to be two. It can be whatever. Yeah, that’s it: the Rule of Whatever. Whatever you want. Whatever you feel like. Whatever works for you.

A better photo of Flaming Gorge

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Friday, August 25, 2017

Meanwhile, back in Ridgway (again)

The interior is essentially complete, so...

In a van, down by the... stream

There were three Forest Service campgrounds along this stretch of road in Utah's Uinta Mountains, but none were as nice as this free dispersed comping spot next to a stream. I lucked out.

I guess some people prefer having restrooms and pavement to park on. Oh well.


These desperados tried to rob me, but they dispersed when they saw I wasn't afraid.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Another place for the night

Site 12, Price Canyon Recreation Area campground: 39.760219, -110.916513

They call it the world's longest art museum

Nine Mile Canyon about 40 miles long. It was named after Nine Mile Creek, which was named by FM Bishop, who was named expedition topographer by John Wesley Powell of running-the-Colorado-River (with only one arm) fame. Evidently, Nine Mile Creek was nine miles from somewhere back in the days it was hundreds of miles from anywhere.

Anyway, Nine Mile Canyon has probably the largest collection of petroglyphs by what are called the Fremont people, who lived in the region from about 300 to 1500 CE. Here are some that I saw yesterday.

The last one, named the Great Hunt, is probably the best known of the Nine Mile Canyon glyphs.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The next best thing to free camping

I needed a place to camp in the general area of Price UT, so I checked and found Avintaquin Campground, just off US-191, about half way between Price and Duchesne. It was $5.00 a night, $2.50 with the federal seniors pass (which is still only $10 until 28 August 2017). Two-and-a-half bucks is next to nothing. And I had the place all to myself.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Meanwhile, back in Ridgway

The ceiling of locally-grown, locally-milled, tongue & groove aspen has been installed in Forrest's camper. Since the planks were rather warped, bowed and twisted, I imagine there was a good amount of swearing while getting it in.

And Forrest took the truck out for a highway shakedown. It cruised nicely at 75 MPH on the way to Grand Junction where the new driveshafts will be made. He had to uninstall the transfer case and reconnect the rear wheel drive in order to drive it there. Then, when he gets to the shop, he'll reinstall the transfer case so they can get exact measurements.

Into the woods

A free camping spot in Santaquin Canyon, Utah

A different part of the loop

Up out of a canyon from yesterday's camp, along the ridge line, over the summit and next to a meadow is Blackhawk Campground, run by the Forest Service. It's a pay campground, but I get the old fart half-price discount.

It's a large and popular campground, but since it was Monday it was nearly empty. Just come guys with horses.

Monday, August 21, 2017

The mowing crew came by

Made in the shade

The last time I stayed at Cottonwood Campground, just off the Mt. Nebo Scenic Byway, I wanted the sunniest campsite I could find. Solar energy and all that.

This time I wanted the shadiest spot to help keep things cooler. I found this tunnel in the trees. Perfect.

Also perfect is that this campground if free. Just pick a spot and you're good. Do envelope to fill out, no "iron ranger." Just free. Because there's no water and or trash pickup. But there's a vault toilet. And the campground is very quiet.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Running hot and cold

The night before last I camped at Lower Gray Canyon, just north of Green River, Utah. It was hot. I had the driver window, side door and back door open all day with the fan going full blast. I turned the fan off when I slept but kept everything open. And the quilt stayed put away. If I could've gotten away with sleeping naked I would have, but there were other campers, so...

Last night I stayed in the dispersed camping area at Fish Lake, Utah. At about 9,000 feet. It would be considerably cooler up there anyway, but it was also mostly overcast and threatening to rain.

The Rolling Steel Tent was closed up most of the time, especially at night. Because rain and large carnivorous critters were a possibility. And the quilt was not only necessary, but I also had it pulled over my head. It got down to 53° in the van. That's a nearly perfect sleeping temperature.

Washing up and back

A week or so ago one of my sisters posted a photo of her hiking the Grand Wash in Capitol Reef National Park. "Wait," I thought, "How did I miss that place?" So I went there yesterday.

I love tall, narrow canyons. While the beginning and end of the Grand Wash are wider and shallower, the middle—The Narrows—is dramatic and cozy.

The parking lot at the southwest end of the wash gets crowded, which is why I skipped it when I was at Capitol Reef before. But there's a pull-out at the northeast end that had plenty of room when I arrived shortly after sunrise. The Narrows are also closer to that end.