This is a long one, you might want to grab a cup of coffee!
Although I had tons of work this week, it’s my year end close, we still found some time to help out the young people from the American Conservation Experience who are working this week on cleaning up the trail. I did have some reservations about 7 kids in their early 20’s staying that close to us, but after 9 days I can say I was pleasantly surprised. They are up early, out working all day, and very quiet when they are around camp. As a group they are all very friendly but also respectful of our space. Lee got to spend the most time with them this week as he spent some time shooting footage of them as they cleaned up the trail. He’s producing a short video about the project for Stan to use and the kids were more than happy to be a part of it. Also one night the battery on their truck died and Lee and I drove on the fire road down to where they were working and gave them a jump. The Bizz Johnson Trail is really something. It is 36 miles of rail trail converted into a bike path and some of the scenery is just beautiful. Plus there are some really neat tunnels cut into the hills surrounding us, and we will definitely be going farther up the trail with our camera to take some pictures.
The way the kids schedule works is 9 days on and 5 days off, so Wednesday night was the end of the first 9 day stint. Then they go back to the Lake Tahoe headquarters and rest and have fun, then come back for here for another 9 day stretch. Since not everyone is necessarily coming back to this location, Lee decided he wanted to fix them dinner. Since work was nuts, I was ok with that but said cooking and cleaning was up to him, which he readily agreed to. He made hot dogs and brats and I made some strawberry pound cake for everyone with home made whipped cream. As a side note I have never made whipped cream before but it is easy and yummy. A pint of whipping cream, sugar, and vanilla and blend until stiff. So good…I don’t know if I will ever buy the premade stuff again. After dinner, Phil the team leader taught us to play a game called stump. Phil is from Wisconsin and since our new son-in-law is also from there this game makes sense as a Wisconsin game. You take a tree stump and lightly tap in a long nail for each person. Then you take a hammer, flip it in your hand, and in one motion try to pound someone else’s nail. As soon as the nail is completely flat against the stump that person is out. It is much harder than it sounds and of course putting people out leads to all kinds of hilarity. I played a round and it was fun but the mother in me rebelled against flipping hammers up in the air that way. I can definitely see the attraction though for this group since they are often in very remote places for many days. There are usually stumps and nails are cheap so I get it. It was fun I have to say and I really enjoyed getting to know them all better.
Since three of them are from other countries (Korea, Germany, and England) they were very interested in full time RVing and I was equally interested in why they would join a program like this. Essentially for them it is an opportunity to visit America, work on their English, and get some practical experience in a nature related field. Overall I was very impressed by every one of them, and even more so when the next morning, after they left, we found a bottle of wine and a card on our picnic table. If anyone thinks the Millennials are a lost cause as a generation, you might feel differently after you read what the card said:
Lee and Tracy,
“To say that you two were the best camp hosts that we have had would be a massive understatement. You took the time to get to know each of us on a personal level and brought us motivational treats. You also did countless favors for us over the past nine days, saving our bacon in several instances, and for that we are forever grateful. It has been an honor and a privilege to have shared this tiny campground that we all pretty much consider our second home. Both of you are amazing people and you have created a long lasting positive memory in all of us that we will not soon forget. We would also like to formally welcome you to your new lifestyle and may you never stop exploring and trying new things.”
The A.C.E Crew
This chokes me up again just typing it. We didn’t even do that much. We were just friendly, made them a couple of desserts and a meal, and got to know them. Anyway, if you ever have a chance to work with these youth organizations, I really recommend getting to know the kids. I think you will be pleasantly surprised as I was.
We also got a care package from Lee’s parents which really made it an awesome day. I love that they collect little things they think we would like and they actually got our address here and paid the $6 to ship them. This package had collapsible bowls, cocktail napkins for our parties with friends, and some great camping T-Shirts. Each item was thoughtful, relevant to what we are doing, and in almost every case does two things!! So nice of them and it meant the world to us!After the kids left things were pretty quiet and we actually got some rain. One of the interesting things about this part of the country is how many completely cloudless days there are. On the occasion when it does rain however it rains hard and we pretty much stayed inside. We both started to get a little antsy about our hair though. We hadn’t had haircuts since July before the wedding and really were getting shaggy. Unfortunately Susanville doesn’t offer a hair cutting place that I would even consider so off we went to Reno on Friday afternoon to go to a Super Cuts. I know I’ve said it before but Super Cuts is awesome. They are extremely clean and consistent across the country plus for $16 you get a nice haircut. They also carry my hair product and offer an eyebrow wax for $10. Really can’t beat it. They have recently added a “call ahead” feature and you can make an appointment the same day which they do a VERY good job of honoring. So we were in and out of there before 5pm and realized we should probably take advantage of our time in Reno.
Lee and I like to gamble, strictly for fun, on occasion, so I was very interested in checking out the casinos in Reno and seeing if we could actually have any fun gambling on such a limited budget. Lee used to go to Vegas for the week long National Association of Broadcasters conference every year and budgeted $100 per day for Black Jack. He usually broke even, that’s just the way blackjack works, but he went into it planning to lose the $500 for entertainment. Obviously that wasn’t going to work in this lifestyle where our monthly entertainment budget is $159 so we needed to talk it through. We went to Circus Circus because the web said they had $2 blackjack tables and we had dinner at a little diner there. The meals were excellent but man, am I ever tired of spending $3 for soda or iced tea. Consequently dinner was $37, but later I had an idea that I am going to start taking those little drink powder packets in my purse so we can have lemonade for dinner. The $10.99 for the meals was more than fair but the markup on an iced tea makes me crazy. As we ate we talked through what gambling would look like for us in this new world. This was progress by the way as instead of spending now and talking later we are really starting to have these conversations proactively. We determined that for the test I would take $20 (my standard amount for nickel slots) and Lee would take $100 for blackjack and we would see what happened. Lee had the harder decision to make by far and I won’t talk about about all the details, but if you are going to gamble you need a certain amount of money to start with. It ended up turning out great as he found a set of interconnected tables with an electronic dealer for $2 a game and ended up spending only $22 for about two hours of play. I spent $8 out of my $20. We also spent a few dollars upstairs on the huge arcade area Circus Circus has. We probably could have recouped that money if we were willing to stay longer, but we needed to close the gate back at the ranch, so we headed back. We did drive through the downtown area heading home though and I definitely want to go back and try out some of the other casinos. Overall the experience was great and better than anything we have seen short of Vegas including Atlantic City. We were offered free drinks several times, the slots were varied, and the kind I like, and it really had a small Vegas vibe unlike Indian Casinos we have been in. Plus, I have to say, I really like Reno as a town. I was expecting the worst, but they have really cleaned it up in the 20 years since Lee has been there and it’s a very nice little town.
Saturday it rained some more, so I just took some chill time, and Lee worked on Howard and Linda’s videos. In case you are wondering, I am doing OK with the decision to leave my job, but I am having some rough moments. I had a really great review and conversation with my current boss which made me feel good about things, and I’ve talked to Cori several times. She has been absolutely wonderful because she went through a similar experience several months ago and not only does she get it, but she has been very understanding of how moody I have been over the whole thing. I am going along feeling great and then wham I get sad or a little depressed and Cori has been right there telling me it’s normal and will pass. She also sent me the picture below and it really struck home with me… so I thought I would pass it along.
Sunday was a little cloudy but no rain which was great because we had plans with Jo and Ben. Jo and Ben started their new jobs the last couple of weeks and we were dealing with my job issues, so no opportunity until now to see each other. I found a Celtic festival in Reno on Groupon though and we made plans to meet there on Saturday. This was the first time I had used Groupon (recommended by both Katy and Cori, two of the most bargain conscious chicks I know) and it worked great. They have a mobile app you can use and we got on online ticket which we just held up and shpwed upon entrance. We did have to pay a $5 parking fee though which brought the cost up to $10 per person. Unfortunately this was not my best pick. The event was super small and none of us felt the fee was worth the $10. Jo and Ben were so nice about it though and when we were done after 1-1/2 hours Ben came up with a Plan B. My favorite thing we saw was a demonstration on how to put on a kilt. Both Jo and I were fascinated as we had read about it, but never actually seen it done. I have included a step by step set of pictures below on that for those of you who have an interest. I found it fascinating and now feel like I could maybe buy and wear a kilt. By the way, women and men wore kilts at the same length until the 1500’s when the catholic church pushed for the women to wear them long for modesty.
So there was some cool things but no way worth $10 and thankfully Ben had this idea to head to Virginia City, which is a an historic mining town about 30 minutes outside of Reno. A huge silver strike was found there, most people know it as the Comstock Lode, and tons of saloons were built. What is cool about this town is many of the original buildings are still in place and I loved the wooden boardwalk which follows the natural lines of the ground and made me feel like I was really in the old west. Plus in one of those awesome moments of serendipity we realized we were there during the world championship outhouse races. Oh yes, I am not making that up, and it was completely a happy accident. Can’t really describe what we saw in words, so let me just show you the pics.
After spending several hours in Virginia City, we headed down to Jo and Ben’s place. They are staying at Sparks Marina RV Park right in Reno. Normally not a huge fan of these types of parks but they have done a nice job with this one. Every space has it’s own spot of AstroTurf. There are three nice dog parks, a clubhouse, pool and Jacuzzi. Plus across the street is a lake and marina with beach volleyball courts and nice picnic areas. Sometimes when you are working, convenience makes more sense than anything else, and it does feel isolated despite only being 10 minutes away from Ben’s work at the hospital. They also have immaculate restrooms, cable and really great free Wifi and with a monthly off season price of $575 a month is a nice deal.
Sparks Marina RV Park 1200 E. Lincoln Way Sparks, NV 89434 4 out of 5 pine cones
The spaces are close together but each has it’s own spot of AstroTurf. There are three nice dog parks, a clubhouse, pool and Jacuzzi. Plus across the street is a lake and marina with beach volleyball courts and nice picnic areas. Despite being right in town it does feel isolated and you have a nice view of the surronding hills. They also have immaculate restrooms, cable and really great free Wifi and with a monthly off season price of $575 a month is a nice deal.
Spicy Drumsticks with Blue Cheese
- 4 drumsticks
- 3 TBL vegetable Oil
- 3 TBL white vinegar
- 4 tsp red pepper sauce (add more is you like spicy)
- 3/4 tsp salt
- Mix oil, vinegar, pepper sauce, and salt in ziploc plastic bag
- Add drumsticks and toss until well coated
- Refrigerate at least 1 hour occasionally turning bag
- Cook Chicken on grill for 30 minutes saving sauce in bag
- Baste chicken with remaining sauce in bag and then cook an additional 10-15 minutes
- Serve with Blue Cheese dressing for dipping on the side
Fresh Strawberry Coffee Cake
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 cup flour
- 1/2 cup milk
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 egg
- 2 TBL melted butter
- 1-1/2 cups strawberries , sliced
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1/4 cup chopped nuts (I used walnuts)
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees
- Grease an 8 x8 x2 pan
- Combine all cake ingredients except for strawberries, mix until well blended
- Spread batter evenly in pan and sprinkle berries evenly over batter
- Combine flour and sugar for topping then add softened butter. Blend by hand until mix is crumbly
- Add nuts to topping and blend
- Sprinkler the topping over strawberries
- Bake for 35-40 minutes
- Serve Warm
Homemade Whipped Cream
- 1 pint heavy whipping cream
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Beat ingredients until stiff in large bowl
- Refrigerate until used
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