First Time in John Wayne’s Birthplace

Despite a late night of talking, we all got up and moving the next morning because we wanted to make the most of the day.  Steve volunteered to cook us breakfast, and it was really good.  Iowa is known for pork, and Steve had bought some bacon from a local butcher.  It was really good, but I actually liked the scrambled eggs more because he cooked them in a little bacon grease.  I hadn’t had that in a while and the flavor always reminds me of my childhood.

Mmmmm bacon.  It tasted as good as it looked.

After breakfast we said goodbye to Hurley and headed to see John Wayne’s birthplace and museum.  Steve had picked this area for the museum and he remembered that Lee is a huge John Wayne fan, which I thought was really sweet.  Lee grew up watching the Duke and has seen almost all of his movies.  I’ve even seen a few myself (big fan of Rooster Cogburn) and I had no idea he was born in Winterset, Iowa.

We arrived at the location and right away I was impressed.  There is a great memorial rock with hand painted pictures on it and one of the locals came up to us and explained what the different sides of the rock meant.  The main character from Monuments Men, George Stout (George Clooney played him) was from Winterset.

John Wayne’s various military characters

 

Other local service heroes

After admiring the memorial area we walked over to the front of the museum and admired the John Wayne statue and the marble tiles surrounding the grounds.  Each tile was donated by a family and many of them had quotes from the movie.  Very cool. The statue had amazing detail and we took several pictures.

Steve and Lee

The level of detail on the statue was amazing. I liked the spurs but everyone else had a long conversation about why this one bullet was lower.

I liked this quote

After being outside we walked in and paid $15 which included an 11 minute movie (which was pretty good), a small museum, and touring the inside of his house.  I will say we all thought it was a bit overpriced.  The museum was pretty small and since you can see the outside and visit the huge gift shop for free, you might want to go that route if you are on a budget.  As a general rule, any time the gift shop is almost bigger than the museum part that tends to be the case, but if the cost is $6 or less why not.  When you start to get in double digits, we expect a bit more.

Small theater for the movie which I did enjoy

The saddle from The Cowboys

The gun selection was really cool, but these were all commemorative and none were actually used in the movies or anything

This is the type of gun he used to swing around while riding a horse. The extra big circle allowed for this manuever. I thought that was really cool.

His actual car was one of my favorite things because it was so low-key

They did build him a custom roof though for his hat which was AWESOME!

Lee loved loved this jacket which he actually wore. They had them for sale in the gift shop but they were $150…uh nope

He was very popular with his fellow actors and when he was given the congressional gold medal they just said John Wayne American..which again I liked

My favorite piece in the entire museum was this Andy Warhol picture. Not a huge fan of Andy Warhol in general but this was truly a work of art.

Lee really liked the cups. He had coffee mugs made for each movie and gave them to the cast and crew. Class act

Steve and I love ourselves a gift shop..this was a nice one

After the museum we walked outside and down to his childhood home.  It was very small, with no running water and was not originally furnished although the pieces were accurate with the time period.  Walking through was very interesting and when I found out he was a 13 pound baby that was cool.  Yikes!!  That was huge for that time period. So again, I think if you are a huge John Wayne fan go ahead and spring for the ticket, but if not you might want to just check out the outside.

Small bedroom..neat bed though

He lived in Iowa until he was 9 and then they moved to California. Have to wonder if they hadn’t moved would he have become the John Wayne that we all know and love.

Again 13 pounds!!! And no drugs…craziness lol

I liked the trundle bed in the kitchen..I don’t know if I have ever seen one like this before

The rose bushes were very pretty

After we left the museum we explored the town of Winterset a little bit.  It was a nice small town with a thriving downtown, which we always love to see, and I especially loved the courthouse. Then we went looking for a place to eat but it was slim pickings.  We finally went to a place called the Pizza Ranch that had a pizza buffet.  The food was ok and they were short-staffed, but it was priced right at $9.99 per meal. Originally we wanted to eat at a local place where all the food is made from scratch, but we were told that the owner only opened up when she “felt like it.”  Obviously she didn’t feel like it that day because it was closed, but we did see the home of the original Red Delicious apple tree and did some more geocaching.

Winterset, Iowa

Courthouse

Lee and Steve stopped and geocached at this local church

East Peru had the sign but we couldn’t find the tree.

They have some ingenious types of geocaches.  The little red metallic button was one

We all had fun on the old-fashioned carousel. Don’t worry that thing was heavy-duty

I did like the signs in the restaurant

This pizza and fries concept looks neat but not so great in reality

I thought this was a particularly good piece of advice for our lifestyle

 

After lunch we set out to see a few more bridges and I particularly wanted to see the one in the movie the Bridges of Madison County. It took us awhile to get there though because we kept stopping for geocaches.  Deb and Steve are avid geocachers with over 500 consecutive days of finding at least one cache and over 3,000 total found.  Lee runs hot and cold on it..he’ll be into it for a while and then not do it again for a month.  Obviously we were in a “hot” phase, which was OK with me because they do lead to some cool places, like an old cemetery that had a tree that looked like the tree of life which was neat.

The main problem with geocaching though as I see it is they are often too difficult to find.  Or worse someone has removed it and then you spend 20-30 minutes wandering around not finding what you are looking for.  That’s what happened to us at the cemetery and I finally called it quits.  I think there should be a 10 minute rule and if you can’t find them you have to move on, but I get that its tough for people to give up when looking for “hidden treasure.”  It was hot though and moving towards cranky so we headed out and finally saw a couple of bridges including the one in the movie.

Hogsback Bridge

This combination solar/wind pole was pretty neat. We had some conversation about whether we could have one of these for an RV

My one disappointment with the bridges was that they all looked exactly the same.  In New England the bridges are all very different, but since these were done at roughly the same time, they were very similar.  It started to feel like “you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all” until we reached the Roseman bridge from the movie and stumbled across a really cool gift shop.  That experience was much better and if you can only see one, I absolutely recommend this one and the very nice gift shop.

The gift shop was on the opposite side of where we parked and we thought it was just a house. Thankfully we walked all the way to the other side so we realized what it was.

Lee was tempted by this John Wayne toilet paper but we didn’t know if it was septic safe lol

I was excited to find this beautiful covered bridge bird house for Lee’s mom. They are  buying us the most thoughtful gifts and since she has a huge yard and garden I thought she would like it.

After the bridge it was getting late so we stopped at the store and then went back to the rigs and everyone chilled a bit.  I should mention that the local grocery store was very interesting.  All the employees wore white dress shirts and ties and the butchers even had the little paper white hats.  It felt like we were in the 50’s to be honest and for me at least was a little weird.  Steve loved the butcher shop though and bought some more pork and bacon, but I stuck with a head of lettuce and some rolls for dinner.   I ended up making some chicken and noodles, salad, and rolls for the group and then we stayed up late talking and enjoying a campfire.

The next day we all got up early because Lee and I had a 470 mile travel day.  We never want a day like that, but it was the only way to eke out an extra day with Steve and Deb so it was worth it to us.  We dumped and then took on fresh water for Mor-Ryde, kissed and hugged, made plans for hopefully seeing them at the reunion rally,  and off we went.

The ride wasn’t too bad through Des Moines and Iowa and even western Illinois was OK, but once we got near Chicago on I-80 the traffic started picking up, the road went to shit, and it was bad. I was getting pretty beat up from the bouncing on the passenger side and Lee was getting stressed.  At one point he turned to me and said, “We just don’t belong in places like this any more,” and I couldn’t have agreed more.  Indiana wasn’t much better and we were both really tired and then close to Mor-Ryde we hit another time change.  That was the third one in a relatively few days and that does take a toll.

Morning sunrise was beautiful in Iowa

Rain threatened but thankfully we just kept missing it

Crossing the mighty Mississippi

I took my turn driving.  Really had to pay attention on these roads

I knew we were close to home when I saw my first Bob Evans sign

Ultimately we made it to Mor-Ryde 6:15pm eastern time and after following signs, figured out where to park.  We were both exhausted and after talking briefly to our “neighbors” to make sure we were in the right place, went inside, ate a sandwich and went to bed.  I’m going to talk more about Mor-Ryde in one comprehensive post so I will end it here, but we loved seeing Deb and Steve and are so happy about our small town Iowa experience.  Seriously, don’t forget about the small towns in your travels, they can be pretty special.


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Or you can check out our recipe book filled with 80 real recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. The cookbook specializes in recipes that have a limited number of ingredients, without sacrificing flavor and is organized into categories that matter to full time RVers such as Instant Pot recipes, Travel Days recipes, and Pot Lucks   You can preview the kindle version on  Amazon or the Apple version on Itunes.    It is also available in paperback.

First Time in Madison County, Iowa

It was very sad driving out of Colorado and away from friends, but we were excited about seeing some new territory and meeting up with our other (but equally awesome) friends Deb and Steve.  Plus, there was a section of US-50 eastbound that was absolutely beautiful.  Seriously, one of my favorite stretches of highway to date, and it was completely unexpected.  We drove through these beautiful canyons with blue skies, and I was awestruck.

Sadly, as soon as we left the Rockies the landscape changed.  Eastern Colorado was definitely not my favorite landscape, and that continued when we initially entered Kansas.  It was pretty sparse and barren, without much to look at, so I broke out the cross stitch to keep myself entertained.  Because we were on a state highway south of an interstate we also needed to be very careful of when we got fuel. There were places to stop in small towns, but the spaces in between were just large fields.  And many of the small towns were really desolate, no industry, ramshackle houses, and once I even saw a closed Dollar Store.  Things are pretty rough when a town can’t keep a Dollar Store going.

Eventually we made it to Deerfield Beach Campground which was a $15 a night Passport America and we were both taken aback by what we found. (Shocked is more like it. – Lee)  Lots of permanent trailers, no one on staff, a small man made pond which was where the “beach” came in, and it wasn’t even clear where we should pay, if we should pay, and how much we should pay.  As we drove through what was essentially an open field, with a “road” that was nothing more than ruts from vehicles driving on it, and lots of deep mud puddles, we saw a fifth wheel trailer with the entire area under the nose fenced in, and about 12 live chickens, and that was enough for us.  Time to move on.  So we pulled out Ultimate Campgrounds and we found a fairgrounds in Garden City, so we decided to drive a little farther and check it out. Unfortunately it was an unmanned parking lot and although there were central electric boxes we had no idea if we were even able to stay there.  Some folks would have gone ahead and boondocked, but we are just not that adventurous, so we punted and looked at our Good Sam App.  There was another campground in Garden City that had OK ratings, and since it was closing in on 6pm we decided to stay there.

RJ’s RV Park was not great, and definitely not worth the $30 they charged.  No one was in the office when we pulled in, and several of the sites were blocked with concrete blocks because the power didn’t work.  We finally pulled into one open one and Lee found the breaker was missing, so we had to really search before we could find a 50 amp site that we could fit into.  It was very run down and honestly the only interesting thing about it was it was right next to a wind turbine manufacturer and we could see the various parts of giant wind turbines next door.  I love wind power and had never seen on of these on the ground, so that was pretty cool, but I never would have stayed there if I had any other reasonable choice. (The picture below makes this place look like it’s something other than a complete dump. It’s a really nice camera. The place is a complete dump. – Lee)

Our spot …I know it doesn’t look that bad but it was. Best thing though was it was very level.

Wind turbine pieces directly in front of us

To the left in front is the tip of a blade. Those things are huge laying down.

 

I know that whole story was a bit of a bummer, but I actually think it’s pretty cool.  There was a time when we would have been freaking out, but we truly have learned to roll with it.  Letting go of needing a “perfect” site every night was a big step for us and gives us more flexibility in our travel.  We could have kept driving to Dodge City for example, but Lee didn’t want to cruise through that any more than I wanted to cruise through Moab.  So it was only one night and although $30 is not great our budget does allow for the occasional more expensive stay.  Plus when you are just eating dinner and then going to bed, as long as you feel safe generally not much more matters.

After Garden City we headed up the freeway and got on interstate 70.  Things were much more pleasant along the way and we even saw this huge, square block festival in Scott, Kansas.  We would have loved to have stopped, but we weren’t sure where we could park the rig and there must have been over a thousand people there. It was nice to see a small town flourishing though and things got better as we entered the center of the state.

Nice to see some of the wind turbines in the fields

The landscape was green with rolling hills as we approached Topeka.

I was actually excited to travel through Topeka, a place I had heard about but never been, but first we stopped for the night at Lake Shawnee Campground.  This was a county park (our absolute favorite kind of campground)and since it had over 100 sites I was pretty confident we could get in even on a Saturday.  Thankfully this was the case, after some initial confusion at the gate. The entrance gate was actually closed and since it was self pay we weren’t sure what to do, but eventually we just drove in on the exit side.  The lake was really beautiful and the place was very popular and there were several spots available although most of them were too small for us.  Eventually we decided to park in spot 17 which was right on the edge of the lake.  The electric box and water were on the wrong side but Lee had enough hoses and cables to make it work.  It was a tight squeeze, but we were in and the view was absolutely fantastic.

View from front of rig

We pulled in kind of sideways but made it work

View from our picnic table

It was much better than the night before and the price was right at $20 for water and 50 amp. Plus the view. You really can’t say enough about an awesome view.  Yes, I know above I said it didn’t really matter if it’s just one night, but every time we do stumble across it it’s a very nice bonus.  We got up bright and early and headed out because we wanted to get to Deb and Steve as early as possible. The dump station onsite by the way was one of the cleanest we have ever seen, and Lee actually said it was “lovely” which isn’t a word we associate with dump stations too often. Since it was early on the weekend we went ahead and drove through Topeka and ended up shaving 20 minutes off our drive.  We also jumped on the turnpike which took us to Kansas City and although it cost $5.25 that road was fantastic, with free boondocking in the very large service plazas along the route.  And there were lots of things in the east part of Kansas that I definitely want to go back for.  We passed Eisenhower’s hometown where his presidential museum is, and of course have to go back and see Dodge City.  So, no state sticker for us in Kansas, but we did dip our toe in the water and I made a mental list for next time when we can stop and see a few things.

Next we entered Missouri and Kansas City traffic was a little heavier but not too bad.  35 North was a very nice road and overall  Missouri was much prettier than Kansas with rolling hills and more trees.  The last leg of the journey went pretty quickly and in no time at all we were hitting Iowa.  We headed up to Des Moines on 35 but took a detour about 45 minutes before in Osceola, took a right turn and ended up in Madison County.  Yes, it was where the movie was made, and Deb and Steve chose it because there was some fun stuff to do in the area.  After much searching they found walk in campsites at Pammel State Park  and what a great choice.  Not only was it priced right, $18 for water and electric, but we practically had the place to ourselves, only one other rig in the place. We did have to route ourselves in very specific  directions though because the main entrance has a low 12 foot tunnel near it so we had to take some gravel roads to get in the back way.  Truly it was incredibly sweet how much trouble they went to and although I would have been happy anywhere with them, it was nice being in such a great place.

Crazy how low this tunnel was ..no way we could have gotten the rig through

Instead we went in this entrance

Despite how old the park was the campground was well laid out and modern and practically empty with only one other camper!

Us on the left and Deb and Steve on the right

And they gave us the end spot with amazing views from our yard

As soon as we got there I put on a pair of shorts…it was hotter and more humid than I was used to, and we set up quickly.  Then I gave Hurley a duck toy that he quickly devoured…lol.  Hurley is a pit bull rescue and one of the sweetest dogs I have ever met.  He single-handedly changed my opinion of pit bulls and we always love seeing him. Plus Deb keeps him in amazing shape with all the hiking they do, so I never feel guilty about slipping him snacks!  Deb gave me a couple of presents she had picked up for me at a farmer’s market and I got a pumpkin, some yummy smelling goat soap, and a small loaf of pumpkin bread,it was incredibly sweet of her to think of us.  I gave her some strawberry syrup I had personally made and canned in Oregon.

Hurley loved his duck!

Deb used to raise goats and she knows I loves goat milk products. She also remembered I don’t like flowery smells so this soap smelled earthy and perfect for me. Very thoughtful and sweet.

The only down side was we discovered we had driven the entire way with the fan open next to our fridge slide. Never done this before and it probably happened because the slide is stuck in the in position. Somehow it managed to stay on which we are extremely grateful for. Just goes to show you can never get complacent on travel days.

We were all chatting a mile a minute and getting caught up, and by 3pm we had finished setting up and had covered the basics of what had been going on with each other.  Reading each others blogs and Facebook helps with that of course, but there are some stories you want to hear in person, and we hadn’t seen them since last April.  Now at this point lots of people would have settled into happy hour and just chilled all night, but we all decided to go and do something.  Steve works a full time job through the week and makes the most of his weekends, so we all piled in their truck and headed out to see a couple of the famous Madison County bridges.  Steve and Deb also turned us onto geocaching, which is kind of an adult treasure hunt, and Lee and Steve were happily looking for geocaches near the bridges.

Holliwell Covered Bridge

These bridges are all going on 100 years old and although they are no longer used are a testament to expert craftsmanship. Crossing these rivers was a major problem in the late 1800’s and the bridges were built to solve that issue. Why were they covered? Simply to protect them from rain and snow…not for the aesthetic.

There is a kayak tour of the various bridges but the water was too low for us to even think about that

Inside the bridges is really neat although there is graffiti everywhere. For some reason though, probably because it was the I was Here variety, it doesn’t ruin the over all look

Deb. Steve, and Lee walking to the nearby modern bridge and looking for a geocache

I’m not a huge fan of geocaching, but I will say following the instructions do take you places you wouldn’t necessarily see…like this view of the bridge

The thing about geocaching is there is always another one around the bend…so off they went again

Lee and Steve found one…you can see how delighted they are..it is like a treasure hunt but you don’t always find the treasure. This time though success!

We all felt we had time to see one more before dinner was done (Deb and Steve were cooking a pork roast for us) so we went to a nearby city park.  Turns out they moved one of the bridges to this beautiful city park and wow what a find that was.  Winterset City Park is huge park, with it’s own small campground, which ran a close second in the campground choice.  And the fact that there are two great campgrounds in such close proximity is a testament to what a great small town Winterset is.

This bridge was moved so is part of the trail system. I actually found this one to be the prettiest because they added some white and gave it a new paint job

What was even cooler in some respects was this fairy-tale “troll bridge.” Loved this and Lee and Steve found a cleverly hidden geocache close by.

Too cute!!

Beautiful craftsmanship on the bridge

See the teeny tiny plastic vial in the rocks? That’s how hard some of these goecaches are too find

I was more interested in the bridge itself…but in all fairness if we weren’t geocaching I probably would never have seen it.

We were all getting hungry, but Steve had one more surprise.  I love when we can follow along with someone else’s plan once in awhile.  Don’t get me wrong, I like exploring and finding new places, but it’s also great when other folks we meet up with have their own list.  Different set of eyes find different things and this last place turned out to be amazing.  It was in the city park and about a mile drive up a one way road, so we turned a corner and this is what we saw.

This small castle was erected in Memory of the original pioneer settlers of the area by their descendants and it was really beautiful

There were three levels and each one was really pretty and a great place to take pictures. There was actually the end of some senior pictures being taken there when we arrived so we waited a little bit for our turn

Loved the views from the top

Lee got a panoramic view

Loved the stairs

 

 

We really enjoyed it and then Deb got the idea for us to take a picture with each of us in one of the holes on the curved steps.  It was truly a group effort as for the first time we figured out how to set the timer on the Iphone and Lee figured out the best place to put it.  Love, Love, Love this picture and what a wonderful memory. Definitely Iowa State Sticker worthy!

Fromt top: Steve, Deb, me, and Lee

We were all getting hungry, so we headed back to the campground and a yummy dinner of pork roast, asparagus, salad, and of course…..pie! We built a beautiful campfire and stayed up late talking and catching up.  Once again we simply picked up where our conversation had ended back in April and it was like no time had passed.  It truly amazes me how easy it is to reconnect with long-time friends and my favorite part is this allows the conversation to go from the superficial to deep, emotional subjects very quickly.  We share a common interest and common problems, plus we all love each other, so they are great people to bounce things off of or simply vent.  It was a great night and we are all looking forward to the John Wayne Museum tomorrow.  Did I forget to mention that?  Winterset, Iowa was the birthplace of John Wayne, and we are all excited about seeing the museum.


Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here

Or you can check out our recipe book filled with 80 real recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. The cookbook specializes in recipes that have a limited number of ingredients, without sacrificing flavor and is organized into categories that matter to full time RVers such as Happy Hours, Travel Days, and Pot Lucks   You can preview the kindle version on  Amazon or the Apple version on Itunes.    It is also available in paperback.

First Time Boondocking in Colorado

As bummed as we were about missing Moab, we were crazy excited to be seeing our friends in Colorado, and since we only had a three hour drive we headed out bright and early.  We made one quick stop first and picked up a Mr. Heater. We first learned about these when we were boondocking in Quartzsite and many of the folks who boondocked a lot swore by them.  They are small propane heaters that you can put inside your rig, and then you put a hose through a window (leaving it open a little for fresh air to get in) to the propane tank outside.  They are so popular because they “sip” propane and are much more efficient than a regular furnace, but neither Lee or I was ever that crazy about having a propane heater in the rig.  And let me be super clear here, this is NOT something you should try unless you are familiar with all of the risks, but in our case with a broken furnace and heading to near freezing temperatures at night we decided we would give it a try.

Thankfully they had 1 left and we actually already owned the hose we would need so only ended up spending $68.  Plus Lee has been participating in a Walmart Savings program  that Cori told us about where you download their app and scan your receipts and the computer knows when you are paying more for an item than somewhere else locally and refunds you the difference.  Yep crazy right, but it seems to work and we had $35 sitting in an account.  Unfortunately , we couldn’t figure out how to get it out of the account, and Lee spent over 20 minutes at Walmart with associates and ultimately on the phone with tech support before we could get the money.  Hey, I admire his stick-to-it-ness, but I really just wanted to get on the road and was really happy when they finally figured it out.  Plus, $35 is $35, and that took the purchase down to $33 in our minds.

Finally we were back on the road and headed towards Poncha Springs and the drive along Highway 50 was really pretty.  We love using secondary highways and this definitely gave  us a chance to do that, although it was slow going in spots due to construction taking the road down to one lane.  Still it was pretty, the sun was mostly shining, and the stop we made for a quick lunch was absolutely breathtaking.

Rolling hills and big sky

This single arch McDonald’s caught my attention. Don’t think I have ever seen that before. I think it was because we were so close to the Rockies

Huge reservoir with lots of places to camp

This was our lunch spot. And yes, it looked exactly like this. Could be a pic for a car commercial!

The forecast called for rain and the closer we got to Monarch Pass the cloudier it was, but thankfully it only sprinkled a little.  Plus the higher we climbed the more trees were in fall color and the aspens were really lovely.  Everything was good until we got close to the top of the pass and then it was total fog.  Lee was amazing, driving carefully along a ten mile stretch of highway with numerous 35 mph curves and a 6% grade and although I have absolute confidence in his driving it was nerve wracking.  It was the difficulty of the road as much as how long it was, and the terrible visibility at the top didn’t help.  Oh, and did I mention the gas light came on when we were coming down and I was crazy nervous about that?  When we pulled into the gas station in Poncha Springs it said we had 9 miles left, but we actually had 4 gallons in the tank.  Extreme grades can do funny things to your mileage calculations, and Lee felt pretty confident based on the mechanical line gauge we were fine.  When we got to the bottom a local came and talked to Lee and told him it was the second worst pass in Colorado.  That made us both feel a little better, and it really felt like we had accomplished something!

Clouds started rolling in

Beautiful aspens in color

It was clear until we hit the wall of fog

This was at the height of the pass and I guess there are beautiful views and a nice gift shop at the top on a clear day. Our views were so poor we didn’t even know a gift shop was there until I saw a little corner of the building as we were passing it.

On the way back down we passed back out of the fog. As you can see here it was a pretty clear line where it ended

And I should say here that our Rand McNally RV GPS was a lifesaver. I know some people travel without them, but numerous times we have found them invaluable.  There are lots of low bridges in New England where we started out and we never had an issue.  We also used it as our main navigation tool (along with a map) when traveling through Canada, and we really like the warnings for curves and steep downgrades when traveling in the mountains.  We also used the Mountain Directory which is a $10 app that gives detailed instructions on passes and other dangerous road conditions.  It rates pretty poor in design and doesn’t get updated often, but you can trust the information in it because it is specifically written for truckers and RV’s. Sometimes what we consider tough conditions don’t rate a mention on the Mountain Directory and that’s where having real-time cautions from the GPS comes in handy.  I really like it, because I am a less experienced driver and it allows me to slow down in advance of a situation rather than waiting until I see the sign and am right on it.

After fueling up we went to the Poncha Springs Visitor’s Center which has a dump ($7 but takes cards) and potable water for a $5 donation.  It also has a huge parking lot and this is a good place to drop the trailer or unhitch your Toad and scope out the area.  There are numerous boondocking spots in the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area which is all around Poncha Springs, but we were lucky because we had friends waiting for us who came and showed us the way.  We drove a few miles up on 285 and they took us to their spot.  Even though they were with us, we still got out of the truck and walked our route before deciding where to park.  We knew it was going to rain so we were extra careful to pick a spot that was hard packed and had lots of vegetation to hold in any rain we got.

Here’s our spot

View from the door of the rig

Canyon right down the way was really beautiful

As soon as we arrived we started to set up quickly and our refrigerator/stove slide decided that was the moment to completely die. The good news is we have other service work scheduled in Columbus already anyway so we added that to the list and the fridge and stove still work in the in position. (If you’re going to have a slide die on you, in is better than out. – Lee)  The bad news was our coffee maker was completely blocked but I was able to get to everything else. (We keep our stovetop percolator in another place, so we were able to have coffee. We’re not animals. – Lee) Don’t get me wrong, it was a major bummer, but honestly the excitement of being with our friends completely washed it away.  These rigs simply aren’t made for what we put them through, and things break sometimes.  (I’ve actually had this same issue on two other slides, and I even have the spare part to fix it, but I didn’t want to waste our time with the gang tinkering with it, and I also didn’t want to start to fix it, and run the risk of having something go wrong and have it stuck in the out position. I’ve been able to push in the other slides with help when they’re broken, but the fridge/stove slide is much bigger, and much, much heavier. – Lee) It isn’t a case of if, but rather when, and you just have to learn to deal with it.  My first thought honestly was thank God it didn’t break in the out position, because that would have been a huge deal.  Instead we can limp along until we get to Columbus and if we can function, we can deal with it. (It only blocks the cabinet with the coffee machine, everything else is accessible. And the fridge and stove can still be used. – Lee)

Plus, Greg had taken his role as host very seriously.  Cori had a last minute work trip and she wasn’t there our first day, so Greg cooked us a brisket and made all the food arrangements.  Our group learned about cooking for other people on their travel days in our first RV-Dreams rally and we all take it pretty seriously.  The idea is to save the incoming travelers the hassle of worrying about food, so they can set up quickly and everyone can start spending time together right away.  Greg was really excited about trying out the new Junior Elite smoker he bought (sometimes I really envy them the storage they have in their Class A) because it uses almost no electricity, and is great for boondocking.  Sharon chipped in some amazing bacon wrapped green beans.  Seriously, they were totally awesome and I got her permission to include them in my next recipe book.

We also got to meet some friends of Greg and Cori’s that they had met at an Xcapers rally at Joshua Tree.  Dave and Mairead (rhymes with parade) are Irish, and both full-time RVers.  Mairead works as a programmer on the road and they love boondocking as they travel.  I loved meeting both of them and instantly felt super comfortable and we had a great time getting to know each other and talking about working on the road.  (I liked them too, but they talk funny. – Lee) Heather and Paul (their RV was down by the canyon) also stopped by and soon Cori and Greg’s”party bus” was full of folks.  It really was a great evening and Greg did a wonderful job, even if the brisket wasn’t served until almost 8pm :P. (Greg and Cori’s rig is amazing. We once had a sit-down-at-tables dinner in there with 14 people! Book it for all your special events and parties. – Lee)

Mairead and Dave

Finally we all went to bed, and the Heater Buddy worked really well.  It was cold and rainy that night and the heater raised the temperature from 50 to 60 degrees pretty quickly.  We decided not to leave it on all night, better safe than sorry, but after running the generator for 10 minutes and using the electric blanket to heat up the bed we were nice and toasty warm.  Cori ended up getting into Denver well after 10pm and she wanted to see us so much she drove down from Denver in the dark and snow, getting in after 1am  to make sure she was there in the morning.  I can’t even express how humbled I was that someone would go to that type of trouble and it really shows how deep and special all of these friendships are.

Around 9am she texted to say she was awake and we went down right away and that’s when I gave Hobie his present.  Lee wanted Cori to be there to experience the magic moment, but all of us were surprised when he absolutely hated the rubber oinking pig I bought him.  Yes, I knew it was obnoxious, that’s part of the fun of being Aunt Tracy, but I was at a bit of a loss when Hobie started barking angrily at it.  Eventually he calmed down and I am happy to report it has become one of his new favorite toys.  Cori is very happy with me 🙂

Initially not a fan

But eventually the tail started wagging

 

So we hung out all day, just catching up, and I ran into Salida at one point with Dave and Sharon.  That is a cery cool little town, and Dave was nice enough to fill me in on the history. Definitely would like to come back and spend some more time there, but we needed to get back so Dave and Sharon could start their chili.  I didn’t expect two meals, but I was happy to have chili, and I made some garlic biscuits to go along with Cori’s cornbread.  The coolest part was they cooked it in a cast iron pot that has been in Sharon’s family for many generations, and it was cooked over a campfire on an iron tripod that Dave had picked up when someone gave it away at a campground he was hosting at.  Let me just say that was some damn good chili, and since it had stopped raining we all sat around the campfire and had a wonderful time.

Cori showing Lee her frozen alcohol pops. (Freeze pops for grown ups!!! – Lee) 

Lee declared them excellent

Cool way to cook chili

Lee, Sharon, Greg, and David hanging out

Beautiful skies when the sun cleared on the second day and the ground thankfully was just fine.  We put the propane tank on a little stool outside of our kitchen window and the heater buddy was just inside.

All group campfires are special, but once in awhile you hit conversation gold.  Dave and Mairead both have wicked senses of humor and Lee and Greg were in fine form as usual.  I haven’t laughed that hard in a really long time and at one point had to move physically away from Mairead because she was cracking me up so much my sides hurt.  (If it doesn’t hurt at least a little bit, it’s not that funny. – Lee) It was so much fun and we all had a wonderful time, and any care or concern I had just went away.  Plus, we definitely felt like we earned our state sticker which was pretty awesome, and the next morning I put Colorado on the map!! We like to have a special memory associated with every sticker and this one will definitely stay with us.

Greg, Sharon, David, Cori, Dave, Mairead, and Lee

We really hated to leave everyone and got a very late start (for us) of 10:30am, but we knew we were headed to see Deb and Steve some that was some consolation.  And just in case I didn’t miss them enough, David sent me a picture they took a couple hours later because finally all the clouds had cleared.  They kept saying they wished we could see the mountains, but truly we were having so much fun it wasn’t a big deal.  Here’s what we missed though, and it did take some discipline not to turn around, because WOW I wish I could have seen that.

That empty space to the right is where we were parked! We just couldn’t see the mountain because of clouds. Oh well, definitely have to go back!

One last thing.  I am sure you are all wondering where this spot was, and I get it, because I would have wanted to know the same thing.  The etiquette around sharing the exact location of these coveted spots is a little delicate, because lots of people (ourselves included) don’t like to share our exact location when we are boondocking, for many reasons, not the least of which is safety. It’s one thing to advertise your location in real time when you are surrounded by people, but being alone and away from “help” out in the middle of nowhere is a little more unsettling. For us it’s a safety concern, and although we have left our friends are still there. I will say there are LOTS of cool spots in this area, so spots just like it aren’t hard to find. Our friend Deb is absolutely the campground whisperer and she finds amazing spots whether by exploring or reading many other blogs and noting the locations.  Since she is so great at finding places, many of us copy off her paper 🙂 and  I think it’s fair to say if you want to camp this way you should definitely read Deb’s really great travel blog.


Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here

Or you can check out our recipe book filled with 80 real recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. The cookbook specializes in recipes that have a limited number of ingredients, without sacrificing flavor and is organized into categories that matter to full time RVers such as Happy Hours, Travel Days, and Pot Lucks   You can preview the kindle version on  Amazon or the Apple version on Itunes.    It is also available in paperback.

Heading Back East

Our last week at the campground was nice and quiet because we were the only ones there!  We finished up some last minute items and had a nice meeting with our managers about the opportunities for next year.  We won’t know for sure until November, but we’re confident something will work out. We also changed our days off so we could leave on Sunday, because we thought we might be able to meet Cori and Greg in Cheyenne along the way, and the extra day would allow us to spend more time with them, instead of just a few hours at the end of a long day of driving.  Unfortunately on Saturday we learned that Denver was supposed to get snow, which changed the plan quite a bit.

We really wanted to see them  (and as an added bonus Dave and Sharon just happen to be with them!) so I spent some time on Saturday re-routing us while Lee finished up last minute items on our rig.  We definitely would be able to meet up with them, but in order to do that a few of our travel days would have to be a little longer than 300 miles, which we like to keep as our outer limit of driving, but it would definitely be worth it.  And we would be going on new stretches of road (through Utah and Idaho) which is something I always enjoy.  So we finished up our last gate closing on Saturday and were both up by 5:30am on Sunday.  It still took us 3 hours to get on the road, but that was mainly because we double and triple checked everything.  When you have been sitting for a while, it’s easy to forget your normal travel day routine and we were both extra cautious to ensure we didn’t have any issues.

The weather was absolutely perfect and because I-84 was still closed due to wild fires along the Columbia River Gorge from Troutdale to Hood River (we heard on the radio once we were under way that they opened one lane Sunday morning, but we were already going the other way) we headed east on U.S.  26 (Mt. Hood Highway) instead. From just past Government Camp we took OR-35 to Hood River to catch I-84 eastbound from there. We got to see Mt. Hood with a fresh dusting of now!  It was a nice way to end our stay in Estacada, and the drive itself was a nice one.

Mount Hood

Mount Adams

Driving along the Columbia River

Our route actually took us through western Oregon, which we didn’t have time to explore this summer.  It gets pretty hot there, so next time we will definitely take some trips early in the season, and it’s always a surprise how quickly the landscape changes.  Lots of farmland, and quite arid, although we did have some beautiful views of the Snake River.  Our campsite for the night was even along the Snake River, and the views were spectacular.  We stopped at Catfish Junction RV Park because it was Passport America and the owner was really nice, and it was neat as a pin.  Plus it only cost $16 which was very reasonable considering the view! Not to mention there were only about 4 rigs in the whole park. We particularly love travelling in the off season and shoulder season, because even parks that are normally cramped feel wide open when there’s nobody in them.

Pendleton area of Western Oregon

Catfish Junction

Our site was on the end and easy to back in. If you have a larger rig you might want to call ahead because not all sites would be that easy to get into.

Gorgeous view from the front of our rig

There are also numerous boondocking spots along the snake river and close to the campground, but on our first night on the road we wanted full hook-ups.  When we have sat for a while Lee fills the black and grey tanks with about 1/3 water (I use the water meter to keep track of how many gallons I am putting in. It’s a very handy gadget to have for lots of reasons. – Lee) and the agitation from traveling helps to loosen and break up whatever sediment may have collected in either tank from sitting for so long.  Lee calls it a poop smoothie. Since we sat for almost 5 months the tanks definitely needed it!  We woke up the next morning and got on the road by 8:30am again, because I wanted to make sure we arrived at our next destination somewhat early. By choice I did not make any reservations, and generally in the off season this is not an issue.  But you never know what you are going to run into, so if you time your arrival by around 2-3pm, you still have time to deal with anything that comes up.

This day of driving was not nearly as interesting, unfortunately.  I didn’t really like the terrain all that much, although it did get much better when we hit Utah towards the end of the day. That was OK because I am trying a new thing while Lee is taking his driving turn.  I can’t read in the truck, it makes me carsick, but I can cross stitch, and this is a fun thing to do because I can just stop when there is something interesting to look at.  Lee and I have been splitting up the driving as well, changing drivers about every 2 hours, which also helps break up the long day. There was lots of construction and I swear it always happens on my turn, but surprisingly they still allowed people to drive 70 despite being down to one lane.  I just set the cruise control to 65 and let folks pass me, because despite the relatively flat terrain, I just felt more relaxed.  That section of highway was actually 80 mph but since there were 2-3 lanes folks didn’t seem to mind my slowpoke speeds.

Idaho

Some mountains as we got closer to Utah

Finally we arrived at Willard Bay State Park and I was pretty disappointed.  (Overall we are finding that state parks are not our cup of tea. They tend to be a little pricey for what we get. – Lee) There was no one at the gate so we had to use $30 cash, and since we didn’t have a campground map we had to drive around the campground, select a site, then drive back up and pay.  None of the sites had water views,which was disappointing considering it’s on the water, and it’s pretty close to the interstate so you can hear a lot of road noise.  On the plus side, the sites are nice and large, although not very level, and there was a nice paved path that took me down to the water.  It was pretty down there and I saw lots of birds, but overall it was just too pricey for a very average overnight stay.

Our site was on the end which was nice

The paved nature trail

The beach area was great. I can see why this would be a big draw in warmer temps

Egrets were in the marsh and lots of song birds

Even saw a huge flock of what I think were coramonts flying overhead

 

Overall it was pretty, but I was really hoping it would be special enough to qualify us for a state sticker, but that was not to be.  Our rule is we only get a state sticker if we spend the night AND see or do something unique to the state.  The last piece is a bit subjective of course, but when I tasted the lake and it wasn’t salty I had to decide to save my state sticker for something else.  Hopefully we will be able to get our Colorado sticker and Iowa sticker on our way to Indiana and Ohio, because it has been too long since I had the pleasure of putting a sticker on!

And then next morning I woke up pretty early and was as I was looking at Facebook and waking up I got pretty bummed out.   Some people we know are taking their time exploring this area and their pictures really made me sad that we were flying by without doing or seeing anything. Utah is an area we have been wanting to explore for a while now, and I hated that we would be so close to Moab and not see it.    It’s one thing to have Moab on your bucket list for example, but quite another to be less than an hour away and not be able to stop because of a schedule.  That’s not exactly true, we could change our plans and see it, but for me, it’s not a place I want to just jump out and take a picture.  It’s a BIG bucket list item and as such deserves more than a quick peek.  It’s worth noting that in my old life I definitely would have stopped, because I wouldn’t have been sure we would ever get back. Now I am confident enough that we will return that I can afford to wait, but it’s still a bummer.

Plus, we are spending money like crazy.  Gas Diesel on the highway is around $2.90 a gallon, even with our 8 cents off Pilot discount and it’s about $100 every time we gas fuel up the truck. So, it’s going to cost us about $1,000 in gas diesel to get from one end of the country to the other, and it’s hard to watch the money we worked so hard for this summer slip away.  More importantly, we are also “spending” 9 days of our precious time off, and since we don’t think we will have another long break until April, it’s hard to lose the time.   We could slow our pace of course, and the temptation to do that is strong, but we have family and friends who haven’t seen us in over a year and that is important as well.  I guess my point here is there is a tendency to see this lifestyle as freewheeling and completely without boundaries, and that simply is not the case for anyone we know.  People have doctor’s appointments, family obligations, repairs to attend to, and financial constraints, all of which impact their travel. When you are just looking at Facebook pictures or blogs you forget about that, and even though I know better than to judge my life by someone else’s “highlight reel” I am still guilty of it.

Basically I was feeling pretty sorry for myself, and then as often happens, the universe gave me a little nudge. Not ten minutes after writing the above couple of paragraphs I walked outside and there was a beautiful doe and her adorable, furry fawn less than 15 feet from our rig.  I just stopped and stared and she stood there for a long time staring back at me, and finally they strolled away, unconcerned with my first-world full-timer problems.  If I have a spirit animal, it is definitely deer, so the moment really spoke to me.  It definitely brightened my mood and I quickly finished our morning routine and we got on the road.

The drive through Utah was much prettier than the day before.  I had timed it so we missed most of Salt Lake City’s morning traffic, but it was still congested enough that it took some time getting through the city.  It was more industrial than I thought it would be, at least what we saw from the highway, and the surrounding mountains were really pretty.  Lee took the first shift, but we switched outside of town and our route took us off the interstate south of Salt Lake. We were driving US-6 to get between I-15 and I-70 and both of us were glad to be going through the countryside a bit.  That part of the drive was really beautiful and although the road was pretty twisty turny it had great signage, and lots of passing lanes so I could drive at my own pace.  The terrain also changed during the drive going from beautiful tree covered hills to some amazing canyons.

Grabbed a picture of the beautiful mountains at the Flying J before we jumped on Highway 6

This terrain was really pretty and we started to see some color

Then it turned into mining country with some amazing rock formations including Castle Gate pass. Unfortunately there was no place to stop and get a picture but this was really majestic

We also found a really nice, large travel plaza on Highway 6 and stopped for our lunch.  Since the huge parking lot was practically empty I practiced backing up and I think I did OK.  I haven’t backed up the rig since I went to RV driving school waaaay back in Spring of 2015 in the Outer Banks,  so I was a bit nervous, but Lee talked me through it step-by-step and overall I think I did OK.  I really need to take advantage of opportunities to practice this more in the future, because it definitely has an element of “feel” to it.

I wasn’t quite on the center line, but I was in the two outer lines

After our lunch stop we switched drivers again and the terrain down to I-70 was pretty barren. But when we reached I-70 and headed towards Moab we got to see some absolutely beautiful canyons, from the outside at least.  We talked again about changing our route, it’s nice when you have no reservations so you can talk about things and Lee is great about last minute changes, but once again we decided to push on.

The drive on US-6

The canyons on I-70 from a rest area we stopped at

Finally we left Utah and entered Colorado and the terrain changed once again.  There is a section along the Colorado River that has lots of wineries and fruit trees , which really surprised me and we were close to our stop for the night.  It was only 3pm at this point, which turned out to be a good thing since I had planned to stay at the James M. Robb state park.  I knew it would be pricey ($28 for full hookups and $7 daily entrance fee), but I wanted to try one of their state parks. The first section was in Fruita and since it was in town we skipped it for Island Acres which was outside of town and about 12 miles farther.  Unfortunately I had the wrong address and we actually ended up in a third section which was day use only.  Lee went inside and talked to them and we headed farther down the road, but it was actually 4:00pm by the time we arrived.  The park was in this really cool canyon, but when we pulled in, once again, not impressed.  Despite being right beside the river you couldn’t see it from your site and there was a train that ran through really close by, just on the other side of the river.  Plus there was a distinct sewage smell in the area and after some discussion we finally decided to move on, to a more reasonably priced option that would put us a little closer to where we would be meeting up with our friends.

Cool entrance to canyon

I looked in Passport America and there was a nice campground about 1-1/2 hours away that was only $25 (with the discount) for the night. Lee said he was fine with driving and we kept going. Unfortunately we had to go farther east to turn around, and then go back 25 miles the way we came to get on US-50, but eventually we made it. About 11 miles outside of Montrose we checked in to Centennial RV Park. The office was still open when we arrived a little after six and it was a well-maintained and friendly campground.  The Passport America price was right and we checked in and Lee quickly hooked us up to water and electric, and sewer. I made a quick dinner, trying a new fish recipe which we both really liked, and we both sort of collapsed.  It was a long day and the driving wear and tear is a little cumulative.  We knew we were tired when the person at check in asked us where we came from and neither of us could remember lol.  I finally said Utah, above Salt Lake, but for the life of me couldn’t remember the name of the campground.  But we are here and only about three hours away from Cori,Greg, Dave, and Sharon.  Tomorrow we will be going  over Monarch Pass, which on the eastern descent is about 6 1/2% grade for 10 miles, so we definitely wanted to be fresh for that drive.  Looking forward to seeing our friends and taking a day off from driving, plus still hoping to get that Colorado State sticker!


Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here

Or you can check out our recipe book filled with 80 real recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. The cookbook specializes in recipes that have a limited number of ingredients, without sacrificing flavor and is organized into categories that matter to full time RVers such as Happy Hours, Travel Days, and Pot Lucks   You can preview the kindle version on  Amazon or the Apple version on Itunes.    It is also available in paperback.

 

 

First Time Working In A Utility Co. Park – Summary

Disclaimer: The company we are working for this summer has a very specific media policy.  I in no way speak for the company or my co-workers, and am only recounting my personal experiences.  Also, any details I get wrong in this or any other post are due to a misunderstanding on my part.  

Overall, it’s been a really nice summer working and playing in Oregon, but as we are heading out soon I thought this would be a good time to write up our summary.  I’ll start by saying these are absolutely the nicest seasonal employers we have worked for since being on the road.  We have had direct contact with managers/supervisors and every single interaction with them as been professional and pleasant.  Not that we haven’t had moments of frustration or conflict in this job, but because we are working for a corporation, those situations were handled with a “rule book” that I was familiar with, and very much appreciated.  This type of behavior has not been our experience with most of our seasonal positions, so for me it was one of the best benefits of the job.  It wasn’t all great of course.  The work was harder than I expected, and cleaning bathrooms and emptying trash all day every day was definitely not something I would sign up for again, but the overall experience was so positive that for the first time we are planning on coming back to the same place for another summer.  This is no small thing, as we have a list of places we would like to explore during our summers, but the combination of the people, the pay, the weather, and the many places to explore in this area make us both want to return.  Ultimately that is the highest praise I can give a position. The devil is in the details though, so let’s walk through it.

PayLee and I both earned $14.25, which is the highest hourly  wage I have earned while on the road.  Lee earned $15 an hour while in Alaska, and of course we earned more with overtime during the Beet Harvest.  Despite the high wages though, we barely broke even this summer.  Yes, we earned more, but we also spent more as there were many places to explore in the area. We also only worked 35.5 hours a week and the combined loss of 9 hours per week definitely had a financial impact.  Overall we made a combined $16,527 and our expenses for the same time period were roughly $14,333 for a net gain of  $2,194 for the summer. I say roughly because we started getting paid on May 10th and left on May 24th, so I removed some of the monthly expenses like fuel and food at each end. Also, if you remove the $750 we spent on a new cell phone for me we would have made around $3,000, which isn’t quite enough to cover our expenses prior to starting our next job, but that’s also because we are traveling across country back east.  Again, our choice.

 I knew coming in we would be breaking even because of the hours, I was fine with it because I thought we would be working a light schedule.  What I didn’t understand was we would still be working 5 days a week and split shifts on the weekend, and as I told our boss in the exit interview it felt like we were working at least 40 hours.  We never really went anywhere during our long break on the weekends and I at least couldn’t just turn off the work switch and turn it back on when it was time to go back in.   So a lesson learned for us is to have a handle on the work schedule prior to accepting the position and not to assume because we would be working less hours that would mean we would have more available time off.  And to be clear I in no way felt we were taken advantage of here.  We made assumptions and didn’t ask the right questions and since many people don’t have an issue with split shifts, how could they know? Going forward we will definitely ask more questions in this area. 

Benefits – Every seasonal job we have worked has some extra benefit, but this company by far had the most available to us.  We had a free site and it was a really nice one with a beautiful view of the river so this was about $1,400 in savings. Medical insurance was an option, but we stuck with our ACA plan. We did sign up for dental and life insurance.  The dental coverage was an amazing bonus and very inexpensive; only costing $2 per paycheck.  We took full advantage of the insurance and because we both had cleanings and X-rays, and I had some detailed periodontal work, I estimate those benefits alone as being at least additional $1,200 in savings, which is no small amount of money especially for a seasonal job. We could have signed up for 401K, but we chose not to. If we come back next year we will be vested for 1 year and the 401K match is pretty good based on that.  We also receive a small “profit sharing” bonus at the end of the year and that is based on hours worked and hourly wage.  Again, it’s not a ton of money, but those small extras do add up and it’s nice as a seasonal to be eligible for “regular” employee benefits.   We also had access to a company vehicle which we drove for work every day and since we were allowed to stop in Estacada for a quick errand here and there I estimate saving at least 20 miles a week on wear/tear and gas for our personal vehicle.  We had a couple of potlucks (free food) and an end of the year party where each of us received a gift and a $25 gift certificate.  We could have rented a boat down at the marina and gotten a 20% discount and the marina also provided free coffee to the employees.  Plus, for my job I was able to grab recyclables as we emptied trash and I think I made around $250 over the summer, although I could have made more if I would have started sooner.  But my favorite benefit of all was free firewood.  On the one day each week each of us worked in the campground proper, when we cleaned up the sites we were allowed to keep any firewood campers left behind, and since so many people were weekend campers that was quite a bit.  We had enough for tons of fires and enough to fill up our truck for departure which saved us about $100.  I don’t put any of these extras into revenue column in the accounting, but it was definitely a few thousand dollars in benefits which was very nice. 

Working Conditions –   Of all the jobs we have had this category was the most varied depending on several factors.  We worked outside, so of course weather played a huge part.  It wasn’t much fun doing our jobs in the rain during the beginning and ending of the season, but then we had a stretch of almost 90 days where the weather was nearly perfect.  We had a couple of weeks where the heat was pretty intense, but compared to other places in the country this was minimal.  Towards the end the smoky days were really unpleasant, but since the entire state was being affected by fires, not much we could do about that.  The most important thing was that throughout the season, our boss gave us a ton of flexibility on how to handle the weather.  He encouraged us to do our tasks when the conditions were the best and the company provided weather specific information and gear to help.  That being said, there were times when we just had to power through, but being given the flexibility to use our best judgement went a long way for me. 

Type of Work – It’s worth noting we received more training in this job than almost any other we have had so far and that included getting First Aid certified and some cool “Verbal Judo” training to help with customer interactions.  I also received three days training on the Hercules Reservation system which was another nice thing to add to my work kamper resume.  Despite the training, since our position was somewhat new, we kind of had to figure things out on the fly.  Lee didn’t mind so much as he likes working with minimal supervision but I could have used some more structure in the early days.  The work itself of course was not that difficult.  Cleaning bathrooms and emptying trash cans isn’t rocket science, but because of the large amount of traffic our locations were experiencing there were many days where I felt stressed that we couldn’t keep up.  There is no doubt in my mind that we overthought the job, but since that’s how we do things, finding an efficient route and schedule took a while.  That pressure was largely self imposed, by the way, and our bosses seemed very happy with the quality of our work, but I don’t know that it ever came up to our own personal standards until we started working opposite shifts on the weekends.  We also worked one day a week in the campground and that was largely a mixed bag.  Although we both enjoyed the variety that came with doing something different, walking into other people’s work routine is always a little tough.  Overall, the best part of the job was the river view, which never failed to please, and the worst part was when we would open a bathroom door and get a “surprise.”  Never fun, and ultimately we judged our days on whether or not the bathrooms were a mess.  I also struggled with how physically demanding the job could be at times.  Big trash bags are heavy and mopping floors can take a toll.  Again, it all depended on the size of the crowds, with many days being a cake walk and others leaving me wrung out and very tired.

Living in the Area – We liked the small town of Estacada very much, and the local events they had were definitely fun.  Our Tuesday/Wednesday days off were perfect for avoiding the crowds and we were able to run some errands during our breaks on the weekends.  The very best thing about our schedule was having Monday afternoon/evening off, then Tuesday/Wednesday off and having between Thursday afternoon and Friday evening off.  That gave us lots of time for grocery shopping, doctors visits, etc during non-peak times which was good because Portland traffic is pretty crazy, and we didn’t waste many of our days off running errands. We also got to see lots of friends who were passing through the area.  Most of our errands were in Gresham or Clackamas/Happy Valley, and both of those areas had almost anything we might need.  The people were also very nice and my experiences at the grocery store, local gas station, and getting my hair cut were all very pleasant.  That’s how I judge a place, by the way, by those common, everyday interactions.  The only downside to the area was a pretty weak ATT signal, even in town. Without our WeBoost on the 22 foot FlagPole Buddy, we wouldn’t have had any signal at all. 

Exploring the Area –  Of all the places we have been, this area had the most to do and see.  When we came to town I made a list, and there are still many items left on it, which is a main reason we are interested in coming back.  We used our new Coleman Steel Creek tent a few times to explore different areas and took several long driving trips to see new things.  Unfortunately, we did not do nearly as much hiking and exploring as I originally intended.  Part of that was that we were physically tired on our days off during peak season.  We also lost a couple of weekends to smoky conditions or extreme heat and although we certainly could have pushed through, neither one of us felt up to it.  Thankfully we had a beautiful site off by ourselves with a nice view of the river, so we still felt close to nature while we stayed home and “vegged out”.  And we got to see some pretty cool things.  As always, I judge our life based on the pictures, so here’s the pictures of our summer. As always you can decided for yourself if you think it was worth it. 

Our office for the summer

Which included watching a nest of baby Ospreys grow

And numerous beautiful sunsets on the reservoir

 

 

Waterfalls

Waterfalls

Waterfalls

And thankfully Lee got to see this before much of the vegetation was destroyed by the gorge fire

We got to see several sections of the beautiful Oregon coast

There was some mist on the ocean which made for beautiful pictures

Which included an amazing sunset with our friends Rick, Jim, and Diana

And culminated in an amazing camping spot right next to the ocean

Plus of course lots of lighthouses

Including a magical moment standing underneath Hecata Lighthouse at night

We visited the Stonehenge Memorial

Several museums

We experience chills as we stood on the Oregon Trail

And the end of the Lewis and Clark Trail

And explored downtown Portland

We saw Crater Lake with our friends Bert and Kat

And Mt. St. Helens with Diana and Jim

 

Plus lots of people came to see us including Sue and Jonathon who came twice!

 

 

We attended a white water festival

 

A lavender festival

A Timber Festival

And saw bunny agility at the Clackamas County Fair

And Rick and I got to explore the Fruit Loop which is like a fruit festival everyday

 

Plus of course we stood in the totality of an eclipse which was an experience I will never forget!

And all throughout we had numerous views of beautiful Mt. Hood

 

So was it all worth it?  Absolutely yes.  Certainly we cleaned a lot of toilets and emptied a lot of trash, but we also got to explore a beautiful state and reconnect with many friends in the process. It was a jam packed summer and there is enough left to do here in this beautiful part of the country that we hope we will be able to come back next summer.

Now that the season is over, the workload is significantly lower, and we’ve been busy this week wrapping things up, taking care of last minute pre-travel details, and getting ready to hit the road for our 2300 mile drive back East. Tomorrow we roll out headed for Indiana, where we’re getting our rig suspension replaced, and then on to Ohio and possibly Charleston, SC to see our oldest daughter before we head to Campbellsville, KY for the Amazon Christmas season.


Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here

Or you can check out our recipe book filled with 80 real recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. The cookbook specializes in recipes that have a limited number of ingredients, without sacrificing flavor and is organized into categories that matter to full time RVers such as Happy Hours, Travel Days, and Pot Lucks   You can preview the kindle version on  Amazon or the Apple version on Itunes.    It is also available in paperback.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First Time Working In A Utility Co. Park – Getting Ready to Leave

It never fails. When we settle into a place for a few months, we are rushing at the end to get everything done.  We come to a job or location with a list of things we want to get done and places we want to see and we have months and months stretching out in front of us, and then suddenly……”Holy Crap we only have TWO weeks left” and the mad scramble begins. With experience we have learned that sometimes it is OK to leave things left undone, but both of us try to check as many of the boxes as we can. (I also try to do at least 2 purges a year, and mini-purges in between. I also like to pull everything out of the various storage compartments and nooks and crannies and put my hands on everything. Partially to remind myself of what we have and where it is (you’d be AMAZED at how easy it is to “lose” things in a 40 ft box!) and partially to see if i can rearrange things to make them fit a little better. Plus I just like to organize and putter. – Lee) 

This time around it’s not only personal tasks though, but it’s also a few work projects that we didn’t get done through the season.  As you know from reading, this job has been much busier than we originally thought it would be, and the pace coupled with heat and smoky conditions have delayed several projects.  Our bosses have been totally fine with this by the way, but there were a couple of things they mentioned at the beginning of the summer that I really wanted to try and get done.

So when I had some extra time last weekend, I decided to tackle one of the projects. At Moore Creek the roof colors on the bathroom building and the changing room building are mismatched, one is grey and the other is green.  I know that sounds kind of silly, I mean who cares about the roof color at a bathroom, but since it was mentioned more than once at the beginning of the season, I always noticed it and it started to bug me too.  Lee thought I was nuts, by the way, starting something major this close to the end of our season, but I was determined, and after some conversation with my boss, I headed out with a plan.

The weather thankfully cooperated, with relatively smoke-free skies and moderate temps.  And about one o’clock I headed up with an 8 foot ladder, two brand new cans of paint that hopefully were the right color, an extension roller, and lots of energy.  Two hours later I wondered what I had gotten myself into.

The bottom of the roof was relatively easy, as it was a smooth surface and the ladder reached easily.  What I didn’t count on was the small section between the building frame and the roof, which would need to be done with a brush by hand.  That was a bummer, and since it was pretty hot by 4pm, I decided to stop and regroup for the next day.  I also didn’t count on the bugs that hang out near restrooms, and since the wind chose that time to die down, towards the end I was being attacked by one particularly tough biting fly.

On Sunday it was a little cooler and there was more of a breeze, so armed with more supplies I headed back up.  This time I was determined to pace myself and started on the top of the roof.  Lee had warned me that this was going to be pretty tough, because the roof mold had a shingle like appearance and there were lots of nooks and crannies.  He wasn’t wrong about that, but I couldn’t stop once I started and with lots of paint and lots of breaks in between I managed to get a first pass done.

Thankfully the wind kept the bugs away, but the sun became a real issue as the day progressed.  The original roof was green and the new color was grey, so at certain angles it was hard to tell what was painted and what wasn’t.  The top of the roof was difficult in particular and since it was at the outer limit of my arm length I just did the best that I could.  After several hours I called it quits and overall I felt pretty good about the job I had done.  The colors matched almost perfectly, and although I knew a third trip would be required for touch up, I planned on using the company intern to help on Thursday.

All season long we have had an intern help with summer programs, and as he was almost finished they had scheduled him to shadow several of us as we did our normal jobs.  My turn was Thursday and I was excited to have the help to finish up.

Here was the ladder I used and the VERY long pole. Those are the intern’s legs and feet.

 

As you can see the roof was so steep using a roller was the only way to make it work

 

But the fake shingles had lots of nooks and crannies that required several passes.

 

 

The green to the right was the old color and the grey to the left was the new one, so it was tough to differentiate in bright sunlight. Pretty happy about how it ultimately turned out though!

Along with work projects we had several personal ones to get done.  Lee spent several hours, organizing and washing the truck inside and out (The last time I did a thorough interior detailing on the truck was before the beet harvest last fall, so there was a LOT of dust from that and south Texas. It turns out that the interior of the truck is a lovely gray, not brown. – Lee) and doing a mini purge in our RV storage area.  We are constantly reassessing what we actually are using and it’s not uncommon for us to get rid of things at the end of a season.  I have been focused on paperwork, doctors visits, and job searching, but I also have been making lots of new recipes.

I rarely want to try something new when we are traveling, so I took advantage of these last couple of weeks to try as many recipes as I could before we left.  I also needed to make/freeze spaghetti sauce and chili as these are common travel day meals for us. You’d think that after all the time practicing last summer I would be better at picking “winning” recipes, but I have to say my “failure” rate is still pretty high.  Failure generally doesn’t mean the food is inedible by the way, it just means that the taste, amount of work, or availability of ingredients doesn’t make the cut for me to add it to the next recipe book.  For every winner there are at least 7 losers, and as usual Lee is being a good sport about trying new recipes.  I do make sure I throw in a tried and true recipe though to make sure he gets something he likes and I made one of his favorites from my cook book, Crazy Marinade Pork Chops, last night.

Along with all the chores I was also dealing with pretty sore teeth.  It took about twelve hours for my teeth to stop hurting and the front ones in particular were so sore I had to eat all soft foods last night.  (More pork chops for me. – Lee) One of the nicest things that happened was around 7:30pm I received a call from Dr. Compton checking in on me.  I can’t remember the last time a doctor called to follow-up, and the fact that he did rates him pretty high in my book.  Finally around 8:30pm I took some Tylenol PM and just went to sleep and actually ended up getting the best night’s sleep I have had in a long time.  Wednesday morning, as promised, the pain was gone, and although the front teeth are still a little tender things are largely back to normal.

That was good because Wednesday morning we needed to go get our drug tests for the upcoming Amazon jobs.  After our last experience trying to get drug tests while traveling, we were thrilled this was scheduled while we were still in the area, but shortly after we headed out I noticed the experiation date on the paperwork said September 12th.  Well double crap…it was September 13th and when I called Qwest they confirmed I needed new paperwork.  So we turned around and went back to the house and I started making calls.  Luckily we were able to get new paperwork reissued very quickly and I rescheduled the appointment for 11am.

Off we went again and despite pretty heavy traffic (they really need to upgrade the highway system around Portland) we made it to the location.  Well, we made it there but we drove past it initially because it turned out the drug test facility was a small 1950’s cape cod style house tucked in an industrial park.  Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate people who run businesses out of homes, but for a drug test facility it was kind of weird. There was only one guy, and although he looked professional and was very nice, it was just weird and the house itself was a real hodge podge.  There was a mix of personal and business stuff throughout the rooms and the whole thing badly needed a fresh coat of paint.  I will say the one bathroom itself was very clean, but the sink was in another room and he ran out of soap after I washed my hands.

Seriously, the whole thing was weird, but at least we go it done and hopefully we have no issues with the test like we did last time.  Afterwards we stopped at Panda Express for some lunch (still leaning towards soft foods at this point) and then we got back around 12:30pm and I started on the job search.

Things have been a little slow in this area, but I am hoping that is because it is fiscal year end for so many companies.  I recently heard on NPR that 27% of the companies are planning on hiring starting in October, so that might be a good thing.  There are jobs out there of course, but at this point I am still trying to find something on the East Coast and wanting a job that only lasts a few months is very limiting.  I’ll keep plugging away and let you know if anything breaks free when it occurs.

One thing I have been doing while searching for job is watching/listening to Project Management educational videos.  As I mentioned before I need to complete continuing education to keep my Project Management Professional certification, and I have another 21 hours that need to be done prior to March 2018.  I did apply for a volunteer job with the National Organization, and have discussed trying to take a Scrum Master class to add that certification to my bag of tricks, but the easiest and cheapest alternative is to just watch online training videos.  Thankfully they are available for free with my PMI membership and the only downside is it’s 1 PDU per hour. I am a big fan of “double dipping” when it comes to getting things done, so I have been listening to a webinar as I have been looking for jobs.  Two birds, one stone…a major tenet of my life philosophy 🙂

We also put together our upcoming route for getting to Mor-Ryde in Indiana, and it seems that finally we have a solution that works for us.  We’ve tried every combination of routing (me doing it alone, Lee doing it alone, us doing it together, and all of those seemed to be pretty burdensome.  Lee and I think about things differently, so we bring different ideas and tactics to any task which can either make things easier or more difficult.  Our current methodology for planning our route seems to work perfectly, so I thought I would share it.  Lee picks the general areas we will stop every night based on attempting to have roughly 300 mile travel days when we’re traveling on a deadline. For whatever reason I have a really hard time doing that, but the way he thinks makes it easy for him.

I then take that list of cities and try to find us campsites in the general area.  I look at Ultimate Campgrounds first (for BLM, City, and State Parks) and Passport America second for half price, easy to access campgrounds. For whatever reason this is very easy for me and I fill in the gaps with campground suggestions.  He then takes the list of campgrounds and double checks availability, location, reviews etc and we are locked in. Really pretty simple with our divide and conquer strategy and it only took us 2-1/2 years to figure out the best method for us. One of the coolest things about getting ready to go somewhere is that suddenly you realize you may cross paths with friends.  We are going to be “near” Cori and Greg, Deb and Steve, and Jo and Ben, and although we may not be able to work the schedule so we can see all of them it’s nice knowing that we are all that close to each other.  I’ve said this before, but it’s worth mentioning again that in my head I see all of our friends like little points of light all around a map of the United States.  I don’t always know exactly where everyone is, but I see those lights moving and I find that amazing and very comforting.

But back to travel scheduling.  Doing it in advance definitely makes travel easier for us and doing as much prep work in advance accomplishes the same thing.  Because despite being on the road for almost three years we can still find travel days stressful.  Lee has gone to a significant amount of work to minimize that as much as possible and we have learned to just accept that about ourselves and roll with it.  Part of it may be the way we travel of course.  Our “hub and spoke” approach usually has us staying in an area for a quite while, and using it as a jumping off place to explore so we have less “true travel days” than many of our counterparts.  But we have certainly experienced enough of them to know that a day here and a day there is never our preferred method of seeing a place.  Your mileage will definitely vary on that one of course as there are many people who are perfectly content moving every few days.  That’s just not us and so we take steps to make those days as pleasant as possible.

Anyway, this time is preparing to leave is definitely more mellow than in the past.  I believe a big part of that is knowing we might come back next summer, but I also think we are just getting better at the logistics of the lifestyle. Either way I’ll take it and hope that the stress level doesn’t rise as we get closer to the departure date. This time I even had time to fit in one last trip to the Farmer’s Market and local book store and it was nice to say farewell to both of those activities.  Estacada has been a very nice home base for us and I will miss some of the people and places we have gotten to know this summer.

Disclaimer: The company we are working for this summer has a very specific media policy. I will not be mentioning them by name, or mentioning the specific names of anyone I am working with, except for Lee.  Also, because it’s not really that difficult to figure out which company it is, I want to be clear: I in no way speak for the company or my co-workers, and am only recounting my personal experiences.  Also, any details I get wrong in this or any other post are due to a misunderstanding on my part.  


Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here

Or you can check out our recipe book filled with 80 real recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. The cookbook specializes in recipes that have a limited number of ingredients, without sacrificing flavor and is organized into categories that matter to full time RVers such as Happy Hours, Travel Days, and Pot Lucks   You can preview the kindle version on  Amazon or the Apple version on Itunes.    It is also available in paperback.

 

First Time Seeing a Periodontist

Fair warning, I am writing this post fresh from my first visit to a periodontist and since I am in significant discomfort, I am not in the best of moods. As you know if you have been reading along, dental care has been a real challenge while we have been on the road.  It’s been a problem since the beginning, but unlike other challenges I have yet to find the solution. I wasn’t worried because I had near perfect teeth when I went on the road and had consistently seen a dentist twice a year for many years.  But I understand on some level how important routine maintenance was to proper dental care and if I wasn’t worried for myself I was certainly worried for Lee who had a brush with gum disease that had required several very deep cleanings.

Initially I thought we would use Aspen Dental and I was very excited about leveraging their national network as we traveled.  Unfortunately I was told that the different locations wouldn’t always accept the x-rays of other locations so we would be treated as a “new patient” every time we went to the dentist.  That was crazy to me, and I even called Aspen Dental headquarters to verify this was indeed the case.  I was told that despite the alliance each office was independent and they didn’t have to accept the exams/x rays of other offices.  This was 3 years ago, and their policy may have changed, but getting new x-rays was not only time consuming but costly.  When I had dental insurance it wouldn’t cover the x-rays and even in offices with “free exam and x-rays” the results often required one or more “deep cleanings.”  So Lee or I tried Aspen three different times in the beginning, but each experience figuratively left a bad taste in my mouth and ultimately I determined that I would never go back.

At this point we decided to listen to RVer conventional wisdom and try getting our teeth cleaned in Mexico.  That experience went better than expected, especially because we went with our friends Ellen and Mario who are fluent in Spanish, and I not only trusted the doctor but also only paid $30.  Perfect solution, except our travels don’t always take us close to Mexico and it was almost a year before we were in a place long enough to make an appointment.  This time it was in  Alaska  and again we had a really good experience.  The doctor worked with many patients who lived in the wilderness and was used to helping people with unusual lifestyles.  Not only did they do our cleanings, but the dentist gave up his lunch break so he could fill two cavities for me and although it cost me $500 out of pocket I thought it was well worth it.  At this time, the hygienist was concerned about our gum health, but she recommended Phillips Sonicare toothbrushes and gave us some tips for keeping our teeth clean while we travel.

So this last year I relied primarily on home care and although I wasn’t 100% vigilant with flossing, took better care of my teeth than I ever had.  With our work schedules, we didn’t get that 6 month cleaning, but as soon as we arrived in Oregon I started looking around for a dentist.  Our trainer, who comes here every year, was very happy with her dentist, so we made an appointment for early August.  I hated to wait that long, but this job (unlike any other we have had) actually has dental insurance so of course we waited the 60 days until the benefits kicked in.  Initially, things went well.  I explained that we traveled when setting up the appointment and the office was very good about getting our insurance information lined up prior to arrival.

Finally on August 15th the appointment came and I was very excited about getting my teeth cleaned.  Yes, I know that is odd, but I am weird like that and I looked forward to “resetting” the dental clock and not having to worry about paying for the exam and cleaning.  Because we had to drive an hour, Lee and I both had “double appointments”.  They required a full new patient exam and then said they would do our cleanings as long as we didn’t have gum disease.  Fair enough, I thought and since the dentist was recommended I felt confident we would get our cleanings.

Unfortunately this was not to be, as once my exam was done I was told I required two “deep cleanings.” I immediately got upset and asked to talk to the dentist, who was younger and was obviously playing things “by the book.”  I was trying to talk through my options with him, but he didn’t seem to understand or care that we were leaving in less than a month and at some point I realized this was the wrong guy for me.  So I went to the waiting room and explained what had happened to Lee and at that point we both decided to leave.  This isn’t the first time we have walked out of a dentist office by the way while on the road.  I had set up a couple of appointments early on that ended up with the same result, because they were recommending costly procedures, but this time was worse. I actually had insurance and could have afforded the treatment, but I just didn’t trust the diagnosis.  Basically I had a bad feeling and trusted my gut and left.

At the end of that experience I was beyond frustrated.  I didn’t completely dismiss the claim that something was wrong with my teeth, but I also needed to work with a dentist I believed in.  After a few days of feeling sorry for myself  and worrying I was going to ultimately lose my teeth over these issues I decided to buckle down and try again.  I finally decided to start cold calling dentists.  I googled dentists in our area and started at the top of the list and worked down.  I said we “were traveling in the area” and would it be possible to get cleanings.  The first dentist office started talking about new patient exams and the need for two appointments and I thanked her and hung up.  The second office was very different.  She actually listened to me and started talking about my options.  Yes they could do a cleaning and they would do the best cleaning they could.  The doctor did need to have an exam and bite-wing x-rays, but since I had just gotten x-rays done, if I came in and signed a records release she would get them from the other dentist. OK then.  They also had appointments on our days off and would get us in by September 1st.

When we went into the office to sign the forms it looked like an “old school” dentist,  No fancy schmancy waiting room, or “boutique” vibe, just a good old-fashioned dentist’s office, like the ones we went to when we were kids. It wasn’t substandard or out of date, just homey, welcoming and comforting. We made appointments for September 1st and I felt much better about the whole experience.  This time I made Lee go first and he had the detailed exam.  A detailed exam is where they measure the gaps in the gums and based upon the numbers decide what kind of cleaning you need.  Despite doing a great job of flossing this year, Lee had a few fours and fives, but unlike the other dentists we had seen this office was willing to tackle those in a regular cleaning.  They did spend a little extra time on him, but he came out with nice clean teeth and armed with some ideas for maintaining them while on the road.

I was next and after his experience was feeling good about the situation.  While I was waiting, the dentist (who didn’t have any procedures that morning), talked to me quite a bit about RVing.  Turns out he has been RVing for 25 years and is fascinated by the full timing lifestyle.  Dr. Thoreson was extremely nice and I even gave him my blog information and my level of comfort with him was much greater.  They are a “conservative” dentist office and not only understood our situation, but wanted to help us.  Unfortunately when I had the exam the results once again came back poor.  This time I had numerous 5’s, 6’s, and even a couple of 7’s and this meant gum disease.  Obviously I was upset, I couldn’t understand how this had happened so quickly, but both the hygenist and Dr. Thoreson explained it to me and we talked through my options.

They were concerned enough that they wanted me to see a periodontist, but I didn’t think there was any way I could get an appointment before September 24th.  Dr. T said he would call in a favor to make sure I got seen and the hygienist even called on her day off to lock in an appointment for me. I can’t tell you how grateful and relived I was at this point.  OK, I had gum disease, but through some miracle I also had dental insurance and even better a dentist who was looking out for me.  Dr. T even fixed the bond on my front tooth that was sticking up a little and absolutely refused to charge me because he said it “was fun for him.”  That’s my kind of guy.

On Wednesday, I heard back from Dr. T’s office and then I called Dr. Compton, a periodontist in Happy Valley. His office was already informed about our unique situation and scheduled an immediate exam and blocked off two time periods for deep cleanings, under the assumption that I would need them before my insurance ran out.  OK, that was new.  Normally dentists will never book appointments in advance of the exam and once again the whole tone and vibe was comforting.  So I went in for the exam but this time instead of a hygienist the periodontist did the number rankings.   It was actually worse when he did it, I had more 6’s, 7’s and even an 8, but he seemed less concerned.  Maybe it’s because he sees the worst of the worst, but he was confident we could stop the damage and he could address the issue.  I left with two cleanings scheduled and a good feeling, although I was concerned overall about how all of this would play out long term.

This morning at 8am I had the first of the two appointments.  Rachel, the hygenist who is VERY interested in RVing and volunteer camp hosting, spent about 30 minutes talking through how I cleaned my teeth and putting together a plan for me that I could use on the road.  At first I felt like I was a kid again learning how to clean her teeth, but soon realized that this was valuable information.  Think about it, you learn how to clean your teeth as a child, but then years pass and the situation (and available tools) change.  The time was well spent and probably the best thing I learned was they recommend 30 seconds of gargling with Listerine twice a day.  Wow, that was old school, but it’s all about fighting bacteria and Listerine is still a great way to do that.  They didn’t care what flavor (except stay away from the whitening version) and once in the morning and once at night gargle. That along with flossing, and more detailed brushing would help keep the bacteria under control.  Everyone has bacteria by the way, and you are fighting a war in your mouth on a daily basis, so constant vigilance is pretty much required.

Afterwards, Dr. Compton came in and first he numbed my teeth and then shot them to numb them more.  The shots weren’t that bad and my mouth was pretty numb, which was a good thing because he really had to scrub in several areas.  He mainly focused on the problem teeth (two front teeth and the ones on the side), but also addressed the ones in between.  It took quite awhile and the worst part was my jaw hurt from keeping my mouth open that long, but when it was done I had no doubt that what he did would have an impact.  I have one more appointment scheduled on the 19th for the other side and then hopefully I can keep things at bay with good daily maintenance.

The problem is that once you have gum disease, you have it forever.  There might be some recovery, but my exam numbers are going to come back high from now on.  And since I have had so many issues finding dentists to clean my teeth when I had no issues, I have no idea what this looks like going forward.  Dr. Compton did include a follow-up exam for next year if we come back to the area, but this cleaning he did was $1100 and although my portion of that was only $300 because of insurance, I can’t afford to pay that out of pocket every six months.  In all fairness, I shouldn’t need this level of cleaning every time, but if I can’t find a dentist/periodontist who is willing to accept his exam results then I will need to start over every time.  Except now, starting over will always require more expensive cleanings and honestly I am not sure how this is going to work.  Dr. Compton and Rachel did say they would do everything they could to help.  They emailed me a “packet” with all of the information and are more than happy to pass their findings along to any doctor I choose.  I guess we will find out 6 months from now when I try to schedule a cleaning and if nothing else I suppose I can go the Mexico route because they don’t seem to care about any of this.

The whole situation stinks though.  I freely admit that this could have happened if I would have stayed in Keene and kept my regular dentist, but my gut tells me it never would have gotten this bad. Even if it had, I wouldn’t need to start over every single time and having a trustworthy dentist who is working a course of treatment with you is no small thing.  But to some extent it is what it is and I am at least grateful that for right now I feel comfortable that I have done everything I could possibly do.  Lee’s teeth and gums “bounced back” some after he had this work done a few years ago, so maybe I will get lucky and the same thing will happen.  It’s not an insignificant problem though and I am not a special case.  One of our fellow camp hosts is going through the exact same thing, and she as I believes it is because of the difficulty in getting regular cleanings. At least I am not alone in dealing with the problem.

Well thanks for listening, and if Rachel or Dr. T is reading this, thank you VERY much for doing everything you could to help.  As always, I will keep you posted and we will see how this plays out.


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