The Post of Many Firsts

As I go through my days I am often building the blog in my head, and as things happen the title of each blog post often changes.  This post started as “First Christmas in Monterey”, but that didn’t seem quite right because I doubt we will have another one here.  Never say never though!  We had experienced quite a bit of rain in our 10 days in Monterey and it was serious all day rain, so we were happy when Christmas Eve dawned clear.  We didn’t have much planned, just hanging out with Kay, but Lee was very excited to find out the local movie theater was playing “It’s A Wonderful Life” on one of their big screens.  It’s his favorite Christmas movie and Kay said she had never seen it (not sure how that happened) so I sent the two of them to the theater.  I stayed behind and pre-cooked my cheese potatoes and broccoli cheese casserole for tomorrow’s dinner.  One of the problems with the RV oven is it really only holds two things at once and that is pushing it.  My dinner called for three things being heated in the oven so I precooked what I could to make that work.  I also stuffed Kay’s stockings (had some fun at the Dollar General) and hid them in the bedroom of the camper.  Another downside of the camper is it’s tough to keep a secret in such a small place, it doesn’t have many hiding spaces.  We all went to bed early and then on one of my early morning wake-ups I snuck out and hung her stockings.  I filled up three stockings with all the dollar store stuff and she really liked the hat and toe socks in particular.

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She liked the bear

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Caught her sleeping

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Lee cooking breakfast

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Kay likes sour candy

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The toe socks were a big hit

Because Kay had an early flight back to Keene the day after Christmas, I made Christmas dinner at around two,  and by heating the ham first, then removing and covering it with foil and finishing the potatoes and broccoli cheese casserole (recipes below) we had a dinner similar to the ones I used to make for the kids in our sticks and bricks.  Plus the weather cooperated and it was a lovely day.  Kay had brought us some presents from Korea and I was very happy that she got us magnetic coasters…they do two things!!  Sadly, we had to say goodbye, but since she is going to be stationed in Maryland when she’s finished with her school, we know we will get to see her sooner than if she was going to Korea.  Plus she’s living her life now and doing a darn fine job of it so I didn’t feel too sad saying goodbye.

Christmas Dinner

Christmas Dinner, not bad for in an RV

We weren’t scheduled to leave until the 27th, so we spent the 26th as a catch-all day to try and squeeze in a few things that we missed due to rain.  We spent 10 days in Monterey, but the area is packed with things to do and we definitely could have stayed longer.  So the day after Christmas we drove around and did some things we had missed out on.  First we were off to Gilroy, the garlic capital of the world, to try to find something for my Dad.  Many years ago Dad was in this area and didn’t buy a garlic keeper here.  Since it was close and my Dad never asks me for anything, we went to Gilroy to try to find one.  I would have titled this post “First Time In Gilroy”, but  the town was pretty run-down and I don’t really recommend it.  We saw most of it though on our garlic keeper hunt.  After going into 2 garlic specialty stores and a couple of antique stores we found this fun garlic keeper.  They are hand-made locally, by a retired high school teacher, and I hope this is what Dad was thinking of.  I think it’s cute though! And since Dad doesn’t read the blog I can post this picture of it.  Hope it survives the shipping!

Local, handmade garlic keeper

Local, handmade garlic keeper

After stopping for some Burger King (fuel meal) we went to Moss Landing which is this tiny town along the ocean that I do recommend stopping in.  It’s claim to fame is being the artichoke capital of the world and their were tons of artichoke and brussels sprouts farm.  Since they were harvesting brussel sprouts and that is one of Lee’s favorite vegetables, we stopped at a large farm stand called The Whole Enchilada Marketplace.  The place was much bigger than it looked and even had a cool sea themed bar in the middle of it.  Amazing selection and decent prices, and I picked up avocado flavored honey (yummy), radishes, brussels sprouts, oranges, and broccoli.  The place was packed and a little chaotic, but a lot of fun if you like a farmer’s market. 

The whole enchilada marketplace

The whole enchilada marketplace

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Bar, deli, and wine shoppe with a forty niners theme

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There were four rows as long as this

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I didn’t buy these but the broccoli flowers were cool

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Couldn’t pass up the broccoli at these prices

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They had these at the front counter…never seen that before!!

Next was Carmel-by-the-sea. This was in my top two things I wanted to do in the area and it did not disappoint.    First of all, what small town has a Tiffany’s, Coach, and Lush Cosmetics store?  And their beach was absolutely beautiful.  My favorite part though was the drive along the sea and seeing the small houses looking out over the ocean.  Unlike the huge houses on 17-mile drive, these are cottage size and I could totally picture myself living in one (if I ever win the lottery).  Many of them looked like little hobbit houses and we really enjoyed the drive along the water.  So I was thinking “First Time in Carmel” and since I enjoyed it so much, that title was definitely in the running.

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Good thing there were no parking spots 🙂

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Great beach and tons of people enjoying it

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The roofs on many of these little houses were so cool

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Great place to draw

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This is a state beach but the parking is limited. I would definitely go during the week

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Coastline near Carmel

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How would you like that view??

One of the many old Spanish Missons along 101, unfortunately we didn't have time for more than a quick pic

One of the many old Spanish Missons along 101, unfortunately we didn’t have time for more than a quick pic.  These acted as hostelries for travelers back when the Spanish owned California

Since we had time, Lee extended the drive and we drove down the PCH a bit to see the sunset. Many other people had the same idea and the roads were crowded, but there are tons of places to stop and see the sunset, so the view itself was not congested.  I decided I didn’t want to go down to the beach, so we sat up on the hill and I was so glad we did when I spotted my very first ever whale.  These new prescription sunglasses are turning me into a great wildlife spotter, and although the pics aren’t that great (too far out into the ocean) we saw several spouts and a couple crestings.  Quick tip, look for a tiny “tornado” of water and birds flying around it.  That’s the whale.

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This is the funnel… see the bird

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Best shot I got can see a bit of the whale.  It was very far out, so I think it was a big one

Ok, now I was definitely going with “First Time Seeing A Whale”.  Even though the pics weren’t that great I was incredibly excited.  After the whales passed we sat and watched the sun set.  I will say the sunsets here aren’t as nice as they were in Tampa, but the ocean is wild and fun to watch in and of itself.

Walk down to our watching spot, we went right when the crowd went left

Walk down to our watching spot, we went right when the crowd went left

Lee walking through the vegetation

Lee walking through the vegetation

Beautiful rocks and surf

Beautiful rocks and surf

Had fun playing with the light and taking pictures

Had fun playing with the light and taking pictures

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The light was coming through the waves

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Lee shot a little bit of video and then decided to test out the time lapse feature on his phone….

After the sunset we headed back to the camper to start packing up for the next days departure.  We did hit quite a bit of traffic going back (it took close to an hour) but for the whale sighting it was worth it.  Oh and I finally got a picture of this pig crossing sign, which I have never seen anywhere but here.

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We got home and I finished all of my pre-moving-day chores.  We have started buttoning up as much stuff as possible the night before which makes the morning go so much smoother.  I was sitting on the couch watching some TV when I started to feel a pain in my right upper chest.  I glanced down and saw a mole and started scratching it, but it just hurt even more and then I started to think all the things a near 50 year old thinks when they have a mole that hurts.  Lee walked in and I went into the bathroom for a better look and saw it was a tick!!!  I haven’t had a tick since I was a little kid and that sucker was burrowed in deep. Thankfully it wasn’t swollen yet, and Lee sprang into action and pulled it out with tweezers.  Wow it hurt.  Thankfully this is a non-fatty area of the body, which is why I felt it at all, but it did hurt more coming out.  And of course unlike when we were kids, now we know about Lyme disease, so I was googling ticks pretty quick.  I think it was a male specific to the Pacific region (did you know they are parasitical arachnids…gross), and I doused the spot with alcohol.  Of course afterwards  every little itch I felt was freaking me out, so I finally jumped in the shower.  Lyme disease isn’t usually transferred until the tick has been on you 36 hours, FYI, but I have the symptoms and am keeping an eye on it.  We are going to fulfill a lifetime dream of mine at the Rose Bowl parade next and no little tick is going to stand in my way.  Oh and the title, “First Adult Tick” didn’t seem like a good choice, so I finally decided on the title above.  We’ve got a very full schedule again next week, so I will be keeping up with the blog the best I can.  This writing starting at 3:30 am and is ending at 5:30am, because I start to forget things if I get too far behind.  Next up…all about the Rose Bowl HOP!!

RV Recipes

Connie’s Broccoli and Cheese Casserole

  • 32 oz frozen chopped broccoli
  • 1 lb Velveeta Cheese
  • 2 tubes of Ritz Crackers
  • 2 sticks real butter
  1. Cook broccoli, drain, and pat dry.  The drier the better
  2. Put broccoli and cheese in a sauce pan and slowly melt the cheese.  Stirring together
  3. Place mixture in bottom of 9×13 casserole pan
  4. Melt butter in separate saucepan
  5. Crush Ritz Crackers in their sleeves then mix in with melted butter
  6. Spread cracker mixture on top of cheese and broccoli
  7. Bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees.  Do not over cook

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Tracy’s Twice-Baked Cheese Potatoes

  • Potatoes
  • 1 stick Butter
  • 1 slice American Cheese per potato
  • Milk
  • Paprika
  1. Bake Potatoes until done in 400 degree oven
  2. Let cool enough that they are still warm but can be handled
  3. Using a sharp knife but in half longways
  4. Gently scoop out potato into a large mixing bowl
  5. Add one slice of cheese per potato, butter, and a little milk
  6. Blend until smooth, add more milk if needed
  7. Refill empty skins with mashed potato mix
  8. Sprinkle with Paprika
  9. Heat in 325 degree oven for 20 minutes until warm

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RV Park Reviews

Laguna Secaral Chappera Campground    Highway 68 Salinas, CA 1 out of 5 pinecones

 

We came off-season and the second road was closed forcing us to climb a sixteen % grade to get to the campsite.  The campsites were on a hill, very small, and very difficult to get into.  Although we were told the track would be quiet, we were on curve 5 and almost everyday there was a driving school happening with lots of screeching tires.  If you are a race fan, you might love it.  We did not.  There is also a gun range next door and the sound of guns happened most weekend mornings.   Hookups are electric and water only and the dump station is very difficult to get into. The sites themselves were not clean with numerous beer caps littered throughout.    The bathrooms were  clean and the staff was very helpful, but we would never stay here again.  We would like to thank the work kamper who let us exit via the closed road to avoid a sixteen percent grade on the way down, it was the only bright spot in our visit.

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More Volunteering and a Rainy Day

The last couple of days have been much busier here at the campground.  For the first time in years on Thanksgiving weekend they are nearly booked and we have been at around 80% capacity every night leading up to the holiday.  They must have known we would be here! It doesn’t really matter how many people are here though, so much as how they sign in, from a workload perspective.   Every morning, rain or shine, I go into the ranger building and check the overnight envelopes.  If people fill them out correctly the morning rounds are easy and our first few nights here that was the case.  The last couple of days though it took a little longer.  Sometimes folks put the wrong site number down and then when I see an “open” slot with people in it I have to look at the license plates on the sheet and try to find them.  If there are no matching license plates, which is now happening 2-3 times per walk, I have to knock on the car window and wake people up.  I carry envelopes and change with me and basically stand there until they pay.  Most people are pretty gracious about it, but twice we have had people say they didn’t have the money and once two young girls swore they paid and I sent Lee back out once I double checked the drop box.  He said he would have to call the ranger and suddenly the money appeared. The mom approach didn’t work so I sent the Dad in and he has tons of experience with raising girls!! Those situations are the exception though.  Mostly these people are getting in late and don’t want to mess with the envelope. I get it, but what they don’t know is this buys them a cheery wake-up call at 7am from yours truly.

I have been really surprised by how many people are staying here with just a car.  It’s not really creepy, they are mostly 20 somethings and the hotels around here are few and far between and expensive, but there are a ton of them.  Maybe this happens everywhere and I never noticed it before or maybe it’s a California thing but it seems like a pretty unpleasant way to spend the night.  These folks are almost always the ones who don’t use the pay envelope, but thankfully not one person has been hostile during the morning wake up visit.  They generally look sheepish because they know they shouldn’t have blown it off.  In my mind we provide the most value in the morning because I am sure some of those folks would skip out without paying.  We have also been trying to be here by 4pm on the days when only one person is working because 4-5pm can be a little busy.  We have gone over a couple of times and sold some wood or answered questions when they really got backed up.  Once the regular staff leaves we flip over our sign and we are “on duty” until 8 or 9pm.  Most nights we don’t see anyone, but one particularly nice night we sold 5 bundles of wood.  That’s been the easiest part of the job since it is dark and we would be here anyway.  People seem surprisingly hesitant to bother us and I have gone so far as to put a lit tiki pot over by the sign to make sure people know we are available.

So the work itself is fine, but the general ambiguity around the position is still tough for us.  When working for Stan we only had to keep Stan happy and he was great about communicating.  Here, we are dealing with multiple people and it’s not really clear who is in charge.  The normal volunteer coordinator is taking some time off, so she handed us to the ranger John who is new at running this area so he is deferring to the support staff.  They unfortunately all have a slightly different take on things so we can sometimes get different answers to the same question.  It’s also hard to get real feedback on how good a job we are doing, because none of them feel it’s their responsibility to tell us what to do.   I am trying not to let all this  make me crazy, but I have never been great at dealing with no one being in charge.  I talked to my friend Kelly about this though and she is working the split shift at Amazon and she has to change the way she does things when the night manager comes on in the middle of her shift because he and the day manager can’t agree.  So it could be worse.   My favorite person here is Helen,  who reminds me of my grandmother.  She is no nonsense but kind and has been here for 5 years so I try to keep her happy.  And no kidding, as I was writing this paragraph Lee came in the RV and said Helen was impressed by us this morning because we had finished our rounds so early in this heavy rain.  So we must be doing something right.

The weather here has been surprisingly good.  Usually they get 50-80 inches of rain in the winter, but we have had several sunny days.  Not that you can really see it in the grove.  We have a small patch of sun in the back of the rig, but it’s pretty dark here most of the day.  The lack of sun was getting to both of us so we decided to take our first day off and go to Eureka, but it rained pretty heavily on Tuesday so I stayed and worked.  Although these volunteer jobs  usually expect 20 hours a week we tend to work whatever makes sense.  You can ask for and receive specific days off, but the staff are not really fans of that in both places we have been and prefer you just let them know when you won’t be available and ask that you try to schedule the time when they aren’t busy.  The way we think about it, it’s a good gig and we are not going to get super picky about the hours but many people feel differently and like a set schedule.  I don’t recommend that, however, as several people have shared their feelings with us about volunteers who are “rigid” and it is generally not well received.  That doesn’t mean you need to feel taken advantage of, though.  If we give more hours or days than expected, I take the time when the weather is right or we have something planned.  We just try to schedule those activities when special events are not happening.  For example we volunteered to work thanksgiving since almost everyone else is off.  I have had jobs where I worked holidays before and since we don’t have anything special planned with friends or family, why not?  Provide a little extra value here and there and it is much appreciated.

Even on duty days there is still time to pop out and see things.  I really like the visitors center next door (one of the nicest ones I have seen) and we went to Big Tree Grove and saw the Tall Tree.  We also drove down to the horse campground, which is closed now, and picked some apples.  Lee’s philosophy, which I am adopting, comes straight from All I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.   You work a little and play a little every day.  It’s a pretty good philosophy.  So really overall it’s a pretty good gig.  There is absolutely no antenna TV so missing my football some and the ATT signal is on the low side, but we definitely would have never been able to stay here without this gig.  We found out that they only like to have 30 foot or less RV’s.  Some of the sites are plenty big enough, but they worry about the road getting to them.  Experienced drivers would have no issue, but they strongly discourage the larger rigs.  Even the horse camp, which has tons of space, is on a road that is very narrow and not recommended for large RV’s,so you can’t get to it.   There are some private RV parks in the area though that a big rig will fit, but it’s a shame when most full timers can’t fit in a place.  In this case, though, the only way to make the road bigger would be to cut down trees and I can totally see why they would not want to do that.   

View of the visitors center from the back of our site

View of the visitors center from the back of our site

 

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Great display of local animal

Great display of local animal

Redwood RV!!

Redwood RV!!

Had a bed and everything

Had a bed and everything

The drivers seat...loved the bear

The drivers seat…loved the bear

Even had windows!!

Even had windows!!

 

Tall Tree Stats

Tall Tree Stats

Big Tree Grove , the tall tree

The Top of the tall tree is above. The pic below is the bottom

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Big Tree Grove

 

The horse campground

The horse campground

 

Tons of Deer because of the apple trees

Tons of Deer because of the apple trees’

They let Lee get pretty close

They let Lee get pretty close

Lee picking me apples

Lee picking me apples

Recipes

Crazy Marinated Pork Chops 

This recipe has an unusual combination of ingredients, but totally yummy flavor.  I am not a huge fan of pork chops, but loved this and Lee who really likes pork chops loved it as well.  You do have to marinade overnight though to get the full effect which requires some pre-planning. 

  • 3/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 2 TBL Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 TBL lemon juice
  • 1 TBL prepared yellow mustard
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp dried parsley flakes
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 6 bone-in pork loin chops
  1. Combine all ingredients except pork and blend well
  2. Place pork in large Ziploc bag, add marinade, shake to mix well in place in refrigerator overnight
  3. Drain and discard marinade
  4. Grill covered over medium heat 4 minutes per side
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First Time in the Redwood Groves

All throughout Humboldt State Park there are groves that were bought and protected by different groups.  It is a testament to how much of a difference a small group can make if properly motivated.  The signage on the groves is not the greatest, so I definitely recommend stopping at the visitors center and getting a map, and each one requires a walk into the woods to get to.  The first one we looked at was sponsored by the Women’s Federation League.  These are very magical places and walking through them was a very spiritual experience for me.  This particular grove is a Day Use area in season, but the gate was closed in November.  No problem, we simply parked the truck (being careful not to block the entrance) and walked through.  The pavement was in excellent condition and we had the entire place to ourselves.  At the end there is a beautiful hearth which was designed by on of the few female architects in the 1950’s.  The hearth has four fireplaces with the most beautiful inscriptions in the stone above.  There is also a very nice picnic area and seating by the river. The walk was very pleasant and totally accessible to anyone.

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The hearth

The hearth

Loved the fireplaces

Loved the fireplaces

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Even the water fountain had an inscription

Even the water fountain had an inscription

This burl on a tree reminded me of a jaguar face

This burl on a tree reminded me of a jaguar face

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also along the Avenue of the Giants there are some places to stop where large trees have fallen.  The size of these fallen trees is so huge it is hard to believe which is why all the pictures have a person inside to give you some scale.

This tree was as large as a cave

This tree was as large as a cave

I am near the back and at 5'4" can still stand upright

I am near the back and at 5’4″ can still stand upright

On another day we went to Founders Grove which was absolutely amazing.  It is a half-mile stroll along a flat wide path and there are the most amazing trees there.  They have gone to great trouble in this grove to let nature take its course and some of the best parts are the huge trees that have fallen.  They also have the absolutely best pamphlet (50 cent donation requested or return after use) that I personally have ever seen that gives information about what you are seeing.  If you visit here and do nothing else, see Founders Grove.  It was really amazing.

Stats for the Founders tree

Stats for the Founders tree

No way to get a complete shot of this . Hopefully it gives you an idea though

No way to get a complete shot of Founders Tree . Hopefully it gives you an idea though

Lee loves the walk in trees and there are several of these

Lee loves the walk in trees and there are several of these

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It's amazing that these can have such large holes in them and still be alive

It’s amazing that these can have such large holes in them and still be alive

Beautiful walk through the path

Beautiful walk through the path

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The trees are so tall they have three different climates and the needles at the top are different than the bottom because the air is much dryer

The trees are so tall they have three different climates and the needles at the top are different from the bottom because the air is much drier.  There are plants an animal that spend their entire life in the canopy in particular the Marbeled Murrelet bird which flies to the ocean during the day and nests in the trees at night.  The only downside is because they are protected no drones are allowed anywhere in the Redwood Forest by state law.  Lee was really bummed when he discovered this was a drone free area.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When the trees fall over 4000 species can live on or near a downed log. that is why they let them fall and then decay naturally

When the trees fall over 4000 species can live on or near a downed log. that is why they let them fall and then decay naturally.  the younger trees nearby are  dormant until a big tree falls and then they get their chance to grow in the sun.  The process is called plant succession.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is the Dyerville Giant which fell in 1991. It was 362 feet tall, weighed about a million pounds, and is comparable to a 30 story building

This is the Dyerville Giant which fell in 1991. It was 362 feet tall, weighed about a million pounds, and is comparable to a 30 story building

I tried to take a picture from the end, see if you can see Lee way down at the other end. when this fell the noise could be heard a mile away and it fell because one tree knocked another which knocked it over.

I tried to take a picture from the end, see if you can see Lee way down at the other end. when this fell the noise could be heard a mile away and it fell because one tree knocked another which knocked it over.

Some of the pictures have burl sprouts growing on them. A seed can germinat in one of these sprouts and if the tree falls can use the mature root system of th tree for nutrients and stability

Some of the pictures have burl sprouts growing on them. A seed can germinate in one of these sprouts and if the tree falls can use the mature root system of th tree for nutrients and stability

Sometimes a burl forms at the base and so many sprouts occur that a "fairy ring" is created

Sometimes a burl forms at the base and so many sprouts occur that a “fairy ring” is created

 

 

In addition to the groves there are a few places sprinkled throughout where for a few dollars you can see a tree tourist attraction.  These sites are old and pretty cheesy but for a few dollars we just had to try them out.  The first advertised itself as “the famous drive through tree” and although this isn’t the same drive through tree you see in all the pictures it was still pretty cool.  The truck could make it through so we parked outside and walked in, but luckily I caught a car driving through so I could get some pictures.  This attraction also had a couple of redwood tree playhouses, which Lee and I went into.  One even had a tight set of stairs and a second floor, which was very fun. Again super cheesy, but for $6 total we had fun with it.

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The tree was kept in place by numerous iron cables

The tree was kept in place by numerous iron cables

The view up from inside

The view up from inside

 

Another view

Another view

I thought this burl looked like a reclining angel

I thought this burl looked like a reclining angel

 

Really cute tree houses

Really cute tree houses

This one has two stories inside

This one has two stories inside

Lee climbing up

Lee climbing up

My face in the window

My face in the window

 

We also stopped at the Immortal Tree which was free to view and next to an amazing wood shop called Burl N Drift.  I liked the tree because it shows clearly how the tree survived the woodsman’s axe, fire, and the 1964 flood.  Many of the trees have fire damage but continue to live and in 1964 there was a huge flood in this area and you can see water marks on many of the trees.  The flood waters were at least 20 feet high in some areas, which is amazing when you look at the Eel River now, which because of the drought is barely a trickle.  Anyways, I loved the gift shop, really unique redwood products made right there (which I wanted but the budget didn’t allow for) and I got a great T-Shirt for only $13.95.  They also had some leftover pieces of wood for a few dollars and I picked a great one for $2.

The stats on the Immortal Tree

The stats on the Immortal Tree

Lee in front twith the Axe showing where the tried to cut it and could not and the fish shows the water line in 1964

Lee in front with the Axe showing where the tried to cut it and could not and the fish shows the water line in 1964

Beautiful Burl sculpture outside the shop

Beautiful Burl sculpture outside the shop

Inside the shop

Inside the shop

 

These bowls were amazing but out of my price range

These bowls were amazing but out of my price range

My very cool piece of wood

My very cool piece of wood

 

And along the route there are breaks in the trees with some places you can see the surrounding hills.  It’s been a great couple of days and more to come.  Are you tired of tree pictures yet 🙂 Oh and after numerous tries I found a really good recipe for flank steak (often on sale for $2.99 a pound) which I have listed below.

The Eel River

The Eel River

This is also the Eel river and all this dirt is usually water

This is also the Eel river and all this dirt is usually water

Recipes

Coffee-Rubbed Flank Steak 

  • 1-1/4 lb flank steak
  • 1 TBL finely ground coffee
  • 1 TBL light brown sugar, packed
  • 1-1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1-1/2 tsp dried ginger
  • 1-1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  1. Combine all ingredients (except state) in a small bowl and blend well
  2. Rub coffee and spice mixture onto one side shaking off excess when complete, turn over and repeat
  3. Preheat gas grill to high, oil grill grates
  4. Cook for 3-1/2 minutes then turn over and cook for another 3-1/2 minutes
  5. Let steak REST for 5 full minutes before slicing
  6. Cut in thin strips at a diagonal

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First Time at Lake Tahoe

It was a busy week.  Monday was my last official day of work and I needed to drive to Reno to drop off my computer, phone, etc to the office there.  Since Jo and Ben are in Reno we made arrangements to eat dinner with them after they finished work. That left Lee and I with some time to kill. Luckily, I got an eye appointment at the Lenscrafters in town so we were able to fill the day.  We dropped off the work stuff around 11:30 (which was surreal) and then headed over to the Atlantis Casino for lunch.  They have a Manhattan style deli that Jo and Ben gave high marks and I felt the need to treat myself.  Lee got a HUGE Reuben (not as good as Katz Deli but very good) and I got egg salad (a go-to comfort food for me) and some yummy cheesecake.  The lunch was on the pricey side at $40, but you don’t leave your job every day.  The service was outstanding, though, and afterwards we both played $5 worth of slots each which culminated in Lee winning $17.25, so at least my cheesecake was paid for! I will say that although I liked the interior of the casino, the slots were disappointing (I like the old style where the wheels turns not the new computer ones) and it was very smoky.

Manhatten Delu

Manhattan Deli

Lee's Rueben

Lee’s Rueben

Watching him try to bite into it was fun!!

Watching him try to bite into it was fun!!

Big ole piece of cheescake

Big ole piece of cheesecake

Afterwards Lee dropped me off at Lenscrafters and I had a good time picking out a new pair of sunglasses for my prescription.  Five years ago I had a PRK eye surgery (like Lasik but more intense) and my vision has been amazingly wonderful every since.  But I have noticed some distance fuzziness so decided it was time to get an eye exam.  The entire experience was terrific.  The doctor was great and people who worked in the glasses area very helpful.  Plus the prices were reasonable ($125 for Ray Ban frames) and best of all they were able to complete the glasses the same day so no return trip required!!  After I was done, we went to meet Jo and Ben for dinner at a local Mexican restaurant.  I love Mexican, but Lee is not a huge fan, but on this occasion I got my pick.  And they had raspberry margaritas my favorite which were totally yummy.  It was so nice celebrating the start of my new life with RV friends and I really appreciated their being with us.

Jo and I with big margaritas

Jo and I with big margarita

Unfortunately Tuesday and Wednesday were not so great. It rained both days and Lee and I were both a little cooped up, plus the enormity of the change was really hitting home with me and there still was no definitive word on the truck.  It turns out our claims agent went out on a sick leave and the claim wasn’t transferred properly.  Lee got it back on track by Wednesday, but we lost several days to that.  We were also hearing some things from the dealer about used engines that didn’t sound right to Lee.  Thankfully he took the bull by the horns and called Ford (who said absolutely our warranty would be voided by a used engine) and the dealer we bought the truck from (who stated there were 12 new engines in stock in Memphis.  Lee, armed with this information, took control of the situation and stopped us from being pushed in a direction that could have had disastrous consequences. The old adage “trust but verify” really came into play here.  I don’t think the service manager was deliberately misleading us (he said a used engine would be fine with the extended warranty), but it doesn’t really matter. We knew we might have to pay some money in the difference, “betterment” the insurance agent called it, but we didn’t want to lose the money we had spent on the warranty.  So, it was a frustrating couple of days for a variety of reasons so I decided to cook a couple of new recipes. Thankfully they were both home runs (which rarely happens) and Lee loved them both.  Plus he was hovering while I was trying to make spring rolls for the first time, so I put him to work.  He did an excellent job wrapping them and they tasted delicious, plus he said the Spicy Korean BBQ was “restaurant quality” so I will definitely be making both again.  See the end of the post for full recipes if you are interested.  The yummy Spicy Korean BBQ was incredibly easy, relatively inexpensive, and heated up well later. That’s the trifecta for us!

Lee rolling some spring rolls for me

Lee rolling some spring rolls for me

Thankfully the sun came out on Thursday and we could finally make our trip to Tahoe.  We have been wanting to go since we got here, but one thing or another kept getting in the way.  Lee worked there years ago and has always wanted to show me and I of course wanted to see it. We were just getting ready to leave when Lee got a phone call from the claims adjuster.  It turns out a brand new engine is actually cheaper than a used one so amazingly we are getting a new engine and only have to pay our $1,000 deductible.  I have never been so happy to pay $1,000 in my life.  And, wow, did I feel a weight lifted from me.  Feelings about the job have been all mixed up with worry about the truck, and I had no idea how much that was getting to me until we got the good news.  So feeling 100 times lighter we jumped in the rental and headed to Tahoe.

The drive was beautiful and although we hit some pretty ominous clouds when going over the mountains between Reno and Tahoe, Tahoe itself was beautifully clear.  We drove the loop and I absolutely loved the area.  Seriously, I could spend an entire summer here there is so much to do and the drive just whetted our appetites for more. The very best parts were Inspiration Point (the quintessential Tahoe view you have probably seen), Squaw Valley (where Lee worked and stayed many years ago, and Sand Harbor.  That being said there was a lot more that we didn’t have time to explore including numerous hiking trails.  Definitely putting it on our list of work kamping places, but as usual let’s let the pictures tell the story.

The top of the road we drove in

The top of the road we drove in

The first view of the lake

The first view of the lake

The cloud was rolling in at eye level

The cloud was rolling in at eye level

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Very cool cloud

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The water was so clear and beautiful

The water was so clear and beautiful

Although the lake was very low I actually liked it because you could see so many rocks.  We spent the most time at Sand Harbor which was practically deserted walking around on the rocks.  You know how much I love my rocks!!

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The setting was so nice we came across a catalog photo shoot

The setting was so nice we came across a catalog photo shoot

Lee was super brave climbing right up on the big rocks

Lee was super brave climbing right up on the big rocks

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The water was so clear and see the little minnow

The water was so clear and see the little minnow

I was in rock heaven!!

I was in rock heaven!!

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I loved these formations

I loved these formations

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After Sand Harbor we kept driving, stopping at several beautiful scenic spots along the way.  Part of the lake is in California and the other part is in Nevada and whole sections of it are National Park.  What I particularly loved was that it was beautiful on both the lake side and the hills side.  It was the kind of place where you couldn’t take a bad picture and everywhere you looked was just beautiful.  When we hit Inspiration Point though that was something special.  As a general rule, you always know when something is worth seeing when there are lots of people speaking in foreign languages.  My only complaint was the bathrooms were an absolute mess.  As someone who has been responsible for public land bathrooms I was a bit horrified, but besides that the view was spectacular.  Plus, the lone paddleboat on the water came into view right when we were there and I was thrilled to get a shot with the boat.

This stretch of beach is all National Park

This stretch of beach is all National Park

This Jay posed for us. He was begging treats

This Jay posed for us. He was begging for treats

Emerald Bay

Emerald Bay

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I know right!!

At this point we were starving and stopped at a local BBQ place for lunch.  The price was reasonable, the view was of the water, and I got to put my new drink plan in action.  Paying $3 plus for drinks has been driving me crazy, so I bought a box of Country Time Lemonade On The Go packets and stuck a couple in my purse.  One packet worked beautifully with a glass of ice water, it was really really good and cost about 10 cents per pack.  I didn’t feel embarrassed at all mixing my lemonade.  As far as I am concerned restaurants should be embarrassed about the 90% markup on their beverages.  Anyway, it was yummy and the little bit of a sugar kick I sometimes want when we are out exploring. After lunch we drove to Squaw Valley, where the Olympics were held and many famous people ski in the winter, and Lee showed me the resort where he worked and stayed many years ago.  Absolutely beautiful, I can totally see why people like to stay there.

Our lunch spot

Our lunch spot

My only complaint was the rather loud music inside. I think I am getting old lol

My only complaint was the rather loud music inside. I think I am getting old lol

Here's my yummy lemonade

Here’s my yummy lemonade

The pier outside the restaurant

The pier outside the restaurant

This pic shows you how low the water level was

This pic shows you how low the water level was.  That’s a pier in the background.

Squaw Valley Resort

Squaw Valley Resort

The patio and ski lift area

The patio and ski lift area

The pool/hottubs area was amazing

The pool/hottubs area was amazing

The previous Olympic village now condos

The previous Olympic village now condos

It was an absolutely perfect day and exactly what I needed.

Recipes

Spicy Korean Pork 

  • 2 lbs country-style boneless pork ribs; cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 2 TBL chili garlic sauce (if you would like less spice use 1 TBL)
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tsp ginger
  • 2 TBL sesame oil
  • 3 TBL brown sugar
  • Brown Rice (P.F. Chang brand was yummy)
  1. Add all ingredients except pork and whisk into a blended marinade
  2. Add cubed pork to the mix and let sit for at least 20 minutes
  3. Grilled marinated pork (you can place on skewers if that is easier), uncovered for 10 minutes turning every 2-3 minutes
  4. Service on brown rice
Spicy Korean Pork

Spicy Korean Pork

Baked Chicken Spring Rolls

  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1-1/2 cups boneless, shredded chicken or pork
  • 1-16oz bag coleslaw mix with carrots
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 TBL soy sauce
  • 20 spring roll wrappers (16oz package)
  • Dipping sauce of your choice
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Brush baking sheet with 1 TBL vegetable oil
  3. Combine meat, coleslaw mix, scallions, ginger, sesame oil, and soy sauce in large bowl
  4. Place water in a small bowl
  5. Place one spring roll wrappers in front of you and keep others covered with a damp cloth
  6. Brush edges of wrapper with water
  7. Place a TBL of mixture on top of wrapper then roll towards you
  8. Tuck in sides and complete roll
  9. Place on baking sheet seam side down
  10. Repeat with remaining filling and wrappers
  11. Brush tops of rolls with remaining vegetable oil
  12. Bake for 15 minutes; turn over and bake for 10 more minutes
  13. Serve with dipping sauce
Spring roll mix

Spring roll mix

Brush wrapper with water

Brush wrapper with water

Add one tablespoon of mix

Add one tablespoon of mix

Roll towards you and tuck in ends

Roll towards you and tuck in ends

Brush tops with vegetable oil and bake

Brush tops with vegetable oil and bake

 

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Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.  Search Amazon.com here

First Time Turning 49

Yes, I know, it’s the first and last time turning 49, and no, I won’t be one of those people that refuses to turn 50. But for some reason this birthday feels important.  Maybe because it’s my first birthday on the road, or maybe because it’s the penultimate before 50.  I love the word penultimate and rarely get to use it!  Either way, this post is mostly going to be pictures, so here we go.

On Saturday, the day before my birthday, Rick showed up on our doorstep.  That may not sound like much, but he not only found us from reading the blog, but took the trouble to come and see us.  It was so great seeing him, I don’t know if you remember, but when I took that white water rafting trip Rick was the one who fell out of the boat and we had to pull him back in.  (I’ll just take this moment to mention that Tracy also fell in, – Lee) He and I really bonded over that trip and when he knew we were crossing paths but would miss each other by a couple of days he changed his plans and came straight to us.  Rick is a widower who just retired and travels with his wonderful dog Maxine.  He just started a blog too and I really like his pictures.  We had a great time catching up and then I invited him to my birthday dinner the next night.

Rick cut hi head on the bottom of a cabinet and surgical glued it.

Rick cut his head on the bottom of a cabinet and surgical glued it.

 

Maxine, Rick's very sweet dog

Maxine, Rick’s very sweet dog

Sunday, Lee and I ran a few errands, including stopping at Rick’s campground, Woodenfrog State Campground (review below).  Then Lee and I went to the Bait and Bite for lunch.  I have been wanting to go here since we arrived.  Combination diner and bait shop with a tag line saying “Eat Here and Get Worms”.  Seriously how can a diner junkie like me pass that up? And it was really good.

The Diner

The Diner

Sure there are fish on the walls

Sure there are fish on the walls

My favorite part was the window that looked from the diner into the bait shop

My favorite part was the window that looked from the diner into the bait shop

My BLT and salad, my standard diner order, was excellent and on;ly $7.95

My BLT and salad, my standard diner order, was excellent and only $7.95

Sure live bait next dor to food yummy

Sure live bait next door to food 🙂

Really nice bait/fishing shop

Really nice bait/fishing shop

 

After lunch Lee and I went over to Linda and Howard’s so Lee could shoot some video.  Throughout the month Lee has been working with H&L on multiple videos and today they were shooting some introductions and a video about their truck hauler bed.  My plan was to just hang out, but since it was so windy Lee needed to use a certain kind of microphone which is too big to mount on the camera, so I got to be the boom operator for a little while.  It was a lot of fun and I learned quite a bit about their Utility Body Werks custom truck bed. I have to say, after watching them load and unload it, I am sold. Unfortunately, a new truck bed is not in our budget for right now but I’ll definitely keep it in mind.  If you’re interested in more info on that check out RV-Dreams.com. 

Beautiful setting for the shoot

Beautiful setting for the shoot

Operating the Boom

Operating the Boom

Linda and Howard emptying the truck I couldn't believe how much stuff fit in their

Linda and Howard emptying the truck I couldn’t believe how much stuff fit in there!

Tons of storage plus two gas tanks

Tons of storage plus two gas tanks

 

After work was done, Linda cooked some dinner and I helped a bit.  We had fried fish (they had caught from the lake), beets (which were really good even though I don’t usually care for beets, and two kinds of green beans.  Howard likes his mushy, Lee likes his squeaky and I am an equal opportunity green bean lover and had them both.  It was a delicious dinner and afterwards we sat around the fire and had a very nice night.  It was a great birthday and I was so happy that for two years in a row I got to spend my birthday with RV friends.  That’s pretty unusual since we have this rolling lifestyle, or maybe not.  I have spent more time with friends and family since we started rolling around than I ever did when we stayed still.  Either way, it’s been really wonderful getting to know Howard and Linda on a personal level and I am so glad we got to spend this time together.

Linda taught me how to zest that was fun

Linda taught me how to zest. That was fun!

Pretty beets

Pretty beets

Yummy plate of food and all from local ingredients

Yummy plate of food and all from local ingredients

Linda put a question mark on my cake :)

Linda put a question mark on my cake 🙂

So nice that Linda spent the ridiculous $7.19 they charge locally and got my favorite kind of ice cream.

So nice that Linda spent the ridiculous $7.19 they charge locally and got my favorite kind of ice cream.

Another beautiful sunset

Another beautiful sunset

Monday I took the day off for our big birthday splurge.  Lee loves boats and Howard had negotiated a special price for us to rent the resorts brand new pontoon boat for the day.  I really like it here at Lake Kabetogama but seriously, it’s all about the lake, and without a boat there is so much you cannot do.  We had been waiting all month for our special boat trip and the day was finally here.  We spent just a little time in the morning filming H&L fishing and then it was all us for the rest of the day.  It was another great day, with 6 eagle sightings and multiple stops, but I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

Howard and Linda on their fishing boat excursion . I drove in circles around them while Lee shot video that was kind of fun

Howard and Linda on their fishing boat excursion. I drove in circles around them while Lee shot video that was kind of fun.

So many beautiful islands

So many beautiful islands

Loved the complex forests on the islands with many types of trees

Loved the complex forests on the islands with many types of trees

Fisherman staked out little coves throughout the lake but we went from place to place

Fisherman staked out little coves throughout the lake but we went from place to place

The ricks were just beautiful

The rocks were just beautiful

The Ellsworth Rock Gardens, our first stop, were created over multiple summers by a husband and wife.  They created art but are not professional artists, and Voyaguers National Park has maintained their work and provided a nice picnic and restroom area.  By the way, I can’t say enough about the park service.  All the places we stopped were free, they all had pit toilets that were clean and had toilet paper in them, and it was obvious in every case there was an ongoing effort to not only maintain but improve the properties.  I know I have said it before, but it bears repeating, we are so lucky to live in a country with such a wonderful National Parks Service.

First stop Ellsworth Rock Gardens

First stop Ellsworth Rock Gardens

Table and Chair

Table and Chair

Loved the flower ledges

Loved the flower ledges

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This duck was one of my favorites

This duck was one of my favorites

My very favorite. MR. Ellsworth made the sculpture, built the pond, and planted it

My very favorite. MR. Ellsworth made the sculpture, built the pond, and planted it

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Bunny!!

Bunny!!

This "meteor" on was kind of weird, but the "crater" was cool

This “meteor” on was kind of weird, but the “crater” was cool

After the rock garden LEe found a quiet cove and we tied up for lunch. Cute butt !!

After the rock garden LEe found a quiet cove and we tied up for lunch. Cute butt !!

An eagles next, one of many, we spotted

An eagles next, one of many, we spotted

My best eagle pic

My best eagle pic

Lee got this amazing shot of two eagles

Lee got this amazing shot of two eagles

This was my shot of a juvenile with the sun coming through it's wings

This was my shot of a juvenile with the sun coming through it’s wings

In between eagle sightings, and seriously, how cool is it that it was plural, we stopped and saw a couple of the older island resorts that the park service is maintaining.  There was great information on the people who started the resorts and lived there plus several of the buildings you can walk in and look around. Lee was particularly interested in one of the old ice houses and the machinery used to pull the ice blocks out of the lake.

Vacation Cabin

Vacation Cabin

Ice House

Ice House

 

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Our pontoon boat at the dock...it was a nice one

Our pontoon boat at the dock…it was a nice one

Lee in the honeymoon cabin

Lee in the honeymoon cabin

Generator house

Generator house

Old Fashion electric

Old Fashioned electric

So the day was wonderful, but most of you probably don’t know that I am a boat albatross. Seriously almost every time I am on a boat it breaks down. In this particular case, we ran out of gas.  I had asked at least five times if this was a possibility, and was assured it was not so, but when we were very close to the resort we did run out of of gas, and had to call Alex at the resort to come get us.  Unfortunately, the engine wouldn’t start after refueling and while trying to start it we drifted onto some rocks.  It was a bit stressful getting us off the rocks, but we stayed calm and then were towed back to the resort and everything ended just fine. Apart from the very end, it was a great day and although pricey, even with a “friends and family” discount, I am so glad we did it.  Really, you can’t visit this area without taking a boat out for the day and it was the perfect way to cap off our month long stay.  Next we are headed out west…so stay tuned!

Howard coming to rescue us

Howard coming to rescue us

Lee walking the boat around the dock

Lee walking the boat around the dock

With Howard's help

With Howard’s help

Linda was cracking up

Linda was cracking up

 

 Campground Reviews

The Pines at Kabetogama  12443 Burma Road  3 out of 5 pine cones

I have been really on the fence on how to rate this campground.  It is the nicest campground we have stayed in and the staff was by far the best we have dealt with anywhere.  We loved Site #1 up on the cliff and the marina, views, and access to the water was amazing.  Wifi was strong and we had excellent AT&T coverage although our friends with Verizon did not fare so well.  The cabins are absolutely amazing as well and have a daily cleaning service.  The reason I have marked it as average, however, is for the price: $60 for a non-premium site and $100 for a cliffside premium site. I felt they needed to continue to make some improvements.  Our site did not have a picnic table and the markings around the non premium sites on the cliff were very unclear necessitating some creative parking.    They obviously have pride in ownership, however, and are constantly working to improve so I would expect them to reach a 4 or 5 rating in the near future.  Basically, if you have the mone,y and a boa,t I would definitely stay here, but not sure I would recommend a long stay if you are on a budget because there are cheaper alternatives in the area.

 Woodenfrog State Campground  Kabetogama, MN 3 out of 5 pine cones

If you’re looking for a cheaper alternative in the area, Woodenfrog Campground is a no services campground, first come first serve, for $14 dollars a night.  It is well wooded, has good access to the water, and site 52 (along with others) had plenty of space to accommodate a large rig.  Cell service was spotty and needed a booster to get Verizon. There is water at several places in the campground although not at the sites, and nature trails are spread throughout.  Lots of space between sites and feels very isolated, but is close to the resort areas.

Recipe 

Grilled Potato Skins

  • 2 large baking potatoes
  • 2 TBL melted butter
  • 1/2 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 green onions chopped
  • 3 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled
  1. Poke three holes in potatoes and microwave for 10 minutes
  2. Cut each potato lengthwise into 4 wedges
  3. Cut away the white portion of the potato leaving 1/4 ” or so potato on the skin
  4. Combine butter, rosemary, salt, and pepper then brush over both sides of the potato
  5. Grill the potatoes skin side up, uncovered over direct heat,  for 2-3 minutes until lightly browned
  6. Turn the potatoes and place over indirect heat and grill for 2 minutes longer
  7. Top with cheese, cover and grill for 2-3 more minutes until cheese is melted
  8. Plate then sprinkler with bacon and green onions
  9. Serve with sour cream
Grilled Potato Skins

Grilled Potato Skins

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.  Search Amazon.com here

 

First Time Hanging Out with Howard and Linda

After we dropped off the car Monday we had one more surprise before leaving Minneapolis.  Sean, a young man who had worked for Lee at Cheshire TV years ago when it was brand new, reached out to us out of the blue and asked where we were in our travels.  Sean left Keene and joined the Army six years ago, doing two tours in Afghanistan.  His goal in joining the military was to make money to pay for farrier school, which was a lifelong dream of his.  After his overseas tours he did a stint in Alaska and finally left the service to pursue his dream by attending a school in Nebraska.  Through sheer coincidence (or no coincidence at all as I believe more in God/The universe than I do coincidence) he was heading back to Keene when we were in Minneapolis.  So he rerouted himself and came to see us on Monday, which was the best of all possible days.  Nick was still in town until Monday night and since he and Sean had worked together for a while he came over as well, and Lee had a great time with the guys until late in the evening.  It was really wonderful seeing that Sean was doing so well and it was VERY nice of him to go out of his way to stop and see us.

Nick, Sean, and Lee

Nick, Sean, and Lee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday morning we got up very early and made the drive up to Voyager National Park. Part of Lee’s compensation package for the video work is a campsite for the month and although we said we would make do with almost anything, Howard was very generous and put us in a  high-end resort about four miles from where they are work kamping. The Pines at Kabetogama is right on beautiful Lake Kabetogama and a very popular spot for fishermen and boaters.  We don’t fish and don’t own a boat, apart from our Sea Eagle kayak, but the views are absolutely spectacular.  We had the choice of a few different sites upon arrival and ended up choosing Site #1 which generally goes for $60 a night. It’s a two level campground and our site is up on the cliff, which we really enjoy because the sites are larger and we have a bit of a view of the lake from our RV.  Not to mention that of the fifteen or so sites on the cliff, when we got here there were only three other rigs, and they were all together. They were gone by Friday morning, so we’ve got the whole cliff top to ourselves, for now. The campground is in the process of being renovated though and the sites are set up a bit oddly.  We ended up reversing our direction so that we were facing the woods and running the power and sewer under the rig.  The sites up here are not quite level yet which has been a bit of a challenge, but we are working on re-positioning to fix that.  So far the thing that impresses me most is the level of service you get here.  Every employee is extremely nice and they have obviously gone out of their way to differentiate their offering from that of their neighbors.  As usual, when we stay in a place for a while I like to wait until the end before completing my review, but I have to say that we are really pleased to be here.

View directly in front of our rig

View directly in front of our rig

Side view with a sliver of the lake between the trees

Side view with a sliver of the lake between the trees

 

Open lots where they are working, not a huge fan of the gravel

This would have been our view if we didn’t park backwards

The cliff view down into the lower part of the campground

The cliff view down into the lower part of the campground

 

Before going on with the story though I should probably take a few minutes and explain how this all happened.  I was first introduced to Howard’s blog RV-Dreams  back when Lee was trying to convince me that the full timing lifestyle was actually possible for people our age who still needed to work. When he talked about living full-time in our rig I was fascinated by the concept but thought it was something only retired people could afford to do.  So although I was intrigued and definitely open to the possibility of trying it someday, since our money over the years had largely gone into raising our children, I just didn’t believe it was possible for us. Lee persevered though and he found Howard’s journal and more importantly (at least initially) Howard’s budgets.  He knew immediately that this was a person I could relate to and was smart enough to connect me with the blog and step back.  I think it’s important to note, that to this point I had never read a blog in my life.  I thought they were largely self-indulgent (funny now when I am so into writing my own) and never I felt I had the time or interest to follow anyone’s life that closely.  Well, in no time at all, I was hooked.  I devoured the blog, reading a month a day until I finished the preceding eight years and was caught up.  At first I approached it as a research project, but as I read and learned I felt I got to know Howard as a person and frankly I found him interesting in his own right.  I mean, here was a highly successful business man who had the guts to walk away from his professional life and start a new one in uncharted territory.  I thought (and still do) that he and Linda were pioneers and I found that type of courage compelling aside from what I was learning about the lifestyle.  At some point during the reading I discovered that they held educational seminars (or rally’s as they  are called) and I knew I had to go.  Again, highly unusual for me.  I love Star Trek, for example, but have never felt compelled to go to a convention, but I knew I had to be at that rally.  

Fast forward to the first rally in Tennessee and aside from meeting people I had touched base with in Howard’s RV-Dreams forum (another first for me), I was incredibly excited about meeting Howard in person and very interested to meet Linda.  I was very pleased to learn that Linda is a full partner in RV-Dreams and I was incredibly relieved to see an example where the lifestyle was working for a strong, vibrant woman.  Somewhere along the line in my research I was becoming concerned that I was going to need to turn into a 50’s house wife (no offense to anyone that was one as it was an incredibly hard job), to make this work, and that is simply not who I am.  Seeing Linda thrive in a full-timers environment was one of the things that  convinced me that I personally could do this.  From that moment on I always wondered if we could be friends, she’s my kind of chick and we are of similar ages and all, but aside from one dinner we had while I was on a work trip during our whole process of getting ready we didn’t come into contact with each other.

Fast forward again to one year later and Lee and I were at the reunion rally.  You may remember that at the reunion rally, Lee volunteered to shoot some video of the various activities at the rally. It was our way of paying back a little of what we felt Howard and Linda had given to us, plus Lee loves shooting video and he thought it would be fun.  He made two “happy faces” videos for them and Howard and Linda really liked his work.  It turned out that Howard was seriously considering having some video website content made and was looking into possible vendors.  When he discovered what Lee could do he started thinking about some alternatives.  Over the last few years Howard’s demographic is definitely shifting.  Certainly there are still many retired folks becoming full timers but they are now joined by the 40 and 50 somethings who want to work on the road and be full-time.   When Howard saw what Lee could do, they started meeting about the possibility of Lee doing some video work for his website.  We always talked about video work being one of our revenue streams, but we’ve been so focused on getting the RV Tech business up and running that the video business was secondary.  Howard truly saw the possibilities though and he also really likes to help working full-timers get started.

The day before we left, Linda called us and let us know she was making dinner for us.  One of the etiquette rules I learned from them was when one person travels to another it’s nice to make dinner for the travelers.  Travel days can be stressful and it’s nice to not have to worry about cooking a meal after setup.  We went out to the farm where they are work kamping for the summer around 6pm and Linda made a great meal of baked spaghetti.  Then we shared a campfire with them and talked for several hours.  It was really fun and relaxed and exactly what I needed after a long wedding week.  The next night Howard and Lee setup a business meeting at our place and I decided to cook.  I will say this was more stressful in the beginning because like an idiot I decided to try two new recipes.  The Minnesota Wild Rice Soup turned out beautifully (recipe below) but the Shrimp Stir Fry not so much.  They were nice about it though (I am my harshest critic) but really I should have stuck with a previous winner for the main course.  Afterwards we wandered down to the main campground where they have three large fire pits and a free fire every night.  The sun setting was beautiful on the lake and again we had a really good time.  I will say though that the pace of the last week finally caught up with me and I called it an early night.

Howard and Linda gave my soup two thumbs up

Howard and Linda gave my soup two thumbs up

 

Great campfire and no wood required

Great campfire and no wood required

Howard taking a picture of me taking a picture of him. You may see a lot of that :)

Howard taking a picture of me taking a picture of him. You may see a lot of that 🙂

Loved the sun on the lake

Loved the colors on the lake

 

Thursday, Howard and Linda caught up on work hours at the farm (both do 20 hours a week) and I caught up on some much-needed sleep.  I took a really long nap and then went to bed at regular time and finally felt like myself again.  Weddings are not for sissies!  Friday though I sent Linda a text and invited her over for some time just her and I.  Lee had gone earlier in the day and had a quick business meeting with them, but he stayed and talked to Howard and Linda came over and saw me.  What a fantastic conversation.  I was worried about whether it would take her a while to warm up to me, but Linda is a very honest and transparent person, which I love.  Our several hour conversation ran the gamut from childhood to now and she cheerfully ate the night before’s leftovers when we ran into the dinner hour.  What surprised both of us more is that Lee and Howard talked over at their place for the same amount of time.  Finally at 8pm we drove over to “rescue” Howard and found him and Lee in a really deep conversation as well.  We all stayed together until about 9:30 but then we finally went home.  We left with plans to take a hike with them on Sunday (where I will get to hang out and Lee will start shooting  video) and I am really looking forward to it.  I am really looking forward to deepening these friendships over the next month and I know Lee is going to make some awesome videos.  If this is what our future looks like, working and full timing, I am very excited about it!

Recipe

Minnesota Wild Rice Soup

  • 1/2 cup uncooked Minnesota wild rice
  • 1 large onion diced
  • 8oz package chopped Portabello mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup flour
  • 8 cups chicken broth
  • 1 pint light cream or half-and-half
  1. Add rice to two cups of water in a saucepan and simmer for 45 minutes.  Put aside
  2. Saute onions and mushrooms in butter in a large pan about 3 minutes or until vegetables soften
  3. Stir in flour, cooking and stirring over medium heat until flour is fully mixed but NOT browned; set aside
  4. Heat up 8 cups of chicken broth
  5. Slowly add HOT chicken broth into vegetable-flour mixture until well blended
  6. Stir in cooked rice
  7. Season generously with salt and pepper; heat thoroughly  NOTE:  Soup can be prepared to this point, set aside then reheated before adding the half-and-half
  8. Add 1 pint of half-and-half slowly stirring well and heating but do not boil
  9. Serve
Minnesota Wild Rice Soup

Minnesota Wild Rice Soup

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farm Cooking is the Best!!

Aside from wedding planning and work we’ve been trying to take it easy this week.  Lee spent a couple of days mowing on the farm and had a blast.  He gets very zen when he mows and I got to spend a day teaching Jim and Linda how to make my Great-Grandma Alice’s homemade noodles.  These are the types of activities we rarely get to do in the RV and both of us enjoyed ourselves immensely.  My Great-Grandmother was a huge part of my life and since I was little little she would let me “help” her make noodles.  So not only are these the best noodles I have ever eaten but they hold deep sentimental value for me.  Unfortunately they take all day to make and a ton of work space.  I could probably do it in our table in the rig but it was much better making them in Jim and Linda’s large farm kitchen.   Jim is a real foodie (I caught him watching Julia Child on PBS the other day) and with the ingredients he has to work with, who can blame him?  Since one batch of the noodle recipe requires a dozen eggs and eggs are definitely something not in short supply out here, I asked if I could use their kitchen and they kindly agreed.  Linda and I had a lot of fun and the noodles turned out pretty good, not as good as grandma’s of course, but not bad.   So we made three batches and they kept some and I have others to freeze plus now they have a recipe they can try if they have a lot of eggs to use up.  So I have included the recipe below, just in case you are so inclined but be prepared for your table to be taken up for most of a day.

Linda and I making some noodles. The flour on our faces was added for effect :)

Linda and I making some noodles. The flour on our faces was added for effect !!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also made dinner for them one night (pasta shells stuffed with meatballs, using Mom’s spaghetti sauce recipe) and we had a salad fresh from the garden.  Ahhh, salads.  We have had a fresh salad almost every day and every one has been different.  We largely have been making our own dressing and trying different ingredients and every one has been delicious.  To this point in my life I have largely stuck with iceberg lettuce but the quality of lettuce coming out of their garden has won me over.  Plus they made kale salad one night and I liked it much better than I thought I would.  Kale is one of those “superfoods” that is really good for you, and I was glad to try the recipe of someone who is a true kale lover. So, it’s been a great eating week with my only concern being that I don’t overeat to the point where the dress I’m wearing to the wedding doesn’t fit! Actually, the calorie count on these meals is pretty low and the ingredients are so fresh they don’t need heavy sauces to give them flavor.  So, yummy and good for you..I am sold on this farm living!!

I do like to give a complete view though, and farm living in an RV  does come with some challenges.  Water was my first concern. Not all well water is equal and some is not drinkable at all unless it is filtered, but we are very lucky here that the water quality is excellent. Pressure is another matter though as we are sharing a pumped well-water source with both the main house and all the animals.  Generally pressure is fine, but whenever they are watering the animals it goes down to a trickle.  We are working around this by filling our tank in the evenings and then using the our freshwater tank and water pump during animal feeding times. It took a few days to figure out the routine, but now we’ve got it down.

Electric has also been interesting. They have a 30 amp outlet on the side of their garage, but it is a different, residential connector than the 30 amp adaptor we have for the rig. So, we’ve been using the standard 15 amp outlet with an adaptor to our 50 amp rig. We have a voltage regulator which protects us from sudden drops and increases in power levels, but we need to be careful on how many amps we are pulling at one time.  Lee has gotten really creative about this, changing the fridge to propane prior to running the microwave, or turning the water heater off throughout the day and only using it in the morning.  Again, once we figured it out it has been fine but when it started to get really hot we all felt we needed to try something different.  We need at least 30 amps to run one air conditioner, and since our space in the field is full sun the internal temperature of the rig can get 15 degrees higher (or more) than outside.  Lee discussed it with Jim and he picked up a 50 amp stove/dryer outlet box at the local hardware store. He removed the existing 30 amp outlet and installed the 50 amp outlet. The breaker is still 30 amp, so there’s no danger, but it does allow us to pull the full 30 amps we need to run at least one AC, which is actually adequate to cool the rig and pull down the humidity level. Running two AC units, at least in moderate heat, just allows them both to cool without working as hard. Then we tested the power and we were able to run one air conditioner at a time, which should be a life saver this weekend as the heat index is going to be extremely high with 70 percent humidity. So keep in mind although the farm may have 30 amps, the outlet may not be RV compatible.  Farm outlets are different from RV ones. Technically, the outlet Lee installed is not supposed to be used outside, but it’s not exposed to the elements, because the garage has a roof extending 10′ from the side of the building, creating plenty of cover so if it rains there’s no danger of the outlet box getting wet. It’s also going to be in place for less than 5 days.

Another possible issue was heavy rain.  I was very concerned about being on grass because we have seen friends get stuck in fields before.  We talked to Jim about this ahead of time though and our spot is grass on gravel, in a high point on the yard, and has very good drainage.  This was proved out when we had 6″ of rain in a 24 hour period and we had no standing pools of water.  Lee was proactive as well and put the wheels on rubber mats and the stabilizers in rubber squares as well which worked great.  (Before we left to go on the road, Lee bought two heavy rubber horse stall mats and cut them into squares for all 4 jacks and longer strips for the tires on the truck and RV in case of this kind of scenario.  I love how he thinks ahead and it was great to see it work.

(Another thing worth pointing out is that since we’re still not hardcore “boondockers” yet, we don’t go over the top with water conservation yet. We take normal showers, and we cook and eat on regular pots and dishes, so we use water to wash dishes. We also do laundry in the rig. [As a further aside, as part of the electrical solution, I hung a laundry line between the rig and the garage to dry clothes. I love the smell of clothes dried on a line, there’s nothing like it.] So, we fill our grey tank pretty quickly. We have a portable tank in the bed of our truck and a macerator pump, and when we stay places that don’t have sewer connections, I pump the grey water into the tank so I can drive it to a dump station. That has worked very well in the past, but being here for two weeks and no nearby dump station, we are doing something a little different. We’re on the edge of a grazing pasture, and since it’s just grey water, we are using the macerator pump and 100′ of hose to just pump the grey water out into the field. I’ve stuck a post in the ground and attached the hose to the end of it, and I’m essentially just watering the field. There’s been no smell whatsoever, and I’m putting water back into the ground. After a week and a half, the grass and wildflowers in that area are already noticeably taller than those around them.- Lee)

Bugs is the other big surprise to me.  When we visited before it was September and the bug population was manageable but its high growing season here and not surprising the bugs are in a flurry.  We are using our tiki torches and pots quite a bit to some effect, but get herded inside at dusk when they really seem to go nuts.  When (not if) they get inside, our tennis racket style bug zapper does work great. The main house has lots of bats which work wonders to keep the porch and immediate area largely free of bugs.  I am thinking we should have a bat house over by the garage area where we are staying for future visits 🙂

These issues don’t really bother us at all. Jim has been more than helpful in trying to get us setup as comfortably as possible.  Lee views it as a bit of a challenge and by looking at it like a puzzle to be solved, avoided any feelings of frustration.  I’m so grateful to have a place to stay for free, I am more than happy to get creative, so overall the entire situation has been great.  But I realize not everyone has the knowledge to do electrical rewiring and not every property owner would be OK with it in any case, so it’s very important that you recognize the situation may have unique challenges and then work together to find solutions.

The nicest thing that happened to me this week was Cori sent me a surprise.  She reached out to Linda on Facebook and coordinated sending a care package to me at the farm.  She included a wedding care package for Lee and I (including a lot of alcohol and some tissues that say “This Ain’t My First Rodeo” which made me laugh as this is the second wedding we have planned. It also included a super sweet card and my favorite, a package to take into the brides ready room the day of the wedding with tons of little things that we could need in an emergency.  The kit was put together by Cori and included some great items like the Altoids I use, bug spray (it’s an outdoor wedding) and a first aid kit.  It was such a thoughtful gesture that I immediately burst into tears.  Later when Lee took a break from mowing and saw the present I told him how surprised I was I started crying, his response was “I’m not surprised. You’re an emotional wreck.” Men!!!  I think I am holding up pretty well considering.  Anyways, it truly was one of the kindest things anyone has ever done for me and I love Cori for it.

Our wedding care package

Our wedding care package

The card she sent...I'm the little girl which cracked me up

The card she sent…I’m the little girl… cracked me up

Yes those are tears in my eyes

Yes those are tears in my eyes

The package for in the brides ready room

The package is for the brides ready room

Recipes

Grandma Alice’s Homemade Noodles

The recipe below is per batch.  Since the drying process takes so long and the noodles freeze so well I recommend making multiple batches simultaneously, assuming you have the table space.  The noodles can be used for chicken and noodles, soup, or any other recipe that calls for egg noodles. 

  • 12 eggs
  • 3 cups flour
  • 4 TBL water
  1. Add 2 complete eggs and 10 egg yolks to large mixing bowl and mix
  2. Add 3 cups of flour and mix until you have a yellow colored ball of dough (do not over mix as this will result in tough noodles)
  3. Refrigerate dough for 30 minutes
  4. Cover table with thin layer of flour
  5. Place ball of dough on table and smash somewhat flat with hands, flip and flour the top lightly
  6. Using a rolling pin roll out the dough to about 1/4″ thickness (this is an inexact science the main point is uniform thickness throughout and the piece of dough does NOT need to be perfectly round)
  7. Lightly flour the top and let dry for 2 hours
  8. Flip and lightly flour the other side (too little flour and it sticks, too much flour and you lose the egg flavor, again, inexact science)
  9. Let dry for 2 hours
  10. Start with the edge of the dough and roll into a multi-layered tube (think strudel)
  11. Place tube on a cutting board and with a VERY sharp knife cut to desired width.  (I like about 1/4″ but they can be skinnier or thicker)
  12. Take slices and gently unroll pinching off noodles into desired lengths; shake gently and let dry on table
  13. Freeze in ziplock bags with as much air removed as possible.
Home made noodles

Home made noodles

Easy Stuffed Shells 

  • 16 uncooked pasta shells
  • 16 oz spaghetti sauce (bottled or Connie’s sauce with no meat)
  • 16 frozen full cooked Italian meatballs (thawed)
  • 1 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  1. Thaw meatballs
  2. Cook pasta shells as directed by the box, drain, and rinse with cool water
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  4. Place 1/2 cup pasta sauce in bottom of baking dish
  5. Place one thawed meatball in each shell and lay on top of sauce
  6. Pour remaining sauce over shells
  7. Top with cheese
  8. Bake covered for 35 minutes
  9. Uncover and bake for 3-7 minutes until cheese is melted and bubbly
  10. Serve
Easy Stuffed Shells

Easy Stuffed Shells

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.  Search Amazon.com here