We discovered this summer that Betty Deux is our home not just a house on wheels. For whatever reason, there is a comfort level achieved there that is not present in our brick and mortar house. Sure there is only a fraction of the room. We are limited on the things we can take with us, however, we seem to take what is necessary for both living and entertainment. And that seems enough.
Now that we are home from this summer’s adventures, we find ourselves sitting in front of the television or the computer an exorbitant amount of time. Let’s face it, it’s just too damn hot to do anything else! No more sitting outside with our early morning coffee watching deer graze nearby or cottonwood snow or baby robins. No more meals prepped in the best kitchen ever, the outdoors on the cast-iron grill. Exercise is forced now rather than the constant going in and out of the camper or taking early morning or evening walks around the campground, nodding a friendly hello to the neighbors.
Bertha is unhitched, free from her tethers. Betty is under cover, cleaned out and waiting for cooler weather to have her interior painted. For Betty, time is at a slight stand-still, waiting, waiting.
Well, someone made chicken salad out of chicken poop. I can just imagine all these gears laying around rusting and filling up a scrap yard. And then comes along some Rooster with a creative brain and voila you have a made from scratch yard art!!
This was one of the neatest shops we have been in on our travels. We stayed there for at least an hour and a half. I highly recommend stopping there if traveling through Kansas on I-70. They have the most unique items and friendly staff. Thoroughly enjoyed our impromptu excursion.
If you can’t visit in person, and I highly recommend that you do, then visit their website. I know I plan on visiting and purchasing virtually from them until I can visit in person again. https://www.kansasoriginals.com/
When are you gonna come down? When are you going to land?
Swallows were common sights during our travels, often seen flying over fields, barnyards, and frequently right in front of our truck. According to https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Barn_Swallow/overview “Barn Swallows often cruise low, flying just a few inches above the ground or water. True to their name, they build their cup-shaped mud nests almost exclusively on human-made structures.” And true to their nature here they were. We were totaly amazed at this long line of hotels. Swallows flew in and out of these “hotel suites” so fast it was almost impossible to capture a photo.
We have planned. We have prepped. We now pray. And this being spring and summer of 2020 we do a lot of praying. It’s inevitable. Something will happen, it’s going to and nothing you do stops it. When the Coronovirus hit we prayed majorally. We prayed, like everyone else, for it to be some big mistake. Then school was cancelled. Being teachers we went into panic mode – they were going to cancel our summer! The very thing we looked forward to the rest of the ten months of the year. When one state after another shut down, we prayed they wouldn’t cancel our reservations in Michigan. They did. We heard that campgrounds across the nation were closed and it didn’t look like an end was in sight. We prayed for an alternative. Our prayer was finally answered in the form of Riverview Campground in Loveland, Colorado. Being a private campground they were able to open sooner than the state and national parks. Hallelujah! We were on our way.
Then the praying was kind of superficial. You pray for what you might have forgotten to pack. It can’t be helped, you will forget something. Usually, we forget something important. Our classic was when we forgot to pack coffee and the coffee pot into the Chrylser, our sailboat. You don’t just run over to the local Wal-mart from a sailboat! Coffee is Important!! That has never been forgotten by either of us and serves as a reminder every year to check twice. This year we did very well, primarily because our planning and prepping paid off. We only forgot a drill and our new “We’ve Camped There” stick on map. Livable mistakes. Make a list people; can’t stress it enough.
You pray for good weather and safe roads. We really had both this year, so far. For the most part, we have managed to steer clear of any real major rain. We had lots of wind in Kansas and one crazy storm in Limon, Colorado. Even the other day, coming back from seeing the Pawnee National Grasslands Buttes (which are amazing) we managaed to skirt around a really bad storm system. We could see it off in the distance, always keeping to the right of us. It made for some impressive skies. I don’t know why Capt’n Jim didn’t want to constantly stop for me to take pictures.
You pray that your travels are uneventful. Well the laugh is on you. Something always happens. Last year it was our wheel bearings seizing up on Betty Deux. We had to leave her at a rest stop overnight and Jim had to take off work to fix her just enough to get her home. The whole ordeal was awful! New axles, bearings and tires later…
This trip was no different. “Oh darn, I don’t think we turned off the water pump.” “It will be alright until we get to our stop.” No, I don’t think so. Several hours later, we stopped to get gas and turning the corner Jim saw water pouring from the camper. Water pump no problem, until something bumps against the kitchen faucet and turns the water on into the covered sink. 40 gallons of water throughout the camper. We spent the next several days soaking up as much water as possible. At one point, Jim even had to suck water out of the heater vents. As far as we can tell we got it all. Pray? Praying no further damage shows up later down the road because we didn’t follow our checklist. Of course, now it’s a joke every time we pack up and leave. “Is the water pump off?”
Yes, you pray. We pray that we are making a safe choice this year due to Covid. But we are taking our precautions. We wear the dreaded mask any time we are in public. We keep our distance. Hand sanitizer is our new go to after store trips and yes we follow the arrows! Well, most of the time.
We have seen many people, for example in Missouri, not follow guidelines and it’s very disconcerting. Colorado, however, has been great. Very few people don’t follow the mandated protocol. Very few. We are outdoors, in some of the freshest air we have smelled. (Well, maybe except for Greeley, Colorado. But, that’s for another story.) It’s beautiful here and so worth it. Yes, we pray for our health, but knowing that we have partaked of the great outdoors of the Rocky Mountains and it’s surrounding area, I think we are good.
For once, Jim feels the truck and camper is completely ready. He worked tirelessly over the past several months making many alterations and upgrades. He’s excited about our new cell phone booster. Boy will be doing online classes again this year, so he will need the extra connectivity.
In addition to the booster,, he also installed shock absorbers for the axles to smooth the ride. In addition to the shock absorbers, he put two new tires on the trailer and new heavy duty axles. We had the horrible experience of the bearings burning and caused the axle to bend. This is not an experience worth repeating! So, of course, prior to this trip all wheel bearings were greased and lubed. On the lighter side he installed a poop hose holder, cleaned the ac and the vents, replaced the thermastat with digital.
We also did a complete bathroom upgrade. I noticed that we were having a lot of separation of the vinyl wallpaper. We have had that issue in the main living area from the time we bought it and then it showed up in the bathroom. I was concerned for moisture getting into the walls and causing mold. I removed the wallpaper (with a hairdryer) and applied 4 coats of really good paint. Jim installed a real (not plastic) water faucet and then he installed a stone backsplash (again, real, no press on stuff) behind the sink. This was done after he also raised the bathroom cabinet higher. He was tired of bumping his head everytime he brushed his teeth. New caulking, new shower curtain and a few pretty photos and voila, new bathroom.
Cooking prep has begun: hamburger for taco salads in a jar, hamburgers premade, rice cooked and frozen for cauliburgers. I make salads in a jar which gave us an easy healthy alternative for a couple of nights. They can be made ahead and kept for up to 5 days. I baked muffins and egg/sausage “muffins” for easy breakfasts. Freezer was packed.
Clothes were packed at least a week ahead. I told everyone to wear it twice if you have too! We did buy a few clothing items to have some fresh wear on the trip. I never had the chance to do that in my earlier years so I like to take advantage of summer buying and then again right before school.
All laundry is done! House is cleaned (no one wants to come home to a dirty house.) Dishes cleaned. Coffee pot emptied (believe me that is not cool to come home to!) Mail stopped. Lawn guy hired. This was a new one for us and hopefully it will be helpful to come home to a nice mowed yard and not a jungle. I’m sure the neighbors will appreciate it. Betty Deux (camper) gets washed and waxed. Bertha too. That’s our truck. You know because she has a big butt!
Then comes the last two days. That’s when it gets real. Gas tanks filled. Toiletries and meds in. Pillows and of course Boy’s blankies. Cameras, printers and computers go in. All those little things you couldn’t put in ahead of time. We also turn off the AC and the water heater in the house. I empty the fridge and we turn it off. My daughter laughs that she needs to keep some room in her fridge for my yearly purge! If you are going to be gone an extended time why pay for utilities that you aren’t going to be there to use. We do put a light on a timer. That helps for safety purposes and have someone check your house often or use securtiy cameras connected to your phone.
Prepping takes time and is best done over time. Don’t wait until the last minute. It will not be worth it. Use your list you created in the planning stages and check it multiple times. Have your partner check it too. We really followed the list well this year and it helped tremendously. I think when it came down to it we only forgot a couple of things. We forgot the drill for doing the levelers, but bought another one at Walmart. We also forgot my new sticker map. I was so sad about that, but I’ve been informed that we can just buy another one as it wasn’t that expensive. YAY! Can’t wait to start inserting all those places we have stayed on the new map. (Oh, and if you are wondering, we are from the “It’s where WE have stayed overnight” camp.)
We used Passport America to find a campground near Mammoth Caves in Cave City, Ky. Singing Hills Campground http://www.singinghillsrvpark.com/ was fairly nice campground very near the many touristy attractions in the area. We were surprised at how many there were. However, we were there for the caves!
Singing Hills is run by a very nice couple. The wife, Beth Brown, we discovered was a retired teacher. We ended up chatting with her for quite some time as we cooled off from our excursions. She told me about a children’s book series, “Mrs. Piggle Wiggle” perfect for my first graders and introduced herself as the author of her own book, “Parenting is Rocket Science.” Listening to her stories about meeting Mr. Brown and raising their family were definitely uplifting. https://www.amazon.com/Parenting-Is-Rocket-Science/dp/0929540093
The campground sites are clean, but too close for Captain Jim and my comfort and very little shade. Shade was much needed as it was hot as Hades or the according to Jim, “the 4th level of Dante’s inferno!” We spent very little time outside; it just wasn’t possible.
We stayed 3 nights, but only because it was cheap (with the Passport America discount) and we would be going to the caves. It would have been too much trouble to find another campground.
Kaelin was happy with that decision because he could ride his bike and he even met a little boy he played with for short while. He also enjoyed that Mrs. Beth allowed him to take a couple of books with him. He’s now a fan of the “Warriors” book series.
I give Singing Hills a 3.5 rating. They really need some shade and cutting the grass would have been helpful. Also sites too close. I hate to give it such a low rating as the Brown’s are lovely people. Perhaps the cooler months?
Captain Jim would only give it a 3. He was not happy with not being able to hang out in the great outdoors. Of course, the heat was not the campground’s fault, but shade would have really helped that issue.
Sadler State Park turned out to be quite a gem, 395 Acres of beautiful forests on a peninsula of Lake Hartwell (56,000 acres). We stayed on Loop #1, site # 1, a pull through that abutts up to the water.
After quickly setting up, little man and I took a walk down to the beach area. He and I, loaded with our cameras, partook in a few photography lessons. I talked to him about composition and foreground and background. He caught on quickly; took a few of his own shots on his Kodak camera his dad had given him and then took off to run the beach. Lessons over, I took many beautiful landscape shots of the lake and its shores. I practiced what I learned in the book Perfect Exposure (I’ll edit with the authors name later.) Using the sand as my midtones, I got perfect shots. Can’t wait to see them on my Surface.
When we checked into the campground little man decided, for some odd reason, that he was afraid to fall in the water! He didn’t want to stay at the site we had chosen. Of course, we didn’t listen to him and number one it was. After seeing how shallow the water was at the shore he decided it was quite safe to play knee-deep for several hours.
We had a lovely evening and slept very well. The next morning, little man earned his level 1 Junior Ranger badge. We had a nice chat with Ranger Austin who suggested we come in the fall. I do believe our Thanksgiving week plans have been made.
Gordonia State Park was hard to find due to poor signage. We almost missed it. There was a separate entrance that we happened on while heading to Walmart. We followed the GPS even though the sign on the road said “Dead End.” It wasn’t a Dead End. Go figure.
It has a lot to offer; golf course, splash pad, lake, canoe rental. The sites were clean although oddly set up. Gnats were absolutely relentless, so be aware you might decide to stay in your camper.
The office was at the golf course club house, however that too was not clearly marked. We had to guess (although correctly) that was where we were to sign in. And there was no RV turn around. It was very difficult on Captain Jim to have to flip flop the camper and avoid golf carts. So if, dear readers, you choose to go here please note that it’s a kinda hunt and peck situation.
Lil Man probably would say that the splash pad was the best part of the park. I got some terrific shots there. We didn’t stay long though, because it wasn’t very parent friendly. There were lots of kids, but only so many hot, metal benches for parents to sit on and not efficient shading.
All in all, probably wouldn’t go back to camp there, however, I could see where it’s a good day park to visit.
After an uneventful, quiet night at Laura S Walker State Park we are once again on the road. Having no coffee “in the house” causes one to pack quickly and efficiently. The gas problem was solved five miles down the road in a teeny tiny town called Hoboken. I kid you not! We filled up tanks, coffee and gas and continued our travels down Highway 121. Some travelers would not be content to take these country highways, but I truly am. Lately, I have suffered terrible traffic anxiety, seeing an accident in every turn. Taking these meandering byways are peaceful and truly beautiful. It allows you to see a side of life one cannot see on major highways. Little to no traffic makes it stress free for both myself and Captain Jim. My only regret is I can’t stop at every rustic barn, quiet town and cute cow to take a picture. Destination Gordonia State Park.
One cannot help but notice the thousands of statues and sculptures that are scattered throughout Washington DC. Notice one and you are probably missing half a dozen more. These are great subjects to photograph as they don’t move. They can be challenging in that you have to get your shots without people in them. The shots are usually in the what I call the “crane your neck” view as you have to look up at them to take the shots. This also means you have to watch that the sky doesn’t blow out your highlights. This view, however, can add to the immensity of some of these works of art. Especially my favorite, the view of the Infinity Sculpture/Artwork that we found outside the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. I’ve taken this shot before, but never did it come out like this one. The reflection of the sky in the metal just added to the feeling of motion. I don’t know what the names of many of the statues are, as I took them as we were walking from point A to point B. Often, I was only afforded a few minutes to point and shoot. We were always on the go! There is just so much to do in DC.