Tuesday, December 25, 2012

December update

My goodness but time does fly. 'Seems just yesterday we were pulling into the driveway, saying goodby to the road for a few months and planning our approach to unpacking the rig (a daunting task if there ever was one!)

All that unpacking, reorganizing, making a few repairs on the travel equipment, and mowing the grass took care of the first week home. We fluffed out the guest room in preparation for our friends from Nevada, who arrived for a week-long visit. What a good excuse to take a day trip over to Shiner!

Shiner is a quaint little town that began life in the mid 1880s as a trading post/ post office named Half Moon, some say for the arrangement of the orchards of fruit trees. In 1887 Henry B. Shiner donated land for the town that eventually came to carry his name. Shiner, "The Cleanest Little City in Texas", is now well known for it's restaurants, shops, and the brewery.

The Spoetzl Brewery produces our favorite beer (and the one for which our dog is named) a German/Czech style brew called Shiner Bock. They produce several other varieties too, which we had the opportunity to sample while we waited for the tour to begin and shopped for collectables. Shiner now has a beautiful red collar with her name on it!

The brewery is situated right near the railroad tracks, convenient for shipping I would guess, so very easy to find. Opened in 1909 under the name Shiner Brewing Association, the brewery soon felt the creative touch of brew master Kosmos Spoetzl. He leased the brewery from the association in 1914, did a bit of renovating, then began producing his own old-world recipe brews. Kosmos' recipes and his special touch made the brewery what it is today. A few years ago the brewery was sold, not to a large company, but the relatively small Gambriunus, owned by Carlos Alvarez. 'A smart man who knows a great beer when he tastes one! The business is still managed as if it was owned by the original small family firm, and the result is a contented production staff and great beer.

We really enjoyed the tour, which takes one through the history of the brewery as well as all phases of the brewing process, and includes a great recipe for beer brownies: just replace the water in any box mix with Black Lager. . . you can also combine Black Lager (which is similar to a porter) with softened vanilla ice cream, re-freeze and serve with the brownies. Yum!                         

After the tour we drifted over to 7th Street, which is the main street paralleling the railroad tracks on the northwest side. An excellent lunch at the Shiner Restaurant and Bar restored our energy.

 The restaurant's centerpiece is the beautiful richly carved original barback that extends the full length of the room. 

 Authentic tin ceiling tiles, stained glass windows, and the antler chandelier add to the opulent Victorian decr. The larger dining room has photos of early times, so you can spend quite a bit of time soaking up the history of the establishment.

Of course, I had to pop in to Martha's, the quilt shop just two doors down. A quick tour of town yielded a bakery selling kolache's, a Czech or Polish baked treat our friends were craving. There's something for everyone in Shiner!

A few days later our friends treated us to a fantastic dinner out at Bordeaux's, a cozy little restaurant in one of the few original old buildings in Kyle.  Good friends, excellent food, and a very relaxing ambiance, what better way to cap off their visit.

Once our friends departed for home we regrouped and headed north to the airport in Austin to pick up Steve's mother, Daphna. Yes, practically the same name as mine, and things do get confused around here at times.

We managed to tuck a few Duck games on TV into the schedule, and we're making sure Jax is raised up as a proper duck fan. Though he does have trouble sitting still long enough to watch a game, he enjoys the accessories very much.

Mom was here through Thanksgiving, and for the momentous occasion of Jax's first birthday.

A Dr. Seuss theme set the mood, and in spite of having her arm in a sling (as a result of shoulder surgery) Kendra had things so well planned that the day went perfectly. I can hardly believe Jax is a year old already. Curious about everything, and very "busy", Jax is already racing Grandpa around the ranch, and going to keep us all on our toes for years to come!

Now we're preparing for the holidays, which should be more fun than ever now that we have Jax to spice things up. Oh yes, we have done a bit of work around the place, in between parties, dinners out, etc. Our list of "to dos" keeps growing, and we seem to add two items for every one we scratch off, but at least we aren't going to run out of entertainment any time soon.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Back home to Texas

We've been at home for a few days now, completely buried with mowing, unpacking, catching up on mail, and all the other bits related to settling back in to a different routine than we've had for the last few months.

Before we close out the travel reports for the season I have to report on the two stops we made in Texas on our way home. I know every state has "history" and something interesting has happened at some point everywhere you go, but sometimes you really have to dig to find out what that history is. In Texas it's usually easy, as the state and residents are so proud of their history that there are signs and monuments everywhere. Our first stop once we crossed the Oklahoma/Texas state line is a perfect example.

Collingsworth Pioneer Park, is an unexpected gem along the highway.
It's a beautiful, grassy park, campground, and rest stop just north of Wellington.

The friendly hosts will proudly tell you about the Bonnie and Clyde's Red River Plunge. The old bridge abutment off which they plunged was only two spaces down from our site.
part of the old bridge to right of tree
A small sign at the entrance to the park describes the event now, but a much larger history information kiosk is currently under construction. It will have more detail about the event, which was the typical Bonnie and Clyde shooting and mayhem, and will include other information about the region when it's finished.

Shiner very much enjoyed the huge expanse of grass here, and the hosts are very "dog friendly" too. They even warned us about where NOT to go along the river to avoid the nasty burr grass.

Swimming pool
We headed out fairly early for what would be our last night on the road, Abilene State Park State Park, near Buffalo Gap, I just love the name! Only a few miles from the big city of Abilene, this makes a great central location for exploring what is a very historic area.  At the time of the Civil War, huge herds of buffalo roamed this area. A favorite buffalo run was through the gap in the Callahan Divide, near what is now the town of Buffalo Gap (pop. 464).

Lake Abilene was originally intended as a water source for the town, but in the way of all Texas lakes, it dried up at one point, so rather than relying on it for that purpose it became a focal point for recreation and wildlife. The fishing's great I hear!

The park has several CCC buildings which have been perfectly maintained, and there are several trails to wander, along the creeks and fishing holes.

 They'd had rain here so the wildflowers were starting to come back with an almost spring-like effect.

We were assigned a space in the Wagon Wheel RV circle..... odd parking arrangement. You back your rig in to what would be the hub of a wagon wheel. It works fine for rigs shorter than ours, or if you unhitch, which we didn't want to do. And, the power and water for two adjacent sites is located on one spot, so it ends up being on the "wrong" side for half of the rigs. Fortunately it wasn't at all crowded so we were able to make-do.
Scenes from Abilene State Park

That particular part of the park is the only option if one wants clear skies for any kind of satellite reception. There are other areas set up for RVs but they are in dense forest.

We were home by early afternoon, and began the gear-shifting to "ranch" mode. We'll continue to write about local travels, RV related products, and any improvements we make, so stay tuned!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

We're not in Kansas anymore!

We left Buffalo Bill State Park shortly before 10 AM under a cold, gray and cloudy sky. By 11:00 AM we were in McCook, in SW Nebraska, and admiring the gently falling snow. It wasn't exactly a blizzard, but there was enough to make the roof-tops and ground white and more drifting down, a chilly 35 degrees, but thankfully no wind!

The rolling grain fields of Nebraska flattened considerably once we entered Kansas, looking more the way we've pictured the plains, and the snow stopped! No doubt because it had warmed up to 36!

You never know what unique sites you'll encounter on the road. We stopped for fuel and while it was pumping watched this semi tow a wind turbine tower around a sharp corner. You've got to admire the skill some of these truck drivers demonstrate in managing large loads like this one.There are a few of these wind generators on the horizon across the plains, but so far none of the huge installations that we've seen in Texas and California.

 We later crossed over a rail line with a multitude of cars carrying these tubes, and passed truck after truck transporting them. Apparently this is a booming business in the area.

We skirted around the west side of Oakley, the county seat of Logan County. Oakley wasn't named for the world-famous performer "Annie", the town-site was laid out by David Hoag in 1884 and named after his mother, Elizabeth Oakley Gardner-Hoag. Annie Oakley did performed with the "Wild West Show" in the area.
There's a museum honoring Buffalo Bill at the entrance to town, and nearby is this amazing sculpture of Buffalo Bill in action. It commemorates a buffalo shooting contest near the town between William Cody and William Comstock. Cody won, earning the name "Buffalo Bill".

The seemingly flat terrain across Kansas is deceptive. As we left the highway for our new temporary home at
Our site, looking toward Horsethief Canyon
Scott Lake State Park we suddenly found ourselves in a deep canyon filled with rocky cliffs and a wide variety of hardwood and evergreen trees.
Scott Lake is primarily a fishing lake, but there are also accommodations for equestrians, and judging by the concession stands around the lake shore it must be a very popular family hangout during the summer. Everything is closed this time of year. In fact, we never saw any park personnel, and only a handful of other campers.

An unusual feature of the park is an archeological site - Pueblo Indian ruins. Pueblo tribes are generally considered to live in the southwest, but on two occasions two different groups ventured clear up here, stayed only briefly, then returned to their homelands. Several signboards around he excavation explain the history of the area.

There's also an historic home, once belonging to the couple that donated this property for use as a park.
It was not open, closed for the season as is everything else, but looked quite cozy tucked in a copse of trees near one of the limestone cliffs. High up on top of the cliff is a monument to the family, and a stone shelter for those ambitious enough to climb up the narrow trail to view the monument.

There are vague trails up the rocky canyons here, making for interesting walking, but cutting cross-country is a bit hazardous. It seems a strange combination, but the forest of trees is carpeted with sharp, spiny yucca and cactus.
Do I look cold enough?
Venturing off the trail is hazardous to one's shins!  The multiple blossom stem remaining from the yucca that bloomed in the spring illustrates just how many of them there are.

Under other circumstances the trail would have been of interest to me, us but with the 34 degree day and intermittent snow showers  a quick view of the archeological site was about all we could muster up. We made a quick tour of the site and then dove back into the RV for a nice, comfy day watching football.

Just before we left the state we stopped for fuel in Liberal, Kansas, home of Dorthy and Toto. Their house was just down the Yellow Brick Road from the fuel station! (That really is the name of the street!)

A few miles down the road we left Kansas and enter Oklahoma. Across the narrow panhandle we saw extensive oil and natural gas wells, cattle, and lots of wide open spaces. By evening we were in The Republic, at our overnight stop, Collingsworth Pioneer Park, near Wellington. See the next post for a report on that site.

Friday, October 5, 2012


From Laramie's 8,000+ altitude we rolled downhill into Nebraska, aided by a stiff tailwind - that little assist doubled our mileage so we didn't complain!

On the recommendation of a friend we scheduled my birthday lunch stop at Ole's Big Game Steakhouse in the little village of Paxton, just off I-80 (pop. 614). Thanks for the recommendation Evie, it was a great experience!!!
 The restaurant was founded in 1933, the year Prohibition ended in Nebraska. Founder Rosser O. Herstedt, "Ole", loved to travel the world and hunt wild game, and over the years his trophies and photos of his adventures accumulated on the walls of the restaurant until now there's hardly a square foot of wall without some sort of adornment.

The beautiful old wooden bar-back is so covered with brewery and distillery cmemorabelia that you can hardly see the carved columns. Fascinating to say the least!

We enjoyed delicious hamburgers and an excellent brew from Nebraska's first brewpub (Empyrean Ales' Third Stone) and then  visited with a young couple from Colorado, up in Nebraska to trade a few bulls for a cow (sounds like a good trade to me).
 Surrounded  by critters in Ole's

We also spent quite a bit of time reading the captions on all the hunting photos around the room. One really could while away a good part of the day here, but the road and our campsite beckoned, so we saddled up and continued east to our scheduled stop, Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park, just outside North Platte.

These Nebraskans are made of sturdy stuff, that's all I can say. The cold winds coming down from Canada buffeted our little house on wheels all night, and brought in some pretty chilly temps. It's beautiful here though, parked beside the North Platte River.

The state park campground isn't much to get excited about. There are 23 spaces with electric, a tent camping area, a couple of water spigots and a vault restroom.  The sites are grass and gravel, with a few smallish trees here and there, but the campground is right on the river, so that's a bonus.

There's a trail of sorts running along the bank, and as the water is pretty low right now Shiner and I were able to hop over to the little sandbar island that is directly opposite the campground. It made good exploring territory for her, and a photo op for me! This is grassland, so it supports an abundance of birds. There are cranes, songbirds, and according to the discussions on the local radio station, there's lots of pheasant hunting to be had.

The star attraction of the park is Scout's Rest, Buffalo Bill's ranch, just a few minutes' drive from the campground. What a gem! The self-guided tour offers visitors a wonderful opportunity to experience the fully restored Victorian home which displays many original furnishings, the spring house, barn, and the log cabin that served as headquarters for the ranch in the early days.

With touches of fall color here and there the well-maintained grounds are absolutely beautiful. Check out the album for photos of the rooms and buildings. Captions on each photo include details about the ranch.

The following day we drove in to North Platte to pick up a few groceries and check out a quilt shop. I highly recommend The Quilt Rack, tucked away at 101 W. Front Street, right under the overpass. This shop has a huge selection of fabrics, kits and patterns, and some really nice theme fabrics of the type I like to collect as souvenirs of our travels.

By evening the wind had stopped but the temperature was dropping. With any luck we'll be out of Nebraska before the snow hits!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


Monday, heading east on Hwy. 80.
Antelope along highway I-80

Not much differentiates eastern Utah from Wyoming, except that the rolling hills flatten out. The landscape is dotted here and there with antelope and cattle, grazing or placidly watching the traffic go by. There's little green, as winter is rapidly approaching in these parts.

It's beautifully sunny, so hard to imagine what winter must be like here but the extensive system of snow fences on both sides of the road provides a clue as to how harsh the winter weather here must be.

old-style snow fence, angled against the prevailing wind
We are used to seeing snow fencing in the Sierras. The highway passes there have a few of the old-style panels that are slanted so that they lean away from the prevailing winds. Arranged in rows in open areas they help slow down the snow that tends to blow across the highway.

We've never seen so many panels in one stretch of road however! Many are currently under construction, all bright shiny new lumber that really shows up in the sunlight.

These new sections, I discovered, are the result of a 2+ million dollar contract (stimulus money) awarded to a Wyoming fencing company. The system must work, as they are installing them over a 23 mile stretch west of Laramie, an area that is particularly problematic in the winter.
row after row of new snow fencing, west of Laramie
We had planned on a short day, but after a quick stop for lunch we decided to plunge ahead and go all the way to Curt Gowdy State Park, just east of Laramie.

It turned out to be a good decision as we arrived at the park early enough to drive around both Granite and Crystal lakes and check out all the possible sites. We finally ended up back near the entrance where we had a fantastic view of the lake and pretty good cell service.

Sites on both lakes vary greatly in degree of cell access, wind protection, lake view and access, and though most are fairly level, some are a real challenge for longer rigs like ours.

Evening view of Granite Lake
 We ended up on a point where we knew we'd catch the wind if it came up (which it did) but we not only had the fantastic view, we could walk easily to the water, and there was plenty of room to play with shiner. This time of year there are few other campers, so we had all the privacy we wanted.

The scenery in the park is spectacular, with the fall colors in the foliage and the bright blue sky.

This park would have provided a great canoeing opportunity if it hadn't been for the gusty wind that kicked up in the morning, so we just enjoyed the views of the lake and the surrounding hillsides. Beautiful rock formations contrast with the autumn trees. We're lucky in our timing as cold weather, and snow, are predicted by Thursday and soon the colorful leaves will be gone. 

Curt Gowdy State park is in a small unit of the Medicine Bow National Forest, and from what we can see from the road the forest has a lot of beautiful scenery to explore. We've promised ourselves we'll come back and spend a month here, checking out the historic sites as well as the scenery. 
Medicine Bow Forest view
On Tuesday we ventured into Laramie to check out the sites. Our first stop was the Lincoln Memorial, which we had seen from the highway when we first arrived.

It's pretty hard to miss the monument, which stands over 48 feet tall!
Completed in 1927, the Lincoln Highway, the prototype transcontinental route designed for automobile traffic, stimulated highway improvement. It later became federally marked U.S. Highway 30. In the 1950-1960s Interstate 80 was built to carry east-west traffic through Nebraska. Though I-80 parallels the Lincoln Highway route in many counties, the older route continues as a part of the federal highway network.

The monument is in a rest area that also contains a really nice visitor's center, which offers a wealth of tourist information about the area.

Next stop on the list, the famous Territorial Prison, one-time home to Butch Cassidy and several other notorious outlaws.

The entire building is open to visitors, so you can wander among the cells, view the kitchen, dining hall and infirmary, learn about how the restoration work was done, and enjoy the historic displays that eloquently portray the lives of several notable criminals as well as the lawmen who served in the territory at the time. The restoration has been beautifully done, and all the outbuildings add to the experience. 

The prison has had several incarnations, as a theme park, as a livestock farm for the university, and now, historic site.

A bit of each is here for visitors to enjoy, along with several opportunities for living history experiences, such as the broom making factory.

This was a major industry for the inmates, and now reenactors make brooms in the large building that was used at the time, in the same way the inmates did. You can purchase one in the gift shop - three sizes - I bought a nice little whisk broom for the fireplace at home. 'Handcrafted by Dave, the tour guide told me.

Broom-making room at the prison
After touring the prison we refreshed our flagging energy at the Altitude Chophouse and Brewery with an excellent lunch and a couple of very good brews. We can highly recommend the Altitude Amber Ale, and the monthly special, American Rye Ale.

My after-lunch treat was a quick shopping trip to the quilt shop right next door to the pub. We drove around downtown a bit, identifying several places we'd like to check out on our next visit, and  then it was back to camp for us to rest up for the next day's travels.
(click on any photo for a larger view)

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Jordanelle State Park and a fast trip across Utah

We spent three nights at Jordanelle State Park. This was our second visit to the park, as it's a convenient place to stay when visiting my sister in Park City. Our last visit was in July of last year. See that post for more information on the park and the surrounding area.

The park is beautifully maintained, as they have an ambitious group of volunteers. Most of the sites have a view of the lake, though this lake (reservoir) is suffering from the same lack of water that most others are this year.

The dark water line on these trees shows how much lower the current level is than it has been in recent years.  The exposed shoreline is now down to such a low level that the beach is all mud, so I attempted to keep Shiner up on drier, firmer ground when we went exploring. Somehow she still managed to sink up to her elbows in lovely, black swamp mud. Even after a good hosing down she was perfumed faintly with dead fish and pond weed. 'Guess that's the price of having a country dog who likes to explore!

We spent the two full days here visiting, catching up on laundry in the park's little two machine laundromat, and completing the repair on the damaged kitchen vent.

We're still recovering from the germs, so plenty of recuperation time is still on the agenda. The surrounding hills here are covered with beautiful fall colors, so it's a great place to sit back, relax and just admire the scenery.

Monday, we made a 9 AM departure from Jordanelle State Park, north on hwy. 40  then east on I-80 through the canyon. With it's fiery red canyons filled with brilliant yellow and red trees it made a grand exhibit as we left the state.

All too soon the red canyons faded into layers of beige and green, sedimentary layers deeply eroded into interesting shapes, with sharp outcrops of harder stone here and there.The low hanging autumn sun makes the shadows on the eroded hillsides even more outstanding.

As we entered Wyoming the highway flattened out to the rolling, sagebrush covered range land of the northern Great Basin. This is definitely cowboy country. Not much but range land, cattle, and prong horns.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Good-bye to Oregon

Thursday morning we left Bully Creek early (for us!) and headed for Idaho. We made a quick stop at Camping World in Boise to pick up a vent cover to replace the one a branch scraped off back at  Crescent Creek, and found some great RV oriented  Christmas cards too! What a productive morning!

Idaho has a multitude of small and not-so-small wildfires burning, so the broad horizon is hazy, and though the sky is clear, there's not much of the usual bright blue.

The overnight stop for Thursday was Heyburn Riverside RV Park (I-84, Exit 211 then south 2 miles). The park is fairly new and right on the Snake River. It's so new in fact that if you are using a mapping program don't trust it's location advice. We followed posted signs which led us to the correct location. Our assumption is that Delorme program we use identified the planning office at city center as the location, so gave us incorrect directions.

The park has generously spaced sites that are all  full-service. The sites are graveled, with lots of grass in between, and there is ready access to a really nice trail along the river. (The park is closed Dec. 1- March 1)

Following the trail south just a short way leads to a quaint little park with a covered bridge over a little creek where it enters the river. Landscaped with benches and antique farm implements it makes an attractive place to sit and ponder the wide river at sunset.

Friday, we left Idaho about 9:30 and were crossing into Utah about an hour later. By noon we were cugging down hwy. 89, cutting north of Salt Lake City. The hills around the sides of the highway are splashed with swaths of trees clothed in autumn cherry-red and brilliant yellow, set off nicely by the soft gold of dry grasses. It's clear and sunny, but unfortunately the same smoky haze we've seen all week fills the sky here too. Smoke blown in from Idaho in addition to a few local fires is apparently to blame.  We're staying at Jordanelle State Park, near Park City, UT, while we visit family for a couple of days.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Creeping eastward, across the Great Basin

Time to head for home, but as usual, we aren't in a hurry. We'll be creeping our way eastward, hoping to arrive back in Texas before the end of October.

Here the route for the first three days:

View Creeping Eastward - Sept. 2012 in a larger map

Monday we left Armitage Park in a bit of a germ induced haze, I must admit. We probably would have stayed another day, but we were both thoroughly sick of being in such civilized quarters, so planned a very short hop over the mountain to a campground we've used as a staging ground before.

Cresent Creek is an unremarkable little BLM ground, administered by Hoodoo as are most of the federal campgrounds around the area. It's oddly laid out, with two pull-throughs (both rather sharp curves) and several short back-in spaces, and most seemingly "backwards" which is to say the tables and fire rings are on the driver's side. 'Fine for tent or auto camping but a little awkward for RVs. There's a hand pump for water, and a vault outhouse. It's near the highway too, so during the day there's road noise, but it usually dies down after dark. A signboard has information about all the bird varieties here.'Good to know, but any time an area brags about lots of birds it's a clue as to the bugs you can expect in the spring. The bug situation isn't bad this time of year, as it's getting down to the 30's at night. The creek runs right behind the campground, though with all the brush it's hard to get to it. A fly fisherman must have found a trail into the creek somewhere, as popped out of the bushes near camp and was greeted by Shiner's hearty WOOF! I don't know which of them was the most startled!

Slightly improved Tuesday morning we took our time getting on the road. Heading for Burns, in eastern Oregon, we traveled down hwy. 20 under a sunny but smoky sky. The fire near Sisters was still burning, though it's about 50% contained.

We'd heard the ads for Ken's Sporting Goods in Gilchrist on the radio so thought we'd stop in on the way through - what a great store!

This one truly fills the "beer, bait and ammo" bill. The store stocks a great selection of weapons and ammo,. There's a liquor department, and a few great souvenirs for the outdoor enthusiast.

The best part is the outdoor carvings ornamenting the entrance. Gilchrist has a history as a logging town,kk as that Paul Bunyan figure on top of the hotel sign on the left side of the photo suggests, so the chainsaw carvings are very appropriate.

Anybody need left-handed weapon? Ken also has special sections for women and youth, and several other specialized categories....and all the ammo you need for any model you can name.

And Ken has all the bases covered on the financial side: 
If you'r drinkin to forget please pay in advance

Tuesday night's stop was Chickahominy Reservoir. No kidding.... sounds like a casserole recipe doesn't it? Actually the reservoir is named for the nearby creek of the same name, but the Chickahominy tribe is in Virginia, and no one seems to know why the creek was so named, so as with many place names, it remains a mystery.

The area is wide open, with a few sites sporting shades over the picnic tables. There are several shoreline camping areas where one can just pull over willy-nilly and camp. We selected that type of area as it had the best view of the lake.
We had thought to let Shiner go swimming in the lake, but a quick look at the shore line canceled that idea.

Though the placid waters were dotted with ducks and geese, as heads-up from the folks on the Wheeling It blog made me pay attention to the blue streak of algae lining the shoreline.
blue algae on the shoreline

They nearly lost their dog Polly from the blue-green algae toxins, and we certainly didn't want to have the same experience.

Shiner seemed content to follow rodent trails in and around the boulders than line the road, and so didn't miss the swimming at all. In fact, the row of boulders turned out to be a favorite roosting place for more western bluebirds than I have ever seen at once. Shiner attempted to chase them too but wasn't particularly successful at that endeavor.

On the way to the reservoir we passed the Northern Gread Basin Research Center. We are definitely in the Great Basin here, as the land is flat, flat, flat, with only a few mountains silhouetted on the horizon. It's all the more striking to us as we've spent recent weeks under tall trees and in narrow, forested canyons.

The smoke from the Sisters' fire did lend a lovely rosy glow to the sunset, and we enjoyed it as we sat in the twilight listening to the ducks and geese chatter in the distance. The campground is very minimalistic, but easily met our requirements for a bit of scenery and wide open spaces.

Wednesday night, Bully Creek campground. Bully Creek is a Malheur County park, and a lovely one it is! After all the dry dusty gravel and dirt campsites, Shiner was ecstatic when we set up camp in this grassy, park-like campground. She even had a chance to swim in the lake. The reservoir is very low, due to the ongoing drought here, but there was enough water to wash off the trail dust.

Though the spaces in this campground tend to be on the short side, they are wide, and generously spaced, with wide grassy areas all around. There are a couple of shaded pavilions, and lots of trees creating filtered shade over most of the sites.

Many of the sites have a view of the lake, most have electricity, but the water situation is a little odd. Rather than connections right in each site there are occasional faucets out in the middle of the grassy areas. One faucet might serve more than one site, so a "y" connector is useful. Sites on the outside loop don't really have access to water. The restrooms have showers, though, so even tent campers can be comfortable here.

A note of caution for those with dogs or small children. There is a heavy infestation of goathead weeds in a few of the sites and gravel paths. The seeds of this low lying weed are wicked sharp, and will puncture the soles of flip-flops and tough dog feed, and they hitch-hike on the soles of rubber shoes, so the carpeting of an RV can quickly trap several. Then they lay in wait to stab your foot when you get up in the middle of the night! . . voice of experience here!!!

There is another wicked weed here too. The lake shore areas that were previously underwater but are now exposed support a healthy crop of  Cockleburs. They weren't quite dry/ripe during our visit, but will be wicked stickers when they are dry. These are round, held up on taller stems, so would mostly be a problem for long-haired dogs passing by.
(As with all of the photos, you can view a larger version by just clicking on the picture)

All things considered, this was a nice overnight stop, and a good deal at $15. 'A nice little out of the way campground, and we'd defininately stay here again.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Washburne State Park, Oregon

Tucked in between the third and fourth football games of the season we managed to tuck in a quick trip to the coast to meet up with a friend. Steve checked the reservation sites and everything was full, amazing this time of year! So, we decided on a no-reservation park, Washburne State Park, just north of Florence.

Before we reached the park we were met with a very strange site. Instead of a sparkling white lighthouse on Haceta Head, we saw a hulking black shape. We eventually found an explanation for the apparition.... they are doing major repairs and the whole lighthouse is enveloped in scaffolding and tarps. This pictorial article explains in detail all the work that is being done to restore the landmark.

Washburne State Park campground was fairly crowded when we arrived, but we were able to find a suitable full-service site, and after our four night stay we have dubbed it the friendliest campground in the state. We sat around a smoky campfire and chatted from folks from Wisconsin, California, in addition to the expected Oregonians. A musician/songwriter from Norman, Oklahoma serenaded the campground in the evenings, and he even gave us a CD of his music. Ferrel Droke as won Honorable Mention twice in the Woodie Guthrie songwriting contest. His music has a bit of an an Irish folk flare to it, worth listening to for sure!

The weatherman had promised sun. Humpf! There's a saying in Oregon, "Only fools and Californians believe the weatherman". We bit. He lied. So, in a deep, dark, forested park we sat under cloudy skies. That's the Oregon coast, unpredictable, but beautiful under any circumstance.

The beach is easily accessed from the campground via a half-mile trail that goes under the highway. The trail leads through a mossy carpeted, tangled bit of forest that seldom sees the sun.

The trees are covered with draped ferns and layer upon layer of moss, and the canopy overhead makes he floor of the forest so dark that even the multitudes of mushrooms have a powdery blue mold on them.
Surely there are Nomes living here!

The beach wasn't crowded, so very dog-friendly and Shiner enjoyed a good game of tug-a-war with our friend's German Shepherd, Heidi.

As we watched the dogs romp on the beach I glanced over to the surf and noticed a seal waddling up onto the shore.

As soon as it spied humans and dogs moving on the sand it slipped back into the waves. The Sea Lion Caves aren't farm from the park, and seals are common in all the harbors here, but it's still unusual to see one on the beach.

The campground and surrounding forest are beautiful, but thanks to all the lovely trees there isn't any satellite service. A cell phone connection is possible out on the highway, but not in the campground itself.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Short football season for us

We always look forward to Duck football season as it means good times visiting with friends we don't see all year long.

This year was extra-special as Skot, Kendra and Jaxen were in Oregon. They stayed with us in Armitage Park, so were able to visit with old friends at an afternoon BBQ on Friday, and come to the game with us on Saturday

They visited the Moshofsky Center and experienced all the hustle and bustle and pregame excitement.

Photo ops abound in the Center, and if you're quick enough you might even catch the Duck himself!

While we toured the Center and the Stadium grounds, Steve hung out at the tailgate with the dance team.

This was little Jax's first football game, and he really seemed to enjoy the crowd and the excitement, and he was exceptionally tolerant of his hearing protectors!

This year has been a shorter than usual football season for us. The Duck's first four games were all home games, with the last being a conference game, so we planned on attending all of those. By the time the last game rolled around we were both under the weather with a really bad cold. A 7:30 p.m. kickoff and drizzling rain didn't sound like a good place to be, so we watched the Ducks whip Arizona on TV, Kleenex box and cough syrup at the ready.

Simply wandering through the campground was almost as good as being at Autzen. So many of the campers at Armitage are Duck fans, there are flags, pompoms, and some amazing customized rigs.

We've see a lot of unique tailgate vehicles over the years. Some are built from scratch, some are conversions, reconstructions, whatever you want to call therm... some very clever people put their skills to work in creating these marvels. The latest we've come across was a shiny little trailer that passed our site as it pulled into the campground late one Friday night. We're accustomed to Airstreams and a few other makes being chrome finished, but never a model like this.

The young couple it belongs to, Dirk and Stacy, said they spent about a year and a half on the restoration. It was quite a wreck when they bought it. They intended to repaint the outside, but while standing in the auto-body shop looking at it a passer-by stopped and said he could help them rub it down to bare metal, so they took him up on the offer and this is the result. The interior wood is all original, and the graphic on side covers the outline of a portion of the paint that they weren't able to remove. Pretty classy little party rig!

There were a few other custom tailgate vehicles in the lot this year that we hadn't seen before, like this Autzen Fire Department truck.

And during pre-game and half-time we do enjoy a bit of  people-watching. Darth Duck is a regular, and there are always other Duckwear fashionistas to admire.

Somewhat recovered from the worst of our germs, we're creeping our way out of Oregon, heading for home, via Utah.