Caldwell, ID to La Grande, OR

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Home-again for the RV.
I’ve been planning to visit the factory that built my coach since late spring, but the temperatures in eastern Oregon were over 100* most of the summer so I stayed away. Now that fall has arrived and temps are in the 70’s it’s time for a visit.

We arrived in La Grande on a Sunday morning and spent the day riding on the Mount Emily Recreation area. What a wonderful place! I rode Red Apple and MERA loop. About 9 miles of sweet single-track riding. There looks to be plenty of riding on the mountain to keep a rider busy for a month or so. The trails were in great shape too. The single track is still single and there is ample top-soil, very few rocks or roots. Perfect for me!

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Monday morning at about 05:30 workers began arriving at the factory. I know this because we camped in the employee parking lot Sunday night. Around 7:30 I saw Todd, the service person I’ve been talking to for a few months now, at the RV parked in the lot next to us. I introduced myself and he took a look at the reasons I brought the coach to the factory.

A little back-story here before we go on. I’ve been trying to get the dealership Ketelsen Campers in Wheat Ridge CO to fix some warranty issues. Their response has always been “bring it in and leave it for a couple months and we’ll get to it”. That does not work for me since I’m using it all this year. Ketelsen is a Camping World owned company and they have taken on all the worst qualities of their parent. They have also taken to blaming manufacturers for the delays they create. I’m guessing it’s to keep RV buyers from actually getting any warranty work through the dealer. Like cable companies and banks – make it too hard to get anything done and people give up and go away.

Now let us contrast that with the OUTSTANDING service I got from the manufacturer! Todd has always been on top of the situation. When I have questions Todd gets me answers. When I asked him if I could bring the coach by and have him look at my concerns he said yes indeed (and he recommended the Mt Emily riding area – sweet!). The day I arrived it just happened that a customer had canceled their service visit so I got their spot in the schedule. Man! Sometimes I am so lucky it freaks me out a bit!

I gave Todd the coach in the morning and signed up for the factory tour at 10. Kevin took a half-dozen of us on a walking tour of the factory floor and we got to see how the RV’s are built. Very impressive! I have had a few campers and trailers and I figured out how they were built by working on them. This is the first time I’ve seen how they are built from the beginning and Outdoors RV’s are very well made. A lot of the info is in the brochure and on their website so I won’t go over that information here ( ttp://outdoorsrvmfg.com/) .

It was impressive to see how the components like frame, floor, walls and roof are attached to each other and to have Kevin tell us why certain parts are made from different building materials so they can flex without separating (remember it’s a house undergoing an earthquake each time it gets moved). That days tour was about 3 hours because of all the questions we had for Kevin. The tour ended about 1 pm and my coach came out of the shop at about 2:30. Not bad timing.

The afternoon and evening were spend getting back to Caldwell so I could go to some meetings on Tuesday in Boise.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Clark Canyon to Silver Creek Campground

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Near Picabo ID
The morning started out overcast and cold. The clouds dropped some fresh snow on the mountains near our camp while the wind whipped up some whitecaps on the reservoir. The drive south into Idaho was scenic with leaves changing colors, and mountains on both sides of the interstate. Once out on the plains of Idaho we hung a right and followed the foot of the mountains south and west past farms, the Idaho National Lab, and Craters of the Moon. We stopped for the night at an Idaho Fish & Wildlife camp spot/ river access point at the end of a mile or so of wickedly washboarded roads.

Lewis and Clark Caverns to Clark Canyon Reservoir

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Near Dillon MT and like everything in these parts named for either Lewis or Clark or both. The Bureau of Reclamation built a dam and a campground (a free one at that!) so we stopped for the night and camped near the water. I let the boiz out and they got to have a little romp around camp before the wind kicked up and started rocking the coach.

Near the campground, and likely at the bottom of the lake, is where Sacajawea was reunited with her birth-tribe on the outbound leg of the Corps of Discovery trip.

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The north wind is cold and reminds me that winter is on its way. The trees are turning yellow and it won’t be long before the white stuff drifts down from the sky.

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I liked the color-contrast

 

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Clark Canyon Reservoir

 

 

 

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Tongue River State Park

Volunteering Week II
When I got here there were thunderstorms coming through the Park every night cooling things down and stirring things up. Wind gust-fronts coming from the northwest pick up black coal-dust from the mine and whip it into the air. It creates a black shadow along the horizon as the gust-front gets close. Very ominous looking.

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The dark dust is coal dust swept out of the mine by the wind

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Same view without the thunder-coal storm

I’ve settled into the park volunteer routine of trash pickup and bathroom cleaning assistant. I usually get all my work done in the morning so I can take the afternoon off and enjoy the 100*-plus heat wave we’re having these days.

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I’m not having any luck hiding from the heat this summer

 

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It’s 105* AND on fire.  Sweet!

I’ve been letting the boiz out each morning for an hour or so in the cool, crisp air. They have adopted the area behind the RV as their own and patrol it looking for edibles. The park is very quiet on weekdays so they can prowl at their leisure.

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The boiz play-space

 

 

 

Homestake to Tongue River Reservoir State Park

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Back-tracking on I-90 eastbound across Montana toward Decker, MT. We stopped over-night in Billings to get groceries and run a few errands. The high temps are back up into the upper 90’s which makes paved big cities seem overly hot. We swung by the Walmart in Billing’s Heights and the living-in-your-car population seemed high. There were also a half dozen campers in the parking lot, one with it’s slide out, so I opted for a parking spot on a side-street near a vacant-lot-becoming-luxury-condos construction area.

When I lived in Denver I saw a lot of homeless RV and car dwellers living on the streets, but I though it was a local issue because of legal weed and a great economy with attendant sky-high rents. On this trip I’ve seen a lot of people living in RV’s in every town I pass through. Missoula had them, the forest east of Butte has tons of permanent residents, (and from the posted rules that say you have to move 5 miles every two weeks dated in 2012 they’ve had that issue for awhile now).

Billings has an RV and car dwelling homeless population and from stories I gathered from fellow travelers San Jose, CA has a huge issue with stupid-high rents putting employed people out on the street. What I hear from Montana locals is that work is hard to scrape together and pay is low. The State has budget constraints too. Frankly this situation is making me sad and more than a little worried (so I’m changing the subject).

I’ve come to the Tongue River State Park to try volunteering as a way of keeping busy and engaging with my fellow humans. This Park needs some help with the sorts of things I’m good at: mowing, painting, fixing. The park is near the WY border in eastern MT. Nearby are a few coal mines (so close in fact that the blasting can be felt in the park!), cattle ranches, and it’s only 30 miles to Sheridan WY. The low rolling hills are dotted with scrubby-looking trees which is a far cry from the steep heavily wooded mountains that blocked the solar panel near Lolo Pass. Here the panel gets direct sun all day. The only thing in the way is smoke from the fires burning in OR.

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When I arrived Jim said to me, “Don’t leave the awning out, the wind will crush it.” Good advice anywhere in the west, but super accurate prediction of the wind which arrived that evening. It looked like we might get a thunderstorm, but when we saw the black dust-cloud at the base of the storm it was time to reel-in the awning and duck for cover. After the dust-bowl blew out we got enough rain to drop the temperature about 20*F. Love the 70’s man! (Found out later that black dust is the wind sweeping the open-pit coal mine and carrying it to the lake).

Next night the wind kicked it up a notch and I thought we were going to roll over the wheel-chocks and head off downwind. The wind knocked the power out in the area for 11-hours. Might be a MT address but we got WY wind!

Volunteering! YaY!
My first day of volunteering I went up to the Rosebud Battlefield section of the Park and helped clear some branches away and haul them to the burn-pile. My part consisted of dragging the downed branches to where a tractor could get to them. They call the job “Branch Manager”

Next big project was dragging some trees off the beach then cleaning up some big logs and hauling them away. We got to use the tractor for that and ya’ll know how I love tractors! On the weekend I spent a fair amount of time emptying trash cans and hauling it to the dumpster. In Colo Parks they just have big dumpsters in every loop so the campers haul it to the place where the big trash truck can get it. Not so at Tongue River SP. Reminds me of my old job at DIA.

 

 

 

 

 

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Lee Creek Campground to Homestake Pass, MT

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The sky is not cloudy – that’s smoke blotting out the sun

The heat (90* days) finally reached up to the heavens of the Bitterroot Mtns today. After enjoying a week of cool nights and pleasant days near Lolo Pass we are off on another adventure! I got a camp-host position at a Montana State Park so we’re heading east and south to Tongue River State Park. We stopped for the night at the top of Homestake Pass, near Homestake Lake, and enjoyed a cool summer’s eve.

The trip over was under a hazy, smoke-filled sky. The fires in Oregon must be very bad for this much smoke to be blotting out the sun in MT.

Springtime to Delmoe Lake Rd

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Crazy Mountains in the distance

Further west today we climbed away from the Yellowstone river and northward toward Butte, MT. We found a camp-spot off of the road to Delmoe Lake and spent the afternoon under gray skies and an intermittent rain/ hail mix.

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The morning low was 33* and a heavy dew coated all the cold surfaces at sunrise.

 

 

 

 

 

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