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Painted Buffalo robe at Agate Fossil Beds National Monument

And the saga continues…

Day 2 started early.  In the night, I had woke up to the sound of rain on the tin roof but I was warm and dry so I rolled over and closed my eyes.  By morning the skies had begun to clear.

“March 19, 2017 – Friday – 6:00am – I left the campground after a stop at the outhouse.  Everything is so wet here that the toilet paper was like a roll of Wet Wipes!”

I was still feeling lousy but at least the thought of turning around and heading home was no longer as appealing as the night before.  It’s funny how a little sunshine can change your whole attitude.  I tried to turn onto interstate by the campground but after a 10 mile detour through a twisty, residential area I realized two things. 

#1 – the people who live here must not get many flashy campers like mine in their neighborhood.

and #2 – there wasn’t an on-ramp for the east bound lane anyway.  So I turned back onto Hwy 30 until I could find one. 

I usually don’t mind driving on interstate but for some reason that day it felt wild and out of control.  Maybe it was because a semi blew past me causing the cubby door on the side of the camper to pop open and flap like a broken wing till I got pulled over to close it.  Or, it might be because 50 miles down the road the check engine light came on and glowed like a neon bar sign on my dash.  Dang! 

This had happened a couple of months earlier and our son, Morgan had checked it out for me.  He said it was nothing to worry about but 500 miles from home that’s all I could do – worry about it.  So I pulled over, googled mechanics and found Kearney Ag & Auto Repair.  Of course they were totally swamped when I arrived but a very nice man grabbed a hand-held tester and came out to see what my pickup’s computer had to say about the whole thing.  It turned out it was a small problem with the emission system.  The very nice man said the exact same things Morgan had said,  “Don’t worry about it…  It won’t leave you stranded on the side of the road…  It’s a common thing for Chevy’s.” and finally, “Stay out of California because they will make you fix it right away which will cost over $600”.  Then he smiled and said “No Charge.  Have a nice day!” and waved as I pulled out of his lot.  So, if you’re ever in Kearney, NE with engine problems, I would highly recommend this place! 

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I have this photo in my camper – I took it one evening on my way home from work.  There were 2 newborn antelopes that dropped and hid right in the middle of our driveway and I happened to have a camera.

Since interstate travel hadn’t gone well earlier, I decided to stick to smaller roads where I could putz along at my own speed.  My next stop was for gas in a little town on the edge of Nebraska. 

“Mileage 626.7 – There were 2 gals running the gas station I stopped at and they were fascinated with my camper.  I think I saw their noses pressed against the window while I was gassing up.  I went inside to buy some lunch and they dropped everything and sprinted out the door when I offered to let them see it.  They did ask one of the customers who was eating lunch if he would keep an eye on the place while they checked out Nadine though – which he seemed surprised at.”  

I hope he didn’t rob them blind while they were oohing and aweing over my camper.  Nadine was a mess as there were wet clothes and blankets draped everywhere to dry but these gals were so excited by the thought of having a little camper of their own that I wouldn’t surprised to hear that they were the proud owners of their own campers before the end of the week.

By mile 633.0 I was in Kansas.  Kansas is a very friendly state.  I got waved at more in the short time I was there than any other state I traveled through.  It always amazes me how many times you cross a state line, visible only on a map and suddenly, the whole landscape changes.  You’d swear sometimes, that you’d crossed into a whole new world.  That happened on the Nebraska/Kansas line.  One of the first things I noticed were the irises in the ditches.  All of them were a beautiful cream color and I must have hit during the peak of the bloom.  I rolled past one huge clump after another then began to think that these were probably very old plantings as most were in front of old farm houses.  I imagined homesteaders planting the irises as they moved west, settling in this beautiful country far from the loved ones whose gardens the rhizomes probably came from.  It’s a romantic thought and I don’t know if it’s true but you can bet your bottom dollar I’ll be planting cream colored irises in our ditch next spring.

From the sand hills in Nebraska I drove into the rolling hills of Kansas. They were especially beautiful in spring with the huge old trees sending out new leaves and the wide sweeping furrows in the fields showing new shoots – most about 6″ tall.  Kansas farmers are experts at planting every inch possible in their fields while still following the contour of the hills to slow water runoff.  They were beautiful fields with curving furrows that ran in all directions but never once crossed another row.  I would have stopped to take pictures but the roads didn’t have shoulders to pull off on so I tried to be content with enjoying the views that appeared over every hill.  Several times I considered slamming on the brakes and screeching to a halt right there at the top of a hill to snap photos like a crazy woman but I didn’t – not even when I started seeing barns with painted ‘quilts’ on them.  It was great.  There were so many patterns and colors to see.  And then I noticed the spectacular home gardens everywhere.  In South Dakota I wouldn’t dare plant the outside garden till June but here they were well on their way.   And Marysville, Kansas – you people got style!  I loved the large, painted squirrels.  They are everywhere – on street corners and in front of businesses.  They were great, I’m just sorry I didn’t get a photo!

Things were finally looking up, but it didn’t last.  Before long I was back into drizzle and eventually rain.  Since I still had the leak on Nadine’s front windows to contend with I found a hardware store and stocked up on weather stripping and Great Stuff – just incase the weather stripping didn’t work, then spent 15 minutes sealing up the leaky windows.

“Mile 845.0 – Atchison, KS – I was going to stop here for the night but I feel like driving further to see if I can get out of this rain.  I was getting desperate for gas as well but entered town through a residential area that didn’t seem to have many gas stations.  The one I saw was so tight I didn’t think I could wiggle Nadine in.  I decided to pull over and Google one when I saw my sister had sent me a message.  It was still raining hard and the only place I found to pull into was a curb with at least 6″ of water running down it.  I was lost in suburbia hell in the middle of a flooded city, nearly out of gas and afraid I would be washed away!  I was about to panic when I read her message asking if I was OK.  Somehow she knew I wasn’t.  I didn’t have a very strong signal so we messaged back and forth and she started navigating for me – from 800 miles away, which was just what I needed.”

She led me to the nearest gas station where I put over 23 gallons of gas in my 25 gallon tank.  We eventually did get to talk and she had me laughing before we hung up.  As it turned out, the station she sent me to was right at the intersection for the road I needed to turn onto for the next leg of my journey – even though she didn’t know that at the time.  She’s a pretty good navigator – maybe next time I should take her with me!

I had planned to see Emilia Earhart’s house in Atchison but it was so hard getting around on the narrow streets in a downpour during rush hour that I headed out of town, crossed a huge bridge and somehow managed to find Missouri.  I never saw a single sign saying it was the Missouri river I had crossed or that I had entered the state of Missouri but I knew I had.  

Once again, crossing a state line changed the scenery completely.  

“Instantly, I was in heavily wooded country with small hills.  The trees and shrubs are so thick I’m not sure you could even walk cross country.  The roads are crazy – up, down, twists, turns – it’s like driving on a roller coaster.  I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore, Toto.”

“Mile 864.0 – Dear Lord,  I just barely missed running over the biggest damn toad I’ve ever seen.  He was huge and sitting in the road.  At first I thought it was a rock but right before I went over it, it turned it’s head and looked at me!!!!!!!  It was as big as my hiking boot!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

If their toads are that big I can only imagine the size of the insects they eat.  From there it was a veritable Who’s Who of roadkill wildlife – muskrats, opossums, snapping turtles and armadillos flashed before my eyes.  I don’t know if it was because it was spring and the animals were more active or if this ‘Roadkill Armageddon’ was normal but after a few miles it appeared the local drivers may have had something to do with it.  I didn’t know that ‘No Passing Zones’ were just a suggestion but apparently in Missouri they are.  Somehow, after a few new gray hairs I made it to Watkins Mill State Park where I got one of the last camp sites available and managed to back my camper in without mishap. 

I don’t know if it was my hair standing on end, my wild, bloodshot eyes or my never-ending nose blowing that made the manager take pity on me but I got the  better of the 2 remaining sites for half the price.  You should have seen the couple that showed up 15 minutes later and got the last site.  That site was a nightmare.  It was on a hill, turned sharply off the road and it didn’t help that the rig that pulled up was at least 35′ long.  But the old guy driving it was obviously a professional.  His wife stepped out, waved her hand a couple of times (possibly at insects) and the fifth-wheel camper slipped into the angled, narrow, twisted, hillside site like it had angels guiding it.  I swear the trees lifted their branches as it passed.  I was impressed  but exhausted so I was thrilled to get a hot shower, a little supper and into bed early.

Tomorrow…  St Louis.

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I started to write this post at least 3 times but have let other things get in the way before I could finish, but not today.  As I mentioned in a previous post I went on an amazing trip last spring.  I traveled the Lewis and Clark Trail with the Sisters on the Fly and it was one of the most incredible things I have ever done!  There is so much that I want to write about that I’ve been a little overwhelmed.  After all, I did come home with 4,500 photos!

May 18, 2017 I pulled out of our driveway with my camper, Nadine – a 1972 Nomad that I (with help from Hubby and our boys) totally overhauled.  First, I headed to St Louis, MO, where I spent 2 days touring the city with good friends, Wanda & Jon before meeting up with the ‘Sisters’ to follow the historic Lewis and Clark Trail all the way to Astoria, OR.  In the end, it was 37 days and 6,967.1 miles.  I was one of 115 women who took part in some or all of the adventure with 49 of us making it the whole way and earning the dubious title of ‘All the Way Girls’.  Of that 49, 10 were over the age of 70 and if that isn’t impressive enough, one of those gals did the whole trip on her Harley Davidson trike.  What an inspiration!

Those of you who know me, know that I am a worrier. My husband says I worry too much, but I remind him that I have had many years of practice and that I am very good at it.  But even I feel that when it came to this trip, I brought my level of worry to new heights.  I worried about the camper.  I worried about the pickup.  I worried about the money, the tires, the weather, the road conditions, the animals I could hit on the road, the people I would meet and mostly, I worried about the fact that I had torn this camper apart and put it back together mostly by myself.  What if it fell apart along the way?

Images of trailer trash blowing down a desolate road ditch haunted my dreams but when it came right down to it Nadine performed wonderfully!  We traveled lonely gravel roads in Kansas, cruised at 70 mph on South Dakota interstate, dodged potholes in North Dakota, climbed mountains in Montana and braved narrow city streets in downtown Portland, Oregon.  We drove through fog, mist, rain, sleet, and blizzard conditions with snow & ice – and that was just Nebraska!  But Nadine held together and never hit anything, which is a big plus in my book.  Sure, there were water leaks, check engine lights and a wheel bearing that ran hot but I couldn’t have asked for a better trip.

Before I left home I made a promise to myself, I would keep a journal of this adventure because who knows if I will ever go on another trip like it.  I bought a new Steno-pad notebook to jot down quick notes while traveling and several nice notebooks to write in at night – expanding on my travel notes.  I also threw a handful of pens into the cubby hole of the pickup and another handful in the camper so I wouldn’t run out of ink.  I was ready but as it turned out, Linda D. – the hostess for our trip, was way ahead of me and presented each of us with a beautiful, leather-bound journal our very first night at Eureka, MO.  Here’s what it looked like, along with the compass and canvas bag they came in.

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And here’s how it looks now.

Who knew I would remember how to do beadwork?  Not me.  The last item I beaded was a belt I’d made in high school.  But gazing at so many beautiful beaded pieces in the museums along the way convinced me to try again.  And it must have been fate that I would find a wonderful bead shop less than a mile from our campground the exact day I decided to start.

The finished journal is broke-in now.  The cover’s a little beat up, there’s stains on a few pages and it’s so full of ‘stuff’ that it’s hard to tie shut but I love it because…

It’s crammed full of postcards, with sayings and quotes.

Messages, wishes and pictures of boats!

There’s hair (must be Bigfoots’) and memories galore.

With paintings and stickers and ribbons and more! 

Wow!  I sort of slipped into a Dr. Seuss alter ego for a minute there.  LOL!

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Yet every night (in my own little camper, in my own little chair) I used the scribbled, wonky notes from the Steno-pad to write about everything that had happened that day.  The days were so full that some nights it was midnight before I finished – but thankfully, I did finish.  Otherwise I would have forgotten so much of it, including some things that might be better forgotten, such as the first day which also turned out to be the worst day.

Day 1 – Ready to go.  I kissed Hubby and the dog goodbye, circled the camper one last time, kicked the tires and climbed into the pickup.  I zeroed the trip mileage on the odometer and opened my Steno pad to the first page where I wrote:

“And so the adventure begins.  May 18, 2017 – Thursday.  Odometer Trip reading 0.0 Left home at 7:00 am, terrified at what I am doing.”

And I was terrified.  I drove to the end of the driveway, tears running down my face, wondering (not for the first time) what the Hell was I doing.  I stopped at the mailbox and sat there, suddenly realizing I had never traveled by myself for more that a few days at a time.  This trip, if I made it to the end would be 5 weeks long!!!  Could I do it?  What if the worst happened?  Who would help me if I got into trouble?

I wished Mom was going with me!

Mom would have loved this.  She was always ready for an adventure and we had been on many together – family vacations, quilt retreats & watercolor painting classes and just about any excuse we could think of to hit the road, but Mom passed away 4 years ago and ironically, I hadn’t been on many trips since then.  There I sat – 55 years old and wanting my Mom.

There was only one thing to do.  I wiped away the tears, looked up to the heavens and said, “Get in Mom.  Let’s go.”

And we did.

Now I admit, I don’t know anything about what happens when we die but I have always believed it’s like going home.  One elderly lady I knew a long time ago believed dying was like falling asleep in the car when you were a kid.  You never remembered how you got there but you always woke up safe and warm at home, in your own bed.  I love that.  I can’t prove that Mom joined me for another adventure but from that point on I didn’t feel so alone and throughout the entire trip odd, little things kept happening that made me think just maybe she was there.

For 2 weeks before I left, Hubby had been basically bedridden with a head cold and for 2 weeks I had cared for him while stubbornly refusing to get sick myself.  So of course, 3 days before I left he was feeling better while I was hit full-force with the worst cold I had ever had in my life.  By the time I left I was basically a walking pile of phlegm looking for a place to curl up and die.  But even with aches, pains, a sore throat, sever congestion, and not much of a voice left I was determined to go.  The weather wasn’t helping either.  It was foggy when I left home and the fog became as thick as pea soup by the time I made it to Wind Cave National Park – my first stop.

Trip mileage 47.0 – “I purchased a National Park passport and it was desperately in need of it’s first official stamp so I stopped and got it.  Yippee!  Ok, I’m a nerd… but I’ve had a real US passport for 10 years and never did get a stamp in it so this is big for me.  I didn’t take a tour of the cave today but I did buy a ‘walking stick’ medal which I have decided to nail to the inside doorframe of my camper.”

From there I traveled through Hot Springs, SD and turned south to Cascade, SD and Cascade Falls, a small roadside picnic area.

Trip mileage 95.0 – “Crossed the state line into Nebraska.  The weather is growing worse and so is my cold.  There is no more ‘drizzle’ just rain that comes in sheets.  The wind has also picked up and it seems like no matter which way I turn the camper is hit by a strong cross wind.  How is that even possible?”

I got lost (twice) in Crawford, NE (a.k.a. the Bermuda Triangle of the Midwest) and passed through Ft Robinson State Park even though I couldn’t see it through the sleet and fog.  From there it was on to the Agate Fossil Beds National Monument.  I had planned to take one of their hiking trails to stretch my legs at this point but the sheet of ice on the front of my camper convinced me to just tour the nice, warm visitor center instead.

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I was really looking forward to seeing their ‘corkscrew’ fossils which are actually the ancient tunnels of a prehistoric ‘prairie dog’ like rodent known as Daemonelix.  They lived 19 million years ago and are actually related to beavers.  I watched the movie and enjoyed the great displays then bought a pin at the gift shop (because they didn’t have walking stick medals) and got another stamp in my Parks Passport.  Whoo-who, two stamps in one day, I’m on a roll!

Back on the road the weather had turned into a full-blown blizzard.  Snowflakes as big as horse turds blew across the road and stuck to the side of the camper.  I was sicker than a dizzy Daemonelix but I pushed on and made it to Oshkosh, NE where I stopped at a gas station across from a storage unit named the Cramalot Inn (no, I did not make that up) then drove to North Platte and the Buffalo Bill Ranch campground for a total of 418.1 miles.

I managed to park fairly straight and plug in the camper before dragging my rain-soaked carcass into to the camper where I discovered Nadine had developed a leak.  The pickup tires had been picking up water off the road and blowing it into the bottom edge of the front windows which no longer sealed tight.  Water had soaked into a couple of books, a blanket and my shotgun.  Yes, I’m armed and dangerous when I travel but frankly by that time, it looked more like a water gun than a threat.  Thankfully, the bed was mostly dry so I used towels to wipe everything down then went to get my PJ’s.

Surprise, another leak!!!  Apparently, the gasket on the running light outside the camper wasn’t completely sealed either.  My PJ’s, on the top shelf of the closet, were as wet as my shotgun.  I pulled out the driest set and used the coffee pot to heat water for my supper – Chicken flavored Cup O Noodles.   As I waited for the noodles to soften in their Styrofoam cup, I seriously considered heading for home in the morning.  It sounded very appealing as I sat in my damp pajamas, writing the days events in my soggy notebook and blowing my nose every 5 seconds, but even with everything that had happened I can be a pretty stubborn old broad.  I grew tired as the heater filled my leaky, little palace on wheels with warmth.  Either I was delirious or there was a tiny glimmer of hope because the last entry in my journal for Day 1 reads:

“Tomorrow will be better.”

And it was.

Thank God for stubbornness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  Spring is here.  The bees are buzzing, the pastures are full of new calves and the trees are blooming.  Spring also means it will soon be time to get my campers hitched up and out on the road again and I can’t wait.  If you’ve read my previous post (Sept 2016 – yes, it’s been awhile) you will have seen photos of the major parts of the ’72 Nomad (Nadine’s) overhaul.  But since there are always lots of ‘little things’ to finish I have been working on her most of last winter – whenever the weather was nice enough to be outside.

I have added additional cabinets, hooked up the water tank which is now mounted on the trailer hitch, found her an adorable kitchen sink, finished the cabinet front under the bed and added shelves and storage everywhere I could.  Just when I feel like I’m getting close to finishing I come up with something new to add.

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A home for the fly fishing rods and reels.

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A galvanized sink.

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And the storage space under the bed.

But all of that will come to a screeching halt soon, because in one short month I will be hitting the road to join the Sisters On The Fly for the biggest camping trip I have ever done.  We will be following the Lewis and Clark Trail from St Louis, MO to Astoria, OR.  The trip will take us about 4 weeks to complete and it will take me an additional 3 days to get to St. Louis and probably 4 days to return home from Astoria.  Round trip, I will travel over 4,400 miles but some of the Sisters will have many mores miles than that.  There are 59 Sisters planning on doing the whole trip with more joining for parts of it so it should be quite an adventure.

It’s freaking me out a little bit that there is so much to do before I leave – the work on the camper & the planning and packing.  And of course sometimes I have to wake up in the middle of the night to worry and wonder “What the hell was I thinking?”  But the sun rises and my worries evaporate in the daylight and I remind myself to take it one day at a time.   The important stuff will get done and if I forget something it can be replaced.

There are 13 stops along the way where we will spend 1 to 3 days & nights before moving on and our biggest day of travel is still under 400 miles so I know I can do that.   And if the worst happens and I have to pull out the trip part way I will find my way home with wonderful memories of the part I did see.

We have an amazing lady in charge of the trip and she has lined up hostesses for each of the stops.  These gals have been hard at work setting up fun and interesting things for us to see and do such as a paddle wheel cruise at St Louis, campfire entertainment, social events, catered meals, museums and historic sites, a chance to see the original journals of Lewis & Clark and lots of fun (and sometimes unusual sites along the way) such as Ladies night at the Sip & Dip Lounge in Great Falls, MT where mermaids and mermen swim in the pool behind the bar.  OK, I admit I am really looking forward to this stop not only for the mermen but also for their signature drink – ‘The Fish Bowl’.  I’m not sure what’s in it but I’ll let you know how it is, if I can remember.  Ha!

For now, it’s back to the camper to see what else I can work on.

Happy Trails!

Fun Summer Days

I hope everyone has had as much fun this summer as I have!

Our summer started out dry.  I mean Really Dry!!!  But I planted my garden with the best of intentions.  Unfortunately, it didn’t take long to realize I was watering twice a day and the plants were still dying.  When the rains finally did come we received over 3″ in one evening and enough hail to pound what was left of the garden into the ground.  So I surrendered the outside gardens to Mother Nature and started working instead on the plants in the hoop house and Nadine, one of my campers.  She is a 20 foot, 1972 Nomad and was the first camper I bought when this madness began.  She has patiently waited in the tall grass for a couple of  years while I worked on another camper but last fall I went a little crazy and gutted her.  Avacodo Green and Harvest Gold rom the ’70’s just doesn’t do it for me.  Torn apart and empty she spent last winter behind our house till spring hit and I started work.  After 3 months of rebuilding she’s still not finished but I have already taken her camping twice and she has performed flawlessly.

This picture was taken the day I bought her for $250.00 – warts and all.

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Now she looks like this:

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Quite the change isn’t it?  I patched & sealed the holes on the outside and removed the windows so she could be primed and painted.  The broken and unused vents in the roof have been replaced or sealed off and she’s gotten a new coat of roof sealant to keep out that pesky water.  Next I cleaned and repaired the windows, then resealed and reinstalled them.  She received a new ‘skirt’ of mini galvanized tin to hide the flaws around her bottom half, an air conditioner, a new jack and new lights all around.  Morgan painted her (we used tractor paint – sprayed on) then spent two weekends rewiring the whole unit, moving light fixtures & plug-ins, fixing the brakes and checking the wheel bearings.

My hubby, bless his heart, helped by offering to hitch it up and drag it to the dump every other day.  He has since changed his tune.

Here’s a photo of one of the clearance lights – just because I think they look bad-ass.  Bahahahahaha!

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The inside changes were pretty drastic too.  The paneling was ripped out and the rotten wood was replaced.  The propane system was completely removed because the fridge and furnace didn’t work and I never used the stove anyway so why keep it?  I bought a new electric fridge, a toaster oven and a cute little electric heater to take their place.

Every leak was sealed and triple checked before the first piece of pink foam insulation was added.

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The walls are a combination of pine bead board and 1/4″ plywood.  The cabinets, as you can see, are made from old weathered boards which I stole from the fence around our yard.  Hubby never even noticed until he stuck his head into the camper and said, “Where’d you get that wood?”   Ha!  The cabinets still need latches and handles but I love them.  The platform under the fake wood stove (aka – electric heater) is built over the wheel well and contains beautiful Mexican tiles left over from another project.  On the left you can also see a little bit of the bathroom and the hanging door hung on a piece of galvanized pipe with large eye bolts as the hardware.  It slides a little hard but that’s OK as the door isn’t moving around while we’re traveling. To the right, just out of the photo is the new fridge.

The countertop is a collection of sea shells I gathered on several trips.  I also added a few fishing flies, an old bottle with a message in it, and a few other items before covering it with a pour-on resin.  The odd rectangular hole in the counter top is where the sink (an old enameled wash basin) will eventually be.  The very large picture on the counter was there just to hide the breaker box and to ‘dress the old girl up’ a little for her first trip with the Sisters on the Fly.  The event which was held last month at Red Lodge, Montana.

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The other side has storage for folding camp chairs, fishing poles, supplies and maybe someday an awning.  Plus there’s room for a comfy chair and some artwork that swings opens like a wall safe and will double as my jewelry box – once it’s finished.

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The floor which was covered with nasty stick-on linoleum tiles was removed and the subfloor was covered with a new layer of underlayment before getting a Kraft paper finish which I’d seen on Pinterest.  Thank goodness for Pinterest!!!  This floor was simple and fun to do and I am seriously considering doing this in my sewing room this winter!  You rip up chunks of paper, crumple them then dip them into a mixture of 50% Elmer’s glue and 50% water, squeeze out the excess then smooth the wet paper out on the floor.  After allowing the paper to dry, I stained and sealed it with at least 6 coats of polyurethane.  It cost about $17 in supplies.

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Finished, it reminds me of old parchment.  This flooring is very forgiving.  You can sand down any parts that curled up or add more paper if needed and if it gets scratched you give it another coat of polyurethane.  Sweet!!!

The next photo is the front of the camper. The curtains are the ones that were in the camper before so they will eventually be replaced with something more appropriate to her make-over.  There was only 48″ for the width of the bed before it would hang over the doorway at the foot so I purchased a full-sized 6″ memory foam mattress and cut it down with a serrated bread knife.  I will eventually build pull out drawers under the bed to hide the mess and hold my Dutch oven and other supplies.  The drawer fronts will be more of the gray wood (it’s still on the fence as I write this – Haha!).  Since I decided to move the fresh water storage tank out onto the trailer hitch where the propane bottles used to sit the drawers should be about 45″ deep for lots of good storage.  Dalton has built me a metal bracket to hold the tank that I can cover with the leftovers of corrugated tin.

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The tin on the front (and back) walls of the camper were attached so that the center section can be removed to gain easy access to the front and back clearance lights.  Just in case…

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This isn’t a very good picture of the bathroom but you can see that the shower, which was on the right side has been removed.  It leaked like a sieve so I was happy to rip that out.  The plumbing lines are behind a hidden access door in the left wall and they will be run through to an outdoor shower – once I get started on the water system.  The black cabinet is screwed to the wall and soon there will be a rounded wooden door on the cabinet under the sink.  It all takes time.  The sunflowers in the corner are just stored there when I travel.  Once I’m set up they are hung under the windows on the side and back of the trailer.

One of my favorite parts of the whole rebuild is the ceiling.

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Since I didn’t want to pay big money for real tin ceiling tiles I purchased foam ones from a website called Decorative Ceiling Tiles.  These were $4.00 each but of course I have since seen them on sale for $2.   I painted them with chalk paint, highlighted the design with a swipe of a sponge dipped in metallic silver paint then added a coat of clear wax with dark wax on top.  Once I glued them to the ceiling I sprayed them with a layer of clear lacquer that gave them a shiny finish.

I originally had plans for large silver decals on the sides but Morgan wasn’t sold on the idea and since he did help so very much with this project and would occassionally like to take it camping too I agreed to leave her the way she was – except for the one on the back.  I think every girl needs at least one ‘tattoo’.

Happy Trails…

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Spring is in the air and of course my thoughts turn to gardening.  But since I always start my garden seeds way too early I have decided to work on one of my campers instead.

Nadine was the first camper I bought.  She is a 20 foot 1973 Nomad and was a true love child of the 70’s with Avocado Green and Harvest Gold reigning supreme in her décor.

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Can I just say – Wow?  No wonder so many people did drugs in those days.

Yes, she was a vision of loveliness right down to the torn linoleum.

Nadine wasn’t the camper I had always dreamed of (I was really hoping for a ’50 or ’60 model) but when I was able to talk the owner down to $250 she followed me home anyway.

I had done some work to her right after I bought her but I was never thrilled with how she had turned out so last fall I decided it was time for a major overhaul.

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I saw her shutter as I approached with the crow bar.

First item – the shower – which I had never used because it leaked like a sieve and was like trying to shower in an upturned coffin.  It was so small I had to step outside to change my mind.  10 minutes and it was gone.

The stove went next.  It still works but frankly, propane has always scared the ‘pee-wadding’ out of me especially when it is confined in a small ‘tin can’.  I’m sure it was perfectly safe but did Nadine really need propane?  Could she be all electric?  It wasn’t like I went camping just to bake cakes and scones in her cute little oven, right?

And her Avocado fridge (that never worked) had been removed and was now serving a life sentence in the greenhouse as mouse-free storage for all my garden seeds.  Have you priced a camper fridge?  I have and that’s why the replacement one was all electric.

It would be so much easier to pull into the campsite, plug her in and have everything work without any pilot lights to contend with.  And of course there would still be a battery backup complete with a solar charger for lights if I didn’t have hookups.

Why not?

So out came the stove, gas lines, propane bottles and everything that was hooked to them.

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And why stop there?  The cabinets were cheap, falling apart and trashy.  The drawers didn’t slide right and were open on the inside of the cabinet so that any mouse that came through the wall had access to the silverware, dishtowels and anything else stored in the drawers.  Nasty!  I started out carefully removing all those damn ‘bow-tie’ screws that are so popular with camper factories but soon gave up on that.   The crowbar became my tool of choice and the cabinets came out in pieces.

Nadine has always been full of surprises and the electrical was no exception.   As was the lack of insulation and the ancient bird nest that fell out of the ceiling.

Safety Note:  Always, always, always wear a dust mask, eye protection and gloves when your doing demolition in an old camper!!!  (There are even times when a full body Hazmat suit could come in handy too but that’s another story.)

Since this rebuild is geared toward keeping things simple I have decided to also remove some of the sewer vents too.  There were 4 of them – kitchen sink, shower, toilet and bathroom sink.  Is all of that really necessary?  I hope not because with the help of a reciprocating saw we are now down to the one for the toilet.

The shower is gone and the kitchen sink will have a simple drain down by the tires as the older campers did so those vents are not needed anymore.  I haven’t decided if I want to keep the bathroom sink or not but since it’s so close to the toilet the same vent should work for both of them.  This left 3 holes to patch on the roof along with the large vent for the stove hood which was removed shortly after the stove.  Hail had done a number on all these vents so sealing them up has already stopped most of the air and water leaks in her shell.

The water lines had been redone (by a real plumber) right after I bought her so they are still good but the aluminum water tank (which was original to her) had sprung a major leak on her last camping trip about 3 years ago.  I knew the tank had to go but by the look of the floor underneath it the leak had started long before we saw it.

Out came the chipboard flooring and two of the supports which were rotted through.

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When it comes to old camper it’s just easier to start ripping out stuff.  And don’t stop until all the damage is gone.  Get to the bottom of it before you start rebuilding or you will have problems with it forever.

In Nadine’s case, her whole front end had problems.  There was a leak along the first seam of the roof panels, a large leak on the top of the front window and the right front corner of the floor was pretty much destroyed by the constant leak from the water tank.

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This was one of the roof beams.

There was also some water damage from the clearance lights above the front window and almost nothing left of the wood under an outside access storage door.  There has been a lot of removal and replacement of wood – one board at a time.

While working on the roof leak I also learned that silicone caulking is truly a ‘Tool of the Devil’.

Someone in Nadine’s past had desperately tried to stop the roof leak with silicone.  And from the looks of it, it must have worked for awhile but over time the leak came back and more multicolored layers were applied.  I’m betting their theory was ‘if a little is good, a whole lot must be better’.

All I know is that Nadine had more silicone injections than half the starlets in Hollywood – combined!!!

For the record, I would also like to state that I really hate removing silicone caulking.  Maybe there’s an easy way to get rid of it but if there is, I haven’t found it yet.  There are still several days of working on ladders ahead of me before it’s all gone so I will keep at it and let you know how it goes.

I have big plans for this camper including a ‘fix’ to take care of this spot where someone had ripped off some of her siding.  To bad I didn’t get to hear that story…

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They did patch it but I’m hoping to do better.

Nadine has lots of potential and even the cats seem to enjoy her.  They almost look like some weird kind of decoration spaced out on her back bumper enjoying the morning sun.

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But then again, maybe they’re just pointing out that matching tail lights would help too.

Oh, so much to do and so little time before the camping season kicks off.  I guess I better get to it!

Hello everyone.  I am sorry for such a long delay between posts but my computer suddenly didn’t like my Word Press blog.  I’m not sure what happened but I put off purchasing a new computer until a well placed lightning strike finished off the old computer and forced me to do something.  Now things are back up and running so lets see what you’ve missed.

First off I quit my job.  It wasn’t what I had planned when I went to work that morning last January but things had been going bad for almost 9 months and it was time to say “enough.”   I was being blamed for everything – even the mistakes my boss was making so it was time to go.  I didn’t realize how stressed I was until I quit and slept for almost 2 months.  But life is good and I am much happier now.

Especially since the birth of our first grandbaby in June.

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Dierk arrived on a very special day – it was my mother’s birthday (and her twin brothers as well) and also our daughter-in-laws grandmother’s birthday.  He’s almost 6 months old now and is full of smiles and moving around more every day.

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Of course the summer wouldn’t have been complete without several trips across the state to see our grandson and even a couple of camping trips with the girlfriends.

The Sisters On The Fly had a big campout at Deadwood this year with almost 100 Sisters attending and 90 campers – some new & some really old.  We rented the entire Fish N Fry campground just outside of town and had a blast.  The campground owners and staff were wonderful and their beautiful campground (with a creek running through it) was fantastic.  I had set up a scavenger hunt in some of Deadwood’s haunted buildings and shared some of the history and stories of this small town.  The Sisters also picked up charms for a bracelet at each stop and when finished had a great keepsake of their trip to the Hills.

There was also a camper tour and poker run where we dressed up as some of Deadwood’s famous Soiled Doves.

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Of course I released my inner slut and bought her a drink.  It was a lot of fun.

I also camped with the local gals a couple of times this year.

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We camped at the Rapid City KOA and attended the Kountry Junking sale at the fair grounds last spring then went to Sheridan in September for “Born in a Barn” antique/repurposed sale.  I bought several fun things and saw lots of stuff I could do with the ‘junk’ we have around the ranch – if only I took the time to do it.

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The bees have also had an interesting summer.  Last winter I failed to put on the mouse guards I had purchased and last spring found 4 hives killed and destroyed by mice.  Dirty buggers!!!  They eat the bees and also make a mess of the honey comb (and honey) in the process.

I have since revamped my hives to include hardware cloth at the entrances so hopefully there will be no more mice problems.  I split one of the remaining 2 hives and the other hive swarmed while we were gone to see our new grandbaby.  Morgan happened to see it resting on the fence and sent me a message.  With a quick phone call that included a lot of begging and pleading on my part he finally agreed to put on my bee suit and try to capture the swarm.  He is about 6 inches taller than me so it sounds like the suit was a little snug.  Morgan did great job but he says he will never do that again!  We passed that swarm onto a friend near Newcastle who had lost both colonies she ordered so she was grateful to Morgan as well.

Even with all the problems we still ended the summer with 3 strong hives and harvested one box of honey – roughly 2 1/2 gals of golden goodness.

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I also met the 2015 American Honey Queen at Bee College in Cheyenne this year.

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It’s been a great (and busy) year and it’s nearly time to start a new year filled with more adventures but for now I better get the Christmas decorations out!!!

Hope your enjoying the winter.

JoAnn

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer Fun

I hope everyone else has been having as much fun this summer as I have!

Of course my garden looks like crap but I have to admit the weeds have had a spectacular year.  It was soooo cold for soooo long this spring that the veggies  that actually sprouted are way behind.  I’m not sure if there will be anything at all except some herbs and a few green beans to harvest.  There are a few tomatoes on the vines but they are very green and with the cold nights I’m betting we will have a house full of green tomatoes this fall.

Since it is just plain depressing to go out into the garden I have been keeping busy with other stuff…  Some really fun stuff.

I have been working on my little camper – Rattlin’ Ruby and she is starting to look pretty darn spiffy.  We have the Custer County Fair this weekend, a Sisters on the Fly event in Buffalo WY next weekend and finally a car show to enter her in next month.

 In a moment of total and complete insanity I started polishing her silver aluminum hide.  Of course when I started this little project it was hot and dry but since then the skies have opened up and it rains just about every evening so my polishing has come to a screeching halt.  Only about a third of Ruby’s back-end is polished and about half of one side.  She looks a little goofy right now but that will not stop us from going to the fair.  We leave today and will carefully weave our way through the masses of motorcycles that are on the road this week for the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.  It should be fun!

This last few weeks have been filled with even more fun.  I know – it’s hard to believe it can get any better than polishing an old camper, right?  Ha!

The first thing we did was the Days of ’76 in Deadwood.  I have never been to the ‘Days’ and I have lived here a really, really long time.  I didn’t get very good photos but we had a blast!  Dalton and Dani were the ones who came up with this wonderful idea and so we jumped in the pickup and drove to Deadwood where we had a fantastic meal at the 4 Aces Casino – prime rib and crab legs.  My advice – forget the salad bar and head straight to the good stuff.  From there we walked (actually we waddled) down to the Rodeo grounds to the vendors who ended up with some of my hard-earned cash and the grandstands which are amazing on their own.  Built from huge logs it’s like a work of art you can sit in.  I’ll try to post some photos when I get back from the fair.

The 2nd fun thing I did was to go to a party at the Antler’s Bar & Grill which was hosted by the Newcastle Library.  You got to love a library which holds a get together at a bar!  This one was for Craig Johnson – the wonderfully talented author of the Longmire series of books which inspired the TV show – Longmire.

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If you haven’t been watching Longmire on Monday nights you have been missing out!  The story is based on the sheriff – Walt Longmire who lives in the make-believe town of Durant, WY (which is patterned after Buffalo, WY).  Craig lives in Ucross which is a small town close to Buffalo.  The Buffalo Chamber of Commerce have celebrated Longmire Days for the past 3 years and I have wanted to go every single year.  I haven’t made it yet but I am definitely going next year.

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Craig is traveling around the state of Wyoming and visiting all 73 Wyoming libraries to talk about his book The Spirit of Steamboat.  What a nice guy!  He is a wonderfully funny speaker and is so humbled by the amazing success of his books and the show.  Its obvious he loves Wyoming and the people who live there and has become something of a local hero although you would never know it to speak to him.  In fact the Libraries ‘pay’ him to come speak with a 6 or 12 pack of Rainer Beer – which is Sherriff Longmie’s favorite drink.  He says he hasn’t bought beer in 7 years!.  What a great sense of humor.

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As you can tell I was very impressed and inspired by his talk.  I may just have to start writing murder mysteries too!  In my free time of course…  Dang, I’m funny!  I suggest you read his books (and the entire Britannica encyclopedia set) while you wait for my book to come out.  I believe the library also has Seasons 1 & 2 on DVD of the TV series.

The 3rd really fun thing I did last week was to join a few people from work who wanted to do a Mud Run.   This event was hosted by the Campbell County Mudders to raise money for the families of the 3 miners who were killed in a bus/car accident a couple of months ago.  It was for a good cause so I figured why not?  How bad could it be?  There were 5 members of our team – some of which actually like to run (go figure) and some of us who were built more for comfort than speed (myself included).

OK – I must admit most people who do these runs actually spend time training for them but since it was kind of a last-minute thing we had less than a week to prepare.  I trained by eating as much chocolate as possible and by running 2 laps around the house one evening.  It took me 2 days to recover from that.  Even with that extensive training, I was not prepared for what we ended up doing.   Silly me.  I imagined we would be jogging around the horse track at  Camplex with a few mud puddles to run through.

Lets just say it was a little more intense than that…

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Turns out that this event was one that would be classified as an Extreme Mudder Run.  As I always say “Go Big or Go Home”.

That’s Beth, one of my team mates in the picture above.  She was in the first obstacle.  Who knew they would build obstacles in a race?  They had dug 2 holes in the track, piled the dirt up on each end of the holes and filled both holes with water.  And that was just the first of many ‘fun’ things to come.  The course was 5K (or 3.1 miles) and was run in 2 laps with 16 obstacles in each lap.  The 1st obstacle – pictured above – we had to do 3 times.

Can I just say one word?

BENTONITE! 

If you’ve never had any experience with this powdery grey mineral you might not realize what water does to it.  I on the other hand I have helped seal off stock tank leaks with the stuff and have learned all the fascinating properties of the stuff.  I have found that combining water and BENTONITE creates one of the slickest, gooiest, stick-to-your-body gunk you will ever run into.  And ‘run into it’ we did.

We ran through it, slid down it, swam through it, climbed up it and slithered on our bellies like a reptile in it.

As if the challenge of wet BENTONITE wasn’t enough there were also huge tires from large mine vehicles to climb over, a cable bridge stretched between two tow trucks to fall off of, barbed wire (one with electricity to zap you) to crawl under, culverts to crawl through, structures to climb over, large round hay bales to climb up and over, a large roll-off dumpster lined with plastic and filled with water you had to wade through and duck under wooden walls and a vast plethora of chances to break a hip on.  As I get older I find myself thinking about that stuff more often.

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Thankfully, Beth’s daughter was there to take pictures of us as we worked our way through the course.  I figured I might need them for insurance purposes too.

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Thank goodness for my fantastic team mates.  That’s Jonathan hauling my lazy *%$ through part of the course.  Actually that was one of the obstacles – to carry a team-mate for a distance.  We had to stay together as a team and surprisingly we did pretty good – less than 90 minutes to get through it all.  We even beat out a team of 21-year-old gals who had to ask another team of guys to help them along the way.  Of course that could have been their plan all along – if you get my drift.

Here’s our ‘after’ photo.

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You can’t really see what a mess we were.  But they did direct us to the livestock wash racks before allowing us into the bathrooms if that gives you any indication of how we looked.  I’m still picking BENTONITE out of my belly button.

I have to admit I am rather proud of our team and even myself.   With a little help from my friends I was able to do every obstacle except one – climbing over a 15 foot wall with a knotted rope to pull yourself up with.  I’m going to have to work my way up to that one.  But all in all I didn’t do too bad for a 52-year-old woman who sits at a desk all day and eats massive amounts of chocolate.

Will I do it again?  I just might.  I must admit that when I hit that first obstacle my first thought was “What the hell did I get myself into?”  But completing each obstacle and crossing that finish line was a rush I haven’t felt for a long time.  Yep, I’ll do it again but next time I’ll train a little better – more chocolate and maybe 2 more laps around the house!!!

Now I’m off to have more fun!