Montana Belly-Washer

CAMPGROUND: Conestoga Campground/RV Park. Commercial park with about 40 sites. Not much shade, but since it is cool, that is not a problem. Many of the rigs seem to be here for the summer. Nice clubhouse with friendly staff. Very clean bathrooms. Grassy, all pull-through sites. Electricity and water. Some sites are full hook-ups. Good wifi. Good TV reception – including PBS. Yeah! $34/night. Picnic table, but no firepit. 4 stars out of 5
LOCATION: White Sulphur Springs, Montana – in central part of state
WEATHER: Cool. High 70. Thunderstorms in the evening

We said goodbye to our 3 nights at Greek Creek Campground in the Gallatin National Forest. We enjoyed our time in this beautiful forest.

Our destination today was about 2 hours away. First, we drove on a narrow, winding road through a huge canyon – for about 60 miles. Some scary curves. Then, another 60 miles of cattle ranges. This is really remote. Ranch houses are about 50 miles from each other. Hayfields as far as your eye can see. No gas stations; no other cars for miles and miles.

White Sulphur Springs is about the only town around. Its claim to fame is its hot springs. The campground had been recommended to us, and it is a good central point for us.

Setting up was easy-peasy since it is a pull-through, flat site. After getting settled, we walked into town. We checked out the hot springs, trying to decide whether to go there or not. Then, we found the town’s micro-brewery (of course).

We chattted with the owner, a former cattle ranger who liked to brew beer in his garage, and then opened this very popular, friendly brewery. He has 2 basset hounds that he adores, so all the decor is dog-oriented. We found out that his daughter is an RN at Mayo Clinic, where we used to work.

The town has an annual festival called Ants in Your Pants. One of the shops in town has the same name, and uses this vintage Airstream for shows.

We saw this camper – maybe our next RV after the Airstream???

Back at the campground, we enjoyed some PBS. The sky began to darken so we decided to do our outdoor cooking early. Without a firepit, George cooked on our gas grill.

DINNER: Brats (from the grill), fried potato wedges, and sauteed cabbage.

George braved the thunderstorm, and ran into the clubhouse to join others for an ice cream social. It was quite a storm, with a lot of lighting, thunder, and rain. We stayed safe and dry inside the Airstream.

Day Trip to Urban Life

CAMPGROUND: 3rd (and last) night at Greek Creek Campground, part of Gallatin National Forest
LOCATION: 30 miles south of Bozeman, Montana
WEATHER: Much cooler. High 65. Rain in the afternoon

Since it was cool overnight, we closed up the windows in the Airstream. The trailer must be pretty tight, as we did not hear the highway noise at all.

George likes to do a yoga routine almost every morning. Since there isn’t a lot of space inside to do that, I make myself scarce while he is exercising by taking walks. I walked around the campground this morning. Most sites are empty, but all have reserved signs on them for tonight (busy Friday).

We drove to Livingstone, a town that had been recommended. It indeed is a cute town with 7500 people. The downtown is vibrant with shops and restaurants. A lot of the buildings have old-style neon signs. We checked out a downtown brewery. We found out its name, Katabatic, means an unusually strong wind that often blows through the town. The bartender told us that they close nearby I-90, not due to snow, but because the high winds blow over everything – including semi-trailers.

After checking out Livingstone (would not be a bad place to live), we headed to Bozeman. With 45,000 people, it seems like a perfect size. The town is really hopping. We went to one of its 9 brewpubs for lunch. Located on a lake, we watched picnickers and swimmers brave the elements.

The place was jammed, and we had a good lunch. The owners named it MAP because they love to travel – kindred souls!

We parked in downtown Bozeman and checked out some of the shops (all full of shoppers). Everyone seemed to be strolling the streets of its historic downtown. There is a live theater downtown as well as an opera house and huge library. Not one single shop was a chain; everything cute and local. I could live here, too, I think. It must be even busier when the Montana State University students return for the school year.

The downtown merchants were getting ready for a Friday Art Walk tonight.

This wine store/bistro was one of the cute storefronts.

We did our grocery shopping in a really nice store. (Sometimes shopping in smaller towns is quite limited). We should be well-stocked for a week or so.

KARMEN’S KITCHEN TIP: When we started this year’s trip back in May, my oregano was growing like a weed. I took the oregano pot with me and used the oregano until we had to give it up at the Canada border. With the rest, I picked, washed, dried, and diced the leaves. Then, I filled up an ice cube tray with olive oil and the oregano. After the cubes froze, I popped the cubes into a baggie. Now, when I need to flavor a dish with oregano, I pull out one of these cubes from the freezer.

Back at the campground, George got a campfire going. Between the rain showers, he was able to grill portabello mushrooms.

DINNER: Stuffed portabello mushrooms. While George was grilling the mushroom tops, I made the filling – sausage (previously cooked and frozen), onion, garlic, mushroom bits, an olive oil/oregano cube, and breadcrumbs (panko). I sprinkled on Parmesan upon serving. Side was a lettuce and tomato salad.

After dinner, since it was still light, I stoked up the campfire and enjoyed the rest of the evening. Several campers came into our campground, made the loop frantically searching for a vacant site, then took off again to look for a site at another campground.

A Day Trip to Yellowstone

CAMPGROUND: 2nd night at Greek Creek in the Gallatin National Forest
LOCATION: 30 miles south of Bozeman, Montana; 50 miles north of Yellowstone (Wyoming)
WEATHER: Cooler. High 75. Rain in the late PM

As all campers know, it is unlawful to carry wood from one campground to another, as harmful beetles hide in the bark and can be easily transported this way. And, as many of you know, we are cheap! So, instead of buying campfire wood at each campground, we scrounge around and pick up the wood others leave behind them. This morning, George raked in a good haul from our neighbors’ leftovers after they left.

KARMEN’S KITCHEN TIP: We use an aero-press to make coffee each morning. It is kind of like a French Press. It is all plastic, so will not break. You just place the coffee into one cylinder, then add hot water, stir, let it steep, push through, and serve. When we have electricity, I heat the water with an electric tea kettle. Today, without electricity, I heated the water in an old-fashioned tea kettle on the stove using propane. Our system works pretty well, other than the day I accidentally threw away the essential plastic filter and had to go dumpster-diving in the campground’s trash to retrieve it!!!

We hadn’t planned to visit Yellowstone, the world’s first national park, on this trip, as we have been there before, and also because we have been hearing stories about its overcrowdedness. But, since we are so close, we decided we just HAD to go.

The 50-mile drive was very pleasant, following the Gallatin River, through pine forests and horse ranches. We entered through the West Yellowtone gate.

We planned a big circle route that would take us through most of the central part of the park. We tried to stop at the first two geyser locations, but the parking lots were impossible. People and cars everywhere, with cars hoping for a parking space, backed up on the highway. We had to give up and forego the sites.

Disappointed, we carried on. We saw some beautiful waterfalls and began to see some animals – a grizzly bear crossing the road, deer, lots of bison, a big elk with a huge antler rack, and these smaller elk right along the road.

As we drove deeper into the park, we began to lose some of the crowds, although there were still lines for everything – parking spaces, the smelly pit toilets, and even picnic tables. All were taken when we stopped for lunch, so we picnicked on a log. No complaints!

It is fun to look at all the car license plates – people come from all over. We heard lots of foreign languages, and of course, there were several Chinese tour buses.

We saw lots of different kinds of geysers

This one is called Dragon’s Mouth as it really looks like a dragon is hiding in a cave and spewing out hot breath….

We ended our visit at Old Faithful. It went off just as we were parking the car, so we saw it at a distance. Old Faithful isn’t as faithful as she used to be. She used to go off regularly each hour, but now it is more like 90 minutes between each blast. In any case, we stopped at the historic Yellowstone Inn and enjoyed watching her steam from the inn’s patio.

On our way home, we stopped at Big Sky Resort. It is a very swanky ski resort and village. At 11,000 feet, the mountainside was filled with ski slopes and beautiful chalets. Another check-off from my book “Thousand Places to Go Before You Die”.

Down the mountain, we stopped for dinner at a brewpub in the village of Big Sky. We shared some lamb lollipops and an order of jambalaya. And of course, the requisite IPA for me and stout for George.

Rugged Montana Beauty

CAMPGROUND: Greek Creek National Forest Service Campground. As with most NFS campgrounds, it is woodsy and spacious. No services, except a vault toilet and water source. Very small – 8 sites on our side of the highway; 8 on the other. We are very lucky to have the best site – just footsteps from the Gallatin River. Grill and picnic table. Also, someone has made a campfire ring on our site next to the river. $10/night with Senior Pass. 4 stars out of 5. (I would have rated it a 5 but there is a lot of annoying traffic noise)

LOCATION: 30 miles south of Bozeman, Montana. 60 miles north of Yellowstone

WEATHER: Beautiful. High 78. Cool evenings and AM. (OK without air conditioning)

We took advantage of Rambling Moose’s offerings this morning – long showers, water tank fill-up, grey and black water dumps – as we will be roughing it for the next 3 nights. Then, we took off for our next destination.

We only had 25 miles to drive as the crow flies, but we had to circle the mountain range by going north then south. We drove through dramatically beautiful scenery, following the roaring Gallatin River.

How happy we were when we saw our site! Our site has lots of tall pine trees providing nice shade. After setting up, we took our books down to the river to read with our feet in the cool water.

About 100 rafting boats floated by.

They were so close that I talked with one of the guides as he paddled by. He said our spot is a favorite moose crossing. Wouldn’t that be cool!

DINNER: George sauteed onion, bell pepper, and mushrooms in a skillet over the fire. A few days ago, I bought chicken thighs. The package contained 4, so I had George grill all of them at the time, and we froze the ones we didn’t use. Tonight, I chopped one up to add to the stir-fry. When the veg and chicken were almost cooked, I added some frozen Asian vegetables (the package kind for stir-fry). I topped it with some soy sauce, sesame oil, and sesame seeds. While that was going outside, I cooked Japanese soba (buck-wheat noodles) inside. Then, I made a broth with dashi powder. You could use chicken broth instead. To serve – just combine the veg/chicken mix with the soba and pour the broth over. This is a typical Japanese meal (which we often ate while living in Japan).

After dinner, we moved the hot coals to the fire ring, and enjoyed a nice evening around the campfire.

KARMEN’S KITCHEN TIP: I am going to start giving a few tips occasionally on this blog. I hope they are helpful to fellow campers. For today……When we go on a road trip, I always bring our oldest, least desirable bath towels. When one becomes threadbare, I cut it up in small squares, then use as dish rags. After 3-4 days of each square’s dish rag life, it usually start smelling a bit musty, so I just throw it away, and pull out a new one. This is better than keeping a nice one for 2 weeks or so, waiting for the next laundry day.

Enjoying Montana’s Ghost Towns

CAMPGROUND: 2nd night at Rambling Moose Campground
LOCATION: Virginia City, Montana, about 80 miles north of Yellowstone
WEATHER: Perfect! Sunny. High 78. Since we are at 6000 feet elevation, it gets cool in the evenings/overnight.

After one of George’s yummy breakfasts (eggs, bacon, and grits), we drove into Virginia City. We strolled the streets again. Many of storefronts were open this morning, and we could peep in to see how they looked in the 1800s – like this old barber shop.

Many of the old houses are still lived in.

We boarded a little train to take us to another ghost town – Nevada City.

On our way, the conductor provided an interesting history of the ghost towns. We learned that the heir to the General Mills fortune is the benefactor who bought up most of Virginia City when it was about to go under, preserved and restored it, and then returned it to the state.

Nevada City is more “ghosty” than Virginia City – not too much left except a bakery and a place along the river where tourists can pan for gold.

We had lunch in another saloon back in Virginia City, an intresting combination of tourists and locals starting their weekend drinking early.

This is a replica of the stage coach that used to come through here.

Then, we went to the afternoon performance at the Old Opera House.

It was a play followed by vaudeville acts. Quite good. During intermission, we checked the adjacent saloon (yet another one) and saw this talented couple dancing to the honky-tonk player piano.

TODAY’S WILDLIFE SPOTTING: 3 mule deer, a bunny rabbit, and a snapping turtle. We were disappointed in not seeing a moose. This campground has a resident one (thus the name). The campground owner told us that last week, a foolish camper followed it (a mother) into the woods. The camper almost got attacked as the moose was protecting her baby.

Back at the campground, we made a nice fire.

DINNER: My latest discovery – lavash. They are very thin flatbreads. The package I bought contained 6. For each meal, we just split one, so we will have several flatbrad meals. They lay flat in the freezer, so are easy to keep. Previously, I made one with a cream cheese base and chicken. Tonight, I made an Italian one. On my last shopping trip, I bought a chub of Italian sausage. I had George cook the entire chub on the grill this evening. I froze 2/3 of it, and used the rest for tonight’s flatbread. The frozen sausage will be for future meals. I also had him grill a few pieces of pepperoni, and I froze the rest. I sauteed some veg – green pepper, mushrooms, and onions. Then, we were ready to assemble: We coated both sides of the flatbreads wiith olive oil and toasted them over the fire (you could do this on the top of the stove). Then, I brushed on a thin layer of leftover pasta sauce. Layering came next – the veg, sausage, and peppperoni. Finally, I topped them with mozarella. I popped them in the microwave to warm up everything and to melt the cheese. Delicioso! With 4 flatbreads left in the freezer, I see more of these meals in the future!

While we were eating dinner outside, neighbors pointed out a double rainbow in back of our Airstream. Stunning!

This was followed by a brilliant sunset that seemed to last forever.

A great ending to a very nice day.

Ghost Town Fun

CAMPGROUND: Rambling Moose Campground and RV. Small, commercial park with about 30 sites. New owners are updating everything. Spacious sites with some shade. Water and electricity at each site. Some pull-throughs. Dump station. Immaculate and new showers/bathroom. Firepit and picnic table at each site, a nice touch for a commercial park. Extremely friendly owners. Wifi. $38/night less a veterans’ discount. An interesting note – a $10 fine is charged to campers leaving garbage in the firepits. This is such a good idea. We get tired of cleaning out broken glass and beer cans from firepits that stupid people have tossed in. 5 stars out of 5. (This is the first 5 I have given on this trip!)

LOCATION: About 80 miles north of Yellowstone. It is on the historic “Vigilante Trail” that connects Glacier National Park to Yellowstone — would be a nice route for travellers — and this could be a nice place from which to make day trips to Yellowstone, as the ones closer in are crowded and not nearly as pleasant.

WEATHER: Perfect! Cool in the AM and evening. High 83

We took our time at the Three Forks Campground with a slow breakfast and a last glimpse of TV for awhile (unfortunately about the horrors of the shootings in the US). We hit the road with only about 100 miles to drive today.

The drive took us through several small towns. We stopped at one to have lunch in their shady city park. So nice!

TODAY’S WILDLIFE SPOTTING: A herd of pronghorn (often erroneously called antelope).

As we got closer to Virginia City, we started seeing lots of rocks along the river which gold prospectors had dug up searching for gold in the 1800s. We passed through another ghost town, Nevada City, which we plan to explore tomorrow. Then, through Virginia City, a well-preserved Old West mining town.

We got set up and chatted with another Air Streamer for a bit. Today marks our 6th anniversary of being on the road (see previous post). We asked the campground owner to take our photo to commerate the event.

We had an early dinner so that we could go into town to explore before the Brewery Follies we planned to attend in the evening.

DINNER: Since we were in a rush, it was not fancy at all tonight. George was hankering for a BLT. I made some vegetable beef soup -by jazzing up the canned kind with local potato bits and mushrooms. Due to limited cupboard space, I don”t have a lot of fancy cookware. I do have a tiny George Foreman grill that I love. I used it for George’s BLT tonight, and often use it for paninis and toast.

We drove into town (about a half mile) and wandered around the main street. This was a very vibrant city in the goldmining times. After the gold ran out in the mid 1800s, many people left, but others stayed and have preserved the town. Some of the buildings are in use as shops and restaurants.

The entire town is on the Historic Registry and all of the buildings have plaques describing their history

George liked this old car.

We glanced in one of the town’s saloons, the oldest bar in Montana. Maybe we can stop by tomorrow for a Montana micro-brew.

Then, on to the Brewery Follies. It is a “comedy cabaret” with performances in the town’s former brewery, the oldest in Montana.

When we arrived, two guys sold us our tickets and seated us. Two women were bartenders and servers. When the show started, these 4 morphed into the show’s only actors. They were amazing, with constant hair and costume changes. The show was pretty politically incorrect – songs and jokes making fun of politics, religion, sex, drugs, and the weather. One couple actually got up and left after the first raunchy song. It was a fun, two-hour show. We are glad we went.

Happy 6-years for ReidsontheRoad!

Today marks our anniversary of being on the road for 6 years. Six years ago, George picked me up from my office on my last day of work (I worked furiously right up to the end). We had sold our house and all of our houseshold goods. Everything we owned had to fit into our trailer and Honda Pilot. We innocently started out in a tiny A-Liner pop-up trailer. We did not get a storage unit. We lived 6 months in this tiny space, happy as clams. When we hit cold weather after 6 months, we moved up to a 22-foot Airstream travel trailer, then eventually to our current 25-foot Airstream Flying Cloud.

We have criss-crossed North America -camping in most of the Canadian provinces, all of the US states except Hawaii, and parts of Mexico. Every time that we think we have seen a lot, someone recommends another place to visit.

About 4 years ago, we discovered the joys of housesitting. At first, it was just to have a little break from the highway, and we did a few assignments around the US, sometimes taking our Airstream with us, and sometimes storing it while housesitting. We use to find assignments. We liked housesitting so much so that we started doing it internationally. We have had assignments in England, Scotland, France, Switzerland, Italy, Australia, Bangkok, Singapore, US Virgin Islands, and Panama. It is a great way to travel the world, and really get to know an area, rather than just being a tourist. We are applying now for assignments in South Africa and South America. Who knows!

When we are not on the road in the Airstream or housesitting, we live a few months a year in a tiny house we had built in South Texas. It caters to RVers by offering lots with full hook-ups, with tiny houses like ours, as well as port homes and “regular” houses. We like it — Retama Village.

I write a daily blog describing our traveling adventures. It includes a critique of the campground, when applicable, for future reference, lots of photos, and our dinner menu. With a hobby of cooking, I write about the challenges of cooking interesting foods within the confines of travel – small refrigerator and freezer, limited cooking utensils, and the challenge of cooking over a campfire when we can. Check it out…

The best part about traveling is meeting people….the world is full of great folks! Every day is an adventure. We hope to continue this lifestyle for several more years!!

Caves and Country Saloons

CAMPGROUND: 2nd night at Camp Three Forks
LOCATION: Three Forks, Montana, about 100 miles north of Yellowstone
WEATHER: Hot! High 93.

Today’s outing was to Lewis & Clark Caverns, about 20 miles from here. It seems more like a national park than a state park – quite grand. This sign greeted us at the entrance. Thank goodness we were set for the night at Three Forks.

The caverns are located up a steep, curvy road with beautiful mountain views.

We did the easier cave hike, a 1/2 mile hike to the entrance. The guide gave us the history as we sweltered in the sun. We learned that it was discovered in the early 1800s (not by Lewis and Clark) and was developed by the CCC. The sun stung my legs as she talked. Awful! Then, we entered the nice, cool cave. It was quite interesting, as caves go.

Back at the campground, George watched Sunday afternoon golf while I did internet work. We had originally planned to boondock for our next few nights in a scenic area south of here that our friends Sarah and Richard Shong had recommended. However, with heat like today, I am afraid to be out in the hot sun without electricity (aka air conditioning). So, I worked online and booked two nights in another commercial RV park for 2 nights.

DINNER: At the recommendation of our RV park, we drove a few miles to a tiny town of about 100 people. There is not much there except this cafe/saloon. It is famous for its cowboy atmosphere and food.

The customers were locals who came on motor cycles….

……and on horses!

We shared a half order of baby-back ribs. The sauce was delicious! It came with rosemary garlic fries and broccoli rabe. We ate at the bar and chatted with the very friendly bartender/owner.

BOOK: I finished 2nd in a series by Peter Robinson “A Dedicated Man”. A decent British detective story. I like it because it takes place in the northern Yorkshire Dales where we did a housesitting assignment last year. 8 out of 10 stars.

Headwaters of the Missouri River

CAMPGROUND: Camp Three Forks RV. Commercial park, formerly a KOA – with KOA amenities without the price. Full hookups, although we have chosen electricity and water only. Dump station. Dish-washing sink. Wifi. TV. Laundry. Community grill/fire pit. Firepits and picnic tables at each site (unusual for commercial parks). Good, but dated bathroom. Very friendly staff. $38/night. 4 stars (almost 5) out of 5

LOCATION: Three Forks, Montana in south central part of state. 100 miles north of Yellowstone

WEATHER: Very nice. High 80

We enjoyed our last morning at Goose Bay by watching the osprey in the nest near our campsite. We also watched everyone head for their boats….a bit envious. 😦

Our drive today was only 50 miles. We drove through miles and miles of fields – hay, wheat, and potato. Huge irrigation machines turned the brown fields into lush, green circles. I was reminded of how it looks when flying over this area in an airplane – brown with green circles.

We were welcomed at this RV park and were very pleasantly surprised by all the green shade trees. What a contrast from Goose Bay. The host guided us to our spot in his golf cart, and helped us to set up – really easy peasy since the lots are all very level and are all pull-through.

The vibe is different here. There are a lot of out-of-state RVs here, whereas the state parks where we have been staying are mostly full of Montana families. For us non-Montana residents, the price of this commercial park is actually a bit less than the state park fees. And – we don’t have to pay for showers or the dump station. I think a lot of the campers here are between Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks – we are about halfway between them.

We visited the Missouri River Headwaters. Three Forks is named after the 3 rivers – Madison, Jefferson, and Gallitin that converge here and become the Missouri River, our nation’s longest river.

I had to stick my toe in the Missouri, just to say I did.

We passed this field where they are setting up for the River Rock Fest. The bridge becomes the stage. It sure would not be pleasant to camp here with 500 others in the hot sun, listening to music this weekend.

We checked out the town of Three Forks where they were having an antique airplane fly-in. George loves to look at these old airplanes.

We had seen billboards advertising the Sacajawea Hotel in town, so we had to check it out. It is lovely – from the 1800s, built when railway travelers stopped here.

On our way back to the campground, we stopped to buy Flathead Cherries – from Lake Flathead, Montana where we recently visited. Really good.

WILDLIFE SPOTTING: Today’s highlight was some whooping cranes in one of the wheat fields.

Back at the campground, George took our food over to the community grill to cook.

DINNER: Appetizer was steamed, chilled asparagus spears. Grilled chicken thighs, stuffing, and broccoli and cheese comprised a yummy dinner. All topped off with Flathead cherries.

After dinner, I was so ecstatic (I almost cried) to find 2 of our very favorite BBC shows on PBS – “Last of the Summer Wine” and “Good Neighbors”. Wow!

Last Chance Gulch

CAMPGROUND: 3rd night at Goose Bay Marina. An additional star reduction…..$.50 for a 3-minute shower; $6 to dump
LOCATION: Southwest Montana, near Helena
WEATHER: Mostly sunny. High 93. Verry windy

Today was our day to explore Helena, about 30 miles away. My book “Thousand Places to Go Before You Die” recommends Last Chance Gulch in Helena, so off we went. We had vague plans to visit this gulch, check out a brewpub or two, have lunch, do laundry, and buy groceries.

First, we had to drive our 3-mile tortuous gravel road to the highway.

Not certain where we were going, we went to Last Chance Gulch Road in the downtown area, and found a public parking lot. After parking, we looked up, and what did we see….

We learned that Last Chance Gulch was named after some guys from Georgia who tried to find gold in “these here” parts. They were just about ready to give up when they found some here. So, the street was named Last Chance Gulch and has now been turned into a very nice pedestrian mall.

This sculpture tells the story.

The mall is full of cute shops, restaurants, and yes, another brewpub we had to check out.

As we walked along Last Chance Gulch, a free city trolley stopped by and we hopped on to get a little tour of the city.

We had lunch in another brewpub and enjoyed conversation with the brewmaster who is also an outdoor enthusiast. He recommended some more places for us to visit while we are in the area.

After doing our other city chores, we returned to the campground. On our way back, we spotted two elk grazing.

We made a campfire to cook dinner, but the wind kept blowing it out. We blocked the wind with the pick-up, and finally got it hot enough to cook on.

DINNER: Grilled ahi tuna steaks. To finish them off, I wrapped them in aluminum foil with limes and sauce, and placed the bundles next to the coals. Sides were grilled asparagus, and a package of quinoa with kale. Very gourmet!