Big Bend National Park… Amazing place

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Dear Hannah,

Just because Texarkana and Big Bend are in the same state doesn’t mean they are even remotely close to one another.  Another 12+ hours of driving only put me within striking distance.  Seriously, two full days behind the wheel is exhausting!  As much as I like road trips I could never be a truck driver.  Speaking of truck drivers, I met the next Ex-Mrs Jeff Flemmer… But you’ll have to wait for the book to come out for that story;)

I spent the night in Ft. Stockton TX and was treated to a hell of a thunderstorm! It’s crazy how a little rain (actually a lot) can change the desert.  Flooded roads slowed me down a bit, at least until the water went down, but I was to Big Bend by 0900. The drive was crazy, aside from the flooding.  Dence fog covered the desert in spots which made for some beautiful scenery!

Big Bend is one of our biggest, and least visited national parks.  Because it’s the desert, it’s mainly visited in the winter time so It was practically empty when I got there. Also, BB is also a certified dark sky’s place which makes for some world-class sunsets and star-gazing (that’s why I there).  I pick a spot at the primitive campground down by the Rio Grande River.  Beautiful place, very healthy riparian environment, lots of wildlife, including the little skunk that kept rustling around outside the spam can every night. Cute, and posed with his tail up every time i shined a light at him:)

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The first two days were warm, sunny and relaxed.  I hiked a lot of the trails on my side of the park.

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The Last two days the weather turned and once again, wind and rain.  About the only thing about the spam can I’m tired of is living in it when it’s raining.  Usually I can hang out under the canopy and cook and what not but when the wind is blowing 45mph, it’s just not an option.  Luckily, the national park service has put bear proof boxes at every campsite… just to put your food… or so they thought!

Luckily for me, they’re big enough to almost fit in when the stove is going and the food is cooking.  And they warm up just fine!   I’m sure the other campers don’t think I’m weird, and that they didn’t mean to stare… and take pictures… but two or three did follow my lead.  One even put up a tarp up and had me feeling a bit of “bear box envy”.

This is the sunset from Soto point… jaw dropping!  I sat here watching the sunset and the stars come out with a ritired couple from Virginia and a dude from New Jersey… I made cocoa:)

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The Appalachian Mountains!!!

Dear Hannah

Howdy😁! I guess I have a lot of catching up to do now🤪. Well, it was I believe last Friday when I got to the Shenandoah NP area. The first full day there I took the skyline hwy from end to end and back, stopping at so many little pullouts and parking lots with amazing views. Many of them had trails leading to one place or another so I ended up doing lots of little hike. I actually ran out of time on the return trip and got back to camp after dark. Great hikes! The drive would be great on a motorcycle, or as a passenger in the car, for me it was a lot of windshield time on curvy mountain roads.

My friend Kathleen gave me the guide book… invaluable for this park!!

Day two I spent in the Mathews arm area hiking sort of a tour de waterfall. I had meant to take more pics but as usual, photography wasn’t in the front of my mind.

Day three found me on an ice run into town, so I got my laundry done. It’s all about birds and rocks. Sadly the cell service was so poor there I couldn’t even get on google🤪. I spent the rest of the day walking around the area I was camped in. It’s an old iron smelting area and a lot of the buildings are still standing and restored. Pretty cool!

Day 4 was a driving day. I was going to take the 600ish mile scenic route but honestly, pulling a trailer of any size through windy twisty mountain roads just isn’t that fun. I took the interstate. I found a little campground and settled in. My plan was to spend more time in the area then head south to Florida but Mother Nature has other plans for me. I got to spend one day in the park snooping around. The rains moved in sometime that night so I flipped a coin and headed west. I’ll have to plan another trip along the gulf coast sometime when the weather is more predictable.

So where to next? Well, big bend NP in Texas is on my list. So off I go. As we speak I’m sitting in a hotel in Texarkana TX after 12 hours of driving. I really like the looks of the are between Little Rock AR and here. I may spend the day looking around tomorrow, I may push on. I guess the sunrise will tell😁👍.

Michael’s coming, and he looks mad!!

Dear Hannah.

Hey do you see that big blob of weather currently beating the crap out of the gulf coast? Well that’s where I was headed…. I think I need a new plan.

There are millions of people and their pets being effected by the this storm and many or most of them will need help. I got online this morning and donated some $$$ to two disaster relief NGOs and I hope many many others will do the same. If folks do decide to donate I hope they do some research and find what they feel will be the best organization to receive their gift.

For those who think typing “thoughts and prayers” and posting it on Facebook will help… GROW THE HELL UP!!! Your invisible magic friend isn’t coming to save anyone. I’m sure you’ll feel all self righteous and proud after you hit the “post” button, but your pathetic attempt at action is completely useless!! Like the Pope said, “pray, then act, that’s how it works”.

Anyway Hannah, that’s my morning rant! More later!!

Well, That was Shendendoah NP!

Dear Hannah

Wow it’s been almost a week since I’ve had any decent cell service much less internet!!  So what Have I been up to…Ah yessssss….

My last real post of any substance was just after the tire fiasco… well it gets better.  So I had left Bangor Maine and spent the night somewhere in upstate NY… Very beautiful area!  I hit the road early with plans on being At Shenandoah NP around 1000.  I was told that if I got there before noon there was a good chance I could get a campsite at one of the campgrounds in the park… that was my plan (no back-up plan FYI).  I’m cruising down the interstate just north of the PA line when GrrrGrrrr Grrr Grrrr(the truck starts to shake)FluppaFluppaFluppaFluppaBANG (The truck really starts to shake) FlupFlupFlupFlupFlupFlupFlup (I’m pulling off the road) FluppityFluppityFluppityFluppityFluppityFlopFlopFlopFlopFlopMUSHHHHHHHHHHHHH (I’ve come to a stop).  Flat tire! DAMMIT!

Now if you’ve been following this stop-and-go, jerky, inconsistent blog, you will know that I have a spare, on the right sized rim, just primed for the job… not so fast! Sure its new, but that would mean I’d now have a radial tire on some side and a bias-ply on the other.  I don’t know what evil will befall anyone who commits such an act, I’ve only heard rumor, but this is bad!  Not only that, the rim previously attached to the now flattened tire is as destroyed as much as the tire… Double Dammit!!

Changing the tire could be a whole blog post unto itself!  This was not my first flat tire hence not my first rodeo.  It is my first on a trailer on the side of a busy curvy interstate loaded with big trucks whipping by at 75mph literally inches away.  I won’t go in to great detail but lets just say, had I not maintained the composure, calm and focus I did… I might have pooped just a little every time a truck rolled by… just saying.

I probably could have just pushed the envelope of stupidity and gone without a spare, but i have a history of taking back roads of questionable make-up.  A rolling google search lead me to a trailer repair shop about 30 miles down the road.  One small cash transfusion later and I’m rolling with shiny new radials on both sides and a new spare to boot (see previous posts, its confusing).  If everything goes right I should be thereby noon, in time to get a campsite in the park.

Lets talk about road construction for a bit.  If you’re going to delay traffic for 3-4 hours and back traffic up for miles and miles… at least have some construction going on for me to see when I finally get to the end.  NO SHIT!!!  I’m usually pretty Zen when I comes to dealing with things like delays and traffic and stuff… Don’t get bent out of shape about things you can’t control, Grateful Dead channel playing, windows open, plenty of gas, sunny day, got snacks… it’s all good!  I’m rolling along at like,.00001MPH for 3.5 hours and when I get to the end of it… Just a bunch of guys sitting on a big trailer full of traffic cones, not even any heavy equipment, not a scratch on the black top… nothing!  I better change the subject before I drop the eff-bomb.

Now I need gas.  Normally not a big deal really, you’ve all done it.  I pull in to a gas station, apparently along with everyone else from the traffic mess.  As I pull up in to line at a pump I hear over the PA system “All of our pumps are currently down, we are trying to reboot the system to restore power, this should take just a few minutes”.  The Truck stop became a gridlocked mess and it took about 1 1/2 hours to get gas and get out of there… now I’m 5 hours behind schedule.  This is the only day this entire trip that I actually planned on being somewhere at a certain time.  If I ever do write this in to a book I’m call this chapter “Planning, the Mother of Disappointment”.

When I finally rolled in to Strasburg VA it was about 1700 or so. I didn’t even bother with the NP and headed straight up into the GW national forest looking for the little campground that showed on my map.  I found it, pulled in to the last spot available and was done for the day, just spent!  I can’t tell you how happy I was to have found that spot!  The camp host informed me that every campground in the area fills up every weekend and that i was lucky to have gotten there when I did.  I ended up running back to town for ice etc. (I had PLANNED on having half a day to screw around doing that kind of stuff).

It ended up being a really nice area in general and I’m glad I ended up there rather than in the park the whole time.  I’ll write more about that later.  One thing that struck me as kind of sad.  As I’m sitting there by my little campfire that lovely friday night, I noticed literally dozens of cars that would pull in, the occupants would look at the big sign board and have a short discussion, and drive away.  I saw a number of disappointed children in those cars.  So many people…

Anyway Hannah.  I had better get my laundry done.  I’m taking a hotel night tonight and a slack day tomorrow so I’ll write more about the past few days.  I definately want to come back to this area!  There’s so much history around here!!

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Repairs: an update

Dear Hannah. Ok so this isn’t a picture pertaining to repairs. What do you want, a picture of the tire shop?🤪. I tried to put the spare on the trailer and WTF?!?!! The spare has the wrong bolt pattern? No shit! I’ve never even checked!! Anyway, I now have a spare with the correct rim and a new tire on the Spam Can… so that’s that!

So what’s with the picture? All things I’m glad I have. The coffee pot has been with me on so many trips for so many years, I think it goes back to my time in Alaska?!? When Lewis and Clark stepped out of the wilderness after the, what like 2 1/2 years? The few possessions the party carried the entire way included their cookware. It’s a good pot!

The glove is part of a pair of very heavy fleece lined work gloves, the kind you can pick up a burning log with (seriously just don’t stand there with a burning log in your hand, it will quickly get really hot). Great for just having around camp, great for grabbing hot coffee pots! Oddly, this pair of gloves is probably 25-30 years old. I have another pair just like them but I decided to take the staples out of these and use them. The first pair are still in use, just gave them a break.

The hot pad is a new addition but so handy! Kneel in it when your working on the ground, set the pot on the cooler lid, pick up hot stuff, wipe my hands, sit on when the seat is wet🤪.

So anyway, there’s that. I’m off to explore Bangor ME.

Baxter… what a park should be😁

Dear Hannah.

I just had a great three days at Baxter State Park in Maine!! Why only 3 days you ask? Couple of reasons. I took a look at the calendar and my bank account and both hinted at maybe keeping moving. The other was when the ranger I chatted with mentioned freezing rain and snow🤪🤪🤪🤪. That’s motivation!!!

Anyway, Baxter is my kind of Park, a real park’s park!! This isn’t a place that you can “swing through” on your way to someplace else… it’s the end of the road… and the roads are dirt, rough and narrow. The campgrounds are, for the most part, totally primitive… as in “boil your water from that stream over there if you want to drink” primitive. I guess there are a few cabins to rent down the road but for the rest, you’re really roughing it!!

The roads get narrower and prettier from here
Boiling water, 3 gallons, on pot at a time.

Since I couldn’t g out of Bar Harbor fast enough I was setting up camp by noon Sunday. There are vehicle size restrictions in the park but I easily fit in to a nice little spot.

Home for a few nights.

Day one found me taking a little hike to Abol Falls. Only about two miles round trip but I kind of wanted to test drive my ankle before attempting anything longer. It turns out this little falls is an amazing, beautiful, peaceful spot and I ended up going back every day😁. Not a tough hike at all and a great place to finish my coffee in the morning.

The top of the falls
Heading over the falls
The edge
The drop👍

I made sure to bring my camera the last day.

My ankle ended up being an issue so I didn’t hike anything with a lot of elevation gain but I hiked a lot, Abol Falls, Blueberry ridge, big rocky/little rocky, a chunk of the AT… I kept busy and very much love this place. You can even hike in to remote lakes and, if you picked up the key at the ranger station, you can grab a canoe and paddle around or fish. Very cool!!

One of the coolest things at Baxter are these little lean-to shelters that a lot of the through hikers use (this is the northern end of the Appalachian trail).

This would be a great little base camp… drafty sure, mice? Yup! But still…

  • Day 3, Tuesday, started out rainy which put me in a really foul mood for some reason. I grumbled around camp and bitched and complained to no one in particular. Finally, I’m sitting there having coffee and I realized, I’m in a dry spot with a nice big awning, I’ve got hot food and fresh ground coffee, I’ve got kick-ass rain gear and I’ve got no where to be and all day to get there😁… so I hiked👍.
  • I probably could have waited until this morning to head out but I figured what the hell, drive in the rain at night and get 2 nights in a hotel (shower, laundry, bed… you get the picture) or leave in the morning in the rain. It only takes me about 10 minutes to get on the road as I pretty much keep everything packed (I learned this the hard way) so about the time it got dark I hit the road. First sign of cell service and hotel booked using points. I’m getting the hang of this!!
  • Anyway. I’m in Bangor as of late last night. I’m going to spend a few days here and check things out. I also have a few little repairs to do on the Spam Can. Apparently traveling across country on crappy, rough state and county roads exacts a toll on a trailer. Nothing major except I have a tire wearing unevenly that needs to be changed. My spare is new so that’s cool. I’ll catch you in a while. Laundry time👍