Almost to Canada

Trip Start Jun 01, 2009
Trip End Sep 22, 2009

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Flag of United States  , Montana
Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Northwest USA

June 20, 2009 (Saturday) - Pocatello, ID (210 miles)

Traveling from Provo to Pocatello was a beautiful drive. The countryside is dotted with large farms and ranches with the mountains as a backdrop.  Wendell and I hardly spoke other than to say "ooh, that's pretty", or “aah”.  As we approached the summit, the clouds grew darker and more ominous and Pocatello was damp and chilly upon arrival.  The KOA campground is almost full.  There’s some sort of regional wrestling competition being held here and the town is bustling with activity.  Since we got in early, and it was raining, I elected to do laundry and catch up on the computer.  My “blog” had gotten bogged down due to a hitch transferring my contact files from Outlook 2007.  I ended up having to export the contact file and email it to the technician at Travelpod, and he managed to get them uploaded……after almost two weeks of working on the project.  Anyway, I got catch up on our travels so far and, hopefully, you’re enjoying the journey with us.  The weather tomorrow is not forecast to be much better, but we plan to start by joining the other campers at the campground’s outdoor eating area for “all you can eat”  breakfast.  Obviously, they do not know Wendell or they would certainly amend that notation on the menu.  After that, we’ll attempt some exploration.

June 21, 2009 (Sunday) – Pocatello, ID

Even with the lights of the restroom shining in our bedroom window, we managed to sleep until almost 7:30.  After a few cups of coffee, I stripped the bed and Wendell and Nitchie took the linens to the laundry while I jumped in the shower.  We ambled over to the eating area and ordered our breakfast.  Upon closer scrutiny of the menu, I was relieved to see that “all you can eat” applied only to pancakes and French toast, so I knew I was safe from embarrassment.  Myself, I chose the good old Southern breakfast:  biscuits & gravy, while Wendell opted for the standard sausage, eggs, hash browns and toast.  While it’s nice to eat out occasionally, we both admitted that what we cook in the RV is a lot better.  Oh well, at least it wasn’t raining.  In fact, if you sat in the sunshine it was quite pleasant.  The “full order” of b&g was way too much for me, so Nitchie was thrilled with the leftovers.  You would have thought she was a well-trained European dog:  she sat or laid nicely at my feet while we ate.  I was so proud of her.

Retrieving the linens from the dryer, I headed back to the RV to make the bed.  For those of you who choose this mode of travel, you will understand when I say “I worked off the biscuits and gravy”.  Even on a cool day, I managed to work up a sweat, so while I figured I might as well tackle the floors.  Wendell was pecking away on the computer the entire time and was thoroughly engrossed in what he was doing, so I decided to bake some bread.  My friend, Janet Alton, had given me a new recipe when we visited them in Angel Fire and I was anxious to try it.  For anyone who bakes, I will tell you this is a very easy bread recipe and it turned out beautifully.  While it was still warm, Wendell and I had a slice….with a bit of butter (not that plastic kind) …and both agreed it was one of the best breads we’ve made in quite a while.  I’m going to include the recipe now because I know, without a doubt, that you’ll want to try it. 

English Muffins in a Loaf (makes 2 loaves)

2 pkgs Active Dry Yeast

6 cups flour

1 TBS sugar

2 tsps salt

tsp baking soda

2 cups milk

cup water


Combine 3 cups flour, yeast, sugar, salt and soda.  Heat liquids until very warm (120 – 130 degrees).  Add dry mixture and beat well.  Stir in the remaining flour to make a stiff batter.  Spoon the batter into two 8 x 4 pans that have been greased and sprinkled with cornmeal.  Sprinkle the tops with cornmeal.  Cover; let rise in a warm place for 45 minutes.  Bake at 400F for 25 minutes.  Remove from pans immediately and cool.

Microwave Oven Directions:  Use 3 cups flour in first step; reduce flour in second step to 2 cups.  Mix and let rise as directed.  Microwave each loaf on high for 6 minutes and 30 seconds.  Surface of loaf will be flat and pale in color.  Allow to rest 5 minutes before slicing.

Note:  I haven’t tried the microwave method; I don’t have anything but metal loaf pans.  Also, I was a little short of all-purpose flour so I used one cup of wheat flour.  It probably made it better.  For sure, it didn’t hurt anything.

On Monday, we decided to venture out to see the sights of Pocatello and to find a little plastic clip that holds the shower nozzle on the wall of the shower.  Our rig is 10 years old and plastic parts do become brittle with age, so it’s not surprising when these things break.  Our first stop at Ace Hardware was not successful but they did direct us to an RV Parts store where they did have the item.  We also spied a Fred Meyer store with diesel so after touring the streets of “Old Town”, we headed back to shop and fill up.  If you’re not familiar with FM, it’s just like a Super Wal-Mart; they have everything….and you get a gas discount if you sign up for their tag.  For the curious, we paid the most for diesel fuel today since we left home…. $2.599 with the discount.  All in all, and considering what we were paying this time last year, we’re thrilled.  I had budgeted $3.00/gal for the lower 48 and $4.00 for Canada and Alaska.

We returned to KOA and after a bite of lunch, Wendell started removing what remained of the old insulation from around the front screen door.  We had noticed that it had deteriorated and that even with the door closed, you could see space all around the frame….and even worse, bugs could easily come in.  In Pocatello, we have not had a problem with insects, but we know when we get to Canada, and especially in Alaska, we will have to do battle with the mosquitoes.

Earlier, we discussed whether to take a driving tour out to Lava Hot Springs and Soda Springs.  The Pocatello brochure detailed a very nice “loop” tour but after I entered it into Microsoft Streets & Maps, we discovered the loop was 250 driving miles.  If we were going to be here a week, that might be an option, but when you’ve got as many miles ahead of you as we do, it just didn’t seem that appealing.  Besides the Soda Springs geyser has been capped so that it will not deplete Old Faithful and other smaller ones in the area.  Now, Soda Springs is a controlled release every hour.  Besides, if you’ve seen Old Faithful, how many more geysers do you need to look at?  Instead, we picked up some very nice beef kabobs at FM and, since rain is not in the forecast, Wendell is going to cook our dinner on the grill.  Nitchie has alternately enjoyed snoozing in the sunshine while Wendell worked on the door and lazing on the sofa where she can observe his every move.   The park is not quiet.  As I said earlier, it is filled to capacity and there are probably more children than adults.  The wrestling tournament has folks, especially parent and grandparents, coming from all the western states.  While there are a few girls in camp, it is mostly boys and we hear their antics night and day.  However, if you traveled with us a few years ago, you heard me say that the sounds of children do not bother me.  I love the thought that these kids are out with their parents and other family members….enjoying their time outdoors.  Camping, even in private parks, builds family unity.  As a child, I enjoyed tent camping with my family.  Often, we camped with a group of friends and neighbors, and those times were the best.  Breakfast in camp was my favorite meal.  It usually included bacon, eggs, fried potatoes, sliced tomatoes, cantaloupe and coffee.  You’d think after a meal like that we’d have to go back to bed…but, no, we headed off for the swimming area or just chased each other around the park.  I’m sure we had mosquitoes, but I don’t remember them being a problem.  Now, the thought of sleeping on a cot or blankets on the ground sends shudders up my spine, but I don’t think I ever had a sleepless night out camping.  After I married and was in my twenties, we spent just about every other weekend at the lake….again sleeping on cots in tents.  Those times usually involved the consumption of adult beverages in copious quantities, so sleeping was, again, never a problem.  Oh, to be young again.  No thanks!  Traveling in my 33’ RV with a queen-sized mattress, heat, air-conditioning, shower and toilet is just fine for this old lady.

June 23, 2009 (Tuesday) – Anaconda, MT (274 miles)

Leaving the 4,200 ft. elevations of Pocatello, we literally climbed up Interstate 15 crossing the Montana state line at 6,870 ft.  Past Idaho Falls, the scenery dwindled to grand expanses of green grass dotted with cattle and horses with a few white-tipped mountains in the background.  Traveling along, we encountered fewer and smaller towns with only an occasional ranch to interrupt the green pastures.  The area has had lots of rain this summer and many pastures are now shallow lakes.  Of course, rain brings out the wildflowers but at the upper elevations, they disappeared leaving only wild grasses.  We also passed through a couple of National Forests – the Targhee,  Beaverhead and Deerlodge.  Our version of forests differs from those in this area as the trees were very skimpy.  I guess in a land where trees are scarce, more than two constitutes a forest.  Actually, I counted more cows than trees, but maybe that was just from our perspective. 

One nice thing along this route was the absence of billboards.  When we first moved to the Hill Country of South Texas, there were very few of these monsters to obstruct the view.  Now, they are everywhere…much to the chagrin of the locals.  Fuss all you want, but in rural areas there is no control.  Private property rights must be respected and if a person doesn’t object to a huge billboard on their property, and wants the income it affords, then so be it.  But it is sure nice to travel the roadways with nothing but meandering streams and rock formations to gaze upon. 

As we got closer to Butte, our elevation had decreased to the 5,000 ft. level and the hillsides became rockier and less green.  We crossed several rivers that were at capacity and the valleys surrounding them appeared as beautiful emerald green oasis.   Wendell really loves driving up and down these mountainous roads; he gets a chance to use his Jake Brake (compression brake/engine brake).  We passed a motor coach coming down a 6% grade; he was riding his brakes all the way and Wendell never had to touch his.  That little option was pricey, but I have sure been glad we had it.  We crossed the Continental Divide at 5,900 ft. just 14 miles south of Interstate 90.  From that point, it was a right turn to Butte or left to Anaconda – our next destination.

June 24, 2009 (Wednesday)

The Fairmont RV Park is very nice and located right next door to the Fairmont Hot Springs Resort.  You can walk 300 yards to the hot springs.  After we got the trailer set up, we took the dog and walked over to the resort.  They have both an indoor and outdoor pool that is spring-fed and “cooled” to 104⁰F.  Frankly, that’s too hot for me but a lot of folks enjoy soaking their arthritic bodies in those very warm waters.  My theory is that if the water is warm enough to cause you to sweat, it’s too warm. 

We are located between Butte and Anaconda, so today we will go explore both.  Of course, these areas got their claim to fame for the rich copper mines in the area.  But in the 1950’s things really began to change for Butte. The Anaconda Mining Company, in an effort to reduce costs in the labor-intensive process of underground mining, went to open strip mining. Instead of tunneling down for the copper, entire hillsides were simply removed. The legacy of this is completely obvious today, too, in the form of the Berkley Pit and other nearby strip mines (some of which are still active strip mines today). The other legacy of this strip mining is that two towns and countless homes that were once located “on the hill” were completely destroyed.   In 1977, Anaconda Mining merged into the ARCO, and then in 1983 ceased all mining operations in Butte. Strip mining operations resumed in 1983 when Montana Resources began active strip mining in adjacent areas near the Berkeley Pit.

I’ll have to tell you what we find in these towns in a later blog.  Our next stop is a state park near Kalispell, MT and then we will enter Canada.  Most of our stops in Canada will be in their provincial parks and the few private parks we’ll visit will probably not have access, and if they do it will be limited.  So this will be my last post in the United States.   That is, of course, if we make it across the border!  Last time we crossed into Canada, “Mr. Friendly”, aka Wendell, attempted to engage the border guard in conversation and we ended up getting a nose to tail inspection of both the truck and trailer.  This time, I’ve instructed him to keep his mouth shut except to succinctly answer questions. 

Before I sign off, I want to wish my mom an early “Happy Birthday”.  While Canada will be celebrating its Independence Day on July 1st, my mother will celebrate her 80th birthday.  I want everyone who reads this to send her an email birthday wish:  .   My brothers, Ronnie & Jesse, and sister, Shirley, will be present to help her celebrate this auspicious day.  When we visited earlier this month, I stashed her birthday present “somewhere” in her house and gave my sister the location.  She’s gonna love it!  Now, if she reads this before her birthday, she’ll be tearing up the house looking for it.  Mom, don’t do it!!!! 

Happy Birthday, Mom!  We love you!!!
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