God is so good to us. We just arrived in Ely, Minnesota on the Boundary Waters Area between Canada and Minnesota.
It is November and we are so blessed to have a couple days of stunning Fall weather to enjoy it before winter comes in end of the week with 14 degrees!
For the past 6-7 weeks, we called Buffalo Lake, Minnesota our home which is some of the most fertile and perfect farmland in the world. I hired on as a contract semi truck driver hauling field corn, soybeans and a few sugar beets.
With this being the first time in Minnesota, first time driving a semi, and the first time seeing how these farms work, the learning curve was steep, fast and fascinating!
To give an idea of how much is produced in America’s farms, Brian Ryberg farms a slightly larger than average acreage at 6500 acres. He has 5 sugar beet trucks and 4 grain (corn/soybean) trucks running for pretty much 7 weeks in the field 7 days (off for church Sunday mornings!) for 10-16 hours a day!
In that time frame I estimate hauling 20-30 million pounds of grains with just the one truck. Now imagine that across the whole breadbasket of America. It is simply mind boggling to digest how many crops are planted and harvested in our country.
No wonder China wants to conquer us!
Watch the video to see how farming is done in Minnesota!
It has been a fun spring into summer. Summer in South Dakota means 45 one day and 90 the next! We added lots of miles to the truck in the last three months and have seen some breathtaking scenery.
The video is long this time as I have again procrastinated posting but we hope you will watch it as it covers some of America’s most beautiful and open country. It is much better if you watch it full screen with the little button on lower left corner…
Tucson was dry, hot, windy and busy but the surrounding country was awesome. In a space of a week, we decided to swap our RV. We found the same floor plan 2010 Newmar in Mobile Al, made an offer, drove the 3600 miles round trip to get it and bring it back in three days. Then we deep cleaned it, moved everything from the 2007 Newmar to the newer one, swapped the tires (in the RV park), some of the furniture, all of my customized batteries, chargers etc, cleaned the old one and sold it in three days. The market is hot to say the least. Then we got back on the road!
The week we spent traveling from Tucson through Apache and Comanche country to New Mexico sure made you appreciate how the west was changed – by the native Indians to the Spanish to the miners, settlers and soldiers who all lived and died here. Through Globe, Show Low, and across into New Mexico where we found one of the old cattle and sheep drive destination towns that looks very similar to the way it did when the drivers spent weeks to get their herds to market.
Southern New Mexico including White Sands National Monument, 3 Rivers Petroglyphs Site, and the Lava Flows were all in the same basin and amazing to see.
If you ever get a chance to visit here – do it! Alamogordo, White Sands, Ski Apache, and amazing Pueblo sites all in a relatively small area.
On our first trip out here four years ago we found the 4 Corners area and especially Bluff, Utah and Valley of the Gods. We promised ourselves to come back and we did!
From there, we headed north towards Big Sky country through Moab, Wyoming, Ogden, and up into Idaho. The two lane backroads where we go are sometimes a bit intimidating, lightly trafficked, and usually extremely interesting. We love these roads and the things we stumble into. This trip is no exception.
It was chilly up through Idaho and into Montana (almost all the way to Canada!). But we were early in the season and there were no people anywhere! We visited friends in Troy, Montana for a couple of weeks (look at where it is on a map!) and helped with a project before heading back south towards Helena and Yellowstone. The forests of northeastern Montana have to be seen to be believed. Truly awe inspiring. When we arrived in Helena the weather was calling for 22 degrees and snow in Yellowstone (if you didn’t know Yellowstone sits atop the Rocky Mountains in northern Wyoming! in addition of the four access roads into the park only two had been opened yet, so we decided to pass this go round and keep moving east.
East meant across the grasslands to Custer’s last stand at Little Big Horn (awesome!). To walk this battlefield where Custer probably got what he deserved is incredibly moving. They have stones where each of the over 250 army and some of the attacked Indians fell. There is also a national war cemetery here. Visiting here initiated interest in learning more that lead me to read a book about one of the Cheyenne tribe who fought here to learn that side of the story. There is always two sides to every story.
From there is more grasslands to the beautiful Black Hills of South Dakota and the towns where Calamity Jane, Wild bill Hickock and others made history. As well, there are places we had heard stories of like Sturgis (largest motorcycle rally in the world in August), Deadwood, and Lead SD (an old frontier mountain mining town) where there is recently deactivated mine ONE MILE underground and where the Sanford Underground Laboratory at the bottom of the mine is helping business boom! Look that one up too!
We are already all the way back to North Carolina and I write this – and will have an update soon. If I don’t, it will be another 20 minute video!
And finally a comment about the current state of affairs in our country. If you are upset about the way things are going – may I suggest you get involved? Serve if you can in whatever capacity you can. Run for local office, school board, council, political party delegate. Whatever! If you can’t do that, then at minimum contribute your voice by attending council meetings or anything you can get to to be heard and find out what they are doing. We have to take this thing back before we lose it. I have faith in the bigger picture – but to ensure we fill the gap that is about to be created we need to be there ready to go. Just my two cents.
March 22, 2021. Truth or Consequences, New Mexico Elephant Butte State Park
Shelly is working at one computer writing service dog training manuals, the puppy is sleeping ( TTL!), and I sit with an iPad on my lap wondering how to begin a blog post way overdue.
The more I put off writing the post, the more there is to write and the harder to write. In addition, with the state of the world, and our former Republic, sometimes I feel like our travels are not what I should be writing about.
But if I don’t – what will Shelly and I have to look at when we get old and feeble?
So… we are in a desert campground on a reservoir that has shrunk to 30% its size because of a 15 year drought in the SW US. We are ready to get out of the desert dust and wind and head north but there seems to be blizzards between us and Montana!
We have really enjoyed the last several months across the southern coast, through Texas and a one month stay in Tucson AZ.
The video, though long, does give a fairly good idea of what we saw and visited.
Shelly’s Christmas gift this year was a 3 month old Chocolate Labrador puppy. His name is Mo Betta as life is mo betta with a dog! Mo has obviously changed our lives dramatically as you will see in the video.
Some highlights from this part of the trip:
Visiting St George’s Island Fl. As well as having some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, I actually lived on the Island for a while as a boy and have many great memories although it is completely different 55 years later!
The coast and small towns of Louisiana. I hadn’t realized how horrific the damage from the 2020 hurricanes were on sections of the coast, especially around Lake Charles. All the way from Apalachicola FL, through Alabama, Mississippi and LA the damage received from recent storms makes you wonder at the resilience of the people who live there. Incredible.
The size and variety of Texas. We spent a couple of weeks just wandering around a small part of Texas. When you cross into Texas from Lake Charles LA to Beaumont on I 10 there is a sign that says 888 miles to El Paso on the western edge of the state. And that is if you go straight across!
There are six different geographical and terrainregionsin Texas. We went through the beaches, the hill country, and the desert/ badlands. Awesome state!
While in Tucson we decided to upgrade to a newer RV. Of course to us newer means a 2010 vs a 2007. It all happened very quickly over a week from the time we thought about it to finding what we wanted in Mobile AL. We were very fortunate to have it all work out including selling our former home (sad to see her go!) in just three days.
Tucson AZ is dry! We enjoyed hiking here but you really have to be careful of the plants. There are so many plants with thorns and spikes out here boots and jeans are a requirement. Mo learned very quickly to stay on the path or be quickly impaled. Absolutely gorgeous scenery with the mountains all around the desert.
Northern Arizona. Land of the Apache. The 380 miles through the White Mountains north from Tucson to Globe, across to Show Low and down through the Salt River Canyon into New Mexico and following the old cattle and sheep trails to Pie Town, Datil,Magdalena are some of the most amazing scenery in the US. And lonely. Everyone else takes the interstate route south through Las Cruces.
Now we are waiting for a couple of big replacement batteries and an auxiliary propane wall heater before we head north where it can get a bit chilly right into June!
That’s our story and we are sticking to it for now.
There is great pleasure in being debt free, with no bills to speak of (not even mail service, thanks to Shelly’s mom!) with freedom to go in any direction, at any time, with anyone, and stop for the night in any of thousands of parks, camps, wineries, and more – and have our home with us. It is a wonderful feeling!
This feeling is amplified at the end of a 6 month ‘project’ dedicating all of one’s time to a stated goal, and to complete that goal and get underway again.
So, we pull out of Islamorada in the Florida Keys and turn east and north. To all our friends who ask why we would leave paradise in the middle of winter and head north – our answer is paradise is only paradise when you have comparison to something else!
For the next month at least (that is today!) we will meander around Fl, GA, AL, and MS traveling no more than 50 miles every couple of days just exploring.
It was surprising to find how much time it took to ‘settle down’ and not ‘go to work’. It took two weeks!
First we had some visiting to do with old friends (and that term “old friends” is becoming more true every year!) in Palm Beach and Sebastian FL before we headed west across southern Fl towards Lake Kissimmee SP. Here we met a family of deer that kept crossing our paths (literally) as we started up our hiking again. An easy three miles here with an amazing dinner of crab cakes on the fire.
Then, another gem we stumble into. Bok Tower Gardens. An amazingly well crafted tower housing a beautiful 205 ft Carillion bells and 250 landscaped acres. Beautiful!
We really like Florida’s west coast! Much quieter and laid back. Homosassa Springs is a very small town we could almost live in! The manatees love the year round 72 degree springs here that bring 1,000,000 gallons of fresh water a minute to the gulf!
A couple of state parks later got us to Valdosta and Thanksgiving with the boys. We are so blessed!
From Valdosta we headed south and west towards Tallahassee on back roads. We try to stay off the interstate wherever possible and absolutely love seeing the country from 2 lane roads. Some of most memorable finds have been accidently made by wandering around.
Just west of Tallahassee, we found a little campground on a lake that had a snow white squirrel. While we were wondering how a squirrel would get white like that, we started seeing white squirrels everywhere! Apparently they are sort of famous around here! Something new to us!
That evening strange creaking noises in the RV got me out on the dark to find broken shackles on the suspension springs. Oops. Don’t want axles falling off! The next morning we also found we had picked up a nail in a tire and it was completely flat. Why does this stuff happen on the weekends and holidays? No worries as we found parts not too far away and a semi truck emergency tire guy 1 mile down the road who came out and helped me jack it up and make repairs. Then he just wanted a tip since he lived so close!
On to Panama City and St Andrews SP right on the inlet and the beach. Magnificent beaches and because it was a bit chilly we had them all to ourselves!
After a couple of off the path stops (a lavender farm, then a house north of Pensacola where a nicer lady was attempting to build a self-sustaining farm) we were on to a great find just north of Mobile at Blakely SP and battlefield. We did not know about the history. Watch the video for more. We hiked a lot here. One day we did 11.5 miles. Sore feet!
The battleship USS Alabama is the main attraction at the park in Mobile and we were honored to spend a cold, blustery Pearl Harbor day exploring the ship, the submarine USS Drum (I served in the nuclear subs in the Navy!) and lots of planes and other military pieces outside. Well worth the visit. Like everywhere else they are still cleaning up from the massive damage from several hurricanes all the way back to Katrina.
Of course we had to spend a day at Dauphin Island and ride the amazing beaches there before moving on the Pascagoula, Mississippi and Shepard SP. This is another of those awesome places we stumble into. Great trails, remote campsites, and not very many people.
Oysters from the bay on the half shell for lunch made the day!
It’s time to start back east and north for the holidays in NC and GA so we turn around although Texas is pulling at us hard!
We pulled into a small parking lot at the Gulf Coast Gator Farm for the night on a drizzly, overcast day. Behind some wood fencing that looked like it would fall down any minute we found about 50 alligators! There were gators there 14 feet long! They told us in Katrina most of them had escaped including the biggest one of all. Some came back as they like to be fed and cared for! We were the only ones on the airboat ride- which is really like a carnival ride as they run around doing doughnuts and sliding turns in 1-6 inches of swamp! It was fun.
In the morning fog, we pulled out on the highway and headed east, looking forward to Christmas and family