Sunday, May 30, 2010


Yeah, we're FULLY loaded!  Geeze, we got a LOT o' stuff!  Well, actually, it all makes sense and darned near every speck of it gets used in a typical camping trip.  This time we will take photos of the camp set up and PROVE that it all gets used, honest.  It was actually quite easy to pack for this trip.  (Stop laughing!) It really was easy, no kidding.  After all these years of trying to learn how to camp, we know that it always takes two hours to set up camp and two hours to break down and pack up the truck.  It doesn't seem to matter how much stuff we carry--the Two Hour Rule pretty much holds sway.  Plus, have you ever heard of The Big Backpack Theory? Well, if you buy a big backpack, you always fill it to capacity.  If you buy a small one, you fill it to capacity.  You always pack to the capacity you have to pack.  Same thing goes for trucks.  If we're camping out of the Nissan, we fill it to capacity but, by definition, it's a LOT less stuff that you see above.  Meanwhile, if we're camping out of a long bed 3/4 ton 454 Chevy, well, duh, we fill it to capacity, too.  Pretty good theory, huh?  Well, this is the last post off this laptop.  Maybe we will get access from a library or someplace in Mountain Home.  Meantime, have another Great Day and CHEERS from J&S

Cooler Kid

Congratulations to Sarah, Peter, Gage and Van.  They moved into their new home yesterday.  Last night was their first night in a home they own.  No more renting!  Van shows he's a Cool Kid by watching the proceedings from the comfy confines of an ice chest.

Looks like Gary & Al are still roaming 'round CAT MOAN Country.  (Yes, we amped up MOAN--see glossary.)  Heaven only knows why they picked the route they did.

The weather yesterday had to be one of the wettest Memorial Day Saturdays on record--if there's a record for such things.  It's a Bluebird Morning Sunday.  Temp outside is 34.  Burrr.  Looks like it's in the 30's most everywhere this morning.

We haven't yet started loading the truck but the Camp Warehouse is looking good.  We're mostly packed.  We're not taking the new boat.  It's just too much extra hassle for a trip like this.  We want the boat's maiden voyage to be a really fun and memorable experience.  I suspect we our departure will be more toward 11 am than it will be toward 9 am.  It's about a 5 hour trip over there.  We could probably do it in 4.5 hours but who cares?  If we don't drive up the Little Wood, we will probably go for a walk on a short trail at Craters.

On March 5 when I retired, my co-workers gave me a $50 gift certificate to Sportman's Warehouse.  I've been out there 4 times trying to spend that money.  Yesterday was the 4th trip.  You'd think the money would be gone in a blink but--nooooo.......I can't find anything we really need.  Ain't that sweet?  Frankly, there's nothing out there I really want, either.  Maybe that means we have the camping gear we both need AND want!  Maybe that means we're getting closer to finally learning how to camp.  Hum...a point to ponder while we drive today.

There will be one more trip to WINCO this morning.  Why?  Just because.  No, actually, I want to buy some sweet corn and tomatoes on the vine to give to the camphosts over there.

Well, time to cook some coffee, scan the Sunday paper and begin to gear up for this road trip.  We might post up something else before we leave.  If not, we switch to the Twitter feed at left as soon as we drive away from the house.

Have a great Memorial Day Holiday and Many Cheers!  jp

PS--Below is this week's forecast for Featherville.  It's 11 miles west of Baumgartner and at the same basic elevation along the river.  The temps looks real good.  (It's 38 degrees over there right now.) Tomorrow's 70% chance of precip will make the 9 am to 2 pm interview time slot a dicey proposition.  Well, you know the old saying, "A weather forecast and five dollars will get you a pretty good cup of coffee!"

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Half Inch? No way!

The NWS is saying we've only got a half inch in the past 48 hours.  Nah, no way.  We're saying it's closer to a full inch.  Such is life with Weather Wonks.  They issue a decree and we disagree.  Anyway, it's been wet, wet, wet all day.  Hard rains now and then and light rains in between.  Since we moved here I can't remember a rain like this.  It just won't quit.  The system that bears the clouds seems parked overhead and going nowhere.  There's no wind to speak of.  It's like this great big rain storm decided to move to Eastern Idado and stay for awhile.  They say it's from the Pacific.  All such storms are ALWAYS from the Pacific.  Duh, where else does the water come from?  But we're wondering if there's a new pattern evolving out there of if this is an anomaly. Normally those who know me would be thinking I'd be a Cheerleader for the proverbial "New Pattern."  My intuition just isn't "into it" right now.  Maybe it actually IS a new pattern.  But it doesn't feel like it to me.  It feels like an anomaly.  It feels like the pendulum will swing wildly to the other side soon and be hotter than blazes.  That's what I have been telling people--we're living in a world of extremes now--the concept of "median" and "mean" have been thrown out the window.  There's no such thing as "average" in the Old School Sense.  That's all so yesterday.  Today is all about wild swings.  That's what we are getting here now--a wild swing to the cold and wet side of the pendulum.  Well, if I am right, the pendulum will swing back to the OTHER side soon and people will be wishing it would be this cold and wet because they will be cooking their anatomy off.  Time will tell and we shall see, as they say.

Cheers, jp

A vicarious hiking trip

Dear Friend & LBR Gary W. is off on an adventure with his hiking buddy, Al.  I'm not quite sure why they chose the route they did--it's an odd one.  They left yesterday morning from a place called "Beaverhead"about 15 miles from Sedona.  They hiked up onto a plateau that's locally called "The Ramp Basalts."  Then they began a cross country route through some heavy juniper forest.

How do I know their route?  well, that's what makes this an interesting vicarious hiking trip.  Gary is a red hot user of SPOT.  He's on the SPOT all the time when he's hiking.  SPOT sends out a GPS signal and it's encoded somehow on a web page and you can actually watch the progress of someone's hike.  No kidding.

Click here to watch Gary and Al's hike.  You can click on the "Satellite" view for a much better idea of the terrain they are hiking.  You can also zoom in by clicking the little "+" sign.  I think their hike ends late Monday and I'm not quite sure about their destination.  It's going to be interesting to watch this one unfold.  I'll add some notes about Gary & Al later but right now I am in the middle of packing stuff for our trip.

Cheers, jp

Our next 24 hours

Hum...raining again outside.  Cold, wind, rain...great combination, eh? Yesterday was a full frenzied day.  Today was slated to be the same but the weather will slow us down somewhat.  Tomorrow, we're hoping to leave early--maybe as early as 9 but no later than 11.  Since we have Site #27 reserved @ Baumgartner, there's no hurry to get there.  As long as we arrive in time to set up before dusk, all's OK.  However, we want to explore the Little Wood River north of Carey so that's why we're wanting to leave early.  I think the Little Wood drains out of the Pioneer Mtn. Range.  Right now the Pioneers are utterly and wildly beautiful with all the late season snow draped on their rugged shoulders.  They undoubtedly rec'd some more snow last night.  Banner Summit SNOTEL got six inches!  Burrr.

We made some real good strides in our trip prep yesterday.  Art's Muffler donated their time to bend my rebars.  Those guys are awesome. They are so Old School.  They're covered with grime and caked grease.  They look like something out of a 1950's faded photo.  They were busier than one-armed paper hangers yesterday.  Here I come walking in with two 40 inch pieces of rebar.  They look at me like I'm a Space Alien.  Rebar?  In a muffler shop?  So, I ask them if they've ever tried to maintain a campfire with chopsticks.
Huh?  So, I reach down with the rebar and act like I am trying to mess with an imaginary campfire on their floor.  See, I say, I can't lift a log out of the fire with these steel chopsticks.  Then they get it and we make a plan to bend a little 2 inch piece of the rebar at a 90 degree angle to give me some leverage.  One of them goes in the backshop and fires up a torch and heats the rebar red hot and, poof, my chopsticks are now feng shui.  I ask them how much I owe them and Stan sez, "A million dollars."  The other one hands me the rebar chopsticks and says, "Have a great weekend!"  No charge.  Those guys are awesome.  They have my muffler business for this life and as many lives as I will ever need mufflers.

Susun got a shorty wet suit, too, yesterday.  Now we have matching wet suits.  Big deal, huh?  If you looked out the window at this very moment, the thought of paddling a kayak would be the farther possible thing from your mind.  But we're optimists.  We're certain the sun will shine.  It's not a matter of "if," simply "when."

I spent a LOT of time messing with dutch ovens yesterday--probably far too much time.  Maybe it was a form of stealth procrastination.  It certainly looked like I was busy but was I really getting anything done?  Not hardly.  Anyway, at the end of the day, I put the finishing touches on a whole brand new and improved dutch oven rig.  Dutch ovens are high maintenance items.  They won't do a single THING for you unless you coax them to.  The "coaxing" part of it all is pretty highly intricate.  You have to mess with live coals and somehow fit some food into a big old cast iron pot and actually believe you're going to get something edible back out of that same pot, even though it's covered with filthy, HOT ash and coals and so forth.  It's an act of faith.

Perhaps the most fun I had yesterday was firing up the jet engine weed torch.  It's the one that sounds like a fighter jet taking off.  Man, it makes a real racket! Heads turn.  Drivers do doubletakes.  It's so loud I really should be wearing ear protection.  Face and hand protection is a must.  Anyway, I prepped a new charcoal pan for the dutch ovens.  Then I decided to burn off the paraffin on a large dutch oven that's been sitting unloved for two years in my cook shack.  Most cheap dutch ovens are made in India.  Before they ship them, they spray a heavy coating of paraffin all over the naked cast iron.  The paraffin oils seep down in the porous iron.  It's VERY difficult to remove this stuff.  No way would you EVER do it inside your house as the place would stink to high heaven forever afterwards.  Old Timers usually just build a big fire and throw in the oven and let the crud cook off.  We can't do that here in the city.  Hence, I used the weed burner torch out in the alley to heat the oven red hot and smoke off all that oil-based paraffin.  You should have seen that pot and lid smoke and then finally begin to glisten and glow.  When it got really, really hot it actually turned a metallic shade of blue.  It was beautiful, at least if you love dutch ovens as we do.

Well, after totally torching the oven, I decided to set about converting it to a bake oven.  99% of dutch oven users fill their cast iron pots full of food.  Well, we're just a couple now and we don't have an army to feed.  So filling a large 8 quart oven full of food is ridiculous.  It would take us days (maybe even weeks) to eat a big pot full of food. However, we love to cook with dutch ovens.  So what to do with the big ones we own?
Yesterday's inspiration was to convert at least one of them to an kind of traditional oven.  Here's how you do it.  First, you need a riser and a flame diffuser.  A riser is one of those little grates that people use as a trivet to put a hot skillet on a counter top.  Then I dug out an antique flame tender that was made probably in the 1930's or 1940's.  We bought it at an antique shop a long time ago.  The flame tender goes on the bottom of the cast iron oven.  The riser fits over the flame tender with perhaps a quarter inch air gap between the two.  Then I began looking for bakeware to fit atop this duo.  I found one Pyrex bake dish that would fit but I fear taking glass on a camping trip.  The ground is like a magnet to glass.  Glass will always go to ground and shatter in a million pieces.

So I went off to the store and luckily bakeware was 50% off.  Maybe Memorial is a baking holiday and I didn't know it.  Anyway, I bought this really neat non-stick 8x8 bake pan that fits perfectly inside the dutch oven atop the flame tender and riser with plenty of room to spare below the lid.  Ah, ha! Now we are in business once again.  There's all sorts of stuff we can bake in that 8x8 pan.  The amount of food baked will be just about right for the two of us while providing near perfect serving sizes as breakfast leftovers.

Then, naturally, I had to make a custom carrying box for all of the above.  Also bought 40 pounds of briquettes. Voila, it's done and ready to roll out on our next trip.  We already have some recipes in mind--ground turkey meatloaf; scalloped potatoes and ham; baked salmon casserole; and jalapeno cheese cornbread.  Yippie, skippee!

One of these days, we're gonna learn how to camp.  I promise.

Cheers, jp

Raw Saturday

It's cold up in them thar hills!  You can click here to see a regional mosaic of the current temperatures around Eastern Idaho.  Everywhere that people go to camp is in the 30's, often the low 30's.  And the wind is blowing probably in the teens to mid-20's.  Meanwhile, most of those areas rec'd at least a quarter inch of rain yesterday. That means this morning's humidity is probably pushing 90% in most camping areas. It's a heavy overcast everywhere today, too.  This is "hunker down" weather.  This ain't "fun weather."  It's a raw Saturday morning.  Heck, it's so raw we might not even go to the Farmers Market this morning.  Sure is nice to be inside a warm and cozy home.  Hopefully, the depths of this low pressure system will soon migrate into Goat Roper Country (AKA: Wyoming) and bring fairly fair weather tomorrow.

Stasea Rae posted a comment asking for a photo of the "tiled toilet."  No problem, we will take one and bring it back to post on June 8th or 9th.  Nationwide, the Forest Service has 5,800 campgrounds.  I'd venture to guess far less than 1% of those have toilets as nice as those at Baumgartner.  Therein lies a story.  Here it is.

Back in 1865, John Baumgartner was born in Bavaria.  His family emigrated to America shortly thereafter and John became a naturalized US citizen while living in Wisconsin.  Gold fever gripped John as a young man and he drifted the various gold rush areas of the West. He washed ashore in the Boise River watershed sometime in the 1890's, well after the main gold excitement had run its course.  John filed claims on the land which now bears his name in 1897.  He made a meager living placer mining the gravels of the South Fork of the Boise River.  He also began improving his hot springs, especially for the "vimmins and kids."  Soon, people began to come to John's springs.  Their numbers grew over the decades and John became a sort of homegrown celebrity.  He was known all across Idaho as a humble man who took pride in the public's use of his hot springs.  When the Forest Service was born in 1905, John became the first ranger for the area and helped make important improvements, some of which are still in use over 100 years later.  As John aged and as his springs became even more cherished by folks far and wide, he took a bold step in the middle of The Great Depression.  In late 1935, John deeded all of his land and springs to the Forest Service so that it could remain in its natural state forever and all time.  A condition of the grant allowed him to live there until he died.  John only lived another six years and was found dead in bed at the nearby Bascom Ranch in the early winter of 1941.

The Forest Service has always done its best to honor John's legacy.  Public interest in the hot springs continued to grow.  Eventually, people began demanding even better facilities at the famous springs.  In the early 1980's about 40 years after John's death, the Forest Service conducted (for them and at that time) a milestone project.  The agency reached out to the broader public to help made Baumgartner Hot Springs a real show piece in the National System.  People from all walks of life eagerly stepped forward with money, time, materials, skills, resources and People Power to help Ol' Smokey "stand & deliver."  The Forest Service itself ponied up $340,000 in cold hard cash to help implement the upgrading of the campground. (The BLS inflation calculator says that's the same as $689,000 in 2010 dollars.)

Now, mind you, Ol' Smokey hisself wouldn't be puttin' in no tiled toilet.  Nope, Ol' Smokey don't think like that.  Bears do in the woods what bears do and they don't need no tiled toilets to do what they do.  The tiled toilets at Baumgartner are the direct result of an adoring public's involvement in the renovation of the famous Baumgartner Hot Springs.  Reading a list of the participants in that project is like reading a "Who's Who" for the recreational movers and shakers of Idaho in the mid-1980's.  I can be quite confident in stating I'm 100% certain those tiled toilets were part of an in-kind donation by one of the public partners in that landmark project.  The Baumgartner project is turning 25 years of age this year.  Most such projects show inevitable signs of wear and tear after 25 years.  Vandalism usually takes its toll.  Well, it's not that way at Baumgartner.  The project looks as good today as it must have when it was new.  Although we haven't visited every single toilet, we've yet to see a cracked or missing tile in any of them.  They show no signs of vandalism or mistreatment.  What they DO show is that the people who are using this place care as much about it today as they did when they all chipped in to help Ol' Smokey transform Baumgartner into a showpiece campground.  It's a remarkable place and the Spirit of those Stakeholders really Shines!

And, as Paul Harvey loved to say, "That's the REST of the story."

Cheers, jp

PS--The Forest Service sought and received "stimulus money" for Baumgartner.  The funds will be used to resurface the hot springs pool in June 2010 as well as redo all of the signs on the nature trail!  Way to go, Smokey!

Friday, May 28, 2010

All About Baumgartner

Much to our surprise, Baumgartner turned out to be a fabulous place.  In three words: WE LOVE IT!  In fact, we've decreed Baumgartner is one of our all-time favorite campground and destinations.  That's putting the place in pretty rarefied air.  Even though this last trip consumed $115 in fuel, we plan to go back to Baumgartner at least once a year for as long as we are able.  Luckily, our next two trips there are paid for by somebody else.

Baumgartner is a classic example of an NVUM bonus.  It's always been that way since we started in January 2002.  NVUM exposed us to so many tremendous places we never knew existed.  That's what just happened with this new chapter of NVUM.  If we'd not signed on for these interviews, we'd have no clue whatsoever about the existence of Baunmgartner.  We would have undoubtedly gone through the remainder of our lives without ever knowing what a wonderful place we could have found had we been adventurous. Now that we know Baumgartner exists, we're hooked.  Yes, the NVUM process is a LOT of work and it's tedious and often very annoying but the spinoff benefits are often huge.  Such has been the case this time around.  If we never do another interview past Big Cedar, June 6, we both already consider this NVUM gig to be a wildly successful venture simply for helping us "discover" Baumgartner.

Baumgartner is your typically heavily developed campground. It's totally paved.  All the roads and campsites are paved.  They've even paved the areas around the fire rings.  The tent sites are defined with landscape timbers and each tent site is filled with carefully raked fine aggregate.  At our age and station in life, we LOVE such paved campgrounds.  There's NO dust!  Dust is one of the banes of camping for us these days.  Also, having a paved campsite keeps our tent a lot cleaner and it makes it a whole lot easier to camp in the rain and snow like we did for 5 nights this last time around.

Meanwhile, Baumgartner is in an Old Growth Ponderosa Pine forest that hasn't been molested (AKA: clearcut). Yes, there's been a few trees removed for safety.  But all the gigantic 400-500 year old humongous Ponderosas are all still there in their stately glory.  In addition to being awesome eye-candy, having all those trees sure makes it easy to string up tarps!

Meanwhile, Baumgartner sits beside a real river--the South Fork of the Boise River.  This is not a whimpy river--this is a real river--robust even in a low flow year.  Camping within sight of a real river is a huge amenity for us.  We love camping beside water.

Meanwhile, Baumgartner has full time camp hosts who have a real landline telephone to the campground! Having camphosts is real common but knowing they have a landline phone is NOT common.  In fact, it's very rare in the rural western states.  It's great to know that emergencies can be handled with a real telephone and not the arcane call to "Dispatch" via a Forest Service radio.  Plus, these camphosts are basically New Yorkers with a laid back attitude.  They are not Bear Nazis or sticklers for the rules.  Plus, they don't do campfires so they have offered all their firewood to us!  Whoa, Nellie, this is awesome!

Meanwhile, Baumgartner has TILED TOILETS!  You read that right.  These are not the typical ugly sterile, industrial bunker-style concrete vault toilets.  These are honest-to-gosh TILED toilets!  The toilets are kept is tip top shape, too, no small feat in a high use campground.  There's safe culinary water and bear-proof trash dumpsters, too.  The water is pretty good tasting and the spigot pressure is awesome.  These things count for a lot.  If the pressure is low, it gets real annoying trying to draw water.  Also, if the taste of the water is bad, it really detracts from camping at such a place.

Meanwhile, Baumgartner has a hot springs.  At first, we were "ho hum" about this hot springs.  Who cares?  How could it be anywhere as good as Bowery Hot Springs where we spent four summers getting spoiled in Total MOAN Country.  Well, trust us, it's every bit as good or even better than Bowery Hot Spring, even if it is completely and totally developed.  The pool is very large.  The incoming water temperature is 105 degrees.  It's drained nightly and pressure cleaned and disinfected each Wednesday.  Meanwhile, as most hot springers know, it's usually vacant in the morning.  For some odd reason, 99% of  hot spring users prefer to use them in the later afternoon and evening.  Since Susun and I learned to appreciate hot springs in the MORNING rather than the evening, that means we have Baumgartner Hot Springs all to ourselves each and every day!  How good is that?  Very good!

Meanwhile, there's a great little nature trail, a swingset and a kick anatomy DEEP swimming hole in the river that will be a major attraction during the hot season.

Arguably the biggest draw for us at Baumgartner is two fold--the nearby trails and the "boatableness" of the river.  There's a great little 3-mile stretch of Class One water from the campground down to Willow Creek.  There's also other stretched ranging from Class Two right up on to at least Class Four and maybe even Class Five water within no more than 7 miles from the campground.  Shuttles are insanely easy.  Although there's a road that hugs the river, it's very lightly traveled and received virtually zero nighttime usage.  That means it's stone quiet in this campground.

The nearby trails are too numerous to mention and totally outrageous.  Practically all of them are adjacent to or within sight and sound of flowing water.  Every one of the trails climbs a STEEP hill, often even a mountain or two.  When all is said and done, our favorite trails are what we call the "workout trails."  Yeah, it's fun to lollygag along on a nice flat, beautiful trail but those trails don't do a thing to get you into and keep you in good aerobic hiking condition.  It's those STEEP trails that provide the conditioning.  It's the STEEP trails that make your legs and lungs hurt and they are the ones that cover your body in sweat.  Them's the trails that give more than they take.

Now, the trouble with really steep, sweaty trails is that you get real dirty when you're hiking them.  Dust sticks to all that sweat.  You come back to camp practically filthy.  The beauty of Baumgartner is that we can go out and work our anatomy off and them return to camp and jump in the hot springs and clean off!  WOW!  Meanwhile, we don't have to hike every day--we can paddle our new inflatable kayak, too.  Or simply drive around enjoying the sights and scenery.  Or sit in camp and stare at the ancient trees.

Meanwhile, Baumgartner is nowhere near stores.  There's NO way we're going to drive out of that area for supplies.  Ice?  Maybe.  But even buying ice would require a 23 mile round trip to Featherville!  So, when we go to Baumgartner, we're going to have to be fully locked and loaded with no thought whatsoever about "driving out" for something.  Nope, ain't gonna do dat.  We enjoy having stores nearby, yes we do.  But they can be a big distraction and they can cost a lot of money.  When we're at Baumngartner, we ain't gonna be spending a danged DIME more than what we spent to rig and travel to get there.

Meanwhile, Baumgartner is a great meeting place.  Last Saturday, for example, Dear Friend and LBR Marti B. came to visit with us.  It was GREAT to see Marti and we enjoyed a wonderful 24 hour visit.  Thanks, Marti!

OK, one last thing--the fee there for us Old Codgers is a mere five bucks a night.  You read that right.  Plus, it's on the national reservation system, so we can lock in our favorite campsite(s) for a mere $9 additional.  That means we can know in advance we can drive up and have our site waiting for us.

We took a lot of photos of Baumgartner on this last trip and we will undoubtedly take a lot more on the next two upcoming visits. Here's 7 photos.  The hot springs pool is in the middle of the top row.  The panorama was taken high up on the Virginia Gulch Trail (part of the Idaho Centennial Trail).  Bottom left is at least a Class 4 rapid due to "wrap rocks" above and below this drop.  Susun is standing next to a ledge hole a quarter mile above the campground.  The stretch at right is probably only Class 2--we hope to run it soon.

Cheers, jp

Last Friday of May

Welcome to Memorial day Weekend!  America's Summer Season officially gets underway today and will continued in typical frenzied fashion until September 6th--Labor Day--when someone flips a magical unseen switch and people go home and hibernate until next Memorial Day.  Millions upon ba-zillions of people are in the midst of packing up, driving off, dreaming of smores or doing whatever they do to unwind and relax this weekend.  Gee, I guess we are, too!

We're leaving Sunday morning for a old fashioned dose of deja vu. We're going Back to Baumgartner. And, guess what? We have to do an NVUM interview the MORNING of Memorial Day itself. Yep, we have to spend six hours right smack on the front lines of that tsunami of campers getting ready to rush home to the Daily Grind. We have to interview all those hearty souls leaving Baumgartner after this upcoming long weekend.

Luckily, it's an AM interview which means we have to be on duty from 8 am to 2 pm. This will give us some time to unwind and relax before we ourselves have to pack it up and skee-daddle Monday morning, June 1. (More on that below.) However, we're not done with deja vu as we return to Baumgartner one more time Thursday morning to set up camp yet again. Yep, you guessed it--two more NVUM interviews--a PM on June 3 and a PM on June 5--both at the Hot Springs. The Thursday evening stint won't be so bad but the Saturday evening session will be a real grunt. Ugh.

We have to rise and shine real early Sunday, June 6, and break camp in a hurry. We have to be over near Oakley Idaho Sunday in order to get rigged and ready for a PM interview on the Big Cedar Road. It's over 200 miles from Baumgartner to Big Cedar! We're gonna hafta be on the road BEFORE 8 am Sunday.  Ouch. Meanwhile, we have to camp in an treeless Oakley City RV park Sunday night and then hang around until 2 pm Monday to pull the results of the 24-hour traffic counter at Big Cedar. It's then and ONLY then that we can consider returning back here to the comforts of home to sit in front of this computer and tell you how it all turned out. It's gonna be a LONG road trip this time around.

After we leave Baumgartner June 1, we travel a short distance down to Mountain Home, Idaho. We have a dinner date with Dr. Heather Mack that evening at her Mystic Ranch about 15 miles north of Mountain Home. We will camp on her grounds that night. Hopefully, we can visit with Doug & Judy in Mountain Home the following day and spend the night of June 2 with them. If not, we will go out and camp at the Bruneau Dunes State Park. Then it's Back to the Future once again.

As you know, we are obsessive "list makers." We sit in camp and write down all the stuff we forgot or wish we had. That's what we're doing today--checking stuff off the list--wiping our slate clean so we can start yet a new list on the upcoming trip. We've already whittled the list down pretty down yesterday. The big thing was finding a cot for Susun. After almost a half day of shopping for cots, we bought them from the first place we looked--Wally, of course. Why does Wally always come in so much cheaper than anyone else? Wally's price was less than half of the next lowest price and, oddly, Wally's cot quality was MUCH better than the competitor's equivalent cot. Go figure.

Cheers, jp

Thursday, May 27, 2010

An Amazon ordering tip

We just ordered a book from Amazon.  We thought we'd tell you an Amazon ordering trick.  Here's how it works.  I went out to Barnes & Noble tonight and found the book I wanted.  It's called, "Idaho, A Climbing Guide," by Tom Lopez.  It covers 800 peaks here in Idaho, including all the Class One and Class Two ascents.  That's our speed.  No Class Five's for us!  well, B&N wants $35 for this book.  Amazon is asking $23.10.  Gee, that's a no brainer--we'll order from Amazon.  Well, the trick is that you have to get OVER $25 to qualify for the free shipping.  OK, how do you do that?

That's the trick we are describing here.  There is this website we follow called Slick Deals.  We learned long ago that slickdeals has this tremendous little thingie called "Slick fillers."  Yep, you're getting the picture.  It's designed specifically to help people get over the $25 hump and get free shipping.  So, you go to Slick Fillers and type in the amount you need to get over $25.  In this case, I typed in $2.00.  You hit the search button and Slick Fillers quickly gives you hundreds of $2 choices to buy from Amazon.  I chose a little booklet on famous American documents.  Click here to see the little booklet.

Poof, I suddenly have my $25.10 worth of stuff in my cart.  I check out and get the free shipping and all is well!  If you use Amazon much at all, you know how maddingly difficult it can be to find something to help you get to the magical $25 mark.  Well, fret no more.  Simply use Slick Filler's automated assistant and it's a piece of cake!

Rocky Bar

A Rocky Bar is not a place where Sylvester Stallone hangs out.  In Idaho, Rocky Bar has a unique place in history.  We've always been curious about Rocky Bar and Monday, May 24, we finally were able to go there.  Now, mind you, Rocky Bar today pretty much defines MOAN Country.  But "back in the day" Rocky Bar was almost the toast of Idaho.  For a short time, it was actually in the running for the Territorial Capitol!  From 1864 to 1882, Rocky Bar was the County Seat of Idaho's fabled Alturas County.  At that time, Idaho only had four counties and Alturas was bigger than Maryland, New Jersey and Delaware combined.  Some say Rocky Bar's population peaked at 2,500 but a figure of 1,500 is probably more reasonable.

Today, Rocky Bar is nothing more than your typical ghost town.  On our visit there was nary a soul in sight, ghost or otherwise.  The road from Featherville to Rocky Bar was totally empty save for two furtive illegal wood cutters who spooked when they saw our forest-service-green truck.

There's precious little in today's remnant of Rocky Bar to hint at its heady heyday.  Four buildings are all that's left of the once bustling prosperous, up-and-coming town.  Back in 2007, the half-owner of Rocky Bar tried to sell it for $250,000.  When we returned home, we found a lot of information online about Rocky Bar, including these great photos attached here.  The old photos are all quite large so click on the small thumbs to see the big versions.  We've also posted a few photos we took May 24.

It's always an impressive sight to see such a ghost town and try to imagine just how "hot" the place once was.  Rocky Bar was THE place to be for a huge chunk of the rugged Central Idaho mountains.  All of the legal business of a giant area was conducted right here amid these steep gulches in the middle of absolute nowhere.  Big dreams were spawned here, too, no doubt.  On June 6, we will be down near Oakley, Idaho along a piece of the historic Kelton Road.  Kelton was a whistle stop on the transcontinental railroad.  All of Rocky Bar's supplies were offloaded at Kelton and carried by wagon from Utah to this desolate location.  Take a close look at the group photo of the miners.  These were the people who populated places like Rocky Bar in the 1860's clear through the turn of the century decades later.

Visiting a place such as Rocky Bar is always one of the great bonuses of the NVUM process.  It takes you out into places you simply wouldn't go otherwise. (Click here to see a Google Map of Rocky Bar.)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

48 Hours

Remember that Eddie Murphy movie "48 Hours?"  Well, we kinda always measure stuff by 48 hour increments.  A lot can happen in 48 hours.  Right now, we're looking at the graphic above.  It's the NWS graphic for how much water is going to fall to earth in the next 48 hours.  You can easily see Calgary, Alberta, Canada is going to get pounded!  Meanwhile, the South Fork of the Boise River (AKA: Baumgartner Campground) is on the fringe of this late May mayhem.  Nevertheless, judging from pool table lingo (AKA: Left English), we'd have to guess that Baumgartner area is going to get some rather significant rainfall.  Hey, it's going to be WET!  That's the bottom line: W-E-T.

We're really, really GLAD to be home and NOT W-E-T!  Being WET only goes so far on the Fun Factor Scale (F2S--Pronounced "Eff-tuews"  See Glossary for clarification.).  Quite frankly, we have it on good information that being WET actually detracts from your F2S score.  We've learned that most people score a LOT higher on the F2S Scale when they are DRY and not WET.  Who'd a thunk it?  Will wonders never cease?"

On this camping trip, we actually decided to enhance our F2S score by trying to stay DRY and WARM!  What a novel idea, eh?  As we repeatedly said to each other on this trip: "Someday, we're going to learn how to camp!"

Back @ Home & unpacked in under 2 hours!

We're back at home in Idaho Falls.  Arrived safely @ 1:30 pm Wednesday.  Tired and happy to be home.
Lots to report about the trip--it was fantastic--we've discovered a great new place to play.  However, we've lots to do today yet so will post up here later today.  CHEERS!  J&S

It's not quite 3:30 pm and we are totally unpacked.  The truck is completely empty and refueled and parked!
All the stuff is neatly arranged in the Camp Warehouse and our personal boxes are downstairs waiting for the laundry, etc.  Susun is off running some errands and now it's time for me to relax and go shopping.

The weather over there was every bit as weird as advertised, possibly even more so.  We hustled to pack and split this morning before yet another rain storm moved in.  Now we see from the current NWS AFD (See Glossary) that yet another system is coming to visit that area tonight through Sunday morning.  Whew, what weather!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Whacky Weather

The NWS now creates interesting graphics to visually depict forecast highlights. Some NWS offices call it "TV Weather." The graphics are actually a welcome change to the "same old, same old" NWS. As you can see, the above graphic shows what is predicted about 48 hours from now--6 am Saturday morning. That's when we will be crawling out of our tent (hopefully warm and dry) and beginning to set up the interview site at Baumgartner Hot Springs. Normal people would not be planning to stand in the same spot for six hours in this kind of weather. We're doing it because it's all part of the NVUM "bargain." As Dear Friend and LBR Brad says, "If you're in it for a dime, you're in it for a dollar."

Check this excerpt from the Boise NWS AM Discussion:


We're running very behind this morning as it near 7 am. We've already pushed our departure back to 10 am and it will probably be even later than that. We haven't even started packing the truck yet. Also, we have to go back to at least one grocery and probably two groceries because of stuff we forgot last night. It was so windy, I think it blew away some of my common sense.

I got a call from RJ late last night, danged near 9 pm. He showed his "bossy" side and I think we're finally getting a glimpse of the "Real RJ." The upshot of the phone call was that it definitely planted major seeds of doubt in my mind as to whether we will do any more NVUM past those interview dates already scheduled. As we've said many times before, we have to REALLY like this guy in order to do this sort of work. The "like" part of that equation took a big nose dive last night.
But, it's all good--that would give us more time this summer to use that new boat we bought yesterday!

I will be switching the Twitter feed back to the top of the left column. We update it primarily for those family members and friends who like to know the "latest" as far as a trip goes. This time, we promise to update it on the far side of the trip when we get back in cell coverage.

We won't be returning until quite late next Wednesday. We thought we'd be home by noon but it's going to be probably 7 pm or later. Blame it on some new "rules" laid down last night by RJ and you can probably get the drift of why we most likely won't be doing this again after our June 6 interview. We thought we'd be back home on June 7 in time to attend the monthly P&R meeting. well, that won't be happening either. In fact, we won't be returning on the second trip until probably 8 pm that Monday. So, we're going to enjoy these upcoming episodes for what they are--a highly intriguing but brief interlude in our year.

I need to get moving right along. I will probably add a note here at the end of this blog post about an hour before we leave. If you're wondering where the three previous blog posts went...they were moved to the Google Site that augments this blog. There's a link to that site at the bottom of the left column.

Cheers! jp

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Dawn of a New Era!

Well, we actually did it.  Paid in full for a brand new AIRE Lynx II.  It will be in the yellow color as shown in the post below.  David Gonzales, owner of the Idaho Falls Canyon Whitewater graciously consented to have his photo taken with the happy new owners.  Yippie, Skippie!

Time keeps on slipping...

Who wrote those words?  Steve Miller, of course, for "Fly Like An Eagle."  Time keeps on slipping, slipping into the future.  Yep, we can sure hear the echoes of those words these days.  When we arrived back here Sunday evening, we thought, "Ah, now lots of time to relax and rig for the next trip Friday morning!"  Well, say "AH!"  It's just about 24 hours now from the time to leave again and we sure haven't finished all the chores we need to do to be ready.  That means today it gonna be one of those sprinter days--everything's a sprint from start to finish--including this blog post.

We spent 90 minutes on the Greenbelt with Carrie yesterday. That means we have to sprint to get all the photos we took posted up on the art bench blogs. Whew--hopefully that will take less than an hour but somehow I'm guessing maybe two hours. (NOTE added @ 8 am--It took a lot less time than I thought, maybe a little more than 30 minutes. Click here to see the album of the art bench sites.)

There's still lots of tasks to do to prep the NVUM stuff. Top priority is learning how to use the infrared counter. There won't be time to master it when we arrive so I need to learn it NOW--there is no tomorrow for that task.

Carlos came by and picked up the trailer at 10:15.  Gee, that means we get to go buy a brand new boat. We've never bought a brand new boat in our whole lives. So that makes this a special day. If we order it today, it will be here next week when we come home. Oh, Happy Day! Aire Lynx II, here we come! We certainly can't rush such a special moment in time. Nope, we will definitely savor the purchase of a new boat. Who knows if such a moment will ever come around again in this lifetime?

Gotta buy food, pack coolers, pack the truck, pack our clothes, pack, pack, pack. Gotta get a haircut, register the Zuki, the list goes on. I might not be lean and fast but I sure feel like a sprinter in the three point stance waiting for the gun this morning.

This type of hustle on a deadline always brings echoes of Ricky Martin's "The Cup of Life" to mind:

Do you really want it?
Go, go, go, ale ale ale
Go, go, go, here we go, yeah!

OK, I promised you "the rest of the story" about the travel trailer. Here it is.
So, yesterday morning Susun and I had a long discussion about the trailer. We firmly decided to keep it and not sell it. We reasoned that we would buy a Toyota 4Runner six-cylinder 5-speed and put our camping gear in the trailer. We spun up a really good fantasy and said, "We don't really need a boat anyway." That was that. Then Houn' Dawg came over to gift us with a wedge with which to split firewood. (Thanks, Jef!) He and I went out to the trailer and he said, "Oh, don't sell this trailer, John, you will really regret it." We had a long discussion about his prediction. We both decided he was right and shook hands and I said, "Don't worry, we won't sell the trailer." That was that. HA! Somehow when you make such statements and say such things, there's a peculiar karma that gets invoked and comes along and creates the opposite of your initial intentions. It's almost as if by taking the Ying Road, you are guaranteeing the Yang Road. You know that road, it leads to some remote hot springs over by Featherville, Idaho!

Cheers, jp

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

100 minutes

A hundred minutes ago I was puttering around the Camp Warehouse rigging the NVUM stuff onto the rack behind the big truck.  It's 4:30 pm. The cell phone rings.  It's some guy who saw the cargo trailer ad in the newspaper.  He sounds breathless.  He says, "Where are you?  I want to come there now!"  I tell him our location.  Meanwhile, I scurry about closing the Warehouse door, getting the trailer door lock key and, for some odd reason, I go out and stand like a cow in a field on the sidewalk.  As if on Hollywood cue, a small red sedan practically screeches to a stop in front of me.  The guy jumps out and say, "Where is it?"  I hustle him off to see the trailer in the backyard.  He pokes and prods and asks pertinent questions.  First he says it's too small.  So I go into my "Don't buy the trailer" routine.  Then he says, "OK, Eight hundred cash."  And so I say, "Hey, I already got an offer of $900 cash, I'm not taking $800."  So, he says, "OK, $850 and that's it."  And I say, "Hey I gotta get to a store that's closing at 5 pm, you go home and think about it and maybe we will talk.  I gotta go."
So, then he says, "OK, $900 cash and I want it right now tonight."  So, you know me, being me, of course, all the way to the hilt, I said, "Well, I've been holding this trailer for an old lady who wants to go camping and I can't just sell it without checking with her first, ya know?"  Honest.  So, then I call up the old lady's son-in-law and tell him the situation and ask if it's OK to sell the trailer to this guy.  Jimmy (the old lady's son-in-law) says in his Jersey accent, "John, I say GO FOR IT!"  So, then I tell this guy, well, I gotta talk to my wife, I can't sell this trailer without making sure it's OK with her.  He rolls his eyes.  I call Susun and I tell her the story and say "Is this OK?" and she gives approval.  SO, then I say to this guy, "Well, it looks like it's OK, how are we going to close this deal?"  And he says, I will go get teh cash and bring it back here."  And I say, "No, you going to get the cash and you're going to bring it to DMV."  And he says, "Why is that?"  ANd I say, "So I know it's in YOUR name and not mine."  He rolls his eyes and says OK.  Meanwhile, folks, the clock has ticked down to 4:40 pm--this has all transpired in a mere 10 minutes.

OK, so we make a plan--he's going to rush to the nearest Wells Fargo and get the $900.  I'm going to find the paper work, make a bill of sale and get down to DMV.  He's going to meet me at DVM.  OK, the clock is ticking and we are both playing RACE THE CLOCK.  So, he jams off and I run around the house rustling papers and finding my wallet and I take off like a rocket.  It seems I hit every stop light red and I find the slowest vehicles to follow.  Finally, I see the goal, the DMV office.  I look at my watch as I stuck in a red light--it's 4:58 pm. They close at the stroke of 5 pm.  Somehow I get into the parking lot and get INSIDE the front door before 5 pm.  Now, I start watching the big wall clock's second hand as it sweeps second-by-second toward 5 pm.  Two seconds before 5 pm, Carlos (the buyer) practically leaps through the front door and then they lock it behind him.  Since we were both INSIDE the Motor Vehicle Kingdom BEFORE 5 pm, they will finish our paperwork.  I hold my breath.  Does he have the money?  Since I couldn't find the title, will this deal go down?  Will he have an acceptable Idaho ID card?  Finally, it's our turn at the window and much to my abject surprise, the clerk said I don't need a title, just the VIN number (which I had).  She executes a registration for Carlos, accepts his Idaho drivers license and, poof, it's a done deal.  Carlos and I walk outside, exchange the usual pleasantries after such a deal and then part ways after making a plan as to when he will pick up the trailer.

Meanwhile, My heart is racing.  Are these 9 one hundred dollar bills the real thing?  So, I rush off to the nearest Wells Fargo and it closed a few minutes before my arrival.  What can I do?  Then I remember the Wells Fargo branch that's inside the Smith's grocery store.  Surely they will be open.  I rush over there and pull out the c-notes and say, "Check this money and make sure it's good."  So they run some behind-the-scenes tests on the bills and they come out smiling and say, "They're GOOD!"  WOW, so I deposit the money and get a receipt and E-X-H-A-L-E.

(I just checked the time stamp on the bank receipt. It was 5:27 pm.  The whole thing took 57 minutes!)

Then I do a little shopping, spend ten bucks and come home.  I mix a wine cooler, decompress a little bit and 100 minutes after it began, I sit down to write this blog post.

All I can say is WHEW, WHEW and DOUBLE WHEW--that was a Major Dust Devil!

Cheers, jp

PS--There's a little more to this story that's outside the realm of the 100 minutes.  We will tell it tomorrow.  It's time to be Happy for at least an Hour.

Rain on the plain

Been raining most of the night and 'tis still rainin' early this morning.  It seems like more rain than it really is.  We've rec'd maybe .15 of an inch.  Temps are in the mid-40's so it qualifies as a cold spring rain.  Chilly!

We were supposed to go take pictures of the proposed art bench sites along the greenbelt yesterday but the Rain said NO. We rescheduled for this morning and once again the Rain is saying NO.

Susun's Dog Sitting this week so she shuttles back and forth between here and Connie's place. Connie had a big pile of flat travertine pieces sitting in front of her house. Two years ago she offered the pile to Susun for $100. We declined. Two years later the price dropped to $40 and we bought it. Yesterday, Susun transported the whole big pile and Susun actually laid down the rocks to make a nice looking rock pathway in the courtyard. I didn't lift a finger--it was all her doing. She was justifiably quite proud of herself for this major one-woman task. It looks real nice and, after the rain stops, I will take a photo and post it here.

I took our tarp down to Rachel's place and she quoted me $20 to reinforce both ends of the middle seam. Thanks, Rachel! She's even going to get it done before we leave Friday. She's sewing a big patch of cordura with big Ol' "D" rings on each end. Now, I will be able to really put some tension on the ridgeline of that tarp.

We spent a bunch of time out at Office Max trying to tweak our "visual aids" for the gubmint interview forms. Hopefully, we will make it even easier for the people to participate and also shorten the total time the interview seems to take.

Hey, here's a "keeping an appointment" story. After Office Max, I went over to Freddie. I picked up some items and was deep in the back of the store when my intuition said to leave the store immediately without buying anything. So, I put everything back, including the bananas, and hurriedly walked out of the store. Just as I arrived at the stop sign in front of the store, someone honked loudly and long at me. It was Bill and Joyce from Dubois! They pulled over and we had a nice 15-minute visit right there in front of the store. I'd been thinking a lot about them lately--they are such sweet and wonderful people. It was so great to see them. Joyce has been in the hospital but she is obviously out and looking good. Bill's his same old self. Even though they are nearing their 80's (or maybe IN their 80's), you should see the love that couple shares. Sometimes they look like teenagers! Getting to meet and know them is one of my great gifts from that job. Bill was manager of the Dubois Senior Center for years before petty small town politics prompted him to step back into private life once again. I sure love it when Ye Ol' Intuition speaks to me that clearly. How often do I go into a grocery and NOT buy anything? Not very often.

Hey, believe it or not, I got the chain saw fired up and it runs great. Amazing!
We might take it along on this trip.

We put together the rear rack and tested how well the NVUM signs and cones fit into it. It appears the rack was designed for the NVUM stuff--it all fits like a hand in glove. It sure is going to simplify our rigging. The Camp Warehouse is now organized and clean and we are pecking away at our "to do" list for the next trip. Only about 48 hours left until we boogie out of here once again. Gotta "chipaway" until we can become a Chippewa!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

$50 Peace of Mind

What's fifty bucks buy these days?  Not a whole heck of a lot, actually.  Up here in Idaho, fifty bucks can buy a whole lot of Peace of Mind.  For that small sum, you can buy an annual family membership in your local Life Flight operation.  Here in Idaho Falls, it's EIRMC's Air Idaho rescue (A.I.R).  They fly a hotrod Agusta A109K2 chopper (right) that's rated up to 19,000 feet MSL!  A.I.R. is the only North American operator of this craft.
The really cool thing about Idaho Life Flights is that most of them recognize each other's annual memberships.  So, the mega hospital in Idaho is Saint Luke's based in Boise.  St. Luke's reciprocates with A.I.R.  We'll take about what that means in a minute.  St. Luke's flies a Bell 430 (left) which is a huge Cadillac chopper.  It doesn't have as high a ceiling as the Agusta but it's pretty much the Gold Standard of American Life Flight operations.
OK, so what does this mean to John & Susun?  Well, when you put yourself  "out there" into legit MOAN Country, you start to do a lot of thinking about emergency services and so forth.  What's gonna happen if you get into trouble?  The prudent backcountry visitor is ALWAYS thinking of these things.  How would you notify someone if you had an emergency?  How would you get out of a predicament?  Where's the nearest medical care?  How would you get there?

In a lot of cases, a Life Flight spells the difference between life and death.  It's that simple.

Since we're gonna be deep in MOAN Country a big chunk of this year, we decided yesterday to once again rejoin and pay our annual membership.  This time we paid to EIRMC's A.I.R operation.  We also called St. Luke's flight line in Twin Falls to verify reciprocity and area of coverage.

Here's how it goes:  A.I.R. covers pretty much the whole Salmon River Country from Challis into the east side of the Frank Church Wilderness.  They also cover up over Lost Trail Pass into the Bitterroot Valley.  They cover the whole COntinental Divide pretty much down to Pinedale, Wyoming.  They cover all of Yellowstone clear over to Cody, Wyoming, and also the Grand Teton National Park and the Bridge-Teton National Forest east of Jackson Hole.  They cover Arco, Mackay, etc.  Meanwhile, Portneuf Life Flight is a partner and Portneuf out of Pocatello cover all the way down south of Malad and all of that rough country east of Pocatello.  Portneuf splits coverage of the Albion Mtn., Range with St. Luke's.  St. Luke's covers from Arco to Boise and from Stanley down to the Utah line, including all of the outlandish MOAN Country in the Owyhee's.

So, what this means is that every fly speck of country we will be working or recreating in this summer is completely and totally covered by our primary partner or one of their reciprocating partners.  Now, folks, that giant peace of mind for a mere fifty bucks.  Wouldn't you agree?

Cheers, jp

We included a photo of the Agusta in its ski rig here at right.  The chopper in service here has a different paint job but it flies the same skis.

Big Tent

This camping trip was the first in many years where we used our so-called "Big Tent."  You can see the Big Tent in two photos above--one with no tarp and one with the tarp.  Our Small Tent is sandwiched between the two photos.  The picture of the Small Tent was taken at Jenny Lake in the Tetons last September. (In case you never saw that photo album, click here to see it.)

We are happy to be using the Big Tent again.  It's HUGE compared to the small tent.  I think it's 9x9, probably larger.  We can stand up in it.  It can hold two nice chairs and a table.  There's so much room it almost feels like a house.

Here's a history of the Big Tent.  Back in September 2002, our straw house was flooded when the adjacent wash overtopped its banks.  The place was a mess.  The only thing we could do was open all the windows and go camping and forget about it.  We spent about 6 weeks camping and came home and it had dried out fine and there was no mold and life was OK after a long, tedious cleanup process.

Well, anyway, we first went up to Kaibab Lake near Williams to camp.  We were hanging out getting mostly bored there and decided to go into Flagstaff for the Parents Day Parking Lot Sale at the now defunct Popular Outdoor Outfitters.  The parking lot was packed with deal seekers.  We found this tent for $30!  We couldn't really tell what kind of a tent it was but for $30, we took a chance and bought it and took it back to camp outside Williams.  When we set it up we were dazzled.  The next day, we hustled back to Flagstaff and bought the remainder of that style of tent--they had two more.  All-in-all the 3 identical tents cost us less than $100.

Meanwhile, we got a call from Sue K. about an NVUM trip back east.  We had to pack hurriedly and take off on a Thursday morning hoping to get into an official Southern Indiana Forest Service wilderness BEFORE 9 am Sunday morning!  The first real test of the Big Tent came when we pulled into some Indiana State Park Saturday night in the rain.  It was near midnight and everyone else camped there was presumably sound asleep.  We somehow set up the Big Tent without a flashlight and without speaking to each other.  We already knew it that well.  If a man and a woman can set up a tent in the pitch black dark in a rainstorm without getting into an argument, trust me, that tent is a keeper.

Well, the tents went on to play a huge role in our lives.  That road trip was 6,600 miles in 28 days and the tent played a giant part of making the trip successful.  The next year we got sent on a 7,000 mile road trip and then wound up camping along the Rogue River near Gold Beach for over 2 months in the Big Tent.  It was luxury compared to any tents we'd ever had before that time.  In 2004 we moved back into the pop up camper lifestyle and stored the Big Tents.  They sat idle and dormant for years.  When we sold off all our 18 tent inventory in 2006, we kept those tents.  they went into storage in Sedona and survived another potlatch-style yard sale in November 2008.

Late, late in our March-April trip this year--I mean REALLY late--we somehow got to thinking about those Big Tents.  We were up in Flagstaff visiting Nancy and Maggie and decided to go back through Oak Creek Canyon to try to get the tents from storage at Bob's garage.   Luckily, Bob was there and we drove off with all 3 tents.

Why 3 tents?  Well, tents wear out.  Zippers fail.  Fabric gets ripped.  Poles break.  Floors get holes.  Seams separate.  We reasoned if we had three of them, we could always swap out various parts and have one tent in good condition all the time.  This plan has served us well now for nearly 8 years!

Prior to our recent trip, we dug out all 3 tents and put them up to decide on which body, fly and pole set was in the best condition.  Much to our surprise, we realized that one body and fly had never been used.  YIPPEE!  Off we went with a brand new Big Tent!  How good is that?  Very good!

I think this blog post is too long already so I will tell the story of the other tent over on a page at the Google Site.  When it's written, I will put in a link here.

Anyway, that's the story of the Big Tent you see in the photos above.  It's got quite the long story, eh?

Cheers, jp

Our first interview

And so it was that after much chatter, prep, phone work, emails, packing, travel and set up that 8 am Sunday rolled around and we conducted our very first NVUM interview.
I was so embarrassed that I looked like I did for the first interview. What a troll!

Here's how it happened. This little podunk campground has only 3 sites with tables and two more with firerings but no tables. As chance would have it, a couple from Gooding actually decided to camp there Saturday night. We chatted with them a couple of times Saturday. We assumed they would have a leisure morning and depart after sunup. Nope, they must have froze Saturday night because they were up early and clearly ripping apart their camp setup.

Meanwhile I had the interview site setup totally rigged by the required 8 am deadline. This was an "AM" site so we had to run the site from 8 am until 2 pm--six full hours. I expected I'd have time to go back to our own camp and change into some appropriate clothes before this couple left the campground. Well, it didn't happen that way.

The couple pulled up stakes, threw everything in their pickup and arrived at the exit interview site at PRECISELY 8 am! What could we do? We had to interview them even if we looked like two Bozos in our overnight sleeping clothes. Dang, I hate it what that happens.

I could have at least taken off the stupid hat. However, I totally FORGOT that I was wearing the stupid hat until AFTER the couple left. That's when I turned beet red from abject embarrassment over wearing the stupid hat during the interview. Susun was laughing so hard she almost fell over. Me? I wasn't laughing. No, I was almost crying from the embarrassment of it all.

Well, what a way to conduct our very first interview. I guess it's kind of fitting in a typical Susun and John sort of way. Whaddaya expect from a couple of bozo bumpkins?

Cheers, jp

Busy Monday

For as tired as we were yesterday, it turned out to be a busy, high speed day. Susun left at 9:30 am to clean Connie's Bead shop. I emptied the truck and organized all the stuff. That took most of the morning. Luckily, we use the garage entirely for camping gear during the summer. It makes the whole process so much easier.

We were quite surprised to gas up the truck and find it "only" cost $74 in round trip fuel costs. RJ will be paying the $74. It sure is expensive to travel these days! That's a primary reason we're interested in the NVUM process on the Sawtooth this year. Free travel.

After Susun returned, I set about messing with Harbor Freight. We need one of those metal racks that fit into the truck receiver hitch. We now have to carry four large highway signs for NVUM. They are bulky and take up a LOT of space. I thought the rack was one sale for $50 but was dismayed to go to HF and learn it was $80. My intuition made me suspicious so I came home and checked their ad. Nope, I was right--it WAS $50! (AN HF Rule: Always save their ads. Ads trump store staff.)
So I took the ad back with my 20% coupon and got the rack for $40 plus tax--half off. We will definitely have our camp rigging right and proper once again with this rack. Fitting in all those highway signs Sunday was a real chore.

We have someone very interested in buying the cargo trailer and we're pretty close on a consensus price. However, there's two small cracks in the front cap of the trailer. So I spent a big chunk of the day dealing with how to address and fix those cracks. Meanwhile I went to the Canyon Whitewater store and affirmed the price of a new Aire Lynx two person kayak. We're beginning to salivate now.

Somehow, I also squeezed in trips to Freddie, WINCO and Wally. Since garbage collection is today, I was "forced" to mow the yard as well. It's a good idea to get the grass clippings out of here ASAP rather than let them ferment for days.

As a result of all this busy-ness, Happy Hour didn't start until danged near 6 pm.
Susun napped for more than 2 hours and woke up wondering where I got all the energy. Hey, it's stuff that had to be done and that always puts it in a different psychological category.

I finished the evening by exchanging some emails with LBR Drew about a possible Petrified Forest camping trip he might be conducting for his family this weekend. LBR Drew, by the way, actually used the blog post about the dutch oven cleaning process to guide his efforts in restoration of an old cast iron skillet. Way to go, Drew! Anyway, during our communications, it came to light that he was heading into a major windstorm this weekend. The Flagstaff NWS weather wonky people are all jazzed about this thingie heading into Arizona:


Hum...maybe Petrified Forest might not be on the agenda.

Lastly, I penned a blog post late last night that got vaporized from the blog this morning. Where did it go? Well, since the blog post kind of fell into the category of a "rant," I decided it didn't belong on this blog. I used "Rant-Be-Gone" and it disappeared! Nah, actually, I shifted it over to the Google site that's connected to this blog. If you really, really want to, you can read about "The $90 Cross Pen" by clicking here.

Busy day ahead today, too. Heck, the whole week will be busy and then the whole weekend, too. I thought we were supposed to be retired. Where's my rocking chair? Where's my porch? What's going on here?

Cheers, jp

Monday, May 17, 2010

Campfire chimney's a winner

This year's evolution of what we're calling the campfire chimney has been a Shinning Star in our repertoire of camping gear. As LBRs know, it started out of frustration with the evening winds in Arizona. I scavenged a rusted piece of ancient roofing metal and cobbled together something to let us continue to have evening campfires.

We realized that this improvised device would allow is to enjoy fires with winds up to 30 mph. Over 30 mph and things get ugly so why bother? Anything up to 20 mph is downright casual. Between 20 and 30 it usually starts gusting badly and it's generally more fun to hang out in the windproof house.

The next incarnation of the chimney took place soon after we arrived back in Idaho Falls. We bought a shiny new piece of 8-foot roofing metal from Lowe's and made a nice chimney for our courtyard. LBRs remember the nice brick bottom and the guy wire supports and so forth. Since this chimney is behind an 8-foot fence, the fire is double-buffered. Hence, we can enjoy a fire in our backyard while the wind is literally howling and rocking the fence and flipping semis out on I-15.

Both of these chimneys got us to thinking about how maybe such a critter could enhance our camping gig. So, I dutifully bought yet another 8-foot of metal at Lowe's and set about improving on the design. First, I carefully ground down all the sharp edges and used aviation snips to round all the corners. Then we drilled 12 quarter-inch holes for each of the four 2-foot pieces. That's a total of 48-holes. Two of the pieces got an extra four holes each so that actually makes 56 holes. Then we bought twice the amount of nuts and bolts we would expect to use. Why buy so many bolts? Well, campers drop nuts and bolts into the deep dust of a campsite. Campers who spend too long digging in the dirt for lost nuts and bolts are NOT Happy Campers. If you buy twice as many nuts and bolts as you need, that means you can lose half of your nuts and bolts and still be OK. LBRs who camp will understand those mathematics.

Next, I tested the assembly of the chimney here at home. Naturally, some of the holes didn't match so new ones were drilled to make sure any Village Idiot could assembly it easily. Then I went off and bought a 10-foot stick of 3/8th inch rebar. I cut this into 3 equal pieces and make stakes to hold down the chimney. It would be a bummer of a high wind flipped the chimney and made it take off and run into a neighboring campsite. Yeah, real bummer.

Finally, I dedicated a new tarp to the chimney and carefully wrapped all the pieces in the tarp so that all edges were covered by a double layer of the tarp. Next, this package was tied up like a Christmas package and it was good to go.

At camp, we had a large group-sized picnic table at least 16 feet long maybe 20.
So, I was able to lay out all of the pieces and carefully size them for the Forest Service fire ring. (That's the reason for the many holes. Campfire rings come in a variety of diameters. With so many holes, the chimney cam be sized for the prevailing fire ring diameter.)

Viola, the campfire chimney fit like a hand in glove with the fire ring at the Five Points Campground. It performed flawlessly. It's a gem. It's a keeper. It's awesome. We love it. We're never going camping again without it. It puts out so much more warmth than a regular campfire. It's so much safer. It's easier to light. It's easier to tend. There's less smoke. The fire burns hotter, longer. You can turn your back on the fire for extended periods without worrying about it. Plus, as an added bonus, it would be much more difficult to actually fall INTO the fire. Addicted campers know that falling into a fire came be an ever present danger on the far back side of Happy Hour. Falling into a campfire is not a good thing. The chimney effectively precludes that option. It's a "campfire fall preventer" for stability-challenged campers. There's no downsides that we can think of. It lies flat when packed into the truck and has no affect on how we rig the gear. It doesn't weigh enough to be a factor in the gear rigging. The cost, including nuts and bolts, is less than $20. What's not to like about it? Nothing.

The campfire chimney is definitely the New Star of the Show. Farrah was a hot item when she first appeared on the scene about 10 years ago. She still gets rave reviews from first time users. But she's over a whole decade old. It was high time something innovative came along to take the heat off Farrah. (No pun intended, of course.) Sooner or later, (It's only a matter of time) Susun will come up with a name for the chimney. Heaven only knows what the name will be but I can guarantee you, a name is forthcoming. Any suggestions?

Cheers, jp