Sunrise in western Minnesota

Friday, October 20, 2017

Gone is the flat!

Heading south on I-29 out of North Dakota was neither good or bad, it was heading south having finished the work.


A stop in the big city (Grand Forks) for some errands & shopping then we continue south.  Spent the night at a rest area in ND then we went south some more, it's a good thing we're leaving as it went into the 20's that night!


and flat

and more flat

Sometime that second day I noticed hills off to the west & got excited. 

A Hill !


Not too much later the road was going through the hills & I was smiling.

It had been over a month on the flat prairie of North Dakota/Minnesota.  It wasn't until we got into the hills that I realized how much I'd missed a changing topography.

I was surprised.

I'm not saying there was anything wrong with the prairie, it was beautiful & all the trees planted as a wind break, well they just looked good.  But it was flat farm land. Lot's and lot's of flat farm land.

A whole lot of food is grown here....


It was good to get back to the hills!

Ya, it's not much of a finish to this blog but leaving the flat is like that....

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Head'n South!

The beet harvest is finally over, got a call at 4:30 in the afternoon telling me we were done! No more nights, the little remaining would be handled by the day crew. Just like that.

Our official harvest started at midnight on Saturday the 30th and ended (for us) at 0200 the morning of the 10th. 11 days.

We're heading south, we've some business in Georgia to take care of & some people to visit. Then it will probably be time to head to Florida.

Home for the last month

Now keep in mind that we have 1500 miles to go & we are not on a time schedule anymore.

Lot's of route choices... Kansas City for some bbq?

Via KC

Maybe Chicago for some of the eateries on my list?
The Chicago route

My list you ask? 

Yes I have one!  

After I realized I'd driven past the Alamo 3 times without knowing it, I made a list of places I wanted to stop, things I wanted to see & I put them on a map. 

Now I look at the map to see if I'm going to pass by anything that caught my interest enough to wind up on the Travel List.  
I might even make a place from the list into a destination!

The list grew as I'd become aware of new places. 

I've found many off "Diners Drive-ins & Dives" but not all are food places. Niagara Falls is there just because I want to see it again.

The realities of our travels ... the current weather when we're traveling may affect the route choices.

Friday, October 6, 2017

The Beet Harvest, Day 6

There was a beautiful sunrise this morning, an orange crack on the eastern horizon. 

This is the 1st indication that the long day is nearing it's end!

I saw it as I was stacking 30# beet sample bags in the sample container, they have to be stacked as there are too many to just dump in from the front loader any more.

The work is really not bad, dirty but not bad. All the people are great, all of them!  
The hours suck.... 
I'm writing this during my sleep time as I woke up early..

12+ hours ( I have NOT hit a 14 hour day yet) at the beet piling station in Minnesota, a 20 min drive from the campground in North Dakota. Half an hour to walk down to the shower house to shave-shower-whatnot, a small something to eat while I look at the on-line comics, check the blogs & glance at my email then off to bed in our "blacked out by cardboard" bedroom in our RV to sleep during the day.

Some time later I wake up (5.5 hrs of sleep today, 7 hours yesterday!).  It's warm, too warm (inside). I have 2 hours before we leave for work.

Coffee, the internet stuff, eat now, fix something to eat at 2 am (the mid point of my 12 hour shift) and get dressed for work.

We hit all the thrift stores in Grand Forks for work clothes, before the season started & I found five pairs of blue jeans for $6 ea, I bought two new ones at Walmart for less than $10 each. That gives me 7 pairs.

My initial guess was three days a pair but reality changed that to two days.  Then there were a couple of days that they only made it one shift (I could not believe the mud!). I'll have to spend some of my sleep time in the next few days doing laundry at the local car wash/laundromat here in Drayton.

The Drayton, ND laundromat 

I was hired as a foreman. I make decisions, watch over everything, carry the keys and am an on site maintenance-grease & lube oil person. I had forgotten just how dirty you can get greasing machines that need a lot of lubrication!  

I also move dirt.  The beets grow in the ground and the piler produces a lot of dirt. I move it.
The work is good, the people are good, the money is good. Some of the sun rises have been spectacular but mostly it's just dark when out from under the lights of the pilers.

And there are trucks carrying sugar beets, lot's & lot's of trucks carrying sugar beets. 

Hundreds, even thousands in a day, bringing beets to be piled. 

Good drivers, experienced drivers & ones that look to be backing out of the piler for the very first time in their short life, so we all have to be careful. 

They have to back out because the dirt is still mud, won't support an empty truck. 
This morning, right after I was relieved, the 1st truck made a successful turn out of the piler!

Did I mention that the money is good? That we are treated really well by everyone? The campground shower is really nice? There is free coffee at the piler station? That this is just for a short season?  15 days, give or take, is expected for the site I'm working at and today is day 6. The money is really good.

I can't send this out without mentioning the beet piles themselves. These things are huge & so far away from my "normal" that I'm still amazed every time I see them in the day light. We built these!

I've got to go.... supposed to get down to 34 degrees tonight... did I mention that I had to buy thermal underwear again? I got rid of all mine when I left Minnesota in 2003.  

Time to break them out.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Sugar beet? What's a sugar beet? Or where did I put that alarm clock?

I'm back to work... it'd been what? Two years? It's tough being retired!

Then not just any job but a 12 hours a day, 7 days a week until the harvest ends job. In North Dakota.  The sugar beet harvest. 

A small sugar beet

Express Employment Professionals hired me to work for the American Crystal Sugar Company... They had a booth at the Quartzsite RV show, they have an on-line site & they hire people right here.

A beet piler making a sugar beet pile
That's what we do 12 hours a day

We're here. 

The Drayton,ND campground. Real close to the Drayton yards
(steam in the background). A bit farther from some of the other
piler locations, I'm just under 20 miles away.
Nice showers & an acceptable TV/internet room

They have several campgrounds, we're at the one in Drayton ND at a park built for the harvest. I've always been a sucker for free rent.

The money is good... or can be. It all depends on the weather & the harvest. The first 8 hours are regular time the next 4 hours of that day are overtime.  All 12 hours on Saturday are time & a half, all 12 hours on Sunday are double time...but if it's too hot or too cold or too wet there is no harvest so if those days come on the weekend you lose.

I have to admit that having that alarm go off at 0500 took some getting used to, 12 hrs on my feet was something my feet had to get used to.

I'm enjoying it...

Dressed for work with vest, safety glasses & hard hat

The harvest was going to start on October 1st at a minute after midnight but it was moved up a day. So I get to run a beet piler station all night long starting starting a day early!

Saturday, September 23, 2017

BIG art!

Mt Rushmore
After we left Yellowstone we headed to South Dakota, the land of the BIG art!

I'm talking about Mt. Rushmore, the Crazy Horse Memorial and the Jackalope at Wall Drugs in Wall, SD. 

Mt. Rushmore is free to see, but they want cash money to park. It is impressive to see & well worth the trip.

I'd never made it to the Crazy Horse Memorial before, that was something to see. Even bigger art! 

The sculpture is huge, you can see the outline of the horse in white

Maybe my grandkids can see it finished? It's financed by the $11 it takes to get in & donations. There is still a lot to be done so it's going to take some time.

The head is clear and the front sculpture is what it will look like
The American Indian Museum is a nice one too.

After those magnificent sites some might call Wall Drugs a let down but I remembered the billboards! 

The 5 cent coffee was good, the $12 buffalo burger was good too but the pie was so-so at best. The parking was free & plentiful, lot's of stuff to see plus they had the Jackalope!

My kids even remember the Jackalope!

The Jackalope!
After this, it was getting close to time to show up in Grand Forks, ND for the beet harvest, so we found somewhere close to spend the night then we headed for North Dakota.

Just outside the Badlands NP, free BLM boondocking.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Yellowstone National Park

What's new that I can say about Yellowstone?

I looked, Yogi & Boo-Boo were not to be found nor was a picnic basket but Ranger Smith might be still be around. 
I wonder how old you have to be to remember Ranger Smith?

This visit is not quite like I wanted, it was a lack of planning on my part, I'm retired & gave no thought to when the Labor Day weekend was. That weekend did not seem to be a good one to show up at the 1st ever American National Park so we rested up in a different part of Montana.

There is traffic, lots at times. We spent 45 minutes in stop
and go traffic for some elk

That resting up was needed by me, (packing up, going, sightseeing, setting up, sleeping & repeat does get old)  but it did use time that could have been better spent in Yellowstone. I wanted a day's rest, maybe two, but not the whole Labor Day weekend that we sat out because I didn't realize it was coming!
How can "time" mean much to a retired person you ask? We're going to work the beet harvest in North Dakota and have to show up this month. There is an "end" to this particular chunk of travel.

I had visions of the vacationing legions packing up on Monday (Labor Day) & heading home after the last summer fling. The reality seems to be a little different as there were still plenty of people in the park & the campgrounds around it. Gee, a lot of them look retired too!

We found a spot in a national forest camp (Bakers Hole) not too far from the park's west entrance. The price is right, the views are great and we can leave the RV in its place & drive into the park with the other van to see the sites then drive home that night. Good enough!

The first stop was Old Faithful.  My wife had never been here before and that's one landmark I didn't want to miss. We walked up to the viewing area 30 seconds before it started erupting, talk about timing! 

We took a walk around Old Faithful then went to the Old Faithful Lodge 2nd deck viewing area to watch it do it's thing again. A pleasant afternoon.

There are mountains and animals too.
The 45 minute traffic jam for elk

Yellowstone!  It really is something to see the steam coming out of the ground, to see the boiling pools and the clear, clear bluish green water that smells of sulfur.
Steam from the ground is common

Bubbling pools that come with an odor

When you get tired of the people, the mountains, the animals, the steaming pools and geysers you look for this sign.

Monday, September 11, 2017

A new home on the road!

We bought a new RV!

It's a 2007 Forest River Sunseeker, a class "C" just short of 30' long on a General Motors chassis. 
We now have a dining table that's always set up AND a walk-around queen bed  (that we can each get out of on our own side!) AND a sofa AND an everyday usable shower!

The 19' Pleasure-Way class "B" was working great, even with two of us, and had been for over a year, but the opportunity for the larger rig came along so we took it.  Having a table that's always set up is great.

The '07 Class C & the '97 Class B in a truck stop in South Dakota

The title & other stock parts for the Pleasure-Way class "B" are in Georgia. We may convert the queen bed back to the U-shaped sofa, we'll see.  So we're driving the two rigs to the beet harvest in North Dakota then back to Georgia, where we'll sell the Pleasure-Way after that.

The new RV needed a few things.  A couple of tires & recharge the AC system were about it.  I did have to figure out how to get the spare tire down and some of the switches, plus we needed to get a jack.

Now there are the things that need to be done to make it "right" for us.  We're talking a coat rack, paper towel holder, spice rack, a place for the kitchen knives, a fold out counter extension, replace the 12v incandescent interior bulbs with LED and new radio.  Stuff like that.

There are still more things for later like vent fans, covers for the  vents and solar.  

Solar!  There is a lot of room for solar now ... Solar is magic and I miss it!

Moving from one rig to another while you're on the road is a project but we're managing... 
Did I mention that having a full-time table again is great?

I have to admit that this was a project we'd talked about before, finding & buying a new (to us) RV.  It was a big step.  Doing it on the road is an added hurdle, but not impossible.

If anyone is looking for a Pleasure-Way, come November we'll have the title in hand  :-)

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

The Grand Canyon

I made it here again and again all I can say is, "Wow!"

This place has to be seen, but for me it's more than the indescribable view, its also the people.  In one day I've talked to folks from Norway, Denmark, Germany & Indiana.

Just another view

We had a camp in the free dispersed area just outside of Tusayan by the south entrance. It was a 5 minute walk to the bus stop for our free ride into the park.

The camp, a 5 min walk to the bus
The camper & the kitty sat here for 5 days while we took the bus

As I walk along the rim trail being amazed by the view at every turn & listening to the foreign languages I hear, I realize I'm really happy.

The Colorado river can be seen from the rim

I can pass on a few things I learned about the park...
If you have an RV the dump & fresh water fill are free, it's by the Mather campground entrance. 
Right next to that is the laundry & showers, there is a fee for both. The showers take quarters & are on a timer.  I didn't use the laundry here.
The Grand Canyon Market & General Store had better prices & selection than the store in town (Tusayan), and the basic food prices were not too bad.  Besides groceries they have camping gear, propane, fresh meat & vegetables, tourist souvenirs and a deli.
In that same plaza you'll find a bank & the Post Office.

The Grand Canyon is a marvelous place.  I'll be back again.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Cut off from the information age!

As I sit here in a National Forest Campground managed by a recreational corporation listening to the birds & watching the squirrels run I'm aware that I have no cell signal.

No service!

I'm  cut  off  from  the  world!  With luck the world will still be there tomorrow...

It's funny how dependent I've become on my electronic tether.

Just another day in the Golden Age!

I can't put out a blog without a picture or two.

A Padre Island Texas sunrise out of the gulf

A Pacifica California sunset

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Cliff Dwellers

I finally made it to Mesa Verde National Park in southern Colorado, it was worth the wait.
We've all heard of the cliff dwellers & seen pictures of the large buildings built under the overhang high up off the canyon floor. What's the most surprising to me was the time line of these famous dwellings.

Mesa Verde cliff dwelling

The people lived on the top of the plateau for hundreds of years. First in pit houses & they worked up to full fledged pueblos.
Then about the year 1200 they moved off the plateaus and built the cliff dwellings we are all familiar with.

Mesa Verde 

Mesa Verde with the upstairs visible

One hundred years later they abandoned the cliff dwellings & left.  It's not just here in Mesa Verde either... All the work & 100 years later they left.

For what it's worth the Little Ice Age  is generally given a start date of 1250-1300.

At the Navajo National Monument  they only occupied the place for 35 years.

Navajo National Monument

These places are worth the time it takes to see them. I was also really impressed with Chato Culture National Historical Park in New Mexico.







There is a campground in Mesa Verde NP, nice place, there is also dispersed free camping just outside the gate.
Inside the park the showers, the RV dump & water fill are free. The cliff dwellings are a bit of a drive into the park.

Durango to the east was a really nice little town as is Cortez to the west.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Corps of Engineers & the traveler

There is a lot to be said for the COE campgrounds  !

We've looked for & stopped twice at Corps of Engineers campgrounds & paid for a camp site.
They have been close to water, had room on a Friday and with the America The Beautiful Pass (62 & older it never expires, the price goes up on the 28th of Aug) you get half off the camp fee & free entrance to the day use areas. We did get electric sites so we could use the air conditioner. Clean bathrooms & drinking water are a plus.

COE camp in the Oklahoma/Texas area

Other times we have parked at free COE places like on the Columbia river.

COE dispersed camping on the Columbia river
in Oregon, the John Day dam

I realize this is a little thing but I have been impressed with the COE places we've stopped at.... it's nice to be impressed by something the government does today.

Sure wish I had a boat!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Technology & The Golden Age

Technology,  I use a lot of it too! 

Hood Canal WA, it just looks good!

I have a smart phone (that's really a computer) in my pocket that can take pictures & I can call people with it too! 
It's my address book, my calendar, my calculator & a place to keep notes just to mention a few.

As a 'plus', it acts as my gps, it shows me a good map of where I am, it shows me where the gas stations are & what fuel costs there. I can find assorted campgrounds  and free places to park over night . The phone even has games if you want.

Gasbuddy app on an Android phone.
The blank station didn't have a report
in 48 hrs so the price went blank.

I have a Garmin GPS. It's a stand alone tool who's only job is to tell me how to get somewhere and what's around me when I ask it. 

Well, it's also an accurate speedometer too.
It doesn't need the internet, it just needs the sky & its memory card.

One of the most valuable features is finding a grocery store in a strange town. 

Before the gps days I'd have to stop & ask where the grocery store was... 
Walmarts & rest areas also at the touch of a button.  Good places to know about it you need a spot to stop for the night while you're traveling.

After a stop at the POI Factory  my gps can show me the places from "Diners, drive-ins & dives" that's along my route!

I have a Kindle Paperwhite to read books on. Not the same as a real book, but good enough.  I can read at night or in the day, I have a lot of books with me that take up no space and with the internet, Amazon & the Gutenberg Project  I can get almost any book I want to read!
Plus there are a lot of paperback exchanges all over the country.

I have a mifi to give me internet most of the time.  Being hooked to the internet is a big part of this being the "Golden Age."

I have a Rand McNally road atlas because sometimes you just need a map. 

Most of the time you need to check on where the gps is sending you, because me & the gps sometimes have different ideas about the "good route". If I don't check every so often I'm sometimes really not happy with the machine picks!

The best maps of the states are the ones they give you at the first rest area in a state if you come in on an interstate highway.

My computer  

I have my computer too. It does this writing, it stores the pictures I take (with digital camera & a phone I take a LOT of pictures), it keeps track of the places I want to go to and the assorted tips I've picked up along the way. The computer also plays movies & can do television.

I have a wonderful companion & wife, we have a camper that meets our needs, we have electronics/technology & the internet, we have reasonably good roads, plentiful gasoline. I can still walk, remember my name and I get money sent to my bank account every month!  With a credit union that does "shared branching" I'm almost never too far away from my bank no matter where I am in the country.

I am living in the "golden age" !!