Welcome to Louisiana!

Welcome to Louisiana!

Not gonna lie. I was a little bit sad leaving the Galveston Island KOA Holiday on February 1, after a month. Especially in the winter. The only thing that made it better was knowing we would be boondocking on the beach in Bolivar after riding on the best free dolphin-watching tour we’ve experienced. Then it was off to explore the southeastern part of the United States. The Galveston-Port Bolivar ferry run by the Texas Department of Transportation is free, and out of the 6 or 8 times we’ve ridden it, there was only one time we didn’t see dolphins. Boarding in our 38′ class A motorhome gives us the best seats in the house. The ride is short. 15-20 minutes, and when we unloaded at Port Bolivar, we bee-lined for our beach spot from November/December. When we arrived, somewhere near barrel 28, the tide was higher than we remembered. After checking the tide charts, we determined my anxiety would be better suited for My Happy Place RV Camp. (side note: the barrel is a trash can. They exist hanging from a wooden stake at regular intervals and are numbered. Which is helpful for meeting your party on the beach.) Honestly, we probably would have been 100% fine on the beach, but sometimes my anxiety is not worth fighting. This was one of those times.

The beach in Bolivar

If you’ve never been to Bolivar/Crystal Beach, you should stay away because it is horrible, and it sucks! You should never go there. Seriously. I wanna live there. Without ever spending time in Texas, I said I would never live there. I wanna live in Bolivar. It is island-y while still being rural-ish with a small-town feel. There was freezing weather while we were there. That kinda turned me off, but really, the place is fantastic.

Hangin’ out with our friend, Joe, at Buckstin Brewing in Nederland, TX

After three nights, we headed back to Nederland, and our friend’s driveway, for two nights. We have discovered that we really like breaking our trips up by visiting people we know. It gives us a chance to socialize outside strangers and the four of us. While in Nederland, we had to visit our favorite family-friendly brewery, Buckstin Brewing Co. The beer is fantastic, the food is pretty darn good, and the company can’t be beat. After a couple of days, it was time to continue on our travels. We pointed our home east, and away we went. Next stop: Lake Charles, LA.

We pulled into White Oak Park, a Parish park on the Calcasieu River with an RV park with 8 or 9 sites, and tried to figure out the best way to park. We had site #3, and it is a bit strange. Pulling in with the picnic table and fire pit outside our door meant we needed a longer hose than we had. Turning around put the picnic table and fire pit on the wrong side, and our door opened onto our neighbor’s door. We opted for backward. We parked, set up, and went to check out the Visitor Center. At the Visitor Center, we learned about the existence of the Creole Nature Trail, discovered that we had to eat at Beaux Dine’s, bought a couple of 1/2 price souvenirs the Visitor Center was trying to get rid of and tried to find the alligator that used to live in the park adjacent. After a bit more exploration of Lake Charles, we went home and planned the things we wanted to see.

We started out the following day with coffee and breakfast sandwiches (not in my gluten-free diet) on a croissant from Coffee:30. The coffee was good, the sandwiches were delicious, and we were ready for a day of adventures. First stop, Adventure Point in Sulphur, LA, before beginning our trek of the Creole Nature Trail. Tom was on the phone doing business, so the girls and I walked in to get some information. We had no idea we would walk away with so much knowledge. Once inside, we met Sharon and Will. When we walked in, we were the only visitors, so our conversation started with both. Moments later, a couple walked in, so Will walked over to help them while Sharon took the lead with us. As a born and raised local, she was a wealth of knowledge. We learned that Lake Charles was hit by Hurricane Laura in August 2020, Hurricane Delta in October 2020, the freeze of February 2021, and flash floods in May 2021. They lost 50-ish% of their population because of the storms and are a community rebuilding. There is still a lot of storm damage they are trying to recover from. It helped us see the community in a whole new light.

Sharon grabbed a map, her red sharpie, and proceeded to draw our route with Xs for restrooms, underlines for free crabbin’, circles for walks, and a square for the best jalapeno poppers she’s ever had. After absorbing as much knowledge as we could, learning and practicing crabbin’, posing for a picture as a Creole band, and petting Sharon’s Mallard duck puppet, she sent us on our way with lagniappe, a little something extra, that turned out to be some of the coolest “little something extra” we’ve ever received.

Intracoastal Park – Sulphur, LA

Leaving Adventure Point, we headed south toward Intracoastal Park. The RV park was closed, and we were the only visitors to the park. We wandered for a moment before getting back in the car and heading for our next destination. We cruised down to Blue Goose Walking Trail. There was a short trail open, and we ventured out on that. The land was scorched on our left as we walked toward Calcasieu Lake, but we still saw quite a few little birds. 30-ish minutes and we were back on our way. Next stop: Wetland Walkway. We were hoping to see some alligators, but all we found was a child’s sock. Holly Beach was a great place for shelling, and in Louisiana, you are free to take all the shells you want. We hopped on the Cameron Ferry, much smaller than the Galveston Ferry, and made our way to the Pintail Wildlife Drive. We missed the pink dolphin that hangs out near the Cameron Ferry. We’ll have to go back and try to catch a glimpse.

The Pintail Wildlife Drive made up for all the alligators we didn’t see at Wetland Walkway. First, we drove past ibis, herons, ducks, and egrets. Then we hit alligator alley, and there were gators every 10 feet or less. Most were sunning in the grass on the canal’s banks; some were floating. I think I took a photo of every alligator we saw and took our sweet time meandering through. With our first day of exploring the Creole Nature Trail complete, we headed for home.

The next day we drove back to Nederland for a couple of packages we had delivered to our friend who lives there, including a new lens to replace my camera lens that zoomed in and never zoomed back out. The lens didn’t show up, but since we were down in the area, not really, we decided to check out the Pintail Wildlife Drive again. It was later in the afternoon, and we hardly saw any birds or any alligators. My lens showed up the next day, and we drove back to Nederland to pick it up.

On Friday, we started our day at the Lacassine Wildlife Refuge. Well, where Apple Maps told us the Lacassine Wildlife Refuge was. We were stopped by a man on a tractor working in his rice field. He was not happy we were driving on private land. We had no idea. We apologized, and in conversation, he became a very lovely man, just frustrated with the people coming down the road. He gave us directions to the real Lacassine Wildlife Refuge, told us where we could turn around, and said goodbye. When we found the real Lacassine Wildlife Refuge, we were greeted by an otter swimming in the canal. We spotted a whole flock of Roseate Spoonbills flying around a stand of trees as though they’d been disturbed. We saw just how many spoonbills there were when we reached the trees. As I took pictures, a man named Frank from the local birding club stopped and started telling us about different birds. He pointed out a Vermillion Flycatcher and clapped to spook the spoonbills for a photo opportunity. We saw a couple of alligators, but the spoonbills stole the show. While watching the spoonbills, we were also treated to a ginormous flock of snow geese landing a little way in the distance.

Snow geese – Pintail Wildlife Drive – Creole Nature Trail

We stopped for lunch at Comier Creole Kitchen in Gueydan, LA, and I had some mighty delicious fried chicken. We made our way to Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge and found it closed, so we headed for the Pintail Wildlife Drive since we had to pass by on our way home anyway. There wasn’t a lot to be seen, and we headed home. Saturday fibromyalgia knocked me on my ass, so I rested while Tom and the girls ran errands and washed, dried, folded, and put away the laundry. Sunday, we decided to give our hand at crabbin’ a go. The family started while I stayed warm in the car, then I walked over, grabbed a line, pulled up a too-small crab and an eel, and I was done. Crabbin’ is like fishin’, and I don’t have the patience to sit and wait. The girls didn’t last much longer before we were off for one last ride on the Cameron Ferry and one last drive through the Pintail Wildlife Drive. As we came down the bridge, we saw a white sea where the drive loop was. We couldn’t figure out what it could be. When we pulled in, we discovered they were snow geese. Thousands of them. A sea of white. We parked, and I got out of the car to get a little closer for photos. I snapped a bunch, and while walking on the road, I spooked the ones closest to me, setting off hundreds of geese taking flight and squawking before landing a bit farther from the road. The experience was reminiscent of the dolphin stampede Tom and I witnessed in the Pacific Ocean. Monday, we packed up and headed for Baton Rouge.

The Red Stick Sculpture

Follow along for our Baton Rouge adventure!

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Island Living

Island Living

January on an island? Why not? We spent the entire month of January next to the cabin on stilts at the Galveston Island KOA Holiday. It was more windy and stormy than we thought it would be, but we enjoyed every minute.

Our first field trip was to a bike shop in League City, TX. Everyone had a bike except me so that was my Christmas present. The girls are always wanting to go on family bike rides and we couldn’t. After a drive along the five-mile dike in Texas City, we wandered over to League City where my new bicycle was waiting.

Intercom system inside Moody Mansion.

Our second field trip of the month was a tour of Moody Mansion. We started with a stop at Seawall Coffee and were highly disappointed with our experience. The coffee was the hottest coffee I’ve ever been handed. I couldn’t hold onto the cup even with a sleeve. Forget trying to take a sip. I tried a sip before walking into Moody Mansion, and it still burned my tongue. When we got back to the car after our tour, the coffee was finally at a temperature I could drink it. After two sips, I was getting sick in the parking lot. Our friend has had great experiences. Maybe it was just a one-off. I won’t go back to find out, though. I have a severe dairy allergy and believe they forgot to use the fake milk we ordered. Now, onto a little Moody family history. William Lewis Moody, Sr. moved his family to Galveston in 1866 and founded Galveston Cotton Exchange. A company that compresses cotton into bales making shipping easier. It appears to still be operating downtown today. He founded the Gulf, Colorado, and Santa Fe Railroad and served as chairman of the Galveston Committee that persuaded Congress to dredge, making Galveston a deep water harbor. His son, W.L. Moody, Jr., purchased the mansion weeks after the Great Storm of 1900.

Moody Mansion selfie

The mansion was opened as a museum by W.L. Moody, Jr.’s daughter, Mary Moody Northen, after her death in 1991. Many of the family’s belongings are on display, and the self-guided audio tour shares much information about the family. The home, art, and architecture are all beautiful, and I always find it interesting to peek into the past. Liv liked how it had a lot of history and separately decorated rooms. She found it interesting that the youngest kid got a balcony off his room. Her favorite room was where the parents greeted the guests. M thought it was cool because they owned so many businesses, and it seems like they started the financial industry in Galveston.

Ocean Star Rig & Drilling Museum

Our field trip to the Ocean Star Drilling Rig & Museum was a fascinating peek into the oil world. Having spent time living on the beach in Bolivar, we watched what looked like floating cities. Being able to see up-close what those oil rigs look like is informative. Who knew a boat could be an oil rig?!? Not me! We were all hungry when we finished, so we walked over to The Strand.

The Strand – Galveston, TX

“Have you been here before? No? This is how it works. Here’s our menu, here’s our restaurant week. You order at the bar and sit anywhere you like.” The employee said as we walked into The Hubcap Grill on The Strand, downtown Galveston. We had some of the most delicious burgers we’ve ever had and had to try the pink champagne cake, our favorite from Madonna Inn. After lunch, we strolled up and down The Strand entering different shops to browse. “The little girl who haunts our shop likes to play with Jack Sparrow,” the shop owner tells my family as they were picking out a pirate figurine for our friend.

Family selfie on South Padre Island

We took a couple of days and ventured over to South Padre Island. We’d never been to South Padre Island and figured we needed to check it out since we were in the area-ish. And since we were going that direction, we might as well cruise through Corpus Christi and check that out too. It didn’t take us long to determine we were not fans of Corpus Christi. It was very city-like with tall buildings and a lot of people. We did stop for a delicious lunch at Catfish Charlies. Hushpuppies, fried shrimp, and fried catfish were all delicious. We would definitely stop back in if we were ever traveling through again. We had a room booked at La Copa Inn, which turned out to be an okay hotel. We checked in, and I was pretty toast. I love traveling and exploring, but my body that is affected by fibromyalgia isn’t always as accommodating. Often, my body will decide when we are done with our plans, which was the case after check-in. We ordered to-go food that was indescribable and went to bed.

Brunch view on South Padre Island

Tuesday was our day to explore, and Wednesday was our day to head home. We woke up Tuesday morning and found a delicious breakfast on the water at Lobo del Mar. Our server was convivial, and the atmosphere was very island-y. After breakfast, we strolled along the big beach Tom describes best, “expanse is incredible.” M pointed out the shells were old, weathered, and thick, while Liv noticed the sand was like a fine powder. After a stroll, we took a drive along the beach. We went a long way, discovering that the police were serious about speeding on the beach. We watched one officer pull over 8 cars and one electric bike. After our beach experience, we headed over to the Sea Turtle, Inc. A sea turtle sanctuary where we saw sea turtles and learned a lot. One thing that stood out to all of us was the video they had playing on repeat regarding the storm in February of 2021. Sea turtles are cold-blooded animals, and when the water temperature falls below 50 degrees, they suffer cold-stun. They become catatonic and cannot swim. Eventually, they will float on the surface, and that is where the sanctuary comes in. Of the 12,155 cold-stunned turtles rescued on the third coast, the Sea Turtle Sanctuary in South Padre Island rescued 5,300 of them. Of the 12,155 turtles rescued, only 35% of them survived. The most interesting turtle was born without a flipper who now has a prosthetic flipper that allows her to swim. Definitely worth a visit every time we are in the area. Bonus: it’s pet-friendly, and Coco could walk through with us.

Steerburger Grill in Rockport, TX – near Aransas Pass

We ended the day back at the hotel in the hot tub that was nice and hot, where we made conversation with a gentleman from Michigan. Dinner was a night of burgers to-go and early to bed. We were headed home the next morning. On our way home, we drove through Port Aransas and had the bestest, most delicious burger I have had in a long time at Steerburger in Rockport, TX. We ordered outside at the food trailer went inside the building to the right for drinks and restrooms. There were a few tables inside, but we opted to eat on the porch.

Art studio in Bishop’s Palace

Our field trip to Bishop’s Palace was the most informative tour. We opted for the Basement-to-Attic tour and were not disappointed. We learned that the home was built in 1892 by the Gresham family at the cost of $250,000. In 1923, it was sold by the Gresham family to the Catholic Church for $34,700. The Catholic Church turned it into a home for the Bishop. It served as a home for the Bishop then the Catholic Church turned it into a museum. In 2008, the Catholic Church sold the house to the Galveston Historical Foundation for $3.4 million. Roughly.

Rainforest Pyramid at Moody Gardens

One of our last field trips was to Moody Gardens. Moody Gardens seems to include many things. Like a hotel, restaurant, and other things we didn’t explore. We started with the aquarium pyramid. Tom called it an amazing aquarium and a must-see in Galveston. M thought it was super cool, and we all thought there could be more information on the fish. (We are sign readers.) After the aquarium, we walked over to the hotel for the coffee shop located in the lobby. We enjoyed our drinks as we leisurely walked back toward the rainforest pyramid. We were hit with a wall of heavy air as we entered the rainforest pyramid. The humid rainforest is almost a shock and takes a moment to adjust. Glasses fog, and breathing warm, wet air is weird. There are a ton of birds, plants, and animals. We were not lucky enough to see the sloth or monkeys, but we did get to see many birds and even some bats. Our last stop was the Discovery Center. Holy sensory overload. And there weren’t even that many people in there. It was cool because there were instruments to play, pipe rooms to communicate through pipes, many different hands-on activities. They even have the giant floor piano from the movie Big. There were a bunch of littles running around, everyone was playing instruments, talking, singing, screaming, and it quickly became too much. We had purchased a day pass that allowed us to watch a couple of the movies, also, but we decided we weren’t interested in those and skipped them.

Our last Sunday on the island, Tom and the girls went to Pleasure Pier while I rested/fought a bad fibromyalgia day. Liv says it was entertaining, 10 out of 10 would go again. She loved that all the rides had an ocean view and the lines weren’t long in the off-season. M said the rides were twisty-turny, there were not a lot of them, but it was fun. Tom said it was a great way to spend an afternoon having fun with the kids.

Overall, we enjoyed our month on Galveston Island. We didn’t explore as much as we would have liked because of the cool weather, but nothing was disappointing. We’re already planning future trips back to Galveston. Who knows maybe we’ll settle in the area.

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Back In Our Home

Back In Our Home

While we were in Oceanside, the girls and Coco stayed with their best friend and family. Tom and I split our time between a friend’s house and a friend’s neighbor’s second home. It was a weird relaxing freedom to not have children for a week. After a busy week with no children, we headed back to Montana to pick up our home on Thursday, August 19th. Because we wanted to just get home, we took the fastest route and didn’t stop for any sightseeing. We arrived in the Flathead area around lunch and enjoyed a delicious BBQ lunch at Cowboy Up in Somers, MT, on the North end of Flathead Lake. The place was adorable. A Tuff Shed turned into a restaurant with 5 tables and all cooking done in a trailer out front. The wife serves, and the husband cooks. We all loved the vibe of our lunch spot.

Glacier National Park

Shortly after we finished lunch, the mechanic called to let us know our home was ready. We picked her up and went back to Swan Lake Campground for a few nights. Since we had a couple more days in the area, we decided to check out a few of the sites we hadn’t checked off the list and stop again at a couple we enjoyed the first time around. Early one morning, we set out for Goat Lick and Upper Two Medicine Lake. We didn’t see any mountain goats; I think it’s the wrong time of year. We did see beautiful scenery. We stopped at Memorial Square at Marias Pass and read about the different people who have traveled the pass and what they called it. After one last stop at Big Mountain Ciderworks, it was time to move on. We had reservations in Denver to keep.

Old Montana Prison

We stopped by Old Montana Prison & Auto Museum on our way to Denver. We’d seen it on our way to Montana the first time. Then, while in Oceanside, I spoke with a man who highly recommended we stop by and check it out. So we made it a stop on our way. We parked our 38′ beast with tow car attached in a dirt lot a block-ish away from the museum. We entered the gift shop and paid our entrance fees. The prison entrance led us to a courtyard and the sun beating down on us. This prison is the Montana Territorial Prison and was first used in 1871 to house prisoners. They put the prisoners to work building the prison as more buildings were required. Seeing the old, crumbling buildings was fascinating. The heavy feeling in some of the buildings became too much for me. The Auto Museum entrance is located across the gift shop from the Prison Museum entrance. The cars are immaculate, there are a gazillion of them, and they range from the earliest of cars to 1970’s muscle cars.

Denver Skyline from the Dam Road – I used to love saying that as a child.

We found a delicious family-owned and run BBQ spot in Craig, CO, called The Seasoned Brisket on our way to Denver. The food was some of the best BBQ we’ve had, the service was very polite (we were served by the children), and it was a super cute place. We will definitely stop by next time we are through Craig. We made it in time for our reservations at Cherry Creek State Park on Wednesday, August 25th. On Friday, August 27th, my best friend since high school came out, and we celebrated her birthday for the first time in who knows how many years. She said we were the only ones to sing to her on her birthday. We checked out and headed for Boyd Lake State Park the following day.

Elk at Rocky Mountain National Park

Living at Boyd Lake State Park gave us Rocky Mountain National Park access. As usual, when visiting a National Park, we were up early and driving up Old Trail Ridge Road when the sun rose. Old Trail Ridge Road is a one-lane, one-way dirt road up the mountain that takes you to the visitor center at the top. Rutting season was just beginning, and we were treated to the bugling of the males. We were followed by one big guy who came up on the road from the side of the mountain. We watched a large female moose chase off what we believe was her young female calf. Old enough to be weaned and on her own, it seemed the more senior was telling her. We watched a bald eagle fish in a pond with an osprey. We drove alongside moose who were walking along the mountainside. We watched male elk sparring. These large animals sound like kittens mewling while sparring. We saw marmots and pikas, even a coyote, and some of the most breathtaking scenery. It was hard leaving all the wildlife, but there is always more to see.

Sunset from our campsite at Stevens Creek Campground.

Stevens Creek Campground in Curecanti National Recreation Area is a beautiful place to camp. I feel like I am always saying this place or that place is the most beautiful. And that’s because each place is. Almost everywhere we go carries its own unique beauty. We went from the mountains of Colorado, 12,183 feet at the top of Trail Ridge Road, to a dry, high-desert lake at 7,540 feet. Since we were close, we decided to hike Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park – North Rim at sunset. First, a drive to see Crested Butte. When we returned home from Crested Butte, our awning was tied down to the picnic table. As we started untying it, our only neighbor came walking over. He explained how the wind broke our awning, causing it to beat the crap out of our AC unit and roof. The AC unit was damaged, but it didn’t work and was scheduled to be replaced anyway. The roof was dented but not punctured. The neighbor helped us remove the awning and slide all 21 feet inside our RV through the slide window. We thanked him profusely. The whole thing could have been much worse without his help. By the time we finished taking care of the awning problem, it was time to leave for our sunset hike on the North Vista Trail. Pictures don’t do the views any justice.

View of what’s left from long ago mining along the Million Dollar Highway.

Saturday, September 4th, we booked the Ouray (pronounced yur-ay) KOA to drive the Million Dollar Highway without having to worry about where we were going to sleep. There are multiple stories of how the Million Dollar Highway got its name. One of them was that when they were discussing building the road, someone exclaimed it would cost a million dollars to build. It’s also been said that the views were worth a million dollars, and that is how it got its name. Either way, the views are amazing, and I cannot imagine the cost of building a road on the side of a mountain that requires avalanche tunnels. We weren’t sure where we were headed next, but the North Rim of the Grand Canyon was on the list. I texted my friend who lived in Page, AZ, figuring we could see him and the North Rim. We booked the Monument Valley KOA to visit Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park when I didn’t receive a response.

Mexican Hat Rock Formation

We left Ouray semi-early to have time to explore a little after we got to Monument Valley. It was only a 4-ish hour drive. While driving through Mexican Hat, Utah, not far from where we were staying, I received a text back that my friend wasn’t home that weekend. They were staying in Mexican Hat, Utah, for the night. SAY WHAT?!?!? When we arrived at the KOA, we decided to chill for the rest of the afternoon because I was feeling a little beat up. We set up and were relaxing when I decided it wasn’t that hard to ride in the car, which is mostly what I’d be doing. So we set off for some sightseeing. We had Mexican Hat rock formation and Valley of the Gods on the list. We got the picture proving we’d been to the Mexican Hat rock formation and were turning out to get a picture from a turnout with a colorful view we’d noticed on the way. Right after turning off the rock formation road, my phone rang, and it was my friend from Page, AZ. He wanted to know if we’d just left the Mexican hat rock formation and told me to turn around and meet him there. Of course, we did. We spent a few minutes chatting at the rock formation base before going our separate ways with plans to meet up later in the evening.

Valley of the Gods

We continued to Valley of the Gods and a 17-mile drive through gorgeous rock formations. I’d read that it was a loop, but we didn’t come out near the same place we went in, so I’m going to say that isn’t a loop. After completing the drive, we met my friend, his boyfriend, and his cousin at the San Juan Inn, where they were staying the night. Tom and the girls grabbed a 6-pack of beer and sodas before settling into the outdoor seating. We spent the evening laughing and talking, reminiscing, and catching up. At one point, we heard and spied a wild-ish donkey. The story is he was rescued by the owner’s son and lives free to roam on the land. We saw other wild donkeys in the area, so who knows.

Moki Dugway

Monday, September 6th, we woke up and set out to explore. We tried visiting Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park. When we got to the gate, we were told it was only open to the sheriff and their horses. We were free to explore the gift shop, but we wouldn’t be allowed to go any further. Dang, it! We turned around and went to Gooseneck State Park, where the river snakes through the land leaving interesting land formations. Like Big Bend, only multiple bends. Next, we drove up the Moki Dugway and over to Natural Bridges National Monument. The Moki Dugway is one-lane switchbacks up the side of a mountain. Any time a car is coming from the opposite direction, someone has to wait in the wider turn section of the road because it isn’t wide enough for 2 vehicles side-by-side.

A bridge in Natural Bridges National Monument

Natural Bridges National Monument surprised me with how interesting and cool it is. The natural bridges were created by streams cutting into the sandstone. We’re always amazed at what the Earth does on its own. With the dog in tow, we were limited in our hiking. Mostly we stuck to the short trails on the scenic drive pull-offs. Tom stayed in the car with the dog while the girls and I hiked Horsecollar Ruins Trail. We love cliff dwellings, and we take it any time we get a chance to see them. Then it was a crazy drive down the Moki Dugway.

Liv and the stray dog she named Maddie

With the second Thursday and Friday of the month looming, it was time to get back to Oceanside. Leaving the Monument Valley KOA was hard because the moment we arrived, a stray dog won over Liv’s heart. Liv named her Maddie and made sure she had food and water. Both Tom and M had seen Maddie early Tuesday morning, but she was gone when Liv went to say goodbye. We were unaware of how many people will leave their dogs at KOAs, but the employee said this was definitely not the first stray. We imagine someone took her home with them. There were so many families taking care of her and talking about keeping her; I just wouldn’t allow another dog to move in. We made one more stop at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. We found a roadside spot to park and unhook to take the car and drive the scenic drive through the North Rim. We had the dog and no time to hike, but we could take in the views from a different perspective than we’ve seen on the South Rim.

While driving through a Flying J parking lot in Mesquite, NV, some guy backed into us. I saw his reverse lights; I made a sound because it happened too fast for words, and he was backed into us. Tom stopped, we hopped out, and he had pulled his van forward, getting out apologizing. Admitting he looked, messed with the stereo, and didn’t look again before backing out. We had about 12 inches of damage to our storage doors from the hinges on his van, and he had a broken taillight lens. He gave us his insurance and took off in a bit of a hurry. With no more excitement, we made it to Oceanside, and this time we were scheduled for a 2-month stay.

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God’s Country – Montana

God’s Country – Montana

Have you ever heard of Flathead Lake in Montana? M heard about it somewhere, researched it, and wanted to visit. Why not? We didn’t have any other plans. We left California on Tuesday, July 13th, and arrived in the Flathead Lake area on Thursday, July 15th. We parked our home on a pull-off, and before looking for National Forest land, we thought we would take a trip through the Swan Lake Campground. Maybe we’d get lucky and find a site. We found the last spot, paid our fees, and went back to the highway for our home. We leveled, put our slide out, and went to check out a little more of the area. We did not have cell coverage at our campsite, so we would need to find a place to work and school.

Our office and classroom at Flathead Lake Wayfarer’s Unit.

Flathead Lake State Park has 6 units around the lake. We made the Finley Point Unit and the Wayfarers Unit, on the shores of Flathead Lake, our office and classroom each day. We often worked and schooled at a picnic table, and then we’d take a break and float on the lake with our tubes and stand-up paddleboards. We’d go back to working and schooling at the picnic table before stopping for the day and having another float. Then it’d be time to figure out dinner, make dinner, eat dinner. After dinner, it’d be time to wander across the highway for more floating on Swan Lake. Maybe even make dessert in the dutch oven on the shore.

Kintla Lake in Glacier National Park.

We explored the area without going into Glacier National Park. The reservation system was in effect, and a timed reservation to enter was required from 6 AM to 5 PM. The reservation is only for Going to the Sun Road, so we drove to Polebridge and checked out Kintla Lake in Glacier National Park. The campground was full, and we were exploring, with the dog, so we didn’t stay long before setting out for Bowman Lake, where we also stopped for only a few moments.

Flathead Brewing Co. in Bigfork, MT.

Friday, we went into Bigfork on the North end of Flathead Lake and found Flathead Lake Brewing Co. When we arrived, there was a sign that due to a fire, the upstairs was closed, but we could be seated downstairs. We made our way down the stairs and put in our name with the hostess, who informed us it could be up to an hour. And they do not allow dogs. We sat in the car using the car’s WiFi to get some work and school done. Then, Tom, M, and I went in to eat while Liv sat in the car with the dog and attended her Zoom math tutor. Because we live our life traveling, and our dog has separation anxiety issues, we try to take her with us as much as possible. Often this means she is not welcome when we stop to eat. Instead of leaving the dog in the car, we leave a dog and a child in the car. One of the girls volunteers to stay with the dog, we order to-go drink and food, and the one who gets to eat inside runs drink and food to the one outside.

We try to mostly eat at home, but we also enjoy exploring the local restaurants. We found Bias Brewing in Kalispell, and they allow dogs. Nothing on the menu kept me on the gluten-free, dairy-free diet I try to maintain, and I was glad I had dairy pills to help me through the meal. Breweries are easy to find, but beer contains gluten, so we thought we’d start searching out cideries. When we found Big Mountain Ciderworks in Kalispell, we were not disappointed. They are a newer hard cidery and restaurant. The food was delicious, and the cider was even better. We made a stop at Tamarack Brewing Company in Lakeside and had good food and better beer. We also found Buzz N Bagels coffee shop in Bigfork and had the most delicious coffee drink called THE Flathead. We bought cherries from multiple roadside stands and even found fresh huckleberries at one.

Picking huckleberries at our campsite.

Do you know about huckleberries? Locals told us that huckleberries only grow in the mountains. You cannot grow huckleberries on a farm. Summer is huckleberry season, and people go deep in the mountains searching out huckleberries. Because huckleberries are difficult-ish to come by, they are expensive—$ 20 for a sandwich-size zipper-seal bag and $80 for a gallon-size zipper seal bag. Then there is huckleberry everything. Huckleberry chocolate, tea, coffee, syrup, jam, preserves, taffy. If they can add huckleberry, they’ll add huckleberry. While we were dispersed camping on the shore of Hungry Horse Reservoir, we would see huckleberry pickers whenever we were coming back to camp. We discovered the hillside next to us was covered with them, and we commenced picking our own fresh huckleberries.

Swan Lake, Montana

After 11 nights at the Swan Lake Campground, with no hook-ups, we booked a night at the Whitefish KOA for the hook-ups, and so we could find dispersed camping. The following morning, we chose to extend an extra night. We had delicious BBQ at DeSoto Grill and watched as the chef made the best-looking sandwich we’ve ever seen. With full bellies, we went in search of a dispersed campsite. As we drove into occupied site after occupied site, our hopes were waning. I commented that the perfect campsite would be at the end and no one would be in it. After what seemed like forever, we pulled into the ideal campsite, got out, and set up the tent so we could return the next day. We were a long way from the main road, and there was no cell service, but the place was amazing. We went back to the KOA for the night and the girls set about completing their assignment of talking to at least 3 people their age. They went outside, made friends, and played all night long. We awoke the next day, excited to take off to our new home.

View of our campsite at Hungry Horse Reservoir.

We pulled into the most fantastic site we’ve lived in yet, and while trying to get the view out our front door perfect, I stepped in and decided to drive the RV for the first time ever. I went 10 feet backward and 7 feet forward. After setting up, we put on our suits and went for a float on Hungry Horse Reservoir. We had the reservoir out our front door and a private cove in front of us. We could see three campsites across a larger cove that were full for the first 3 days we were there. After the weekend, we were the only ones in the area until we left. For 4-days we didn’t leave. We enjoyed no cell service, no electricity, nothing but nature.

A handwritten sign on a broken road sign we found hanging from a tree on the dirt road back to our campsite.

Our 4-day weekend of bliss ended, and it was time to find cell service so we could work. We also wanted to explore Glacier National Park. Because we were 42.8 miles from the main road, we had a 1.5-hour drive back to it. Glacier was another 15-ish minute drive. We saw 2 AM and 3 AM more often than we would have liked. The first time we woke up early for Glacier, we drove from West Glacier to St Mary’s and back, stopping at turnoffs. Closer to the St Mary’s side, we saw 3 grizzly bears alongside the road. Between trees on a hillside, we saw a mama and baby black bear running up the hill. The morning we decided to hike Hidden Lake, we discovered that the reservation system destroyed how we visit parks. When we hike in a National Park, we are up well before the sun and on the trail before the sun rises. When the day is getting warmer and the trails are getting busier, we are done and leaving. Around 6 AM, we arrived in the parking lot at the trailhead for Hidden Lake with 200 of our closest friends. The mountaintop was shrouded in fog, and people were pouring toward the trailhead. We opted out, heading for Sun Point and hiking to Virginia Falls instead.

View of the river from the trail to Virginia Falls during a smoky sunrise.

We were not disappointed with our choice. The trail was long and felt almost straight uphill at the end. We enjoyed Baring Falls and St. Mary’s Falls along the way, with our reward being Virginia Falls at the end. When we arrived at the top, a tree had fallen, blocking our path over a footbridge. We ducked beneath the ginormous tree and made it to the waterfall and the pool it created below. After taking a gazillion pictures, we ducked beneath the tree and descended back down the mountain. Glacier National Park is beyond words beautiful. Every part we saw.

Smoky sunset from the shore of Hungry Horse Reservoir.

We spent 9 nights, 10 days 42.8 miles from the main road. 15 of those miles were paved; the rest were dirt. .8 of a mile probably shouldn’t have seen our 38′ Class A Motorhome, but she made it like a champ. We had 100 gallons of water on board, plus another 7-10 drinking. We only ran the generator when needed and bathed in the lake. If we could live like this forever, we would. But it was time to get back to Oceanside again. We drove separately into Kalispell, where we washed laundry, had lunch, and bathed the dog. Tom drove off in the RV headed toward a dump station while the girls and I found our way to the grocery store. When the girls and I pulled into the parking lot to meet Tom, I knew something was wrong. There was a liquid pouring from the back of our home. That wasn’t normal. The radiator dumped what appeared to be all of its coolant. Saturday evening in small-town Montana meant no one was open until Monday morning. We were in a church parking lot and figured they would want their parking lot on Sunday morning. The casino next door allowed us to park there until Monday. We limped it out of the parking lot and next door, with it dying twice in the process.

View from my stand-up paddleboard on Hungry Horse Reservoir.

A quick search and we had the Quality Inn in Kalispell booked for $350 a night. It was the most inexpensive room in town. Sunday had us paying the same price for the same room. Monday morning, Tom immediately got on the phone looking for a mobile mechanic with time to look at our RV. He scheduled a Monday afternoon visit, we checked out, and headed for 4B’s restaurant, where we had the friendliest server. When she heard our dilemma, she took our number and offered to have her husband take a look. I found us a room at Timbers Motel that was a little less expensive at $250 a night. The husband of our breakfast server showed up just before the mobile mechanic. The mechanic diagnosed a hole in our radiator and confirmed he could fix it. He had to order the part, have it shipped, then it would take him 2 or 3 days to complete the work. The only tow truck around that could tow something of our size was a flatbed semi at the cost of almost $1500. And we were going back to Oceanside without our home. Again.

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