A day of domesticity…

LOCATION:  Three Forks, Montana
CAMPGROUND:  Camp Three Forks
WEATHER:  Hot during the day – 92, but delightfully cool in the morning and overnight

Readers — If you did not see any photos in yesterday’s post, please try it again.  I had weak wifi when I first published.  The photos are there now.  Sorry about that!

OK – Life on the road is not all fun and games….well, mostly it is, but sometimes domestic chores just have to be completed.  So today we stayed around the RV park and worked on Joy and the truck.

Knowing that it was going to be hot mid-day, I walked to this popular bakery/deli to get my daily exercise in the early morning.  I had to walk along a highway which was not too fun or interesting.  I did encounter 3 rattlesnake skins, a bloated dead deer, lots of broken glass, and a ton of grasshoppers. 

This place brings in people from all over.  I bought  a feta/spinach croissant for tomorrow’s breakfast.

Now for domesticity….

1.  Laundry – this RV park has a nice laundry room, so I wanted to take advantage of that.  We now have a closet full of clean clothes…what a great feeling!
2.  Rug cleaning.  The laundry room has a big laundry sink, so I hand-washed our throw rug and hung it out to dry.  Much brighter!
3. Defrost the freezer — not a fun chore, but afterwards, so much more food fits in it!
4. Grocery shopping – with a now larger freezer, we went to the local grocery and bought a lot of refrigerated goods.  I like to support local stores instead of the big chain stores.  We are well-supplied for the next week.
5. Homemade chicken broth – I bought a rotisserie chicken at the grocery and cut it up for 4 future meals.  One package is the bony meat – legs and wings – that we will crisp up  on a grill one night.  The other packages are boneless chicken that I will use in future recipes.  Then, with all the bones and skin, I made chicken broth and froze about 4 containers, all for future recipes.

While I was doing all of that, George dumped our gray and black water, in preparation for our departure tomorrow.  He also worked on the lug nuts.  I have no idea in the world what a lug nut is. 

This RV park has a beautiful gazebo/patio with a big, brand-new gas grill.  George cooked up a package of bacon and some weiners that had thawed in my defrosting project.  We like to keep a container of cooked bacon on hand for recipes and breakfasts. 

Then, time to party!  Tonight is our last night in Three Forks, so we went back to the historic Sacajawea Hotel for a special dinner. 

The lobby is just gorgeous.  They have done an excellent job in retaining its historic look and feel.

As we passed by the patio, I saw someone who looked  familiar.  I finally got up enough courage to approach him, and indeed it was someone I had known when we lived in Rochester, and I was active in our Rotary Club.  Small world!

We had a delicious, fine-dining meal. The meal started with a French baguette with tapanade, garlicky olive oil, and baba ghanoush spreads.  George had smoked trout that came with freekeh,  a smoked Middle Eastern grain.  For my entree, I ordered their house salad that came with smoked trout, crunchy corn kernels, and marinated smoked tomatoes.  Very unusual and delicious.  We paired this all with a bottle of French Pinot Noir.  Quite a splurge, but well worth it.

Back home, we finished off the wine, sitting in the candlelight of a candle that I bought at the hotel’s gift shop.  Very romantic!!!

Rugged and Hip Montana….Take #2

LOCATION:  Three Forks, Montana
CAMPGROUND:  Camp Three Forks
WEATHER:  Very nice.  High 85.   (66 in the mountains)

We did a repeat of yesterday, but even better, today.  Hike; view waterfalls; lunch and beer at microcbrewery.  I could get used to this routine!

We drove about an hour south through another part of the Gallatin National Forest.  We followed the roaring river all the way.  Rafters were having a great time managing the rapids, and fly-fishermen stood knee-deep in the river casting for river trout.

Our destination was Ousel Falls Trail.  It is near Big Sky, home of a huge ski resort and village.  It is very ritsy with beautiful condos, cute shops and restaurants, and log mansions (not log cabins!) 

The sign on the trail said that the trail is “easy enough for a 5-year-old” – but what about an old 75-year-old?  Actually, he did quite well on this 2-mile round-trip hike.

The trail took us up and down, through a beautiful forest. 

The trail followed one of the spurs of the river…

The falls were pretty spectacular.  We could hear them before we could see them…

One of the reasons we selected this particular falls is that it is named after a bird called the Ousel, one that likes to hide under the falls and dives for bugs in the water.  This is what it looks like, although we did not see one….

We finished the hike, again thirsty and hungry, and headed to Bozeman to another one of its 10 or so brewpubs/microbreweries for lunch.  We shared their special – chicken wings and a pint of craft beer for $12.  Good deal and great beer!

We realized that we are in the Brewery District of Bozeman.  We slipped across the street to another microbrewery.  This one was really taking a lot of precautions.  They had built plexiglass partitions between each booth.   It took me a while to get their sign….Drink ’til  MT (MT for Montana and in this case for “em-pty”).

Next up was the historic district of the city.  Cute, cute, cute – with hanging baskets everywhere.  We drove through a section of town where gentrification is obviously taking place.  Cute little houses  are being updated and condos being constructed. 

George tried some of their beers and chatted up the bartender.  Since we were the only customers, she gave us a lot of attention

George liked her so much that he bought some of their bison jerky (smoked with Montana huckleberry vodka) and a growler

Back to the RV park to recuperate.  Then to dinner at a saloon near our RV park.  Located in a town with a population of about 50, it is the only existing business, and things were popping.  Surprisingly, this tiny  restaurant out in rural Montana offers gourmet food.  We shared a tuna steak served charred on the outside and rare on the inside – just like we like it – along with onion rings, salad, warm home-made rolls, and broccolini.  Really good!  The  bison on the wall watched us eat……

Rugged and hip Montana

LOCATION:  Three Forks, Montana
CAMPGROUND:  Camp Three Forks
WEATHER:  Beautiful.  High 78. 

What a fun day we had today!  We drove near Bozeman, about 25 miles away, then out to the mountains.  Wow – the geography changed quickly and we watched the thermometer in the truck showing the temp dropping from 75 to 65.  We drove through part of the Gallatin National Forest, with beautiful pine trees, lakes, and rivers.

The road got worse and worse.  We were surprised to see some RVs, including 2 Airstreams, camping in primitive national forest campgrounds.  After passing the campgrounds, we encountered the dreaded “Pavement Ends” sign.  Much of the road was one lane.  When another car approached, one of us would have to stop and let the other by.  Of course, there was no shoulder, and there were steep drop-offs on either side.  Did I mention who was driving!!???

We finally got to our destination – a hiking trail with a waterfall.  The air smelled like pine and spruce – just lovely.  The hike was good and the falls did not disappoint.  We got a good work-out at 7000 feet elevation.

On the way back out, George wanted a photo of the Gallatin River.  He climbed over the protective railing to get a better shot.  I was so afraid he would topple over. 

We arrived back in Bozeman, a really hip town, for a late lunch.  We were hungry and thirsty.  George looked for a brewery on his phone.  Up popped 10 choices!  We found one near Montana State University.  Good beers.  We had a bison pepperoni pizza. 

Back at the RV park, we rested.  A lot of the big rigs have left, so it is more comfortable.  The huge motor homes seem to box  you in. 

DINNER:  Someone posted a recipe for zucchini on Facebook which I thought I would try as I had a big zucchini to use up.  The recipe is simple:  Slice the zucchini long-ways and place on a cookie sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with pepper.  Let sit for a bit.  Sprinkle breadcrumbs and a bunch of Parmesan on top, and finish with another olive oil drizzle.  Bake about 30 minutes at 375.  Normally I don’t use the oven in the Airstream as it heats things up, but since it is cooler today, it was ok.  While that was cooking, I made a spaghetti meat sauce with some leftover tomato sauce, mushrooms, green onions, and leftover grilled hamburger meat.  Side was cheesy grits – grits left from last Sunday”s breakfast with a lot of parmesan and cheddar cheese added.  Can’t go wrong! 

Checking out Three Forks

LOCATION:  Three Forks, Montana
CAMPGROUND:  Camp Three Forks
WEATHER:  Hot – 95.  Sunny.  Cool (almost cold!) in the AM.  George turned the space heater on!!!  Divorce proceedings are imminent.

Three Forks, where we will be staying for the next few days, is where the Jefferson, Gallatin, and Madison Rivers join, to create the Missouri River.  We stayed here last year for a few days, and found it a nice, central location for day trips.

We took a drive to the Madison Buffalo Jump State Park. 

These buffalo jumps were used by the Indians to kill buffalo for their hides and meat.  They rounded them up on the top of a bluff, like this one.  Then, they scared them into running crazily toward the edge of the bluff.  They ran so fast that they could not stop, and fell to their deaths. 

We could have taken a hike up to the top of the bluff, but I just had on flip-flops and it was HOT!   Next time….

To cool off, we went into town and had a drink at the Sacajawea Hotel bar.  It is very high-end, kind of strange out here in the middle of nowhere.

Then, more cooling off by wading  in the Madison River.  Very clear.  The fishing here is supposed to be the best in the state  (although every region seems to say that)!

DINNER:  Smoked trout (no, George did not catch it) that we had bought at a farmers’ market.  It was delicious.  I just warmed it up, and served with onions and peppers.  Sides were salad and rice.  Paired with the last of the white wine we bought at the last Harvest Host winery.

BOOK:. “The Moores are Missing” and 2 other short novels by James Patterson.  A book I picked up at a campground library to read between regular library books.  Typical Patterson.  3 stars out of 5

Driving across Montana

LOCATION:  Three Forks, Montana, in south central part of state
CAMPGROUND:  Camp Three Forks.  Full-hooks.  Commercial RV park.  Fairly close together but there are trees and grass.  A log of big rigs.  Picnic table, but no firepit.  Central patio area with public grills.  Good bathrooms.  Poor wifi.  At $52/night, it is too expensive.  4 stars out of 5.
WEATHER:  Pleasant.  High 83.  Low tonight 49! 
DRIVE:  6.5 hours

While we were still at the Harvest Host winery this morning,  I used their wifi to catch up with the world.  Our winter place in South Texas is getting hit with Hurricane Hanna.  They have had 17+ inches of rain.  There is a lot of flooding.  Sewer drains are blocked.  It is a real mess.  About 25% of the residents stay there year-’round, so they have been posting photos and updates about the storm.  One of our friends told us he has 2 inches of water in his house.  Another friend checked our house and said we are dry. 

We got a pretty early start (after Sunday morning grits and eggs) and drove all day today from eastern to central Montana on I-94, which is also the Lewis and Clark Trail.  It follows the Yellowstone River.  There were a lot of RVs traveling today.  We saw 3 other Airstreams, and merrily flicked our headlights at each other, an Airstream tradition. 

We stopped for lunch at a rest area.  After seeing this sign, we stayed on the sidewalks! 

While eating a picnic, we spotted our first snow-covered mountain tops.  It is interesting to see how the geography changes as you head west.

At the rest area, we saw thousands of grasshoppers.  They must be what is pelting the windshield and Joy’s front guards. 

We arrived at Three Forks at about 4:00,  got settled in our campsite and rested…..being on the Interstate for the entire day is tiring!

DINNER:  To prepare for this trip, I filled up a big plastic bin with canned goods to use as my “pantry”.  Tonight I pulled out a can of corned beef hash.  I added it to sauteed peppers and onions, and diced leftover steak.  It wasn’t the greatest, but it was ok.  “Interesting” as they politely say in Minnesota. 

We have good TV reception  here, so watched some travel and cooking shows on PBS. 

In Cowboy Country!

LOCATION:  Miles City, Montana – in southeast part of state
CAMPGROUND:  Another Harvest Host site – Tongue River Winery.  Gravel parking lot surrounded by grapes and fruit trees.  Six other RVs pulled in – looks like an RV park!  4 stars out of 5
WEATHER:  Summery.  High 91.  Cool at night
DRIVE:  3 hours

We took our time around Wibaux since we didn’t want to get to the winery too early.  I took a walk around town.  Pretty quiet, although one of the bars must open for breakfast, as there was a little rush.  We said goodbye to this great Harvest Host site -so lucky to hit it when there was a live band concert last night.

We took the backroads rather than the Interstate.  There was only one town between Wibaux and MIles City.  The sign as we left that town kindly announced that gas was not available for 90 miles.  We were set today, though! 

We drove through desolate cowboy-looking territory with a lot of mesas and buttes.  Hardly any people.  I did see one very big coyote alongside the road. 

We arrived in Miles City, picked up some fresh fruit and veg, and found the winery.  This town claims to be the “Cowboy Capital of the World”, but so does Bandera, Texas where we spent our first night on the road. Wonder which one really is? This town is famous for its bronco round-up/sale each year. Sadly, it was canceled this year.

Two other Harvest Host RVers were already at the winery, tasting wine.  We got parked, and joined them for tasting.  The winery offers about 25 different wines, including both fruit wines and grape wines.  We skipped all the sweet ones, and found 2-3 we liked.  Since it was still hot, we bought a bottle and sat in the air-conditioned tasting room chatting with the owners.  (Very liberal former Minnesotans – went to Macalester College).  We talked politics!

This photo was taken in front of their winery.  The owner told us that this phenomenon (rain and sun) happens frequently here.

Right behind Joy is a pasture with some horses that keep an eye on us….

We walked around some of the vineyards and George picked a few cherries…

More and more RVs kept pulling in.  There are now 7 Harvest Host groups here – more than we have ever experienced. 

DINNER:  Surf and turf, Asian-style……I sauted some shrimp and weiners along with some veg and made an Asian stir-fry.  Served over ramen noodles.  Quite tasty.  Surprise, surprise!

Western Ho – Even almost running out of gas (again). Free night at a brewery with a live band!

LOCATION:  Wibaux, Montana – far eastern border of state. 
CAMPGROUND:   Another Harvest Host site.  Beaver Creek Brewery.  In their graveled parking lot.  2nd time we have been here.  Just off I-94.  5 stars out of 5!
WEATHER:  High 91, but thankfully cooled off in the evening
DRIVE:   7 hours

We pretty much drove the entire width of North Dakota today, starting at Lake Ashtabula in the east.  We wanted to leave the campground before the weekenders arrived.  A group of 6 Hmong families from Minneapolis drove all night and arrived about 6:00 AM, with plans to fish all weekend.  They do this every weekend in the summer, they told us.

We started the trip by going due west, instead of going south first to pick up the Interstate.  There is water everywhere – wet fields plus marshland.  North Dakota has one of the largest water fowl populations in the country. 

There are huge grain fields with train cars filling up.  We saw this freight train that had derailed….

We picked up a “scenic byway” to stay off the Interstate, stopping for a picnic lunch at a nice reservoir/dam.

Our gas was getting a bit low, so we got back on the Interstate to find a gas station.  Oh no!  All of the exits have signs sayng “No services”.  Our Garmin said the nearest gas station was 40 miles.  I couldn’t enjoy the scenery as I was so afraid we would run out of gas.  We limped into the station.  George put 23.9 gallons in…..the tank holds 24! 

We stopped at the Theodore Roosevelt National Park Visitor Center.  We have stayed there twice before, so we will skip it this time (the campground is closed due to Covid-19).  I did get a photo of some of the dramatic scenery from the Visitor Center outlook….

We arrived in tiny Wibaux, and got settled in the brewery’s parking lot.   We are the only Harvest Host campers, but there are brewery patrons’ cars in the lot with us.  (Lots of pick-ups).  Walking around town, we counted 5 bars, all doing a brisk business.  Nothing much else. 

We had dinner reservations for 7:00, but we we went in to the brewery to cool off early.  Cowboy George dressed for the occasion….

Then, at 7:00, we crossed over to the restaurant/theatre side of the building – actually 2 buildings joined together – for dinner.  Isn’t this a cute way to show the table reservations?

George had their prime rib special.  He said it was excellent.  I had a Caesar salad.  They are famous for their pizzas, but we are “pizzad-out”. 

What used to be a theatre stage is now used as a stage for bands.  The band set up right in front of us..

They started playing at 8:00, and were very good.  The couple next to us drove 240 miles roundtrip to listen to them and to eat some pizza, they told us.  Like Texas, people in Montana think nothing of driving long distances.

We stayed until the end of the show, 11:00 PM, and then walked the few steps to Joy.  So convenient!  Thankfully, everyone cleared out of the parking lot quickly so it was quiet during the night.  The temperature had dropped from about 90 to 60, so we opened up our windows and slept comfortably. 

Quiet Day On The Lake

LOCATION:  Near Valley City, North Dakota
CAMPGROUND:  East Ashtabula Lake Army Corps of Engineers
WEATHER:  Very nice.  High 78.  Kind of funny – there is a heat warning out for this county at 78! 

Our campground is primitive – just pit toilets.  However, there is another COE campground just across the lake, with flush toilets and showers.  We went over there to use their facilities.  Kind of a toss-up about which campground is better.  They have the facilities, but with that, there are more people, especially noisy children.  Our campground has only beautiful scenery and views – plus we have it to ourselves!  

Even though it is sparsely populated here, there are still signs about masks and social distancing.  I thought this was cute – instructing people to keep a fishing pole-length apart (about 6 feet).  Fishermen can relate to that!

We walked over to the bar/restaurant/bait and tackle shop/liquor store/convenience store/boat dock across the lake to check it out for lunch.  We heard the regulars ordering lunch without even looking at the menu.  We decided just to get a beer as everything was fried.  We wonder what a fried burrito is? 

George puttered around all afternoon, working on Joy’s back camera.  It is affixed to the back of the Airstream so we can see what is behind us when we are driving.  Condensation has crept in,  making the image blurry and cloudy.  He took it all apart, used my hair dryer to dry it up well, then put it back together with silicone.  We hope that will do the trick.  Meanwhile…..I read a book and enjoyed the beauty of the lake.

Since the restaurant (etc)  across the lake has wifi, we walked over there again for happy hour and to use their wifi.   It was hopping! 

On our way back, I took this photo of our campsite — you can kind of see a shiny spot across the water….that is Joy. 

DINNER:  George built another great fire.  We cooked some really good weiners on the fire, and I sauted some cabbage with red onions inside for a side dish.  We ate at the picnic table, with a gorgeous view and a very pleasant breeze coming off the water. 

BOOK:  “An Incomplete Revenge” by Jacqueline Winspear.  I started and finished the book this afternoon!  It is part of a series I read on and off about a female British detective in the early 1900s.  4 stars out of 5.

On a beautiful North Dakota lake…

LOCATION:  Near Valley City, North Dakota – in South East part of state
CAMPGROUND:  West Ashtabula Lake Crossing, part of Lake Ashtabula Army Corps of Engineers Recreation Area.  Disappointing for a COE campground – no paved sites, just grassy areas that are all on slopes.  30 amp.  Central water and dump station.  Pit toilets only.  BUT – the view is spectacular.  We are right on the water.  At $13/night with senior discount, I give it a 3 out of 5.
WEATHER:  Very nice.  Cool in the AM – jacket weather!  High 74.  Locals are complaining a lot about the heat, though.
DRIVE:  1 hour

We putzed around the Harvest Host winery, enjoying the sunrise over the vineyards and the cool breezes coming in from our open windows.  Then, we headed west on I-94. 

It took us a while to set up because the site is wet and has a steep slope.  We tried multiple ways to park to be fairly level, out of the mud, and close enough so that our electricity cord would reach the hook-up post.  Finally got that sorted out.  We have a lovely view of the lake…

And, we are the only campers here!  The posts indicate, however, that it will be full this weekend. 

We drove back into town, about 20 miles away, to go to their farmers’ market, that someone had recommended. That was a bust.  It was not a farmers’ market but a downtown street sale.  Nothing for us.  While we were in town, we stopped at the library to use their internet.  Like many libraries we have found, it is closed due to Covid-19, but we could still use the internet from their parking lot.  This is one of those old Carnegie libraries that you see around the country.  Lovely building…

Our Harvest Host winery owner told us that there is a microbrewery here, so we went in search of it.  In a town that doesn’t offer much, the microbrewery was a very pleasant surprise – brand new with a good vibe and good beers…

Back at the campground, George built a fire for cooking dinner.  I took photos along the way, to show a friend how he does it….

1.  He makes a triangle or square, stacking construction wood that he has cut into small pieces.  (We picked this wood up at construction sites around our neighborhood before we left Texas.  You cannot transport campfire wood – with bark – from place to place, but this construction wood is fine to haul around).

2.  Then, he places the firestarters I made (toilet paper rolls stuffed with dryer lint with a dab of Vaseline) in each of the corners

3.  More layers of wood and whatever paper bits we have around – sometimes newspaper or writing paper.  Today we used a greasy paper that leftover pizza had been wrapped in.

4.  More paper.  We wad the paper up so it burns better

5.  Then, very small chunks of wood go in the center of the triangle (or square).   We collected these wood remnants from the woodshop at the village where we lived during the winter. 

6.  More small chunks (I don’t want to bring any back to Texas!

7..  Then, the magic moment  – lighting the fire.  George lights it from the bottom – on the paper bits.  It starts with smoke but the breeze quickly fans up the flames

8.  Yay!  We have fire!

9.  After the fire gets going, George put on two logs to burn more slowly.

This particular firepit has a grate, so we put that on after the fire was going well, to cook our dinner.

DINNER:  We placed the iron skillet on the grill to get it good and hot.  Then, we put leftover pizza in the skillet to warm up and to crisp  up.  Side was zucchini and onions, cooked inside the trailer.

BOOK:  “The Long Way Home” by Louise Penny.  Part of a series by an excellent author from the Eastern Townships of Quebec.  5 stars out of 5

Another beautiful Harvest Host stay

LOCATION:  Near Fargo, North Dakota
CAMPGROUND:  Another lovely Harvest Host winery.  Just off I-94.  Beautiful setting.  We are parked in a big gravel parking lot in front of the wine tasting house.  Surrounded by vineyards.  5 stars out of 5! 
WEATHER:  Our coolest day so far.  Low in the upper 50s.  High 73
DRIVE:  2 hours

We awoke to loons singing their songs out on the lake.  We had a leisurely breakfast at my friend’s house, sipping on coffee as we gazed out onto  the lake. 

We took a nice walk and peeped at the other houses that surround the lake.  Almost everyone has huge, fenced-in (for the deer) gardens.  My friend loaded me up with some of her bounty – huge zucchini, zucchini muffins, and home-made pickles. 

As we left, we saw a flock of wild turkeys and some skittish deer.  The loons sang us a goodbye.

When I had previously called to make reservations at this Harvest Host site, the owner couldn’t have been nicer.  They are only open on the weekends for wine-tastings, but said we could certainly park in his parking lot during the week.  He said if he wasn’t in, he would leave us some wine in a cooler on the porch to taste and/or to buy.   It turns out he was here at the farm, so he did a tasting for us, and we bought one of his cold-weather grape dry reds.  The house where we tasted the wine used to be a granary that he had moved here.  He left, and told us to make ourselves at home. 

The grounds are beautiful

We sat in one of the garden areas, built a fire, and sipped on some wine.  Our appetizer was snow peas dipped in hummus (made by our daughter’s boyfriend).  The pheasants were honking in the fields next to us. 

DINNER:  “Everything but the kitchen sink” vegetable and meat melange.  Needing to use some of the CSA vegetables that our daughter had given us plus the zucchini my friend gave us, I chopped lots of veg and sauteed together – onion, garlic,  bell pepper, jalapeno pepper, summer squash, and cauliflower.  I added some pieces of leftover grilled steak.  I made a cheese sauce and stirred it all together. Topped it off with kale pesto. It was so fresh and good.  And……now I have more room in the refrigerator!