A beautiful Sunday drive under the Tetons

LOCATION:  Irwin, Idaho – not far from Jackson, WY
CAMPGROUND:  2nd night at Covered Wagon Saloon and RV Park
WEATHER:  Very pleasant.  Chilly in the AM (45), warming to 75

Since our RV park is pretty dumpy, we decided to spend the entire day on a long day trip.  We made a giant 200-mile circle drive.  It was fantastic. 

First we drove on the Teton Scenic Highway passing through cute little mountain towns.  We drove through the Targhee National Forest.  The Douglas Fir trees are huge and dark green.  It is fortunate here that there have been no fires or beetle damage on the trees.  We will go to the Teton National Park on the Wyoming side next week.

We stopped along the way at a scenic viewpoint and had a little picnic lunch.  Onward to the Mesa Falls Scenic Highway.

We got a spectacular view from the lower falls viewing point…

Then, a mile or so up the road, we stopped at the higher falls viewing point and took a nice hike along the waterfalls.

Idaho’s COVID rules must be county-to-county.  At this waterfalls area, there were signs requiring masks both inside and outside (whereas there seem to be no rules at the RV park where we are).

Our route today included about 20 miles of gravel on a historic Nez Pearce Battlefield highway, not the best part of the drive.  Then, back to hard top, we stopped at an amazing place in the middle of  75 square miles of sand dunes,

An RV park, specifically for ATV afficionados, was conveniently located next to the dunes.  We couldn’t believe all their “toys” and gigantic toy haulers.

On the loop home, we stopped in a cute, tourist town nestled in the valley under the Tetons to check out one of their breweries.  George got the last of their stout, so it was free! A popular attraction in this town is their drive-in theatre…

We arrived back about 6:00, and sat outside watching the sun set.  Perfect!

DINNER:  Leftover meatballs.  I made a sauce with onion, garlic, charred green bell peppers, and canned roasted red peppers.  I baked some ciabatta bread (the Take N Bake kind), and served a lettuce/tomato/cucumber salad.  When we were at the Pocatello farmers’ market the other day, one vendor gave us some Armenian cucumbers and round, lemony ones to try. Both very tasty.

An Idaho saloon experience

LOCATION:  Irwin, Idaho – in far southeastern part of state
CAMPGROUND:  Covered Wagon Saloon and RV Park.  Full hook-ups.  No picnic table or firepit.  No TV service or internet.  Toilets in saloon.  $45/night.  1 star out of 5
WEATHER:  Very pleasant.  High 85. 
DRIVE:  3 hours

Joy did just fine in the Museum of Clean parking lot.  There wasn’t much street noise, and we were very comfortable. 

We walked back to the historic district of Pocatello and found their Saturday farmers’ market.  We bought some local peaches, plums, cucumbers, tomatoes, and lettuce.  As it is nearing the end of the season, they are practically giving away zucchini and other veg.

Then, on the road again.  We took the back roads and drove through several Indian reservations.  We saw a LOT of hay, wheat, barley, and potato fields.  Yes!  We are in Idaho!

Someone had recommended this RV park and said it was a real “experience”.  You can give it that!  The  bar/saloon serves as the RV park office.  I went in and could not see a thing…..it was dark (in the middle of the day) and filled with cigarette smoke.  I could hardly breathe.  The place is pretty junky with about 90% of the RVs either seasonal or permanent.  

After some issues with the water, we got hooked up and went to pay.  They only take cash, (seems a bit sketchy), and their ATM  wasn’t working.  The owner/manager is very casual and said to pay when we found a working ATM. 

We will be here 3 nights, and decided to spend most of our time doing day trips around the beautiful, mountainous area.  Today, we drove to a big dam near here. 

We actually will be returning to this area after a Harvest Host night in western Wyoming.  We will be staying on the other side of this reservoir, so we checked out the campground.  It will be an adventure, too, as it is about 8 miles up, then down, the mountain on the  other side of the lake.

When we returned to the RV park, we showered.  There is only one shower and it also serves as the ladies’ restroom for the saloon.  Very strange, but we felt nice and clean afterwards.  They kindly placed an ashtray in the bathroom for customers.  If we need to use the bathroom or want to take a shower when the saloon is not open (in the AMs), we have to call the owner to open up the saloon!

Then, back to the saloon to use their wifi.  By this time, there was quite a rowdy crowd and every single person was puffing away.  The air is just blue with smoke.  The wifi didn’t work, and after about 15 minutes trying, I had such a headache from the smoke that we gave up and left.

To our surprise, an Airstream pulled up beside us in the evening.  Theirs is brand-new (2020) and this is their maiden trip. 

DINNER:  George grilled ribs on the propane grill.  We also had another patty-pan squash and some lion’s mane mushrooms we had bought at the farmers’ market.  I sauteed them in butter and white wine (per the vendor’s recommendation for cooking.) 

While this RV park is a dump, it is in a beautiful location.  We are in a valley surrounded by mountains.  We are not far from Yellowstone and the Tetons, so this is a popular area.  It was hard to find any camping availability, even several months ago when I booked.  We watched the sun set over the mountains….quite nice.


LOCATION:  Pocatello, Idaho
CAMPGROUND:  Another Harvest Host site — The Museum of Clean parking lot.  We are the only ones in the big parking lot.  We are next to a grassy area.  Very pleasant.  Free!  5 stars out of 5
WEATHER:  Cold (43) in AM, warming to hot (89)!
DRIVE:  3 hours, due south

We had coffee with the Shongs, then bade goodbye to Lonetree Campground (from this lone tree which gave it its name)….

On our way back to the highway we saw lots of wildlife – bison, longhorned cattle, a huge hawk, sandhill cranes, a bald eagle, elk, and pronghorn.  Wow!

We drove about 150 miles, all on Interstate 15.  Southern Montana/Northern Idaho is very desolate.  We almost ran out of gas again.  This time on my watch!  The exits did not offer any services.  We were using more gas than normal as we were gaining in elevation.  Whew!  We made it!

When we did find a gas station, we pulled in and realized we were surrounded by 3 cattle and horse trailers. There was a lot of noise and barn smells!

We found the Museum of Clean, our “campsite” tonight, and after getting parked and settled in, checked out the museum. 

We learned that it was created by a guy named Don Aslett who owned a very successful janitorial service.  He is obsessed with cleanliness.  The museum is huge – an old warehouse with 4 floors of cleaning history.  One floor is totally dedicated to the history of vacuum cleaners, going back to the 1800s…

Another floor is mostly educational, for children.  Lots of school groups visit the museum.

Another floor shows the history of various cleaning products and machines

Here is a photo of young Mr. Clean…

And, here he is all grown up!

The owner uses a lot of humor to get his point across about the importance of cleanliness.  Here is the owner, Big Don…

There is even an art gallery with art depicting cleaning, like a painting of a street scene in Italy with laundry on the lines.

Our last stop at the museum was the library where the 85-year-old owner was working.  He gave us one of his books (out of the 43 he has written), and autographed it. It is about de-cluttering.  I think we have that pretty much under control!

Three hours walking around the museum created quite a thirst, so we headed to the brewery, just around the corner. 

A very nice vibe.  Female brewer/owner.   We had a beer (dopplebock), then walked to the historic downtown.  There are quite a few shops and restaurants.  Home of Idaho State University, a lot of the shops cater to the students and alumni.

Then, back to the brewery for dinner.  We shared their Friday special – fish & chips.  The frosting on the cake was live music upstairs. 

We listened to a guitar singer for a bit, then walked a few steps back to Joy and called it a night. 

Another Retama Village Reunion

LOCATION:  Near Dillon, Montana – in southwest part of state
CAMPGROUND:  Lonetree Campground, part of Clark Reservoir.  Bureau of Land Management land – so FREE!  Only 3 RVs here, so we are all lined up with great lake views.  The best vault toilet I have ever experienced.  Nice shelters, firepits, and picnic tables.  Potable water available.  5 stars out of 5
DRIVE:  2 hours

We awoke to a real thunderstorm at Georgetown Lake –  lightning and thunder booming around us.  After it cleared, we packed up and were on our way to the next adventure.

So far this trip, we have driven about 7500 miles.  We are now heading south, then east, then northeast slowly toward northern Minnesota – via Idaho, Wyoming (the Tetons), Colorado, and South Dakota. 

It was an easy drive – mostly on Interstates 90 and 15.  We were meeting Retama Village friends Sarah and Richard Shong (whom we had met up with in Missoula) who are camping here.  They had found this miracle spot last year and are spending a week here, in the beautiful and peaceful atmosphere.  There are tons of birds.

We lined up Joy with a view of the lake, next to one of the nice shelters.

George and Richard shared lots of RV tips….

They have the cutest little dog named Dixie. So well-behaved and loving…

As we started to cook dinner, the skies opened up and we got a downpour.  After it cleared, we got together for dinner – sort of an informal potluck. 

DINNER:  I made something like a gumbo with rice.  To make the gumbo, I first sauteed butter, leftover sausage, and garlic.  I added some broth and okra (already cooked).    George grilled a few shrimp on the grill,  and we added them at the last minute.  I also brought a potato salad as a potluck addition.  The Shongs grilled shish-ka-bobs and brought salad and a cilantro/lime 3-bean salad.  All great!

After dinner, we sat around the fire.  The wind was chilly and strong.  We all were bundled up with lots of layers…

The sun then set over the mountains, and we called it an early night. 

In search of Kevin Costner…

LOCATION:  Georgetown Lake, Montana
CAMPGROUND:  2nd night at Phillipsburg Bay NFS Campground
WEATHER:  Cold in the AM.  Beautiful until about 5:00, then rain,  High 75

Since it was only in the 40s when we woke up, we turned on the propane heater just for a few minutes.  We have to be conscious about using the battery.  It helped take the edge off.  George made some French toast with some huckleberry preserves for breakfast.

I hiked around the campground.  Since it was so cool, the mist was rising from the lake.  This is the view of the lake from our campground..

We went towards the town of Phillipsburg for our morning hike.  It was labeled the Granite City Ghost Town Trail.  We didn’t realize that we would have a challenge even getting there….

This so-called road makes the other horrifying road we drove a few weeks ago seem mild in comparison.  It was 4 miles on the bumpiest road possible.  Again, it was only wide enough (barely) for one car.  I prayed that another car would not come down the mountain as we were ascending.  The ruts were deep enough to lose a small child in!

At the top of the mountain, we hiked around and discovered the remnants of a town that bustled for about a year in the 1890s as a gold and silver mining town.  This is what remains of the mine…

It looks like about 1000 people might have lived here. It is so hard to imagine how they even found this place, let alone survived.   We saw the foundations of several houses.  This is the only remaining house….

And this is a photo of their union hall, where they had dances, played games, and joined secret societies.

I made George drive  back down as I was still shaking from the drive up.

Then, to Phillipsburg, a delightful and charming town that boomed as a mining town in the mid-1800s, too.  They have retained and restored the Victoria storefronts.  This is the brewery…

And, George took a peak inside.

We asked the brewery server where we could find some lunch.  She recommended the hardware store!  Sure enough, tucked in the back of an old-fashioned hardware store is a lunch counter with 3 stools.  We shared a turkey and bacon sandwich – and it was superb!

Then, on the road again.  George wanted to drive over a high pass to the Bitterroot Trail area.  The map labelled the road:   “ask locally about road conditions”.  This should have been a clue.  After 10 miles of nice highway, the pavement turned into washboard gravel.  We drove 40 miles on this!  I was driving, and averaged about 10 mph.  But, it was a beautiful drive.  We encountered these waterfalls, along with high mountain forests and bubbling rivers…

Once in the Bitterroot Trail area, George found a brewery.  Of course.  This area – the towns of Hamilton and Darby – are where they are filming the TV show “Yellowstone”.  We overheard the bar staff talking about Kevin Costner; apparently he frequents this brewpub a lot.  I thought I may have spotted him, but it was just a Montana cowboy look-alike.

We didn’t want to go back on that same gravelled road, especially since the sky was darkening,  and there aren’t any others that go directly back to our campground.  So, we made a huge circle, about 140 miles, back.  It was also scenic, following the Bitterroot River, then up a high pass, then back down through hay fields. Then it poured.  A very nice, but exhausting drive.

The rain held off long enough to build a campfire to cook our dinner…

DINNER:  Grilled trout.  I just sauteed the trout over the fire in an iron skillet with butter.  We were careful not to overcook.  Side was a sweet potato that I had pre-cooked, when we had electricity, and had wrapped in aluminum foil.  We just placed it in the coals to finish up.  The other side was a patty-pan squash.  Since it doesn’t need so much cooking, I did not pre-cook.  I wrapped it also in aluminum foil for the fire.  Once we finished cooking, the skies opened up and we enjoyed our dinner cozily inside. 

Happy, happy camping!

LOCATION:  Georgetown Lake, about 80 miles southeast of Missoula
CAMPGROUND:  Phillipsburg Bay Campground, a National Forest park.  Right on the lake.  The paved sites are nestled in the tall Lodgepole pine trees.  No services, but potable water is available at pumps.  Pit toilets.  A whopping $8/night for sheer beauty.  Five stars out of 5.
WEATHER:  Much cooler.  Highs only in the 60s.
DRIVE:  3 hours

We awoke at the Harvest Host winery to the scene of a herd of deer right outside our bedroom window.  So pretty!

We decided to take the longer, scenic route today instead of the interstate.  Unfortunately, after going about 5 miles,  we encountered the dreaded “Road Closed” sign.  We tried to follow a detour for awhile, but got lost.  Very stressful.  Did I mention who was driving???

Finally, we got back on the scenic road, and yes, it was scenic.  The highway follows the Blackfoot River, rippling away with lots of curves.  Being a conscientious driver and following the signs, I watching for: deer, free-range cattle, bighorn sheep, and snow-removal equipment. Ha! Consequently, I wasn’t driving very fast.  A huge semi came throttling behind me and zoomed around me to pass.  He swung back into our lane too quickly, and we almost almost got clipped.  I was really shaken!

Unfortunately, the smoke (perhaps from California fires?) dulled the mountain views.  This is what the sky looked like…

Wanting to stop for a lunch picnic, we spotted a pull-out.  Someone has decorated it to be a “Redneck Rest Stop”.  It has a bucket toilet with a sign that says “If indoor plumbing doesn’t bring you happiness –  then what can?”

The person with that sense of humor might also have posted the sign in the town we came to shortly after the rest stop.  It said “Relish today; ketchup tomorrow”.  Cute!

We arrived at the campground in early afternoon and got set up.  It is really very pretty here.  I checked out the vault toilet, and as I came out, I found this mule deer visitor!

We hiked around the campground until it started raining.  Everyone is hoping that the rain will clear up the skies.  After the rain, George built a great campfire.  It is quite cool, so the fire felt wonderful.  We will be swapping shorts for long pants and t-shirts for sweatshirts. I have put the two winter blankets on the bed.   Low temps in 40s tonight.

DINNER:  Hamburgers on the firepit grill.  Baked potatoes and cabbage (the last of).  Here is a hint for the potatoes:  When we had electricity two days ago, I microwaved 2 potatoes, cooking them about 3/4ths done.  I wrapped them in aluminum foil with a dab of butter.  Then, tonight, I put the potatoes right in the coals to finish them up.  It gave them a smoky flavor.  Yum. 

BOOK:  During the afternoon rain, it was a good time to read.  I finished up “When the Wind Blows” by James Patterson, a book I had picked up in some campground library along the way.  Typical Patterson thriller.  3 stars out of 5. 

Sleeping with the grapes…

LOCATION:  Missoula, Montana
CAMPGROUND:  Ten Spoons Winery – a Harvest Host site.  5 stars out of 5!
WEATHER:  Very hazy/smokey.  High 85

We hung out at Big Sky Brewery parking lot and walked to a nearby gas station/market/casino for a breakfast sandwich.  Since we didn’t have far to go, we took it slow and easy.

Since we had time to kill, what the heck…..let’s go find another brewery!  We drove 10 miles south of Missoula to Lolo and had lunch at the Lolo Peak Brewery.

We sat outside and enjoyed the beer and Bhan Mi taco platter.  Yummy and not too heavy. The brewery’s motto is a good one…..Mountains. Rivers. Beer.

We returned to the outskirts of Missoula, this time on the eastern side of the city, to our Harvest Host stay for the night.  It is a small vineyard – 8 acres with a lovely tasting room/winery.  The hosts (and their dogs) couldn’t be more hospitable.  They welcomed us and we got settled in – nestled among the grapevines and prairie grass.

They only do tastings on the weekend, but were happy to sell us some wine.  We bought a dry red and a dry Flathead cherry wine to try.  We sat around their entertainment venue, where they usually have music and games, and enjoyed the day.

The owner came by to make sure we were ok, and to work on some of his vines.

We took a bottle of wine into the vineyards for a tasty happy hour – wine and parmesan crisps.  It is not nearly as hot today, and was very, very pleasant.

DINNER:  Smoked salmon BLT.  I had seen this on a menu and thought I would give it a try.  We had luscious heirloom tomatoes from the farmers’ market to use.  Side was some of the oyster mushrooms from the farmers’ market, sauteed with green onions, and the rest of the snow peas.  Nice! 

BOOK: “Hokkaido Highway Blues…Hitchhiking Japan” by Will Ferguson. A true account of a Canadian living in Japan who hitchhiked his way from the southern-most to the northern-most islands of Japan, following the cherry blossoms as they came into bloom.  As someone who also lived in Japan (and also hitchhiked), I absolutely loved it.  5 stars out of 5.  He nails describing the culture and the interaction with gaijins (foreigners). 

Moose Drool?

LOCATION:  Missoula, Montana
CAMPGROUND:  Big Sky Brewery parking lot!  Through Harvest Hosts
WEATHER:  Cool in AM; Hot – 95 in PM
DRIVE:  2 miles

Full fresh water tank, empty grey and black water tanks, fully-charged battery, clean laundry, clean bodies, stocked refrigerator, well-supplied wine cellar (our shower), and full tank of gas….check, check, check – we are ready to leave the civilized world and go boon-docking for 6 nights! 

We couldn’t get a late check-out at the nice RV park where we have been staying, as the site is booked for tonight and they need to get it ready.  So, we left at 11:00 AM and went back to the US Forest Service outdoor museum just to hang out for awhile in the shade. 

The museum is near the airport, and we watched Forest Service water-bomber airplanes take off.

Then, we went back to Highlander Brewery where we had visited earlier in the week, as we had spotted a nice parking space for Joy.  We were able to sit by the creek and had a lovely lunch of veggie pizza and salad.  We sipped our beers v-e-r-y slowly to make them last. 

Then, on to Big Sky Brewery.  We are in the parking lot next to a huge ampitheater where they have concerts (in normal years).  There are 2 other Harvest Host RVs, besides us.  Since it was a hot afternoon, we hung out in the air-conditioned brewery, George watching golf on their TV and me doing computer stuff with their strong wifi.

DINNER:  We had planned to eat from the brewery’s food truck, but it wasn’t operating on a Sunday.  It was too hot to cook anything inside, and with Harvest Hosts, you are not supposed to grill outside.  So, George had a meatball sandwich and I had some cheese, baguette slices, and kalamata olives.  Not too shabby. 

It cooled down nicely and we sat outside enjoying the pleasant evening.  The skyline is getting hazier.  They say it is the smoke from California fires. 

Missoula’s 11 Breweries: Conquered by the Reids!

LOCATION:  Missoula, Montana
CAMPGROUND:  Jim and Mary’s RV Park
WEATHER:  Very nice.  High 84.

We hit the Missoula Saturday Farmers’ Market again this morning.  Huckleberries are in full swing.   They are not cheap….$5 for a half pound! We bought fresh vegetables to prepare for next week when we will be out in the boonies. 

We bought two unusual kinds of mushrooms from one vendor – lion’s mane and chestnut oyster mushrooms.  She said the best way to prepare them is to saute in butter and white wine.  Sounds like a winner!

Montana suffers from forest and grass fires every year. This year, thankfully, there have been fewer than usual.  The fires are usually especially bad around Missoula.  Today we visited the US Forest Service Smokejumper Center located here. 

This old cabin used to be perched on a high mountain where the fire fighters watched for fires.

We learned about these water bombs made out of plywood that they used to use.  The sign said that they didn’t work very well, and the firefighters on the ground had to watch for them falling from the sky!

Back at the RV park, it was laundry day.  We are getting ready for our next 6 nights on the road without any services – water, electricity, sewer. 

Then, on to complete our mission, and we DID it!  We visited brewery #10 and #11 out of the 11 here in town.  First this afternoon, we went to Imagine Nation.  It is interesting how each brewery has a different vibe.  This one is very oriented to help the community. It is located in an area where a lot of homeless hang out.   The building has signs of famous leaders like Mandela.  The brewery’s  profits go to various social charities in town.

They are the most cautious (against COVID) of all the breweries we visited here.  The owner said they are not serving from taps to reduce the amount of contact with the public.  So, they canned all their beer and serve it only in cans.  The owner/server dipped the can in a bowl of sanitizer water before giving it to George.  George had a porter that he liked; I had a delicious glass of water

On to our last one – Cranky Sam Brewery.  We were very very pleasantly surprised.  It is the newest one in town, located right downtown. 

When they were building the brewery last year, they discussed relics that showed this area used to be a Chinatown.  Cranky Sam, for whom the brewery was named, was a big opium dealer who had a business here. The bartender (the owner’s son) said they had a lot of history on Cranky Sam because he had been in jail quite often and there were good records about him. 

And, other relics showing that it used to be the Red Light district.  This picture was found behind walls of bricks.  George tried a beer named after her – Hidden Lady IPA.

Back at the RV park, George helped a neighbor with his trailer hitch while I prepped dinner and tried to figure out where to store all the veg we bought today!

DINNER:  Shrimp risotto.  I made a traditional risotto – with arborio rice, white wine, and warm broth.  Instead of adding parmesan, I used feta cheese.  We had bought some whole feta in brine.  I substituted some of the brine to use instead of broth.  I had to be cautious as the brine is so salty.  I served the risotto with shrimp that George grilled on the propane grill.  Side was some of the oyster mushrooms, sauted in wine and butter.  Another side was snow peas that we had bought today at the market.  A nice chardonnay was a great pairing. 

Working hard….hiking and conquering Missoula’s 11 breweries!

LOCATION:  Missoula, Montana
CAMPGROUND:  Jim and Mary’s RV Park
WEATHER:  Beautiful in the AM;  Hot in PM – up to 109!

We drove to the other side of Missoula to an area called Pattee Canyon for today’s hike.  It was a beautiful, clean forest.  The trail is categorized as “moderate” to which I would agree.  However, my guidebook said it was 2.9 miles, and it turned out to be a 6-mile loop! 

At several points, we thought we were lost.  When we started, the sunshine felt good; by the end we were seeking shade.  We finally found our car at 1:45, so we ended up with a late brewery lunch.  Number 8 on our list was Kettlehouse Brewery.  It did not serve food, so I went around the corner and bought some tacos from a food truck.   Kettlehouse is a bit of a dive.  They have their beer barrels lined up at the bar to prevent people from standing at the bar (due to Covid).  Locals poured in bringing their growlers for refills. 

We enjoyed watching and listening to the people who live in this hip part of town.

Then, we went around the block to brewery #9, Gild.  What a contrast!  It is quite swanky – a Parisian bistro feel, with their own beer.  George had a small stout for $2.50 and as designated driver, I had water.   A nice, inexpensive treat!

This area is proudly hip….and calls itself Hip Strip.

As we were taking that photo, this strange guy came along.  George, never shy, struck up a conversation with him….

DINNER:  Leftover meatballs.  I sauted onions and mushrooms, and added some wine to make a bit of a sauce.  I warmed the meatballs in that sauce.  Sides were slices of a baguette I bought today, when we happened upon a French bakery.  Yum!  Another side was salad…..made with cabbage, of course, since that head doesn’t seem to shrink in my refrigerator.

Speaking of my meatballs…..I am a member of Gourmet Camping Facebook group.  Today, my photo was selected as their featured photo.  I am happy!