Waldo Gets Some New Threads

Waldo is over 20 years old and although he is in pretty good condition, but his interior age was really starting to show. One of our goals last year was to make enough money between trees and fireworks to do some remodeling. So it was time to update things a bit.

Out with the old…

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Out thread bare sleeper sofa
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Old blue carpet, more stained than blue!

While I’ve done lots of construction projects, laying carpet is something I’ve always avoided. Removing the old carpet was pretty straight forward. I just sliced an area big enough to get my hand into and started ripping it out. It was actually quite satisfying. First the slide…

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Then, the main living space…

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The biggest challenge was getting the carpet out from under the slide. There is a 4″ x 13′ steel plate on the leading edge of the slide plywood, once Steve removed it, we could get to the steel plates the slide rollers roll on. By loosening the screws, we were able to remove the rest of the carpet…

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I had read lots of articles on replacing flooring in an RV and nearly all of them had one thing in common, be prepared to remove 1000’s of staples. I’m pretty sure the installers get paid by the staple. In a sticks and brick, carpet is held down by tack strips. Not so in an RV, it is stapled along every edge.

In almost every remodel, there is an “Oh crap” moment. Before we removed the old carpet, we had no idea of the water damage on the drivers side…

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Ugh!! I was worried we were getting in over our heads. Once OSB gets wet (and stays wet) it begins to deteriorate…

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We cut out all of the waterlogged OSB …

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We replaced it with marine grade plywood. While we were down to bare plywood, it seemed like a good time to do a thorough cleaning of the walls, woodwork and ceiling. That was when I decided our old, non-working kitchen fan should be taken out. We found a replacement on Amazon…

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Then it was time to lay the carpet padding…

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So far so good. Now to the part I knew nothing about! Carpet stretching. I’ve seen lots of carpet installed by worker crawling around on their knees, using a knee kick stretcher and while that works great when you are using a tack strip, not so much when you are stapling. The local Taylor Rental had a power stretcher (which I completely forgot to take pictures of) and it was just the tool for the job. I was shocked how much “stretch” there is in carpet! And the word “power” in the name power stretcher is a bit misleading, it doesn’t plug in or use any kind of electricity. Power comes from the mechanical advantage it uses. Once we started actually laying the carpet, it went fairly quick. Luckily, my dad’s neighbor had a crown stapler we could borrow. Stretch, staple, repeat. The biggest challenges were where the carpet meets the kitchen tile…

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Where the carpet goes around the pedals and steering column…

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And where is meets the stairs…

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With the main carpet done, we started on the slide. My biggest concern was what to do with the raw edge. The place we bought the carpet did not offer binding, then I read about Instabind…

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Nearly every review I read, suggested running an iron over the adhesive to improve the hold…

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Once the binding is in place, you use a hot glue gun to prevent any fraying…

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The finished job looks like this…

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Then it was time to go shopping!! We wanted a loveseat recliner. I had a very strict set of criteria. It had to be cloth, wall hugging, non-electric, have a center console, be less than 80″ long and the back had to be removable. After visiting every furniture store in the area, we ended up traveling to Ocala, where we went to another dozen stores before finding one we liked. What sucked was, it had to be ordered. Fortunately, we had some finishing touched to do while we waited for it. Like find a desk for Steve…

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This area has dozens of thrift stores and we found this desk at one of them. For only $45!!!! What a deal!!! It’s a little darker than I would have liked, but hey, the price was right! Our loveseat ended up coming in a week early and we drove to Lakeland to pick it up (because I refused to pay a $70 delivery fee). We manhandled it through the drivers door and got it set up…

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Wow, what a difference.

Originally,  our plan was just the carpet in the main part of Waldo, but, on a whim, I went back to the carpet store to see how much it would be for a piece to do the bedroom. We had enough padding left over, so it would only be the price of the carpet. They had just enough left on the roll to do the bedroom and sold it to us as a remnant. $100 cash and carry – done deal!

There are corner tables next to the bed and I decided to modify them. They were total wastes of space because the inside was hollow, but closed off by paneling. I cut the front paneling and added a shelf…

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Voila – more storage!

So, now Waldo is completely done and we love it.

Have you ever remodeled your house? What was your biggest challenge?

 

Something Old – Something New

For the first time since we started workamping, we returned to a job/location we had been at previously. We love selling Christmas trees and to be frank, the money can’t be beat. That was the something old. The something new was we would be heading almost directly to a new job of selling new years fireworks for TNT. But I’m getting ahead of myself…

We left Crystal River and headed to Parkland for Christmas tree sales on the 13th of Nov. Our first load of trees arrived on Nov. 18th…

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Once unloaded, we trim them and stand them up inside our tent. Trimming the trees does two things, it makes them look nicer and provides us with trimmings to make wreaths.  I continued being “crafty“, I made a south Florida flamingo wreath and I flocked several wreaths…

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I called our selection of snowmen and reindeer our “adoption center.” I mean, who doesn’t want to adopt one of these cuties?

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I made a walk through our tent video to share with you. It gives you an idea of how we spent our 37 days…

Thanksgiving was a blur. Our boss’ family makes an incredible dinner and they share huge plates with us. The selling season begins in earnest the day after Thanksgiving. It is a non-stop customer barrage which leaves us tired, but excited. This year, I had the pleasure of helping a new tent manager learn the ropes. You don’t always realize how much you’ve learned about something until you start sharing that knowledge with someone new. The bonus of helping was making new friends! Like us, they are already marking the calendar for next season.

Unlike last year, we didn’t take a week to unwind when the season finished on Dec. 23rd. We made a quick trip back to Crystal River, had a lovely, quiet Christmas day with Daddy, then set off on our next job. It was literally 2 towns over, in Inverness. Why the rush you ask? Well, our new gig started Dec. 26th.

Once our delivery was received, Steve and I muddled our way through setting up the tent. TNT gives you lots of information, diagrams and pictures, but in the end, you pretty much do it your way…

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Our tree boss calls it FITFO – Figure It The F*@# Out. A motto we have adopted as our own! And we FITFO’d fireworks!!!

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Waldo tolerated it’s stay in the Walmart parking lot quite well. It was nice to always be able to see it…

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I wasn’t too sure how it was going to work out for us financially. Sales were pretty sporadic Sat-Mon. Since we work on commission, I was concerned.

I donned my party hat and hoped for the best…

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But, let me tell you, starting new years eve morning, it was chaos. There were times I had customers 10 deep waiting to check out! By mid-afternoon, tables were getting bare and by dark, we were almost completely sold out…

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Exhausted, we closed and tallied up. Despite a few wrinkles, it was a success. All that was left on New Years day was repacking the small amount of inventory we had and returning it to the warehouse…

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Gee – that’s exactly how it looked when we arrived on the 26th.

After talking it over, we have decided to give up working in RV parks. The major drawback for me is the length of commitment. I don’t want to be somewhere for 4-5 months. I want to travel. We HAVE to work. We will sell trees at Christmas and fireworks for New Years and July 4th. We have already committed to an RV park for this summer, but it will be the last one. We are pretty excited about the impending changes. While we will always go back to Parkland for trees, TNT sells fireworks all over the US. I’m hoping to be able to spend copious amounts of time getting reacquainted with my camera and kayak! We will finally be able to “Sleep Around” more!

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Wishing you all the very best in 2020.

Up Next – Waldo gets a renovation!

Getting Crafty

I’ve always enjoyed making things. Sometimes it’s functional …

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A cover for the cockpit of my kayak to keep it dry and clean
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A built in liquor cabinet in Waldo (I added straps to keep everything on the shelf)

Sometimes it’s because someone gave me a creative idea to run with. I have spent a good part of this year with Christmas on my mind. The owner of the tree lot we manage suggested we should make/sell “South Florida-esque” Christmas cards. We did some brainstorming and came up with a few ideas. I took it upon myself to design and paint them. Jeremy wanted to get a feel for public reaction so he did a Facebook poll with pictures of my paintings. The response was just what he hoped for – people loved them! These are the pictures he posted…

Once we figured out which ones were the most popular, he gave me the go ahead to order the cards and packaging. I’m pretty excited to see how sales go! BTW, the most popular were: Waiting For Christmas, Jingle Bell Croc, Santa Claws, Flocking Around the Tree and Christmas, Florida Style.

But most of the time I just make things for fun. Recently, I made myself a t-shirt. My “Sleep Around” t-shirt. Lots of people have asked me where I got it and I began to think maybe this would be a good small business. When I made my shirt, I printed the iron-on and handcut it with an X-Acto knife – very tedious! I knew there was a much better way and I finally decided (with a lot of coaxing from Steve) to buy a Cricut. Now instead of an hour or more, I can print/cut the iron-on in less than 15 minutes! I can take a picture someone sends me…

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And turn it into a one of a kind shirt (or in this case 2 of a kind)…

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Here’s more happy customers…

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I decided t-shirts weren’t all I should try, so I made my first koozie…

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Then, I thought what else can I make? Hmmm? How about lettering for Waldo?

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But wait~There’s more! As I was looking through the pre-made projects, I came across a cute pop-up card…

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I thought, “Gee that’s cute”, but, what if? And I designed these…

My thoughts are to try and sell them to RV dealers as Thank You cards (and in my online store).

As all of my RVing/crafting friends know, the biggest challenge of having a craft addiction is where to store all the supplies. Luckily, right now we are at my dad’s house in Florida waiting to head to Parkland to sell Christmas trees so I have a bit of time to figure out where to store everything.

I’d love to know what you think!

 

The Story of 126 Nights

I know I sort of interrupted the continuing story of Girls Just Wanna Have Fun when I posted Art Meets Humor. 

So, to continue …Mike and Dawn were only going to stay for a week, but while the girls were out having fun, Mike was making a deal with Lost Falls Campground. They needed a video showcasing the park and, as luck would have it, Mike makes videos. In exchange for an additional two weeks of camping, Mike made this awesome video!

While Mike slaved away at the computer, Dawn and I continued having fun. One of our day trips took us to Praire Moon Sculpture Garden. As we walked among  the sculptures we couldn’t help but notice some of them seemed out of place. What do bears and dinosaurs have to do with the other beautiful sculptures?

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Ya, we didn’t get it either, but it was still a great day out.

Dawn and I took several more kayak trips…

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And the time for them to leave came far too soon. With hugs and maybe a tear or two, we bid them “Safe travels until we meet again.”

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Actually, we took this picture when they arrived. But our smiles tell the whole story!

That was in early July. So what does any of this have to do with 126 nights you ask? Well that is how long we were at Lost Falls.

When Steve and I weren’t working…

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We took day trips to some really neat places. We visited one of the 4 corners of the world, the spot where the 45°N Latitude intersects with -90°W Longitude…

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We spent time fishing (I caught my first small mouth bass!)

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We worked some more…

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I had just picked up every one of those sticks and removed them from the beach!
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We cleaned up after family reunions
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We dealt with flooded campsites
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And flooded roads.

We had lots of rain this summer. The lower part of the campground (next to the river) flooded 7 times. Perhaps that’s why I drank several of these…

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Have you ever had a Bloody Mary with a cheese wedge in it? It was TASTY!

When the rain gave us a break, guests had fun on the river…

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Yes, that is a floating picnic table!

Steve and I finally managed to get out on the river together. He isn’t into kayaking as much as I am, but we had a great time…

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Since we had been in Black River Falls since May, we were having to go farther and farther to find new adventures. One day, we drove 3 hours to get to Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. I was worth the drive! We got to see a bear…

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And something worthy of inclusion at Atlas Obscura…

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It was getting close to the end of our summer contract, but I had promised Barbara I would do some portraits of their Australian Shepherd, Reba…

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And Emily’s pup Rosie…

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Unfortunately, not every dog I had contact with this summer wanted to be my friend.  And not every guest follows the rules about leashes. Resulting in this…

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Yep, I got bit by a red healer

Labor Day came and went. With it our time at Lost Falls came to an end. The night before we left, Aaron and Shannon hosted a BBQ for this year’s workampers. Before we gorged ourselves on amazing smoked ribs, cheesy potato casserole and homemade ice cream, we posed for a picture…

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It was a wonderful way to end our summer. I loved Wisconsin and Lost Falls Campground. With plenty of adventures and stories to share we said of goodbyes. After 126 nights, I decided…

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Up next, the North Shore of Lake Superior!

5 Truths About Our Life on the Road

When we first decided to live full time in Waldo, I had a very different idea of what our life would be like. In some ways, it has far exceeded my hopes and in other ways, it has fallen drastically short. Here are 5 things I have learned about myself and our lifestyle:

1. We are NOT on vacation.

While most of my posts deal with all of the cool places we visit, the truth is we have to work. Neither of us are old enough to collect social security, nor do we have any type of retirement. Our only source of income is from the workamping we do. I had visions of living in Waldo the way my parents did, never staying anywhere for more than a week or two before moving on, sooner if the weather turned cold or rainy. But the fact is, we usually end up being somewhere for several months, after all, we made a commitment when we took the job. Quite often I find several months to be too long. I either get bored with a place once we’ve explored the area or the job isn’t really to my liking, but again, we made a commitment. For me, selling Christmas trees in Florida was nearly the perfect job. It was short term, it was warm and the money was great. If there was a “downside”, it was we didn’t have any time to explore the area.

 

2. Two people in 400 sq/ft can be a challenge

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We had been married for 14 years when we made the leap to full-timing. I thought I knew everything I could possibly need to know about us – nope! The biggest difference between living in an RV and living in a house is if you find you need some “space”, there isn’t any. I had a home office in our house, now my office is in the same room as the kitchen, living room and steering wheel. Steve had a garage to go putter around in, now he doesn’t. We don’t generally get on each others nerves, but it happens. We don’t generally have disagreements, but they happen. The difference is we can’t go to our separate space. Living in the confines of 400 sq/ft has taught me that I need my space more than I thought I did. Don’t get me wrong, I love Steve with all my heart.  I would never want to live this life without him, but sometimes I just need my space.

3. We’ll never get to see it all

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Thanks to my grammar school teachers, I know there are 50 states. If we spent 3 months per state, we could only see 4 a year – that’s 12 1/2 years (assuming we could drive to Hawaii). While we could probably hit the highlights in each state in 3 months, we’d never have time to seek out the out-of-the-way places we both enjoy so much. Oh yea, back to #1, we aren’t on vacation. By the way, I’ve added travel maps to the blog. You can check out where we went by year. I hope to keep it up-to-date from now on.

4. We are 6 wheels away from homeless

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I know this is a bit of an exaggeration, but it isn’t far off the mark. There isn’t much worse than seeing everything you own put on the back of a tow truck. I mean nobody ever towed off our stick and brick when it needed repairs. We’ve been exceedingly fortunate, nearly every time we’ve needed repairs, we’ve been able to stay in Waldo while the work was being done. The only time we couldn’t was when the roof was done. That wasn’t an issue because we were staying at my dad’s house. Every now and then, I get a little panicky when I think about what “could” happen. I know, no sense borrowing trouble. I just can’t help it.

5. We wouldn’t trade this lifestyle for anything!

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When I compare our stick and brick life to our RV life, I realize I wouldn’t change a thing. We love our life. We have met some of the most wonderful people, in person and online, because of the way we live. We have seen places lots of people only talk about seeing. We visited 15 National Parks in 2018 plus countless state parks. And we are doing it together! I doubt it really gets any better.

 

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The Day Facebook Saved Our Lives

I try pretty hard to keep my posts in order, even if it means getting behind by weeks (sometimes months) where we actually are in real life. But, something happened recently that  I think is too important to wait.

We’ve been meandering our way back to Florida. My last post was about Yellowstone NP and since then, we’ve visited Grand Teton NP, Capitol Reef NP, Bryce Canyon NP, Grand Staircase NM, Carlsbad Cavern NP and finally Guadalupe Mountains NP. This found us once again in Texas. Our plan was to catch up with some friends from our job last summer then head to NOLA to check out the WWII Museum before making our way to Crystal River, FL to visit with Daddy. We were unemployed at the moment, so taking our time was fine.

Just outside of Odessa, TX our plan, and Waldo, came to a screeching halt. We were broken down. Naturally, this happened on a Friday afternoon. With the weekend looming, no one had any interest in getting us on our way. One company Steve called said sure, they’d come look at Waldo, but “Be prepared to pay ALL the money.” Gee thanks, but no thanks.

What do you do when you are broken down in a strange place and no one seems to care? You reach out to whoever you can think of, anyone you think *might* know someone in the area. Last year, when we were working at Wind Point Park, we met Ben Miller, the promoter of Turkey Drag. I was hoping with all of his car club connections he might know someone who could help. I reached out to him via Facebook and then something incredible happened. Ben posted a “looking for recommendations” on our behalf on his page and within minutes, people started leaving suggestions, tagging friends and offering help. Someone sent Ben a screenshot of a contact on their phone. It was Jake from DropTine Auto in Midland, Texas.

Steve called Jake and explained our situation. Despite the fact DropTine is a very busy shop, Jake said we could bring Waldo there. When Steve explained he was a mechanic and could do some of the work himself, Jake said – “Great.”  To make a long story short, not only did Jake allow Steve to do 99% of the work himself, but he let us stay in Waldo in the yard. It turns out the problem was related to what caused us to break down in Alaska, only this time, there wasn’t a “band-aid” fix. The gear which runs the hydraulic pump is located on the mainshaft of the compressor and it was toast! Steve called Caterpillar and they said sure, they could get a new one for $2200 in about 6 weeks. I just cried. “6 weeks, stuck in Midland? $2200 we can’t afford that!” Jake called the manufacturer of the compressor to see if there was a replacement available. The unit had been discontinued. WHAT? But, they offered to rebuild ours for $250 plus shipping.  All we had to do was get it to them in North Carolina.

In the meantime, I had been looking for winter work. I found a seasonal job in Fort Lauderdale selling Christmas trees. Would Waldo be repaired in time for us to get there? We had already been broken down for 15 days, now we had to ship the compressor to NC and hope for the best.

DropTine is a busy shop with several great employees, but Jake allowed Steve to help out in the shop when he wasn’t working on Waldo. That was awesome! It gave Steve something to do and helped make us feel like we weren’t just taking up space in his yard.

The rebuilt compressor showed back up on Monday the 5th…

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with its shiny new gear. Isn’t that sexy?! It took until Tuesday afternoon to get everything back together. When the work was complete and we were ready to hit the road, we asked Jake for our bill. He said we didn’t owe him anything. He took into account the work Steve had done around the shop and called it even. I was floored. He also said if the shop was still busy in the spring, Steve could come back and work for him for a month or so before our next workamping job. It makes my heart happy to know there are still people in this world like him.

Happiness through the windshield…

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We have since arrived at Daddy’s house and are leaving on the 14th to head to Fort Lauderdale. I’ll keep you posted on how selling Christmas trees goes and promise to eventually go back and write about the places we’ve been.

A heartfelt thank you to Ben, his friends and all the guys at DropTine Auto!

(Wild) Life on the Road

After spending 4 1/2 months in Alaska, it was time to return to the lower 48. I spent weeks reviewing our route. We had already driven the Alcan, so I wanted to travel other roads. It was a horrible year for wildfires in British Columbia, so I changed our route several times. BC has a great website I used to make sure the roads I wanted to take were open. Eventually, I settled for returning on the Alcan. It just seemed safest.

We had seen some pretty cool wildlife while we were in Alaska, but we always want to see more. Not long after we crossed into the Yukon, we got our first chance…

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These wild horses were contently munching on the grasses along the highway. I felt pretty lucky to see them, apparently there have been efforts over the years to capture the remaining wild horses. I don’t know how many are left, but it can’t be many.

When we crossed into BC, the first thing we saw was a highway sign warning us of bison in the road near Muncho Lake. Herds of wood bison move pretty quickly and we spotted them long before the lake. At first we saw lone males hanging out by the road…

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Or in the road…

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It’s always a good thing to remember, these are wild animals and to always keep your distance.  Steve did that by taking his pictures out the window…

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A short while later, we came across a herd of wood bison. We stopped and watched as a calf nursed…

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After a while, we had so many pictures of bison, we didn’t pull over to watch the next few herds we saw.

What there weren’t any warning signs for was the herds of mountain goats. Early one morning, as we were driving along, we had to stop because they just wouldn’t get out of the road…

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I took this picture looking through the windshield…

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Mooned by a mountain goat! Finally, they moved off the road. One stopped to look back at us as if to say, “NOW you may go”…

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I liked seeing them on the upper slopes better than in the road…

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We had seen a couple bears along the way, but they were always heading into the woods. By the time I got the camera, they were gone. Until this guy came along…

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We saw more wild animals in 4 days in Canada than we did in 4 1/2 months in Alaska. And that’s the wild side of being on the road!

Up next, the wonders of Yellowstone.

Have you ever had to stop because an animal wouldn’t get off the road?