Usually we travel down 97 to Interstate 5 and take it south, however because of forest fires as well as the closure of I-5 we decide to take a more easterly route to Alturas on US 395 to Interstate 80. We had not traveled with Lola along US 395 in Northeastern California, so it was a new area to see.
Likely Place Golf and RV Resort is a great place to stay. Besides being a half way point in our travels south, it has an 18 hole golf course. It is in a pretty remote area in Northeastern California yet close to US 395 to make it a convenient stop.
There are 5 or 6 cement pads and a few more grassy areas all with power for telescope setups. With the dark skies and high elevation Likely Place Golf and RV Resort is perfect to do some stargazing. Since we are only here for one night, Jeff set up the tripod and camera to get some practice getting some Milky Way pictures. He focuses on Cassiopeia and Andromeda Galaxy and uses Deep Sky Stacker (DSS) to process the images.
Besides stargazing, the resort offers a host of other activities such as fishing, kayaking, paddle boarding, hiking and nearby places to ATV. California’s Lava Beds National Monument is close by and many other attractions to explore. Several scenic drives are listed on the Lively Place Golf and RV resort sure to keep any family busy while staying here. See more here.
Likely Place Golf and RV Resort is on our list of places to come back to – as a matter of fact we plan to revisit the resort next spring on our way north to Alaska.
Part 2: Exploring from Thousand Trails Bend-Sunriver Base Camp
We are at Thousand Trails Bend-Sunriver just south of Bend Oregon to wrap up our visit to the Newberry National Volcanic Monument (Newberry NVM) in central Oregon. The campground is very large with 2 pools and the Little Deschutes river running alongside the property. It is a perfect place for a base camp to explore more of the Newberry Volcano after spending over a week at Lake Paulina in the volcano caldera.
See Part 1 when we camped at Lake Paulina inside the cauldera here.
The campsites are large and spaced apart at Bend-Sunriver. There is an unfenced leash-free area for dogs along the river. There are also trails and a fire road for some great walking. I also took the telescope out to the dog area because it is surrounded by high bushes for less light interference.
There are 3 observatories in the area. I visited the Oregon Observatory at Sunriver where there were more than a dozen telescopes set up looking at the stars and planets. The University of Oregon also has an observatory at Pine Mountain (Pine Mountain Observatory) that is open to the public on Fridays and Saturdays during the warm months. Also, the Worthy Brewery in Bend has a “hopservatory” up on their roof. Plus there are lots of places east of Bend in the desert where you can find a dark spot and set up your telescope or break out the binoculars.
Here’s a few pictures taken out by the dog field using the camera.
The Lava Cast Forest in the Newberry Volcano area was created 6,000 years ago. As the lava flow wrapped around trees, it cooled and hardened, leaving the imprint of the trees and the trees burned and rotted away. Many used to be 5 to 10 feet tall, but scavengers broke up most of the larger examples. Even so, it is a fascinating walk peering down the holes where trees once stood thousands of years ago. You can see the imprint from the bark that was on the trees! Easy walk and you can bring your dogs as well.
The Lava River Cave is another cool place to visit at the Newberry Volcano. This is the longest lava tube in Oregon and is 80,000 years old. Just to put it into perspective – the oldest lava flow on Newberry Volcano is 400,000 years old, and the most recent is 1,300 years old. Scientists believe Newberry first erupted about 600,000 years ago. It is still an active shield shaped stratovolcano, with over 400 vents (the most of any volcano in the lower 48 states).
And, it’s DARK! At nearly a mile long with no lights along the path, did I say it is DARK? Of course I brought a flashlight. But Christine wanted to make sure we had light, so she rented one at the ranger station. And, it is a good thing she did since the batteries in my torch went out after a few hundred steps. We held hands after that so I didn’t get lost in the dark. A couple of times Christine turned her flashlight off just to see what it is like to be in the dark. I could have told her, since I spend a lot of time in the dark… ok just kidding (a little bit). At the point where you can no longer go any further, she turned off the light again. You suddenly starts thinking of all of the scary movies you ever watched and quickly turn the light back on. Easy walk with a few places that have rocks you walk around or over and two sections that if you are tall, need to duck because of low ceilings.
Lava Butte is part of the Newberry Volcano, and is a large cinder cone. During the summer a bus is provided because of the small parking lot at the top of the cone. We visited after Labor Day so we just had to wait 45 minutes until the next set of 10 or so cars were allowed up to the top. We picked a magnificent day that had less smoke haze from the forest fires so we got better views of the Cascade mountains and the Newberry Volcano. We heard that on a very clear day you could see Mt. Shasta.
The Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway is a very pretty drive around Mount Bachelor just south of Bend and west of the Newberry Volcano. Poor Bachelor – always just a little ways away from the Three Sisters, 3 stratovolcanos just west of the Newberry Volcano. Lots of lakes and views of the mountains. It is an easy drive to make after a late breakfast since it is 66 miles long. We took the dogs and they swam at a couple of the lakes. Watch out though! Some of the lakes have toxic algae in them. We had to wipe the dogs down after they got near some of the algae.
We are camping at Lake Paulina National Forest campground in the caldera of the Newberry Volcano that is in the Newberry National Volcanic Monument just east of Bend Oregon. Newberry Volcano is the largest (by mass and area) Volcano in the Cascade mountain range that goes from southern Canada down through northern California. The mountain with it’s lava flows is roughly the size of the state of Rhode Island. We are staying at the campground for 9 days.
We did not know if there was water available for Lola, however once we called up to the Ranger Station, we were told that there was potable water next to the dump station. Once we got to our campground, the water spigot that was near our campsite indeed did have a threaded spigot, however several of the other water spigots are not threaded. The campground does offer a few gray water disposal sites and a bathroom with flush toilets and sinks with running water.
There is an observation site at the top of Paulina Peak – the highest point of the Newberry Volcano. On a clear day the views are magnificent, however it was smoky from the forest fires in southern Oregon and northern California. Nice day for a drive though, and we can see the two lakes in the caldera – Lake Paulina and East lake.
We drove through East Lake and notice that there are more nice campsites even though many are smaller than the Lake Paulina sites.
The big draw for the drive is a hike through the Big Obsidian Flow. There is an interpretive trail going through the Big Obsidian Flow in the Newberry Volcano caldera. The Big Obsidian Flow is the most recent geologic formation in the Newberry Volcano created 1,300 years ago, and like the name suggests… it is BIG! I always think of obsidian chunks that I can hold in my hand. This is a whole mountain of obsidian (pardon the pun).
One of the most interesting items is that obsidian was used for the first open heart surgeries done because obsidian blades are a lot sharper than any knife edge possible. Obsidian blades are sharpened to a width of one molecule. Now, that’s surprising!
There are two lakes in the Newberry Volcano caldera. Lake Paulina where we are camping, and East Lake. At one time there was one lake in the caldera then a fissure opened up and lava separated the two lakes. About 3,500 years ago another eruption created an obsidian flow by East Lake. The “Little Crater” is one of the craters between the two lakes and a nice hike. We didn’t take the dogs because it’s somewhat steep in sections and some places that just dropped off into a narrow valley.
It is a very nice day with great views of the lake and the obsidian flow, even though you could tell the smoke from the fires was starting to come back into the area.
The 8 mile hike around Lake Paulina is a pretty easy hike. There is some elevation change but mostly it is rated a moderate hike because of the length. Another hazy day for our walk around the lake, but the water is crystal clear and we spotted many aquatic birds, moss and flowers. We could just make out Paulina Peak when we are on the far side of the lake. We will return another time when there are no forest fires.
Using narrow National Forest Service roads we drove a loop from East Lake south then west around Paulina Peak and then north up to the entrance that is west of Paulina Lake Campground. During the whole drive we spotted one tent in a dispersed camping area but no other persons! In many places the road is very slow going, and our Honda Pilot just had enough clearance to drive the little used roads. We stopped several times to explore ancient fissures and old logging roads. The dogs had a blast getting off leash.
Bruneau Dunes State Park in Idaho has the ‘highest single structured sand dune and a public observatory with a 25 inch Newtonian reflecting telescope. The park has two RV sections – almost empty during the heat of July. They also have an equestrian area and several day use sections. Christine decided to walk up one of the big dunes almost to the top before the heat set in and warmed up the sand. Several people were sand-boarding down the side of the smaller dune.
A short drive from Bruneau Dunes State Park is the Bruneau Canyon Overlook. It is managed by the BLM with input from the local Shoshone Indian tribes, ranchers and environmental groups to protect the area that has been used by the Native Americans for centuries. It is a remote and spectacular canyon well worth the drive. As a side note, you drive through a U. S. Airforce bombing range where… you guessed it… “objects may fall from aircraft”!
There are two Castle Rocks in Idaho – both have crazy rock formations. We visited the Castle Rocks on Castle Rocks Creek east of Mountain Home on Idaho highway 20. The other Castle Rocks is near the Utah border! Regardless – the Castle Rocks near Mountain Home is a fun drive and the early afternoon light on the rocks brought out some amazing natural erosion relief. Other than a couple of forest service guys, some cows and a few ranchers we are alone on this trip. The dogs enjoyed walking on the dusty road while Christine and Jeff take pictures.
Mountain Home is the largest city around. With Mountain Home Air Force base close by it is a busy town with most conveniences available. Jeff utilized the library and Walmart for picture and video uploads and we visited the grocery store too. Also went to the local farmers market which had some great fresh fruits and vegetables, but the best were the fresh farm eggs.
There is a winery (Cold Springs Winery) close by near Hammett, Idaho, which we visited. Even though the sign indicated it was closed, we had called and their message said they were open, so we drove up to the house / winery on the hill. The wine master was there wrapping up some things and opened the doors for us to do some wine tasting. Excellent wine, spent a few dollars on quite a few different varieties and you just couldn’t beat the views from the top of the hill. Spectacular! This winery is also a member of Harvest Hosts, which allows you to stay one to two days for free with no services, but you get to experience the place first hand.
Stars, Stargazing and an Observatory
Bruneau Dunes State Park is set up for the amateur astronomer in mind. It is considered a Dark Site. There is a limited amount of lighting around the campsites, and the two campgrounds are situated well away from the highway. The lights around the restrooms are red-lights. Mountain Home – the closest town is far enough away and blocked by hills that there is a limited amount of horizon light. Unfortunately there is a big fire north of Boise and some nights the sky was blocked by smoke and clouds. Fortunately, since we are staying here for 8 nights a number of nights were clear.
I am not using a very sophisticated astrophotography setup. A Canon 60D is great but I’m using lenses that I picked up for real estate and hobby photography. I have an f4.0 medium zoom (17mm wide open) for Milky Way pictures. And I used 1600 ISO which is probably too high. 800 or 1000 would have less noise. But I am learning and with practice hope to get better.
Here are some AstroPhotos! If you look closely at the center of the picture marked Cassiopeia you can even see a smudge for the Andromeda Galaxy.
For $5 anyone can view the stars using the big Newtonian Reflector telescope at Bruneau Dunes. It is one of the largest observatories that is set up for public use only. We also got a blue light flashlight so we could chase tiny scorpions busy during the night on the dunes.
We arrive in Gillette on Sunday the 15th of July for an early set-up because on Monday we have our new sensors getting installed. See the post here about the sensor installation. Tuesday we got our tanks washed out then the 98th FMCA Rally starts Wednesday.
The Rally Begins – Here’s a typical day:
Wednesday July 18th
Our first seminar Jeff attended is on LED lighting taught by Gregg Wilson. Just about the first question out was how many folks have LED lights in their coach, and Jeff’s hand shot up. The next question was how many have LED lights that are flickering? Again, Jeff’s hand shot up. We have a number of interior and exterior LED lights that are flickering that we got from M4 RV Lighting. We went with M4 because some of the more popular blogs we follow have used the lights from this company. Jeff is interested in getting some troubleshooting tips to diagnose the flickering.
Flickering Usually Means HEAT
Most often LED lights flicker because they get too hot, and inferior lights handle heat poorly. Sure enough, the lights that we are having problems with are the enclosed Valance lights at the ends of our cabinets in the living area. The light is enclosed in a triangular area 10″ x 10″ x 10″, so it is not like the lights are in a small space, but they don’t get any circulation.
Gregg designs, builds and sells LED lights that he has designed for the RV environment. The second set of lights are in the ceiling above the bed – again the rear ceiling gets less circulation than the front and is more susceptible to more heat. We elected to replace these lights with LEDs that have more directionality and are designed to allow more airflow around the light. In addition, we picked lights that are shielded to create less interference for TVs and amateur radios.
External LED lights – A PROBLEM!
Our other lights that flicker are running lights on the outside of the coach. Gregg informs us that there are no LEDs certified for use on the exterior unless they are fully encapsulated, and pass IP65, IP66 or IP67 standards for water proofing. Replacing a conventional running light with an LED is not legal and will likely not work in the long-term. Sure enough, most of these lights have been flickering since day 1. Next job is to replace these with original style light bulbs.
We also purchased two LED motion detector porch lights. Jeff had already replace the porch light by the door with an LED version, because want to have motion detectors for our porch lights especially while boondocking this was a good find. Since they are a) not running lights and b) enclosed there should be no issue with these lights. That project will be on a future blog post & video.
Orthopedic Principals and Applications
Christine went to the Orthopedic seminar, which was a good seminar as they talked about key stretches to do, especially when sitting hours during travel days. They also discussed keeping as limber as possible as we age because let’s face it… we are all getting older.
Next, we went to an Extended Warranty presentation by US Warranties. It was an interesting seminar for us because our original extended warranty that we got when we purchased Lola is expiring in August. We got several key take-aways:
Does it include roadside assistance?
Does it include towing?
Is there Trip Interruption services
Senior Citizen & Military Discounts
Does it include Consequential Loss Coverage (when an item that is covered damages other parts)
More on our experience shopping for extended warranties soon!
Other Notable Seminars
Freightliner Fireside Chat
Jeff attended the Freightliner Fireside Chat in Massachusetts 2 years ago and decided to attend this rally’s version. A representative from Freightliner RV manufacturing gave an interesting overview of some of the newer technology being used in current Freightliner RV chassis. In addition the standard Fireside Chat discussion is about basic chassis technology, troubleshooting and maintenance (as much as you can squeeze into an hour).
Griots Detailing 101
One of the things we like about the FMCA rally is that seminars are either general information (not vendor specific) or product oriented (vendor specific). Detailing a Coach 101 was a product specific seminar from Griots (Griots Detailing 101 from Griots Garage). Cool products at a premium price. Check out the link to Griots for some of their cool stuff.
The seminar on Air Brakes is presented by RVSafety.com. I took some notes, but could really have used a hand-out. There is a full course available from RVSafety on testing Air Brakes. I did find an article on testing Air Brakes at Family RVing website. Scroll down to the Pretrip Brake Inspection. Also a basic Understanding Air Brakes from the same FMCA author.
Roger Marble has been working with tires his entire life. He spent many years ‘in the pit’ on race courses and ‘in the lab’ at a major US tire manufacturer. Check his blog-site for lots of information on RV tires. This seminar was focused on tire failures and the forensics involved in determining the root cause of the failure. Fascinating, but probably a bit too in depth for our more practical needs. His website and his contributions on forums is invaluable. Guess it is important to have your tires checked on a regular basis.
Detail an RV in an Hour
This seminar was a combination general information and product specific. The non product specific portion of the seminar covered microfiber cloth manufacturing and quality and how to tell if you are getting a good microfiber cloth. The instructor from Almost Heaven Microfiber also talked about the advantages of using poles instead of ladders to wash and wax your RV. For the product specific portion of the seminar he displayed a variety of products including microfiber cloths of different texture for various tasks, poles to attach the cloths to as well as different wash and wax products. We ended up stopping by the booth and picking up a heavy duty pole, some spray wax for between full wax jobs and a variety of microfiber cloths.
Boondocking 101 & 102
Two full seminar sessions by Dave Helgerson all about boondocking safety, resources and planning. Because this is a very detailed subject matter too much to cover for this blog entry we will devote some quality time to create another video and blog just on what we learned about Dave’s boondocking teachings.
On Friday we take a break and drive to Devil’s Tower – the nation’s first National Monument. It was a nice drive with the dogs and a nice break from all the learning we are doing at the FMCA Gillette Rally.
After leaving White Sandy BLM Recreation area, we return to Paradise Valley near Livingston. Downtown Livingston has a neat train museum – the Livingston Depot. There are great displays for the building of the railroad that led to the explosion of settling of this area. The museum covers the tremendous effort required to lay tracks over and through the mountains. The railroad shipped goods from the mines, farms and ranches in the area to the big cities to the east and west, and tourists in to see Yellowstone. Early on Livingston was the gateway to the nation’s first National Park. Displays show the history of the railroad all through the mid-1900’s when trains were THE way to travel.
This area is also very popular with Hollywood, as it was used for many movies since movies started being made. There is an exhibit “Film in Montana” upstairs that showcase movies shot in Montana and old film editing equipment.
There is also an area for local artists. On exhibit is a gallery for a woman cowboy photographer (“Pure Quill: Photographs by Barbara Van Cleve.” ). She uses a lot of low-light and evening shots for an unusual portrayal of cowboy life. Check out her website or if you are near Livingston stop by the train depot during 2018. Very enjoyable. She has a great ‘eye’.
Paradise Valley KOA is a very nice full-featured camp with amazing views of the mountains south of Livingston Montana. See our earlier post here when we stopped on our way to Yellowstone National Park.
Driving south on Interstate 90 from Livingston Wyoming to Sheridan takes you along the eastern side of the Bighorn Mountains. At first the range is not impressive while driving along I-90 – there are few mountain peaks visible that we saw. You can easily drive by them and say, “huh, nice hills.” But drive into the mountains from Sheridan and almost immediately we are greeted with spectacular canyons and valleys with up-scale housing on US 14. Spend a few minutes at Shell Falls for a nice break.
Dense forests and wildflowers galore (mid-July) at the crest led to desert scrub on the east side following US 20. We stopped several times to enjoy the views.
Similar to our thoughts about the Big Horn Mountains, don’t judge a city by what you see from the freeway. Christine wants to see the King Saddlery in downtown Sheridan. After driving through the typical strip malls, once we reach the downtown area we find a very tricked out old town. The rodeo is in town, and the streets are packed. There are cool artsy statues along the main street and the shops are bustling. You can do a lot of people watching and whether you are checking out the cowboys or the cowboy watchers it’s fun.
Alright, I think we are going to see some saddles. Kings Saddlery is a legendary store about a legendary family of leather craftsmen. Just walking through the store and then the museum, which is in another building, it brings you to a life that was simple, but so full of hardships and joy. You can almost imagine what it was like living during the time that King Saddlery first came about and the life of the cowboys and their families. Don King started making saddles in 1946 followed by his sons John and Bob.
Driving over the rise between Helena and White Sandy Recreation Site where the Missouri River and Prickly Pear Creek meet we are struck by the beauty of the mountains and the river. It’s a small campground. There is a state campground to the left and on the right is the BLM campground on the river – both with a couple dozen campsites each. BLM is a first come first serve and we were lucky in hitting this mid week and only about 5 sites had been taken. Out site is right on the Prickly Pear Creek.
A planned two day lay-over turns into 13 days of pretty peaceful respite. We are working on a few blog and video segments in between exploring, sleeping and reading. On the 4th of July it gets busier on the river, with some fireworks and the ‘Eyes of Lola’ drone catches some of the action. As the fireworks are not that close by, it hasn’t affected the dogs as it has in the past.
White Sandy Recreation Site is located where the Prickly Pear creek meets the Missouri River. There are no hook-ups for water, electricity or sewer. There is water available, but it is a rusty brown from the iron in the water oxidizing. Since we originally only planned to stay for 2 days, we arrived at the campground with about 25 gallons of water. Now that we are staying longer than our original plans, we need more water than we came with. After talking to the camp hosts they advised either getting water at the state campground or a private campground nearby. We couldn’t find the water at the state campground, so called the Sinclair service station we passed at the exit from the interstate. They have potable water, so we ran down to the Sinclair service station and to get fresh water and propane. Fortunately it’s only a few miles away.
The Sinclair station has a nice grocery store with Montana Ham products! Sure smells good, but we restrained ourselves and only got some delicious bacon. The water is good – the same as they use for their popular drive-by coffee kiosk outside of the store. To get water, we block one side of the kiosk, but they are fine with that. No charge for the water fill-up, but we get coffee and give a nice tip. They also have a dump station for RV’s too; along with propane (which we also filled up) and good access for RV fill-ups.
With fresh water and our solar panels we are set! We did run the generator on the 2nd night because we need to run the generator a couple of hours at least once a month. Perfect timing because it is warm and it gave us an opportunity to cool the inside of Lola that evening. We ran the generator on night 12 also – again so we could run the A/C for an hour before turning in.
Solar – We Got Sun!
So how’s the solar working? In an environment where there is abundant sunshine, clear skies and long days the Solar and Lithium batteries work fantastic. We cooked using the oven, ran the inverter to work on our computers to edit videos and in general keep all the gadgets charged. We watched TV, some previously recorded shows and Blu-Ray each day as we vegged out. A few days that had some clouds, our batteries drained a bit more; but the next day we were busy exploring and the batteries recovered. <click here for our Solar Installation etc.>
White Sandy Video
Here’s our first White Sandy video using ‘Eyes of Lola’ our Mavic Drone.
Helena – Montana’s Capitol
After a week of snoozing and relaxing we hit the road in the toad and drive to Helena, the capitol of Montana. We head into the capitol building. It was pretty chilly out and windy, but made it into the building where it was nice and warm. Since it is summer recess, the hallowed halls of the legislature are quiet. Other than a few staff members it is like going into a church – we even looked for the mice! After lunch in downtown Helena, we head back to the dogs so they can swim in the Prickly Pear creek.
Next we drove up to Great Falls to check out The Falls at Great Falls on the Missouri River. The Missouri River is the longest river is the United States. Even this far northwest, it is wide and strong. It is a bit of a challenge to figure out exactly how to get to the falls themselves, but we manage. That itself is surprising because the town is named after the falls so you would expect better directions. The falls are not real high, but are wide and an impressive amount of water flows over the dam and then over the falls. A small parking log faces a small bridge going to a small island with picnic areas and 1950 era displays of modern electric kitchens! What a hoot. There is also historical markers for the Lewis and Clark expedition that made there way here in 1805. Besides the falls, the major feature here is the dam that is just a little upstream from the falls, and the power station there.
The nights are dark, with just a few lights around some of the RVs – perfect for getting the telescope out. We also got the camera out to get some pictures of the Milky Way. I forgot the techniques of getting Milky Way pictures and my star stacking program (Deep Sky Stacker) didn’t work; but still got some pretty good shots. Astrophotography It’s nice warm weather at night for star gazing.
Can’t believe it’s already Yellowstone Day Three! It is always exciting to see Bison. Today there is Bison in the fields and even one that wandered along the road. That was a treat in itself to see a Bison so close and not trying to view one while driving by. Traffic is at a stand still until a Park Ranger came to make sure there weren’t any people foolish enough to get out of their cars and scratch these ears!