RV Nomads

Nomad Millers



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Trip Summary

Posted by Greg on October 10, 2016 at 4:25 PM Comments comments (0)

We've been home for 4 weeks. If you are interested, here is a wrap-up of our RV trip:

- Traveled 115,000 miles in 32 months through 39 states and 7 provinces; Refer to the "Where?" page above for a map of our travels.

- Stayed at 133 campgrounds, plus a few WalMarts, rest areas, truck stops & friends' houses.

- Visited 36 US national parks/monuments/historic sites/forests and 6 Canadian national parks in 2016; Marcia is still counting the number of national properties we visited during 2013-2015.

- Took 24,000+ digital pictures, wearing out two cameras in the process.

- Posted 159 updates to this travel blog website.

- Posted pictures in 205 photo albums this travel blog website.

- Used Greg's phone as a computer hot spot and consumed as much as 105GB of data per month; Good thing we have an unlimited data plan!

- Purchased 6 different campground memberships plus US and Canadian national park passes, which saved us lots of $$.

- We plan to sell the motorhome and Jeep this winter.

- Greg is in the process of copying the blog into a formatted document, with intention of printing it into hardcover books; It will total about 800 pages in size.

This was a wonderful experience.  RVing full-time was a great adventure for us.  We didn't plan to settle down and buy real estate for 10 years.  But once we discovered The Villages, FL, we realized this is resort living at its finest.  So now we're beginning another great adventure in our lives.

Thank you for traveling virtually with us.  We were excited to have shared our travels with you.  This likely concludes our updates to this website.

the long road home

Posted by Marcia on September 26, 2016 at 11:40 PM Comments comments (0)

It was time to head the beast home to Florida, so we (ok, Greg) drove and drove and drove.  We spent a quick overnight at Checkers Welcome Campground in (you'll never guess!) Welcome, MN.  Great management, and we ended up with a spacious site, even though it was only for one night. 

The next day we arrived at Wisconsin Dells, and spent two nights at Arrowhead Resort Campground, a decent Encore property we've stayed at previously.  Ummm.... ok, you're right... that's not exactly en route from South Dakota to Florida.  We opted to spend a few days visiting family and friends.  So we visited our folks - it was so great seeing them!

And we camped over Labor Day weekend with a couple of my relatives, and a few more dropped by one day.  So awesome!  It was so darn awesome I didn't even think about taking out the camera.  That's not a good thing for a blogging scrapbooker!  We stayed at Astico County Park campground, which actually is quite large.  The sites we stayed in only had electric hookups, no water, no sewer.  But we all managed fine.

So we (again, Greg) then steered the beast southward, hoping to get through Chicago before afternoon rush hour traffic became too horrible.  Well...  the RV overheated while we were on I-90 near the Loop.  Greg managed to pull off into an "incident" lot. 

So then even though we waited a while, and Greg put more coolant in, as soon as we headed out, boom, overheated.  Again.  So we pulled off I-90 again, just south of I-290.  And Greg called for a tow.  And we waited.  And waited.  Apparently tow trucks with the capability of pulling big rigs and semis aren't on every corner. 

Long story, short...  48 hours after we first pulled over, Freightliner had us back on the road, with our frozen water pump and belt repaired.  woohoo!

Since we were going through the heart of bourbon country, Greg suggested we stop for the Bulleit Frontier Whiskey Experience at the Stitzel-Weller Distillery near Louisville, Kentucky.  The guided tour took us through the rick houses where they store the bourbon barrels to the antiquated cooper shop where barrel repairs are made, to the offices (turned museum) of Thomas Bulleit.  We heard about the history of the distillery, how the company managed during Prohibition, and about the changes of ownership.  We found out that the reason the 30+ rick houses and all the nearby trees, etc., are dark and rusty red is due to the evaporation of the alcohol.  We also learned that they only use each barrel once, after which the barrels go to wineries, then elsewhere when they are no longer effective for wine storage. Exhausted after all that sightseeing, we refreshed ourselves by sampling four bourbons at the the end of the tour.  

We headed down to Tennessee to chill for a couple days, since we missed our appointment in Alabama to get a different repair done to the rig.  We stayed at  Natchez Trace RV Park, a Thousand Trails campground (no daily fees for us!) we had visited before.  We toured around the area a bit, but mostly relaxed.  After we were able to get in for repairs - we were in and out in a SUPER short time! 

So back on the road we went... and arrived back home in hot, humid, sunny Florida on Sept 13. 

All in all, it was a great summer!  We saw and did lots of awesome things - so many amazing places and activities in western North America. So now... drum roll please... The final Miller wrap-up, of our top pick (each) for the summer: I thought canyoneering in Peek-A-Boo and Spooky slot canyons in Utah rocked, and Greg thought walking on Columbia Icefields Athabasca Glacier was cool. 

But it's nice to be home again.  :)  And as a bonus to you for following along... there's a few more pics of our final RV days HERE!

- Marcia




bad beauty and monumental SD

Posted by Marcia on August 30, 2016 at 12:00 AM Comments comments (0)

I'm always surprised at how much I like the area around Rapid City, SD.  So much of South Dakota is, well, blah to me.  I've been super fortunate to have been to so many places, and seen so many beautiful and amazing things.  And somehow, Custer State Park, the Black Hills, and the Badlands just bring a smile to my face, and make me wonder "what's around that next corner?" as we tool along.  This part of SD reminds me a lot of Utah, which as I've mentioned before, is potentially my fave state. 

I mean really - look at this - aren't the Badlands awe-inspiring and gorgeous?  And reminiscent of Bryce Canyon NP and Cedar Breaks in Utah?

And if that isn't colorful enough for you, how about this?  Which, by the way, reminds me of Capitol Reef, UT.

The Badlands loop road is a 30-mile scenic drive on Highway 240 that goes through the heart of the park. There are plenty of scenic overlooks along the road offering great photo opps.

In the Custer area, SD Highway 87, better known as Needles Highway, has similar features to Canyonlands and Arches NP in UT. The roadway curves and winds through 14 miles of granite rock formations called “needles.”  Needles Highway also has three narrow rock tunnels that can only fit one car or motorcycle at a time.

Iron Mountain Road, US 16A, is another scenic byway. This highway offers some great views of Mount Rushmore framed in granite rock tunnels.  Iron Mountain Road also has three pigtail bridges that are considered engineering marvels.

Obviously, Utah doesn't have the monuments that S.D. has, such as the Prez heads.

And S.D. has so much wildlife as well!  As well as the adorable little prairie dogs,

we saw deer, bighorn sheep, pronghorns, "wild" burros, mountain goats and lots of bison, including a little baby of less than two months.

We stayed at the Hart Ranch Camping Resort.  In this case, resort is probably pretty appropriate, as there are a ton of recreational amenities at Hart Ranch.  We did use the wifi and cable (wow - TV!!), but not the pool, hot tubs, basketball court, volleyball court, mini golf, frisbee golf, pickleball (I can't believe we didn't play!), etc.  It is a very nicely manicured campground, with relatively nice sized sites, but no privacy.  <sigh>  That could make the place just about perfect.  ;)

More pics of the Badlands HERE and the Custer area HERE.

- Marcia


exploring the Bighorn Mountains

Posted by Marcia on August 25, 2016 at 10:00 PM Comments comments (0)

The Bighorn Mountains turned out to be pleasant surprise for us!  A good friend had talked about how much she loved the Bighorns, so I thought we could check 'em out.

On top of the Bighorns there are rolling meadows and pine forests. 

Highways 14 and 14A cross the Bighorns, and they're great motorcycle roads, but not so good for RVs.  It's a long relatively steep grade on the western section of both highways, especially 14A, with plenty of pulloffs to cool engines and brakes.  From 14A, which switchbacks the mountain side, there are beautiful broad vistas... although smoke from nearby wildfires made our visibility pretty dismal.  

14 climbs thru Shell Canyon, thus providing a different view of the mountains.  Shell Canyon was under the ocean seven times then uplifted; all of the geological formations in Wyoming are visible. 

And Shell Falls is one of the highest waterfalls in Wyoming outside Yellowstone.

More pictures from these beautiful roads HERE.

Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, off 14A near Lovell, WY, is a neat place as well.  An out and back paved road, highway 37, provides scenic views along the way, and has three great stops for viewing the Canyon.  Including drive time plus stop and gawk time, a minimum of two hours should be expected on hwy 37 in the NRA.  I personally appreciated the many similarities to parts of Utah, such as the colorful hills and the gooseneck river canyon. 

There is also camping of various types within the NRA.  A few more photos HERE of Bighorn Canyon NRA.

Our home for a few days was at Sibley Lake National Forest campground, which is high up in the Bighorn Mountains, at 7900 feet.  It was quite chilly while we were there, with lows in the 30s.  Brrrrrr!  The campground has some electric only sites, and some with absolutely no hookups.  It is in the forest, so there is a lot of shade, but not much for true privacy.  However, the big sites and quietness were great!

- Marcia


mellow Montana

Posted by Marcia on August 23, 2016 at 4:35 PM Comments comments (0)

We enjoyed a few mellow days in the lovely state of Montana, based in White Sulphur Springs.  I just love the rolling mountains and big spaces of Montana! 

We rode hwy 89 from White Sulphur Springs through the Little Belt Mountains to Belt and back - quite a pretty drive.  And on the way home, we saw a pronghorn.  The pronghorn is a unique North American mammal. It is not a member of the goat or deer or antelope family, even though they may look similar. The pronghorn is the only surviving member of its family and has been in North America for over a million years. The pronghorn is the second fastest land mammal in the world, after the cheetah. It can attain speeds of over 53 miles (86k) per hour.  We had probably seen them before and didn't realize it, but this guy just stood and watched us.  Awesome!

It seemed like it had been a while since we did some good brew tasting, so we walked over to 2 Basset Brewery right in town.  We sampled eight different beers, and ALL of them were tasty!  We would highly recommend a stop there!

As a followup to brew tasting, we dined at the local Branding Iron Cafe - great food, good quantities!  It's the place where everyone knows everyone... except us.  ;)

Last, and CERTAINLY not least - We also did some jeeping in the area - we drove Birch Creek Rd and Duck Creek Rd from White Sulphur Springs to Canyon Ferry Lake - another nice pleasant ride, with some great views on the west end.  This particular ride was en route to visit a friend from long long ago...  We had a great time visiting with Chris, her hubby Bill, and family!  It's SO awesome getting back in touch with friends!

We stayed at Conestoga Campground and RV Park, right in White Sulphur Springs.  It was another field type campground, with strips of grass separating narrow gravel sites with full hookups.  It isn't in a "prime" location - no major parks nearby.  They provide good wifi, and our Verizon worked great too.  Conestoga accepts many camp memberships, and we stayed there using our RPI membership for $13/night.

A few more photos HERE.

- Marcia

Yellowstone... the first National Park

Posted by Marcia on August 22, 2016 at 3:30 PM Comments comments (0)

Weird and Wacky... hmmm...

Wonderful Wildlife... hmmm...

Ok, let's try this:

Yellowstone National Park inspires awe in travelers from around the world. At the heart of Yellowstone's past, present, and future lies volcanism. About 2 million years ago, then 1.3 million years ago, and again 640,000 years ago, huge volcanic eruptions occurred here. The latest spewed out 240 cubic miles of debris. The central part of what is now the park collapsed, forming a 30- by 45-mile caldera, or basin. The magmatic heat powering those eruptions still powers the park's geyers, hot springs, fumaroles and mudpots. The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River gives a deeper view of these forces: its waterfalls highlight the boundaries of lava flows and thermal areas. Rugged mountains flank the park's volcanic plateau, rewarding eye and spirit.

So... as for Weird and Wacky... Doesn't this strike you as odd? Yellowstone hosts around 4 MILLION visits per year... millions of people drive around INSIDE an active caldera looking for evidence that it is still active. Huh. Sometimes we humans aren't nearly as smart as we think we are.

So... as for Wonderful Wildlife... Just to prove how "smart" the human race is... there's been an astonishing trend of people being injured or even killed by being too close to the wildlife, usually in attempts to get a better picture. Doh!

All that being said, yes, we also visited Yellowstone, a simmering volcanic caldera. And yes, we motorcycled within eight feet of a huge bison - he was on the side of his road (it IS his territory!), and we had to get by somehow. And of course I snapped photos as we went slowly by.

So what does this say about us? Putting the positive political spin on it, I guess it means that we're adventurous explorers putting ourselves in the way of danger for the benefit of our two blog followers. hahaha

Jesting aside, we had already visited Yellowstone together several times, and with the exception of Beartooth Pass (Hwy 212 northeast OUTSIDE of the Park),

we've never been all that thrilled. So this time I had the goal to learn to like Yellowstone N.P. more. With that motivation, we visited the highlights, such as Old Faithful

and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River,

other intriguing visitor favorites, such as Grand Prismatic Spring,

 and some lesser visited areas, such as Lower Geyser Basin.


I will say I've obtained a better appreciation of its unique qualities, and enjoyed riding through the forests and valleys. But guess what? Greg and I both still like motorcycling Beartooth Pass and seeing the wildlife best, out of all that we've seen and done at Yellowstone.

Our home base for these few days was south of West Yellowstone at Valley View RV Park, near Island Park, Idaho. It's a standard field "campground" with no trees or shade, but the location was good, and we were able to use our Passport America membership to get half off two nights.  Verizon worked well enough for internet, and they also provided free wifi anyway!

Because of our location, we were able to buzz down to Mesa Falls one day, and we checked out Upper and Lower Falls there. There's a nice overlook trail at Upper Mesa, and you can really see and feel the force and the sheer volume of water. It's harder to get that same feel at Lower Mesa, as the overlook is pretty far away, although it looked like there could be a fun hiking trail that gets good closeup action, if you're up for strenuous downhill/uphill hiking. In a different location, Mesa Falls could be a star. But situated near Yellowstone and the Teton Mountains, it's like the poor stepsister. If you're driving by - definitely stop. But I personally wouldn't suggest going out of your way.

One other item of note - there were many wildfires in and around Yellowstone. The smoke got pretty bad in some areas, and really wreaked havoc on our eyes while we motorcycled Hwy 212 between the Park and Beartooth. I have to admit - I often caught myself watching the smoke and how it interplayed with the sun, the scenery and the clouds, rather than paying attention to the Park itself.

As always, more photos HERE!

- Marcia



educational Idaho

Posted by Marcia on August 14, 2016 at 5:55 PM Comments comments (0)

As you may have noted from the last post, we've been getting quite an education here in Idaho, and it continued when we moved to the Pocatello area.  It was an unusual visit for us - all about museums, rather than natural beauty.  Heading back in time...

The EBR-1 Atomic Museum located near Arco, ID, is a National Historic Landmark. 

What happened on a December day in 1951 in the Idaho desert that changed how electric power would be generated for generations to come? Ever wonder how electricity is generated from nuclear fission? Ever seen a nuclear reactor up close and in person? When you visit the EBR-I Atomic Museum, you’ll learn the full story behind the first nuclear reactor used to create always-available electric power.

A relatively small group of scientists, engineers, and technicians using slide rules and chalkboards generated electricity by splitting atoms.  On Dec. 20, 1951, EBR-1 became the first power plant in the world to produce usable electricity using atomic energy.

The free guided tour was great.  We learned a little of the science behind atomic energy, we walked thru the plant and saw how it worked and all the safety features, and heard little stories about the people.  The entire plant has been rendered totally inoperable now, so even in the old control room, all buttons and levers, etc. can be pushed, pulled, turned, etc.  Just think of it - the technology and the plant itself was completely cutting edge in the 1950s.  Not so high-tech anymore!

One little haha there - On the historic day when nuclear was first used to generate power, the "important" staff members, ie scientists and management, chalked their names on a wall to commemorate their achievement.  That night, the janitor, Jolley, chalked his name there too.  Apparently, the head honcho was NOT happy, even tho other staffers thought it was funny.  Jolley's name was not removed, but no other names were added.  At a later date, a sign was completed that included the names of all the support staff, providing them recognition for their contribution to the effort.  The signed wall was covered with glass and framed, and can still be seen. 

The Idaho Potato Museum in Blackfoot, ID, showcases the history of the potato, the growing and harvesting process, nutrition, trivia and educational potato facts.  Potatoes were first grown in Idaho in 1847, but the famous Idaho russet was first planted in 1872.  In just a few decades, the crop boomed into a million dollar plus industry.  Why do potatoes thrive in Idaho?  Idaho’s rich volcanic soil is ideally suited for potatoes, water from the snowmelt reservoirs are used to irrigate the potatoes, and sunny, warm days together with cool nights all combine to provide nearly perfect growing conditions for potatoes. 

The museum has displays of all types of potato memorabilia, but I have to say I was most humored by the decorated potato sack clothes, as I remember tales of older family members wearing gunny sack clothing (tall tale or true?).  I will say, this museum had a bit too much "hokey" and not enough real education for my tastes.  It's hard to look at tons of pieces of memorabilia, and actually learn something from it.

For our last stop in our Idaho time travels, we visited the National Oregon/California Trail Center, located in Montepelier. 

It offers visitors a unique and entertaining interpretive indoor adventure; simulating an actual wagon train experience of the 1850s. Re-enacted entirely within our comfortable center, this interpretive experience features historically accurate interpretive areas and live actors. Patrons will go back in time to visit a gun shop, mercantile, ride in a covered wagon and spend time around the evening encircled wagon train at the Clover Creek Encampment.

The "wagon train experience" is a novel way to learn more about the pioneer time.  We had two different guides. The man was great, he explained a lot, took his time, made sure we understood.  The lady - not so much.  She seemed to rush us through her parts, it seemed like she was distracted, and I honestly don't remember anything.  It really pointed out the impact a good or not-so-good guide can have on a tour. 

Besides the "experience," there wasn't much else at the Trail Center.  There were a lot of paintings done by one artist, showing his idea of what the wagon trains would have looked like at various points along the trail.  And there was a quilt display upstairs, which seems like it doesn't really fit, but it does. Quilts were important in those days, not just to keep warm, but to trade with the Indians, and sadly to say, to wrap deceased relatives in before burying them trailside.

We didn't do much for scenic motorcycling, but we did one loop while museum hopping.  Hwy 30 from Pocatello to Montpelier was nice, Hwy 89 from Montpelier to Logan, UT was pretty cool, and then Hwy 91 from Logan to Pocatello was, again, nice.  The roads are all in good shape, scenery was nice to great, so it was a nice little jaunt to pass the time. 

We stayed at Sullivans Mobile Home Park in Pocatello.  Sullivans has been single family owned since it was created in the 1950s.  The owners are super nice and helpful.  But the place, well, didn't look very nice.  However, we had full hookups on a level lot, and it worked for what we needed.  Verizon worked ok, so that meant we had internet - kind of important to us on the road.  ;)

More photos HERE!

- Marcia






Idaho variety pack

Posted by Marcia on August 13, 2016 at 9:40 PM Comments comments (0)

Most of our stops are located near something major - a national park, relatives...  That was not the case for our stay near Twin Falls.  As part of my research on determining where to go, I check out natural attractions, weird and wacky stuff, parks, tours,etc. - all kinds of things.  In the Twin Falls area, I noticed a lot of "little" attractions, enough to intrigue me.  So we headed that way, for a variety pack of interesting diversions.

En route, we stopped at Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve.  We'd already been there, done that in prior years, but thought we'd revisit.  Per the brochure:

The craters of Craters of the Moon... are definitely of volcanic origin.  But where is the volcano?  These vast volumes of lava issued not from one volcano but from a series of deep fissures - known collectively as the Great Rift - that cross the Snake River Plain.  Beginning 15,000 years ago lava welled up from the Great Rift to produce this vast ocean of rock.  The most recent eruption occurred a mere 2,000 years ago, and geologists believe that future events are likely.

So the landscape at Craters is actually quite young, in earth terms!  The park has a short Loop Road with nice walking trails and exhibits.  I personally like the look of the smooth, rope-like pahoehoe lava.

On the other hand, the landscape of the City of Rocks National Preserve is extremely old!

The landscape of City of Rocks has been sculpted from granite that was intruded into the crust during two widely spaced times. The granite that composes most of the spires is part of the 28-million-year-old Almo pluton. However, some of the spires are made of granite that is part of the 2.5 billion year old Green Creek Complex that contains some of the oldest rocks in the western United States. The granite has eroded into a fascinating assortment of shapes.

The City of Rocks is a popular rock climbing area, with over 1,000 traditional and bolt-protected routes.  However, since we aren't crazy enough to rock climb, we merely drove thru on the City of Rocks Back Country Byway.  By the way, the Byway (hehe) is gravel, and not so bad in the Preserve, but from the Preserve west to Oakley - washboard city!  Not fun on the bike.   Anyway, it was neat seeing all the odd rock formations, but checking out Register Rock was way cool!  What's the significance of Register Rock?, you ask...  Well, let me tell you.  California Trail wagon trains of the 1840s and 1850s traveled through the area and over Granite Pass into Nevada. Names or initials of emigrants written in axle grease are still visible on Register Rock. Now THAT's cool!

The beautiful Shoshone Falls is right on the edge of Twin Falls.  With a 212 foot drop and a width of 900 feet, it is one of the largest natural waterfalls in the United States.  The flows over the falls are seasonal runoffs from the Snake River, so peak water flow months are Apr - Jul.  We were a bit disappointed in the flow while we visited, but the Falls made up for lack of volume by presenting us with a lovely rainbow.  :)

Also right in town is the Perrine Bridge.  Yes, it's a pretty bridge, and yes, it's 1,500 feet long and 486 feet above the Snake River, and yes, it offers pedestrian walkways with views of the river, lakes, and waterfalls. But that isn't why it's famous.  Perrine Bridge is one of the few places where BASE jumping is legal in the U.S. 

BASE jumping is parachuting or wingsuit flying from a fixed structure or cliff. "BASE" is an acronym that stands for four categories of fixed objects from which one can jump: building, antenna, span, and Earth (cliff).  Due to the lower altitudes of the jumps, BASE jumping is significantly more dangerous than skydiving from a plane.

And well, hot diggity dog!  We got to see BASE jumpers!  There was a group of folks, with what appeared to be an instructor, hanging out chatting by the edge of the bridge, so I kinda hung back and watched.  They headed out onto the bridge, and I just knew they were going to jump. In the photo below, you can see the blue chute just beginning to open, the jumper below and to the right of the chute, and the red static line going up to the bridge.  The static line is a method to mechanically extract a parachute from a closed container, which allows for jumps from lower altitudes and provides almost instant deployment.

Southern Idaho is also known for its springs. 

The Thousand Springs area near Hagerman offers some of the most unique geology in Idaho. The springs that burst out of the canyon walls represent the end of a journey of water that begins in the Craters of the Moon area nearly 100 miles away. As the "lost rivers" of southcentral Idaho flow over the extensive lava fields of the Craters of the Moon area, the water sinks into the porous lava and disappears underground into a massive underground aquifer, until eventually flowing as waterfalls out of the canyon walls of the Middle Snake River.

It was very neat to see these springs flowing out of what appears to be solid rock!  Niagara Springs is a beautiful example.

However, one of our favorite activities each day was seeing the sun set over Murtaugh Lake from our home for the duration. Murtaugh Lake Park has a small campground, with gravel roads and parking sites, but lots of grassy areas with nice picnic table cabanas. Several of the campsites have docks with them for swimming and mooring your boat. $15 per night includes water and electric, but there is no sewer or dump station onsite.  There is also no showerhouse, which is no problem for those of us who carry our whole house with us.  The camp hosts are great - the man even gave us two keychains he made himself! The campground is utilized mostly by locals who pull in regularly on weekends, but during the week - the place is deserted!  Nice!  The good Verizon signal at Murtaugh Lake provided our internet.

Now for the NomadMiller wrapup... I thought watching the BASE jumpers was WAY cool, and seeing the springs gush out of a cliffside rocked.  And of course, those sunsets were amazing. Greg's list of faves included the springs, the gorgeous sunsets, and receiving the keychains from the very nice host.  So there - we agreed on two - the sunsets and the springs were the top of the list from this stay.

More photos HERE!

- Marcia

mining and mountains

Posted by Marcia on August 12, 2016 at 8:10 PM Comments comments (0)

Per a recommendation for a "jeeping" road, we went out on the Custer Motorway Adventure Road.  So ok... it really isn't a "jeeping" road... pretty much any auto can do it, it's just gravel.  It's more of a historical driving tour, vs a scenic one; it wasn't BAD scenery, it just wasn't great.  Which I guess is perspective, since we have been traveling in so many amazing parts of North America! 

Per their brochure:

The discovery of gold deposits and establishment of Bonanza and Custer demanded large quantities of supplies and heavy mining equipment to support the hundreds of miners who "rushed" to the Yankee Fork mines.  Alexander Toponce obtained a charter from the Idaho Territorial Legislature to build a toll road from Challis to Bonanza.  Completed in October 1879, the new road remained the only waon and stage access to the district for the next 10 years.

The charge was $4.00 for a wagon and a team of four animals plus 50 cents for each additional animal.  Initially, the stage fare was $11.00, dropping to $8.00 by April, 1880.

Yikes!  That's expensive!  In todays dollars, that's approx $250 to ride the stage 40 miles (at the higher price).  It cost us about $4 in gas to do the same trip, in a lot less time!  ;)  We did get to see remnants of a mill,

ruins from the tollgate station, a couple cemetaries, and a few preserved buildings of Custer.  We also saw the Yankee Fork Gold Dredge which was operated in the 1940s.  The dredge dug its way five miles up the Yankee Fork, mining 6.3 million cubic yards of stream gravel and leaving behind 5.5 miles of dredge tailings.  It recovered an estimated $1,037,322 in gold and silver at a cost of $1,076,100.  Not so profitable! 

I think I found my next house while we were out biking - the views HAVE to be amazing!  Each "hill" was a different color, with a natural ravine/canyon meandering thru.  wow!

Even more wow are the Sawtooth Mountains themselves.  I've been in love with them since our first trip thru in 2005.   It's easily understandable where the name came from - they are such sharp, jagged peaks, literally looking like the edge of a saw blade.

We stayed in Challis, Idaho, at the Round Valley RV Resort.  It's quite a distance from the Sawtooths - about an hour drive - but it's a pretty drive, so not a big deal if you only plan to head over there once.  They allowed us to use our Passport America membership for four nights, and $18 per night for full hookups on a LARGE level lot is hard to beat!  There isn't any shade now, but little trees have been planted.  The new owners are repairing the landscape damage left by the prior owners.  There is also free wifi, and our Verizon worked great, so we had internet.  One thing I enjoyed was the spacious lawn - I got to hula hoop!  Most RV parks in the west are basically gravel, which damages hoops.

So now for the infamous Miller roundup... Greg enjoyed motorcycling in general in the Sawtooth area.  I loved seeing the Sawtooths again, so beautiful!  Perhaps the most memorable take away was a more vivid understanding of the voraciousness of wildfires - how quickly and easily they can start and spread and overwhelm.  The Pioneer Fire, at Lowman, on highways 21 and 17, is now up to 66,884 acres, and there are 1,459 personnel assigned to the fire, including 37 crews, 11 helicopters, 48 engines, 10 dozers, 22 water tenders and 6 masticators.  Wow!  Also very noteworthy - people in affected areas just continue with their lives, as if there wasn't a fire raging just a few miles away.

Extra photos HERE and HERE!

- Marcia



a story of smoke

Posted by Marcia on August 9, 2016 at 12:35 AM Comments comments (0)

One of our last days near Glacier NP, MT, I mentioned to Greg how lucky we'd been, that we haven't had problems with smoke or wildfires this year...  famous last words. 

Before we left, I checked online to see where the major wildfires are this year.  Lo and behold - there was a fire directly in our path, where we were planning to drive the beast to our new home.  Our road, hwy 93, had been closed the day before, but was reopened.  We sure hoped the highway would remain open, as it was at minimum a two hour detour (if we knew early enough!).  So we headed down, and yay! hwy 93 near Hamilton MT was open.  We drove thru a bit of smoke, and we could still see the hot spots from Roaring Lion, but it looked like it was pretty much under containment. 

We arrived at our campground, Round Valley RV Park in Challis, ID, and it had, as they say, patchy smoke.  But within minutes of us getting set up, the smoke thickened until we couldn't see the lovely hills that surround the area.

So there we were, in one of my favorite locations in the U.S. - the Sawtooth Mountains - and I had great plans as to which lovely roads I wanted to motorcycle on.  Well, we realized that the smoke at our campground was NOT from Roaring Lion; it was from somewhere closer to the Sawtooths.  So I searched online, and found out that one of the worst current wildfires, the Pioneer Fire, was southwest of us, at Lowman, between Stanley and Boise, and it was the one sending smoke our way.  And one of the roads we wanted to bike on, hwy 21 between Lowman and Idaho City, was closed.  So we decided to just ride as far as we could, before the smoke got too bad, or we were turned back.  We obviously wouldn't want to hamper the firefighting at all.  There was also the possibility of turning west at Lowman on Hwy 17 if we got that far.  There were spots where the smoke got really thick!  And the quasi-sunlight made things look eerie. 

But we enjoyed the ride, the route was pretty, especially that section along hwy 17.  We caught a glimpse of a firefighter tent city in Lowman, and we saw helicopters refilling and flying water in.

I got myself into the habit of checking on the various nearby wildfires on a regular basis.  So I discovered that the next day, the Pioneer Fire had jumped Hwy 17, and that lovely road was now closed too.

So then on our last day in the area, we finally did the beautiful ride thru the Sawtooth Mountains.  It was the best weather/sky day yet - no smoke or haze, just some normal puffy clouds.  We headed north on hwy 21 just to Stanley Lake, to get some photos, and because I wanted to see if I could find where we boondocked during our 2009 RV adventure (found it!)  Then we headed south on hwy 75, the beautiful mountain route between Stanley and Ketchum/Sun Valley.  Loved it!  More on this later...  So as we were returning north on hwy 75, to go back home, we saw smoke in the distance.  I kept thinking it was way too close, and the wrong direction, to be the Pioneer Fire.  OMG.  It was a NEW fire - just started that morning!!!  AND it was right by Stanley Lake, where we had been just a couple hours prior. The now named Dry Creek Fire has expanded to 1200 acres in less than two days.  And it closed off Hwy 21 between Stanley and Lowman, the route we had been on just two days earlier!

<sigh>  It's a rough year for Idaho wildfires!

More pics:  HERE.

- Marcia