YertleLing From Sioux Falls — Day 3

Rose early, about 6:00ish, fixed coffee, ate a light breakfast and hit the road for The Wildlife Loop. Saw bookoo buffalo, deer, antelope, donkeys and prairie dogs. Got some great pictures. The donkeys come up and stick their heads in the windows begging for food.

Worked our way back to the campsite, broke camp and Yertled over to a different campsite (long story) and re-set up camp. Ate a snack of soup and crackers and headed out to Iron Mountain Road, a very narrow, pigtail curvy road, but beautiful. Reached an elevation where we could see Mount Rushmore in the distance. Pulled over, climbed a small cliff and got some great pictures of George, Thomas, Abe and Teddy.

Stopped in Hill City, gassed up, headed for a local park to potty Chica, then to a local bar to fulfill a life-long dream of Mary’s — to sit in a bar and have a beer in Hill City. So we saddled up to the Bumpin Buffalo Bar, ordered beers, and Mary promptly knocked hers all over me and the bar. Finished the beers and hit the Needles Highway back to Custer State Park. Needles is narrow, curvy and scary through the tunnels.

Got back to the campsite about 5:00ish and chilled. I went for the beer, Mary for the wine, which she promptly dumped all over the ground. Some days are like that, right? Chilled for about an hour, then fixed bacon cheeseburgers with potato salad and baked beans. Yum! Mary took Chica for a walk and cleaned up the kitchen. I walked the trash down the road to the dumpster. It’s 9:00 as I write this, and still light outside, although barely. Homeward bound tomorrow, a full day on the road.


YertleLing To Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park — Day 5

Slept lousy, listening to rain and wishing I’d hitched up the evening before. Rose at 5:30, made coffee, and began preparing for the return trip. Mary did all the inside Yertle stuff while I did all the outside Yertle stuff.

Broke camp by 9:00 am and headed east toward Gunnison where we stopped and took advantage of a free dump station.

Climbed (struggled) through Monarch Pass, about 11,000′. The BATMobile just isn’t quite enough truck for some parts of the Rockies.

Ate leftovers for lunch while driving. Basically we “booked it” home as quickly as possible and pulled into the yard by 4:30, unpacked and headed for real showers.

My basic assessment is that camping is a tremendous amount of work, but worth the effort. We meet lots of interesting people and see spectacular country side. It’s a reminder of childhood, when life seemed carefree, a reminder that one must work hard and then play hard, a reminder that one doesn’t need much to survive and be happy — no internet, no phone, no TV — just food, water, shelter and conversation.

YertleLing To Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park — Day 4

Got up at 6:00ish. It was raining. Had our coffee, fixed scrambled eggs and sausage, then headed for what’s called the East Portal, a narrow two-lane road (restricted to vehicles less than 22′ in length) that drops into the canyon at a 16% grade. Dang, that’s steep, but well worth the effort. This was my favorite part of the trip. The East Portal is absolutely drop-dead gorgeous. This is worth repeating — the East Portal of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is drop-dead gorgeous.

Climbed back out of the canyon and lost 2 tenths of a mile per gallon. Drove into Montrose to re-stock beer, whiskey, ice and firewood, then stopped for gas so we’d leave for home in the morning with a full tank.

Arrived back at the campsite and took a short hike. Then chilled and did some reading. There’s no cell or internet service in the canyon, so it feels a lot like the 1980’s here.

Added 5 gallons of water to the fresh water tank. This is a recurring problem when YertleLing. We run out of water. Sixty gallons goes fast, even if you don’t shower.

Drank some beer and whisky, fixed a dinner of leftovers, drank some more beer and whiskey, chilled by the fire, then retired into Yertle for the night by 9:00. Life is good. Oh, I didn’t mention hanky panky if a certain somebody asks.

YertleLing To Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park — Day 3

Crested Butte
Crested Butte

Rose at 6:00 am. Had coffee, but skipped breakfast, fixed a skimpy picnic lunch and got on the road heading northeast to Crested Butte, a beautiful small ski town. Took two hours to get there. Spent most of our time there in the library trying to figure out how to download an important email that required feedback. The attached file was so large, our iPads and phones couldn’t handle it, so we had to email it to the library, download and print it. What a pain, but thanks to very cooperative library staff, we got er done.

Had a late lunch just on the outskirts of town, then took a short hike, before heading back. When we got back to the campsite, Mary took Chica for a walk while I set up the grill and fireplace. When they returned, we worked on a dinner of brisket sandwiches, corn on the cob and other side dishes.

True to our leisurely selves, we spent the rest of the evening laid back in recliners before a blazing campfire, drinking shots and conversing before crashing, again before 9:00.

YertleLing To Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park — Day 2

Ancient Technology
Ancient Technology

Rose after 6:00 am, late for us. Had our morning coffee, then hiked a beautiful trail to the Visitor’s Center, about a 3-mile round trip. The views of the Canyon were breathtaking. When we got back to the campsite we made a breakfast of fried eggs and jalapeño bacon — yum!

Next we drove back to the Visitor’s Center for a little gift-buying venture. Spent way too much money, of course. Also, we saw something very strange there, very rare — ancient technology. Then we drove the South Rim, stopping at various gorgeous viewpoints and took a ton of pictures. After that, drove into the town of Montrose to pick up more beer, more ice and some firewood.

Arrived back at the campsite where I setup the grill and the campfire while Mary took Chica for a walk. She returned with a story that a doe, a deer, a female deer, had become very aggressive and tried to attack Chica. Turns out that last year a couple of dogs had attacked and killed a fawn, and that ever since then, the deer had become aggressive toward all dogs. I witnessed this on two other, separate occasions, and concluded that as long as there was a male person with the dog, the deer were aggressive but less likely to actually attack than if there was a female alone with the dog. Strange! Reminded me of “Zoo.”

Dinner time arrived. We fixed brats and all the fixings, then chilled before the fire with beer, whiskey and conversation. Very relaxing! Nothing beats solving the world’s problems with your best friend.

Crashed hard again before 9:00 pm.

YertleLing To Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park — Day 1

This was a bittersweet trip. Sweet because it was loads of fun and very relaxing. Bitter because we were supposed to caravan with close friends, another couple with an Airstream. Unfortunately, one of them was unexpectedly diagnosed with a type of cancer that required immediate attention.

So, instead of leaving on Sunday, we left at about 8:30 am Monday morning, behind schedule. Took the Peak to Peak Highway out of Estes Park to I-70, then I-70 West toward Grand Junction to Highway 65 and headed south. We worked our way down to Montrose through Grand Mesa and into Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. The BAT-Mobile really struggled pulling Yertle through the nearly 11,000′ peaks. It was a 369 mile trip, and we arrived at 6:00 pm, so I had to break my rule of trying to travel 300 miles or less per day and be in the campground by 3:00 pm.

We set up in Campsite B-11, a pull-through, which worked out well because the back-ins were very small. Mary unpacked and set up housekeeping while I unhitched, leveled Yertle and got the campfire and grill ready.

Cheeseburgers, etc., were the menu, beer and whiskey the beverages. Crashed hard before 9:00.

YertleLing Home — Leg 2

Left the motel early and jumped onto I-70 headed west knowing it would be another nearly 500 mile day, but I was into my second wind by that point, so there was no stopping us getting home that night. Parts of I-70 between Salina and Hays, Kansas are in terrible shape. I swear, Uncle Sam needs to get his priorities straight and start putting his money in this country before other countries.

Back to my point that there was no stopping us getting home that night. I should have said almost no stopping us because when we were within about 40 miles of home and passing through Longmont, Colorado, disaster nearly struck on I-25. We were in the right-hand lane doing 60 mph. A jeep in the far left lane suddenly moved into the middle lane and crashed into a car, which sent that car into our lane. I braked, swerved to the shoulder and sent Yertle into a temporary but manageable sway. It was a very scary few seconds that took our breaths away. Mary thought we’d been hit, but I was pretty sure we hadn’t been — and, fortunately, we weren’t.

Arrived home in the late afternoon after a nearly three week trip that totaled approximately 4,600 miles. Driving time came to nearly 97 hours at 13.5 miles per gallon. We burned up 339 gallons of gas at less than $3/gallon. Not bad. In fact, I’d say the BATmobile did herself proud.

Unloaded most of Yertle and the BATmobile, chilled out for awhile, tried to readjust, not very successfully, to being at 8,000′ altitude, went out for a quick dinner, crashed early, got up early, finished unloading Yertle and returned her to storage.

As we used to say back during the druggie days — Talk about a trip, man, that was a trip!

Stay tuned for the next Yertle trip. It won’t be the same next time. We learned it’s far too difficult to travel this way, where you stop for the night and leave in the morning. From now on we plan to stay in each spot for at least a couple of days so we can enjoy each campground a little longer. So I won’t be taking Yertle back to New York next month like I had planned. I’ll fly this time.

YertleLing Home — Leg 1

Left our friends’ home with tears in our eyes. About a mile down the road, I had to fight back the sobs. I felt bad about leaving. Best friends aren’t supposed to be so dang far apart.

Nearly 500 miles later we arrived in Salina, Kansas. And yes, I know I broke my 300 mile per day rule. It’s just that we wanted to get home as quickly as possible. I guess we were homesick.

And to make the trip even faster, we decided to stay in a motel. But right after we checked in, a fire broke out in an AC unit down the hall. Fire trucks were everywhere. Needless to say, this made us uncomfortable, so we checked out and then checked into a different motel.

Slept like babies that night.

YertleLing To Arkansas — Leg 5

Broke camp early and Yertled the last leg to Arkansas, about 310 miles. Spent three days reminiscing with friends we haven’t seen in far too long of awhile. They treated us like royalty — fantastic feasts, conversation, laughter and oh yes, even tears.

Arkansas is a beautiful state. We were on the White River near Bull Shoals. Our friends have daily deer, turkey and bird visitors. In fact, the critters frequent their property so often that the deer and turkey have been named. Even some of the birds have names, particularly the pileated woodpeckers. The squirrels, however, are all called SQUIRREL and are chased off as unwelcome feeder-food thieves.

Our visit was far too short, and suddenly it was bedtime on the night before departure.

YertleLing To Arkansas — Leg 4

Broke camp early and drive the Cades Cove Loop. That was almost a huge mistake. Th road was narrow, hilly, swervy, and scary for Yertle because of her low center of gravity. Took us an hour to drive 9 miles. Saw one doe, a flock of turkeys, a lone bear, and and a momma bear with twin cubs. Mary got some good pics.

Finally worked our way to I-40 and headed back west. Drove 340 miles — a very long day but worth it. Arrived in Natchez Trace State Park in western Tennessee, and was assigned the most beautiful campsite we’ve been on this whole trip. We’re on Cub Lake, in Campground #1, Campsite #23.

I had to do some pretty serious backup maneuvering to get Yertle into place, but did ourselves proud. We’re on a small peninsula surrounded by Cub Lake. Absolutely gorgeous! And the weather has cooled to 80 degrees, which is tolerable with the breeze coming off the lake. My bet is it’ll drop to a perfect 70 degrees tonight.

We’re chilling out now over beer and whiskey, getting ready to charcoal pork chops and whatever. Should be sacked out shortly after dark, and should arrive at our destination in Arkansas tomorrow. Can’t wait, and neither can Mary and Chica. We’re road weary, to say the least, and looking forward to down time with good friends.