Wednesday, July 9, 2014

2014 Western Camping...Day 21...Monday, June 21, 2014

Rules of Camping #26...The “Altitude Coefficient of Buzz”.
For every 5000 feet of altitude, the effects of any alcoholic beverage increase by a factor of one. So, at sea level, one beer equals one beer; at 5000 feet, one beer equals two beers; at 10,000 feet, one beer equals three beers, etc.

I'm normally up between 6:00 and 7:00 every morning, but this morning, I'm not out of bed until almost 9:00...and I don't feel so good. I don't feel so good because I have forgotten “Rules of Camping #26...The “Altitude Coefficient of Buzz. Down here on the eastern side of the Park, I'm up around 6500 feet, which means that effect of each alcoholic beverage is more than double. So...that Bourbon before dinner was really two Bourbons...and that ½ bottle of red wine was really a whole bottle, and those six beers with Rob and Tim were really twelve beers. No wonder I feel bad.
Around 11:00, after much coffee, I head into Estes Park for a shower at the local Laundromat/Shower. I feel much better after the shower. Now dressed in clean clothes and cleanly shaven, I head back to Ed's Cantina...a little “hair of the dog” in the form of a Margarita...Bison Tacos...a cream for dessert. After lunch, more shopping...but I skip another trip to the Brewery.
Back at camp, I do some more reading. I would like to do some hiking but, even at 6500 feet, the altitude is a killer for me. So, I read, tidy up my campsite, plan out dinner...and the afternoon flies by.
Around 5:00, Rob and Tim come by, but this time, I'm taking it easy. So we share only a beer or two before being joined by Al who is camping across the road. Al's making the rounds saying hello to his fellow campers, and he stays for one beer. He next visits a couple camping across the road with a short-legged, powerfully-built mean dog of indeterminate breed. The couple waves him over...but...he's not two feet into their campsite when the dog takes off like a bullet, hits Al square in the chest, and knocks him to the ground. Al is able to fend the dog off with his legs and feet before the couple manages to grab the dog's collar and pull him off. Al returns to my campsite...he hasn't been bitten, but he's hurt his back. I give him a beer and some arthritis “medicine”. Soon, he feels better...much better.
I have leftovers from Ed's, so I heat those up for dinner...two more beers with that.
I bought firewood in town so, after dinner, I make a nice campfire...kindling, paraffin “firecubes”, starts right up. I nurse one small glass of CatDaddy white whiskey while the fire burns. By 10:00, the fire is out...and so am I.

2014 Western Camping...Day 20...Sunday, June 22, 2014 wasn't a great sleep, but certainly better than the night before. I've got leftover coffee in the Thermos, so I can enjoy a cup right away with a morning cigar.
I packed up and hitched up the camper last night so, as soon as I finish my third cup of coffee, I'm on the road to the east side of the Park to find a campsite.
It's another one and a half hour “white knuckle” trip up and over the Rockies. My early start pays dividends as I am able to find a nice campsite in the Moraine Park Campground. I unhitch and set up camp. Then, it's off to Estes Park for lunch. I head to Ed's Cantina...very good Mexican food, icy cold beer and excellent Margaritas. I settle in at the bar and order a “top shelf” Margarita followed by Bison Enchiladas with Green Pork Sauce and Dos Equis draft. I feel much better now.
After lunch, I walk around Estes Park for awhile, pick up a few souvenirs. Then, I drive over to Estes Park Brewery for a cold lager (15 “beers” on tap and only one is a lager). On the way back to camp, I stop at the Safeway and pick up a steak and some potato salad.
Two guys camping next to me stop by to say hello. Rob and Tim...friends from Baltimore, although Rob has moved to California. Tim flew out to the West Coast, and the two of them are on a three-week camping trip. I read for awhile before cocktail time. I grill my steak and eat that with some potato salad and a chocolate bar for dessert.
After dinner, Rob and Tim stop back over with some firewood and a cooler full of beer (ale, actually). It turns out that they are fellow arthritis sufferers, so we share and compare our medications purchased in Colorado. We talk, tell stories and jokes, laugh...and drink lots of beers very late into the night. It's after 1:00AM before we finally call it a night.

2014 Western Camoping...Day 19...Saturday, June 21, 2014

Rules of Camping #32...Always store liquids in a leak-proof container.

Not a good night's sleep last night...a combination of dust, heat and altitude did not make for good sleeping. After making coffee, I o0pen the refrigerator to get a container of yoghurt and find that I have a surprise...a very unpleasant surprise. A large container of “Dulce de Leche” (milk syrup) has fallen over during the last drive, and it has spilled everywhere...covering almost everything in the refrigerator, pooled at the bottom and spilled out of the refrigerator onto the floor and under the floor mats. first order of the day is a nasty two-hour cleanup job removing sticky syrup from inside the camper.
At 8900 feet, the air is thin at the campground...hiking is out of the question. So, I set about filling my water tank...fifty yards back and forth from the central campground faucet a gallon at a time. The altitude makes this a tough job...I have to rest half-way on each leg of the trip. That done, I reorganize things in the Explorer...there's always some shifting during travel. Later I read for a few hours...listen to music on the iPod boombox.
Around 5:00, it's cocktail time...a Bourbon on the rocks and some spiced pecans. Later, I saute up the last of the bacon from Don and Mickie's party and throw it into some pasta sauce and cooked penne for a nice meal with an even nicer bottle of Chianti.
After dinner, I finish off the rest of the wine as the sun goes down...then a little Gran Marnier before bedtime. Hopefully a better sleeping night as I become acclimated to the altitude.

Monday, June 30, 2014

2014 Western Camping...Day18...Friday, June 20, 2014

Bill has a recess in his trial, and I'm having the best night of sleep in we both sleep in until after 8:00.
Bill and I drive to a little Mexican restaurant for breakfast burritos...which are excellent. And, interestingly enough, the restaurant where we eat breakfast is owned by the same family as the place where I had lunch in Sterling the day before.
After breakfast, I grab my stuff, thank Bill for his hospitality and hit the road. I'm only 60 or 70 miles from Rocky Mountain National Park, so I should arrive there early. Unfortunately the smaller road covering the last thirty miles is under construction after washing out in the spring...I am delayed over two hours. Still it's a beautiful drive through the foothills and, then, up into the Rockies.
Now...thanks to my scheming half-relative, I am two days behind schedule. So...instead of arriving on a Wednesday (when it's usually easy to get a campsite), I'm arriving on a Friday (the worst day to try to get a campsite. Arriving at the Park entrance, my fears are confirmed. All of the campgrounds on the east side of the Park are full. My only option is a campground on the west side of the Park...a thirty mile scary drive up and over the Rockies to a site at an elevation of 8900 feet. The drive takes an hour and a half...but...I'm in luck...there are plenty of campsites available. I find one that's easy to back into and set up camp.
My campground is pretty trees. And it's not particularly warm at 8900 feet either. I pour myself a Bourbon and relax at my picnic table...listening to satellite radio. For dinner, I cut up Trail bologna, salami and cheese...and have that with some crackers and a bottle of nice red wine.
The altitude is really kicking my tail...I'm tired and sleepy. soon as the sun goes down, I'm tucked into bed with my furnace set to 65 degrees.

2014 Western Camping...Day17...Thursday, June 19, 2014

Awaking from an uneasy sleep, I am greeted by sunny skies. I make coffee, and start to make plans.
I still have not heard from my counsel in Florida, and I'm really going back and forth on what to do. This morning, I've convinced myself that I will probably need to cancel my camping trip and return to Florida. Over coffee, I plot different routes back from Colorado to Florida...five days drive hard...six days drive days drive easy. I plan where to stop and camp along the way.
I'm not quite finished driving west yet though. My friends, Bill and Kathy Lamping, live in Denver...and it's only another 120 miles west to Denver. So...I call Bill and let him know that I'm on the way.
Before leaving Sterling, however, I drive into town and have lunch at a good little Mexican restaurant...beef and cheese enchiladas smothered in green chile sauce. Excellent!
My arthritis has really been acting up of late...and “traditional” medications are not helping. Fortunately, the nice people of Colorado recently passed a ballot measure to allow arthritis sufferers like me to easily access non-traditional “herbal” remedies. Arriving in Denver, I head for “Altitudes Medical and Recreational Dispensary”. I am greeted with a friendly smile, and Michael is assigned as my “budtender”. We go over all of the various forms of medicines available. I end up leaving with not only the traditional “herbal” material, but also hard candies, brownies, cookies, lollipops, and toffee.
What a great country we live in!
Around 5:00, I meet Bill at his apartment building. There's street parking next to a construction site across from Bill's apartment building, so I park there and tip the construction security guard $20 to keep an eye on the camper.
Up in the apartment, Bill pours me a large Woodford Reserve Bourbon on the rocks ( very large cube of ice). As I start to relax, my phone's my Florida counsel! To make a long story short, he tells me that I'm crazy if I come to Florida. Go ahead and enjoy the camping trip...he'll handle everything until I get back home. The irony of this is that, over thirty years as an attorney, I told countless clients of my own the same thing. It's so different when you're the client, not the attorney. I feel the best I've felt in days. Bill and I head to a nice upscale Denver restaurant called “Trillium”. We get four-course tasting menus with wine...beet salad, grilled pork chop, air-cured beef with goat cheese, lots of different wines, and great desserts. It's all good.
After dinner, we stop at a fun little basement bar connected to a bbq restaurant. At the bar, the bartenders are making artisan cocktails with house-made ingredients and hand-chipped ice cubes. Bill has a good scotch and I have a Breckenridge Bourbon.
Back at Bill's, I get to sleep for a night in a “real” bed. My spirits are camping trip is back on tracl.

2014 Western Camping...Day 16...Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Even though I haven't spoken with my Florida attorney and things are “percolating” down there, I have convinced myself to continue heading west. If I have to return to Florida, I'll just have a longer drive. I am not going to let anyone, let alone a relative (well...half-relative) mess up my summer camping trip.
So...after dumping my tanks and having coffee with Roger and Gretchen, I'm back on the road.
It's a long and mostly boring day...south from South Dakota into Iowa and then all the way across Nebraska into Sterling, Colorado. I drive...listen to Music...Vampire Weekend, Brahms, DJ Disse, some “technoized” Lana del Rey, and a few techno podcasts.
Around 6:00PM, I arrive at a campground in Sterling, Colorado. It's not a Koa or Good Sam Park...a little run-down, but it's a place to camp...and it has water and electric. The office is closed, but I call the number on the door and, soon, a lady walks down to check me in. My neighbors, Tom and Sarah, are in the campground for an “extended stay” while Tom works on a pipeline and does odd jobs for the local utility.
Once I set up camp, I pour myself a generous “four fingers” of Breckinridge Bourbon, throw in some ice and kick back. Sarah has cooked a big “turkey dinner”, and Tom brings over a huge plate of turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, corn and gravy. They are good neighbors, indeed.
After dinner, I open a beer and relax in my camp chair. But, after an hour or so, the skies grow dark...and a disturbing “weather formation” appears. Tom comes over and says that things are going to get “real bad, real soon”. There's a huge dark cloud formation with a “funnel shape” heading our way. A warning siren goes off in the emergency vehicle drives through with a loudspeaker warning everyone to take shelter. The skies grow darker...the wind picks up...rain starts to fall. Soon the wind (known as “straight line winds”) is furious...and the rain is coming down so hard that I can barely see. Tom and Sarah scoop up their three cats and shout for me to hop in their pickup with them to head for the shelter. And we drive to the edge of camp with Sarah driving and me holding a kitty on my lap ( a very unhappy kitty). We can barely see...Sarah almost hits a dumpster. The campground “shelter” is the laundry building...and it's packed with a lot of very anxious people. I take a look at the “radar app” on my phone...Sterling is smack in the middle of the “purple area”...not good. Some one has a radio...a tornado has touched down just four miles away...we are all VERY nervous. Outsine the laundry building, the rains pound and the wind shrieks...a tent comes flying by along with branches and other ball sized hail starts sounds like a acjine gun is firing on the roof.
And then...just like's over. The wind and the rain stop...the sun even pokes it's head out.
Everyone heads back to their campsites.
I get a local station on the radio...there are more storms coming, but the worst is over. They have cable TC at the campground, so I hook up and watch several episodes of “Law and Order”...drink a few beers.
I sleep, but it's a very uneasy sleep.

2014 Western Camping...Day 15...Tuesday, June 17, 2014

It's finally time to leave. After early coffee, I say goodbye to has been (as always) a great party...a great time...a lot of fun and good work.
Around 10:00, I follow Gretchen and Roger as we swing south and west out of Thompson to the “Ronald Reagan Minuteman Missle Command Site Museum”. It's a leisurely drive with stops along the way for lunch (hot dogs) and “smoke breaks”.
The Museum is an interesting tour...deep underground into the Command Bunker be elevator. We get to see how these “missile crews” spent their time both on-duty as well as leisure. The Command Site used to control five different missile launch sites...lots of firepower. This site is no longer operational, but several sites nearby are still “active”.
After the tour, it's several hours “on the road” down to Sioux Falls, South Dakota where we check in at a KOA. A few Bourbons precede our dinner. I dice up some side pork and through in a jar of pasta sauce...we boil pasta...Roger makes garlic bread from hot dog buns...we drink a lot of wine.
Another early night to bed.
I've tried calling my Florida attorney, but he has not returned my call.

2014 Western Camping...Day 14, Monday, June 16, 2014

My original plan was to leave this morning for Lincoln, Nebraska...a five hundred mile drive south and west. But those plans have changed. As many of you know, I have been having some “family problems” in Florida. But, before I left on my camping trip, a certain relative (well...”half-relative) and I worked out a temporary financial arrangement, and I secured his “word of honor” that the arrangement be would be honored and that I would be “undisturbed” on my camping trip. And now...he has broken his “word of honor” and all hell has broken loose in Florida. My attorney there is out until I decide to stick around and talk to him before heading any further west...since I might, instead, be heading to Florida.

So...on this Monday, I'm trading a 500 mile drive for a day of work. Everything that we've done over the past few days now has to be “undone”. Tables and chairs are cleaned, broken down and restacked in the garage. Leftovers are carefully evaluated and discarded or stored. The huge tent comes down...stakes out, poles down...almost as difficult coming down as going up. Roger and I make the “trash run”...the bed of his rented pickup filled with bags of garbage. Then we return Roger's rental and are picked up by Don to return for lunch.
A great lunch of leftover meats and salads...and desserts. More work until early evening.'s “cocktail time” once again. Later, another great meal of leftovers.
In the evening, sitting outside...talking, drinking wine...late in to the evening.

2014 Western Camping...Day 13...Sunday, June 15, 2014

Everybody is sleeping in and moving slow on this morning. Everybody but Roger, that is. He's up because this is “his” day...the Master of the Griddle will perform his magic.
Breakfast here is every bit as elaborate as dinner the day before. Pounds and pounds of food go on the griddle...side pork, bacon, venison sausage, potatoes, onions...the list goes on and on. Inside the house and the garage, people are hard at work on pancakes. French toast, fresh donuts, scrambled eggs, toast, coffee, juice and milk.
The crowds return...carloads of hungry people seeking breakfast. By 2:00 or 3:00 in the afternoon, it's pretty much over. Those who stay on (like me) relax.
Dinnertime comes and there are plenty of we feast on those.
Late afternoon and evening sitting in the garage (even though the weather is nice)...more beer...a few cigars.
An early night to bed tonight.

2014 Western Camping...Day 12...Saturday...June 14, 2014

The big day is finally here.
By the time that I get up, Roger already has a pot of coffee brewed. We sit in the garage over coffee and cigars. We are in side because it is already raining. The skies are dark...good thing that we have a tent.
I spend the early part of the day setting up the rest of the tables and chairs and performing a number of “odd jobs”. I make a run into Grand Forks to pick up more beer. Roger left a case of Miller Lite in the garage refrigerator last night and, this morning, it's about empty. I know that it was a late night last night as we partied with the “Kansas City Gang”.
Now, carloads of people begin to, friends, neighbors. Everybody brings a dish to share...and people tend to bring what they make best. By late afternoon, things are in full swing...lots of food?
I renew contact with lots of people that I've met here in years past...and I am greeted warmly. I've said many times that I always feel like family here. I also meet a lot of new people...and that's always fun.
As evening falls, Don gets the band set up in the barn...and the music starts. It will go on, in one form or another, until 3:00AM or so.
Lots of beer and wine is consumed this day...a lot of it by yours truly. I make it until a little after midnight...then it's time for bed.
It's been a great...and long day...and night.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

2014 Western Camping...Days 9, 10, 11...Wednesday-Friday, June 11-13, 2014

Wednesday morning, I make a "command decision". Roger and Gretchen want to travel to northern North Dakota to visit the "Peace Gardens" and, later, the Ronald Regan minuteman Missile Command Site. I'm not up for another day of driving (including three tanks of gas @ $60.00/tank). Plus, from Garyl's, I'm only an hour or less to Don and Mickie's.
So...after another great breakfast, Roger and Gretchen head out for the day. I grab a hot shower at Garyl's and head out around 10:00. In Grand Forks, I stop at Cabela's for some "bug repellant", then on to Happy Harry's wine and Liquor. At Happy Harry's, I load up on Bourbon, wine and a few cases of beer. I make another stop for groceries, then on to Don and Mickie's. When I arrive, no one is home, so I park my camper in my "designated spot" and hook up to the electrical outlets that Don has installed for campers.
Later, Mickie returns home and invites me in for rhubarb crisp and freshly-baked brownies. Don arrives later, and we have a few hours to talk. It's rainy, so Roger and Gretchen make the "Peace Gardens", but opt to skip the Missile Site. They roll in around 6:00...more cocktails. Mickie serves up a "hot meal" of "Southwest Pasta" along with salads, rolls, and plenty of dessert.
After dinner, a few beers outside...the rain has cleared up. Then, an early bedtime.

Thursday morning, Don and Roger have already been to Grand Forks to pick up a rental pickup by the time that I get out of bed. Later, Roger and I travel back to Grand Forks so that Roger can pick up Groceries and make his Happy Harry's stop. Back at Don and Mickie's, it's a day of work. Don and Roger mow the property, and I work with others to clean the garage and set up tables and chairs.
Later in the afternoon, oit's time for cocktails. Then, Roger, Gretchen and I head into Thompson for "steak night" at Brewski's Bar. The steak is thin, but decent. Not much of a wine selection at Brewski's, so we stick to beer. Back at Don and Mickie's, more beers...a few bottle of wine. Bedtime.

Friday, Roger cooks up breakfast in the morning. Later, Roger, Gretchen and I head back in to Grand Forks to stop at a small casino/bar for Bloody Marys and beers. ur stop there is a yearly tradition. Then, back to Don and Mickie's for more work...tables, chairs, a huge propane grill. Others arrive with a giant tent...good idea since rain is expected on Saturday. It takes close to three hours to set up the tent...large stakes, putting the tent pieces together, tightening the lines. It's a big job, but we are working with some family "tent experts" (Michael and Cody). When all is finished, the tent is solid and's not going anywhere. Mickie serves up another "hot meaql" of barbecue sandwiches and a plethora of desserts for lunch.
More work during the afternoon. This party is a massive undertaking, and there is always something left to do. It's fun work, and I am happy to participate as best I can.

another "hot meal" from Mickie for dinner. More wine after dinner.
Another early night...tomorrow is the "big day".

2014 Western Camping...Daqy 8...Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Roger is knocking on the door of the camper early this morning. Garyl has fresh coffee brewed, and he's whipping up an awesome breakfast of poached eggs, bacon, venison sausage, potatoes O'Brien and toast.
After breakfast, we get to work. Roger and I take down Garyl's snow fences...cutting and storing the ties, pulling out the wooden slats, pulling out the metal stakes and folding up the plastic fencing. Then, Roger and Garyl spend an hour or so on large mowers cutting the grass on Garyl's large property.
Our "chores" finished, we shoot for a couple of hours. Garyl is a professional marksman, and he has a very large collection of guns stored in two secure safes. So...over the next few hours, we shoot a .22, two 9mms, my Glock 10mm, an AR-15, a 12 Gauge shotgun with shot and a 12 Gauge "Slug Gun" with slugs. When it's over, we are all tired (and sore).
Sandwiches for lunch...then a few hours sitting around Garyl's driveway next to Roger and Gretchen's RV...just talking and relaxing. At 4:00, it's cocktail hour...a few bourbons. Roger grills steaks for dinner, Garyl cooks up potatoes, and I throw in a few bottles of wine.
We stay up late...drinking wine...talking.
A late night.

Monday, June 16, 2014

2014 Western Camping...Day 7...Monday, June 9, 2014

The weather is not cooperating this morning. I'm up around 7:00 for coffee...under dark and cloudy skies with a light rain falling. Roger cooks up a “skillet breakfast” inside the motor home...potatoes, onions, eggs and sausage...all scrambled together. We plot our “strategy” for the sense renting a boat if it's raining, so we decide to wait until 10:00AM to see if the weather breaks. By 10:00, we see a few patches of blue in the sky, so we are mildly optimistic. But it soon clouds over again and the light rain resumes.
At noon, we make a “command decision” boating trip for us today...time to pack up and get back on the road. We figure that we'll drive four hours or so to the town of Warroads, Minnesota and camp there for the night. Naturally, the weather breaks once we get on the road...a sunny, but long, drive.
In Warrorads, we stop for gas. We could camp here for the night...or...we could drive another 160 miles to Bathgate, North Dakota and camp at the home of one of Roger's best friends, Garyl. We opt to drive on.
It's a “tough” three and a half hour drive and, when we at last arrive at Garyl's, we are all pretty “beat”. Garyl is an excellent host...and we soon set up camp with electrical hookups. We set up chairs in Garyl's driveway and enjoy a few cocktails before dinner. Garyl and Roger worked together for several years, and there are many amusing stories of their times together.
A light dinner is consumed...and more than a few bottles of wine are opened...and emptied.
Another long (very) day and another early night.