Saturday, August 25, 2012

Road Trip Games

Everyone gets board along the way. A couple family games we play can help pass the time. For instance, have everyone look at the attached photo. How many squares can you find?

Travel ABC's
This works well driving through a big city. Point to a noun (person, place or thing) that has to do with travel for every letter of the alphabet. A is for airplane, B is for billboard, C is for car, etc. This goes fast, so we usually play twice without repeats.

License Plate Game
This one can take the whole week. One person writes down the plates as people find them. I let the kids count 50 different plates, so they can use out of country plates and not stress when the can't get RI. The secretary get a trinket I pick-up and both kids can pick out some candy at they next stop when we hit 50.

Billboard BINGO
On our way to Florida a few years ago, I decided this is not for kids. Ya never know what's going to be advertised on a billboard. Anyway, you find products being advertised in the order of the letters of BINGO. First person to call the billboard gets to use it.

Good luck and have fun!

5+ Trip Planning Apps

I'm a crummy cell phone carrier who LOVES her I-touch. I rely in wifi, and find apps that work offline a digital wonder. So let's get to it.

Trip It
I use the free version of this program. The reservation import feature keeps me from having to print everything out. It's a nice way to remember places you've read about, complete with addresses and phone numbers. We never follow it like a tour schedule. It's more like a bag of ideas, and we work in our favorites as time and weather allow.

Coleman Camp Recipes
Need a list of ingredients while you're standing in the store? This app features all the classic campfire classics, with instructions and photos.  Take a minute to scroll through the app store, as they have several more (like a lantern).

Star Walk
We went to a star party in Glacier National Park. The sky was so dark that we could see millions of stars. Literally. Several telescopes were set-up, and we enjoyed a constellation talk (until our necks hurt). If you don't have an astronomer handy, Stat Walk is the next best thing for checking out constellations. Try setting it on night mode and enjoy the view.
The trick is to shop for fun stops before you leave and save them as favorites. You can only access your favorite stops offline, great for super long drives that drag on and on. The app also had some fun features like fake phone calls and sunset alerts. Don't forget to send in tips about quirky stuff in your area!

I love a physical map, but if you're adapted to paperless, this is a great program. Download maps for the places you'll be driving, biking and hiking before you leave. They'll be there in your hand when you need them. While you're at it, search for podcasts with the same name to listen to on the trail. For instance, Glacier, we found out, has several for their National Park. It was a nice change from Mike's newest CD, which includes Red Solo Cup. . .

So, what are your favorite travel apps? The photo shows a couple more for you to explore on your own.  Here's to hoping you get to use them soon!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Keep Driving


Just keep going when someone has a blow-out in front of you, and you are a new driver with a 3 1/2 thousand pound trailer pushing you in the mountains ... it's more stressful for your mom (riding shotgun) than you. I missed every 12 inch piece of tire (and his neighbors bumper). Haha, and people say shifting in the mountains is hard. :)  ~Nathaniel, 16 years

Please Comment - I Want To Improve!

I wonder why everyone comments and reposts far more often on social media than blogs. We love hearing from our buddy Dan, but how about the rest of you? If you like hearing about our travels and tips, please pass this on to your camping friends. Thanks!

Cleaning Camp Cooking Equipment


Everyone has their way of doing camp dishes. We always used to do camp dishes with hot, soapy water. If we have a site with electric, but without a camp kitchen, we use a coffee maker, or an old coffee urn when there is a huge group of us.

"Brown water" ALWAYS gets dumped down the toilet if you are in bears territory.

We have a new system for picnic, moderately soiled dishes. An old-timer we met in the UP last summer gave us his hiking recipe for dishes. 2 cups of water, 1/4 bleach, 1/4 cup rubbing alcohol and drip of dish soap. It's 10% bleach so it can be used for blood, etc. The rubbing alcohol is a "wetting agent". We have a spray bottle in the van for daily picnics.


Reusable Water Containers


Our camper has a sink and water tank, but we rarely use it because there isn't a grey water tank. Instead, we use a spouted water container meant for a refrigerator. It sets outside the camper on a little table, often with a bar of soap in a plastic box next to it.

This is potable water that we also use for cooking. It's there to put a fire out, mostly before bed. If there is any left in the AM, I do a little happy dance sine I don't have to go find water. I fill a percolator and heat water for oatmeal and hot chocolate, then my beloved coffee.  Done!

If you are in need of setting up a hand washing station, the Girl Scouts use a large Tide container with a spout. They tie a knee-high nylon filled with a bar if soap to the handle. It works just fine for a group.

Camping Cooler Ice Blocks

The photo says it all. I freeze two or three refilled Tropicana containers a few days before we leave. They are usually filled with water, but sometimes I make one with sun tea or gatorade. Remember to leave a few inches of air at the top for expansion.

Commercially bottled water bottles can be tossed into the freezer unopened, as can go-gurts. On day two of your get-away, you'll have a nice supply of iced cold water from home. They do a nice job keeping picnic supplies cold, but you might want a big bag of ice to cool uncooked meat.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

On the road again

Mom thinks I should give you a list of where I drove. *'s = I drove with the trailer.

I-94 *
Going to the sun Rd in the park
Bison Ranch in Canada

Nothing bad has happened yet! :)

You'll ride like monkeys

We went to see the opening of a rodeo and they had Kapuchen monkeys riding Border Collies. Out here, rodeos are more like festivals to us. They had all kinds of old rides with new names. I got to scale rock walls and ride a mechanical bull. I don't know who won the wild horse race, but one horse got free and won the last 2 of 3 laps. I'm having fun eating Saskatoon berries. I wonder why we can't buy them in MI. - Nathaniel


We thought about leaving the kids at McDonalds while we went and played a few slot (hehehe).

Montana is a gambling state that has voted down sales tax every single time, says the gal in the gift shop. They have a small population that supports local needs. Private donations, according to one of the Flat River Rescue Team leaders, are plentiful.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Rodeo Tonight, Kalispell Fair

Starbucks and Wi-Fi, sweet Jesus we are back in civilization! When we were out West in 2009, we went to a rodeo and had a ton of fun. We won't stay late, drunk cowboys are a tough crowd, but we'll eat fair food and watch the roping and riding!

Helicopter Rescue

I love the soft adventures of camping. Sitting next to a campfire, drinking my morning coffee, reading one of Stephanie Plum's adventures in a Janet Evanovich mystery. That's my kinda day! My two Eagle Scouts are looking for a challenge, an adventure.

Today we had a teachable moment in Red Rock Canyon. Go to the northern boarder of Montana, cross at the summer-only boarder crossing, and head to the very north end of Waterton Peace Park. This parking area has recently been repaved, the restrooms are vault toilets. It's river water or a bring you own kinda place.

So it's noon, we're at the trailhead heading out on a hike, and here come a mountain biker gal busting into view yelling for a satellite phone to call 911. There are 50 people or so who hit their cars looking for a signal, but no one has one. No one has a satellite phone, and there's no ranger phone at the new restrooms. We are 30 minutes drive from a Ranger station, and she has the only bike. Her biking partner, who fell and can't mover her legs, is 8 km out in the trail. That's five US miles. One guy says he's a doctor, and sounds like he's Canadian. He headed out on the trail (using her bike) to find the hurt biker. The other gal heads to the ranger station in her car. There wasn't much we could do but prayer for her. 

One hour into this, we are having lunch and the ranger comes in with the original biker. We hear him tell her there isn't much we can do but wait. Half an hour later the helicopter flies in the rescuers and drops them on the trail using a long line between the trees. Two and a half hours from the time the biker yelled for 911, we see the injured gal and her bike, dangling from the chopper, fly over the canyon we are in.

They set her down in a field that had a rescue team ambulance. When we left at 3:00 PM, we passed the hospital transport ambulance that would get her the medical attention she needed. What an eye-opener. I had read that this was not the place for family biking, and today we saw why. What an amazing rescue!

The Helicopter Made Numerous Trips To The Crash Site
Rescuing the Injured Bicyclist

Rescuing Her Bike From The Woods

Rolled the Van

Well, we rolled over the odometer here in GNP. Thank goodness it's paid off. Mike thinks the van's value lost $1,800.00. Any other guesses? We'll blue book it at home.

Grizzle Bear's Grub

Purple huckleberries and Saskatoon berries are in season. The kids are picking Saskatoon, which tasted great added to sun tea and pancake batter.

Driving The Road to the Sun today, we saw a grizzly bear ambling down the road. We took tons of pictures with our Canon, but none I can upload. He stopped at a log laying on the ground and tore it open with his paws looking for grubs. Nothing there, so he went on his way. This was the fourth, yes fourth, sighting we've had in twenty-four hours. This guy was the best, the mama and her cub on a hillside was a close second. I now have a bear bell on my hiking backpack and Mike carries bear spray everywhere. As we were driving, he asked the kids "What's the difference between grizzle and black bear scat? The grizzle's is full of bells and smells like pepper spray. Hilarious, isn't he?

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Madeline's trip experiences

Day 1:
Well on the first day, we drove, and drove, and guess what? Drove... When we got into Wisconsin (the place I associate with cheese, sorry to anyone who lives there) we stopped at a cheese place and bought a few pounds of it. That was pretty much what happened until we got to the hotel. We then went out to dinner at Ruby Tuesdays in the Mall Of America. I was proud of myself because I didn't spend ANYTHING there. That was good, then we shopped for a little while then went swimming in the hotel's pool. <3 data-blogger-escaped-br="" data-blogger-escaped-m="">
Day 2:
On the second day we drove farther than the first. Can you believe it? On the first day we only drove about 500 miles, but the second day it was about 700 miles... We saw the Badlands and took a few pictures there before driving some more. After we got to the hotel we swam for a while. TIP: Hot tubes feel GREAT after a cramped up day in the car :) Warm beds also are great. <3 data-blogger-escaped-br="" data-blogger-escaped-m="">
Day 3:

Dear Saturday Farmers,

We've passed no less than 30 farmers cutting wheat this Sat. afternoon. It's a pleasure to watch you work here in the breadbasket of America. Thanks for shipping it to the Midwest tables.

Oil Boom in North Dakota

We must have passed 100 miles of flowering sunflower fields. What a sight. Who knew there was an oil boom in ND? Anyone? Three years ago families looking for work started flocking to northwest ND. So many are here now that they don't have enough housing. Oil companies are putting people up in hotels, so the rates are anywhere from $150.00 - $250.00/ night if you can find a room. We talked with a trucker hauling a double load of dry cement. The oil companies are making quick roads by dropping 10 inches of this on the ground, then a water roto-tiller mixes it into the ground and another machine finishes it off. Medora has become the Deadwood of SD. They build an amphitheater that seats 2,852 for their nightly musical. Good heavens the do things big out here!

Accommodations: You get what you pay for. . .

The last two nights we have stayed at Comfort Inns, taking advantage of Choice's $50.00 Visa card deal. The first hotel was in a metropolitan area for eighty dollars, no discounts. The second was in the middle on no where for $139.00 originally, but we got it for around $80.00 with a discount. Both offer a pool, wifi and breakfast. The first one gave me a sleepless night. 'nough said. The second was exactly what I wanted and expected from a Comfort Inn. I booked a room that worried me a few years ago. It was a week's stay at Comfort Inn near Orlando for spring break. So here's the note to my future self: Don't book with the lowest bidder; "ya get what ya pay for."

Montana, We Are Here!

After two days of driving, we've gone 1,200 miles, the equivalent of MI to Orlando FL. We have crossed two time zones, and Garmin says our elevation is 2400 feet. Nathaniel tried hauling a trailer today, and Madeline spent some time crafting. A great Comfort Inn in Glendive, MT is our home for the evening. The pool and hot tub got some serious use! Seeing the badlands of ND was the highlight of the day. We're sick of driving, and there is a rodeo in town, but we'll push on to Glacier tomorrow.

Friday, August 10, 2012

How Much Are Tarps, Anyway?

It was pouring rain. I was driving down I-94 in Wisconsin when I came up behind this king sized mattress doing 70 miles an hour. It was perched on not one but two stacked box springs. Somewhere, under there, was the roof of a white Honda and a college kid that couldn't afford a tarp. I really hope it was free!

Vehicle Maintenance

Day Two

Our dog sitter (read: Grandma) lives north of our home, and we need to go west.  Lake Michigan was in our way of traveling west, so we came back home and spent the night.  It's a good thing we did!

Who knows what caused this mark on our driveway before we left? Not something he wanted to wake up to yesterday before getting on the road. 

Here is Mike's Maintenance Checklist (which had already been done):

Replaced the trailer tires, checked the bearings and the brakes.  The van maintenance: engine belt replacement, oil change and tires. Now the deep cycle battery is screaming "replace me". Glad to have it done before we leave. Glacier National Park campgrounds do not have electricity, so we'll be using it every night. Think of us when you turn out your lights!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Day One, Grand Haven

I know, Grand Haven is north, not west. We took a day trip home to see the family. Grandpa Great's health is changing like the wind. He was very much himself today, with good color and the energy to get out of bed on his own. We enjoyed lunch with mom and dad at Turk's, and 1/2 baked pizzas from Fricano's with my nephews. It was a thrill to feel the faintest of kicks from our unborn nephew. Our only regret is that we'll miss seeing Uncle Rob while he's visiting from San Francisco. ((Hugs)) to everyone.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Services Interupted

Nathaniel's 16th Birthday

 "Before Leaving" Camping Checklist:

Order Then Wait
Ask Nathaniel to show you his "almost driver's license".  We'll be driving out of the country to CA again, eh?  So we did a bit of research and found that only kids 15 and under can cross the boarder with a birth certificate these days.  A month or so ago, we ordered him an "enhanced" state ID from the MI driver's license bureau.  No big deal, but it took three weeks to get it in the mail.  Mike and I ordered our enhanced driver's licenses years ago.

Last week I called in a couple of prescription refills.  Of course one of the allergy medications "has a problem that requires action from your Dr.".  Today I'll follow-up and get that resolved. . .

Pets and Plants
Our little Shih-tzu dog, Lacey, has been hiked off to "Camp Grandma's" for the month.  She'll have a great time growling at the squirrels, and weigh a pound more when we pick her up.   This year I learned that I need to call the vet's office to have my parents and in-laws put on her records as people they can talk to about my dog's health.  Were she to need veterinarian care "up north", HIPA applies (really?!?).  One call and they made a note in her permanent file.

The fish need week feeders and a teenager hired to add them.  She'll also water the outdoor/indoor plants as needed.

This is how the kids imagine she'll spend much of her time.
This AM I'm stopping our daily services.  Ugh.  US postal service mail is quickly put on hold at via their website.  South Bend Tribune newspaper has a vacation hold available on-line, too.  Our hometown newspaper required a telephone call.  You can also save a few pennies by putting Netflix on hold, if I remember right.  We've decided to just cancel the mail-order service today, scaling back to the basic instant package.
Our credit union, where we have a visa/debit card, is on my list of stops today.  A block automatically goes onto an account when lots of out of state charges start popping up.  That's a pretty important place to make aware of our travel dates.   The kids will use their free coin sorter and cash-in our vacation change jar while we're there.

Happy Travels!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Grocery Store Stops

Go into the store knowing what you'll be eating for the next few days.  I write a few "one liner" menues.  Below's example is from a Boy Scout Troop 579 hiking menue I put together for the Appelacian Trail in 2011:

Breakfast    Base Camp Breakfast Burritos: Precooked bacon, eggs, cheese, seasoning; walking 
                  apple salad, Sunny D//Tea/Coffee (simple for an early start on the trail)

Lunch         Hiking: BLT Wrap w/ Ital. dressing, mustard, cheese, sliced like an appetizer pinwheel

Snacks       Turkey Jerky, string cheese, Planter’s Nut-rition Energy Bars GORP + left-overs

Dinner        Base Camp Victory Dinner: Appetizer: carrots with ranch and celery w/ PB,
                  Backpacker’s Buffet Steak, mushrooms and onions, baked
      potatoes, grilled corn on the cob, Banana Boats, Coke and Gatorade

My best on the road grocery shopping tip:

Always make a beeline to the frozen food section.  Say you need potatoes.  In the freezer section they are already diced, slightly cooked and you can buy them mixed with another ingredient needed in your recipe, such as diced onions or peppers.  These tidy little bags are already frozen and will pack neatly out of your way in the cooler, unlike a fresh bag of potatoes or a bag of smelly onions.   If you want roasted red potatoes and onions in a dutch oven with olive oil, sea salt and fresh rosemary, by all means hit the fresh veggies isle.  But chances are you'll appreciate the frozen convenience of at least some of your veggies being prepped and ready to quick-cook at meal time.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Hudsonville, MI Man Missing In Glacier National Park

Thoughts and prayers are with the Hudsonville family and rescue teams looking for this 19 year old in GNP.  This hits close to home, as we have a 16 year old son and live very close to this area of Michigan.  I can't begin to imagine their worry. . .  He's young and looks to be in good shape, all in his favor.  Facebook updates are located here:

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

OMG Bars

Is it wrong to lie to yourself about a long walk tomorrow in trade for another chunk of dessert? How about lying to your family about where you put the rest of those gooey chunks of OMG richness?

I started out with healthy baking intentions. Really, I did. I wanted to make something like Quaker's "Oatmeal To Go" bars.  But frankly, the "Baked Oatmeal To Go" was disappointing. The kids used verbs I won't mention. . . 

So, I made a new recipe from Eat Run Read I had pinned on Pinterest. These bars are OMG awesome! Think salty Carmel between warm chocolate chip cookies. . . The only way the are going to make it to next week is if I hide them.   In Alaska.


Dreaming of GNP

So many things to see in GNP!  Many Glaciers will be our first stop, then maybe a Red Jammer bus tour.  Who has visited GNP?  Is Going to the Sun road as exciting as it sounds?

Isn't he crazy looking?!?  There is a mountain rich with salt near Essex that everyone stops at to watch the mountain goats climb for the salt.

Yes, we'll visit Waterton, Canada for a day.  Who can resist "the Switzerland of North America" when they call it an international peace park?  This is the chalet where we'll be having afternoon tea.  I wonder what it looks like inside.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Bears and Food

"I saw a bear" (I saw a bear) "Out in the woods" (out in the woods) "A great big bear" (a great big bear) "A way out there" (a way out there).  I saw a bear out in the woods. . . a great big bear a way out there. . .". Love that camp song!

Mama bears in Yellowstone don't resemble Yogi at all.  I "bearly" (hehe) remember the two cubs.  I wish I had a picture to show you, but my entire family was on horseback at the time.  I was a bit too freaked out about loosing my kids in the wilderness to stop and take a picture!  So, here we are minus the bears:

When we went to Yellowstone (a few years back), I quickly learned that we had packed WAY TOO MUCH FOOD.  My "turtle trailer" is a pop-up and all food must be stored in the van overnight.  Moving a week's worth of food for a family of four every night was a huge hassle.  Then again, so was driving two hours to Cody, WY to find the closest grocery store of any size. 

I need to find a good balance this time, and will start with a menu of recipes we can take into a grocery store in Great Falls, Montana.  I've got a lot of time between here and there to write out some "one-liner" meals.  From what I've read, this is the last major town we'll visit before heading into Glacier.

There's a foodie gal, Jesseca, I'm following on Pinterest that has rounded up a fair amount of fun camping recipes on her blog.  I also saw a tin foil trout recipe in case we catch a few.   I'll take a look at them, and also ask my two boy scouts what camp food they are sick of this year.  You can only eat so many tinfoil dinners! 

Before we go, I always make and freeze a couple of homemade goodies.  Trail Mix, a sweet treat for on the road and this year I'm going to try making "Baked Oatmeal".  I'll post the results and recipes, so check back soon! 

Friday, July 27, 2012

Countdown To Camping

T Minus Two Weeks

In just two short weeks, we'll be leaving for Glacier National Park. Every year I think we should spend more time anticipating the vacation of the year, but this year it's gone on too long.  I can't wait to get in the van and head west!  So, that being said, I have decided to try something new with our kids - blogging our 19 day trip.

Tripit plans and reservations are done.   We'll enjoy a hotel stay or two on the way out so we can pack-in the miles.  I highly recommend Tripit for anyone who loves researching travel destinations like I do!

I've collected a few, new crafty ideas on Pinterest.  This weekend I'll do a couple little things like put together this cute little car caddy I pinned from Brown Paper Packages.  I'm not at all a sewer and my teens can customize this with hand sanitizer, a Ziploc with ear buds/hair elastic/lip gloss, brush, mad-money in a wallet/holder, granola bars and a couple pens.  

Oh, and I should bake/freeze some chocolaty bar cookies for the road. Any other thoughts?  Hmmm.  Maybe I should get some serious walking in, too, before all that sitting and hiking. Bahahahah!

See you soon!

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