That wonderful life-giving substance that is the bane of every homeowner's existence. Water gives, and it destroys. As such, we gave a lot of thought to how we would get water into the tank (that we installed in a previous episode), and how we would get it back out, as well as how we would assure that it won't destroy the trailer around it. There was a lot to consider. What materials would we use? Where would the plumbing go? How do we want to fill it, exactly? Do we want to rely on purification tablets? Would it store drinking water, or will we keep that elsewhere?
What we came up with is a solution that we're really happy with. And frankly, we're pretty pumped (haha!) to get to use it. In the near future, our use will mostly be relatively local state parks where potable water is easily accessible. However, we intend to eventually pull the trailer with us to some very remote areas where it's not. The trailer is quite small, so we were reluctant to give up storage space for drinking water. We imagined a scenario where we need drinking water and the only nearby source is a pond. We designed the plumbing in the trailer to work for us in this situation. Here's how.
We sourced a coarse sediment filter that is designed to be used inline with a garden hose. And we also picked up a pretty compact 50ft collapsible garden hose. We put the two together, and drop the filter into our dirty water source. Connect the other end to the inlet fitting on the trailer.
Next, we turn on our water pump in "suction" mode. This draws the water up through the hose and filter. Once it meets the trailer, it is passed through a much finer charcoal filter. The water goes through a maze of PEX plumbing to the pump and is then pushed into the tank. Bear in mind, it's rather difficult to photograph it all in one shot from the floor looking up.
Once the tank is full, the pump is turned off. We put the hose and filter away. Two three-way valves are switched, and the pump can be turned back on to build pressure in the supply lines. The pump is now in "normal" mode, and the sink and shower can be used as normal. Water will be drawn out of the tank, through the pump, and sent out to each point of use.
Here are some images of what it all looks like.
We took another road trip er, off-road trip, as it were, with the same group as our North Maine Woods adventure last year. Plus a few! I guess it's not really a "Jeep" club anymore, as we were in our 2003 Tacoma, breaking the mold. The Morrises opted to share Topher's yellow TJ this year. Brendan was in his silver 4-door Wrangler again. The Sweeneys were in their new Grand Cherokee with Declan. Bob and Claude brought along Jessica and Ben this year, and they all piled into their 4-door Wrangler Rubicon. Other new additions to the group this year were Andrew in his white Wrangler LJ, and Ryan and Dani in his Grand Cherokee. It was certainly a more diverse mix of vehicles this time around!
We had such a great time in Maine that we wanted to do something similar, but also of course different. In order to keep things interesting, and to add a level of complexity to planning, we decided to cross an international border and head into Canada. This trip would include a couple long legs of highway driving in order to get to and from the off-road portion making the total trip longer, however it involved less off-road driving. The off-road section begins just a few minutes after crossing the border from Ogdensburg, NY, and passes through North Frontenac, Ontario, and makes a clockwise loop toward Ottawa. That's the plan anyways. Let's see what happens.
We packed all our gear into the truck, including Loki and his gear, and we left the driveway at 7:01am. Fortunately, we did our research before this trip. Unfortunately, what we found was that the province of Ontario euthanizes dogs without question if they deem the pup resembles a "bully breed". He's a total sweetheart, but he's full of pitbull and husky, so we opted not to bring him, because we didn't want him to have to die. It's sad, but he's thankful. He went to the sitter's house just down the road and we were officially underway at 7:12.
Our first stop was just a few minutes down the road for gas. This may have been a mistake. While the pump was running, we took the opportunity to move some stuff around and fill in the space that was previously occupied by Loki. It's important to have food and drinks and the camera easily accessible for a long ride. We were rolling out of the gas station by 7:22 am. We set our sights on the Sweeneys house. I would say we set our GPS for it, but we know the way. We had agreed to carry some of their gear, chiefly a grill, because the whole group would be relying on it, and the alternative would be putting it up on their rooftop, and that just stinks. We also carried a couple coolers, one of ours, one of theirs, for food for the group. After chatting a bit and trying to psyche ourselves up (or wake ourselves up?) we rolled out of their driveway at 8:20.
Our next destination was the Westborough, MA service plaza on route 90W at 9:30am, according to the most recent communication before the day of the trip. We hit some rush hour traffic getting there on 495S. We radioed to the Sweeneys on CB to ask if all the traffic was going to Canada, too. No one of us could be sure. We were just hoping that we wouldn't be late, making everyone else wait at the service plaza. As it turned out, we were both late and early! We arrived at 9:12, a full 18 minutes before our planned arrival. But about half the group had been under the impression that we were meeting at 9:00. So although we were "early", we were among the last to arrive. Oh well. A minor communication breakdown. Everyone listed above, except for Bob, Jessica, Claude, and Ben met at this location. The plan was to meet them at the first campsite, later on. We chatted, coordinated communications devices (CB12, because our usual channel 4 was too busy), used the restrooms, and synchronized our watches. We convoyed out of the service plaza at about 10 o'clock under drizzly skies in cool weather. It was not great, but it was not awful, and the forecast was optimistic, so we didn't mind.
After two bio-breaks in MA, the 'pike crossed into New York around noon. We were all getting a bit hungry so the passengers collaborated on the fly to find us a good pit stop for lunch. We agreed on the 518 Grille in Amsterdam, NY. They quickly moved several tables together to fit us all together. I ordered a Brown's oatmeal stout to drink, and a summer salad, which included grilled chicken, granola, pineapple, melon, and cranberries, and a fried dough buffalo chicken pizza. The waitress talked me out of it, citing the gigantic salad. As she took orders from the rest of the group, I mentioned to Mandy how good the pizza sounded and after a few minutes of discussion, everyone convinced me that I should order it. So I did. I ordered a buffalo chicken wrap and just had water to drink. Everyone's food came out, except Mandy's, so she stole a slice of pie while I worked my way through a seriously delicious salad. She was raving about the pizza as I was filling up. Her food finally came as I switched over from the salad to the pizza. It was just a small one, about 10" across. But it was thick; they load the toppings on there. And the dough was so dense and amazing. I justified it citing we'd be out in the wilderness and what if I didn't have access to food or something happened? So I ate the entire pizza. I felt like I was going to pop, but it was so good I couldn't stop. The beer was not noteworthy, if I'm honest. But the food here was outstanding. Well done.
Back in the parking lot, we tackled a few issues. As Topher was hanging out waiting for everyone to arrive back at the vehicles (we all paid separately) he noticed that his front passenger's side wheel bearing was about to fall apart. As he was working on confirming his diagnosis, I was dealing with a strange issue the Tacoma was exhibiting. When were arriving to the lunch stop, I had noticed that that truck's engine would not rev beyond 3250 RPM. I tried. Other than a possible decrease in low-end power (which may have just been due to the added weight of gear) there were no other symptoms. I plugged in my OBDII-to-Bluetooth dongle and pulled up the Torque app to monitor some sensors while I drove around the empty parking lot. Everything appeared normal, except that the top end of the engine's operating range was just inaccessible.
I parked the truck and hopped out to try and brainstorm with the group, and found that Topher had changed his diagnosis to a worn or broken RCV shaft in his front axle. Though a potential issue, it would not likely hold us up with the type of driving that we were expecting to do. So we agreed to leave it alone and monitor it, and we agreed that we were impressed he broke such a stout aftermarket piece.
Unsure of what to make of the Tacoma issue, the best option was to continue to monitor it as we carried on. I was wracking my brain to come up with possible causes, but nothing really made sense. Maybe it was a bad fuel pump? But then it shouldn't run at all. Maybe it wasn't getting a good spark? But then there should be a misfire code, stuttering down low, something. Since it ran fine up to 3 grand, and I don't typically rev it beyond that, it wasn't truly an issue. But it was...something.
So we got back on the road around 3:30pm. The lunch stop took much longer than we anticipated, due to the vehicle non-issues. But it's preferred to diagnose and address problems in a flat parking lot rather than on the side of the highway, or to run the risk of a potential for catastrophic failure. In other words, it's better to be safe, than sorry. We made a quick stop at a Sunoco somewhere along the route for gas and carried on. We exited the highway, and turned onto a minor route. We stopped at a McDonalds here for some of us to eat, get pictures with the giant cow, and I decided to seize the opportunity to get a couple cheap-insurance items at Advance Auto Parts, because it happened to be across the parking lot. Still unsure what was causing the problem with the Tacoma, I used the shotgun method, and bought a set of spark plugs, a bottle of fuel injector cleaner, and a box of fuses (unrelated). I dumped the fuel injector cleaner in in the parking lot, and decided to keep the spark plugs on hand, and only install them if necessary. When we got back onto the road, I was heavy on the gas, and the truck seemed to be running better, but still not 100%. It would rev up to 4000 RPM. Then ~4500. Something was different! So I kept pushing harder, while trying to avoid being too aggressive. Eventually, it was running normally again. I think that the gas I got first thing in the morning was just bad, and possibly gummed up an injector or two. I can't be certain. But, spoiler- the issue didn't resurface for the remainder of the trip.
After some beautiful minor highway and back roads driving, we eventually found Santway Park in Theresa, NY. And the Levesque family. It was about 7:00pm. Unfortunately, this was a couple hours later than our goal arrival time of 5-5:30, but we still had plenty of light, and it could have gone much worse! The cool thing about this campground is that it's free! At least as far as we could tell. The signs were somewhat ambiguous, but we took it to mean that a permit is required if you intend to stay for 5 or more days. Anyway, we didn't pay, and we had no issues. Everyone spread out and found their temporary "home". We hung our hammocks on three trees, with our heads hung from the same tree. Meanwhile, Shayna and Jenny prepared our dinner. The meal was steaks, green beans, chicken, mushrooms, and new potatoes. No surprises here; dinner was fantastic. There were multiple flavors of steaks, the green beans were nice and crunchy. So good. In keeping with tradition, Shaun built us a fire. Declan serenaded us with some ukulele and vocals. Always love live music! Everyone drifted off to bed when they were good and ready. We slept soundly in our hammocks.
We woke at 6:30, refreshed. I packed away our sleeping bags, pads, and hammocks while Mandy worked on coffees and getting my breakfast from the grill. The truck was packed by 6:55. Not bad timing. But the organization needed work. I inhaled an awesome breakfast sandwich from the J&S Grille (Jenny & Shayna, obviously), and then got to work on sorting the gear in a manner that made some sense. The trouble with the truck is there's so much room to store gear in the bed, so it can go multiple ways. In the Jeep, everything has to fit precisely in only one way, so it's easier to figure out. Anyway, we got a leisurely start to the day, and left the park at 8:30am, with a one hour ride to the border of Canada.
We cruised along the south bank of the St. Lawrence River for a while, and eventually stopped for gas and some Timmy Ho-Hos! That's Tim Horton's for any of you southerners reading this. Next stop was Walmart, because we wanted a real American experience fresh in our minds, just in case something happened and we don't make it back. Just kidding; a few of us needed some minor supplies. We got some juices to mix with the rum we were carrying. It finally started to sink in that the trip was starting. We were doing it. It's happening!
We cruised through the American side of the border, and onto the gigantic bridge over the St. Lawrence at 10:30am. We got in the short line at the Canadian side. Bob suggested a group photo op over CB, but stated that we'd have to hustle, so we wouldn't be holding up any traffic. Ryan set his camera up with a self-timer on the tripod, and then we counted down. We all hopped out and ran to the sign at the border, just in time for the picture, and then we all ran back to our rigs. The border patrol officers were not at all pleased with this activity. Apparently, you're not supposed to do that. We were all apologetic; we didn't know. Future reference, you can't get out of your vehicle at all in the line. In retrospect, it was probably suspicious behavior. After a stern talking-to, we were graciously allowed into the country, and we cruised on through and pulled off to the side of the road safely at 10:45. Once we all regrouped, we went a very short distance down the road, and pulled off onto gravel just ten minutes later.
After about 3 hours on the trail, we stopped for lunch in Merrickville. We found a small park downtown and parked just across the street. We got some cheese and crackers and salami out of the fridge and found a nice grassy spot to sit and have our lunch near the Levesques. The plan for the group was to spend a half hour in town for lunch and then wheels up and carry on. We were running a little behind schedule when we got into town so we wanted to make it quick. It as a little tight, but Team Tacoma was ready to roll just in time. Unfortunately, it was too short a window for some of the group, and it just simply wasn't possible. But this was also good for us because it meant no one was waiting on us.
We left Merrickville an hour after our arrival, and planned to skip part of the next off-road section of the route. This would hopefully get us to Black Donald Campground in time to have dinner and relax a while.
We did not cut out all of the off-roading between Merrickville and Black Donald of course! As we cruised the trail, we came upon what appeared to be a bridge that got washed out. We had to divert off the trail into a creek and climb up the other side. It was tight, but the Tacoma was able to negotiate the turns, narrowly avoiding a few small trees and a large boulder. Sadly, the Sweeneys were not quite so lucky. Coming through just behind us, they took some very light scratches from a boulder on the driver's side door. On their shiny, new Grand Cherokee. They took it in stride, and we kept on toward the campground.
We stopped a short way in to make some adjustments. I had to let some air out of the truck tires to soften the ride a bit. They were way too harsh at 35psi. I took them down to about 20-22psi, and it was a minor improvement. Some others did the same. I think some sway bars were disconnected for comfort as well. We cruised on a very straight, very flat trail most of the way to Merrickville. We passed what appeared to be a field burning along the way. We assumed that it was under control, but couldn't confirm.
Arriving at about 7:45, the group quickly set to work on setting up camp. We opted for hammocks again, due to the lack of good flat ground available, and the ease of setup. Mandy made me a drink, and helped with the kitchen setup. J&S Grille whipped up turkey tacos which were most excellent. I had one with nothing on it because I was totally oblivious to all the fixings that were spread out right in front of me. My second one was fully loaded with everything including an awesome handmade salsa! Once everyone had some food and drink in them, the jokes and laughter rang out across the site. I walked down to the waterfront and out onto a super sketchy dock with Brendan and Andrew once it was good and dark out. A terrible idea in hindsight, but you know how it is when something seems brilliant in the moment. It turned out fine, and we got a fantastic view of a super dark night sky before we all made our separate ways to bed.
I woke up because Rob got out of his hammock around 5am. He was just getting some water to calm a moderate hangover. And to pee. I decided to try to beat the rush and go shower when he just wanted to sleep some more. But of course he couldn't sleep. I had just put conditioner in my hair when the five-minutes-for-a-toonie ($2CAD coin) shower ran out. So I put in the second toonie we had gotten for showers, so I could finish. When I got out, Rob was waiting outside to get his toonie from me so he could shower off his hangover. I felt so bad. Thus began the great toonie hunt of about 6:30am. We went down to the main office to see if we could buy a couple more, but the office did not open until 8. There were a couple men inside, but they had no toonies! We went back up to the campsite to see if anyone else was awake and had a toonie. Shayna may have had a spare, but she wanted to first get through her own shower, to be sure. Understandable. She set off to go shower, and Andrew awoke shortly thereafter. I'll trade you a loonie for a toonie. He sold us his only remaining toonie. I was so thankful for this; five whole minutes of hot water. Sorta. The pressure was wimpy and the shower was awkwardly shaped, but I didn't even care. I felt a hundred times better afterwards. Mandy pressed me a cold-brew coffee from our french press, and I got a hot breakfast scramble from the J&S Grille. After devouring breakfast I really felt whole again, like a human being. It was amazing. We packed up the hammocks and sleeping gear, and then we made our way down to the lake for a group meeting and pictures.
There was one other minor issue with the Tacoma that I noticed the night before, but I wasn't really sure what to do about it with the resources I had. See, when these trucks are lifted, especially with longer leaf shackles in the rear end, the leaf pack on the passenger's side has a tendency to hit the exhaust tip where it dumps out the side in the rear of the truck. Old Man Emu makes a bracket to push the exhaust down about 5 inches or so. I have read mixed reviews on whether this works or not. When the truck is empty, there's just a tiny bit of clearance between the exhaust and the leaf pack. Unfortunately, over the trails, with everything jostling around, the exhaust gets pulled down quite a bit. This caused the hanger to break off the exhaust pipe where it was welded. So the last few feet of pipe were just hanging off the muffler, which isn't ideal. But it wasn't a problem, yet. I wanted to address it at this point, rather than leave it with the potential to get worse, and then try to deal with it on a trail, or who knows where. So I asked Topher if he had any good ideas. He whipped out a tiny hacksaw with a metal cutting blade, which was perfect. I set to work cutting as quickly as I could, while everyone else was slowly making their way into their vehicles and getting situated. Topher told me to give up, and took his saw back. I was confused, so he explained that a gentleman who works at the campground was going to grab a Sawzall for me to borrow and would be right back. He handed me his battery-powered saw with a brand new blade in it and it cut through the exhaust pipe in about one minute, like butter. The hope was that this would alleviate stress on the remaining hangers, and at least get us home with an intact exhaust. I tossed the scrap in the truck bed, thanked the man profusely, and we hit the road at 9:15.
It wasn't long before we were on trail again. The modified exhaust pipe was so much quieter. It still hit against the leaf spring occasionally, but now it was only hitting it against the side, and was not being constantly pulled down by the suspension. We cruised along a while, enjoying the gorgeous weather. We happened across some people on 4-wheelers, and they waved as we passed. That was reassuring, because we weren't absolutely certain if full-size vehicles were supposed to be on this particular trail or not. Again, the signage was ambiguous. We were just outside of Killaloe (pronounced "kill-a-loo" by the locals) so we stopped in town at Freshmart because some people needed to resupply. I went in, and it smelled absolutely wonderful inside. Like a cinnamon bomb exploded inside a giant bakery. They didn't have any bathrooms that I could see, but I asked about fuel, and got directions to a few nearby stations. I was also directed to the information center just across the street for restrooms. We decided to opt out of getting fuel in Killaloe, and instead make way for Barry's Bay, which was less than 20 minutes away on pavement.
We pulled into a large Shell station and stopped in front of the "chip wagon". We think chip wagon is a rough Canadian equivalent of a food truck here in the states. But it seems like most of them serve fries, at least. Except fries are called chips. And they're usually served covered in gravy. You know, poutine. Anyway, we obviously had to try some poutine. We ordered a small classic, and then I asked, just out of curiosity "what's on the Scared Polish?" Bacon, onion, fried chicken. YES! We apologized, because she'd already written our order, but we had to change it. No problem. While Mandy waited for our order to be made, I pulled into an empty fuel pump and tried my best to get gas. The machine fought me, though. It was brutal. I slowly began to notice the sounds of frustration from others in the group, fighting the same battle. Finally, I overheard from Shaun that he just pumped first, and would figure out payment after. We're not used to having this option in the states, so what should have been the obvious solution, wasn't. But once I got that figured out I went inside to get my international credit card declined for who knows why. Mildly frustrated, but more so just confused, I used another card, and got out of there. Just in time for Mandy to show up with our poutine. As most of us were finishing up getting fuel and whatever else, Ryan came on CB, and told us to continue down the main road about a tenth of a mile, and take two consecutive rights. This would land us in a parking lot at a park by the beach, where we would relax a while.
We parked the truck and folded down the tailgate to have a makeshift table at which to stand and eat our poutine. It was very tasty. After we ate, we changed into swimsuits and made our way over to the small beach. I was determined to swim out to the floating dock. But not before we threw the frisbee around in the water. Eventually, Shayna, Rob, and Shaun made their way out to the floating dock. Shayna was first to arrive, and she refused to step on the dock, opting instead to jump back into the water from the ladder. Rob went next and stood on the dock, just at the top of the ladder. It was disgusting how much bird poop was on the dock, the smell was atrocious. Shaun said he would only stand on the dock if I did, so I stood there until he started making his way out toward the dock. So gross. Once he made it out, we both leapt off the dock and raced back to shore. I was hoping my shorts would dry off in time, but it wasn't happening, so I changed before our driver's meeting. Then we were all ready to head out at 1:40pm.
We cruised roads a while before we got back on dirt. The weather was perfect, and we were loving it. Although the warm, dry weather was causing the dirt roads to be rather dusty, and we were having flashbacks to the super dustbowl trip in Maine last year. Luckily, we had learned from that trip to keep extra distance between vehicles and to keep lights on for safety. We spaced out along the trail to minimize the truck's dust intake. We had windows up and air-conditioning on for comfort.
At 3:30, we arrived to Bonnechere Provincial Park River Loop Campground. Jenny had called months ago to make reservations for us. During the check in process, we learned a lot. Most importantly, the park staff are not the same people that accept the reservations. Whoever does accept reservations does not know the rules of the campground. This is a terrible design. Jenny explained that we had a large group of people, and several vehicles, and was assured this was not an issue. It was. According to the campground rules, each site may have only one vehicle and no more than six people on it at any time. And only three pieces of shelter equipment. Each additional vehicle cost $13.50 to get into the park. And no having any fun. Just kidding about that last rule, but the point is there's a lot of rules.
We were assigned to sites 109, 111, and 113. These are about a mile or so from the main gate, so we made our way through the park to our sites and began to setup camp. This night we opted for the tent, since there was plenty of smooth, level ground available. We also hung one of the hammocks for relaxing in, since we were so early to the campground. The nearby parking lots had about 6 spaces, and were all full, so we did not move the vehicles, but figured we would wait until spaces became available. We had some drinks and started making our way to the beach. Brendan was coming just behind us, he said. When we arrived at the beach, we realized we forgot the frisbee. DANGIT! We were a little put off when we saw two uniformed police officers strolling by on the beach, so we went back to the site to get the frisbee and see what everyone else was up to. We retrieved the frisbee and made our way back to the beach. When we got back to the beach, Brendan drove past us; he was heading back to the campsite. Unfortunately, he didn't see us. After we tired of playing on the beach, we went back to the site for some adult beverages. We saw Brendan driving again, through the trees, so we darted out of sight. It looked like he was headed back to the beach. Eventually he caught up to us, though, and we laughed at how terrible the timing had been for each beach trip.
We got back in time for dinner. This night was chicken and broccoli with rice from the J&S Grille. It was delicious, per usual. And afterward, the whole group broke the rules as we coalesced around the fire in site 111. Claude called out Jenny for a dance-off so we had some outstanding entertainment. Jenny got absolutely annihilated when Claude busted out some phenomenal break-dancing skills and secured first place for himself. Uniformed campground staff patrolled through the grounds and told us we had to move our vehicles off the sites. We had all been drinking, though, and the closest place there may have been parking available was at the main gate (which only had about 8 spots total), about a mile away on "provincial highways". So we passed on putting ourselves at risk for a DUI in a foreign country, and left the vehicles where they were.
We woke up around 6:30 and made our leisurely way to the free showers, once we figured out where they were located. Jenny followed us. She'd been walking for about 45 minutes previously with no luck in finding them. The showers ran on a mechanical spring-loaded timer/valve for about one minute per push of the button. I tried to stay ahead of it as we showered. The water was hot which was outstanding. Until it turned cold unexpectedly. We waited with it running for what felt like 10 minutes, and it never got warm again. Finally, I gave up waiting and finished rinsing in frigid waters.
When we got back to the site, we packed up our gear while Jenny and Shayna worked on pancakes, bacon, and a few remaining breakfast sandwiches for breakfast. We left the sites individually, as each vehicle was ready, and intended to meet outside the gate. I misunderstood and got onto the main road just outside the entrance, and pulled onto the shoulder. Realizing I'd overshot the meeting location, we circled back and joined the brief driver's meeting. Our goal was to make it to Ottawa by the afternoon, which gave us a lot of free time.
We hit the road and got to Timmy Ho-Hos in Pembroke for another coffee, and a pee break. We continued on, and at some point the road signs switched over to French, which added a level of complexity. Especially when the speed limit signs didn't include units. Along our way, we saw signs for "Chutes Coulange" and Bob asked if it might be a good time to stop, and check out the waterfalls. Everyone agreed, so we pulled in around 11:30. Everyone parked and stretched their legs while a couple people went into the park entrance to see what it was like inside. The report sounded very appealing to everyone, and the cost of entry was low enough, so we packed some snacks and water and headed in. We agreed to meet back at the vehicles no later than 2:00 to make it the rest of the way to Ottawa.
Chutes Coulange park was a really cool stop. We hadn't planned for it at all, but we got lucky and everyone had a good time. We learned quite a bit about the logging history in the local area, which was fascinating, and we got to walk around and check out some pretty impressive waterfalls. We did a ropes course and I injured myself on the tiniest zipline ever. Everyone organically gathered near the ropes course, and we tossed the frisbee around as we waited for stragglers. We ended up leaving earlier than anticipated, which is very rare, at about 1:40.
We got off the highway in Ottawa without a concrete plan. This was probably a terrible idea. We intended to get a last meal together. With 15 people in 7 vehicles. Thankfully we had functional CBs for communications, as it would have been impossible without. After circling a few blocks a few times, we found parking together in a public lot. We paid and set out on foot to a nearby restaurant. They couldn't seat all of us together. After striking out at about 5 restaurants that could not meet our group size and dietary requirements, we gave up and split. Looking ahead to the remaining hour drive to the final campsite, we wanted to get back on the road again as quickly as possible. Mandy and I grabbed a couple seats at the bar in Heart and Crown with Brendan and Andrew. We don't know where everyone else went. We ordered a Guinness and a Mill St. Cobblestone Stout. Rob ordered a bison burger and I ordered a chicken wrap. The burger was outstanding, and the beer was great. We chatted a bit with the bartender before we made our way back to the vehicles just in time for our planned departure of 6:30pm. We tried to stick together leaving the city, but we anticipated a struggle, so each rig had its GPS pointing towards the campsite address. We got split up by traffic and lights, but we reconvened with some of the vehicles on the highway. Then we found the rest of our people at the Oops! Express gas station. We fueled up and got some firewood then hit the road.
We arrived to Whispering Pines Campground in Curran at about 7:45pm. This was a rather unique private campground, but we liked it. The host showed us to our site, which was gigantic. We were allowed the entire beach, a grassy area, a huge fire pit, a stage, and all the area in between. We of course all set up our tents on the beach. As we were setting up, a few raindrops poked at us, so we opted to put our EZ-up canopy thing over our tent to keep it dry. The rain stopped and the skies looked clear so we built a fire and gathered around. Some time later, the rain picked up and came down much heavier, so we moved our chairs to the stage to get under some cover. Eventually we all started to drift off towards our tents to sleep. We went to bed in our dry but open tent around 11pm.
Rob's alarm went off at 5:00am in the truck. I got up to shut it off, and then laid back down. We got up together at about 6:00, and began packing up our gear. We woke up the Sweeneys, because we believed they had said they wanted to drive with us, and we were close to a point where we were ready to go. Bob said he wanted to leave no later than 7:30 because he had a hard deadline to meet. At about 7:45, we left the Sweeneys behind per their request, because they weren't quite ready to go.
We hit the first Timmy Ho-Hos we came to for breakfast sandwiches and coffees. Then we powered on to the US border, arriving at about 10:40am. As we were sitting in traffic at the border, we saw a familiar rooftop cargo box. I called out on CB that the Sweeneys were 6 cars ahead of us. A few minutes later, Shaun came on to say hi, and make fun of our obviously slower route. Pointing out that they had left after us and arrived before us. After one last bout of chatter while we waited, we made it through the border at 11:15. Everyone split up at this point to go at their own speeds, to their various destinations. We stuck with Andrew in his LJ all the way to Concord, NH, making just 2 brief stops, before we parted ways and made our way home alone. We arrived in Ipswich at 3:30pm to do one final unpacking of our gear to dry it out, and one final packing to put it all away.
Tuesday June 27, 2017
After dinner, we took Loki out for his 4th birthday. We went to his favorite ice cream stand ever, White Farms Ice Cream in Ipswich, MA. Full disclosure- they're all his favorite; he LOVES ice cream. He gets the special treatment at White Farms, though. His cup full of soft serve vanilla comes with a couple of doggy treats. Plus, he gets all kinds of lovely compliments on his stunning good looks. From his perspective, it's an all-around awesome time. After we pestered him for enough portraits, we hopped back in the car to go for a ride, which is his other favorite activity. We got him inside just before a torrent of rain fell, which was perfect timing, because he hates rain. The sad part is we were leaving him with a sitter. The happy part is we were hitting the road. Er, the skies
Wednesday June 28, 2017
Kelly and I first met when we both ventured to Bozeman, MT in 2009 to complete a summer internship at Montana State University in the chemistry department. We became good friends and kept in touch through the years. Rob and I each met Lawson during our road trip to Yellowstone National Park in 2013. And now we're on our way to their wedding! Our alarms went off at 3am today, as scheduled. Everything was mostly packed but this allowed us time to get up, eat, shower, and gather last minute items. At 4:01am we had the car loaded and were leaving the driveway. Rob drove my car to our friend Ryan's house in Revere. We utilized the free street parking and took an Uber from there to the airport which cost about $14.
I had already pre-checked us into our flight so when we arrived at the airport at 5am we proceeded straight to security. Accidentally, we found ourselves in the TSA pre-check area. Although we had pre-checked in, this was apparently wrong. The TSA agent told us to get in the other line. As we were turning to make our way into the other line, another woman approached the TSA pre-check line and the TSA agent redirected her as well. The woman asked the agent "What is TSA pre-check?" Again, she was told curtly to join the other line. So the question went unanswered. The other line was longer and moved pretty slowly but we had time to spare. Once we approached the security checkpoint we asked if we had to remove shoes today. Yes. I always ask if we're "doing shoes today?" when we get to the staging area for the security theater. It varies and I don't like to take my shoes off if I don't have to. Belts too, even though Rob's was all plastic. We made it through security and to our gate with 15 minutes to spare.
We flew to, and landed somewhere in Texas. After crossing the entire airport we made it to Gate D37 with about 20 minutes to spare. There is a lady here with the most amazingly feathery, super-stylish and 70s haircut waiting for the same flight to Bozeman. The boarding process for this flight went smoothly. Oddly, the seat next to us remained empty so we got a little extra stretching space for this leg of the trip. A rare bonus! I gave Rob the window seat again because I'm so nice to him. Our takeoff time for this flight was 11:10 am CDT. I watched Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them on this flight. It was pretty good but I think I fell asleep at the very end. Typical. We arrived in Bozeman at 12:54 pm MDT.
As we were taxiing to the gate I turned on my phone and received a message from Kelly. It said that her parents, Kevin and Janet, were going to pick us up at the airport. This was so much simpler than our plan, which was to take a cab from the airport to downtown Bozeman, catch a free bus from there to Livingston, and then walk about a half hour from the bus stop to our Airbnb. We found Kelly's parents outside the airport and chatted with them as they drove us to Livingston. Thanks again to Kevin and Janet!
We arrived at our Airbnb and followed our host's instructions for how to get into the house. The long trip had made us exhausted but also very hungry. We unloaded our luggage and I freshened up a bit while Rob laid down for a few minutes. Kelly had called while we were en route to Livingston and asked if we wanted to get food with her and Marissa (her maid of honor). Rob and I were more than happy to join them. After we got our things situated at the house, we gave Kelly a call and they promptly came to pick us up. Kelly said she knew some good lunch spots and she took us to Feedlot 49 at the Popstand. I ordered an Asian chicken salad, Rob did as well, and he also ordered a Cuban sandwich because he's a growing boy. All of the food was delicious. Rob ordered a hefeweizen to drink. I think it was El Hefe, from Neptune's Brewery. It was okay but I didn't love it.
We felt fully recharged after this late lunch (keep in mind, our bodies were under the impression it was about dinnertime, due to the time change). Kelly continued driving away from Livingston and took us past her wedding venue. "It's somewhere over that way," as she pointed vaguely out the car window from the highway, "I don't know". We continued on further into Paradise Valley where Kelly's family was renting a lodge and to stop in and say hi. Here, we met several of Kelly's aunts and uncles, her grandparents, and her nephew. Kelly's family was very friendly and we enjoyed a short visit with them before heading back into Livingston. Kelly was kind enough to chauffeur us to Albertson's so that we could get some groceries for our stay. All four of us then decided that coffee was in order so we stopped at Coffee Creek before heading to Kelly and Lawson's house. We were trying to stay up as late as possible in order to force ourselves into the mountain time zone schedule. We got a grand tour of their lovely home and got to sat hi to Abel (their puppy!). We didn't stay long as we wanted to get the groceries back to the house. Rob was kind enough to take care of all the ironing in the evening while I got to relax. We finally made it to bed at 9 pm MDT after being awake for 22 hours.
Thursday, June 29, 2017
We woke up at 6:30 am and showered. We got to sleep in! The house rules said that we weren't allowed to cook bacon, so breakfast was eggs, sausage, and coffee. Rob also had a yogurt. Around 8:30 am we ventured out of the house and made the ~10 minute walk to Kelly and Lawson's. Kelly let us borrow her car (and her puppy!) so that we could go for a hike. She gave us directions to the Hogback Ridge trailhead. Mandy drove, and we headed out of Livingston going south on 89, following Kelly's hodgepodge directions. We watched for the sign for Trail Creek Road which was somewhere near the "three blue silos". Not far out of town we saw the sign for Trail Creek Road, we turned right off 89 onto Divide Creek Road. We continued down dirt roads following signs for Trail Creek Road which stated 4.5 miles from the first, until finally we found the start of Trail Creek Road. We cruised down Trail Creek Road for a ways before we began to wonder if this is where Kelly intended to send us. We had been given the impression the previous day that Hogback Trail was right near the blue silos, when we drove past the "somewhere out there" wedding venue. But she definitely mentioned Trail Creek Road. We decided to turn around and backtrack because we didn't have cell service this far in the foothills but we wanted to ask Kelly if we were going the right way.
After driving back out the way we came, we finally made it back to Divide Creek Road. We decided to turn left, which was the option we didn't take the last time we were at this intersection, and about 10 seconds later we found the dirt parking lot and trailhead. Abel (Kelly's dog) was very excited to be hiking with us and bolted to the trailhead. She knew where to go already because she's done this hike a time or two. We began the hike with minimal fanfare. Abel likes to stay nearby, even without a leash. We crossed a creek, (I assume Trail Creek? or maybe Divide creek?) on a couple wooden planks. The trail proceeded to get quite steep right from the start, but we managed. We hiked up to perhaps the second or third ridge. It's hard to say really; we were quite busy with taking in the amazing view the entire time. We passed by a picnic table in a small clearing. Eventually, the trail became more aggressive, and we were plagued with the thought that we had to return Kelly's car to her by 1 pm. A bride's got business to attend, or something. We turned around, much to Abel's disappointment. When we got back to the flat area near the picnic table we decided to stop and do some stretching and yoga. The view here was amazing. Feeling relaxed, we made our way back to the bottom of the trail in short time. The ride back to Kelly's house was short and direct with no missed turns.
We stopped at Kelly's and returned her car and her dog. It was a short visit again as we were hungry, so we walked back to our Airbnb to start making lunch. Beers were also in order, so we cracked open a couple Lewis and Clark Brewing Co. Prickly Pear Ales that we had picked up at the grocery store. They were okay. We were expecting more pear flavor because we don't know how to read. Prickly pear is a cactus. There was nothing to do with a pear fruit involved. I have to finish hers for her. Too bitter for my taste. Our temporary housemates (Dan and Sarah) arrived while Rob was making some chickens for lunch. Sarah left shortly afterwards to get her nails done with Kelly. We invited Dan to head out and explore downtown with us but he decided to stick around the house and relax from their long day of traveling from Vermont.
Our first stop was Tom's Jewelers. We had walked by here earlier on the way to Kelly's and wanted to stop back in to see if I could find a wedding band. There were a couple that were on sale but I didn't love them. I think the man that we spoke to makes them, though, which was cool. And he was able to tell us the sources of the metals in the rings, which were local. Also cool. We told him that we wanted to think on it and set out to continue exploring the town. The next stop was at Livingston Bodega and Bakery. But we took a really roundabout way to get there. Not quite knowing what we wanted to do, we stopped to get a coffee and gather our thoughts to formulate a plan. I got a pour-over which I learned is basically a fancy drip. Mandy got the same. They were pretty good. We chatted with the barista about how we didn't have a plan. We mentioned that we had thought about getting tattoos. The barista told us of a shop across town. He also pointed out that there are 25 bars in this tiny town. It was odd that he made no mention of the tattoo shop that was literally downstairs from our conversation. But that seemed to be a pretty obvious sign to avoid it.
At the suggestion of the barista, we made our way across town to find that this tattoo shop, 617, generally didn't accept walk-ins. Oh well. We turned towards Sacagawea Park, but by the time we got there we were so tired of walking that we pretty much turned around at the entrance and went back home. We sat for a little while and relaxed until Sarah returned. It was around dinner time at this point so we set out as a group of four to find food. Kelly had recommended Neptune's on more than one occasion so we all made our way there. Neptune's is a brewery/bar/restaurant/sushi bar. The sushi was reportedly the best, so I got the chef's choice roll. I don't know what it was but it had jalapenos on it. It was pretty good, but not the "best ever" like I was told. I got a bourbon aged Scottish ale that was pretty good although a bit heavy towards the end of it. I also ate a pulled pork sammy that was decent; I thought it could be greatly improved if the bun was toasted. The sandwich came with fries that were amazing. Mandy got a latte stout which we both enjoyed. She ate a crispy chicken sandwich and more amazing fries. Seriously, get the fries. Definitely the highlight.
After we were all satisfied we wandered around town trying to find the next bar. Dan had said earlier that his goal was to stay awake until 8 pm, so we were doing our best to keep him out until then. We ended up at The Mint and got a round of vodka lemonades, the drink special. These were great, everyone enjoyed theirs. And cheap! There were a few "mint" innuendos at this place. The floor was all pennies. There was mint in the lemonade. There were Playboys all over the walls of the bathroom, which was pretty mint, too. After we paid and walked out, we intended to go to another bar, but then we decided to just go back home. We were all pretty exhausted. Mandy and I watched Chef and Dan and Sarah went to sleep. The movie ended around 10:30 and we decided to call it a night.
Friday June 30, 2017
I woke up at 5 am. I did some research on batteries for our trailer until Mandy woke up at 6 am. We had breakfast and coffee and then took showers. We woke up Kelly to steal her dog at 8:25 am to go for another hike. We = Sarah, let's be clear. Sarah woke up Kelly. We did a quick tour of Kelly and Lawson's house for Dan and Sarah, then we grabbed Abel and her water dish, and left for the hike. We headed back to Hogback Trail. We hiked up about 45 minutes, not quite as far as yesterday. We called it early because Kelly and Lawson had given us a tip for another hike that we were all eager to do. So we wound our way back down the hill toward the car. Once there, we piled in. Dan and Sarah rented an Impreza for their trip, and today they were driving. Then we shot across the highway. While winding up a big hill, we were reminded of the road down to San Marcos la Laguna in Guatemala, though there weren't nearly as many switchbacks here. Dan followed signs to Pine Creek campground, with Mandy's backseat navigation assistance. Our destination trailhead was in the campground. We eventually found it nestled way in the back.
We parked the car, hopped out, and started walking. This trail is very different from Hogback, which is very exposed and quite steep. The Pine Creek Falls Trail is heavily wooded, generally pretty flat, and the air stays cool and damp as the trail follows a creek (Pine Creek, we assume) most of the way. We hiked in about a mile and a quarter, which took us a little over a half hour. There are a few random places where the trees overhead part just enough to provide a small window to the sheer rock faces far overhead. These mountains are always awe-inspiring, so we stopped briefly to gaze up. When we reached our goal (which is not the end of the trail), we found a spectacular waterfall. It was particularly impressive because the area had received good rainfall yesterday. The waters were flowing powerfully.
After we soaked in the views a while, snacked and quenched our thirsts, and of course took several pictures, we headed back down the trail. We passed several groups along the way, most of which had dogs with them. Abel was somewhat shy around the others, but she was a fantastic hiking buddy. When we got back to the car, we all agreed that we were past due for some lunch. We dropped off Abel quickly and then circled back to The Hungry Mexican, a few blocks from Kelly's house.
The restaurant has room enough for only a handful of people to stand in while they order food. I got what I assume was a special called the Jack taco. And I also got a steak taco. The waitress told us she only had 5 Jack tacos left, when I ordered 1. Confused, I said, "ok." Mandy ordered 1 pork and 1 chicken taco. We grabbed a table outside to wait for the food. We were planning ahead to some adult beverages, and we decided we should get some soda or juice to mix in the nips we already had. There was gas station across the parking lot, so I went to go get Mandy and myself a drink. Except when I opened the door to the convenience store, it was empty inside but for a desk with two people working at it. My confused instinct kicked in and I immediately turned around and left. I saw across the road Yellowstone Gifts and Sports. It looked like the type of place that might sell drinks by the cash register. They did, but not any drinks that either of us wanted. So I went to the store next door, Shopko. They had a warm can of lemonade and a warm bottle of diet Pepsi. Good enough. In the amount of time it took to check out, I learned about the cashier's son's wife's rescue effort of a baby pitbull found on the roadside and that he had grown to 130 lbs. And the kids in the neighborhood ride him around. Great. I made it back across the highway somehow before the food even arrived. When it did come out, the Jack taco was...whelming. It was about a tablespoon of chorizo and ground beef with a slice of American cheese in a deep fried tortilla. The regular beef taco was a little bigger and better, but neither could hold a candle to the tacos we ate in Guatemala. But we anticipated that anyway, so we were not disappointed. After we ate, we drove the few minutes back home. There I set to work on pan frying some chickens while Mandy made me a salad. I ate second lunch while everyone else worked on getting cleaned up for the rehearsal for the wedding. I went last.
After we all got changed and ready, we drove back out south on 89 towards the wedding venue, for the rehearsal. We were in the vicinity of the waterfall hike, though I'm not exactly sure where. I wasn't paying attention. The venue is beautiful, with outstanding views all around. We ate dinner first, and did some event setup. Then the wedding party went up the hill to practice the ceremony. Dan and I stayed by the reception hall to guard the beverages and practice ladderball. We were soon called upon to bring the grandparents some chairs which we happily obliged. Once up the hill, we stuck around to watch the practice. After a few run-throughs, the couple were content, so we went back to the hall to work on more event setup. By we, I mean the wedding party. I just had to watch. Mandy and Sarah made boutonnieres and other decorations. The wedding party set tables and arranged all the decor and accessories. It was very busy and fun to watch. So much went together so quickly!
After the setup was complete, we drove a short way to Pine Creek Lodge. We went around the left side to the will call table because we already had tickets. We got bracelets and beers, and finally a spot in the crowd. We were just in time to watch the opening act finish before the main act, Hot Buttered Rum, took stage. This was a cool bluegrass band recommended to us by Kelly. The venue was so awesome, outside on the foothills of these majestic mountains. It was by no means the biggest venue, or well-organized. But the setting was absolutely phenomenal. We enjoyed the show until about 10pm. Sarah (who is a physical therapist) had agreed to manipulate Kelly's neck to relieve some pre-wedding tension at her house so we went there. After that, we retired to home, and bed.
Saturday July 1, 2017
We woke up at about 5 am. Mandy had a very sore throat. She had some water and we slept a while longer after I checked that there were no white spots. I was afraid I had strep throat. Eventually, leisurely, we got up. Precisely when we felt like it. We ate breakfast and Mandy had some tea, which helped. We showered and steamed the wrinkles out of her bridesmaid dress. Eventually, it was time for her and Sarah to head over to Kelly's to prepare for the main event at 9 am.
Sarah and I showed up fashionably late to Kelly's house at 9:15 am. We quickly dropped the things that we had brought with us and I started to get beautified. I was up first for makeup. There were three hairdressers simultaneously doing hair. Kelly had asked me to bring my steamer for her dress. So, after my makeup was done, I quickly steamed her dress with the help of Taylor, the groom's sister. After steaming, which didn't take long, I got my hair done. I wanted a high updo, but the hairdresser talked me into a pull through braid at the base of my skull. It was fine. Finally, my hair was done and all I had left to do was put on my dress. Suddenly, one of the hairdressers exclaimed that Abel was here. Before that moment, she was not. She was supposed to be at a house several blocks away where some friends were watching her. I volunteered to walk her back to their house, and Sarah came with me. We walked Abel to S. D Street, which was the same street our Airbnb was on. We stopped by there first to get sunblock and recruit the boys to drive us back to Kelly's; the walk would have been less than ideal for our hairdos. I walked Abel back to where she was supposed to be. The people at the house kept calling her Mabel. It was so weird. I left her in their company and returned to meet Sarah and the boys who drove us back to Kelly's house. We quickly changed into our bridesmaid dresses and brought all of our other clothes and belongings to the boys patiently waiting in the car. Rob and Dan left to go get some lunch, while we began helping Kelly get ready and the picture-taking began. We did a few pictures with the bridesmaids at the house and then loaded in vehicles to head to the ceremony and reception venue, Deep Creek Range.
Once at the venue, Sarah and I secured seats for ourselves and Rob and Dan at one of the tables. Shortly after we arrived at the venue, it was time to make our way to the ceremony spot. The ceremony was set to begin at 2 pm. This was the hottest day of our stay in Montana, and the sun was intense. Luckily, I had applied sunblock before the ceremony. Unfortunately, I may have gotten burned anyway.
While all that was happening, Dan and I got lunch after we dropped off the girls at Kelly's. We went to a place called Murray. Or Murry's? THE Murray? Maybe it was Murray Cafe. I dunno. The awning over the entrance said "HOTEL FINE DINING", which we pondered a bit. Was that the name of the hotel? We took a corner of the bar and got an IPA apiece, and we decided to split a buffalo chicken pizza. We each commented on how incredibly thin the crust was. It had a really satisfying crunch to it, though, and it was a really tasty pizza. The beers were awesome, too. Though the pizza had great flavor, it was not at all filling. That was perfect because we were headed to dinner at the reception anyways. After we ate, we had a little more time to kill, so we stopped back by the house and dropped the girls' stuff off and had a little bit of downtime mixed with silence.
When it was time, we made our way back over to the wedding venue, our turns marked by clusters of white balloons on the side of the dirt roads. We parked to the side of the driveway, and got good seats for the outdoor ceremony. We felt like we were being cooked alive just sitting there because the sun was so bright, so we sunblocked. The sunblock ended up getting passed around to some other guests who didn't have the foresight we did. It's a good thing we're so generous! The ceremony was lovely and the views, of course, were fantastic. After it was over, we chatted with the girls and newlyweds briefly. Knowing they'd be busy for a while with pictures and the receiving line, Dan and I found an open space to throw the frisbee. It was fun for a bit, but we quickly were uncomfortably hot, and rather thirsty too. The drinks were free, so heading to the bar was a no-brainer. Adjacent to the bar was a table with the most impressive cheese, meat, and crackers spread I've ever seen. The food was all delicious, and the signature drink, a mint lemonade, was also quite good (although not quite as good as the ones we had at The Mint). I knew Mandy would be starving after the photo session, so I got her a drink and built a food plate. Dan and I found our names that the girls had written at our place settings and so took our respective seats. The reprieve from the sun was much needed, as was the consumption of more food and drink. Eventually (finally!) Mandy and Sarah were able to join us after the fanfare of formal introductions. Mandy was so pleased to have food and drink ready. Sarah was unimpressed (sorry Dan). It was kind of funny because during picture taking, I had mentioned to Sarah that I hoped Rob had gotten me food and a drink for when I came back. Thanks Rob! We were starving because we hadn't really eaten lunch that day although we did snack on some fruit and granola throughout the getting-ready process.
Sarah and I shoved food into our mouths promptly after arriving at the table. We then decided it was time to take the boys outside so we could get some photos with them at the beautiful venue. Rob and Dan complied with all of our requests. Unfortunately, the lighting wasn't great for picture taking at this time of day, so we said that we would like to get some additional pictures later. Once the photo session was complete we mingled with the other guests. Finally, it was time for the guests to be seated and the bridal party to be introduced, and most importantly, Mr. and Mrs. Moorman. Following introductions, the DJ began releasing tables of guests for the buffet line. The tables were named after peaks that Kelly and Lawson have summitted together, which was really cute. The menu consisted of grilled steak, wild rice with figs, salad with arugula, peaches, berries, and goat cheese, roasted baby potatoes, and a roasted pig. All of it was absolutely delicious. But especially the pig. After the last table was called, I had to sneak back for more. The butcher said, "Hey, didn't I see you before?" I panicked. I was caught! After my brain scrambled trying to figure out the best response, I fessed up, "...yes..?" He cracked a smile, "Good!" I was so relieved! I explained that I just had to have more because it was so good. He was very pleased to hear it and I was happy to eat more!
Then, it was time for abridged parental dances. Each parent spun around on the dance floor with their child for about a minute or so, which was nice because it reduced a lot of the awkward. For everyone. Next, close friends and family wanted to give speeches. First, Lawson's brother Clark spoke. Then Lawson's best friend, another Lawson, had everyone laughing hysterically. Kelly's maid of honor spoke next. And then her father. Lastly, Lawson's mother gave an unplanned, impromptu speech. They were each lovely. And short. Which was great.
Throughout the evening, I felt like something of a celebrity. I don't know how or why. But multiple people that I did not recognize approached me and asked if I was Rob, Mandy's fiance? And then introduced themselves. Perhaps she is the celebrity, I don't know. Dan felt like a ghost because no one acknowledged him. We spend the time after dinner milling about the premises. I was enjoying the awesome grass on my bare feet. Eventually, it was just Dan and I again. The girls may have been off dancing or something. We started tossing the frisbee again. Kelly's dad Kevin joined in for a few throws as he was nearby. After he got pulled into a conversation, Dan and I were getting a bit cocky, throwing curves and such. I took it too far on one throw, though, and landed the frisbee on the roof of the reception hall. Just then, Mandy and Sarah came out to play with us. Worst timing. After everyone had their turn ribbing me, and we had exhausted all manner of wacky plans to recover the disc, we gave up. We moved on to a game of cornhole. But not before Sarah had some of her beloved Tito's vodka. Luckily for me and Mandy, the Tito's made her accuracy pitiful, so we only lost by....a lot. Dan was basically the only one of us playing the game. But we all had fun. Especially Sarah, she was hysterical. The final score was 12 or 13 to 21. After some dancing, drinks, wandering, and chatting, we found ourselves by the bonfire. Here we learned that actor Jeff Bridges lives just down the street from where we were standing. This was a funny coincidence because Dan had been actively trying to insert as many Big Lebowski references as possible all weekend. Just 'cause. We continued to enjoy the reception even as some of the guests left. The hardcore remained, as is typical. You know us.
My back was hurting, so I was not up for dancing at this point. Or much of anything. I was feeling boring, so I stepped outside so I could sit on the ground. Lay down. Sit. Stand. During the process of trying to find comfort, I noticed that there was an awesome lightning display on the horizon, so I watched that a while until Mandy found me. We walked up the driveway a bit to a better vantage point and quietly watched a while, away from the festivities. Eventually, we started to get chilly, so we went back inside. I sat at our table with Dan and we watched the the remainder of the party-goers dance it off. A few of them were actually quite good! Around 11:30pm, the DJ said he was playing the last song, and then the music had to end. He packed up while some event tear down happened. Trying to round up everyone that had to get into the car to head back home was something like herding kittens, but eventually we pulled it off! We got home before midnight and went straight to sleep.
Sunday July 2, 2017
We woke up at 7 before our alarms were set to go off. We got showered, ate breakfast, and took care of packing last minute items. We said our goodbyes to our new friends and temporary roommates, Dan and Sarah, assuring that we'd meet again soon back on the east coast. We were very grateful to have another ride courtesy of Janet, back to the airport in Bozeman. She picked us up with Marissa just outside Kelly's house. We had walked over there to make things easier for Janet. We loaded up our things, and gazed out the windows as the scenery whipped by down the highway. It truly never gets boring to look at. Once at the airport, we wound our way through the security maze, again removing shoes and belts. We got dressed again on the inside, and found we had a good amount of time to kill. Figuring that we would probably not have a good opportunity again to eat, we seized it. We went to Copper Horse Restaurant for brunch, I guess. I got a burger with blue cheese. Mandy got a taco salad. When we first sat down, there was plenty of time. But by the time our orders were taken, we had to request that the food come out in to-go containers. I inhaled my burger at the table, because I wasn't really interested in eating it inside a plane.
We got back to the gate just in time to join the line of passengers boarding. We were flying United Airlines and immediately we decided we would pay a little more in the future to use a different airline. The plane was fairly dirty which was unimpressive. It just felt old. The flight took off on time at 12:20pm in fair weather, and took us to Newark, NJ. We weren't sure where our next gate was. Well, we had the number, but the signage was severely lacking. It was totally unclear how to get to the next gate. We called Ryan for some clarification, because he flies all the time. All he could offer was that he too hates this airport. And that we should use caution when taking the shuttle or the train, because one of them may take us to the wrong side of security and we'd have to go through all that again. So we tracked down an airport employee, and she sent us outside down some stairs to a bus. The bus took us down a short stretch of highway and dumped us at another terminal. We went up some permanent temporary ramps that were enclosed, and about 100F inside to get back into the airport.
We found our gate with time to kill so we wandered and found a coffee stand. I got one, thinking that I might need some assistance with staying awake as we made our way closer to home. I didn't consider that I was 2 hours behind the clock, and my sleep schedule would be way off anyways, so in hind sight this was probably a bad move. Oh well. The flight into Logan was uneventful and got us into Boston around 9:45pm EDT. We caught another Uber just outside. It was on this ride that we learned that the Nissan Xterra was available with a 6-speed manual transmission. And far more than we ever realized that we wanted to know about Uber driver culture. She was quite talkative, but very friendly and funny. We laughed most of the way back to Mandy's car where we discovered that someone left the passenger's side interior light on all weekend. Oops! It's a great thing that I had previously swapped out the interior filament bulbs for LEDs, as there was still plenty of battery to start the car and we had no issues. We thanked our driver for waiting to make sure we didn't need a jump, and we began the final leg of our journey. We hit a little bit of rain on the way. Isn't that always the case that you get home and the weather is dumpy? We were ecstatic to climb into a bed with fresh sheets, and pass out.
With this winter's cold weather upon us at last, our progress has slowed just like cold molasses. As such, it has been a little while since we've gotten significant work done on the trailer. Cold weather or no, however, we haven't actually stopped! Here's some proof of that.
In a previous post, we wrote that our trailer will have a sink. The sink caused quite a headache as we worked on packaging it into the trailer. A sink is such an odd shape, when the faucet is considered. The best shapes for packing are cubes. A sink is essentially a big, empty shell, and the faucet just sticks up there getting in the way of everything. We want to be able to store the sink neatly, but also have simple access to use it. Ideally it would be as close to the grill as possible, because they'll likely be used together most often. After countless redesigns, numerous configurations, and hours with pencil, paper, and eraser, we finally got a layout we like that should work well and checks all the boxes. So we got straight on with it.
In an effort to make this drawer a little more attractive than the grill one, we opted to use hardwood instead of plywood. The plan being if it goes well and comes out nicely, to rebuild the grill drawer with hardwood as well, to match. So let us know how we did!
Step one was laying out all the cuts to make for the first set of dovetails. Step zero, of course, was sharpening all the chisels. And the kitchen knives, while the sharpening stone is out. Pocket knife too...okay now you're just procrastinating. Right, okay. Make sure to mark which part of the dovetails is scrap, because it sucks to cut the last one the wrong way, then the whole piece is scrap.
Then you just rip cut down the lines and chop across the grain. And chop. And question whether solid maple was a good choice. Keep chopping. Make sure everyone has earmuffs on because it's loud! Remember, because you're doing it in the kitchen, because it's so cold outside. Finally, the first set of tails is done. Transfer the tails to make the pins.
Fast-forwarding a whole bunch, seriously it was like a week or so of cutting dovetails, and we have a 4-sided box. It's critical to make sure the joints always go together the same way, so each is match-marked. They go together and come apart and go back together several times during the process as there's several iterations of test fit, trim, test fit, repeat. But in the end, is it worth it? We think so!
What we haven't really described is the overall design. But the pictures do a really good job of that, so it's probably not totally necessary. But to shed some light, there is a small storage compartment "behind" the sink. Behind meaning on the opposite side of the faucet from the sink. So we had to make a divider, which would also enclose the storage compartment. For this it was decided to use a mortise joint on each end. I've never made a mortise so it was..."interesting".
I made what I anticipated to be the easier side first. I was definitely right about that. I probably could have done this quite easily on the table saw, but as stated earlier, it's been really cold out, so the kitchen was preferred for its warmth. Plus the rest of the drawer was handmade at this point, so we'll just keep it going.
With both ends of the divider cut, it was time to start on the last major hurdle of this subassembly. I wasn't really sure the best way to go about it as I'd never made one before. In the future, I'd make the joint just slightly wider, or get a smaller chisel. The smallest we have is 1/4" wide, which is the same width as the slot that needed to be cut. Unfortunately, that meant it was just a little bit too snug to cut lengthwise down the slot without ruining it. So I set about chipping out just a little bit at a time. This seemed to take forever. We couldn't wait to be done with the chopping.
Fast-forwarding a bunch again here. So much respect to people who can do this kind of handcrafted joinery in hardwood well. Not sure about those who do it for "fun" though...
Both mortises and all the dovetails complete was a major milestone, as it meant the worst (and loudest!) was behind us. It meant we were ready to apply glue, which was mildly terrifying because that means it's permanent. We triple checked that everything fit properly, and then glued it all together.
Next, we had a discussion for the top face. Should the grain go the long way or the short way? We both had it in our heads that it would go the long way, until we saw it both ways and realized we both preferred it the short way. So we cut one piece to size for both openings, then removed 1/2" strip in the middle for the divider, so the grain matches up.
During the great grain debate, we also discussed hinges for the storage compartment. We agreed that we didn't like a piano hinge across the top. Our preference was to see as little hinge as possible. So we looked at piano hinge with an offset, but it was kind of pricey, and not readily available. We perused the catalog of our local hardware boutique, maybe you've heard of The Home Depot, and found some workable options. We decided to go with a couple of overlay-style hinges installed backwards. Typically, the pocket goes in the door, but our door didn't have the depth to allow it, so we put the pocket in the storage compartment wall. Unfortunately, the forstner bit was M.I.A., so the pockets were also cut by hand.
With both hinges installed, we started to have a clearer idea of what this thing would actually look like. We were quite pleased. A couple of magnets (not visible here) were installed on the near wall to keep the lid shut over bumpy terrain.
If you've made it this far, you've been very patient. We can finally get to the purpose of this post. Which is the sink. We found a bar sink a while back at a local building supply store, that fit the dimensions we needed, without being uselessly tiny. The faucet, as mentioned earlier, was a long struggle. We found this awesome faucet from Ambassador Marine, which was a little bit on the expensive side, but has the wonderful feature of folding flat. Actually it folds beyond flat; if the mounting allowed, it would spin full 360 degrees. We searched quite a bit, but could not find anything like it that had hot and cold inputs, and seemed like a good quality piece. The drain is also from Ambassador Marine, and has a very low profile as well. It projects only about 1-1/2" below the bottom of the sink. The drain can be purchased here.
With the box complete, and the parts in hand, we simply drilled some holes for plumbing and jig-sawed out the hole for the sink. The assembly was very simple, and took only a couple minutes. And...voila!
We put a handle on so we could actually open the door!
And finally, we put a bottom in the opening, so that it was actually useful for storage. We haven't worked out what will be stored in here just yet, but for scale, below is a medium sauce pan and a small dinner plate. There's plenty of room! You can also kind of see the faucet in it's folded position.
If you were wondering why we put such large tires on a trailer, let us show you. First, we made an upside-down drawer. Next, we destroyed it.
Then, we made another upside-down drawer. With a different joint design, this attempt came out much nicer. When flipped over, this piece becomes the counter on which the grill will sit.
We wanted the cooking surface to be at a workable height, which required the use of 30" tires. The ground clearance is nice, too, since the trailer will see off-road use.
We acquired ball-bearing drawer slides 30" long with a 400lbs. capacity from Amazon. These will allow the grill to slide out it's full width, plus some extra for a small work space next to it. Standard drawer slides are used for the inner utensil drawer. These are 24" soft-close type from Home Depot.
Next, we made a smaller drawer to fit inside the upside-down drawer. This drawer-within-a-drawer will be used to store utensils and/or cookware, most likely.
We took a little self-made beer and food tour with some friends in Portland, Maine. The main purpose was to celebrate a birthday; the completion of our good friend Theo's twenty-ninth trip around our star. We found some things we really liked and some things that only whelmed us, so we would like to share.
Our first stop was the service plaza in Kennebunk...to use the restrooms. You didn't think we were touring truck stop foods, did you?! The continuation of the ride was uneventful. So uneventful, in fact, that we missed the exit we wanted. Someone was slacking in the navigation department. Oops! No matter, we turned around at the next one and still managed to arrive first of our group.
The second stop (the first planned one) of our tour was Rising Tide Brewing Co. We got a high top table and looked over the beer list, but we waited for friends to arrive before making any decisions. The next to arrive were (belated) birthday boy, Theo, and his wife, Kerri, along with their friend, Nathan. Credit for the planning of this tour goes entirely to Kerri; we're merely participants. We got signed into our tour while Theo's brother, Chase, and his wife, Christina joined us.
We found a spot at the bar to order a round, and it was then everyone else realized they hadn't decided. Not a problem, they moved out of our way and we ordered a Pisces and a Waypoint while they hemmed and hawed over the beer list. To be fair, Rising Tide offers a surprisingly large array of beers for their size, with 12 beers on tap. With everyone's hands full of beer, and their eyes protected with safety glasses, we began our tour of the production area, lead by Dan. As far as craft breweries go, Rising Tide is maybe slightly larger than average. It's just a one-room operation, but they have a handful of ~150bbl fermenters. Dan came across as quite knowledgeable of the process and science of brewing, as well as the company's history. He was very friendly and had us all laughing throughout the tour. Of the Pisces, I was a fan. It had been warm when we set out on our trip, though Portland was overcast, and a light gose is an awesome nice-weather beer. I enjoyed the Waypoint, a nice, smooth coffee porter. Even though the weather was spring-like, I generally prefer dark beers year-round.
We finished the tour and were joined by Theo's dad, Wax, and his wife Marie. There was also another woman, Julie. We all stepped outside to find the Japanese-inspired food truck called Mami. We ordered rice balls per Dan's suggestion, as well as a steam bun, recommended by Nathan. The flavors were great, and the food was the perfect little snack to quench our very slight hunger.
As our group milled about, sampling different foods outside and beers inside, we popped in next door at Maine Craft Distilling to see what they had. I was mostly interested in their whisky situation; which was only a couple shots left in one bottle. We talked with the bartender about how that was great for their business, yet unfortunate for me. We learned it is available at Whole Foods and a couple other nearby locations. I tried a small sample anyway. Unfortunately, I didn't LOVE it enough to try to track it down. Nathan strayed in a few minutes behind us and he sampled a dry gin next to a barrel-aged gin. He preferred the dry, though he later confessed that he wasn't in love with the samples either.
Next, we drove across town to check out Allagash Brewing Co. As soon as we parked, we realized they had expanded noticeably since we were last there, a few years ago. We got signed in and checked out what was available in the tasting room while we waited for the rest of our group to catch up. I drooled over the bottles of Curieux trying to decide if I should buy one or 12, while others got a sample of house beer. Eventually, Bella rounded us up and took us out onto the production floor. As an engineer, this place always fascinates me. The production equipment is just beautifully designed and integrated. It's really more of one giant machine, than several separate processing tanks.
Bella told us of the rocky start for Allagash Brewing, back when no one in America had acquired the taste for Belgian-style beers. It was interesting to think about how the taste of a nation can affect a company and, through perseverance, how a company can affect the taste of a nation. Allagash kept producing their flagship White through the early years, unchanged, and eventually it caught on. About a decade later. We moved on to the experimentation area where the employees can try out their own ideas. It was cool to see that although their production scale is so massive, Allagash still approaches brewing like any other craft brewery; they still think they're small. We passed through the wild yeast and fruit addition area, where my beloved Curieux is made, on our way to the barrel-aging room. Here we tried out Map40, Hoppy Table Beer, and St. Klippenstein. They were all great, in their own distinct ways. They were all very different from one another. I was very impressed by the flavor of the Map 40. It is a Belgian-style stout infused with cold-brewed coffee. In my opinion this beer was better than the Waypoint I had gotten at Rising Tide.
Back in the tasting room, we made some decisions and bought a few items to bring home and save for a rainy day. As the rest of our group did a combination of purchasing for now and purchasing for later, we chatted about our plan, and eventually made a move towards the door.
We walked the short distance down Industrial Ave. to Foundation Brewing Co. and grabbed a table on the patio. It wasn't quite that nice outside, but we were optimistic. We held the table while the stragglers caught up and lined up to get flights. We skipped out on drinking here, though the reviews from our fellow tourmates were good all around. Bedrock had the most positive responses of everything.
Just three doors over from Foundation is New England Distilling, which we went to next. I inquired about the whisky situation, of course - more specifically, bourbon. I asked if they make bourbon, which as it turns out, was the wrong question. The answer was yes, so I got excited. Attached to that yes was a big ol' BUT. "Yes, we make bourbon BUT we don't sell it yet." Apparently there is disagreement among the company about which proof they should bottle it at, and they need to reach a consensus before they can sell it. Oh well.
We drove across town again for our next and final stop at Little Tap House for dinner. We arrived first, and well ahead of our reservation time, so we asked if we could just grab a couple seats at the bar while we waited on the rest of our party. Our table was ready, we were told, and would we rather sit there? So we got seated and ordered some maple bacon mixed nuts. When the nuts arrived, we realized we were both very hungry. They were totally delicious. We devoured them.
As a few more of our party arrived and got situated, our waitress brought us a complementary sample of a bean relish, from the chef. It was pretty good, though not our favorite. We realized that some of our group would take a while to catch up, so we ordered a few various appetizers to share. Among them were pomme frites with parmesan and truffle salt, a cheese plate, Reuben eggrolls, and hummus. All the food was amazing, and helped us decide on entrees. I ordered a brisket. I ordered chili. The brisket was over the top good. We had to bring the remaining chili home because it was delicious but enormous portions. Yay for leftovers!
Like any good camper, we have to incorporate some method of stabilization. This prevents the trailer from tipping over when we get inside it. That would not be a good situation to be in. Since our trailer is pretty tall by conventional over-the-road camper standards, the stabilizer jacks also have to be fairly tall. When they're collapsed, this height becomes length. So we had to find a way to fit these rather large jacks into a rather small trailer, while minimizing the effect on ground clearance. No problem. First, we ordered this pair of Bal stabilizer jacks from Amazon. (If you wish to purchase these jacks, use that link; it will help us to continue to make these posts!)
We planned to mount the jacks flush with the top face of the trailer frame, so that they would hang down beneath the trailer as little as possible. We mocked up a few different mounting configurations to get a better sense of which would be best. Note that as the jacks are deployed, the "feet" move closer and closer to the action end of the jack (where the drive nut is located), until the legs are nearly vertical.
Because of the action of the jacks, we didn't really like this arrangement. When deployed, the feet would be very close together, thus preventing them from offering much stability. However, we did like the convenience of being able to deploy both jacks from one location at the back of the trailer.
Here we tried an asymmetric layout, but we didn't like this either. It just looked dumb.
Finally, we decided to mount them in this arrangement. This will have the feet as close to the sides of the trailer as feasible when deployed, for maximum stability. Initially, we planned to mount them flush with the top of the frame as stated earlier, to maximize ground clearance when stowed. However, that would have required drilling through the frame rails in order to have access to the drive nuts on the jacks. While doable, this is a fair bit of work. To save some effort, we moved the jacks down about one inch, so the drive nuts sit fully below the frame rails. The sacrifice in ground clearance is minimal, we feel. The jacks have a very low profile to begin with, so this should not (hopefully!) cause any issues.
I cut some lengths of U-channel to fit and used the jacks to locate the channels before welding them in place. Drilling the holes was pretty straightforward, again using the jacks themselves as a guide.
As you know, or maybe you don't, a trailer's receiver tube needs some lateral stability. Going down the highway, for example, it's being pulled in a straight line and it's not as critical. But when you're coming around a tight bend in a trail, hung up on rocks and going up a hill, the forces in the receiver tube get pretty crazy. So the trailer design must allow for all the tubes to share to load. Or as many as is reasonable. We connected the receiver tube about halfway down the crossmembers. Then we connected it to the side rails of the frame with angled 2" square sections. We'll reinforce the rear corners in the future.
But let's talk about mistakes first. I thought that I knew how I wanted to mount the interior walls to the frame. Because I got excited, I got ahead of myself. I cut and welded stuff on before I really took a step back to look at what I was doing. These brackets were aligned well and all; they were exactly where I intended to put them. But they just...well they looked bad.
I spent some time working on other areas (see previous posts on water and propane), trying my best not to look at these stupid brackets. Not just because they looked stupid, but because I didn't know how I wanted to resolve it, and I refused to think about cutting them off. Yeah, of course I finish-welded them on because simply tacking them in place would have been too simple to fix.
Finally, I'd run out of other stuff to do for a bit and I came up with a better solution. Then I mustered the will to admit my screw up which meant cutting them all off. The collateral was about 3 and a half cut-off disks and a sore back for the evening. But after that, I'd got back to where we wanted to be. Square #1, that is.
Then I made up a bunch of what I'm calling nut plates, although they're really more like nut angles. It just doesn't sound right. And then tacked them in place. From here on out everything gets tacked until we're done. In the end, it was only a minor setback which cost very little other than time and pride. But I'm sure the lesson will prove valuable moving forward.
As we mentioned in an earlier post, our friend Ryan (of 2180miles) graciously donated a set of wheels to our cause. They are originally from a Jeep Wrangler YJ, I believe. They had been sitting out in the harsh New England elements for too long. We took them into our home and nurtured them back to life. We set out to give them purpose again.
The patina was not severe. We've certainly seen much worse. We agreed that we didn't need a show-car finish; we just wanted them to be one color. So we scrubbed them with a green scrubby pad what's that called? brillo pad? scotch brite pad? and water to knock down the texture formed by the surface rust. This smoothed out the surface of the wheels sufficiently for us to be satisfied. I sprayed a rust-preventing primer on the inside and outside of the wheels. Then, the insides were sprayed black and the outsides silver.
Then came tires. We ordered (3) Falken Wildpeak ATs in 30x9.5x15. To save some money, and to satisfy my curiosity, we decided to mount them ourselves. This has since been considered as a poor choice. I wouldn't recommend it.
We enlisted the help of our neighbors because we were in over our heads. (Luckily for us, they accept payment in beer.) Also, I did it backwards, unknowingly. Leave this step to professionals. At least now we know what is involved, and we may have saved a few dollars. But the effort involved seems hardly worth it.
I found Plastic-Mart while searching for a suitable water tank for the trailer. They have this awesome table that lists all their tanks by volume and includes length, width, and height dimensions. There's tons of options, and most given volumes have a few different shapes available. When you order a tank, you can give instructions on what size and quantity of fittings to put on the tank and where, which is great. We requested a typical feed, drain, and vent setup. I was a little worried until the tank arrived because we'd laid out the frame to exactly the dimensions given in the table. I had no idea who these people were, or if their drawings were to be trusted. And there's no tolerance given on the dimensions either. What if it comes in 1/8" oversize? I'd have to cut the frame apart, which I really didn't want to have to do. We were ecstatic to find that the tank fit perfectly. It was built to exactly the dimensions given.
I'd held off on making any mounting components until we actually had the tank so I could use it as a reference for sizing things. Once we had it, I got to work making up a mount for it. It's pretty simple, really. Two of the frame crossmembers sandwich it to prevent fore-aft movement, as you see in the picture. On the left and right, two lengths of steel angle between the frame crossmembers prevent side-to-side movement. A simple steel angle frame lays on the top and fastens to the lower mounting to prevent up-and-down movement. A representative at Plastic-Mart told me that the entire bottom of the tank has to be supported. So I cut a skid plate for the water tank and welded it in place after making some small drainage holes. We don't want any water hanging out near our water.