Thursday, September 29, 2011

Scenic By-way...

We had to make a run to the Northern Hills today, so we decided to play tourist along the way. The local weather guys have been saying, "This will be the peak fall colors weekend for Spearfish Canyon."


We stopped in Sturgis to visit our friends, Dick and his brother Pat, who own a motorcycle dealership there. We've known them for years; bought a lot of motorcycles from them over those years. Joan saw a scooter there that really caught her eye... yeah, we'll think about it.

On through Boulder Canyon, Deadwood, Lead, and into Spearfish Canyon. We figured it would be quiet on that road, since it is a Thursday.

Not even close - LOTS of traffic on that Scenic By-way... we all wanted to see the pretty fall colors.

It was a windy day yesterday... we think it played a part in making the Canyon "just past peak." Still, it was a beautiful drive. With the temp only predicted to be in the mid-60s today, we took the truck instead of the motorcycle. Spearfish Canyon Road was always one of our favorite drives when we lived here.

Fall lasts a short time in the mountain west - wind, cold, or even a wet snow can strip the trees, cutting the fall color show short. Not the case this year; the weather here has been beautiful for the last several weeks. Some friends from the Northeast or Midwest have commented, "Yes, but you don't have those pretty red colors..."

Sure we do...

Another relaxing day... no schedule... a late leisurely lunch. We extended our stay here for a few more days. I really like this schedule.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

New tech issue...

There have been some changes to the park wifi here at Hart Ranch since we were here last spring; instead of a bunch of different hotspots scattered throughout the park, only 1 shows up on my computer. Obviously, there have been some issues with that, because there are signs in the office stating that some Mifi cards and wireless broadband cards have been interfering with the park wifi. Everything was working fine on our end until we got a new neighbor yesterday... it's a motorhome with two BIG satellite dishes on top. And since he plugged in, it seems to be interfering with our wifi signal, either from the Droid or the Mifi card. Frustrating.

A trip into town confirmed that it isn't our equipment - everything works perfectly when we get away from the park.

First that we've run into this situation - hope it isn't just the beginning, as people make the move to more mobile internet access.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

We be CLEAN!

That shiny red thing you see in the foreground is Big Red; she looks RED again. In the background is a shiny HitchHiker, a shiny cargo trailer, and a shiny black motorcycle. Clean. All of 'em. While I was working on the exterior, Joan thoroughly cleaned the interior... as in: moved all the furniture to vacuum, wiped down all the cabinets with wood cleaner/conditioner, even cleaned the ceiling fan. While on top of the rig to clean and condition the roof, I removed the vent covers to clean underneath. I am talking CLEAN! The Love Shack and all the peripherals look as good as new.

I am wiped, but content. Joan is taking me out for supper tonight... Rapid City now has a Texas Roadhouse. That will help me forget about my aches and pains. :-)


On edit: a test of the camera in the new Droid Bionic when we came back from supper...

Holding detail and color in a contrasty situation is a good test of a camera's automatic metering. Not bad. Don't think I'll be giving up my point & shoot, but I always have the phone with me.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

I like this schedule...

Joan visited with Steph this morning... on her new iPhone. And then downloaded a bunch of apps... I think she's accepting this new technology.

Joan gave me a haircut this morning; she had to use scissors and clippers, no app for that. ;-) After that, we were off on a motorcycle ride through the Hills. Perfect weather: temp in the 70s (I know, because Joan has a thermometer app), crisp sunny skies. We rode back roads to Keystone (near Mt. Rushmore), and had lunch... with a table on the boardwalk. The crowds were light (as you'd expect right now), but steady. Lots of motorcyclists out taking advantage of the weather. No trip to Keystone is complete without a stop at The Taffy Shop.

From there, it was up the mountain, past Mt. Rushmore...

The camera in the Droid is plenty adequate for this kind of "we were here" image. Then, cruising on back roads... the kind of roads that have names, but not numbers. Easy to see why the Black Hills is always in the Top 10 for Best Motorcycle Roads.

A stop for ice cream ("Live to Ride, Ride to Eat"), then home in time for Izzy's supper and hammock time for Joan. She fired up the new portable speaker via bluetooth - yeah, she is totally into the technology.

Little Izzy enjoyed some grass time while we lounged outside...

This is the start of that "another summer" we'd get when we left the Tetons. Feels like vacation!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

All about Izzy...

It's been a while, but today was Izzy's day... she got to have Mommy and Daddy around the coach all morning. We left the park to get a bite to eat this afternoon, but Izzy got plenty of time outside the rest of the day.

Yes, she really does walk on a leash...

Some tree climbing, with Momma close by, just in case...

Joan tried out the camera in her new phone on some Izzy close-ups...

And a close up... um, from my camera, not Joan's phone...

(The right tool for the job.)

A beautiful day today, it made it to around 80º, glorious sunshine, and just a bit breezy to keep it comfortable. I rode my bicycle around the park while Joan and Izzy did some hammock time. Then, more cat walking. Nice way to pass a lovely day.

Friday, September 23, 2011


Check, 1, 2, 3... nah, just kidding. Since we are back in "civilization," we have done some changing around with our phone/internet stuff. I had to get a new phone last week before we left the Tetons when my "old" Droid died. I updated with a Droid Bionic... generally, very pleased... much faster than my previous Droid, but some e-mail issues with AOL. Not just my issues, it seems that other Bionic owners are having e-mail issues with AOL... as in: one account is OK, but you can't easily switch between accounts. Yeah, that's an issue. A trip to the Verizon store didn't solve it; they gave me a tech support phone number, and they didn't solve it, either. The nice tech support guy said he'd check into it and get back to me... he wasn't aware of the issue, but when he pulled up the Droid forums and saw plenty of folks with the same problem I'm having. So, it's "officially" reported.

That said and done, we made a big change: dropping the Mifi card (in one more month) and putting an unlimited wifi hotspot service on the Bionic. Half the price ($30 instead of the $60 for the Mifi), but I am already paying $30 per month for data service on the phone. That extra $30 saved disappeared immediately when Joan came kicking and screaming into the 21st Century and got her first smart phone: an iPhone 4.

She already knows how to run an iPad, so this is an easy transition.

Now for the test: how does the Droid Bionic used as a wifi hotspot compare to the Mifi card? I switched back and forth several times between the Mifi and the Bionic as a hot spot, using my Mac and checking the speeds. The guy at the Verizon Store didn't think there would be any difference. We were thinking that the Mifi card is two years old, and technology has certainly improved... maybe there would be an improvement?

The results: the Droid Bionic as a hot spot is delivering almost twice the speed of the Mifi card. While the Bionic has 4G technology, we are in an area where only 3G is available. Still, did I mention: twice the speed? And, at half the price? Sorta.

Using Joan's new iPhone to talk with the tech support folks about the Bionic leads me to another interesting conclusion: the iPhone is just smooth. Just like Mac stuff vs PC stuff. I like my Bionic a lot - it is fast, has a big screen, plenty of apps, and at first blush is my new favorite way to connect to the internet with our laptops... but, the iPhone (with older technology) is just smooth. It will be interesting comparing the two over the long term; as in: the next two years ;-).

After being in western Wyoming for the past 4 months, it was nice to be able to shop for some things we couldn't find there. Pretty sure the credit card company must have thought we were mad at them... not any more.


We first bought in to the Hart Ranch Camping Resort in the early 90s. Living in the Black Hills at the time, it was a great weekend escape - only an hour from home, but a relaxing get-away. All the amenities of the finest RV resorts, but it was the paved sites with nice hook-ups and plenty of grassy space between sites that we most appreciate. We belonged to a camping club and would often socialize with our friends there... I called it RVing, country club style.

We were fortunate to be able to travel all winter in the Sunbelt and then be able to still enjoy the RV on weekends when we were home for the other 3 seasons. Hart Ranch became the resort that we compared all the others to while traveling... and most didn't match up.

Once we retired and moved away, we kept our Hart Ranch membership, but didn't get the opportunity to use it for a couple years. Since getting back into RVing, we try to swing by this area at least once a year, to see friends, tour through the Hills, and relax at the Ranch... feels like home.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Back at the Ranch...

Down for a week or so in the beautiful Black Hills. First time we've ever run into a situation where the campground wifi and our Mifi card seem to interfere with each other... there was a sign in the office stating that there have been problems with people using wireless routers (and Mifi cards). Using the Mifi card close to the computer is WAY fast... moving it away from the computer, and there is interference. The park wifi is sloooooooowwwwwwww. On the bright side, we have it figured out.

We have satellite TV with a good signal, cable TV, indoor plumbing, and 50 amp electricity - how you gonna keep us down on the farm??!! grin The weather is supposed to be great the next week or so; there should be some motorcycle riding and outdoor living. Looking forward to no schedule, sleeping in, and long leisurely lunches out... getting to be real people again. smiley

Little Izzy is enjoying the view and has been out for a walk. Beautiful weather. Life is good! Cool

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Lookin' over my shoulder...

It took some doing... there are no "turn arounds" on the site we've occupied for the last 4 months. Major construction going on, half of the exit road gone, a big pile of gravel in the road, construction vehicles scattered all around. It was a challenge to get the Love Shack out of her site...

And turned around on the single lane road (in and out of another site, and LOTS of back and forth)...

Joan moved the barricades on our road...

We had to cut some branches, ease off into the torn up road, and Joan hooked and pulled some tree branches we couldn't cut, keeping them off the side of our coach. We were determined to get out. ;-)

I kept looking over my shoulder as we turned east to head out of the park...

Glad to be on the road, but those beautiful mountains keep pulling me back.

It was only a few miles out of the park that we ran into major construction on the highway leading to the pass - miles of no roadbed...

Some 4 wheelin' with our 10 wheels. More construction right at the summit of Togwotee Pass, and then smooth sailin' down the other side. Big Red hauled that load without breaking a sweat.

Beautiful blue skies the whole day. The wind kicked up a bit, but it was mostly a quartering cross wind, not right on the nose. Still, 10.4 mpg was the best we could do with all the climbing.

Little Izzy didn't make a peep the whole day; she spent most of the time sleeping in her carrier. She did come out once to lay on Joan's lap and sit by me while I drove. Traveling doesn't faze her a bit.

We are down for the night... commercial campground that is mostly a gravel parking lot. Big change. On the bright side: a fine Mexican meal... and no schedule.


Finished the work necessary on the cruise boat, so she is ready for a long winter's sleep. A treat to finish off the season working with my friend, Captain Ron. The marina manager shook my hand and said, "Congratulations on being a 'civilian' again."

Last night, we had more company than we've had all season come by the coach... and it didn't cause us any concern, 'cause we didn't have to be up before sunrise (even though I am).

After breakfast, I have to drop my company radio and marina key off, make some notations in the maintenance log, and then we'll see if we remember how to get the Love Shack ready to roll... and hope we can get her out of this site!

See you on the road.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Like a rented mule...

Our cruises are done, but there is a LOT of work to be finished before the marina is truly closed. The marina store has been mostly emptied, merchandise moved to other retail outlets. Kayaks and canoes have been pulled out, cleaned, and stacked. All the outboard motors from our rentals have been winterized. One of the cruise boats has been pulled out of the water and moved to temporary storage. Oil and transmission fluids have been pulled for samples to be tested. Safety equipment removed and put into storage. Whew! No wonder I am dog tired at the end of this day.

There is some more work to be done to the cruise boats tomorrow, and I am done. Joan will be finishing inventory tomorrow, and she will be done. My hope for "time off for good behavior" is coming to pass.

I had my end of season reviews today (went well), and we should be ready for check out on Wednesday. We'll plan to hit the road as soon as possible after that. Getting out of our site here is going to be interesting - there is a great deal of construction going on, all around us; some mornings, we have trouble getting just our truck around the piles of gravel and barricades... yep, should be interesting.

The manager asked if we could get a photo with the captain crew today... so, amongst all the work, we put on our white shirts for a crew photo...

There was a brief discussion of "where and how" for the photo; they deferred to my suggestion of "something more interesting than 4 guys standing in a row." Yeah, we did it the "traditional" way, too. Joan was very gracious, taking time away from her work to get this shot for us.

So, another day or two of being worked like the title, and we will be slowly heading for home.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

th-th-th-that's all folks...

Our last day of marina operations! It was a lovely ending to the season... well, almost the ending: this was the last day the marina is open; we still have a LOT of work to get done before we head out. Boats to pull out of the water and winterize, more outboards to winterize, oil changes to be done, a transmission to pull out of one of the cruise boats... whew!

But, today it was all about our final scenic cruises. My day as lead captain, and I took each of the three first mates out on a cruise. The weather was cool, but nice. Full boats all day - everyone wanted to take advantage of this last chance to get out there.

There were the expected "Congrats on a great season" and some group photos. This marina crew has been a treat to work with this season, from the captain crew to the first mates to the dock hands - everyone worked together, and it has been a pleasure to work with them.

I will miss this place. We are ready to move on, but these mountains have a magical pull to them; I know we'll be back again. I truly have "the best office" in this park. A bittersweet departure this year, since I know we won't be coming back next year. Well, maybe to visit.

A very special treat today: a visit from our friends Herb and Wilma, from home. Well, they haven't been home in about 5 months - they've been up in the Pacific Northwest, enjoying their new Ranger Tug...

I felt bad that we didn't get much of a chance to visit - I had just gotten off a cruise, and they were on their way home. Great to see them (even for such a short time), and we're looking forward to a tour of their new tug when we all get back to the Tropical Tip!

So, a few more days of winterizing marina stuff, and we will be heading south, too.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

As promised (trout recipe)...

For Bryan and any others who were interested in fishing guide Pat's recipe for trout, here it is...



Salt& pepper to taste; do not be afraid to over salt & pepper fish, it will absorb it.
1 tsp chopped garlic per fish or filet
1 ½ tlbs of sun dried tomatoes Christopher ranch brand. or mix sun dried tomatoes with capers chopped sweet basil olive oil and 2 whole garlic cloves let marinate for a few hours
2 Lemons
1 red onion julienne
Chive & onion cream cheese

Mix chive & onion cream cheese /w sun dried tomato mixture making sure you get equal parts of all ingredients including olive oil; let stand for one hour or longer.

Salt pepper& garlic & a squeeze of lemon inside cavity of fish or on a filet. roll 1 ½ tlbs of cream cheese mixture into a log and stuff cavity of fish or flatten to contour of filet add a few julienne red onions cut 3 or 4 lemon rounds and lay on top of onions & cream cheese.

Roll fish up in tin foil so that when you are done open cavity of fish is facing up cook on BBQ 10 to 20 min depending on size of fish; do not over cook. When in doubt, check it


On edit: Pat wanted me to let you know that the above recipe is not good for oily fish... but, it's good for chicken, pork, and other meats. We give it two thumbs up!

Tick, tick, tick...

The second to the last day... the marina will close at 5:00 pm tomorrow. I took some photos around the marina this morning - the views always take my breath away.

A beautiful, crisp morning, something we haven't seen in a while. There was a bite to the wind today; the seasons are changing. We pulled another powerboat this morning, and I got the motor winterized. Over half done with that chore. I switched to a captain's uniform after lunch, when it turned out that we had two boats for our 1:30 cruise.

One day to go, and tomorrow is my day as lead captain. Nice way to finish out the season, and the weather is supposed to be good.

Friday, September 16, 2011


Well, there's a change in the weather today - beginning to feel like winter. Mid afternoon, and it's only 52º here. Light rain.

Another change - I got a new phone. I've been using a Droid, the first one that was released through Verizon, almost 2 years ago. It died last week. I went into the Jackson Verizon retailer, with the intent to buy an iPhone. The salesman began to list off all the reasons I didn't want to do that.

I listened politely and said, "I came in here to buy an iPhone. Here's the plan: you pull a 32 gig iPhone 4 out of the drawer, I give you a credit card, you set up my phone, I sign the receipt, you hand me the phone, I leave. Easy."

He went on. Joan finally said, "Do you even have an iPhone in stock?"

"Um, not the 32 gig. And we're not going to get anymore. I can't tell you why."

"You can't tell us because it's a secret, or because you don't know?" I asked.

"I can't say."

I assumed it had something to do with the new iPhone 5 which is supposed to be released next month... or the month after that... or... well, you know.

He went on to say why the newest Droids are far superior to the iPhone.

"I'd like to use it as my updated iPod, as well," I told him.

Moot point, since they don't have one in stock. Joan said, "You need a phone. We're here. Get the 16 gig iPhone or go for the Droid Bionic, and let's go."

I left the store with the Bionic, knowing I now have the latest, greatest, fastest, bestest smart phone in the world... for the next 12 minutes or so... until the newest bestest comes out.

I have to say, this phone is WAY faster than my original Droid. I lost all my contacts and apps, because my phone was old enough that they didn't offer the on-line info back-up when I got mine two years ago. I'd like to get the Navionics app back, but most of the rest of the apps I use are freebies.

Our phone service out here in the boonies is lousy, but this phone got a signal when neither of our other phones could.

Here's another photo I took today with that phone, of an F-boat being set up in the parking lot...

Seems to be a better camera than what was on the original Droid.

Oh, and to add insult to injury, on the way back to the park, Joan said, "I need to upgrade my phone when we leave here... I think I'll get an iPhone."

And another change coming: 3 days left before the marina closes, on Sunday, September 16th. I'll be driving my last scenic cruise on Sunday afternoon. And hopefully we will be able to get out of here before it snows!

Thursday, September 15, 2011


Joan scheduled a guided fishing trip for Dave and Annette with one of our professional guides. She went along with them, I stayed behind to start the packing process - cargo trailer, motorcycle, kayaks, and cleaning all the pine needles and pine cones off the top of the HitchHiker. There is no doubt that they had a LOT more fun than I did.

Heading out...

The fishing was good - they caught 7 fish...

1 cutthroat and 6 lake trout. I took this photo of them all when they got back...

Pat is more than a guide, he is our friend. We invited him to join us for supper - he said he'd like to be more than a guest, offering to cook the trout with his special recipe.

Before supper, I got a fire going in the fire ring while Pat started to prep the fish...

Pat lined the fire ring with the fish...

Pat's recipe calls for stuffing the fish with cream cheese, sun dried tomatoes, lemon, garlic, and other goodies. Getting the fish ready for the table...

Getting ready to eat...

We enjoyed the company and the conversation until the darkness and the cold chased us inside. A great day off; nice to have family and our friend Pat here with us.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Sunset rays...

We went for dinner at Signal Mountain Lodge with Joan's sister, Annette, and brother-in-law, Dave. We were treated to a dramatic view of the sun's rays coming through the clouds at sunset from our table by the window...

Nice meal, great conversation, all with a magnificent view.

Who reads these days?

There was a thread on the demise of many magazines on the C-Brat forum. For someone who writes a lot, I found it very interesting. And, my response...


Before we retired, we subscribed to over 30 magazines between us. We started eliminating them as the subscriptions ran out because it was a pain (and expense) to get them forwarded as we travel. Just like using an ATM is more convenient than getting/carrying travelers checks, and a cell phone beats the heck out of looking for a phone booth (remember those?).

Our world continues to change and the print media is being left behind. For many years, I contributed to several photographic magazines - now, that same info is available on-line and immediate. No 90 day lead times. People expect information NOW.

My Mother's generation had radio... we had television (with 2 channels)... now, you can have TV/video streamed to your phone. The days of the Brownie camera (with week-long waits to see photos) gave way to one hour processing, and now we have a generation that doesn't know anything but digital imaging (what's film?).

Things change. People expect on-line content to be (mostly) free. Anyone can post anything. When "breaking news" can be seen unfolding on your phone or tablet, the daily newspaper is "old news." Thus, their demise.

When I was in the hunt to find a literary agent to get a book published, I found an industry that was struggling... eBooks are gaining on the traditional publishing industry. It makes sense: less expense, less use of resources, immediate publication, very little "up front" costs. The main lesson I learned through that journey was that content was less important than track record: if it sells, the next one can get published. Magazines/publications today are selling less. Fewer readers means fewer advertisers, which makes for a "thinner" publication, which leads to fewer readers, which... well, you know. People with a product to sell can do so on-line... and can track how many are viewing.

I love to read. I don't think the current young people, as a whole, no longer read - they just get their content in a different form. In the past month, I have read two magazines that were lent to me by a co-worker (first actual magazines I've read in a while)... but, I do read a couple hours a day when I can. Almost all of it via computer or tablet.

One of my favorite magazines, "Latitudes & Attitudes", has gone through many changes - they were one of the first to launch an "on-line version." For years, they have promoted themselves as "for cruisers, by cruisers"... but they also know that the bulk of people who are buying their magazine (or buying on-line content) are not cruisers, but are the many who "have the dream." They had reviews of old boats while the glossy "mainstream" boat magazines ran articles on the gold-platers... they were able to promote themselves as "we're one of you." Irreverent, but the advertisers go where the numbers are, and this publication was growing while others diminished. When they allowed free downloading of their on-line version, many in the publishing industry thought that move was insane. Advertisers stayed around, because people were reading the magazine.

The business model of publishing is changing (and has to in order to survive). People will still read, it's just a matter of how you get the content to them... in e-form, they can click on a link and go right to an advertiser's web page. Another click, and they are in a discussion forum. Hard to do that with ink and paper.

Who needs a town-crier when you can get a printed newspaper? Who needs a newspaper when you can get immediate news on TV? Who needs TV when you can get that same news and the entire internet on your phone? This summer, I have seen WAY more people taking photographs with their phones, in place of a camera. I find the image quality of even my smallest pocket camera to be much better than any phone camera... but, most people have their phone on their person all the time.

My smart phone died last week, and my first thought was: "All my content and apps - I need those!" I have several books on my phone at any given time. Reading on the phone? Really? Hey, Bill & El navigate by phone these days - it's a different world. Wink

Printed magazines are having a tough time competing with connected content. Understandable. My dear ol' Mother passed away at age 90 earlier this year... she was a voracious reader. Never owned a computer, had a heck of time trying to learn a new TV remote. I handed her an iPad with a book on it; took about 10 seconds to show her how to "turn the page." She was immediately into "the story" and not concerned about the physical form. When I showed her that she could switch from a book to a magazine to a PDF file (she had no idea what that was), she asked, "How do you get a book in here?"

"It takes about 60 seconds to download it."

She thought about that for a few seconds, said, "I think I would miss looking at all the book covers," and went back to reading.

Yep, a different world.

Best wishes,
Jim B.

Oh, and some of us still write. Cool