Lovin Dubois!


Its Sunday Sept 4th and we have the first “gray day” since arriving at The Longhorn Ranch Resort over two and a half weeks ago (http://www.thelonghornranch.com).  As usual its been a blast and great to be back in the land of red rock canyons, rushing streams, and the forested slopes of the Bridger-Teton National Forest and the vast Shoshone National Forest (http://www.fs.usda.gov/shoshone/). Days have been in the 70s, and nights in the low 40s with no need for AC!!!!

After settling in first day I wandered upstream a bit from our camp to catch the evening rise for trout.  Over two hours I was welcomed with steady action from rainbows and browns culminating with a nice brown of 22 inches that sported the bright golden flanks and gorgeous red spots that only wild fish can show off.  Returning to the RV, the evening was capped off with a fine steak on the grill and a stellar show of the milky way that only the high altitude and absence of ambient light can produce. What a great start to our stay.

My friend Frank Carlton joined us a couple of days later and he and I set off for a float fishing trip on the upper Wind River within the vast, 2.2 million acre Wind River Indian Reservation near Crowheart, WY (http://www.windriver.org/culture/native_american).

Crowheart Butte in Wyoming was the site of the Crowheart Butte Battle of 1866 between the Crow Indians and the Eastern Shoshone tribe. When the combatants proved to be too evenly matched for either to win without great casualties, they agreed to a duel to the death between their chieftains to determine which group would win the battle and the hunting rights for which they were fighting. When the Shosone chief won the fight, he placed the heart of the Crow chief on his lance to show respect for the Crow chief's bravery in the battle.

Crowheart Butte in Wyoming was the site of the Crowheart Butte Battle of 1866 between the Crow Indians and the Eastern Shoshone tribe. When the combatants proved to be too evenly matched for either to win without great casualties, they agreed to a duel to the death between their chieftains to determine which group would win the battle and the hunting rights for which they were fighting. When the Shosone chief won the fight, he placed the heart of the Crow chief on his lance to show respect for the Crow chief’s bravery in the battle.


The reservation, established for the Shoshone and Arapaho tribes, is comprised of high rolling sagebrush hills, cropland irrigated using the Wind River, pasture and beef cattle, red rock canyons and bluffs, the vast Boysen Reservoir, and the spectacular Wind River Canyon below Boysen that Frank and I floated last year.

This trip takes us through the upper red rock country near Crowheart butte and, while the canyon walls aren’t as high here, the sandstone bluffs and rocks deliver their own special kind of beauty.


Our trip with Chris, our guide, is memorable for the many gorgeous native rainbow and brown trout happy to take our flies, the isolation of the river from any sign of human presence, the quiet, the deer and elk among the bottomland willows, and the good fortune to be able to share it with Frank. The slide show below will give you a taste of the experience but, as they say, you really had to be there!

While Frank and I are happily floating down the River, Susy is off on a three-day pack trip into the depths of the Shoshone National Forest wilderness area.  Accessible only on foot or on horseback the trip starts at the Absaroka Ranch (http://www.absarokaranch.com) six miles up into the Dunoir Valley at the end of the dirt road and the beginning of the roadless/vehicle-less area.

p1020417 P1020434

The Absaroka Ranch is a guest ranch offering pack trips, hunting trips for elk, fishing, etc. and run by Budd & Emi Betts, his family and ranch staff.  The ranch offers great accommodations in comfy log cabins, wonderful food, and a great western experience with people who have done it for over 30 years and really have their act together.  It is truly a horse-centric place, and one where the love of the majestic surroundings really shows through the people there.  I hope you enjoy the slide show below as much as Susy did being there.

Folks, stay tuned for more adventures…..and please accept my apologies for the sporadic nature of my posts.  In a community of 971 residents, it’s often tough to commandeer enough bandwith just to stay on, not to mention handle lots of images.

And folks, just a reminder: when you receive a notice of a new post GO DIRECTLY TO OUR WEBSITE TO VIEW IT!  The email version does not include full site web functionality.


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Americas Heartland

Next day we head off early in the fog to resume out journey westward.  We head to Asheville on Rte 64 through Brevard, and join I-26 north toward Asheville where we pick up I-40 first north through the Smokies and then west through Knoxville and pick up I-24 heading toward Clarksville, TN where we spend the night.  At the Cottonwood campground outside of Clarksville the temps are in the mid 90’s, the WiFi signal is strong but one cannot connect to the internet, and the cellular service is spotty at best.  It is truly one of those Ray Bradbury-ish dead zones and, to top it off, our rear coach air conditioner quits during the night so we’re running on one unit with temps in the hi 90s! Yikes!

Next morning we strategize and decide to head on to Lincoln, Nebraska where Susy has located Leach Camper Sales (http://www.leachrv.com), a Tiffin RV Dealer that is also an authorized Coleman AC repair facility.  It’s also on the way to Wyoming, our next destination, and we’re hoping that we can achieve a quick repair and be on our way.  Of note is the fact that the area is in the midst of a record-breaking heat wave with temps approaching 100 degrees and there’s no way we’ll survive without the bedroom AC.  Also of note is Susy’s knack for honing in on a business that can help us out.  A call to Leach’s service manager confirmed that he’d have one of his techs take a look at our AC when we arrived in the early afternoon and we’re hoping for a quick-fix when we get there.

Now, the good news is that when we arrived at Leach a team of people jumped on our case but, the bad news was that our AC compressor had seized up and the entire unit needed to be replaced. Moreover, we’re in the middle of a Midwest heat wave and AC parts/units/supplies are in short supply everywhere and all dealers are way behind in filling orders.  Nevertheless, led by Pat Leach himself, the team managed to find one of only two units available nationwide, in Detroit and had it shipped immediately.  Unfortunately, the weekend is in the way so that the earliest we can expect it is this coming Monday.  If so, we could be back on the road again Tuesday, in time to make my scheduled fishing trip in Dubois, WY on Friday!  With the able assistance of our team at leach, they found us a spot at The Pine Grove RV Park ( http://www.pinegrovervpark.com) here in Greenwood 20 miles away from Lincoln where we will cool our heels until a spot at Camp-A-Way (http://www.campaway.com) in Lincoln opens up on Sunday.

I can’t praise enough the guys at Leach, especially Pat Leach, David Shields and Deb. This is a big operation, with 11 acres of RVs and campers, a great service facility, people who are on the ball, and a business that is just plain busy.  Yet they had us in a service bay less than 20 minutes after we arrived, diagnosed our problem, and had options plus a solution in less than two hours.  For those experienced in the world of RV service, this is simply standout service and they went through all the hoops they could find to try to get us back on the road quickly.  For those RVrs who get told that there’s a three-week wait before they can expect service from a dealer on the road, I just want to confirm that there ARE dealers out there that stand out from the vast sea of mediocrity that characterizes this industry.  Just superb.

Meanwhile, here we sit surrounded by corn and soybean fields to our east and west, I-80 just on our south side, and an auto junkyard across the street to our north.  While lacking in ambiance, the park is well run and clean with nice sites and great TV reception so that we can enjoy the Olympics.

Last night, amid 98 degree heat, we were treated to a series of thunderstorms that the Midwest is noted for.  Constant lightning, driving rain, booming thunder, black clouds went on for just about four hours, after which we were treated to a 25 degree drop in temperature and a resulting sound nights sleep. With Susy now up and about, we can start to plan to make the most of our stay here in the Lincoln area while we wait for our replacement AC unit to arrive.

So here’s what a week in the Lincoln, NE area will bring you if you follow our lead:

  • Golf at the Ashland Country Club (very nice, fun and cheap)
  • BBQ at Johnson Restaurant in Ashland (great, and cheap)
  • Car shopping at Lexus of Lincoln and Omaha, and Omaha Acura (great people)
  • The NE State fair in Lincoln (goats, bunnies, mud racing, and construction equipment operating contests). Plus bad hot dogs.
  • Shopping at HyVee supermarket in Lincoln (superb, including booze)
  • Art at The Great Plains Museum (yawn)
  • Fine dining at 801 Steak House in Omaha (superb)
  • Watching lots of the Olympics in great over-the-air HD (fantastic)

The slide show below will give you a taste of our stay while we cool our heels at Pine Grove Campground right next to I-80 and Camp-Away, also right next to I-80! One night we are hankering for meat and pick one of the top steakhouses in nearby Omaha (http://www.801chophouse.com).  Fine food, good drinks, great service, and terrific ambiance in a classic, dark wood-paneled, emporium of beef.


Picture 1 of 7

We also will need a new car when we return in October so we terrorize all the local Acura and Lexus dealers in Lincoln and Omaha with a zillion questions.  Despite letting them know up front that we live 2K miles away and will probably buy locally, these people spend an inordinate amount of time with us showing/demoing/pricing new suvs.  All were a real treat to be with, knew their products completely, and were absent the “good-ole boy” slime often present on our local car salesmen.  Plus they followed up with us with answers to our questions and additional info after we left.  What a refreshing treat. A perfect example was, as we drove down the highway just before arriving at Acura of Omaha a passing car alerted us to the fact that one of our Jeep tires was going flat.  Seconds later as we came to a halt in the Acura parking lot the tire went completely flat. As we kicked the tires of the new ACURA MDX , Steve Carberry and the service guys there wheeled the Jeep in, fixed our flat with a patch and had our car ready for us when we left.  Great guys and fine service (http://www.acuraofomaha.com).

On Wednesday we get the magic call that our AC is in and can be installed by the team at Leach at 8:30 Thursday. Fantastic!  We are there at the appointed hour and are on the road again headed West by 10:30 AM. It’s great to be on the road again.  The delay has caused us to have to unfortunately cancel our stay in Cody, WY, and me to miss my scheduled fishing trip in DuBois on Friday with Frank Carlton but we are again air-cooled, completely functional, and headed West to Cheyenne for the evening before heading on up to DuBois.  Settling in to this little campground in Cheyenne for the night (blessedly away from I-80 and other interstates) we are surprised to see that they also have a little BBQ restaurant.  Jumping on the chance not to have to cook we do take out of pulled pork and ribs and are delighted since the quality is superb, the people great, and the night cool.  This was a great place to stop (http://www.campcheyenne.com), not just because of the BBQ, but also it being the home of Miss Wyoming High School America 2015, and Little Miss Wyoming Pre-Teen!!!  Can’t make this stuff up.


Finally in Wyoming, we can finally enjoy the fact that we have “arrived”, not at our final destination here but at least amid the vast sage and brushy plains that we’ve come to enjoy.  Plus we’re only a day away from high desert red rock canyons, clear streams, and timbered mountains of the Wind River Range near Dubois.








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North Carolina 2016


Ok folks, here’s a quiz: When was the last time you heard the phrase “free golf”?  Well, the concierge here at Mountain Falls RV Resort (http://www.mountain-falls.com) just uttered it in response to my “what’s the deal with golf here?” query when I asked her about the gorgeous little 9-hole course here at the RV resort.  Whooee!  Even Pippa was rarin to go!



We arrived August 2 here in the North Carolina mountains after fleeing the wicked heat we’ve had at Dataw (http://www.dataw.org) for the summer so far.  We were going to leave later on for our trip out west but decided to bag it and head out early for a week at 3200 feet elevation to try to cool off.  So, we arrived yesterday to afternoon temps around 80, and the promise of an evening without the roar of our air conditioner.

This place is superb and by far the nicest RV place we’ve stayed in. The 200 sites and grounds are perfectly manicured, beautifully landscaped, cool, with great amenities, lots of activities, two pools, sumptuous clubhouse, pickleball/tennis courts, the full Monty.

Rv-in-Site Our site has a gorgeous outdoor dining/deck/kitchen all done in natural stone and we’re just above a little hollow complete with brook and a chorus of bullfrogs serenading their paramours.  Great fun and accompaniment to some nice grilled chicken and a glass of pinot.

View from Clubhouse

View from Clubhouse

We’re near Lake Toxaway, halfway between Brevard and Cashiers.  New lake and mountain houses here are of the 3 acre, 3000 sq. foot and up type, all custom and tucked away from neighbors.  Lovely settings with enormous rhododendrons amid hardwoods and conifers.  Nice family hideouts from the summer heat of steamy places like Atlanta. Tonight is “taco and tequila night” here at the RV Resort so we’re going to meet the neighbors. Tomorrow is wine and cheese night with jambalaya.  The next night is an open house, BB-que and drinks celebration put on by one of the resident owners here. It goes on and on. Tom and Gilda Molzow are also here from Dataw and it’s great to share the experience.

Al&-Susy        Tom-&-Gilda

Last night was a blast.  Fun crowd and most committed to a permanent site here.  I can see why with a great management structure, fine facilities and great ambiance.



We find that, unlike us, most people just come here semi-permanently and take an occasional trip somewhere else.  Many have invested serious $ in their sites for landscaping/hardscaping with beautiful stonework, and many with “casitas” that are not your no frills, carport variety.  They range from covered patios to full-fledged homes on the order of 1500 square feet or so.  Design is classic NC mountain-type with massive timbers, vaulted ceilings, extensive natural stonework, kitchens and living areas, baths, etc.  They include all but bedrooms, which are not allowed per the covenants, and one must have a motorhome to have a structure here.  The sites reflect investments of up to $800,000, not including owner’s motorhomes which can easily add another 800K$ or more.  It just goes to demonstrate that people will make serious commitments to a place that is well run and well located.  This place will be essentially sold out within a year at the present rate, and deservedly so.  It is, by far the most impressive RV resort we’ve seen.

Casita-2  Casita

Susy and I tackle the 9 hole, par 3 golf course here one day.  It’s a hoot with tiny greens, short narrow fairways, steep slopes, ponds and brooks, and elevated tee boxes. The settings are beautiful and the course is pristine.  Lots of fun despite it being very wet from the thunderstorms we’ve had each day.  We also roamed the area over to the nearby towns of Cashiers (a crossroads essentially), and Highlands (an upscale Pigeon Forge) with its ridiculously overpriced clothing and jewelry shops.  There are very few public golf courses nearby, most being part of private communities of which there are many.  The mountains are impressive, and blessedly cool which is the main reason we’re here.  We lucked out by choosing this location and would come back again in a flash.

On our way to Cashiers we stumble upon a “salvage” place that would make  American Pickers green with envy (except for the prices).  Tons of fun and a great place to buy reclaimed logs for your mtn. cottage.

Pickers2  Pickers1

In Highlands we stop for lunch at The Old Edwards Hotel and dine alfresco on their tented patio alongside their beautiful grotto complete with tumbling brook and waterfall.  Just so-so food but the wine selection is fine, the service great, and the ambiance wonderful.

Old Edwards Dining

Old Edwards Dining

Tonight we’re guests ( as is the entire RV resort) of Jim and Eve Benson for a full-bore BBQ and music celebration of their 60th wedding anniversary and Jim’s 80th birthday. Jim is a great guy who started buying/selling cars in the SC upstate 50 years ago with just $200 and has built an automotive empire over the years with Chrysler as well as myriad other ventures.  It remains a family business and the Bensons have been RV lot owners here for years, and are one of Mountain Falls biggest boosters.  Great people and a fun time was had by all.

On our last night here we’re scheduled for a private tour followed by dinner at Sierra Nevada’s brewery nearby.  With their Torpedo Ale one of my favorite brews, we couldn’t pass this up despite having to resume our westward trek Tuesday morning.



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With vivid memories of Alaska fresh in my mind, Susy and I depart Colorado and head on up for our month in Wyoming.  Our route is familiar, taking us north and west from Carbondale along the Colorado River to Rifle, and then north along Rte 13 through Meeker, Craig and onto I-80 for an overnight in Rawlins, Wyoming.  Next day we head on up Rte 287 through “The Big Empty” of Wyoming on our way to Lander and then Dubois which will be our ‘home” for the next month.

The Big Empty

The Big Empty

This route from Rawlins is just spectacular, with seemingly endless vistas of high desert plains, sagebrush and mesas punctuated by isolated bands of pronghorns.  It’s incredible that they make a go of it in such an inhospitable terrain. This road is terrific though, and a “must-do” for travelers since it takes one through some of the emptiest spaces in the west.  Every once in a (great) while we encounter an 18 wheeler headed for God-knows-where, or a forlorn pickup with a cowboy-hatted rancher, but that’s about it except for the high plains stretching to the horizon.

Passing through the vast Shoshone Indian reservation northwest of Lander we finally encounter the Wind River Valley just south of Crowheart.  The valley along the river is a verdant green courtesy of the neighboring river’s  irrigation and we now begin to encounter red rock hills and escarpments plus the looming Wind River Range of the Bridger-Teton National Forest to our west.  The mountains close in more as we near Dubois and we happily unpack at our home for the next month under the cottonwoods and along the Wind River at the Longhorn Ranch RV Resort.

Longhorn Ranch

Longhorn Ranch

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Our campsite is just 60 feet or so from the Wind River.  Though pounded all summer by fishermen using all sorts of gear and bait, the river adjacent to the campground still holds wily brown trout of impressive size as well as eager little rainbows and cutthroats that rise readily to well present flies in the morning and evenings.  Families of mule deer roam the far banks in the evening and the views of the red rock hills across the river are a treat, especially when lit up by the setting sun.  Though it’s August, the nighttime temps drop into the 50’s or 40’s and the days are in the high 70’s and low 80’s.  No bugs and better yet, we don’t need the air conditioning at night as we doze off to the soothing murmurs of the nearby river

My first big excursion here begins with the arrival of my friend Frank Carlton, who fished with me just a couple of weeks back in Alaska. 10-P1020168

We’ve booked a fishing float trip through the Wind River Canyon upriver from Thermopolis.   The canyon lies within the vast Shoshone Indian Reservation and only one outfitter has float access to the river http://www.windrivercanyon.com   With only two boats per day allowed on the upper and lower sections of the river, and a strict catch-and-release policy, the river sports some of the best wild trout fishing in the west.  Plus the river has a good number of Class 3 and 4 rapids that guarantee a soaking as we run them and add even more excitement to the fishing.

14-wind-river-canyon-map01 13-WindRiverCanyon1575850

With the canyon about 130 miles from our campground, Frank and I head off the night before to Thermopolis in order to meet our guide early the next morning.  Thermopolis has within city limits one of the largest hot spring formations in the country.

Thermopolis Hot Spring

Thermopolis Hot Spring

Arriving duly fortified with a hearty breakfast, we launch just below the dam at the vast Boysen Lake and proceed to enjoy one of the best days of trout fishing I’ve ever experienced.  Passing between the towering cliffs of the canyon we catch trout, big trout, both browns and rainbows with wild abandon on both dry and sub-surface flies.  During the float we have many “doubles” with both of us hooking and landing 20 inch plus trout at the same time.  The river is spectacular with huge boulders studding the river bottom after having fallen from the cliffs above, and creating big, deep pools and runs of clear, cold water. The base of the canyon walls expose spectacular rock formations over 400 million years old, and bighorn sheep and mule deer make the canyon home as well as an abundance of rattlesnakes.  With air temps in the high 80’s or so, the dousing we get by running the rapids provides welcome relief, and the spectacular cliffs of the canyon walls are awe inspiring.  During a shore lunch we marvel at the quality of the experience here and vow to return to do it again next year!  The slide show below does not do justice to the experience but it’s the best I can do with this limited format.

The Wind River forms the Big Horn River after it leaves the canyon and next day Frank and I are joined by friend Don Claunch from Casper for a float on the Big Horn as it passes by and through Thermopolis.  The river here is big, deep, slow and loaded with trout but heavily fished as it is public water and outside of the Indian Reservation jurisdiction.


11-Bighorn river

We flail the waters to a froth but manage only a couple of nice fish during the entire trip.  Rather than blame our incompetence we attribute the day’s trout lockjaw to the front that came through overnight which dropped the temperatures down by 15 degrees or so.  Again, we know the fish are there and make a note to return again.

Next day back at our campsite we bid Frank adieu as he heads off to meet up with another friend at some 5-star dude ranch.  He and I agree, especially after savoring a couple of “Carlton-Special” martinis the night of our return, that we have to figure out a way to spend more time out here. All-in-all this was a great way to start our Wyoming visit and Susy and I look forward toward further adventures during the 4 weeks we have left in the DuBois area.


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One of the great things that travelling the way we do is that it gives us the opportunity to reconnect with family and friends that may live in far-off places.  So far (not on just this trip) we’ve visited my sister Jane in CO, old fishing buddies in VT, ID and MT, my son Bart & his wife Juliet in CA, our great friends Paula and Ron in FL, RVing buddies from AK and elsewhere, not to mention all the others we run into along the way.

This trip we were lucky enough to reconnect with Susy’s cousin Decker Clark and his wife Anne in of all places, Rumney, NH.  The Clarks live in Leominster, MA but have a cabin in Groton Hollow near Rumney nestled along this gorgeous little stream that (my guess) is called Groton Brook.  Their cabin backs onto the crystal-clear stream behind the house and is studded with huge granite (what else…this is NH!) boulders and ledges and flanked by tall old hemlocks.  Deck and Anne have run a church camp for years up in ME, but bit-by-bit over many years have built and enhanced this hideaway in NH near the end of a dead-end road leading up into the mountains.


This is a great place, peaceful and serene and it is good to have the opportunity to retell old family stories, catch up on gossip, discuss genealogy, and engage in lots of “remember when” stuff that becomes more elusive in our memories as we grow older, but enriches our lives when retold.  A great visit, and wonderful to spend time with Deck and Anne again.



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Alaska 2015

Tom & Me!

Tom & Me!

Susy’s son Tom Zuccareno (www.tzphoto.com) and I are off to Alaska with his Volkswagen Golf chock-a-block full of gear.  We leave Carbondale, CO by car the evening before for Denver, where we overnight to be in time for our flight the next day from Denver to Anchorage.  We’re meeting up in Anchorage with friends from Savannah, Frank Carlton and his son Ben, plus our friend Scott Slavik from Cleveland. Ak to Quin Map From there we’re flying a charter (the only way to get there) two and a half hours or so west to the tiny native village of Quinhagak directly on the Bering Sea just north of the vast Togiak National Park.  Our base will be Deneki Outdoors’ Alaska West camp http://www.deneki.com/alaskawest/ about 10 miles up the Kanektok River which runs right through Quinhagak into the Bering Sea.

Frank & Me "Bromancing"!

Frank & Me “Bromancing”!

Scott & Ben

Scott & Ben

Scott reciting tales of Cleveland!

Scott reciting tales of Cleveland!

The Alaska West camp is remote to say the least. Reachable only by boat or helicopter, it is about 600 miles from the nearest road, and provides its own electricity via diesel generators.  One new innovation is that satellite phone/internet service is now available here which is somewhat of a comfort in case of a medical emergency, however: the nearest trauma/cardiac center is in Anchorage and getting there will take about 6 hours from incident to treatment.  A sobering thought but, on the other side, the camp is downright luxurious for such a remote location.  Clients are doubled-up in platform tents lit with battery-powered lanterns, and each is heated with a thermostatically controlled propane heater. Food is magnificent, the product of Robert, the camp’s Swiss-trained chef who has been there now for 20 years! A recreation room serves as a lounge/bar when the weather is miserable, and the camp has a new, 2-story observation deck overlooking the river and providing spectacular views of the river as well as the distant mountains.


It is a great spot to have a cocktail, tell fish stories, and observe the wildlife and river teeming with salmon and trout below in the clear water.  Hot showers are provided in a shower building, and a newly-constructed drying room provides a great place to dry waders/clothes and gear.

Chillin after a hard day!

Chillin after a hard day!

Aside from the physical accommodations, the real plus at Alaska West (AW) is the staff.  Mike Sanders and Jordan Sly have a crackerjack team of guides and camp staff that keep the place running smoothly despite the remote location.  The boats are all semi-flat bottomed aluminum skiffs and are powered by Yamaha jet motors that enable the guides to navigate the very shallow gravel bars and side channels off the main river. The weather is typically miserable with rain, wind, clouds and chilly temperatures the norm.

The typical day is long, with breakfast at 7 AM, into the boats at 8, fishing till 5, a hot shower and a cocktail, dinner at 7, followed by an after-dinner libation and exhausted collapse into sleep by 9.  Of course, given how far north we are, it stays light till midnight, followed by dusk for a couple hours, dark for an hour and then bright light again by 6 or so.   And so it goes for the 6 days of a typical stay.  By some stroke of luck, we arrive in camp under a cloudless blue sky and temps in the balmy 70’s.  Unbelievably enough, most of our 6 days are some variation of that, with typically chilly mornings and bluebird skies or some clouds/overcast for the rest of our stay.  On one day it actually drizzled for 45 minutes but that was about it.  In comparison, the last time we were here we saw the sun for 4 hours out of 6 days, and the rest of the time it was nothing but a steady drumbeat of rain and temps in the 40’s/low 50’s.

Of course, we’re here for the fishing and our week is simply phenomenal.  The river has all 5 species of salmon in it at this time (pink, chum, king, sockeye, and silvers or coho).  The silvers are at the peak of their run in from the Bering Sea, and the rest of the salmon are ensconced in the river busily spawning or, having spawned, dying.  The river also has arctic char or Dolly Varden as well as rainbow trout, both of which grow big and fat by feeding off salmon eggs or the flesh of spent salmon.  It’s an amazing sight to pull up to a deep run and see three or four species of salmon in the clear water plus Dollies and rainbows.  There are bears everywhere feeding on the bounty of the salmon run.  These are not your cute Smoky Mountain black bears but huge, 10-12 feet long massive Alaskan Brown Bears that leave 13 inch long paw prints in the mud/sand along the stream.  The leave beautiful walking trails through the thick willows along the stream, often follow us unobserved as we explore the tributaries of the main river, but are very seldom seen since they are intensively hunted by the local natives and are thus very shy and avoid human contact.  They know however, that the presence of humans might give them a shot at a easy meal of salmon and therefore shadow us unobserved.

Our timing is perfect and we’re here in time for the peak of the silver salmon run, with tons of fresh (chrome) salmon streaming in from the Bering Sea every day.  By 11 o’clock we’re usually too tired from fighting salmon that we need a break, and shift gears to hunt for the big rainbow trout that lurk along the riverbank beneath tangles of willows. 

The fishing for the week is just great, and by week-end we’re spent.  Most of us have had some of their salmon catch fresh-frozen and vacuum packed at camp, or smoked, and shipped back home.  Our flight from Quinhagak to Anchorage is uneventful, as is Tom and my flight the next day back to Denver followed by the drive back to Carbondale.  Back in civilization we’re full of fish stories, happy to be home, and Susy and I are headed to Wyoming for a month in the gorgeous area around DuBois, plus some great western trout fishing!

I’ll leave all of you now with the slide show below unless, of course, you just don’t care about fish pictures!

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Westward Ho-2015!

Leaving Vermont in a blinding thunderstorm we are taking a northern route because we simply don’t want to deal with the Midwest traffic around the southern great lakes, and I haven’t been through this part of Canada since I was in my early twenties.  Our route takes us slightly north from Vermont , skirts the southern side of Montreal and then west toward Ottawa and through the remote back country along the northern border between Ontario and Quebec . We reenter the USA at Sault St. Marie and then into Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Our route to the UP is shown on the map below. The great part is that, leaving on Sunday, the main roads skirting Montreal and Ottawa are devoid of traffic and we cruise right through heading WNW.  Oh yes, we also breeze through Canadian Customs in less than 3 minutes, with a parting”Have a great trip”.

Vt to Up Final

We spend the night in a WalMart parking lot in North Bay, Ontario, just on the north shore of the vast Lake Nipigon.  When I was last here the roads were mostly gravel and, aside from a few bait shops and country stores, sport fishing was the main industry.  Now the road is all paved, much of it divided 4-lane, and it has become the main Canadian East-West highway for  truck traffic headed to & from the booming Western provinces.  Needless to say, many of the tiny outposts are now towns and industry has grown up along this important commercial route. When we reach Sault St. Marie and reenter the US, we have to deal with US Customs.  Contrary to Canadian Customs, we’re boarded and inspected by an agent who confiscates 10 pounds of frozen, vacuum sealed chicken we bought at Costco two days earlier in VT.  They also take our eggs, avocados, lemons, and all fruit not labeled with a grown in America sticker.  It didn’t matter where we bought it.  What mattered was that it was coming in from Canada and as we all know, frozen Costco chicken is a big transmitter of avian flu.  Sure.  In other words, the customs guys had a nice cook out at our expense.  A complete joke.

From the UP we drive southwestward, winding up in Colorado at Susy’s Son Tom’s home in Carbondale.  We’ve already covered driving this route in last year’s blog posts so I won’t repeat the experience except to say that our objective this year is to make time, not sightsee, since Tom and I are scheduled to fly out to Alaska in a week or so and want to be totally prepped before we go.  Our route from the UP to CO is shown on the map below, and covers 1500 miles which we will do in 4 leisurely days.  The weather was great, the stops in between totally unmemorable and we pulled into the Aspen-Basalt Campground, the only campground in the Aspen Valley 4 days later.

UP to CO Final

The A-B Campground is a real experience: tiny-gravel sites, primitive WiFi, iffy electrical, rvs mostly occupied by permanent Aspen-area residents/workers with weird dogs, about the only game in town and run by a good manager.  It’s owned by SkiCo, owners of Aspen Mountain and the locals won’t let them expand/upgrade facilities since it’s about the most affordable rental real estate in the area and would screw up their image of providing “affordable” housing in the Aspen Valley.  The property borders on a great trout stream: the Roaring Fork River, the main road leading into Aspen, and is worth millions if developed into condos, a luxury RV park, etc.  Adjacent 1200 sq. ft. 2 BR condos go for the mid-$400’s if you can find one.  The only piece of good news is that the place is right at the base of Missouri Heights where Tom lives, and is within easy biking distance of Whole Foods and its outrageously-priced (even for Whole Foods) groceries et al.  Good (addictive) scones though and a great selection of cheeses/wines at twice the price of Costco and Total Wines.  Whenever I’m there I feel that someone is just playing a practical joke on me but, what the Hell: it’s Colorado, it’s the Aspen burbs, everyone is a jock, and having a dog acupuncturist on call plus therapeutic brownies must be worth it since everyone who has bought into this lifestyle will live healthily more than ten years than the average Joe……right????

Susy re-bonds with her son and we are impressed with the improvements he’s made to his home overlooking Mt. Sopris. Tom and I revisit our Alaska plans innumerable times and I support the local economy by repeated visits the local Basalt fly shop.  The fly shops of today are in stark contrast to those of my “youth”.  Way back then, these were hole-in-the-wall establishments where  fishermen talked shop, “secret” spots, smoked DiNobli cigars (soaked in wine), had some fly tackle all sold at a discount,  and were generally neighborhood hangout joints.  Now they are filled with $800 fly rods, $600 reels, $100 lines, $400 waders, a quadrillion flies, fashionista clothes & other gear, all sold at manufacturer’s list prices and made in China.  Instead of trading stories & hanging out, clients flip out a credit card and book guided float trips on the local rivers for $700 a day including tip, thank you.  Somehow or other, my “sport” has turned into a depersonalized, big business but, I guess this “progress” is the American way.

Anyhow, now that we are duly outfitted, Tom and I are off to Alaska!

Mt. Sopris, CO

Mt. Sopris, CO

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OK folks, the photo above should tell it all.  We’re in politically-correct, gluten-free, all-organic, sustainably-produced, fair-traded, all-natural, ultra-liberal……..VERMONT.  This is the land of crusty New Englanders like Bernie Sanders, Subarus driven by hirsute women at least 20 mph under the speed limit, local farmers markets with prices that put even Whole Foods’ to shame, homeless people from NY who summer here,  and a business climate evocative of the love Palestinians have for new Israeli West Bank settlements.

Of course it is also the land of the verdant Green Mountains, glorious 100 mile long Lake Champlain, charming country villages, exquisite back roads, picturesque farmsteads, nonexistent crime, wonderful hiking, fine museums (funded by “down-country” benefactors), fine colonial architecture, and people who mind their own business.  We settle in at the prim, Lone Pine Campground in Colchester http://www.lonepinecampsites.com just north of Burlington, and conveniently just microseconds from the roar of traffic on I-89.  Oh well, at least we’re just minutes away from Susy’s son Bill, his wife Kerry, and the grandkids Jack and Finn.

Our campsite at Lone Pine is nice despite the proximity to the interstate.  It never ceases to amaze me when confronted by the variety and character of RVs.  One next to us even has a retractable side porch so the owners never even have to set foot on the grass!

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Another feature of our site is the evening fire truck rides put on by the hosts where all the kids either pile on the antique fire truck for rides around the campground, sirens included.  Great fun as are the two pools that are thronged by the kids from dawn till night.  Our grandkids, Jack and Finn enjoy the pools as well, and we join them for lazy days at their own club pool at the Burlington Tennis Club, a terrific place to while away lazy summer days and beat the heat.  Unfortunately, our days here are marred with frequent thunderstorms and rain squalls interspersed with glorious periods of sun and clouds.  The frequent rain keeps the local rivers high and muddy, effectively blanking us out f any local stream fishing.


Nearby Lake Champlain however, is a different story and we all pile aboard a boat at the Burlington downtown pier for a great evening dinner cruise along the shore south to Shelburne, around the nearby islands and culminating with a fantastic sunset as the sun slips behind the high peaks of the Adirondack Mountains to the west.

Susy and also manage to get in a few rounds of golf at the wonderful Williston Golf Club nearby (www.willistongolfclub.com)…  At 88 years, the course is one of the oldest in Vermont, and has been owned/run by the same family for over four generations. The course is a classic mountain course, with fairways following the contours of the hills and through stands of great pines planted by the owners many years ago,  It’s a treat to play here, with far off vistas of the Camel’s Hump and Green Mountains and only one or two homes or other structures to impede the views. Plus with lots of elevation changes the course is a refreshing change from our mostly flat Lowcountry courses near home.

Another day I drive over to Lake Placid in New York to golf with Jerry Bottcher, an old friend who with his wife Linda run a motel/restaurant/fly shop complex called The Hungry Trout (www.thehungrytrout.com) perched on the banks of the nearby Ausable River right in the high peaks area of the Adirondack Mountains.  We play the Lake Placid Club Course, a terrific mountain track high above Lake Placid and with sweeping mountain views (www.thelakeplacidclub.com).  It’s good to hook up with Jerry again and revisit an area where I spent so much time as a young man learning to fly fish for trout in the nearby Ausable and other blue-ribbon trout rivers.


Back in Vermont on Independence Day we all head to nearby Richmond, VT for a traditional, small-town July 4th parade.  What a treat, with great pastries from a local bakery, all sorts of decorated fire engines from nearby communities, floats, a road race, antique cars and tractors, brass bands and all sorts of other wonderful paraders costumed to the hilt and reminding us of the kind of fun and community/family spirit that still exists in the right places in America.  The slide show below does not do the parade justice, and the throngs of families lining the parade route revel in a great show enjoyed by all.

One night Susy and I are treated to dinner by the kids at the wonderful Bearded Frog Restaurant just down the road in Shelburne Village (www.beardedfrog.com)…  Great food, service, and ambiance of the place make for a fine evening.

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Burlington, VT offers a fine selection of restaurants ranging from exquisite Thai food, brewpubs featuring many local craft beers, a fine French Bistro (www.leunigsbistro.com) and many others offering foods prepared using locally sourced vegetables, breads and meats.  We visit the Burlington downtown farmer’s market one Sunday, and graze our way through all sorts of delectable goodies.  One standout is the craft gin made locally by Caledonia Spirits.  Two forms of their wonderful Barr Hill Gin are made, one clear with intense botanical flavor, and the other darker and a little rounder from being aged in bourbon barrels (www.caledoniaspirits.com).  With all the locavore foods/spirits available we could easily do some serious belt stretching without trying.  Thank God for family back yard barbeques to keep us in line.

One of our favorite things to do here is attending evening baseball games at Centennial Field, home of the Burlington Lake Monsters, a Single A affiliate of the Oakland A’s.  This is always fun, family centered, professional baseball played in a classic small field where the game is up close and personal.  Centennial Park is one of the oldest baseball stadiums in continuous use in professional baseball, having started in 1906.  We love the venue, the baseball is good, the food is at its junky best, the beer cold, and it’s a great way to spend a summer evening.

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Another wonderful and unique attraction is the Shelburne Museum (www.shelburnemuseum.org) which showcases a superb collection of American folk art, architecture, and Americana.  I haven’t visited here since I was al young child, and it is great to wander the grounds and take in the vast collections of everything from weathervanes to the restored 220 foot long Steamboat Ticonderoga.  With over 150,000 artifacts, 38 buildings, and 25 early buildings moved here and restored, the place is a treasure trove of all things America.  Their new art museum had a retrospective of early American modernist paintings from O’Keefe to Rockwell, as well as a fine show of early furniture.  The museum was founded and endowed by Electra Havemyer Webb, wife of an 19th century industrialist and an avid collector of early American arts and crafts.  The place is a real jewel and the restored buildings dating back to the 17th century convey a unique impression of how life was lived in the early days of our great country.

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One of the unique things about Vermont is the fact that so many examples of fine early American homes lie scattered over its many small villages and towns.  Spending more than a few days here just driving around and exploring reveals so much early architecture well preserved and still in use.  For those who have never spent time here, prowling leisurely around Woodstock, Grafton, Shaftsbury, and other fine Vermont villages offers an enthralling perspective of all that is uniquely American.  We were blessed to have been able to live here in nearby New Hampshire for so many years and have come to love the area, its intimate places, its glorious summers, its spectacular fall foliage (second week of October), and its quirky people.

Winter however, is great for a day, and on this note we bid our emotional good-byes to Bill, Kerry, Jack and Finn, stock up at Costco, and begin our trek west the next morning through a raging thunderstorm!  It’s hard to believe we’ve been here for a month, but we’re ready for a change of scenery.



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Cape Cod-2015

We leave Pennsylvania on a Saturday (thank God).  Given the absence of traffic we decide to go the fastest way possible, heading across NJ on I-78, up on I-287 to Sufferin, NY,  over the Tappan Zee Bridge ($28 toll, thank you), then north on I-95 thru NY/CT/RI and then east over the Bourne Bridge into MA (taxachusetts) and onto Cape Cod.  This would have been a real nightmare during weekday traffic but we are blessed with empty roads and make great time.  Of course, travelling just ahead of the real summer tourist season hits is also a factor, but the weather is great and we can smell the salt air as we head up the Cape.

Our home for the next week or so is the Atlantic Oaks RV Park in Eastham (www.atlanticoaks.com) .  This is a great spot with lots of trees, private sites, quietude, access to the vast Cape Cod biking trail, and really nice campground hosts.  The Vermont-based grandkids and family are just up the road in Truro, and lobstah shacks are everywhere waiting to sate our appetites for real New England seafood.


After settling in, we head on up the road to Truro to reconnect with Susy’s son and family at Corn Hill, a vacation cottage retreat where they’ve rented a place for years.  Corn Hill is a very old, private, cottage colony that started out as a series of rustic beach cabins catering to artists.  The cottages are barely “modernized” and sit atop a high bluff facing west and overlooking a great beach on Cape Cod Bay.  The spot is not far from where the Pilgrims first landed in America, is graced with a long private and sheltered beach with great swimming, and presents us with spectacular sunsets over the Bay.  The only bad news is the 172 step climb down the bluff to the beach and up again to the cottage.

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We spend virtually the entire week here with Bill, Kerry and the grandsons Jack and Finn. The kids can run amok on the beach and in the water, conduct endless water gun fights around the cottages with children of other renters, and generally have free rein while the “adults” organize cook outs, work on their tans, and moderate the ambient noise level with selected adult beverages.  Good, family stuff and it is great to reconnect.  Plus, the weather is just fine but the water a trifle chill for us tenderfeet now from the South.


Aside from lolling about the beach, Susy and I drive up to Provincetown at the northern tip of the Cape and window shop our way through the many art galleries and shops along with only a gazillion other tourists (“only” since we’re two weeks ahead of “high” season when Provincetown’s roads/walks are virtually impassable with people).  We satisfy our lobster cravings, buy delectable fresh-caught swordfish, and discover a great place for ice cream and pizza!

Ond day we roam the pristine Cape Cod National Seashore on the east side of the Cape and, later that evening, reconnect with Pat Wheeler, a very old friend of mine from way back in the early 70’s when we were next door neighbors in West Elmira, NY.  Pat retired here in Truro to be near her daughter Kelly and her family/grandchildren, and also because Pat is an avid beachgoer from way back.  We haven’t seen each other for 17 years or so and it is great to catch up in person rather than sporadic emails. The Cape is a beach lover’s dream, with miles of pristine beach Oceanside, quaint old seaside homes tucked away or along (now) major thoroughfares, Bayside salt marshes, and high dunes on both sides.  I am reminded of how much I really love New England beaches with their rolling surf, clear/cool water, and briny smell.  My mental note for the trip is to come back some time in September, when the tourists are gone, roads empty, water warm, and seafood at its finest.

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With the week gone in a flash we savor our last sunset and prepare for launch to Vermont the next morning where we will spend the next month grandparenting near Burlington amid the green hills of Vermont.

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We’re OFF!!!!!

It’s June 13 and we leave bright and early from Dataw just ahead of the first summer heat wave!  Heading North on I-95 we spend our first night just South of the NC/VA border at Roanoke Rapids.  Next day our destination is Lenhartsville, Pa, just West of Allentown.  Alas, we never make it for just as we near Winchester, VA our “check engine” warning light comes on.  This has happened once before, over 14 engine hours ago, but the light simply disappeared upon restarting and after a thorough search to ascertain whether something was seriously amiss.  This time the light stayed on however, and since we just passed a Cummins diesel service center a couple of miles back, we decide to have it checked out by those trained to deal with such things.

We pull into the brand, spanking new Cummins Atlantic facility and in no time one of the great techs there has Elecktra hooked up to one of their diagnostic computers while we get to know Tim, Al, Rocky, and the rest of the great staff here.  After about an hour of computerized diagnostics, we learn that we’ve experienced a fuel injector misfire on our #2 cylinder, and that it has happened a total of 6 times, only two of which have triggered the “check engine” warning indicator.  This is a great facility, just off the often-traveled I-81 in Clearbrrok VA (near Winchester), brand-spanking new, great staff, and superb service.  They even have a dynamometer where they can test complete vehicles running under load.  Top notch, and if you need help, just contact Rocky Amiel, their Branch Manager at rocky.ameil@cummins.com or through the Cummins website at www.cummins.com.

The diagnosis is that the #2 injector is malfunctioning intermittently over a long period of time.  It could not happen again for quite a while, happen frequently, or the injector could fail completely and, as luck would have it, fail in some remote place far from skilled help.  Having little tolerance for this kind of “Russian Roulette”, we decide to have the guys here replace the injector now.  This necessitates a juggling of our schedules but Tim gets get the injector ordered before 4 PM, the cutoff time for next day delivery, and with a little luck it will be here by early morning and we’ll be back on the road late that day.  The best news though is that the Cummins Atlantic facility has an RV parking area complete with 50 amp electricity so we can overnight right here in our own coach!  Plus, as a new coach our Cummins diesel engine is covered under warranty!  The RV Gods have smiled upon us.

After rearranging our campground reservations we settle in for the night and fall asleep to the soothing sounds of the 20,000 trucks a day that go by this spot on Interstate 81 just 200 feet away!  The injector arrives right on time the next morning and the technicians already have  Elecktra’s engine innards bared and waiting for insertion. (I know it sounds a little weird, but the metaphor is pretty much on target).

At 1:45 PM we’re checking out and good to go!  The team at Atlantic Cummins have really come through for us right on time.  We bid a grateful farewell, and are headed up Interstate 81 again with all cylinders purring contentedly and NO WARNING LIGHTS!!!!!  A few hours later we pull in to the Robin Hill RV Campground in Lenhartsville, PA (near Allentown) for the night.  If any of you all are travelling near here and need an overnight…….KEEP GOING!  Though quiet, it reminded us of a camp for displaced families with run-down seasonal trailers, dilapidated facilities, an algae-choked pond and weedy campsites.  Besides, we’re looking forward toward reaching Cape Cod the next day and meeting up with Susy’s son and his family at Corn Hill out in Truro.  Besides, we need a lobsta-fix!


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