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Friday, August 18, 2017

Human tsunami.....

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7:40 am - Friday - August 18th - 45º F, humidity 66%, wind 2 mph out of the ENE....a nice cloud free day.  Forecast high for Gardiner, MT is 84º, and 77º F in Mammoth Hot Springs, WY.  The skies were a bit clearer for a day, or two after our rain on Monday, but they are hazy again from the still burning Montana fires.  I'm hoping by Monday the air quality will improve sufficiently to allow us to be able to get the full benefit of the eclipse.

Of all the shift options available to us I like the 'MID1' shift (11 am to 7 pm) the most......we can sleep in and still have time to do a few chores, goof around, and even relax before we go off to work.......and that was our Thursday shift.  

We arrived at work about 10:40 am.....a little early for our 11 am start....sometimes there is just no traffic and you get where you are going way sooner than you expect.  We've been waiting to see our schedule for next week, 8/21 to 8/27, as we had been advised that due to the solar eclipse event occurring on Monday, 8/21, and the higher than expected crowds expected beginning just before, and extending to a few days after, we would be asked to possibly work an extra day.  The new schedule was unveiled shortly before noon time, and still have 8/21 as an off day, so we'll be able to focus on watching the eclipse, but did get assigned an extra work day.....we will be working 6 straight days beginning Tuesday and ending Sunday.

Things began slowly Thursday, but by noon time things were in full swing, and did not slow down until around 5:30.  We sold probably three times more hot dogs than we do normally, and the same went for our 'Wilderness Chili', 'Mammoth Hot Dogs', chili dogs, nacho cheese, chips, pretzels, etc.  I worked about 2.5 hours of my shift as 'Fountain' cashier, and the rest of the time scooping ice cream, serving hot dogs, chili dogs, and pretzels as one tsunami of humanity after another swept over, around and through the 'Fountain' area....often the line stretched outside the roped in area.

Yup, the eclipse crowds are indeed descending upon Yellowstone National Park, and for the next 5-6 days we will be in overdrive at the Mammoth Hot Springs General Store.  Once again time in the General Store flew, and soon it was 7 pm, and time for us to take the lovely drive down the Gardiner River Gorge and back to our home on wheels.

As one day after another here in Yellowstone National Park quickly recedes into the rear view mirror, and one week blends seamlessly into another I cannot help but reflect on our collective contentment.....TLE and I are like two peas in a pod enjoying life as it comes at us......life is very good.....

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Thursday, August 17, 2017

RIP Elliott!

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7:37 am - Thursday - August 17th - 48º F, humidity 75%, wind 2 mph out of the east northeast.....partly cloudy with a forecast high of 79º F in Gardiner, MT and 73º F in Mammoth Hot Springs, WY.

Just a side note before I begin with Wednesday's adventures.....we received news Wednesday morning that my sister's husband succumbed to his two decade long battle with cancer this past Saturday evening....somehow I missed the announcement on my sister's social media page.  We've known this moment was coming for many years, but it is still sad to know we will not see him again in this life....he was a good man.....


My brother-in-law Elliott in better times....RIP Elliott!

.....now back to the rest of Wednesday.....

Usually we do our major hiking on the first day of our 'weekend', in the case of this week that would have been Monday, but we all know what happened Monday.......Jello, uh, I mean rain.  Usually we would have spent the second day of our 'weekend' recovering physically from our day of hiking, however, Tuesday became, by default, the designated big mileage hiking day this week leaving us only the overnight hours to recover and be ready to go back to work the next morning.  

Surprisingly, to both of us, our aged bodies managed to recover quite well with just the overnight rest, and we were both fit as fiddles Wednesday morning, and ready for 8 hours of standing on those same legs which carried us all those miles just the day before.

We had the 'MID2' shift (9:30 am to 5:30 pm) Wednesday and were there by 9:20 am bright eyed, bushy tailed, and ready for another day of retail.  On this day I was transferred, for one day only, back to the retail registers to cashier for a few hours, and then assist in bagging the purchases of our customers the rest of the day.  It was a nice change of pace for me, but I did miss working with my compatriots in the 'Fountain'.

Things were quite busy Wednesday as we are just a few days from the much talked about solar eclipse on Monday, August 21st.   We have been selling these special disposable eclipse viewing glasses which began selling like hot cakes the past few days.  As is always the case when the store is very busy time also flies by and there we were once again on our way down the Gardiner River Gorge to our home some 5 miles distant.

We were home before 6 pm and relaxing when TLE asked when I was going to light the Sea-B-Que and grill the nice filet mignon she had purchased Monday in Livingston, MT at the Town and Country Market.  I replied that I guessed I would do that immediately, if not sooner!


 Hmmmm.....looks like a sit down dinner with vino!

 Yup, there it is.....a filet mignon with salad and sauteed mushrooms....I'm a lucky boy!

By 7 pm I had finished grilling the filet to a fine medium rare, and TLE was setting the table.....I have to say, that filet was soooo tender and flavorful......TLE provided the sides of salad and sauteed mushrooms.....yum.  To chase this wonderful meal we opened a bottle of Coppola Pinot Noir (2015), which we also purchased at Town and Country on Monday (they have a wonderful wine section!).

The grand finale of the evening was another amazing Montana sunset......


.....and that's all I have to say about Wednesday.  Thanks for stopping by!


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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Cascade, Grebe and Wolf....

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7:03 am - Wednesday - August 16th - 39º F, humidity 77%, wind 3 mph out of the east southeast...clear skies with a forecast high of 77º F here in Gardiner, MT, and 71º F in Mammoth Hot Springs, WY.

I was up before 6 am Tuesday as we wanted to get an early start  on our hiking......TLE had us driving all the way to Canyon Village, then turning right on Norris Road to reach the Cascade Lake trailhead about 1/4 mile  from the junction.  We were at the trailhead before 9 am.

We began Tuesday's hike with rather modest aspirations....we thought we would hike the 2.5 miles to Cascade Lake, but when we got to the first mileage sign we decided on the spot we would hike all the way to Wolf Lake.....it was a little further than this sign indicated.....😋

The sign shows Wolf Lake 6.5 miles distant, but as is often the case, it was wrong....it was 7.45 miles distant.  The mileage to Grebe Lake was spot on at 5, but whoever measured the distance after Grebe Lake lost a mile somewhere...

It had rained most of Monday, and, as is often the case the day after a storm, the temperatures at the beginning of our hike were quite cold.....TLE was really bundled up to begin the hike......

 It was cold!

......gradually we began to warm up, although the temperatures remained in the high 50's for quite some time......


....we found ourselves continually transitioning from heavily forested sections to expansive meadows......

Heavy overcast

 Cascade Lake at the 2.5 mile mark just as the sign said



....we reached the Observation Peak Trail after 2.5 miles exactly, and it was time to shed at least one layer as it was beginning to warm up finally.....

 TLE shedding a couple of layers of clothing

  
 Grebe Lake

There were a number of stream crossing like this one.....TLE has very good balance......thank goodness for hiking poles!

......we reached Wolf Lake around 11:40 am having covered 7.45 miles in 2 hours and 40 minutes of elapsed time.  It was a good place to turn around, as to continue on the trail would have required that we ford a 70' wide river to do so.....

 
 The trail continues on the other side of the river......we decided to stay dry and not to ford it......we turned around at the 7.45 mile mark

 Wolf Lake!

.....after taking a few pictures of Wolf Lake we did an about face and began our trek back to the Cascade Lake trailhead......

 We stopped for quick Power Bar snack about 1/2 mile after turning around

 Back to Grebe Lake

.....we managed to avoid the rain which was obviously falling in the distance, but did get hit by a few small hail stones.  By the time we the final corner and spied our car we were bone tired......there is nothing like seeing your car after 14+ miles of hiking, and knowing you will be OFF your feet in just minutes......


......we reached the car around 2:45 pm after having covered 14.9 miles just as it began to rain.....we stripped off our Camelbaks and got inside the car just in time.....it only rained about 10 minutes, but had we still been on the trail we would have arrived at the car soaking wet......whew! 


Our Strava results

You will note that we covered the 14.9 miles averaging just under 3 mph for the entire distance......we averaged 19 minutes and 50 seconds per mile.......in addition we gained some 1,077' in elevation, and burned 2,674 calories.  If you had asked me to describe the hike before I saw the Strava results I would have told you it was a mostly flat hike.....not so much, apparently!

Our 'out and back' route

We have found that the distances shown on most of the mileage signs for the hiking trails are accurate up to a point, then they become very inaccurate.  On this particular hike the mileage to Cascade Lake (2.5) was spot on as was the mileage to Grebe lake (5.0), but from Grebe to Wolf it was 2.45 miles instead of the 1.5 miles the sign indicated.  So, instead of hiking 13 miles round trip, we hiked 14.9 miles round trip.....almost a full 2 miles further than we expected.  Of course, at 14.9 that is now the most miles we have covered in one day hiking here in Yellowstone.  This is the also the longest single hike TLE and I have ever done.  We have now logged 75 of the 100 miles we need to complete our goal for the '100 Mile Hiking Club'!

We were home by 4:30 pm relaxing and wondering how we'll spend 8 hours on our feet at work on Wednesday......thanks for stopping by!

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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

"Livingston, I presume?"

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6:00 am - Tuesday - August 15th - 46º F, humidity 83%, wind 2 mph out of the east.....cloudy.  Forecast high for Gardiner, MT today is 73º F, and 62º F for Mammoth Hot Springs, WY.....that is an 11º difference!

It began to rain around 3 am Monday morning and was still raining when we awoke......"No hiking today" I heard myself telling TLE.  I alluded to 'The AP' yesterday (alternate plan), and we decided our 'AP' would be a drive north into Livingston, MT for the day....the nearest large city to Gardiner.  It is about 53 miles to Livingston so we left home a little after 10 am to make the drive.  First up on our agenda was to put fuel in the VW, so we stopped off at the local Sinclair for gasoline at $2.85/gallon....we use Premium in the VW per the owner's manual specs......as I pumped the gasoline I took a picture looking toward Mammoth Hot Springs.....very foreboding......I'm glad we went with 'The AP'........



.....we were on our way north by 10:30, and in old town Livingston walking from one thrift store to another by 11:20 (the speed limit on the two lane US-89 is 70 mph most of the way).....

 Main Street in Old Town

......I hadn't had any breakfast (forgot) so I was hungry, but the local micro brewery we had our sights set on did not open until Noon.  As it turned out we found nothing without which we could not live.....finally it was 12:10 pm so we drove a couple of blocks over to Katabatic Brewing Company near the corner of US-89 and Main.....


.....I ordered a glass of their 7.5% ABV Scotch Ale, and TLE a pint of their Tippy Truck Honey Ale......we both enjoyed our selections.....in fact mine was the best Scotch Ale I have ever had!



.......Katabatic does no food preparation, but they are right next door to Fiesta En Jalisco Mexican Restaurant, and they will bring over any food you order.....I ordered two crispy tacos, and TLE got their Chile Relleño.....on a scale of 1-10, 10 being best, we would rate this food at 7.....good, basic Mexican cuisine.....Yelp gives Katabatic 4.5 stars on 21 reviews (we would agree), and 3.5 stars to Fiesta En Jalisco (again, we would agree) on 26 reviews.



.....we were the first customers of the day so we sat at the bar.......it was a perfect way to spend a rainy afternoon!

I wanted to get a haircut, but of the three places we stopped at only one was open, and they only did haircuts by appointment......unfortunately, there are no chain haircut places in Livingston, MT.  Our last stop in Livingston was Town and Country Market (an employee owned supermarket) where we were pleasantly surprised by their great prices on everything.

We were on our way back south on US-89 by 3 pm with one more stop on our agenda.....Chico Hot Springs!  Why not have a nice hot soak before heading for home (the senior discounted price is $3.50/person!)?  We arrived shortly before 4 pm to find our Mammoth Hot Springs General Store friends Roscoe and Geni there, too, so we joined them in the hot pool for about an hour, then retreated inside to the bar for another beer before heading back to Gardiner.

We drove through a torrential downpour for about half the distance home arriving back at YRVP by 6:15 pm pleasantly tired and ready for a nice nap! It appears the weather guessers have given us a reprieve for Tuesday on the rain front, so we will return to regularly schedule programming......hiking......on Tuesday!

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Monday, August 14, 2017

The AP.....

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7:10 am - Monday - August 14th - 55º F, humidity 86%, wind 2 mph out of the east......heavy cloud cover with rain.....there will be no hiking today.....maybe.  Forecast is for rain all the way to 7 pm, plus thunder, which means lightning.....one does not want to be exposed on an open section of trail at altitude when there is lightning.......



......as you can see, whether we are here in Gardiner, or up at Mammoth Hot Springs the forecast shows a high percentage for rain all day long.

Initially Sunday we thought we had a 'MID1' shift (11 am to 7 pm), but then TLE reexamined the schedule and noted quickly that it was, indeed, a 'MID2' shift (9:30 am to 5:30 pm), which meant we had to be on the road up to Mammoth Hot Springs no later than 9 am, instead of the usual 10:30 am for the 'MID1' shift......90 minutes less to lollygag around.....on the other side of the coin there is the getting home before 6 pm benefit, right?

We arrived at the General Store around 9:12 am (very little traffic coming up the hill) to find the store completely devoid of customers....the only people visible were co-workers....the only time I have ever seen the store this empty was after 9:30 pm after we close the store!  



The first customers did not arrive until after 10 am, and then the traffic was steady for the rest of the day.  The rest of the day was extremely uneventful, which is for what we strive, no?  Just another 'day in paradise'.............so, since it appears we are going to have a 'rain day' meaning there will be no hiking today (Monday) what shall we do?  We'll have to turn to the old 'AP'.....alternate plan.  Stay tuned.....thanks for stopping by!

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Sunday, August 13, 2017

The small things.....

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7:09 am - Sunday - August 13th - 56º F, humidity 64% (hmmmm.....it's raining....must be more than that, no?), wind 2 mph out of the south southeast......heavy cloud cover with light rain, which has been falling on and off all night.......there is occasional thunder.  Forecast high for Gardiner, MT today is 75º F......74º for Mammoth Hot Springs.  As I go to preheat our coffee cups this morning I realize I have left my insulated coffee cup in the garage....uh, trailer, so I must go out into the rain to retrieve my cup from the trailer before I do anything else......



......I have been using this cup since 2005 to sip that magic elixir each morning.....it was given to me by one of my son-in-laws after they had been to Alaska.......every day I see that cup I think about the day when we will journey to Alaska.  At any rate, I love this cup as it keeps my coffee hot for a long, long time.....way longer than a traditional ceramic cup.  I have had to epoxy that handle back on the cup about 5 times over the years.

The past 5 days I have been turning on the fireplace to take the chill out of the interior first thing each morning.....



......and this morning is no exception.....yup, the seasons are changing.  They tell me the change can be rather abrupt in these here parts some years.......after all just back in late May the Lake Yellowstone was still frozen......that's only three months ago.

On Saturday and Sunday mornings I like to watch British Premier Soccer, and Saturday was opening day for their new season.....


Newcastle United FC vs. Tottenham Hotspur FC

.....additionally, with the changing of the seasons comes preseason NFL football.....oh yeah....

L.A. Rams vs. Dallas Cowboys Saturday evening

.....Saturday evening saw the L.A. Rams playing the Dallas Cowboys in L.A.....the Rams won 13-10.  I saw on my DirecTV bill they have charged me the first installment for my NLF Ticket season, and the new season is just weeks away.  That also means College football will be starting in a week, or so......does it get any better?  I'm not sure, but I'm willing to find out the answer.....😉

As you have no doubt noted, our life is not complex......it is the small things in life that give me pleasure.  We live in a very small space.....about 220 square feet of living space....maybe slightly less, but that's my educated guess based on the dimensions of our 36' x 8' coach (36 x 8 = 288 square feet less space occupied by cabinetry, walls, closets, etc.).  Everything important to me is only a few feet away at any given time......including TLE.....😉.  Almost invariably I am the first one up in the morning followed by TLE about an hour later.  I turn on the heaters (as needed) and/or close windows to make sure the interior environment is suitable for her when she awakes (which she has just done).....😉.  I always get up and walk over to give her a hug and a kiss.....it is our little ritual to begin the day with expressions of our love for each other.

Saturday was an unusual day.....we arrived at the Mammoth General Store around 1:20 pm for our 1:30 pm shift, and within 20 minutes two tour buses had disgorged their human units in front of the store and we were literally buried in customers....SRO!  We went through about two dozen pretzels, maybe 20 hot dogs, a dozen bratwursts, and God knows how much ice cream in that 45 minute span in time.....it was crazy, and seemed much longer than a mere 45 minutes.  After that things settled down to the usual periods of very few people in the store, followed by the occasional bursts of activity, but nothing remotely approaching that initial 45 minute onslaught.  For the rest of the shift we all kind of cringed whenever we say a tour bus passing the front of our store.....😉.

TLE and I spend our days in the General Store working about 50 feet from each other, and I love that I can look across the store and see her talking with customers, and that I can hear her wonderful lilting laugh.....occasionally she will look up and wave at me.......as I said, it is the small things that give me pleasure!

We were home before 10 pm......just in time for me to watch the last few minutes of the aforementioned Rams vs. Cowboys NFL preseason game.....since we have the 'MID2' shift Sunday (9:30 am to 5:30 pm) we were in bed by 11 pm....or at least I was.  I was awakened numerous times during the night by rain and thunder.....I love hearing the rain on our aluminum roof.....yep, those small things make life wonderful!

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Saturday, August 12, 2017

Why Workamping?

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7:07 am - Saturday - August 12th - 43º F, humidity 72%, wind 2 mph out of the south southeast........no clouds, but still hazy from local fires.  Forecast high for Gardiner, MT today is 81º F, and 77º F for Mammoth Hot Springs, WY.

Some might wonder why we are willing to work 5 days a week with only two days off to explore Yellowstone National Park when we are retired.  Even though we are retired we still like to work an interesting job at least once a year.  I guess we just don't like being retired 12 months out of each year.  The added bonus is extra dinero flowing into our checking account to cover things like maintenance on our vehicles......we have 14 tires between the VW, trailer and Newell that need replacing periodically, the occasional mechanical issues, and periodic preventative maintenance.  It's nice to pay for those necessities outside our normal monthly budget and workamping once per year allows us to do that and maintain a very comfortable lifestyle.  Finding jobs in interesting locations were we can spend a few months at a time getting to really explore a given area in depth with no time constraints is what we love the most.

Our first year living full time in the Newell we were camphosts at Rancho Jurupa Regional Park in Riverside, CA until we began to travel full time.  The first year we were on the road we did our first workamping job.....Amazon in Campbellsville, KY  (October to December 2012.....about 11 weeks) and then the INDY 500 in, of course, Indianapolis, IN (May of 2013).  After that we did the Beet Harvest in Sydney, MT (October 2013).  Both of these jobs were extremely short term......INDY 500 was 16 consecutive days, and the Beet Harvest was 22 consecutive days.....good paying jobs for just a few weeks at a time which pay well.  After that we worked 3 consecutive summers at Tahoe Valley Campground (2014, 2015 and 2016) which were 3-5 month jobs.  In the winter of 2014 we returned to Amazon, but this time in Fernley, NV for 7 weeks.  As you all know we had returned for a 4th summer at Tahoe Valley Campground in April of 2017, but soon realized a complete 4th season in our beloved Lake Tahoe was not in the cards.  This change forced us to re-evaluate our fulltime lifestyle, and refocus us on what is really important to us, and what really makes us happy.

We both retired at age 62.....a little earlier than we had originally planned.  After witnessing the early passing of numerous friends in their late 50's and early 60's we decided that since we were both in very good health we should retire earlier and begin traveling.  It was a stretch economically for us those first couple of years, but fortunately we owned our car and Newell out right, but still had the monthly mortgage on our home.  While we did lease the home for the first 5 years the rent did not cover all our expenses (mortgage, taxes & occasional maintenance issue).  We had a few other debts which we have been able to retire over the past few years and as we have done that our finances have improved significantly, but we still need the extra income to take care of the maintenance things.  Once we sold our home things improved even more!  

Our current goal is to spend this summer, winter, and then next summer working one workamping job after another to build up or savings, and emergency funds, and also set some aside for some international travel (Ireland, Maritime Provinces in Canada).  Then there is the summer trip to Alaska that we have dreamed about for years.  Being able to work in interesting places (YNP this summer, Grand Canyon this winter, and a yet to be named summer of 2018 job).

There are workamping jobs that only require 12-20 hours a week in exchange for a full hookup site, laundry, etc., but there is no pay.  A good example of these jobs is the Cape Blanco Lighthouse job we did two years in succession. We worked about 12 hours each per week in exchange for a full hookup site on the ocean.  Others require more hours per week, but pay for all hours worked in exchange for a full hookup site.  Then there are the National Park jobs like we have now that require you to pay a subsidized rate for your full hookup site, but pay you for all hours worked.  In Wyoming, where we work each day, the minimum wage is $7.25/hour.....Delaware North pays $8.25-$10.05/hour (depending on the position) plus a bonus if you complete your contract.  At the Grand Canyon we will be paid $10.15/hour this winter, and if we get the California summer job we are looking for the minimum wage will be $11/hour.  

We are also planning to spend a summer in Maine in the future doing a workamping job so we can explore the New England states........so our near future workamping plate is full!  We are both still healthy....neither of us is on any maintenance medication.  Most people we work with think we are in our mid 50's, not late 60's.  We both love the satisfaction which comes from doing a job well, and we both love meeting new people and acquiring new job skills.

Friday at the General Store was a typical Friday....we had the 'CLOSE' shift so we did not have to be at work until 1:30 pm.  I decided to take a quick bike ride to burn a few calories, and get a little exercise, so just before 11 am I got out my Cannondale Bad Boy to get in a quick 30+ minute ride before work........


Garmin 'zeroed out' and ready to record this day's ride

 Ear buds in for tunes, safety vest on and ready to go!

......I rode into Gardiner, over the the high school, up toward the North Gate, back through town and out to the Gardiner Airport where I made the turn around reaching home once again about 34 minutes after I began having covered around 8.5 miles......

Gardiner Airport

.....burned a little over 500 caloric units, and averaged about 14.3 mph.  By the time I returned it was 11:45, and time to take a shower, eat lunch and get ready for another day in paradise!

Things were relatively slow in the General Store overall, and very slow at the 'Fountain', but the time seemed to pass quickly, nevertheless.  We were fully staffed Friday, so cleaning the 'Fountain' area when we closed when quite fast.  I pulled my cash drawer so I could break Nancy while she went to lunch at 5 pm for 30 minutes, and that was the extent of my cashiering for Friday.  We were home by 10 pm, and in bed by 11:30.

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