Adventures in Kirwin Ghost Town and Double D Ranch

On our way back to Denver this week from the Canadian Rockies, we decided to visit Kirwin Ghost Town and the Double D Ranch. They are about 35 miles outside of the town of Meeteetse, WY, a long way down forest roads, in the Athabaska Forest in the Washakie Wilderness which is contained within the Shoshone National Forest. It is very far back and remote. I felt like it definitely put the “wild” in wilderness!

We found a beautiful campsite at (43.9324392, -109.1527996) along the Wood River. 

There were a few other campers around, but no one very close. We were greeted our first night by an amazing Aquarian full moon rising over the treetops. This pic doesn’t come close to doing it justice:
We enjoyed a fire in our Flame Genie:
Hans had heard about the Kirwin Ghost Town when we were in Cody earlier this summer. We love ghost towns and were excited to see this one. It is the best preserved ghost town that I have ever been to thanks to the efforts of volunteers, the Wyoming State Historic Preservation Office, the Mellon Foundation, the U.S. Forest Service and the Abandoned Mines Land Division to preserve this place out of time.
With our tetanus shots up to date, we set out for adventure exploring the old buildings from a bygone era!
It is well off the beaten path. We turned off Highway 290 and continued another 10 miles and found our campsite. When we left our campsite this morning, it was another 8 miles to the Kirwin Trailhead.
If you attempt to go back to Kirwin, you definitely need a 4 wheel drive vehicle or an ATV. This is best attempted in late summer as there are two water crossings. In fact, the road is water in one part of the approach.
William Kirwin and Harry Adams found gold while prospecting in 1885, but it wasn’t until the Shoshone Mining and Development Company of Kirwin was formed in 1904 that Kirwin became a busy place.
From 1904-1907, there were 200 miners and their families and 28 buildings in Kirwin. These included a hotel, two general stores, a post office, a sawmill, headquarters building and various buildings to house and feed the miners.
Oddly enough for a bustling old west mining town, there wasn’t a bar or a brothel. Maybe it was too inaccessible? After all, the railway never reached Kirwin. There was stage coach service 28 miles one way to Meeteetse every other day, but I can’t help but think that must have been seasonal with the treacherous river crossings and the large amount of snow that fell in the winter.
Or maybe there were some morally upstanding miners in Kirwin. Legend has it that there was briefly a palmist named Luciel in town, but word got out that she would offered more services than just palm readings and she was asked to leave town.
Or maybe there just wasn’t enough money to attract women and whiskey vendors. After all, Kirwin’s investors put in much more money than they ever got out of Kirwin. There was iron ore, and there was gold, but it was not enough gold to make it a profitable venture.
And life, quite frankly, looked like it would be very cold and hard much of the time here.
Plus, it was very isolated and treacherous as it was nestled amongst 12,000 foot mountains. When a huge avalanche engulfed Tewksbury’s Store, everyone abandoned Kirwin at that point.
In the years that followed, people tried repeatedly to reopen the mine, but nothing lasted.
This was the old headquarters building:
This was the mill and some equipment inside:I think this was perhaps a messhall:I love looking at the old nails and materials used to construct these buildings.
In 1931, Carl Dunrad purchased an old mine from the widow of a miner named Henry Schnitzel. Dunrad hit pay dirt in the form of a dude ranch. Dude ranches were very popular then. People from “back east” would pay to come stay and “play cowboy” for a few months and live the romance of the Wild West. Dunrad opened the the Double D Dude Ranch and entertained clientele such as Amelia Earhart in 1934.
Earhart was so taken with the area that she asked Dunrad to build her a cabin in this beautiful place. He stopped work on the cabin after she went missing during her attempt to circumnavigate the world solo later that year.
The buildings were solid construction of stone, cement and lumber. There was even a pool fed by water piped in from a spring nearby. And it was a very peaceful place. The U.S. Forest Service has done a great job of preserving this beautiful place.
The main house:
The cabins and a privy:
Not sure what this was, but I think it related to mining somehow because this looks like a hydraulic operation of some sort. There are also signs above although the writing on them has long ago faded:
There was a stable with wooden saddle horses:
If you dig ghost towns, definitely out this one on your list. Just bring your 4×4 vehicle and your bear spray!

Say Yes More!

I have been trying to make a conscious effort to say yes to more things in recent years. I think something in my consciousness shifted around age 45. I came to one of those mid-life realizations that hit you at certain birthdays that, statistically, you are at the halfway point, or most likely, on the down-sloping side of halfway, and of that, how much of it is functional useful time left that you can actually do pretty much anything you would want to do? After that epiphany, I have been trying to say yes and try things that I was not open to previously.

Living in an RV definitely would have been something I was not so open to before. I am so glad that I said yes. It was actually Hans’ idea. And I decided I could do anything for a year. Now here we are over a year in, and we have no intention of going back into a sticks-and-bricks anytime soon.

I have always been late to the game for some things. I didn’t eat avocados until I was 30. It was the same with wine. I have been making up for lost time ever since with these things!

The most recent thing I made an effort to say yes to was fly fishing last week. And believe me, that took a very CONSCIOUS effort to open my mind to even trying it, but I could tell Hans really wanted me to so I didn’t want to disappoint him.

In fact, I felt a little guilty as he took a plastic box that had been taking up precious space in the back of our truck for a year. It had waders and boots in my size with the tags still on them that he had purchased for me back in 2014 after I had hired a fly fishing guide for his birthday. He had been hoping since then that I would take up the sport with him, but after seeing six snakes on that one excursion, I wasn’t impressed.

We had bought fishing licenses for Yellowstone NP so we drove to the Barn Spool section of the Madison River. I put on my brand new fresh out of the box waders and boots and waded across. Hans gave me some pointers on casting. He had also showed me a couple of YouTube videos about how to tie flies on. So, I felt like I could be somewhat self sufficient.

I GET the idea behind fly fishing. You try to have an idea of what kind of fish you are going after. You look at the bugs on, around and above the water to try to get an idea of what they are hungry for, then you tie on something that sometimes looks like a sparkly bit of bug jewelry and try to put it in their face and hope they bite.

It seems to take more luck than skill, in my opinion.

I fished for a while without so much as a nibble and then noticed grasshoppers around. Conrad at Bob Jacklin Anglers in West Yellowstone had sold me a crazy looking piece of abstract art that he had referred to as a grasshopper. I didn’t see how this would fool any normal fish, but I decided the green caddis wasn’t doing it for them so I might as well try something new.

I had no sooner put it in the water than I was locked in a fight with a HUGE brown trout! I was trying to keep my reel up. I finally grabbed her and took a picture!

Shortly after my big catch, I saw a snake and lost interest in fishing any more that day as the limbic system of my brain had me seeing snakes everywhere.

But the next day, I went out and, after some minor, fly adjustments, I caught a rainbow-cutthroat hybrid. It was beautiful! I am “hooked”.

Another thing I have recently started trying are ice baths. I would have rather died than have an ice bath. I always detested cold water. I am hooked now! I think it started with some videos I watched featuring a guy named Wim Hof. He is European and swears by a breathing technique now called Wim Hof breathing. He claims it enabled him to climb Everest without oxygen in shorts. Someone did a film about this. It is fascinating.

I went from filling up my bathtub in hotels with ice and water and plunging in to going to a cryosauna in Denver. Yes, it is cold. Yes, it sucks for a few minutes, but then you feel incredible after! It is a full-on endorphin high that surpasses a runner’s high!

Today, I did something I never though I would do…. took a brief plunge in a glacial lake at the Grinnell Glacier in Glacier National Park. After all, you only live once, glaciers are rapidly disappearing from the planet. Climatologists say that the Glacier NP glaciers will be done by 2030. I decided not to let the opportunity pass me by.

It was brisk. My heart felt like it was beating like a butterfly, and I had a hard time moving my limbs because they were so cold, but it was so exhilarating to know that my reward for a 12 mile round trip hike was this amazing dip in the pool of one of the last glaciers left on the planet.

I intend to keep going with this plan of saying yes to things that scare me and challenge me in weird ways I can’t anticipate.

One of the things I said in the past was that I could never live in a space smaller than a 25′ travel trailer…… Maybe a truck camper is the next thing I say yes to?

The Instapot Miracle

Admittedly, I’m a little late to the game on the Instapot, a sensation that the rest of America has embraced judging from the number of online advertisements at Christmas last year.

I had borrowed my sister-in-law’s IP a few times when we lived in her stick and brick in Denver. She did not use it much. I liked it, and she, being a very generous person, gifted it to me. But after I cooked maybe five meals in it, the “new” wore off, and it went back on the shelf collecting dust again.

When we purged everything last year and moved into our 25 foot Arctic Fox trailer, I wasn’t sure I should bring it so I gave it to my Mom and her husband Danny. He does most of the cooking, and he went to a class at their church on Instapot cooking.

But, last summer when we were in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Illinois and Michigan, places that get quite warm, I really missed it. Yes, I have a full kitchen in our RV, but you do NOT want to heat your trailer to 90 degrees using the oven or the stovetop just trying to get a healthy meal fixed. Yes. You can grill outside, but that doesn’t work for everything.

So, when the Instapot was blowing up all over the internet at Christmas last year, and we happened to be at the ranch visiting my Mom and Danny, I mentioned I was going to order one. Mom said they had not used the one I gave them despite taking the church class, and why didn’t I just take the one I gave them back?

I was so happy to have it back! I find I am using it several times a week this summer. this is the one I use:

When we are plugged into “shore” power, such as an electricity post at a campground, it is a snap to use. We seldom camp at campgrounds though, so often I must start the generator to use the Instapot. It is easy, all the same, as it is like starting an old-school gas lawnmower with the pull of a cord.

Most recipes are finished in half an hour or less of pressure cooking so I don’t even have to run the generator that long, the trailer doesn’t heat up, and, because there is a sauté mode, I only have one pot to wash!

One of my favorite things to make is chicken broth. I buy precooked whole chickens at Costco or any other grocery store (most places around $5). I save the bird carcass in the freezer along with any onion and celery ends. When I have two frozen carcasses, I throw them in the IP…..

I use the broth in various other recipes or just drink it plain. It also makes killer chicken tortilla soup.

I made this last night with what I had on hand:

Lentils and Chicken

  • 1 c. Lentils
  • 1 1/2 c. Homemade IP chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 TB oil if your choice (I used coconut)
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 medium carrot, finely chopped
  • 2 chicken breasts (this is what I had on hand but you could use thighs or even a different kind of meat)
  • 4 cloves of garlic diced (or use the garlic in the jar)
  • 2 t. Paprika
  • 2 t. Rosemary
    2 t. Oregano
    Salt and pepper to taste
  • Put the IP in Sauté mode and add the oil. Let it get hot then add the onions and garlic and a sprinkle of salt. Keep stirring this as you cook it for about 5 minutes.
  • After the onions are slightly soft, turn off the IP and add in the broth, scraping the bits off the bottom of the pan, then add the chicken on top. Put the lid back in the IP and cook at high pressure for 15 minutes.
  • Let the pressure naturally release and viola!!!! You have a hot dinner and an unheated kitchen!
  • You could add parsley or feta cheese or whatever to this to garnish it and make it look pretty.

    The IP makes boiling eggs super easy and screw-up free. I make a lot of boiled eggs when I work for a healthy snack or on-the-go snack. Oatmeal is also easy and fast, and you can feed a lot of people very quickly with this one. You can lay out a la carte toppings in bowls so everyone can customize their oatmeal.

    Here is a handy chart:

    There are lots of great IP recipes out there, vegetarian, paleo, keto…. any thing for any diet with the exception of a raw food diet, perhaps. Just check Pinterest or there is also an Instapot app.

    One Year In

    June marked a year since we set out from the ranch in Texas and truly commenced on our full-time RV living adventure.

    We have learned so much about our new way-of-life and how we operate in this new realm.

    One thing we have learned is that we need so much less than we thought we did. Although the back of our truck may say something different. We took time out at our friends the Marshes house in Montrose, CO, to empty the back and reorganize/reevaluate our gear. We had a decent sized donation pile afterwards and left our donations at the Salvation Army.

    Even so, I would say that we could easily cut our stuff down by half again and possibly move into a more mobile and versatile unit such as a truck camper or a conversion van. A 250 square foot travel trailer seems like the height of luxury these days.

    I had this affirmed for me when we stored our trailer, and I set out on a month-long journey. With the help of 2 space-saver bags from Dollar Tree, I managed to get enough clothes for 9 days of work, a beach vacation, a visit to my parents’ ranch in Texas and my semi-formal Anniversary Banquet at Southwest Airlines all into my 21-inch roll aboard that I use for work. I didn’t even have it expanded out (at least until the last flight back to the home-sweet-trailer).

    I didn’t feel like I was doing without or that I had forgotten anything. Having access to a washing machine in all the places I stayed, did help. I did do a couple of panty wash outs in the sink.

    Another quirk in our personalities that I have begun to embrace is that, even though I used to plan our lives for months out when we lived in a stick and brick is that, in this nomadic lifestyle, we are loathe to commit to anything. We do not know what we are doing until we are doing it. And I love it! It feels good to live loose and carefree!

    Something that we began to realize as we began to stay longer in some places, is how limited we were by our resources. We figured out a hack for our freshwater which was to tote collapsible 5 gallon containers of water back with us and refill our tank.

    With our gray water, we use biodegradable dish and shower soaps such as Campsuds and all Seventh Generation products, so we could usually let it go wherever.

    However, our black tank would fill up after about a week. Sometimes we could stretch it longer if we were out a lot and not using our RV toilet. But inevitably, we would have to break camp to dump our black tank or use our Blue Boy tank to dump it which was gross, scary (as lifting a 180 pound fully loaded tank of sewage into the back of the pick up was suspenseful in a very bad way) and not convenient.

    So, to celebrate our year anniversary of the full-time RV living lifestyle, we acquired an Airhead Composting Toilet! https://airheadtoilet.com

    This solves our problem with waste disposal as the composting toilet can go weeks before it must be emptied and, when it is time to empty it, you simply discard the “dirt” into a composting bag and discard it into a trash can. Then, you refill the chamber with more moistened coconut hulls to start the process over again with a new batch. The urine gets diverted into the black tank and can go a long time before being emptied. Also, it is more sanitary as urine alone is sterile. When it mixes with number 2, it becomes “sewage”.

    A composting toilet is also better for the environment because it uses less water.

    While I was in Texas visiting my Mother and attending the Southwest Airlines anniversary party, Hans went to Montrose, CO, to his friend of 30 years, Wayne Marsh, and enlisted Wayne’s help and his shop in order to make the modifications (it took a LOT of modifications, but so worth it) to install the toilet.

    I came back to a fully functioning composting toilet with the addition of a bidet. (The first time I ever went to France when I was 17, I was fascinated by bidets and resolved to someday have one. I just never realized my wildest dreams would come true in the toilet of my camper!)The bidet!

    I have to say that the composting toilet is even better than I thought it could be. It strangely doesn’t smell AT ALL… even less than our original porcelain toilet.

    The price tag is high on the composting toilet, over $1000, but thanks to my mother-in-law, Patricia, we are proudly perched on our new throne. She did something nice for Hans’ sister, and she believes in being fair, so she wanted to do something for him and he chose the toilet for us!

    Hans making some mods:

    This brings me to another thing that we have learned about ourselves. Somehow, some way, everything that we need is provided for us when we need it. The Universe Has Our Backs. Gabby Bernstein apparently wrote a whole book about this concept, aptly titled, “The Universe Has Your Back”.

    Our beloved Arctic Fox 25Y was manifested out of the blue when we happened to find a used one only an hour away and at the right price when we were ready for it. This, despite the fact that I could only find 3 used ones in the country, and they were all thousands of miles away.

    From month to month, I used to wonder how things would pan out. Would we be able to “clear our boards” and not have to commute back to Denver to work? Did we manage to work enough to cover our expenses? But I have ceased to worry about these things as apparently, things manage to work for us, even when we aren’t sure at the moment how this will manifest.

    I don’t understand it, but I do believe it! And I believe this probably operates for all of us, but we have to give it SPACE TO HAPPEN for it to work it’s “magic”.

    When we simplified and slowed down, we created the space to let the magic happen.

    Strategies for Camping Inexpensively

    Besides mooch-docking off your friends and loved ones, there are many ways to camp very inexpensively or even free. Thanks to the Information Age, there are many resources at your fingertips via your smartphone to help you find some of the most beautiful and convenient locations very easily.My favorite free boondock was in our new friend Dan’s backyard.Not to be confused with a mooch-dock which is what we had in the Rigatos’ side yard in Chicago because they had electric that we could plug into. That was lovely also!

    After all, if you can camp inexpensively, you can spend more money doing fun things and acquiring paddle boards, bikes and other gear with which to appreciate the outdoors. And in our case, we can put off going to work just a little bit longer!

    One of our favorite apps is Campendium. It is by far my favorite app for finding campsites. It is available for FREE in the App Store. It has a filter that ranges from free to $$$$$ and can show you where public land, RV dumps, parking lots and RV parks are located. Other campers can post their reviews and give you insider information and insights on particular campgrounds. For us it has been an invaluable tool.

    There is also an app called All Stays. It is a bit pricy at $10. It does have good information on it such as campground information, rest stop locations, bridge heights, locations of Cracker Barrels (they always have RV parking in back…. and biscuits and apple butter!), RV dump locations as well as gas stations that can accommodate the height of your rig.

    Surprisingly, casinos are a great place to camp and many of them even provide free electric hookups! We had stayed at several that have free dump stations. (Maybe it is just me, but I really do not like paying for dumps and some places charge as much as $20, and you are doing all the work!) And even if they do not have hookups, they often will let you “boondock” AKA dry camp for free in their parking lot for several days at a time. The idea is that you will come into the casino and give them some business through gaming, the spa or the restaurants. Casinocamper.com is a great resource with reviews and information. Many casinos will give you a senior discount on food if you are 50 or older.

    One of our favorite stops in August was at Kewadin Casino in Christmas, MI, where, you guessed it, every day is Christmas! They had 6 free electric sites in the parking lot and it was minutes away from Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore Park.I found the Kewadin Casino to be rather low-key for a casino.

    Even better, it was next to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

    Granted, when you stay in places with free hook ups, there is often a lack of ambiance at your campsite. But, it is great to use these places as a jumping off point to see other things in the area. You just come back to sleep and regroup for more activities elsewhere.

    Walmart was renowned for a long time for allowing RV-ers to park for free in their parking lots but recently that has changed, and the policy on parking and sleeping in the parking lot does vary from store to store now. One blogger that we follow tells the story of how he spoke with a Walmart manager who gave him permission to stay in the parking lot for the night. That was around 8 pm. Evidently, there was a shift change at 11 pm and the night manager felt differently. There was a knock on the door from security telling him to leave. He had to explain that he could not because he had drank a bottle of wine while watching a movie and was not safe to operate a vehicle. It was all sorted out, and he was allowed to stay. But if you are going to stay at Walmart, be sure to go into the store and get permission and request that he overnight manager be informed of your presence, too.

    Cabela’s is also known for allowing RV-ers to park overnight in their parking lots. They have a separate RV parking area. We stayed at the Cabela’s in Owatonna, MN, overnight on our way west to the Black Hills. It was peaceful and there were other RV-ers there such as the Dubbels Family @dubbelsornothing on Instagram.

    Truck stops and rest areas are great places to park for some shut-eye when you are on your way somewhere else, but they fill up surprisingly fast, especially if the truck stop has a good restaurant. I found a free app called Trucker Path that drivers update that will let your know if there are parking spaces left at a particular rest area or truck stop.

    Another beautiful and free option is to park without hookups (aka “boondocking” or “dry camping”) on Forest Service land and BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land. These are some of the most beautiful and serene places. Of course, you have to prepare by making sure that your black and gray tanks are empty and your water tank is full. If you require air conditioning or want to use your TV, you will need a generator. We have dual Yamaha EF2000 generators. They are quiet compared to other generators on the market and fairly lightweight. They run about 8 hours before they run out of gas.

    The view from the most scenic FREE boondock on our trip so far. We were perched on the edge of a canyon in the Badlands of South Dakota. We found this on Campendium. You had to open a barbed wire gate (it was haaaard to wrassle it shut again and people were not shutting it so this may affect access in the future) and drive up a dirt road toward the bluff.Us as well as other campers taking advantage of this beautiful and FREE campsite!

    I only recently discovered the app “Boondocking”. It is free, and it has a map of BLM and Forest Service land for all states where this kind of land is available. People have added their first-hand accounts of the roads and sites as well as GSP coordinates. Of course, if you are pulling something that could easily get stuck such as a large trailer or fifth wheel, you may want to drop your trailer and scout the area first before you bring your rig down these rustic roads! Also, be fire aware and have two ways out of your camp.

    We stayed a few nights ago in a well-kept city park with hook-ups in Wheatland, WY. It was donation only. We jumped on our bikes and explored their cute little downtown. Once again, we found this on the Campendium app.We are behind the tree. These are the donation-only sites at Wheatland, WY.Wheatland had a pretty park and wonderful donation-only services for campers!

    There are lots of state and national parks with organized campgrounds and a camp host that are relatively inexpensive ranging from $8 to $30 depending on if you opt for hookups or not. Sometimes they are serene and peaceful, other times they are crowded and noisy so it really helps to do your research on apps if reviews are available.

    My friend Miss Mazuma has a great blog post about her amazing cross-country car camping trip. She has some great pointers on free camping as well. Check it out!

    At any rate, whether you are like us and try to stretch every dollar to the max or you like to live it up and stay at posh RV resorts and KOAs that are a kid’s dream come true with pizza delivery and pools, live your nomadic life to the fullest because there is nothing more exciting than waking up and letting the day and the road unfold before you.

    Bright Lights and Big City Camping

    Hans and I found a great and unexpected place to camp in the heart of Chicago at the McCormick Place Convention Center’s Lot B truck marshaling yard.

    It was steps from the Lake Shore Drive Bike path and a mile from the Loop downtown.

    At $35 a night versus an average summer hotel price of $350, it was a huge bargain!

    The white camper on the left with the slide out deployed is our AF, Arctic Fox (lately known as MF, Millenium Falcon).

    It was dry-camping, no water or hookups, but we were only at our camper to sleep so we did not use up many of our resources in 3 days.

    Literally, the Lot B convention center parking lot is mere steps from downtown.

    I also felt very safe there which is more than I can say for some of the places I have lived over the years in Chicago. There were other RV campers there doing the same thing as us as well as a 24 hour security patrol.

    Airstream….. keeping Lot B classy!

    Granted, it is a truck marshaling yard so 18 wheelers are coming and going all hours of the night. There is also a train to one side of the lot so it could be loud, but the noise never disturbed us when we were sleeping as we were running our dual Yamaha generators. Although they are quiet for generators, they still drowned out the sounds. I love white noise when I sleep so this worked well for me!

    Also, the RVs are in a separate section of the lot from the big trucks.

    The next closest camping option was in Zion which was 35 Miles from the city. Considering Chicago traffic these days, that really was not an option.

    We were able to visit with Chicago friends very easily. Uber drivers did not mind picking us up or dropping us off at Lot B. It cost us about $7 one way to get to the Loop. You also have the option to walk 15 minutes to catch the Metra two stops into the city.

    We enjoyed the city just like we did when we lived there! We went to see George Clinton and Parliament at the Petrillo Music Shell.

    We also discovered this:

    I have never seen a Taco Bell Cantina serving MARGARITAS any other place so I must assume it is a Chicago thing!

    I was also able to take a morning bike ride on LSD (Lake Shore Drive for those of you not familiar with Chicagoland) just like old times!

    I would highly recommend dry camping here to experience the city.

    The staff is used to campers so it is no big deal to accommodate us. Just remember to empty your tanks and make sure you have your fresh tank full, although, according to my neighbor who had been living there since May, it is easy to leave and come back.

    Troubles and Hassles

    https://youtu.be/x-Q9JJP_kC8

    Twenty three days into our new nomadic lifestyle, things are not yet running smoothly. For a while, it seemed that something would break literally every time we moved our rig.

    For instance, our High Pointe microwave died on the trip down to Texas. It was covered by our extended warranty, but with a $100 deductible for a $140 microwave, we decided it was not worth the hassle to do the claim.

    Our next stop after leaving Texas was Arkansas’ Petit Jean State Park. On the drive up to Arkansas, the light for the “stabilitrack” (whatever that was) came on the dash, and we could not put the truck in 4 wheel drive mode. Not a major problem by any means as we were not going places at the moment where we would need it.

    Petit Jean is rumored to be the prettiest state park in Arkansas and has a beautiful legend associated with it.

    The first night in Petit Jean, we got in late and set up camp in the dark as we fought off armies of flying bugs to set up our camp.

    The next morning, we woke up and decided to move our campsite as we were on a pretty significant slope. Also, we needed a campsite with a tent pad because my brother, Ben, his girlfriend Jennifer, and their 5 kids between them were coming to join us that night.

    When we tried to start the pickup, it was dead. So, I went to the visitor center to see if anyone could give us a jump. Luckily, a gentleman from the maintenance crew was able to help us!

    We have a 2013 GMC Denali 2500 truck. We could not see a date on the battery, but it looked like it most likely was a factory battery so it was due to go out. We took the pickup out for a brisk drive after we moved our trailer, and it started again after we turned it off.

    But we were running on borrowed time with the battery as we began to smell a rotten egg smell while we were driving. I did not know this, but that is a sign that your battery is going out when you smell that. Hans made a trip into town and got another battery for our truck and that problem was solved easily.

    My brother and his girlfriend and the nephews and nieces arrived and the good times rolled!

    We were able to tick Arkansas off our RV map.

    A couple of days into our stay at Petit Jean, rain finally broke the oppressive heat wave. We had not turned on the TV since we left Texas. When we decided to entertain the kids with a movie inside the trailer, we realized the TV was kaput. It had worked just fine in Texas! How disappointing!

    Instead, we played cards and told ghost stories about Albert, the ghost who haunted the front bedroom of our former Denver home, and LCHD, the haunted plane I was on in the 1990’s.

    The ghost stories may have been too convincing. The kids had been interested in sleeping in their own tent, but instead chose to sleep in the camper with us. We utilized the sofa, the table and the floor for them, and even though it was a snug fit, everyone was OK with it.

    It looks like a big mess but really there are children under all those blankets. (Hans likes it super cold to sleep so the rest of us need lots of blankets!)

    After a few days with the kids, we loaded up for the drive to Tulsa to take them back home to their dad. Ben, my brother and their dad, is super handy. He installed an electric hookup with water so that we could comfortably stay in Jennifer’s back yard in Oklahoma.

    We were making great time and things seemed to be going smoothly. We accidentally got on a toll road. This was he first indicator that our luck was changing. I really hate toll roads. Somehow the filter in my gps app turned off the “avoid toll roads” feature. We didn’t have enough coins in the truck so we had to borrow money from the kids who apparently are loaded.

    Our second indicator that our luck was coming to an end was when the brakes briefly locked up as we were approaching a toll booth. That was SCARY. The children even broke eye contact with their video games when we jolted.

    A Walmart parking lot was conveniently located at the end of the exit ramp so we pulled off the road. (We spend more time than I care to admit in Walmart parking lots because they are EVERYWHERE and their lots are HUGE.)

    This is what we saw:

    Like a dead snake lying in the Walmart parking lot, there was our cord that connected the trailer lights to our truck. It had dragged on the ground until the insulation surrounding the wires in the cord had been burned through and caused our brakes to engage.

    It was official. We were broken down in Broken Arrow, OK, in the parking lot of a Walmart. I felt like this was definitely the lowest point of my RV-ing experience so far.

    I called my brother because we were not sure that we could safely drive the trailer at this point. I knew he would know what to do. He said we were only twenty minutes from his house. He said to leave the cord disconnected and use hand signals to signal turns and use caution as we would no longer have turn signals or brake lights on our trailer.

    We proceeded carefully the 20 or so miles to their home and harbored safely in Jennifer’s huge backyard.

    As timing would have it, we ended up spending the 4th of July with Ben and Jennifer and their kids which was a lot of fun.

    For the 4th, we went with the family to a Tulsa Drillers baseball game followed by fireworks. The Drillers are the farm team for the Dodgers. I can not think of a more American celebration than a baseball game and fireworks for the 4th.

    And of course we fired off fireworks in Jennifer’s back pasture!

    Ben helped Hans install a new trailer cord.

    They also replaced a fuse that had been blown when the trailer cord dragged.

    To repay him for his help, we babysat the kids so that he and Jennifer could have some time alone. Babysitting tip from the Taubs: Babysitting is much easier if you wrap the children in plastic wrap so they cannot move.

    Just kidding! I really do not know who started this, but no children were harmed, and they actually asked us to do it again the next day!

    By the way, if you didn’t know already, we are child-free. I am sure everyone is relieved to hear this! Haha!

    We took the truck to the dealer in Tulsa on July 5th to diagnose the “stabilitrack” problem. The problem was the “coder motor” on the transmission had burned out so we replaced that to the tune of a few hundred dollars. It was a relatively easy fix, all things considered.

    We left Ben and Jennifer’s back yard and ventured down the road and resumed our journey towards the upper Midwest where (hopefully) cooler temperatures beckoned.

    We went to a nearby dump station at a state park to empty our gray and black tanks. Our luck took another turn!

    We had had a lot of help from the kids when we dumped our tanks at Petit Jean. The kids gloved-up and helped Uncle Hans.

    Somehow in the hubbub, the black tank valve remained open. This was not good when we dumped after the visit in Tulsa.

    I was sitting in the truck with the windows rolled up texting with a friend when I smelled a very, very bad smell. I jumped out to see if everything was ok.

    It was not. It looked like our trailer had diarrhea next to the dump station. How gross and embarrassing!!! We washed it off as best we could in the direction of the sewer opening. I squirted some Blue Dawn on the aftermath to try to clean it up better than simply washing it with water. We were both gagging! Ugh!!!!

    Moving on, we continued uneventfully on our journey until we reached the Downstream RV Park. It was part of the Downstream Casino, and we could get 2 free nights of water and electric hookups if we joined their Players Club!

    We thought our streak of weird mechanical luck had thankfully come to an end, but no sooner than we had set up camp, we got a phone call from our neighbor that our home in Denver had flooded because of a broken sprinkler!

    Thanks to our fantastic neighbor, Patrick, for handling everything and for family members, Sonny and Calius, flying out from California to fix the broken sprinkler.

    Even with the setbacks we have had, we have felt loved and supported every step of the way, from my brother wiring hookups for us and buying Hans a comprehensive tool kit, friends offering us a mooch-dock, to all the nice gifts and messages of support from family, friends and neighbors, we have never felt alone, and we feel so fortunate to be a part of a loving community of friends and family.

    We also had the good fortune to be in Quapaw, OK, for the 146th Annual Powwow of the Quapaw Tribe with other tribes in the area. It was so moving to hear the music and see the dancing and the traditional garb of the indigenous people. I am awed at how these people have managed to salvage their traditions and uphold pride despite the genocide that almost annihilated them. I would like to say that the broken sprinkler was the end of our travails, but it was not.

    As I write this from Robertsville State Park in Missouri, a mechanic named Chris is putting the finishing touches on installing a converter box for us. He came to our campsite to assist us today after we parked here two nights ago and discovered our batteries were not charging. The lights were pulling off of our battery, which should not happen, so we were unable to use the lights. Thankfully, the air conditioning still worked.

    The RV season is in full swing right now so it would have been 4 weeks to get into an RV service shop in St. Louis. We were glad that we found Chris to come out in the first 2 days. It was also nice because we got to catch up with our dear friend, Ann, in St. Louis.

    We went to a great place called Louis’s Wine Dive that I highly recommend if you are passing through. They have a gluten-free option on almost every item on their menu. I especially love their Brussels sprouts!

    Wish us luck as we venture northward later on this week. I hope our mechanical problems are over for now!