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August, 2007

Monday, August 13:

Well, Hot August Nights is now over. We saw lots of cool cars too. It was beautiful weather for walking around and viewing the cars. Most days the temperatures were in the 80ís and towards the end of the week it edged up into the 90ís.

We had decided to stay in Reno and see all the cars this year. In previous years we were somewhere else and came back to Reno towards the end of Hot August Nights. It was fun to see all the cars but it was very busy around the town. There was a lot more traffic and more people in town. Even here at the Peppermill it was very crowded. They had set up one whole parking lot as an area to showcase all the cars that were showing here at this casino. Many of the casinos did the same thing. So there were many cars around town to see.

Click photos for larger view  -- I'll post more photos in a day or two

Since the Peppermill was going to use the parking lot where we usually parked to showcase cars we were asked to move to another lot. They needed to get the parking lot ready so all oversized vehicles were asked to move on Wednesday, the 1st of August. At first we moved to another lot that the casino had leased during the show. It was several blocks away, a gravel lot that was to be used for oversized vehicles. We went over and parked at this lot as soon as we were asked to do so. When we saw the lot we hoped that others would show up soon; but they did not. We spent three nights there all by ourselves. We were so uncomfortable staying there with no other vehicles around that we would be back at the RV before dark and stayed in. We just did not feel safe there all by ourselves.

We saw that other RVs were still parked at the casino (in a different lot) so on the fourth night, a Saturday, we came back over to the casino and parked in the upper parking lot. We knew that weíd have to move again but we werenít going back over to that lot as long as we were the only ones there. Sunday evening we moved back over to the lot. There were finally a couple of other RVs around.

On Monday morning we were surprised when many cars started parking in the lot. We found out that the casino had now designated that this lot would be the parking lot for the construction crew working at the casino. Too many people had complained that they were not happy with this lot, it was too far from the casino, they felt unsafe leaving their vehicle there, etc. Now another lot closer to the casino is where weíll have to move the RV! So Monday afternoon we moved over to a lot much closer to the casino. Itís a much smaller lot, not as much room to maneuver around. So when we moved over to this lot we knew that weíd be ďstuckĒ here the rest of the week. We parked where asked to park and soon we were hemmed in by trailers stored here from carrying the show cars. But that was okay. At least weíre closer to the casino and there is 24 hour security here at this lot. There were also about 4 or 5 other RVs parked at this lot.

As mentioned earlier the weather was great, mostly in the 80ís all week. We did not use much water in our swamp cooler keeping cool. We managed to stretch our 100 gallons of water for the week only having to add 4 jugs (7 gallons each) of water for the week. In the mornings and evenings we could open the windows to let in the nice cool breeze.

It was fun to see all the cars. There were many vehicles and cars that were so customized they were truly one of a kind. But even with the fun of seeing all the cars I donít think I want to be here again during Hot August Nights. I think weíll go visit other places during that time in our future visits to Reno. It was just too crowded and we donít like crowds. It was fun for one time but I donít want to stay here again during it.

We had lunch one day with Nancy, a fellow video poker enthusiast and part time traveler and camper. She and Mac have communicated by email and when she saw we were in Reno, well we just had to meet and talk. It was fun meeting her. Itís great to meet someone else who is serious about playing video poker. By serious I mean has practiced hours with training software, is aware of and plays the video poker machines with the best pay tables in the casino. It was fun talking with her. We keep track of our daily wins and losses by casino and games. She also does that, but in addition this year she started keeping track of her comps too. So if she uses a food or other comp sheíll write that in a spreadsheet. Keeping track of her comp usage will show overall for the year her real profits. I thought that was a very good idea. Next year weíll probably start doing that too. I know overall weíre on the plus side in our video poker playing. But if we added in all the ďfreeĒ food comps and other comps that weíve received it significantly increases our profit margin. Since weíve been in Reno weíve eaten at the casino every day, usually twice a day and sometimes all three meals a day. If you add all that up it is major dollars in benefits that weíve used from our play.

Speaking of free food, we got a free pie one day from the Peppermill. We thought when we got the free pie coupon that it would be a small-not-very-good-pie. It turned out to be a huge thick wonderful pie! Mac took this picture of one piece to show how thick and big it was.

Saturday, August 25

Hi readers.  If you've been disappointed with our lack of updates in the month of August all that should change now.  This morning we left Reno and said goodbye to the Peppermill Casino.  Unfortunately there wasn't much time to write for the blog because our daily activities were "work, gamble, eat, sleep, repeat".

On this trip to Reno we played exclusively at the Peppermill for 38 days. By giving all our play to one casino we achieved the Platinum level of their players club tier structure.  At some casinos the rewards are vague and not very meaningful -- not true at the Peppermill.  Platinum status is great and carries many privileges including access to the health club and pool, VIP lounge, special lines for quick service everywhere, priority seating in restaurants, etc.  You don't have to be a high roller to move up in tier status.  We play mostly quarter video poker, with an hour of dollars every couple of days and I play a few table games.  Of course, I play live Texas Hold'em poker daily for about 4 to 5 hours, but that doesn't count much if anything for tier status because the casino profits directly from poker are small.

So this morning we headed East on I-80 and traveled through some really empty territory, past Winnemucca, and stopped for the night at the Wal-Mart in Elko, NV.  We had planned to continue East to Salt Lake City; however, we're bored with the interstate so we're turning North on US 93, heading north to Idaho, and eventually to Yellowstone National Park sometime mid-week.

No, we didnít take up residence in Reno though it may have seemed that way. We stayed a total of 38 days in Reno. We love Reno and enjoy our stay there every year. We call it our second home. We love the weather, dry and warm. It gets very warm but with our swamp cooler it was very comfortable in the RV. We love the casinos in Reno, especially the Peppermill. I love all the different thrift stores. We like that itís not a big city so itís easy to get to know the roads and how to get around. We love the people too, everyone has been friendly. We always have a good time and enjoy Reno very much.

I got to visit a lot of thrift stores, even visited a used book store and traded some books. One Monday I visited the Savers thrift store and found that on Mondays they have a 99 cent sale. Every item of a particular color is only 99 cents! I was very fortunate that day and found 6 items in one store and 3 or 4 in another store saving us several dollars by shopping this sale.

The used book store I visited was The Paperback Exchange at 131 Vesta. I found several books by authors that I like to read. I donít think it was a great bargain exchanging books but I did find several books that I wanted to read. So now I have a good supply of books for our journey. Someone told me of another great book trading store that Iíll visit next year when weíre in Reno again.

With all the great bargains that Iíve found this year I had to go through my clothes yet again and donate clothing. Isnít it funny how our taste develops and changes throughout our lifetime? Iíve always enjoyed wearing t-shirts when not working, I still do like them but Iíve started buying more blouses instead of t-shirts this year. Iíve discovered that I also like seersucker. I used to think it was ugly but Iíve bought a few blouses and really like how nice and cool it is. The biggest plus is that it doesnít need ironing. I keep my eyes open now for blouses that I like; that fit right, donít require ironing and are cool fabrics. Of course, Iím always on the lookout for shorts too.

The best of the 99 cent bargains that I found at Savers that day were the long pants that I bought for Mac. Mac had just mentioned to me that his long pants were getting a little worn and to start looking for him some new ones. I lucked out that day and found 6 pair and all were only 99 cents each because of the sale. Using the pants Mac showed me what makes a quality pair of pants for men. So as I continue shopping for clothing bargains for us I will look for quality items.

Friday, August 24, Mac and I went shopping at Wal-Mart. We bought a couple hundred dollars worth of groceries and supplies to start our journey again. We got a good chuckle when we were putting our groceries away. In our new refrigerator there were only 2 ice trays in the freezer section and a quart of milk in the refrigerator. Now though itís fully stocked with groceries for our trip. It was great to not have to buy any groceries for the whole time we were in Reno. We occasionally bought a bag of bagels and I think we ate one dinner in the RV. But the rest of the meals were eaten in the casino for free! We took full advantage of our food comps and ate there every day.

Speaking of the casino, I hit a royal on July 31st which Iíd mentioned. Then it was like going through a dry spell. I did not hit another royal until August 20th, 20 whole days without a royal flush. But then I hit a royal on the 20th, then again on the 23rd and another on our last day the 24th. So I had three royals in one week that was a great way to end our visit.

But now our visit is over and weíre on the road again. We left Reno Saturday the 25th. It took us most of the morning to get everything ready to head out. Weíd stayed up until about 3 in the morning the night before having a good time in the casino and then eating breakfast before going to bed. We got up around 8 and started getting everything packed away. We went to dump and fill the tanks, get gas, and then hook up the car. We were finally on the road about 11:00.

We headed east on I-80. What a boring road, but then most interstates are boring. We were extremely tired too from our late night so around 2:00 we pulled over at an exit and took a nap for about an hour. We felt better after the nap too. Itís great to have our swamp cooler too. Cranked it up and slept in comfort. When we were ready to hit the road again we just drained the water, disposing of it in the black tank. We could have drained the water right outside the RV but I like to put the water in the black tank. When we dry camp or travel we tend to not use much water when flushing. So I like to add some water to help dissolve the paper waste and make draining the tanks easier.

We were tired so we stopped early for the night in Elko Nevada. We stopped at Wal-Mart store # 2402. There were already several RVs when we got there but we found a parking place. As we turned into Wal-Mart there was a sign stating the RV parking is welcomed and to please park on the food side of the parking lot. So we did. All evening more and more RVs came in. I think by bedtime there were around 20 of us parking here for the night. We did go in and give Wal-Mart a little business too. We bought some pre-cooked seasoned chicken to put on a salad, salad makings, and a loaf of whole wheat French bread for a quick easy and cool dinner.

Our plans are to make our way to Yellowstone. Weíre looking forward to seeing that. We have to work and then travel some each day till we get there though. So it may take a few days to get there. We have to plan ahead a few steps for cell phone coverage for Mac to work too. Donít want to get in an area where itís too spotty for the cell phone to work while heís working. Donít care what the coverage is while visiting the park, just for the workday.

Sunday, August 26:

We left Elko this morning and headed east on I-80. We drove to Wells Nevada and got off the interstate. We bought gas at the Flying J Truck Stop at this exit. Then we headed north on highway 93. We were glad to get off the interstate too. Originally weíd planned to drive on the interstates as much as possible up to Yellowstone but we soon changed our plans and got off the interstate and decided to take more scenic back roads.

We stopped in Jackpot Nevada at Cactus Pete Casino to check it out. It was about lunch time so we decided to have lunch there. We walked around the casino after lunch to see what kind of games there were available. We hit the road again without playing any games.

Right after Jackpot Nevada we entered the state of Idaho. We continued north on 93 and enjoyed the changing landscape. We crossed the Snake River on the Perrine Bridge at Twin Falls ID. We pulled over right after crossing the bridge, there is a vista point. The view was great of the Snake River Canyon. Hereís a link to a picture of the bridge: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perrine_Bridge 

Later in the afternoon we drove by Craters of the Moon National Monument. http://www.nps.gov/crmo  Neither of us had heard of it before and we were quite amazed at the landscape we were driving through. Since it was already around 4:00 we decided to not stop at the visitor center. Weíll plan a visit to this area for another time. This evening I looked up information regarding this park and Iím glad we didnít stop for a short half-hour visit this trip as they close at 4:30. Itís now on our list of places to visit; it will be an interesting place to explore.

We got on highway 20 in Arco ID and headed to Idaho Falls. The landscape has been so varied today. Not a lot of trees but ranging from arid to agriculture, cattle grazing, etc. We also drove through a large dust storm. Thankfully we could see enough to continue driving.

We stopped in Idaho Falls at a small city park (Tourist Park South) that has one night stay free overnight parking. Weíve relaxed this evening, had dinner and just enjoyed the memories of the day and planning our visit to Yellowstone.

Monday, August 27:

After getting up and having a short work day we utilized the dump station at this park (Tourist Park South) and dumped the tanks then filled with fresh water. We went to Walgreens and picked up some medication and finally got back on the road heading to Yellowstone around noon. We headed north on highway 20. The landscape continues to change. We soon start climbing and are over 6,500 before it levels off some. We see more trees, lodgepole pines, aspens, and other trees. We see plenty of rivers too. Itís very pretty and weíre getting so excited to get to our camping area.

We cross into Montana and soon reach West Yellowstone. Weíre camping at Bakerís Hole National Forest Service campground. There are many sites with electrical hook-ups but we got a nice spot too with no electrical hook-ups so weíll save some money by using our solar panels. We get great cell phone service here too so Mac is happy that heíll be able to work without roaming charges.

After getting the car unhooked and all the other requirements for setting up we went for a walk around the campground. There is a river behind the campground and we had fun walking there. We saw an osprey fly close to us with a fish in his claws. We didnít see any fish in the river though we know theyíre in there from the osprey fishing the river.

There are warning signs around the campground that bears have come into the campground so we need to make sure all food and cooking items are stored properly. Mac told me I better look out the window before I open the door and make sure a bear isnít outside waiting on me. Is he trying to scare me?

This evening weíve enjoyed looking online and planning our visit to Yellowstone tomorrow after working part of the day. Weíre going to visit over several days so that we can see as much as we can but yet spend some quality time at each location. Iím so excited to go tomorrow. The first thing I want to see is Old Faithful. Then after that there is an incredible amount of stuff to do and see. Itís going to be fun.

We had a very nice walk along the Madison River.  In addition to the beautiful view there were many signs of animal life.  We saw a dozen trees that were scraped, as you can see in the photo.  We debated whether these were bear or elk sign?  The dung on the ground looks like elk.  We plan to ask a ranger when we see one.  UPDATE:  First ranger we asked said it was Buffalo poop.  He said the scraped trees could be elk, bear, or buffalo, and if we see claw mark's it's bear.  We think ours does show claw marks! 

Click the photos for larger views.  I think we'll have lots of pictures, so we'll post them later with a link so they don't slow down the blog too much.

 

 

Tuesday, August 28:

This afternoon after Mac worked a shorter workday than usual we finally headed to Yellowstone. After we entered the park and headed towards the Upper Geyser Basin and Old Faithful we stopped numerous times to see some wonderful sights. We stopped to see elk grazing near a river, a lone young bull elk in the woods near the road, a small herd of bison, and many other wonderful things that we just had to stop and see. We finally made it over to see Old Faithful and it was a wonderful sight to see. I read that it isnít as spectacular as some of the other geysers but it was impressive itself. If this isnít that impressive I canít wait to see the other geysers. We visited the gift shop and picked up some of the necessary items to prove that we were there including a bear bell. I think Mac is trying to scare me about the bears. Why do I need to wear this bell? Is it really to warn a bear that Iím coming or so that Mac can know where Iím at?

After a short visit to the gift shop we hopped back in the car and then toured Firehole Lake Drive, a 3 mile long drive with many places to stop and view various hydrothermal wonders. Then we drove Firehole Canyon Drive to see the Firehole Falls. After viewing the waterfall we continued driving and came across a swimming area. There were many cars parked along the road and people in the river swimming. Not today for us though we donít have our suits with us.

After viewing the waterfall we headed towards home. Along the way towards the park exit we again got to see many great animals. Many elk were again feeding around the river near the road. There was also a bison near these elk. This bison was so close to the parking area and there were several people already there taking pictures. Mac quickly jumped out of the car to catch a picture. How close do these people think they can get to a bison before he gets mad and charges them? I wouldnít get as close as some of these people got today. They were lucky and we were fortunate that we did not see anything bad happen. As we continued along the road we saw another large group of cars stopped with people taking pictures of a bison that was rolling in the dirt. We missed that part to take a picture but did manage to take an action picture of the bison running away into the woods.

Our last nature viewing before we left the park was to see three bald eagles landing in a tree just across the river. We took some pictures but they didnít come out that good. We could clearly see the white heads of the eagles. It was great to see them. They just sat in the tree and were looking around, probably for fish since they were near the river.

After all this itís time to finally leave the park. Weíre tired but one last stop before we go home. We stopped at one of the local grocery stores to pick up milk.

After arriving back at the RV we downloaded our pictures to review what we saw today. Wow, what a day we had and we saw so much. Weíve only toured a tiny portion of the park and yet we saw so much. Weíre also very tired this evening. Weíve finally figured out that we are suffering a little from the altitude too. We are over 6,000 feet and there are some adjustments that the body needs to make.

Weíve both been researching online and planning on what weíre going to see next. Weíre looking forward to tomorrow and our next visit to Yellowstone.

Yellowstone Photos -- click here to see them all

Wednesday, August 29:

After another short workday we had lunch and then headed to Yellowstone. Our plans today are to hike up to Mystic Falls. The trail is about 3 miles round trip.

First though when we stop and park there are many bison near the area. So of course, we must watch them and take pictures. Boy, are their horns scary looking. And the people get so close to them, donít they know these are wild animals!

We walk on the boardwalk through Biscuit Basin viewing all the hydrothermal wonders. After the boardwalk we start out towards Mystic Falls. Of course, the bear bell is sitting in the car so we talk loudly to each other and sometimes sing along the way. We sure donít want to startle a bear.

We arrive at the viewpoint for the falls and they are very impressive. I just love waterfalls! I hope to see many more while here. We turned around and hiked back to the car. This altitude is something; we have to remind ourselves that we are still adjusting to it, take it slow, plenty of rest and fluids while hiking. The sun is pretty strong too; I think I got a bit of a burn today on the hike.

There are no facilities at Biscuit Basin or along the trail so after getting back to the car we headed over to Old Faithful. We know there are facilities there. We visited the Old Faithful Visitor Center, then walked over and visited the General Store. Now weíre both still pretty hot and sweaty from our hike and we thought of the cold delight of soft serve ice cream. Off we go over to the Old Faithful Lodge area where we saw ice cream yesterday.

We sat outside on the shaded porch rocking in these great rocking chairs eating our ice cream. From here we have a great view of Old Faithful so we decided to sit here and watch it again. It was again spectacular to see the geyser shooting all that water and steam into the air.

After viewing the geyser I visited the facilities and noticed that the gift shop was having a today only sale of certain items for only $5.00. I stopped in and picked up a t-shirt for Mac and a cap for me; not bad for $10.00.

We left the area and decided to head on home. Weíre tired and itís going on 5 already so away we go. We again see many wonderful animals along the drive out of the park. We saw one bald eagle today and this time we remembered we have binoculars with us. I could see his beak so clearly. Heís definitely a bird of prey.

Mac grilled hamburgers tonight. After the grill cooled off he even put it away; donít want to tempt any bears to visit our campsite.

 

Thursday, August 30

This afternoon we headed out to the canyon area of Yellowstone. Itís the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. There are two waterfalls, Upper Falls and Lower Falls. But first on the way there we stop along the Gibbon River to view Gibbon Falls. We also stopped to view a fox; or coyote or wolf in a field. We still havenít figured out what it was but it was very interesting to see whatever it was. And of course we saw buffalo.

Most photos on this page can be clicked for a larger view

 

Gibbon Falls, and the Gibbon River below the falls. 

We stopped at the Canyon Visitor Center which has a lot of good information about the area. But really letís get on the road and see some waterfalls! And finally we did. We drove up the road and stopped at Inspiration Point, it was quite beautiful. I can see why it was named Inspiration Point.

Grand Canyon of Yellowstone - Inspiration Point

Click photos for larger view in new window

Next, we stopped at Lookout Point and there is that beautiful waterfall. Wow, itís awesome, so beautiful. The colors of the canyon walls, the deep green of the trees, the white of rolling water, I canít describe it. Look at the pictures and then go see it for yourself. It is beautiful. We stopped at all the stops along the way to see all the awesome views.  Click photo for a larger image.

Next, itís on to Fishing Bridge and Lake Village. The bridge is named Fishing Bridge but you can no longer fish from it. We were hoping to see some fish from the bridge. Here fishy fishy... they donít seem to be listening to me today. We didnít see any fish but did see plenty of beautiful water. And of course buffalo.

We drove around to the general store at Lake Village and itís a really great old building, great appropriate chandelier hanging from the ceiling too. I love these old buildings here. After a short visit to the store away we go again.

Huge old chandelier in the general store.  At least 5 feet wide

 

Yellowstone Lake, note the geysers on the other shore

We drove along the lake; this lake is quite large and beautiful. Weíre heading towards our west exit which is about 40 miles away. This park is huge too. We pass by Old Faithful but no stopping there today. Itís now past 5:00 and weíre hungry so letís get home and eat. Again we see many buffalo, herds of elk, but no stopping to take more pictures. Well, we had no choice in stopping to take this one picture, this buffalo decided to use the road to walk on and traffic was stopped in both directions. Buffalo may run pretty fast but they walk slowly. It was great to see him though.

Finally the exit is in view good-bye Yellowstone, see you tomorrow. We stopped at the grocery store to pick up some bagels. Finally weíre home and now we can eat. Mac fixed us a great dinner of chicken and stir fried veggies.

Today we were at over 8,000 feet and crossed the continental divide twice. Whew, Iím tired and ready for an evening of rest.

As you can see, there are WAY too many photos.  I apologize to those with slow internet connections.  Hopefully the smaller thumbnails won't be too bad.  If you'd like to see any photo larger you can click it, and a new window will open.

Here are more photos from Yellowstone Lake, River & Canyon

Friday August 31:

This morning we got up to the sound of pitter patter on the roof. What is that; are birds walking on top of the RV? No, itís the sound of rain. Scattered showers are predicted for the next few days. So we got many of the scattered showers here this morning where weíre parked. Since itís raining we decided to visit the town of West Yellowstone instead of the park. If it starts raining while in town we can go into a building.

This afternoon we headed out to visit the town. We had lunch at a BBQ place, it was okay, not the best BBQ Iíve ever had but it was acceptable. It was reasonably priced at $7.99 for a pulled pork sandwich that included a side dish. We walked around town and visited all the tourist shops. We took pictures of all the painted bison around town too.

Click any photo on this page for a larger view

When we started out it was a little chilly and dreary but the weather soon cleared up and it got pretty warm and sunny. I was soon wishing Iíd worn shorts instead on long pants too. It turned out to be a beautiful afternoon. I was also wishing weíd gone to the park and taken our chances on the rain.

After visiting the town we went back to the RV for a fun filled evening of internet and reading. Iíve been researching where we may go after leaving here. Weíd like to see Mount Rushmore, the Badlands and maybe even the Black Hills. I was surprised to read that itís still pretty hot there. Itís so nice and cool here that I assumed it would be the same there. Itís cool here because of the elevation. Maybe weíll just drive through those places from the air-conditioned comfort of our RV. Weíre going to work our way over to Elkhart Indiana to look for new captains chairs, and see what other surplus items they have.

While taking pictures of artfully painted buffalo around town I noticed one other horned creature on top of a car and snapped a photo.  This one may not be artistic, but it does show imagination.

So another month ends, and it's time for our camping expense report.  We only paid for 5 nights of camping in August, and that was dry camping here at Baker's Hole in the NFS campground.  So we've gotten closer to last year's numbers but still have a ways to go.

Year to Date Avg $ per Nite # Dry # Elect # FHU # Free %Dry % Free
2007 $8.99 138 21 84 72 57% 30%
2006 $8.53 118 20 102 111 49% 46%
2005 $8.05 157 17 69 86 65% 35%

 

Continue Reading September 2007

 

What did we do in August's past?  Take a look at:

 August 2006

August 2005

 

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