Thursday, April 23, 2015

Time to Scratch My Hitch Itch

The Great Outdoors RV Resort, Titusville, FL
GPS: 28.550355, -80.861438

Several people have asked where we are going this summer of 2015. My response produces a glazed stare from most. So I decided to paint a picture, with websites to back me up, that will let everyone have a look at this year's adventure.

Our 2015 Summer: 7,100 miles and 200 days

Of course the trip begins from our new permanent home at The Great Outdoors RV Resort, Titusville, FL (point A on the map). We leave here on Friday, 01 May 2015

Our first destination is The Pioneer Store Museum, Chloride, NM (GPS: 33.338682, -107.681035; altitude 6,180ft; point B on the map). This leg is about 1,950 miles and I have allowed seven days to get there, with minimal sightseeing along the way.

Chloride was a silver mining town. It began in 1879 and enjoyed a boom from 1881 to 1893 with the population reaching about 3,000. In 1893 the price of silver collapsed and took Chloride down with it. All that remained was a little bit of lumbering and cattle ranching. The Pioneer Store hung on until 1923 when it finally closed.

Pioneer Store, Chloride, NM

Sometime in the 'recent' past, Don and Dona Edmund took over the town and have been working to restore it as a tourist attraction. I don't know the details of this part of the history. I'll be sure to learn all about it when I get there.

Chloride, NM

Chloride caught my attention a couple years back when Don posted a help wanted ad on one of the workamping websites. He and I have stayed in touch as I tried to work out a trip that would put us there for a couple months. Summer 2015 is it. My plan is to be there from 08 May to 08 July.

We enjoy this type of WorKamping/Volunteering. We get a full hookup site and some amenities for about 20 hours per week. No salary, no tax paperwork, no season long commitment; just an interlude helping good people do good things.

I think this will be much like our first workamping adventure in 2011 at the Panhandle Pioneer Settlement in Blountstown, FL.

We are into geocaching. So when I find an interesting location, I go to the Geocaching website and look for geocaches near that location. I put them on a watch list and track the log entries to learn more about the location. I found three near Chloride: GC1WNJF – Chloride Cache, GC270M8 – Directional Cache, GC45WZN – Spirit of Chloride. Here are a couple of the log entries that capture the atmosphere of Chloride.

Chloride Cache GC1WNJF
If you dig old mining towns (Ghost Towns), this is the cache to find. On your way to Chloride there are some points of interest and wonderful scenic vistas.
This town is owned by a family who have taken it upon themselves to bring it back to life through restoration. The General Store and Saloon/Gift Store can be seen during normal business hours through 4:00 pm. The owner is very knowledgeable in the town history and gives a wonderful presentation of town history. The museum operates on donations so give as you see fit.
Found this one easily after having lunch in the Chloride Bank Café and making a tour of the Pioneer Store Museum with Don Edmunds daughter. Seemed like he chased us down in his Cushman as we were pulling into town. Greeted us warmly and started giving us a history of the town and then his daughter took over. By the time we made it to the Saloon, dance hall, art gallery Dona, Mrs. Edmunds, was there and giving us more great information. Thanks for this hide.
Spirit of Chloride GC45WZN
This one is located on a hill off a steep, treacherous road overlooking the (sort of) ghost town of Chloride, once a booming Silver mining town. I learned about this cemetery from the 80 year old curator of the local museum, who recommended I come up to the cemetery for the best views of the canyon. Indeed, this area does not disappoint.
The Good Luck Duck (another blogger) visited Chloride and posted this nice item.

I'm looking forward to meeting Don and Dona Edmunds and spending time with them doing creative things in Chloride, NM.

After our time in Chloride, we head north to Highlands Ranch, CO (a southern suburb of Denver and point C on the map) for a few days with our son Adam, his wife Amy, and their three sons Andrew, Joshua, and Benjamin. Collectively I call them BANJO for short. I'm allowing two days to cover the 423 miles.
We'll have some good times there and I'll have pictures and stories about Chloride to share with the boys. All of the boys are into sports so I'm sure we will get to see them play at least once. I'm thinking that visit will be from 10 Jul to 15 Jul. We'll see.

From silver mining to gold mining, we continue north for three days and 835 miles to our next ghost town – Custer City, ID (GPS: 44.3874133, -114.6959118; altitude 6,469 ft; point D on the map). Land of Yankee Fork State Park has several interesting historical sites including the Challis Bison Kill site, the ghost towns of Custer, Bayhorse and Bonanza and the Yankee Fork Gold Dredge.

Land of the Yankee Fork State Park and Historic District

We will be volunteering at Custer City ghost town. We have been there before. In July 2010 on our first great adventure, we traveled to this area based on a magazine picture of the Sawtooth Mountains. It was love at first sight and I had to go there. During that trip we visited Custer City and met our first WorKampers. They told us about their jobs: Ma in the General Store (now a gift shop) and Pa in the school house telling stories about the town's history. They did that two days a week. They lived in their rig in a small campground specifically for workampers. As with most workamping situations, friendships developed that lasted way beyond the experience.

During our first visit, this was not yet a state park. It was a historic site maintained by a private organization. Look at the map and notice that the southern border of this park is the Salmon River – one of the finest trout fishing rivers in the nation. I don't think I will be bored during my time off. Also look at the mileage – the northern border is a road 44 miles long and the southern is 42 miles. This is not your everyday state park.

Here you are in "Lewis & Clark Territory". The area is covered with historic markers of the Lewis & Clark expedition. My thoughts fill with wonder trying to imagine what it was like for them to see this for the first time when I realized they saw very little of it! There were no highways with scenic overlooks. They had no way to get to a vantage point where they could appreciate the spectacle. Now there's a real bummer.

Yankee Fork Gold Dredge

Here are a few pictures of the Salmon River ...
... and some of the Sawtooth Mountains

I broke my rule "Don't do anything twice, until you have done everything once". It had to be broken for this place. We expect to be there from 17 Jul to 16 Sep.

As an aside. Sixty-two miles south, but still in the Sawtooth Mountains sits the famous Sun Valley resort. This first destination winter resort in the U.S. was developed by W. Averell Harriman, the chairman of the Union Pacific Railroad, primarily to increase ridership on U.P. passenger trains in the West.

Pioneering publicist Steve Hannigan, who had successfully promoted Miami Beach, Florida, was hired and named the resort "Sun Valley." The centerpiece of the new resort was the Sun Valley Lodge, which opened in December 1936. The region has been a seasonal home to the rich and famous since first being brought to public attention by Ernest Hemingway in the late 1930s. Averell Harriman had invited Hemingway and other celebrities, primarily from Hollywood, to the resort to help promote it. Gary Cooper was a frequent visitor and hunting/fishing partner, as were Clark Gable, Errol Flynn, Lucille Ball, Marilyn Monroe, and several members of the Kennedy family. Hemingway was a part-time resident over the next twenty years.

It will be mid–September when we move on to the vicinity of Grand Forks, ND (GPS: 47.906074, -97.020117; altitude 805ft; point E on the map). This leg is 873 miles and 4 days. We are going there to participate in the 2015 Sugar Beet Harvest. Yes! That's what I said! I'm not going to repeat myself; you can read it again.

We learned about this from several of our workamping friends last summer at our job in Pennsylvania and then visited the employer's booth at the Tampa RV Show in January 2015. We signed up there along with two of our workamping friends Pat and Herb Myers. Pat and Herb are working this summer at Hyde-A-Way Bay Resort in Hackensack, MN, 163 miles and three hours southeast of Grand Forks. If we can fit it in, we will precede the harvest with a few days visit with them in Hackensack, then all head back to Grand Forks (or wherever the sugar company wants us).

This will be a real job for real money – enough to pay for the whole summer. The start date and the duration is determined by Mother Nature but for planning purposes I used 23 Sep for three weeks. Once the harvest starts, we work twelve hour shifts, seven days a week.

We will not know exactly where we will be working until we arrive. We will not be field hands picking beets. The jobs are equipment operators and lab technicians. Several of our workamping friends have signed up for the harvest and we are looking forward to seeing them again. This map gives you an idea of the territory involved.

Sugar Beet Harvest Area

This is what a Sugar Beet looks like ...

... and this is the process for extracting the sugar.

Sugar Extraction Process

American Crystal Sugar Company has an excellent website. Check it out and learn something you didn't know when you got up this morning.

Here is a quote from the website:
American Crystal Sugar Company is a Minnesota agricultural cooperative corporation owned by about 3,000 sugar beet growers in the Minnesota and North Dakota portions of the Red River Valley. It also owns Sidney Sugars, located in Sidney Montana. American Crystal is engaged primarily in the agricultural production, manufacturing and marketing of sugar from sugar beets.

American Crystal Sugar and Sidney Sugars hires over 1,300 workers stationed at 45 sugar beet receiving stations. These seasonal employees are an integral part of making yearly sugar production a great success. These short term positions offer excellent compensation and attract applicants from all over the United States and Canada. Locals and travelers alike come to make a hefty pay check while being able to enjoy various outdoor attractions and camp sites.
We're hoping for an unbeetable experience.

From silver mining to gold mining; now from sugar beets to pumpkins. It will be mid–October when we leave Grand Forks and head east, all the way to Dover, DE (1,564 miles, 6 days, point F on the map). Our next stop has been on my bucket list since I first learned about it several years ago through a TV special on the Discovery Channel.

The Punkin Chunkin Championship is held annually in Delaware approximately the first weekend in November. Wikipedia says:

Pumpkin Chucking, or for rhyming purposes Punkin Chunkin, is the sport of hurling or 'chucking' a pumpkin solely by mechanical means for distance. The devices used include slingshots, catapults, centrifugals, trebuchets, and pneumatic cannons.

Pumpkin chucking competitions, formal and informal, exist throughout the United States in the autumn, and often occur when pumpkins are harvested. World Championship Punkin Chunkin, held annually in November in Delaware by the World Championship Punkin Chunkin Association (WCPCA), is the oldest and largest annual competition. The event began in 1986, and in 2010 featured over 100 teams. A European Championship has been held in Bikschote, Belgium each year since 2004.

The Guinness world record shot is held by a pneumatic cannon dubbed "Big 10 Inch", at 5,545.43 feet (1,690.25 m), on September 9, 2010 in Moab, Utah. The shot received certification from Guinness World Records in early February 2011. It has also competed many times at the WCPC event in Delaware. The WCPCA World Record, which includes only shots made at the annual World Championship event, is held by Team American Chunker, captained by Brian Labrie of New Hampshire, at 4,694.68 feet (1,430.94 m) on November 1, 2013, in Bridgeville, Delaware, the longest shot in event history.

Big 10 Inch World Record Shot
5,545 feet = 1.05 miles

Whenever I mention this event, I get scoffs and smirks from the unknowing. But for an engineer or techie, this event is Physics 101 made awesome and it draws a big crowd ...

Punkin Chunkin Championship, 2013

... and a little crowd

For our friends from Dayton, OH note that Wright State University has a competition team.

Participants compete in six categories:

Couldn't find a good picture of a real one



Pneumatic Cannons

I haven't a clue what this is.

For many years the Championships were held at a farm in Bridgeville, DE. 2013 was the last year. They are trying to move the event to the grounds of the Dover International Speedway . They did not succeed in time for an event in 2014. All the press is optimistic about 2015 and they have announced the date as 6 – 8 Nov 2015. However, their website has not been updated in quite awhile and should be showing a lot more detailed information by now. I guess I do not share the optimism at this point. I'll watch to see what unfolds in the weeks ahead.

If we stay on schedule, we should arrive in Delaware about two weeks before the Championships. In that case we will try to find a Camp Host position at one of the Delaware State Parks.

From Delaware, we head south with the end of our summer in sight. 414 miles and two nights gets us to Fayetteville, NC and our daughter's house (point G on our map). We will just overnight there. Since we will return in just a couple weeks for our annual Nutcracker pilgrimage, we won't visit at this time. That should be 10 Nov.

535 miles and two more nights gets us home to Titusville, FL on 13 Nov. Back to point A on our map.

Everything in this post so far has been about destinations with nothing about travel. It sounds like we are tearing from place to place at breakneck speed and not stopping to smell the roses. Not quite so.

I have set very comfortable driving distances for each day of travel – never over 300 miles. I have put a couple tourist days in the travel plan. Last January, while at the Tampa RV Show, we signed up for Harvest Hosts and renewed our Passport America membership. Harvest Hosts is a website where you can find farms, wineries, and attractions that allow RVers to park overnight free. Etiquette says you should call ahead to see if they have space and buy some of their product before you leave. Click on their logo at the bottom of this page to go to their website and explore. They get points for every click, so you can help the cause if you like.

I will use several Harvest Hosts stops on this trip including the Texas Air Museum in San Antonio, TX and the RV Hall of Fame in Elkhart, IN. So we will do a little sightseeing. Also, I have routed us to visit family and friends in Albuquerque, NM; Whitewater, WI; Port Clinton, OH; Lansdale, PA; and Baltimore, MD.

In addition to Harvest Host sites, we will use a few Passport America campgrounds, and some military campgrounds. So even though we are moving briskly there will be time to visit and see some sights.