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Old 07-18-2010, 10:38 PM   #169
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It has been a wonderful series of posts Gene, Thank you.
Almost made me want to go further north!! Not quite yet though.
Just thought I'd remind you that it is partially cloudy here today, nice breeze and as hot as it gets (in the 80's).

I'm still lovin my Coastal Rockies, and happy that you enjoyed them as well.


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Old 07-18-2010, 11:36 PM   #170
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Thanks Jackie and to the others I have not acknowledged for the compliments. I realized along the way that I was attempting to write the definitive Alaska trip commentary. It goes with my sometimes exploits in the world of journalism. I just like to write. A friend keeps encouraging me to turn it into a book, but that's work, not fun, so I told her to start a publishing company. I hope that ends that. There are plenty of books on the Alaska Hwy and Alaska and I don't think I have much to add especially since I've stolen from some of them.

I hope I've encouraged some to take the trip. The myth of the Highway is that it is in bad shape, you need large contraptions to protect you from flying rocks, and you will be shaken to death. You will be shaken, but not to death, some of the roads are bad, but the Highway and many other roads—paved and not—are in pretty good shape. Your rig will get dirty several times and you will have to wash it several times. This is not the Alaska Hwy of 1970 or 1950. I would have liked to see that, but our first trip was in 2002. Even in 8 years, we have seen better roads since 2002. It may rain all the time, but other times it will be sunny—we've seen both in 3 trips.

You have to have a tow vehicle in good condition with new or reasonably new tires. That would go with any 10,000 mile trip. But if you want to go off the Fairbanks—Anchorage—Valdez triangle, you need good tires. Some say to bring an extra mounted spare. Better to bring a tire kit and compressor and fix the flat yourself if there are no tire shops around. Count on a new windshield and you might actually need it, but what's a windshield to see all this? Bring a lot of tools, always a good idea on a road trip with a trailer. We met people who had spend more than $4,000 on repairs to their trucks—injectors in one case. They would have needed it anyway, so better to get everything checked out and have repairs done before you leave where it should cost less.

Trailers should also be in good shape which to some extent means running gear—brakes, wheel bearings. But on trailers that are more than a few years old, I think cleaning furnace, water heater and other things that need periodic maintenance and are usually ignored until they stop working, would be a good idea. Things only break when you use them and with a trailer that usually means you are far from home, so preventive maintenance is important when parts are far away.

You need information. Read up on Alaska and western Canada. Don't forget the Canadian part of the trip—it's a big part. We've gone to Yellowknife and other parts of the Northwest Territories as well as up the Dempster Hwy to Inuvik. We flew to Tuktoyatuk on the Arctic Ocean and MacKenzie River Delta. That's a tough trip, but was amazing and worth it. Outside Yellowknife in September you can see the Aurora Borealis and we did (bring some chairs to sit on, easier on your neck). We also saw it on the way to Inuvik, NWT. We also have taken the state ferry from Haines south to Prince Rupert, BC, stopping at various towns along the way for 2 to 4 days each. Taking a trailer on the ferry is a challenge because a lot of backing is necessary We did it with only a SUV.

This trip we brought the Rough Guide and Frommers on Alaska, the Milepost, AAA Tour and Campground books, lots of maps, Woodalls, and a laptop. Wifi is much better than even 4 years ago and so is cell service. With the internet, lots of info is available. It takes a lot of time to plan—some evenings we spent a couple of hours figuring out what is ahead and making reservations for some stuff to do. The first time is more like learning what you will do the next time.

Some of the campgrounds will be primitive, fuel will be expensive, it's very far and can be exhausting so take some extra days every week to rest. Take as much time as possible—there's a lot to see.

The north country is very different than the lower 48 and the parts of Canada near the US border. Until you are there and have seen and lived it on the ground, you just don't know. The vastness of that part of North America is amazing. If you grew up in a megalopolis as I did, the sheer emptiness and expanse of land, sky, water is hard to encompass in your mind. There are scores of large rivers you've never heard of in colors that you've never seen before. More trees than you've ever seen. Endless expanses of mountains. Strange towns with stranger people. Take the time to talk to them and if you are fortunate you will find out we are all more alike than different. Although we didn't have the experience this time, we on past trips spent a lot of time talking with Inuits and Dine. Contemporary communications including not just electrons but cars and trucks, makes everyone more alike. We are losing ethnic differences in some ways, but gaining in understanding.


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Old 07-19-2010, 10:53 AM   #171
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Thanks, Gene, for perhaps the best Airforums travelog of 2010.
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Old 07-19-2010, 01:07 PM   #172
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Wow Gene - thanks a bunch - BC/Yukon/Alaska has been on our bucket list since the day we bought our Airstream - 8 years ago - we finally made a commitment to ourselves that next year is it - so we (me) are now deep into planning - and your day-to-day adventures have been more than entertaining - they've had real meaning ....

You really ought to give that next careeer in journalism more serious thought - crotchety old farts like yourself have a wit that has been honed to a razor sharp edge over the last century or so and it really should be shared!!!


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Old 07-20-2010, 08:43 AM   #173
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This thread has been a great read, as your threads always are! Glad you had such a fantastic trip. Now, please hurry up and get back on the road and start writing again!

Mike & Diane

"The written word will soon disappear, and we'll no longer be able to read good prose like we used to could." - James Thurber
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Old 07-20-2010, 09:33 AM   #174
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Thanks Gene. I wrote before but now, even more, want to make the trip. I have a son who is a city policeman in Anchorage so even more reason. Yes, someday we want to retire to NM (yes, Tucumcari as I have a son there) so hope our paths will cross someday. We just recently bought a 1968 Tradewind that we are remodeling. Roberta Clark Stackhouse of West Branch, Iowa
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Old 07-30-2010, 07:38 PM   #175
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July 30. We’ve been home close to two weeks and are settling in to our other life. The hardest thing so far, besides the exhaustion hangover, has been cleaning the trailer. The slop on the Alaska Hwy south of Toad River just looked like mud with a little gravel when we drove through. Cleaning it off showed it was probably chip sealed or seal coated, then it rained, the gravel had a lot of dirt mixed in with it, and it didn’t dry properly. This meant tar and dirt stuck to the front, back and lower half of the sides of the trailer with petroleum sealant. So, first we blasted off the mud for many hours with a pressure washer with the pressure turned down so as not to damage the skin. Then washing with detergent to get more dirt off. Next, bug and tar remover to about 2/3 of the trailer. Last, Griot’s Spray On Wax. This took about 5 or 6 days. I am not happy with British Columbia and their road work procedures and will boycott them for a while.

We have only washed the truck and not used the bug and tar remover yet. I am avoiding it.

Finishing the trip and observations:

Tuesday (July 20). A short drive home was preceeded by the wonderful job of flushing the black water tank in blazing sun at mid 90’s temps. We stopped in Grand Junction at Boston’s, the US version of Boston Pizza, and the Caesar salad wasn’t as good as in Canada—too much dressing on it just like we find at other US restaurants which slaver it on and, therefore, we don’t usually order Caesar salad. The nachos were different than usual nachos—more Canadian in style—and while good, have to be approached as Mexican influenced.

US 50 between Grand Junction and Delta was rebuilt as a 4 lane highway starting around 2000 and going on for about 5 years. The road was built so badly that parts have been repaved already. It has become bumpy and wavy, reminding us of parts of the Alaska Highway. This would be a good test drive if you are considering going to Alaska.

We got home and unloaded by 5 or 6. It’s all vague. The house was fairly cool as we had left the A/C on to keep the plants from dessicating, but it was in the mid 90’s outside. This was better than the 102˚ we had most of the way home. I was too tired to properly back up the trailer to its sleeping place and it sits kind of crooked out there. It awaits being reparked, unhitched and washed. The to-do lists we made on the way home are scary and I am avoiding looking at them.

Meanwhile vast amounts of laundry are being processed and once again, the house is so big. I don’t see Barb almost every second and wonder where she is. I have to climb stairs again. It’s so inconvenient. We used to wonder if we could live in a trailer for more than a few weeks, now we’ve done eight. We are adaptable.

For a while everyone we see will have to listen to Alaska stories whether they want to or not.

Wednesday (July 21). Last night we had a thunderstorm, nothing unusual. Here it rains for a short time, some noise and flashes and it’s over pretty fast. But today it’s a steady rain. Heavy rain is forecast with flash flood warnings. Rain is always welcome in the high desert, but not by me, not right now. Did we bring it with us? Do we have that much power? Maybe.

It was sometimes grueling, always an adventure. We got to places we have missed before, spent more time in places we liked. The most significant part for Barb was Denali. For me it is the sheer vastness and relative emptiness of the land and the different (and not so different) sense of communities.

Traveling with the Airstream gives a sense of luxury to the experience, but sometimes seems to isolate us from things because it’s easy to just hang out inside. But motels, expecially the chains that are nothing more than boxes inside of big boxes, are even more isolating. Traveling in the north, there have not been so many of those, but they are now showing up.

The north country has changed in just our short time of travels there. There are more food choices in restaurants and groceries. The old stops along the highways are closing, no doubt the process speeded by the Great Recession. The roads get steadily better. There’s much more cell service and wifi than even 4 years ago. Campgrounds far from any town sometimes have better wifi than a lot of campgrounds in the lower 48.

There are not many campgrounds with cable TV. Sometimes there are 1 to 3 channels. In Alaska, the NBC station in Anchorage seems to be on translators all over the state. The other channel often available is Alaska One. Long ago Alaska used oil money to get it’s own satellite for TV and phone service in remote areas. It’s a weird amalgum of commercial and PBS programs. Since commercial satellite TV has been available for some time now, I’m not sure Alaska One is quite so relevant, but it does appear on translators through the state providing free access to TV for remote towns.

In Canada, TV will be CBC, CTY and Global if you rely on over the air TV. The country requires a large percentage of programs to be Canadian. The rest is some US programming, some BBC. CBC, government supported, has more educational programming, lots of cartoons in the morning, and some pretty good dramas. The other channels are more like US networks in what they do, Global even more so. Cable and satelite TV in Canada has a large number of US channels—there was a cutoff date and the newer US ones are not on. Thus there’s CNN, but no MSNBC. I don’t think digital or HDTV has come to Canada.

When we drive so many miles to a place so different, we want it to remain different. So it is with some regret we have to accept it is not quite the north country we first found. For those who traveled there 20 or 30 or more years ago, I’m sure the changes will be palpable. But it will take time to really change it—maybe in 100 years Alaska will be far warmer and have a population of 5,000,00 or more. Maybe they will have cut down most of the forest, destroyed habitat for wildlife and extracted all the oil, gas and minerals. Kind of a frightening thought.

When do we go back? I think Newfoundland and maybe Labrador come first. Oher than that, we don’t want to think about another trip until we are fully settled in and life is peaceful (is it ever?).

I ordered some parts today and need to start repairs plus fully clean the truck. Mower parts came today, so that needs fixing and grass needs mowing. We'll take a few days on Grand Mesa next month, Santa Fe in September. A couple of days or a week don't seem like a trip after 8 weeks on the road.

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Old 07-30-2010, 08:12 PM   #176
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We just got home this evening from a trip out west. About 6500+ miles or so. A couple of weeks ago we were driving through central Colorado ( going from Lake City to Craig) and passed through Crawford. I've seen Gene's posts and always enjoy them. What came to my mind as we passed through Crawford was: Where does a person living in a place like this go when they decide to "GO" out with their airstream. Well, now I have my answer. I'll take the time to read your whole trip log, just not tonight.

Roger in NJ

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Old 07-30-2010, 09:44 PM   #177
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Roger, Crawford is kind of remote, but there's a supermarket 15 miles away, a better one 34 miles away, we have broadband, running water and indoor plumbing.

Actually we like to go everywhere. In the past 10 years we have been to 49 states (Hawaii is a problem for those who like to drive and hate being abused by airlines and TSA), all Canadian provinces and two of three territories (Nunavut has no roads to it). If Mexico ever calms down, we'd be there too.

Living in the high desert ( High desert - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia ), we tend to crave big water, so our trips often mean oceans or Great Lakes are part of it.

But we like historical places, unusual ones, distinctive architecture, mountains, remoteness, cool climates, rain for no more than 4 days, trees but not green tunnel highways, places we've never seen, places we've seen and liked enough to go back, the end of the road. This can pretty much cover every place there is because all those places mean driving through places we'd rather use a matter transmitter to get through. We avoid big cities.

Another approach, something we've done long ago, but not as much recently, is see everything in one or two states—every museum, every weird tourist trap, every place unique. You meet some interesting people that way, see things few people bother with, and don't use nearly so much gas. I have more ideas for trips than I have time (or money) for. There's the Route 66 trip, the southern border trip, the River Road, How many national parks and monuments can we visit in a month trip?

More statistics: trip 10,250, total trailer miles since purchases, 32,369.

What's next—Jumbo CG in Grand Mesa NF for a couple of days in August.

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Old 07-30-2010, 11:11 PM   #178
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Gene, what I, and I bet a lot of others, appreciated about your narrative was its honesty. Many of your readers are now sure that this is the trip they want to take some day. On the other hand, some of us are just as certain that this is the last thing they want to do.

Both groups are in your debt.

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Old 07-30-2010, 11:46 PM   #179
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Hi, I still want to go to Alaska, but don't want to destroy my trailer. I may want to do it with my Lincoln before I buy a newer tow vehicle. Just in case the tow vehicle gets beat up.

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Old 07-31-2010, 09:39 AM   #180
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Thanks John. Going to Alaska with your rig isn't for everyone, and going off the paved roads isn't for everyone either. Taking one of those cruises isn't for me (unless my wife demands it).

The Tundra took it well and I see no damage except for a big windshield ding (can happen anywhere). The trailer got bounced around, but the wheels are still on. The screen door latch broke, but it is a badly made plastic part that can break anytime. The trim next to fridge was badly attached to the wall, so I think that would have come off somewhere. Various screws back out and some need to be fixed (bigger screw, or wood putty in the hole). The fiberboard doesn't hold screws well and there are lots of reports of the same thing happening. That too will eventually happen anywhere. The rock guards got some more dings, but that's what they are there for. I think this kind of trip speeds things up a bit, but damage is inevitable if you drive 10,000 miles or more and the roads are bumpy.

Some damage is because of poor design or construction, some because it's a house on wheels going over questionable roads. The tar blast in BC was the most frustrating thing because it took so much work to clean off. We've been to Alaska 3 times and have never seen anything like that on any road. The terrible 5 to 7 miles of washboard, also in BC, was unusual too. I will avoid BC for a while, but eventually will be there again, maybe.

Any tow vehicle is good shape will make it. "Good shape" is subject to interpretation. We heard about tow vehicles that had died, but the ones that don't make no rumors or news. While a tow vehicle can die anywhere, the farther from home, the worse it seems. Same for the trailer. This is not a caravan across Africa, just an extra long journey. It takes a bit more attention to good tires, good brakes, well maintained wheel bearings, well adjusted WD hitch, and all the other things we're supposed to do anyway.

Bob, your trailer is still pretty new and should take it. I'm sure you keep it in good condition. I'm not so sure I'd want to do this with a 30 or 40 year old trailer unless I had made it like new in every way. If you can back it into your driveway, you should be able to handle anything. About the Lincoln, is it reliable? I buy Toyotas because they don't strand me by the side of the road. That's my measure of reliability.

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Old 08-09-2010, 02:15 PM   #181
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More trips starting to happen in our minds while we fix things that broke or need normal maintenance.

Two nights at Jumbo CG on Grand Mesa in about 12 days.
Five nights in Santa Fe in mid-September and a couple of nights in Pueblo after that for my father-in-law's 85th birthday.
The last half of October has been reserved for a possible trip to the California coast and maybe Yosemite. I don't know what the weather is at Yosemite in mid-October. I'm hoping the campgrounds are still open. Then we would go to the Monterey area and drive south along the coast and eventually get to Joshua Tree NP, Big Bear, and then across to the Mojave Preserve. There's a classic car museum in LA that we'd like to see, but the problem is that it is in LA.

The vertical piece of corner trim next the fridge has been reinstalled. They used 1" brads when they should have used 1 1/4" ones to hold it and they put very little glue on it. Changing the brads in the nail gun would take 30 seconds and more glue another 30. The screws holding the TV to the bracket were coming out (thanks to Michelle for noticing it), the stabilizer wingnuts have been checked for tightness again, 5 popped rivets replaced (none of the ones I've replaced have popped), other loose screws have been tightened after wood putty put in the worn holes in the fiberboard, screen door latch replaced, switched spare and one tire with most wear, cleaned exterior and waxed, windows cleaned inside and out, moved link plates for Equalizer hitch back to where they belong and finally moved gas line to properly attach plates and checked batteries.

The glop on the Alaska Hwy was so bad I can't move the allen screws in the locks for the TPMS sensors—I guess the seal coat got in there. I ordered ($11.50) new ones.

The shower head needs replacement. The washers are leaking and the part that causes the droop and fits in the holder on the wall has cracked from tightening it. It's made of junk metal or plastic. We are looking for a replacement of better quality.

We have found better grommets for the stove. Guessing on the size at Lowe's in Fairbanks, we got the right size: Hillman 5/8 OD x 5/16 ID. These are thicker, better rubber. Now we have to get more. Couldn't find this heavy duty version at Home Depot the other day, so we'll go to a Lowe's later this week while we are looking for a shower head.

We need to service the awning. We hardly ever use it, but we realized why we couldn't get it all the way up—we hadn't pulled one rafter arm out all the way. It is very stuck and does not appear to be held by the lock (checked for obstruction inside with piece of paper). I'm not sure how to unstick it—ZipDee recommends spraying with silicone though I already gave it a shot of WD40 a couple of weeks ago. It's probably time to wash the cloth too.

The vinyl floor in the kitchen—in front of the stove and countertop—has a bulge. This had already happened in the bathroom and was fixed under warranty. This seems to be problem mostly in cold climates, though it shouldn't happen if flooring is installed correctly. The fix is cutting about a 1/4" out right in front of the cabinets, squirting some glue underneath the floor, and covering at the bottom of the cabinets with a piece of quarterround. I prefer to ignore it.

The hitch head and bars are very dirty—mud, seal coat, grease. They need a thorough cleaning. Eventually I should adjust the whole thing when I can get the entire rig on a flat, level place.

Sanitize the water tank. We prefer to do it twice a towing season.

The front window leak has not returned. The black Sikaflex cannot be seen under the rock guards. I now have Acryl-r with an applicator, but may not use it for a while. This is another job that is easy to ignore.

The truck needs an oil change, grease job, vacuuming, window cleaning, tar removing, washing and waxing. The 4Runner needs its annual paint sealant, detailing, oil change and grease job. The mower is fixed and 2 or 3 acres mowed; several more acres to do, but fortunately it has been raining a lot and I can't do it. The house needs to be washed and the logs sprayed with preservative—that can wait 'til September. And, wood has to be cut for the winter heating season. Still finding dead trees from the big beetle kill earlier in the past decade, so I'm sure I'll have plenty of wood. A significant, decade birthday coming up in less than two months is scary as I should be resting and napping instead of doing all this stuff. I haven't succeeded in training trophy wife Barb in oil changing, greasing, mowing, tree cutting, climbing around on Airstream roof, etc., as she is smarter than that.

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Old 09-19-2010, 11:29 PM   #182
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The trailer and truck are back in shape. Improvements continue. I now have self adjusting brakes for the rear axle, but they are still in our shop waiting for next spring.

The white heat registers (with the exception of the bathroom) have been replaced with light brown ones that match much better. They also open and close so we can shut off heat to an area if we want, probably shutting off the bedroom. I got them from a Winnebago supplier in Iowa. The Santa Fe RR logo we found in Fairbanks is now installed on the cabinet door over the refrigerator.

The trailer and truck have had the muck we picked up on the Alaska Hwy in BC cleaned off. It took about a week to get the trailer clean with a great deal of tar remover. The truck took a couple of days. The hitch, chains, and other such parts have been cleaned of the same gunk.

The awning now works properly. The fault was not with the awning, but with the operators. We couldn't figure out the instructions, but when Barb looked at the video someone posted somewhere on the Forum, she figured it out. I managed to unwind the spring in the process, but we rewound it. It wasn't the hassle some have had with the spring, but it needs to be tightened more someday. We hardly ever use the awning anyway. When we are at a CG either it's too hot or cold outside, or we are off somewhere, or we are wrapped around the dinette eating, reading, computing or watching TV.

The cheapo shower head has been replaced with a better quality one for less than $20. It has far more settings, doesn't droop and is mounted higher for taller people (us). We went through 3 OEM shower heads under warranty—two broke, on the last the screw to tighten it (to prevent shower droop) had been tightened so many times, the housing cracked. The OEM one is a good example of a cheapened product.

This all took a lot of time.

Our 2 nights on Grand Mesa were enjoyable. Three friends were camped next to us at Jumbo CG. It has been leased to a concessionaire and has electric and larger and more level pads. It is $16 per night, $4 more for electric. The senior pass cuts the camping price in half, but not the electric—only a bureaucrat would understand why. Still cheap for $12/night. At about 10,000', we were amongst the ponderosas and aspen. When we got there, a monster thunderstorm raged for several hours and when it got to the North Fork Valley to the east, somewhat intensified, did some serious damage in the town of Hotchkiss, but apparently dissipated before it got to our house some miles away.

We are now in Santa Fe at Trailer Ranch. It's a nice older park, the closest to downtown on very busy Cerillos Rd. The problem is the cable TV has very bad reception.

We went to Albuquerque today and visited with some of Barb's relatives and returned via NM 14. This highway roughly parallels I-25, but goes through some mountains and two interesting towns. One is Madrid (accent on first syllable here) which has become an artist town since Santa Fe and Taos are too expensive now. It's in some pretty hills in a piñon high desert. A few miles further north is Cerillos, about a half mile west of the highway. This village is like a step back in time with houses surrounded by walls, a variety of buildings from rundown to fixed up and a few looking new, and mostly dirt streets. Spanish towns used to have walls along the roads and around all the houses—it protects from thieves. Old towns still are like that. It appears it has been discovered and in 10 years people will wonder what happened to the charm. As we spent too much time in Albuquerque, we didn't have time to stop or even take photos.

Tomorrow and maybe the next day we look at houses to get a better understanding of the local real estate market. A quick look at house listings last night showed some prices have dropped a lot and some have not. This is true elsewhere—some people capitulate and some don't. I saw one short sale and another that sounds like a pending foreclosure. Of course, we have to sell our house and the market is bad at home too. Setting an asking price with any certainty seems nearly impossible in our small market. We continue to gather information and are looking for a RV park to stay at after we sell our house. We need good wifi and TV options that include lots of educational stuff, news, Mad Men, Ice Road Truckers (guilty pleasure, except I don't feel guilty) and some movies.


Some photos, some sideways (tilt computer 90˚):

1. Our Santa Fe RR logo.
2. The Marilyn Monroe poster from the Idaho Potato Museum. It sure looks photoshopped. It's in the bedroom where we now sleep with her.
3. A simple and sturdy magazine rack we found at the Container Store.
4. A real shower head.
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