Weather turned very grey yesterday afternoon and continues so this morning. Had planned to venture on across N. Dakota today, but since I have good internet coverage here and I really prefer traveling across new country with nice weather, I decided to renew my site here at Turtle River S. P. and work on the blog and give the dogs a much needed bath today and will hit the road tomorrow with better weather in the forecast.
Sun came out around 2 but stuck with the plan and got the motorhome housekeeping done and processed all images taken to date, including a couple more Cedar Waxwings I snuck out to the entrance to get today.
Also got a couple of quick shots of a visitor to the campsite across from me. In addition to the birds in the park, I also saw several does with fawns along the river early each morning. Really a very pleasant place to stay.
Since I don’t have any decent Cedar Waxwing shots in my image gallery, I headed out first thing in the morning to the park entrance road where I had previously noticed them hunting insects over the pond by the side of the road. I naively was hoping to get close enough for some flight shots, but that idea went out the window rather quickly and I soon was trying to figure how to get them to land in resting perches close enough, as well as out of dense foliage, that I could at least get some closeup still shots. Took a little patience but I was rewarded with a few decent shots after spending about two hours plus in the effort.
After finding my back road birding venture yesterday rather interesting, I figured I would try another of the routes this morning. Well, this one was a complete washout. As I said before, early August is not the time to be doing this, most of the action is in the spring and fall. On the way back to the campground, I figured I may as well go back to the Kelley Slough area I visited yesterday and check on the White Pelicans. Well, now I see how they survive out here, as clearly they don’t depend on this one body of water to survive. Of the several hundred that were here yesterday afternoon, only 3 or 4 individuals were puttering around the pond today. What were here today in large numbers were ducks, not sure, but probably Pintails, I am not very good at identifying female and immature ducks.
While glassing the pond from the observation platform, I found myself in the midst of several barn swallows swooping above and around me, harvesting some of the plague of mosquitos around this body of water. Since I had nothing better to do, I figured I would try another exercise in futility and get some Barn swallow flight shots, since they sometimes were coming within six or eight feet of where I was standing. Trying to focus a large hand held lens on small birds moving as fast and erratically as these swallows do turns out to be nearly impossible, at least for me. They are so close that there just is no way to follow and focus in time to get a shot. Got a few almost acceptable images of them overhead, but just couldn’t get any of the close shots I really was hoping I might get. Still, a fun time trying.
Back to the RV and spent several hours processing images and working on blog entries. I am starting to realize that my Verizon Jet Pac monthly 5 GB package is just not going to work with my blogging and website work. I signed up for a 2 year deal of 5 GB at $50 per month last fall when I embarked for my 5 month pre retirement winter trip. While very pleased with the way the Jet pac works, and the coverage of the Verizon system, 5 GB is really only adequate for normal web surfing and email use, no video watching or blog and website uploading, or that 5 GB disappears in the rear view mirror all but instantly.
Early on in my preparations for fulltiming, I discovered the blog of Technomadia, a young couple that fulltime in a bus conversion and work from their mobile office on wheels. It is a very informative source for all your on the road connectivity solutions, as well as other basic info concerning fulltiming. They use an outfit by the name of Millenicom that offers a package of 20 GB per month for $70 and the coverage is still through the Verizon system. Although I will of course have to pay a penalty to Verizon for dropping their package prematurely, I guess the time has come to make the switch.
I had earlier decided I would stop and rest for 2 days, so had investigated Turtle River State Park in North Dakota online, and figured I would stop and see if I could stay a couple days. I really knew there was almost no chance of getting one of their non-reservable sites on a Saturday morning, but I pulled in to check anyway.
I was given the very last site available, and since it was in the non-reservable section, I could have it for my 2 days. But wait, it gets even better. It turns out to be a little roadside pull through, nestled in the woods, and though the sites are a bit close, they aren’t crammed in side by side, and you do have a bit of privacy, and lo and behold, later that evening, just on a whim, I decided to check to see if my rooftop dish would just happen to align with the tiny bit of sky I had above me through the trees, and after doing it’s whirring and grinding thing, it settled in on a strong signal. Amazing!
Weather is once again, drop dead gorgeous. I know this can’t be normal, I was sort of dreading traveling through this area in the heat of summer, but this is incredible. Today is bright blue skies with white cumulus clouds, temps in the low 70’s with a heavenly breeze, it simply could not be any nicer!
Grabbed a few brochures at checkin and decided to go out on one of the prairie grasslands birding routes, since this may be just flat, boring terrain to most, but to me it is something new to explore. Directions in the brochure were very good and I did get to see what there was to see. This is the worst possible time of the year to go looking for birds in most places, including here. All the interesting spring action is done and the fall movement is yet to come.
Nevertheless, it was kind of neat to see several hundred white pelicans on a small slough, where the brochure said they would. And it always seems so odd to me to see these huge white birds you would think would be linked to the sea here in the nations midlands, in farm country. How that many large birds make a living in the summer months on a body of water as small as this is beyond me. There also were several family groups of ducks, coots, avocets, and other small waders along the edges of the slough.
Thought I might get some nice meadowlark images, you know, sitting on the fencepost singing up a storm. Saw the meadowlarks, just there weren’t any fenceposts, or fences for that matter, all open cropland. I guess you only need to fence your land in for grazing animals, since corn, soy and wheat apparently don’t tend to roam that often. So no meadowlark photos ( how about one from Texas last winter? ).
Did see lots of flycatchers, sparrows, swallows, Killdeer, kestrels and one pair of Northern Harriers doing their thing floating over the edges of the field crops and the cattails along the drainage ditches by the side of the gravel roads.
If you are ever in this area, this is a place worth checking out. This State Park was a pleasant surprise to me. A little tight for big rigs, almost all the sites are in the trees, probably quite welcome with the hot summer weather, and there is quite a lot to see and do in Grand Forks, just 10 miles back route 2 east of the park. The park itself offers some nice trails and roads for bike riding mostly under the trees. A pleasant 2 day stop for me.
I am doing this post simply because I wish I had found one like it when I was trying to decide which vehicle to purchase as a Toad for my full time travels. For the first eight years I had my 2004 Allegro motorhome, I always towed my Goldwing motortcycle in an enclosed trailer. But I knew for full timing, I would want to have a more practical solution for my alternate transportation. The bike was great, but I always traveled in nice weather when I was vacationing and now with being on the road twelve months a year, I would certainly encounter more week long periods of rainy or cold weather than before. Thus a car would be a more practical mode of transport.
I knew I wanted something light to put as little stress as possible on the motorhome. Great mileage to offset the 8 mpg in the RV would be nice. Reliability. Amble storage area and easy access for my photo gear. A reasonable price. One that could be flat towed.
In my early days I owned 3 different Toyota vehicles and had great luck with all of them. After test driving many vehicles, I settled on the Toyota Prius. The one drawback with this vehicle was that it could NOT be flat towed.
I figured that based on its outstanding gas mileage and reputation for reliability, I would have to put up with the inconvenience of having to use a tow dolly. By the way, Toyota claims 49 and 50 mpg on its advertising and, lo and behold, it actually is close to that. For my first 11000 miles I have averaged an overall 52 mpg.
Now, back to the reason for this post.
No where could I find a definitive answer to whether or not this vehicle could be used as a Toad. Toyota would not say that it could, but never really said that it couldn’t.
Maybe these attachment points were factory installed for another reason, but it seems they may be there for attaching safety chains when you use the Prius as a Toad, certainly is what I use them for.
After searching the internet and finding as many posts saying you can’t as saying you could use the Prius as a Toad, I finally found one authorized Toyota Service Manager who said he saw absolutely no reason it couldn’t be towed on a dolly. My decision was made.
To date, I have towed the Prius over 11,000 miles and had absolutely no problems. If you are considering using a Prius as a Toad, I would say, you couldn’t make a better choice.