September 20, 2013 Trip to Bozeman

Bighorn, the crossing
Bighorn, the crossing

A day for Bighorn Sheep and a new generator

( As always, just click on any image to get a larger, sharper photo )

Today I had an appointment for the Prius’ 15,000 mile checkup at Ressler’s Toyota in Bozeman, 92 miles away. I have been seriously considering adding a Honda 2000 generator for my motorhome even though I have an onboard 5500 Onan generator, the reasoning being fuel efficiency since the generator is almost always running full bore simply to charge batteries, not terribly efficient. Where the large generator burns 1.1 gallons of gas an hour, the smaller Honda would get 4 hours of run time on a gallon of gas while still doing the same battery charging. Whether that 4 to 1 fuel savings could ever justify the initial $1000 purchase price remains to be seen, it all depends on how many days I am able to find camping without shore hookups versus the more expensive campgrounds with hookups. The more I boondock and use the Honda instead of the Onan, the more viable buying the small generator becomes.

The trip into Bozeman gives me an opportunity to once again visit Walmart and stock up on staples. After getting the Prius serviced I found my way to a Murdock’s store ( don’t know if this is a chain or not ) and purchased my Honda 2000 along with a bunch of dog treats. Great store with very helpful staff and huge selection of hardware, tools, work clothes and pet supplies!

Bighorns traversing the slope
Bighorns traversing the slope
Bighorns traversing the slope
Bighorns traversing the slope

 

 

 

 

Headed back to Yellowstone’s north entrance and went through the gates around 3 PM and encountered a very pleasant surprise! Although I had my photo gear with me, I had sort of written today off as far as getting any kind of wildlife shots since the round trip to Bozeman was all highway driving, but just a half mile inside the park I came across a 6 ram bachelor herd of bighorn sheep traversing a near vertical slope on the west side of the road across the river.

Bighorns looking for a place to cross the river
Bighorns looking for a place to cross the river
Bighorns stopping for a drink
Bighorns stopping for a drink

 

 

 

 

 

I watched as they looked for a place to cross the river, then descended down to the stream and paused for a drink.

Two bighorns enter the stream
Two bighorns enter the stream
Bighorn looking for a crossing point
Bighorn looking for a crossing point

 

 

 

 

 

Bighorn, the crossing
Bighorn, the crossing

They then made a few false starts to crossing before finally finding a spot they deemed suitable for a rock to rock jump across the river.

Gathering the troops
Gathering the troops

They then gathered up the troops and looked for the best way up the slope and across the road to some higher ground.

A very interesting 45 minutes spent observing their cautious approach to this crossing and producing some of my favorite shots of my stay here in Yellowstone.

Bighorns ready to descend
Bighorns ready to descend
Bighorns stopping for a drink
Bighorns stopping for a drink
Bighorn surveying the situation
Bighorn surveying the situation

 

 

 

 

 

Bighorn, the crossing
Bighorn, the crossing
Bighorn, the crossing
Bighorn, the crossing
Bighorn, the crossing
Bighorn, the crossing

 

 

 

 

 

Bighorn, the crossing
Bighorn, the crossing

 

 

 

September 5, 2013,Window Repair Day

SmallRV andToadMoose

Up to Bozeman to have my living room window replaced

Today is the day to get the window replaced and then I can get on down the road to Yellowstone National Park. Got up early to get some maintenance work done before it hits 90 again today. I figured it was about time to get up on the roof and clean off any dust and dirt that might be hurting my solar panels as they struggle to provide me with enough juice to make it through the nighttime hours. Because of the heat, I find it necessary to run a fan at night, and that, combined with a few hours of TV viewing and several hours on the IMac processing images, leaves my battery bank all but exhausted in the morning. I would like to have a little more reserve,so cleaning off the panels might provide just that little bit extra.

I usually can get by for a couple of days when I run the generator for a half hour in the morning to bulk charge the batteries and then let the solar panels take it through the absorption and float stages during the day.

Drove up to Bozeman in the motorhome, leaving my tow dolly and car behind in the campground. There is no way I could get in and out of the Glass Doctor’s parking lot with them on so I will have to backtrack and stay at Bear Trap one more night.

A pleasant surprise

Had no trouble getting in for my 11 AM appointment and they got to work on me as soon as I arrived. Seemed quite competent and had the window replaced in just an hour and a half with no problems. While they worked, I was able to spend some time getting this blog caught up since I finally had access to a signal. The damage came to $181 which actually was a little less than I anticipated, so I would have to say I had a pleasant experience with the Glass Doctor.

Since I was within a few blocks of Walmart, I parked in their lot and finished getting the blog updated, then did my shopping to stock up for my stay in Yellowstone. Returned to Red Mountain for my final night there around 7PM after waiting out a severe thunderstorm watch in the Walmart parking lot. I didn’t want to get caught on the road during one of these since some of the afternoon thunderstorms lately are beginning to get a little out of hand!

 

August 30, 2013 Day trip to Red Rock National Wildlife Refuge

Decided today was the day to take a trip to Red Rock Wildlife Refuge on the border of Montana and Idaho. Initially set up to help the then endangered tundra swans, I had read that the refuge was a great place for all kinds of birds, especially ducks. The refuge is accessed off of route 20 by a 30 plus mile gravel road suitable for regular vehicles, but rough and dusty. What the online info did not specify was that nearly all the waters in the refuge are off limits and you really can’t even think about shooting with a large telephoto because you are so far away and the fields between the road and the ponds and lakes are closed to foot traffic.

 

Juvenile Mountain Bluebird
Juvenile Mountain Bluebird

Juvenile Mountain Bluebird

Juvenile Mountain Bluebird

 

All I got to show for my efforts are some shots of juvenile mountain bluebirds and sandhill cranes along the road, and a very dusty car, both inside and out. It was certainly interesting to see this broad expanse of meadows and lakes at an elevation of 7000 or so but I don’t think I would make the trip again, too much pain for not enough reward.

 

Madison River Ospreys
Madison River Osprey
Madison River Ospreys
Madison River Osprey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The best shots of the day were taken about 6 miles from my campsite on 287 at the osprey nest platform I visited the other day. They obviously have not read the signs about “catch and release “ you find all along the Madison River. It was pretty neat to watch this pair fly down to the river, about 200 yards away, patrol only a short section, maybe 200-300 yards only, make a few dives, and then come back to the nest to devour their trout, some fairly good sized. They gave me a great opportunity to capture them in flight as they landed and took off from the nest.

Disaster Strikes

After my mostly unfruitful, very hot day trip out to the refuge, I was looking forward to getting back home to stretch out in the shade or in front of a fan. But when I arrived back at my campsite, I found my passenger side mid coach window shattered and laying on the ground, in a million pieces. I have single pane safety glass sliders on the motorhome and this has never happened before. maybe a bird hit it or some other kind of freak occurrence? I don’t think it was a breakin because the RV wasn’t missing anything and nothing was disturbed inside, so who knows?

Big trouble, broken window
Big trouble, broken window
Big trouble, broken window
Big trouble, broken window

 

 

 

 

 

 

What I do know is that this was the last thing on earth I wanted to deal with on a 90+ degree afternoon after an eight hour fruitless, frustrating road trip. Then it dawned on me that this was really bad, this being the Friday of a long Labor Day weekend when everything was going to be closed up for three days and me sitting here in a remote BLM campground, in bear country with a 24” x 28” opening in the side of my motorhome. My first thought was to call Tiffen Industries, the manufacture of my coach and see if they could ship out a replacement piece of glass before they closed up today. It was 2:30 here in Montana which meant 4:30 in Red Bay, Alabama where Tiffen is located, and that meant I had to get a call in quick before they closed.

Of course, with no cell coverage here in the campground, I wold have to scurry quickly to higher ground, so I headed back up 287 towards Ennis, searching for a signal all the way. At 2:42, I finally got one and pulled off the road to call Tiffen service, got put on hold by their automated call system ( aren’t they just what you want to hear when you are sweating it out in somewhat of an emergency? ) for the next ten minutes, 2:52 now and I am assuming they close down at 5:00, their time, so I give up and call their parts number and once again am put on hold for what seems like an eternity as the clock ticks towards the magic hour, 5:00, when finally, just exactly at 5 someone picks up.

I explain my situation, bear country, severe afternoon thunderstorms, being out in the middle of nowhere with this gaping hole in my motorhome’s side, and could they ship out a piece of replacement glass before they close up for the weekend. He explained to me that all they could do was manufacture me a full new window frame with components and that would take about two weeks to make. I got the distinct impression that my predicament really wasn’t a big concern to Tiffen, and after my experience at their maintenance facility in Red Bay last December, I kind of assume they really aren’t all that concerned anymore with maintaining their formerly great reputation for treating their customers right. Well, it doesn’t make much sense to me to wait 2 to 3 weeks for a full replacement window at a cost of probably a couple of grand ( I am guessing, I didn’t ask a price ) when I need something NOW and for a whole lot less money. A piece of replacement safety glass, there is no frame on the glass panel, surely can be come by somewhere at a much lower price than $2000 and a lot sooner than 2 or 3 weeks.

So, first things first, I rushed up to Ennis to the lumber yard to get a piece of 1/4” luan plywood cut to my window size that I could take home with me to temporarily close up the gap. They were very helpful there and for $7 I was out the door and headed back home in just a few minutes. Once there I took out my screen, used it as a pattern to trace out the rounded corners on my plywood, cut the corners out with my trusty utility knife, and then was able to bow the 1/4” material enough to get it snuggly back in the track of the now missing glass. Not much to look at, but now I can at least keep the rain out.

I will have to backtrack to Bozeman on Tuesday and try to find a glass shop that can custom make a piece of safety glass for me, I hope! If not, I will then try to get a piece of 1/4” acrylic ( plexi ) cut to use as a semi permanent solution until I can figure out what to do.

Flyfishing the Madison
Flyfishing the Madison
Flyfishing the Madison
Flyfishing the Madison

 

 

 

 

 

For the next three days, I guess I will just stay put here on the banks of the Madison River and enjoy my peace and quiet and watch the fisherman go by.

As always click on any image for a larger version.

Flyfishing the Madison
Flyfishing the Madison
Staging area for Madison River fishing trips
Staging area for Madison River fishing trips
Madison River Osprey
Madison River Osprey

 

 

 

 

 

Madison River Osprey
Madison River Osprey
Madison River Osprey
Madison River Osprey
Madison River Osprey
Madison River Osprey

 

 

 

 

 

Madison River Osprey
Madison River Osprey
Madison River Osprey
Madison River Osprey
Madison River Osprey
Madison River Osprey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prius as a Toad

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.

Prius as Toad

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.

Prius as Toad

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.

Safety Chain Attachment points on Prius
Safety Chain Attachment points on Prius

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.