Monday, December 30, 2013

Back Home For the Holidays

Next stop was the DRV factory in Howe Indiana to get some minor issues addressed.  As always they have a wonderful service center and took care of our every need, just another reason to buy a Mobile Suite!  We stayed for 3 days then headed to Sharon PA to visit my cousins and my Aunt June.  Once again the Walmart parking lot was our home for two more nights.  Thursday night we went to Doug and Patti's house for dinner, Friday morning we visited my Aunt June (my dad's sister) and took her to lunch.  She is 92 years young and sharp as a tack!

That evening all of my cousins and their wife's meet us for dinner at our favorite place to eat when we visit, Quaker Steak and Lube.  It was nice to see everyone and get caught up.

The next day we made it to Winchester VA again staying in the Walmart parking lot.  One of my sistahs from the YSA group lives 20 miles away in Capon Bridge WV so we went to their house for dinner and spent the night.

Thank you Julie and Drew for a wonderful meal and great accommodations!

The next day we headed to South Hill VA again staying in the Walmart parking lot.  I have to say it is really great having the solar on the rig, it makes staying in a parking lot awesome.  Once we got set up we headed to Bracey VA where my aunt Ruthie and uncle Cliff live which is about 15 miles from South Hill.  After dinner and a nice visit we drove back to the rig for the night.  The next day we arrived home in Wilmington NC.  This is the first time we have come back with our rig since we hit the road.


The first two weeks back home were a whirl wind of visiting family and friends.  One little guy was really happy to see his Pop Pa.

It was so nice to spend time with Reed as he is growing up way too fast.

I made two trips to Bracey VA to visit my Aunt Ruthie and Uncle Cliff.  

Our middle son Michael and his girlfriend Amy hosted Thanksgiving this year.  We all had a wonderful day with the family and as always ate way too much food.  Mark and I in the past usually hosted the holidays as we had the big house so it was really nice to be a guest this year!  

On December 1st we rode in the Toys for Tots annual ride hosted by our local Harvey shop.

We met up with Marks brother, his wife and her friend for the ride.  It is such a good cause and an enjoyable event.

In my spare time I was busy making jewelry for a party I was hosting at my girlfriends house.  It felt wonderful to be creative again as we have been so busy for the past 6 months.  The show was a success and I thank everyone that came.  

In my old neighborhood the ladies had a group and we called ourselves the "Flamingos".  Loretta hosted a party for us girls and as always when we all get together we had a fabulous time.  Food, alcohol and some fun with Elf on a Shelf.  Thanks Loretta for good times!!!

Me, Tammy, Loretta, Lori, Ellen and Lori.

Christmas was a busy day first starting out with breakfast at Reed and his mom's house.

Next stop was at Reed's dad's with his girlfriend Amy and her two kids.

Then it was Christmas dinner which was hosted by Mark's brother Lynn and his wife Susan.  Lynn loves to cook and boy did he and Susan put on a wonderful spread for the family!

Time passes to quickly when you are with family and friends.  We are grateful for the time we were able to spend with everyone!  


It has been a busy year for us:

 Worked the RV Show in Quartzite AZ
Prospected in Wickenburg AZ
Flew home in March
Prospected in Mill City, NV
Redwoods CA
Crater Lake OR
Eugene OR
Worked a carnival in WA
Polson MT
Solar Installed on Rig
Worked the Sugarbeet Harvest MT
Drove back to the East Coast
Traveled through 16 states
Visited 5 National Parks


We will be headed to Clearwater, FL on the 3rd of January as Mark will be going to school to be a certified RV Technician. 

Thanks for following our travels.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Sugar Beet Harvest in Culbertson MT

Once we left Billings it was a 300 mile trip to Sidney MT and there was nothing in between but fields of bailed hay.

The headquarters for Express Employment was located at the Microtel.  We checked in and watched the safety video logging 2 hours each for our time.  There are 6 piling stations in MT and we were assigned to the Culbertson location 30 miles north of Sidney.  Originally we were told to arrive on Friday and we would start work in the lab on Monday testing the sugar content of the beets but things had changed and we didn't get that assignment.  The company pays for our site, which is at the fairgrounds providing  30 amp service and water; a honey wagon comes around twice a week.

We were the first to arrive at the fairgrounds so we picked out our site and got setup.  The bathroom and showers at the fairgrounds were left open for our use as well.  There is a small landing strip behind us and oil-rigs are visible from our picture window. 

The town of Culbertson is small with only 716 residents.  In the 80’s oil was big in this area but when the cost per barrel went down it wasn't profitable for the oil companies to drill leaving this small community with agriculture as their main source of income.  The last 5 years has changed things in this rural area with the cost of oil rising the companies are now back to drilling again.  A major portion of the drilling is taking place in North Dakota in Williston, which is to our east about 40 miles away.  It is cheaper for the oil companies to drill in ND then it is in MT right now but it is only a matter of time before this small town turns into a boomtown like Williston.  We were told by a trucker that hauls the oil that there are 100 wells a month being drilled.  It takes a month for the well to start producing.  There are several workers that reside in Culbertson, as housing is hard to find.  There is no shopping to speak of so most folks go to Williston where there is a Walmart and larger stores do to major shopping or into Sidney.  We stocked up in Billings as we were told about the limited shopping.  The next day we drove around town locating the piling station, which is only 1.4 miles away and the Laundromat.  The weather has been pretty good but the wind tends to blow often.  We spent our time getting organized to go to work, metal detecting the fairgrounds and playing Mexican train.  Midweek more folks started rolling in and by Thursday everyone had arrived for a total of 8 couples. 

We made a trip into Williston to get a few more supplies at Walmart and to check out a modern day boomtown.  Once across the state line we saw oil-rigs through out the countryside with temporary housing for the workers.
Campers where parked all over as well in make shift campgrounds even in business parking lots.  Roads were being built; construction all around and semi trucks were everywhere.   Good paying jobs were offered which in turn made it tough for businesses paying minimum wages hard to find employees.  It was a sight to see.

On Friday we had orientation at the piling station.  We knew our shift was going to be nights as Mark received a call a few days prior asking if he would take the night shift foreman position.  I will be a helper/ground crew and could be bumped up to pile operator.  In a 12-hour shift the first 8 hours are regular pay with the other 4 being time and a half, weekends are time and a half.  The night shift tends to be a little slower then the day shift and the wind slows down.  There are two 15 minute breaks before lunch and 2 after lunch but if there a no trucks we can go the scale house and have coffee or sit in our vehicles.  As long as the job is getting done they are pretty easy going.  Hardhats, reflective vests, eye protection and lock out keys were issued along with instructions on clocking in and out.  Next we were instructed on the piling machine.

There are two pilers at our station, we are the smallest station but our beets are the first to be processed.  We divided into teams for each piler.  Piler 1 is busier then 2; I choose 1, as I would rather be busy making the time go by faster.  Mark will be in charge of both pilers making sure things run smoothly and checking the temperature of the beets.  If the temp of the beets is too low or too high the harvest will stop.The trucks dump the beets into the piler, it shakes the dirt off the beets and puts the dirt back into the truck then it piles the beets on the ground.  Once the beets are piled as high as they can be without the boom hitting them the piler is then moved back a few yards continuing the process again.  This picture is of the empty yard and within 2-3 weeks it will be full of beets. 

First night of work.

The trucks first get weighed at the scale house and then drive up to whatever piler they choose.  

They then drive onto the ramp and are directed by the piler operator to move forward to a certain point so he/she can then open the gate.  It is a tight fit for the drivers and sometimes they will be too far to one side and pop a tire or hit the ramp, it doesn't happen often though.

Once the gate is open the operator then guides the truck back,

 the driver gives a ticket to the ground helper that will take a sample if necessary, next he will walk to the ramp and begin unloading his trailer via remote control.  

The sugar beets are carried up the piler by conveyor belts, tumbled over rollers to knock of excess dirt, and another conveyor belt onto the boom carries them to the pile.

When the truck is done unloading they move forward to get back their dirt,

 the operator has lowered the ramp and signals them to move back so they have room to make the turn, they go back to the scale house to be weighed again and then dump their dirt.  The ground crew cleans up any beets that fell out of the truck and the next truck starts the process over again.  Around midnight when there is a change in drivers we shut down one piler to clean it and then do the other one.  So you can see it isn't rocket science but you are on your feet alot, it's dirty and it can be cold.  

The first week we had 2 pilers open and had 3 growers but by the end of the week things slowed down to one major grower so piler 2 was shut down and half of the crew moved to a different location.  

One morning when we got off work we went to the fields to actually see how the beets were harvested.  

Below is one single beet.  It is kind of hard to tell but the beet grows half in the ground and half out.

The defoliator first passes the rows cutting off the green leaves, once this is done the beets have to be harvested.

Then the trucks are pulled through the field by a tractor especially if the fields are muddy such as the day we went.  The harvest is then pulled into position by another tractor plucking the beets out of the ground spinning them around separating the green tops then sending them up the shoot and then depositing them in the trailer.  Then timing has to be just right to get the truck evenly filled.  Once we saw this we understood why some of the trucks come to the piling station almost overloaded.   

Once back from the fields we stopped back at the piling station so I could get this picture of the beets.  

After the first week of work the beets we first piled were being loaded into trucks and hauled to the processing plant in Sidney.  We would have liked to tour the plant but at this time they didn't allow it.

We worked with some nice folks and had a great time, sorry to say I didn't get a pic of everyone on night shift :(

Kathie (the comedian) who kept us in stitches, Ray her husband and Steve also know as Steve-O.
Ray was our bobcat operator so he was know as Ray Bob.

Me, first week ground crew and second week piler operator.

We worked 13 days or should I say nights and the job was complete.  We were lucky to finish so quickly as other stations were delayed by the weather.
So there you have our experience at the Sugar Beet Harvest.  It was a positive one and we would definitely do it again.  In December we will receive a 3% bonus check and if we return next year it will be a 10% bonus.  The company was great to work for so if you are looking for some fast cash in a short period of time and can deal with 12 hour shifts this could be the gig for you. 


We stayed a few days after we were done to try and get back on a normal schedule and miss some rainy weather in ND.  It felt good to remove the black plastic bags I had taped to windows blocking out the sunlight so we could sleep during the day. 

So on Wednesday we pulled out of Culbertson heading west through ND.  Passing the oil rigs we soon discovered sunflowers (which are the state flower of Kansas) drying in huge fields.  ND ranks number one in U.S. sunflower production and produces 48% of all oilseed production.  Just a bit of useless information that could come in handy if you were ever on Jeopardy.  Anyway, we made it to Jamestown ND and boondocked in the Walmart parking lot.  The next morning we got an early start and when we crossed the state line into Wisconsin our eyes were delighted by the beautiful fall colors,  we haven't seen such beauty since we left NC.  We stayed at the Moose Lodge in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.  As always we received a warm welcome and to our surprise there was no camping fee.  It was decided to stay here for a few days as we had driven hard for two long days.  On Friday night they had an all you can eat fish fry and Saturday night it was an Oktoberfest meal.  Both nights we returned to the rig with full bellies and happy memories of the nice folks we met.  Oh, prior to Saturdays meal we visited some local farms just outside of town that had pumpkins and corn mazes.  At one farm Mark spotted a pumpkin that he wanted to bring home!

We leave here tomorrow as the forecast is calling for snow!!!
Thanks for following our travels.


Get a jump on your holiday shopping by checking out my handmade jewelry at my Etsy store by clicking on the link

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Billings MT and Yellowstone National Park

Guess where we are parked in Billings MT?  That's right the Moose Lodge; this will make the 6th lodge that we have stayed at this year.  We rolled in on a Saturday night, Mark went to the lodge for breakfast the next day and found out they were having a picnic in the afternoon.  The benefits of the membership are great!

We are located on the west side of town with a grocery store across the street and views of the trains.  The first couple of nights it was noisy but after that you get use to it and we enjoy watching the trains.

I flew out on Tuesday morning for Peep Week in WV at Julie's house.  As always I look forward to spending time with my Sistahs and being creative.  The weather was really nice and I so enjoyed sitting on Julie's front porch looking out on her lovely garden with lush green grass as it has been so hot and dry in the West.  We create, drink, cook, laugh, stay up late, talk forever and couldn't live without each other in our lives.  I was so busy this time that I didn't take any pictures, shame on me!  One thing I did get a picture of is when Julie's dog ate Kari's car, yes that's right the dog ate the car.  The dog loves to chase small animals, well this squirrel ended up hiding in the cars engine compartment.  That didn't stop the dog, he was going to get at that squirrel if it was the last thing he did.  We all heard the dog barking like crazy so we went to investigate, good thing we did!

Well that was a first for the YSA sistahs!

Martha, Gini, Julie, Kari, Karen.

Love my sistahs and a big thank you to sistah Julie for picking me up and taking me back to the airport at the crack of dawn.  


Once I returned from Peep Week Mark and I did some exploring looking for places to put in and take out the kayaks on the Yellowstone river.  Well I have to say we were rather disappointed with what we found.  The river is a positive thing for Billings but the parks along the river don't really offer a safe place to leave your vehicle or easy access to launch from.  The day we were out looking we ran into a motorcycle hill climb event so we decided to check it out.  The riders have to be fearless to drive straight up a mountain side.

Fun to watch but this is one sport I will pass on.

We have been going to the parks in town and doing some metal detecting.  Haven't found anything of real value yet but did find enough quarters to do a load of laundry. 


We now have solar on our caravan which will allow us to camp independent of any hookups!  There are two panels on the roof for a total of 520 watts.

A 2000 watt inverter, which gives us AC current from the DC batteries.

The solar panel controller.

Plus two more batteries.  
Our total cost for this system was $4,540.00 and we really didn't lose any storage space in the bay.

We want to thank Handy Bob for helping us install the system.  If you are interested in getting solar on your rig we highly recommend that you check out Bob's Blog


When we first arrived here in Billings the temperatures were in the high 90's and some days they reached triple digits.  It was too hot to ride the motorcycle and there were also forest fires near Red Lodge which caused a smokey atmosphere.  So we stayed in town checking out some local sites and sampling micro brews at the local breweries.  Once we returned from getting the solar installed the weather started to cool down so we made our way to Yellowstone National Park.  

Heading south from Billings you first pass through the quaint town of Red Lodge then you jump on the Beartooth Highway.  Often referred to as "the most beautiful drive in America", by Charles Kuralt.  The highway is a 68-mile travel corridor beginning just south of Red Lodge, MT at an elevation of 6400 feet and ending near the Northeast Entrance to Yellowstone at an elevation of 7500 feet.  The Highway is surrounded by the Custer, Gallatin, and Shoshone National Forests and is known for hairpin turns and switchbacks.

So here we go....

First stop is Rock Creek Vista Point which provides breathtaking views of Rock Creek Canyon and Hellroaring Plateau.

All along the highway you will pass beautiful lakes.

The West Summit, Beartooth Pass is the highest point along the Highway with spectacular views in every direction, elevation being 10,947.

We stopped at Island Lake to have a picnic lunch.

Another wonderful site along the way.

Pilot and Index Peaks , elevation 8718', rank in the top ten of the most often photographed scenes along the Highway.  Wish my photo turned out better.

Lake Creek Falls.

It was a fascinating drive and one that I highly recommend.

Now we are at Yellowstone.

Yellowstone is the world's first national park and one of the largest in the contiguous United States.  Sprawling across volcanic plateaus in the northwest corner of Wyoming, Yellowstone contains more than 2 million acres of steaming geysers, crystalline lakes, thundering waterfalls and panoramic vistas.

One thing I can guarantee you will see is buffalo.  Not to long after we entered the park we were stopped dead in our tracks.

 The scenery was breath taking so we stopped at a turnout, put our lawn chairs out and just watched.

We looked to the right and then we looked to the left and saw this herd of buffalo.

Next we spotted a Pronghorn.

 We loaded up and continued on until we found another location farther back from the road looking onto this mountain side.  With some snacks and beverages we just absorbed our surroundings.  Binoculars in hand Mark spotted a huge herd of buffalo and a bridge in the raven.  Other folks stopped to see what we were looking at so the binoculars were passed from hand to hand.  One man stayed awhile and visited with us as he searched the mountain side.  Then Mark spotted 3 men on horse back with 5 pack mules coming down out of the mountain headed for the bridge.  Next the other man found Elk at a raven to the right.  What a wonderful way to spend the evening.

Our plan was to spend the night in a campground sleeping in the truck but to our surprise there wasn't a site to be found.  We really thought the park wouldn't be so busy with kids back in school but it was packed.  So we drove out of the park at the North entrance, had dinner in Gardner and spent the night there.  In the morning we awoke to find this Elk a few hundred yards from the truck.

After a hearty breakfast we reentered the park ready to explore.

First stop was Mammoth Hot Springs.  Mineral-laden hot water from deep beneath the Earth's crust finds its way to the surface and builds tier upon tier of cascading, terraced stone.  Begun thousands of years ago, the sculpting of the terraces continues as thousands of gallons of water well up and deposit large amounts of travertine daily.  The maximum water temperature is 163 degrees.

Liberty Cap stands 37 feet tall, created by a hot spring that was active in one location for a long time.  Its internal pressure was sufficient to raise the water to a great height, allowing mineral deposits to build slowly and continuously for hundreds of years.

Moving on to Norris Geyser Basin which is one of the hottest and most dynamic of Yellowstone's hydrothermal areas.  Many hot springs and fumaroles have temps above the boiling point.  Norris is part of one of the world's largest active volcanoes as it sits on the intersection of  3 major faults.

The hottest of geothermal features are fumaroles (steam vents).

These basins support an astounding diversity of life.  The majority of species are microscopic thermophiles - heat-loving microorganisms, they are the yellow green color in the above picture.

This is a Colloidal Pool or a thermal pool.

As the world's tallest active geyser, Steamboat can jet water and steam up to 380 feet into the air.  For hours following it's rare 3-40 minute major eruptions, Steamboat thunders with steam.

The magnificent color of Emerald Spring comes from the inherent blue of the water combined with the yellow of the sulfur-coated pool

Gibbon Falls is a cascade waterfall with an 84 foot drop.

Firehole Falls is another cascade waterfall on the Firehole River with a 40 foot drop.

A lost buffalo slows down traffic.

Firehole Lake Drive is a one-way paved road through a section of the Lower Geyser Basin.  First is Firehole Spring.

then Surprise Pool

and the Great Fountain Geyser with eruptions averaging over 100 feet with an occasional one of 200 feet.  The interval between eruptions is 10-14 hours so sadly we didn't get to see it.

Next stop is the big one, Old Faithful.  It erupts more frequently than any of the other big geysers.  The average interval between eruptions is about 93 minutes lasting 1.5 to 5 minutes and expelling 3,700-8,400 gallons of boiling water reaching heights of 106-184 feet.  Unfortunately when we seen it erupt it was a small one but none the less it was very impressive.

We then wandered over to the Old Faithful Inn which is a National Historic Landmark, built of local logs and stone in the early 1900's.

Moving on to the Mud Volcanoes.

Next to the mud volcano was the Dragon's Mouth Spring.  Water frequently surges from the cave like the lashing of a dragons tongue. The rumbling sounds are caused by steam and other gasses exploding through the water causing it to crash against the walls of the hidden caverns. 

Once again we ran into a traffic jam of buffaloes.

The park ranger had to step in to break things up.

Our last stop was Tower Falls which is a 132 foot waterfall and very impressive.

Well there you have Yellowstone National Park through our eyes.  This makes the fifth national park we have visited this year!  
On our way back home we took the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway through Wyoming.  Oh my it was a beautiful drive taking us through Two Dots Flats, climbing through switchbacks to view Dead Indian Summit, and crossing the highest bridge in WY, Sunlight Creek Bridge.


Our time here in Billings has come to an end as we will be moving on Friday the 20th, which also happens to be our anniversary,  to Sydney MT to work the Sugar Beet Harvest.  We signed up for this job back in January at Quartzsite AZ.  We will be working at a piling plant so stay tuned for more details.  A lot of full time RV'ers do this gig, just like Amazon.  For more information on the harvest go to

Thanks for following our travels.  

Check out my handmade jewelry on my Etsy store at

I also make leather holders for electronic cigarettes and sell them on Ebay.