Libbys on the Loose:2 Humans. 2 Great Danes. 1 RV.: 2017

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Whitefish, MT - A Postcard-Perfect Montana Drinking Town with Skiing Problem!

 We found what we were looking for in Whitefish, Montana.
Looking down Main Street in Whitefish - Summer
Looking down Main Street in Whitefish - Winter 
(Photo courtesy of National Geographic Magazine)
Like many, we had never heard of Whitefish.  A small town about thirty minutes south of the Canadian border, Whitefish proper has a population of about 7500 full-time residents.  At an altitude of 3000' above sea level, it sets the stage for Big Mountain, home of Whitefish Ski Resort with over 3000 acres of skiable terrain and hundreds of inches of snow per year to boot!  In addition to downhill skiing, cross country skiing, there are hundreds of miles of snowmobile trails, snowshoeing and hiking trails - truly a winter season lover's paradise!  On top of that, being so close to Glacier National Park (the 10th most visited National Park in the United States) makes it one of the best spots to set up 'camp' to visit Glacier's many epic views. 

In addition to all of the winter options, there is a big draw to this area from spring, summer, and fall as well.  In summer, Whitefish Lake offers a myriad of activities including boating, swimming, fishing, sailing, and....floating.  Yes..floating :)  Fall offers some of the most beautiful colors due to the changing of the larch trees.  Brilliant hues of yellow paint a landscape unmatches by anywhere else we've
been - before or since.  Spring brings new life from the melting of winter's snow and ice.  Brilliant greenery and wildflowers are nearly everywhere putting on a spectacle for anyone lucky enough to be there!  Whitefish is known as Montana's outdoor recreation capital.  Considering, as of August 2017, the Montana's number one business sector is in outdoor recreation, it makes sense that Whitefish, with all its attributes, carries this title. 

View over the fog from Whitefish Mountain Resort
Originally founded by the people building the Great Northern Railway, Whitefish was originally known as "Stumptown" due to the amount of trees that had to be removed for the building of the railroad and eventually, the area where the town lies today.  It was renamed Whitefish after nearby Whitefish lake.  When William Howard Taft signed Glacier National Park as the country's 10th in 1910, Whitefish already had a spot on the map - though in those days, on unimproved roads and limited automobile use, the trip from West Glacier to Whitefish would have taken much longer.  In fact, many of the buildings within Glacier National Park and the surrounding areas were property of the Great Northern Railway. In the 1920s and 1930s, as Glacier expanded and was built upon, its reach allowed Whitefish to grow steadily.  By the late 1940's with Big Mountain ski resort built, the tourism sector became increasingly important.  Today, Whitefish Mountain Resort is the closest major ski resort to a international airport with direct service from 11 major cities - the airport is a short 11 miles from the mountain!

Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park

Some of our favorite activities for the two months we were in town were hiking the Whitefish Trail, hiking Big Mountain (we would have skied/snowboarded had there been snow!), taking our dogs to
Great Northern Brewing
one of the top ten dog parks in the US, and trying the different beers at two local breweries, Great Northern Brewing Company and Bonsai Brewing Company

We were surprised by large turnout for Halloween, one of the best in the state and we heard many people drove from hours away just to partake in the festivities! Though we imbibed quite a bit, we both still recall freezing our butts off and having a blast blending with the local Whitefish crowd and the rest of the visitors and other Montana residents.

For those with a taste for the local fare, there are plenty of options in downtown Whitefish.  One of our favorites was Tupelo Grille located on Central avenue right in the middle of everything.  Don't miss the Baked Mac and Cheese and Elk Meat Loaf - each are equally delicious and filling.  Another great option on Central Ave is Latitude 48.  Locally-sourced ingredients and creativity in menu items is the name of the game at this Whitefish standby.  The Steak Tartare is among the best we've had - seriously, if you are a fan of this dish, please don't miss it!  In addition, the Braised Rabbit Fettuccine and the Pan Seared Pheasant were two of our top favorites.  But that's not the real reason we visited this restaurant on more than one occasion, dessert.  Between the Decadant and the Chocolate Fix, you simply cannot pick a wrong one.  Latitude 48 makes their own ice cream - enough said!

With world-class 'everything outdoors', it's really no surprise the impression that Whitefish, Montana made on us.  Even still, after over two years of being away from Whitefish, we still talk about it.  It's still one of the top places we've visited that we can't stop thinking about.  Who knew northwestern Montana hid such a gem tucked away between the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Northwest?!

Did we get it right? Do you have experience or knowledge about this post? Please make yourself heard! Comment below and we will respond as soon as possible. As always, thanks for following us! Disclaimer: We are not paid writers. We write for enjoyment and to share information about our travels with our families, friends, and our followers. The information that we provide is based on our experiences with the products, services, etc, that we write about. It is 100% non-biased!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Cheyenne Mountain State Park Campground Review - Ft. Carson, Colorado

Cheyenne Mountain State Park
410 JL Ranch Heights Road
Colorado Springs, CO 80926
(719) 576-2016
Fees:  $35/night full hookups

We happened upon this state park sort of by accident.  Since we've stayed at a couple of military installations in the past, we saw on our Allstays app that there was a campground in Ft. Carson, Colorado.  Unfortunately, upon our arrival to the "park", we found out that there was no longer a park, or campground, or any other type of camping facilities any longer!  Allstays was still listing it.  After a quick email to the app letting them know the new status, we went to (no app yet, but their reviews include cell service - a MUST for us) and found Cheyenne Mountain State Park.

View of Fort Carson from our campsite
 So apparently Cheyenne Mountain has a bit of an air of mystery surrounding it.  Conspiracy theories, as in any location or installation, abound due to the lack of information provided.  Stack it right up against Area 51 and the HAARP facility in terms of 'ultra top secret'-ness.  Though the official use is as a bunker in the event of nuclear war, there has been speculation about secret weapons development, alien inhabitation, and a flurry of other possibilities.  At the end of the day, we couldn't even get close to the entrance.  The unofficial entrance and security checkpoint is completely outside of the mountain itself and is 1.5 miles from the official entrance - located inside of the massive, nearly solid granite, mountain.

From Wikipedia:
Formerly the center for the United States Space Command and NORAD, the Complex monitored the air space of Canada and the United States through a worldwide system for missiles, space systems, and foreign aircraft through its early-warning system.  Since 2008, NORAD and the United States Space Command have been based at Peterson Air Force Base and the complex, re-designated as an air force station, is used for flight crew training and as a back-up command center if required. 
The military complex has included, in the past, many units of NORAD, U.S. Space Command, Aerospace Defense Command (ADCOM), Air Force Systems Command, Air Weather Service, and Federal Emergency Management (FEMA). The complex's communication center is also used by the nearby U.S. Civil Defense Warning Center.
That's the official overview of what it is and what its used for.   Who knows if the government is using the installation for something else?  Frankly, no matter what its use, we are glad that the state of Colorado put a state park with a great campground right next to it!  The campground itself is not huge - less than 75 sites but, despite the lack of trees, it feels tucked 'away from it all'.  And of course the view from our campsite (pic above) was pretty spectacular and overlooked the valley and  Ft. Carson Army Base.

There was only one section of the campground open since we were there in the off-season.  In addition, the laundry facilities were closed.  It was a little difficult trying to figure out where to go to register, etc because no one was answering the phones and the normal check-in area wasn't open in the off-season either.  But, the campground was pretty new and it was during their off-season, so everything was great for us!

While you're in the area, make sure you check out the Garden of the Gods.  It's not too far from the campground and totally worth the drive if you're into hiking, rock climbing, or just looking at really cool rock formations.  And it's free!

Did we get it right? Do you have experience or knowledge about this post? Please make yourself heard! Comment below and we will respond as soon as possible. As always, thanks for following us! Disclaimer: We are not paid writers. We write for enjoyment and to share information about our travels with our families, friends, and our followers. The information that we provide is based on our experiences with the products, services, etc, that we write about. It is 100% non-biased!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Moving on: The Next RV - "Betty"

When we purchased our 36RLQ  Holiday Rambler Presidential, it was, at the time, what we needed in terms of space, storage, etc.  Having two giant dogs, we wanted to make the transition from 2000+ square feet to 400sqft as seamless as possible.  36 feet was also a good size because it's right at maximum length for most National Parks (the parks usually max out at 35', but you can always say it's a 35 - just up to you to get maneuvered around!).  There are a number of things that came into play with our setup.

First, the cost of our pull vehicle.  A 2014 Dodge Ram 3500 4x4 Mega Cab Limited.  What all those things mean are cost, cost, cost!  Even though the costs were higher than we would like to be, we had the peace of mind in knowing that we were covered under warranty (when we bought the truck, it was bumper-to-bumper until 36k miles) until 100k miles for the powertrain (engine, trans, drivetrain-related).  This was a big deal for us as we had issues with our previous truck that ended up costing us thousands of dollars in repairs.  Being that it was our only vehicle, reliability was a huge factor.

Second was our trailer.  While we loved the space, storage, and high ceilings inside of the fifth wheel, it's ended up being less than ideal in terms of size.  There are many places that we simply could not get to with a rig of that size.  The length, height and weight limited our ability to get into many camping and boondocking spots.   The amount of storage in the trailer was more than ample for our needs.  Almost daily, we find that there are many things that we simply don't use and don't need anymore.  The standing rule is that if we haven't used something in (at least) the past six months, it no longer has a home in the RV.  This just makes good sense.  The minimalist lifestyle we've chosen dictates that we hold needs over wants, with a few exceptions :)
Beauty and the Beast

The third and final reason is the combination of the truck and the trailer.  If either one is down for repairs, upgrades, etc, we're pretty much in a spot.  If we don't have a pull vehicle, we can't move our home.  If we don't have our home, we're relegated to a hotel (fun finding affordable ones when you have two giant dogs!), AirBNB, tent, or crashing with friends/family.  None of these are ideal when you're used to being in your 'home' full time.  So we had to come up with a solution.
The third wheel - something like a Toyota Sunrader

We thought about a smaller fifth wheel, an Airstream, or a class A.  Each class of RV has its own pros and cons that can be as individual as the people making the choice.


 Although we weren't 100% sure what setup we wanted to go with, we knew we had to start looking and pricing brands/models and making a plan to 'move'. After reading hundreds of forums and articles, talking with countless  owners (read: old-timers), and good old Googling we narrowed it down to a class a for our next adventure.  Of all the brands out there, we found five known for especially for their quality of build and longevity:  Foretravel, Country Coach, Beaver, Tiffin, and Monaco.  We knew we wanted a diesel engine, limited to no slides, and we also didn't want newer.  We specifically looked for rigs built in the late 90's to early 2000's as these seemed to be the best combination of power / build quality / longevity / durability.  It didn't take long to find one we fell in love with.

After doing extensive online research and searching/scouring the country, we found a few we were interested in but would have to go to Texas, Arizona, or Oregon.   Fortunately, we found one at  Dick Gore's RV World in Jacksonville, Florida.  On the way returning to Florida from Colorado in early April, we made a stop and viewed (what is now) our 2001 Country Coach Magna - "Betty".  At 40', she's slightly longer than our 5th wheel, but overall about 100 sq ft less because we now have one 12" slide vs four 36" slides.  In addition, with our planned toad (Toad = Towed Vehicle), we will be decreasing our overall length by about 6 ft.  While this doesn't sound like a lot, we are gaining even more in versatility as our toad will be a fully capable 4x4 SUV.

Similar to what we plan to have as a "toad"
So you may be wondering (based on earlier in this post) how we're going to handle if Betty goes in for service or how we will get to those desired camping and boondocking spots we've had our eye on.  We are also planning to get a class C class thats under 21' in the future.  While we will have three vehicles, the class C will stay in storage while the class A and toad will be our primary travel vehicles. We really wanted to go shorter than Betty's length, but ours and our dog's full time comfort is a priority and the floor plan offerings with our requirements didn't align. The class C will also be equipped to tow the toad giving us complete flexibility depending on what we want to do and where we are.  Since we mostly live day-by-day meeting any opportunities that come our way, we think we will find that this combination is the best of each world.
Time will tell! :)

Did we get it right? Do you have experience or knowledge about this post? Please make yourself heard! Comment below and we will respond as soon as possible. As always, thanks for following us! Disclaimer: We are not paid writers. We write for enjoyment and to share information about our travels with our families, friends, and our followers. The information that we provide is based on our experiences with the products, services, etc, that we write about. It is 100% non-biased!