7th Ranch RV Camp: Garryowen, Montana

We stopped at 7th ranch on our way through southern Montana to check out the memorial for the Battle of Little Big Horn. True to its name, the park is located in the midst of a large ranch and has a fun character to it.

Nights: 2
RV Park Cost: $75 ($37/night) tax included

Discounts Used: Escapees Club
Address: 7th Ranch Reno Creek Rd  Garryowen, Montana 59031
GPS: 45.491033, -107.378245
Website: www.historicwest.com

Pros

  • Nice view
  • Full hookups
  • Clean Bathrooms

Cons

  • A bit expensive
  • Sloping grounds
The grounds have a simple beauty to them, not stunning but I liked it.

The grounds have a simple beauty to them, not stunning but I liked it.

The Details

Due to its remote location, you have to travel up an unpaved road to get to 7th Ranch. There is some washboarding so you want to keep your speed low. Otherwise, it wasn’t a problem for our large rig to navigate. When you go to park your rig you will discover the sites are on a large slope. The gravel pads are cut flat on the slope so your RV will sit as level as most parks, but your lawn is at something of an angle. While that can be inconvenient it does make for a lovely view of the surrounding countryside.

I was delighted to find the bathroom clean and in good order. These folks prove that you don’t need a new bathroom to have a nice bathroom. The showers are closed for cleaning for two hours each day and the result is no cobwebs, mildew, or other grime I’ve come to find in at least half the park’s we’ve visited.

Behold, the well maintained RV bathroom. Sadly, more of a rarity than I'd like.

Behold, the well maintained RV bathroom. Sadly, more of a rarity than I’d like.

There are scattered trees in the park but it is primarily hillside prairie land. A good number of birds flit about the property and sing in the evening. The owners have seeded wild and cultivated flowers on the property. I found it a very peaceful environment. There is some train noise from a nearby freight line. It is not especially close but we heard it in our trailer in the late evening.

Wireless at the park is about normal, which means not very good but you can at least stay in touch by email and do a bit of web surfing. Upload speeds are especially poor and it becomes about useless in the evening hours. The price is a bit higher than I’d like but after really getting stung at our last site it feels more reasonable. It’s fair but no bargain.

There are many dozens of these bird houses on the fence surrounding the Park.

There are many dozens of unique hand made bird houses on the fence surrounding the Park.

In total, I give the park a recommendation as a nice place to stay. If you are bargain hunting, look elsewhere, but if you want fair accommodations at a fair price, it’s a good choice.

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Big Timber KOA: Big Timber Montana

Fortunately, we only stayed at Big Timber KOA for two nights. I say that not because it is an especially poor RV park but because it is exceptionally expensive for an RV park of middling quality. This was primarily a stopover for us as we head towards South Dakota through southern Montana.

Nights: 2
RV Park Cost: $109($54/night)

Discounts Used: None
Address: Big Timber KOA  Big Timber, MT 59011
GPS: 45.772857, -109.797661
Websitehttp://koa.com/campgrounds/big-timber/

Pros

  • Pretty Grounds
  • Full Hook Ups
  • Decent Playground for kids
  • Pokestops and Gym

Cons

  • Very Expensive
  • Dirty Bathrooms
  • Train Noise
  • Few nearby attractions
The play park at Big Timber is quite charming.

The play park at Big Timber is quite charming.

The Details

Big Timber KOA has two features I think are noteworthy. Firstly it has very nice grounds. There are many large trees on the property and it is surrounded by smaller trees blocking out the nearby train tracks and highway. The grounds are well kept and you get a feeling of serenity here. It’s other noteworthy plus is that it has a pretty nice set up for kids. There is a small park of tiny play buildings, a play lawn, sand pit, swing set, and a big inflated jumping play field, kind of like a trampoline. It’s the most kid stuff I’ve seen at a park and kids were having fun there during our visit.

Cool for us, but not every traveler were the two Pokestops and Gym for playing Pokemon Go. It’s become something of a passion for Trail and I enjoy it as well. Having those at the park was a lot of fun for us. Normally we have to make a trip into town to play but here we could just sit by the pool, chat, and play Pokemon.

Next door is an abandoned water park. It's fenced off but visible from the park.

Next door is an abandoned water park. It’s fenced off but visible from the park.

We came partly for the pool but we didn’t use it due to its small size. It’s more a wading pool or a kids pool. Big enough to cool off but you can’t actually swim in it. Another disappointment were the bathrooms which were not in good repair nor especially clean. Like many parks they did only a token effort to keep them nice and it shows. Most of the problems were superficial, but that matters when it comes to bathrooms and showers.

While the location is pretty, it was not very convenient. There were no stores close by and not much in the way of attractions. What it seems to have is a lack of other good RV park options which is likely why the price is so high. The few other offerings were all similarly over-priced. While we stayed there the park was only at about 20-30% capacity as where most places we stay are nearly full.

Here we are camped at Big Timber. Lots of nice shade to be had.

Here we are camped at Big Timber. Lots of nice shade to be had.

Train noise was also a problem. A freight line runs near the park and the trains are want to blow their horns as they come through pretty late into the evening and often fairly early in the morning. Clearly, there is nothing the owners can do to control this (as they point out in their pamphlet) but it certainly doesn’t help justify the high price and lack of discount options.

I can’t recommend this park based on its price vs its offerings. We have stayed at far nicer parks in far better locations for far less money. If you have no other good choices, it will do in a pinch as it did for us.

It lives up to it's name tree wise, they are big and plentiful. Too bad it costs so much to stay here.

It lives up to its name tree wise, they are big and plentiful. Too bad it costs so much to stay here.

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Glacier: Avalanche Lake

When one visits Glacier National Park one must always hike to a glacier-fed alpine lake. For our first full day at the park, I set my sites on Avalanche Lake. Unfortunately, bear-bell tourists and groups of chattering teens crowd this overused trail in the height of August. Not a lick of solitude or serenity can be found in this lake, but at 4 miles round trip it could be completed in half a day or less.

Avalanche Lake - Creek Outlet

Avalanche Lake – located in a cirque on the west side of the continental divide.

Trail of the Cedars

The trail begins at a wheelchair accessible trail called the Trail of Cedars, and starts 16 miles from the west entrance of Glacier National Park along Going-To-The-Sun Road. Cars pack tightly in this small lot between the hours of 10am to 3pm, so either go early or go very late.

Avalanche Lake Trail starts at the eastern half of Trail of Cedars. We took the shortest path, along a raised boardwalk through ancient western hemlocks, red cedars, and cottonwoods. Soft moist moss coated the forest floor and tufts of lush fern sprayed between trees. This felt like the Pacific Coast of Washington rather than the slopes of the Rocky Mountains in Montana.

Just before Avalanche Lake Trail, we reached a footbridge that provided a perfect view up into Avalanche Gorge, where Avalanche Creek cuts down through the rock in attempts to merge with McDonald Lake.

Avalanche Gorge

Avalanche Gorge – the creek funnels through a narrow gorge, where ferns and mosses decorated the ravine walls.

Avalanche Lake Trail

Past the bridge, we reached the junction toward Avalanche Lake. The first half of the trail greeted us with a relatively steep climb to get our blood flowing. The path then quickly lead to a dense forest on our right, and then to the banks of Avalanche Creek on our left. I watched the white waters churn, rushing through the narrow gorge. I felt amazed at how much earth moving and rock carving glacially melted water can do.

For about a mile we walked through an evergreen forest, the creek hidden from view, but the rush of water clearly audible. Near where Hidden Creek and Avalanche Creek merge, the trees part to expose a sedimentary rock face of Mt. Cannon.

Mount Cannon

Mount Cannon – a massive peak located between Lake McDonald and Logan Pass

Before long we reach Avalanche Lake, and I take a side trail down to where the waters outflow into Avalanche Creek. It seems that other hikers easily ignored this small trail and I can get a bit of solitude to soak in the scenery.

We continued on, and beyond the thick brush and past the outhouses, there’s a large beach area with an excellent view of the lake and surrounding mountains. We also found a gaggle of hikers taking selfies and sitting on makeshift benches.

Avalanche Lake

Avalanche lake in the afternoon – rimmed with steep cliffs on three sides with numerous cascading waterfalls.

To the north, Bearhat Mountain rises almost 4800 feet above the lake. To the south, Little Matterhorn dominates the view at 7886 feet above sea-level. From this lake shore, I can pick out the long thin white lines of waterfalls cascading down into the far side of the lake. I long to head to the western shoreline, but the I’m blocked by bright tape and bright red signs that warned of bears.

I found photographing the lake in mid-morning tough since the sun hovers directly in full view and just above the mountains. But I can imagine the place at dawn, with the sky lit up hues of purple, orange, pinks, and reds. In the afternoon, the sun ends up behind you, so you can get some good day pictures.

Avalanche Creek flows westward toward Haystack Creek and then flows into McDonald Lake

Avalanche Creek flows westward toward Haystack Creek and then flows into McDonald Lake

As we head back, the trail crowds with even more people, and it’s hard to pass without accidently bumping into someone. Often there are crowds and bottlenecks, so this trail requires a lot of patience. Back at the parking lot, I had to car spot for oncoming traffic before we could pull out our truck. By 11am, the place was packed and the traffic heavy on the road.  Casual hikers seeking an easy hike will like Avalanche Lake, but if you want quiet and nature I would recommend some other trail off the beaten path.

Mount Cannon is a massive jumbled-ridged peak with three distinct high points.

Mount Cannon – a massive jumbled-ridged peak with three distinct high points.

Mt. Cannon

Mount Cannon – located between Lake McDonald and Logan Pass

Avalanche Creek

Avalanche Creek waters can change from crystal clear to a ragging torrent in a matter of hours, especially after a heavy spring rain.

Avalanche Gorge - Sedimentary rock cut and shaped by rushing waters

Avalanche Gorge – Sedimentary rock cut and shaped by rushing waters

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Yellowstone Lake

When Hitch and I set out to take a tour of Yellowstone Lake, we invited our friend, Luis, from Seattle. We drove 20 miles south on Grand Loop Road from Canyon Village, past the bison filled meadows of Hayden Valley to Bridge Bay Marina, where we boarded our boat. We had a cordial captain and a seasoned ranger of the park as our guide At a mere $17 per person to tour a beautiful lake of Americas most iconic scenery made it worthy of the price.

Hitch, Luis, and Me - out on a tour of Yellowstone Lake!

Hitch, Luis, and Me – out on a tour of Yellowstone Lake!

Yellowstone Lake

Park Rangers and surveyors recorded Yellowstone Lake as the largest lake at high elevation, at roughly 132 square miles at an altitude of 7,733 feet above sea level. Yellowstone Lake secretly harbors its own set of geysers, hot springs, and deep canyons — all at the bottom of the lake and fully hidden from normal view. Thanks to a submersible robot, researchers discovered a lake bottom canyon just east of Stevenson Island measuring at a depth of 390 feet.

Yellowstone Lake from West Thumb

Yellowstone Lake from West Thumb

They were also able to record underwater geysers, hot springs, and fumaroles near West Thumb Bay, Mary Bay, and Sedge Bay. In Mary Bay, they discovered wonderful tall silica chimneys rising several feet from the lake bottom; evidence of a geyser plumbing system.

In other parts of the lake, they also found hydrothermal vents similar to the ones found in the mid-ocean ridge of the Pacific Ocean. Rich with nutrients and minerals, the hydrothermal vents of Yellowstone Lake support an ecosystem robustly colonized with plants and complex higher organisms comparable to those found around deep sea vents, except in a freshwater environment.

Stevenson Island

Our boat tour took us around Stevenson Island, a long narrow strip of land famous for an odious man named E.C. Waters. Over one hundred years ago, E.C. Waters guided a steamship, named after himself of course, and at least 500 passengers around the lake. In the early 1900s, he would take the tourists to Dot Island to view bison and elk kept in pens. As soon as the tourists were off the boat to view the emaciated animals, E.C. Waters would refuse to let them re-board unless they provided an additional fee. Sadly, Dot Island could hardly sustain the animals, and they usually died of malnourishment and mistreatment. His abuse of tourists, animals, and overall chicanery earned him the reputation as the most obnoxious businessman in Yellowstone.

Stevenson Island and the Remains of the E.C. Waters Steamship

Stevenson Island and the Remains of the E.C. Waters Steamship

In 1907, Waters had been debarred from the park and not allowed to return without permission from the Secretary of the Interior or the superintendent of the park. E.C. Waters the man continued his nefarious entrepreneurship for years, while park rangers ran E.C. Waters the steamship aground and left to rot on the shores of Stevenson Island.

Over the following years, various denizens of the park salvaged the ship piece by piece. The boiler turned into a hotel heater, skiers used the hull for warmth in the winter, a local fisherman used portions of it as a location for his fish-fry business, and it even housed an illegal fight ring and speakeasy.

In the 1930s, a few anonymous rangers decided to light the wreckage of the steamboat on fire. They hoped it would burn away, but in reality, it just turned black and slowly sank into the sand over the next 60 years.

Finally, in 1996, historians documented the ship’s remains, and artifacts were put on display throughout the park. The anchor can be viewed at Bridge Bay Marina, and I think I saw a large anchor chain being used as a guard rail for near Gull Point Drive Picnic Area. Supposedly there resides a porthole and capstan somewhere on display, but I haven’t seen them.

Lake Yellowstone Hotel

After returning to the marina and disembarking our tour boat, we made our way to Lake Yellowstone Hotel. Northern Pacific Railway first opened this grand old hotel in 1891, and during our visit, the current owners were celebrating its 125th anniversary. The exterior, lobby, lounge and restaurant were fully refurbished and restored to its Colonial Revival heritage.

Lake Yellowstone Hotel

Lake Yellowstone Hotel

Staying at the Presidential Suite where President Coolidge himself stayed will set you back $660 per night. At the low-end price of $149, you can stay in one of the rustic cabins, which were not included in the great 125th-anniversary restoration. I don’t know if its worth a resort price for just a hotel stay, but I guess you’re paying to be at the center of THE Yellowstone experience, complete with historical ambiance.

Regardless of the room prices, we dined at the hotel dining room, courtesy of our generous friend. After an exceedingly tasty dinner, each of us left with happy bellies and bright smiles. A perfect way to end a tour of the lake country.

Lake Yellowstone Hotel from the lake

Lake Yellowstone Hotel from the lake

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Getting Organized: Kanban and Trello

Organizing life is something everyone must do, not just those living the RV life. I often feel overwhelmed by the number of things I need to do and frequently forget things that are important. Now that my work life and home life are essentially the same, the level of complexity and need to prioritize has only grown.

But most of you are probably wondering; what is Kanban and what is Trello? I’ll get that out of the way first.

What is Kanban?

Kanban is Japanese for “sign board” and in manufacturing, it is associated with honda’s assembly line process of just in time manufacturing. It is a pull system where each station would signal the need for more parts from a station upstream as they needed them. Any time a pull request failed there was a bottleneck that needed to be worked out.

It became somewhat popular with software developers (especially me) for handling workflows with rapidly changing priorities or workflows with no real end point. It is also great for visualizing the work going on. Kanban for software involves a white board with vertical lines representing the stage of work, and stickie notes in the lanes to represent the work itself. As work was completed it moved through the different stages on the board like a part on a virtual assembly line.

I and others have found that kanban boards are also great for organizing your personal life and business, though in a somewhat less formal manner. It functions kind of like a to-do list but there can be different levels of done-ness and you can use it to focus on what you should be working on now vs what you need to do later. It can also be great for small businesses to track the state of projects and tasks.

The prototype kanban board in all its simple glory.

The prototype kanban board in all its simple glory.

What is Trello?

Trello is a free online kanban tool where you can make share and use kanban boards. Once you get the hang of how kanban boards work, it’s easy to use. And if you ask me, I’d say it’s fun. The service is free and it runs in a browser on any PC/Mac and there are Android and IOS apps for your mobile devices. You can upgrade to the premium service but so far I haven’t found any need to. If you refer others to the service you can get a month of premium for free if you want to try it out; it’s $10 per month otherwise.

The basic operation of a Trello board is to create a set of lists in which you put cards. Each list usually represents a stage in a process. The simplest example is 3 lists: To do, Doing, Done. You would create cards in the “To do” list, move them into Doing when you are ready to get started, then move them to “Done” when they are complete.

This is what a fancy Trello board can look like, we're going to start simple.

This is what a fancy Trello board can look like, we’re going to start simple.

How to do Kanban with Trello

Step 1: Sign up

You can use my referral link or just google for Trello and sign up. You will go through the usual account set up process and it will give you some tutorials you can follow to learn the ropes. They don’t have ads in the software but they do occasionally send you an email encouraging you to upgrade or to give you tips on using the software.

Step 2: Pick something to organize

In Trello you can have a number of Boards, each organizing a different process or project. Ideal subjects for a board are things you feel are overwhelming, are difficult to keep track of in your head, or which you have a hard time focusing on. A good personal kanban board gets the things to do organized, lets you see where you are at, and helps you focus on what to do next.

For this example, we will use the Trail and Hitch blog as an example project to organize. We will create a new board and call it Trail and Hitch Example.

Step 3: Create your Lists

We are going to follow the “To do”, “Doing”, “Done” pattern but we are going to add some more detail to suit how we work on our blog. Let’s start with “To Do” or as we called it in software, the backlog. We will use these lists to organize all the work we need to do. Generally, I find there are three types of work for the blog: writing articles, promotion, and technical work on the site. We will start by creating a backlog for each of these. You just type the name of the list and press return.

kanban-todo

Once you have the To Do lists created, put some cards in them for things you need to do. The backlog is a place for all the work you can think of so you don’t forget anything. It’s great for both urgent work, and ideas you may never even get to. The goal is to get it out of your head and on the board so you don’t forget and so you don’t have to keep thinking about all the stuff there is to do. That lets you focus on what you are doing.

Next, you create the Doing lists. The idea here is to keep focused. Figure out the right number of tasks for you to have in mind and only ever move that many cards there. In Kanban this is called a WIP (work in progress) limit. It keeps you focused and on task. For our board, I’m going to make a Doing list for both Trail and myself. You can share your kanban boards with other users and thus collaborate on projects. I’ll put our WIP limit in brackets in the title so we don’t overload ourselves.

Finally, there is the Done list. Usually, this is just a single list called done. If you have a process that has a lot of recurring activities you may want to have a separate done for these. In Trello you can tell a list to move all its cards at once to another list. This way you can easily recycle recurring tasks.

kanban_complete

Step 4: Using your board

With your board set up, all you need to do now is use it. When you want to assign tasks to yourself or others, just drag the cards from the To Do lists to the Doing lists. And when you are done, drag them to the Done list. If you think of new tasks, open up your board and drop them into a To Do list. Whenever you need focus, open up your board and see what needs doing.

You can start to play with Trello’s other features once you get the hang of things. You can comment on cards, put stickers on them, prioritize them and lots of other cool tricks to stay organized. If you are using chrome you can find plugins that add more features to your boards for free. And of course, you can upgrade your account for more features.

Here we are dragging an item onto my to do list.

Here we are dragging an item onto my to-do list. Time to check the google rankings!

Last words

I hope you find it as helpful a tool and technique as I do. I have Kanban boards for all kinds of projects including keeping a master list of all my active projects and ideas for future projects. It’s kind of the dumping place for ideas and inspiration as well as how I see something to completion. I love that it is easy to learn and use, yet extremely powerful in creating focus and peace of mind.

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Glacier Peaks RV Park: Columbia Falls, Montana

We ended up staying at Glacier Peaks because it was the only RV park near Glacier National Park where we could book a two weeks stay in August. While it offers a great location for visiting Glacier the price is on the steep side considering the quality of the amenities.

Nights: 14
RV Park Cost: $578 ($41/night)
Discounts Used:
Address: 3185 Hwy. 40  Columbia Falls, MT 59912
GPS48.372030, -114.245075
Websitewww.glacierpeaksrvpark.com

Pros

  • Close to Glacier National Park
  • Shady lots
  • Full hookups
  • Near 24 hour Grocery Store

Cons

  • Coin operated showers
  • Iffy Bathrooms
  • Expensive
Lots of trees to provide shade. The roads are pretty narrow though.

Lots of trees to provide shade and some privacy. Unfortunately, the roads are rather narrow.

The Details

The website for Glacier Peaks touts its excellent location and I am in full agreement on that account. It is close enough to Glacier national park that it is only a short drive through town to get there. The town itself is handy in that it has a large, well stocked, 24-hour supermarket, a real rarity so far in our travels.

The downside and one of my growing litmus tests for parks are the bathrooms. While not outright dirty, they are a bit disheveled and messy on most of my visits. The TP dispensers are cantankerous and not always well stocked. Worst of all are the showers, which require $2 in quarters to use. For the price the park charges, I’d expect them to be complimentary. Nor are they very nice looking showers. I decided to stick with my cramped trailer shower on this stay.

The lots themselves are decent. Cramped gravel roads lead to the reasonably sized lots. Large fir trees give a fair bit of shade which is nice. They also attract birds which I appreciate. Trees can hamper wifi signals and that seems to be a problem at Glacier. The wireless was fairly functional when you could get it, but the signal cut out fairly often while we were here.

The price was the biggest downside. It’s not listed on their website (always a bad sign) and they are stingy with discounts. Ours came to $41 a night after taxes and such which is quite a bit more than we like to pay. If it were not the only option we could find, we would have given Glacier Peaks a pass and we would suggest you do the same if you can.

Here we are at Glacier Peaks RV Park. We had nice flowers next to the site.

Here we are at Glacier Peaks RV Park. We had nice flowers next to our site.

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Glacier Peaks RV Park: Columbia Falls, Montana

We ended up staying at Glacier Peaks because it was the only RV park near Glacier National Park where we could book a two weeks stay in August. While it offers a great location for visiting Glacier the price is on the steep side considering the quality of the amenities.

Nights: 14
RV Park Cost: $578 ($41/night)
Discounts Used:
Address: 3185 Hwy. 40  Columbia Falls, MT 59912
GPS48.372030, -114.245075
Websitewww.glacierpeaksrvpark.com

Pros

  • Close to Glacier National Park
  • Shady lots
  • Full hookups
  • Near 24 hour Grocery Store

Cons

  • Coin operated showers
  • Iffy Bathrooms
  • Expensive
Lots of trees to provide shade. The roads are pretty narrow though.

Lots of trees to provide shade and some privacy. Unfortunately, the roads are rather narrow.

The Details

The website for Glacier Peaks touts its excellent location and I am in full agreement on that account. It is close enough to Glacier national park that it is only a short drive through town to get there. The town itself is handy in that it has a large, well stocked, 24-hour supermarket, a real rarity so far in our travels.

The downside and one of my growing litmus tests for parks are the bathrooms. While not outright dirty, they are a bit disheveled and messy on most of my visits. The TP dispensers are cantankerous and not always well stocked. Worst of all are the showers, which require $2 in quarters to use. For the price the park charges, I’d expect them to be complimentary. Nor are they very nice looking showers. I decided to stick with my cramped trailer shower on this stay.

The lots themselves are decent. Cramped gravel roads lead to the reasonably sized lots. Large fir trees give a fair bit of shade which is nice. They also attract birds which I appreciate. Trees can hamper wifi signals and that seems to be a problem at Glacier. The wireless was fairly functional when you could get it, but the signal cut out fairly often while we were here.

The price was the biggest downside. It’s not listed on their website (always a bad sign) and they are stingy with discounts. Ours came to $41 a night after taxes and such which is quite a bit more than we like to pay. If it were not the only option we could find, we would have given Glacier Peaks a pass and we would suggest you do the same if you can.

Here we are at Glacier Peaks RV Park. We had nice flowers next to the site.

Here we are at Glacier Peaks RV Park. We had nice flowers next to our site.

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Airstream Security and Safety

Of the two of us, Trail is the one with a talent for worrying. She is good at imagining what could go wrong in life and taking steps to ensure that it doesn’t. I tend to be risk tolerant and optimistic but I see the wisdom in preparing for potential disasters. As a result, we have a good deal of safety and security equipment we take on the road. I wanted to list a full array of equipment and options here so you can decide what makes you feel secure.

Airstream Security

Theft is not especially common when living in an RV. None the less, people do get robbed in RVs and RVs can be stolen so you want to take some measures to avoid becoming a victim.

security_gear

Alarms
Many companies make alarms for trailers. Ideally, you want one that will make some noise on a break in and which will alert you by cell phone when it goes off. The alarm I’ve linked is one you install yourself. You will need a sim card to use the alert feature. There are also many companies that install alarms and provide security services much like a home alarm.

Good Habits
Your first line of defense is good habits. When you leave your trailer, be sure to lock all the locks, close the windows, close the blinds, and take in any valuables. If you will be gone after dark and have shore power, leave a light or the tv on in the trailer to give the appearance someone is home.

Hitch Receiver Locks
A hitch receiver lock is a small pin and lock you can use to lock down the ball receiver. So long as it is there you can’t lock a ball into the receiver and thus can’t tow the trailer. They can be defeated by cutting them off with a power tool or other types of brute force but they are a cheap and effective first line of defense.

Safes
The challenge with a safe in an Airstream is that any safe small enough fit somewhere out of the way is also small enough to pick up and take. Most are designed to be bolted to the floor which will make it more secure. Even if you don’t bolt it down, it does add at least one more barrier to thieves getting your most valuable possessions.

Tonneau Covers
These are devices that cover your truck bed keeping it clean and secure. I’ve only ever had the brand linked above and I like it. We had it installed by a local truck outfitter. You want to order them from the manufacturer to get a full warranty, thus no amazon link. The one we have doesn’t have its own lock, but with the tailgate locked, there is no way to open it so it secures the bed nicely.

Tracking Device
If worst comes to worse and someone does steal your trailer or tow vehicle, a tracking device can help you get it back. They hook into your electrical system and use cell service to report their location to your cell phone or a third party security service. The one I’ve recommended is rather do-it-yourself but has a good reputation and is very affordable.

Wheel Locks
These are devices you attach to your wheel making it impossible to drive while they are on. They cost a bit more than a receiver lock but are considerably more work to defeat.

Personal Safety

There is allot to be said about keeping safe on your adventures but I will stick to safety in and around your trailer.

safety_stuff

Emergency Locator
Emergency locators use satellite networks to send an SOS should you find yourself in trouble. They can also send pre-determined messages to loved ones to let them know you are OK. If you plan on doing backcountry camping outside of cell range and miles from help, these devices can save your life. The downside is they are fairly expensive and have ongoing service charges. The one I recommend is top rated and has a global satellite network.

Firearms
I am not an expert on firearms and it is a serious subject so I don’t have a specific recommendation. If you think it’s a good fit for you I recommend seeking out an expert on the subject. Generally, you would want one that is good both for defending against assault by a person or wildlife in the backcountry. You need to be aware of the firearm laws for each state you travel and be especially aware if you take firearms across national borders. Finally, I recommend you keep your arms locked in a safe if you have children or family members prone to clinical depression. You don’t want something intended for safety to become a danger to you and your loved ones.

Fire Extinguisher
If you have a new Airstream you should have one included. If you have an older one you need to make sure you have a fire extinguisher and that it has not expired.

First Aid Kit
I think smaller kits are generally better as you can take them with you when hiking or camping where you are most likely to need it. We keep one in the trailer and one in our truck so we always have one on hand. If you have special medical concerns you should also keep your essentials in an easy to carry package and have backups stored in your first aid kit.

Pepper Spray
As an alternative to firearms, you can use a chemical pepper spray for personal safety. You want different products for wildlife and against human predators. Bear spray is very effective at deterring bears but is too weak to use in case of assault and regular pepper spray is needlessly harmful to wildlife.

Roadside Safety Gear
You can buy kits but we find they include a lot of redundant junk you don’t need. Our home made kit includes battery powered road flares, reflective road flags, safety vests, signal flashlights, and a pair of two-way radios. This gear is useful for roadside emergencies as well as situations where you need to temporarily stop traffic to get your trailer situated somewhere challenging. Drivers generally obey people wearing safety vests and signal lights. The radios are incredibly handy for backing up and other activities where a spotter is useful.

Sunscreen
I’ve made the mistake of going out without it a few times and paid the price, getting temporarily sick and red as a lobster. It’s cheap and will save you a lot of grief.

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Your Airstream Toolkit

Airstreams are unique trailers. Their aerodynamic aluminum bodies, large windows, and unusual construction means caring for them requires the right tools. Let’s take a look at both the common and uncommon tools you should have in your Airstream Toolkit.

You don’t need everything to start out with. We started with a decent kit from our garage, but as time went on we had to acquire more tools. We are rarely anywhere so remote we can’t drive to a hardware store when necessary. None the less, it’s nice to have what you need the moment you need it.

Note: Tool titles are links to tools we recommend based on our experience and research.

Hitch-with-yamato

The essential tools

Bubble Level
You need one of these to help level the Airstream when you park. Often the one on the jack doesn’t work so well due to its location. This type can be placed on any flat surface in the trailer to check your level.

Classic Tools
You need the basics, screwdrivers, hammer, wrench, ratchet, utility knife and so on. You typically don’t need a vast selection, a standard toolkit should do the trick. Portable is good but you want sturdy tools and a case with extra room for other tools you use regularly. Philips head screws are the most common type in an Airstream so keep your Phillips screwdriver close at hand.

Duct Tape
The handy fix all for any taping and sticking needs. And it turns out the classic silver color is perfect for discrete use on the airstream. We also pack a neon orange duct tape for putting on tools so we don’t loose them and marking which link of chain to use in our weight adjusting hitch. Handy stuff.

Extension Cords
You want to have at least one heavy duty outdoor 15amp extension cord. It will come in handy for staying with friends and family to charge your battery and for operating appliances outside the trailer. A flimsy or cheap one can lead to electrical trouble so don’t skimp. Inside you rarely ever need an extension cord as there are outlets nearly everywhere. Generally, your airstream will already include a 30amp and 50amp cable.

Glue
When duct tape fails, try super glue. We’ve had a few things break in our trailer that some glue was all we needed to set things right. Same goes for our truck. Patching loose trim or the like the moment it starts to go saves you a lot of trouble down the road.

Headlamp
Headlamps are far handier than normal flashlights when doing repairs or maintenance when the light is not so good.  It’s not exactly essential but it sure is handy.

Hitch Grease
You need to keep your hitch greased to prevent wear and ensure it pivots nicely. The smaller and cleaner the grease gun the better. The one we recommend is cheap and comes with a rubber cap to keep things tidy.

Ladder
You may not need one right away, but eventually, you will need a ladder to clean and service your Airstream. The one I recommend is a telescoping ladder that takes up very little space. For maximum utility, you might prefer a folding ladder which is bulkier but can be used as a scaffold or free standing step ladder.

Leveling Blocks
The most common use for these is to level your trailer. You position them behind the wheels on the low side and drive up onto them. You can also use them under your stabilizers and for your front jack. Finally, if you have a dual or triple axle Airstream they are the best way to change a tire. Just drive the tire you aren’t changing onto the blocks and the other will be off the ground for you. We own two packs of 10 to be on the safe side.

Measuring Tape
Chances are that you already have measuring tape. It comes in especially handy in Airstream life when shopping. We learned that you really want to make sure items you buy are going to fit nicely in the places you want to store them.

Safety Glasses and other safety gear
You want to keep your eyes safe while working. I like the simple safety glasses better than full goggles. You may also want some ear protection (these are neat because they cancel loud noises but you can still hear and converse). A good pair of gloves that are tough but flexible. Finally, you may want a good apron to protect your clothes from damage and stains.

Tire Changing Gear
Most cars come with gear to change the tires, Airstream trailers generally do not. You need something to lift the trailer, either leveling blocks if you are multi-axle or a jack if you are single-axle. Likely if you are single axle the jack for your tow vehicle can be used for your trailer. You also need a tool to remove the lug nuts. Most Airstreams have 3/4″ nuts, but you should check to see what size you have. Chances are pretty good they are not the same size as those on your tow vehicle.

Tire Inflator
You want to check you tire air pressure regularly and you don’t want to try and get your Airstream into a typical gas station to use their inflated. A portable electric inflator will get the job done quickly and easily. The one we recommend connects directly to a car or RV battery and has a long cable. They can also be used to inflate rafts, air beds, and balls.

Airstream Repair Shop

Nice to haves

Dent Remover
Because airstreams are double hulled a suction based dent remover is the easiest choice. The best size depends on the dent. This one is 4.5″ so it’s for fairly large dents like the one we discovered a repairman left in our roof one day. Since it is a very cheap tool, it’s a good first try before you take it in for repairs.

Dremel Tool
Dremel tools are really handy to have. Primarily they are great for cutting or trimming things, but they are also handy for craft work and drilling small holes. Great for removing broken or rusted locks, sanding parts to make them fit better, and many other tasks.

Flexible Inspection Scope
Airstreams have a lot of nooks and crannies that are hard to access and see. Sometimes important things get broken in these places or things get dropped in them. Being able to see in there without dismantling your furniture is a handy thing. Inspections scopes are great for this and for engine inspection and many other uses. The one we recommend here plugs into an android phone and only costs about $20. Stand alone scopes like this one, run in the $100 range.

Impact Driver & Drill
Most of us know how handy a good wireless drill can be. We discovered that an Impact driver is pretty handy to have as well. Impact drivers are essentially a high torque power wrench. It’s good for changing tires and quickly raising and lowering your trailer’s stabilizers. It can also operate your main jack if the internal motor fails. I consider the drill essential and the driver very handy.

Weather Sealant
It’s great for sealing up leaks you may find until you can make more permanent repairs. It’s also great for attaching things to the outside of your Airstream such as an antenna mount or the like. It sticks well, is proof against the weather, but can be safely removed if you don’t need it anymore.

Shears
A good pair of shears is an incredible thing. We use ours to cut insulation, twine, chicken, fabric, you name it. Ideally, you want something durable and able to cut through pretty serious material.

Silicone Lubricant
Airstreams have a problem with rather sticky rubber window seals making them hard to open. Silicone lubricant is good for loosening these up while not damaging the rubber. It’s also handy for nearly any other lubricating job in the trailer and for most of your tools.

Tongs
Remember those small hard to reach places that things can and will fall into? Tongs are your best bet for retrieving things from there. The ones we recommend have silicone ends for easy gripping and there is a long and short one. That way you can reach far, and/or get into the smaller spaces. Also if one of them falls into said spaces, you have the other to rescue it. Of course, you can also use them for cooking!

Work towel
You can lay on it, clean up messes, wipe your hands, cushion your knees, make a pillow, hold delicate objects, dry things, and so much more. This one is reportedly sturdy, large, and absorbent. Best of all it’s black so it won’t look too bad after all the harsh things you will do to it. Get this and you will know where your towel is.

Ziplock bags
We use Ziplock bags a lot, both in the kitchen and for tools and parts. Often you can only get the ones with labels by ordering commercial packs which have a lot of bags in them. The labels are super handy for marking parts for your projects or even when using them for food storage. If you happen to have cats, we find they are essential for cleaning the litter box without lingering odors.

Rex gets down to work looking for the source of our problem.

Trail and I are not electrical experts so we called a professional when our heater died. You can save a lot of money if you can do it yourself.

Advanced tools

Multimeter
I am not experienced as an electrician but a multimeter is something you will need if you want to troubleshoot electrical problems or do electrical repair safely.

Rivet toolkit
You may need to replace rivets in your airstream or you may want to do some patching or modifications. For this kind of body work you need a set of tools to remove and place rivets. Most such kits assume you have a tool grade air compressor. For the less advanced tool user, you can just take your Airstream into a shop to have this kind of work done.

 

 

 

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Indian Creek Campground: Deer Lodge, Montana

We stayed at Indian Creek campground for only two nights on our way to Glacier National Park. With such a short stay it is difficult to give a full impression of the park. What we did experience wasexcellentt.

Nights: 2
RV Park Cost: $$66 ($33/night)
Discounts Used: Good Sam
Address: 725 Maverick Lane  Deer Lodge MT 59722
GPS46.409002, -112.725520
Websiteindiancreekcampground.net

Pros

  • New Facilities
  • Convenient Location
  • Full hookups, including cable

Cons

  • None during our stay
The picnic area typifies the look of the park, clean and sparse.

The picnic area typifies the look of the park, clean and sparse.

The Details

The park is nestled inside a light-industrial area off the side of the highway but there are rock walls and trees to give it a more isolated and rural feeling. While not an especially pretty park, the grounds are well maintained and it has a peaceful urban park feel.

What we enjoyed most about Indian Creek were its new and well-maintained facilities. After a full month of creepy cobweb filled concrete bathrooms we were treated to clean, full-functioning modern showers with plenty of room and privacy. It sure felt nice to take a hot shower here.

The location was near a gas station and fast food so it was a convenient spot to stay. Deer Creek has a cool historic prison turned museum complex which we paid a visit to during our stay. We also went to a nearby hot spring resort which charges only $8 to use their enormous indoor and outdoor heated swimming pools.

Internet service at Indian Creek was fairly good. We got a strong signal with good download speeds but upload was pretty limited. Like most parks, the quality dropped considerably in the evening as other campers got on-line and started chewing up the limited bandwidth.

If you are passing through the area this is a good place to stop over at a fair price considering the quality of the services.

The welcoming office at Indian Creek Campground.

The welcoming office at Indian Creek Campground.

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