Packing up and Moving On

Goodbye Lake Koocanusa

Today’s the day we leave Lake Koocanusa, outside of Eureka, Montana, where we’ve been for two weeks. Two whole weeks! That’s longer than we’ve stayed anywhere since we were in the Florida Keys this past winter, and it’s longer than we’ve stayed anywhere boondocking (without any connections to water, sewer, electricity).

I’m going to especially miss watching the bald eagles hunt along the river as it flows into the lake. And I hope I’ll always remember the time we were eating lunch looking out at the lake and noticed a black bear across the river. He/she was slowly walking from bush to bush, pulling down branches with one paw and holding them down to strip all the choke cherries off with his mouth. Just like Banjo does.

The only aspect of this site I’m relieved to be leaving is the fact that I can’t walk the one awesome trail, because the bear evidence there is from a grizzly, as reported to us from the volunteer park ranger. Although I’ve been kayaking almost every day, I’ve gained a few pounds for sure with no walking. Time to move on. (Plus, our black tank is finally full.)

(Here’s a view of our setup that I haven’t posted yet, from the hillside in the woods, with the beautiful water views hidden. But you can see that we’ve parked the trailer at the edge of the gravel road along the river, then set up the tent at the edge of the lake. Perfect, with just a short walk in the woods between.)

Already Packed

It’s 6 am and I’m up and ready to get this show on the road, despite it still being dark outside, us having only a couple of hours to drive, and Tracy trying to get some extra sleep in the back of the trailer. Plus, we packed nearly everything outside yesterday during a lull in the heavy rain from the last few days.

(I wrote a similar post, Come Along for a Travel Day, but that was a while back.)

We already:

  • Retrieved the kayaks from where we had them down by the water, cleaned them up, and loaded them on the truck.
  • Reinstalled the bike rack to the front truck hitch and loaded up the bikes.
  • Gathered and collapsed the outside chairs, sofa, tables, and rugs, lights, speaker, and loaded them in the truck bed.
  • Did the same for all other outside stuff that gets spread around the campsite when we’re camped for awhile: laundry line, river float, deer antlers we’ve saved for Banjo, bucket to wash our feet in, etc.
  • Checked the tire pressure on the truck and trailer tires.

Whew, we usually save a lot of that for the morning of a travel day, so really there’s not much left.

Final Prep

I walk Banjo, and Tracy grinds his coffee beans, warms his milk, and mixes his daily elixir.

He heads outside to pack what’s left: the cell booster antenna, the muddy rugs, the herb-garden-in-a-bin. He does the crucial “outside check,” walking around the Airstream, visually inspecting all latches and connections, raising the stabilizer jacks, and generally making sure we look fit to go.

Meanwhile, I’m packing everything inside for the bumpy ride out of this site, plus any unexpected jolts down the road. I’ve listed previously all I do inside: I work from the back of the trailer to the front securing everything the same way I always do, and then I check off my list (because I always forget something).

I go from this, to this, for example.

From this, to this:

Every few times I add an item to the list, not because it’s something new I have to do (it’s always the same), but because I decide it’s an item worth reminding myself about.

Don’t Forget Me!

While we’re readying inside and outside, Banjo is impatiently waiting to get in the truck. She knows perfectly well what’s going on here and works to not be left behind. Sometimes I’ll let her in before we do our final final checks: me walking around outside looking to see if Tracy forgot anything, and him looking inside. By then Banjo is practically hysterical to get in the truck, so I just open the trailer door and the truck door and let her jump in her spot behind my seat.

She goes right to sleep, sometimes giving me the hairy eyeball if I disturb her as I’m grabbing the hitching tools (the drill and the measuring stick) from where we store them under her seat.

Time to Go: Hitching

Close and lock the trailer door, lift and latch the steps, arrange the hitch on the trailer so it looks as much like it’ll match the hitch on the truck.

Here’s where my anxiety ratchets up, even though we’ve had no problem hitching in ages. Still, although Tracy does all the truck maneuvering, I’m guiding him with the walkie talkies and determining if the hitch stinger will go into the receiver before he backs the truck in all the way. If they’re not aligned or at the same angle, the truck will push the hitch to the side and I’ll have to get him to pull up as I push the hitch back to where I think it should be and use the drill to lift or lower the weight distribution bars to change the angle. Then we start again, with added frustration. So I try to get it right the first time.

Whew. Latch the connecting bars with a long socket wrench, insert the pins, connect the safety latch, connect the safety chains, connect the electric cables. Lift the tongue jack and stow the block it’s been sitting on. Lift the weight stabilizer bars one at a time with the drill and the measuring stick: Tracy’s side about four inches, mine the full eight, then Tracy’s the full eight. Look it all over.

Load the chocks in the trunk of the trailer, drive off of any leveling blocks under the tires, then load them and stop. Do a lights check where I stand behind the trailer and give Tracy the okay as he turns on all blinkers, break lights, and hazards.

Hit the Road, Kind Of

This time we have several housekeeping stops to make before we actually hit the road.

First we have to deal with water and trash, so we drive to a nearby campground where we: dump the black tank, flush that tank with non-potable water (let the tank fill almost up, then drain, then fill again if no one’s waiting in line behind us and drain until the water runs clear). At this dump station someone had cut off the threaded end of the non-potable water hose, so we couldn’t connect that to our blank-tank dump outlet. We see this quite a lot; perhaps people use the non-potable water to fill their drinking tanks often enough that someone thought to just cut off the ability to connect at all.

So, we had to fill a bucket with water and walk it into the trailer and dump into the toilet, over and over. Then fill the black tank with just a little water to start us off, and add chemical to the toilet.

Next, dump the grey tank completely, which also cleans out the dumping gear.

Fill the fresh water tank, using one of our two filters, depending on how clean the water source seems, how much time we have, and if someone is waiting in line behind us.

Finally, stow all tank gear in the bumper, throw out the trash, wash our hands, and use the bathroom one last time, and really hit the road!

Wait, Banjo’s back there, right? Yep.

Pull Out the Digital Tools

First thing I do as Tracy pulls away from all the housekeeping stuff is to connect my phone to the truck’s computer and play Going Down the Road Feeling Bad. Same song, same version (Columbus, Ohio, 1971), every time we hit the road.

Tracy’s already painstakingly researched and created our route on Google Maps, saved it and sent it to my phone, so I pull it up, set the starting point for our current coordinates, and load it on the truck’s computer screen. As a back-up, I also load it on the iPad on my lap. That way if suspect Google Maps has changed the route (as it does frequently), I can look at it on a bigger screen without messing with the current navigation guidance Tracy’s looking at. Plus I can research our music for when GDTRFB is finished (it’s a long version).

Musically, we’re on our third time with letter J. We’ve listened to Eilen Jewel and Janis Joplin; today we picked Valerie June because we have such a short drive. I research on my iPad which albums we might want to hear, and load them on Spotify on my phone. We’re set.

Where Shall We Live for the Next Few Days?

Picking our next spot as we plan, then driving to the area, finding a spot and getting into it: I’ll save those for another post.

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