The Strato Bowl is the best of both worlds for us: Hiking for me, aviation for Mike. It was the such a fun Labor Day outing. We got some exercise, enjoyed incredible views and learned something new about aviation history.
The Stratobowl is a small, flat valley completely surrounded by the Black Hills where some of the first early manned balloon flights were launched in the 1930s. In 1934 and 1935, the Army Air Corps and National Geographic Society launched manned balloon flights into the stratosphere from this location to a record 72,395 feet. The Explorer II flight proved man could survive the altitude in a pressurized capsule, an important part of the space program and our quest to walk on the moon. Since then, the Stratobowl has hosted aviation pioneers Ed Yost, Steve Fossett, Troy Bradley and others.
The view is spectacular. There are few places where you will see such an interesting view including pine-covered hills, wide blue skies and the small stream that winds through that peculiar flat valley nestled between the Hills.
Dogs are welcome on this 1.7-mile, moderately trafficked out-and-back trail. To get there, take Mount Rushmore Road into the Black Hills (16). Stay on 16 past Reptile Gardens and Bear Country USA. Just past the service station is a small parking area on the right-hand side (westbound), marked by powerlines.
One of the best parts of boondocking at Burro Creek was taking the dogs on their morning walk. We have never seen Eliza, our Chiweenie, so excited! She was hopping from scent to scent like a jackrabbit, ears up, pulling at the leash. We couldn’t stop laughing.
Meeko, our Rat Terrier, and Penny, our Chihuahua, enjoyed it, too, but being older, they were more restrained. 😀
From the picnic area, you can follow a trail down to the creek. You start by descending a very cool stone staircase. Then, ease yourself (and your animals) through an opening in a barbed wire fence and follow the path to the creek.
I thought I was going to fall into a giant crevasse – until I realized that the creek was reflecting the cliff. The reflection is extraordinary!
We didn’t have much time to explore this time, but we’ll make sure we’ve got a few days on our next visit.
Gluten-free angel hair pasta with homemade pesto sauce, topped with halved grape tomatoes and shaved parmesan cheese
While Mike was holding down the RV last week, I was doing a tour of Spain, enjoying all the sights, sounds and food of the country. I never knew I liked pesto until I had it freshly made and served on the side in a gravy boat at Los Alfonsinos in Barcelona. As soon as I got back to the States and our coach, I knew I had to make it for Mike.
The two primary ingredients in pesto offer a lot of health benefits. Basil’s flavonoids and volatile oils have unique anti-bacterial properties and health-protecting effects on cell structure. Olive oil protects against heart disease, lowers cholesterol, normalizes blood clotting, and benefits insulin levels and blood sugar control.
To make this super easy, super healthy meal a snap, I used the RV-sized Magic Bullet Blender to make my own pesto sauce. I love, love, love the Magic Bullet because it handles all of our blending needs without taking up valuable countertop real estate. It also makes the perfect amount for two people.
Because Mike is slightly gluten-intolerant, we used gluten-free angel hair, but you could make this with any kind of pasta or even ravioli. I left out the pine nuts, but feel free to add a couple of tablespoons if you like. A little pesto goes a long way, so this batch should be enough for a half box of angel hair, cooked.
- 12 fresh basil leaves
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon coarse salt
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1/8 – 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
- Place all the ingredients in your Magic Bullet or blender.
- Process to a paste.
- Stir through cooked pasta and top with sliced grape tomatoes and more parmesan cheese.
We’re back in Milwaukee this week, in the middle of a snowstorm, so my jaunt through Memorial Park in Round Rock, Texas, a couple of weeks ago seems like a dream. Thank heavens for photographic evidence!
Memorial Park is home to the rock that gave Round Rock, Texas, its name. The park is right off of I-35. Brushy Creek runs through the middle of it, and a pedestrian bridge under the highway connects both sides. There’s a playground on one side and the Sunset Strip apartment complex on the other. It’s a very pretty park although a little bit seedy.
I stopped there with the dogs after I saw the park off the highway when I was dropping Mike off for work. I had no idea that the famous rock was there, so I missed it entirely. I guess I was close, though. From what I’ve read, if you want to see the rock, you need to walk over the low water crossing near the parking lot and go along the north side of the creek.
I strolled in that direction but got sidetracked by the granite stadium stairs by the softball field. I just had to climb ’em! I did two sets with the dogs, but then Sadie refused to do any more. I wasn’t going to let our little diva hold me back, so I parked the bark babies in the Jeep and did another 13 sets for a total of 15.
The rock isn’t the only cool piece of history in the park. There’s also a Vietnam War memorial and a commemorative WWII torpedo to honor Round Rock residents who fought on behalf of their town and country.
What a fun outing to remind me that there’s more to life than the deep freeze!
When you become a full-time RVer, or embark on some other kind of epic trip, it’s easy to let the pitfalls drag you down. Things break; people are strange; the dream job is still a job. Sometimes you’re gonna get sand in your margarita. It’s easy to get discouraged, but when those situations come up, remember:
Don’t worry about the potholes.
Just enjoy the journey.
Around 2 o’clock on a Sunday afternoon, it was in the mid-30s. Practically a heat wave in Milwaukee. So Mike and I bundled up, hopped on our folding bikes, and pedaled off down the pavement.
The Hank Aaron State Trail, named for baseball legend Hank Aaron, abuts the back of the RV park. The trail follows the Menomonee River from Lake Michigan west about 13.5 miles. We’d never really explored it.
Right by the park, the trail’s not the prettiest, even in the spring when everything’s in bloom. But it holds some surprises. Roughly three miles in, we discovered the Valley Passage mural. Technically known as the Menomonee Valley Passage mural, it was painted in 2011 by artist Chad Brady.
The colorful mural is designed to represent the Miller Park area, Potawatomi Casino, the Brewers, The Milwaukee Road, bridges, buildings, birds, deer, Native Americans, fish, the Menomonee River, trees, manufacturing and canoeing.
The trail also goes through the Milwaukee Soldiers Home National Historic Landmark District, which is one of three remaining original Soldiers Homes in the country. Since 1867, the homes have provided refuge and recuperation for physically and mentally disabled soldiers – starting with those who had survived the Civil War. Three of the buildings are being restored, but amazingly, the rest are still being used to care for veterans today.
You just never know what you’re going to find in your own backyard.
Mike and I did our second 5K together in a month when we wogged our way to the finish line at the ‘Stache Dash. The run was in support of Movember, an international movement to raise awareness for prostate cancer and other men’s issues. It was nice to know that part of race fee was contributed directly to the Movember charity.
After somewhat warmer weather earlier in the week, things had turned cold in Milwaukee – just in time for the Saturday event. Although it helped that the race had a later start time of 12 noon, it was still a mere 23 degrees – with 15-mph winds – when we queued up. We ended up bringing up the rear when my mustache hat flew off in one of the gusts and I ran back to retrieve it. At least I got some extra running in! The costumes were super fun, and there was pretty scenery along our route.
We had a great time despite the cold. The best part was that Mike brought home his first medal! Now we just have to find someplace to display it in the rig where it won’t take a chunk outta the wall as we motor down the road.
“I thought this was one of those crazy mud things you’re always doing,” Mike said as I was picking up my bib from the tent near the river. We were in Boston on a drizzly Sunday morning so I could do the Boston River Run along the Charles.
“If I’d known it was a regular run, I might have done it with you.”
I wrapped my arms around him, squeezing tight and grinning up at him as I said, “You still can! They have on-site registration!”
He sighed knowing he was beat and let me drag him over to the next table so he could sign up.
And that’s how we ended up wogging (walk-jogging) our first New England 5K together. We walked most of it, sprinting for the photo opps and the finish line. We held hands and laughed and took delightful detours – discovering graffiti aliens and wrecked crew boats – because we were too wrapped up in the moment to keep track of the other runners. It wasn’t my fastest 5K, but it was definitely one of my best.
When we travel between gigs, we boondock. It maximizes driving time and saves money on campground fees. We usually stay in rest areas, squeezed in-between the 18-wheelers. I always have trouble falling asleep on those nights. Part of it is the rumble of the trucks mixed with smell of exhaust. Part of it is a niggling worry about someone breaking into the motorhome in the dark hours.
But there’s something else. Something I’ve noticed happening after we’ve settled into our next RV park.
Post Traumatic Rest Area Syndrome
I wake up in the night, not sure where I am and feeling the coach swaying, even though there’s no wind… even though the jacks are down… even though we’re in a level, spacious spot with no trucks lined up beside us. In the morning, I’m disoriented and slightly nauseous with an odd urgency thumping in my chest. The feeling that we need to get moving overwhelms me for a moment before I realize where we are and that we don’t have any miles to put behind us.
It’s not as serious, of course, as the P.T.S.D. that plagues soldiers returning from combat. But it’s unpleasant and disconcerting. I suppose I’ll get past my P.T.R.A.S. eventually as I adapt to our new lifestyle. For now, at least I have a name for what I’m feeling.