Oregon Trail Interpretive Center

Oregon Trail Interpretive Center
Location: Baker City, Oregon
Length of visit: 2 hours
Major draws: Scenic views, museum
Strenuosity: 1 out of 10
Cost/Fees: $8 per adult or free with America the Beautiful pass
Additional considerations: Little shade on trail
Description: This museum is run by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to interpret the historic 1,900-mile emigration to the Willamette Valley and offers great views of the Blue Mountains.

Snake River Birds of Prey NCA

Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey Nat’l Conservation Area
Location: south of Boise, Idaho
Length of visit: half day to overnight
Major draws: Scenic views, raptors, river access, fishing
Strenuosity: 1 out of 10
Cost/Fees: Free
Additional considerations: Little shade, heavily used
Description: The MNSRBOPNCA is more than a great acronym, it is 485,000 acres of wild country along the Snake River in southwest Idaho.  Migratory birds of prey utilize this open country, with some species year-round residents, like prairie falcons.

World Center for Birds of Prey

World Center for Birds of Prey
Location: south of Boise, Idaho
Length of visit: 3 hours
Major draws: Raptors, California condors
Strenuosity: 1 out of 10
Cost/Fees: $7 per adult
Additional considerations: Little shade
Description: The Peregrine Fund runs this endangered bird breeding facility where California condors and Aplomado falcons are raised to be released into the wild.  You also get to meet other birds of prey like Winston the western screech owl and Cody the Harris hawk.

City of Rocks National Reserve

City of Rocks National Reserve
Location: Alma, Idaho
Length of visit: half day to overnight
Major draws: Scenic views, wildlife, rock climbing, primitive camping
Strenuosity: 1 out of 10
Cost/Fees: Free to enter and only $12.72 to camp per night
Additional considerations: Dirt access road, steep cliffs
Description: Rock climbers flock here from around the world to take on the granite spires that inspired emigrants on the California Gold Rush Trail to name it City of Rocks. A variety of raptors (and pigeons) enjoy the thermals here, too.

Golden Spike National Historic Site

Golden Spike National Historic Site
Location: north of the Great Salt Lake
Length of visit: 2 hours
Major draws: Replica train engines, museum, scenic views
Strenuosity: 1 out of 10
Cost/Fees: $7 per vehicle or free with America the Beautiful pass
Additional considerations: No mushing pennies on the train tracks but they do have a 51-cent mushed penny machine
Description: Historic site where the Union Pacific and Central Pacific met to complete the first transcontinental railroad in the U.S. on May 10, 1869.  Working train engines burning wood and coal run each day during the summer.

Fossil Butte National Monument

Fossil Butte National Monument
Location: Kemmerer, Wyoming (home of the 1st J.C. Penney store)
Length of visit: 3 hours
Major draws: Fossil fish, hiking
Strenuosity: 1 to 5 out of 10
Cost/Fees: Free
Additional considerations: Little shade
Description: 52-million years ago the southwest corner of Wyoming was a large lake where toxic conditions kept decomposers from surviving on the bottom. The result is an excellent collection of fossils including fish (and tracks), turtles, insects, and plants.

Logistics: Meals

Several people have asked us what we eat when we’re on the road and the truth is that it’s not that different than what we eat at home. The biggest difference is that we don’t have a microwave or an oven, although that hasn’t stopped Tiff from making cornbread biscuits. It’s amazing the variety of meals we have prepared on a campstove. We hope after reading this you are inspired to try cooking something new the next time you go camping.

As we explained in a previous post on logistics, we grocery shop more often to make sure things don’t spoil in the cooler. Therefore, we focus on one protein at a time and make multiple meals out of it—for example a rotisserie chicken, pound of ground beef, package of bacon, carton of eggs, or package of tofu. Future logistics blog posts will focus on the variety of dishes that can be made from each of these protein sources.

We also like to mix it up with recipes like lemon dill pasta with asparagus, sautéed zucchini and onions, and Uncle Rock’s green beans (cooked with white wine and canned tomatoes and served with melted mozzarella and balsamic vinegar). And there are our go-to camping meals like blackened salmon, Frito pie, tortilla pizzas, and anything out of a Zatarain’s box. The R.D. always makes sure we eat plenty of greens (salad, frozen or canned vegetables) and carbs (dehydrated mashed potatoes, boil-in-bag rice), plus stay well-hydrated. Eating healthy and getting enough sleep are two of the keys to keeping up our hectic pace during Pretirement.

Trip 2 in Review

Trip 2 in Review
43 days on the road
9 nights with friends and family (THANK YOU!)
32 nights camping (0 campfires)
154 miles on foot
47 river miles
8,719 miles on the road

$1,968 total budget
$868 gasoline
$288 groceries (we brought along most dry goods)
$223 restaurants
$57 campgrounds
$0 hotels
$134 car shuttles for river kayaking
$48 car maintenance (oil change)
$350 miscellaneous (tours, museums, state parks)

54 NPS sites in 16 states
Brown v Board of Education NHS
Wilsons Creek NB
Buffalo NR
Ozark NSR
Ulysses S. Grant NHS
Fort Donelson NB
Shiloh NMP
Natchez Trace Parkway
Tupelo NB
Little River Canyon Preserve
Russell Cave NM
Chickamauga and Chattanooga NMP
Kennesaw NBP
Chattahoochee NRA
Martin Luther King Jr. NHS
Horseshoe Bend NMP
Tuskegee Institute NHS
Tuskegee Airmen NHS
Jimmy Carter NHS
Andersonville NHS
Ocmulgee NM
Fort Pulaski NM
Charles Pinckney NHS
Fort Sumter NM
Moores Creek NB
Fort Raleigh NHS
Cape Hatteras NS
Wright Brothers NMem
Colonial NHP
Fort Monroe NM
Richmond NBP
Maggie L. Walker NHS
Blue Ridge Parkway
Shenandoah NP
Manassas NBP
Frederick Douglass NHS
Ford’s Theatre NHS
Mary McLeod Bethune Council House NHS
Rock Creek Park
Harpers Ferry NHP
Cedar Creek and Belle Grove NHP
New River Gorge NR
Hopewell Culture NHP
Dayton Aviation Heritage NHP
George Rogers Clark NHP
Chicago Portage NHS
Pullman NM
Illinois and Michigan Canal NHA
Indiana Dunes NL
Silos and Smokestacks NHA
Herbert Hoover NHS
Jefferson National Expansion Mem
Niobrara NSR
Missouri NRR

Carhenge

Carhenge
Location: Alliance, Nebraska
Length of visit: 3 hours
Major draws: Cars stacked in exact duplication of England’s Stonehenge
Strenuosity: 1 out of 10
Cost/Fees: Free
Additional considerations: No shade, no restrooms
Description: As is the case with all great roadside attractions, it’s like nothing else you’ve ever seen. Read more about it on Wondon’s blog.

Smith Falls State Park

Smith Falls State Park
Location: Valentine, Nebraska
Length of visit: 2 hours
Major draws: Waterfall, floating, wildlife
Strenuosity: 2 out of 10
Cost/Fees: $5 per vehicle
Additional considerations: Ticks
Description: Niobrara National Scenic River was designated in 1991 and one year later 250-acres were set aside for this state park. Don’t miss the drive through Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge to view bison, prairie dogs, and possibly elk.