Favorite Travel Quotes

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts."
-- Mark Twain
Innocents Abroad

"Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey." -- Fitzhugh Mullan

"A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving." -- Lao Tzu

Archive for the 'Trailer Trash' Category

Nicest People in the World — And Do Porcupines Hibernate?

posted: December 8th, 2009 | by:Bert

©Bert Gildart: Here in Grants, New Mexico, we’re discovering that at Blue Spruce Campground we’re meeting the salt of the earth, and learning that, as usual, virtually all are the nicest people in the world.  (Also read: Farmer’s Advice) In this case Janie met a “drifting rodeo cowboy,” and later related the story to me of her most  “intimate relationship,” which developed immediately.


NATURE NOTES: Scientist say porcupines don't hibernate, but you couldn't prove it by me. Tapping on the tree's trunk, this guy (which I photographed last week) didn't even lift his head.

Janie was washing clothes in the campground’s laundry when she overhead the conversation between the owner and the cowboy. The cowboy, whose name we later learned was James, was asking about campground rates, saying he was from Tennessee but would be returning in several months for an extended tour at the hospital and would be driving an RV.

“I’ve been doing a lot of stitching,” said the cowboy, to which the owner responded after sizing him up, “Oh, you mean on clothing?”

“No, responded,” Cowboy James. “In the ER.”

That’s when Janie piped in. “Are you a doctor?” she asked.

“No,” he said, “I’m a nurse… See,” he laughed, “I’ve got my knife right here.” He then asked why she wanted to know?

Janie then  told him about some recent surgery on her arm and how she needed to have the stitches removed. “You could do it yourself,” he said, and when Janie said “No way,” he said, “Well, I could do it.”

Next thing I knew Janie opened the door to our Airstream and introduced me to Cowboy James, who was attired in a bandanna, tall black hat, blue jeans, denim shirt, and down-at-the-heel boots.

“He’s going to take my stitches out,” exclaimed Janie. The cowboy then asked Janie if she had any rubbing alcohol, which we didn’t, so he said, “Mouth wash will work just fine.” Then he set out to work with a pair of  scissors from our kitchen drawer, informing Janie that if she fainted he’d give mouth to mouth resuscitation, but would first  have to take out his false teeth (lost in a rodeo) and his chaw of snuff.

“Can’t do that,” he said.

“Oh my god, “ said Janie, “I won’t faint.”

Cowboy James stayed around after removing the stitches and as our visit with him progressed we learned he tuned into some of the very same sources of entertainment that we did. He loved Baxter Black, whose humorous commentaries about western life can be heard each Saturday morning on Public Radio. James said he’d like to be Baxter Black. We exchanged cards and told him we hoped we’d see him again.

As I say, we meet the nicest people in trailer parks and my only regret is that I didn’t take a photo of him “at work.” With his long handle-bar mustache, Stetson hat and Tony Lama Boots he made quite a figure.  Most importantly,  he kept the residuals of snooce in his mouth the entire time he was in our Airstream.




*Snowy Owls are Ghost of the North

*Plus — Global Warming and an animal that does hibernate, the marmot


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Is It a Black Bear or a Grizzly Bear?

posted: June 26th, 2009 | by:Bert

©Bert Gildart:  At first Janie and I both thought we were seeing another black bear, but as we pulled our truck and Airstream onto the side of the Alaskan Highway, we both changed our mind.

“That could be a small grizzly,” Janie said. And I had to agree, despite the fact I thought it unusual for a grizzly to be near the side of a road. And although the Alaska Highway is remote, it still sees a fair number of cars, trucks–and even Airstreams–most every day.


Is it a a black bear or a grizzly bear?

Not more than an hour ago, we had left Liard Hot Springs in British Columbia to continue our journey to Fairbanks and the surrounding area. For several reasons, bears were very much on our minds–and so were ways to differentiate g-bears from black bears. We’d also been thinking about bears because one of their preferred food items was so abundant–something I well knew.

Years ago I had worked in Glacier National Park hired as an assistant biologist in the ennobling position as a scatologist. For three months I had gathered bear poop and then, later, in the park service lab, worked to identify the fecal material. The material was exactly like what Janie and I had been seeing the past few days at Liard Hot Springs. It was cow parsnip, but this was different.

Tropical Oasis

Because of the hot springs Liard was once referred to as a “tropic-like oasis.” Because of the warmth, cow parsnip is not only profuse in Liard, but it grows exceptionally high; and that may be one of the reasons we have seen so many bears in this area. In spring, it’s one of their favorite items of food.


Cow parsnip, a favorite food of blacks and grizzly bears alike is profuse and grows exceptionally tall at Liard Hot Springs.

So far, this trip has been as much about bears as anything else. Five years ago when Janie and I drove the Alaska Highway, we saw very little wildlife, but this year we have seen bison, stone sheep, caribou, black bears and now we both believed, we were seeing a grizzly bear.

The reason we were not decided is because of the bear’s youth. This must be a very young bear, perhaps a two-year old; one that may have just recently been booted from the family. Most sows, after all, are again ready to deliver a new crop of young, and young from several years ago must go.

Though it’s hard to say with any certainty, this bear probably weighed just a little over 200 pounds, and that made it difficult to determine at first whether it was a g-bear or a black bear, particularly when it was not turned sideway. Even then, the hump was not very prominent, but because of the dished-in face and what we think is the beginning of a hump, we’re calling it a young grizzly bear.

Anyone have any thoughts?

NEWS NOTES: We’re traveling the Alaskan Highway trying to post blogs when we have access to the Internet. Tonight we do for the first time in almost a week. We’ve seen much and will try and catch up when we’re parked for awhile. Meanwhile, the service we’ve paid good money for (telephone service in Canada) is not working, and we’re wondering why? As a result, we can’t call out on our Verizon phone. We thought we were paying for our service to link with the towers most used in Canada. Maybe when we get to Whitehorse our service will work; right now we’re in Watson Lake, Yukon Territory.


This Time Three Years Ago

*Top Ten National Parks For RVers

4th ed. Autographed by the Authors

Hiking Shenandoah National Park

Hiking Shenandoah National Park is the 4th edition of a favorite guide book, created by Bert & Janie, a professional husband-wife journalism team. Lots of updates including more waterfall trails, updated descriptions of confusing trail junctions, and new color photographs. New text describes more of the park’s compelling natural history. Often the descriptions are personal as the Gildarts have hiked virtually every single park trail, sometimes repeatedly.

$18.95 + Autographed Copy

Big Sky Country is beautiful

Montana Icons: 50 Classic Symbols of the Treasure State

Montana Icons is a book for lovers of the western vista. Features photographs of fifty famous landmarks from what many call the “Last Best Place.” The book will make you feel homesick for Montana even if you already live here. Bert Gildart’s varied careers in Montana (Bus driver on an Indian reservation, a teacher, backcountry ranger, as well as a newspaper reporter, and photographer) have given him a special view of Montana, which he shares in this book. Share the view; click here.

$16.95 + Autographed Copy

What makes Glacier, Glacier?

Glacier Icons: 50 Classic Views of the Crown of the Continent

Glacier Icons: What makes Glacier Park so special? In this book you can discover the story behind fifty of this park’s most amazing features. With this entertaining collection of photos, anecdotes and little known facts, Bert Gildart will be your backcountry guide. A former Glacier backcountry ranger turned writer/photographer, his hundreds of stories and images have appeared in literally dozens of periodicals including Time/Life, Smithsonian, and Field & Stream. Take a look at Glacier Icons

$16.95 + Autographed Copy

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Huge Hail, Snake in the Grass & Other Travel Trivia

posted: June 19th, 2008 | by:Bert

©Bert Gildart: Erick Hanson is generally a reticent man, but yesterday at Montana’s Little Bighorn Battlefield, he hollered out loudly. “Watch it;” he hollered. “Snake!”

Rattlesnake In-the-Grass

Snake In-the-Grass

Erick was yelling at Dave Vedder and there was a real reason. We were hiking along a trail to the Reno-Benteen hold out, when Erick heard a rattlesnake. Dave was no more than four feet from it, and the snake so blended with the grass that neither David nor I saw it nor did we hear the rattle of the rattles. But Erick sure did! And fortunately, he let us know.


That was not our group’s first lucky break in the past 24 hours. The night before while camped in a KOA located about 15 miles from the battlefield, the wind had swelled and it blew with a fury, battering the three RVs our group was now driving on the way to Bismarck for the annual Outdoor Writer’s convention. Thick rain and silver-dollar-size hail had accompanied the wind, and the next morning I rose at the crack of dawn, fearful the pounding had mangled the aluminum on our Airstream. Because of our concerns, neither Janie nor I had slept that night.

The cracking noise of the hail inside the trailer had been deafening, but as I looked around, I could find no denting, which simply amazed me. Likewise I examined another nearby Airstream, but it, too, appeared OK. However, I then walked over to a utility trailer also made of aluminum, and the entire shell of the man’s cargo trailer was pitted in a way that was sickening.


Apparently (as one would hope) the Airstream’s aluminum is of a very high quality, but I knew that if the hail had been a bit larger we might not have been so lucky. The year before I’d seen an Airstream Bambi pitted from what the owner said had been huge, almost apple-sized hail. That’s somewhat freakish, but still, it can happen.

Peace and Unity

Peace and Unity

And so after thanking the Great Spirit that morning for sparing us, we carpooled from the KOA to the Battlefield, encountered the rattlesnake and then made our way to the new Indian Memorial.


As a writer and photographer, the battlefield has been good to me, and I’ve worked with the park historian on various stories for a number of magazines. Recently, two of the battlefield’s superintendents have been Native American, and one of them, Gerard Baker, has become a good friend. He’s a man I first met at Theodore Roosevelt National Park where he’d been serving as a ranger, and we immediately hit it off because of our love for Ray Charles and for blues music in general.

Not all work for Sue

Not all work for Sue

Several years later the park transferred Baker to Little Bighorn where he was instrumental in securing a name change. It has not been easy, and he had even weathered several death threats.

Previously, the battlefield had been called Custer Battlefield, but, now, rather than celebrating the person who lost and was responsible for the death of over 220 men in his command, the park with its new name celebrates those who won a battle. Now the park celebrates the victory of Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull and other Lakota Sioux and Northern Cheyenne in a way intended to set aside the animosity that has cropped up during the year, for the theme of the Indian Memorial is “Peace and Unity.”

That message is symbolized through an open slot in the memorial that leads the eye to the obelisk on Last Stand Hill listing the names of all those fallen 7th Calvary soldiers.


Our time at the battlefield was limited and so we scurried back to the KOA, loaded up our respective campers and then proceeded on, driving four hours to Makoshika State Park, still in Montana. Pam Vedder and Sue Hanson mixed up a batch of Gimlets using their battery powered blenders, Dave fired up a portable barbeque to cook salmon he’d caught only the week before in the Queen Charlotte Islands, and in that way we recounted all of our good fortune. The snake had not bitten either Dave or me, and none of us had sustained any damage to our RVs.

Celebrating the Setting Sun

Celebrating the Setting Sun

And so we celebrated the beauty of the setting sun and the fun all six of us were now having as a group.

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From Death Valley to Gambling Fever

posted: February 29th, 2008 | by:Bert

Departing Death Valley

Departing Death Valley

©Bert Gildart: Three days ago we departed Death Valley, leaving by way of Furnace Creek Wash. The road passes Zabriske Point, climbs over a pass and then descends to a junction well known as Death Valley Junction.

Janie and I stopped at the junction, for we hoped to learn a bit more about what has become a famous fixture through the years–and perhaps even catch a glimpse of the person who has made that fixture so famous.

Marta Becket is responsible for the creation of the Amargosa Opera House, now an institution in Nevada. Marta, as the story goes, loved opera, and while growing up in New York, she studied dance, art and piano.


As an adult, she supported herself and her mother in a freelance manner. She danced at Radio City Music Hall in the corps de ballet and won small parts on Broadway. But, Becket wanted something else; she wanted to take control of all aspects of her dancing and, so, she and her husband went on the road where she quickly became a one-woman show.

Several years passed, but in 1967, the couple was on a camping trip in Death Valley and got a flat tire at Death Valley Junction. She fell in love with the dilapidated adobe buildings, and in that way found a home for shows. Sometimes, however, her programs wouldn’t attract anyone.

Nevertheless she would dance for herself, particularly during the early years. And, so, to assure herself that she would always have an audience, she painted images of her guests on the walls and ceilings.

Amargosa Opera House

Amargosa Opera House

In subsequent years, she became famous, attracting an audience from all over the world. Though now in advancing years, she still performs, but, now, only on Saturday nights. Though we understand it may be hard to acquire tickets, Janie and I will inquire. From where we’re now camped in Pahrump, it’s about a 30 minute drive back to the Opera House.


For us Pahrump is a place to catch up a bit on stories and on general chores associated with our Airstream travels. Our camping accommodations are a bit different from those in Death Valley, for we’re parked on a concrete slab immediately adjacent to a casino. Across the road there’s a sign advising that we can purchase fireworks. We’re 45 minutes from Las Vegas.

You won’t have too much trouble finding us, as we’re one of the few with camping gear, sleeping bags, and underwear spread in front of our trailer and draped from our trailer’s awning with clothes hangers. That’s my doing, not Janie’s, for it is I who am struggling to create an image. Granted, that may be hard to do with a relatively new Airstream, now polished, but, still, I’m trying.

Home in Pahrump Nevada

"Home" in Pahrump Nevada

To get the real feel of Nevada, we also completed the necessary paper work and now have an SW Player Club card, and the other evening discovered that the free card entitled us to a $2 discount on the $8 buffet, which really was a bargain. They understand human psychology and know if they suck us in to eat that we’ll just have to pull the handle on the slots at least once before we leave. There’s a flood of slots between the dinning room and the exit and they know that if we win even a dime that we’ll then pull the handle again. They’re right, and our time in the casino–which would have totaled but $12 (with the discount) if we’d only eaten–actually wound up costing us about $20.


They really got me! But probably not as much as they got some of the other patrons who sat on stools, drinks in hand, evincing looks of determination, coupled (and sadly so), with genuine desperation as well.

We’ll soon be departing Pahrump. Our clothes are clean again, sleeping bags aired, truck and trailer washed and the refrigerator full. Mojave National Preserve here we come–but not until we make one more effort to become instantly rich.

Wish us luck, and while you’re at it, wish Marta Becket a little luck, too.

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Trailer Trash: Gordy Milner, Because He’s More Than A Chameleon

posted: January 3rd, 2007 | by:Bert

©Bert Gildart: Here in Tampa, Florida, at Bay Bayou, most people know “Gordy” as the man who produces all that great Country and Western sound with his 42-year-old Gibson guitar. Listen to him croon a Merle Haggard or Toby Keith tune—or one of his own creations—and you’d think the man was a fulltime professional musician; and while it’s true he once auditioned successfully for a prominent band in Memphis, Tennessee, music, as it turns out, eventually came to be the man’s pastime.

“Too much of a hardship on the family,” said Gordy. “And the lifestyle would have kept me way too far away from Rosie.”

So, instead, back in 1964, Gordon Douglas Milner chose the life of a cop, and at age 63 that’s still his work, just not fulltime anymore. Instead he has achieved a balance in which he lives five months a year at Bay Bayou RV Resort, Florida, contributing his time as a musician, and seven months a year in Dewitt, Michigan. Here, he works as a gainfully employed motorcycle cop where he still, on occasion (more about that in a moment), has to chase down (literally) crooks.

For Gordy and his wife, Rosie, the work combination is about as perfect as you can get. In fact, in part because of his unique talents, I’m inaugurating “Trailer Trash,” a column I hope to post periodically, and perhaps elevate to another status as time goes by. Essentially I’m starting with Gordy, but wish I’d begun earlier, for there are many people we’ve met who deserve such critical acclaim.

Consider, for example, Braxton Craft, a man who stepped on a land mine in Vietnam and lost one of his legs. After a long struggle with both personal and physical issues, he became Director of Prosthetics for the Veterans Administration. As well, he continues to canoe—and we’ve discussed doing together the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, which would include a portage.

We met Braxton last summer in Fort Peck, Montana, at an Army Corps of Engineer Campground. He travels much of the year in his motorhome, and because he travels with such casual abandon, he’s got to be Trailer Trash. Much the same for “Ole Man,” whom we met climbing Mount Katahdin this summer while gathering story material for Trailer Life Magazine.

But so, too, are many of the people who attended or participated in Bay Bayou’s New Year’s Eve bash—for they are a most free-spirited group, and before returning to Gordy, I’ll describe them briefly.

Though I don’t know for sure, I suspect that Dennis Muldin fits the description, else how could he have performed all that Karoake on New Years Eve with such feeling. And what about Kathy Wood, another of these people who is at home in so many areas. I hope, at any rate, that they fit my criteria because after another evening spent with Bob Feely, Nancy Zatkoff and Kathy for New Years Eve dinner, my wife, Janie, and I sure thought we were with family.

Trailer Trash!

But now, let’s take a closer look at Gordy. Physically, he stands 6’1” and weighs 185, and you suspect it’s all muscle—confirmed when you learn that just last year he ran down a robber and subdued him. But not without a tussle.

“The man stabbed me in the hand with a screw driver—but then he went down hard.”

Gordy is a former Navy man who served most of his four-year hitch in the ‘60s at sea. During this time, he was occasionally assigned shore duty, and it’s then he began to suspect that the life of a policeman might be right for him. Upon discharge, he applied to the Des Moines, Iowa Police Academy, was accepted and upon completion of schooling began work as a street cop.

“While there, I had to make a difficult decision—one of the most difficult in my career,” said Gordy with a chuckle. “Trying to stand along a corner was a man stoned out of his mind. He had soiled himself so badly that he was covered with [excrement]. He stunk, and because I didn’t want him in the police car, I told him to walk. We were only a few blocks from the station, and I followed him, parked the car and then walked him in.”

Several years later, Gordy transferred to Lansing, Michigan, and gathered the kind of experience from which they make movies (Think 1973 and Al Pacino in Serpico!). “Back then, I worked as an undercover agent, dressing for the role. Sometimes my hair was long and sometimes I wore a beard. Sometimes, we’d try and bust the prostitutes by acting as a ‘John.’ If a woman accepted my proposal and a price were named, that’s when we busted her.”

By now, Gordy had amassed an impressive resume and believed he had enough of a background to apply to General Motors as a Security Officer. He was accepted, and, here, Gordy said, is where he had some of his most satisfying experiences. As a Security Officer (again, often undercover) he worked with local drug authorities and frequently busted drug dealers attempting to pedal their substances to GM employees. Often he served as a personal bodyguard for the company’s president, but particularly satisfying was work during GM Buick Classic Golf Tournaments, when he served as a bodyguard for Tiger Woods.

“I did that on six separate occasions over a four-year period, and believe Mr. Woods would recognize me today by name out on the street.”

Gordy retired from General Motors in 2000, but soon found he was at loose ends, and approached Larry Jerul, Chief of Police in Dewitt, Michigan with a question:

“If I returned to the Police Academy would you hire me?”


“And that,” said Gordy, “is how I got my dream job.”

In the summer, you’ll now find Gordy patrolling the county’s lake and rivers in a boat and the city of DeWitt on motorcycle. Though he didn’t reveal a preference, a picture of him in full police uniform suggests patrol work may be his choice. Sitting on top of a Harley Davidson Road King Police Special he is attired in a police uniform set off by helmet—and boots so shiny you suspect you can see your reflection. On his waist and attached to a belt are a pair of handcuffs, a taser, a .45 glock, two more 13-capacity clips of bullets, a radio—and a can of mace, which he recently had to use.

“Three of us were attempting to subdue a burly construction worker, and when he got violent, simultaneously we reached for our cans of spray and let him have it. Guess who got the chore of driving him to jail. Boy, did my eyes burn from the residual.”

In a small town Gordy knows he’s in the limelight, and takes great pride in helping redirect some of the young people from trouble. “Sometimes parents ask me to lend a hand, specifically requesting that I read their kid the riot act. If I think it might help, I do what I can.”

Obviously, Gordon Douglas Milner has had to wear many hats during his long career, and he likens his adaptability to that of a chameleon—particularly now as he bounces between law enforcement in Michigan and music in Florida. But I say that any man who can speak the King’s English one moment and then the next speak “Sailoreze,” drawing from an inexhaustible library of delightful and intriguing adjectives—must have seen an immense amount of life and is, therefore, more than just a chameleon.

Gordy, in fact, is Trailer Trash!

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