Last day along the Madison River watching the floaters go by

I like to leave a camp before I take it for granted. 

Today is our last full day beside the Madison River in southwestern Montana.  Of all the places the crew and I have made our home during our first wonderful year as fulltime vagabonds, I rank this place as one of the best.

Bureau of Land Management campsites can be found on both sides of the Madison, most between Norris and Bozeman. 

Those dispersed sites are $5.00 a night or $2.50 with the Senior Pass.  I chose this more developed BLM campground for the vault toilets, water spigot, and gravel road that keeps the dust down.  It’s only $1.50 more and well worth it, especially since the availability of vault toilets eliminated the need to move the Best Little Trailer for a dump station visit.

In a few weeks Montana children will be back in school. 

This far north one already can see trace evidence of the coming fall.  The nights are cooler.  Early this morning I had to get out of bed to put on my fleece pullover and socks.  The quilt wasn’t enough.

Fresh perked coffee always tastes good in the morning air. 

It looks like we are the first ones up and about.  Bridget and Spike follow the routine they established the first day here.  I watch them walk over to a high grass field adjacent to the campground where they do their duty.  Bridget comes back immediately.

Of course, Spike takes the opportunity presented by sleeping campers to snoop around their campsites.

First task of the day is to check air pressure in the tires. 

The tires on the cool side of the vehicles, front to back, measure 40.0, 40.0 and 58.5 psi, the last number being the BLT.  On the sunny side, the readings are 43.5, 43.5, and 61.0 psi.  This is reassuring.  No tire is out of sync with the others.  I check the fluids and they’re where they should be.  The oil looks a bit dark.  Better watch that.

I press all the air out of the inflatable canoe, roll it up, and bag it.

I stow the bag, weighing 50 pounds, behind the driver’s seat, and slide the paddles in the back of the Perfect Tow Vehicle.

I clean the windshield inside and out.  Next I wipe the bugs off the PTV’s hood with a wet Bounce sheet.  I usually do that when we first make camp, but I never got around to it.

It’s Sunday and lots of floaters drift by. 

Some of the tubes, rafts, and other inflatables are tied together in big clumps of bright colors, holding as many as twelve people, maybe more.

I pour myself a drink, set my chair at the river’s edge, and watch the passing aquatic parade.  Two large groups engage in a fierce, laughing battle, shooting plumes of water from long-barreled, plastic cannons and pitching buckets of water.

A few floaters stand serenely, skimming along on surf boards.  A black Labrador retriever swims alongside his master’s craft.  Some dogs ride, happy to be included in the fun.

Mondays are good days to move camp. 

I don’t know where we are going, except that first we probably will head toward Bozeman and then turn due north the short distance to Belgrade, a town along Interstate 90.  Camper Marianne told me there’s a free dump station at the Exxon station, and also propane available for purchase.  I’ll stock up on groceries there, too.  I need to remember to put water in the fresh water tank on the way out of the campground in the morning.

I’d like another river camp or one by a small lake. 

The mountains at this latitude may be too cold at night, and not warm enough during the day.  I’m enjoying the dry heat of Montana summer found at lower elevations.  Makes the swimming all the better!

We could go west and then south to camp along the Wise River. 

Or we could go east and then south into Paradise Valley and camp along the Yellowstone River north of the national park.

I don’t want to take us much further north than we are here.  There’s plenty of new adventure between Montana and southern Arizona, our winter destination.

Wherever we make camp tomorrow, internet connection is unlikely, due to the mountain ranges the rivers flow between.

I expect Bridget, Spike, and I will swim and soak in the river in front of our campsite several times today.  Yes, it’s been a great camp.  Definitely one of the best!



About rvsueandcrew

Fulltime nomad
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51 Responses to Last day along the Madison River watching the floaters go by

  1. patricia Leonhardt says:

    Oh Sue, I think you and Spike are both water babies!! It looks wonderful up north even after the fires. When you camp off the road like that, do you use your solar panels? I think I am learning a lot from you! Guess you are still “teaching”.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      I’m always using my solar panel. When I’m driving unhitched from the BLT, the panel and alternator are charging my batteries. When I’m hitched, my house battery is being charged and I can turn on lights, watch tv (if there’s reception), turn on my laptop, and use any other 12 volt appliances.

      I do love water. I’m never happy to only look at it. I have to get in it, if only to wade.

  2. I know you and the crew have enjoyed the water. This has been a good camp for you as the pictures show. Seems strange to be thinking about fall with the temps still reaching 100 in Mississippi. The kids start school on Wed.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      I heard from a teacher I used to teach with in Georgia. They started last Friday.

      Some of the trees are turning yellow and gold. I don’t know if it’s the cool temps at night or the drought.

      Glad you had a good trip to NY and are home safe.

  3. cinandjules says:

    No you didn’t say the “W” word! Good grief this year is flying by…don’t remember it going this fast when I was a youngen.
    One of the best you say! From all of the pictures you’ve shared….it would be a toss up between a few.
    That raft/canoe really packs up nice. I’m beginning to think Spikey is part duck! How much water does the BLT hold? When we drove across the US we carried enough to flush the potty….didn’t want to decrease the mpg anymore than it was. Do you have bottled water for Spikey and Bridgett or are they able to drink the water available wherever you stay?
    The floaters look like they are having fun. The one on the standup surfboard…looks like to much work on the abs.
    Enjoy your night. Drive safe to your next destination. Thanks again for sharing your adventure.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      You’re welcome!

      I think my fresh water tank is 25 gal., if I remember correctly. Whenever I have a source for good-tasting fresh water I fill up several one-gallon jugs (7 or 8 of them). I use the heavy-duty plastic jugs that iced tea comes in (the brand that has Arnold Palmer’s face on the jug!). That water is for the crew’s water dish and for my coffee, tea, and Crystal Lite on the rare occasions I make it.

  4. Old Fat Man says:

    Sue, Those are what is called Stand Up Paddleboards. They are different than surfboards. There are a lot of them down on the Texas coast.
    The oil in your engine is supposed to get dark and dirty since one of its jobs is to collect “dirt” and carry it to the filter. Oil that stays clean is leaving the “dirt” in the engine to clog the oil passages needed for lubrication. Follow your manual on the oil change intervals not the color of the oil unless it turns cream or thick. Then you have a serious problem for a mechanic to fix.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Thanks, Barney, for the lesson on engine oil. I can relax and wait for the next, regular oil change.

      I figured there was a special name for those boards because they are different than surfboards. I appreciate you taking the time to educate me.

  5. Pat says:

    I think the hardest part of this lifestyle is figuring out where to go next… You see so many wonderful places and meet the best people. I love the way you are able to put it all in words and pics. Thank you for sharing!!!!!!

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      You’re welcome, Pat. I’m writing this at a lunch stop at a city park in Whitehall, between Bozeman and Butte. Here we are “on the road” and I still haven’t decided where we will spend the night!

  6. Chinle says:

    You’re really not all that far from Flathead Lake and Glacier NP, and it’s coming into the best time of year to be there…

    Lots of great camping around Flathead.

  7. Nancy says:

    You should wander around Montana for awhile yet, then head south through Yellowstone. Go to the Lamar Valley in the NE corner–lots of wildlife: you will be sure to see elk and bison, possibly wolves. September is a great time–not as many people and the animals are usually down in the valleys.
    We spent last week camping (5th wheel) on the Wise River. It was about 45 at night and 80 during the day and quite a few dispursed camps as well as NFS camps with vault toilets, picnic tables and fire rings (only way to build a fire with the stage 1 fire restrictions). If you want to be on the river (creek, really) in a developed site, go about 8 miles up the valley to Lodgepole CG. The scenic drive south has some marvelous views! The Big Hole River is a bigger river, but busier with fly fisherman trying their luck. Enjoy Montana–it is a BIG state with unlimited camping opportunities.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      I didn’t see your comment until on the road today, going westward. At Butte we’ll turn south to the Wise River and Big Hole River area. Thanks for the info… very helpful

  8. Chris Horst says:

    Hi, Sue. Nancy suggested Lamar Valley. Take a look at this photo of Lamar Valley from Ken Fear’s blog
    It kinda makes one want to drive directly there.


    • Chris Horst says:

      Well, I see my links were deleted. Not sure how to post links. Email me off line if you would like to see the photo.

      • rvsueandcrew says:

        Links sometimes require moderation. I’ll have to do that at a later date … We’re on the road and storm clouds are gathering. I need to find a camp for tonight! Thanks for writing, Chris.

  9. EmilyO says:

    Ah, if you are going to Belgrade, that’s where I get my oat bran – from Montana Gluten Free Processors. They are located on Andrea Dr. Am using a bunch of their oat flour products too.
    Daughter brought me a DQ blizzard tonight, so an extra few minutes walking tomorrow! I can hear the water tumbling over the rocks/boulders clear down here – your descriptions are that good.

  10. Elizabeth says:

    I miss the cooler nights of the Northwest…one can stand heat in the daytime…but I far prefer it cool for sleeping anyway!! We are slowly making progress on our moving and packing. We hope to look at a nearby older motorhome for sale, tomorrow or the next day. Hubby has seen online what he REALLY would love to have however…there is a new Dodge truck that has so many wonderful features for the RV lifestyle and he has found a lighter camper, but 30 foot long…so we shall see…and we may put off choosing a bit longer too. I wish we could go up to the Ohio Rally in Sept to take some classes, but I doubt we will have time yet from our moving process here. Our daughter in Seattle has requested we come help her for up to 3 months in the Spring, so we may wait a bit longer…hoping to also make it to Southern Idaho and things MIGHT be a bit cheaper there too…their economy is really hurting from what our kin there tell us. So many decisions…slowly but surely….

  11. Gaelyn says:

    This has been a delightful camp yet I’m sure you’ll find many more. Safe journey.

  12. mockturtle says:

    I just love the way your blog expresses the joy of being in wild and scenic locations as well as addressing the nuts and bolts that RVing entails. Those of us who RV love both aspects of the lifestyle, I think, and it’s great that you acknowledge that. Thank you! 🙂

    Fall? Say it ain’t so! I haven’t even been out yet this summer. 😦

  13. GingerDa says:

    We still have lots of summer left here in Las Vegas. I saw on our local news it will be 111* this week. It doesn’t cool off much at night. I envy your cool temps there.
    Cinandjules asked about the crew drinking the water from the campground, and I wondered the same thing with you, if the water you get from campgrounds bothers you?
    Sure a beautiful place to be.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      I haven’t had a disgestive upset since I hit the road.

    • cinandjules says:

      Our four legged crew, three cats and a dog, traveled/moved across the US in a 24 ft RV. Our dog has a sensitive stomach so we didn’t take the chance of her drinking water from different sources. Nothing like loose poops while traveling. Come to think about it…I don’t believe I drank anything other than bottled water either.

  14. Sherry says:

    What a campsite. I just love the picture of the steps going right down to the water and that water baby enjoying a soak. Since I have a lot of time on my hands just now, I’m going to start going back through your posts and making a list of all the GREAT campsites you have wandered into. I really love the way you do that. One day at a time. What a perfect way to live life.

  15. Cathie Laurent says:

    You will miss those nice steps down to the water. We finally made it from the 110 degree Oklahoma to cool mountains of Colorado. Not going back home til it cools off! Just my opinion, but Glacier NP should not be missed!

  16. sandycreek22 says:


    just finished “catching up” from your first post, and am now following along daily. My question: what were the reasons for choosing SD as your “home” state?

    Sandy Creek

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Good company (Americas Mailbox) to work with. Low taxes, cheap registrations, unlike TX where I bought the BLT. Also no emissions testing and less likely to be called for jury duty.

    • hobopals says:

      Since I’m all caught up on Sue’s blog, I’ve discovered another solo boon docker.
      Diana has been on the road for 13 years. Oh, if I could go back 7 years! You younger gals start planning! 🙂

      I so enjoyed my 6 month jaunt…especially going through a complete summer in beautiful places without any heat–never taking my sweatshirt off! That’s living!

      • hobopals says:

        Oops! Forgot URLs won’t publish.
        Since I’m all caught up on Sue’s blog, I’ve discovered another solo woman boondocker. http:// lifeontheopenroad dot blogspot dot com remove spaces and put a “.” instead of “dot”.
        Diana has been on the road for 13 years. Oh, if I could go back 7 years! You younger gals start planning! I don’t know how I missed her!

        Sue, you might run into her wintering down by Yuma and Congress.

        I so enjoyed my 6 month jaunt…especially going through a complete summer in beautiful places without any heat–never taking my sweatshirt off!
        That’s living!

  17. levonne says:

    I love seeing our dog relaxing there in the water.

  18. raymond says:

    Enjoy reading your journey. 34 yrs over the road truck driver. Fulltimernow. Saw you at Vulture peak. Saw Boswell sat at valley wi. Bob and Boswell will leave fo N Ranch in Congress az in a few weeks. Wheat Montana west of Belgrade wonderfull bakery and sandwich shop is def worth a visit.

  19. I was a little surprised at your tire pressures. Our van is a little larger than yours and calls for 50 in front and 80 in back. Our Casita tires call for 50 psi.

    I would have expected some differential on your van from front to back. The 60 psi you carry in your trailer tires would indicate heavier duty than what came on our Casita. Did you order them or are they standard now?


  20. Penny Rehder says:

    Sue, I was wondering what type of maps you using to find BLM camping and your locations…or do you just use Google 😉 I know that you’ve mentioned that you dont always have access to the internet so what other resources do you rely on when finding you way without service.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Mostly my new Benchmark atlases. I don’t have one for Wyoming so I had to rely on a regular road map, what internet I could find, and advice from locals and fellow campers.

  21. Larry Graves says:

    hey Sue,
    Been lurking and following you since day1… SOOOOOO happy for you and the crew, watching your posts is just like being there with you guys. My beautiful bride and I hope to join you some day!!! if you are ever coming to IOWA let us know and you will be welcome here to our private campground for as long as you can stand the weather and us.. God Bless!!! Larry

  22. Diana says:

    That is one of my favorite areas – even went tubing down the river!

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