Looking Back: Girls Road Trip 2017 - South Dakota - Where we visited Carthage, South Dakota - (you may know it from the movie INTO THE WILD about Chris McCandless)

Source: Wiki

Christopher Johnson McCandless was an American hiker and itinerant traveler, who also went by the name "Alexander Supertramp". After graduating from college in 1990, McCandless traveled across the North American continent and eventually hitchhiked to Alaska in April 1992. There, he set out along an old mining road known as the Stampede Trail, with minimal supplies, hoping to live simply off the land. Almost four months later, McCandless' decomposing body, weighing only 30 kilograms (66 lb), was found by hunters in a converted bus, Fairbanks Bus 142, used as a backcountry shelter along the Stampede Trail, on the eastern bank of the Sushana River. His cause of death was officially ruled to be starvation, although the exact cause remains the subject of some debate.

In January 1993, Jon Krakauer published McCandless' story in that month's issue of Outside magazine. He had been assigned the story and had written it under a tight deadline. Inspired by the details of McCandless' story, Krakauer wrote and published the more extensive biographical book Into the Wild (1996), about McCandless' travels. The book was subsequently adapted into a 2007 film directed by Sean Penn, with Emile Hirsch portraying McCandless. That same year, McCandless' story also became the subject of Ron Lamothe's documentary The Call of the Wild (2007).

The Girls Road trip last summer was camping across the state of South Dakota from the Eastern border to the Western.  My daughter had watched the movie "Into the Wild" before we went, not realizing that was going to be one of the stops on our route.

While I'm sure many have made trips to the little town on the prairie called "Carthage" just because of this book, the movie  or just studying the route or history of the ill-fated Chris McCandless, that's not actually why we were going.  My extended family happens to be from that area - it's where our family history is.  I had traveled there the year before on my own solo-cross country trip and I wanted to stop through again with one of my kids with to show her where our family hails from.  It was only a happy accident that I have a hippie college girl daughter who had seen the movie, and didn't realize the connection until I told her where the next stop on our trip route was that day.

The Cabaret, where Mr. McCandless worked to raise some funds to continue traveling was open the first time I stopped in Carthage but on our trip last summer it was closed down.  Still, we obviously took the "stand in front of the sign" photo.  While I was taking a couple pictures a woman (resident of the town) was getting into her car and saw us.  I was a little embarrassed to be looking like a tourist... even though I kind of was.  She said knowingly "You're here because of the movie...."
Which led to a conversation about how yes, but no.  That my family was from the area and I wanted to show my daughter our family history, etc.
At that point she asked if we had been in the straw museum yet?
No, and it was closed.
But she had a key and offered to open it for us and give us a personal tour!
We jumped on that chance and enjoyed looking at the history of the town and area and yes - finding items from my own extended family throughout the museum.

There isn't much to Carthage if you plan to visit.
And don't be low on gas because there isn't a gas station anywhere near.
The business district is about a block long - although there isn't actually much 'business' there.  They do have a post office though.  And the museum.  And a city hall and I think there was a bar.  I know there is a laundry and shower building!

I love this area... absolutely love love love it.

The Cabaret...  

Across the street from the Cabaret.


 Inside the town's museum

Yep, that's pretty much all of it.

You might also be interested in these products related to the post - available through Amazon:
Into the Wild
Into the Wild
Into the Wild [Blu-ray] 
The Wild Truth



Girls Road Trip 2018: Entertainment in the Middle of Nowhere - opted for the best portable DVD player(s) I could find on a TIGHT budget

When camping, the best entertainment is straight from nature.  It's time to put away the electronics, relax, enjoy the company of those with you, or the solitude of being by yourself.  Enjoy hiking, sightseeing, fishing, swimming, animal watching, bird watching, rock studies... whatever you happen to be doing on your little camping trip.

After dinner, the evenings are awesome spent sitting around a fire, telling stories, jokes, singing songs... enjoying a drink of your favorite beverage and roasting marshmallows.

But let's get realistic.  When you are camping long(er) term than the weekend, or a few days, some other entertainment might be nice.  And when you are in the middle of nowhere or you have small children to entertain night after night... entertainment might be nice.

And when there are "NO FIRES" allowed - there goes all thoughts of enjoying yourselves around a fire.

The hiking trip my daughter and I are doing involves a little of "most of the above".

It's two weeks.  In the middle of no where.
No electricity.  No water.
No fires.

During our last two week road trip I had brought my laptop with me and I happened to have 1 DVD with, tucked into the side pocket of my laptop bag from some forgotten trip.  It was season 9 of FRIENDS (Friends: The Complete Ninth and Tenth Seasons)and although when we planned our 2 week trek across the state of South Dakota, we didn't plan on watching movies or TV episodes at all; we found it was awesome to have on those nights when it was dark and cold, we had about an hour before either of us would be tired enough to sleep and there were no fires, electricity or water.

With all that background (sorry for the ramble - it's just the Coffee Talking again...) you'll understand that this year I decided I would just invest a cheap portable DVD player.

Commence about 2 weeks of research and my brain almost cracking with the effort. 
I scoured three main sources really;  Best Buy, Amazon and Walmart.
I read hundreds of reviews.
And just when I thought I'd make up my mind, I'd find another fact, detail or review that was a deal-changer for me.

I also found that portable DVD players are not made by many companies any longer; they only make 1 or 2 models, are discontinuing them, or only make one high end (higher than my budget) model;  and most are made by just 2 "I've heard of them" companies while the rest are coming from random made up names from China - and the actual players are the exact same model sold under different names, in different colors or they change up the button style a bit.


  • Our needs are different than someone elses but I needed a screen big enough for 2 people to watch.
  • A car charger just in case.
  • A wall charger because I plan to have our solar panel and a portable power source (remember we will have no electricity throughout a good portion of this trip).
  • Cheap. Or at least common-sense affordable.

I didn't care about remote controls, a head-rest car display case, double headphone jacks or anything like that.  But all those things would be 'fine' to have as we'll obviously be using these for other reasons than this road trip.

I overwhelmingly found the portable DVD players either work great for a couple years or don't work at all right out of the box or within days or a couple weeks.  Usually a 5 star or 1 star - little inbetween.  It seems to be a crapshoot whether you get a good one that will last for 2 years or one that is sent back the next day.

You know the Navy Seals saying "Two is one, and one is none"?   Yeah, that.

So in the end, after research and price checking and over-thinking things way too much, I'm sure, here are the TWO I went with.  (Because remember, two is one, and one is none; and the reviews have shown pretty much ALL brands of portable DVD players to be hit-or-miss on whether they work or how long they work. 

UEME 10.1" Portable DVD Player CD Player with Car Headrest Holder, Swivel Screen Remote Control Rechargeable Battery Car Charger Wall Charger, Personal DVD Player PD-1010

UEME 10.1" Portable DVD Player CD Player with Car Headrest Mount Holder, Swivel Screen Remote Control Rechargeable Battery AC Adapter Car Charger, Personal DVD Player PD-1020

I'm not going to get into all the nitty gritty specifics on these - but I linked to them so readers could research them themselves if they wish.  From what I can tell they are the same item, from the same company, but have different buttons on the top.  They do come with all the do-dads like the remote and the headrest mount, swivel screen, etc. but those are just icing on the cake for us.

As a sidenote  - I was also looking for 2 small portable DVD players for another (totally different) use and again I went with the 2 is 1 and 1 is none belief and got one from Amazon in the same order (below) and another, different one from Walmart.  Just in case my readers would like to know which small, individual 7" screen DVD player I opted for.

Magnavox 7-Inch TFT Screen Portable DVD/CD Player


Girls Road Trip 2018 - A Rambling Post of Our Broken Texsport Cot from Sierra Trading Post

It's a cold, miserable kind of day and I've been wanting to get some of these photos sitting in draft files posted even if I'm not in the mood to really write the post I originally planned when I took them!

Does that makes sense?

Sometimes I take the photos and plan some awesome, well thought out post with links but reality happens and they sit in draft files waiting.

Today I'm taking these out - getting them posted just because it's something to chat about over morning coffee.

I've never been one to sleep on a cot when camping - and this is throughout my entire life.  As a matter of fact, I believe camping should be done with whatever you can carry in a backpack and hiked in... but I do little of that kind of camping anymore.  I'm still old-school with a tent but mostly I've got a car somewhere nearby that got me where I'm going.

This year while looking over items for the road trip one of my kids (the college daughter) and I are taking together, I saw a great deal on these steel Texport cots from Sierra Trading Post.  The price was right and I figured we could also use them here at the house as an extra 'single bed' option when guests came in addition to camping.

I ordered two and was pretty excited to set them up and check them out when they were delivered.
I got the blue colored.
Two of them.
Sturdy - and heavy enough you wouldn't want to carry them but for car-camping they were great.

The first one went up perfectly.
The second one... uh oh.
This is a problem.
This little tiny flaw made for a big issue.
Someone, at some point, had tried to put this cot together and did a crap job of it.
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to assemble them but based on the reviews I read while researching them before buying, I did note that a lot of people complained about not knowing how to set them up and they were too difficult.
I'm glad none of them are rocket scientists or the future of space exploration would be doomed.

That small little piece that should be hanging out, ready to do it's job, had been pushed in by someone in the past trying to use force to get the cot into place instead of using their brains.

This means there is nothing to go into the steel bar to hold the bed frame in place.
Darn them.

You can see the piece just hangs loosely since it has nothing to insert into the hole.
The way it's broken you can't get it out - and you can't get the frame to stay in place without it.

I did contact Sierra Trading Post and gave them photos.  I thought they would step up and be cool with their customer service but that was soooo not the case.  Basically I was going to go through a crappy step by step of trying to box it back up in the original  box it came in (which was damaged and taped when it was delivered to me) and I was going to have to go through the hassle to try to get it BACK to them when really - they could have stepped up to the plate and offered to send me a new steel bar for that side of the bed. 

ONE STEEL BAR would fix it right up. 

And if they were really, really cool they could have said, "Dude, that sucks!  And we know the hassle of sending that big old bulky, heavy bed is a pain.  It's on clearance and pretty cheap right now so let's just send you a new bed, k?"

But they didn't.

They pretty much ignored me after my initial message and photos.

These are pretty cool cots generally speaking.  They are not the crappy little light weight ones you normally see; they are a better version of quality steel and the legs have great support by forming an X instead of just little straight legs or the kind that can tip over.

The canvas is quality and I really do love them... except this broken one.  Still, I'm the mother of invention and I'm not going through a version of mini hell to fight with Sierra Trading Post or waste my time trying to box this sucker back up and print labels and drive all over trying to ship it back to them.  Not over a cheap clearance sale item I got.

But I AM going to post about it on my blog.
Cause well... eh, I've got time today and it's just the coffee talking.


Girls Road Trip 2018: Boshen Pop Up Privacy Tent (for dressing and toilet needs while camping)

Last year during our road trip and camping excursions we had some sort of bathroom options available to us at all times; usually a vault toilet - but sometimes we got lucky and had access to flush toilets.  Sometimes they were close by, other times we had a bit of a jaunt to get to it.  And yes, some were fine as far as vault toilets go... (it's basically an outhouse made of plastic instead of wood) but you still just have a seat with a hole under it where everything goes and yes you can see it and smell it.

The vault toilets not well kept up are often so bad you need to hold your breath as long as you can, hurry as fast as you can and pretend you are not aware that there are 126,783 huge spiders and other insects surrounding you in a 12 inch radius; including the fact there are probably some resting contentedly right under where your bum is... and hope they don't get inquisitive while you are sitting there doing your thing.

Last year we brought along a folding portable toilet 'just in case' we needed it but ended up not using it on that trip, in part due to toilets (even the disgusting vault toilets) being generally available but also because it would have to have been set up in our tent and one of us would have to leave the tent, and the whole issue of feeling uncomfortable and stressed and vulnerable makes it 'hard to go' anyway.

This year our camp situation is such that once we arrive at our first destination to stay for a few days, we have no access to running water, flush toilets or showers; although there are vault toilets in the area they are a bit of a walk from where we'll be tenting.  Later we will have a flush toilet access for one night before going back to no showers and no flush toilets for the next 4 days, followed by 2 days of having access to a flush toilet.

So this year I researched portable tents made basically for camp toilets and changing clothes;  a portable pop up privacy tent.  The one I chose was the Boshen portable pop up privacy tent.


When you start to research these, you'll soon find there are really only a handful of different styles but they are manufactured under many different names by the sellers.  This also means you need to pay attention to how much you are paying as the exact same privacy tent (EXACT SAME - not just similar but EXACT) can sell from $25 up to $99 depending on who or where you buy from.

Many of these tents are similar but have a few small differences. Some have a vent on top, others are completely open at the top with no cover and still others are completely enclosed.  A few have a 'floor' built in, most do not. Some are vented with a screened window or two; some have a little net inside to hang things like your keys or place your cellphone or even soap, and tiny bottles of shampoo if you are using it as a shower enclosure.  Some open just part of the way, others all the way; some with a side opening, others with a vertical full front open.

This is where you have to decide what YOU want.

I knew I wanted some sort of enclosure on the top but I also wanted it to have screened vents for air flow.
No floor was fine - I have a small tarp to put under it.
Color - I wanted something that would blend in and not stand out (like bright baby blue) but did not want camo so I went with green.
I wanted some sort of carrying case for it to be stored in and packed away in.
I wanted an easy entry - from the side like a tent was fine.

In the end, that is why I chosen this one.  I found the style I wanted then I started to price compare and found one that was roughly about $25-27.  Had I not had to work with a low budget for this item, there is an awesome dark blue one (in the links to Amazon at the bottom of this post) that I really liked but I couldn't spare $99 for this item.

From the website - cut and pasted direct so the grammar mistakes are theirs, not mine....

Product description

Features 1. Zipper door design lets you convenient in and out.
2. Back window will provide better ventilation.
3. The design of the tent lanyard, pouch, you can easily place your clothing in handy.
4. It is all-new portable pop-up tent, easy to use, convenient and fast.
5. It can be used in public places such as parks, swimming pools, beaches, campgrounds, forests,
national parks and so on.
6. Large expansion space allows you to use it very convenient and comfortable, compact storage size to
facilitate your travel to carry.
7. The design of the tent above the roof, could well drop to protect your privacy, bottomless design can
be well kept clean.
8. It allows you to easily avoid the crowd, changing clothes, toilet, make-up, more effective anti-
mosquito, since you can say goodbye to a small space in the car to change clothes, make-up.
9. Metal mounting stakes could provide stability in windy conditions.

Specifications Color: Light Blue/Black/Camouflage(optional)
Size: 120*120*190 cm (47" * 47" *75")
Material: 190T PU Waterproof polyester taffeta
Pole Material: flexible steel
Structure: Single layer
Item Weight: 2200g/4.8lbs
Folded dimension: 22" diameter
Set up style: Quick set up

package included 1x Pop-up Tent
1x Carrying bag
4x Metal mounting stakes 60*30*60

Warm Tips: 1. Please natural drying at cool and ventilated environment, don’t roasted with fire after cleanout.
2. Hand wash softly and timely.
3. No corrosion.
4. Keep away from sharp-edged products for avoiding scratching and tearing.


One of the only complaints I saw over and over was people having a hard time folding it BACK up after they opened it.  Silly really.  Reading the hassle people were having made me not even try it - but instead went online to look how people did it.  Thanks to a video on Youtube I was reassured it wasn't the big deal other reviewers were making it out to be.

You fold it up flat - which it WANTS TO DO anyway so in about 2 seconds that part is done.


I stood on the front of it where the zippers meet at the bottom, and started to bed the top down towards my feet; about 1/3 of the way from the top.


When you get about half way down you just start to twist it to the side a little bit - which again, it naturally WANTS to do this...


As soon as you start to twist to the side, the plastic rounds inside the pop up tent start to jump into place naturally.


Don't overthink it and don't force it.  Just start to twist it in to the side, still standing on the bottom to keep it firmly in place and suddenly the rings collapse on each other and the whole thing jumps together.


It WANTS to do this naturally... and it will if you guide it but don't force it and don't overthink it.


It's a very QUICK process and I was trying to capture it in photos so some got blurry.  But it comes together in about 7 seconds once you get the hang of it.


And then you can just pop it back into the carrying bag to store it.


You might be interested in some other styles or brands - I ordered mine from Amazon, here are some others you might want to research as well:

Green Elephant Pop Up Utilitent – Privacy Portable Camping, Biking, Toilet, Shower, Beach and Changing Room Extra Tall, Spacious Tent Shelter.
PARTYSAVING 6 FT Portable Privacy Tent Outdoor Pop-up Room Tent Camping Tent Shower Tent Toilet, APL1068
Boshen Portable Pop Up Privacy Shower Toilet Tent Shelter Changing Dressing Bathing Room for Camping Outdoor Beach Park Wedding Fishing
Boshen Portable Privacy Tent Shelter Bathing Fitting Room with Window and Carrying bag(Green)