Cruisin’ the California Coast with the Colemans

It’s been awhile since we left Klamath Falls and we’ve been busy, busy, busy traveling down the California coast with Kat’s brother and his family. We left Klamath and headed down into California and stayed one night in Corning, California. Apparently it is the Olive Capital of California. We were surrounded by Olive trees in the campground that was for sure. It was a nice drive down full of California agriculture at its best:  Pistachio and Cherries, plus some other ones we couldn’t identify as we drove past. We were on our way to our favorite California campground…Anthony Chabot. That’s where we stayed earlier this year late in January. It’s not far from Oakland, so we had pretty good access to San Francisco. It was a little different this time because there were more people, but they came and went so quickly it was a little noisier and fast paced turnover. Also, the turkeys we saw before now had babies with them, they were cute, about as much as a turkey can be. We were only staying for a few days and most of those we weren’t even going to be sleeping there. It was really just a convenient place to park so that we could go into the city and meet up with the family when they arrived on Thursday. In the days before we did get to meet up again with Jackie and Doug as well as Rich ( from St. Louis) who was working in the area. Sometimes it seems a small world because you can meet up with people unexpectedly and other times you feel pretty far away and have no opportunity to see anyone you know.  It makes you appreciate those times with friends even more.

Ruddy duck seen in Klamath

Picture of Ruddy duck cropped and zoomed so you can see his amazing blue beak.

Turkey mama and her baby.

Our immediate plan was to get into San Francisco and meet up with the family when they arrived and then stay in the city until Saturday evening. I have to say those kids were troopers. (Harry is 10, Dylan is 9 and Esme is 7.) Yes, when they arrived they were tired and jet lagged since it was about an 11 hour flight from London, but I guess the excitement kept the adreneline flowing. I am not sure what I expected since I don’t really spend any extended time with 10, 9 and 7 year olds, but there were no real complaints, no tears, fighting or temper tantrums. I know when I am jet lagged I get all of those signs of being tired and have to fight them. Before they went back to their hotel to go to bed we all ate some burgers and made a plan to meet for breakfast before going out to Alcatraz.

Since there were 7 of us and they wanted to see the city we walked down towards the waterfront from Breakfast. We stayed just outside of Chinatown, so it was about a 35 minute walk. There was a lot to see along the way, so the walk was good. The first stop was at Pier 39 of course. I could stand there and watch those sea lions all day, but we had a boat to catch, so we went and grabbed some sandwiches before catching the boat.

All the times I have been to San Francisco, I never went to Alcatraz and I’m glad I finally did.  Everyone really enjoyed the audio tour. I think it was the sounds that played in the background along with the stories that were very captivating which made it really good for everyone.

The following days we had some more touristy things to do like Golden Gate Bridge and Lombard street. The kids were super excited about Lombard for some reason and once again, it was someplace I had never gone. Of course the Golden gate wouldn’t be the same if it weren’t fogged in, but we had a good time Friday and Saturday anyway. We did a lot of walking, eventually grabbing a bus. Stopping for ice cream, smoothies and snacks often helped keep everyone happy. Saturday evening we left them on there own so we could go back to the camper and be ready to leave in the morning to meet up with them at the next campground. Plus we really wanted to enjoy the quiet of Anthony Chabot one last night.

The plan for the rest of the time was that they had rented an RV and needed to go pick it up before coming to the campground. They would drive the camper and camp with us a week of the trip as we traveled down the coast together and then stay in an Air BNB. We had bought some inexpensive items that they would need to save on costs, so they were pretty well set for when they were staying in the camper. The mornings with the kids were one of our favorite times.  They would come over to our camper almost right after waking up and then write in the journals we bought them to keep a record of their trips, then we would all have breakfast.  On travel days we would usually say goodbye in the morning and they would go off sightseeing while we sadly packed up and did all the jobs we needed to do to get ready to travel. We couldn’t go some of the places they wanted to go because we are too big when all hooked up. And California drivers are just crazy. They go faster than we can and there is just so much traffic with highways merging left and right. It’s a little stressful to say the least.

Dylan writing in his journal while waiting for dinner at a restaurant.

Next stop was Marina Dunes in Marina, CA and the big activity there was Whale watching. It was a cloudy day, but not as chilly as expected. We saw 25 whales, a rack (large group) of seals  and a HUGE leatherback turtle. He popped up and gave us a great view of his big head, but of course I was so startled to see him that close I didn’t have time to get the camera turned on. That was super cool and very rare apparently. We ended the night with a fun marshmallow roasting contest. I’m not sure who won, but we devoured the entire bag.

A rack of seals as they surfaced from a dive where they would feed on the little fish down below.

We headed off to Morro Bay State park for a couple of nights and while staying there they went to Hearst Castle and up to San Simeon where from shore they got to see a ton of whales jumping (breeching). They also visited the Skateboard museum in Morro Bay. They also went to see the big Redwoods. We relaxed a little before going to meet them in town the last evening, to have a bite to eat, walk around a bit and watch the surfers while the kids climbed on the rocks. The day we left to go to El Capitan they started their day by going Kayaking. When they arrived in El Capitan we all walked down to the beach where they did some body surfing. The next day we all went into Santa Barbara where we took a walk along the beach, then had some lunch and everyone went swimming. Kat and I went for a walk while they did that and then after a quick stop at the grocery store we went home. We all went up to the pool and the hot tub for a quick dip before dinner. That was nice and one of things Esme said was one of her favorite things of the trip. Funny the things that can make an impression on peoples’ minds.

We stopped for the night in Chino, CA at Prado regional park. That was a pretty nice ad very big campground and park with easy to park spaces and lost of space to do things. There is disc golf course and horseback riding.  They stopped on the way at Venice beach and were really impressed by the skateboard park. That was Saturday night and it was Rodeo time! We all headed down to the Rodeo. Kat and I were pretty excited, but they had no idea what to expect. It was a crazy place! We had read it was really popular and that was true. It was cool to see all of the people outside helping direct traffic and stuff on horseback. The kids asked a lot of questions, but didn’t seem all that impressed or excited. Dylan said that they were pretty mean to the animals, I suppose that is true. I think their favorite part was the kettle corn and the funnel cake. We left before it finished and Harry and Dylan had a quick ride on the mechanical bull. And I do mean Quick!

 

Sunday morning they had to leave to take their return their RV, pick up a rental car and then go check into their Air BnB in Encinitas. We were headed to Guajome park in Oceanside. We would miss our mornings with the kids. We were only staying about 35 minutes apart, but we both had things to do in the mornings before we would meet up. We planned on spending time together during the day and of course dinners together were a given.

Moonlight beach in Encinitas was pretty nice, but the whole time they were near the beach the weather was cloudy. The waves weren’t huge, but I caught a few from a decent way out that brought me to shore with a big smile on my face. They rented surfboards one day and tried that out, but they were pretty worn out from boogie boarding the day before. They never tired of the water no matter what though and if they needed a break there was always the sand to build things. Evenings usually consisted of grocery shopping for dinner, cooking, eating and cleaning up, then some card games and bed. The adults usually had planning for the next day to do while relaxing with a beverage.

Kat and I had to take Fat Henry down to San Diego one day to have him looked at by a mechanic and also to get the 150K service done. He was still occasionally hiccuping and had actually lost power on the 101 as we drove down to Chino. Luckily we were right by an emergency parking place on the side of the road, so we stopped and had lunch while gathering the courage to try again. The rest of the drive was uneventful except for the stress. It’s hard to fix something when you don’t know exactly what is wrong. We went down to the shop early and then the family came and picked us up so we could all drive the rest of the way to the USS Midway battlecraft. That was fun, but I think everyone enjoyed Alcatraz much more. We had a nice lunch in downtown San Diego at La Puerta mexican restaurant and the kids discovered they really liked quesadillas.

Kat and I rented a car since we had no idea how long they would need the truck to figure out the problem. In the end it never did get resolved because there are no real error codes showing the cause of the occasional stutter. We got the serpentine belt changed and the oil, but that was all. Fingers crossed.

Saturday morning- the day of departure for the family we met up in Oceanside to watch the surfers and have some coffee while we said goodbye.

I had asked the kids questions the night before and here are their answers:

What did you think about living in an RV?
H: Too small
D: Emptying the black tank (smells too gross)
E: Too small

What was your favorite thing you did on vacation?
H: Surfing at Moonlight beach
D: Rodeo
E: The hot tub and pool at the campground

What was your favorite place you visited or thing you did?
H: Alcatraz audio tour
D: Alcatraz
E: Leatherback turtle and whale watching.

What didn’t you like?
H: Nothing
D: Nothing
E: Too much walking

What was your favorite food?
H: Double Bert burgers
D: Double Bert burgers
E: Quesadillas

The cheeseballs were a pretty big success.

 

What will be your best memory of the trip?
H: Walking on the Golden Gate Bridge
D: The waves in the ocean
E: Marshmallow roasting

What was your favorite ice cream?
H: Mango
D: Strawberry
E: Mint chunky chocolate

Would you come back to America for another visit?
H: Yes- San Diego
D: Yes
E: Yes- and go to Mexico

What are you looking forward to when you get home?
H: Bella
D: Bella
E: Bella
(Bella is their black lab who is about 3 months old.)

When I was in England they were super excited to have me try some foods that we don’t have in America and so we tried to do the same for them. A few big hits were shrimp tacos (surprisingly), breakfast burritos, quesadillas and of course my famous Bert Burgers. They even convinced me to make double burgers and I was pretty surprised they could finish them, but they did.

 

It was a really nice vacation for all of us and it all went very well. They did a lot of exploring and really made us realize that we aren’t doing as much exploring of the areas where we are camping as we should. We will start working on that. I really enjoyed the laughter and enthusiasm shown by all of them. They also taught me that when you are on holiday you have to have Ice cream everyday! It was fun to be the America hosts and as the kids would say: it was EPIC.

The first page of Dylan’s journal.

Bye- have a nice trip home. Thanks for coming to visit!

 

Posted in California, States | 3 Comments

Klamath Falls,Or – part 2

In early August we finished our last 3 weeks at Klamath falls doing our volunteer work for the Wildlife management area pretty uneventfully. I was there the last week alone while Kat was away working and I didn’t get as much done on my own as I would have liked. Two reasons for that… One is I had a cold that really made it hard to breathe and just sapped my energy. We haven’t had colds in a really long time and this one got us both pretty good. The other reason is because it was super hot. I never expected 100 degree weather in Oregon, but I don’t think many people in Oregon expected it either, but what can you do? We had air conditioning and it wasn’t bad in the shade, plus there was usually a breeze, so it was all ok.

We were told we were a tremendous help, but there were still picnic benches to paint, a couple of signs to be replaced and I never did finish that weeding. Some of those weeds were huge and it took my whole body weight and a bit of wiggling the roots around to get them out, so it wasn’t a fast job. I put in about 74 hours for the month of July. I lost a few pounds and I think I have a few new muscles ( Kat can’t see them for some reason, but I can.) We were pretty tan for the first couple of weeks, but then it faded because it was just too hot to be in the direct sun. Oh well, we are probably better off without skin cancer anyway.

We never made it over to the coast of Oregon. We half heartedly looked at some places to stay and then Kat got a cold and also just didn’t want to make the 4 hour drive to get there. Crazy since we are driving all over the country. We loved our camping space and our routine, so we were content right there. We did have some visitors that brightened up the trip though.   Tracy and Lee came down from their volunteer position in Estacada, OR  and pitched their tent on our grounds and we went to Crater lake with them. Tracy has some really great pictures you can see on her blog here: Tracy’s Crater Lake blog That trip was really cool because it was a bucket list item for Tracy since she was little and it’s exciting to share someone else’s excitement about being somewhere. It was so beautiful and amazing that we all really enjoyed it a lot. We had good conversation and great food as we hung out in the evenings. The other visitors we had the following week were Casey and Julie who are living in Portland. They lucked out and got a room at the Crater Lake lodge, but they took the hour drive down to our place and had dinner. The next day we went up and met them to drive around the other side of Crater lake that had still been closed for snow when Tracy and Lee were visiting. Such amazing views no matter where you are on the lake. The water is incredibly blue and the whole area is great. A few weeks later there was a fire in the area around there and on the news they reported that the water looked brown and the air was smokey, so we were really happy we got to go twice while it was clear and beautiful. Sharing those adventures with friends was a good time too. I know I have said it before, but the rare occasions we get to visit with friends are great because we it is usually just us two hanging out together.

 

We did finally go out bowling with Mike and his friend Marissa and had him over for dinner a few times where we played games and just talked. The last Friday night before Kat came home I had Mike and Marissa over and we played more games and just ate and talked. Somehow we got to discussing big buildings and Marissa said people who live in tall buildings on the lower floors live longer than the ones who live on the higher floors. I told her a random fact that Cher can do a five minute plank! So of course, she and Mike are very competitive and dropped down to see who could hold a plank the longest. Marissa did a 3:06 plank! I bet she could have even gone longer, but Mike had already given up, so why go longer?

I am still amazed by the area around Klamath falls because of all the lakes, reservoirs and rivers there, but there is no one on the water. It’s weird to see all these beautiful boating, swimming and fishing places with no one using them. I was told that in late June and July the blue green algae is really prevalent and their aren’t many fish, there aren’t even a lot of birds on the water and the water is gross, That explains it, plus the Klamath lake is only 14 feet deep! There is a lot of harvesting of the algae though and it’s used as vitamin supplements and in some drug manufacturing. I don’t think I’d be pursuing that as a supplement. Although it wasn’t the season for migrating birds we did see some really cool birds while we were working. My favorite is still the California quail.

 

I had no idea a wildlife area took so much work to maintain and it was interesting to learn about. They try to develop the area so that birds are attracted away from other agricultural areas in the Klamath basin. It has to be done in any weather and I admire those guys who do the work to keep the wildlife happy and thriving. We would do it again as volunteers. Volunteering was good because we could work as hard as we wanted, but we were told some volunteers do as little as possible. That is just not our style, so we did as much as we could. And we really enjoyed it. We are really happy we had the chance to do that. The time went really quickly and all that quiet time was good in preparation for a couple of busy weeks to come. Kat’s brother and his family are coming for a vacation on the California coast and they rented an RV, so we will travel together. The kids are super excited about it and so are we, so the next blog will be much more exciting and full of adventures on the California coast.

Posted in Oregon, States, Volunteer | 13 Comments

Volunteering in Klamath Falls, Oregon

We really didn’t have a clear idea of what we would be doing for our month of volunteering at the Klamath Falls wildlife area and it could have turned out badly, but once again it seems we had some good luck and great Karma working for us. The terrain is certainly very different from further up North in Oregon where we had just left because it’s dry without those big beautiful trees, but we are parked in our own little area away from the office on Miller island. Miller Island doesn’t seem like an island because I only see the Klamath river on one side and marshlands and grass fields around us, but it’s great. We have trees around us that might provide a bit of shade to keep us a little cool in the high 80 and 90 degree temperatures. They say the rainy season is over for a few months and it is so dry you can smell it in the grass and dusty dirt.

Friday when we arrived we briefly met with the people we will be working for, Jason and Josh, and they showed us around a little an gave us a quick rundown of some things we will be doing. It could be some hard work, but are ready and excited to learn about the birds, wildlife and plants that they are here to protect and help thrive. Some things we will be doing are building bird and bat houses and putting them up around the area, painting picnic tables, hanging signs in some of the kiosks, handing out visitor surveys, landscaping- which includes learning to use a couple of big tractors for mowing. We may also get to go out and help band birds! We are really excited with all the things we can learn and are both very willing to do more than the 20 hours required.

Our list of jobs.

We love the site that we are staying in for the month. We have a washer and dryer in the building next door to use and we plan to put that to good use. We have full hookups, so keeping the AC running is easy and we can take long showers and stuff too. The water has a lot of manganese in it which dries out your skin and give a bit of roughness to your clothes, but we will just get some fabric softener and use lots of lotion. They provided a water dispenser and we have access to as many big water bottles as we need. We are on a dead end road that goes down to a boat ramp on the Klamath river and a dog training area ( we think that may be to train them how to retrieve ducks), so there is not a lot of traffic on the road. We hear no trucks on the highway and no planes going overhead. There is a little background noise from a power plant off in the distance and the trains going past farther up the road but mostly is either quiet or birds singing and cows mooing. I’ve got a really good feeling about this.

The entrance to our camping area.

Home sweet home.

Laundry room.

 

I can’t believe we have been here two weeks already. When we wake up in the morning we ask “what should we do today?” That question is normal for us, but instead of the answers being things like, let’s go hiking, go explore the area or let’s do nothing, we first have to decide how much energy we have and how sore we are before we make a plan for the day  to prune trees, weedwack, plant and fence trees or just build bird houses.  It’s way hotter than we expected so we don’t do much from 1-5 pm. In the evening we are trying to get some weeding done or sand and paint the picnic tables, but it’s hard to get motivated when it’s still hot and we are still tired. We still love it and are happy to be here though. The scenery is awesome and we can see Mount Shasta off in the distance. We remind ourselves that we are getting good exercise, building muscle and of course helping out the Rangers by doing these jobs.

Mount Shasta in the distance.

Looking toward Klamath Falls. Those are cows, not raisins.

 

Jason, the head ranger is super laid back and helpful. He explained that their main goal here is to manage the vegetation so the birds have plenty of food. That means they regulate the water flows so plants can grow and they plant trees and bushes that have berries for the birds to eat. Their busy season is hunting season they have to make sure people are hunting in the right areas and have correct permits, etc. The first day we started he gave us a more in depth tour of the area he manages and it was like a super bird watching tour. I don’t know that we will be able to identify even 10% of the birds, ducks and geese he showed us, but we will try! We see a few when we are out working or taking a walk but it’s not a season for any birds to be migrating. We did see a California quail family – there were like 15 little babies! And we saw a pair of Sandhills cranes with their baby too. We also see lots of tree swallows and red winged black birds. As for land animals we see lots of jackrabbits, rabbits, squirrels and rock chucks. Rock chucks are like ground hogs- little fat guys that rumble along.

A California quail

There is a lot to do and we wish we had cooler weather to do more, but he seems pretty happy with what we have done so far. We fenced in all the fruit trees they are growing and planted a few new ones (that was really hard at first, but either we built up those post pounding muscles quick or we got the hang of how to do it with less effort). We can see a difference with our weedwacking and pruning in the public parking areas and our camping area, so that keeps us going even though after 3 hours of weedwacking our hands vibrate for a little while. It is pretty hard work some days. I am having flashbacks of my college basketball days when we had three a day workouts. The minute you stop moving you get stiff and sore.

 

The fenced in trees.

Go Kat Go!

Weedwacking.

Professional weedwacking!

Piecing together the birdhouses.

Birdhouse building.

Other than working we have only gotten out of town once when we went to Medford to pick up some things at bigger stores like Trader Joes. We coordinated it with my friend Kelli from Reno who was there visiting her sister. That was great to be able to meet up so unexpectedly! We went to the movies on a Saturday just to keep cool and relax. We have visited all four of the grocery stores and of course Walmart is a regular weekly stop for something or other.  We also took a first time trip to the Oregon Redemption center.  Oregon is one of those states that requires a payment on the bottles or cans that you buy and if you take it back to the redemption center you get your money back.  We made $3.20 back and it was pretty quick even though you feed the bottles in one at a time.  We have had some fun other than work fun,  we went out one night downtown with one of the guys working here temporarily, Mike, to play pool and shuffleboard. We have a plan to go bowling in the next week or so too. When we do take a day off we try to get some things done for ourselves like changing the fuel filter for Fat Henry and organizing storage space in the camper.

The inside of the redemption center where you feed your cans and bottles.

Nice to be able to sit up underneath the truck and change the fuel filter!

We only have a few weeks left and I doubt we will get anywhere near to being done with a lot of these jobs, but we will just keep plugging along.  We really want to take a little time and get out to explore the area too. We don’t feel any pressure really, we just like to check things off the list.  We will get started on the fun stuff next week when Tracy and Lee will be here for a couple nights.  We plan to go to Crater Lake to check it out since it is only about an hour away. We are all looking forward to that a lot! We actually look forward to every day.  The satisfaction of a hard days work can’t be beat.  We have liked the volunteer work we have done in the past, but having more time to really contribute in one place has been nice and I think we both would be willing to do it again. For now, we will just keep plugging away at our list of things to do and enjoy the experience.  I’ve got to go finish painting my picnic table now, so until next time…

Perfect ending to a hard day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Oregon, States, Volunteer | 10 Comments

Portland, Oregon

Tuesday after we dropped my temporary copilot, Kelley off at the airport. Oh, and her huge suitcase loaded with six pairs of shoes and other stuff. She was there 13 days and wanted to be prepared she said…me,- whatever, I don’t own six pairs of shoes anymore. It was also now filled with souvenirs. Anyway, after getting back to the camper we went back to sleep for awhile. It’s crazy that in Spokane and the Northwest it starts getting light at about 430am, but we slept in for awhile because we needed to get headed towards Portland and that was way too early to be up and last a full day. The plan was to stop one night and then stay in Portland for three nights and then we both would fly out for a week. I would go see my family in NJ and Kat would go to Raleigh for work where I would join her later in the week before we returned to Portland.

So the drive started out fine, we planned a stop in the Columbia gorge along the river that separates Oregon and Washington and about an hour down the road while going up a little bit of a hill Fat Henry sputtered. I hit the gas and we didn’t accelerate, I had it floored and we were just maintaining speed. We were not too far from Spokane, but I didn’t really see much hope in finding a diesel shop that may be able to help. We got off at the next exit and pulled into a big gravel lot. Of course we popped open the hood, but like most of us nowadays unless something is leaking or on fire you are just looking at a covered engine. We do recognize the obvious, but can’t just spot or know what’s wrong.  We cleaned out the air filter for kicks, know that probably wouldn’t be the cause and decided to see what happened if we continued. Nothing happened like that again before we got to our campsite, but it’s really hard to tell if the truck is having a hard time pulling when you are pulling a big load and it’s a bumpy road. The RPM’s never changed dramatically, so it was weird.  But since it was ok after our stop we just hoped it was a hiccup. I was worried maybe somehow I put regular gas in instead of diesel, but I didn’t! Whew.

We stopped at a BLM campground just off the highway that is famous with windsurfers. Um, yeah, it was windy and they were having a blast. Impressive stuff and I bet you’ve gotta be really strong to do that. With no hookups and it being late we just ate dinner and went to sleep.  The next morning it was easy to get going since we didn’t unhook from the truck. Next stop was Columbia Crossings RV park in Portland where we would get to meet up with our friends Julie and Casey who we met our first week on the road while we were at the RV dreams Rally in TN. I am still amazed that we met and have kept in touch with some of them who I now consider good friends. Anyway, we drove through the beautiful Columbia gorge and got setup before we went to have dinner with Casey and Julie.  We have found that meeting up with RV friends can be really awesome because when you arrive, they usually offer to cook you dinner that night or the night you leave. It’s very thoughtful and really helpful. We need to remember that, but we seem to be on the move most and I think Subconsciously we plan our arrivals that way. Haha.

We enjoyed our night with Casey and Julie.  The next day- Thursday we wanted to go check out the storage place that we would be leaving the camper and truck at so there would be no big surprises when we went to park it Friday before going to a hotel for the night. Our flights were early on Saturday, so that always works best. We had a small scare when the lady showed us the map thinking that we would have to parallel park, but in reality, there was so much space in front and behind our spot that it would be easy to just pull right in.  We stopped in a hotel parking lot to put in the containers of DEF (diesel fuel additive that we have to have every so many miles) and then the truck wouldn’t start. Ok, so the issue we had in the highway had now reared its ugly head again in a bigger way.  At least we weren’t on the highway with the camper in tow! We called our roadside assistance guy and about 45 minutes later he arrived and decided we probably just needed a jump start. That worked and after we told him about our previous experience with the sputtering and the age of the batteries he said that that was probably what it was and trecommended a place to get new ones.  His explanation was that the alternator was most likely trying to do the work of the batteries and didn’t have the ability. I don’t know, but after the alternator was checked and we replaced both batteries ( in the rain on our own since it cost 100$ to have the shop do it for us!)  Fat Henry was fine. I guess that really was the problem, but we do need to have the air filter and fuel filter replaced and so we ordered those on Amazon and will do those as soon as we have a place.  The odometer had just turned over to 150K and we had no idea how old the batteries actually were, so it was a good idea to replace them anyway. Now we have to decide on getting the big servicing done.

Friday morning with Fat Henry feeling good we packed up gave Julie some fridge and freezer items to hold onto for us and parked everyone in the storage place. Then we went into Portland on the train with Julie. I really wanted to go to Powells bookstore and Kat and Julie were happy to go too. When we got into town we were all a bit hungry so we hit the food truck block and had some lunch. It was pretty cool to have food trucks parked all around. There were so many choices! Later that night we enjoyed a nice meal at Julie and Casey’s before ubering to our hotel at the airport and get some rest before our early morning flight.

 

We flew to Dallas together and then Kat went into Raleigh for a week of work and I went to Philadelphia to spend some time with my family before meeting back up with Kat in Raleigh on Thursday where we would visit our neighbors and friends for the weekend.  I spent some time with my sister and mom that week. It wasn’t nice enough to take a dip in my sisters pool, but I was ready with my new bathing suit anyway. I enjoyed time with my mom walking on the beach and helping her around her house. The week went fast and before I knew it I was headed back to Raleigh. Our awesome neighbors had a party for us in Saturday and despite the rain it was a great time. We moved our 4 boxes of stuff that we had stored in a neighbors attic over to another neighbors attic. They are all so great and being there really made us want to go back after our adventure on the road is done. We have all sorts of ideas about how we want to spend our next “micro-life” and it is hard to imagine not having our home in Raleigh not be a part of that. Sunday we had to party a bit more at Kelley’s house- yeah, our life can be hard!  Monday we headed back to Portland where we would spend one night before starting our move down to Klamath Falls for our month of volunteering with the Oregon Fish and Wildlife.

Great friends and neighbors!

View from the plane as we flew back to Portland.

All was well with Fat Henry and the Shady Lady and one more evening with Casey and Julie. Our next stop was in Estacada, Oregon visiting with Tracey and Lee who were vworking at Promonotory Park. They were able to get permission for us to park next to them for a free couple nights stay and we enjoyed hanging out by the campfire at night just talking. Tracy gave us a great tour of the area and all the areas they work at locally.  The fish ladder at the dam was really interesting.  It allows the fish to go through pools arranged like steps and get  around the dam so they don’t get all beat up going down and around the dam.   Our conversations about their work experiences raised a lot of questions about exactly what we would be doing for our volunteering, it was pretty vague even though I spoke with the ranger in charge a couple of times. We were hoping we didn’t have to clean bathrooms like Tracy who finds poop on the floors in the bathrooms! Yuck!  We look forward to them coming and visit us at our site later in the month along with a visit form Julie and Casey. Yay! It’s really neat to cross paths with friends in the road and share experiences.  We are now headed to Klamath Falls to work at the Oregon fish and wildlife area for all of July….fingers crossed it is a good experience.

Our nice campsite next to Tracy and Lee

Some pie after dinner (Lee loves pie!)

Beautiful view of the river.

A group of rafters going down the river.

Whoa, hold on!

The fish ladder next to the dam.

Close up of the fish ladder.

 

Posted in Oregon, States | 6 Comments

Colorado to Spokane with Kelley

As I sit down this early morning just outside of Bend, Oregon I realize I have a months worth of traveling to write about. After we left Moab our trip was filled with visiting friends and lots of travel. I find it hard to make the time to sit and write when I’ve got people to spend time with. I am not a person who has to be electronically connected all the time or want to spend time on the computer when I have real people to be with. It has been great, but took me totally out of my normal routine. We are on the last stay before we hunker down in Klamath Falls, OR  for our month of volunteering at the Klamath wildlife area. For me taking too long of a break writing is like stopping exercising…once I stop it’s hard to start again. My writing muscles have atrophied and are now sore from starting again.

After leaving Moab, we only had one night to spend along the way before getting to Berthoud for a stay at Sue and Carol’s. We stopped at a little campground just past Grand Junction that was between the Colorado river and the highway. It ws a good overnight stop. I loved the drive up through the mountain passes and through Vail even though we got snowed on again. Really nice canyon drive. Did I ever mention how much I love driving though all of these fantastically beautiful places?

Berthoud, Colorado

When we arrived in Berthoud I would stay two weeks and Kat would only be there 6 days before she left for a two week work trip. I don’t remember exactly when I had this genius idea, I think it was in Moab, but instead of me staying in Berthoud while Kat was away I suggested I find a temporary copilot and keep moving towards Oregon. If we waited until Kat got back we would have to hurry to get to Klamath Falls for our volunteer job starting on July 1st and we wouldn’t be able to stop in on some of our friends staying in Portland and Estacada. Luckily our friend Kelley was available and up for some adventure. She would come out to Denver and spent a few days with me there after Kat left and then would drive with me up to Spokane.

Our visit in Colorado was as good as last time, but just shorter. It was nice to catch up with Sue and Carol on all the news since our last visit almost a year ago and meet all the new chickens, ducks and one very confused turkey. That turkey is growing up in a group of young chickens and ducks and I bet he feels different. He doesn’t seem to be being bullied though, so that’s good.

I immediately resumed my goat and cow feeding role and was pretty happy I didn’t throw out my old shoes from before. I did have to borrow some boots though because it had been pretty rainy and the cows had really created a mud pit. I can happily report that I think they remembered me and seemed a little less afraid. Hand feeding them clipped grass over the fence was a key to our newfound friendship. Kat and I didn’t do too many exciting things while there except order and setup solar panels and other Amazon items. We also went into Fort Collins to do a little shopping.  Sunday after I dropped Kat off I came back to help plant 8 fruit trees.  I sure hope they do well after all that work.

Kelley arrived Thursday and her first adventure was to learn how to feed the goats- lucky her. After only one day she decided that they weren’t something she would want to own – too smelly. Haha- they are, but they are cute and fun to watch. We went to Fort Collins one day and checked out the university and old part of town, then we had a nice lunch and did a little shopping. Saturday we were doing (walking) a 5k in Berthoud to celebrate Berthoud day. There was also a parade and a big block party after that was really fun. I have not been to a parade that had so many tractors or had so much candy thrown at me! Earlier in the week we had checked out the brewery, so didn’t need to do that again. I was amazed that such a small town had two brew pubs. Welcome to Colorado.  That night after running some errands we were treated to delicious build your own chicken pot pies to be eaten while relaxing and watching a movie.  I have never had better pie crust than what Carol makes!  A nice last evening.

I asked and he said he was mowing the grass!

 

Early on Sunday we needed to head out. We had some long driving days ahead of us to get up to Spokane to pick up Kat on the following Saturday. We got up early to get things ready on the camper and say goodbye. We had some struggles with navigation at first and after one u turn and a 4 mile dirt road we were on track! It takes some figuring out in the beginning, but Kelley kept at it and figured it all out. The beginning of our adventure.

Firehole Canyon, Flaming Gorge, Wyoming

We drove 6 hours into Wyoming and we really only went that far so we could spend more time near the Grand Tetons the next few days. When we arrived at Fire hole canyon in Flaming Gorge just outside of Rock Springs. (So many jokes in that!) I was happily surprised to find the campground almost empty since we were just doing the walk up thing.  It was incredibly hard to park in a spot since there were concrete barriers lining the narrow road. I couldn’t get the turn radius and space I needed, then it turned out when I did the Shady Lady was too long. We tried to get into that one spot for about an hour before we finally gave up and went to a spot I thought I could just go straight back into. It took 10 minutes! We didn’t chose that one originally because we didn’t want to encroach on the only other nearby campers privacy. At some point I decided to just say screw it and do it. So glad I did. I was tired and frustrated and not thinking straight anymore. I could see the look on Kelley’s face that read something like “oh crap, is it always going to be like this?” I do feel good about my backing in skills now, but this was a real test. I got some practice at least. Kelley was understanding and patient and she got to work on our hand signals. Even Kat and I struggle with that every now and then.

We set up camp and had a relaxing beverage before walking down to the lake. That was after we almost had a four foot snake go across Kelley’s feet! Haha- she dumped her chair over and then went about 6 feet in the air! ( it was a harmless gofer snake we found out later). We sat by the lake for a few minutes and then out of nowhere the wind and a little rain sent us back up to the camper. No matter where we were the views were incredible. As our camp host (Gordon)  informed us about the twin towers of Wyoming we turned to snap pictures of the rainbows. I have never see four rainbows in one day before and even a double! Amazing- all that driving and parking was worth it! We got some fantastic pictures.

4 ft gopher snake just passing by.

Kelley’s chair after it went 8ft in the air!

Later there were little rain showers off and on, but there are really nice shelters over the picnic tables that provide great protection while we still got to enjoy our view.  We were bothe too worn out to cook the steak we had planned on eating, but Kelley made us some nice sandwiches.  There was a strange buzzing or humming noise, but I couldn’t figure it out. It sounded like a swarm of bees or bunch of drones.  I really have no idea what it was, but it was gone in the morning.

Coulter bay, Grand Tetons, WY

It wasn’t such a long drive to the Grand Tetons which was good. I like the 3 hour days where you can arrive and get setup and do stuff before dinner. It was a beautiful drive and the rivers are really flowing with the snow melting off the mountains. We got to sit and enjoy the views more than once while waiting on road construction delays. The snow that remains on the mountains is beautiful. The water in the rivers was red because it was running down the mountain taking mud with it. It was so green later down the road and the spring flowers were out to add their beauty to it all.

It was super cool when we arrived and got the very same spot that Kat and I had stayed at the summer before. And it was SO much easier to just pull n quickly and be done. We hot some campfire wood and we headed out to Jackson lake on a short walk before going back to the camper. Kelley went out for another walk afterwards and I prepared dinner to go on the grill. We ate like queens and hung out by the fire for a nice relaxing evening.

We started our day with coffee in the beach with a great view. I really needed some internet to quickly get some bookings in for the rest of the trip, so we decided to forgo the hike Kelley was dying to take and so we went to Jackson. We stopped a lot on the way to get pictures and when I was done at Starbucks and Kelley was done shopping we had lunch. The best part was that after getting the rest of the trip planned I had figured  it was possible to stay another day and get some hiking done. We got back after a quick stop at the store to buy more firewood right as the rain started. Too bad for our campfire, but it was nice to hear the rain on the camper and just chill out. It was surprising to see that there were quite a few more campers parked around us. The rain did stop later and we had our fire after all.

 

We did get our hike in the next day. The trail around Jenny Lake was closed for maintenance, so we went to Bradley lake and hiked about 6 miles through some gorgeous trails. We stopped and had lunch which in hindsite I was thinking might not have been a good idea since there were warnings about bears being seen. However, I don’t think any bear would have stood a chance of getting Kelley’s cheetos! A really beautiful day for a hike with all the wildflowers and views of the snow-capped mountains. I was happy we stayed another day.

 

Last year Kat and I didn’t get to drive through Yellowstone because a fire had the road closed, but it was all clear for Kelley and I. We had another 4 hour drive ahead of us, but I had hoped to stop at Old Faithful to let Kelley check it out. Hmmm-she wasn’t really interested, so we just kept going. We did see some of the geysers from the road and it was a great drive. Two things we did see were a lot of snow on the roadside and of course the Buffalo. Those buffalo just take over the roadway and make it their own, which I guess is only right, but I sure was happy we weren’t behind them. Itn the other direction there had to be about 5 miles of traffic backed up going at a buffalo pace.

Montana

In Montana we stopped at the one campground I had picked out and all the electric sites were taken, so we went to my second choice and the one the ranger suggested, Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park just up the road. That part of the country is just so beautiful, I know Montana is called big sky country, but I can’t capture its beauty in pictures or explain why the sky seems so big. It is a fantastic drive though. L&C park was off the highway about 17 miles and inbetween some huge hills/little mountains, so of course we lost all cell signal again. That was getting old! At least we had electric to recharge the batteries. Even though we had power I wanted to test the solar panels and let Kat know how well they worked. They were easy to setup and everything worked fine during the two hours I got to have them in the sun. I think that was the first night without a campfire and since we had power we watched my favorite movie- Love Actually.

Superior, MT

Back on the road the next day (Friday)- our last night before we get into Spokane and get ready to pick up Kat. More of Montana’s beauty to gaze at as we drove along and that really makes driving so great. The campground Quartz Flat was an awesome find! It was a bit tricky to actually find the entrance to and if we paid more attention we would not have had to go through the 14′ tunnel to get across the highway to the side where RV’s were easier to park. I sent a picture to Kat and I could hear her gasp before she asked me “how tall was that tunnel and do you know how tall the camper is?” My response was ” it was 14′ tall and I think we are like 12′ 10”? But don’t worry I had read that most campers can get through ok,” Haha. She didn’t sound too pleased that I took the chance. I had Kelley watching as I started to pull through and it was going to be fine or I would have just backed up and turned around. I now know we are 12′ 10” and I would do it again.

The campground is on both sides of the highway, but the one we wanted was better for RV parking. It is so convenient because it is right behind the rest area, which makes it a bit noisy, but it was fantastic. There were only a few other campers, there were easy pull through sites and the host provided free firewood, which we took full advantage of for a few hours. There was a short hike which had a good little interpretive map to go with it to identify trees and stuff around the area, so we did that before lighting up (the fire).

 

Next and last stop for the Kelley and Bert drive would be Spokane. I was happy that I had a reservation because that would allow us to get settled in and stuff before we picked Kat up late that night. We drove through Spokane and about 15 miles west on the highway before we got to our exit and it was really pretty, but we were both thinking…where are we going? Why are we headed into the middle of nowhere? Yep, we lost signal as we pulled into the campground again. I knew we were going to have a problem as soon as we pulled into camp. It looked like a redneck scary village and there was a sign that even said “you are entering redneck country, there may be rednecks, confederate flags and firearms, if you don’t like it you can leave”. And leave we did. Lucky for us the spot we were assigned was not going to fit us. Then the lady offered us the option to take up two spots for the price of one. I declined. She was going to not charge us so I was happy not to have to deal with that, but now what? We were almost out of fuel, no cell signal, no campground planned and I had about 5 hours to get to the airport to pick Kat up. I needed somewhere relatively close to the airport because Kat had just spent 27 hours on planes and was sure to be tired and possibly grumpy. Later she told me she wasn’t thrilled about the 45 minutes to get to the redneck campground, so I was extra happy we didn’t stay there.

Down the road, a gas station, a cell signal, some phone calls and finally we just went to the fairgrounds. Not a beautiful location, but partial hookups, a field all to ourselves, relief at having somewhere to stay was good for me, plus only 15 minutes to the airport! We cleaned up, went shopping and next thing you know we were driving Kat home.

The fairgrounds campground.

Spokane, WA

Sunday there was to be an Elk Fest and we were pretty excited thinking we were going to a big street party with music, food trucks and stuff like that. I was sure we were going to be eating elk and enjoying cold beer, so we went for a morning hike to get in our exercise first. The Riverside State Park is almost right in Spokane and full of hikes, so that was easy to get to from our campground. We walked along the river and told Kat all about our adventures and she and Kelley got to catch up since they hadn’t seen each other in a year.

The Elk fest was our plan for afterwards, but it was not what we expected at all! There was music, there was beer and two food trucks, but that was about all. It was just one side street closed off and nothing else. We did eat lunch at the restaurant next to all the activities and got to people watch for awhile, so we had fun anyway.

Monday we went downtown for a little walk and to look around before we took Fat Henry for an oil change. When the oil change was done we went back downtown and walked around a bit more before heading back to camp. Kelley had an early flight out the next morning and we were heading out that morning too so it wasn’t a late night. Kat and I were headed towards Portland which will be another post.

I appreciate all that Kelley did for me while we traveled (even the 1 million selfies we took). I know it was alot to throw at her by asking her to navigate through so many states. You may be thinking it is not so bad to navigate, but in our world it is a lot of responsibility. I depend on that person to make sure we have the best route and are not going down roads that the camper shouldn’t go down and to tell me where to turn, etc. They also have to hand out the sandwiches for lunch, provide twizzlers and tic tacs upon request, find gas using gas buddy and make sure its a station I can get in and out of easily. They also have to search the internet to look up information about things we see on the way. They are also the DJ and when we tire of music they have to talk and keep me entertained. Thanks for all the help Kelley, it was great having you along on this part of the trip.

Defrosting the fridge.

Great hand signals!

Next stop…Oregon!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Colorado, Montana, States, Washington, Wyoming | 4 Comments

Moab, Utah

I’m having to backtrack quite a bit, but will do my best to fill in the blanks with my notes. Lately it’s been a lot of moving around and a lot of visiting and traveling with friends lately which distracted me. As well as super bad internet service in most places. Here we go on a journey from Northern NM through Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana and to Spokane, WA then Portland, OR. I will break it up though or you will be reading for hours and looking at pictures until your eyes cross. It was a great adventure and we saw spectacular things.

We stayed in between Santa Fe and Albuquerque at Cochiti lake for a few days after leaving Santa Fe. It really feels out in the middle of nowhere, but is only 25 miles from Santa Fe and not too far from Albuquerque. There is a convenience store in the little town of Cochiti lake, but for a town of only 500+ what can you expect? We didn’t venture back to Santa Fe, but we did go to Tent Rocks National Monument. That was really an awesome hike through a really impressive canyon with a fantastic view from the top at the end. We took the lower trail to see the cave and weren’t going to take the second part through the canyon, but man are we happy we did! It was so worth it. The rock formations were our first taste of these unique rock formations and they were beautiful and magical. It really isn’t a well known place and not heavily advertised and without just happening to be close by we probably wouldn’t have gone, but it made me very happy that we have these national parks that are protected and their presence is made known to the public. Thank you President Roosevelt for creating the National park system and Bill Clinton for adding this one.

 

When we left Cochiti we were going to stop in Angels Peak campground for the night, but I was in driving mode and really wanted to get further along in the direction of civilization, so we kept going to Valley of the Gods in Utah. Kat did a great job of finding it on the fly as we drove. We usually have a plan of where to go, but I threw it all off by wanting to keep going. Sometimes not having a reservation at a campground has its benefits. We went through the beautiful northern NM and towns of Farmington and Shiprock, which were a bit of sad little towns. Sorry for any offense to those who live there. We were originally going to head right into Colorado and up to stay at our friends farm (Carol and Sue) who we had stayed with late last summer, but as I looked at the map I saw that Arches and Moab could be on the way. We have it in our plans to go to Bryce and Zion in the fall along with Arches, but this would enable us to stay on the West side of Utah when we go back there in September. The drive was great, crossing the border into Arizona and then into Utah was spectacular with red rock formations in the distance and just great big wide open spaces filled with views of far off formations of rocks, cliffs, canyons and towering rocks. It was exciting to see what more was to come as we drove on.

You could see all the rock formations in the distance as we pulled off the road into Valley of the Gods. We knew that we could just pull over into any site that had been stayed in before, but not to go more than 3 miles. The road, although a bit bumpy of a dirt road was ok. We found a spot we really liked backed up against some rock formations and of course after getting setup we needed to see more, so we went out for a drive to see what was further down the road. It just kept getting more amazing, but we made the right choice not to go further with the camper. Dinner and relaxing was next on our to do list and we did it well. I was so amazed by the views from our camper that I just had to share a photo on FB, which I don’t do too often. There wasn’t great internet service, so I was glad it went through.

 

 

The next day we took a drive to Monument Valley which is known for its towering sandstones. We planned to stop at Gooseneck State Park to see what there was to see and then take a driving tour through Monument Valley when we got there. The driving tour was full of fantastic views and was terrific, except for the roads. I suspect they don’t care about keeping them maintained, they are dirt so that may be difficult, but if cars could easily drive down those roads how would the tour groups stay in business and there were many! When we finished the tour I saw that I had a comment on the picture I had posted. It was from our friends, Greg and Cori that we met in Usery Park, AZ (LINK). They were going to be staying at Valley of the Gods starting that night! What a crazy small world. And if the park had more than one road in we would have a small chance of finding them, but as we drove into the park….there they were! We stopped in and made plans for dinner back at their camper a bit later. We had a super dinner and good conversations, then made plans to meet at our camper for breakfast. We planned to make green chili egg burritos, say goodbye and hit the road. Things didn’t go as planned. As I packed up outside I noticed one of our camper tires was looking very low. Sure enough it was 1/4 of what its PSI should have been. A bit closer of inspection showed we had a screw embedded in it. This was after breakfast and Cori and Greg were still around. I feel like an idiot admitting we didn’t even have a lug nut wrench to take off that tire and replace it with the spare. We were so lucky Greg and Cori were there! He had what we needed to get the punctured tire off, replace it with the spare and even let us use his compressor to get the spare to pressure after we fried our little one by running it too long. Darn it, we use that quite often and now will have to replace it as well as figure out how to make it easy to put air in when needed. So happy I posted that FB picture! Thanks again to Greg and Cori for the help. We got the tire repaired on the next stop for 20 bucks.

Gooseneck park.

Enjoying a cup of tea while checking out the views!

 

 

We needed more awesome rock formations and our next stop was Moab, Utah. Arches National Park was our real goal. We once again had no reservation and with the tire issue we were later arriving than we wanted to be, but we got totally lucky in getting the last spot at Kens Lake campground, just about 9 miles from Moab. I was dying to go check things out in town, so off we went after setting up. Really, I needed some civilization and city life as we had been in nowhere land for a long time. The first thing we did when we arrived was to get Kat some food. She was fading fast and this was not going to end well if we didn’t. More good luck shined down on us when we parked and on the corner of main street was the fabulous food truck: Quesadilla Mobilla. Wow. I have never had that much meat in a Quesadilla, or seen so many people lined up for a tortilla folded over with stuff in the middle. It was great and even though we had to wait a bit we enjoyed the outside seating area and people watching. They were mostly bikers and hikers. One of the first things I noticed about Moab was that almost everyone had a bike on their truck or car or they had a trailer with an ATV. If people weren’t in a car they were dressed for hiking or doing outdoors things. Definitely an outdoorsy place. So many shops there to accommodate that lifestyle as well. Gearheads outdoor shop even provided as much free filtered water as you wanted and the Maverick Gas station had free water for campers and a free dump station, we made use of both.

The view from our campsite at Ken’s lake.

Quesadilla Mobilla.

Crazy ATV riders!

 

Of all the places we have been we both agreed that Moab is one place we would think about living. Well, there are probably more, but we fell in love with the area and the town. The weather was good, the outdoor vibe of it, the views and activities were amazing. Arches National park was just fantastic, even better than I imagined. Wewent to Arches on Friday night and hiked to Delicate arch to see the sunset. It was a nice 3 mile round trip hike over and through some really cool rocks. The viewing area was packed with people waiting to get a good picture. We didn’t stay until sunset because we didn’t want to have to hike back down with all those people and instead we drove to Fiery Furnace area and took some pictures there and drove out of the park. The park is doing road construction and the only time it is open in the evenings is Friday and Saturday, the rest of the week it closes at 7pm. We planned to go back and do some of the hikes later in the week because we both love the area and were going to stay around as long as possible and do as much exploring as we could before we head to Colorado. We booked ourselves into a ranger led walk through Fiery Furnace on the following Friday at 1pm before we hiked another trail on our own one day. All the hikes were great and we saw a lot of different, but all very cool sights.

Fun part of the hike to Delicate Arch.

Fiery Furnace

 

Arches is actually one of the smaller parks and we wanted to get in more exploration of the area which meant off to Canyonlands park we went for new sights and hikes. We started out one day by driving to the Needles section of the park where we took a six mile hike. It’s hard to describe, so pictures will have to do, but again…just amazing! After our long hike we did a shorter little walk to see where an old cowboy camp was found. That was pretty well kept and one part of the trail required climbing up a wooden ladder. The weirdest thing ever was that at the top of that ladder we both smelled pepperoni pizza. I mean seriously, how can we both smell it like it was right there hot and ready to eat? Weird, we must have been really hungry! Unfortunately, there was definitely no pizza around.

The other section of Canyonlands we went to was at the other end of the park called Island in the sky. It wasn’t a great weather day and we thought rather than hang around the camper we could at least go for a drive and maybe the weather would be ok up there. Haha-nope! We got snowed on and other than a quick break in the clouds and fog for about 20 minutes we couldn’t see anything much. Kind of fun anyway. Canyonlands is a great park. The name sort of sounds like an amusement park and I guess it is for outdoor enthusiasts. Hikers, bikers, climbers and anyone who likes being out in nature.

 

My favorite places lately have been Carlsbad Caverns and Utah. Comparing the two is odd because they are both wonderful to see, but one is beautiful because it is forming new amazing formations and the other is beautiful because it is eroding. Who knew rock formations could be so beautiful? I always wanted to go to the Parks in Utah, but it was a thought that was just in the back of my mind and not a solid one. Wow, so cool and I wish everyone could see it. For those who aren’t into biking or hiking or ATV’s it is still a wonderful experience because the park system has been kind enough to create scenic drives with lots of pull offs to view the scenery.

We stayed in the area as long as we could because we loved it so much before we needed to head to Berthoud, Colorado so that we could spend time before Kat headed out for a two week work trip. We did spend some time in Moab at the library using the internet and supporting their book sale. We got 28 books for $20! Of course now we have to find places to keep them all or quickly read them and give them away. We didn’t eat out in Moab except for the food truck, but we did enjoy some nice meals cooked on our little grill. The wind made that challenging sometimes, but Fat Henry makes a nice wind block. Staying without power for so many days without power convinced us that we should bite the bullet and buy some portable solar panels. We could have them shipped to Berthoud and get that all setup while parked there. Sad to leave Moab, but we were excited to go see Sue and Carol again. Colorado here we come with more adventures to follow as I get caught up on all the fun getting to Portland, Oregon, where we are now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in States, Utah | 4 Comments

Texas

We finally arrived in Lubbock after a long anticipated visit. We stayed 10 days in Laura (Story) and Miriam’s driveway and had a great visit. During those days we drank a lot and ate a lot of chips and salsa at area restaurants we could just walk to, which proved dangerous. Most of the time we were probably the oldest people in some of the places since they are so close to Texas Tech and all the college students are out enjoying the same places. Margaritas and great mexican food everywhere we went, it was awesome and I was in heaven. We had a lot of good conversations about past memories and caught up on each others lives, so that was really good. It’s always easy to just pick up where we left off when it comes to Story and I.
Kat saw more of Lubbock than I did with a trip to the post office and out to volunteer at South Plains Food Bank, where she stacked cans of corn. One interesting thing was that she had to mark out the barcode with a sharpie because people will take them to the stores and return them for money. I had a very sore back that day because of my previous three days washing and waxing the Shady Lady. I did have help washing from Story, but the waxing was all me. Not too bad really because it was like putting lotion on very dry skin and then just rubbing it off. Not like a hard wax that goes on a car that takes a lot of muscle to rub it off. We had been wanting to get that done for a very long time so we could do some caulking….lets see how long it takes for us to do that since neither of us want to do that at all!


It was windy, dusty, hot weather as was expected from West Texas, but it was still great to be there. We enjoyed each others cooking and even got the neighbor who lives in their back house involved. He made a delicious Salmon dinner that we ate for lunch the next day too. See, we did skip chips and salsa a few days.


We left on Friday morning after getting our mail delivered that was supposed to be there Thursday, but we just did some cleaning during the extra time and we aren’t quick to get out in the mornings anyway. Laura and M had left Thursday evening for a two week trip of their own, so not much point in staying, plus we needed to get the tanks emptied. Before Laura left she said to us “Well, that visit went better than we expected” I got a good laugh out of that, but I knew she and Kat would get along and I already know I get along with her since we roomed together in college and I’ve spent time with Miriam, but you never know. You can read more of her thoughts about it on her blog: Up with Assist: Story’s visitors blog  She really wanted to do a guest blog while we were there, but since we weren’t going to take the camper out anywhere together we made a plan to do so later this year.  I made a deal with Miriam and shook on it to come back and go to Big Bend, so that is in the books for fall.

 
While we were there we also found out that we have a volunteer job at an Oregon Wildlife area near Klamath Falls, Oregon for the month of July! Yay, we had applied and I had called the three places we chose, but only one called us back. I spoke with two different guys who work there and it was all pretty casual, so I kind of expect the time we spend there to be the same. From what I gather by talking with them we will be doing landscaping and just general things to keep the area nice. I’ll do whatever they need, I hope I learn some cool stuff about the area plants and wildlife is all. Kat is excited to stay for free and bring our average cost of stays down.
From Lubbock we headed to Amarillo and it was just a short drive away, pretty boring unless you like grain and cotton gins. We got busy cleaning and flushing the black tank and also replacing the anode and cleaning out the hot water tank (for you Rvers you know what we are talking about….the hot water tank was full of crud). As we were finishing the weather was really starting to cool off and of course was still windy. We had just gotten inside before the rain started.
We were staying just off of I40 at the Cadillac ranch RV park. Nothing special about the park, but we really only wanted to have sewer so we could get the tanks cleaned out before going boondocking after this stop. Other than the traffic noise from I 40 it’s a quiet park. I finished the anniversary blog and we watched TV before turning in for the long night of listening to wind and rain.

Really eaten up Anode- we will change it every 6 months now.


We woke up Saturday to frozen rain and snow, so that put the kabash on our plan to go hiking at Palo Duro Canyon, which is supposed to be the Grand Canyon of Texas. I found out about Jack Sisemore’s Traveland RV museum on Trip Advisor and we needed a couple of things from the RV store anyway, so we decided to go out. We drove by the Cadillac ranch attraction, which is 10 Cadillacs upside down in a field off the road and decorated with spray paint. If it wouldn’t have been so cold, snowy, windy and muddy we would have walked the 100yards to get some pictures, but there may be time tomorrow. We went to the museum and wow, it was really cool! It is a building full of old RV’s that have been restored or are just in good shape and donated. The RV from the Robin Williams move ” RV ” is there and the first Airstream is too! There were some really cool and historic campers as well as a lot of Harley Davidson motorcycles. It was great and we were there about an hour. It was free too! Extra bonus! I highly recommend it if you are ever in Amarillo with some extra time.

Cadillac Ranch in the snow.

The oldest Airstream. (Kat loves Airstreams)

The rest of the afternoon was a trip to Walmart and then just hanging out in the camper watching TV, reading and researching some of our next stops. We hadn’t decided if we would leave in the morning or not. Our next stop was at Lake Meredith and is a boondocking spot, so we weren’t sure if it would be a muddy mess. We would have felt better about it if we had a full tank of propane too since we were probably low, so that could be another reason to stick around Amarillo, but we decided to go a little further. There really was no rush since the weather up in Northern NM and Colorado was cold and snowy too. We might as well wait for it to warm up in those places so we can enjoy it more.

 

Lake Meredith was a pretty nice campground just outside of the little town of Fritch, TX (pop 2000+). The reservoir/lake is formed by the Sanford dam and Canadian river.  It used to be a major water provider for Amarillo and Lubbock, but there has been too much drought to continue that.  There are a lot of different sections to stay in and we stayed in the Sanford Yates area. It was almost empty when we got there and so we chose a spot overlooking the lake, boondocking again. We had a really pretty view out the back window. The place got pretty busy that night and then in the morning it was empty again. Either people just used it as an overnight stay or they left because of the wind. Yeah, it got windy at night, very windy! I was pretty much over wind and dust, but not much you can do about it.

 
We had stopped at the visitor center on our way into the Lake when we first arrived and we signed up for a tour of the Alibates flint quarry. I had no idea what to expect from that, but usually we learn some good stuff from ranger talks. So, we showed up at the quarry park headquarters at 2pm for the walk and it had two other civilians attending and three other forest service workers. Jacob was our guide and he really told great stories about the area that helped you be able to imagine what life was like so long ago for the Indian people. The flint quarries are not like any quarry I would ever imagine. There were no huge holes in the ground with big trucks driving up and down. Nope, they are small (kid swimming pool size) depressions in the earth with lots of flint stone around where the Indians dug up flint that they chipped away at to make weapons and tools. The flint stone is really gorgeous and I think now if I am out hiking I can recognize it along with some of the plants that Jacob told us about as we hiked. A good two hours of time spent well.


Nothing too exciting to tell about the rest of our stay there, we took some walks and did reading as usual, but we did get our new propane tank filled for only 19$! Our next stop was Santa Rosa Lake in Santa Rosa, NM of course. That was a super quiet place. We took a walk after we got set up and just relaxed over dinner. We didn’t have much of a cell signal, so no surfing the internet, but we did have power, so we watched TV for awhile.  When we do watch TV we mostly watch BBC cooking shows and QI and Graham Norton that Kat downloads onto her computer.  We like to torture ourselves watching people bake full meals and especially bread with tons of space and all sorts of kitchen gadgets.  Kinda fun to figure out if we can do it too, but we have only tried a few new things.

The next morning we took a hike on the shoreline trail. That was about 3 miles in total. A lot of great views of the lake and blooming flowers along the trail. We spent a few hours in the towns library, but their internet was not great either, but we were able to use our phones as hotspots. Not much going on in town, but it was Cinco De Mayo, so who knows how the evening turned out. We drove past Blue hole, there were some people swimming and diving, but we just snapped a few pictures and left. Apparently there are about 22 lakes in the area. I would have never guessed that by just looking around.  It seems more like a place for trucks to get gas after pulling off the highway.

 
We left early in the morning on Saturday so we could get into Santa Fe for a late lunch and do some exploring. We also needed to do a little shopping. For our stay we took advantage of the Harvest Host membership and parked at Blue Mesa Alpaca ranch about 15 minutes outside of Santa Fe. Bob and Louise were super nice and we basically just dropped of the camper in a field next to their barn and went into town. We got our Mexican food fix and then checked out the Plaza, as you have to do when in Santa Fe. Starbucks for internet was our next stop, but it was a slow connection so we only stayed until our parking expired. As we walked back to the truck I suggested a drink somewhere. I am really glad we did because when we stopped at the corner bar I was amazed at how crowded it was and wondered why. Well, hmmm- it was just about time for the big Kentucky Derby race! We remembered being at a party the year before and discussing full time RVing with Breck and Cheri. What a long time ago that seemed and now here we are actually living the life we talked about.
After a long evening of running errands we headed home to put away groceries and get some sleep before helping with Alpaca pen cleaning in the morning. Kat wanted to get in some volunteering in NM and I had told her we/I did it already when we went to Albuquerque. Well, only I did because Kat was working and she said it didn’t really count anyway because we weren’t staying in the camper at the time, we had flown in and were staying in a hotel. I disagree and think it counts, but I don’t mind doing more, so we offered to help Bob clean out the Alpaca pens in the morning. It didn’t seem like he was sure about letting us, but I told him we had helped on a friends farm before, so he accepted our offer. We scooped poop from 70 alpacas as they all watched us. Yes, they have 70 Alpacas. They sell the fiber and also breed them. He also has 12 horses, some are rescues that he saved. Like I said, he is a really nice guy. They also have a few cats running around, but the funniest one was Garfield who the Alpacas loved to follow around.  He loved to follow us around and be part of cleaning and feeding.  After buying a pair of socks and chatting we headed out to stay at Cochiti Lake in between Santa Fe and Albuquerque.

 

Really pretty country, quiet and relaxing.  It leaves me feeling pretty mellow and peaceful.

Posted in New Mexico, States, Texas | 2 Comments

The Random Numbers of a Year on the Road

Well, we’re sitting here in a chilly camper on a snowy, windy day in Amarillo, and now seems like a great time to review our past years trip statistics.  In some ways it hasn’t seemed like a whole year has passed since we left Raleigh on the 29th April 2016, but in other ways it seems like we’ve been doing this a while.  We’re used to having military showers (quick in and out, turn off water when soaping up), to having less toilets than the number of people (our Raleigh house has 3….), to staying out of each others way when we’re in the camper (it’s an intricate dance, similar to the tango but without the gracefulness), to packing everything up every few days and unpacking it again.  We’re a well oiled machine.

Here’s our wiggly, non linear route through the US – red dots are 2016, green dots are 2017:

So many more places to go!

These are some of the things we’ve been tracking on our trip:

Number of states visited = 20 (in order: NC, TN, KY, IN, IL, MO, KS, NE, CO, WY, MT, ND, SD, ID, UT, NV, CA, AZ, NM, TX)

Number of places stayed = 56 different campsites.

Average stay at a campsite = 5.47 days

How much we’ve spent on campsites since we left Raleigh = $7,233.13 (see all the other numbers below)

Most expensive campsite = $45 in Napa Valley during our ‘Month of Rain’ (actually it was more like 2 months…….. and it felt like forever).

Number of nights camped for free = 74.  The vast majority of those were nights with friends and relatives, the others were BLM, Harvest Hosts or National Recreation areas.  We’re going to do a better job of seeking out the free BLM campgrounds, now we know we can go for a while without hookups and now I’ve got the inverter hooked up.  We have a generator, but I’d really like to put solar on too……. it’s just a quite expensive accessory if we’re going to sell the camper in a year after we’ve finished our odyssey….. and like I said, we have a generator.  But solar is so much cleaner and quieter.

Number of friends visited = not enough!  We spent some good times with lots of people – stayed in friends driveways in Knoxville, Webster Groves, Berthoud and Lubbock, and had friends visit us at campsites in KY, SD, ND, WY, NV, CA and AZ.  We are truly blessed to have shared some great times with friends, and deepened our relationships with others.  But, if you’re reading this and you haven’t seen us on the road ………. there’s always this year! We welcome visitors.

State we stayed the longest in = California at 69 days (not including the time we parked the camper when we were in Europe).  Second longest was Arizona at 42 days.

Number of miles Fat Henry towed the Shady Lady = 8,110 miles

The average number of miles in transit between each campground = 135.16 miles

Number of miles we drove altogether = 20,248 miles

Average number of miles driven per day = 54.9

Number of gallons of diesel Fat Henry has drunk = 1495.36 gallons

Highest price we’ve paid for diesel per gallon = $3.499 in Cambria, CA.  What!  It was an emergency, so we put $15 and went 50 miles down the road and filled up with $2.759.

Hitchhikers = 2.  Then we exterminated them (as detailed here).  Just like the daleks.

Number of times we filled up a propane tank – 2.  We’re not too sure how much we had when we started, but we think they were quite full.  So we’ve probably used about 120lb propane since we’ve been on the road (each tank is 30lb).  We use propane for cooking inside, and also powering our fridge, water heater and furnace when we’re not on shore power.  In the summer we use less, in the winter we use more.  Simples.

Number of haircuts on the road = 3.  All Berts.  None of Kats head hairs have been harmed in the making of this road trip.  No comment on the other types of hair.

Camper modifications and repairs we have done:

Before we left, Katie (of the amazing 507Designs) did a fantastic job re-doing our crappy window coverings.  We had very dated waterfall window surroundings in a nice 70’s pattern.  The side bits got removed, the top bits got re-covered and sprayed and now it looks a lot better.  She also made a cute little curtain and covered the 70’s sofa (see the theme here – the camper was made in 2005, but the camper designers all live in the past.  They probably all listen to disco music, wear tye-dye and eat fondue when they have dinner parties).

Two new 30lb propane tanks – the old ones were over 10 years old and therefore nobody would fill them up.  We could either get them recertified for another 5 years (~$35) or buy new ones (~$55) that would be good for another 10 years.  We went with the new ones, because it’s easier to get a new one shipped to us rather than have to try to find somewhere that recertified the tanks when we were travelling…….. addendum……. Just a day after writing the last paragraph (but obviously before publishing this post) we went to get the new tank filled with propane.  The lady there told us she would have recertified the tank for $4.  Doh!  Just shows how much difference it is regionally – Napa Valley CA prices vs Amarillo TX prices.

Added 2x6v batteries to the battery bank, with a switch to swap between the two ‘sets’ of batteries (1x12V or 2x6V).

The battery compartment. The original battery is on the right, and the two 6v batteries that were added are on the left. The inverter (see below) is mounted on the plank in the middle, with a 100A fuse switch.

The switch that we can either disconnect batteries, use battery bank 1, or battery bank 2.

 

A 1000W inverter so we can run things like fans and charge computers when we’re on our house batteries.  We installed a dedicated outlet for it in the camper as we don’t really need to run everything when we’re not on shore power.

The dedicated inverter outlet installed in the camper, with the inverter on/off switch above. And the retro cassette player above that (original equipment)

Adding a little voltage readout in the camper, so we don’t need to go outside and put the voltmeter across the battery terminals every time we need to see how much battery we have left.

Small display showing the battery voltage

Replaced the front landing legs for the Shady Lady – less than a month into our trip they broke in Nashville

Added a shock that didn’t seem to be there anymore on the camper.  Oops.

New taps for the bathroom and the kitchen

Replaced the dining chairs with ottomans for more storage.  Then broke the dining table in the first couple of weeks of being on the road, so we’re now using a ‘temporary’ folding table, which actually is way more versatile.  ‘Temporary’ being an attitude and not an actual period of time.  Obviously.  As we still have it….

As you can see – the original dining room table that bit the dust. And the old ‘waterfall’ window accoutrements.

Restrung the blinds numerous times- thank goodness we bought 9 miles of nylon string!

Recaulked bits and pieces- still a lot to do now that it is washed and waxed.

Replaced the roof vent caps.  Repeatedly.  They shouldn’t really be treated as a disposable, but we are leery of replacing them and creating a leak in the roof.

 

 

Here’s the spending summary – I know it’s what you’ve all been waiting for so you can live vicariously through our budget:

 Annual TotalAverage Per MonthAverage Per DayComment
Campsite$7,377.5$614.79$20.16Cheaper than a mortgage
Fuel$3,134.43$261.2$8.56Fat Henry drinks a lot. Not quite as much as twice our drinking line item, but close…….
Grocery$4,412.69$367.72$12.06We like eating……. Too much sometimes.
Restaurant$2,665.59$222.13$7.28See above.
Alcohol$1,891.07$157.59$5.17‘Nuff said.
Household$783.26$65.27$2.14Things like paper towels, toilet paper, cleaning materials, propane for the grill and other things like that.
Camper$2,118.8$176.57$5.79Repairs, upgrades and maintenance to the camper itself.
Equipment$331.58$27.63$0.91Things like camp chairs,
Truck$498.88$41.57$1.36Fat Henry is pretty cheap – no major repairs or expenses yet. But the big service will be upon us soon.
Parking$78$6.5$0.21Not enough of a category to be a category next year. You are the weakest link. Goodbye.
Entertainment$971.7$80.98$2.65Museums, National Park Pass, bourbon and wine tastings, firewood for camp files, rodeo, generally paying to enjoy ourselves.
Gifts$520.41$43.37$1.42Most of this was postcards and stamps. Money well spent.
Fixed Costs$2051$170.92$5.6Truck and camper taxes and insurance
Laundry$130.66$10.89$0.36Cleanliness is next to godliness. As we only spent 36 cents per day, we’re probably not close to either of those things.
Miscellaneous$1,433.4$119.45$3.92Some clothes, some transportation (ferrys, Uber, buses, trains etc) and a Shady Lady Wash N’ Wax (Ooh-Er Missus)
Membership/ club/education$708.9$59.08$1.94Good Sam, Passport America, Harvest Hosts, RV Dreams Rally (a lot of fun – maybe should have been in entertainment)
Health/Medical$6,150.73$512.56$16.81Cost of being self employed in the US
Phones$1,755.67$146.31$4.8Cricket and Verizon. It’s not till you don’t have WiFi at home that you realize how much you use…..
Total$37,014.27$3,084.52$101.13

When we first left, we wanted to try to keep it to $1500 per person per month ($18k per person per year, $36k per year total).  Looks like we’re around that mark, or a tiny bit above.  Next year, I’d like to keep it to the same amount, but as health insurance has gone up, something else has to go down.

Sidenote:  (Not to get into politics, but health insurance in the US is a non-negotiable expense for me – I have to have it.  The way I see it, I have worked too long and hard to risk it all being taken away if I get cancer or have an accident, or need an appendectomy or anything like that.  Coming from a country where having access to ‘free’ basic healthcare is a right (like ‘free’ basic education is) and not a privilege, the thought of having to pony up hundreds of thousands of dollars if something untoward happened to me is unconscionable.  If anyone wants to discuss this further offline – I’d love to engage with you!)

So the biggest areas that we can make a difference are our campsite and our eating/consumption habits.  So now we have the inverter, we’re looking at doing a bit more free camping – we can run for a week-ish on our water tanks, and we have a generator that can top up the batteries every 3 – 5 days.  We’ve got a month in Oregon doing volunteer work lined up (Bert will tell you more about that), and we get our campsite free…… so that will bring it down a little.  And if we like it, we’ll do more of it.  If not, we’ll live in Walmart parking lots, and underneath underpasses.

I collected a LOT more statistics from our year on the road, but as this post is getting super long, I’ll leave it there.  If you have any other statistics that you would like to know, let us know in the comments!

And I’ll leave you with one other thought:

Your regular program of unicorns and rainbows will be resumed by Bert shortly.  Thank you for your patience.

Posted in Statistics | 9 Comments

Happy Anniversary!

Happy 1 Year Anniversary to our traveling adventure!
We officially left Raleigh on April 29th. Our last day and evening was spent cleaning the house and garage of all the last little things. Our neighbors all came over and joined us in the garage for a final farewell. The rain came down heavy for a short while and the neighborhood kids had a blast playing in the downpour. I admit that I may have instigated that a little, but that is the kind of neighbor I was. I hope to be again someday.
Settle in a comfortable spot and enjoy some of our favorite pictures from the places we have visited in  the last year. I did my best to choose as few as possible, but that was hard since we have so many.

We will be on the road for one more year, so we hope to share many more pictures and tales of places we visit. I’d like to say we have an absolute favorite place that we were able to go, but as Kat says “There is something good to be said about everywhere we have gone, sometimes it is totally unexpected.”  I agree, whether it has been the weather, the scenery, the people, the food or whatever, we have just made the most of everything and tried to be happy wherever we were.

Goodbye home and great neighbors….see you again!

Our first week was spent in Sevierville, TN at an RV rally.  Good start!

 

Visiting Cousins and The Smoky Mountains of Tennessee.

 

Louisville, KY

 

Kansas.

 

 

 

Bailey’s point, KY

 

St Louis.

Nebraska.

Omaha, NE

 

Indiana.

A quick stay in Illinois.

Sterling Lake, Colorado

Berthoud, Colorado and Rocky Mountain National Park.

 

 

Great Salt Lake, Utah

 

North Dakota.  Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

Montana- site of Custer’s last battle.

Wyoming- Grand Tetons, Laramie, Yellowstone and Cody.

Devils Tower, WY

South Dakota

 

Idaho

 

 

Nevada

California (January and February)

 

 

Arizona

 

New Mexico

Texas

Texas

Thank you to everyone who we met up with on the road, old friends and new ones.  You really have added a lot of enjoyment to the trip for us.  We appreciate you taking the time to hang out, eat and drink, letting us park in your driveways (or pastures), allowing us to do laundry and shower and just enjoy each other’s company.

 

We will spend our 1 year Anniversary in Amarillo, TX and it will probably be rainy and cold.  Yeah, I know, but you have to take it as it comes, so we will make the most of our day and just have fun.  Hope you enjoy yours too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in States | 11 Comments

Hello New Mexico

There is nothing like traveling when at your destination you are really looking forward to seeing a friend or family. I felt really excited and driven to get to Phoenix to see my family and every stop was exciting because I was a bit closer. Right now we are headed through New Mexico to get to my college roomate’s house. We have that relationship where you can not talk for a long time, but then when you do it’s just like you saw each other last week. We had some good times and I am looking forward to reminiscing. We all have friends like that and Laura is one of mine. I also think Kat will have a really good time because they like to debate and get into good, deep, possibly intellectual discussions and I think Kat is ready to do that with someone other than me. And that’s ok, I am too. Really looking forward to this visit and I only hope we fit in the driveway.

We left Catalina State Park as our last stop in Arizona and headed to New Mexico on Thursday. We really wanted to stay at Big Rocks State Park about 30 miles outside of Deming and we could only get a one night reservation. We planned to stay longer, but took that reservation to ensure we had at least one night there. They have 45 unreservable sights and friends told us that we should just show up and trade for one of those if possible. I had called the ranger station and was told since it was Easter weekend they expected to be pretty full, but just to give it a shot anyway. Having no reservations always makes us a bit edgy because we like to know where we are going and not have to wing it after we arrive and nothing is available (hasn’t happened yet, but you never know). We got there about 1.30pm and things were looking pretty good except for the camper in front of us, I was really nervous he would get the very last spot for a camper of our size even though he was smaller. We got a great spot in the one right after his. It took some tricky leveling and back and forths, but we got it in the end without too much trouble. It was really worth it! We were parked right next to the rocks and on the other side we had a fantastic view of the wide open desert. We could see for miles.

I had a nice bike ride after we got setup and checked out the rest of the campground and a bit of the scenery while Kat had a short nap. The sunset was amazing and the views were incredible of both the rock formations all around and the desert. Later that night the stars felt so close it was almost like you could reach out and grab them. No light pollution anywhere close by will do that and I forgot that about New Mexico skies. It got down into the 30’s at night, but in the day the sun brought it up into the low 80’s. Perfect, except the late afternoon and evenings were windy after the first day, so we didn’t get to have a fire.

View of the campground from a close by hill.

Friday we headed up to the Gila Cliff Dwellings about 2 hours away. It is not that far in miles, but the roads up the mountain from Silver City are really curvy and steep. No problem for Fat Henry and there wasn’t much traffic. Even though I lived in NM for a long time when growing up I had never been there, so it was cool to finally go. The round trip walk is only about a mile and you get to go through 4 caves that have some really interesting structures that have been nicely preserved. The drive home was a bit easier because we took a different way through Mimbres, NM. It took us longer to get there and back than it did to walk through the caves, but it was worth it. When we got back we went down to the visitor center with our coffee grinder and some beans. We forgot to grind beans before we left AZ and needed some good coffee for in the morning, so we used an outside outlet to grind our beans. We weren’t the only ones who needed a bit of electricity because we had to wait for someone else to finish using the plug to blow up an air mattress.

 

We really enjoyed our walks around the camp and checking out what spots were taken and by whom. There was quite a bit of turnover, so if you wanted a spot you could most likely find something if you got there at the right time. All the campsites were named after constellations, planets and stars. We were staying in the site named Crab. During our walk we checked out the original spot we had reserved and it was Uranus. We were happy not to have stayed in Uranus. Jokes about Uranus are always funny and we had quite a few laughs about it during our stay. My nephew told me while we were visiting that he thinks Kat and I combined together have maybe the mental age of a 30 year old- I don’t take that as an insult because sometimes it seems kind of true. I won’t even go into how that age gets divided. lol (Kats note – Easy: I’m 20 and Bert’s 10……) 
Saturday we had planned just to take it easy and let Kat rest a bit, but we were on the fence about leaving Sunday and so decided to at least go into Deming and get fueled up. While in NM who can resist the opportunity to get good mexican food, so we decided that is what we would do for lunch while in town. Easter weekend and Irma’s is closed! Oh no. Ok, just walk around the corner and there is El Senors restaurant, which is packed. Either they were all going to Irma’s too, or it is just that good. We can’t compare, but we did really enjoy lunch and had leftovers to take home too! We made our obligatory NM state Walmart stop (Kats note – A Walmart in every state, baby!  That should go into the next stats page, in 2019), got gas and went home. That park has lots of locals coming out for picnics and camping, so we got a lot of traffic passing by. We were blocked by the camper, so it was not really a big deal. We had a good evening and had decided to head to Oliver Lee state park near Alamogordo. Again, we had no reservations-we have really been living on the edge! That park was nowhere near as full and once more we were in the beautiful desert in the middle of nothing except cactus and mountains.

We got setup and went back out to get Fat Henry filled up and go see White Sands National Park. I’ve been there many times while growing up and driving by, but Kat never had. We got to use our pass, so it was free! It was busy, but I guess that can be expected on a holiday. We saw the signs as we entered that No Alcohol was allowed from February 1st to May 31st. We didn’t have any, but why would those dates be important? So, we asked the ranger and he by the grin on his face he seemed to know what Kat was going to ask as soon as she told him she had a question. Spring Break! They don’t want people having spring break parties out there. Makes sense. We took a little walk down the boardwalk path and then started driving the rest of the loop, but it was so wash-boarded out and we were bouncing around and rattling so much in Fat Henry that we stopped about half way. I am so glad we didn’t bring the camper down through here too. I went out and walked on the dunes to get some pictures and Kat joined me after a few minutes. So, we were there, we saw, we left. It would have been nice to drive the whole things, but we did enjoy what we saw. Back to camp for us to relax because we are leaving again in the morning.

After dry camping for 3 nights it was nice to have power, but we could have done without. We did watch a couple of shows we had downloaded since it got really windy outside after the sun went down. When the wind was gusting we felt the camper rocking and realized we had forgotten to put down the stabilizers. Hmmm-first time for that, but we got distracted as we set up because our electric plug had water in it and also the surge protector was showing no ground? (Kats note – Well, one side of the surge protector was showing no ground and the other was, so we’re not too sure what was going on with that.  After we plugged it in, I checked the 120V outlets, and they were showing a ground, but I’m sure there’s probably some electrickery formula to work out whether it was a good idea or not……. I have no idea, but we didn’t explode or short out, so that’s good)  We used it anyway after drying it out and all seems ok. With power we also got to heat up our leftover Mexican food in the microwave and enjoy that for dinner! I love leftovers, especially mexican food.

Our next stop was Brantley Lake about 15 miles outside of Carlsbad, NM.  It is a pretty nice campground, but the Easter crowd left quite a mess.  I really don’t understand why people would just leave all their trash (plastic Easter eggs) laying around when they leave.  I guess the campground host hasn’t been through to clean up because it is a mess in some spaces. It is a pretty isolated and dry campground, but we enjoyed the quiet and views.  There are lots of rabbits and Jackrabbits around.  Did you know that a Jackrabbit and Hare are the same thing?

 

The wind didn’t let up all night, but the stars once again did not disappoint. One thing that did disappoint me and left me sleepless was my supposed Verizon unlimited data plan. While in Tucson we went to a Verizon store to find out about their unlimited data plan. I have a 16G plan and Kat has 12G and we have made do with that ok, but we have to go to Starbucks if we want to do some heavy duty downloading or it takes forever. Well, I specifically asked Zach at the Verizon store if the Jetpack was under the same rules as a Phone in terms of when you reach 10 Gigs using 4G it goes down to a 3G for the remainder. He said NO, it is only on phones that those rules apply. We were both super excited to not to have to worry about how much data we had used and we could now go online whenever for however long. You don’t really think about it when you live in a house and you have unlimited access. We always took it for granted too. Anyway, while I was getting the last of the Arizona blog done I got a text message from Verizon telling me I was about to hit my 10gb limit and get dropped from 4G to 3G. What? Yes, everything slowed down immensely after that. Did you know that 3G is 1/20th slower than 4G? That is a lot when trying to upload photos! When we researched it online the stories are all over the place with similar experiences and no resolution. I was really disappointed. Now, do I keep that plan and suffer through the slowness as much as I want or go back to fast speed internet and just be careful about how much we use? I called Verizon in the morning after going through it in my head all night and I was told: ‘”yes, that is the way the plan works with Jet-packs and if you tether a phone, sorry you were misinformed”. She gave me a 20$ credit because I told here I am paying $20 more for a lesser service. I am still unsure if I will keep this new plan, but maybe I can use my phone for another 10 and that would give us 20gb of 4G service and then it would get slow. All you Verizon users, don’t be fooled!

When I think of Carlsbad, I always think of Carlsbad Caverns and of course we had to go there and check it out. Carlsbad has a population of about 55, 000 and is known for potash mining, petroleum production and tourism. That means lots of trucks and hotels in town. I had been to the Caverns when I was young, but I wanted to go again and take Kat. We headed out early and were very happy to find it not very crowded. It is a 3.75 mile hike on a self guided tour if you take the natural entrance and go through the Big Room. There is also an 800 change in elevation. There are warnings all over that it is a strenuous hike. It was steep going down and of course back up, but the path is paved and really well done to keep people on the path. The walk down was pretty with all the formations, but when you get into the Big Room it is amazing. The formations made it seem like a cross between science fiction and fantasy, just amazing. I was thinking how nice it would be to listen to some good music to match the views.  If you lived locally it would be worth it to have a membership or annual pass so you could go there and get some exercise when it was hot out.  We really enjoyed it and it was really nice that it was not crowded and we had the path to ourselves in many areas. We have been to Mammoth cave in Kentucky and a couple others in South Dakota, but this was absolutely the best. If you have the chance to go, it is really worth it.

After the cave walk and listening to Kat’s stomach growl the whole time we went out to lunch at Blake’s Lotaburger. To me it seems like NM’s version of IN and OUT burger in CA and AZ. The burgers are freshly cooked and adding cheese and green chili really make the burgers extra delicious. I give it my vote for best green chili cheeseburgers! (Kats note – it was indeed delicious, however I went into the situation blind, not knowing what the options were and did not do the appropriate research beforehand.  There was a choice between an ITSAburger and a LOTAburger.  I naturally thought the LOTAburger was bigger, and thought it had two burgers in there, so I ordered that one.  The MOST important part of a burger is the Holy Ratio.  That would be the ratio between meat and bun.  Too much bun:meat, then it makes for an unsatisfying experience.   Too much meat:bun is not possible.  The LOTAburger was a bigger burger, but only one single patty.  So with the benefit of foresight, I would have gone for a smaller burger but double meat.  Or triple meat.  (side note – the best BigMac I ever had was the Double BigMac in Bangkok – 4 patties)  Apart from the Holy Ratio being a bit off though, the green chile in there made it Delicious, with a capital D).  A bit of relaxing, talking and watching the stars came while hanging out at the campground ended our evening. Another great stop in the desert. Beautiful, but very different desert from Arizona.

 

We leave this morning for Lubbock, Texas and are very exciting to visit Laura and Miriam since we have been talking about it and planning to be there for quite awhile. Wagons Ho! Texas here we come!

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