More time in Texas

On November 28th we left Phoenix and went to stay just outside of Stafford, AZ as we traveled to Lubbock, TX. On the way there we drove through some small poor looking towns and some tiny farming and Indian communities. That was pretty much the only excitement. There were lots of beat up looking houses with cars and junk laying around in their yards to look at and wonder why is it just laying in the yard? We intended on staying at a state park, but on the drive there we decided to boondock. We love being in the desert with no one else around. They say the desert is full of life even though you don’t hear or see it and I believe it is probably true, but if you sit out quietly under a moon, even a quarter full you feel as alone as if you are the only one on the moon. I don’t intentionally meditate, but this may be close. It’s not something I can describe, you have to be there doing it alone to understand. We just parked, ate dinner, did some reading, slept and left the next morning, nothing too exciting.

The next morning on the highway after leaving Safford we saw the funniest sign: “like nose hair- litter is ugly”.

The next stop was in Deming, NM, just like the last time we traveled this route, but we stayed at Rock Hound State Park for the night instead of City of Rocks. We went for lunch at Irmas mexican restaurant right after we got setup because the last time we were here it was closed for Easter. Delicious! I had a nice nap after that. I really wanted to go out for a hike, but was tired and not feeling well.

The last stop in New Mexico before getting to Lubbock was Carlsbad. We just stayed at a regular campground to make it easy and to have power so we could charge devices and be warm. We got there early enough for us to revisit Blakes Lotaburger and test Kat’s theory that you really need a double burger for the correct burger to bun ratio….it was deliciously correct. The double meat green chili cheeseburger is a double hit!

In Lubbock we once again parked back in Story and Miriam’s driveway. For some reason they really like having the camper parked in the driveway. They said it was comforting to see it out the window. Maybe we block the view of the neighbors house or they just like having us around? We did alot of eating of chips and queso at Torchy’s Tacos, not only because it is delicious, but because it is on the way home from the daily walks they take. We also spend most the first of the week having fires in the chiminea, hanging out and talking, but then it just got too cold at night to even be outside.

While staying there we tried to be helpful to them in addition to us finally getting some caulking done on the camper. We still have some spots to do, but Kat got quite alot done. Some things we were able to help with were staining a section of fence, a little painting, taking down a satelite dish that had gotten bent over when a branch fell on it and just hauling stuff in the back of the truck. I like working with Miriam on projects because she breaks things down into 45 minute or 1 hour sessions. You don’t get exhausted or overwhelmed with jobs that need to get done and it seems to work well. We also did fun stuff like go to the Buddy Holly museum. Not really that fun, but I never went when I was living there during college and it was a tiny bit interesting.

It didn’t seem like we wore out our welcome and we hated to leave, but they had their kids coming home for the holidays and we wanted to get settled in Austin before we left for the holidays too. We left on Monday and went to Hords Creek Lake, which is just before Coleman, Texas and a halfway point to Austin. It was only a 3 1/2 hour drive but felt like an eternity. How many wind mills, oil pumps and cotton fields can keep you entertained? I do like the drives through the little towns though. I always wonder what keeps people there and what kind of jobs do they have?

We didn’t make a reservation at Hords Creek Lake because when Kat looked online to make a reservation there were a lot of open spots. Like – all of them! We had a hard time deciding which spot to take since there were so many options and they all looked nice. We found one in a sunny spot next to the lake. Of course the people who came in right as we did parked only one spot away. What? It was like being at the movies and chosing your seat before everyone comes in and sits right next to you. I think they had the same idea as us when chosing a site. There is quite a bit of space between campsites so it was no big deal and it was too chilly to be outside anyway since the sun was going down.

After getting setup we went into Coleman to get fuel for our next days drive. There were a lot of deer as we went through the campground. It’s a pretty big park with different loops spread out all along the lake. I bet it gets pretty busy in the summer. I really do like Corp of Engineer parks and only 16 dollars! The most exciting thing that happened was on the way into town- an armadillo sighting! It was dead on the road, but we were still excited. I hope one day to see one alive in the wild. We actually saw two and of course we had to stop and take a picture. But, wait, there was more excitement- we also saw a dead javelina, skunks and a dead something or other all in the same 20 yards. Weird how they were all in the same section of highway. We were super careful in crossing the highway so we wouldn’t join them laying in the grass.

The drive into Austin continued to prove to us that Texas is boring to drive through. But, hey we were going to stay in one spot for a few days, so that was something to look forward to and we were going to get to visit some friends we hadn’t seen in a long time. The first night we had a campfire, well, I did while Kat was inside doing some work. I was pretty excited because at Hords Creek we got a bunch of free wood. The excitement didn’t last long because it was pretty green and just made a lot of smoke. I snuck out into the woods for some branches to help out getting it hot enough to burn at least a little, but with the recent snow it was not very successful. I forgot about that and the one area where I found some branches also had some cactus that I walked through and got into my hands. Ok, no more fires!

Austin was good, we liked the McKinney State park a lot, the sites were pretty private and it was quiet. We bought a Texas State Park pass and found out that if you stay more than one night you get one night half off! First time we have encountered any discounts like that. They are all about customer service the lady told me. Since we will be around Texas most of January we can definitely make this work for us. We met up one night in San Marcos with Cori and Greg who we met way back in Phoenix and also saw in Valley of the Gods, UT . That was awesome and we will meet up again when we all get back after Christmas. We also saw our friends Karen and Molly who took us to Salt Lick BBQ for lunch. It was a long rainy drive, but oh man, was it good! I would go back in a hearbeat. I keep thinking about those ribs. We really enjoyed the atmosphere too. When we got back to the camper we hung out and played cards until the rain let up enough for them to drive home.

Sunday was a busy day with packing and cleaning out the fridge so we could put the camper in storage while we are gone for the holidays. We had already gone to check out the storage place and signed all of the paperwork so we could just drop it off and go to a hotel near the airport. Hmmmph, didn’t work out that easy. I pulled in and we decided there was enough room to just pull forward across from our spot so I could back up and there we got stuck in the mud! How do you back up a truck with a camper weighing it down and no room to move forward? You don’t. I know we had enough time to not have to worry, but it was frustrating and annoying. With stones, sticks, some horsemats we use for leveling (thanks Lee!) and 4WD we finally got it parked.

I was headed out in the morning to New Jersey and Kat was leaving the next day for England. We planned to come back to Austin and enjoy New Years Eve with Casey and Julie who are back from Portland. We hope everyone had a Merry Christmas and has a Happy New Years Eve.

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Thankful to be in Phoenix

These are a pictures of something we saw in England as we were driving and I forgot them on the last post.  Crazy!

Our return to the US from England was a happy time. We left behind the rainy weather to enjoy the warm sunshine outside of Las Vegas at Lake Meade. We decided to stay at Boulder Beach right at Lake Meade only 30 minutes away rather than go any further. When you come out of Vegas the 30 miles and come through Boulder City down the hill and see the lake it is amazing.  The view are incredible with that big lake in the middle of the desert surrounded by mountains. I loved the view. Our campground was full of trees and like a little oasis. We decided not to boondock in the middle of nowhere, but the campground doesn’t have power or water, so although we weren’t all alone in the desert it was just like boondocking. The only bad thing is you still pay $20 to stay there. It was nice to be so close to Boulder city and here was a lot of hiking and a great bike trail very close by.

We pretty good advantage of the hiking and biking trails. One day we hiked 7.5 miles on the tunnel trail to go see the Hoover dam. It’s a nice flat trail that used to be a railroad track, there are 5 old tunnels you go through along the way. Most of the time you can also enjoy nice views of Lake Meade. We also took a 12 mile bike ride along the bike path. The wind was blowing a little that day so on the way out the ride was quick and easy, but when we turned around it was a different story.  We did one other hike, river mountain trail in bootleg canyon. That was a nice 6 mile hike that we had to drag ourselves through because we were tired that day, but we wanted to get out and explore and we knew we would be disappointed if we didn’t do it.

We saw these people taking photos and tried to recreate it…Kat didn’t have her bikini  with her, so it wasn’t quite the same, but still…

We kept ourselves busy with normal activities like reading and stuff. And as usual, we did spend some time in Starbucks for good internet service. We had a little bit of cell signal which we could use as wifi, but not fast enough for our liking. By using the solar panels we could charge our electronic devices for reading and watching things we had downloaded on Kats iPad. We never got to have a fire because after the first night it was always too windy. After the big beaver moon came up we usually went inside.( It really is called the Beaver moon and it is called that because after the supermoon or harvest moon it is the largest and brightest moon of the year. In the past trappers called it that because they could use the light to set their beaver traps.) We would go inside because so many people around us would turn on their generators and it was noisy. They also pretty much ignored the quiet hours from 10pm to 6 am. I guess they needed to use their coffee makers or something? It was annoying. We never saw a camp host while staying there even when we walked though the campground. So no one was enforcing those rules. Other than being woken up early by the generator noise and one night of coyotes howling really nearby it was usually kind of quiet.

Beaver Moon

Just another nice sunset

There should always be a roadrunner picture.

We stayed there 4 days longer than planned because it was so pretty. We took a drive further around the lake and it was always interesting as the views and light changed. And of course we didn’t want to leave on Sunday because of football. We had to go into Boulder City to watch though because there was no TV signal at the campground, but we found a good place to watch TV and have a snack. For dinner we chose to go home and make our own burgers, which were delicious as usual.  A few days before we left we planned our next stop at Lake Havasu City, Arizona.

I got a really good vibe from Lake Havasu City. We stayed at the state park and It’s pretty much a wide open gravel lot, but it is right on the lake and the sunsets are amazing. It was getting really busy in town because of the Winter visitors, but there are lots of shops and outdoor restaurants and bars. I can see how it would be a great place to spend the winter. There are tons of boats stored all around the lake so I can only imagine how it is busy in the summer too, but I bet it gets really hot that time of year. We took a look at the London bridge which is one thing for which Lake Havasu city is known. The bridge really was the original London bridge, but at one point it was not usable in London anymore for structural reasons, so it was bought, taken apart brick by brick, shipped over to the US and brought here and reassembled in 1971. They numbered the pieces and put it back together exactly as it was originally. Quite the engineering feat.

After leaving Lake Havasu the next stop was Quartzite, AZ to boondock a few days. The drive was fantastic just outside of Lake Havasu City as we followed along the lake. There were so many other places we could have stayed that looked like they would be really nice. At Quartzsite we stayed at a different area on the other side of town down Plumosa road. Pretty much the same terrain as the last place we stayed when there, but a lot quieter since we weren’t near the highway. We treated ourselves on Thursday night by going into town for dinner and to watch football at Silly Al’s.  Well, we didn’t get to watch much football because it was Karaoke night and that was even better.  I think the majority of singers were about 60+ years old and having a blast.  Some were pretty good.  Kat made a new friend who loved buying her drinks and talking to her and I think if she could have been persuaded to dance he would been in heaven.

Our boondocking site

Kat’s buddy.

A long road for my bike ride.

Every night had a nice sunset.

See? Sunsets in the West are awesome.

Sunday we went  into town  to Silly Al’s pizza place again to watch football and have some more delicious pizza, then afterwards when we got home I sat outside awhile to enjoy the dark night sky and all of the stars. Of the 5 shooting stars I saw one was so amazing. It was like a bottle rocket coming down on a Fourth of July night. It burned so bright and came down so orange at the end I thought it may hit the ground. When you sit outside under a starlit and clear night you had better have your wishes ready. And remember not to tell anyone what you wished for or they won’t come true. This was a great falling star to wish upon and I hope my wish comes true. Oh, how I love the night sky and we have been so lucky to be able to see the Milky Way so often lately.

While I was out there a little night creature had climbed onto the table, but I couldn’t see it clearly and he disapppeared before I could get my phone’s flashlight turned on.just before I saw it, but when I got my phone’s flashlight turned on. I only saw it with the help of the light of the sky. Please little guy don’t come into the camper.

Quartzsite to Phoenix was an easy drive with some great views along the way and we got into our site at White Tank Mountain easily at about 130 pm. The campground is about 3 miles from the gate, which is a bit annoying if you are going in and out as much as we did, but what can you do?

Phoenix was as good as I expected because we got to spend time with my family and I got to meet my new great niece-Riley. Pictures just didn’t do her justice, what a sweet baby. We had the usual family meals which we mostly ate at Kyle’s house, but we also had some delicious meals at Alli and her boyfriend Logan’s house. She had us over for homemade pierogies and with help from us, Eric and her dad Carl we made a ton of them. Alli is so nice to let us do laundry while watching football Kyle and his wife Abbey letting us wash the truck at their house. In return we try to do cooking for them and just get everyone together.

We had a huge Thanksgiving meal at Kyles with everyone there, except poor Eric who had a stomach bug. Even Logan’s mom Kathy came. After dinner and cleaning up we played cards for awhile at Alli and Logan’s place. Our campsite at White Tank Mountains was once again about 30 miles from anyone’s house, but it was a really good place to stay. It was usually pretty quiet, but being close to town the locals showed up on the weekend to bring and visit their friends. Everyone asked if the planes from Luke Air Force Base nearby bothered us, but we didn’t notice them too much. When we did see them it was neat to see them flying in formation and peeling off to circle and land. We learned that it was where Prince Harry trained to fly Jets and a lot of people in Phoenix were pretty excited about that.

I had Kyle, Abbey, Riley and Alli over the Sunday night before Thanksgiving week for dinner and a campfire to keep me company while Kat was away on a trip. She took a quick trip to Sweden to get some miles-as we mentioned before she needs to keep her status so we get all those lounge visits and upgrades. Plus she got to take her mom, so they had a nice girls weekend.

It was a very productive time in Phoenix, we got the oil changed in Fat Henry, his tires were rotated and he got a spa day with a wash and vaccuum. Eric helped me with that and I appreciated it a lot or it would have taken much longer.

The good news is we also spent some time on us. Kat and I both got our teeth cleaned at the dentist office where Alli works and I got a haircut before we left. We took a hike one day with Logan and I went on a birdwatching walk one morning with a local group. I am not really an official birder, but I do enjoy watching the birds all around our campsites as we travel to new places, so I thought maybe I could learn a little something about the local birds. I met some interesting people and it was a good morning even though we didn’t see as many birds as the leader expected. I had to miss the morning mountain bike ride because of my dentist appointment, but I have nice clean teeth now.

Once again, I really enjoyed the nightime outdoors and one night some little animal was so close to my feet I jumped. I scared it away, but it didn’t go far and I could see it was like a cat with a long tail. I went inside to get a flashlight and it ran into the bushes, but I could see its eyes. I don’t know what it was, but it was pretty exciting. The lights from nearby Phoenix were nice to see in the distance and the moon was waxing, so it wasn’t pitch black or anything.

Monday night was our last night together and we spent it at Kyle and Abbey’s house having a make your own pizza night, which was delicious and fun. Alli always gets the best pizza shape because Logan used to work in a pizza place and can actually make a round one.   We said our goodbyes and went home to get some rest and be ready for our travels to our next big destination of Lubbock, Texas which would take us two stops of just quick stayovers in NM.

Eric and his masterpiece.

Abbey and Carl building their pizzas.

Alli and Kyle waiting for their turn.

Logan giving Alli some advice

Logan showing us how it should be done.

We had some good together time with everyone which is always nice, but we also got to see them individually so we can get to talk in depth. I said it before and I’ll say it again… I really like getting to know them more each time I see them.

That is a BIG Saguaro cactus!

 

Posted in Arizona, States | 6 Comments

Unexpected adventure in the UK

We weren’t sure what to expect when we went to England and rented an RV to travel around, but it sure wasn’t anywhere near what happened. We went with the plan to test out how it was to drive around and explore in a small motorhome. It was one thing that we thought maybe it would be a part of our life after RVing in the US. The thought of driving around on some skinny country lanes was a daunting so to not test it out if we really decided to make a commitment to this as our next micro life would not have been a good idea.

Our trip over was uneventful after we Ubered back and forth to the airport and back to the camper when I realized I forgot my phone back at the camper. Was this a sign of things to come? I never forget my phone. We did enjoy the food in the Quantas lounge as we always do. Kat’s airline status really makes a nice difference when we travel because of upgrades and lounge access so we can eat and drink for free between flights.

The Calamari is a definite favorite. I am not sure why there are so many drinks on the bar?!

Kat always gets the steak.

Cheese plate for desert.

When we arrived at Heathrow we got a ride from Kat’s parents and had a cup of tea before we went to dinner at her brothers house. We were headed out the next afternoon to pick up our camper. We borrowed some bedding and little necessities from Kats parents and bought some groceries to be ready to go when we picked it up. It was a drizzly day, but that didn’t dampen our spirits. We picked up the camper and after a short tutorial we headed off to our first night out. It was about a 26 foot RV that we rented from a company called Just Go. There were some differences other than size from our Shady Lady. The cassette toilet, which is a little box you take out and carry over to a dump station to empty, the fact that you fill your own propane tank at stations, there are no water hookups, you just fill the holding tank and use that and when you empty the grey tank you just pull the camper over a drain in the ground and open it up. We were a little shocked when we were told to turn the propane off at night and whenever you aren’t using it. If it was to get really cold at night we were going to be screwed.  Luckily, the weather in England doesn’t seem to change much in temperature from the days to nights. Maybe a few degrees, but not like in some places we’ve been where after the sun goes down the temperature can drop by about 20 degrees.

 

 

We had a pretty nice first night in a very dark campground in the middle of the woods. After an easy setup of just plugging in the electric cord even though it was in the dark, we walked down a tiny, dark country lane to go out to dinner at a close pub. We tried to be a little safe by wearing the safety vests that came with the camper, but there weren’t too many cars on that little road anyway. The scariest, but most exciting part was the big birds that would fly out of the trees as we passed by. I now suspect they were owls because of a nighttime experience later. While walking home I told Kat it was a bit creepy walking down that dark lane in the misty fog. Her reply was “It’s just England”.

Our first days adventure was to be attending the RV show at the National Exhibition Center in Birmingham. We didn’t get there as early as planned because in the morning we were still dragging a bit after traveling. That changed quickly because I drove to the show and I could tell Kat was a bit on edge. I think it was mostly because I kept saying out loud to myself to stay on the left side of the road. The show was just ok. There were some cool features we hadn’t seen before, but after awhile they all start to seem the same. I really liked the canopies that expanded your outdoor space once you came out of your camper. There were some really huge ones with separate rooms and everything. Most of them were setup with blowup posts, which looked easy and sturdy. It makes a lot of sense to have those in England since the weather is rainy so much and otherwise you would be trapped in your camper all of the time. We left after about 4 1/2 hours there checking things out.

They did have some old VW campers on display that were fun to look at.

One of the larger awnings on display.

I think this awning was bigger than the camper it was set up next to!

We had about a 2 hour drive to get to our next night’s stop. It was to be in Cirencester in the camping area of a pub. We were planning on making a quick stop at the grocery store on the way. Well, now it gets exciting…. as we were going up a little hill we lost the power to accelerate. Kat put on the Hazard lights and we limped along for a bit, but this wasn’t good. At one point we just pulled over as far as possible and had the hazard lights on, but it was a busy and narrow road, so we decided to just restart the engine and try to get to a safe place. The engine stopped acting up enough to give us the confidence that we could make it to our campsite. The engine light still reminded us something was wrong. This was similar to what our truck had done a few times. What are the odds that it could happen to us again in a totally different vehicle?

We got to our campground and called the rental agency and the RAC. The Royal Automobile Club is like AAA. When we finally talked with them they said they could have a guy come check out the camper at about 10 pm. Well, we kind of figured it could make it a very long night and it would not be much fun for anyone to be looking at the engine in the dark and rain. Yes, it was still raining. We made an appointment for him to be there at 8am. Meanwhile we had dinner with our friend Ber who lives nearby and who we were hoping to camp with that weekend down at the beach.

Thames Head pub camping was good. Who wouldn’t want to park in a nice field behind a pub? The staff was super nice and very accommodating. I did notice how young they were and still they seemed to be in charge of the place. Maybe I am just getting old? Kat pointed out that it is a young persons job since they are only paid regular wages and no tips, so it may not be a lot of money with long hours. When I worked as a waitress in a bar I did it for the tips I could make. It would not have been worth it otherwise.

I like the restaurant/pub system in England. You usually order drinks and food at the bar and then go sit down. They bring your food, but generally you go back to the bar for more drinks or any other food you want and to pay right there. No tips are needed and if you pay up front you can just leave, no waiting for your server to come back. Nice! Especially if they get busy because you didn’t have to wait for them.

When the RAC mobile mechanic came in the morning he checked the engine codes, looked over the engine and made a call. After that he told us we would need to take it to a Fiat dealer to have them look into it in more detail. So, we took the drive down to the closest Fiat dealer in Gloucester. Before we left we emptied the cassette toilet, which was pretty easy to do and definitely took a lot less time than emptying our tanks. When we got to the garage they took the camper right in to get started and told us it would be a couple of hours so to go ahead and go for a walk if we wanted. They suggested going down to the docks where there are restaurants and shopping, but to be sure to check out the Cathedral along the way.

As we walked to the docks we did go by the Cathedral, but there were graduation ceremonies that kept us from going inside to check it out. I found it weird to be having graduation ceremonies in October. We did beg at the door just to step inside, so we got a quick peek, but didn’t get to explore like we normally would have. It was the site of a lot of filming for Harry Potter so that was a bit of a bummer that we didn’t get to go see more of the inside. Not that we watched many of the Harry Potter movies, but still it was disappointing. The outside of it was pretty impressive though. The docks were ok, very new warehouse building renovations with restaurants and outlet shopping. The warehouses that had been turned into apartments in the area looked like they would be cool places to live. I bet in nice weather that would be a fun area to hang out. The walk to the dock was not too far and there was a wall from an old Church that was still standing and some graffiti art lining the walls along the path that we took.

My favorite of the graffiti art.

 

The Cathedral as we walked by.

The Cathedral- again.

We had lunch and waited a few hours before we decided to go back and see what was happening with the camper. We were told they did reproduce the problem and had a call into the Fiat hotline to wait for instructions on how and whether or not to proceed. There were a lot of phone calls back and forth to find out what the next steps would be. There certainly was a lot of red tape and communication issues between all the different parties to get things done. We ended up going across the street for coffee while we waited some more. Finally, it was getting late and the garage was preparing to close, so we returned and needed to find out what was happening. It turns out the EGR/Turbo system was the problem. When we were having problems with our truck we had suspected that this was what was wrong. Turns out it wasn’t since it was just a short on the wiring harness, but what are the odds this was what was happening? Really weird. So the parts needed to be ordered from Italy and would not get to the garage until maybe Wednesday. Even if they had been able to fix it without those parts there were repairs that needed to be done to keep the warranty valid and they would keep the camper there no matter what. They would need parts for that too and were closed over the weekend. It looked like we were not going to get the camper back anytime soon and our rental was only until Thursday, so we had to find out the options we had to continue our trip.

The RAC was very helpful although it took a lot of calls between Just Go, the RAC and Fiat. The option they suggested before we found out about the parts was that they would put us up in a local Gloucester hotel with a rental car for the weekend. Whenever we mentioned this to people later they just raised their eyebrows in an apologizing way. I took it to mean that Gloucester was not a desirable place to spend the weekend. After the timeline for the parts arriving was discussed we got them to agree to rent us a car and a hotel down in Cornwall where we had planned to be over the weekend and pay for the any hotels as we traveled. We really wanted the RV experience though, so we asked Just Go to give us another camper. Well, they had a smaller one available, but we would have to go get it since they had no one to bring it to us. We were at least 3 1/2 hours away from their office and all of our stuff was in the camper, so how was that to happen? We opted for the rental car and hotels to be paid along the way. Right as the garage closed a rental car was delivered to us and so we packed up all of our stuff and left. We went to stay the night at Ber’s house with her and her family.

Our weekend camping trip was cancelled because Ber and her husband, Steve didn’t really want to sit in the rain and wind in their camper with the kids. Storm Brian was expected to peak over the weekend down in that area. So, we booked a hotel for Saturday and after a nice visit we left the next morning to go see what we had planned to see, but staying in hotels (B&B’s) instead. We went down to St. Austell on the South Coast in Cornwall. We wanted to take a walk and check out the town a little, but the rain from storm Brian was not going to allow us to do that. So, we stopped in a pub to see if it would let up and allow us to get outside for a bit. Nope, that didn’t happen.

The view outside of our hotel. in St Austell.

The yellow building is our hotel.

The next morning it was a little clearer.

Sunday morning we left Charleston St Austell and headed to check out The Eden project. It was pretty cool that the location in the beginning was a tin mine that was cleaned up and transformed into the botanical gardens we saw. The Eden project is two domes and some outdoor gardens filled with different types of plants. The intention of these are to show the relationship between people and plants. There is one dome that is a more desert or Mediterranean style and the other is a rainforest. The rainforest dome was my favorite because you get to see real banana trees, fruit trees of other types, coffee plants, cashew trees, and so many more food source types of trees and plants. The little birds wandering around were pretty cute too. Both domes and the outside garden are very educational in showing where foods and products made from plants like rubber really come from.

Robins in England are much smaller than in America.

The two biodomes.

Coffee beans.

That’s a lot of bananas.

Another banana tree.

Banana tree flower. Looks like a goofy animal.

Pineapple.

This little guy was just hanging out hoping not to be noticed.

There were a lot of interesting flowering plants.

Rainforest waterfall.

Lots of these cute birds on the ground.

Our next overnight stay was to be just outside of Padstow which is known as a little fishing village. There was no one at the B&B when we stopped by so we just went into town to see what was happening. There were a lot of people wandering about mostly eating ice cream and chips (fries), lke the English people seem to do a lot. We considered going to the lobster museum, but weren’t quite sure if we really wanted to, so we skipped it. We also saw the Rick Stein cooking school. We watch his show a lot and had seriously considered taking an all day cooking class, but it was pretty expensive, so we thought we would save the money for something else. We called the B&B and after a bit we headed over. Super nice people and they did a good job renovating such an old Mill. Our room was fine, kind of cute. I was happy to see we had our own bathroom. I’ve never stayed in a B&B and was not sure what to expect, but I liked it. The room was about the same size as the room the night before at the Pier house Inn. It felt a little more solid and potentially quieter, which it was.

Padstow was definitely a fishing village.

Our B and B outside of Padstow.

We went out to dinner at a nearby restaurant for a Sunday carvery dinner. A carvery dinner is almost like a one trip buffet, but the line starts with a guy carving meat for you. You can have lamb, pork, ham or beef and then after you get your meat you fill your plate with veggies, potatoes, Yorkshire pudding and gravy. You pile your plate as tall as possible with deliciousness. Then you just eat and wish you had room for more.

A stop to see Tintagel Castle was in our plans for the next day since it was on the way to our next stop in Lynton. The castle was one of King Arthurs. It was way up on a cliff overlooking the water and there used to be about 100 buildings scattered up there, but time, weather and war has taken its toll and turned it all into ruins. It was pretty impressive to see while we hiked around. We had to be careful walking because it was really, really foggy with a light rain and we didn’t want to end up tumbling down into the water way down below. We walked along the cliffs to go see a church up on the hill which at first we couldn’t even see until we got up close. Of course as after we got back to the car it had pretty much cleared up and was a beautiful site.

We stayed at another B&B in Lynton which was up the hill from the beach. Across the water was Wales and maybe on a clear day you might be able to see it, but no such luck for us. Lynton is another cute little town and we were able to walk around a bit to see it. The town is nicknamed Little Switzerland of the UK and with good reason, it did remind me of a Swiss village. On the drive to Lynton we had decided we wanted to ask the Camper rental company for a refund and we would just go and stay with Kat’s parents the rest of the trip. We made a list of reasons they should give us a refund when we called to ask. When I called the lady we were dealing with was very understanding and apologetic. She listened to what I had to say and said she would need to get approval, but would call me back. She called back about 5 minutes later and said, yes, they would give us a full refund. Wow! I never guessed it would be that easy and really expected to have to push the issue. Needless to say we were very happy with their understanding and the refund! So, although we didn’t get the vacation we wanted, we did get to go to the places we wanted, stayed in some pretty cool B&Bs and it was all paid for with no questions asked. The only money we were out was the cost of meals (except the breakfasts at the B&Bs) and fuel. To celebrate we had a delicious dinner before heading back to our room.

The streets of Lynton.

Our B and B in Lynton.

The view from our B and B in Lynton.

 

 

On the way to Kat’s parents house we were able to go to Stonehenge. I had never been so Kat and I stopped by on the way to her parents house. Cross it off the bucket list! It was pretty much as I expected and I was happy we got to go, except for the hundreds of people taking selfies. It has to be one of the top selfie taking places in the world. We had a nice walk across the very green fields there and back from the visitor center since the rain had finally stopped. Kat’s parents were happy to have us back a few days early and since they had just moved into a new house there were some little jobs they could use help with to keep us busy. We helped clean up the yard, put some boxes in the attic for them and went shopping for a dining room table at Ikea where of course we had to have meatballs for lunch. We had a nice walk into town one day with a stop at a pub for lunch. Pubs are mostly just restaurants that also serve beer- I don’t want to give the impression that all we did was drink in pubs all throughout our trip. I took a walk later in the week along the canal and there were a lot of fisherman along the banks participating in a fishing contest. The most interesting part about that was how they fish. They use these really long telescoping poles that extend all the way to the other side of the canal. First they attach a little bucket full of bait like worms and dump it into the water. Then they retract the pole, attach a hook and drop it into the same spot to hopefully catch a fish. The amount of gear they haul around requires little wagons on wheels, so it’s a pretty intense setup. Gone are the days of string on a stick. We also got to spend some time with Kat’s brother and his family. That is a feat in itself because they are so busy all the time with the kids’ activities. I was hoping to go see the house where Downton Abbey is filmed, but it is only open on certain days for tours and according to the internet you can’t even really see it from the road or the walking paths near it. So, we went to see Basildon Park which has a big country house you get to walk through. The grounds are pretty big and after a short walk we stopped for Tea and biscuits before the little cafe closed. I was able to imagine what Downton looked like, so I was happy and it was really thoughtful of Kat and her parents to take me there.

I like the face on this one.

Stonehenge.

Imagine stacking those stones without the modern technology we have today.

Selfies galore!

Hello cows.

The Basildon home.

Not quite Downton, but pretty nice anyway.

A nice walk along the canal.

I like that people who live on the canal can just park their boats just out their back doors.

I’m not sure what kind of duck this was, but he sure is pretty.

So, all in all even though it wasn’t quite the trip we had planned on it was a nice visit to England. Looking ahead at the nice weather back in Las Vegas where we left the camper it was nice to know we would be warm and dry soon.

A map of our trip.

 

Posted in Switzerland and England | 7 Comments

Bryce Canyon and Beyond

We left Sand Hollow campground on Monday and headed to Red Canyon visitor center. We were going to be boondocking between there and Bryce at a place called Toms Best Spring and we wanted to get in a spot early. Red Canyon was beautiful, so many beautifully colored red rocks and the beginning of hoodoo land. A hoodoo is a rock formation (also called a tent rock, fairy chimney or earth pyramid) that is a tall, thin spire of rock that protrudes from the bottom of an arid drainage basin or badland. It is formed by the erosion of softer rock and dirt below a harder rock.

One style of hoodoo.

High up hoodoos.

A teeny tiny hoodoo.

 

We were told of some hiking trails right around the visitor center that gave great views of the local hoodoos. We do seem to spend a lot of time right outside the National Parks doing some hikes which leave the crowds behind, so it was good to know about.  After setting up camp we headed back down to the visitor center to do a short hike and check things out. It was a short hike, but Kat didn’t really like it much because of all the loose gravel on the steep narrow trail. The views were worth it though.

The next day when we went to Bryce we found it very different from Zion and Moab because of the hoodoos. The view from the top is pretty spectacular, but when you go down in the canyon and see them up close and personal at a different angle… just wow! We did a rim hike the first time in and really enjoyed those views. It was a pretty easy trail with lots of stops to enjoy the sights. Like Zion, Bryce also has a shuttle system taking visitors from the main entrance to stops along the way. We found that it was no where near as busy as Zion and we could have easily found parking, but the shuttle was convenient. After hiking and walking back to the truck we made some plans about our future hikes and headed back to our nice camping spot. There was so much wood laying around that it only made sense to gather it up and have a campfire. The weather was chilly, but not super cold, well, except in the morning!

Our spot in the woods.

View from the top.

Another view.

A little closer view.

And even closer.

 

The next hike was to be a longer one in Bryce that took us down into the base of the Canyon among the hoodoos, but when we got out to the main road it really looked like it was going to rain in Bryce, so we went back to do another longer hike near the visitor center. This was called the Golden Wall and it was great! We had done a quick walk near the visitor center before taking this one because we were kind of waiting to see what the weather was going to do and we had also met a French guy who was chatting with us as we walked about all the places he had been and was going to go. After we left him we did decide to go ahead and hike the Golden Wall. I didn’t really look at how long it was or anything, but yeah, it was longer and harder than expected. The views were amazing and the trail was a single track that went up and down along the sides of the mountains.

Looking up from the trail.

Looking off to the left into the far, far away valley.

Kat hiking ahead of me…see that skinny trail with a drop off?!

You have to stop to look around, don’t take your eyes off the trail.

The colors and views changed constantly.

The trails weren’t terribly scary, but I think that is because even  though we were high up on the side of a mountain it was not a sheer drop off down into nothing. Sometimes it was not just a drop on one side, but both! There were  steep slopes with lots of bits of small sharp rocks that looked like they just broke off bigger pieces.  I figured if I fell and just slid down without putting my hands down I would be a little shaken, but not dead.  And if I kept my hands up and used my feet to slow my fall/slide I would not get all cut up, unless my jeans ripped, then I would be hamburger on you know where.  Besides if I fell I would have to figure out how to get back up to the trail, so I was not going to let it happen.    Sorry, but those things cross my mind on scary trails.  I am afraid of heights, but I thought I did really well on this hike.  We were maybe half way through the hike and it looked like rain was coming, so we had to speed up. After walking some parts of that trail I was sure happy that we didn’t get caught in the rain up there. At one point we were headed into what looked to me like a dead end into the canyon… um, no, the trail took us up and over that mountain pass into more hills and windy trails along the sides of them. Crazy beautiful! After we got back down the steepest trail ever to the truck we decided we could hike anything!  Turns out we didn’t do just the Golden wall, but we connected to the Castle Bridge Trail and then onto the Buckhorn  trail.  About 6+miles in all.  Whew!

Across the top of a mountain/big hill.

Kat headed down first and then waited for me. Probably to laugh.

I’ll admit, I did scootch down on my butt a little bit.

Looking back up. I made it!

This looked like a big ship perched on a mountain. Very cool.

Yeah, pretty amazing.

They look like goblins right?

In Bryce the hike called the Peekaboo trail down into the hoodoos was considered strenuous, but one of the rangers said it wasn’t the path itself, but the ups and downs that made it classify as that. Well, we aren’t afraid of hills any more and so we did go and loved it. We didn’t hike the entire Peekaboo trail, just half of it and then onto another trail called the Queens Garden. The last section was my favorite part of both Bryce and Zion. I can’t even begin to say how cool the hoodoos were there, but I did take lots of pictures.

 

There is so much to do and see in the local area that we planned on staying as long as possible. We were able to use the solar panels during the day to charge up and that gave us the heat we needed when it was cold in the morning. We had a campfire every night except one when it was too windy. We really liked that spot in the woods and the mice living nearby liked us too. We had seen one little mouse one morning in the camper and while Kat danced around and shrieked I chased him out the door. Well, he must have gone and told all of his friends because we had to remove 6 of them from the camper over the next few days. One took his own life by climbing into a bucket that was outside that I had been using for putting water on the campfire. We took one of them with us when we left and he stayed a couple of nights before….well, you know. Those country mice are not stealthy, they make a lot of noise at night and are not shy about nibbling on anything left out and pooping wherever they feel the urge.

We were close to the Grand Staircase Escalante but we didn’t drive all that way, but we did go to Kodachrome State Park though and took a little hike. Again, fantastic views all around the basin. On the way there we took a quick side trip to check out Grovesnor Arch which was about 7 miles down a dirt road. Not much else out there, but it was a pretty drive and a nice Arch. We also went to Shakespeare’s arch after Kodachrome and walked around and admired the views. You could see for miles and we both commented on how cool it would be to have a house way up there-except in the snowy winters.

Grovners Arch

A fun drive down the dirt road with great views of all around.

Part of the Basin from afar.

So amazing.

Loved the shape of these rocks.

 

We really enjoyed that part of the trip, but between the cold, the mice and the need to empty the tanks it was time to go. Oh yeah and it was Sunday…Football, so we needed power and a TV signal. After boondocking for awhile you just really want the luxury of power and no water conserving.. ie, a long shower. We went just down the road to the little town of Panguitch. Unfortunately not one restaurant (no bars around) was open on Sunday or had any TVs to watch football. So, Kat watched football in the camper and I took a little bike ride around the town.  Cute little place, but I’m not sure I would want to live there.

From Panguitch we went to MT Carmel junction where we were staying before heading towards the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. We would meet up with Susan and Dan there. Susan retired recently from the same company I had worked for and was doing some traveling around in their RPod and we hadn’t gotten together on the road yet. But before we met them, we had a quick 3 night stop at MT Carmel junction not far off the road and after the first night we were all alone. We had great sun for the solar panels and it wasn’t too cold, so it was nice. We wanted to go there because the Golden Wall hike inspired us to go back to Zion and do a little more challenging hike. At that point we figured we could hike anything! Observation Point is an 8 mile hike (definitely strenuous). It was 4 miles up at an altitude gain of 2000ft and then back down again. The scenery along the way was great, especially the canyon part of the trail. The end of the hike up was the worst, but well worth the satisfaction of making it. Going down was not too bad, but a little tiring on the knees. We were knocked out the next day and I was feeling that hike in my legs. Kat says she wasn’t too bad… What?

View from our camping spot.

Observation Point pictures.

Looking up at the wall.

See the little people near the top? That’s where we are headed!

Part of the canyon.

More of the canyon. Best part because it was flat!

You can see how the water shaped this.

A cool little pool in the rocks.

That’s the view of the trail looking down. Maybe a 1/4 way up?

Up and up we go.

C’mon Bert…we are almost there!

We made it! Time for lunch

Yeah, worth the view.

Another view from the top.

Another look down.

The peak in the middle is Observation point! Can’t believe we were up there!

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From Mt Carmel Junction we headed to Jacob Lake, Arizona 30+ miles from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon in the Kaibab forest. More boondocking to be done. We found a sunny spot that would fit our camper, provide sun for the solar panels and Susan and Dan’s camper would fit easily which was nice. When parking I noticed a big hoof that had part of the leg still attached and looked like it was cut off with a saw. Later I found out that hunters cut them off because they have no use for them. I only found one and was told later that maybe the coyotes carried off the others! We never heard any coyotes while we stayed there. I do like hearing them at night, but from a distance is best.

Not sure whose foot this was, but it was big!

 

We took a trip to the North Rim and unfortunately couldn’t get any good pictures because it was washed out with too much sun, but it was really pretty anyway. We drove down to Point Imperial and Cape Royal where there were nice viewing areas of the canyon. We had planned on a 4 mile hike, but decided to wait until another day. On the way into the park and back out we saw a herd of buffalo and a lone coyote walking around in a field, lots of deer too. Back at camp it was too breezy and got too cold for a campfire, so we hung out inside that evening. We go to bed so much earlier when it gets dark out so early and I only went out one night to check out the stars. It was like being in an astronomers dream. So many stars! I also missed seeing the full moon except for the light it brought into the camper at night.

 

 

On Saturday after a trip to Kanab to do a little grocery shopping Fat Henry finally gave us a check engine light and a code to help diagnose his problem. We were only hoping it was not another issue that was not the cause of his hiccups, stuttering, power loss, or however I can try to describe that intermittent issue. We called a garage to see if we could make an appointment and had to leave a message. We weren’t sure anyone would be open on Monday since it was Columbus Day and possibly a holiday. Not much to do except wait until we could get ahold of a mechanic and besides we needed to get ready for Susan and Dan to come camp with us on Sunday afternoon. They weren’t sure what time they would arrive, but guessed about noon. At about 11 we got a knock on our door and yay… there they were. After their 10 minute set up of their RPod we decided to have lunch. They had a propane regulator go bad and weren’t able to use their propane at all, so it was going to be a chilly night for them. It was supposed to get down into the upper 20’s. Kat cooked some chili up at our place between games of lawn darts. The sun was warm and we all just hung out, enjoyed the warmth and talked.

 

On Monday at about 630 I heard noises from their camper and since I was awake I thought I would invite them over for coffee and to warm up since we could use our heater. Susan had texted me earlier, but I just saw it and they were going to head to the Canyon for sunrise and did we want to go. Well, sure! We quick made some coffee, got dressed and jumped into their car. It was pretty cold! When we got there we just walked to a couple of the overlooks near the lodge, into the lodge and then we headed back to camp.

 

They had planned on cooking us breakfast and since they didn’t have propane we graciously offered to let them use our kitchen to cook (they weren’t getting off that easy!).  By 9am we hadn’t heard back and there was still just a voicemail answering, so we called another place – Bowman’s diesel. He said if we got there before 5 they would squeeze us in and take a look. In the meantime Susan and Dan headed to Kanab too in search of a regulator and a propane refill. We had Fat Henry towed just in case something was really wrong and we would be making it worse, and we were worried that we could get stuck in the 40 miles into town, as there were a lot of miles with no cell service. Good Sam covered the tow, so no big deal. When we got there they hooked it up to the computer to get the codes and then start looking into the causes. The code indicated there was a short to the injector block. So he started testing the injectors. I tell you, those computer codes are pretty handy and they really need to have them with the way engines are built now. Jed is the name of the guy in charge of the shop who was helping us and he gave me a ride to the car rental place… (the only one in town). He and Kat drove back and talked about the truck and the engine, etc. When I got back he was still testing things, but had some good ideas and was really trying to find out the cause. It seemed it really was our little problem had gotten bigger. I was happily hoping we would get it all fixed for good, but also afraid of what it could be and what it could cost. We went ahead and left him to work on it, but he did say we could stay. We decided to go and let him work in peace. Our usual strategy is if we take the truck for service we wait around because maybe, just maybe they will know we are there waiting and get to it sooner and finish faster, but it didn’t seem so this time and we had people waiting on us to get home.

Back at camp Susan and Dan were ready to cook dinner of spaghetti and meatballs. That worked well because with how cold at night we were both trying to cook inside to warm up our campers. Both nights we hung out and shared dinners and they taught us how to play cribbage, which is not so easy when just reading the rules. They also taught us how to play a card game called golf. It was really fun to play new card games with other people.

The next day (Tuesday) Susan and Dan decided to head out. It was just a bit chilly for them and they wanted to get somewhere with power. I don’t blame them, but we couldn’t leave without FH. We decided to head into town and go hang out at the library and be close to the garage, just in case. On the way into town Jed called to say the truck was ready! What?! It wasn’t even lunchtime. He said the wiring harness was rubbing on a bolt and was shorting out. He found it out just by luck when testing the electrical connections. Yipee!! It wasn’t 1000’s of dollars and there was no waiting on parts to be ordered. He was 95% sure this was our intermittent problem all along! We felt really good about it because that made a lot of sense. We were so happy we bought the guys in the garage a couple of pepperoni pizzas for lunch and then we went and had buffalo burgers. We returned the car early and only got charged for one day. We decided to just head right to Vegas and stay there getting some things done before we were to leave on Monday for the UK – as nice as it is out in the wilderness, it feels good to be warm and not think about things like electricity, heat, water tank levels and mice.

Just FYI for those of you who are wondering how it is in Vegas now we didn’t go to the strip and so we didn’t see any of the shooting stuff that happened recently, but there are a lot of Vegas Strong signs around.   Some of the things we were planning on doing in Vegas were shopping for some new shoes for me.  I wanted to check out the outlets in the hope of finding some good walking sneakers that were lightweight.  I don’t have small feet, so packing even one pair of shoes is an issue for me and I may need to leave something else essential behind or infringe on Kat’s suitcase space?  We needed to get some dry goods shopping done so we can be a little more ready to leave when we return, so that was a Walmart trip. Kat really wanted to go to the Airstream dealer and check out their little backcountry campers.  They were really sweet and if I had an extra 40K laying around, was working and wanted to go away for long weekends I would just do it.  Of course we checked out Costco. Actually two of them.  Who knew there was a Costco that caters to business people?  You could buy industrial kitchen appliances and items that would make sense for businesses to buy.  It wasn’t busy, but had no snack bar with those nice frozen yogurts for a dollar and NO SAMPLES!  We did end up going to another one on the other side of town just because it was next door to where we had lunch later and it had only 3 samples that were pretty lame.  Don’t go to Vegas for free Costco samples.   The liquor is cheap though and sure beats UTAH liquor stores who charge an unreasonable amount for even bad beer.  If the prices don’t deter you, the warnings about snakes in the parking lot might!  We ate at a tapas place for lunch and saved ourselves from having to cook dinner and clean up on Saturday.  Sunday we watched Football… yep, football.  Camper is in storage, laundry is done, blogs are caught up, feeling good about this trip until I  checked the weather in the UK where we are going and yeah… it’s going to rain pretty much the whole time.  Oh well, it’s to be expected I guess.    We will make the most of it and have fun anyway.  Off to England.

Cheers!

Posted in Arizona, Nevada, States, Utah | 8 Comments

Birthday in Zion

My one wish for my birthday was to be in Zion National Park. After staying in Moab and going to Arches National Park and Canyonlands I figured it had to be good. Utah is amazing in regards to the geology. After arriving in Vegas from our exciting week in Raleigh we went right to Sand Hollow State Park in Hurricane, Utah about 40 minutes from Zion.  Well, we did have to stop by the grocery store and fill up with fuel, but pretty much we just hit the road. We were both pretty tired after the weekend and I think if we would have held still we might not have found the energy to keep going. A second wind hit us and we motored on down the road. It was a pretty cool drive and the two hours went by quickly. Unfortunately the issue with Fat Henry was still there, but not much we could do about it then, except hope it didn’t get worse.

Sand Hollow was a really nice campground. A bit far away from any big towns, but Hurricane, UT is not too bad. It was an easy place to setup with really large pull-thrus, so that helped us get settled in pretty quickly. The views were really great all around us and it was so quiet we really were happy with our choice to stay there.  There were also quail and a roadrunner to watch when outside.  I always really love that.

View from our campsite.

Lovely evening view!

The other half of the campground was really sandy and when the wind blows….

Hard to believe we had been at 6000 feet on cliffs earlier that day.

Tried to catch the evening light.

The weather was pretty good other than a bit breezy, but the sun was much appreciated. Our side of the campground was mostly big rigs and a few tents, the other side of the campground was where most of the ATV people stayed, but it was not terribly noisy and the busiest part of the park was the lake where there were quite a few boats always present.  They sure got there early in the morning.

Very quickly on Wednesday we found hiking in Zion was a bit crazy because it gets so crowded. You can’t drive into the canyon, but have to park either in the little town of Springdale and take a shuttle to the visitor center or park in the visitor center and then take the shuttle into the canyon. It’s a really good system that helps with pollution and the lack of parking, but does get busy. When we went on Wednesday it wasn’t too bad because we didn’t try to park in the visitor lot right away, well, we did, but decided instead to go to a hike that you could drive to because it looked crazy busy and we didn’t feel like we would get a parking spot anytime soon. The hike we took was Canyon Overlook over towards the East entrance just past the tunnel and it was a pretty easy walk, but definitely had some big drop-offs that made it a little exciting. The views were awesome from the top. We went back to the visitor center after that and got super lucky and found a parking spot. Then we took the shuttle up to the Riverside walk which is a super easy walk so it was very busy with all sorts of people, not just serious hikers. That walk is also full of people who just came out of the hike called The Narrows in which you actually walk in the river. We didn’t do that, we really never planned on it, but it is supposed to be a great hike and very popular. That day was pretty mellow and we were just getting our bearings. I got my birthday wish and was happy.

Canyon view from the top.

Lots of these guys hanging around.

Don’t look down.

A quick stop on the riverwalk.

Zion isn’t called the land straight up for nothing!

Whoa.

When this river gets going, its probably crazy.

A few memories from the weekend and my birthday were pretty funny and kept me smiling:

While staying at Kelley and Darcy’s they were kind enough to leave us some magazines on end of bed for light reading.  AARP and Women’s Health- how to have great abs after 50.

Kat bought me an awesome tshirt that I had asked for much earlier in the year.

I was still thinking of my fantastic party and all the people we got to see again.

My AARP membership card came in the mail. Those guys are on the ball!

I got an email from my Dr reminding me that when you turn 50 you should get a colonoscopy.

My sister sent me an ecard called The Book of Everyone and it had reminder that 50 is the number of years in a “jubilee” period and it was the official beginning of the Summer of Love. I found out that Melissa loves me more than peanut M&Ms (and that is A LOT!). Thanks Melissa.

Since Zion was so crowded and we really just don’t like the crowds we went to Kolob Canyons on the west side of Zion just to see what that area of the park was like and it was great. It is really beautiful and nowhere near as crowded. It was super windy that day and we were feeling a bit lazy, so only took the scenic drive to the top and then a short hike up to the very top.

 

We had decided on Wednesday after seeing how busy Zion was that we would go early another morning and take the range guided hike to Watchman tower. It was held at 8 am, so we had no issues parking and it was nice to see the sun come up as we drove. The hike was really good because of the views and we like ranger guided hikes because you always learn a lot about the areas vegetation, geology and wildlife. After that hike we headed to Kolob resevoir because the lines to catch the shuttle were super long and we just couldn’t face it. Hiking Kolob resevoir trail was really different, but beautiful when we got to the end. At first it was like going across a mountain top meadow and then at the end we had amazing views of the canyon. We thought we would return to Zion one more time and do a big hike, maybe one of the more famous ones, but the morning we woke up we were just too lazy and it was pretty chilly, so we changed our minds and slept in.

Beautiful views to start the morning.

The view of Zion.

Looking the other way out of Zion.

Part of the Watchman tower trail.

Look- a “rock in “chair!

It’s a long way up!

Watchman’s tower.

The drive to Kolob Reservoir was full of spectacular views and not just on the hike!

Not bad views on a very quiet road.

The drive was full of far off amazing sites.

Beautiful aspens along the way and sunflowers too!

Does it ever end?

A nice hike through the woods, very different from being in Zion.

The view at the end brings you back to the canyons.

 

Our day at Kolob Canyon hiking.

Hiking in Kolob canyon

Kat navigating the river rocks

One of two old cabins along the hike.

Great views along the hike.

We were supposed to leave Sunday morning, but instead we extended our stay one more day. It is football season and once again we forgot! We were getting a pretty good TV signal too, so it made sense to stay. We found a restaurant/bar and went for a bite to eat for lunch and to watch the games for a little bit before going back to camp where we would move to a new site in the park. The restaurant was a bit weird in the fact that there was a tiny bar and bar area, but the rest of it was like a diner. There were a lot of people eating breakfast and we didn’t let that intimidate us or stop us from watching our football. Being a restaurant in Utah we had to order food, but that cheesesteak and jalapeno chips were not a bad thing. We did see that there were a lot of plates going out with what looked like small funnel cakes. It turns out that they were supposedly scones! We ordered one just to see what the hype was and sure enough it was definitely a small funnel cake. Not bad, but not a scone!

 

We went to Costco in Hurricane/St George three times for various reasons and not just because they had the absolute best samples ever. We went the first time to check out the cameras and the second to buy it and the third to get a jacket that Kat liked, but always for the free samples. We never had to wait for samples and on Sunday we could barely finish eating one before turning the corner to find another station. It was tough because we had just eaten while watching football, but we managed to chomp down a few. There were plenty of new samples each of the times we went. The fish sticks were pretty delicious and a favorite for both of us. (Kat:  This had to be the best Costco for free samples EVER!  Every time we went there were at least 6-8 different stations there, and they weren’t stingy about giving out samples.  We got our membership fee back in just those 3 visits!) We have so many nice pictures to share using that new camera. It’s a Panasonic Lumix DMC-Z560. Just a small one, but seems to work well for us. That Sunday afternoon was nice and we enjoyed our relaxing afternoon.

 

We left the next morning to head out towards Bryce Canyon where we would do some boondocking and more hiking. We both kind of felt we didn’t do enough hiking or exploring in Zion, but the descriptions of the hikes are a bit intimidating, so we hoped to make the best of Bryce.  We felt really good getting out and about again and our little funk was subsiding.  Fresh air and exercise will do that for you!

Get ready for more Utah hiking adventures and great scenery as we move on to some more of Utah’s spectacular parks -Bryce Canyon and beyond (along with special visitors).

 

Posted in States, Utah | 7 Comments

Raleigh for a birthday trip

After Kats family left, so did Kat. She was to be gone a week for work and I was parked outside of San Diego at Potrero regional park which was only 5 miles from the border of Mexico and the town of Tecate.  It was hot! I spent a couple of days taking Fat Henry to the shop and to get his tires rotated, but other than that it was uneventful for me. I always have big plans for my time alone and then it just doesn’t happen. Kat got home and we were both sort of in a funky questioning state of mind about our lives. When Kat asked me if I still wanted to be doing this traveling and I honestly could say that maybe I’m done with it. I questioned why I felt that way and why Kat was asking. I think in general we are just going here and there and not getting much out of it. We haven’t been volunteering, we hadn’t been really exploring, it’s just become comfortable and going here and there just because. Kat is tired of worrying about Fat Henry and thinking of all the little things we need to do on the camper. Hey, it’s like a house, you are always going to have things to fix and you can’t just sell and walk away-except we can.  We definitely need to evaluate our lives and what we want out of them. Honestly, we are able to do whatever we want because we have that freedom right now. But what is it we want? We talk about traveling in Europe, going back home to Raleigh, learning to teach English as a second language in Spain and a few other crazy things. But, our temporary decision is that we get to Vegas, go to Raleigh for a visit (work for Kat) visit Utah National parks, go to England for a couple of weeks to try out camper life there, enjoy Thanksgiving in Phoenix and all the while keep these thoughts brewing on the back burner and try to come up with a plan for our future.  That wasn’t meant to come off as depressing because I have always been like that with my life. Sometimes you need to set new goals, create new adventures and just shake things up. Some people have a lot of drama in their lives or a lot of problems, so they are pretty satisfied to just get by day to day. We are lucky with really no worries to speak of, so really we should just make the most of what we have and we are usually pretty good at that.

Potrero campground….doesn’t look hot, but it was.

Off to Vegas we headed after a day’s rest for Kat. We stopped back in Chino at the same park we stayed at with Kats family- Prado regional park. While we were there we went to the coolest RV junkyard to see if we could find a part that stabilizes the cables underneath when moving the slides in and out which had finally broken. That place was incredible. It was filled with salvaged RV parts and we got to just poke around all over looking for what we needed. We couldn’t find it, but did finally learn the correct name for it which was flex guard cable. We ended up ordering it online. We stayed a couple of nights and then off we went to Vegas.  Unfortunately we also took thousands of little passengers with us! Yep, we got invaded by little black ants. They were coming up the tires and when I sprayed around the tires to stop that entry, they moved to the stabilizers. Ugh, but at least they weren’t biting ones.  Of course we have no ant spay, so we used a bleach cleaner and that worked really well except for us having watery eyes and having to inhale it all.

As we pulled into Vegas our check engine light came on. Good! Now the mechanics have something to actually see instead of us just describing a weird sporadic problem. We got set up in our RV park and went out to see if someone could take a look at Fat Henry.  We found a guy who said come back in tomorrow, so we planned on a 7:30 am arrival. It was just down the street, so no big deal. We went and had a drink and dinner, then back to the ant guest house. The next morning we sat in the office of the truck garage for about two hours before the mechanic came out and told us we needed a new turbo system and EGR. That would cost about 5K.  We had been doing a lot of online research and although we had read about this a a possible cause, but we weren’t going for it in such a big way. We went to the Ford dealer and within an hour and a half we had the solution to the engine light fixed for under $300.  It was a cracked vacuum hose on the turbo. Ha! And maybe this is the whole problem? Time will tell.

We had a lot of fun in Vegas With ex-work colleagues who were n town for a trade show and it was great hanging out together. They really lifted my mood and outlook on things. Mostly it reminded me that I still don’t miss work- except the free travel and expense account.

On Saturday we moved the camper and truck into storage and went to our airport hotel. We had an early morning flight to Raleigh the next day. Kat was headed to work and I was going to hang out and visit friends, etc. But, the most important part of the trip was to be Saturday when we would go back to the old neighborhood and celebrate birthdays. I was happy to get to see the neighbors again and other friends, but I was not excited with the thought of being 50. I’m not sure why it would bug me, I mean really, I feel 29! Anyway, I pulled up my old lady pants and went to party.

It was a fantastic celebration. I appreciated all of the unexpected presents! It really was Katie’s birthday and she let me share her day. My birthday was still 4 days away and I would be in Utah celebrating quietly with Kat at Zion National park.  The party was not quiet especially when my sisters showed up unexpectedly. Kat and those two did an awesome job of sneaking this one past me. It was a great surprise. I appreciate so much all the people that came to the party, it took my mind off the age thing and just made me happy to be there.  It also made me want to go home to Raleigh. We spent Sunday with my sisters and Tracey having brunch, getting pedicures and hanging out at our hotel pool before dinner. Another early flight for us back to Vegas where we would hookup the camper and leave. We don’t usually do that, but we wanted to get settled in near Zion so we would be ready for my birthday.

Best part of getting back to Vegas was finding inside the camper… there were NO ants. Whew!

Off to Zion we go. Ready for some hiking and exploring with a new attitude and sense of adventure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in California, Nevada, Raleigh, States | 5 Comments

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.

 

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