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 | 6 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.

 

Posted in Oregon, States | 6 Comments

Colorado to Spokane with Kelley

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

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

Berthoud, Colorado

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

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

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

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

I asked and he said he was mowing the grass!

 

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

Firehole Canyon, Flaming Gorge, Wyoming

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

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

4 ft gopher snake just passing by.

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

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

Coulter bay, Grand Tetons, WY

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

Montana

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

Superior, MT

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

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

 

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

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

The fairgrounds campground.

Spokane, WA

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

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

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

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

Defrosting the fridge.

Great hand signals!

Next stop…Oregon!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Moab, Utah

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

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

Gooseneck park.

Enjoying a cup of tea while checking out the views!

 

 

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

The view from our campsite at Ken’s lake.

Quesadilla Mobilla.

Crazy ATV riders!

 

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

Fun part of the hike to Delicate Arch.

Fiery Furnace

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in States, Utah | 4 Comments

Texas

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


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


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

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

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


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

Cadillac Ranch in the snow.

The oldest Airstream. (Kat loves Airstreams)

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

 

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

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


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

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

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

 

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

Posted in New Mexico, States, Texas | 2 Comments