The best-laid plans and all that!

Well, when we left Lake Powell, we had planned to go through Flagstaff and down into New Mexico, but the forecast was calling for more snow that way, so we ended up going back the way we had come, through Monument Valley.

Our trusty co-pilot!

We had also planned to stay at a small State Park that first night, but when we got there, it was closed up tight! Turns out it is ALSO on Navajo land, so it wasn’t open yet! YIKES! We immediately pulled up our Harvest Host app and found a very fun-looking brewery in Gallup, NM called “Route 66 Junkyard Brewery” and called to see if they had space for the night. Yep! And we were on our way!

If you’re not familiar with Harvest Hosts, it’s a membership program for those with RVs of any kind where members can camp overnight for free at Wineries, Breweries, Distilleries, Farms, Museums, Tourist Attractions and sometimes Golf Courses. You are just staying in their parking lot or out on the “back 40” on grass, dirt or gravel, and there are usually no hookups, but it’s a free, safe, and usually fun place to stop for the night. In exchange, you are expected to support the business in some way. You can do a tasting, buy a bottle or 6-pack, eat in the restaurant, shop at the farm stand, visit the attraction or whatever is appropriate and suits your fancy!

In the past, we’ve stayed at a number of very cool locations, including some caverns in Missouri, wineries in Temecula and Indiana, and a couple of breweries. You always meet the nicest folks and usually get to meet the owners and hear how their small business got started. Most of the time their wares are just delightful and we’ve always enjoyed our stays! If you are interested, you can sign up through the link above and they’ll give you 15%.

So anyway, we were excited to stay at a new one at such an unusual location. It is an actual junkyard and an actual brewery! I will admit, it does look a little sketchy, but the reviews from other members were great, so we decided to give it a shot!

Going all the way to Gallup made for a VERY long day for us, especially since it was very windy. Plus, even going this way we had a bit of snow. We finally pulled in just at dusk, and saw that there were 2 other RVs situated in the dirt/gravel parking lot, so we swung in and started to line up behind them. Unbeknownst to us it had snowed/rained heavily the night before , so the center of the lot was a mud pit! We got about halfway through and became completely mired in the deep mud!

After about 30 minutes of “seesaw” action to try to extricate ourselves, the owner came out and helpfully commented that there was no way we were getting unstuck that night, so we might as well just hunker down. He said that they were expecting a freeze that night, and suggested that in the morning, we should be able to “drive right out” of the frozen mud. This was NOT welcome news, and we were both frustrated, exhausted and “hangry,” so we just gave up and unhooked the Jeep. Taking Pongo out in that muck was LOADS of fun, and we ended up using all of our beach towels trying to keep David & Pongo from tracking mud throughout the rig.

The entryway to the RV was a complete muddy mess!

By the time we were ready for bed, we were all covered in mud and barely speaking to each other! We never did make it into the brewery, although I’m sure we could have used a beer after all of that. We were just too discouraged and irritated, so we decided to just go to bed

Nobody slept much that night, for worrying about what the morning would bring. In the middle of the night it began to snow pretty heavily and we had visions of being stuck there for a week! Before dawn, David got in the Jeep with Pongo and went looking for a car wash that could accommodate the RV because he couldn’t sleep anyway and Pongo was whining constantly. I just sat there and thought maybe this whole trip wasn’t such a great idea after all!!!

The second it was light, David got to work trying to free us. Unfortunately we were not able to just “drive right out” as the owner had suggested, but David figured out to use all of our leveling blocks as ramps, and sort of “walked” us out of the muck. I offered to help but David figured there was no sense in all of us getting muddy yet again, and kindly suggested I leave him alone to figure it out. So I just laid on the bed and stayed out of his way. (Sometimes that’s the most helpful thing I can do! ) It took about an hour, but FINALLY we were free!

We drove STRAIGHT to the coin operated car wash and spent a couple of hours trying to get the mud dislodged from the undercarriage of the RV, out of the wheels and off the jeep.

We ended up having huge mud clods dropping from the RV for about a week, and it took 3 rounds at car washes over the next few days, but we finally got it all off/out of everything!

Being exhausted, we decided to go to Albuquerque and treat ourselves to a night at a very expensive KOA campground with full hookups so that we could do some laundry, get a good night’s sleep and know we didn’t have to deal with any more mud and dirt! It was a nice place with a concrete pad and grass, but we were so delirious from exhaustion that we didn’t take a single picture! We slept great, though, and were able to function a bit better the next day.

We had booked the next night at a private home through another app we love called Boondockers Welcome. Similar to Harvest Hosts, you get to stay for a night (or more, depending on the host) for free on someone’s private property. Sometimes they have acreage, and sometimes it’s a suburban driveway. Most hosts are RVers themselves and have fabulous recommendations for things to see and do in the local area, and for other great places they’ve traveled themselves. We have met some AMAZING hosts through this program and we highly recommend it as well. Again, if you are interested, click on the link and sign up. (No discount this time, but honestly, you’ll probably save the membership fee in your first stay!)

Our host in this case had a huge lot in a suburban neighborhood with 2 gravel driveways, water hookups, and 30amp electrical service! They could easily have accommodated 4 RVs our size, but we were the only ones there. The couple are avid RVers who travel half the year, and gave us some great recommendations for places to check out in our travels. We can’t wait to visit some of them! We were able to finally finish cleaning up from the mud disaster and set out to see what Albuquerque had to offer.

We didn’t get any photos of the host location. but because it was a private home with a fully fenced yard, we felt safe enough to finally let Kiya out on her leash and harness. She’s the only one who’s brave enough to venture outside, but she’s pretty skittish, so we are careful when we take her out. She had so much fun stalking bugs, birds and squirrels, as well as basking in the New Mexico sun! We will definitely take her out more often. Of course the other two just laid around like slugs, as usual. Even Pongo was feeling a bit lazy! You can see a bit of the property in these photos.

I feel so dumb that I had no idea what an awesome city Albuquerque is! Still being a bit tired, we kept it rather low-key. There is a TON to see and do here, and it’s yet another place that we will visit again. (I sometimes feel like this whole trip is just a sample platter of places we want to come back to!)

We just visited a couple of museums, including the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History. It is an extremely well-done museum, and we came away with a much better understanding of the history of nuclear energy. They also had some retired aircraft in an outdoor exhibit but somehow I didn’t get any pix!

The next day we visited the Anderson Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum. In stark contrast to the day before, this was probably the least organized museum I’ve ever visited! None of the exhibits seemed related to any of the others, and there was no cohesive storyline. It was just a random series of exhibits commemorating various accomplishments, mostly of the museum’s founder and his friends. If you go to Albuquerque, I would not recommend a stop at this place. It would be way better to get up early and go watch some balloons launch; something we missed this trip. Sorry to say, the only picture we took here was of me!

We enjoyed Albuquerque so much we ended up staying an extra day and when we finally left we were feeling so refreshed! We headed south toward Roswell, but naturally had to make a stop in Belen, the city of David’s mom’s birth. We didn’t grab any photos of the town this trip, but we did get an all-important photo of the “Tortilla Burger” from Circle T Burger, that was highly recommended by David’s former boss, Linda! (Now you know what our real priorities are!

We finally made it to our destination and boy what a gorgeous one it was! Bottomless Lakes State Park did not disappoint. I will say I was getting a bit tired of brown and red rock, so I was thankful for another dose of blue!

The closest town to this State Park is Roswell, NM, so of COURSE we had to go see if we could spot any aliens! They are actually on every street sign and light pole, and pretty much every business features some form of alien. Even the McDonald’s is spaceship-themed! We opted to give the UFO museum a miss and just enjoy people-watching and seeing the sights in the town, but we did watch some YouTube accounts of the museum and it looks like a hoot!

We spent 3 nights at this park and really had a relaxing time. We felt like we’d been through the wars, and enjoyed cooking outdoors, meandering through town, and taking Pongo to the local dog park.

We almost asked if we could stay an extra night, but alas, we decided it was time to move on. We STILL hadn’t learned that we need to slow down! The hardest part of this journey is keeping in mind that we are not on vacation and we don’t need to rush to the next destination. We are trying to learn to linger and just live life in the places we’re visiting. It’s been a slow learning curve but we are starting to figure it out!

Pongo hoping for scraps from our chicken tacos cooked ENTIRELY outdoors on the Blackstone Griddle.

NEXT UP: The hits just keep coming!

Flexible is our middle name

If you’ve seen almost any popular movies in the last 50 years, you’ve almost certainly seen Monument Valley. It’s that gorgeous area with towering rock formations that makes such picturesque a backdrop. It’s where Forrest Gump finally stopped running, where Marty McFly & Doc Brown ended up in Back to the Future III and where John Ford set many of his westerns in the 1940’s. It’s even featured in some animated films such as Cars and An American Tail: Feivel goes West! So we were very excited to add this stop to our trip. 

It was a short 3 hour drive from Moab, and we had pre-booked a stay at a full service RV park because we figured we’d want to have “unlimited” water and electricity after a week of boondocking in Moab, plus we would need to dump our tanks.  We should have known something was up when we pulled into the park and there were only 2 other RVs in the whole place!!  

Turns out that Monument Valley Tribal Park is on Navajo land and the Tribal Council, at the urging of their Public Health Department has made the decision not to re-open any of the monuments and parks.  As a matter of fact, they still had  a curfew on their people until very recently.  Schools have been closed for a year, and unlike in our neck of the woods, many of the families who live on the reservation are without running water or electricity. They drive into “town” with huge water tanks in the back of their trucks that they refill at the city supply every few days, and use generators for electricity.  Many also don’t have access to reliable internet, so online schooling is not possible.  Really makes you grateful for the things you have, doesn’t it?

So, although we had planned to stay there 4 days so we could really take everything in, we ended up just staying for 2 nights; long enough to do some laundry, recharge our batteries (figuratively and literally!) and meet a few local folks.

One local we met was Dennis, a Navajo guide who took us on a tour of the local area that did not include any tribal land, but that gave us some great history and explained something of the culture.  He took us to the site of some ruins in the local rocks and showed us some of the iconic monument formations from a distance. We even got to go into a “hogan,” or Native American dwelling. It was kind of incongruous to see a structure built entirely of logs, with no windows, but with air conditioning!  He said he has one at home with a big screen TV on the wall!  It was very interesting to hear his perspective on how the Tribal Council has tried to balance their response to the COVID crisis for their people.

We left early to head to Page, Arizona, and Lake Powell.  There is so much to see in that area, we wanted to really spend a few days.  We had a very windy drive again and were glad it was only a couple of hours’ drive!  We had booked a site at Wahweap RV park right on the lake, but since we were coming in a day early, we found a camping spot on public land across from the entrance and spent a VERY WINDY night there.  We were so thankful for our RV, and propane heat, let me tell you!  We could hear that one of our slide toppers had ripped during all of that wind, so we ended up pulling our slides in, which made it a bit squishy, but we didn’t care. One couple was there in a tent, and at one point they finally gave up and I think they just slept in their car.

Once we had settled into the RV park, we put out the slides to assess the damage. Sure enough, the bedroom slide  topper had ripped completely off.  That gave us a great excuse to head for WalMart to buy awning tape! (It’s kind of a camping tradition of ours to check out Wal-Mart in new towns, probably because we never had one locally when we were camping as our kids were growing up, so it felt like SUCH a novelty!) If you don’t know, they tend to have a pretty robust camping equipment section and sure enough, they had awning tape. 

Here’s a time lapse video of us up on the roof fixing the awning.  I was so proud of myself for being able to help because David can fix anything, but I tend to be all thumbs!  (I also tend toward a fear of heights, so this was a huge accomplishment for me!)

Fixing the awning

Once we got that sorted out we explored the area.  Our campground was absolutely beautiful as was Lake Powell.  Sadly, the one thing we had really wanted to do was also on Native American land, so it was closed.  Antelope Canyon is a “slot canyon” that has super narrow sides and almost closes at the top.  The colors and lighting inside make for spectacular views. Never fear, though, the lower part of it is available from the water, so you can kayak in and hike partway up.  We got out our trusty inflatable kayak and inflated it so that we could make sure it was lake-worthy in preparation for heading out the next day.

Then off we went to do the short hike to Horseshoe Bend.  It really is a lovely, easy hike that Pongo enjoyed immensely.  Unfortunately they do not have any trash receptacles on the trail or at the end of it, so when he decided to make a “deposit” about 1/4 of the way up the trail, we had to pack it in and pack it out!  Oh, the joys of having a dog!  Good thing he’s so darned adorable, isn’t it?

We stopped for some yummy Mexican food and then went back to the campsite so David could do some work (I promise, he’s working every day!!) I, on the other hand, and living the life of Riley and pretty much just lounged all afternoon. We decided to break out the bike leash and give it a try, and I have to say , he did a pretty good job, but we learned quickly that we need to use a shorter leash to keep him from crossing in front of the bike!

So, as fate would have it, the next day it was supposed to snow again, so we had to abandon the plan to kayak into Antelope Canyon.  We were pretty disappointed, but in the end, we realized it just gave us a great excuse to come back to Lake Powell.  There are so many fabulous hikes and kayak trips we want to do when it’s a bit warmer!  This is QUICKLY becoming a theme for us pretty much everywhere we’ve gone:  “We’ll be back!”  I’ll leave you with a few last photos so you can see why.

Up next:  Things get REAL!

It’ll be an adventure, they said!

We did say we wanted adventure, didn’t we?? Well we got it in spades as we left Las Vegas and headed to Moab, Utah to meet up with our friends Jane & Rick. We’ve known Jane since before we were married and hadn’t seen her in more than 20 years. They live near Grand Junction, Colorado, and since we were going to be fairly close, it made sense to meet up in Moab.

We kept our eye on the weather and all looked great until the day we left when suddenly they were predicting SNOW! Being SoCal natives, we were pretty intimidated at the idea of driving a 36′ refrigerator shaped object towing a jeep on snow-covered roads, but it was supposed to stop soon, so we decided to risk it!

Our travel style is to drive 3-4 hours per day, then stay somewhere 3-4 days, unless we have a specific date we need to be somewhere, in which case we still only drive 3-4 hrs, but we just stop someplace quick for the night. Usually it’s a Wal-Mart or Cracker Barrel parking lot, both of which usually welcome RVers for the night. Sometimes it’s a rest stop or a truck stop. Often we don’t even put out the slides. We just live “squished” for a few hours and carry on. We can still get to all we need, such as the bathroom, fridge, stove and microwave.

This time we had planned to get to Richfield, Utah and stay at a Wal-mart, then have an easy 2-3 hour drive into Moab the next morning. But once the snow started, by the time we hit St. George, we knew we couldn’t make it. We found a Home Depot that we had heard would allow overnighters, and we made ourselves at home there.

The next morning it was touch and go. Most of the snow had melted on the highway and it was only snowing lightly. We had to decide whether to keep going or to turn back to Vegas and go the long way around, adding another day to the transit time. The traffic cams we could see showed long stretches of dry highway with no snow, so we decided to risk it and headed up the I15 on our way to the I70. We unhitched the Jeep so that David didn’t have to tow it along with trying to keep the Bounder from sliding around, and I drove along behind. Before long, here is what we encountered! It was pretty scary, let me tell you!

Eventually, though, the skies cleared up and we were able to hitch the Jeep back up. What was supposed to be a 2-3 hour day ended up being 6 hours, but the sites Jane & Rick had picked out for us were just gorgeous and we were SO glad we hadn’t taken the extra day.

Horsethief campground is on BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land about 30 miles outside of Moab, Utah, and is fairly primitive. You have to drive down a gravel road to get there, and although there are vault toilets and large trash receptacles, there is no electricity or water, so we were very glad to be self contained! During the night it began to snow again, and we woke up to a winter wonderland! Twenty four hours later it was all gone, and we had nearly perfect weather the rest of our time there.

As the snow was melting, we loaded up the 2 dogs (Rick & Jane had brought Esther, their adorable pup) and headed for Dead Horse State Park. It is the only park in the area that allows dogs on the trails. We hiked around 5 miles and it went by SO fast! Pongo had a BLAST in the snow, and it was a beautiful park!

By the next day all of the snow was gone and we set out with the dogs to do some hiking. We wanted to try to find Corona Arch. We started out going the “long way” around because it would be more beautiful, but because of all the wet mud and fallen rocks, we couldn’t navigate the road. So we decided to go the “traditional” road which was about 40 minutes longer.

The GPS took us down a CRAZY road that we couldn’t even begin to navigate, even with our Jeep. I don’t have photos, but another couple posted some video from where they tried to do it in their Subaru! (If you want to check that out it’s here

That was a no-go for us. We decided to check out Longbow Arch instead. It was a great hike and the dogs had an awesome time!

That was Rick & Jane’s last night and so we spent the evening playing games. We discovered that Skip Bo is the longest game in the history of the world! I’ve played many Monopoly games that were shorter! We all CHEERED when David finally won so we could all go to bed!

The next day, after bidding a sad farewell to Rick & Jane and making very loose plans to meet up again later this year, we decided to check out Arches National Park without Pongo (dogs aren’t allowed). It was a bit late in the day so we only drove through it and did one short hike, but it was truly spectacular. By now we had learned our lesson and had dressed in many layers! We didn’t worry about all we had missed, because we WILL be back here!

The iconic Landscape Arch

On our final day, we made the drive through the upper part of Canyonlands National Park. We took Pongo, but he had to stay in the car for most of it, except for potty breaks. Our favorite view was of Mesa Arch, which is known for gorgeous sunrise photos (Sorry, I love you all, but not enough to get up at 5am to get the shot. You can see plenty of them online if you’re interested!) This particular photo was memorable because on the way to the trailhead I was gawking and not paying attention, and fell FLAT on my face in front of God and everybody! I was SO embarrassed, but except for some scratches to my glasses, and a scraped up knee, forehead and hands, no serious harm done!! Fortunately for me, David chose not to document the moment so you’ll have to make do with this view of us taken by a fellow tourist at Mesa Arch!

Me looking a little worse for wear at Mesa Arch. My knee was pretty bloody under those pants!

Here’s another lovely view from Canyonlands. For some reason we didn’t get a closer view. I honestly think this place rivals the Grand Canyon for spectacular views. We couldn’t do the GC this trip, so it’s going to have to wait until our next pass through the area.

And with that it was time to say goodbye to Moab. We will DEFINITELY come back because we want lots more time to explore the many national parks in the area. Because of course, we bought one of those National Parks passports and now we have to collect ALL the stickers and get it stamped at every park!! (Whatever marketing firm came up with that idea deserves an award!) Chat again soon!

Next Up: Monument Valley

Kicking it off!

DISCLAIMER: This first post is very long and includes a lot of detail and “catching up” because many friends had no idea we were doing this or what the process was, so I’ve included all of that. Future posts will be more concise, I promise.

We finally pulled the trigger!  After 2 years (or more) of watching YouTube, reading blogs and attending RV trade shows, on March 1 we hit the road full-time in our 35’ Fleetwood Bounder motorhome, along with our 65-pound dog Pongo and our 3 cats, Oreo, the tortie (age 19), Kiya, the gray (age 7) and Spikejack, the black one (age 4)!  

What do we mean by “full time?”  Well, we’re not really sure.  We PLAN to be traveling for a year. If we are loving it, we will continue.  If we get sick of it, we will stop! We have rented out our house to a wonderful family, the Santiagos, (more about them later) and are so happy that they will be enjoying our home with their 4 girls as we did with our 2 kids!
So that is a start, but we have no idea whether we’ll keep going after that, or even if we’ll make it a full year.  We think we will.  Time will tell.  David will still be working remotely, and I’ll work when I want to and there’s shopping work available.

It’s been interesting figuring out how to travel during these COVID-19 times. There will be different standards in different states, and since neither of us is eligible for the vaccine in CA, we’re not sure when or if we’ll be able to get it in our travels, so that means being a bit more cautious than we normally would, but it’s worth it for such a grand adventure!

SOME HISTORY: We bought our RV, a 2017 Fleetwood Bounder back in June of 2020 and drove it from Ohio to California in a week.  As shakedown cruises go, it was pretty uneventful, although we quickly learned that we needed to make some upgrades in order to handle driving in high winds. 

Our “new” Bounder on the day we bought it, with the sellers, Rodger and Christy

The next thing was to figure out what to do with our house!  We decided that we would rather have someone we knew living there, caring for it, and NOT have to put all of our “stuff” in storage, so we ended up blessing (I hope) the Santiago family with the opportunity to live there while we are gone. Denny and Tiffany have 4 girls ranging in age from 14 – 8, and an adorable Chihuahua named Luna,  We actually are the ones who are blessed because it meant we did not have to completely move everything  out and store it while we are gone.

We did take advantage of this time to go though all of our “stuff” and discard/donate much of our 30+ years’ accumulation, thanks largely to the efforts of Alison who went through the attic, and Cheryl and Kimi who came over every week for 2 months to help us sort, decide and dump! I can never thank them enough for all their help! Here’s what the living room looked like during the height of the chaos!

Once we had everything cleared out, it was time to actually pack up and leave. We had set a date of March 1 because we knew that if we didn’t, we’d just keep putting it off. So the weekend before that, the Santiago family moved in as we were moving into the Bounder on our driveway. It was also the weekend of David’s 60th birthday, so we decided to have a send-off party at a local park so friends and family could see where we would be living for the next year, as well as celebrate that milestone for David. We felt that having it in a park would satisfy the need to be outside where things were safer, and give folks the room to be somewhat socially distanced. We did manage to grab a photo of the group. As you can see, most folks removed their masks for the photo so we can see everyone’s smiling faces!

Finally, we managed to get off the driveway and on to our first stop, beautiful San Dimas, California!! (Yes, really!) We had decided to spend a week locally so that we could take care of some last-minute appointments as well as figure out if we had actually brought the right stuff with us while we were still close enough to make changes. And we DID! Among other things, we decided NOT to bring our Suzuki scooter along. It was just too much trouble for the amount of use we would get out of it. We did bring 3 bicycles, though, so we can get out and enjoy the sunshine when we want.

If you love to camp and want a gorgeous place to camp locally, Bonelli Bluffs is just 45 minutes away from Torrance and it’s SO peaceful there!

FINALLY, it was time to really be on our way. We headed for our first stop, Las Vegas, where David had a work meeting and we could prep a little bit more. Not very exciting, but we are glad we did it. Among other things, we got to actually eat INSIDE a restaurant for the first time in almost a year! We are also learning more about our travel style. We stayed in an “RV Resort” in Vegas where the sites are individually owned. The management rents them out for the owners when not in use. Although it was beautiful, we figured out pretty quickly that it is not our style at all. We prefer staying in places that are a bit more rustic and where you can meet fellow nomads from different walks of life.

In my next post I’ll share more about our first weeks actually on the road, but this has gone on long enough! If you’d like to follow along, I invite you to subscribe to the blog. I’m not making any promises as to how often I’ll post, but I will post something from every stop we make, as well as let friends and family know where we’re headed so if you happen to be in that area, we can try to meet up!