Our last taste of Quartzite was the morning walk. Strolling past the custom pickup shell topper converted to living quarters was the perfect way to say goodbye. Unique people here in the quartz, very unique indeed. Time to hit the pavement.
There is only a couple of hours between us and our new home for the month, but it takes us a couple of extra. We stopped at a two different places until somebody would sell us propane. It was only $2.20 a gallon which equated into a $30 tab for the last month of gas usage. With the tanks topped off it was only a matter of time until we got to our new spot. We're both excited for this.
Ah. Welcome home. For the next 33 days Penny will stay in one spot. This means we can actually set the grill on a table and take the kayaks off the jeep. T-dub gets un-racked and parked in a sweet spot out front. All this unpacking has made us tired and hot. We should go cool off.
Pool; check. Hot tub; check. Full park WIFI, tennis courts, bocce ball, clubhouse and on site laundry; check. Say goodbye to $639 of hard earned cash and try to squeeze every dollar back that we can. Part of that is taking Eli for a walk, although this time it is in a private gated community with street globes. Life could be worse.
What better way to start the day than old hot rods and airplane fuselages. Unfortunately the sales lot was closed because it was Sunday. That's not enough to dampen my spirits. I can see the cool stuff through the fence and it gives me hope. Hope that someday we'll find home and I will have useless broken cars and trucks laying around the yard. Oh what a dream. But dreams are just that, and this is reality. Let's go for a cruise through town and look at all the trailers.
It's overcast which helps out a lot. We were able to ride for nearly an hour without baking in the sun like grapes turning into raisins. When we get back home Katie pulls out a deck of cards. What she didn't know is that I was recording this. No matter. This is way better than fake scripted video.
Our night is capped off with our typical night walk. This time we get an up close look at a wooden horse made by the campground manager. We chatted for a few minutes the other day and this is what he does in his spare time. Neat.
Here are the lit up statue pictures I promised from the last post. Sorry that the pictures suck. Guess my phone isn't all that great in low light situations.
It's still hot and we sit outside for a couple more hours. Then I dropped my tablet about 18 inches to the ground. Stupid rock desert and all it's rockiness. I've had this thing for 4 years and it's been flawless. Not anymore. It'll be cheaper to throw it in the trash than to replace the screen. Such is life.
Nothing quite like looking at your neighbors trash to make you feel a little better about yourself. I'm not talking about whether or not we are financially more successful. That doesn't mean a damn thing. I'm talking about the crap stacked up around our neighbor's RV and the fact that the park allows it to happen. It is just crap. A broken box fan, cardboard boxes, and I think I even saw an old toilet seat.
We took T-dub out for a ride and stopped at a local book store. Everything in here was well used and extremely overpriced. The discount section was outside in the weather. Pages were missing and entire books were water damaged and sun faded. Still 50 cents a piece? You must be nuts.
We head out for a walk and take a turn down a dead end alley. Behind the RV park is one of the more impoverished areas. There were about 6 trailers packed into this little area and all of them were being used. It's a sad sight to see. That poor car has a mismatched fender. What did it do to deserve that? Now get me wrong. We've been here before and are walking the streets yet again. Poverty does not equal crime; and this place shows that to us. Everyone we have passed has smiled and said hello. They didn't just nod or wave, they say hello to you. It's a town with no money where the people have to stick together to survive. That brings about a sense of community and with that comes warm friendly faces.
I take a step back from Penny and snap a picture some of the local artwork in the park. The horseshoe cacti are a nice touch albeit a little to close to the RV for my comfort. Hassler's RV park is filled with them and they get lit up every night. I'll show you that tomorrow.
Dam it's hot. Too hot. So hot we decided to spend some cash. Penny gets uprooted from her spot and we make the call to head south to Quartzite AZ. On the way through town I pull off at local car wash and give Penny a much needed wash down. The rain from the week prior had splattered sand all over her lower half. Dirt is bad for paint, and wiping it off instead of washing it off makes the situation even worse. A grand total of $10 was pumped through the car wash to spray down the RV, jeep, and enduro. Not a bad deal when you consider I even had time to wash Penny with a soapy foam brush. Is your car at home dirty? Gross. That makes you a bad person. Do your car a favor and give it a bath.
Finally time to move on down the road to RV mecca. Quartzite AZ is known to RV'ers around the country as one of "those" places. This small town is nearly dead for 9 months out of the year. Then after the holidays....BOOM! This place fills up with thousands of RV'ers taking advantage of either nearly free or dirt cheap parking for months at a time. It's an escape from the cold for most of the people who come out here.
We pulled into Hassler's RV park right on the main drag to take advantage of some 50 amp electrical hook-ups. This will spin the air conditioner at full blast during the 90+ degree days that are forecasted through the weekend.
Eli points us west on our first walk of the weekend through familiar territory. It was nearly a year ago that we were in this same town on the back half of our trip. It's a bit weird to be in a place we recognize, but weird in a good way. Now it's time to sit back and take in our new surroundings.
A lazy day today. Most of the morning just spent sitting around waiting for it to get hot. Then it's off to the beach with the dog in town. A small park in town gave us a free place to sit around and watch the people go by.
I got lazy and didn't take many pictures today. Tomorrow I'll make it up to you guys.
It's another gorgeous day in Western Arizona. A sunshine filled piece of bliss that invites us to go out and explore. After carrying the kayaks for 50 days we finally get to drop them into the water and put them to good use. What started out as a quick exploration of the channel turns into us making a 5 mile trip all the way around the island in the Colorado river. Travel with us under the London bridge from the 1830's that was transported here to connect the island in an attempt to lure tourists.
Film it on a GoPro!
Three hours on the water was enough sun for me. Sand covered kayaks get loaded back onto Shirley and we make our way home. Then it's time to go to my office and type up a story to share with everyone what is going o in our lives. I crank up Shirley's stereo and jam out for a couple of hours. Then we meet the neighbors and sit around a campfire to swap stories. It's getting late and we still haven't hit our 5 mile goal for walking. I said the kayaking should count for exercise... apparently I was wrong.
Starting another day off with normal chores. That will be the mantra of the day. Today we set foot into "Modern Laundromat". A woman from behind the counter catches us off guard when she approaches quietly. She asks us if we have ever been here and starts explaining how to use the washing machine. I get that she may have been told to make sure new clients understand how to use the fancy new contraptions, but I think we got it. Quarters go in, push the wash button, sit in a chair. Yep, still a laundry machine no matter how modern it is. On a positive note they have a great outdoor seating area and free WIFI.
We go for a cruise and take in the sights town has to offer. It's a well laid out city that overall is very nice. Everything is kept up and the small stores are plentiful. Then we head down to one of the local parks that is on the water. Katie has to slow down a bit for a smiley face. Anything over 10 mph is a frowny face... why 10?
The park gives way to a nice walking path that strolls through the heart of the tourist area. The canal you see below separates the island from the city. Restaurants and brew pubs dot the shores along with kayak and paddle board rentals. It's getting hot out and we decide to call it a day. Ten miles back up the main highway gets us home. Nothing left to do but sit outside in the shade and wait out the heat. Damn it's hot here.
It's that time again. Time to roll out. Before hitting the road I go through Penny and Shirley for a quick check up. Make sure all the fluids are still the right colors and at the right levels. Shirley looks a little worse for the wear. Oil was down 1/2 a quart which isn't that bad for how many miles it's been since I checked it. What I can't help but notice is the splattered red Moab mud all over the engine and the underside of the hood. It takes a lot of effort to hit a mud hole hard enough to get to the hood. Makes me smile. Good memories.
Today was going to be a bit of a stretch. Our path ahead of us was nearly 180 miles of traveling. That's a lot of driving after sitting in one spot for a few days. Sights were set on making it all the way to Lake Havasu City. This desert oasis town of 55,000 people had a lot to offer for an RV'er on the road. Penny took the plunge through Arizona's eastern mountain passes and hooked past Hoover dam on the way.
Lake Mead was a sight for sore eyes. Water in the desert is few and far between. Wisconsin is home and it seems like you can't go 10 miles in any direction without hitting a lake, river, or creek. That is one of the things we take for granted. Traveling the country brings a new perspective to the outlook of the world. Hoover dam was supposed to be one of those big things to see. You know, change our perspective on stuff. Over blown costs of $10 for parking, and an additonal $15 for the visitor entrance was enough to keep us away. We have already been on two other dam tours and I can't expect that this one is any more fantastic. We'll keep the money thank you.
My office has changed views yet again. This time it's overlooking a bunch of other hobo RV bums at the BLM campground Lone Tree. Here we can squat for up to 14 days for free. It's a bit more parking lot than nature, but free is free. Countless upsides to our new space cannot be overlooked. We have great 4g signal, 12 TV stations and are only 5 miles to Wal-mart. We are after all still in the desert which means Eli has plenty of room to stretch his legs.
The sun is on it's way down as we stroll through the rock hills. Life here actually has lot going on if you look close enough. Lizards scramble through the landscape along with spiders, deer, and bighorn sheep. Coyotes howl through the nights just to pass the time. After all, it's damn hot here all day.
We are in the desert. THE DESERT. For whatever inconceivable reason it has rained two nights in a row. Last night was worse. The rain spattered down for all hours of the morning accompanied by some lightning and deafening thunder. It's a strange feeling being in a thunderstorm in the desert. Vast landscapes that you can see 30 miles across make you feel really small. Add in the fact that there are no trees and no buildings, suddenly the RV's metal roof is the lightning rod in the sand. Not the best place to sit. We wait out the wet stuff and watch the storm roll across the landscape.
Today will be our last full day in this landscape. Our waste tanks are nearly full and the water is empty. A grand total of 7 nights has been spent living without hookups and we need to re-charge with provisions. As the afternoon ticks by and the sun finally breaks over the horizon we get a chance for our favorite activity. Taking Eli for a walk. What we didn't expect to run into was a tarantula the size of a clenched fist.
Strolling within a couple feet of us caught me off guard. I stopped and pointed the little thing out to Katie. She then proceeded to have a 10 second long full body convulsion before composing herself. I swear to you, funniest dam thing I've seen her do in years. After collecting her breath she bravely got within a couple of feet and took some pictures. I however still try to act like a 5 year old whenever the opportunity presents itself. What do 5 year olds do to cool spiders? They touch their leg to see what happens. Spidey was frozen stiff and refused to move. A couple of more gentle pokes and I got nothing from it. We let little Spidey go on his way and returned back home. All the while I'm chuckling to myself over watching Katie melt down and re-compose herself in the matter of 30 seconds. It was a good day.
Our third day into boondocking and things are starting to get stale. It's time to shake it up and head into Las Vegas. We are about 45 minutes out of the city. This time we hit the town with a different motive. The last time we were here it was just for two nights. We showed up and parked at an RV park, and then spent the next day walking 12 miles up and down the strip. Now we have a chance to see the regular side of the city. Shirley skews west first and everything appears to be normal. Then it's south until we get to the Las Vegas sign. We missed this last time... so why not today?
So the story goes for the rest of the day. Homeless people are everywhere along with reminders to lock up your stuff, or someone is going to steal it. This was taken in the parking lot for the sign which was filled with tourist and tour buses. Some how you never see this in the brochure.
The line to get your picture snapped in front of the sign was 100 people deep. No way we are going to stand around like a bunch of idiots to get that picture. Back into Shirley and northward bound we go. I take over duty at the wheel and make the executive decision to stay off the highway for the rest of our trip. This proved to be quite interesting. Mile after mile was filled with desolate boarded up buildings and some dam sketchy looking neighborhoods.
Although it looks normal from the picture I can guarantee you it is not. I was busy watching the people and Katie was making sure the doors were locked. I completely blanked out the chance to take pictures of the tents lining the streets filled with people. I'm not talking about stuff for sale either. Just a big tent city filled with people, trash, barbwire, and stray dogs. It was a disgusting site that looked worse than any other place we have been too.
Being back at home safe and sound is a good feeling. A nice little night walk and a desert sunset. Could be worse.
What do you do when you are in the desert with an enduro motorcycle? You ride. That's what you do.
T-Dub is turning out to be the best toy I could have ever bought for our trip around the country. It was $4,600 brand new including tax, title, and license. We discussed the purchase in length before the trip and decided it would be best to just cough up the cash and take it out of our travel budget. So far it's been money well spent and it should only get better with age.
With a couple of hours of my time used up I need to occupy myself for the rest of the day. This blog isn't going to type itself. Let's step into my office and get to slapping on the keyboard.
The rest of the day lazily slips by. A little typing, a little web browsing, and a little bit of watching the clouds go by. It's getting hot and Eli is smarter than us. He's the first one to grab some shade.
An individual can only stand so much black top campingp at a Casino. There is free public land everywhere in the West and we intend to use it. Just 40 miles down the road towards Phoenix is some BLM ground that is just calling our name. It takes longer to pack up than it does to make the drive. We settle in at a bright and early 11 am in our new spot. The temp is in the mid 70's and the sunshine is out in full force. What a lovely day for a walk.
Our little walking tour takes us around the area to see what others have left behind. Over all this place is pretty clean except one section behind a pile of gravel. There we find hundreds of shell casings and a few destroyed computers. Mickey was unlucky enough to get involved in the mix. My guess is that he made some enemy's that wouldn't let him buy his way out. This is Vegas baby. Be careful who you mess with.
Go ahead and be jealous. Not everyone gets to wake up and look at other RV's in the morning. This place feels cozy and many of the neighbors are out chit chatting with one another. Let's go ahead and spend another day here. The casino is cool with us hanging around for 72 hours and we really have no place to be. Eli jumps into the back of Shriley and we buzz a mile down the road to a walking path. Time to get our morning steps in.
I'm bored. What's next? Tripadvisor says that there is a free museum in town. I like free. T-dub gets unloaded from her rack and we don our riding gear to go see the town. What we got was an unexpected surprise.
The museum folks were especially friendly. One of the lovely ladies behind the desk walked up to us after a few minutes with another curator. She just sat down in front of a spinning machine and started making thread out of cotton. All the while explaining the process and town history to us. It was a really nice invitation into the workings of the old town. After that we kept meandering through the building to look at some more stuff.
The first Curator came out and started to talk with us once more. We finally made introductions and Val seemed just as happy as could be. Stories of the cotton plants in the back yard gave us a little more in depth look at the thread we had just seen be made.
The conversation turned to the Pomegranate bush behind us and our visit ended with some fresh fruit right from the source. A little gem of a museum right in the middle of town. Turned out to be a really cool place for some out of town visitors.
We go back home for lunch and I conjure up another scheme. Val from the museum had talked about some local attractions down an old oil drilling road. He said the road was rough going and we shouldn't take anything nice. T-dub just so happens to be sitting outside and we get ready to roll out. After 18 miles of the most pot holed "road" I've ever seen, we end up at Whitney Pockets. An out of place hunk of rock with a bunch of smooth holes in it.
Whitney Pockets also has an old make shift dam. I can only presume it was to hold back water for the drilling operation that ceased to exist years ago.
Just a couple of more miles south is a big sinkhole known around here as devil's throat. Val told us back at the museum that when he was a kid they use to walk inside of it. At that time it was only about waist deep, and really wasn't much to see. Over the years it has continued to collapse and the BLM even put up a fence with a stern warning. Stay out or you could die in a collapse.
I can't see the hole from here. I would think that if they really wanted people to stay out the fence would have been built a bit taller. Seems like it's more for the kiddos.
Probably a good 75 to 100 feet deep.
The day is getting late and we have 21 more miles of tough riding ahead of us. The road had went from ridiculously pot holed broken pavement to gravel and sand river washes filled with rocks the size of soccer balls. T-dub earned her keep today. We get the snot beat out of us for an hour on our drive back home. I swing by the gas station and top off the tank. Verdict: 79 miles on 1.015 gallons. Not too shabby little bike. Not too shabby at all. Time to take Eli down the Casino back alley and past a poor looking old dog who's been locked in a cage for many years. Our old boy doesn't know just how good he has it.
Our cozy home at Kaibab Paiute Indian Reservation has come to an end. The luxury of full hookups for $12.50 a night is a tough thing to say goodbye too. However not having a cell signal or TV makes it a little bit easier. Phoenix is the ultimate destination for the end of the month but there is still a problem. Between us and Phoenix lies hundreds of miles of the Colorado Plateau. That elevation means cold weather, and cold weather is something we are getting sick of. Time to head west into the low lying desert of Nevada and warm our bones back up. First we'll need to restock at Wal-Mart. Nearly two full weeks have gone by since we have been shopping and the pantry is empty. Cut us some slack. Our house is 31 feet long. That makes the pantry and fridge a little small on space. Shopping complete it's time to do what we do best. Hit the road.
The noise you hear in the video is what we have to put up with when driving in the mountains. That's the sound of Penny's engine making some noise to slow us down for a change. Bascially the gas turns off but the motor keeps everything spinning. The parasitic drag caused by making everything turn takes energy. Downward momentum turns the wheels, and the engine sucks up that momentum to keep us from careening off the highway from going to fast.
Casa Blanca casino will be our home for tonight. There website says free overnight parking for RV's in designated lots. With this comes security patrols, lighted walkways, and a place to let Eli stretch his legs.
Katie eyed up the Del Taco we passed on the way in. Today is Tuesday. Taco Tuesday. Three tacos for $1.39.... dinner plans have been made.
I'll finish up the crap Utah beer (can only buy cold beer at 4% abv or below) and enjoy the rest of the night with some free entertainment. Nothing like an Elvis impersonator at a casino to let you know that you're in Nevada.
Breathtaking vistas and beautiful backcountry trails are the things Zion National Park is known for. When in fact it is actually an extremely crowded place that has nearly zero available parking spaces for visitors. The signs and brochures had warned us. Park your car in the nearest town and a shuttle bus will bring you in. We, being stupid people, opted for the latter and drove in anyways. Luckily we were able to find the overflow parking that's in the campground and walk to the visitor center tram from there.
Want to see the park? Get your ass in line and enjoy a ride on the tram. They leave every 5 minutes and stay on a tight schedule.
The northern section of the park is off limits to personal vehicle travel. What we thought would be a hassle ended up being the best park transit system I've seen.
Our first walk of the day was a lazy 2.2 mile round trip walk to the Temple of Sinawava. This easy paved path lead us to where the canyons narrow and hiking becomes a trip upstream. Don't want to get your feet wet? Turn around and put your butt back on the tram. We glanced at the trail map and decided on Angel's landing. Looked like fun.
And fun it was. This out and back trail was marked as strenuous because of it's 1,488 feet elevation gain in just 2.7 miles. It was a personal mission of ours to hit the hike with a good pace. Eli is holding down the fort at home and I'm sure he doesn't want to be locked up all day. Then I got a glimpse at the entrance sign and started thinking about where we were really going.
Yep. The sign says people die here. But only seven in the last 14 years? That doesn't sound bad when you take into account how many people go there. See that line of trees in between the mountains? That's a sandstone spine that is 1,400 feet to the ground. It's a shear drop if you step off the path. Oh, and by path I mean some old metal pipe with chains bolted to it so you can have something to hang onto. It's not really that big of a deal. The chains are only in places where the trail is less than 5 feet wide so you don't plummet off the cliff when the wind blows hard... like today. Guess I should hand on tight.
I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's start off with the switchbacks on the way up the hill. The backdrop of the canyon is breathtaking. We are getting a good burn and have set a pretty quick pace to make it up the hill.
This is the view from the top of the spine. Take a look at the video below and you'll see what we had to traverse in order to make it. There were a few moments when things got a little tense. Passing people by letting go of the safety chain can wreck your nerves, especially when your foot slips just a couple of inches on the slick sandstone rock. At the 2:09 mark in the video you will see us directly in the middle of the spine. On either side is the shear 1/8 mile drop down. I think I peed a little...
About 25 feet wide here. No chains, no level path. Just don't slip and fall over, or you die.
Today turned out to be something great. Our unexpected plan to take on a trail ranked in the top 10 most dangerous hike in the US paid off. This will be one of those days I'll never forget. This is why we travel. This is why we live on the road.
Today there isn't a whole lot for me to report. We packed up from our spot in Hatch Utah and bombed southeast about 75 miles to the Kaibab Paiute Indian Reservation. Sound familiar? We were actually here on day 22. We found this gem of an RV park for our last night of hookups before heading down to the grand canyon to help out my buddy Eric. Now we've gone full circle through Utah and hit all of the National Parks except one. We really need to catch up on laundry and just take a day off from the constant movement. Tomorrow we will hit our stride again and see another Utah park. I can only imagine it's full of the same red rock and sandstone arches we have already seen for two weeks.
Today is going to be one of those days. The park is nearly an hour from base camp in the wrong direction. It's also one of the busiest parks in Utah. This is going to be a long day.
We hit up the crowded visitor center and pick out our hike. It's the most popular hike in the park and to top it off we are here on a Saturday. Oh what great timing we have. Queen's garden trail winds 2.8 miles through the heart of the hoodoos, the defining feature of the park. Grab your water and hiking sticks.
After the hike we spent the rest of the day driving to other viewpoints and taking in the sights. We even opted to head further away from home to see a small mossy cave and a tiny waterfall.
It's already late afternoon and time to head home. Another hour in the car will take us to Penny where Eli waits patiently. He's been couped up for about 9 hours and is excited to get out of the house. Our days seem to revolve around walking the dog and making sure he takes care of business. My, my, my, what an exciting life.
Brrrr... it'c cold in Utah. That was something neither of us had planned on. The Colorado Plateau is high in elevation hence the cold weather. There is also a cold front pushing down from Canada and it is chilling this place to the bone. The forecast calls for things to get even colder and we make the call to start heading south. Before we can leave I have some business to attend too. Penny is due up for an oil change and this nice quiet piece of semi dry gravel will work just fine. She get's a nice fresh fill of Mobil 1 and a new filter. This means we have already clocked 3,800 miles on our trip.
We hook Shirley back up and roll through Capitol Reef National Park in order to head south. On our way we past groves of apple, cherry, and pear orchards planted by the mormon pioneers who had settled here a hundred years ago.
From here it's a southwest jaunt through Dixie National Forest. However, there are some hills in the way. Damn this hill is getting steep. Penny is forced to crawl up some of the 10% grades in 1st gear at 20 mph. We give the old girl a break and pull out at a scenic lookout to unhook Shirley.
I can see the temperature dropping on my engine information readout. Holy crap that's snow! Oh you beautiful mountains, you never cease to amaze me.
Another 20 miles of twisty switchbacks wriggles in front of our path. Shirley remains unhooked until we hit the town of Escalante. By then things have calmed down enough that we can hook back up and head to towards the grand staircase. What is that? I don't know. I didn't read anything on it and we don't have a cell signal. It'll will just have to be a surprise for everyone.
Dammit. More twists and turns in the road. The next sign that you can't see says the grades are 14% for the next two miles. Well, it was good while it lasted. Shirley needs to be unhooked once more to err on the side of caution. Going uphill with a load can be a real pain in the ass. Going downhill with a load can be downright scary. There's always a chance of turning our brakes into a ball of smoke and fire if used too much. This is especially true in a gas rig that doesn't have an Jake-brake. At least the view is nice.
We are finally close enough to civilization to have a cell signal again. It's been three days since we have looked anything up online or watched TV. The laundry is piling up and we are both completely out of pants and warm clothes. We find an RV park off the beaten path about an hour outside of Bryce Canyon National Park. It's one of the cheapest ones available but has great reviews.
Upon our arrival Brad comes out to meet us and check us in. He guides us down the 1.5 miles of pothole laden gravel to our parking spot for the night. It's out in the middle of his property which is 1 mile X 4.2 miles long. There is an old golf course on the property and hiking trails galore. We chit chat for a bit and find out the washing machine he had in the clubhouse broke last week. The rains in Utah stopped the delivery service from bringing out another because of road washouts. Great. Another day in the middle of nowhere with no laundry. We forked over $60 for two nights of parking with water/sewer/electric, but could have easily toughed it out in the woods. The whole point of coming here was to park and do some laundry, watch some TV, and catch up on marvelous internet stuff. Now we have no laundry, one station that barely comes in, and 4G cell service that is one bar.... sometimes. At least we can run the space heater in the RV. It's supposed to be in the 20's tonight. Oh well, let's go walk the dog.
Capitol Reef National Park is a 90 mile break in the earth. A long time ago some tectonic plates came together and pushed up a huge wall in the middle of the state. The unique thing about the reef is that the wall is a nice clean break of land. You can see the layers of rock tilted up for miles.
After a couple of miles we wussed out and headed back to the jeep to see a few more viewpoints. The weather is still a brisk 50 degrees and strong winds don't make it any more pleasant. Another day of rain hangs over our heads threatening to make the trails a real nightmare to navigate.
Shirley takes us down the road to the farthest attraction from home. It's another short 1.5 mile hike to a natural bridge in a canyon (It's hard to see in the picture because of the background). Unfortunately for us it isn't that impressive. We are starting to get burned out on the red rock of Utah. Everything looks the same, and we have already seen two of the state's best parks.
Drive down 2 miles of greasy muddy gravel roads in a 31 foot house on wheels
Fill up on water at the local Lion's club park while people stare at you like a weirdo
Drive down to the Maverick gas station for a dump station and wait in line
Drive back to the park to meet the wife and hook up Shirley
Make lunch while planning your next move
Hit the road running to climb out of the river valley and find home for the night
Ah yes another day of unplanned adventure awaits us. We throw a haphazard route together and hit the asphalt at full speed. Today we plan on making it out to Capitol Reef National Park. We know nothing about this place or the mystery that it holds. It's only a couple of hours from Moab... so we are pretty chill about finding a place to call home tonight.
We ended up pulling into a rest area right before the park and unhook Shirley. She takes us up a nearby road for only a couple of miles and we see some beautiful BLM parking just waiting to be claimed.
Eli gets to have his favorite type of walk; unleashed. This gorgeous oasis in the middle of Utah turns out to be a very welcome sight for some wear travelers. No TV, no cell signal, and no radio stations. A little secluded? Absolutely. Guess we'll just have to make do.
Things just keep getting better around here. Katie washes her face in the morning as I’m making coffee. I’m immediately interrupted by “Babe! The water isn’t working. I have soap on my face.” Awesome, another obstacle in the old RV rears its ugly head at an inopportune time in an inopportune place. Katie is forced to rinse her face with some water from a jug and I grab my tool bag and head to the water bay. I diagnose the water pump pressure switch has failed and will need to be replaced. Another 10 minutes go by and I rig the pump up to run without the switch in place to get us by for now.
Crusty old pump from 2004. Motor still works though.
We had originally planned on doing some hiking in Arches National Park but this changes things. Water is a must have for us and we make the call to head to town in search of a replacement pump. This brings up a difficult obstacle for me to overcome. I know I can fix this thing with $25 in parts if I had a shipping address and a couple of days to wait for parts. However I’m forced to buy a new pump, at a 25% premium over amazon prices no less, from a local RV supply store so that we can get our lives back to normal.
This is what $110 looks like when it is connected to a water line. Take note of the soldered and heat shrinked wires, don't be a crap mechanic and use butt connectors.
Now I will say up front that I failed miserably on this day and didn’t take any good pictures. I was too consumed with getting our lives back in order and completely blanked out the fact that I need to include you guys on our day to day survival. Part of this survival includes fixing Shirley up so we can drive her with confidence again.
This repair gave me a little trepidation. I’m more than able to do mechanical repairs, but to do them in the dirt 22 miles from the nearest town with nothing more than a bare bones tool bag is a different story. Well suck it up buttercup. This is life on the road.
New trans mount installed is the black thing
I ended up snapping off one bolt in the frame during disassembly and am forced to go to town. T-Dub gets unloaded and I ride her 22 miles back down to the local hardware store to buy a drill bit and tap. There’s no sense in doing things half assed when I’ve got nothing but time to do it right. Just another day of living in a 13 year old RV with a 20 year old toad. This is life on the road, could be worse.
Know your bolt grades. This metric bad boy is a 10.9 so it doesn't shear off under load.
So my plan of beating on the jeep in the rain puddles backfired on me. The old girl has had a slight rattle from the exhaust hangar hitting the transmission cross-member for a while now and it just go a whole lot worse. The 20 year old rubber transmission mount has finally given up and now there is a whole lot of stuff under the jeep making noise. We head into Moab to kill some time for the day since it is raining. I decide to pull into the car wash to start blasting off a layer of mud in order to either wrench on the jeep myself, or take it to a shop and pay someone else to do it.
A completely different problem that presented itself on the way into town was a terrible vibration and clunking noise in the front end. Turns out I also damaged a bolt that holds the front axle in it's place. The bolt is supposed to hold on to a track bar, except now the hole is a little egg shaped and the bolt has seen better days. Since we were in town I picked up some parts to fix this when we get home. We do some other chores like filling the water jugs and a little grocery shopping. I called a couple of shops and nobody would give me an estimate over the phone for the transmission repair. So we take Shirley back home at a slow steady pace for the front axle repair. I get one repair out of the way and take Eli for a stroll through Utah's back country.
Cold and rainy again. The water trickled down on and off most of the night while we were nestled in bed. It has finally gotten cold enough that I broke down and turned the furnace on during the night. We needed to keep our pets from becoming popsicles during the hours of darkness. With the thermostat set a a balmy 52 degrees the hours of night went quickly. It’s funny how sleeping in the cold messes with your body. Want to have some real vivid dreams that take you on an adventure? Don’t do drugs. Go sleep in a refrigerator.
Katie gets busy with brewing coffee and making breakfast for our day out to the park. I throw on a hoody and a raincoat in order to take care of business. Shirley needs to get her eyeballs fixed so we don’t get pulled over by another park ranger.
The lights for the old cherokee are sealed beam. That means you buy the whole headlight, glass and all, in order to fix the problem. Old school technology that doesn’t exist anymore. I splurged and bought a new set that is much brighter than the cheapy stockers that are in it now. I’ll just swap in the new light and we will be on our way. Or so I thought…
Oh goody. The light wasn’t bad after all. Instead the ground wire in the harness corroded itself into oblivion. Guess I’ll just have to solder that back together so we can go.
It’s finally time to set off and see the park like we wanted too. This place has been on my bucket list since we left on our first trip last year. Let’s see the reason for it’s namesake.
So far the rain has been more of mist and we decide to go for a hike to one of the less visited arches. We make it about a mile in before the heavens let loose on us. You know what? Screw it. We’re here and we are going to keep moving forward.
At the end of every storm is a rainbow they say. This time I’d have to say they were right.
We arrive home late in the afternoon and I get a little stir crazy in the RV. I probably should get out and bash Shirley through some puddles on the sand roads just to make sure the headlight fix is of good workmanship. What a way to end the evening. Life could be worse.
Routine kicks in per usual and the day kicks off with a two mile walk of the dog by our new home. It’s in the 50’s here and the rain has been on and off since Arizona. Remnants of hurricane Rosa are still pushing their way through the southwest making rain fall where it usually doesn’t fall at all.
Luckily our new found spot was Lone Mesa Campground on the highway headed into the park. It’s another tremendous score of free boondocking on some BLM ground. After our daily chores we go and hit up some of the easy hikes that are near viewponts. The drizzly weather keeps us from wandering too far into the park for fear of being soaked to the bone.
Our first look into what the park is all about starts with a sandstone arch that has no guardrail. Get too close to and it’s a 100 foot drop straight down to the rock below.
It’s time to squeeze in a quick hike through the rocks so we can see what this place is all about. A 1.5 mile out and back trail should be fast enough to avoid the precipitation that we can see on the horizon.
With the impending rain closing in we are forced to leave for the day. It’s a steady rain now and we can’t even see the cliffs from the viewpoints. We decide to take a trip 23 miles down the road from base camp back to the town of Moab.
This place is off-road mecca and I want to check out the local vibe. The streets are lined with local shops for everything outdoors. On the drive today I noticed that Shirley had a headlight out. Now we get to do my kind of shopping. We buzz down to the local parts store for some new headlights. While we are at it we also decided to buy some fresh water portable jugs so we can extend our stay without having to uproot Penny from her parking spot. The road in was two miles of rough gravel with some sand in the way for good measure.
All in all it wasn’t the most exciting day that we had been hoping for in southern utah. Hopefully the rain will stay at bay so we can actually get out tomorrow and see the land
Ever wake up in the morning and try to start your RV in a Wal-Mart parking lot but it just doesn't start? I know, happens all the time. There I am at a bright and early 0900. Turn the key and nothing. No noise of the engine turning. No click. Nothing. So I bust out my little tool bag and start going to work on the problem. Follow along as we diagnose our little parking lot conundrum.
Relays- First thing to check is that the electrical relay boxes are in working order. Do they make clicky noises? Yes. That's good. Next thing is to swap them with an identical box and make sure the other thing still works. OK, that's fine. Next step.
Check the starter for power. So it turns out this is getting everything it needs. Well it must be a bad starter solnoid.
Take starter to O'Reillys and get a new one. The new guy who's a little high (we are in Colorado) goes to get a part. Then the seasoned guy will come up and ask if you want the starter bench tested. Heck yeah, I didn't know that was an option. Everything comes back ok.
Go back to the RV with the original starter you thought was bad and be puzzled for the next 1/2 an hour.
Call your buddy Tony and ask for guidance. Tony is a mechanic ninja who can talk you through the most complicated of problems and dumb it down so that even I can understand. He's able to dissect and troubleshoot the problem over the phone with nary a hesitation
Re-install all of the original parts without replacing a single thing.
Turn the key again and the RV starts right up. Ninja Tony explains that sometimes all parts of an electrical system are really OK, but just need to be re-cleaned and re-tightened for proper connection.
Now it's time to leave our pavement boondocking spot and hit the road. Thanks to Ninja Tony and his mad troubleshooting skills life is back to normal. We are full throttle out of Colorado and burning northwest towards Utah looking for home. The rest of the evening is spent with me getting frustrated with Katie in the act of finding parking. We finally score a spot at Lone Mesa Campground after hours of looking around. It's a free place to call home and we are both ready to just call it a night. It wasnt' easy though. The road in was rough and parking spaces were minimal. I said a friendly hello to the neighbors and asked them if we could squeeze in just in front of them. They kindly obliged and our new parking spot was found in the glorious landscape of Utah.