Archive for category Arizona

The Wave

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The first time I visited Flagstaff was about 10-15 years ago when Jeff worked for Scotts Miracle Grow. They had their annual sales conference in Scottsdale. We stayed a few extra days to explore Arizona, and Flagstaff was merely a place to overnight so we could see Sedona and the Grand Canyon.

It was such a memorable trip. Cresting the hill driving into Sedona and seeing those red rock formations for the first time. It was like nothing I had ever seen before. Then standing on the south rim of the Grand Canyon looking over its edge. I couldn’t open my eyes wide enough to take it all in.

We had a retirement dream way back then to travel in a 5th Wheel. But I don’t think we ever could have pictured the life that we now have!

On May 11 Jeff and I rolled into Flagstaff for the ? time. We have been here so many times now we no longer need a GPS to get around. It’s familiar, beautiful and one of our favorite places to be.

OVERLAND WEST

We were at Flagstaff this time to work the Overland West Expo being held at the Fort Tuthill County Park. We stayed onsite with thousands of Overlanders who were there to…

“Get outfitted, get trained, get inspired—get going.

The world is waiting.”

With that kind of inspiration it’s no wonder this is our very favorite show to work!

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Another kind of camping

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Off road luxury

What makes this event so special is the location (nestled amongst the fragrant, wispy pines), the dogs (all well behaved non-yappers) and the adventurous people who tend to be a younger demographic than RV’ers.

As an RV’er we tend to think we have a sense of exploration and adventure. But Overlanders? Well, they take adventure to a whole other level. Where (most) RV’ers are limited by the boarders of North America, Overlanders are limited by the globe!

There were no satellite or surge protectors companies represented here. I didn’t see any tempurpedic mattresses or meat smokers either. They are more interest in products that will allow them to access off road places with the minimal amount of stuff. The smaller you can go, the better.

We were there to showcase Dometic’s mobile cooling line of CFX portable refrigerator freezers. They can operate off of 12V or 110 and be powered by solar. This appeals to many Overlanders and the products flew off the shelf! Best of all, I didn’t have to talk to a single person about the use of their RV toilet…and their ensuing bathroom habits.

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It was a great show with a great team and it was our last show to work until the fall.

SOUTH RIM GRAND CANYON

After Flag we moved on to another favorite location, the south rim of the Grand Canyon. We had some friends that were driving up from Phoenix to do a double-crossing of the Canyon and we were invited to go.

Since I prefer a single crossing rather than a double and we have to be responsible fur parents, I sent Jeff across the big ditch with the group while I stayed back with Sam. My plan was to go a couple days later.

This was the 4th trip across the canyon for Jeff and it never gets old. It’s a heart pounding challenge that he used as training for his Bryce 100 race coming up. At 3am we picked up our three friends at the village and I dropped them all off at the South Kaibab trailhead to start their 15-20 hour journey. I picked them up at 10pm with a couple of pizzas. They were exhausted, cold and hungry!

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Jeff, Laurie, Lavinia & Kathi

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Trip down the South Kaibab

A couple days later I headed down South Kaibab myself. I wanted to take a different route this time and decided to jump onto the Tonto trail at Tip Off Point. Tonto runs east/west between South Kaibab and the Bright Angel trail at Indian Gardens. This cuts off 1000ft of elevation and 6 miles of the traditional Rim to River to Rim route.

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I REALLY enjoyed this route. The views are not nearly as stunning crossing the Tonto trail. But what I enjoyed was that I was done within 6 hours, rather than 10-12 hours. The thirteen miles was still a challenge, but I finished in time for a hot lunch at Bright Angel Lodge.

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Mule train traffic jam

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Hot chocolate finish

While camping there we had a quick overnight visit from our niece and her family of 4 little’s. They were making a two-week trip from northern California to Arkansas and back and just happened to be passing through. We invited them to spend the night and see the Canyon at sunrise.

Since our RV is not really set up for overnight guests, we spread out yoga mats on the floor to try and make their sleeping bags a bit more comfortable. The next morning we headed to the south rim for sunrise, then took the kids to a café for a pancake breakfast. It was fun watching the kids and their dad seeing the Canyon for the first time. Standing on the rim in awe.

They were on their way after breakfast while Jeff and I headed to the North rim.

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NORTH RIM GRAND CANYON

The reason for the North Rim was that I had signed up for the North Rim half marathon trail run. I was originally going to do the Bryce Half (of the Grand Circle Trail series) while Jeff was signed up for the Bryce 100. But after thinking about logistics and caring for Sam dog, we decided to split our races.

The thing that we have found about these trail races is that the packet pickup and start/finish tend to be in remote locations down poorly maintained and unmarked forestry roads. GPS is usually not your friend in these instances and connectivity to digital maps does not exist. At one point we had 7 cars behind us following our lead as we tried to find the check-in. Two hours and two flat tires (not us) later we all made it to the start.

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We did discover that our GPS took us on a terrible route…sorry everyone! Our trip back to the RV was on better roads and only took 75 minutes.

Race day was beautiful and fun. But with the 9,000’ elevation breathing was HARD! The route took us on forestry roads and freshly made single-track trails. Up and down hills and along the north rim of the Grand Canyon. It was so amazing runners, including myself, stopped frequently to take pictures during the race. That is one of my favorite things about trail running…stopping for a pretty view regardless of your time is to be expected.

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Always stop for views even during a race

It was a great time and I enjoyed a long hard nap once we got back to the RV.

THE WAVE

 One of the tools I like to use when we go to a new area is Pinterest. I type in our location to the search and see what others have pinned for the area. For Kanab the search pulled up The Wave.

Most of you have seen The Wave, which was made popular by Microsoft as a screen saver. It was a little known treasure that only locals knew about. But once it appeared on computer screens EVERYWHERE, tourists swallowed up the Wave.

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As a result, the Bureau of Land Management had to quickly put some restrictions in place to preserve this treasure.

The Wave is such a small area the BLM limit permits to 10-online lottery entries (6 months in advance) and 10-in person lottery (for the following day) per day. We have always had luck getting permits to other popular hikes by entering in person. Yosemite and Whitney Mountain.

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A room full of hope

But the Wave is different with only 20 permits available per day. Any given day you only have a 4-8% chance at getting a permit. Yosemite allows 300 people per day.

Since the odds are closer to 8% on a weekday, Jeff and I left the north rim early enough to get to the Kanab visitor center by 8:30AM to fill out a permit request. Each request allows for up to 6 people to go. However, if a request is drawn with 6 people, then there are only 4 permits left. Permits are handed out per person, NOT per group.

And if there are only 2 permits left and you have a group of 5, then three people must get left behind. NO EXCEPTIONS. All applications are given a number and you must be present during the drawing. Numbered balls are put in a Bingo tumbler and at 9AM sharp, if your number is called, your party is counted until all the permits are issued.

It’s all over in a matter of minutes and the majority of the room leaves disappointed.

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Pick ME!

We found out that one of our running friends from Bentonville was in Kanab with her family. We asked Whitney if she would like to join us IF we happen to get a permit and we put her name on the application. After going through the drawing process we were one of those who left disappointed. It wasn’t meant to be.

But one of the beauties of being a full time RV’er is that we are flexible, and we decided to make the 45-minute drive to try our luck the next day. And JACKPOT…we were the first number called!

OMG…WE WERE GOING TO THE WAVE!!!

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Its official!

Once our number was called the others were dismissed (sorry folks) and permit holders were educated on the rules and given instructions on how to reach the wave. The trail there is so unworn and so unmarked that you are given paper instructions with pictures of landmarks.

You are warned about paying attention to your surroundings, don’t follow others footprints and taking enough water, food and warm clothing to sustain yourself for 24 hours. People have been known to get lost or injured out there, and connectivity/help is slow or non-existent.

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They put the fear of God in me and I took detailed notes of things to be aware of.

Our friend Whitney spent the night with us at our RV so that we could get a very early start. Jeff had an 11am conference call (we are not on vacation after all) and we needed to give ourselves enough time to explore and get back to cell coverage.

We left at 4am and made the 1.5-hour drive on 35 miles of washboard forestry roads and started our hike at sunrise. This trail is fairly easy, but the written directions with pictures are no joke. We could see quickly how people could get lost. We would have never found it without those instructions.

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Stopping to consult the map

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Stay to the right of the twin buttes

It took us about an hour and a half to reach The Wave… and WOW!

The colors. The textures. The warmth. The contours. All working together to form burning swoops and swirls. We climbed around, on and over this small little jewel and quickly understood why The Wave is limited to 20 people a day. If not the damage would be irreparable and the isolated feel to the experience would be lost.

It was incredible!

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As we headed back to the trailhead, we again followed our paper instructions and landmarks. We did get off course but were able to find our way back to the “trail” with the help of Jeff’s Garman breadcrumbs.

We bid farewell to our friend Whitney and made it back to our RV just in time for Jeff’s call. A few days later I was still reflecting on the beauty of The Wave. It was such a special experience and we feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to go.

I’m not sure how many times we are going to have our name draw for things like these. But we will keep entering our names and keep pursuing the special opportunities in life.

Without the effort there would be no opportunity at all.

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Dogs are welcome at the wave

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Favorite Things

Mesa 2017

Arizona is in full spring bloom!

Jeff and I have been bouncing around the Phoenix area for the last month working multiple RV Shows. We love the mountains and desert here and never lack great trail running or magnificent sunsets. Since the weather is still a bit unpredictable further north, it’s not a bad place to be!

So far in our travels, Arizona and Utah have been our top two favorite states. Both have wide-open space with plenty of BLM to free camp. And both have mountains and rock formations that will knock your socks off.

The beauty is like nothing I’ve seen growing up in the mid-west and there is so much still to see. I’m thankful to have the opportunity to linger here, just to take it all in.

Speaking of favorites, I thought I would write a post on my favorite things that make our RV life easier and more enjoyable on our journeys to some of our favorite places. Living in an RV is an amazing lifestyle, but as always we are challenged on space. So the things we have with us are either multifunctional or compact.

Here are some favorites by category.

Technology

I must confess. I don’t know anything about technology. When Jeff says he wants to go to the Apple Store or Best Buy I want to stick a pencil in my eyeball. (I suspect he feels the same when I want to watch another re-run of Property Brothers).

Wifi boosters, an unlimited data plan, tire monitoring and RV specific GPS. They all make staying safe and connected much more reliable. But for my area of influence, there are three things that help in my day-to-day life as the bookkeeper and CFO in the family.

Fujitsu ScanSnap S1300 Portable Scanner

I’ve had this little gem since 2011 and it has worked consistently for 6 years now. I use it to scan receipts for expense reports, legal docs that need to be emailed and just general paperwork that needs to be saved. Its super compact and fits in my office tote and keeps us paperless on the road.

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Fujitsu ScanSnap…isn’t it cute?

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Paper goes in the top and spits it out on the bottom

Canon Pixma iP110 Portable Printer

I just picked up this printer last fall out of frustration. Any time we needed to print something we would make a trip to a local Office Max or Staples, and pay a fee to do it. So I bit the bullet and bought this printer. This guy is compact, wireless and will print in black & white and color. I wish I had bought this sooner to make life a bit easier.

Favorite Things

Portable Canon Printer

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Organization

Office Tote

When we lived in our sticks & bricks home, I had a whole room dedicated to my office. File cabinets, paper shredder, fax, printer, pencil drawer with various paperclips, post-its and rubber bands. I had everything I needed…in abundance. Now I have our lives condensed down to a 15” X 11” X 6” tote. I keep a few files folders, a tray for pens, postage, paperclips and checks. And my scanner tucks neatly into this box. I stuff the box into an overhead cabinet, stack my little printer on it’s lid and pull it out on accounting day.

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My 15″ X 11″ x 6″ Office

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Office Caddy

Last fall I started a little side hustle doing direct sales for Monat. Thankfully, this line of hair care products (which are amazing by-the-way) does not require me to carry any inventory. But I do keep samples to mail out to potential customers. It doesn’t take up a ton of space, but can be a challenge to keep organized and contained.

I bought this cute metal stand at Home Goods for $29.99. I use the top tray for remotes, pens, fingernail files and such. Then I use the two bottom levels to hold my samples, brochures and mailing supplies. I absolutely love it and it’s adorable too!

DebSpencer.mymonat.com or check out @Monathairtestimonies on Facebook. I love sending out samples.

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Pretty Office Caddy

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Shoe Rack

Like most RVers, we struggle with what to do with our daily shoes. Specifically our managery of running shoes. After seeing this idea on Pinterest we mounted 2 metal coat hooks from Lowes to the wall just inside our door. With the two racks we can hang 5 pairs of shoes. It worked so well we added another higher up the wall for jackets, hats and running hydration belts.

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Three pairs of shoes for Jeff; One pair for me…HMMMM!

Shower Caddy

In an RV, anytime you pull up stakes every item in our home has to be put somewhere to prevent it from moving. Including shower supplies. And with my Monat business, I have a lot of products taking up space in my shower. I have two very small shallow shelves that are only capable of holding one bottle of shampoo. We have to remember to put it on the floor when we move.

Another Pinterest idea has worked perfectly. I wedged a shower rod between my shower wall and the vanity medicine cabinet and hung a metal basket via two shower curtain hooks.

Its super sturdy and holds ALL of our shower products. I don’t even have to take it down when we travel.

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Mesa 2017

Happy shower bottles

Catch-all Box

This little box sits on our kitchen counter just inside the door. We throw our sunglasses; spare change, Chap Stick and dog poo bags (empty of course) in it. It keeps our countertop clear and we know just where our things are as we head out the door.

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The stuff box

Home

Infinity Woven Vinyl Flooring

During our RV renovation in 2015 we pulled out all the carpeting and replaced it with thick vinyl tile flooring. But on our slide we used Infinity Woven Vinyl Flooring. This product got its start in marine as wall and floor covering and has worked its way into the RV community. It comes in one big sheet and is installed like carpeting. I can mop it and spills come right up. Love the product and its style fit our modern décor.

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Nothing stains this stuff

Fabric Curtains & MCD Shades

RV’s do not have much in the way of modern interior detail. So when we bought our new to us Carriage Domani, we remove the old smelly accordion blinds and replaced them with custom fabric curtains (thanks Mom!) and MCD Shades. Our MCD’s are a dual roller type that has a black solar shade as one roller and a cream-colored blackout shade as the other. MCD’s are EXPENSIVE running about $300/window. I would have never spent $3,000 on ten windows.

Fortunately, I found 9 out of 10 window dimensions at an RV surplus store in White Pigeon, MI…for $25 each. I have one window that I still do not have a MCD shade for, so I just keep the curtains closed on that window. I continue to look for a shade on eBay, but haven’t found one yet.

The reason I love these is that you can block the sun with the solar shade while still seeing out your window. And when we are parked in an urban location with lots of RV Parking lot lights, the black out shades block the light COMPLETELY.

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Custom curtains & valances to give a homey look

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Solar Shades to block the sun while still offering a view

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Black out shades for ultimate privacy

Berkey Water Filter

Jeff and I are not fond of drinking water straight from our holding tanks on the RV. We had a Reverse Osmosis System at home to filter our water. But RO systems are not very conducive to dispersed camping, because they discharge A LOT of water in the process of filtering.

We used to run to Walmart or another drinking water dispensary every other day to fill our two 3 gallon water bottles.

Last year we bought a Berkey gravity fed water filter tank. It’s stainless steel and looks so much more attractive than blue water bottles. We still fill our blue water jugs, but from any tap or from our holding tank. Just pore the water in the top section of the Berkey and let gravity filter the water into the bottom section. It has its own spigot so everything is compact and ready to use.

Filters last for up to two years and the unit requires a good cleaning a couple times a year. We just have to be sure to time our pore so that we don’t overfill the night before we travel so that water doesn’t slosh around and spill.

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Baby Berkey

Dometic CFX-35 portable refrigerator freezer

Full disclosure! Jeff and I work with Dometic. But this CFX portable refrigerator/freezer is awesome. You can set the temperature anywhere from 50F to -7F and it runs off 12V or 110.

We keep ours in the slide trey in the bay of our 5th-wheel. Most of the time it holds sports drinks, water bottles or extra almond milk to free up more space within our RV refrigerator.

It’s also portable, so we can plug it into the back of our truck and store smoothies to drink after a long hike or use it to transport cold groceries on a hot day.

Favorite things

Dometic CFX-35 for extra frig or freezer space

There are lots of other items that we find very useful to our RV lifestyle, but these are just some of my favorites. Everything in an RV has to have a purpose and a place. If something is not useful or used, then we don’t keep them around.

Do you have a favorite item that you can’t live without? Enquiring minds would like to hear about it in the comments below!

Until next time!

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If we move the sofa over a bit I think it will fit!

 

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More Arizona Love

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After leaving Yuma Jeff and I headed to Quartzsite Arizona for the big RV, Rock and Gem show held every January.

Quartzsite is a sleepy little town that explodes in population in the month of January as RV’ers from all over North American swallows it up. The draw is the largest gathering of RV’ers in the world (so the legend goes).

The city of Quartzsite embraces us as best it can, but the town struggles during the weeks leading up to and after the big show.

It’s a sight to behold and one you need to experience at least once. I wrote about the show highlights here from last year. Nothing about the show changes much from one year to the next, so I’m going to focus on other things this time.

We showed up at the big tent a few days early to check on the shipped items for the Dometic booth that we would be working for nine days. We wanted to make our way to Dome Rock where our RV’ing group, the Xscapers, were having events for two weeks. We made it for a dog hike one morning with the group and then stopped to say hi to our friends John & Becky and Kurt & Toni.

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Xscapers Dog Walk…its a hairy bunch!

Xscapers is a sub-group of the Escapees RV Club, but focused on full time RV’ers who are still working full time. Whenever there is a “converge”, events are planned for late afternoon or evenings so not to interfere with our workday. It’s a fun group and we have such a wonderful network of fellow RV’ers. We support, offer advice and just plain hang out with each other as our travels ebb, flow and intertwine.

When Jeff and I started FT RV’ing we would have never dreamed that it would be so social. But thanks to social media we all stay tightly connected despite being miles apart.

We had hoped to join the group in the evenings during the show, but after working the booth all day in a very cold tent we just wanted to isolate ourselves to our warm RV. As an introvert, I only have so many words for the day. By nighttime, I’ve got nothing left.

We never did make it back to Dome Rock.

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Booth setup at Q

While at the show, we manage to get in some trail runs. There are lots of jeeping roads up, over and around Q-Mountain. We managed 5-11 miles just by taking any number of intertwining trails. One got the best of me and I tripped over a rock and fell hard. Skinned knees and palms, bruised hips, elbows and shoulders are all a part of the trail running experience. The trick is to not break something in the process.

Wind is always a factor here so expect a good coating of dust in and on everything you own. And expect to catch the “Quartzsite Crud” while you are here…everyone does.

Besides visiting the laundromat, the only other highlight was getting Silly Al’s Pizza. It is one of just a few restaurants in Q and actually had really good pizza.  If you want to go to dinner any time during the week of Q, be sure to get there before 5pm to avoid long lines for a table.

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Q Trails

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Sam checks out the views

After Q we made our way back to Mesa for a couple of weeks. Jeff had to fly to South Bend, IN for business while I tried to vacuum dirt that had coated every surface in the RV.

The weather was amazing in Mesa. Mid-70’s during the day, mid-50’s at night. We stayed in our friend’s driveway again just a ½ miles walk from the canal system. It’s so nice to run on gravel right in town. Since we are training for the Bentonville Half Marathon we got right back into the routine.

While in Mesa we had a sales conference to attend. We pulled our rig to the Westin Resort in Scottsdale. We didn’t bring the RV to stay in it, but to make a quick departure for the Black Canyon after the conference. This is a very nice pet friendly hotel. Sam got the special pet treatment with dog bowls and special bed just for himself.

The Black Canyon is just 40-miles north of Scottsdale on the way to Flagstaff. We have never stopped here, so we wanted to get to some solitude before we had to be back in Phoenix for the Good Sam Rally. That and the Black Canyon Ultra Trail Run was scheduled the same weekend we were there.

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Black Canyon Views

We pulled off Hwy 17 at Table Mesa Rd, just south of Black Canyon City. We set up the RV on BLM land at the Black Canyon Trailhead. This area is STUNNING! Gorgeous mountains, lush green foliage and miles of rugged trails and jeep roads. The only downfall to this area is that it is a mecca for gun enthusiasts who come here to shoot. All. Day. Long!

Thankfully shooting is only allowed in specific areas, so we had a couple of hills between the ranges and us. We still heard the gunfire, but at least it wasn’t right next door.

Jeff and I did not sign up for the Black Canyon Ultra, but we did want to run on the coarse. So we set off the day before the projected rain to get our long training runs in. I had 10 miles to run while Jeff thought he would try for a 50K.

We drove north about 20-miles to the starting line and followed the very well marked route that the race crew had already put out. It started as maintained hard packed dirt road, turned onto a cattle road then to a very rocky rugged single track. It was a test for the sturdiest of ankles, but we both managed to stay upright!

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Scenes from the trail

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Black Canyon Trail Ultra Route

We got a late start so Jeff ended up running in the dark to mile 27 before calling me to pick him up. He was getting cold and hungry. I on the other hand got my 10 miles out and back in, drove back to the RV, took a hot shower, made an early dinner then had coffee and dessert.

Ultimately the racecourse had to be altered due to the forecasted flash flooding. There were numerous river crossing that became virtually impassable with the rising waters. This is one race I am so glad we were not a part of. After mudageddon in Zion last spring, I’ve had enough of terrible weather conditions on race day.

It was a weekend of the most rain we have ever seen in Arizona, which made access roads to this area pretty soupy. We were becoming a bit concerned about our departure, especially since ATV’s and 4-wheel drive trucks decided the mud was the perfect consistency for donuts. But we had two full days of sunshine to dry out the road just enough to get us back to the highway.

It really was a beautiful area. But between the endless gunshots and ATV’s rolling by, we have crossed Black Canyon off our list of places to return to.

We hitched up and headed back to Phoenix for our next show.

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A date with Good Sam

On a sad note, we got a call from one of our Xscaper friends that let us know that another Xscaper had suddenly and unexpectedly passed away right here in Phoenix. She was in her 50’s and full of life. One of those ladies who made you feel welcome from the moment you met her. We met Kurt and Toni at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta over a year ago and developed an instant friendship.

We went to Toni’s funeral and as family talked about her, it was evident that full time RV’ing was the best time of her life! They spoke of her deliberate choice to have experiences over stuff as she and Kurt sold everything to move in and travel full time in their RV.

We left feeling privileged having made that same choice ourselves. You never know how long we have on this earth before we are called home. Our time here is but a brief moment on a spectrum of time. Toni reminded us to make the most of it!

We will miss you around the campfire Toni!

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Remembering Toni!

 

 

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2017! A New Year to Travel

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A hardy cactus hello!

Jeff and I spent Christmas and New Years in Why, Arizona. After being in the big city of Mesa for 6 weeks it was time to get to some desolation, isolation and motivation of the desert.

Why Why, Arizona?

It was supposed to be our launch site to travel to Rocky Point, Mexico just 80 miles to the south. Beachside living, endless shrimp dining and the sound of waves lulling us to sleep. It would be our first Mexico crossing in the RV and we had our dog health certificate and passports ready.

But when we went online to get our insurance, we were shocked to say the least! $600 for a two-week stay in Mexico! OUCH!!!

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Why go to Mexico when you can have the international experience here in Why?

As much as we were looking forward to spending New Years in Mexico, the $600 spend was just too much for us to justify. The waves. The sand. The shrimp. They would all have to wait for another time. We were spending NYE in Why, Arizona.

Don’t feel bad though. Once we got over our visions of beachside grandeur we settled in nicely to our new surroundings while free camping on Bureau of Land Management property.

This is our third winter in the desert southwest and we love it here.

Not many years ago, I would be on a flight over the Southwest and think, “Why would anyone want to live there”? Brown. Dull. Dusty. Void of any green. It always seemed to lack any beauty or color.

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There is something special about the desert

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Good night

But what I’ve learned the last three winters is if you spend a little time in the desert she will show you her true colors.

You see. The beauty of the desert is cast low in those few minutes of sunrise and sunset. When the sun is making itself known and when it finishes its day. It casts a glowing spell on the desert, turning it into the beautiful creature that she is. Texture. Dimension. Color. It’s all there if you are patient!

Our BLM spot is just north of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. Organ Pipe is a UNESCO biosphere reserve that stretches 517 square miles along the boarder of Mexico. It is the only place in the US where the Organ Pipe Cactus grows wild. It got its name due to its shape that looks similar to the pipes of an organ.

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Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

Right at the perimeter of the reserve there is a distinct change in the landscape.

What’s flat, barren and brown suddenly turns to rolling hills, black volcanic rock and a lush green. Well…as “lush” as a desert can be. But it is beautiful and very different than the mid-west landscape that I grew up seeing.

Our camping area is in a hotbed of illegal border crossings, drug trade and human trafficking. For the most part, they leave us campers alone. Unless you happen to leave out a water bottle or leave bicycles unlocked. You may wake up to some things missing. The dessert is scattered with rusty bike skeletons that didn’t hold up the rigors of a rugged desert crossing.

There are endless ATV roads scattered all over this place that are under the watchful eye of the Border Patrol via helicopters, trucks and 4-wheelers. Their presence is felt, seen and heard at all times. I had a helicopter swoop down over my head while out on a run…just to say, “I know you are there”.

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Endless ATV trails under the watchful eye of border patrol

The trail running was great and Jeff decided to ride his bike 27-miles to the Mexico border on Christmas Day where I picked him up in the truck. Then he had to outdo himself by running from the border to our campsite on New Years Day. His run was a bit eventful. Four drug smugglers darting across the road mere steps from him in broad daylight. All five of them were startled! Jeff later looked at his Strava from his run and saw the spike in his heart rate at that moment. Everyone went their own ways and we called the incident into the border patrol.

The community of Why has a Christmas day potluck at the local community center. For $5 each, the town provided the turkey and ham, while the attendees brought in the side dishes. It was a great deal, super food and a lot of fun visiting with the winter locals of this tiny community.

Though the desert here was nice, we never quite felt settled. We would check and double check if things were locked and we turned on a few more lights to take the dog out after dark. Even Sam was on edge since coyotes would run right through our campsite.

After two weeks we finally pulled up stakes and made our way to Yuma.

We stayed in Yuma 2 years ago and didn’t particularly enjoy our stay at Mitrey Lake. Between mosquitoes and mice we weren’t sure we would ever come back. But cooler heads prevailed and we decided to give it another go.

This time we headed to BLM at American Girl Mine off of Olgilby and boy were we so glad we gave this town another go. That location turned into one of our favorite campsites ever!

It might be a bit barren for some folks, but for us it was boondocking perfection. Full exposure to sun for solar charging. Well-groomed wide roads. As much or as little privacy as you want. ENDLESS and I mean ENDLESS trails to run. No worry about coyotes for Sam or drug runners for us. Lightening fast Internet. And those sunsets!

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We just could not get enough of this place!

Yuma is the closest city to the Los Algodones border crossings. We crossed the border two years ago and found a delightful restaurant that we wanted to go back to. And since we didn’t make it to Rocky Point the previous week we decided to walk to Los Algodones for a dental cleaning and some lunch.

This was our first experience with Mexico dental. I say “our”, but Jeff was the guinea pig.

It was an AMAZING experience, and we will not longer be hesitant at taking the plunge. We picked a dentist that was highly recommended by other FT RV’ers that we personally know and decided to walk to the office a couple days before his appointment to make sure we knew where she was. And if you have any hesitation about walking there yourself, the dental office will send someone to meet you at the border to escort you to their door.

One thing you have to be prepared for when crossing the border is the bombardment of sales folks trying to sell you the exact same thing the guy right across the street is selling. Pharmaceuticals, dentists, eyeglasses and your typical assortments of trinkets, jewelry, blankets and cowboy hats are about it for this small town. A polite “no thank you” is enough to put a stop to it, until you hit the next booth.

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A special anniversary lunch

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Plentiful Viagra and…ah…pinatas

While at lunch one day a nice lady from a local “spa” stopped by and gave me a free 1-minute shoulder massage while I drank my margarita. Her skills were impressive, and we actually went to her shop a couple days’ later and got $13 pedicures.

Our original intent was to stay in Yuma for a week before heading to Quartzsite, where our fellow Xscapers RV club was having a convergence. But Olgilby Road was just too perfect a spot to breeze through and we stayed for two weeks.

We did get to see our RV buddies Flying the Koop, Mike and Donna. It had been a while and they were blowing through town on their way from San Diego to Phoenix. Our time was short, but oh so sweet. We will get to see them a bit more after Q.

Well, onward to Q for the largest gathering RV’ers on earth!

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This is why I love the desert! (Zero filters)

 

 

 

 

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Ultra Mania and Utah Bliss

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Words to live by

September 23-October 31

Last year just after the Arizona Ironman, I asked Jeff if he was ready to take a break from full Ironman competitions. It’s a huge time commitment to train for, which is especially challenging during RV show season.That, and it is a very expensive sport. To my delight shock he decided to take a break from long distance triathlons. At least until he ages up into a new age group in a couple years!

But as an athlete, when one goal or bucket item is crossed off, there are dozens more to follow. For Jeff, the next challenge is a 100-mile ultra trail run.

I know. I know. There is a collective “whaaaaaat?” whenever he shares his goal.

To think that a 100-miler is any less training time is a mistake. But when you can train on beautiful wooded trails and forestry roads around pristine alpine lakes, it does provide “get lost in the scenery” moments that you just don’t get riding your bike on life threatening city streets or swimming laps at a local pool.

So when Jeff heard about the Stagecoach 100 race from an Arkansas friend, he thought it would be a perfect race to enter.

The Stagecoach 100 is a 100-mile trail run from Flagstaff to the South rim of the Grand Canyon, two of our favorite places! It is run on the Arizona trail and follows the historic stagecoach line that tourists took to reach the Grand Canyon in the 1890’s.

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Out for a practice run on the Arizona Trail

The course starts in Flagstaff around 7,500’ of elevation and climbs to nearly 9,000’ before descending into Tusayan at 6,600’. There is about 7,000’ of climbing overall and must be completed within 31-hours.

Since this was Jeff’s first year to attempt a 100-miler he opted for a two-man relay, putting Jeff’s leg at 55 miles and friend Jason’s leg at 45 miles.If this went well, then he was going to sign up for the Javelina Jundred in Fountain Hills, Arizona the following month.

After a week of rain and snow on Humphreys peek, race-day could not have been more perfect weather conditions. An abundance of sunshine, cool temps and golden aspens kicked off the race.

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All smiles at the start…Sam thinks he gets to go too!

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Beautiful run through Aspens

I don’t compete in these long distance races, preferring half marathon trail runs. As a spectator I get to witness the days journey for a lot of athletes. The excitement and nervous energy at the start followed by the real struggle, pain and doubt somewhere in the middle of the race. And at the finish, total elation, outpouring of emotion and collapse.

It’s so inspirational that it makes the laziest of couch potatoes start to think that they too could attempt such a race! Me included!

After seeing Jeff off at the start, I loaded up the RV and drove to Forestry Road 688 just south of Tusayan. What I really LOVE about the West is that there is no lack of free camping spots around great locations. This FR is within 6 miles of Grand Canyon Village on the South rim. The road was amazingly groomed with plenty of private camping spots for big rigs and decent cell coverage.

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A pot of gold campsite…for free!

The Stagecoach 100 is not a spectator friendly course, so there was nothing I could do but stuff my face with chocolate and take a nap wait 15 hours in eager anticipation, imagining Jeff’s struggle and drudging out 55 miles with him in spirit!

The heartburn for Jason and I was trying to find the transition point on a spider web of unmarked forestry roads after dark. After 2 ½ hours of driving we somehow managed to find the transition 30 minutes after Jeff had checked in.

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Found an aid station…just not the right one!

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Finally!

It was 10:30pm, and after 15 hours Jeff was ready to be done. He handed off the last 45 miles to his friend and we made the 2-½ hour drive back to the RV. Jason finished the race the following day. I’m so proud of Jeff and Jason. After the pain has worn off they both are ready to challenge themselves to run a full 100-miler.

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The Arkansas Travelers

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The legendary Jim Walmsley

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Got the buckle!

We stuck around the South Rim for another week, and just for grins, Jeff decided he wanted to do another double crossing of the Grand Canyon before we left.This was partly a test to see how his legs felt for the Javelina.

With tired legs from his Ultra just 6 days before, he headed down the South Kaibab Trail, summited the North Kaibab to turn around and head back to SK. He was so exhausted on the return trip that he lay on slabs of rocks three different times to sleep. He did persevere but pushed his body to its limit casting doubts on his goal of Javelina.

Before we left the South rim we stopped into the Bright Angel Lodge for dinner. When we were finishing up we noticed an odd glow coming from the Canyon. I grabbed the phone and ran outside to witness the most spectacular rainbow. When we saw waiters and cooks running outside with cameras we knew we were witnessing something special.

The rainbow illuminated the clouds to a  fiery red glow. Just about every spectator there was crying, including me. It’s one of those moments you realize you will only see once in a lifetime! It was stunning!

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After enjoying the South Rim we drove to Las Vegas where Jeff had to fly to Louisville on business while I stayed with the RV at the Oasis RV Resort.

Once he returned we hitched up and headed to Kanab, Utah for Trail Fest. Trail Fest is a three-day trail running festival. Day 1-Zion. Day 2-Bryce. Day 3-North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Once back at camp you are free to participate in seminars, movies, food trucks and music.

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Trailfest 2016, Kanab Utah

This was the first year of this event, with home base out of Kanab. Tents are provided or park your RV on site. Showers are available at the community center. Shuttles picked up 400 runners each morning and dropped them off at the days designated trailhead.

Jeff and I were too late to register for this wonderful event, so we volunteered to help set up and direct parking. Because we volunteered we got credits towards a future trail event.

While runners were out on their trails, Jeff and I hiked in Bryce Canyon. Our favorite hike was the 8-mile Fairyland Trail Loop. This is a moderate hike with hoodoos galore. It’s one of those hikes that you have to force yourself to stop taking pictures to get through. I love this place and can’t wait to spend more time here!

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After Trail Fest we headed to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Actually, we boondocked on National Forestry land in the town of Fredonia, Arizona 45 miles north of the North Rim. Besides hiking the Rim2Rim, we have never explored the North rim. We really enjoyed our stay. Nights were in the 30’s with daytime highs in the 50’s.

The only draw back was that it was hunting season, so we had to be careful where we got our runs in.

I had read about the pancakes at the little gas station in Fredonia, so we stopped and had breakfast before driving to the North rim. The pancakes lived up to the hype, but our waitress was…odd. We got to talk to several hikers that were either getting ready to start their Grand Canyon Rim2Rim crossing, or had just finished it.

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After breakfast we drove to the North rim to check out the views. The lodge was already closed for the season so we didn’t get to look around there. But what a wonderful little cabin community! Compared to the South Rim there are less amenities and less people.

A couple days later Jeff heard from his twin brother that he and our sister-in-love were on vacation at the South Rim. So what does a guy do when his best friend is across the big ditch? Why he hikes the Grand Canyon overnight to have breakfast with him.

While Jeff was hiking in the dark down the North side he stubbed his big toe. Actually, he broke it at mile 7 and then hit it a couple more times just to add to the misery. Kind of hits you in the crouch don’t it?

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He finished the 15 miles across, had breakfast and jumped on the 8am shuttle back to the North Rim. His broken toe made the decision to not enter the Javelina Jundred.

We were hoping to leave the North rim and hike the Narrows at Zion National Park, but we lingered too long and had to drive straight back to Las Vegas to work the SEMA Automotive Show.

Utah is stunning and it left us wanting A LOT more.

We will have to catch you next spring Utah!

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Flagstaff and The Fearsome Four

 

Flagstaff AZ

Sam back on the Arizona Trail

August 21-September 21, 2016

After climbing to new heights at Mt. Whitney Jeff and I had about a week before needing to be in steamy Phoenix for business travel. We wanted to camp where we could get a break from the heat just a little longer, so we headed straight for Flagstaff, Arizona.

We’ve been camping in Flag off and on for the past year, one of our favorite locations. There is an abundance of free forestry land to camp in with endless trails to run, hike or mountain bike just outside your door. This and being close to town makes us feel like we live in the community. Flag is definitely familiar to us now and there is no need for GPS to get around town any more.

Flagstaff AZ

A delightful sunny spot amongst the trees

Not only was the 70 degree temps sublime, but Jeff has been training for the Stagecoach 100. Stagecoach is a 100 mile ultra trail run that starts in Flag and ends at the IMAX theater at the Grand Canyon. Jeff is running a relay with a buddy. 55 miles for Jeff and his friend Jason running 45. Since the race was just 4 weeks away some high altitude trail training was in order.

We camped at a new boondocking site on FR6051 near Snow Bowl on the North side of town. The road was a bit rough, but we were able to wedge our modest 32’ into a nice spot for maximum solar gain. There are endless forestry roads here with several short spurs that connect directly to the Arizona Trail. So getting in our trail runs was a piece of single track cake!

Oh Arizona Trail, how I love thee!

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One of the first things we usually do when getting to a new location is to see if there are any running events happening during our stay. We have done this in Moab, Chico and Whistler  among others, and it keeps us motivated to get out and exercise on a consistent basis. Without the motivation I would struggle with the RV-15 (think freshman-15) and bedsores!

One of the things we learned about is the Flagstaff Fearsome Four Challenge. Four peaks, 34 miles, 10,307 of elevation over 2 days. Sure…why not! As part of Jeff’s ultra training this challenge was right up his ally.

Here is how the challenge works. Hike or run Humphreys Peak, Kendrick Peak, Mount Elden and O’Leary Peak in any order. If you accomplish this challenge under 15 hours (not including driving time) in a 24hr period you are honored with the status of “Ultra” runner. Well then. Lets get to it!

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Kendrick Peak

Things that go bump in the night…what was that noise?

Jeff started at 1am at Kendrick Peak. Besides being scared by some sort of large animal in the woods, this was pretty uneventful. Humphreys Peak, the highest peak in Arizona and most challenging of the four, was next. Jeff ran into a couple of trail runners that run Humphrey’s 9 miles in under 3hrs, twice as fast as I hiked this beast! It had snowed on this peak the day before, so some of the trail was still covered.

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Summit of Humphrey’s Peak

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Rugged trail

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Snow covered trail

After a brief refueling of bacon and a nap at the RV it was on to Elden and O’Leary’s peak. Sam and I joined Jeff for the final two hikes. Though Elden is a short 4-5 miles round-trip, it is very rocky, technical and steep. We were glad to be hiking this one in the daylight!

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Third peak in the bank!

Heading further north we finished with O’Leary’s. This trail was a well-groomed forestry road all the way to O’Leary’s lookout, where we took in sunset views before racing back down the mountain to finished after dark.

Jeff did an amazing job coming in under 15 hours for the Fearsome Four and we celebrated with some late night BBQ!

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Number four…O’Leary Lookout!

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Racing the sun

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Steapest section at O’Leary Lookout

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After dark finish!

The next day we packed up and headed for Phoenix where we jumped on a plane and flew to Dallas. The Dometic show vehicle needed to be transported to Elkhart, Indiana for the RV industries open house.

A stop over in Bentonville, Arkansas was in order and we stayed for two weeks. This gave us a chance to check on family and our beloved Beaver Lake cabin.

I tell ya, when I sit on that porch swing overlooking the Lake, it’s hard to think of ever leaving! I love the smell of fresh lake water, hearing fish flopping in the early morning hours, swimming in water so clear you can scuba dive. I love that I can lace up my shoes and go for a run on lake roads that only a few locals travel. I ended up with 5 of the neighborhood dogs on one of my runs, which helped with missing Sam on our trip.

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The view from our deck

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Well hello humidity! Where have you been?

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Getting in a Saturday morning run with friends

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Quick visit with two of our Guatemalan students in AR on Walton Scholarships to John Brown University…so proud of them!

Arkansas is a beautiful place to call home for sure and I always shed a tear when we leave. But the road calls, and we must go and off to Elkhart we went.

We arrived over the weekend so that we could visit with some wonderful friends. The open house went well and we headed south with the RV to Louisville before flying back to Phoenix. It was a hard pressed 3 week trip and we were glad to get back to our dog and our RV.

With only 3 days before the Stagecoach 100, we were rushing again to get back to Flag for the race. So after landing at 6:45am, we picked up our dog and were on the road with the RV by 9am, and parked in the woods by that afternoon.

Holly moly…that was a tiring trip!

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Migration South

Sedona

It’s been a while since I posted on my blog. My last entry was about our epic hike at the Grand Canyon back in October. I started typing my next post when something went drastically wrong leaving me unable to keep typing!

After Jeff and I left the Grand Canyon we headed back to Flagstaff where we dispersed camped at one of our favorite spots by Lake Mary. The alpine forest, miles of forestry roads to get lost on and hiking on the Arizona trail are some of my favorite reasons to camp here.

We did try a new location just north of Flag after calling the Forestry Department. “There are plenty of camping spots up there”, they said. “Good access”, they said. But after an hour of narrow roads and only two camp spots that were impossible to get in to, we decided to “go with what we know” and pushed on to Lake Mary. Trouble was, we were up a creek without a paddle. Or in RV’ing terms…down a narrow road without a turnout! After carefully backing up a 1/2 mile we finally swung the 5’er into to weeds to get turned around.

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Contemplating how to get this thing turned around

I’ve found the most challenging parts of dispersed camping is that you never know what you are getting you and your rig into.

One persons opinion of “plenty of clearance” is usually nowhere close to the reality of our specific rig. If someone has wedged a 30,000lb forty-foot motorhome in a spot, then I have a bit more confidence in their recommendations. But NEVER take the word of a non-RV’er unless you want to find out what serious heartburn is like.

Lake Mary works out well for a Triathlete in training. The pool at the college is an easy 10 miles away and Lake Mary Rd is a major thoroughfare for cyclists and runners. Perfect for Jeff to continue some high altitude training for the Arizona Ironman.

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The Arizona trail just steps from our campsite

While Jeff trained, I hiked a portion of the Arizona trail just steps from our camping spot.

The Arizona Trail is a National Scenic Trail that runs from the border of Mexico to the Utah border, traversing the North/ South length of Arizona for 800 miles. It was officially opened December 16, 2011.

The section I hiked was near the Lowell Observatory and Marshall Lake. It was not particularly scenic with primarily flat hiking through cattle fields.

Sam dog is a great little hiker as he follows the trail very well. If I come to a part where I’m not sure where the trail is I just follow him…he knows every time. But he did step off the trail briefly and ended up with a big cholla ball stuck to his front leg. When that happens he tries to keep going because he HATES when I pull those dang things out. He hollers like you wouldn’t believe and comically when I pulled this one out to his great displeasure it flung out and stuck his back leg, doubling the experience. Once we start moving again all is forgiven and Sam stayed on the trail.

We decided to pull out of Flagstaff a day early since wet weather was coming in and we were on soft ground with low batteries. So we pulled up the jacks and headed to Sedona.

There is free dispersed camping available west of town on Forestry Road 525. We camped here last year and learned if you travel about 5 miles back on the washboard roads you are treated with some spectacular views and close hiking trails. We had some great days of sun and got the batteries charged back up to 100%.

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Scene out our front door

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Sam tearing it up and turning a nice shade of Sedona red

Sedona is incredibly beautiful and is one of my top 5 places to see thus far in our travels.

Hiking is spectacular in Sedona, but it is also very popular. If you are looking for a get away from it all experience you will have to travel a little further out of town. But what I love the most about hiking here is the sandy red soil contrasted with the green scrub bushes, Junipers, Arizona pines and Pinon Pines. Mix that in with the scent of toasted pine needles on the trail, red rock views at every turn and warm sun and you have yourself hiking nirvana!

After paying a $5 day use fee Sam and I set off on Soldier Pass Trail. This trail is a great loop with incredible views of the red rock formations, slabs and the city. We hiked the trail counterclockwise; since I have hiked this trail clockwise a couple of times before.

Sedona 2015

Trail dog Sam leading the way

The initial accent takes to you to some red slabs with wide-open views. It’s a great spot for a picnic and photos before heading up natural stairs towards Brin Mesa. At the top of Soldier pass the trail flattens out and turns from red to a light sand color. I wanted to take the Brin Mesa tail for an out and back, to log some additional miles.

The Brin Mesa trail takes a steep decent back down the other side of the mountain. I always laugh at myself after descents like these because my mind automatically thinks about having to hike back up. Like the Grand Canyon  my mind blows up the imagined accent to be much more difficult than it actually is. Then I’m always surprised when I get to the top wondering if I still have “the hill” to go. Silly self!

I mistakenly thought the Brin Mesa trail would actually take me to a mesa. But once I ran into a forestry road, my turn around point, I was informed by other hikers that the actual mesa was off some other offshoot from Soldier Pass. I’ll have to catch that one the next time.

Back on Soldier pass, Sam and I started down the west side of the mountain back into red soil. It was getting hot by now and my two bottles of water were starting to get low. Thankfully we reached more slabs on this part of the trail. The slabs have some natural pools that form from bowl shaped indentations in the rocks. These pools had collected fresh water from recent rains, which Sam found refreshing for consumption and wading in, leaving the remaining water in the bottles for me.

Closer to the west side Soldier Pass Trailhead near “The Sinkhole” it gets pretty noisy from jeep tours and ATV’s that are allowed on the trail here. We jumped off Soldier Pass at this point and took the Jordon trail heading east back to our parking lot.

Sam found another pool that was pretty murky and large and waded in to cool his dogs. Problem was it was very deep. To both our surprise he disappeared underwater only to bob back up sputtering. He wasn’t too thrilled about going scuba diving but he was super frisky after that. I guess his bath really cooled him down.

Sedona 2015

Sam cooling down in a shady spot

We ended up hiking 8.5 miles over 3 hours…what a great time!

After a week in Sedona rain and snow moved in. It was stunning to wake up to a ring of white snow on the red rocks at the higher elevations. But to maintain our shorts and flip flop temps we moved on to Phoenix/Mesa…. where things turned very interesting!

Flat Iron

What the heck!

 

 

 

 

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