Posts Tagged Fulltime Rving

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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Yosemite National Park-Part II

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Jeff and I were so excited to snag Half Dome permits. We packed our lightweight running backpacks in preparation for a very long day of hiking. Water reservoirs full, extra water bottles, salty snacks, turkey burgers, string cheese, almonds. We arranged for Sam to be checked on and walked by a neighboring camper back at the RV park.

We are hiking Half Dome Baby!

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Jeff and I purposed to leave the Happy Isles trailhead at 6AM and found a place to park near the backpacker’s campground. We took the Mist Trail up past Vernal and Nevada Falls. This trail was like an adult water park and we were drenched by the time we made it through the falls. The Mist Trail is a stair step climb with minimal handrails. The granite stairs are a bit slick from being wet and we were thankful to have our hiking poles.

The top of the Nevada falls is a popular turn around for a lot of hikers. You can either head back down the mist trail or join the John Muir trail and loop back down another route. There are pit toilets here as well and there was quite a congregation of folks hanging out here before turning back.

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Hiking past Vernal Falls

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The Mist Trail approaching Nevada Falls

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Nevada Falls

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One small section of handrails climbing to the top of Nevada Falls

We kept hiking past the Little Yosemite Valley campground (backpackers only) and another 3 miles further up the trail to Sub-Dome.

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I started getting nervous here!

Sub-Dome is where things start to get interesting! Permits are required beyond this point. But at 9:30am there were no rangers there, making us wonder why we stood in line the previous day for 5 hours to get a permit. (They were actually there on our way down)

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Narrow stairs chiseled out of solid granite, switchbacks and a steep slope was an exercise in vertigo control. I wish I could say what the view was like at this point but I was too focused on where to put me feet without looking down!

We reached to bottom of the cables about 10:30AM and unpacked our rubberized gloves for the final push. The gloves are amazingly helpful for gripping the cables. This section was EXTREMELY STEEP…almost repelling-like, and the gloves helped give extra grip to be more secure.

There was a pile of used gloves at the bottom of the cables that hikers leave for others to use.  The wind tends to carry some off so there were a lot of unmatched gloves laying around.

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Gloves graciously left by previous hikers…they are a must for the cables!

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See those ants over my right shoulder? Yup…that’s where we are going!

Previously, we heard one of the rangers talking about the permit system for Half Dome. That if you couldn’t get a permit, you hate the system. But if you were lucky enough to get a permit, you LOVE the system. Jeff and I couldn’t have agreed more!

The climb up the cables was intense and I can understand why they put permits in place. After the permit system was instituted, half dome deaths dramatically decreased.

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Thankful for the 2X4’s to rest

Each turnbuckle had a 2X4 attached to it to provide stable footing to rest or wait for passing hikers. Even with the limited people allowed on this hike we still got caught in traffic on the cables. But what was really cool was that everyone worked together encouraging one another, communicating, holding on giving each other the right of way. It was neat to see and experience, especially since it was so dangerous.

Just when I thought I couldn’t go any further we reached the top with a loud cheer from a few of the hikers on top. The last 500’ took us about 30 minutes and we celebrated by having a snack overlooking Yosemite Valley.

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Thats Jeff and I at the top!

It’s moments like these that I become especially thankful for the ability to hike and climb. To have a body that is healthy and strong. To have a wrist that just 6 months ago was shattered and now I was pulling myself up the cables of Half Dome! We scored a permit to the top and now we are seeing a view not too many people can or will see.

The view on top was so big and grand. Lush green meadows, sparking water of the Merced River, waterfalls spilling over granite cliffs, crisp air, the shear drop off of El Capitan. It was all visible, even palatable from this one spot. What an experience!

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The view heading back down Half Dome

Our climb back down the cables was looming so after an hour at the top we started back down. It’s comical to see the different strategies people use to go down. Face first, side-ways and backwards. I chose the backwards method which worked well. I felt very secure and it kept the vertigo in check. It was much easier getting down and we celebrated with our fellow hikers.

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Glad to make it down safely!

Overall this was an 18-mile hike for us that took 11 hours to accomplish. Talk about pooped!

The next day we needed to recover, so we pre-planned taking the Valley Floor tour ($25 each). This is a two-hour open-air tram tour driven by Sam and narrated by ranger Carol. They were affectionately dubbed Yosemite Sam and Christmas Carol!

Jeff and I normally don’t take tours, preferring to avoid tourist attractions. But we REALLY enjoyed this and would highly recommend it. We learned so much more about how the valley was formed, how Muir and Roosevelt worked together to start the National Parks, how bears are controlled in the park, and climbers on El Capitan.

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Christmas Carol narrating our Valley Floor tour

My favorite story was when Christmas Carol shared about the flood of 1997. The rapidly rising water took out over 1,000 lodging sites in the form of campgrounds and lodges. Everyone was safely evacuated and not a single life was lost. Carol shared that the most special part of the flood was that the park was closed for 3 months for cleanup and only workers were allowed in. She said that without the crowds the wildlife came out of the woodwork with such peace and quiet. It gave me goose bumps to think about experiencing Yosemite in such a special way. I was envious of her job!

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High water mark of the flood of 1997

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Taking in the views on our tour

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Yosemite Falls and a giant finger…oops!

After our tour we took a stroll over to Yosemite Falls and then called it a day.

Thursday was our last day at Yosemite and we had two things left that we wanted to do. One was to drive to Glacier Point and the second was to hike the Four Mile hike. So much to still see and so little time!

The Four Mile hike (3200’ elevation gain) once was a toll trail developed in 1872 to connect the Valley Floor to The Mountain House lodge at Glacier Point. It is a strenuous hike that was eventually lengthened to 4.8 miles in order to flatten out some areas of steep grade. Even though mileage was added the historic Four Mile trail name was retained. The lodge burned down and the state of California eventually purchased the “private” trail for $2,500. It then became public property and toll free.

My legs were too shot for the 3200’ climb so we decided to drive to Glacier Point where Jeff would drop me off at the McGurk Meadow Trailhead on the way. This is an 8-mile one-way hike from TH to the Glacier Point. Jeff then parked at Glacier Point and hiked the 4-mile trail down, then back up.

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Pretty river crossing on the McGurk Trail

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Jeff taking the Four Mile Trail

Both hikes were beautiful. Mine was secluded with minimal traffic while Jeff’s was exposed on the side of the cliff with A LOT of people. We both ended our hikes about the same time and we had a great view of Half Dome!

We left Yosemite for the final time that day. We were both really sad. We could have easily spent a second week and still not have gotten in all the additional hikes we wanted to do.

I guess that just means we will have to make another trip back!

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Until next time beautiful!

P.S.

TEN TIPS FOR A YOSEMITE VISIT

  1. Come in the off-season if at all possible-shoulder months are less crowded.
  2. Avoid the Valley Floor during the weekends-there are great hikes around the perimeter of the park that are much less crowded.
  3. Arrive at the Park entrance gates before 8:30AM-Cars start backing up at the entrance by then and parking is limited. We heard of others waiting 4 hours in traffic just to get in the park entrance and other who circled parking lots for 2 hours trying to find an open spot.
  4. Take lawn chairs with you-we set up our chairs under a shade tree in the parking lot to get some work done and make business/family calls. Also, its just nice to sit, regroup and rest then get back out there for the rest of the day.
  1. Expect no connectivity-We had very poor cell coverage and no WiFi at our RV Park, even with our own hotspot and booster. We did find decent coverage in the parking lot in the Valley so we purposed to get some work done there each day after our hikes.
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Our office with Yosemite Falls in the background

  1. Make arrangements for pets-Pets are not allowed on hiking trails but can be taken on any paved paths. There are lots of paved routes, but none that will give you any backcountry experience.
  2. Bring bikes-If you just want to explore the Valley Floor be sure to take bikes. Waterfall spots and lakes are spaced out making it a very long walk. Bikes will keep you from having to give up your coveted parking spot.
  3. Take the Valley Floor tour-Well worth the $25/person (reservations required).
  4. Be mentally prepared for irresponsible people who lack manners, don’t pick up after themselves and who ignore park rules-Its very disappointing to see the amount of trash left on the floors in restrooms and around crowded waterfalls.
  5. Take plenty of sunscreen and water-Even if it is a short distance, the air is dry and the sun is intense.

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Hello Moab

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After a 3-week visit back to Nashville and Bentonville Arkansas…or as I call it, the land of humidity, we flew back to our RV in Mesa.

We had lunch with our RV buddies John & Becky and Don & Debbie at Liberty Market in Gilbert. There was so much to talk and laugh about and so little time before we all headed off into different directions. We are going to miss these guys but are confident we will see them out on the road!

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One last ice cream with friends

We pulled out of Mesa for the last time Thursday, March 10 and started our northern trek to Moab. We would have taken our time for the 488-mile journey but Jeff and I signed up for the Canyonlands Half Marathon & 5Mile run on the 12th.

Our plan was to stop half way, but I find that after we have been in one place for a while, we don’t mind putting in some miles on our first day back on the road. We drove 428 miles (9.5 hours) and got within an hours drive of Moab, stopping in a truckers lot in small town Utah for a free overnight.

Neither Jeff nor I have ever been to Moab and when we pulled into town I felt…disappointed. I guess I had pictured a quaint little mountain town like Breckenridge or Tahoe. But my first impression was…junky.

I hate to say that out loud especially now that we have stayed for two weeks. After experiencing all that the great outdoors Moab has to offer, I’m a fan…sort of.

We were in Moab during the Easter Jeep Safari, when 5,000 jeeps roll into town for this annual event.   Jeff and I worked the Dometic booth at the expo showcasing their mobile cooling products. The patrons were fun and everyone remain completely clothed!

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Jeeps rounding up for an adventure

We camped at the Sand Flats Recreation Area, home of the famous Slick Rock off road trail system. This is a mecca for off-roading anything. Jeeps, ATV’s, dirt bikes and mountain bikes and they flow constantly through this campground…all hours of the day and night.

It wasn’t our customary dispersed camping. That, leave your shades up, silent paradise that we strive for. But more of the dusty, loud, drive as fast as you can in a 25 mph speed zone, don’t care how loud my radio is at 1AM and the rules don’t apply to me type of camping.

But despite the noise, here are the highlights for Moab.

Moab Half Marathon (Jeff) & 5 Mile run (Deb) and Monument Valley Half Marathon

This race takes place on the very scenic HWY 128 that runs along the Colorado River. The city shuts down Hwy 128 where 2300 entrants were shuttled by bus from downtown Moab to the start of the race. We had the entire highway to consume while running through the canyons.

I’m not sure but it felt like the race was all downhill…my kind of race for sure! Either that or I was just taken in by the surroundings. Colorado River flowing on my right, shear red cliffs everywhere I looked, Native American drummers out on the course and lots of local support.

Also, Jeff decided to enter the Monument Valley Ultra Half Marathon the following weekend…It was spectacular!!!

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Hiking Slick Rock Loop

Slick Rock was just out our RV door, so we laced up our shoes and got after it. This is a 9.5 Mile loop over petrified sand dunes that make Slick Rock what it is.

Contrary to the name, Slick Rock is not actually slick, but very sticky. That’s what makes it the mountain bike & 4×4 mecca that it is. The texture of the rock makes these trails very tacky which is great for rubber to hold on too. It’s a good thing because this trail has some vertical climbs that defy gravity.

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Slick Rock Trail overlooking the Colorado River

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Share the road

The mounds of petrified dunes are endless and all look the same. So I was thankful for the very well marked trails by white stripes painted along the surfaces.

We had to share the trail with mountain bikes and dirt bikes, which isn’t really my preferred nature experience.

We found that the best time to hike/run Slick Rock was before 8AM. By the time we finished up the parking lot and trails became full with people there to enjoy their adventure too.

The Arches National Park

Jeff and I also headed to The Arches National Park. We toured the visitor’s center and watched a very good movie on how arches are formed, then headed to the Delicate Arch trailhead.

The Arches National Park

Delicate Arch

Delicate Arch is probably the most photographed arch in the park and requires a strenuous 1.5 mile one way hike to get to. We arrived about noon and the parking lot and trail was crowded. The majority of the trail was wide-open space so there was plenty of area for the crowd to spread out. That is until you get to the last ¼ mile where it is a somewhat narrow trail on the side of a bluff.

Once we rounded the final corner we caught view of this amazing arch that has a natural amphitheater built into its surroundings. You can sit and ponder life or visit with others from all over the world. It really was a beautiful sight to see!

While Jeff went off jeeping one day I drove back to The Arches and hiked Devils Garden loop. It’s a 7.5 mile hike that gives you an opportunity to take in 7-8 arches.

Let me tell you…this trail did not disappoint!

It is probably my #2 most beautiful trails that I have ever hiked (#1 Grand Canyon).

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Balanced Rock

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Hiking along the fins

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Partition Arch framing beautiful scenery

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Landscape Arch

The rocks in this area form as fins that the trail traverses up, over and in between. Each turn around a corner showcased another view better than the last. At one point I just had to stop taking pictures and keep moving.

And the arches…most framed views just like a pretty portrait. WOW!

We made one last trip to The Arches on Easter Sunday morning for a sunrise service then to the Eklectic Cafe for a birthday breakfast (yea me).

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Easter Sunrise Service…glad we didn’t sleep in!

Jeeping Steel Bender

We met a very sweet couple, Jeff and Jennifer, in our camping section, who have been coming to the Jeep Safari for 20 years. Jeff asked my Jeff if he would like to ride along on a group 4×4 ride. How can you say no to something like that!

Jeeping is nothing either of us have experienced. The trails are steep and rugged and with a a name like, “Steel Bender”… they are not for the faint of heart. You creep along with 10-12 other jeeps, each driver challenging themselves to take the hardest route. Things fall off and jeeps break down all from the strain of being tested.

After 8 hours Jeff learned a lot about the jeeping community. If he ever trades in his bicycle a jeep may be a consideration.

Moab Overall

I think my ultimate struggle with Moab was just the shear natural beauty of the area that makes up the Canyonlands while having a feeling of destruction and wear.

It was both beautiful and sad at the same time.

The nice thing about RV’ing is we can move on from here and have a totally different type of experience just waiting around the corner!

Until next time Moab (maybe)….

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I wonder what is over there…hummm!

 

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The Naked Truth About “Q”

Quartzsite 2016

All hooked up and heading to Q

It’s been a while since my last post. Partly because of healing my wrist, partly because we have been stationary.

As new temporary residents of Mesa, Arizona we’ve become quite familiar with city streets, favorite Walmart stores, the local cycling club and yummy places for lunch. Even Sam has been in on the action for grooming and walking the canals.

But these RV’s are made for roll’in and roll’in is what we do!

After 3 months, we had to refresh ourselves on how to hook up the Domani. It felt odd to be pulling out of our temporary driveway with something a little bigger than a bicycle behind us.

But just like riding a bike, it all came back to us quickly. We were finally headed away from sirens, helicopters and thumping music of the city and heading towards yipping coyotes, running generators and whipping winds of the desert.

Here we come Quartzsite!

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Sunrise over the Big Tent

The Quartzsite RV Show, or “Q”, is billed as the largest gathering of RV’ers in the world. Folks from all over North America come to the desert of “Q” for warm January temps and cheap RV living. “Q” is surrounded by unlimited BLM, making this quirky destination a playground for boondockers, solar enthusiasts and ATV’ers.

We were here last year working a booth for Dometic and we were here to do the same this year.

Working a booth at a RV show is a fascinating study in people. Especially RV’ers!

“Q” is always a different kind of show in that the majority (98-99%) of this audience is actual RV owners. And not just owners but what I would consider RV super users… those who live in their RV’s 6-12 months out of the year.

And with super users comes lots of experience and lots of stories! Usually experiences and stories that center around bathroom habits and holding tanks.

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Gotta have a sense of humor if your going to RV

I had to laugh when a 70-something woman asked if we had any toilet seats that fit into a receiver hitch of a truck because, “I aint poop’in over a log no more”. I deferred her to Amazon…they have everything in two days or less for Prime membership.

One of our friends shared his story about emptying his black tank at a dump station. Unbeknownst to him, the dump was full which he didn’t find out until he saw his black water running all over the ground. After shutting off the valve he was left with suspending both ends of the hose in the air with his hands in order to contain the sludge until someone would let him dump in another line! OMG!!!

Other toilet discussions at the booth drove me to drink at the end of the day. And since I’m such a light weight, half way through a glass was sufficiently enough to regain my sense of humor.

On another funny note…did you know that Escapees has a nudist club? They sure do! And Jeff and I got a first hand look at it while delivering a Dometic portable refrigerator/freezer to their encampment…on BLM…in “Q”.     Y.U.P.

Quartzsite 2016

UUUUUMMMMM!

I offered to deliver the item as the purchaser was on a motorcycle and he happily accepted my offer. While being rung up he slipped in a, “oh-by-the-way”, and we were off to the nudist encampment hoping the cool temps and cloud cover would keep the in-the-buff RV’ers a bit more covered!

Of course the ONLY person that was not covered up when we got to the area was this nice gentleman’s wife…buck naked…in front of his coach.

Not being well prepared nor experienced in this sort interaction, eye contact was our top priority as well as a keen concentration to keep our jaws from hitting the desert floor. I was relieved when his wife offered to put some clothes on. But that relief was short lived when she returned with only a wrap around her waist.

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Oh look! An American flag on top of Q Mountain!

Introductions were made and a tutorial on how to operate their new purchase was given…topless…boobs a sway’in in the gentle breeze…bent over the freezer on the ground. There are just things you can’t un-see folks!

After declining their invitation for a beer we were treated to a boob photo bomb while having our picture taken with their rig logo. Yup…in her full glory…in the background of a picture her husband took with OUR phone.

Oh…could it possibly be that I now have seen it all? Probably not.

Quartzsite 2016

Oh look! Sam at sunrise on Q Mountain!

Jeff and I have had one other run in with nudists. It was on our honeymoon 22 years ago in Jamaica. The resort had a clothing side and a clothing optional side. When we arrive the first night we were informed that our room on the clothing side was not available despite our specific reservations.

The next morning our beautiful ocean front balcony view was marred by the bare butts of wrinkly old men strategically moving their lawn chairs directly in front of our room. Not the full moon over the water view I had in mind!

From my total of two nudist “shock-and-awe” incidents, I’ve noticed that nudists are not usually the bouncing six pack stacked Bay Watch type of people to be gazed upon with appreciation for the human form. But leathery sun worn bodies that have sufficiently been pruned over time. Just my humble unwanted observation!

Butt But you know what? More power to them!

It was an interesting time at “Q” as it usually is. We did see friends and managed to stay an additional week in beautiful desert BLM solitude after the show.

Quartzsite 2016

Nice hike in the desert with friend Donna

We had dinners, campfires and even watched football with John and Becky, my hiking buddy Marshall, Jeff’s new cycling buddy Don and his wife Debbie and Flying The Koop’s Mike and Donna.

The incredible desert sunrises and sunsets burned new images into my retina’s that I will carry with me as we head back to Mesa. Even the illumination of the full moon will forever be a memory too! 😉

Quartzsite 2016

Don’t Worry Pee Happy!

 

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Flagstaff Boonies and Peaks

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Welcome to 7,000 ft…catch your breath!

Comment: Im having a problem with my font and spacing the last couple of posts..so bare with me until I figure things out.
After an amazing time in Albuquerque, Jeff and I have made our way to a favorite boondocking site at Walnut Canyon in Flagstaff, AZ. It’s 5 miles from town, has great connectivity and so much space you can’t see your closest neighbors, except for the invited ones.
We were joined by our friends John and Becky who we met at the Xscapers rally in ABQ. We hit it off and wanted to spend more time with them and they were wanting an opportunity to boondocks. So we both ended up at Walnut Canyon.
Boondocking is spacious here, but its downfall is the difficulty of getting INTO the sites. Weather worn ditches and road grating make it challenging for even the smallest and nimble of rigs. Jeff and I had found the only site we were confident we could get into.
As a result, it was the only site our friends could get into as well. But we didn’t mind! When you travel with kindred spirits cozy campsites are easy to endure!
Flagstaff is a great town and has a bit of the “it” factor for Jeff and I. Even our dog Sam loves it here. The ease of getting around. Great swimming pools and cycling abound. And oh the hiking!
That brings me to something tough. Something I have never shared.
You see. I have had a secret thought for a while now and wasn’t sure I wanted to verbalize it. If I say it out loud then there is no way of backing out of what I’ve thrown out there. If I say it out loud, then something would have to be done about it. If I just keep the secret in my head, then my fears could prevail without anyone knowing. No expectation, no disappointment!
I’ve spent a lot of years operating in such a way, so that my self-inflicted perfectionism wouldn’t be let down.
But that all changed when we got to Flagstaff and Jeff asked a “simple” question. “What do you want to do in 2016 that gets you out over the tips of your skis? Something that challenges you and possibly scares you?”.
And then it came out.
“I would like to hike the highest peaks in each state”.
There. I said it and there is no going back!
ABQ

The trail calls and I must go!

I’ve always enjoyed LOVED hiking. Being out on the trails is my THING. The PLACE that fills my heart and soul with joy. My chest feels like it will burst open as I breath in mountain air. I love the smell of the forest. The smell of dried pine needles baking in the sun. I love the sound of the wind pushing it’s way through the trees, the resistance of the leaves creating a gentle whoosh. My mind empties as I push up and up the mountain. And the views! Oh the views from the top. Nothing can compare.
I come alive on the trails.
But the Highest Peaks? That’s another story. When I hike I can choose trails that are within my known limits. I know that I can finish and enjoy the journey. But the Highest Peaks? I don’t get the choice. To make it a goal to hike them is to commit myself to challenges that exceed my self-limitations.
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Agassiz Peak from Humphreys Peak Trail. San Francisco Mountains.

Well, here we are. In Flagstaff. And I just found out hat the highest peak in Arizona is right at our back door. Humphreys Peak smack in the middle of Flagstaff just staring me in the face saying, “did you said something…out loud?”.
And there was nothing I could do about it but to accept the challenge. Squash my fears and climb up that 12,636′ mountain.
We couldn’t have picked a more beautiful day. Clear skies, cool air and aspens in full yellow fluttering glory.

Jeff, Sam and I left Humphreys Peak TH from the Arizona Snow Bowl following a smooth trail that took us through a field of glowing aspens. But the smooth trail was short lived as we quickly entered a hole in the tree line and the trail quickly turned rugged and rocky. It was an ankle turner almost the entire way and Jeff rolled his and launched himself over the side of the trail, only to be stopped by a small tree. That. Was. Close!

Up and up we went, scaling boulder fields, loose sandy gravel and roots. Lots and lots of roots. The higher we went, the steeper the climb, the thinner the air.
Mt Humphreys

Navigating the rough trail

We reached the first “false summit” and doubts started flooding my head. My leg muscles were on fire, my chest was heaving from lack of air and all I wanted to do was call it good and start the slide back down.
But, I had said something out loud and there was no turning back.
With the aspens far behind we pushed on to the second and third false summit. With the final peak in sight we managed to make the final push, and Jeff, Sam and I had summited our very first Highest Peak! Mt. Humphreys. You have been concured…along with my doubts!
Mt Humphreys Peak

View from Mt. Humphreys with aspens far below and controlled burn in the distance!

I am so glad I didn’t turn back. I am so glad I didn’t miss those views, the smell of pure clean air and feel the wind gusts push me around while I read the sign: Humphreys Peak. 12,636. I had made it to the very top!
WHAT A FEELING!
I wish I could say that the hike down was easy, but the rugged terrain made descending even more technical on the way down. More ankle turns and a fall reminded me that getting to the top is only half the hike.
After a total of 6 hours we were again poking through the hole in the trees and we were greeted to a fine display of a sunset turning those same morning golden aspens to a fiery orange glow.
Mt Humphreys

Sunset from Mt Humphreys TH set off by a controlled burn in the distance

I was warmed by the sun and by the feeling of accomplishment.
I don’t know how many High Points I will be able to achieve in my life, but I will take this first with me. To remind me to press on, even when I don’t think that I can. Arizona is considered one of the easier western high points. If that is the case, then I have my work cut out for me.
Maybe I should keep my big mouth shut next time!
And if my husband asks a simple question about a challenge again, I think I will say, “take a soak in a hot tub in all 50 states”. Yea. That’s what I’m going to say!
A soak in a hot tub! OR…a nap!
Sam

This is how we roll…me driving and the boys sleeping!

Up next? The Grand Canyon!

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The B-line to Albuquerque

ABQ

Sunset from the road heading west

We made a B-line to Albuquerque to take in the splendor of the Balloon Fiesta and IT IS SPECTACULAR!

From Dumas Texas we made a 2 hour drive to Ute Lake State Park to camp for two nights. This is a dry, barrow campground overlooking the very nice Ute Lake. Evidently this is a great spot for birders and fisherman alike. The lake is shallow with a lot of reeds and grasses along the banks. What is brown and desolate by day turns to an incredible glow of oranges, yellows, blues, purples and pinks when the sun hangs low.

The sites are packed gravel, super long and have great separation. Each site has a covered patio with picnic table, fire pit, grill and lots and lots of goat head stickers. Sam enthusiastically jumped out of the camper ready to explore his new surroundings and was stopped in his tracks with paws full of stickers.

If it were not for the goat heads we would have stayed a bit longer. But after two days we decided to move on.

Our next stop was just 20 miles down the road in the little town of Tucumcari, New Mexico. Tucumcari mountain is an isolated mountain in a sea of brown dessert that was a landmark back in the 1800s for those traveling west from Arkansas to California.

We camped at the nastalgic Cactus RV Park, one of those original destinations back in the hay day of Route 66.

Tucumcari New Mexico

Tucumcari Mountain…a landmark for wary travelers heading West

Tucumcari banks on those who follow old Route 66 as a bucket list travel trip. Though the town is a bit weathered and tired, The Cactus RV park had charm. On one side of the unimpressive office is a vintage looking “motel” face with the look of old New Mexico brick and stucco with a courtyard RV parking lot of crushed gravel.
The sites are maticulously groomed with lovely shade trees on some of the sites. Though the sites are fairly close together the trees offer defined seperation, giving the impression of space. And for $24/night (includes tax) for full hook ups, you can’t beat the price. Don’t come here looking for amenities because you will not find them.
From their website, “This is a BASIC OVERNIGHT PARK with 30/50 AMP, working WIFI and CABLE TV, and easy PULL-THROUGH spaces.  This is a SATELLITE FRIENDLY RV Park. We are mostly an adult RV Park.  We do not have a pool, playground, game room, laundry, showers, or restrooms.  To those people who expect too much, we say that, “you have the pockets of a pauper and the expectations of a prince.”‘
Would I stay here again? Absolutely! It’s convenient to Hwy 40, clean and quiet. What more could you ask for an overnight stay.
After two nights it was time to make our last push to Albuquerque, arriving two days before the big kick off, on a Thursday.
We pulled in around 1:30pm at the “General” campground just south of Balloon Fiesta Park. There was no traffic on the highway nor pulling into the campground. Lots of folks were here already, but most would be pulling in Friday afternoon.
This is dry camping, so be sure to have empty holding tanks and all the water you can carry. The General campground does have a third party provider who will pump your tanks for $25 and fill you water for $25 if you need it.
ABQ

Sandra’s Mountains from our ABQ campsite

This will be our first boondock camping with the new rig which meant Jeff had to get to work at connecting the new solar panels to the batteries. Before we left Arkansas we had just enough time to mount the panels on the roof and put the batteries in their assigned compartments. But we had no time to connect anything. And, our solar controller was on the slow boat from china…so we didn’t even have all the parts.
Fortunately for us Technomadia had an extra solar controller that they let us borrow until ours arrives here in ABQ. So up on the roof Jeff went to connect the panels to the combiner box with the help of our ABQ neighbor who is an electrician with some really nice tools.
As of day 5 with no hook ups we are generating power, still show 95% full on our water, 0% on our gray and 10% on our black.
Boon docking life is good!
ABQ

Be sure to check your shoes. You never know what you will find in the desert!

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Quartzsite. All Things Interesting

Welcome to the carnival of Q

Welcome to the carnival of Q

The big Q is over and we are on our way back to Arkansas. Quartzsite was a big success for many who sell their wares for a living.

Many of the items sold in the big tent are the same things you see at most of the RV shows. LED light bulbs, towing products, sewer hoses, telescoping flagpoles.

But there were a few booths that caught my eye and thought their products were something to write home about.

Quartzsite AZ

They ran out of my favorite blend so I made due with rocky road and chocolate chip

ICE CREAM

I know, not very unique in its own right. But the ice cream “booth” was packed from the moment it was open until it closed. These guys are here every year and a sought after treat by the patrons.

The owner was ornery and a bit unfriendly. But what he lacked in personal sweetness was made up for in his generous proportions of scooped creamy deliciousness. Everything was $4 no matter 1 scoop or 2, cup or cone. And the helpings…ginormous!

You pay the man first and collect your ticket and stand in one of 8 lines that form in front of ice cream freezers. There are 12 flavors to choose from and you can mix your scoops. My favorite?  A scoop of black cherry and a scoop of chocolate. Ooooohhhh myyyyy!

THE ULTIMATE TRIP

Quartzsite AZ

The Ultimate Road Trip Planning Guide

One of the bucket list trips for most RV’ers is a journey to Alaska. It’s a trip that requires a bit more planning for those of us who tend to wing it. http://www.NorthtoAlaska.com makes the planning easy by providing free information on 3 major routes.

Canada and Alaska got together to promote tourism to their country and state. Canada realized that many people were driving through their country (naturally) to get to Alaska without making it a destination as well. So the two got their heads together to outline various routes, attractions and overnight accomodations for RV’ers. The information can be used for the solo traveler or if you prefer to go with an organized group, they will hook you up with others looking to caravan.

The volunteers were very knowledgeable and have driven these routes themselves. They were ready to share their enthusiasm for their country/state and their love of RV travel.

It is a great service and all free. www.northtoalaska.com. Check it out!

Sorry Tony, this is all I have to remember you by!

This is NOT Tony or his product but reminded me of his flare for life!

COOK TOP GRILL 

Ok. So this product may not be new or revolutionary. But our booth was right behind Tony and he himself was unique. He makes a nice living demoing different cooking products 12 hours a week at festivals and RV shows, Quartzsite being his biggest and longest show. (So bummed that I didn’t  get a picture of Tony)

Tony was demonstrating a Stove Top Grill right behind our booth. And with the prevailing north to south winds our little curtain could not contain the smell of garlic and bacon. ALL. WEEK. LONG!

The Stove Top Grill works on gas or electric ranges, gas grills or campfires. It had a drip pan to prevent flare-ups, was easy to clean and small enough to store in your camper.

His humor and strategic use of fatty pork and garlic draws his customers to his booth all the while charming them with his easy personality and quick whit. This guy was goooood!

Of course being booth neighbors netted us an endless supply of tasty samples that would mysteriously appear on a toothpick through the curtain like magic!

SNOW REGION GIFT SHOP

This booth was selling beautiful cashmere scarves for $15 (two for $25) and yak wool throws for $35. I was drawn to this booth for the quality of the products at very reasonable prices. I picked up a beautiful yak wool throw that was super soft and extra warm. Watch out for the shedding. My hiking pants picked up the fibers and coated them before I knew what was happening. I was ensured that this would stop after my first washing.

They are machine washable but must be line dried.

The owner, Loden Tsering (Sorry, no website) was a sweet gal and I found out that her parents were from Tibet. They fled the country for India during the Chinese invasion (1951). Loden was born on their way to India. She has lived in California now for about 6 years and travels to festivals, trade shows and farmers markets to sell her beautiful Tibetan products.

Quartzsite AZ

Dog tired after a nine day show

Well, those where my vendor highlights for Quartzsite as we finish up at the big show. This is one of those places you need to experience for yourself at least once, if you can bring yourself to terms with the crowds, plentiful scooters and dogs in strollers.

It has a carnival atmosphere with flee market vibe full of interesting people who are traveling this amazing country in their home on wheels.

Quartzsite 2016…we will be back!

Ditto!

Ditto!

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