Facebook Running Narrative of our Trip

In addition to writing this blog, I also post a steady stream of comments and photos on Facebook.  Since those are visible only to my family and friends, I’ve replicated them here for all to enjoy.  The posts are listed in chronological order starting when we left Kentucky on January 26, 2012.  They provide a nice running narrative of our trip.

Our adventure begins!

Rain rain rain. Did I mention the rain? At least it’s not snow.

From 36 and rain in N Ky to 61 and rain in Nashville. I’d say that’s quite an improvement!

Look up “washboard” in the dictionary and you’ll see a picture of I-55 in Mississippi bump bump bump bump bump bump

Chillin’ at Grand Isle State Park in Louisiana

Took an hour to find the source of a leak inside our RV. Turns out it was the hot water heater plug on the *outside* that was slowly leaking back in. Lesson #1: things are not always what they seem. Lesson #2: don’t give up. We were about to take the RV to a dealer for repair, which would’ve likely cost us one day of vacation and hundreds of dollars, for something that was solved with 1 cent worth of plumber’s tape.

Ahhh, this is the day I’ve been waiting for. Sunny, warm, nothing to do, nowhere to go.

Darby and Shadow

Dogs are always on vacation

Heading to Texas tomorrow. Brazos Bend State Park, largest concentration of gators outside the Everglades. Doggies need to stay on the leash in this park. Munch munch.

In Texas, warm and smells great, very quiet, crickets chirping and owls hooting, only downside is mosquitoes the size of small birds 😉

Alligator

Maybe later alligator

Alligator friends

We all need a friend

Alligators in Texas? Who knew?

Zero TV in a week. No withdrawals yet, but miss my few favorite shows. Hope to catch the Super Bowl on Sunday. Fortunately RV park has cable. BTW, Go Pats!!

Woo hoo, the RV park cable works! I’ll be watching the Super Bowl tonight. I’m one happy camper (literally).

Great game

What kind of man would shave off his beard in a public restroom and leave it sitting all over the sink? Gross!

I hate when I do stupid stuff.

Texas is a damn big state, seemed to go on forever. We thought we might have to spend the night in a Walmart parking lot in El Paso, but we made good time (80 mph speed limit helped) and made it all the way to Oliver Lee State Park in New Mexico. It’s dark out, but we can see the outline of the mountains in the full moon.

I’m a geek, but I have no explanation for this… Getting 4 bars on AT&T 3G. But every few minutes the signal drops to zero bars for about 30 seconds, then 1 bar Edge, then back up to 4 bars 3G again. And repeat. Yet Verizon seems steady and unaffected. I knew there was a good reason we got a phone on each network for this trip. You can usually count on one or the other to work.

Roadblocks are un-American

Dog Canyon

Woke up this morning, lifted my head, looked out the RV bedroom window and saw this. Numerous friends have asked me, “Why are you spending most of your trip out west?” In a word: Canyons!

Our U.S. Air Force is busy today. Hearing the deep rumble of fighter jets taking off from White Sands.

Two sonic booms today from White Sands. One shook the trailer so hard it rocked & rolled.

Going to check an item off the bucket list today: hiking the dunes at White Sands National Monument, the world’s largest gypsum dunefield at 275 square miles

Darby, Timm and Shadow at White Sands

Wandering the White Sands desert, no trails, dunes for miles in each direction. One of our most amazing hikes ever.

View out my RV window

Shorts day! Here’s the view outside my bedroom window. Tomorrow we hike up into this mountain.

Love cookie

Love is a half-eaten cookie for breakfast. Timm ♥ Theresa

Valentines Cactus

Happy Valentines Day from the desert southwest

Just saw 4 F-16s takeoff and one A-10 land at Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson.

The laundromat is one of the less desirable destinations for life on the road. But in this RV park, the laundry, pool and showers are grouped together. So we stripped down to our bathing suits, put all our clothes in the washer, jumped in the jacuzzi for a while, then took showers while our clothes were washing. Makes laundry day a lot more fun.

Theresa and Shadow

Theresa birthday lunch spot in the Coronado National Forest, Arizona

A-10 Thunderbolts

A group of A-10 Thunderbolts were mock-dueling today over Davis-Monthan AFB. I love how they can turn on a dime and drop like a rock from the sky. Amazingly maneuverable for a jet that can do 460 mph. Yes, I have a man-crush on a fighter jet.

Cooking out brats and a veggie burger on my little Coleman gas grill

Theresa washing the RV

It took us 2 hours today to wash the RV. With the wind and 20% humidity, we had to wash a little section at a time.

Today we hiked in the a remote desert wilderness that was so quiet all we could hear was the occasional fly buzzing or lizard scurrying across the ground.

Hello, California! On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair…

Shorts weather! Sunny and warm in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California

 

15% humidity … yeah, we’re in a desert. Feels like summer, 74 degrees and breezy, loving this weather

3 mile hike in the dark, laid on the ground and watched the stars (and a satellite), sat next to a pond full of frogs singing a chorus almost deafening, each little frog has its own unique voice

Slot canyon

Hiked a slot canyon today that was only 12″ wide in some places. Glad I skipped that doughnut for breakfast!

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in southern California, one of our favorite parks so far, warm and breezy feels like summer, incredible views and a real desert oasis

Today is our one month anniversary of life on the road. We’re gettin’ in a groove and really starting to enjoy the minimalist vagabond lifestyle. The highlight of course is hiking these amazing parks our country has so smartly set aside for all of us to enjoy. It also helps that we’ve slowed down the pace and spend more time in the parks we really love.

High wind warning tonight, brought in the RV slide so we don’t tip over. Winds picked up last night too and rocked the RV for an hour, then completely died like someone flipped off a switch. California weather is crazy.

Major speed bump: Our RV was T-boned by a California Highway Patrol cruiser involved in a high-speed chase. Theresa and I and the dogs are shaken up but not injured. The officer was injured and taken to the hospital but is expected to be OK. But our RV was totally destroyed. We’ve been advised to not discuss the details of this accident, other than to say we absolutely believe this was NOT our fault. RV can be replaced, but people and dogs cannot, so thankfully we are all fine.

Looks like we made the news. Update on things: Last night I developed a sharp pain in my left rib and it hurt to breathe, probably from the seat belt. I went to the hospital today, had X-rays, thankfully no broken ribs but badly bruised, 2-4 week recovery. Theresa and the dogs are still fine. Officer was released from hospital last night and is home recovering. Old geezer who started this mess is in jail on $250K bond. We went to the RV today to recover valuables. Hard to see our “home” utterly destroyed, it’s like the inside of the RV exploded on impact. Starting to plan our next steps.

Destroyed cop car

High-speed cop car versus RV. No winners in this battle.

We’s hunting wabbits, um, RVs

California law requires all restaurant menus to list calories next to each item. However I’d prefer not to know that the Starbucks morning bun I just ate had 450 calories. Ignorance is bliss.

Got a new RV! Back on the road in a day or two!!

Spending the night in our new RV in the dealer parking lot, as they need to install our tow package in the morning. If all goes well, this time tomorrow we’ll be boondocking in Joshua Tree National Park.

Made it to Yucca Valley. Put about half our stuff in our new RV, and half we’ll ship home because we don’t need it (plus there’s alot less storage in the smaller RV). Gonna spend a day or two here getting organized before we head off the grid into Joshua Tree.

About to hit the road. Hopefully the road won’t hit back. 😉 Boondocking at Ryan Campground in Joshua Tree NP. Off the grid until Monday.

Spent 4 days in Joshua Tree boondocking (totally disconnected–no water, electric, sewer or Internet). New RV worked great! That’s about the limit, as the grey water tank was full, and fresh water almost empty. Tho it was a little unnerving not knowing what’s going on in the world.

You can only escape reality temporarily. It will eventually hunt you down and find where you hide. Bills, taxes, insurance, ick.

Why in this age of instant communications do we still have to put up with service people saying, “I’ll be there between 1-5 pm”

Finally leaving Yucca Valley. Hoping to put the crash behind us. Cost us a few weeks and a few thousand dollars, but that’s life. Heading off the grid into Mojave Natl Preserve, yipee!

Mojave National Preserve

No electricity, water, sewer, or people for miles. And yet somehow we have Internet in the middle of nowhere. Ain’t technology grand?

No firewood but plenty of dry cow patties = nice bonfire. Just gotta make sure we sit upwind 😉

Why did we hike that mountain? Because it’s there.

Freezing here in the California desert, but summer-like for my family in Wisconsin. The world is going crazy.

Cost of roadside camping for 6 nights in Mojave National Preserve: $0. Cost of waking up surrounded by mountains: priceless.

Freezing cold, bitter howling winds, and blowing snow in the desert. And four days from now it’s supposed to be in the upper 80s. Schitzo weather!

Climbed a 40-story sand dune the other day and slid down it to make it “sing.” Still finding sand in all sorts of places.

Heading into Death Valley. Hopefully it won’t live up to its name while we’re there. 😉 Cyclist died there just the other day. High today 96. Sizzle.

117 degrees

But it’s a dry heat

 

High gas prices

aka “Thank goodness I filled up in town”

Unfortunately you never know how good your insurance is until you need it. Fortunately Travelers did a great job with our crash and is coming through with the full amount.

Death Valley gets a bad rap. When you get past the fact that it regularly kills people, it’s an amazingly beautiful place. Little known fact: leading cause of death in Death Valley is single vehicle accidents.

Unlike most deserts, Death Valley does not cool down much at night. It’s still 85 at 9:30 pm. Usually stays above 100 all summer. Don’t know how anyone can live here year-round.

We spent a month teaching the dogs how to behave well in a campground. That went out the window after 6 days of isolation in the Mojave. Shadow jumped out the RV, ran over to a neighbor’s RV, and proceeded to howl like a wolf at the dog inside. And this was at 11pm. Back to square one, d’oh!

Major course change! Due to weather and other factors, we’ve decided to do our loop in reverse, i.e. counter-clockwise instead of clockwise: from here in Death Valley to Nevada, Utah, Colorado, South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Alberta, Alaska, British Colombia, Washington, Oregon, and back to California ending up at Yosemite.

Celebrating 20 years today with the woman I love!  [March 24]

Blasted by warm wind for 3 days in Death Valley, 20-30 mph with higher gusts. Ranger says, “This is nothing, just a light breeze compared to what we usually get.” On the plus side, keeps it cooler and rocks us to sleep at night.

Near hurricane force winds. Had to point the RV into the wind to keep it from tipping over or ripping off our TV antenna. Got caught in a sandstorm earlier, very cool, lots of dust devils.

Back in civilization for a day. Stock up, fuel up, dump out, connect, pay bills and file taxes.

Mojave National Preserve was one of our favorite parks so far.

Heading into the Valley of Fire

Fire Wave in Valley of Fire State Park

Valley of Fire is unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. It’s like being on an alien planet, and as a matter of fact, many Hollywood movies have been filmed here including “Star Trek: Generations” and “1,000,000 Years B.C.” The rocks have every color of the rainbow, but especially lots of red. Here I am sitting with Darby on a rock formation known as the Fire Wave.

On to Vermillion Cliffs. No reservations, just hoping to find a good camping spot on BLM lands. It’s a little uneasy not knowing for sure where you’re going.

Travel days are stressful. What I hate most about RVing. Even stopping for a burger is a big production.

Found a great isolated camping spot beneath the 3000′ Vermillion Cliffs. Would’ve never found this place if it wasn’t for a Nat Geo article my sister sent us. Thanks Lisa!

Just got back from a long night hike with the dogs. Under a bright half moon, cliffs on one side, nothing but open desert on the other, total silence.

Vermillion Cliffs National Monument

Camping along Vermillion Cliffs

Tomorrow we’re hiking Marble Canyon down to the Colorado River, just 20 miles north of where it flows through the Grand Canyon. Even here you can see the mighty Colorado cut a deep gorge through the landscape. Wind, water, time.

Down to my high school weight.

Didn’t make it all the way to the Colorado River. Hike down the canyon was one of our most challenging ever. Lots of massive boulder scrambling. Was getting late. And when we got to the high dropoff and only way down/up was a rope someone left hooked around a rock, that’s when we turned back.

Vermillion Cliffs National Monument

Our next stop up on the plateau is getting slammed by a winter storm (that we can actually see from our current location). Upper 20s there tonight. So I think we’ll spend one more day in the 65-degree desert before moving on.

My camera has fought one too many sand storms. It refuses to open the lens, saying “System Error 500 (Focus)” which I think is code for “Hasta la vista, baby.” Time to find a new one.

After two months on the road, I can definitively say that AT&T sucks. Theresa has the same phone as I but on Verizon. In literally every place but one (Death Valley) she had a much stronger signal. Many places she had multiple bars on 3G, while I had only one or two bars on Edge and not enough to do Internet. Note that we are 95% of the time NOT in big cities, where AT&T seems to do fine. So if you plan to travel off the beaten path, get Verizon.

Entering a lottery for a restricted hike to The Wave in Vermillion Cliffs. Not exactly the same payoff as the Powerball, but somehow we’re just as excited to win. (Perhaps because our odds are better than 90 million to 1?)

Hoodoos!

Going from 70s today to 20s tomorrow, brrrrr

Bryce Canyon National Park

Oh, Bryce Canyon, it’s been far too long size I’ve gazed upon your alien-looking spires

 

Long johns today, but the sun is shining brightly

 

15 degrees this morning, had to disconnect the water hose into the RV. Yet the neighbor kids in jammies and flip flops are out playing with our dogs. Where are the parents? Also out in flip flops.

Wimped out today. Did a 6-mile 1500-foot climb hike yesterday in Bryce. Supposed to do an 8-mile 1700-footer today. Instead we’re going to do an easy hike along the rim then hit the buffet.

This sign in Bryce Canyon National Park made me LOL

This sign in Bryce Canyon National Park made me LOL

Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument

On the edge of nowhere in the 1.7 million-acre Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument

Record warm 82 today. But a late winter storm is heading our way. Snow and RVs don’t mix! Leaving the mountains and heading down into Canyonlands. It’s like the Grand Canyon, only bigger (but not as deep).

So quiet here that the loudest noise is the occasional buzz of a gnat in my ear.

Thinking of you today Dad [April 13]

Theresa looking up at Delicate Arch

Theresa looking up at Delicate Arch. How is that arch still standing?

Found the first place on our trip that might be fun to live: Moab, Utah. Surrounded by mountains and canyons, short drive to three national parks (Arches, Canyonlands and Capitol Reef), young outdoorsy hip vibe. One downside: it’s a desert. I think I’m too used to lots of green grass and trees.

So we were heading to Black Canyon Gunnison NP, noticed snow there tonight in the forecast. Hmm, checked the map, saw Colorado NM was on the way, what’s this neat place? And no snow. So we’re taking a 2-day diversion there while the weather clears. The advantage of a trip with no set schedule.

Great place for a snooze

Great place for a snooze

My brain wants me to hike Black Canyon of the Gunnison (1800 foot ascent in less than a mile) but my old body tells me to take a hike, er, not take a hike

 

Awesome but eerie… We are the only people in the Black Canyon campground

 

Just crossed over Monarch Pass at 11,312′ in the Rocky Mountains, very beautiful, snow in the trees but thankfully not on the road

 

Snow showers while I’m grilling out BBQ chicken with a nice view of Pikes Peak

 

South Park Mercantile Co.

Located in the *real* South Park: the town of Hartsel in the South Park basin of Colorado. Apparently this store existed long before the TV show. 🙂

 

Pikes Peak

Pikes Peak from our campground. It’s the easternmost fourteener in the USA.

 

Theresa made me eggs and blueberry pancakes for breakfast, how lucky am I!

 

We’ve been more than a mile high for two weeks, yet even today we could feel the altitude on our hike

 

Dispersed camping in Arapaho National Forest just east of the Rockies. Cost: free! Gotta love this country.

 

Confucius say, “Waterproof boots matter not when you sink up to your knees in snow”

 

Civilization shock: after 2 weeks in the mountains, spent the day in Denver running errands. So many people, so many cars driving so fast, ack!

 

Hello South Dakota

 

Dispersed camping in Black Hills National Forest. Visiting Wind Cave today.

 

Serenity: Walked out of the RV, climbed the nearest cliff, sat down on the edge, popped open a beer, and watched the sunset.

 

Since we left the desert, I figured it was time to install our roof vent covers, which allow us to keep the vents open even when it’s raining or windy. Good thing, as it has rained solid for the past 12 hours.

 

Just finished a tour of Jewel Cave, second longest cave in the world at 160 miles, discovering 3-5 new miles each year. Barometric tests show that only about 5% has been discovered so far. The cave is so named because the walls are covered with calcite jewels. Too bad it isn’t worth anything, about a dollar per truckload, but very beautiful.

 

Oh joy, the dogs found a dead deer carcass in the woods nearby and are bringing it back to the campsite one bone at a time

 

Snow showers, brrrr

1″ snow predicted here tonight. Let’s see if we can get out of the forest on the gravel roads tomorrow morning.

 

Visiting four giant presidents and one native American and his horse carved in granite

 

Mount Rushmore

Four great men in our country’s history immortalized in granite

 

Just saw a hawk snatch a snake and fly off

 

Bighorn Sheep

This Bighorn Sheep was licking something off the center line of a road in Custer State Park. He was so engrossed that he didn’t even know we were sitting there until a motorcycle came rumbling up behind us.

 

Heading to The Badlands

 

Free coffee & donut for honeymooners at Wall Drug

Free coffee & donut for honeymooners at Wall Drug. This is just one of at least 50 billboards along I-90 in S Dakota. Theresa is reading each one as we drive by. OK they got us, we’re going to have to stop there.

Camping in Buffalo Gap National Grasslands

Camping in Buffalo Gap National Grasslands, South Dakota. If you look closely you can see Darby on the left, and the Badlands over her head in the background.

 

Big Foot Rd

Apparently he’s hiding out in South Dakota

 

Climbing the cliffs in the Badlands

Climbing the cliffs in the Badlands

 

In the Buffalo Gap National Grasslands, we’re listening to an amazing chorus of birds (esp the Western Meadowlark), crickets, turkeys, geese, frogs, coyotes, cows, and thunder, while watching the sunset blaze through a storm in the distance. A truly magical night.

 

An antelope is munching on grass outside our RV. Cue the music: “…where the deer and the antelope play…”

 

Bubonic plague

Bubonic plague… OK, I guess we won’t be camping here

 

Minutemen II Missile

Thank God we never had to use this. Two of these Minutemen II missiles had more firepower than all of the bombs exploded during World War II, including the two atom bombs dropped on Japan.

 

Hiking in the Badlands wilderness

Hiking in the Badlands wilderness. Now we just have to figure out an easier way to climb back out. See that black speck on top of the ridge? Yeah, that’s our car.

 

The “20% chance of scattered storms” turned into 4 hours of raging, hailing, pouring thunderstorms overnight. Now let’s see if we can get our 12,000 pound RV out of the soggy grasslands this morning.

 

Stuck in the mud in the grasslands 🙁

 

Digging out, and then we wait

Digging out, and then we wait. C’mon sun!

 

Super Moon

Super Moon gave us a nice peek before it ducked behind the overcast sky

 

We had about 45 more minutes of rain tonight, and now the storm is trying to topple our RV. But that should hopefully be the last of the rain for a week. Now we just have to wait for the grasslands to dry out. Maybe we should hold a raffle. I’m betting on Tuesday afternoon.

 

Of the 4 trouble spots blocking our way to exit from the grasslands, 3 are drying out well. But like the weak link in a chain, that 4th spot is still wet and muddy. So we spent some time chopping up the mud so it will dry faster in the sun and gale-force wind that Mother Nature is thankfully providing us today. Target departure: Monday morning.

 

Woohoo, we’re out of the mud! Laura wins the raffle!

 

Devils Tower tomorrow! Hoping for a close encounter of any kind. 😉

 

B flat, C, A flat, (octave lower) A flat, E flat

 

South Dakota was very pretty, lots of amazing parks. We’ll see how North Dakota fares in the “Battle of the Dakotas.”

 

Cooking out BBQ chicken in the Little Missouri National Grasslands

Cooking out BBQ chicken in the Little Missouri National Grasslands

 

Eating our lunch watching a bison eating his lunch

Eating our lunch watching a bison eating his lunch

 

Pet me, I’m a cute wild burro!

Pet me, I’m a cute wild burro!

 

Traveling on North Dakota 85 which the locals call “terrifying” because of the high speeds and all the trucks. So far we’ve seen 3 very close calls. These people are crazy, passing on uphills, passing 2-3 trucks at once, passing us while we’re doing 70 mph, and cutting in front of each other. And did I mention all the oil tankers? BOOM!

 

Going to a ribfest in the historic town of Medora

 

Happy Mothers Day to all the wonderful mothers and especially to my incredible mom, Hazel Martin!

 

In the Montana badlands, mid 80s, hottest it’s been since Death Valley. Was below freezing just two nights ago, so it feels good.

 

Traveling across Montana today. Eastern Montana is ugly, scrubby flat desert with lots of sagebrush. Central Montana is pretty green rolling hills with mountains in the distance. And western Montana is one of the most beautiful places on Earth, they call it “Little Switzerland.”

 

Getting ready to head into Canada. Going through the list of everything we cannot bring into the country: fresh fruit, meat, alcohol, firewood, dog food… “Wait, what?” says our dog Darby.

 

We haven’t watched TV in four months, and now we’re in a place that can get a signal. So we watched the “NCIS: Los Angeles” and “Criminal Minds” season finales. Has TV gotten ultra-violent all of a sudden, or has it always been this violent and I was just previously desensitized?

 

Our last full day in the USA. We are doing our research on Canadian parks now, because Verizon Internet in Canada costs 25 cents per megabyte, ouch! There are so many beautiful parks in Canada, it will be difficult seeing all that we want to see and still make it into Alaska by July 1st.

 

View from our RV at Banff

Canada in two words: spectacular, cold. This is the view from our RV at Banff.

 

Prices in Canada generally more expensive but not consistent. Bottled water is about 2.5X as expensive. Tap water is so clean here they don’t understand why we’d want to pay for it in a bottle. Ice cream 2X, milk and gas 1.5X, cookies and chips about the same as in the USA, blueberries actually cheaper here.

 

Ahh there’s nothing like snow in May

 

Saw 6 black bears and an avalanche (from a safe distance… sounds like rolling thunder)

 

Rainbow in Yoho National Park

Got a little wet looking for the pot o’ gold at the end of this rainbow in Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada.

 

Heard our first wolf howl in the wild, on the hill above us while camping outside Kootenay National Park. A lone wolf howled mournfully for 20 minutes. Spoke with a wolf expert yesterday and she surmised it was likely the “babysitter” wolf who is charged with guarding the pups while the adults are out on the hunt.

 

Four teeth holes and some bear spit

We were camping outside Yoho National Park in BC the other day when I awoke to hear knocking on our RV. I looked outside the door and nobody was there, so I went back to bed. A moment later the RV started rocking, so I knew somebody was outside. I looked out the back bedroom window to see a big black bear chewing on our vinyl hitch cover. We shoo’d him away, but not before he left us a souvenir of four teeth holes and some bear spit.

 

Canada is so beautiful that everyone would want to live here. And to ensure that doesn’t happen, Mother Nature gave it the crappiest weather. Sun peeks out for just a few hours once every few days. It has snowed twice. Still drops below freezing some nights. Rains every day. It has rained solid for the past 36 hours, everything is soaked. And the 10-day forecast calls for rain every single day. So we’re heading to Alaska where the weather is, um, pretty much the same 😉

 

Theresa and her big beaver

Since I’m no longer in the 8th grade, I won’t write the caption that immediately comes to mind. But I’m still chuckling about it.

 

The journey to Alaska begins tomorrow morning!

The journey to Alaska begins tomorrow morning!

 

Camped for the first time in a Walmart parking lot, just blocks from the famous Mile 0 of the Alaskan Highway in Dawson Creek, BC. A little noisy, bright at night, but no cost and free wifi! We spent a bunch in the store stocking up for our journey to Alaska, so everybody wins.

 

Some interesting Canadian food combinations: Sandwich and doughnut. Fries and gravy. Beer and, well, everything.

Still light out at 2am. Amazing how sunlight tricks your mind into not getting tired, and then all of a sudden fatigue hits you like a ton of bricks.

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