Fremont Indian SP

img_0362Today was the moment when our journey officially became too scenic. We had been working with the idea of leaving Zion and traveling along Highway 12 in Utah in order to get to our next set of reservations. As we puzzled through where we might stay, how far we might travel each day, etc., I started to get really tense.

Here’s the thing, Scenic Highway 12, by all accounts and pictures online, appears to be one of the most breathtaking drives anywhere. And parts of it seem to be breathtaking in a literal sense for anyone not comfortable with sheer drop offs on both sides of the road and no guard rails. Now, Richard is still supposed to be working during most of this time, so we were both imagining what it would look like for him to be simultaneously disregarding the views, talking me down from a panic attack, and discussing the finer points of coding with his colleagues.

Ultimately, we decided that this was trying to do too much and that the primary objectives of this trip are already sufficiently ambitious. So we headed up an also scenic, but perhaps not heart attack inducing, Highway 89 to 70. Interstate 70 will then be our friend for most of the eastbound miles. This gets us cell service so Richard can work and I can not freak out, plus a lot more options of places to stay without reservations. I promise, one day we will do the whole Highway 12, 5 national parks in a row, Hoggsback, Hell’s Backbone, thing. But not right now.

img_0345Richard got to begin the day by riding up to the Zion tunnel, where I met him and dropped him off again on the other side of the tunnel. This road is beyond what I can put into writing, as it was the last time we were here. On a sad note, we appear to have lost Richard’s bike post and saddle, probably because it was set down on the tongue back at the Valley of Fire and lost along the road somewhere. Oops.

img_0356At the end of the park road, I picked him up again and we headed toward 89. Yeah, what a much more relaxing drive it was. Still plenty beautiful and we waved to Bryce Canyon as we scooted past it. We checked out a state park that might have been a nice place to stay, but it was super windy and there were no apparent water spigots around.

img_0365So we kept on until we got to Fremont Indian State Park. There happened to be one site available, with full hookups even, in the Sam Stowe Campground. And guess what, with the direction we’re going, we can afford to stay two nights. This means no hitching up in the morning. Bliss. The park is rich with interpretive trails and petroglyphs. They have a nice Visitor Center and hiking trails. I’d recommend coming here, but be forewarned that it is right next to the highway. The other campground is farther from the road and the sites are nice and private.

This turned out to be a great recharge spot, and I’m not just talking about Dory’s battery. Richard got in a solid day’s work and I went into town to do a little shopping.

On the downside, I lost a significant chunk of my life today in the pursuit of uploading photos via Walmart WiFi. I would honestly have been ok with that, except for the fact that all photos from the past 6 days uploaded in basically random order. So for me to put them in the posts, I had to sift through dozens of thumbnails, matching them to the sequence on my phone. I’m fairly frustrated with WordPress because I had looked into this before we left and got assurance from an online chat person that I could do this all offline from the iPad app and upload posts (with pictures) when I had service. This is so not the case. So, from here on out, I will likely be posting very asynchronously, or will be including very few (or no) photos until we get back home. I can upload everything then, so you’ll have to promise to come back in August. Either that, or Richard will write me a program and sell it to WordPress for a million dollars. Then we can retire.

Total miles: 140.9, 19.2 mpg (wind at our backs), 3 hours 55 min. This campground has 8 full hookup sites, nice bathroom. The other campground, Castle Rock Campground, has 30 sites with no hookups, some pull through, some back in, one nice bathroom, one vault toilet bathroom. No service for ATT here, but 1-3 bars LTE for Verizon.

 

Zion (2)

img_0323Well, this was a full day. We are running into an interesting dilemma. Our first actual destination for this trip is in Colorado, but we’ve decided to take meandering, scenic routes in order to get there. What possible dilemma could arise from that? Well, it’s just that we are breezing through some amazing parks on our way somewhere else and it feels a little funny. I know there are treasure troves we are casually passing through and about the only way we can feel ok about that is to just know we’ll return some day. It’s a pretty good dilemma to have, mind you, on the dilemma scale.

img_0298The morning began with Richard riding the rest of the Valley of Fire scenic route with me sagging him. That was a very pretty stretch of road. The park could easily earn status as a national park, but then, it would probably be more crowded. Then we drove up highway 15, passing through the spectacular Virgin River Gorge along the way. By around 2, we got to Zion (having lost an hour going across the border). Being in Zion, you can’t just do nothing, so we debated whether to try hiking “The Narrows” or take the “Watchman Trail.” Given we didn’t really have the time to do Virgin River hiking experience justice, we went with Watchman.

img_0311“It’s an easy trail,” he said. “Just a couple of miles,” he said. OMG, I was not ready for the climbing, but I will fully endorse the trail as being well worth it. The trail head was walking distance from the Visitor Center, which is right next to Watchman. The elevation gain for the trail is listed at 368 feet and now I have a better, more visceral feeling of what that means. It’s a steady, switch-backy climb for about the first half. The grade is reasonable and the trail is well maintained and not too deathy. Eventually, you come to the observation point, giving spectacular views of the whole southern part of the valley. Crazy beautiful and we even got treated to some gentle droplets of rain to help cool us off. We caught sight of a couple of mountain goats from a distance, and finally got to use the binoculars.

img_0328After that, I wasn’t 100% sure I was going to make it back to Dory before midnight, given how slowly I was walking. Richard kindly volunteered to go fetch dinner from the nearby town of Springdale and bring it back. I got to bask in the stunning views and put my feet up, sipping a cold drink. At sunset, we marveled at the way the last rays of sunlight lit up the range behind us, as dozens of bats started coming out, zigzagging across the evening sky.

As we move forward, we will be driving through some of the most scenic areas of the country. We’ll just need to remember we’re not trying to do it all in one trip.

Total miles: 138.1, 16.9 mpg, 4 hours 10 min. Watchman loop B, site 43. Electric hookups, dump, nice bathrooms, water spigots a plenty. We both have LTE, but it is so slow as to be almost nonexistent at times. Probably because everyone here is posting pictures to FB (me included).

Valley of Fire SP

img_0264I’m hesitant to talk this one up because of how awesome it was to find a site in such a breathtaking location, with hookups, and no reservations. How about I talk about the rest of the day, which was basically boring?

Almost the entire day was a departure from the scenic drives we had been enjoying. Richard worked at 60-65mph and we got stuck for an hour or so after a crash on highway 15. We weren’t sure where we were going to want to stay by the end of the day, but I figured I’d know once we got through Las Vegas traffic. And yep, the answer there was that I was ready to stop pretty soon after that.

img_0298A bit of researching on Allstays brought up Valley of Fire State Park. The description sounded so perfect, I was not willing to let myself believe there would be sites, so Richard called. It sounds like the place does not fill up when it’s hot out and the park ranger seemed pretty confident we’d find a spot with hookups. All my hopes were far exceeded by reality.

It’s a beautiful 16 mile drive off the highway and the scenery just gets more gorgeous as you go. The campground itself is tucked in the middle of brilliant red rock formations. And – HOOKUPS. Having AC is indeed a blissful treat. I can take the heat by running fans, but I certainly prefer it being 70º inside when it is 100º outside.

img_0281After dinner, we took a little walk over to see some petroglyphs and enjoyed the view as the last light of the sun set the red rocks aflame. Valley of Fire. I get it! Simply wonderful.

… I mean…. uh… we hated it. No one should go to this place or tell anyone else about it. Deal?

Total miles: 297.4, 7 hours 20 min, 17.9 mph. Site 42. About half of the Atlatl campground has hookup sites. The sites are huge. New and nice bathrooms. Dump station near to the loop. Minimal service for both of us, but no need to put up the antenna since tomorrow is Saturday.

 

Red Rock Canyon SP

img_0242Never have I ever seen the backside of California between Reno and Lone Pine. What a spectacular stretch of land this is. Our day tracked highway 395 south, right until the end. We passed through Mono Lake and wove our way through canyons and over passes, until we reached the valley floor just to the west of Death Valley. All the while, the mighty mountains of the Sierra Nevada loomed impressively on our right. img_0205The elevation change was significant, going from around 4,000′, up to 8,000′, and back down again to 3,000′. As we continued south, the land shifted steadily from a high Sierras look, to a more Joshua Tree look. There were blooming cacti and irises dotting the landscape, and I happily noted the abundance of water in all of the lakes and rivers.

Richard worked on and off all day, but was admittedly distracted by how very scenic the route was. We looked at a couple of possible stopping points and ended up deciding to shoot for Red Rocks Canyon State Park off of Highway 14. That timed out well with the weather because we got there around 5, just as the sun was going down behind the canyon walls to provide some shade.

img_0243The canyons themselves are simply unbelievable. It’s like having our own mini version of Bryce Canyon, minus the throngs of tourists. We got to pick any site we wanted and there was only one other person there when we arrived. Our spot was nestled right up against a wall of gorgeous hoodoos. The only downside was the literal down side of the site. Meaning, even with the BAL leveler, we were not able to get Dory completely level. Not a huge problem, but the shower does not drain properly when she’s tippy.

Another pin goes in the CA state parks map, but this one would be worth another visit to explore further. Maybe in the Spring though, when it’s not 100º outside.

Total miles: 281.9, 16.3 mpg, 6 hours 41 min. Site 19, beautiful but very unlevel. No hookups, but water spigots here and there. Vault toilets, some are closed. No reservations, first come, first served. Minimal service for both, but with the booster, we got 3-4 bars of LTE. ATT seems to be generally faster and stronger in this part of the state.

 

Topaz Lake

AFEE7C36-4BB5-4E85-866A-0324000B057DAnd so we begin our once in a lifetime adventure. Again. Essentially the same once in a lifetime adventure from three years ago. But what can you do when Safari Condo, the maker of your beloved Alto, throws a gigantic shindig to commemorate their 20th anniversary? You can’t just not go, right? So here we are, making tracks toward Quebec, Dory’s birthplace, once again. At this point, Richard is starting to ask questions about how many once in a lifetime trips we are going to have to take to Quebec.

img_0186My last day of school was Friday and I’ve kept very busy with projects, like washing, waxing, UV protecting, vacuuming, and hosing things down. Richard still had to work, and in fact still has to work for much of the time we will be on the road. Nevertheless, he was coercible and helped with the pre-departure preparations. I’m just going to note that this is probably the first time we’ve left our home in a semi-reasonable state. Like, I don’t think anyone would report us for gross negligence or something. #adultingishard

img_0192We launched Wednesday morning and were both pretty darn giddy. The kids have asked multiple times over the last few days when we were leaving. No idea why. The last time I began this journey, I was an emotional mess. I guess I feel more seasoned now, though not without some fear connected to being so far from home. It’s definitely good to have Richard with me for the whole journey. (I noticed being afraid of typing that though, like I’m jinxing it)

img_0196We don’t have firm plans for a lot of this trip, but we do have sporadic reservations and a general sense of our route. For this first day, it was pretty loose. Richard, however, needed to be somewhere stationary for about an hour with good service, for a work call. We pulled into a campground at Washoe Lake, a little south of Reno, and found an empty site. At the time, we didn’t really know if we’d be staying or moving on, but it did make for a perfect location for the call. And it was a good opportunity to practice our antenna booster setup. Really, it was a very nice place, with nature trails and water access, it was just a little too hot to hang out with no hookups and lots of daylight hours left.

img_0201By 3:30, he was done and I felt like I had more miles in me, so we pushed on a little bit further. We ended up at Topaz Lake, a beautiful ending to our first day out. Tomorrow we continue south on 395.

On a side note: I really miss Jim Gunn and still notice the urge to post pictures of obscure highway rest stops. 😦

Total miles: 286.4, 16.7 mpg, 6 hours 6 min. There are hookup and non-hookup sites. The ones by the water do not have hookups. The bathroom is being renovated and will be nice eventually. Portapotties in the meantime. Good service for both ATT and Verizon.

Lake Solano (2)

YuHKoj2mRLKxNJbz6dDA0QWell, this was certainly a nice site. Why do we not come here more often, I wonder? It has electric and water hookups, primo bike rides, river access, and a fun little town nearby to explore. It has all the makings of a go-to favorite and is only a mere 60 miles from home. Plus, wandering peacocks as an added bonus.

Temperatures this weekend hit the triple digits, so summer is officially underway. Not to worry though. We just ran the AC until we were chilly. No sense actually roughing it when you’re camping. Richard hit the road early on Saturday in order to get his biking in before noon.

Q7yL0pHlTJWV1Ixs6RaNaAI, on the other hand, took advantage of the natural coolant of the river and launched right from our site. There was a lot of duck weed near the bank, but it was plenty deep enough to float right on out. Putah Creek has a nice, gentle current, so I just paddled upstream until I got to a point when I wanted to turn around. Then I let the river slowly float me back. I spied many young geese and a couple of big jumping fish. The water was clear enough to see the plants growing up from the river floor and any time I got hot, I just splashed some cool, refreshing river water on my sleeves. Bliss.

+fAgxIyATYGdQafteM8jrQSaturday, after nappy time, we headed into the town of Winters for dinner. There are lots of cute restaurants to check out in the central square, including a place that makes pizzas outdoors in a wood oven on wheels. We chose Chuys Taqueria and then The Scoop for a bit of fro-yo.

Our experiment this weekend was to test drive a new cellular booster antenna. The primary motivation here is to make working on the road as doable as possible for Richard this summer. Thumbs way up for the Sure Call Fusion2Go RV! xhYnPPg5TsaZEdSNWghAPQWe will fine tune the antenna set up, but for our trial run, we stuck it up a tree, ran the cable through the back window and inside to connect to the booster. Voila! tdrDr+n2Qj6NSyIq793FQwWhen an iPhone is placed on a little pad, known as the “candy bar,” the cell signal is immediately improved. Verizon went from 1 bar of 1x to 3-4 bars of LTE and ATT went from either 1 bar of 4g or No Service to 2 bars of LTE. Pretty impressive! Using iPhones as our Wifi hot spots, we were able to enjoy full connectivity. And that means we can use the set up as long as there is at least a weak signal for either Verizon or ATT.

uJ622pzkQAG92rWyoU66uwThis weekend is the last trip out before the summer! I will be giving Dory a good washing, plus we have a list of little projects to do before we hit the road. One of the items was to find a better way to store the BAL Leveler and that was accomplished through the clever use of a pizza delivery bag. Apparently this solution is so common, if you search for the BAL on Amazon, this pizza bag will pop up as a “frequently purchased together” item. Mmmm, hot fresh leveling.

This is going to be a big summer and it’s starting to get exciting!

Total miles: 65.8 (taking the long scenic route on Hwy 121), 16.0, 2 hours 6 min. Site: 25. Great site! Water and electric hookups in some sites, as well as river access. Normally not great service for either ATT or Verizon, unless you’re cheating. Other nice sites: 36, 37, 26, 14, 25*. Bathrooms, showers, dump. Peacocks. Why?

Island RV Park (2)

u7PpjnDGTaK2+MP86pgV3wMemorial Day Weekend at Clear Lake – doesn’t get much better. Plus, we got our first taste of honest summer weather, without it being so hot that we were miserable and sweaty. When I reserved the site months ago, I was assuming heat, but the nice thing about this place is that it offers a rare waterfront location, with full hookups.

+NqoFiW0Sm6z+3aKsod5YAI was able to get away early on Friday and we pulled in to our site mid afternoon. That gave us plenty of time to just chill before dinner. Blue Apron was the plan for Friday and we had a delicious asian rice dish, with snap peas and sweet bell peppers.

FullSizeRenderSaturday Richard went for an ambitious bike ride around the lake. The loop was about 65 miles all told, and I went along for the ride. In the car. Now I’ve got a better idea of the layout of Clear Lake and I checked out another campground in Lakeport that might be nice for future visits. He and I met up every so often until the last leg. Then I went ahead and got Squirt ready for a paddle. It was really really windy and the lake had some pretty good sized chop. It was fun, like riding some very mild rapids, but I didn’t get very far. Eventually, I got tired and just let the wind carry me back to shore. Richard went and retrieved pizza and we both went to bed zonked.

ks1z0jnWQd2%9tiU5kedlgSunday weather was in the upper 80s and the lake was smooth and calm. I made two loops around Rattlesnake Island, pausing in between to give a tour of Dory to some prospective Altoistes. The lake was a-buzz with speed boats, some pulling big inflated rafts. Every time one went by, I got to bounce around in the wake, pretending I am a serious kayaker. I discovered that if I put my phone, which is tethered to me by the strap of a dry bag, down the front of my life vest (the cleavage, if you will), then I can whip it out quickly to take a picture. The Advanced Elements inflatable kayak is really pretty awesome. It is super stable and very maneuverable. The company has great customer service as well. I broke a strap on my deck bag a while back and inquired about getting a new one. They sent me back two, for free. Nice.

fullsizeoutput_1043Sunday night’s dinner was an experiment of crescent roll dough, filled with ham and cheese, and baked in the Omnia for 20 min. Yum! I feel we have opened up a whole new world of crescent cuisine.

SYF5uDDHSLS1AULuDhagXgMonday we reluctantly broke camp and headed home. This site is still one of my favorites, though I will say we were lucky because they didn’t have a record of our reservation. Our email confirmation sufficed, but it was nice there wasn’t already someone else in our spot. I can also imagine that there are times when the boat launch might get icky. That part of the lake seemed to be the eventual destination for many floating things – like algae. But, for full hookups and a place where you can toss your boat in the water from your site? That’s a rare thing! And I don’t think I will ever tire of watching the sunset on a water feature.

Total miles: 143.3, 16.7 mpg, 3 hours 21 min. Site 36, full hookups. Wifi from the park and good LTE for both of us. We brought our extra long dump hoses, purchased during our last stay, so that we could spin Dory and still reach.