Bodega Dunes (7)

Site 60; a standby favorite for the solar.

Beautiful Sonoma Coast! We could not have asked for better weather and the air quality was legit normal. Funny, after all the times we have camped on the coast, this was the firs time I put my boat in the Russian River down by the ocean end. I think that might be my new favorite thing.

Only the third or fourth time out for new blue boat.

Since we weren’t sure how parking might go at the boat launch, and since there is no cell service, at least for me, down there, we decided to do a drop off/meet up plan. We drove to the Visitor Center in Jenner, where there is 10 or 20 min parking to load/unload boat, and then Richard drove the car back to Dory. From there, he did an out and back ride up Bay Hill. This gave me a good three hours to paddle around before he planned to come back with the car.

Foggy Pelicans

The mood on the river was cool and foggy, but not cold. There were tons of Pelicans and a smattering of Harbor Seals. No otters spotted, but the seals sure were cute. The water was calm and peaceful and all the boaters I passed remarked on the perfection of the day and how lucky we all were to be out there experiencing it. Total bliss.

And ocean sunset rounds out a perfect weekend.

After dinner, we went out to the dunes at the campground Day Use area and caught the first nice sunset I’d seen in a really long time. You know it’s a good weekend when I have to delete dozens of sunset photos and narrow it down to the top six.

Nothing else to report. You can feel a chill just starting to form at night, signaling the real end of summer and a reminder of heater weather coming down the pike. It’s all good.

Total miles: 89.2, 16.2 mpg. Site 60, no hookups. Great solar. LTE for both, though not quite as good for ATT. Dump is finally fixed! Be prepared for a long line if you come at or around noon.

San Francisco RV Resort

Ocean view…. or would be if not for the fog

Happy Labor Day weekend! We did something weird for the long weekend. Way back in March or April, I started to see advertisements for the “Immersive Van Gogh” exhibit in San Francisco. At the time, things seemed way too COVIDy to consider it. So I got tickets for a date so far out, I was certain we would be over this by then. Oh well. Once again, I have underestimated the general stupidity of a significant portion of the population. Still, we had tickets and they were mandating masking and proof of vaccination for entry, so we decided to go.

Who you calling small?

There are not many places to stay with an RV in the San Fransisco area, but I found a private place in Pacifica. I knew it was likely to be a big rig fest, and boy howdy, was it ever. For the most expensive place we’ve ever booked, it was one of the least scenic. It didn’t help that there was dense fog obscuring views and sunsets, but at least it masked the smoke. You’d never know the air quality was bad unless you looked it up. Shame Richard is obsessed with looking that stuff up.

Even premium sites eventually return to the sea.

You can tell there used to be more land here, and that much of it had fallen off into the ocean. I looked at pictures on the website and it shows another ten to twenty feet of former premium sites with a nice bluff trail that all got wiped out a few years ago during a big storm. Those might have been nice, but everything else is a tightly spaced sandwich shop. The rig that pulled in later along our passenger side was so big, it hit the electrical panel when it tried to open up the slide outs. And when people are getting things out of their outside storage compartments, they have to make a conscious effort not to brush up against neighbors. We were the smallest thing there by a lot, but you know what they say: location, location, location.

Nice backroads for a ride or drive.

Saturday we decided to head down the coast so Richard could get in some riding. The air was good enough and the skies were clear and blue. In fact, traveling just a couple of miles north or south exited the fog bank. Temperatures were mild and crowds were not bad, at least not in the places we went. I got to sag his route: up Higgins Canyon, down Purisima Creek, then to Verde and up Lobitos Creek, down Tunitas Creek, and finally a short jaunt on Highway 1 to Stage Road all the way in to Pescadero. Be aware that these roads are very narrow, often no more than a single lane, but they are pretty. Once in Pescadero, we completed our mission, which was to get pie and takeout from Arcangeli. We had a pulled pork sandwich, plus freshly made potato salad, Italian orzo salad, and Cherry Berry Pie that was still warm from the oven. We took it all to Pescadero Beach to eat in the car while we watched the waves. That sufficed as dinner and we headed back for shows and bed.

Lobby decor

Sunday we drove into The City. It was only about five miles, but took over a half hour and lots of confusing highway interchanges. We are country mice and do not enjoy city driving. We found a parking lot a block from the venue for $15, which I think is normal.

So cool!

The exhibit itself was way cool and worth the expense, imho. The hour long show consisted of animated images cast onto four walls of a large empty room. They used something like 44 ceiling mounted projectors running in sync with a score that included classical music, jazz, and even some Edith Piaf. The images morphed and changed constantly, building pieces of some of his most famous works, revealing and growing them, bit by bit, so you could watch the details come to life. Sometimes there were compilations of themes culminating in wall to wall irises, or portraits, or hayfields. I’ve been a fan of Van Gogh for a long time, so the show was quite enjoyable for me. I think even if you were not familiar with his work, the visual feast would be worth the rather hefty price of admission. I have since learned that there are at least five different exhibits like this one, traveling from city to city. Each is slightly different, but all of them seek to bathe you in the vibrance of this artist’s unique work.


Back when I was on my junior year abroad in Italy (where Richard and I first met), I took a side trip up to Arles specifically to see the place Van Gogh had immortalized in person. That was thrilling. Many of the subjects of his work, like the little town square, or the draw bridge, are still there. One can imagine him sitting there, hour after hour, day after day, trying to capture the essence of what he saw and felt. Nothing tops seeing his paintings in person, where you can see the texture of the globs of paint, mixing and swirling colors together in frosting like peaks. I could stare at these little globs for hours. “Punti di bellezza” we called them – little points of beauty.

Apparently, people who are used to this kind of campground find this completely normal.

Being a three day weekend, we got to enjoy an extra night out. We had originally thought to make it a city night and go to some fancy restaurant, but between feeling COVIDy and sensorily overloaded, we opted for parking lot campground grilling. I cooked up a delicious Blue Apron steak and panzanella salad dinner while we sat in our chairs, feeling chilly, looking out at a wall of fog.

I hope your weekend brought you some punti di bellezza. We enjoyed ours.

Total miles: 35.0, 17.0 mpg. Site 136. Full hookups but sewer on wrong side. We waited for the people next to us to pull out and drove over to theirs. Great LTE for both. Not gonna lie, this place is just a tight parking lot. But if you’re trying to do SF, it is a safe place that is close by.

Seacliff (2)

Amazing site, even if it is a parking lot

This was an incredible last minute cancellation. We had reservations inland and would have been smoked out. The air quality at home was pretty dismal too. But this opened up, Richard grabbed it, and we were happy campers.

The coast was much, much better, but not immune to the effects of the horrible wildfires currently blazing around Lakes Tahoe and Almanor. Again, the post summer months are playing out as they did last year, with beautiful treasured places becoming completely engulfed in flames. I’ve seen posts of AQI measurements in excess of 450, so numbers ranging between 50 and 100 were most welcome. Still, a little too much for the bike ride Richard wanted to do, so we mostly chillaxed.

People magnet

Do not go to this campground if you don’t want to be around people. It is literally a parking lot on the beach with a walking path running in front of the sites all the way down. Richard scored the site right on the end, so we had an unparalleled view. But we also were on full display for all the walkers and strollers, and Altos are natural people magnets. It is laugh out loud funny to watch people approach the Alto. The fact that they can’t see us looking at them is a testament to the effectiveness of the tinted glass, but they will come right up to within a foot or two and just stare. If they are in groups, they will group stare, and then speculate about the roof, and then make the requisite arm gestures. It feels a little like being in an aquarium and sometimes people have the funniest expressions as they’re trying to figure things out. One guy was standing there for so long that Richard eventually opened the door and offered him one of our calling cards, which have Altoistes information and web addresses for Safari Condo. He startled, then laughed a lot, and then apologized for staring. We assured him we were quite used to it. We thought it would be funny if we could install some giant hand that would suddenly pop out, offering business cards.

Busted ship, couple of dolphin fins, guy with sword

I mostly read and mammal watched. I got to see a whale and several dolphins swimming around the bay, so that was fun. Plus, there was a guy practicing martial arts moves on the beach, using long sticks and swords. He was very good and kind of mesmerizing. Richard went on a small local ride and got out to the pier by a crumbling concrete ship called the “SS Palo Alto.” It has sunk noticeably more than the last time we were here and offers a sombre, though comforting reminder that all things will eventually return to Mother Earth. After dinner, we’d walk up a short path to Marianne’s to get ice cream. They have it down with all outdoor ordering and pickup.

All in all, it was a fun weekend. We’re surprised by how much we like the parking lot at the beach. It doesn’t seem like our speed at all, but we’ve had so much fun both times we’ve come. It’s easy to see why it is so damn hard to get a reservation.

Total miles: 88.5, 18.5 mpg. Site A1. No hookups, no bathrooms. Must be fully self contained. No Dump. Dump at New Brighton, which is now charging $10 even if you were staying at a state park. Great solar. Amazing view. Tons of people. LTE for both.

Salinas/Monterey KOA


This was a last minute desperation move based on air quality. It is becoming predictably consistent that there are fires in the summer and fall months, enough to make breathing dangerous across much of the state. So much so in fact, that I need to learn to make reservations only on the coast until well into winter. At least there it is usually better. Last weekend we bailed on reservations near Nevada City and could not find anything last minute to take their place. We ended up sleeping in Dory in the garage because 1) we can, 2) we get to watch big screen projector movies, and 3) I sleep better in Dory. This weekend was the same, with reservations planned for Coloma, except I was able to find this place. It’s not a great place. But it had an AQI under 50 for the most part, and was close enough to Moss Landing that we could get in an otter fix. #winning

Pelicans gliding through fog, not smoke

We had a lot of adulting to do that we’d been putting off since coming home, so it was productive to be out. When we’re out, we can have long sustained conversations about stuff. Sometimes it’s stupid stuff, like how are Corn Nuts made? But sometimes it’s hard stuff that is easily avoided when we’re home. And our daughter certainly appreciates having her space, so it’s all worth it, even at a silly KOA. I went ahead and moved all the reservations that were inland over the next three months, to places near the ocean. It’s really hard to get spots on the coast, so some of them will be weird private places. But that’s fine. When you close the curtains at night, you could really be anywhere.

Smashing mah dinner on mah tummah

Plans have continued, slowly and haltingly, to investigate the possibility of having Dory1 in the backyard as a living space. All of the logistics of that have proved to be daunting; from finding information about ordinances and permits, to finding a contractor who will talk to us, it’s been slow. As it stands, we’re not hopeful. So part of the adulting was talking through what that might mean and what options we might have. The downside of having such amazing summer trips is that we go though low level, extended release, nervous breakdowns when we come back. It’s subtle and you’d think we were fine because we’re functioning, but it’s a lot to shift off two months of national parks, to back to the same old same old while COVID is ramping back up and everything is on fire again. And public education can be really hard sometimes. I need to work on what I let bother me and what I don’t. That’s a big to do that I need to figure out, because there will always be times when people just suck.

We’ve got some nice sites lined up for the future though, and fun plans on the books, so it’s ok. It’s all ok. My school has chosen flamingoes as the ambassador of Optimism. I have flamingos sitting on my desk and will put on my best flamingo-tude, hoping for rain to give the poor firefighters a break. Meanwhile, here are some pictures of otters munch munching on crabs.

Total miles: 100.0, 18.0 mpg. Really small and cramped, right next to the highway, but I didn’t hear traffic noise. I am hearing impaired though, so… Hookups and all, and KOAs are what they are. Close enough to Moss Landing for an easy day trip.

Westside (3)

Home looked about the same, except it was smoke.

Fog. That’s this week. Fog, as in yay, it’s not smoke. Fog, as in, “What is this thing called “work”? And “house”? And why are we not moving every three days? Why are there piles of paper on my desk? And why do I have a desk?”

We are both predictably adjusting to the shift. Which is to say, every year we re-confirm our love of extended trips. There is plenty to love about home, but we always get a bit melancholy when the excitement of new destinations comes to a close for a while. I think we’re getting better at it though? Like no panic attacks, just sort of …. fog.

Wildlife sanctuary with barely visible pelicans

It worked to not give myself any time to think before the start of the school year. I just dove right into preparations and that takes up all of my brain. We emptied Dory of all laundry and we washed the sheets as soon as we got in last weekend, Richard washed ALL of the dishes, and we emptied food storage. Our big, lovely 4.3 cu ft refrigerator is total overkill for weekend jaunts.

We were very happy to get take out from our favorite Bodega Bay restaurant: La Bodegita. They’d been closed for a while and we were worried. But they were up and running and crazy busy Friday night. The wait times have increased, just as they have for most restaurants still in business, but we were in no hurry. The owner apologized and offered complimentary drinks. We assured him that there was no need and that we were not the least bit bothered, and he looked like he doesn’t usually get that answer. It’s brutal out there I guess.

Fuzzy dots in the foggy sky

Saturday I did slow foggy things, like wash the filthy windows and reorganize Bruce. We took out the things we didn’t use and that freed up space to make the rest more accessible. I got many people coming by to ask about Dory, which did not seem to happen much over the summer. Maybe we were just out and away more, doing crazy hikes and things.

I take it back about saying the inverter is not a game changer. I heated up La Bodegita leftovers in the microwave for lunch (you can only do that if you have hookups or an inverter) and that was awesome. The solar panels don’t seem to be bothered by inverter use, nor by fog. The battery just keeps smiling away with a happy face, so it’s pretty worry free. Also, we still have not used up a whole propane tank. Richard did a bike ride up Bay Hill, which has been partially repaved. In the evening, we just walked up and down the bay looking at pelicans through the fog.

On our way out, we looked at Spud Point for crab cakes, but the line was crazy long. Instead, we went just a little further down the road to Anello’s. There we got crab cakes and clam chowder and it was really good. I’m not enough of a connoisseur to do a comparison of the two places. I don’t know why one had a line and the other didn’t. I liked Anello’s just fine and they call everyone “hon.”

Lone kayaker out there

When we got home, Dory2 got her first driveway bath to rinse off two months worth of magical travel dust. Now she’s shiny again. On getting her back in the garage, we’ve noticed that the wire loops at the front of the solar panels sit a little farther forward and are therefore not one of the highest points on the roof. We were concerned because they look bigger than the ones on Dory1 and Lola, so we weren’t sure if we would still be able to get her in. Those are a non issue now, but the top of the keder rail on the passenger side is just brushing against the garage frame. When we take her in for a Randy checkup, maybe we can lower the suspension on that side.

Not much to report. It was foggy. We are foggy. But we are happy to have weekends lined up and we are happy not to be currently on fire.

Total miles: 90.3, 16.3 mpg. Site 34 no hookups. Right by bathroom and garbage, so kind of a thoroughfare site. But it was fine. It’s all fine. Good dump, but now you have to pay $7 at the kiosk if you’re going to use it. Strong LTE for both.

Where’s Dory?

We have one last post to commemorate the maiden voyage of Dory2! The wonderful Francois at Safari Condo had arranged a few surprises for us that made us so happy. One of those was a photo album he put together with a little stuffed Dory. He had people in the Safari Condo factory take pictures of her through all the stages of construction. Then, at the end, they all posed with her. We were floored by this gesture. It meant so much to us and made this Alto pickup something very special.

So, we wanted to show our appreciation by documenting all the places Dory got to go this summer. This became a daily quest and she went everywhere with us.

As you can see, Dory had an amazing summer. Her message at the end says it all: “Thank you to everyone at Safari Condo! Thanks to all your hard work, look at all the places I went.”

San Luis Creek (5)

Last night out for the summer extravaganza

Well, that was sure a nice trip. We left just before the start of June with one Alto, and came back August first with another. 65 days in all. We had plenty of all the essentials and were able to get everything else on the road. Coffee pods, shake packets, pills, and after dinner mints were all carefully counted ahead of time. We did laundry only twice because we are gross. I used up an entire small size container of Happy Camper holding tank treatment. Had a total fail with the backup dish soap and hand soap containers and will not do that again. I need to explore other options for backup unscented liquid soap. I had plenty of Happy Glass Margarita Mix bottles, thanks to the case I put behind the driver’s seat. And all of the pantry and Blue Apron specialty ingredients were more than enough for two months on the road. We did not need or use eggs, but it was a fun idea. I need to find a replacement for Trader Joe’s sparkling lemon water that I actually like. You can’t carry enough and can’t restock on the road – even at a flipping Trader Joe’s! We added another little 12v fan to our fan arsenal (now we have four) and I like how this one is always there and ready to cool me off in bed at night (waiting for someone to make cheap joke and I have a mental list of who it’s most likely to be).

Richard got in a sunset bike ride at trusty San Luis Forebay

As for car packing, we definitely did not need three different awnings. Good lord. When it comes down to it, I really only ever bother to put up the classic awning anymore. And the Aluminet (I need to get more Aluminet). I have come to accept that I probably won’t put up the screened awning, despite the time and effort I put into making it. On the occasions when there are bugs, we generally just go inside now. I don’t know if there will come a time when I regret leaving it behind, but I think that and the visor need to come out of the car. We didn’t use the extra long dump hoses once. We didn’t use the beefy bike wheels at all and if there were ever going to be a time for that, it would have been Hell’s Backbone. We did not use the generator a single time but should probably still take it on long trips for just in cases. I used my boat very little, but I still want to carry it for those rare moments. I used my bike maybe twice? Now we’re looking at the possibility of doing an E bike conversion with it. But also, I could just rent an E bike in special places. I don’t think I would use an E bike enough to justify the cost and carrying it outside in the rain seems like a bad idea.

We love Dory2 ever so much. In no particular order, here are the things that are new and improved little changes from Dory1:

  • 440 w solar panels – OMG, game changer (you were right Francois. duh.)
  • 2 lithium batteries – same (see above about Francois rightness)
  • Inverter – used twice and enjoyed hot sandwiches for lunch, but not a game changer
  • Truma Combi – absolutely love; so quiet and efficient
  • Backup Camera – best of the three systems by FAR; excellently clear and bright monitor, fast picture response
  • Truma Caravan Mover – literally did not use it until we got home but it worked like a dream, seems great
  • Interior LED lights – a little warmer color and I like it
  • Shower floor – redesign to get the toilet off the floor, which makes it way easier to keep clean
  • Bathroom latch – LOVE! now we don’t need to replace latches
  • Dust pan cabinet velcro secured/no latch – good call
  • Dump hose cap – do not love
  • Suburban stove – MUCH better flame control
  • Fridge (same as Lola’s) – bigger, so much bigger than the 3.5 and I love it; plus interior light
  • USBs everywhere – nice, but now there are little blue lights at night
  • Dual propane tank – used almost one tank in two months, but now we are worry free
  • Blue upholstery – most durable of the three we’ve had and the color is delicious
  • Utensil drawer – preferred the other one
  • Outside lights – nicer and less glarey
  • Outside plumbing – reposition of drain pipe and that seems like a much better location
  • Backsplash – wood tone instead of silver and I like it
  • Control panel for AC – brighter with backlight but a little finicky about button pushing
  • Fridge front – white and it shows drips (I still wonder if it’s a white board…)
  • Hinge crimp – they fixed the thing where the door hinge inner rod slips down over time
  • Outside seals – replaced the black gooey stuff with some kind of rubbery covering and I like it

We could not possibly have enjoyed our Dory2 maiden voyage any more. All of it, even goddamn Spider Bro. It was a perfect adventure and we are so thrilled to be able to say “indoory in Dory” again. It was hard not to say “Dory” when we were in Lola. We hit some of the most beautiful national parks we’ve ever seen and got to spend quality time with good friends. I can’t recommend crashing your Alto, but I can say that if you do, eventually, it will all be ok.

Still and all, it’s good to be home and at least Kitty missed us. She later gifted us a bird. bleh

Total miles: 318.0, 16.7 mpg. Site 4 hookups. Total miles to home: 106.8, 15.0 mpg. Just a note that the “upper dump” on the right hand side as you exit is not as bad as the lefthand one. Do not ever ever use that side. No.

Calico Ghost Town

Did not expect a nice sunset.

Ugh. This was a slog of a day with a surprisingly happy ending. But the slog, omg. It made us question whether we ever want to do that stretch again. It’s a tough area though, with miles of nothing, then Las Vegas, then nothing until Barstow. And it adds days to trips when you cut up the slog into bite sized pieces. Still. Yuck.

Going through Las Vegas, we hit road construction, which is a mixed blessing. I mean, at least people had to slow the hell down. But it took a long time to get through. We looked at future options for staying at casinos or RV parks just so it’s not a 300 mile day. We found a couple of recommended places, so who knows. Maybe we are Vegas people now.

Oh come on.

Then with that past us, we eventually hit a wall of rain again. Over the Mojave Desert, of all places. Again we were heading straight into lightning and a deluge up ahead, so rather than get stuck in it, I pulled off at the huge solar farm just past the state line. We were thinking maybe there would be a visitor center or information kiosk or something to pass the time. There wasn’t, but there was a nice security guard who came around making sure we were “ok” (probably actually making sure we weren’t causing trouble, but it was a nice cover story). He told us there are over four hundred thousand mirrors on that facility, each costing upwards of five thousand dollars to produce and ship. When the weather is not windy, the mirrors all tilt to reflect the sun’s rays into the giant space ray looking towers. The collected solar energy heats up water which powers turbines, thus producing electricity. Pretty wild. It was an informative chat and helped distract us while the storm dissipated.

At least now we know all about the solar array.

We made it to Yermo, the town just next to Barstow, in the late afternoon. It was a hundred degrees there. This time, instead of defaulting to the KOA, we got a tip to try Calico Ghost Town, where there is a campground with hookups. Already this was more interesting than the Barstow KOA by a lot. The loop we were in was past the entrance into the park, but everything closes at 5, so they just post a security guard who sits in her car making sure anyone coming in or out is camping and not going into the ghost town. We left to let the AC get started and found a diner that serves breakfast 24/7.

Campground road looking back toward town.

When you approach Barstow, you will see signs telling you about two things: Calico Ghost Town, and Peggy Sue’s 50s Diner. We would have gone to Peggy Sue’s but they are lame and only serve breakfast for breakfast. Penny’s Diner on the other hand, is the real deal and is housed in a train car shaped building, sitting next to a TravelLodge. I mean. What could actually be better?

Classic diner

Richard has gone to his fair share of 24/7 diners when he’s been on crazy multi-day bike trips. So he has learned that the real ones are there for the express purpose of serving railway conductors. Conductors come and go at all hours of the day and need periodic places to sleep and eat. So the railroad companies contract with hotel and diner chains. Penny’s is one of the major diner chains that still contracts to stay open for them. They are usually located next to a hotel, where a certain number of rooms are always set aside and paid for so they can get their ten hours of mandated sleep time. The diners are required to be open all the time and typically serve breakfast all day. Because if you are a train conductor, you just never know what hour of the day breakfast will be. It was actually really fun to talk to the owner and learn all this. Plus, we had the absolute best french toast and pancakes for dinner.

Just out of frame is an Elvis fortune telling booth. I’m sorry, I don’t know how that escaped a photo.

We did swing over and check out Peggy Sue’s, but this is more of a commercial, tchotchke selling operation than functional diner. They sell food, but also Elvis paraphernalia. They had good ice cream though, and I got some silly gifts. When we returned, I was treated to a very nice sunset show indeed. All of this was way more than I expected for Barstow and we hadn’t even seen the ghost town yet!

There’s even a little train you can ride around in a tiny circle!

We had to wait until 8am the next day to get in and we figured it would be best to be fully hitched and ready because it was only gonna get hotter after 8. There is actually a lot to see there and we spent about two hours going into historically recreated dwellings and shops. Apparently, this used to be a huge boom town when they struck silver. For a while, it was the place to be in Southern California, until silver prices plummeted. People moved on, except for a few dedicated settler families, and eventually the town became abandoned. Much later, the town was restored to its functional mid 1800s appearance and got county park status. For ten bucks, you can spend an hour or two checking out the old timey buildings. You can even get lunch, souvenirs, and yes, ice cream. We did all of those.

Restored school house. So fun!

I feel pretty confident in saying our Barstow KOA days are done. If we are passing through this area again, which we likely will, we will stay at the ghost town. We honestly had so much fun! And maybe next time I’ll let Elvis tell me my fortune.

Total miles: 316.5, 19.2 mpg. Site A11 hookups. Gravel pads but pretty level. There is a loop around the bathroom as well as a spur farther back into a mini canyon. There is also a loop outside the kiosk that is a bit more slotty and close to others. This loop felt more spaced but that is probably because it was all but empty. Decent bathrooms, good dump. Not great cell service for either, but it was out there if you walked toward the entrance more. Penny’s has excellent wifi, like so fast.

Zion NP (4)

Watchman Campground – it doesn’t get better than this.

Alas, we finally had to come to the bookend national park of our epic summer trip. We end where we began, in Zion. After this stop, it’s all slog and lots of miles. But for this last spot, we had four days reserved in Watchman and fingers crossed the temperatures did not exceed 100º. Turns out, heat was really not the issue to worry about for this southwest summer trip. Like, at all.

Big Rock Candy Bike Trail

We started off with a beautiful drive down 89 where Richard got to bike the Big Rock Candy Mountain Bike Trail for about fifteen miles. We met up at the trailhead, which I really thought would have a candy store or somehow be involved with candy. That was a disappointment. But I get how it came by its name and the views made up for the lack of crystalized sugar. From the meetup point, we started the drive down, knowing there were thunder storms expected in the afternoon. It was a race against time that we lost in the final stretch.

This California girl is just not emotionally equipped for real weather.

Just a few miles before we got to the junction with Highway 9, the one that cuts down into the park through the tunnel, we got hit with a downpour. I am jittery enough about getting rear ended, but add water and I am a slushy mess of anxiety. I pulled off the road to wait it out and didn’t move until there was a good break. That break lasted long enough to get us up onto 9 heading west, like at a high point on the plateau. There, the storm bursts were even more intense, with lightning strikes touching ground not too far from where we were. The water made it hard to see anything at all out of the windshield and again, I bailed and pulled off at the first pullout. Another car did the same and we sat there with our blinkers, hoping anyone coming would be able to see clearly enough to not hit us. It was at this point I told Richard we might not make it the remaining ten miles to the campground and would have to just find somewhere up top to hunker down. But the burst died down eventually, and the deluge turned into just rain, which then just disappeared. There was more coming, so we decided that was the time to make it through the tunnel.

When the views are too good to be scared about the rain.

We passed through the national park kiosk on the eastern entrance and continued on toward the tunnel. It was all drenched, but even in my heightened state, I could appreciate the beauty. Streams and waterfalls formed spontaneously and the sandy soil showed off its deepest reds. By the time we got down and into our campsite, it was over. The only evidence of what had transpired was the color of the Virgin River. If the Green River looked like chocolate milk after a flash flood, this looked like cake batter. It was running fast and furious and carrying tons of muddy debris along with it. Right then I knew that hiking The Narrows might not be a thing on this trip.

Whew. Made it.

We got Dory all set up and then ventured out for a walk into nearby Springdale where we got an excellent pizza dinner. And a big IPA on tap. While waiting for our table, I noticed the place next door sold Oboz hiking shoes. Since all the hoopla with my foot, I have become fussy about shoe fit and decided I needed new ones made for wide feet. I’d already done some online research and was intending to get these shoes once I was back home and could get deliveries. As luck would have it, they had exactly the kind I wanted, and in the right size, but only in blue. Sold.

Going up….

On Tuesday we got to have a full day in the park with temperatures predicted in the high 80s. We chose that day to attempt the Angel’s Landing trail. I wrote this trail off as impossible years back and had never really considered doing any part of it. But now, with a couple of successful canyon hikes under my belt, a healed foot, trekking poles, and new shoes, I wanted to do it. My only goal really was to try to get up to “Walter’s Wiggles.” This is a series of 21 tight switchbacks just before you take the trail to Terror and Certain Death (I think they call that “Angel’s Landing” but my name for it is more accurately descriptive). If I could make it to the bottom of that, I’d call it a good day, but I was also ok with just going as far as I could and then back down. That’s the nice thing about a reverse Grand Canyon hike: you go up first and are pretty likely to then be able to make it back down.

Walter’s Wiggles

We got the shuttle to the trailhead by 9, which is really really early for us to be up and out. But by doing so, we got to cover the long switchbacks up the side of the canyon before the sun hit the trail. I think that made a gigantic difference for me. I arrived at “Refrigerator Canyon” feeling pretty good and I knew that this stretch would be mostly level before the wiggles. You do hit five or six longer switchbacks before you finally arrive, but once you see them, there is no mistaking. And still I felt pretty good. There are 21 corners to count on the wiggles and I announced each one until I made it all the way up. When you get to the top, you are at Scout’s Overlook and you are treated to a jaw dropping view of the whole valley, as well as the Terror/Death area.

As close as I’ll ever come to the Big Nope.

There were so many people up there. It would be inconceivable to me to try this trail, even with no one else around. But with a line of other humans also grabbing for the chain – literally the only thing preventing you from falling a thousand feet – there is just no way I understand how/why people do that. But clearly they do. And we watched. But only a little. I was happy that there was a “bathroom” up there, but I will say, it was extremely pungent. I had to hold my nose actually, but was glad for it in any case.

Going down…

While I was feeling pretty pumped at having made it up, Richard was now worried about whether he would be able to make it down. He suffered a lot after the Black Canyon hike and was only just feeling fully recovered. But now that he had to sustain that same kind of downward stride, his legs were shaking and he was taking it super slow. But made it he did! And so did I! And we were stoked. And we had soft pretzels at the Lodge and there was much rejoicing.

Almost perfect for a paddle… except lightning.

It’s hard to top a day like that but the next day we planned to go out to Kolob Reservoir where I could maybe get my boat in the water. Richard rode the second half of it and it offered beautiful views from high above the canyon. There was one stretch of road, after a hairpin turn going up, that was narrow and deathy on the uphill side. No guard rails. I did not like that, especially when I had to pass a construction truck going down. Otherwise Kolob Terrace Road is spectacular. Unfortunately, even though the weather said no rain, there was a small storm centralized over the water. It was so small that I hoped it might just pass by, so I got my boat almost all the way set up. Then there was a lightning strike. I’m out. Pack it up. Instead, we drove out to Lava Point Overlook and enjoyed the views. We saw a Bald Eagle perched high atop an Aspen, so that was cool. And we checked out the Lamb’s Knoll climbing site. We weren’t interested in the climbing part, but the rock formations and surrounding valley were quite pretty.

Pretty desert colors by Lamb’s Knoll

For our final day in the park, I just could not unhook from wanting to do The Narrows. The water had calmed to a nice cafe au lait consistency and I figured I might be able to do at least some of it. We rented me an E bike so I could get my butt all the way out to the trailhead, carrying a walking stick in a tube at the back. This was my first foray on an E bike and I likey. It made it just easy enough to do the uphills that I was not totally spent by the time I got to the starting point. Richard had to do a work call, but said he would do his best to find me out there. While I had decided to try going in the water with my (former) hiking shoes, he was a strong no on water time. But then, as I was approaching the trail, there were rangers telling all hikers that there were storms happening up river and that flash floods were very likely. They advised against doing anything more than going very short distances in the river. Richard apparently had gotten a much more emphatic warning from the E bike rental guy. The words “lethal” and “deadly” were both used in the same sentence, which better explains his firm nopeness.

That’s The Narrows – at the top of the canyon, under those thick clouds…

I did go in the water a bit. There were plenty of other people who did not seem alarmed and were going past where I could see them. But after just a couple steps, I was absolutely sure that if something were to happen suddenly, running through the water would definitely not be an option. Every single step was done blind, feeling around for spaces free of large slippery rocks. It was cooling to go in and kind of fun to try it out, but I would really want that water to be pseudo clear if I were going to try walking any distance. Oh and no threat of lethal deadly flash floods too.

Still brown river, but beautiful anyway.

Richard met me at the start of the river trail and we had lunch on the shore, kind of excited actually, to see at least some kind of flash flood. But nothing happened and we walked back to the bikes. With an E bike, I can actually keep up with him. Mind you, he was in his “civvies” rather than bike shoes and clothes, and his legs were still probably sore, but that turns out to be a fair handicap. I was zooming along in Turbo mode telling him to try to keep up. E bikes are fun.

Aluminet over the top + covering the back wall + awning over the door wall + fans inside to blow around the air = nice and cool inside even in the mid 90s outside.

We finished off our last night with a tasty grilled steak and provolone sandwich, with mixed veggies on the side. This was the cherry on top of our southwest summer sundae. It had all the thrills. And so many places to get ice cream, or shoes, or E bikes. It’s the Disneyland of national parks, but it was the perfect bookend; the first and the eleventh national park of the summer. Temps started to get exciting, but with a little Aluminet covering, plus a few daily thunderstorms, the AC had no problem at all keeping up. I’m so glad it all worked out as well as it did.

Total miles: 143.7, 17.8 mpg. Site A20 hookups. Water spigots at the bathroom. No showers in the campground, but nice bathrooms. Good LTE for both. Good dump and potable water. Lots of space in the site, but no shade until late afternoon. Good solar.

Green River State Park

Shady site with hookups and good spacing from others

What an unexpectedly pleasant place! We had passed through the town back near the start of our trip. We got gas and groceries and left solidly unimpressed. I knew I had the place reserved for the future, but honestly, in the back of my mind, I was thinking I might cancel. It is situated in a very convenient location though, so I just figured it would be a meh one night stand. Glad to be so wrong!

Intense rains off to our right

After we left Black Canyon of the Gunnison, we hit the major highways. Interstate 70 would be our friend for the next two stops and there is an abundance of not much of anything on this leg. We noted a pretty serious thunderstorm off to the north as we were driving. It was far enough away that we weren’t worried about getting caught in it, but man, the mountains above Green River were getting hammered.

We pulled in to the campground and got the AC going right away. It wasn’t too hot, probably approaching 90, but we were glad to have electric hookups. We were feeling a bit low coming off our last new-to-us national park for this trip, so I did some Googling and found there was a road that tracked the river, ending in something called “Nefertiti.” I was intrigued and we had some time to kill while the AC got into its groove, so we went for a drive.

So many people say not to do this…

Not too far along on the quest, we came to a major dip in the road. This was clearly an intentional flood wash but when we arrived, it looked more like a full fledged river. The water was running really fast and strong across the road and I figured that ended the quest right there. We stopped and got out of the car to just watch it from a safe distance when two other vehicles pulled up. Turns out they both work for rafting companies and they felt obligated to attempt the crossing because it was their job. I figured I was about to get some shocking pictures and YouTube video footage of why you should never attempt flash flood crossings. The guys were trying to be careful by first walking out, testing with their feet, to make sure the road was still there underneath. But the driver was understandably concerned about having the trailer get swept away. I was like “Yeah, exactly,” but he was undaunted and unstoppable. I was just there to document. I had no idea what I would do if anyone got swept away, short of driving back toward town to get enough cell service to call 911.

I really thought this car was going to be toast.

Slowly the pickup forded the river and didn’t even seem to struggle. Out came the trailer with no wavering to be seen. There were whoops of triumph and the van driver then had the courage to do it too. Off they drove, disappearing down the road while we did risk assessment calculations in our heads. No matter how we ran the numbers, the output came out “stupid and unnecessary” every time. Then another couple of cars came and crossed as we watched anxiously. Every one of them made it, with cars of lesser beefiness than ours, we thought. Still nope. And so we left to see if there was another way to get down to the river.

By the time we tried it, it was barely an inconvenience.

Failing that, we eventually drove back to take another look and the water levels had calmed considerably. We were pretty sure we’d seen the storm that had caused the flood upstream and it had moved on. There weren’t any other rainy looking clouds in the sky. So we went for it. And it was no problem at all. I think that sums up a lot of life for us. We do a lot of risk assessment, look on with consternation as we try to determine the most reasonable course of action, can’t quite unhook from wanting to take the leap, and when we finally just go for it, it’s no big deal and we wonder why we were so worried. The things that clobber us are the things we never thought to worry about.

A picture perfect oasis

In any case, once we were across, we enjoyed a really nice drive out to something called Swasey’s Beach. This is an absolutely beautiful little oasis with an expansive, sandy beach right on the river. There is a boat launch, restrooms, and a small primitive campground. From there the road continues unpaved another eight miles to get to “Nefertiti.” At this point though, it was getting late and we were hungry, so we called it a day.

Then we had to decide what to do the next day. We had only booked one night because we assumed we’d be bored. Our next location was a two night stay Fremont Indian, a place we’d already visited before, and it had no hookups. I kind of toyed with the idea of putting my boat in the water and floating downstream. Richard checked and our site was free the next night, so we took it.

Not so green anymore

The next day we returned to the wash road and it was practically devoid of water. There was a muddy bump, a few puddles, and lots of debris on the road, but no other evidence of what had been a rushing torrent just the day before. There was a lot more activity at the beach this time and we could see lots of rafting groups either putting in or taking out from the boat launch. We’d spoken to a rafting guide who gave us some intel on this part of the river and it sounded like most people do multi-day trips, starting a hundred miles up river, and ending either at Nefertiti or at Swasey’s. It would be a very calm float to put in at the beach and end up at Green River State Park, but also less scenic. Also, following the storm, the once greenish river was now chocolate brown from all the mud. I eyed the water and imagined spending the day trying really hard to think of it as chocolate brown, as opposed to any other kind of brown. I am not nearly as committed to boating as Richard is to biking, so I came away with a “nah.” Instead, I pushed to continue the off road drive because I was still curious about Nefertiti. Also, Richard could barely walk at this point following his Black Canyon hike, so he was kind of a captive passenger.

Yep. That is definitely Nefertiti.

It is becoming a thing that I like off roading more than Richard does. So this was not his favorite adventure. It was a long and bumpy eight miles for him with no reward of hidden cake at the end. I really loved it. It took us a while to look in the right direction to see the hoodoo that is the namesake. Once we saw it from the right angle, it was obvious. We also found the petroglyphs after just a little bit of searching and they are really cool. There are some of the best and clearest depictions of animals I think I’ve seen in petroglyph form. Well worth the trip out, even Richard will say so.


When we got back to town, we put Bruce through a fancy car wash, complete with colorful foamy stuff at the end. We were both surprised by how much we enjoyed this stop. Also, the food from the taco truck downtown is super delish. Appearances can be deceiving and it’s nice when that works in our favor.

Total miles: 176.8, 18.2 mpg. Site 34 hookups. Good dump, potable water. Nice place with a golf course nearby and a little pond behind the loop. We saw people fish there. Ice cream sandwiches can be purchased from the kiosk. LTE for both of us. Good place to get gas because there isn’t much else around there.