Bryce Canyon N. P.

04/29 We head out of Cedar City toward Cedar Breaks National Park. What an incredible destination (and incredible drive to get there). We should have known that Cedar Breaks would be closed for the season because there is still a lot of snow there. We see a marmot; lots of deer; an osprey with a fish in its mouth; and lots of ducks. We continue to drive on scenic Route 12. It is the most incredible drive ever! Duck Lake may be a place to come back to: There are several VRBO rentals in this area as well as fly fishing and other outdoor opportunities available.

We decide our next stop is Bryce Canyon National Park. We were there a few years ago and it is worth another stop. Before you get to Bryce you drive through Red Canyon. Red Canyon gives you a taste of what is to come. It’s a quick drive through (maybe there are nice hikes but we’ve never stopped at the visitor center).

I look for campground choices in the Bryce area but many of the sites don’t open until Memorial Day. I find a KOA campground (in Canonville) that gets good reviews. When we arrive we are a little unhappy that it’s not closer to Bryce–it’s about a 20 minute drive (a really scenic drive). But as we settle in we come to see that it’s a very well-maintained place with a nice view from our campsite. We even have a nice grassy area to set up the dogs’ playpen. The managers are very nice and helpful. We’d come back here again without hesitation!

H sees our neighbor getting out of her rig and says to me “We need to…” And I say right away “Don’t say it!” Because I know he is about to say “We need to lose weight.” He and I can read each others minds after nearly 33 years of marriage and 38 years of being together. Guess we’d better stop those traveling potato chip indulgences. For the record, of the 8 rigs here right now we are the thinnest people (use your imagination and include suspenders in the visual). Oh, wait! 2 other rigs pulled in just now and they are slimmer and YOUNGER.

Toby is a real pill! He is such a barker! People walk by (some with dogs) and he will not quit barking. I want to rip his larynx out! I am going to get his crate out and see if “time out” in the crate will be enough negative reinforcement to quiet down.

04/30 H wants to be in Bryce for the sunrise so we wake up at 5am, quickly stow everything, grab a fast breakfast and we’re off! Unfortunately there are clouds and haze so not good photographic opportunities. While H is on his photographic safari, I wash last nights dishes and clean up Diana while we’re parked in the parking lot. It is here that I develop skills to undress and dress in our tiny bathroom with the door closed. I wasn’t sure I could do that but it was easier to master that skill than it was to close all the curtains for privacy.

There is a nice 20 mile drive through Bryce that we are surprised to find we did not complete the last time we were here. The roads are nearly deserted. At one point about 25 motorcycle riders zoom into the scenic overlook. It was quite a sight! They were from many different countries (based on the spoken languages) and apparently this was an organized tour. There was a support car with an extra cycle if one of the others broke down. I thought that was an interesting tour alternative. By the way, all those riders looked mighty COLD!

We then took off on Route 12, considered one of the most beautiful drives in the country, for about a 100 mile drive to Coral Reef National Park. The drive is incredible–the scenery changes around every bend in the road. We marvel at all the different rock formations and colors. How did so many different and incredible geological sites occur within is area of Utah?

The road is uneven with lots of curves. There are really high winds and Diana is buffeted by them. It’s not a pleasant driving experience for me but H enjoyed himself!

We stop at the tiny town of Boulder and we are surprised to find 3 restaurants to choose from for lunch. (Later we hear from our campground manager that all three are excellent!) We order “to go” and have our lunch with the dogs in Diana. I have a hamburger with  Mexican flare and H has a lamb burger Greek style. Both were excellent and came with great cole slaw. I bought some unusual homemade preserves: onion and chili. I’ll have to find a good way to enjoy them.

It took us a little over 3 hours (not including lunch) to get to Coral Reef but it was worth it! What an incredible place. We took the 20 mile scenic road and were amazed the entire way. There is a nice little park in the valley that includes a restored homesteader’s house and ranch buildings. We did not have time to see the park because it was getting late and I did not relish the thought of driving back especially in the dark. It took 2.5 hours to drive back–I drove the speed limit even though the winds were as strong as earlier in the day but I was more confident strong-arming the wheel.

Crystal Inn — Cedar City Utah

04/28 We had planned to stay 2 nights in Little Finland aka Devil’s Fire/ Goblins Park but I messed up the directions and before we realized it we were 2 hours further down the road. I’m HOT and I am ready to leave the desert! Not only is it hot but the winds are terrible and the 5 of us are covered in red dust.

We stop along the road in Mesquite, CA with the A/C running and search the Internet for a new next stop. I want a hotel night! Zion would be great but after several calls no places have space available with dogs. I see a hotel in Cedar City–close proximity to Cedar Breaks National Park which is at a high elevation. That means it will be cool! After a bunch of back and forth calls we book a night at the Crystal Inn in Cedar City. What a great stop! We were able to wash clothes, wash dogs and wash ourselves. And we had a huge, calorie-laden, late lunch. I had a Rueben sandwich and H had a patty-melt. That lunch should hold us for a few days.

I think maybe 5 days may be the maximum between civilization stops. It was so gratifying to wash all our laundry! Everything was covered in desert sand. I can’t believe I actually bathed the dogs–we only let the groomer do that! The amount of red dust that flowed down the drain was incredible–and that included the dog and people baths. We all were soft-furred when we were done.

Toby was a nightmare! He must alert us to very little thing he hears Fortunately he only barked once during the night. We all slept 10 hours!!!  And we awake to the task of loading Diana with clean clothes and clean mammals (that’s us and the dogs).

Valley of Fire State Park

04/26 We made a productive stop at the Albertsons just outside the campground. I bought enough to last us for several days. I restocked the wine cellar with some nice wines! The nearby gas station was not easily accessible due to a big gasoline tanker. But I was able to make some “seasoned” maneuvers (maneuvers that I would have not been able to make a few months ago) and we were off to the Valley of Fire in Nevada which is not far from Las Vegas.

It is incredible! The lady at the entry kiosk said to get right to the campsite if we wanted hookups–they may be in short supply. The Atlatl Rock campground is surrounded by unbelievable red rock formations. We got the last hookup site–hurray! The temps soared after noon until about 3:30 so we were grateful to have the electricity hookup to use the air conditioning. I took a shower at the campgrounds–it was $0.25 for 5 minutes of scalding hot water! I guess the solar water heater has no cold water to mix with the HOT water.

The kids in the campsite are having a great time climbing to the top of the rock formations. I got a little bit of exercise on my bike when I rode to the self-pay check-in. About 4pm we were able to sit outside and there is a wonderful breeze. It’s nice to drink in the beautiful red rocks and watch the kids having fun. Someone has a neat, colorful kite flying in the nice breeze and Toby is disturbed by it.

I’m happy to say that I am getting more at ease (and more accurate) at parking Diana. It is easy to back into campsites because she is relatively short in length. I can always find a place to park at the grocery stores, visitor centers, etc. And the mountain roads are a piece of cake.

04/27 We wake up at 6am to a full moon over the beautiful red rocks. H goes out to take sunrise photos. It’s very peaceful except for someone’s damned dogs barking at anyone who might be moving about. Oh, those are OUR damned dogs! I do hope that Toby becomes more accustomed to seeing other people and dogs as the trip goes on.

We are really happy to spend 2 nights in Valley of Fire–what an incredible place! The drive in and through the park is unbelievable. But it is HOT. We are nestled in our nice, comfortable sitting area with the A/C on. We are enjoying the cool air, reading and sipping nice wine. Wait…what just happened? OMG! the A/C just conked out! We hope that this is just a temporary outage due to overwork. Fortunately there is a really nice breeze and, with the shade, we are OK outside. I should not complain about the breeze/wind again.

Toby continues to be a barking dog problem. The lady at the next campsite comes over to say “Hi.” But we soon realize that her mission is to rehabilitate Toby. She certainly means well. She cured her dog of barking with an ultra-sound collar. But she admits that, from my perspective, the unit has broken the dog’s spirit. I look on the internet for solutions to the Toby barking problem. I think we’ll not consider the extreme measures she, in good faith, is suggesting. (She even offers to loan us the unit while we’re here.) But there is no question that we need to do something about Toby’s barking.

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

Our next stop is Red Rock Canyon National Conservation area which is about 30 minutes from the Las Vegas strip. We take the 13 mile scenic drive which is about all you can do in this conservation area. It is really a beautiful drive

On the Red Rock Canyon scenic drive
On the Red Rock Canyon scenic drive

but our later campground experience is nothing. Fortunately we got the last shaded campsite.

Red Rock Canyon campsite
Red Rock Canyon campsite

It is HOT and we will never visit this campground again. This really nice scenic drive should just be a quick stop on the way to something better.  Like our next stop…

Gosh, packing and unpacking every day is a chore! The next 3 places we will spend more than one night and that will be good. Wind, wind, wind–my eyes!

 

Mojave National Reserve

Our drive to Mojave National Reserve is pretty desolate. However, whenever we meet another Roadtrek, we wave. The front has distinctive skylights so you know right away when you see a fellow “Treker.” The Mojave National Reserve is vast and beautiful! We are amazed that we have not heard about this place before. There is a state park area within the National Reserve that administers a cave. Unfortunately it is closed due to state budgetary problems.

We have sent contributions to both the state and federal parks because we think it’s important to preserve these incredible areas and keep them open to the public. But it sure made us think twice about sending the state any more money when it was discovered that there was a secret fund that was not being used to keep the state parks open.

We had an unenthusiastic reception by the national park employee at the visitors’ center which truly is an unusual event.  We cannot think of another time when we have not been welcomed wholeheartedly by a park employee or volunteer. The campground has beautiful views of the surrounding multi-colored mountains and mesas.

Mojave National Reserve (Visitor Center is center left)
Mojave National Reserve (Visitor Center is center left)

The wild flowers are incredible: indigo bush, a lovely purple sage, a low-growing morning glory, blooming yuccas and Joshua Trees, and lots more that I cannot name. The campground is virtually empty and we find a drive thru site (so I don’t have to back-in) that is relatively level. Another couple with a RV towing a car appear to want our site but we’re settled. There are no hookups so Diana is on her own.

The wind the last couple of days is wrecking my eyeballs! Both Lucky and I are still fighting over who gets to wear the “doggles.”

Lucien still has cabin fever and Lucky is still apparently bored. (You know what that means for poor Toby!) We have delicious hamburgers for dinner. Once the sun set over the mountains it got very cold–a welcome relief from the heat of the day.

I would come back here! The scenery is beautiful and the campground is primitive but nice.

Mojave National Reserve campground
Mojave National Reserve campground

Don’t use the potable water from the pump. It initially sprayed out a glob of bugs, including a bee, and then luscious (NOT) brown water emerged.

We are not staying too long at each place and, because of the dogs, there will be little/no hiking but we think of it like a cruise: we’re going lots of places and looking for the best places to come back to…

H says he needs more storage space for his personal items. I offer a few suggestions but he reminds me that he is an old man and requires extra important items! He has hearing aids, contact lenses, more than one pair of glasses, plus all other toiletries that regular men need. Boy, he is high maintenance! (But worth it–remember he takes care of the black water!)

Joshua Tree N. P. (2)

We wake up about 6. H wants to capture the sunrise on the huge boulders so he takes off on foot for photos and I take the dogs on a walk.

Joshua Tree morning
Joshua Tree morning

After breakfast, we pack up and start the scenic drive through the park. Thankfully there are not a lot of people on the road. We visit Keyes Lookout, a scenic view of the region. But it’s hardly scenic! The hazy pollution is incredible!

Keyes Lookout haze
Keyes Lookout haze

We have seen this pollution in every scenic place we’ve been in the western US and Canada. It makes me crazy and sad that the next generations will not be able to appreciate this beauty.

Our drive through the park is very scenic.

Joshua Tree scene
Joshua Tree scene

We are on our way to Mojave National Preserve. It’s about a 3 hour drive. We gas up first in 29 Palms. H comes back from the mini-mart with a bag of potato chips–a not unusual driving treat, I’m embarrassed to say. As I drive and munch, I’m thinking I’m familiar with this taste but it takes me a while to name it. H has surprised me with Lays Chicken and Waffle potato chips, a new flavor. It’s equally embarrassing to admit that my favorite dish at the local BBQ joint is fried chicken and waffles. But my expert opinion is that it does NOT work for potato chips!

 

Joshua Tree N. P.

We are packed up and leave at 11:30am for our first destination, Joshua Tree National Park (Indian Cove campground). We are trying to limit our driving to 4 hours or less each day. It took about 3 hours to get here. Joshua Tree NP is named for the ubiquitous trees in this part of the Mojave Desert. These trees are actually a member of the Agave family of plants and can reach up to 40 feet tall and live over 100 years. Apparently this year there is an unusually large bloom of all the trees. Although we did see a lot of trees in bloom, I think the big bloom is over.

Our campground is nestled midst huge, amazing boulder formations.

Joshua Tree campsite
Joshua Tree campsite

The weather is not as hot as we had expected but the wind is incredible. We set up the doggies’ “playpen” (a 6×8 foot metal enclosure) to keep them corralled while we get settled into our campsite. We are “dry camping” which means we have our own water on board, a generator for electricity, and holding tanks for grey water (used dish, sink and shower water) and black water (toilet sewage). For the record I have nothing to do with the so-called black water; I look the other way (and hold my nose) while the man of the house deals with such unpleasantries! Although for equality’s sake, I clean the bathroom! Our refrigerator is powered by the car battery while we are underway (on the road); it’s on propane when we’re dry-camping; and it’s on electricity when we’re at a camp with hook-ups (electricity, water and sometimes sewer). The propane does not cool the refrigerator as well as the other methods so we have to be careful about keeping the food adequately cold or frozen.

When we arrive at a campsite we must hook up to the electricity, water and sewage (if we have hookups); set up the large plastic “rug” with the dog’s playpen on it; get out our camp chairs and camp table; and get a bottle of wine opened (I think that’s the first thing we do); and we also have to level Diana. If she’s not level several things happen: if the refrigerator is on propane, it will not cool as efficiently; while we’re sleeping, we will slowly slip downhill and we will wake up against the down-hill wall (a rude awakening); and if we shower in our little bathroom, the water will flood in the lower corner and run out the door. We use thick plastic blocks stacked on each other to lift Diana level. Believe it or not, there is an iPhone app for leveling! We have the “iHandy Level”! But aren’t there apps for everything these days?

The wind is really hard on the eyeballs! Both Lucky and I need “doggles” so we fight over who gets to wear them. He has sensitive eyes so we bought him “doggles”–goggles for dogs. They only had pink & purple ones and every time I put them on him we laugh till we drool. He’s not so amused. His little “staple-pull teeth” are scary so I quit fighting over who should wear them and let him have them.

We have a great BBQ that runs off the propane. We frequently BBQ for dinner but our nice little kitchen serves us well when we cook in it. We have 2 burners and purchased some really nice nesting pots and pans (they all fit together in a compact configuration) that take up a small amount of our already limited storage space. Most campsites have a fire pit with a grill cover so we also have the option of cooking over the fires. A nice amenity if you want “s’mores.”

Each campsite here is nestled in the great huge rocks/boulders. It is really beautiful and the campsite is quiet. There are great stars to be seen. We don’t get to see many stars in Oceanside.

Lucien has cabin fever already! As I take the dogs out for a walk, Lucien is jumping 3 feet in the air over and over. This behavior reminds us that we have to find a dog park every few days. We have this other dog problem: Once the dogs are settled into the playpen, Lucky becomes bored. We believe he says to himself “I need something to do! I think I’ll hump Toby!” Toby just sits there and takes it. It happens every time we set up camp.

As we settle in, sipping our wine, a small bird hops over to the playpen.

Annoying bird
Annoying bird

It appears that it cannot fly. That little bird teases the dogs until they are crazy! It hops on the wire enclosure just out of their reach. It hops around the perimeter of the pen as they bark and tremble in anticipation. If the doggies weren’t so loud it would be funny but they’re driving us crazy. Finally it hops away to later be eaten by a predator, I assume.

We cook inside because the wind is so fierce. We have delicious meal of chicken thighs and thus ends our first day on the road.

 

Going to Santa Fe

We are off on a month-long trip through 6 states and over 3700 miles. Our destination is Santa Fe, New Mexico. But the journey began last June when Howard’s 91 year old dad passed away after a long, happy life and a very short illness. That gave us the freedom to consider big changes in our lives.  Howard’s love of photography gives us the urge to travel to beautiful destinations but we hate to leave our sweet doggies at home. So “Diana” came into our lives last July. Diana is a 2008 Roadtrek (210 Popular model) Class B recreation vehicle. She is our “rig”–our “Diana Rig”(you old people, like us, who watched “The Avengers” on TV way back when know Diana Rigg). She is just big enough for 2 adults and 3 small dogs and has all we need for travel. There is a full bathroom; a nice “living area” with bench seating, storable table and places to put your feet up at the end of a long day; a comfy king-size bed made from the bench seat; a refrigerator and freezer large enough for at least 5 days of gourmet food; a more-than-adequate kitchen that also has a “cocktail table” that doubles as food prep space; and enough storage that we can carry at least a case and a half of wine (very important). She is so easy to drive! And only 21 feet long so we can take her to just about any campground. We are now retired and off on our first month-long trip after “practicing” on several 5 day-long trips.