Saturday, July 13, 2013

Road Trip West 2013

I am currently experiencing very slow internet and am unable to post pictures. I will attempt to do that later.

We are now into day 24 of our road trip which began on June 20. Since leaving Hattiesburg, MS, we have driven nearly 4000 miles. We have endured temperatures as high as 124 degrees and as low as 50 degrees.

As most of you know, we have a 19 foot Scamp 5th wheel travel trailer which we pull with a 2012 Toyota Tundra. The trailer is made of fiberglass and is very light and easy to tow. It is also very small and most people probably would not be able to tolerate that. Prior to purchasing this trailer, we had a 16 foot Scamp, but quickly realized that we wanted a separate sleeping area because it was just too much of a hassle to constantly convert the dining table into a bed which was not as big as a standard double.

In 2011, we took the 16 footer to Alaska and when we had completed our time there, we sold it and immediately drove to Backus, MN to pick up the 5th wheel. This one has a separate sleeping loft with a nearly queen sized bed. This trailer has now twice been to the Florida Keys and also made a trip to Alaska as well as numerous shorter trips. From this, you can see that the Scamp product works well for us.

I had planned on keeping and posting a daily blog for this trip, but due to us mostly overnighting in areas where we did not have electricity and the fact that we have not usually had internet access, I have not kept the blog. Truthfully, today is really the first day that I have had some “down” time in order to work on this. We are staying four consecutive nights at a very nice campground in Newport, OR. This will be our last night here, so I want to get this posted before we head to more remote areas.

Our trailer is such that we have enough in our fresh water tank and enough battery capacity and holding tank capacity that we can go 3-5 days without hookups. When we are in US Forest Service Campgrounds, we do not have showers, but we have become quite creative with solving this issue. Although we do have a shower in the trailer, it is small and messy so we rarely use it. We just take sponge baths or outdoor faucet showers. We also stop at local YMCAs to workout and then shower. Like I said, this type of travel is not for everyone.

During our route planning, our first goal was to make it to Carlsbad, NM, then to the South Rim of the GC and on to Bullhead City, AZ to visit Hollie’s sister. We try to stay off interstates because we like to drive 55-57 MPH in order to get better gas mileage and reduce the wear and tear on the trailer and tires. We also simply like to see the country side and just stop whenever and wherever we see something of interest. We do not make reservations and we travel on the cheap, staying in state parks, forest service areas, National parks and parking lots such as Wal-mart. We rarely eat out, just eat whatever we can put together on that particular night.

Rather than posting a day to day summery of our travels, I will just hit the highlights and moving forward, I will try to do better with regular posting.

Here is a summary of our trip thus far:

June 20 – Gladewater, TX at Antique City RV Park. We have stayed here before and it is quite nice with a small track nearby where we could run or it is safe to run the roads.

June 21 – Abeline, TX KOA. This is where I began to realize how important it is to stay hydrated. I went out for a run and by the time I got back I was so hot I just took off my shoes and jumped in the pool. Thankfully, there was no one around to see me do this.

June 22 – Carlsbad, NM –This was one of the worst “Good Sams” parks that we have ever stayed in. Due to the oil and gas development boom that is taking place in this area, the place was full of workers and it was way over-priced. We really had no choice since it was so hot that we had to have hookups for our AC.

As usual, we wanted to get our daily exercise. It was not a good day. By the time we got ready to head out, the temp was still in the high 90s and the winds were very high. There was an asphalt trail close by so Hollie went out to ride his Catrike and I wanted to run. Neither of us did very well. I ended up doing a walk/run and it’s a good thing that we each carry our cell phones. I was about 2 miles away from the trailer when Hollie called to tell me that he had not one, not two, but three flats. He really did not know where he was, so I told him I would go back to the trailer and then call him to determine a plan of action. Once again, I was somewhat dehydrated and it was still hot with the high winds. It took me quite awhile to get back to the trailer. When I called Hollie he told me where he was and I drove (with the trailer hooked up to the truck) out to get him. This was quite an experience since it was the first time I had driven with trailer  in a city, but I did OK. After picking him up, he told me that he had run over a patch of sand burrs which will really mess up bike tires. People who ride in these areas have special tires and tubes, which he obviously did not have.

The next morning we went to the Caverns and took two tours---one self-guided and one with a guide. We have previously toured Mammoth Cave in KY and Blanchard Springs Caverns in AR and I think of the three, Blanchard is the best.

After our tours, we hit the road, making it to Alamogordo, NM.

June 23 – Alamogordo, NM – When we arrived, the first thing we did was go to Wal-mart to get gas and ended up buying a car. Sitting in the lot was a beautiful 2000 red Corvette t-top. As I was admiring it, the owners came out and one thing led to another and although we did not immediately make the deal, a couple of days later we called them and did just that. It is in great condition with only 73,000 miles. We sent them a deposit check and we will pick up the car in a month or so when we head for home.

We stayed the night at a Good Sams park which had recently opened. It was very nice and we will probably stay again on our way home. Just across from it is a pistachio farm. We toured that and learned how pistachios came to the area.

June 24 – Winslow, AZ – Since I have previously experienced “standing on the corner in Winslow, AZ” there was not much to report other than we stayed in the Wal-mart parking lot and we saw one of the most beautiful sunsets.

June 25 & 26 – South Rim Grand Canyon –We did not have reservations at either of the park campgrounds, but we lucked out and got two nights at Trailer Village.

As most of you know, I am a Grand Canyon nut, having done 8-10 overnight hikes. Until this trip, Hollie had never been below the rim. His entire adult life he has worked at overcoming his fear of heights and every time he had attempted to go below the rim, he was unable to make it more than a few steps. He told me that he has been working on overcoming this fear and this time, he did fine.

Shortly after arriving on the 25th, we hiked down to the 1.5 mile house on the Bright Angel Trail. Then, on the 26th, we hiked to Cedar Ridge on the South Kaibab Trail. Hollie was now hooked and he wanted to try to snag a cancelled reservation at Phantom Ranch in the bottom of the canyon. Due to a water break which impacted water availability, they were not allowing any mule trips or new reservations. Eventually, they went 4 days before the break was repaired so we were unable to make that hike. It’s probably a good thing since I was not prepared to hike that distance.

June 27, 28, & 29 – Bullhead City, AZ – The only reason we stayed those 3 nights here is so that we could visit with Hollie’s sister. We opted to stay at an RV resort so that we would have access to an exercise room because with high temps of 118-124, it is very difficult to exercise outside. On our last day, I did get up early and do a 3.5 mile run when the temp was in the low 90s. Our trailer AC barely kept up during the day, but it worked OK at night. Our fridge did not keep up. It simply good not cool with temps that high.

June 30 – Lone Pine, CA – We have previously been through Death Valley and with our worry about tire issues in such high heat, we took a longer route that provided somewhat cooler temps. Rather than being 134 degrees (temp that day in Death Valley) we chose to take the interstate to Barstow and then North to Lone Pine where we stayed in a very nice RV resort. While on the interstate, we saw numerous vehicles on the side of the road with blowouts. Tires, when driven at high speeds in this heat just cannot perform as expected. We were extra careful, driving slow and making frequent inspection stops.

July 1, 2, 3, 4 – Lone Pine, CA to Truckee, CA to Redding, CA to Eureka, CA to Crescent City, CA – Each of these nights were spent in US Forest Service campgrounds. Our cost ranged from free to $10 and we were quite comfortable in these beautiful settings where the temps were low enough at night that we were OK without AC. A couple of these parks were in the redwoods and it was absolutely beautiful. At one of the remote areas, we took a 3 mile hike along a river and really enjoyed viewing the variety of trees and other vegetation. We also had a campfire and cooked our traditional hot dog meal.

July 5, 6, 7 – Oregon Highway 101 (Pacific Coast Highway) – From my research, I knew that there were many state and federal parks along this highway and that is where we have been staying. This is such a scenic area with direct views of the ocean and the coastline Thus far, we have seen four lighthouses.

The exact location escapes my memory, but at one of these state parks, we toured a garden that had some of the most beautiful roses that I have ever seen.

July 8 – South of Florence, OR on Highway 101 – We spent last night in a USFS campground. During the day, we drove to Eugene, OR (track capitol of the world) so that Hollie could see Hayward Field and run on Pre’s Trails. I have previously done that so I chose to do a treadmill run at the Y where I could shower after my workout.

July 9 – Second night in USFS campground South of Florence, OR. We are in the heart of the sand dune area. The largest dune is over 500 feet high and over a mile long. The area north of Coos Bay (home of Steve Prefontaine) and up to Florence is the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area where people bring dune buggies and other four wheel and two wheel sand toys and charge up, down and around the dunes. I have never seen so many of these things. The age of the riders/drivers range from barely able to walk to old geezers. There are many state parks or recreation areas devoted to the use of these toys.

July 10-13 – Newport, OR – We are getting big taste of civilization, staying at a very nice RV park at the Port of Newport. We are within walking distance of the harbor, an aquarium, a marine science center were we observed the feeding of an octopus, and lots of hike and bike trails. My first order of business was to do laundry and I was very surprised that the cost was only $1 for washer and $1 for dryer (45 minutes) which is the least we have paid on any of our trips.

While in Newport, we have taken some short trips up the coast and on one day, Hollie drove over to Corvallis to see Oregon State University. He has this thing that if he is close to a major university, he makes the effort to see it. Me---I stayed at the campground and enjoyed some alone/quiet time.

Just North of Newport, there are two lighthouses. We drove to one and were rewarded with sightings of sea lions and thousands of birds that make their home along this shore.

The only negative about this area is the high wind that begins about 11:00 am and continues throughout the day. We have been biking or running each day, but it has been difficult. Yesterday I went on one of what I call a run/walk exploration and I ended up discovering an asphalt trail that was in woods and protected from the wind. Those of you in other areas of the country would be surprised that ou high temps have been about 60-65 and low temps about 50. That wind makes it feel so much colder and I have been running in short tights, long sleeve shirt, windbreaker and gloves. Depending on the wind direction, I sometimes remove the gloves and the windbreaker.

Today will be a rest day from running, but I plan to walk back to that wooded trail and take a trail that leads down to a beach that is in a protected inlet. We have yet to really spend any time on the beach and I certainly need to do that.

Yesterday evening, we drove up the coast to an area called Otter Crest. This is an area with many views of the ocean and home of a famous “hole in the wall” restaurant called Mo’s Place. The food was wonderful. Hollie had clam chowder bread bowl and I had slumgullion bread bowl. We shared a shrimp stuffed avocado. When we walked out of the place, Hollie glanced toward the ocean and spotted a whale puffing. We then spent 15-20 minutes watching 2-4 whales.

Tomorrow we will be driving about 120 miles up the coast to Ft Stevens State Park where we will stay at least two nights. I am sure there will be many more great scenes as we make our way along one of the most beautiful drives in the US.

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