advice, COVID-19, full-time RVing, Travel, Uncategorized, VanLife

Manzanar Virtual Tour and boondocking in Alabama Hills & Death Valley

As you head to Death Valley from Alabama Hills Recreation Area you will drive past Manzanar National Historic Site on highway 395 in California.  First off, you must stop by Alabama Hills it is an outdoors person and rock climbers dream!  So many amazing rock formations, places to climb and hike and all for free.  The best boondocking ever!  We can also recommend free camping at WildRose in Death Valley.  It is a very long drive to this campground, skinny road and very windy (we would not recommend any rigs bigger than 30 feet to attempt) that only has picnic tables, fire rings, a vault toilet and potable water but it is on your way to seeing the WildRose Charcoal Kilns, (the road is gravel and pretty rough) which are pretty cool and a nice hike to Wildrose Peak that is about 8 miles roundtrip.  We went in winter time/early spring so it was quite cool (temperature that is). If you can get in, we’d rather recommend staying at Texas Spring Campground it is a good central location, much warmer, prettier and better facilities but costs $16/night.  Now back to Manzanar…

Being an Asian American, I had to stop and visit the WW2 relocation center and I highly recommend stopping for a self-guided tour.  It is very well done and reminds us of the atrocities we faced in this country during fears of war and people who looked different and had a different cultural background.  In 1942, the United States government ordered more than 100,000 men, women, and children to leave their homes and detained them in remote, military-style camps like the Manzanar War Relocation Center which was one of ten camps where Japanese American citizens were incarcerated during World War II.  People of Japanese decent who were US citizens from across this country lost all their possessions, dignity and were forced into these Relocation Centers. 

A little history course for folks who may not be aware.  Relocation isn’t new in the history of Manzanar and the Owens Valley. We can’t forget that the Paiute and early settlers as well as Japanese Americans all were uprooted from their homes. American Indians began utilizing the valley almost 10,000 years ago. About 1,500 years ago the Owens Valley Paiute established settlements here. They hunted, fished, collected pine nuts, and practiced a form of irrigated agriculture.  Miners and ranchers moved into the valley in the early 1860s and homesteaded Paiute lands raising cattle, sheep, fruit, wheat, and other crops. The military were called in and forcibly relocated nearly 1,000 Owens Valley Paiute to Fort Tejon in 1863. Many Paiute returned to the Owens valley and worked on the local ranches.

The town of Manzanar—the Spanish word for “apple orchard”—developed as an agricultural settlement beginning in 1910. Farmers grew apples, pears, peaches, potatoes, and alfalfa on several thousand acres surrounding the town. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power began acquiring water rights in the valley in 1905 and completed the Los Angeles Aqueduct in 1913. Land buyouts continued in the 1920s, and by 1929 Los Angeles owned all of Manzanar’s land and water rights. Within five years, the town was abandoned. In the 1930s local residents pinned their economic hopes on tourism. With the onset of World War II tourism diminished.  Then in 1942 the U.S. Army leased 6,200 acres at Manzanar from Los Angeles to hold Japanese Americans during World War II. Though some valley residents opposed the construction of the internment camp, others helped build it and worked there.

First, we walked through the mini museum that is very well done and tells the stories of the families that lived here during the WW2 internment.  There is a 3.2-mile self-guided auto tour where you can see the original sentry posts, Block 14 buildings, mess hall, women’s latrine and barracks, the cemetery monument, remnants of the administrative complex, rock gardens, parks, orchards, the hospital grounds, the uncovered foundations of the Children’s Village  which was the only orphanage of the ten War Relocation Centers in the US.  In the museum, you will find images Ansel Adams took in late 1943 where he acknowledges the prejudices and fears that led the U.S. government to confine American citizens and legal immigrants of Japanese ethnicity behind barbed wire.

From the website, I wanted to provide you more details on what is still on the property and what you will encounter in the video.

Mess Hall: The US Army constructed this mess hall at Bishop Air Base in 1942. The National Park Service moved it to Manzanar in 2002 and eventually restored it. It is identical to the 36 mess halls that together produced over 28 million meals here from 1942 to 1945. Walk through the kitchen, sit at the picnic benches, and learn about the logistics and politics of food in Manzanar.

Women’s Latrine: The women’s latrine was reconstructed in 2017. The communal shower and rows of toilets depict some of the harsh realities of living at Manzanar. Overcrowding led to long lines, unpleasant odors, and an extreme lack of privacy.

Barracks Buildings: The two barracks buildings were rebuilt in 2015 with exhibits being added in the following years. The four barracks exhibits will tell you about arrival to Manzanar, the importance of the Block Manager’s Office, the loyalty questionnaire, school at Manzanar, and more.

Cemetery: In 1943 the people in Manzanar decided to erect a monument to honor their dead and skilled stonemason Ryozo Kado was recruited to supervise the work. The cemetery serves as a poignant reminder that some of the 10,000 Japanese Americans incarcerated at Manzanar never saw freedom again. Over 145 Japanese Americans died while confined in Manzanar during World War II. Many were cremated, in the Buddhist tradition, and some were sent to their home towns for burial. Fifteen people were buried in a small plot of land just outside the camp’s security fence. When Manzanar War Relocation Center closed, the families of nine of the deceased removed the remains of their loved ones for reburial elsewhere. In 1999, NPS archeologists confirmed that five burials remain at the site. The three characters on the front (east side) of the cemetery monument literally translate as “soul consoling tower” ( I REI TO ). The inscriptions were written by a Manzanar Buddhist priest, Shinjo Nagatomi.

Merritt Park: The people incarcerated at Manzanar left a lasting legacy by creating more than 100 Japanese gardens. The largest of the gardens was Merritt Park, named for the camp director, Ralph P. Merritt. Merritt Park served as community refuge from the hardships of camp. After Manzanar closed in 1945, many of the gardens disappeared as debris from demolished barracks, sand, and vegetation covered them. Recent archeological excavations have uncovered and stabilized some of these gardens including Merritt Park. Today you can view what’s left of this symbol of beauty and the resilience of the human spirit.

Japanese Garden Tour: Private and community gardens covered much of the Manzanar landscape. For many people, these rock gardens and pools served as a source of peace and an escape from their incarceration experience. Today, eleven of the over 100 Japanese gardens have been uncovered and stabilized.

The location was beautiful but also a sad reminder about how we treated fellow Americans.  It makes you sad to see how people were forced to live and were ripped from all their loved ones and their belongings because of a war.   How our fears caused us to overlook people who were citizens and part of our community and treated them like they were enemies because of their former homeland that they had left for a new life in the USA.  Perhaps, it is a reminder about how we can do better in the present and future generations of immigrant people.  We hope you enjoy watching our virtual tour.   

advice, COVID-19, full-time RVing, Travel, VanLife

Getting Ready to Hit the Road Again

Sorry I have been out of touch for a few weeks.  As some of our subscribers learned while in Arizona my mother passed away, so I just spent 17 days cleaning out and renovating her home.

I found during the COVID-19 the worst part of having a loved one pass away for me was the lack of closure that one feels.  This was brought about because of my family not being able to have a normal celebration of life and or funeral service.  My mother was loved by many people and her sisters, best friends, past co-workers and neighbors were unable to celebrate her life in a normal way due to no group gatherings being allowed, I feel for them as I talk to them on the phone and they wait for a celebration of life to be able to occur.  As direct family we were able to visit her at her gravesite on Memorial Day and I feel for everyone else who can’t.  So my heart goes out to people who have lost a loved one during this trying time.  On a more positive note, we are about to hit the road again!  YEAH!

I thought what would be helpful is to share some of our favorite items we are packing in our van as we get ready to head back out on the road.  Especially, how we can better support our local small businesses!  Many states are heading into their Phase 2 of re-opening and Montana’s entrance to Yellowstone is opening on June 1st, so we hope to head back out on the road in the next week or two. We think we will be heading to the Owyhee in Eastern Oregon first then off to Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.  Since small businesses are the backbone of our country and the ones in greatest need right now, so they don’t close down, I wanted to highlight a few small businesses we are supporting that you may be interested in using for your next adventure or daily life.

  1. northteaA great herbal tea. If you are like me, I am super sensitive to caffeine, so after noon I need to transition to caffeine free drinks.  I love Metolius Artisan Tea Company, they have a fantastic North tea  that is a sweet and spicy blend of coconut, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, licorice and peppercorn. Amy and her team are an awesome small business in Bend, Oregon that have created many yummy tea blends for you to enjoy!
  2. hdyroflask10barrelAmazing containers to keep your drinks cold or hot. Another great local Bend business is Hydroflask. I love our water bottles, coffee mugs, wine glasses that keep our drinks hot and cold.  If it is enjoying an ice-cold beer, a whiskey on the rocks or our morning coffee or tea.  What I also appreciate is how much Hydroflask and Scott’s team support local non-profits and are so active in our community.  For example, they sponsored our Surfrider Central Oregon Conservation Summit last Summer!
  3. If you like IPAs and craft beers then we need to highlight our buddies from 10 Barrel Brewing who gave us a case of beer to kick off our trip. They are also big supporters of Surfrider and a bunch of our events.  We enjoy Apocalypse IPA.
  4. 1-lb-bag-italian-roastOf course, there must be the coffee beans! One of our favorites is Bend local Strictly Organic Coffee Roasters and their Italian Roast Blend.   Not only are they organic, free trade, sustainable but amazing supporters in the community.  Last year, the team at Strictly Organic supported our International Women’s Day event at their Bond and Old Mill District establishments!
  5. Easy to travel and takes up little space is canned Albacore Tuna and canned Salmon. Locally, in Newport, Oregon is Chelsea Rose.  Tchelasearosehey work with the local fishermen and buy their fish and sell it to the public.  Great quality, amazing prices and they ship to you.  I love a great tuna salad sandwich or niçoise salad with these wild caught ingredients.
  6. dockboxEasy to cook seafood meals. If you are like us and love some good seafood.  In Newport, Oregon is Local Ocean and they create a weekly DockBox you can order.  It has easy instructions and easily covers two meals for two people.  Unfortunately, you need to be in Newport, Portland or Corvallis, Oregon to order but we highly suggest this awesome business who is supporting the local fishing industry and dock workers in Newport! This week we are trying Seared Coho Salmon and Pink Shrimp Crostini.
  7. BBWA good whiskey is always nice after one of those long day drives. Crater Lake Distillery in partnership with Deschutes Brewery created the yummy Black Butte Whiskey. I highly recommend this yummy Whiskey dry on the rocks.
  8. humI am a big Kombucha fan and I use to brew my own Kombucha since many were just too sweet for me. But in our small van there just isn’t room to do kombucha brewing so I am a big fan of local Bend business Humm Kombucha.   They have also released a no sugar version called Humm zero!  I am a big fan of ginger lemonade and the hopped grapefruit (does have sugar but isn’t too sweet).  Jamie Danek the CEO is an amazing leader and super involved in the community and was one of our first speakers at TedxBendWomen!
  9. E-Bikes make life so fun and easy when you are on the road. Thanks to San Diego Fly Rides, the largest dealer of e-Bikes in the USA.  They have wonderful customer service, free shipping and great discounts on e-Bikes!  We are proud owners of two new Cube e-Bikes!  We highly suggest working with the team!

  10. IMG_3958People have asked what is the best bedding for your campervan and we have to go with the durable, beautiful and very comfortable Pendleton Wool Blankets! Made in Eastern Oregon, these amazing blankets rarely need to be washed, look super nice and are very warm!  Another great Oregon business!
advice, COVID-19, full-time RVing, Travel, VanLife

Importance & Guidance for Your RV Shake Down Tour

leavingtrip1Hi folks, so we have been on the road now for over 4 months.  During this time the COVID-19 has struck and the world as we know it has become topsy turvy!  Some may think it’s crazy to be on the road, while others think that is the best way to do social distancing and still live your life.  As of April 16th, our beach vacation rental was required to shut down so we drove to Newport, Oregon and are sheltering in place until more of the country opens back up.

I am going back four months to our first shake down tour we did right after purchasing our Winnebago Boldt, we highly recommend all new CamperVanners and RVers do this!  For those who like to watch videos instead of reading- you can check out the video on our YouTube Channel here.

We’d suggest to give yourselves more days near your dealer.  We had a dog sitter so we only had 2 weeks to go over 4,500 miles since it was Winter we decided to take the longer Southern route from Iowa to Oregon.  It is good to experience all weather conditions but having high wind, snow, freezing rain and tornado watch was a bit much!  If we could do it over, we would have waited for better weather and had a dog sitter for longer.  We would have driven a few hundred miles near the dealer so we could return and get items fixed.  When items started breaking down we were already 1500 miles into our adventure and did not feel like going all the way back to Iowa to get them fixed.  So we began keeping a list with detailed pictures.  Warranty will require pictures of everything you are asking to be fixed!

In our first four days, we found 16 items that needed to be fixed that we did not find in our Delivery Orientation and Winnebago missed in their inspection and our dealer Lichtsinn missed in their pre-delivery inspection!  When you are in a four-hour orientation by the end your brain is dead and all the information is running together and you just want to get away and drive your rig into the great outdoors. We have created a list for you below to help you through the walk through.  In our previous videos and blogs we described everything that went wrong and you can find in our Facebook review, I won’t restate them all here.  Winnebago also made it right after we posted a Facebook review and fixed all the items after a lot of back and forth so we are now mostly satisfied with our Boldt BL now.  What we will highlight is how to prepare picking up your rig, the weather conditions, route and cool stops/boondocks we did along our trip from Forest City, Iowa back to Bend, Oregon via a Southern Route, since it was Winter.

Prior to arriving to Forest City, Iowa, we read all the manuals for the Boldt, Mercedes and appliances/systems in our van.  We watched a number of YouTube videos on what to do when you pick up your new RV.  We made a list of questions for things we did not understand and weren’t clear in the manuals.  I then visited Campendium, freecampsites.net, BLM and National Parks websites to build out an excel trip of possible places we would stay.  I tried to keep our miles travel daily to less than 250 miles, put where we could stay for free, what campsite pricing and places, where there were RV hookups if we needed to plug in because of super cold weather (as we had snow and freezing rain conditions along our route).  I downloaded Gas Buddy and Pacific Pride fueling apps to make sure we knew where to get gas and where to get the best deals for Diesel. I downloaded a bunch of audiobooks, ebooks and music for the trip.  I also purchased from Amazon these two products that turn your iPhone into a semi-professional camera to document our trip with lenses, microphone and tripods.  (add link) We also boughtthis dongle that enables your ipad or iphone to project onto the Boldt TV, we have had challenges watching some shows that block airplay.  Fun for watching Netflix . PrimeVideo and AppleTV and other content.  (If you know how to download non HEC quality video on AppleTV, please tell me on comments-then we could watch more shows).

We left at 3am on January 7th, thanks to my amazing mentee Rebekah who drove us at that ungodly hour and watched Bode for the next two weeks as we did our initial van tour.  We landed in Minneapolis, MN where we were picked up at the airport and taken to Lichtsinn for a 1.5 hour drive.   Just our luck we arrived before a huge Winter storm that was traveling though the Midwest and along our trip route.  The temperature was dropping to 5 degrees Fahrenheit with crazy wind at 20 mph with 30 mph gusts.  We would be spending the first night in our new RV.  Note to new RVers, even if your rig is 4 season when it is 5 degrees it isn’t the time to fill it with water.  We were frustrated as we were new to RVing and did not know whether we should have our tanks filled or not and Lichtsinn kept asking us do we want it filled or not. We kept asking them well you have been doing this for years and selling Boldts would you or not?  Finally, the service guy said don’t and wait till the morning where the temperature will rise to 40 degrees.  We flew business class so we could bring 4 large duffel bags for ‘free’ full of the items we would need for the next two weeks.  Here is what I brought to help you when planning to pick up your rig and how to do the minimum of shopping on the road, we ended up using almost all these items (I have hyperlinked as many of the items I think are harder to find, we are Amazon Associates so we may receive fees for qualifying purchases you purchase):

Gear: Foldable steel shovel (came in handy as we had to dig ourselves out of soft sand at White Sands National Park boondocking spot), hatchet, 2 backpacks with Platypus water reservoirs, snow tire chains,headlamps, bandannas, ski buffs (for COVID-19 this became our face masks), sun hats, baseball hats, stocking caps, gloves, headlamps, bandannas, ski buffs (for COVID-19 this became our face masks), sun hats, baseball hats, Pendleton wool shirts, puffy jackets, rain jackets, fleece jackets, flip-flops, running shoes, hiking boots, use compression bags for storing your clothes, minimum clothes for two weeks, two sets of walking sticks, a dry bag, a rope clothes line, bear spray, mosquito repellant, two REI small foldable outdoor chairs, and a small racket set with pliers, wrench, screw driver, electrical tape, plumbers’ tape, a Leatherman’s and gear to turn iphone into a vlogging camera.

Food and eating ware: knives, silverware, two bowls, two plates, beer cozies, spatula, wooden spoon, ladle, electric water kettle, induction espresso stove top, salt, pepper (the costsco set that you can refill are nice size & affordable) and bulk spices (I get bulk spices at Food for Less or Winco and keep them in reusable resealable bags), tea bags, coffee beans, lentils, split peas, coconut milk, diced tomatoes, canned tomato sauce, packets of miso soup, buckwheat udon noodles, rice noodles, dried mushrooms, orzo, brown rice, spaghetti, oatmeal (my special mix of pumpkin seeds, chia feeds, flax seeds, cashews and almonds), olive oil, sesame oil, hoisin sauce, instant pot, set of collapsible Tupperware bowls, collapsible colander, collapsible steamer, and suction lid. Yes, I even packed 2 bottles of wine (wrapped well with sheets and blankets) to celebrate when we arrive if we were too tired to head to the grocery store.

Living items: 2 rags, 2 wash clothes, two body towels, two kitchen hand towels (we recommend for all these towels to use camp quick dry towels they are easier to store and hand wash), 2 sets of flannel XL twin sheets (if you have a Winnebago Boldt or Travato these fit well), 2 twin Pendleton blankets (warm durable and you don’t have to wash often), four Hydroflasks (32oz and 24 oz and travel mug) water bottles, two silicone pints for hot and cold beverages and the dollar store has great storage bins that are 9X9X9 and 10X2X6 that fit in your cupboards and can organize your food and stack well to get the most of your cupboard space.  Really helpful were a small hand dustpan and sweeper, lighter, razor to cut hair and men’s electric razor, facial wipes, Costco disinfectant wipes (these came really handed during COVID-19), Dr. Bronner’s Lavender soap (can be used for shampoo, body wash, clothes washing detergent, and washing dishes or as a mouthwash and it won’t make you sick if you eat it), hand sanitizer, hydrogen peroxide, alcohol, (with COVID-19 we have ended up using this daily to clean our phones and car handles), zinc spray (I spray this on an onset of a cold and its gone by morning), cold medicine, allergy medication, eye drops, Band-Aids, first aid kit, little foldable trashcan, holder hangers, small plastic bags from vegetables you get at the store for the trash can (reuse all  that plastic we get) or use these reusable veggie bags (we do both) and of course travel scrabble, Farkle, cards, kindle, Atlas, Journal, laptop, and cell phones with chargers.  We had delivered to the dealer from Amazon: induction sauté pan and 2-quart pot, drying rack, straw outdoor rug, weboost cell phone booster and Scrubba clothes washer bag.  We used all these items except the hatchet and snow chains but good to have just in case! Yes, all this fit in four large rolling duffel bags (we got two from Costco and previously had two)!

Couple items we did not have but now being on the road we wish we would have had:  sponge holder trasharoo to put your trash outside the vehicle on your spare tire,  Berkey water filter system, gloves for sewer dumping, sewer 10 foot hose and elbow, sewer trash can to hold elbow and tank flush hose.

We headed to the grocery store to grab some sparkling water, beer, fruit and vegetables to add to our meals.  I then unpacked everything, loaded up our van, made our beds, made us vegetarian lentil soup for dinner (instant pot makes life easier), played a game of scrabble and then hunkered down for a cold windy night (we were toasty warm).  We were a little disappointed that Lichtsinn knew we were going to stay the night in our vehicle and they knew it was going to be 5 degrees and our rig wasn’t fully charged when we would need to have the tank warmers on.  By the morning, we were down to 12% charge and since the Volta system batteries were below 40 degrees the system didn’t even allow them to charge!  It took about 2 days of living in the van before the batteries were able to accept a charge.  Sub-optimal customer service, especially when it appeared, they had plenty of room in the heated garage to pre-heat our van.  So specifically tell your dealer you want your vehicle fully charged before you arrive.  We thought we had made that clear but apparently we did not or they couldn’t be bothered.  At 8am we headed into our 4-hour Orientation.  By the end your brain is dead and you are not going to remember all the questions you needed to ask.  After the fact, here is a checklist we wish we had during our walkthrough that could have resolved a bunch of issues before we hit the road.  The first three items we did and were so glad we did and were surprised many owners don’t do this from what our service guy told us.

  1. Read all the manuals and have questions written down on anything that is unclear or you don’t understand. Ask these before you jump into your orientation.  Save all the manuals electronically on your laptop and phones so you can access when you need on the road a Google or Sky Drive won’t work as you will be in areas where there is no cell coverage and won’t be able to open them up or download.
  2. Download and bring along with you a RV inspection checklist, we should have used this one from Changing Gears that is very detailed.
  3. Record videos on your phone on how to use everything, that way when you forget you can play it back later. Save these both on your phone and a virtual drive.
  4. Check to ensure that your indoor and outdoor showers are hot when hot indicator is selected. (our hot and cold were switched, brrrr) Don’t forget to make sure your shower head is located in the right spot (ours was 1.5 inches lower than specification)
  5. Make a detailed inspection of the outdoor and indoor of your rig and look for scratches and dings this is the only time you can get these fixed and not get blamed as typical wear and tear on the outside of your van, inside cabinets, floor, in bathroom (we found a few)! Get on your ladder and check out the roof did they seal in leaves when they sealed your roof, is your roof box to help you access the inside to install antennas damaged? (ours had leaves and damage) Have them give you some touch up paint for the outside of your rig.

These next items are specific to campervans and the Winnebago Boldt:

  1. Check to make sure that all your drains and pumps work and are installed properly. (Our shower drain was installed backwards).
  2. Check your toolbox in your Sprinter, that is under the floor of the passenger seat, has all the tools it is supposed to have we thought an item was missing but they make a spot for pliers but don’t give you any.
  3. Make sure your Rolef screens (if you have them) are installed properly (ours had a big hole that insects could fly through defeating the purpose of the screen, we didn’t notice this until we got to Texas and had it open by the lake and had bugs fly into our vehicle when it was down)
  4. Check all your drawers and cabinets to ensure they lock and pull in and out properly
  5. Make sure your Truma dial has the right flat head screw installed (pull the dial off and check) If not, have them install the right one or it won’t work properly (it won’t properly ‘click’ when setting temp)
  6. Check the Nova Kool Refrigerator and ensure the screw in the top right corner is screwed all the way, so it won’t fall off and it is positioned correctly on the refrigerator (ours fell off after 3 days of driving, we had LaMesa RV Tucson install new hinges supplied by Nova Kool and it fell off again)
  7. Check the slats under your bed mattress to make sure they are all functional (we had two plastic slats that were faulty and did not keep the wood slats in place after doing down a bumpy dirt road), your bed leg holder that keeps the bed up while you are accessing storage is soldered properly and won’t break later on in your trip (ours has), and the levelers on your bed legs are installed properly and won’t fall off once you are on a bumpy road (ours did)
  8. Make sure your Sprinter Ladder has the lock installed and you have the key (in forums we heard some owners did not get theirs)

I can see this blog is already too long, so I am going postpone information on our route and great boondocking spots from Iowa to Oregon for my next blog to not overwhelm you with too much information!  We already made a Carlsbad Caverns National Monument video and blog, check back on past posts.  After the route I will also do White Sands National Park as its own blog and video! They are both awesome stops near each other in New Mexico that you must visit!  After those we will then highlight the rest of our California Coast Trip and our trip before we had to head back to Newport, Oregon. We hope these lists are helpful in preparing you when you get your new rig!  Enjoy the Vanlife or RVing! Many of you have asked for more Bode pictures so until next week enjoy Bode relaxing enjoying the sunset on our new grass mat and checking out the climbers at Joshua Tree. Cheers!

 

COVID-19, full-time RVing, Travel, VanLife

Carlsbad Caverns National Park Virtual Tour

IMG_2593On April 13th, 2020 our one-year expedition to all the National Parks and Monuments got put on pause.  As our subscribers know, I finally listened to Greg and sold my business and officially retired in December 2019 and after a year of research we decided to purchase a 2020 Winnebago Boldt BL in January of 2020.  We did our shake down trip and drove from Iowa to Oregon via a southern route through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, and California.  When we got home, we had several fixes for our Winnebago, (video to come soon check out our Boldt Review Video) and headed out on our second trip to see the California Coast and Highway one.  Unfortunately, during that trip Bode got a few ticks (it seemed to be a crazy tick season on the California Coast this Spring) and we headed back to do some reorganizing and ensure Bode was tick free before we started our full-time vanlife.

At the end of February, we decided to hit the road and go South to National Parks and Monuments through out California, Arizona, Utah and then determine where to go next.  Our house in Bend got full-time renters from California deciding if Central Oregon would be their new home and our vacation rental on the Oregon Coast was booked solid with guests, so the full-time vanlife began!

Then in the middle of March, COVID-19 starting making huge impact across our country and California began shutting down various outdoors spaces.  BLM lands and national forests were still open but we decided we needed to head to Arizona where many outdoor spaces were still open and one could find plenty of open spaces.  By April, we could see the writing on the wall as more and more forest roads were being blocked off and while we were in Utah calling parks we were told if you aren’t a Utah resident you are not welcome.

Greg’s Dad called us with our weekly mail update and read us a letter from the City of Newport telling us vacation rentals had been shut down and to please remove your guests and ensure no reservations until end of April.  We threw in the towel and headed to Newport on April 13th from Kanab, Utah.  We now have been hunkering down at our beach house for a while now.  While we were on the road we did not realize how little coverage there was in many of our parks, therefore, we got way behind in our video taping and blogging.   Now that we are in full WIFI zone we are revisiting all our trips to bring you the most interesting places to visit and where to boondock in the coming weeks until we can hit the road again.  This week I’ll be highlighting Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico.  We did the self-guided tour.

Carlsbad Caverns National Monument is located in the Chihuahuan Desert about 20 miles southwest of Carlsbad, New Mexico and about 145 miles northeast of El Paso, Texas.  It is an amazing geological site and we highly recommend it for all to see.  It was created 265 million years ago by an inland sea through fossil beds and it contains over one hundred limestone caves.

Carlsbad’s caves formed differently than typical caves.  Typical caves are formed by rainwater slowly dissolving the limestone.  Water then sinks through enlarged fractures and sinkholes eventually growing to become underground streams and rivers that carve out cave systems. While inside the Guadalupe Mountains, between four and six million years ago, hydrogen-sulfide-rich (H2S) waters began to migrate through fractures and faults in the Capitan limestone. This water mixed with rainwater moving downward from the surface. When the two waters mixed, the H2S combined with the oxygen carried by the rainwater and formed sulfuric acid (H2SO4). This acid dissolved the limestone along fractures and folds in the rock to form Carlsbad Cavern. This process left behind massive gypsum deposits, clay, and silt as evidence of how the cave was formed.  With time, the active level dropped to form deeper cave passages. In abandoned cave passages above, blocks fell from the ceiling and speleothems (cave formations) began to grow. Around four million years ago, speleogenesis ceased in the area around Carlsbad Cavern and the cave began to take on the look it has today. (Taken from https://www.nps.gov/cave/learn/nature/cave.htm) The cavern itself is over 30 miles long but only 3 miles is open to the public.  (Information below is a mixture taken directly from the website and from my memory of the tour and brochures.)

We started at the Nature Trail entrance and then ended at the Big Room Trail and took the elevator back to the top. The 1.25 mile (2 km) Natural Entrance Trail is extremely steep. Depending on if you decide to hike up or down, you gain or lose about 750 feet (229 m)—equivalent to walking up or down a 75-story building. The hike takes about one hour (on average) to completeThis trail is not recommended for visitors with heart or respiratory conditions.  It is not handicap accessible.

You have the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of early explorers as you see formations like Devil’s Spring, the Whale’s Mouth, and Iceberg Rock (these are all in the video below).  The Iceberg Rock fell from the Cavern Ceiling and it’s a 200,000-ton rock you will see on the trail.  The Big Room, is the largest single cave chamber by volume in North America. This 1.25 mile (2 km) trail is relatively flat, and will take about 1.5 hours (on average) to walk it. Actor and comedian Will Rogers called the cavern, “The Grand Canyon with a roof over it.” You will be rewarded with spectacular views, cave formations of all shapes and sizes, and a rope ladder used by explorers in 1924.  Parts of the Big Room Trail are wheelchair accessible. You can ask for more information about accessibility at the visitor center. I have included their Accessibility Brochure

The lighting system in the cavern is amazing!  There are over 19 miles of wiring and 1,000 light bulbs through out the 3 miles you will walk to be able to see the amazing geological formations.  I have never seen such different types of stalactites and stalagmites.  At the very end you can take an elevator from the bottom of the cavern floor to 75 stories or 754 feet up to the visitor’s center.  The elevator trip takes one minute as the elevator travels 9 mph. The elevator shaft is 1.5 times the height of the Washington Monument. The first two elevators were created in 1931 and the second two in 1955.  All were replaced in 1977.

After our amazing tour we headed to our boondocking campsite called Chosa Campground maintained by BLM.   The Chosa Campground is a large, hard-packed, level gravel lot immediately off a paved road (Dillahunty Road). It is conveniently located about 7 miles south of Carlsbad Caverns National Park on US Route 180, this campground has three trash cans and is big rig friendly.   We had a nice view of the Chihuahuan Desert and since we were there in the winter there were only 5 other rigs in the lot with us.  The stars were out in full force and it was very quiet and serene. We hope you enjoy our virtual tour.  Cheers!

advice, COVID-19, full-time RVing, Travel, VanLife

Virtual Tour Badger Springs Trail at Agua Fria National Monument, Arizona

IMG_4268So a little food for thought…  We are a few months in on living the full-time vanlife.  When we made this decision to rent our homes and go full-time for a year to visit all our US National Parks, monuments and beautiful outdoor spaces there was not an inkling of the global pandemic.  When you no longer have a home to go to, what do you do during a pandemic?  You try to be super diligent and responsible citizens.

We try to only use shopping services with curbside pick up at the store such as Walmart’s Grocery App and pick-up groceries (once a week or less).  We have the Pacific Pride Commercial Gas cardlock so we don’t go to ‘normal’ gas stations unless we need to fill with DEF (which may not be available at all cardlock locales).  We have focused on staying at BLM (Bureau of Land Management) public lands dispersed camping to avoid people and other RVers.  When there is a national park or monument or state park that is open we go very early in the morning and avoid other people and look for dispersed campsites or primitive campsites with the minimum people.  Once in a while though you must go to a park where there are people so you can dump and refill water, sometimes there are rest stops or gas stations that allow you to do this.

As I watch social media, people are being pretty harsh and disrespectful to RVers and vanlifers.  Saying we are irresponsible and making the pandemic worse.  We are seeing more and more of our outdoor spaces close, which we understand may be the right thing to do to slow the curve but there are many Americans who do live the RV life full-time who are struggling to find a spot to shelter in place.  Many of the RV private places are very expensive and difficult for those who have chosen this life to pay $75 a night for months on end and many have also closed.  We are lucky we have a lot of solar and lithium batteries to be able to be off the grid but many can’t live like us.  I understand folks being upset about RVers on the road but they must also understand not everyone can hunker down in their homes and stay in one place when they don’t have a home to stay at.  We need to have empathy and understanding that people can be responsible adults, do the right thing and that they are not out to be irresponsible and trying to make the pandemic worse but have no other choice because they made this choice of a different lifestyle.  I have spoken to friends where they see several people who are living in a home and going to the grocery store daily and come closer than 6 feet on trails and causing more issues than many RVers.  So how can we come together and help each other do the right thing when we have people with homes on wheels?  Can we stop shaming, lecturing and give more positive advice and understanding?  Can we be more supportive of people with different lifestyles?  Lets help each other, those who have stationary homes and homes on wheels be able to live and still flatten the curve.

So on to the virtual tour…

For those of you following us, who  have asked us to continue to do virtual tours of our hikes, monuments and places we see for your children’s virtual tour and online school work.  Here is our second installment.  We were at Aqua Fria National Monument in Arizona. It is 71,000 acres and about 45 miles from Phoenix.  Quoted from the BLM webpage, “The monument encompasses two mesas and the canyon of the Agua Fria River. Elevations range from 2,150 feet above sea level along the Agua Fria Canyon to about 4,600 feet in the northern hills. The diversity of vegetative communities, topographic features, and a dormant volcano decorates the landscape with a big rocky, basaltic plateau. This expansive mosaic of semi-desert area, cut by ribbons of valuable riparian forest, offers one of the most significant systems of prehistoric sites in the American Southwest.

In addition to the rich record of human history, the monument contains outstanding biological resources. The area is the home to coyotes, bobcats, antelope, mule deer, javelina, a variety of small mammals and songbirds. Eagles and other raptors may also be seen. Native fish such as the longfin dace, the Gila mountain sucker, the Gila chub, and the speckled dace, exist in the Agua Fria River and its tributaries.”

We ended-up being able to disperse camp (boondock) about 800 yards from the Badger Springs Trailhead.  The road from the freeway is a pretty rough dirt road, very rutted out, muddy in spots and most suited for a 4×4 vehicle.  The Badger Springs Trail is an easy 1.5 mile trail that really follows the Badger Springs Wash, so don’t wear running shoes like us, unless you don’t mind wet shoes and socks.  I’d suggest a good pair of hiking boots.  The trail isn’t well marked and has a lot of cactus and cheat grass growing over the trail.   I would say not very dog friendly once Summer time hits and the cheat grass has dried, tough on their little paws.  At the time we hiked it was very green and soft.  The trail ends  as Badger Springs Wash runs into the Agua Fria River Canyon, with a small waterfall through boulders and at an archaeological spot rich with a few petroglyphs.  Here is a link to our new video- enjoy!

Here is our virtual tour on the RGBAdventures YouTube Channel, don’t forget to subscribe to our channel!  We are almost to 100 subscribers, help us get over the line.  Enjoy!

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