Visiting Dinosaur National Monument

RGB Adventures visited Dinosaur National Monument on the Utah and Colorado border.  This was one of my favorite monuments I have visited so far in the last six months.  We spent three days in the park and we still did not have a chance to explore the northernmost areas of the park and missed the Gates of Lourdes…something for next time.  Perhaps because of Covid19, it was the least amount of people we have come into contact with in the national parks and monuments.  It was wonderful to have so many hikes and opportunities to visit petroglyphs by ourselves.  I highly recommend getting the first 9am appointment at the quarry and doing hikes by 7am.  Most people are not out and about yet and the sun isn’t beating down on you.  Also, the rangers still are excited to answer questions!  The temperatures are more in the 70s instead of the 90s. 

This blog and video are dedicated to the members of the National Girls Collaborative Project.  When I worked for Microsoft, I had the opportunity to join the champions board and volunteer for the organization for the last 10 years.  As many who know me are aware, I am passionate about encouraging women to undertake careers in engineering and STEM and that is what NGCP is all about with an amazing leader and great friend Karen Peterson!  I hope this blog excites girls to consider careers in the environmental sciences!

We started off by entering at the Jensen, Utah gate and went to our campsite at Green River Campground.  There were several first come first serve sites there so we did not have to make a reservation.   The next day, we got up early in the morning to hike through several petroglyph sites, enjoyed the amazing rock formations at the Sound of Silence 3.2 mile hike and instead of taking the tram we did the 1.2 mile one way discovery fossil hike to the quarry exhibit.  You must go online and make a reservation for the quarry due to COVID19, its only $1 a person. 

At the quarry there are park rangers and scientists who are geologists, archeologists, anthropologists and paleontologists studying these dinosaur bones.  Their research into ancient life helps us better understand earth and human life.  They have helped us better understand how different organisms interacted with each other and the environment and how its changed over time.  They are helping us understand the effects of climate change and how plants and animals are evolving. They also help us better understand why certain life goes extinct while others keep surviving.  If learning about these areas are exciting to you then you may want to pursue a career in Geology, Archeology, Paleontology or Environmental Science.

I had a chance to meet, talk and interview a park ranger who is a geologist and archeologist.  She told me that today the quarry is home to over 1,500 dinosaur bones and they encourage you in some places to touch the 149-million-year-old dinosaur fossils in the exhibit quarry.  It was exciting to hear her stories about the history of the park and the quarry.  The quarry contained eleven different species of dinosaurs such as allosaurusdiplodocus, and stegosaurus.  Check out the online multi- media exhibit of the quarry. When you see the quarry you wonder did paleontologists really discover the bones as they are presented, or did someone artfully place them here for effect?   Is this real or just a replica of what was in the past when they first dug up these bones? The answer is that paleontologists discovered the bones just where you see them today!  It’s incredible that everything in the quarry is real. The bones are just as nature arranged them more than 150 million years ago, deposited by an ancient stream.

The river coursed through a lowland area and dried up. Dinosaurs gathered around shrinking pools of water in the river bed and eventually died in place, to be entombed by sand and gravel when the river flowed once again. With more time, the river amassed large quantities of bones (like a huge graveyard, behind a dam). Layers of mud and sand began covering the bones, eventually hardening into rock. Here they remained, waiting for the next cataclysmic event and the explorers who eventually discovered them.

About sixty-five million years ago, that event began to occur. Forces beneath the earth’s crust began to exert themselves, forcing the crust upward, causing it to buckle and the riverbed containing the bones to tilt upward. Now near the surface, it was inevitable that erosion would eventually expose the bones and that one day someone would find them.  In 1909, Earl Douglas found the first bones of dinosaurs here as he was searching for fossils for the Carnegie Museum when he discovered a formation layered with prehistoric plant and animal fossils. A quarry was established and in 1915 Dinosaur National Monument was created to protect 80 acres in the quarry area as people were pilfering dinosaur bones. Today, the monument includes over 210,000 acres across two states. After this amazing experience, we returned to the visitor center via the discovery trail and by 10am it was already 90 degrees! 

We returned to our campsite only to be overrun with aggressive ground squirrels and chipmunks.  This is what happens when bad humans habitually feed the wildlife.  Bad humans!  So we headed to the River Access about a mile past the campground, to escape the little marauders.  It was relaxing to enjoy the Green River and admire the rock formations.  Let me tell you a little science behind all these different looking rock formations you will see in my video and below.

The geology and rock formations are amazing.  The following information comes from the National park Service.  Dinosaur National Monument receives less than 12 inches of precipitation a year, vegetation is thin and the rock layers and the geologic features are clearly visible.  Dinosaur is located on the southeast flank of the Uinta Mountains, a subrange of the Rocky Mountains and the highest mountain range in the contiguous United States that runs east to west. The landscape at Dinosaur was shaped by the development of these mountain ranges during the Laramide Orogeny, 70-40 million years ago.  Twenty-three rock layers are exposed at the monument. These rock layers are remnants of extinct ecosystems spanning 1.2 billion years, from ancient seas, to plains where dinosaurs roamed, to Sahara-like deserts that were home to tiny, early mammals. When the Rocky Mountains began to rise, this area went along for the ride.

At Dinosaur, the mountain-building did not simply push up the rock layers from below, but also squeezed them from the sides, warping and lifting them, sometimes cracking and shifting them along fault lines.

Throughout the monument, much of the spectacular scenery–the faults, folded and uplifted rock layers, and river canyons more than a thousand feet deep–reflect the tremendous geological forces that shaped this area.  You can see this at Split Mountain, the Sound of Silence hike (there is a virtual tour on my video of this hike) and the amazing canyon views on the Harpers Canyon Road in the Canyon entrance by Dinosaur, CO.  The Green and Yampa rivers are central to the extensive geologic history on display at the monument. Over millions of years, the waters of the Green and Yampa have cut deep canyons, exposing rock layers that were uplifted during the Laramide Orogeny.

The next morning before we left the monument, we road our e-bikes to visit two more petroglyph sites past the Green River Campground, hike Box Canyon and visit Josie Morris’s cabin (she was one of the first woman homesteaders in the area-you have to read about her amazing story).  Most petroglyphs in the monument came from the Fremont Indians, who lived in the canyons in and around Dinosaur National Monument 800 – 1,200 years ago. They were the forerunners of tribes such as the Ute and Shoshone, who still inhabit communities in the area today. 

Homesteading was a man’s world back in the 1900’s.  It was interesting to read about Josie defying the woman’s role as people knew it back then and paving the way for woman to own property. With no money to buy property, in 1913 Josie decided to homestead in Cub Creek in what is now the Dinosaur National Monument. Here she built her own cabin and lived for over 50 years in it mostly by herself. For a time, Josie shared her home with her son Crawford and his wife; grandchildren spent summers working and playing alongside Josie.

Raised on the frontier, Josie lived into the modern era of electronics. For friends and acquaintances in the 1950s, Josie was a link to a world past. During Prohibition in the 1920s and into the 1930s, Josie brewed apricot brandy and chokecherry wine. After a lifetime of dressing in skirts, she switched to wearing pants in her later years. She was tried and acquitted twice for cattle rustling when she was in her 60s. At the age of 71, in an ambitious move to revive a profitable cattle business, she deeded her land away and lost all but the five acres where her cabin still stands.

After our bike ride and hikes we headed out of the park and down highway 40 to the Dinosaur, CO Canyon Visitor Center entrance to see the canyon, change of vegetation and scenery.  It’s about 10 degrees cooler here because of the higher elevation.   We ended our visit by driving down Harpers Corner Road to see the Red Rock Canyon and Round Top Mountain and Island Park Overlook we were able to look down to the area we camped and explored which was an interesting perspective.  I recommend people of all ages to venture to this monument.  If you can’t make it, then you can watch our virtual tour.

Here are our top 5 things to do in the park:

  1. Do the tour of the quarry and if able the discovery fossil hike
  2. Hike the Sound of Silence during sunrise
  3. Camp at Green River Campground
  4. Check out the three Petroglyphs sites/hikes
  5. Cool off in the Green River at the River Access about 1 mile past the campground

Vanlife is Always Eventful

We have learned life on the road is always eventful and you have to expect the unexpected.  (For those who are visual here is our video for this blog.) We headed out of Newport, Oregon to go check out Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, Mt. Rainer National Park, Wenatchee National Forest, Sandpoint, Priest Lake, FlatHead-WhiteFish and Glacier National Park. First, we stopped by Harvest Host Blue Heron in Tillamook, Oregon on our way to Mt. St. Helens. As we arrived in Mt. St. Helens, we hit turbo fog and the reason we moved out of Washington to Central Oregon as the temperature drops from 75 to 60s and mist then rain hits us in early July.  We found a nice boondock spot about ¾ mile from Marble Mountain Snowpark and the June Lake trailhead.  We were hoping to hike up to June Lake and the rim of Mt. St. Helens but when we awoke to pouring down rain, fog and no view a few feet ahead of us, we decided it was time to head to Mt. Rainer and see if we can get above the rain clouds to some nicer weather.  As we were driving down and around Mt. St. Helens and up to Mt. Rainer we began hearing a loud knocking sound in our engine compartment.  Searching online what this could be we thought it is either the Mercedes Alternator or the Winnebago 2nd alternator that runs the house of our RV with the Volta Power System. Having zero reception, we kept one eye on our bars while we drove through Mt. Rainer National Park (still closed to camping as of July 1) to have enough bars to call Mercedes in Seattle. 

As you head to Mt. Rainer on Forest Service Road 2586 near the catch and release fishing sign and a bend in the river is a good possible boondock spot- there were no signs indicating no camping and a few fire rings. Another possible site is Northbound Forest Service Road 25 before MM 27 and near MM 24. 

The road to Mt. Rainer (FR25) is paved but is very rough.  There are many spots where the road is falling apart and disintegrating into the cliff.  It is very windy but quite beautiful.  Unfortunately, in the pouring rain and turbo fog we couldn’t see the views of the mountain or the overlooks.  As we reached higher and higher up the mountain pass the temperature dropped to the 30s with snow surround us.  We decided we’d rather not camp in the snow and went on to Issaquah to visit Greg’s brother’s family.  On our way, near the small town of Randle, WA we found a county rest area near a cute pound and wetlands area with a few Beaver lodges that allowed you to rest for 8 hours.  We took an 8-hour break here to have dinner, nap and rest before heading to Issaquah, WA.  We also had a few bars in this location to contact Mercedes Bellevue and get an appointment to find out what is wrong with our rig. Later when we got to Issaquah, we got a phone call from Bellevue apologizing for booking an appointment with us as they don’t work on Sprinter vans and we must go to Seattle Mercedes.  Thankfully, Seattle Mercedes could see us at 8am on Thursday, July 2. 

Greg got to Mercedes at 8am and found out several techs took personal days for the 4th of July holiday and they may not get to our rig!  (Never break down before 4th of July holiday!)  after several disgruntled phone conversations with the service manage finally, by end of the day, we find out that the engine and alternator in the Mercedes were good but It was the 2nd alternator that Winnebago and Volta put in that is dead.  Of course, its 5pm Thursday.  Winnebago is closed for the holiday, Volta is closed for the holiday and every Winnebago service center is booked solid so we have to stay in Issaquah until Monday as we need to be plugged into to shore power to be able to use our rig.  After spending all day Monday on the phone with Winnebago, Volta and contacting every Winnebago service center in the Washington area were all booked solid for the next 3 weeks, we get approval for Mercedes to put in the alternator and for it to be overnighted.  So on Wednesday, July 8th, Greg heads back to Mercedes Seattle to get the 2nd Alternator installed and hopefully all our issues go away. 

At noon, Greg arrives at his brother’s house and it seems like our issue is fixed.  The Volta system is green, the engine knocking sound is gone.  So, we pack up and head to Wenatchee for some much-needed sun and warmth!  After a few hours of driving we notice our batteries are not charging, so I begin texting back and forth with the Volta technical support technician as they think Mercedes has damaged the system when installing the alternator.  We are now 200 miles away, we decide to boondock at Washington Fish and Wildlife Area Watt Canyon, (near Ellensburg, WA) which is a nice, picturesque spot and next to a pretty irrigation canal.  We parked in a fairly flat gravel parking lot and if we weren’t exhausted from all the vehicle issues, we would have mountain biked the area, there are miles of gravel roads to explore in the area.  In the morning, we were down to 70% and no charging of our batteries.  We then called around a dozen Winnebago service centers in Washington, Oregon and Idaho who are all booked out for the next 2-3 weeks and they couldn’t fit us in.  Finally, Volta Power Systems came through and found us a service center in Eugene, Oregon that could see us and are certified technicians of the Volta power System.  So as we were headed towards Idaho, we needed to do a course correction and began heading Southwest and 400 miles out of our way to get our rig fixed.  At least, Oregon Motorcoach Center owner Matt Carr was super empathetic, helpful and tells us as soon as we get here, he will help us out!  He took the time to talk to Volta technicians and Winnebago to ensure we are taken care of and that all the parts that could be needed were at his shop!  YEAH, someone good, we hoped!

We decide its time to use our Harvest Host membership and head to Zillah, WA to stay at Bonaire Winery on the way to Oregon. They are super friendly, beautifully landscaped property and yummy wines that are currently 50% off because of COVID19.  We enjoy a lovely bottle of chilled Rose Syrah paired with instant pot lentil soup at dinner.  The next morning, we awoke to our breakers beginning to trip as we try and use the microwave and stove for breakfast with our power down to 60%.  We decide its time to take the big push and drive over 250 miles from Yakima Valley to Eugene.  At 2:30pm, we arrive at Oregon Motocoach Center to Matt taking good care of us and getting us parked, plugged in, discuss the issues and offer us to use their barbecue gazebo area for the weekend and 730am Monday morning he would get our rig fixed.  After an hour being plugged into shorepower we are back to 100% and some relief flooded our bodies!  We grilled a couple of steaks and roasted vegetables on their grill and finally enjoy a couple beers, AC and some Jimmy Buffet Cheeseburger in Paradise!

When life gives you lemons you must make lemonade, so on Saturday morning we decided to head to our beach house in Newport to get a few errands completed and see the beautiful countryside and boondock in some pretty places on the Oregon Coast since were fully charged. We took the back-country roads from Eugene to Philomath that are so stunning and relaxing with very little to no traffic.  We highly recommend this route (follow Territorial Highway and Bellfountain Road).  After finishing our errands, we took a couple hours to relax at Seal Rock and watch the sunset and cook Instant Pot Split Pea Soup (I’ll have a blog soon on my favorite Instant Pot recipes).  After the beautiful sunset we took the back road Highway 34 towards Alsea Falls and boondock in the Siuslaw National Forest near the Old Strawberry Farm.  This part of the Alsea River is gorgeous and very green with a very rainy spring bringing lots of new growth.   In the morning, we headed back down 34 and backroads to Alsea Falls for a hike, mountain bike and check out the campground and BLM dispersed camping opportunities for the future as we headed back to Oregon Motorcoach Center.  Note there is no reception in this area. 

First thing Monday morning at 7:30am, they took out rig and started testing systems.  We found out that Mercedes Seattle installed the alternator wrong and it shorted out the 2nd alternator and shorted out the main Volta Power System brain and they would have known they did this, as the technician must have been electrocuted.  After hearing this, we thought great it is going to take at least another 2 days as another alternator would need to be shipped.  With COVID19, we were seated outside and it was about to hit 90 degrees, so we got a rental car and hotel for the night and more phone calls to Winnebago to ensure we get the parts we needed.   As we were trying to relax at the hotel, we got a phone call from Volta ensuring us that everything will be fixed and it was under warranty and we would not be charged. They promised they would make sure the system is working properly and fully tested before we left Oregon Motorcoach Center.  It was great to hear their attention to our situation and ensuring that our system will be 100% before we left.  Then Oregon Motorcoach Center called that they were done and that they had an alternator and a Volta System Brain in stock they used to fix our system.  Since it was already 3pm and we were already checked in to the hotel, we agreed to come first thing Tuesday morning to get a walk through and pick up our rig. 

The technician walked us through everything they did and what to look at if something goes wrong again.  We decided to head back to Alsea Falls Campground and stay there for three days and test the system.  After three days our system did not trip any breakers and was down to 25%, we then headed to Harvest Host Summerfield Winery on the edge of Springfield/Eugene area off Highway 58 for the night.  It charged back up to 90%, yeah so far so good!  The owner Cris is wonderful and she gave me a lovely wine tasting and we enjoyed a bottle of Pinot Blanc and a bottle of Pinot Noir to enjoy another day.  Cris was so friendly and she chilled the bottle of Pinot Blanc for us.  The next day, we headed down 58 which is a beautiful route with very little traffic, such an enjoyable drive.  We should have boondocked at Salt Creek Summit Snow Park but I used Google satellite view and saw RVs parked at Black Rock Pit so we decided to go there to get further Northeast.  I was totally wrong and there was no public entrance but a locked gate.  So we headed further North and boondocked for the night in the national forest near the Sunriver exit off I-97.  There must have been a last-minute cancellation and we were able to get one night at La Pine State Park which was great as there are lots of hiking, running and mountain biking trails to enjoy and the beautiful Deschutes River.  It was flowing pretty fast so I did not pull out the paddleboard.  The next day we headed to Cove Palisades State Park.  We were surprised to see there was availability in the Summer in Loops A, B and C.  Note: DO NOT STAY at Loops A, B or C (called Deschutes campground) there are no views, no hiking or biking trails and no shade- its super-hot and not very interesting!  You want to stay at loop E (crooked River Campground) It has trails, is closer to the Day Use area and a much nicer campground.  We typically never do full hookups but we were super happy that we did as the temperatures go to 98 and as it was the first time, we ran our AC all afternoon, evening and night! 

We were happy to head out at 5:30am the next morning and stopped at the Maupin City Park.  It is an amazing spot, great shade, full hookups and a dock to paddleboard or swim or put in your kayak or raft.  It is quite spendy at $48.00.  I enjoyed a paddle on the river and we relaxed with beers in the shade with our awning out.  While at Maupin we met the City Park Manager and her husband the Maupin City manager who are super friendly and wealth of information! If you want a guided trip down the Deschutes feel free to contact Forward Paddle which is managed by Greg’s cousin The next day we went for bike rides on the Deschutes BLM Access Road.  We then found in the next 6 miles 6 different primitive campgrounds that were only $8 during the week $12 on the weekends and 50% off for Access and Golden Passholders. Next time, when we don’t need AC all night we will definitely stay at one of those.  During the week, they all had available spots.  I would not recommend anything over 32 feet the spots are small. 

The next day we reached Bonair Winery again and could begin our track to Idaho and Montana.  Those stories to come in the next blog.  So here are your call to actions:

  1. If you hear an engine knocking sound go to Mercedes first and make sure nothing is wrong with your engine.
  2. If its your second alternator call Volta Power Systems first and have them help you find the right Winnebago Service Center that has a certified Volta technican
  3. Then call Winnebago customer care to get warranty to cover it and work with Volta and the service center to get all the necessary parts. 
  4. If you have to get a service center that doesn’t have a Volta certified technican make sure they call Volta technical support first before installing your alternator so they unhook power, turn of system and install it correctly!
  5. If you aren’t a Harvest Host member and want a 15% discount here is our link and here are the websites of Bonaire Winery and Summerfield Winery.
  6. Here are the websites for La Pine State Park and Maupin City Park.
  7. Here is the website for Forward Paddle if you want to do a guided trip on the Deschutes River
  8. Here is the link to the video for this trip.

On the Road to Eastern Oregon

We are back on the road, yeah!  As Oregon and much of the USA is starting to re-open and even in some places in phase 3 of 4 phases of re-opening, it seemed we would be okay to head back out. Plus, Newport allowed vacation rentals to begin hosting guests again, so our beach house has been rented and we need to move on before guests arrived.  Before hitting the road, we called several BLM, Forest Service and state park offices and they all said YES, WE ARE OPEN, so we headed back out on June 8th.  We decided it was time to explore Eastern Oregon, being Oregonians most of our lives it is a shame we haven’t explored it more, so here we go. We like to limit our daily driving to less than 125 miles, so we took our time heading toward Eastern Oregon.

As we left the coast, we stopped first at a nice boondocking spot on Highway 20 after Sweet Home by the Willamette National Forest sign, past Cascadia Campground but there was zero cell coverage and we needed to make sure our guests got in okay.  After dinner we headed back up Highway 20 east past Tombstone Pass where there is a nice snow park (Lava Lake) with cell reception that we boondocked for the night.  The next morning after breakfast we headed to Bend where we took a friend’s advice to boondock on BLM lands near Pine Mountain Observatory.  It is very secluded, pretty much just sage brush, cows and miles of pretty rough dirt roads (we call is moon dust because it is fine and just gets into everything).  If you like seclusion you will like this area, we got a little tired after driving 10 miles on rough dirt roads before we could find a good pull off stop.  We’d suggest boondocking at the big flat parking lot by the Badlands instead, as its super easy and not far off Highway 20.  We saw several RVs stopped there and the Badlands is a great place to hike with your four-legged friend.

The next day, we stopped at Chickahominy Reservoir which is a great BLM camp spot for only $8 a night/ $4 for Golden and Access Pass holders.  There are several waterfront sites (28 total sites), they are spacious and dispersed a good distance between each other that you feel you almost have the lake to yourself.  It is stocked twice a year with rainbow trout and there were several anglers fishing the banks and in boats.  The location has a fish cleaning station, picnic tables, fire-rings, drinking water, trash cans, vault restrooms and a boat ramp.  We enjoyed this spot for a couple of days and did bike rides and runs around the reservoir.

We then ventured to Chukar Park near Juntura, Oregon another BLM camp spot which was only $5 a night/ $2.50 Golden and Access Pass holders.  It was more primitive, with just picnic tables, fire rings, vault toilets and the water wasn’t turned on yet when we were there.  It is set next to the Malheur River but its very overgrown so you can’t see the River, there are nice full sun and shade sites depending on your interests.

Next, we boondocked about ¾ mile past Snively Hot Springs in the Owyhee Wilderness on Snively Gulch Road.  It is a fairly even and flat gravel area along the Owyhee River that leads to the Owyhee Reservoir.  We stayed there a couple of days and only ventured to the Hot Springs once, as it rained so much that the water was really muddy and not to appealing.  The hot springs felt great and there are two pools one quite hot and the other more luke warm.  We decided to head up to the state park and check out the main campground by the dam.  There are many boondocking spots along the river all the way to the dam, the road gets very narrow and up against steep cliffs with a lot of rock falls (we saw a rock fall on the vehicle ahead of us).  It gets a bit stressful as there are a lot of large trucks hauling boats and 5th wheels and barely enough room to pass each other in many spots.  The state park campground is nice with 67 campsites at McCormick Campground and then Indian Creek Campground around the bend both  having full electrical hook ups and tent primitive sites, with showers, bathrooms, trash, fresh water, dump station, fire rings and picnic tables.

We had a lot of wind and rain for June so we decided to head to some sun and heat in Idaho and ventured to Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey Conservation Area outside of Boise, Idaho.  Do not take the short route on Google Maps that goes directly to the boondocking spots it takes you to private property and you cannot take the road through.  You need to go through Kuna and down Swan Falls Road, a much better route.  Idaho Power actually maintains 18 campsites even with trash cans with picnic tables and fire rings, we saw an employee every morning going to and cleaning out camp spots. Please be a conscientious camper and don’t dispose of trash that does not burn or cans in firepits as there are dumpsters just up the road at the dam and boat ramp. After the 18 they maintain then it turns to BLM camp spots that are not very well maintained and are more primitive.  The road is a mixture of hard dirt and gravel, there are parts that are very rutted out.  I would recommend 4X4 Class B and C and smaller truck trailer RVs.  We were surprised to see a Class A size 5th wheel make it down the road and into one of the sites, I wouldn’t recommend it though unless you are very confident about your driving skill and rig.

You may stay here free for 14 days, it’s a beautiful spot on the Snake River and amazing wildlife to view. We saw so many birds of prey (falcons, hawks, eagles, osprey, pelican), coyotes, lizards, a rattlesnake or bull snake, jumping bass and deer, the wind is super strong here.  There are rattlesnakes so watch out!  We ran into a baby snake in our camp, ground squirrels and there are ground hog like looking animals everywhere.  It is also a popular place for locals to rock climb, fish and play in the river.  Watch out for some fast vehicles going down the dirt road if you are biking or running.  We hope you may enjoy visiting these spots.  Below are hyperlinks to the descriptions and GPS coordinates from freecampsites.net.  Next week, we will tell you about our stay in the McCall, Idaho area and our request from our subscribers to help us plan the rest of our Summer and Fall travels.

  1. Tombstone Snow park
  2. Badlands by Bend, OR
  3. Chickahominy Reservoir
  4. Chukar Park
  5. Snively Gulch Road
  6. McCormick Campground
  7. Snake River
  8. Check out our video of this trip!

 

 

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.   

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!

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!

 

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!

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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Camping & Exploring the Painted Rock Petrogylphs

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If you have been following us, you know we put our home in Bend for rent for a year and have moved in our 2020 Winnebago Boldt for the year and if we like it or not this is our home until March 26, 2021.  So it has been a little over a week and a half since everything began closing down all over the country due to COVID-19, while we already started our one year trip visiting all the National Parks. We headed out of Bend, OR on March 1st where everything was okay and the world was functioning like whatever was everyday normal as we knew it as Americans.

Since then, we were able to visit the Lava Beds National Monumnent, Eagle Lake, Washoe Lake, Travertine Hot Springs, Alabama Hills, Death Valley National Park, Mojave Desert National Monument and Joshua Tree National Park. (More videos and blogs to come regarding each spot.)  While in Joshua Tree, state parks and national parks across the country began to shut visitor centers and some campgrounds. Many have now waved their frees and you can visit but there are no services. We have decided to go to places where they are in BLM or National Forests where there is free dispersed camping and you are well away from other campers.  We have a Pacific Pride Cardlock to fill at commercial diesel gas stations, so no interacting with people.  The only place we have to interact is grocery store which we try to only visit once a week or less.  We are trying to utilize the Walmart Grocery free curbside pick up service, but seems like everyone is doing that too.  When in a grocery store I am using gloves, distancing myself 6 feet from other shoppers, using the self-check out and going at times where there are the least amount of people.

So far we are still able to camp.  We were at Truckhaven Palm Wash BLM area and met a super nice local who wanted to make sure we weren’t stuck without resources.  Don’t worry we social distanced ourselves- him being outside our rig and us inside talking through the window.  Mike offered us ideas on nearby places of interest, where to dump and fill our RV if we needed it.  After Truckhaven, we headed to the BLM Pilot Knob Long Term Visitor Area, where it is free camping for 14 days and you are at least 500-1,000 yards from another camper.  This is different than Imperial Sand Dunes where there are a lot of RVers that are very close to each other, we would not recommend that area.  Today we arrived at thePainted Rock Petroglyphs, which are super cool. There are very few people here and social distancing is keeping us about 500 yards from other RVers.

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The Painted Rock Petroglyph Site is located on the eastern edge of the Painted Rock Mountains and about eighteen miles west by northwest of Gila-Bend, AZ. (information pulled from Wikipedia and BLM websites) The area is mostly flat and sandy with May-Oct daytime temperatures in the 100s. While we were here it was in the mid 70s in end of March.  The annual rainfall is only about six inches and the nearest irrigation water is the Gila River. In prehistoric times the Gila flowed west out of the mountains of western New Mexico, made a big dogleg turn at the town of Gila Bend and continued west to empty into the Colorado River. The Hohokam people once lived and farmed here. Ruins of their late Pioneer Period (AD 350 – AD 550) and Early Colonial Period (AD 550 – AD 700) villages are found to the north and west, and ruins of their Sedentary – Classic Period (AD 900 – AD 1400) villages are found to the south and east.  Over forty petroglyph sites have been recorded in the area, however; most of these sites are small with only a few dozen petroglyphs. The Painted Rock Site is the largest known site with about 800 images. While on my exploration I had the entire place to myself and did not cross anyone else.  Tomorrow I am heading out with Greg and Bode to hike on the historic Butterfield Overland Stage Route this was the old Oxbow Route that had mail travel from St. Louis to San Francisco back in 1858.

I recorded a short video for you to do a virtual tour and create activities for your children while they are off from school.  ( I have had requests from friends to do these little virtual tours).  I hope you enjoy it.  Keep checking back to our blog as we keep you up to date on how our  travels are going during this time and what you can and can’t do if you are a full-time RVer in the USA right now.

Top 10 Ideas for New RVers When Preparing for a Trip

top10Hi subscribers, we are currently in Joshua Tree National Park and decided before we go back to detailing our reviews (and it’s a rain/snow mix 38 degrees) of our National Parks and best boondocking spots across the West, we thought it would be helpful to get a “Top 10 things new Vanlifer’s/ RVer’s should have or do before heading out on your trips.”  After living in our van for nearly three months here are the things that have truly made life easier on the road.

10. Foldable Durable Shovel- In our first trip, we were in the Mohave Desert going down a dirt road to a boondocking spot and the dirt was very soft due to a recent rainstorm so we got stuck. This foldable shovel we got at REI, packs away easily under our bed storage and has become helpful a number of times already.  It’s also useful for properly preparing a fire pit (digging out and disposing of ash so you can have a safer fire), or burying human or pet waste at the proper depth.

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9. Boondocking- If you are like us, we are not too interested in staying in RV parks unless we need to dump tanks or catch up on washing clothes. We prefer more open space and would rather not listen to generators or close neighbors-we get enough of that at home. We prefer the freedom of staying off the beaten path.  Especially with Coronavirus, this helps with the new social distancing guidance.  We found having a membership with Harvest Host- we have listed a 15% discount code you can use to join has been helpful.  These are farms, vineyards and golf courses who welcome you to stay a night for free, in exchange for their hospitality, Harvest Host asks you to make a small purchase in return.  Such as, a bottle of wine, some produce, happy hour or play a round of golf.  We also found the websites freecampsites.net and Campendium to be very helpful at finding spots to camp off the beaten path.  Don’t forget to stop at BLM (Bureau of Land Management) and Forest Service Ranger Stations to also get information on the best free dispersed camping opportunities when you go into a national forest area. At the time of this blog all of the BLM and Forest Service offices have been closed due to Coronavirus so you will need to visit the BLM website and National Park and Forest Service websites.  They do a pretty good job of highlighting free disperse camping areas.  If you check back to our blog we try to highlight the various boondocking spots we have visited on our trips, moving forward.  Also, with COVID-19 you will now want to check out these two sites on Park closures, thanks to DYRT for this well-done article and links to every state.

  1. https://thedyrt.com/magazine.local/campground-closures-list-covid-19/
  2. https://www.nps.gov/planyourvist/alerts.htm

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8. Dumping- Dumping and flushing your tanks is not for the faint of heart. Here is a good website to find RV dump spots, several gas stations have them for free if you fill up for gas and in many of the small towns their city parks have dump stations, waste treatment plants and many rest areas also make them available. We found to keep your Van/RV clean it’s nice to purchase a small trash can with attached lid to put your sewer elbow, a 25 ft black tank flush hose, gloves and to purchase this sewer hose and elbow for the Boldt or similar RV without exterior storage. We have hyper-linked our favorites on Amazon by Camco, we are part of the Amazon Associates program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com items we have highlighted in this post.



If you don’t have outside storage, we put this trash can (when we purchased it, it was only $9.99, think prices went up with COVID-19) in our bathroom until we get some outside storage.  (We are still testing out our van and our needs and since we have 1 year free roadside assistance we aren’t rushing to go purchase just yet, but considering these two companies spare tire and storage options for Sprinters- OWL and ALUMINESS seems to get the best reviews on the REVEL Facebook groups).

7. Atlas- You are going to be places where there my be limited cellular service and your navigation system may not take you the most efficient or correct route, it is always good to have an old school paper Atlas. It is cheap peace of mind.  One can also make notes about areas to visit or recon later. This atlas also highlights the national parks, it is one of our favorites-less expensive and has saved us a number of times.  They also list most of the rest areas that sometimes your navigation system may miss.  We have found a number of rest areas also provide free or $10 RV dumping options.

6.Extra Water- We found bringing this 6-gallon plastic water container has been very helpful. Many vans and RVs have a gravity fill option. We have found in many parks, campground and rest areas there will be water spigots but not ones you can attach a hose to.  This way you can fill up the container and easily gravity fill till your tanks are full.  Also, you may be boondocking in areas where there is no water and its nice to have extra capacity so you don’t run out.  Here is one we purchased when we had to do a Walmart run in the middle of no where California.  REI has much nicer one (it has a valve you can open for faster pours) we also have purchased but forgot at home when we left on our trip.

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5. Dog Sign– Everyone loves the four-legged furry friend and if they see one when it is hot outside they will think they are coming to the rescue to break one of your windows so our little friend doesn’t cook. It is important to let people know you have ventilation, your AC on, there is food and water and there is no need to break your Van or RV window trying to be a good Samaritan. Here is an example of one I made for Bode.

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4. Gloves– If you have a diesel rig, diesel pumps are different at every station. Some fill slow, some fill fast, some spill, some don’t. We found it is helpful to have gloves to fill your tank so you don’t have diesel carcinogens on your hands.  We purchased these at Walmart when filling gas nearby but here is a pair on Amazon that should also work well.  Also, extra advice I used to be a NO NO will never shop at Walmart because of the way they treat their employees but in this new world of Coronavirus their free Walmart grocery service where you can go online order all the items you need and then have it ready for pick up and not have to step inside the store is a great option in our new reality. Keep other shoppers, employees and yourself  safe and healthy! Download the app.

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3. DEF– If you have a diesel rig you need to refill your DEF. In many rigs it is about 5 gallons. This stuff is somewhat toxic so you don’t want it inside your Van/RV to spill.  We also learned that many gas stations, Walmart and stores that carry the 1-2.5 gallon DEF it could be on the shelf too long and go bad (we didn’t realize DEF has a shelf life).  We have found many of the large truck stops like PILOT, Flying J’s and Travel Centers have DEF pumps where you can fill directly into your rig at a better price for ‘fresh DEF’ and you don’t have to store it.

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2.Commercial Cardlock Gas Membership We did not know this, but those commercial gas stations you see across the country where you have to have a special card to use the pumps are sometimes open for individuals with diesel RVs/Vans to join. We signed up with Pacific Pride/CFN.  We have found so far the prices are lower than the typical diesel gas station.  When you apply tell them Greg Stempson sent you and we may get a little credit in the future.  They don’t provide an affiliate program but if they see enough people join because of this blog/vlog then they are considering creating one in the future that you could join too.  So you don’t have to learn the hard way, here are a couple things to keep in mind when you start using the cardlock. There are two sizes of diesel nozzles, you want the smaller for RVs. Second, try it in your tank first sometimes the nozzle can be damaged then go to the cardlock and select your pump and put in your code. You can only put in a code 3 times then you get locked out and you must call the number on the front of your card for them to unlock up, it takes 10 minutes. This is to ensure no one steals your card and tries to get gas. When there isn’t a cardlock available we sometimes use the gas buddy app.  It is fairly accurate and helps to find the next best diesel gas station.

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1.Pre-Trip check- And Our number 1 advice for new Vanlifers/Rvers is to do a pre-trip check. If you are on the West Coast Les Schwab Tire Centers offers free Pre-Trip checks where they will check your tire pressure, fill any tires and tighten your lug nuts. The last thing you want is to have your wheel fall off in the middle of no-where.  Les Schwab also offers another great service if you are full-time RVers they will stow your tires if you have studded winter tires and then summer tires and change them out whenever you need.

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We hope these were helpful hints for you.  Here is our video for those you are auditory learners! Next week, we will go back to our adventures and later on we will provide our top 10 gadgets for Vanlifer’s/RVers!  Cheers! For your enjoyment here is a picture of us at Joshua Tree National Park in middle of a snow storm in March, crazy when just a few days earlier it was in the 70s and later Bode enjoying the rocks after the snow subsided!

Long awaited Winnebago Boldt BL Review

BoldtCoverSorry for the delay in getting our review out, but who would have thought libraries, restaurants, coffee shops, Starbucks, and visitors’ centers would all close and consistent, strong WIFI would be so difficult to find. I also had no idea the limited cellular service that would be in Death Valley, Mojave and Joshua Tree National Parks.  So we are posting our blog as I have gotten a few Facebook requests as people are ready to purchase their Boldt, our video will come in a few days when we get more internet access to upload it.

Does BL stand for bad logic?  You know what they say about don’t buy the first model year of a car?  Oh well, when life gives you lemons… make lemonade!  For starters, this review is going to skip items that you can find from other reviewers that provide a general Boldt overview.  I recommend reviews from Ultramobility and the FitRV about the Boldt (we hyperlinked the videos for you to review if interested).  Keep in mind we are not receiving any consideration from Winnebago for this owner review, which should be self-evident once you see it.

First off, the Mercedes chassis.  Looks good, we like the styling.  We get lots of compliments on the Tenorite (cobalt) Blue stealthy color.  We enjoy the high-tech features such as the integration with Apple and Android for navigation and media. So far the auto dim LED headlights work awesome and practically turn nighttime into day.  I love the cruise control that adjusts based on traffic speed in front of you.  Although, the cruise control will become disabled if it gets dirty or covered with ice.  It’s fairly easy to park and change lanes with the vehicle’s sensors and back up camera.

Now for the cons: the Hey Mercedes ‘hands free’ navigation system must be either deaf or based on tech from 20 years ago.  It seems to never ‘hear’ or understand your voice commands.  My hunch is that the cabin may be too noisy when driving??? We still haven’t figured out how to input geo coordinates even after reading the manual and searching Google.  We also asked a Mercedes Dealer in Reno, NV about it and got no help or useful advice so far.  If you have an idea about how to add a destination based on longitude and latitude or make the voice integration work better, please add your suggestion about it in the comments section below.  For now, Rane is my dependable co-pilot, along with our dog Bode.

Its weird, because our 10-year-old SUV provided better voice integration and geo coordinate navigation. For an expensive and high-tech Mercedes this should be fixed!  There is a GEO coordinate button but it only gives you the GEO coordinates of your current location and doesn’t allow you to enter your desired location.  If you have figured this out, please let us know in the comments section below.

The mileage on our 4×4 diesel version is about 14 mpg after about 6,000 miles of fully loaded and variable driving.  By comparison, I hear that the 2-wheel version is averaging around 17 mpg.  The automatic sliding door works great until it doesn’t.  Our 2-month-old van door stopped working as I was trying to exit the van with my dog Bode (he can only easily exit that way) at 5 am when it was 19 degrees.  It opened about 6 inches then gave up.  Some people in the user’s groups have said that this may be a low battery issue, the Mercedes rep I spoke to said it’s a known issue with no work around and that we are only supposed to open the door when the engine is running.  So, there’s got to be some fix for this or customer education on proper uses of the automated sliding door.

One of my other pet peeves is that in order to disengage the instrument panel after turning off the engine you must open and close the driver door- otherwise everything on the chassis AC will stay on- draining the battery until the system reaches low battery mode and automatically shuts itself down.  Please let me know in the comments section if you know of a work around.  Also, because of emission controls you are not supposed to idle the diesel engine, which defeats the effectiveness of using the alternator to charge the Volta system.  Major disappointment!

The house part of the Boldt designed by Winnebago also has some good stuff and frankly some poorly thought through stuff.

Let’s look at the good: We’re cooking and eating nearly every meal in the RV, so in the beginning the dinette came in handy and was useful.  But now that we have lived in it for a while we have moved the table to the back with the beds where it is more roomy and rarely use the dinette anymore.  I’m going to revisit the fold out single bed that’s under the dinette in the bad section, but could be good if you have a younger, smaller, more agile dog that can jump to use as a bed, our dog is 10 and he has used the bed once but finds jumping into it and staying on it very difficult.

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The toilet/shower combo is ok.  Keep in mind I’m just under 6 feet tall and 160 pounds, it would be comedy genius (or horror show) to see the average (large) size American in the bathroom, but it’s working ok for us, it sure reminds you the importance of staying flexible and fit(and by fit I mean skinny).  The beds are okay and can be made from side by side full to a little bigger than Queen size. We’ve done both but prefer the two twin beds now living in it for a while.  You can use normal twin or extra-long twin sheets just fine and don’t need to purchase special RV sheets. I like the smart design of the pull-down racks above the sleeping quarters.  We like the cassette style blinds-especially now that we had the Winnebago factory service center remove them and put a foam gasket around the edges to prevent light bleeding through, added insulation and reduced rattling.

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The kitchenette is serviceable, it would have been nice to have a convection microwave like on the KL.  I would have preferred a kitchen faucet with a removable spray wand and more of a U shape for easier hand and dish washing.

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Battery life- we arrived at Eagle Lake, CA at about 2 pm with full Volta lithium battery capacity.  We dry camped 2 nights with warm sunny days (63 degrees) and cool nights (25 degrees) and cooked all our meals in the van.  We ran the Truma heating system on gas only mode at about 60 (and 68 or so when we woke up) degrees setting during the night.  We ran the tank heaters both nights.  Using all these amenities with 2 people and a dog we were left with about 10% percent Volta state of charge by the second morning.  No alternator was used and my guess is that the solar adds about 5 to 10 percent capacity per day, when sun is available.  Oh, I also tested the Truma water heater on the EL2 Hot setting to test out the outside shower after a bike ride.  That alone burned 5-10 percent of the battery and my shower was luke warm after waiting 10 minutes for it to heat up.  I should have waited 20 minutes but lost patience.

Tank capacities:

  • Fresh water 21
  • Grey sink 10
  • Grey Shower 26
  • Black: 24 gallons
  • Propane: 16 gallons

So far, we are on day four after dumping and filling up our fresh water tanks on Sunday.  The black tank is at 1/3 full, the sink tank is over 2/3 full and + shower tank is still empty.  We still have about half a tank of fresh water but we opportunity filled with the gravity method about 6 gallons at the Lava Beds National Monument campsite.  We do appreciate that the Net Cargo Capacity is nearly 2,000 lbs. allowing you to add a lot of cargo. The side and rear Rolef screens are a convenient and sturdy addition and we’ve already used them this winter/spring.

So, the limiting factor for us seems to be the kitchen sink tank and then fresh water.  Winnebago are you listening… We need a bigger fresh and sink tank, sacrifice some of the shower tank if needed or if possible, swap the sink and shower tanks.  Its nice that the KL just has one grey tank that the shower and sink share, making this a non-issue.

Which reminds me, the other trouble that we have had with the van started on about day 3 after picking up the van in Forest City, Iowa from Lichtsinn.  Our sink grey tank macerator pump stopped working, which means you can no longer use your sink?!  Lame!  So, for 2 weeks we washed our hands and dishes inside of our Instapot. Back then we were still asking Lichtsinn for service advice and their only idea was to stop at the nearest authorized service center. As of 3/18/20 all owners with this issue should be notified of this recall issue thanks to our product testing and persistence.

They didn’t mention the trouble shooting tips I later found deep within the owner’s manual.  Anyway, La Mesa RV Tucson was sort of on our way, so we made an appointment and spent half a day waiting around for them to decide that the pump was bad (which ended up being an incorrect diagnosis).  They didn’t have one in stock, so we soldiered on towards our house in Oregon to try and resolve it there.  Then we went to our local shop in Bend, All Seasons RV spent the whole day on the pump issue that turned out to be a bad fuse.  Well, long story long, turns out Winnebago poorly designed the fuse panel and the tank heaters and pump to the grey tank were on the same 20-amp fuse.  This apparently was a design flaw and the fuse was overloaded.  So apparently, it’s thanks to our product testing that the Boldt will now have a service campaign to correct that issue, but it was quite a headache for us and ended with a week’s worth of fixes at the factory service center.

We find the black tank size is fine, we have gone five days without needing to dump the tank.  We find ourselves needing to dump more often because of the sink grey tank being full and the black tank is still at ½ or 1/3.  One thing is Winnebago puts in a very simple sewer house that you must hold that doesn’t lock or have an elbow.  We found one on Amazon having a clear elbow really helps in knowing when you are done and not having to hold it in place and step in the sewer dump area.  Here is the link to them.
We were first time RVers, so we had no idea how best to dump the tanks and are now thankful for our improved setup that can be done with one person instead of two, but we find a team effort makes this process much easier and cleaner for all parties.

The Truma heat system is great, but the control knob not wasn’t installed correctly.  It is a tiny screw and if the installer drops it, Truma says many times they just take another screw and use it.  If it isn’t the flat head screw then it won’t work properly, which is what happened to us.  Truma sent us a new screw, which was easily swapped out by Greg and we are back in business!

Locking cabs perform well and are much appreciated while driving on rough bumpy roads.

Cons, cabinets veneer is paper thin and not durable, we already have several scratches and they weren’t done by us but when they were installed.  We expect more for the money.  Also, beware the sharp end of the cabinet above the driver side bed, get ready to have your shin banged and scratched several times until you get used to it.  Greg got a nice gash that prevented him from getting to enjoy the hot springs on one of our trips.

The fold out bed under dinette, for us, seems to be a waste of space.  We’re considering removing it and opting for more storage-if possible.  It could fit a child or a maybe a small pet but not suited for much else.  It also slips and slides and needs Velcro to keep the cushions in place. It has some storage but we hope we can get more when eliminating the bed.

We don’t like the fact that you have to turn on a pump to remove the water from the shower drain and it’s got to be cleaned after every shower. Only tiny fingers can do this- poor Rane is designated to this ‘fun’ disgusting job.  Another reason to opt for the KL shower which simply uses a gravity drain.  Also, the BL had no toilet paper holder, we had one (Dometic) installed at the factory service center.  Check the height of the shower wand during your walk through-the installed height for ours was installed below factory specifications and had to be relocated about an 1.5” higher (trust me, every little bit helps).

Bed storage access is poorly thought out.  If my 5-foot-tall 115-pound wife can accidentally rip off the aluminum leg that props up the bed, Winnebago needs to revisit their durability testing.  We’ll be going back to Junction City, OR where Winnebago has a factory service center to get this redesigned and rebuilt with a different, safer, more durable propping system. It would be nice if there was a small indent that the propping leg could sit in then there would be less stress on the joint.

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The Nova Kool Fridge- the cooling works and it has a decent amount of space for 2 people, except for the door fell off day three after we picked up the van.  We called the manufacturer and they sent us new door hinges.  It’s been 2 months and it seems that the hinges are going to be a constant source of failure and poor design.  The bolt that holds the door on only is designed with a 1/16 of an inch of thread. I’ve had to fix it already on our current trip and we are only on day four. Weak!

It would have been nice to have one Master control panel instead of 6 different gauges and systems.  Multiplex wiring and touchpad controls would eliminate the need for so many controllers and are commonly found on vans at much lower price points like the Coachmen Beyond and Pleasureway Ascent.

As you have probably read in your research, Winnebago isn’t known for their quality control or warranty protection.  Unfortunately, our rig was finished on Friday the 13th, so the team must have been anxious to leave the factory or to move on to other production.  Not only did we have the issues above, our counter wasn’t installed properly and there was a large gap against the wall and trim where a lot of food and debris could fall down and looked very cheaply done.  Also, there was no back splash so it allowed food to fall behind the counter.

We were happy that at the service center added a small back splash for us and it works well now-we really like it!  The Rolef screen at the sliding door was installed improperly and had a significant hole in the upper left corner where bugs could easily fly in.  The bathroom shower had the hot and cold flipped, resulting in 5 super cold showers for us, until we figured it out, not to mention the fact that the shower drain screen was installed backwards. The outlet next to the sink was poorly aligned and didn’t sit flush.  A couple of our drawers weren’t installed properly and had to be reinstalled.

In the end, the VP of Winnebago called us after we posted a review on their Facebook page and made it right and had all our issues fixed (at that time, we now have a few more), taking a full week at the factory service center in Junction City, Oregon. We highly recommend this location if you have issues with your Boldt take it there- the team is professional, knowledgeable and detailed oriented.   He also sent a product engineer from Winnebago, Chris Bienert, out to meet with us (you may recognize Chris from several FitRV YouTube videos) and for us to share the items that need to be fixed for the next models that get built.  We enjoy our BL now, but it should have been this way when we purchased it and hope future customers no longer have all of these production issues.  If we had to do it over again, we probably would have purchased the KL where many of these kinks have been worked out.  Live and learn.  😊

Here is a  link to our video review.  Please hit subscribe on Youtube, we need 45 more subscribers to have a channel!  This week, we will have our Top 10 to do’s for new RVers for their road trips!

Don’t get us wrong, we are enjoying our Boldt and vanlife and still recommend the Boldt just maybe the KL instead or maybe the BL by the end of the calendar year when they get all these issues resolved!

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Top 4 Secret Boondocking Spots

IMG_3172This week we decided to go a little off script from sharing our adventure to sharing some great camping spots.  It’s a nice short and sweet video.  Whether you are new to Vanlife or have been at it for a while you seem to be always looking for the best boondocking spots.  During our last trip from Oregon to Northern California Coast we stumbled across several amazing boondocking spots. For those of you new to the term boondocking it is a widely used term by RVers and Vanlifers when you utilize a free camping spot without being connected to water, electricity or sewer.  Since you are not connected to any amenities this is also considered dry camping. So we are going to share with you four amazing boondocking spots we found. (just a disclaimer that these locations can be from time to time made off limits for dry camping, but to the best of our knowledge at the time of writing this blog, these are ‘ok’.  We are also lucky it is the Winter season so there is a lot more flexibility since the crowds are very small!)

For those of you who have recently joined RGBadventures (Rane, Greg and Bode) you know we are new to vlogging and trying to grow our subscribers.  Youtube requires you to have 100 subscribers before you can have a channel, so we are hoping to use this video to excite you to join us on our adventures.  For those of you who are part of the first 100 subscribers, we will send you a detailed email on how to find these four top secret spots!  As we have watched a number of videos people hint where the spots are but never tell you, so we want to make your trips easier by giving you more detailed insight, so subscribe to learn!  Each one of these spots were quiet, very little to no traffic, no bright lights flooding your rig and fantastic ocean views!

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We hope you enjoy this short video that highlights spots on the Central Oregon Coast, Humboldt County, Mendocino County and Sonoma County.

In our next blog and vlog, we will go more into detail exploring Humboldt Redwoods State Park, the Avenue of the Giants, Mendocino and Sonoma County and you will get better context of these amazing spots.  We’ll also share with you free RV dump stops and water refill opportunities along the way.  I almost forgot we will share with you a great offer California State Park System gives to people with disabilities and how to take advantage of this great offer!  Greg is going to share his top 5 tips for new RVers and his Boldt BL review, as we have heard there are very few reviews of the new BL and folks would like to hear from us.  So stay tuned next week!

Check out our boondocking video on Youtube!  Don’t forget to subscribe.

 

 

Visiting the Redwoods National Park

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Hi from RGB (Rane, Greg, Bode) Adventures, we have decided to do our series a little out of order.  I did not realize that the Redwoods and the far Northern California Coast has so little cellular service.  This rugged and isolated stretch of coastline has been called ‘The Lost Coast’ for good reason.  The videos on how to choose your RV, Why the Winnebago Boldt, the ‘shake down’ tour, and getting our RV fixed under warranty will be delayed until we hit good cellular and wifi services.  We have jumped ahead to our first roadtrip the through the California Redwoods.

We left Junction City and Eugene, Oregon exhausted on a Friday evening so we weren’t creative and boondocked at the second rest area south of Eugene near exit 40 in Oakland, Oregon.  It isn’t bad and not too loud; a small herd of deer were walking through when we arrived.  The highlight for Bode was a full poop bag dispenser and dog walking areas.  Gotta keep all members of our tribe happy.

Oregon allows you 12 hours at their rest areas, so we got our 12 hours of shut eye and then headed south to the California Redwoods.  As you will see from the video and images on our Facebook page, it is a beautiful drive and not that many cars in the winter time. We started in the pouring rain of the Valley and the clouds parted and the beautiful sun beamed down on us the rest of the trip towards Crescent City.  Our first stop was off Highway 199 at the Eight Dollar Mountain Botanical Wayside Boardwalk and Jeffery Pine Loop.  We highly recommend it as a good place to move the legs before the final push towards Crescent City.

We would also suggest since there are so few people here in this isolated and seldom visited part of Oregon that one could stop at the Jeffery Pine Loop Trail head if you are tired, this could be a great boondock spot.  There are not overnight parking restriction signs, so we think you should be okay.  From here we headed back on the highway 199 to Crescent City and about 10 miles before you get to Crescent City you will hit the Smith River National Recreation Area.  We highly recommend Madrona River Access (near Gasquet, CA), it is the only free campground (max 7 day stay) where you can boondock at no charge.  We got a great spot next to the river and there is even a firepit and picnic table for you to enjoy.

Next, we stocked up at Crescent City and stopped by the visitor office for the Redwood National Park, there we got our map and the lowdown on what to see.  The Redwood National Park is paired with the California State Park system so you will need to pay state park fees if you stay at any state parks overnight.  We checked out the following trails and viewpoints in the National Park: Vista Point, Coastal Trail at Crescent Beach, Damnation Trail, Overlook, Yurok Loop Trail, and Klamath River Overlook.

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You will find driving an RV takes a lot more work than your SUV or passenger car and you get tired quick (I know this as the navigator taking care of the grumpy driver who makes specific point on how easy I got it as cook and dog mom.  I will admit out of 4,000 miles on the odometer I’ve driven about 40 J.) so instead of heading all the way down to the next campground we decided to just boondock.  The Yurok Redwood Casino are happy to allow you to stay for free in their lot, you just need to go inside and register your vehicle.  It was quiet and we had the wonderful opportunity to get a tour with the handmade dugout canoes being made out of large Redwood logs.  According to the craftsman that we spoke to he learned the trade from Yurok Tribal Elders and was trying to pass on the tradition to the Yurok children.  He was worried that the next generation wasn’t too interested in learning this important tradition but the tribe had put together a program for him to have interns and children to train.  The forest service allows the tribe to take a 6-8-foot Redwood Trunk that takes them 3 months to dig out.  He showed me the traditional tools and rocks they used back in the days but now he uses a chain saw, sander and modern tools so instead of 2 years it takes 3 months.  He explained the important carved out parts inside the canoe being the nose, heart, and kidneys of the boat.  The tribesman has 3 months to make 8 canoes and he was working on his 3rd.   If you are interested the Yurok Tribe is planning to offer traditional dugout canoe tours on the Klamath River beginning Spring 2020.  It was interesting to learn a bit about the history of the largest tribe and (according to the tribe member) unfortunately the poorest tribe in California!  It was sad to see when I did a little more research that after the Gold Rush 75% of the tribe was decimated from massacre and disease from settlers.

The next day we checked out the rest of the National Park.  I forgot to tell you the National Park is free, so you don’t need your annual pass but they charge for all the campgrounds and there is no discount.  One thing I did learn though is if you have a disability like me (which is another long story, check out my TBI blog), you can get a lifetime National Park Pass called the Access Pass for free with your Social Security SSA Benefit Letter!  We got the access pass, too bad we already paid for annual pass but now we have a pass for lifetime!  So cool and a nice benefit for those with disabilities!

After the Yurok Casino make sure you take exit 765 and take the lovely Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway through the park instead of the 101 or you will miss most of the big Redwoods.  That’s what you’re here for after all right, so slow down and enjoy the windy slow ride.  For the rest of the park we scoped out the Coastal Trail to Flint Ridge, Ah-Pah trail, Big Tree Wayside (my favorite), Elk Prairie, Elk Meadow, Stone Lagoon (Be careful if you are in an RV it is steep one lane road in sand- we wouldn’t recommend it in a camper van or bigger), Big Lagoon and Patrick Point.  We were here in winter, during February, so the road to Gold Bluffs Beach was a little treacherous and suggested by the forest service to not go down in our Sprinter. The camp grounds at Elk Prairie and Patrick’s Point were very underwhelming at $35 a night as many of the campsites are closed in the winter and only have a water spigot, picnic table, fire ring, bathrooms and showers are closed for the winter (no hookups or RV dump stations).  So we headed on down to Arcata to talk to the BLM office and figure out our next spot, tune in to next week as we describe Humboldt Redwoods State Park, the Avenue of the Giants and wine tasting in Napa! In the mean time see the video on our adventures or learn more about the Redwoods and Yurok tribe.

Action:

1. Check out our video on our adventure & subscribe to our channel

2. Learn about Redwood National Park

3. Learn about the Yurok Tribe and taking Canoe Tours this Summer

RGB Adventures YouTube Channel is Live

RGBYouTubeSo as we promised we have finally launched our new YouTube Channel RGB Adventures.  I created a trailer to describe us and the adventures to come on our Vlog channel for those who don’t know us.

I will admit the trailer is not the most amazing and exciting video.  After 25 years, my video editing skills need some work.  The last time I edited videos was in my film production class in high school. I am learning a new amazing tool called DaVinci Resolve.  It is a high end, professional editing tool for free, crazy!  It has crashed a lot so I may cave and purchase it for $299.  I would love to hear from others what tool do you use?   I read this great blog post about different options but would love to hear from our followers. Would you suggest Adobe Premier and pay the $20.00 monthly fee or is Corel videoStudio good enough at $99.00, you use DaVinci and it’s worth $299 or is there another tool you like better?

We are about to complete our current trip at Junction City, Oregon where Winnebago did right by us and fixed all the issues with our Boldt and did a fabulous job.  That story will be a later video, we got about 6 to make before we get to that story.

Our first video will be about how to pick an RV that is right for you and why we went with the Winnebago Boldt BL 4×4!  Stay tuned and many stories to come from (RGB (Rane, Greg and Bode) Adventures)!

To all my friends, who have questioned can I really just relax and hit the road and not be working and volunteering– all I can say –I am loving the retired life!  Van Life here we go!

RGB Adventures Kicks Off

IMG_2387 So after seven years of pestering, I finally caved and agreed with Greg it was time to retire and go try out the van life.  On January 8th, 2020 Greg and I headed to Forest City, Iowa to pick up our new Winnebago Boldt.  This was going to be our shake-down trip as we explored Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, California and Oregon in this 14 day trip.

I am in the process of creating our new You Tube channel RGB Adventures, where we will be vlogging about our adventures. We will connect the latest videos to our new blog.  So stay tuned our next few episodes will be the following (I know I got a lot of work ahead of me):

  • Picking up our new Boldt, things to ask your dealer that we forgot to
  • The importance of a shake down trip and what we learned
  • How to pick the right RV for you, what we have learned after a year of investigations
  • Winterset, Iowa and the Bridges of Madison County
  • Miller’s Reservoir, a Great Place to Boondock
  • Carlsbad Caverns National Park a Must See
  • White Sands National Park and the not so Flat Trail
  • Lake Havasu and Craggy Wash Camping
  • What’s it really like to boondock at Walmart and Flying J’s Pilot Travel Centers
  • Our progress with Winnebago fixes our shakedown issues
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