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

Manzanar Virtual Tour and boondocking in Alabama Hills & Death Valley

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carlsbad Caverns National Park Virtual Tour

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Travel, VanLife

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.

 

 

Travel, VanLife

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