Monday, September 7, 2015

We're Still Alive and We've Visited Wyoming, Idaho and Montana

It’s hard to believe we’ve already had over three full weeks on the road and there are only 2 weeks left!! It’s also hard to believe I’ve only blogged one time so far! Before the trip I had visions of posting every 3 days or so, but real life got in the way. When we’ve had big adventures in Audrey in the past we weren’t working, so we could camp pretty much wherever we wanted without being worried about cell phone coverage. Well, that has been a bit different on this trip and has made our time a little tighter. Our typical schedule has been to stay in a spot for 2-4 days and then one evening after work hours we’d pick up and move to the next location, getting there in time to set up camp before dark and then cook a late dinner. Unfortunately it hasn’t always been quite that simple. Several times we’ve had to try 2 or 3 camping locations in order to find one that had workable levels of cell service. Those were the frustrating evenings that ended up being late nights. And all of that is to say two things: (1) I have a new respect for all those folks I follow on Instagram who work from the road full time and (2) this has contributed to my lack of blogging time.

Now don’t get me wrong: we’ve been having an amazing trip and have found some wonderful camping spots to enjoy, it just hasn’t been as carefree as our past trips. Happily we are now on the vacation portion of our trip so let the carefree-ness begin! To kick it off we’ve been camped in areas with zero cell coverage for the past 3 days. (I’m posting this on a quick trip into West Glacier, MT) But let’s back up, shall we? Here’s a recap of the past two weeks…

August 22: Jackson, Wyoming
We took Indie to a doggie day care (two thumbs up for DogJax!) so we could spend a day exploring Jackson, WY. What a cute little town! We used the opportunity to catch up on laundry, buy more groceries, and also enjoy a delicious Mexican dinner at Hatch.
Love the antler arches in Jackson. :-) It was Farmers Market day and this guy had a great voice and great style to match.
We bought Indie and antler at the Farmer's Market and he's loved it.
Jackson is known for their wooden boardwalks/sidewalks

August 23-26: Hatchet Teton View, Wyoming
Kudos to Jeff for finding this great boondocking spot in the middle of nowhere! It had amazing views of the Tetons (after the smoke finally cleared) and blazing fast Verizon LTE coverage. There were a lot of forest service roads in the area that made great hiking trails as well. (If you’re a camper and want to know the exact location, here’s the link.) Our Instagram friends @boldadventure and @herboldadventure stayed here with us and it was so good to have company and share some meals together. Most notably, they joined us in Audrey to celebrate Jeff’s birthday on August 26th with some flat oatmeal chocolate chip cookies that I baked. :-)

Love all this open space! 
The Tetons were especially beautiful at sunset
Porter Reservoir

Aug 27-28: Somewhere North of Ashton, Idaho
We began to work our way toward Montana on this stretch and spent two nights camped off a forest service road north of Ashton, Idaho. This was one of those crazy times where we just started driving down a small dirt road and hoped for the best, and thankfully it turned out fine! We did have an incident here, though…when we arrived Indie was so happy to be done traveling that he jumped out of the halfway down truck window and took off. We think he saw some deer or elk because he took off like a rocket. He’s done this a few times before but he always comes back in 5 or 10 minutes. Unfortunately this time he had well and truly disappeared and at the 30-minute mark we were panicking because it was getting dark. We were in bear country so I was starting to think he was dead or wounded and caved into tears while Jeff took the truck and drove down the road calling for him. Finally at the 1 hour mark he trotted up to our campsite without a scratch on him and proceeded to drink 2 bowls full of water while I cried again in relief. Let’s just say it was a little hard to go to sleep that night…
Sometimes it pays to go down a random forest service road

Aug 29: Big Sky, Montana
We had the great pleasure of visiting our Las Vegas Airstream Club friends Terry and Gretchen for night at their summer house in Big Sky, Montana. This is what we call “moochdocking”  - we mooched a spot in their driveway for the night. And even better, we mooched their washer and dryer, as well as a nice long hot shower. We had a fun evening of great conversation, great food, and plenty of drinky-poos. The next morning we hiked with Terry to Ousel Falls, which was a beautiful hike and the falls were gorgeous!

Our hosts' house in Big Sky
The first bridge on the Ousel Falls hike
Ousel Falls Family Photo

Aug 30: Boulder, Montana
This was one of those times where it took us 3 tries to land in a campsite that had enough Verizon coverage for our workday and we ended up in a very unglamorous location at a city park in Boulder, Montana. That’s all we’ll say about this day.

Aug 31-Sept 1: MacDonald Pass, west of Helena, Montana
Unexpected sweet find here! We were aiming for the Cromwell-Dixon Campground at MacDonald Pass west of Helena, MT right on the Continental Divide. We drove around the campground and thought it was scenic but the cell service was less than stellar so we decided to check out the group camping area on the other side of the hill and SCORE! This is basically an unused, unmaintained old camping area where we could boondock and have the place to ourselves with the beautiful light of Verizon LTE service. The Continental Divide National Scenic Trail goes right through here and we hiked it for a bit one evening. Also in this campsite was a large beacon light on a tower. We researched it what it was for and it turns out it originated in the 1930s when they built a series of these around the country to guide the air mail pilots! There are very few remaining but 19 of them are in Montana — kinda cool to come across a little piece of history.

A boggy section of the Continental Divide trail had a nice little bridge on it.

That tower on the right is the Air Mail Beacon
Audrey liked her remote little spot.
I really like how Montana has these giant grass fields right next to huge forested hills - such a pretty combination!

Sept 2-3: Beavertail Hill State Park, east of Missoula, Montana
Our final 2 days of working on the road were spent at a little state park off of I-90. This turned out to be perfect for us because it had electricity at the campsite and since it was raining while we were here our solar panels were useless. We checked out Missoula one night and found it to be a cute little town - I’d love to go back and check it out more in the future. Indie was thrilled because we found an awesome dog park right by the University of Montana on an island on the Clark river. Such a clever spot for a dog park with natural boundaries plus access to water for those water-loving breeds.

Sept 4: The Campsite That Shall Not Be Named
Seriously. A weird, scary location. Let’s not discuss it.

Sept 5: Glacier National Park (West Glacier)
WE MADE IT TO GLACIER NATIONAL PARK! Woohoo! This was one of the main destinations of this whole trip and it was so exciting to arrive! The drive up here was gorgeous along the huge Flathead Lake. Even though it was Saturday night of Labor Day weekend we managed to score a spot at the Fish Creek Campground right in the park for one night. We mostly used it to hunker down and wait out the rain so we didn’t get to explore very much, but it was still exciting to be here!

The sun came out in the evening and clouds lifted just enough to see the snow they'd left behind.

Sept 6-7: Big Creek Campground
Since there aren’t a lot of options for dogs inside of National Parks (they can’t go on trails, only on roads such as through the campground) we decided to move our camping home base to Big Creek Campground in the National Forest. We nabbed a spot right on the Flathead River and get to watch people float by in rafts and kayaks. On Sunday we hiked an amazing trail up to a fire lookout tower with incredible views!
Cyclone Fire Lookout
View of Cyclone Lake from the Fire Lookout
View of Glacier National Park from the Fire Lookout
At 6000 ft we hit little pockets of snow 

Tomorrow Jeff gets his birthday present: we’re going whitewater rafting on the Flathead River! Here’s hoping we live to write another blog post! :-)

Friday, August 21, 2015

Five Weeks of Fun

A week ago we kicked off a new Adventure with Audrey! We’re on a five-week trip around Wyoming and Montana, with some brief forays into Idaho, too. For the first 3 weeks we’re working remotely through the wonders of Verizon wifi devices and booster antennas. We’ve mapped out our basic route and campsites based on the fact that they’re not only lovely but also have good cell service. When Labor Day kicks in we’re going to be officially on vacation for 2 full weeks and during that time we’ll be exploring more remote regions of Montana since we won’t be concerned about cell coverage.

This trip is in honor of our 25th wedding anniversary which we celebrated on July 28th. (That’s a whole other topic…but HOLY COW…25 years?!) You may be wondering why we didn’t start the trip at that time, and the answer can be summed up in one word: tourists. One of the big stops on our trip is going to be Yellowstone, but we’ve heard so many negative things about how crowded it is in the summer that we shifted our entire trip timeline so that we can visit Yellowstone after Labor Day. Brilliant, eh?

Here’s a recap of Week One which is wrapping up today:
We arrived at a boondocking area on Palisades Reservoir (part of the Snake River) on Saturday evening, August 15th. It’s just north of Alpine, WY but the camping spot was officially in Idaho due to the curve in the road. What a beautiful location! We learned about it via a great camping resource website: By Sunday evening we had the place nearly to ourselves with only one other trailer about 400 yards away. Indie loved roaming around and barking at the blue herons on the waterline and finding big sticks to chew.

This is the kind of privacy we love

Indie loved exploring

How's this for an office view?

Tuesday evening we moved to an area called “Lower Teton View” which is about 30 miles north of Jackson, WY with a fantastic view of the Teton Mountains. In fact, it was this location that was the seed of this entire trip after we saw this post on Instagram. Go ahead and click it and admire the beautiful view of the Tetons, because unfortunately you won’t see a picture like that from me here. A big wildfire in Idaho has blown smoke our way all week and we’ve only had a few glimpses of the mountains. So sad! The one saving grace is that we’re camped here with two other Airstreamers that we had “met” on Instagram (@boldadventure and @wanderwasi). We’ve had a great time getting to know them each evening over campfires and a didgeridoo.

Can you glimpse the outline of the tetons through the hazy smoke? This is about the clearest they've been all week.

How can you not smile when you make sounds out of a didgeridoo?

A little hazy sunset action for you
Indie hikes with his own backpack that carries his water and a bowl. We've attached a bear bell to it so he won't surprise anyone when he trots ahead of us.

Tomorrow we’re planning a visit into Jackson itself to check out the shops and have a meal in one of the many places that have been recommended to us. Then Sunday we’ll be moving spots to find a new place to explore. Stay tuned for more updates and pictures!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Yuba State Park (aka, Yes, Audrey Still Has Adventures!)

It's been a while since we've posted here...a very long while, actually! But don't worry, we're still having Adventures with Audrey! For example, she was our home for 2 1/2 weeks at Christmas time when we drove back to Texas with her. Unfortunately, she had a mishap on the way home from that trip: a blown out tire which did a fair bit of damage to the wheel well area, as well as to the side aluminum panel.

She's been getting repaired for nearly 2 months up in Salt Lake City at Intermountain Airstream and we finally were able to pick her up last Friday (March 20th). We woke up early and made the 6-hour drive to SLC, spent about an hour at the Airstream place, then turned around and headed back down south again on I-15 for another hour and a half to Yuba State Park.

We'd read a great review of the dry camping spots on the North and West Beach of the park on the very cool Campendium website, so that's where we were headed. Unfortunately when we got there we realized that those campsites weren't open yet (probably sometime around April 1). Our Plan B was the Painted Rocks Campground around the other side of the lake which turned out to be just fine. When we first arrived it felt very parking lot-ish, especially since we'd been hoping for something more secluded. But we quickly realized that one whole loop of about 20 sites was completely empty, so we made that our home for the next two nights!

Great place to watch the world go by

Audrey and "Bo" the F250

I had a great nap right here...

Good night!

The lake is beautiful and we were able to take our pup Indie for multiple hikes around the area. It's also very quiet there with just the sound of chirping birds to serenade us. Basically, it was just what the doctor ordered: peace and quiet.

We're not yet sure when and where our next Adventure will be, but I'll clue you in on a little secret... we hope to be on one big adventure within the next few years! That means selling our home and living in Audrey full time. Fingers crossed we can make that happen.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Death Valley, a wind storm, and Indie's first trip

Two weeks ago Jeff and I added to our family by adopting a 9-month old Husky/Shepherd mix puppy named Indie. He's quite the barrel of fun and is keeping us on our toes! This past weekend we had the opportunity to take him on his first Audrey Airstream camping trip and it went...pretty well...  ;-)

Death Valley is about a 3 hour drive from our home in Henderson (it'd probably be closer to 2 if you weren't towing a trailer) and we've been anxious to visit it ever since we moved here last year. But as you can imagine the window for a pleasant visit is relatively short! In fact, many of the campgrounds are closed in the summer due to the excessive heat. About three months ago we booked a spot at Furnace Creek Campground for November 13-16...little did we know at the time we'd be taking a dog along!

It's quite a nice campground -- well-maintained with freshly paved pads. There are even some trees which were the only ones we saw as we explored the park. For the first day we liked our spot pretty well (#30) but the second day we had some new neighbors that made it a little less fun. Mostly because our spots basically shared the same "backyard" which really cut down on privacy. I made sure to walk through the campground and write down the best site numbers for next time!

The "backyard" of our campsite which worked pretty well until that middle spot got filled in with 3 tents.
I really like these little battery-powered lanterns I bought from Pier 1. They're great for soft lighting around a campsite and I often hang them on Audrey's awning.
Evening view in our campground.

On Friday we drove through "20-Mule Team Canyon" which was a really surreal spot - imagine sand dunes on the surface of the moon. Then we drove down a 4x4 road toward "Hole in the Wall" but only made it about a half mile down - it was just so bumpy that Indie and I were getting a bit queasy. In National Parks dogs are not allowed on trails but they are allowed "where cars can go" - so we could walk him on this 4x4 road. Because there wasn't another soul around we also illegally let him off his leash to run and get some energy out and boy did he love it!

4x4 road toward Hole in the Wall - looking back toward the Valley
Someone was worn out after their big run!

Later that day we drove to Badwater Basin, which is the lowest point in the United States at 282 feet below sea level. Kinda cool!! After that we drove through the Artists Drive loop to see the sun setting on the beautiful rocks.

Salt flats at Badwater Basin
This is my F250 advertisement shot taken on Artists Drive
The winding Artists Drive
This is how I spend a lot of my time :-)

Death Valley is a stunning place in an incredibly desolate way. We look forward to exploring it again in the future and there are so many other areas that we didn't get to see (that place is huge!). We ended up leaving one night early because our campsite had started feeling a bit crowded and it was also warmer than we had envisioned it would be (around 82 each day). Overall we were really impressed with how Indie behaved on his first Audrey experience.

On Saturday we headed toward home but drove right on by Henderson and went straight to Lake Mead (which is the backside of Hoover Dam) where some of our online Airstream friends were boondocking on Government Wash road. Our goal was to have a potluck dinner and drinky-poos with them and spend the night out there and generally enjoy some hang-out time. Unfortunately, Indie wasn't on board with that plan. He was basically an oafish puppy who barked and jumped up and generally got into mischief. On the trip he'd found that he could slide open the little part on our screen door and poke his head out and see the world. Perfect, right?

Indie's special portal to the world

Well, it's hard to believe, but apparently with enough incentive he can actually JUMP THROUGH THE SMALL HOLE IN THE DOOR. <sigh> Basically Jeff and I had to take turns visiting with people and someone had to stay and dog sit. It was very reminiscent of the days when we had babies! Regardless of the puppy craziness we had a great time getting to know @thetravelinghaywoods, @aluminarium, @toddmb, @haynieruss and @van_tramp!

The gang pictured in front of Todd and Russ' Wanderlodge. How cool is this thing?
That night around midnight a huge windstorm blew in as part of a cold front. The sustained winds were around 30 mph and the gusts were over 50 mph and boy was that loud in the Airstream! Indie wasn't the only one freaking out. Jeff had to convince me that the Airstream couldn't possibly blow over. Whew! It was a long night!

On Sunday we took Audrey back to her cozy storage home and Indie slept like the dead back at our "real" house. And on Monday we commenced obedience training. :-) 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Rally in Malibu

We're part of a national Airstream club called the Wally Byam* Caravan Club International (WBCCI) and are members of the Las Vegas chapter. We're so very happy we joined this group - you really couldn't ask for a better group of peeps! It's been such a good way for us to make friends in a city where we don't know anyone, while having a blast along the way.

We just returned from a group rally in Malibu, organized by two of our members, Jim and Curt, who are excellent hosts and planners! We booked oceanview spots at the Malibu Beach RV Park and we were all perched right above the Pacific Coast Highway directly across from the beach.

Audrey's view of the ocean

The weather was perfect - we had our windows and door open almost the entire time. Such a nice change from the Vegas heat!

We always shared happy hour and dinners together


One morning we ate breakfast at Paradise Cove, which is a famous little beach for being in movies such as "Beach Blanket Bingo" and others in that era. And one afternoon we visited the Getty Villa to see the artwork and enjoy "Tea by the Sea" for lunch. Two thumbs up on this if you're in the area!!

Tea by the Sea

Lily pads in one of the ponds at the Getty Villa

Lovely optical illusion frescoes

The herb garden at the Getty Villa
It was a truly lovely 4-night getaway with a stellar group of people! Just another reason why we love Audrey - she helps us make some great friends.

*In case you're wondering, Wally founded Airstream and took people on Caravans all around the world, including Africa! The red numbers on the front and back of Audrey (10100) denote our club membership. All members receive a book once a year with all of the members in it, so when we see another Airstream on the road, we can look them up.