Featured

Have you ever been chased by mildew?

The White Christmas we enjoyed in family fashion, with our daughter (Elly) and son (Eric) who live out of province, was a joy. To hug your kids at this special time of year after the last two years of separation meant so much to us. We were especially thankful for the time together. The “White” and associated sub-zero requirement in the two weeks we enjoyed in each other’s company overstayed its welcome. “Escape” from it became a reality we couldn’t deny. February first was deemed the goal to make that escape the reality. By January 8 we were looking at our phone plan and the monthly scheduled period was set to end on the 22nd of the month. An excuse or a necessity depends on your point of view. We had to leave earlier!!!

Last year knowing we were wintering over we thankfully rented a cozy little cabin. But this year the border was threatening to open so we thought “let’s try staying in our rolling mansion”. We won’t know until we try. Winter is mild on Vancouver Island right?! (Until its Not)

Besides the weather being cold and wet, we were facing daily multiple wipe downs of all the cabinets, outer walls, tin containers, glass bottles, and window frames. Most of this moisture was caused by a dog and 2 adults breathing. Add to this the cooking of meals and resulting water vapour condenses on cold surfaces when the interior is heated. Dehumidifier going and space heater running non-stop, with electrical cords to trip on became less than an adventure and more like stress. Plus, every cabinet was propped open, and the pillows and bedcovers carefully pulled away from the walls. We still couldn’t keep up with it. Under the bed where it is relatively inaccessible, especially when we are sleeping, had a puddle below the outer walls and anything touching the walls in that space were wet and starting to get little black spots. Horror!! Nanaimo was cold and snowy this winter so no awning out to keep the doorstep somewhat dry. Our clothes and dog had nowhere to dry if it rained and the door mat got wet even with a boot tray. The dryer was $5 per use at the RV park so daily use was not really affordable and hours of access were limited. Plus the water even though it was in a heated hose, froze periodically.

Table set for dinner with friends before we leave

A brief ode to our old hound dog Fani. We found Fani at a chicken wired fenced in compound in Extension near Nanaimo in 2007. Her name is the last four letters of the name of a town we stayed at in Italy in 2006, Radicofani. She was the last puppy of the litter and looked forlorn and afraid. We had 4 little kids with us who screamed, “Can we get her???”.

Once we were home with her, we researched hounds. She was loud, did not aim to please, demanding, and could tell you to F off with a look. As she grew into a dog, she was loyal, able to be dressed in costumes, and came with us everywhere, morphing to always keep her pack together. When we went away on our journey 2 years ago, she stayed with my family in Parksville and Calgary. When we arrived back, she trundled along in the trailer.

Under the settee in the Escape

Moving off her couch and the constant changes in her environment became very stressful for her and eventually age grabbed her ability to contain her poops, hear her environment and the cataracts were growing. She was devastated and in constant turmoil. We gave her calm pills and kept her close but even to go around a corner was excruciating for her. So, after many consults with the veterinarian, Fani is resting peacefully and chasing squirrels in the mushroom forests. Her personality still wets our eyes with memories, but it was time.

Our son Eric’s tribute/contribution

“Escape”!  Once we decided, we didn’t even consider a touristy ramble down the coast. We bee lined it to the desert to dry our poor little trailer out!!

The drive south was uneventful, but we did see things along the way that were good surprises. At the Peace Arch border crossing, while being scrutinized, there is a public art space of a rectangle framed by a flock of wire looking at the heavens.

Peace Arch public art space

We keep a journal of where we spend money, stay and fuel up, etc. We faithfully let the app GasBuddy find our best deals on gas. This also helps us know how much to fill and how often we need to stop. Costco is by far the best deal overall but not in every location. The next best prices came from Casinos that are close to the highway and have a gas bar.

Google said it was just under 24 hours of driving to Borrego Springs and our favorite spot in the Anza Borrego Desert so we knew we would have at least 3 stops along the way. Shortest route was through the north edge of Los Angeles. No thanks. Maybe next time but on a Sunday night.

We traveled the Interstate 5 with stops at rest areas along the highway. The BCAA/AAA maps give locations of the rest stops. All have lanes for trucks and camper/rigs plus areas for cars. Overnight in these places is just fine since they don’t want tired drivers on the road. Some have dump stations; some have volunteers serving coffee in the morning. It is very welcoming.

The first one was just south of the Oregon border near Eugene. The gentle purr of the trucks that flanked us was comforting until the brake compressor pressure would build, as the semi-trucks idled, and a loud airy exhale would depressurize the air brakes compressor tank right beside our window. This was repeated about every 20 minutes to half hour all through the night. Sigh. Our drive through Washington and Oregon was foggy and cold, a constant reinforcement of why we were driving on such a direct route.

Above the clouds at Grant’s Pass before crossing into California

Once through the clouds at the California border, we entered the sun belt. We heard about fires near Monterrey and Big Sur. The I 5 just east of this was heavy with the resulting smoke. Although we and most others are happy for sun, the associated drought years have been and will continue to plague California with the loss of magnificent forests and erosion saving ground shrubs. Never ending sun comes at a terrible cost as we know. Passing the sleeping volcanoes from Mount Baker to Shasta always gives us pause. St Helens brings sooty memories as it erupted in our lifetime, and we had stopped at the visitor center 2 years ago.  But this time we drove on, like on a mission from god, past Mount Shasta in all her splendor!!

Mount Shasta

On our second night we found ourselves in the California Rice belt south of Sacramento looking at an alternative to overnighting at busy roadside rest stops and found Chico Rice on our Harvest Host app. This stop along the I 5 was close to a migratory bird route, surrounded by wet fields and large granaries near Willows Calif. California grows 25% of all North American rice. As it is a colder and dryer climate, japonica type short grain rice is successful here. If you are a sushi fan, chances are your rice is from this area. Long grains are fonder of the hotter more humid climates and do well in the southern states such as Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas and up into the Carolinas. Our host had a small farm stand selling their rice and local olive oil from the groves we passed along the route. We benefitted from the flat plain his silos of rice were situated on. The stunning sunset along the coastal mountains, and an equally beautiful sunrise along the Sierra Nevada range framed our quiet, private rest stop nicely.

At 7 AM sharp an apologetic farmer pulled up to his silos early enough to supervise the grain trucks filling on their way to be milled and put into the supply chains we so desperately appreciate. His comments regarding the drought were disparaging. It left us thinking and wishing we could take that controversial pipeline infrastructure and send some of the water from BC’s crazy November rains south.

Once south of the rice belt we were into the everything else belt. California is one big farm belt that we Canadians depend on for our fresh winter supplies. It was not lost on us that there was a steady train of trucks going north.

Smokey skies from the Big Sur and Monterrey fire

We decided to avoid the San Bernardino area of north LA and divert across through Bakersfield then drop south through Yucca and Palm Springs area. En route is the Rio Tinto Boron mine where Borax and the 20 Mule train museum and visitor center is. When we were driving by 2 years ago we saw it but didn’t stop. This time we did. What a gem…in a huge mining kind of way. The Visitor Center was staffed by an old miner who hired on in the early ‘60s. He was a charming wealth of information and was a proud employee. An obscure stop with benefits. Fun fact – your cellphone glass uses boron to make your touch screen work better. This, of course, had a more scientific explanation on the employee recruiting video!!

While looking at the map we decided that the rest stop in Boron, CA would be a good distance for travel that day. However, if you google Boron crime it comes out as having only 10 % higher crime rate than the national average, whatever that means.

Our trusty Campendium App told us about a restaurant in Tehachepi another half hour down the road. The owner allows parking-lot overnights for restaurant patrons. We felt very safe and secure. We were the only ones there overnight. Then the trains went by…..every half hour…to and from LA.

Overnight after burritos!!

We rose early, with the Anza Borrego as our final resting spot that day!! It was going to be a short trip until we took the scenic route through Pioneertown. We visited Pioneertown two years ago for a musical night at Pappy and Harriet’s and vowed we would return during the day to see this old gem of the wild west. It truly was built as a wild west movie set in a working town. We didn’t stop but could see the old street. We will be back to get out of the car next time and dodge some bullets while taking a stroll. We were too motivated to get to our destination. We descended the Mojave Desert past roadside Joshua trees and high-altitude yuccas into the warm Coachella valley. We passed our familiar exits at Palm Springs, Indio, and the Salton Sea. Fueled up at the cheapest gas bar south of Oregon and proceeded to the Arroyo Salado Primitive camping spot.

Our first experience with the free camping in the park was at the Arroyo Salado wash. Another Escape trailer owners, Ian and Valerie, from Vancouver, were camped there two years ago and took us on a big hike through washes, up and over a mountain side, beside an old, deserted mine, and back down a wash to our trailer. We had every intention to tell them we would be returning south and would they be there. Never got to it. When we arrived, their Escape trailer was there!

We reacquainted with avid hiker Ian, as his wife stayed north, and he
took us on a hike of a nearby slot canyon at the old Calcite mine.
This hike took us through some great slot canyon meanderings with dry
waterfalls and great geologic layers of color and textures. We had
some lunch at the abandoned Calcite mine opening and poked through the
leftover calcite material on the ground. Fun Fact: During WW2 they
mined high grade Calcite here for gun sights, more specifically for
bomb sights and anti aircraft weaponry. Another great,8 Km guided hike
by our acquaintance Ian.

We are currently in the Blair Valley of the Anza Borrego Desert State
Park awaiting the arrival of three friends from Vancouver Island. Another
great chapter in our adventure is visiting the Baja with
our friends. Stay tuned for updates from San Felipe and Bahia de Los
Angeles.

Blair Valley is colder at a higher altitude. And beautiful.

Where did 2020 and 2021 go?

Featured

27,000 kilometres later we arrived back in Canada on February 21, 2020. On the way through Washington State we noticed a newspaper headline at a gas station that read “Covid 19 Virus reported at Seattle Hospital” and we continued on our way. Our life on the road was about to become dramatically different. Our plan was to pick up our hound at my sister Marnie’s home in Calgary and make it to the island to celebrate our niece’s wedding with all our Manitoba and Ontario relatives on March 6. After lots of fun, kisses, hugs, dancing, partying, celebration and connection we said our goodbyes and watched closely as public health officials shut down our social and travel dominated lifestyle. Like everyone our wings were clipped.

Then March 12, 2020 hit and we were locked down. Well when the world throws you lemons you make lemonade, right? Staying put at a park like Seal Bay RV in the Comox Valley for 3 months was not a hardship. While we weren’t able to entertain and go into friends homes, we were able to play in the valley. The Comox Valley is a recreational paradise and camped beside many kilometres of trails and a beach we biked, jogged, walked and had outdoor campsite visits by the fire.

We Zoomed Alberts 60th year in virtually with our friends. We were grateful for a way to have a dinner party “together” during a pandemic.

Our kayak was always at the ready and Comox lake and the Spit had some beautiful warm calm weather to be outdoors.

Summer 2020 brought island travel to destinations we had not visited before. Port Hardy, Port MacNeill, San Josef Bay, Telegraph Cove, Sayward, Nimpkish, Woss, Macktush at Alberni Inlet, and Wokas Lake were just a glimpse of the beautiful paradise that we were “stuck” in. Bonus highlights were hiking to a WW2 DC3 plane crash site near Port Hardy, huge stands of Old Growth at Nahmint Lake, picking first of the season wild blackberries above the Alberni inlet before the bears got them, the view from the Chinese mountains on Quadra Island, a record breaking huckleberry harvest. No down side.

We escaped off island in September 2020 without our trailer, and took a couple of weeks tenting, to play in the BC desert of the south Okanagan. Tasting wine, swimming, and biking on the Kettle Valley Railroad multiuse trails was a highlight. Fire devastation was also evident and was a grim reminder that others had suffered terrible losses.

November we moved into a “cabin/inlaw suite” next door to our friends house in Parksville and decided that working was a good way to pass the time and pool some funds. I went back to teaching culinary at VIU and Albert worked at Mt. Washington in Rentals. Bonus! We both had seasons passes to all of the hill. So we skiied, snowshoed, and generally played in the snow on our days off together.

Food highlights were picking a ton of huckleberries and blackberries, duck 6 ways – a duck promotion with King Cole Ducks and the Canadian Culinary Federation, crabbing at Quadra and Ruxton islands, successful sourdough during a yeast shortage, picking chanterelles in December, zoom dinner parties where we all dined on the same menu but in different cities, tiny little sips of a combination of icy tequila and limoncello by the fire, Okanagan wines.

2021 – anything is better than 2020 – right?

With proximity to parents and friends, we weren’t really feeling terribly isolated. Where as our daughter in Montreal had spent a crazy stressful time in the theatre biz in Quebec where deaths in seniors homes were rampant, anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers made the news, and curfews were the new normal. A police state in Canada was not what she, or anyone, had signed up for and her age group was blamed for much of the spread while getting up and being at minimum wage jobs in grocery stores and gas stations!!

April with teaching done and ski season over, we packed up and headed into the trailer again with camping in Comox and Nanaimo then off to Sooke Potholes for a couple of weeks in May. We found great camping throughout the south island. During the “heat dome” in June we found higher altitude was a bit cooler in the parking lot at Mount Washington. Trail heads to many beautiful Strathcona walks were right across the road. That said, it was dusty and hot so we descended the mountain almost daily to dip into the Puntledge, Brown and Tsolem rivers. The roads were so hot, our poor dog, Fani, burnt her feet on a wood plank bridge over one of the rivers.

We decided we needed to camp near water, so we headed to the BC Hydro campground at Upper Campbell Lake. This is a hidden gem. We don’t want you to know about it so we are not telling you. First come first serve means no guarantee of a site but we lucked in and stayed two weeks overlooking the lake and snowy peaks of Strathcona Park. Large sites so Marn and Jim joined us from Calgary. Mum and Don came up for Don’s 85th birthday celebration. It was so hot we swam at least 7 times a day and even Fani, who hated the water, went in on her own a few times. WOW!

We have generous friends with extra accommodation in Victoria, Comox and Ruxton island so we often spent time visiting these friends. My parents driveway was always a stopping off point as well so we could visit, help and just be “home” with them. We were also grateful that Vancouver Island had low Covid numbers so our bubble, while small, stayed healthy. As vaccines became available we signed up as soon as we could.

We finished up a coastal summer camping at Quadra Island with tons of paddling, biking and hiking.

Fall upon us, Albert was off to his 25th annual boys weekend, and I drove the dog and rig to Osoyoos with friends for the second annual wine and fun week at Swiws Campground. Swiws Provincial Park is a narrow peninsula that juts out into Osoyoos lake. This was my inaugural solo drive on to the ferry, through the lower mainland and mountain passes of Highway 3 (Hope-Princelton) to the south Okanagan. I had no troubel apart from missing a turn in Tsawwassen then rerouting through the River Road during rush hour with Fani whining and tons of traffic and trucks but we lived!!! Later that day I was perfectly parked and friends Luba and Bill arrived to our double site. Friends, Jill and Cam, parked their Sprinter in a site across the way ready for us to embark on some wine touring. A relatively new vineyard way up on the slope above Black Sage Vineyard that we enjoyed was Phantom Creek. The attention to detail and well designed architecture did not ignore the natural influence of the surrounding hills and valley. The wines did not disappoint either, with some of their offerings grown using biodynamic methods. We will be back. Another day we rode our bikes to and through the desert sands at Nk’Mip Vineyard.

Albert flew in to Penticton and joined us at the end of the week. This gave us the beginning of our desert fix that we missed when we decided on this nomadic lifestyle. Out of Osoyoos and off to Southern Alberta.

We took a few days to get to the Rockies staying at Kokanee Creek and Kikomun Creek Provincial Parks. They were practically empty but for the wildlife. Rattlesnakes, coyotes, turtles, Kokanee salmon, grizzly and blackbear were all evident but elusive. We brushed past too many places that are calling us back for a longer stay. The histories of first nations, Doukhobor migration, wartime internment camps, mining and miners, as well as the outdoor playgrounds, hotsprings, The Great Trail over Gray Creek pass, calling us back for a lengthy visit.

In Alberta, our first stop was Beauvais Lake Provincial Park. Mid September in the Rocky Mountain foothills is cold and we were below freezing most nights. In the park we joined Marnie, and brother in law Jim, and their dog Frances., all from Calgary. @faniandfrank (Instagram) has our two dogs just hanging out.

In camp we were serenaded by bugling elk in rut and we kept our distance when hiking on the trails around the park. Three resident moose, a cow and two calves, wandered through our site one morning unfazed by us or our two dogs, surprisingly. Plus the coyotes howling in the distance let us know we were near the wilderness.

Beauvais Lake PP was a central location to visit Sparwood, The Frank Slide, Pincher Creek, Waterton National Park and Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump. At Waterton we did a short hike up Bear’s Hump Trail. A massive forest fire cleared the trees in 2017 and their white skeletons allowed the views to the lake and town. The viewpoint at the top is spectacular. Waterton is windy 86% of the year. Really windy.

Diving into deeper learning about the Blackfoot nation began at Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump. The Blackfoot nation would drive the bison over a “jump”. A camp was set up to process the whole animal into food, clothing, tools, and housing. While the bison heads may have been smashed in, the elders tell the story of a young brave who went to watch but was too close below when they tumbled over and he was killed when his head was “smashed in”.

Next stop was Milk River and the Writing on Stone Provincial Park. Again, if you have never been, this is another hidden gem. It is nestled below the wide open and very flat prairie among the hoodoos that line the river. Ten kilometres south of the Alberta border rise the Sweetgrass Mountains, old volcanos that failed to erupt but protrude from the flat arid grassland.

This park is known for its petroglyphs and pictographs that date from before contact to the present. The present day Petroglyphs are also known as graffiti and are illegally carved. We were immersed amongst the human-esque hoodoos in a desert that featured coyotes, rattlesnakes, scorpions and cacti. The river was low so no paddling but it is on a very popular paddle route so we put that idea in the “another time” files in our heads. With temperatures of 30 C we felt like we had extended summer well into October.

Next stop was Dinosaur Provincial park near Medicine Hat. This park drops down into the valley of the Red Deer River and yet another possible paddle route down the road. While WOSPP was educational with archeologists feeding us with information, DPP was all about palaeontology. The park has interpretive trails with skeletal remains explained. Marnie and Jim joined us for a night hoping the near empty campground would have some space on the weekend. No luck. They left and it filled. Steep towering hoodoos above the campground filled with children running around and being busy little palaeontologists or just daredevils. So fun to see families let their kids be independent and curious!! At points we wished we had little kids to set free.

With time to kill before going to Calgary, we headed back to Writing on Stone and friends, Lori (58 year friendship!!) and hubby Mike, from Calgary met us there to replay our first visit. This was their first time there and they caught the magic too.

On the drive back to Writing on Stone we stopped at Red Rock Coulee. Here huge red boulder concretions are sprinkled over the land randomly.

Off to Calgary for a week, helping our son move in to his new digs and some long awaited visits then we started back to the coast before the winter blew in. We had to take a picture at Vulcan

Another erratic at Okotoks just outside of Calgary. Okatok is the Blackfoot word for rock. This one floated here from near Jasper during the last ice age. I had been wanting to come see this erratic for years as Big Rock Brewing had made it famous

Lori and Mike joined us staying at Red Streak Campground in Radium for its final 6 nights of the season. Hiking around the trails at Red Streak and Kootenay National Park before the snow came was a bonus. A hike up to Dog Lake was spectacular with the calm reflection of the new snow promising winter to come.

On Thanksgiving with a fresh dusting of snow on the ground, we we decided on a touristy road trip to Kimberley. Stuffed Cornish hens ready to roast and appy plated in the fridge, we headed out. Seeing the enormous scrape of the Columbia River and Kootenay Rivers dividing the same valley was geographically fascinating. Covered bridges and a mapped historical interpretive walk around town brought locals telling us of other places to see.

On the last night, October 11, we were the only ones in the campground so we took all the firewood the surrounding evacuees had left, cranked the tunes and sat under the stars singing along.

Lori and Mike headed back to Calgary and we headed to the north Okanagan/Shuswap area and visited family along the way. Snow in Rogers Pass reminded us that we were heading into winter in the mountains.

Rogers Pass

A night at the little Shuswap then a few nights in Cherryville gave us a chance to see some of the devastation the forest fires left. Black hills and burned out buildings and vehicles strewn along the highway by Monte Lake, was so sad.

Monte Lake and its blackened hillsides

We spent time at my brother and sister in laws farm and found some nice hikes, walks and drives along the Shuswap river, above Kalamalka Lake and Sugar Lake. More stuff to put in the return vault!!

Our route home was via Merritt, Highway 8 to Spences Bridge, then Highway 1 back to the coast. A wonderful little rec site called N’Kwala was a welcome place to overnight along the Nicola River. More fire devastation was evident as we saw remnants of the fire that burned down Lytton on the other side of the mountain along Highway 8 in the Nicola valley. This fire was raging in late June during the heat dome. Only one month later flooding at Merritt with the whole town evacuated and Highway 8 was swept away.

2021 was full of wondering what we would be doing in the fall.

Back to the wet coast

I applied to relief instruct at VIU again. Daughter Elly asked if we could have Christmas in Parksville but we were going to be south. We organized accommodation for family in Palm Springs and were all set but the American government would not open the borders to non essential travel. So we decided to remain on the island and spend Christmas here. Elly and Taylor,(fiancé) plus our son Eric all made it home for Christmas. This was our first time seeing Elly since we left Montreal in October 2019! When we met them at YVR we had that run across the airport in tears arms open event that finished in a very long teary hug and 26-month long exhale.

The border has subsequently opened and we have itchy feet.

We have been very lucky in that we house-sat in Nanaimo during the atmospheric river event in November and again near my Mums house in Parksville over a snowy, cold and wintery Christmas. Our trailer is warm and cozy at a lovely campground along Haslam Creek near Nanaimo Airport. We have heat tape wrapped around the water line and a small TV hanging above the table with the fireplace channel running. The outdoor room in our market tent was flattened under the weight of the first snow fall so now we are really motivated to get the hell out of here.

Santa brought map books of California, scenic byways and a map of northern Baja. So guess where we are headed? The plan is to leave February 1 and meet friends in Anza Borrego at the beginning of March. But if Omicron changes my work schedule it could be earlier…or later if it closes us down again…. All good… Make Lemonade… Stay tuned… life is good. 2022 here we come!!!

Travelling with friends

Two years ago, when we were travelling around Canada and the USA, we RV’d on our own. This winter when we hightailed it out of BC because of wet, cold, and uncomfortable weather, our friends decided to come too. We all had our ideas of what we wanted to do and see but mostly we loved travel, sight-seeing, good food and conviviality.

Leaving Anza Borrego this year, we set out for Sedona AZ and the red buttes, mesas and plateaus that make up the deserts of Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico. The area where the four corners of these states converge is ingeniously called The Four Corners. We frequently see some of the most incredible, majestic desert Insta-photos on our feed posted from this zone. So, the motivation was there, (post haste). 

We spent a day in El Centro (about two hours from Agua Caliente) to get some maintenance done on the trailer. Our furnace wasn’t working, the pilot on the oven was a bit wonky and the hot water heater was glitchy. These propane appliances have worked so well over the past 3 years of full time RVing, that we neglected to schedule for regular maintenance. OOPS! Google recommended an RV Service business for El Centro and the comments were favourable, so off we went. No appointment necessary but “get here early so they can get on it right away”. We got up with the sun and were there just as el jefe (the boss) was arriving. He was quiet and confident, “no problem, regular service, we can fix this, come back at around 2 pm”. Off we went.  We filled the propane at the farm store, fueled and provisioned at the Costco, drove around to see the town a bit and the phone rang at noon. The trailer was done. Wow, fantastic, two hours earlier than promised! Suitably impressed, we hurried to pick it up. We were so happy that the bill was only $114. Like good trusting (naïve) Canadians, we didn’t even check that everything worked. At our destination that night, three hours of driving later, we regretted our lack of diligence in checking the quality of service. It became apparent that quality was not part of the delivered bill of goods. Word to the wise – ask for a walk through of the repairs before setting out to a destination so far away that you won’t get the quality implied as part of the bargain! We found a fantastic and affordable Mexican restaurant called Los Ce-B-Ches featuring Mexican sushi. We had crispy Octopus Taco, Aguachiles Alboroto (fresh prawns tossed in a dark acidic marinade) and Ceviche de Pescado Tostadas. We didn’t want to leave. 

Los Ce-B-Ches and the octopus ceiling. I copied this photo off their Facebook page.

Proud of our productivity and restaurant choice we set out for the destination goal of the day – Quartzsite, Arizona. The drive took us north of Interstate 8 along highway 78 which is more of what we might call a road rather than a highway.

Two lanes, mines on the left and dunes on the right. Quartzsite is a destination for many snowbirds. The population of about 4K swells to over 1M in January with the RV shows, rocks and gems show and the world’s largest tent. It is an ATV mecca. Surrounded by ragged dirt/ sand roads, trails, old mines, native heritage sites, washes and like-minded folks piloting all manner of vehicles. We had to have a look. While driving through the main road in town, we caught site of intriguing metal sculpture camels, remnants of what were cars, jeeps and dune buggies, creatively named bars, shops and innumerable gem outlets. It had a vibe.

Unfortunately browsing the local business attractions wasn’t part of our agenda for the day but we definitely filed it under Places for Future Reference. We cruised directly to an easy to find camping area for a one night stay. Well, it was basically a rough sand parking lot in March. Probably the biggest empty parking lot you will ever come across. Once parked at the BLM land we had time for a sunset beer before it got cold. Next day, in 30 degree heat, we got the bikes out and explored the area where we were camped, Plomosa Road. Two points of interest were the Alignment and Intaglio. The 100 foot alignment was built by General Patton’s army air force to point practicing pilots back to Quartzsite airstrip if magnetic interference from all the mineral rich landscape caused problems with navigation. It has the word QUARTZSITE spelled with a compass direction and distance to go. About a mile up the road from this was the Native American Intaglio or geoglyph of a fisherman with spear and fish. Historian archeologists say this geoglyph represented God sending his spear to form the Colorado River. It was very faint to see but we did manage to make out some of the shapes. Very difficult to capture with our cameras at ground level. 

We packed up and headed for Parker Dam and the River Island Arizona State Park campground. Two years ago, we stayed here for about 4 days and paddled on the Colorado. We had just two nights this time. Our friends’ winter at a big park on the California side and it is a mere 10 minute drive over the Parker dam to visit them. Fun fact – the Parker Dam is the deepest dam in the USA. We got our bikes out and attempted a ride but there are lots of steeps that have been put in the blender by all the ATVs and Razers spinning tires. My experience turned to bruises and blood, so we ended that with frustration and headed back to camp. Riverside with a cold beverage is not a terrible thing and apparently relieves some of the throbbing from a battered elbow. 

Once we left Parker Dam, we were hitting new territory for us. Our friends Luba and Bill were on the hunt in Arizona for some dispersed camping areas between Sedona and Cottonwood. Dispersed camping is free on some federal and state lands. BLM is Bureau of Land Management. Being that Sedona and Cottonwood are in the Coconino National Forest we found out that national forest land also has plenty of dispersed camping. They found a spot along the Highway 89A corridor between Sedona and Cottonwood.

We parked our trailers so that our doors faced into a makeshift courtyard, facing the red Sedona mountains and the regular appearance of colourful air balloons that launched at dawn. The area has several quaint communities, a wealth of hiking, mountain biking, vineyards, spring fed waterways along with creeks and rivers that are good for swimming. Cottonwood has plenty of affordable shopping.   Sedona is a bit like Whistler and Banff with hordes of people imbibing in the sounds of Pan Flute music from indiscernible sources, crystal healing and exploration of mysterious earth vortexes surrounding various geological viewpoints, all this while working hard at looking fancy on a mountain bike. Although tempting, we passed on the supernatural self-indulgent experiences. The scenery was jaw dropping. And the balloons were an added bonus aesthetically!!

The day after we lined up our trailers, Lori and Mike were enroute from Calgary. Along the way, people would say to them, “usually Canadians are heading home at this time”. When they arrived, they completed our little courtyard as our wagons were once again “circled” with our friends. 

We stayed 10 days making daily excursions to various sites of interest. Some of the activities included…

  • Mountain biked, with the grazing bulls, from our camp to the overlook above Cottonwood on the 3rdand 4th segments of the Lime Kiln Trail. 
  • Hiked to the Devils Bridge – Sedona 
  • Hiked the Boynton Canyon trail – Sedona
  • Visited the fascinating Tuzigoot National Historic Site – Clarkdale
  • Visited the Page Springs Vineyard for a tasting and crazy good truffle chips….too many chips… and no photo of the wine either…oops
  • Visited Jerome and the Jerome State Historic Park, a mining museum in a mansion of a late mine owner overlooking the Verde Valley.
  • Drove to Whisky Row in Prescott (pronounce Press-kit) with a crazy curvy highway canyon climb into the Prescott National Forest and Prescott Valley. No trailers!!
  • Hiked the Dead Horse trail – Sedona – fortunately no dead horses
  • Hiked and dipped in the Sycamore Canyon Wilderness (a unique desert riparian zone) – Cottonwood and Clarkdale
  • Drove up the Oak Creek Canyon towards Flagstaff and Williams to scope out our next camping area near the Grand Canyon.  The rest stop overlook on this canyon is above 4 switchbacks. We returned via highway 17 with its straight shot down a 16-mile 6% hill. The chosen route for dragging our rolling homes. 

As we continue along, Lori and Mike will be with us until they head back to Calgary, and we may continue into Coeur D’Alene. But lots to do and see before then. 

We are heading to the Grand Canyon, Santa Fe and Moab…. Stay tuned