Petroglyph National Monument just outside Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Boca Negra Canyon
Good morning from Santa Fe, New Mexico and greetings from Los Sueños de Santa Fe RV Park and Campground. Nothing too special at this RV park except location. The Santa Fe Rail-Trail is just out our back gate and leads to downtown Santa Fe about seven miles away.
Melanie and I have ridden our bikes into town several times since our arrival from Albuquerque, New Mexico on Monday where we spent last week. We stopped our bikes just a few blocks off the trail at Iconik Coffee Roasters and then rode on into downtown the first day, stopping off at REI to replace a worn backpack of Melanie's.
March 6th marks our third month on the road. We have been living full-time in Miranda for five months. With few exceptions, the experience has been far better than I imagined it. Melanie is settling into her role as Executive Director of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship and I'm becoming more comfortable in my roles as logistics and navigator person on the fly.
We continue to meet interesting people along the way, especially, thanks to Melanie's contacts with people in various Episcopal parishes interested in and wanting to participate in what EPF is about. We're also finding most people who travel this way are kind and willing to talk and share their experiences. And, of course, we have enjoyed talking to the locals as we are out and about.
Since neither of us had traveled in an RV before, our planning necessarily depended somewhat on what we could glean from those who were out there doing it before us. We crafted a budget based on research I did obtained from published numbers of people who had been out here living on the road and had blogs offering help and advice.
We have held pretty fast to our rule about traveling no more than two hundred miles in a day and staying no less than two days in a place. That way we don't wear ourselves out driving all the time. There have been exceptions, mostly due to arriving at a location and knowing almost immediately there's no reason to stay for more than one night. We laugh now, for example, about Van Horn, Texas, but it wasn't funny then. I wasn't well and neither of us liked the place I chose for us to stay. Luckily, we'd just come off an extraordinary experience at Big Bend National Park.
We cook less than I imagined we would. That's still an evolving process, but the Leisure Travel Van kitchen is small and a two burner cook stove is not as conducive to the kind of cooking I enjoyed in Birmingham. We have generally bought prepared meats and entrees and supplemented those with fresh fruits and vegetables. We love a good Costco chicken and some of their prepared soups and chili and lasagna works well too. I'm still adjusting to the Microwave/Convection Oven in the LTV too. The microwave and oven work well, but the times for various items is still a learning curve.
Maybe because we cook less, we tend to also eat out more than I believed we would. I'm not sure why I thought eating out would not be the case since trying new places to dine and sharing a meal together in a great place is one of the pleasures Melanie and I have always enjoyed.
Our fuel bill for the RV (diesel and propane) has been slightly higher than I budgeted. The LTV gets great gas mileage (averaging between 15-18 mpg). The higher fuel figure is mainly due to our using more propane than I believed we'd need due to a winter season that was, apparently by all information we could gather, colder than normal in most places to which we traveled. It's chilly (47 degrees F) here in Santa Fe today (April 11), but we're cozy inside Miranda.
Chasing the right weather is a thing with RV travel, not too hot, not too cold. The vehicle is essentially for use in three seasons and winter isn't one of those seasons. The lowest temperature we experienced was at El Morro National Monument Campground. There were snow flurries, the temperature went down to around 20 degrees and we were dry camping (no hookups) too. Though we made it through the night with no damage to Miranda, I didn't sleep too well waking to check the battery level (running the furnace using battery power and keeping a sixty watt bulb in the shop light I located in a bay burning). The bay contains the fresh water fill and an outside shower and is the low point for the fresh water so freezing isn't allowed.
We have come in under budget on campground fees. Since I'm an old guy and have a National Parks Senior pass, we both get into the parks for no charge and campground fees are half price. There have been free nights with friends (thanks EPF folks) along the way too. While we haven't sought out free camping spots (like Bureau of Land Management spots) as much as I believed we might, and there's a plethora of them our here in the west, we've still managed to spend less than I thought we would. Part of the reason we are staying in campgrounds more often is connectivity. Because of Melanie's work, most of the time we need internet access. For us that means having cell service for our hot spot and that translates into being located near a cell tower.
Three months on the road and Melanie and I agree the traveling life-style has much to offer. We look forward many days to exploring our new environs (travel days are especially exciting), just hanging out around camp and meeting new people along the way. We've really enjoyed the National Parks and National Monuments we've visited and some of our favorite camping spots are run by the Army Corp of Engineers.
We pretty much have down the everyday running of our new household too. While we have a check list, a must before moving Miranda, we also know the "jobs" each of us needs to do each time we set up or take down. Operating Miranda has become the proverbial well oiled machine.
Finally, we really like Miranda (our Leisure Travel Van). She has performed as promised with very few (really) minor problems along the way. It's comfortable for the two of us, easy to set up and take down and easy to drive. We can easily find parking in most places we take her so that's rarely ever a consideration. In short, we're quite happy to be out here on the road.
And Santa Fe..., yes.
Good afternoon from just outside Albuquerque, New Mexico. We're here for a week before traveling on north to Santa Fe.
After leaving Winslow, Arizona and Homolovi State Park, we traveled through Navajo Indian Reservation to the Cottonwood Campground and a visit to Canyon de Chelly National Monument. The drive through Navajo lands was beautiful and, as you may imagine, a bit disconcerting. Many of the roadways within the reservation are in need of repairs and, while there are signs asking people not to litter, litter abounds. No photos of the litter, no photos of the apparent poverty, you'll have to trust me on that.
Canyon de Chelly National Monument
Melanie and I were taken out to Mission San Xavier del Bac by friends of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship while we were in Tucson, Arizona.
Day trip out to Walnut Canyon National Monument.
Good morning from Homolovi State Park just outside of Winslow, Arizona. We arrived here last evening in time to set up, have a surreptitious beer and glass of wine and guacamole (thanks Wade A. for the easy recipe) before a beautiful sunset unfolded. Nothing like right place, right time.
Homolovi is located about a mile and a half from Interstate 44 and is high desert (4,900 feet above sea level). After Grand Canyon, being back in an environment with long-distance views is a nice change. We'll be here for at least another evening before heading in the general direction of Albuquerque, New Mexico. This is either our second or third Arizona state park. Kudos to Arizona for their very well thought-out parks.
I'm admitting right here I'm over Spring Breaks. Really. I was complaining about this to a friend a few days back as Melanie and I were relaxing having a beer and glass of wine at the El Tovar Hotel on the South Rim at Grand Canyon. His response was, "Yeah, like, damn those kids." We laughed at my over reaction and his sarcasm. But still.
It's been a bit of a downer for us full-time traveling newbies (great name for a college band?) trying to find a place to stay (without reservations, lesson possibly learned) and a quiet place to hike or ride our bikes. Since our boys now do Spring Break on their own for the past few years, my recollection apparently has gotten dim or I'm just dim, but regardless, my Spring Break experience this year is sucking, especially since my memory of Sedona, among other locations, was of this sleepy, but kitschy, and extremely beautiful place in northern Arizona (25 years ago).
So, Sedona was a parking lot full of people who were there, I assume (those Pink Jeep tours though), to have some fun in the few days they had during their respective Spring Breaks. Don't get me wrong, it's still beautiful in Sedona, amazing views everywhere you look, but with many more businesses and many, many more houses, all tastefully done, of course. Regardless, as another friend opined, it's definitely the Gatlinburg of the Southwest. Melanie just rolled her eyes at my complaints as she was extremely pleased with her experience.
The photo above is the only one you get. I'm not here to mislead you with selectively photographed, cropped and edited images. If you do find yourself in Sedona, your experience may vary depending on your inclination toward magic crystals and vortexes. 😎
Jerome and Flagstaff, Arizona
We left Sedona, Arizona and headed to Jerome, another place I'd been to on one other occasion some twenty-five years ago. My recollection was of a small arts community with a history of copper mining set on the side of a mountain looking east towards Sedona. It's pretty much the same place I recall with a few more renovations and stores and restaurants.
If shopping is your thing and you like great vistas, Jerome is not to be missed. We had a good lunch there and moved along to Flagstaff, Arizona.
We pretty much enjoyed our stay in the college town of Flagstaff. We stayed in a KOA campground (America's Campground) just outside of Flagstaff historic downtown. The weather was a little too cool to do much bike riding, so our few days there were mostly spend around camp. We did, however, venture out on two evenings and found a cool wine bar at which we drank and had dinner.
We will visit Flagstaff again when the weather is more conducive to riding around the great historic downtown on our bikes or, when I have my ski gear, so I can take advantage of Arizona Snowbowl. Either way, Flagstaff has a good feel.
Grand Canyon National Park
I'd tried for days to get a reservation at one of the campgrounds within GCNP, but, as mentioned above, it was f'ing Spring Break and everyone and their children had made a plan. So, after searching my various resources online, I made the determination that we'd go to the park and the worst thing that might happen is we'd park Miranda on National Forest land just outside the park and drive in to visit.
We got up early on Monday morning, made coffee and drank it on the way there. Arriving at the park around 8:45 a.m., we easily made our way in (no charge 'cause I have that Senior Pass 😎). My first stop was to Mather Campground. The nice ranger person told me they were full, but if I'd come back by around noon, there may be cancellations by then. He also suggested trying next door at Trailer Village.
We made our way over to the Village. I told the person there I had no reservation, I understood it was (sigh) Spring Break all over 'Merica, but was it possible he had a space for Miranda so that my wife, who'd never in her entire whole life seen this wonder of the world, could now take a peek and be truly amazed.
How many days do you need, he asked me? Well, most gracious and kind sir, one or two, would be very nice. Give me a sec, he said. Sure, I can give you and your wife two days. Miracle of miracles. I thanked him profusely as we left for our spot at about 9:15 a.m. (check in time normally is 1:00 p.m.) Maybe that crystal I'd touched in Sedona...
If you've never seen the canyon, it's a must see kinda thing. Photos never do it justice. One must stand on the rim of the canyon and take in the grandness, the constantly changing light playing on the walls below.
We rode our bikes along great bike paths and one morning got up early, made coffee, packed that and a couple of protein bars in the panniers, along with my camera, and watched the sun come up along a couple of places on the South rim. We'll definitely be back at some point, the North Rim was closed for the winter.
Photos taken in two different locations along Desert View Drive
Our lunch spot in a pull-out overlook as we left Grand Canyon on Desert View Drive
Desert View Overlook
A few shots from Trailer Village Campground
Good morning from Sedona, Arizona and Rancho Sedona RV Park.
It's spring break and people and the traffic they bring are in full bloom here in Sedona. Never have I been more appreciative of our choice to have our two electric assist bicycles in lieu of towing a car than here in Sedona. On a good day, the bikes are just great fun to ride, here we can travel from our location to various places (thanks, Sedona, for the well-marked bike lanes and signs) around town with ease, avoiding the long lines of cars snail pacing their way through town.
Leaving Tucson last week, we traveled to Phoenix where we made a stop at the local Bass Pro Shop parking lot overnight before I dropped Melanie off at Phoenix Sky Harbor airport so she could attend a board meeting in Chicago. We took the circuitous route into Phoenix, traveling through the Tonto National Forest in search of a Super Bloom located in the San Carlos Apache Reservation. We didn't find the bloom (thanks for the heads up anyway, Beth), but the trip was beautiful and a bit exciting as we got to experience a bit of semi serious winter weather (high winds and blowing snow and sleet) coming through a pass in the forest.
After dropping Melanie off at Sky Harbor, I continued on the Prescott, Arizona north of Phoenix about a hundred miles or so. The last and only time I was in Prescott was in 1995. My recollection, colored by the passage of time, was of a sleepy tourist town with a history of copper mining. The tub in my hotel room was a copper claw foot tub I remember as being pretty cool.
The drive up to Prescott is scenic as you ascend into the mountains. It was chilly and windy on Thursday morning and a few of the surrounding peaks still had substantial snow on them from a recent event a few days before I came through. Despite the cooler weather, the desert is beginning to bloom and greater than average rainfall has left the desert greener than normal for this time of year.
Approaching the Prescott Valley prior to getting into Prescott proper, I was very surprised by the exponential growth the area has experienced. The area is now a busy retirement community with several colleges too. Remembering that Spring Breaks were happening all over, it's still a very busy place. They bill themselves as "Everybody's Home Town." Indeed.
I choose my location, Point of Rocks RV Park, for it's proximity to Watson Lake and the Granite Dells. There's also the Peavine rails to trails bike and walking path that runs through the Granite Dells. I was about 8 miles from downtown Prescott and Prescott is also very bicycle conscious with many of the roads having clearly marked bike paths. I was given a nice map of the area upon arrival which, among other points of interest, had clearly marked bicycle routes on it.
Watson Lake and the Granite Dells Hiking
Peavine National Recreation Trail
On Saturday I took the Red Ranger out for a spin on the Peavine Trail. Another great ride on another great rails to trails pathway.
We've been in Tucson, AZ since Friday afternoon last. Melanie has been busy making contacts related to her EPF work, but we've also had down time to take in some of what Tucson has to offer, weather being one of those things.
This morning marked the first time since January 25th this year we've had any rain fall on us. Notwithstanding the winds, sometimes high winds, we've had generally pleasant weather, if sometimes cooler than we might have chosen. Today is breezy as the front moves through and there's a slight chance for more rain (it just started again), but the temps are pleasant enough.
It's no wonder that most of the people staying here are longer-term residents who winter in Tucson from all over the United States and Canada. I met a Canadian couple while cycling on Sunday who have been coming to Tucson for a month each year for 8 consecutive years. Nice folks who wondered aloud what had become of US politics. What, indeed.
As I was making our plans on where to stay in Tucson, I did what I often do when we are to be in a relatively major city, I checked to see what kind of bike trails might be available. After checking, I made sure we were located near one of the many bike trails located here. We're a mere 50 yards away from a trail that goes for many, many miles around Tucson and basically connects many parts of the city.
We are scheduled to be in Phoenix on Thursday morning to allow Melanie to board a plane for Chicago for a EPF board meeting. I'll be in Prescott, AZ for a few days while she's gone, but if I'd realized just how great the biking trail system is here, I may very well have put myself right back here. Kudos to Tucson for the forward thinking attitude toward cycling and making it easy and safe to get around.
In my position as logistics person for our operation, I'm sometimes faced with what to do when the mileage between cities is too great for a single day trip. Leaving El Paso, I knew we were headed to Tucson because the other options we considered, Santa Fe and Albuquerque, NM, were not viable options as the weather was still too cold for Miranda (and us).
Tucson was a bit too far for one day's travel plus we needed to stay in El Paso one more night (without reservations) to get mail being forwarded to us. The answer in those situations has been Harvest Hosts. They provide places that are farms, wineries, breweries, etc. to park Miranda (for free) for up to three days at a time. The only prerequisite (aside from membership) is that your motor home must be completely self-contained. That is, you must have your own shower, toilet, water, etc.
There's generally no purchase necessary, but since Melanie and I both drink, wine and beer are sometimes purchased. We stayed at Sombra Antigua Vineyard and Winery and Golden Rule Winery on our way to Tucson which made our trip much easier and more fun than figuring out another RV park.
On our way to Tucson, we made a quick diversion to Sierra Vista, Arizona for a visit with someone Melanie worked with at Cabaniss in Birmingham. We had lunch with Melissa Mitchell and her husband, Greg, who treated us to a great lunch in Sierra Vista. It was great to meet them, spend time and great for Melanie to catch up with Melissa. Sierra Vista is considered high desert at about 4,500 feet above sea level and, as you can see, some of the surrounding mountains still had snow three weeks after a recent weather snowfall. The climate and military base make it a great retirement area too.
Saguaro National Park
This Saturday past, we made a trip to Saguaro National Park (West). The National Park is divided into two areas near Tucson both containing the Saguaro (suh-wah-roe) Cactus.
We took Miranda on a driving tour around the park that wasn't recommended for an RV, but we drove slowly and it worked fine. The landscape is surreal and other worldly. When in Tucson, make your way to the park(s).
Photos from our day trip to White Sands National Monument