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Full-time RVers- Full-time Friends (Married over 20 years, TO EACH OTHER!)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Quick Review of Our Last Holiday at Death Valley National Park

When you think of your ideal Thanksgiving day, do you ever think of staying at a campground in a National Park?  Maybe you should.  My wife, my youngest child and I had a great time last month in Death Valley, CA.  I was very surprised at the number of people that shared that idea.  The campground was packed.  If we had waited an extra hour, there would have been no sites remaining. 

Anyhow, as usual my wife managed to take many pictures.  I have included a few of my favorites. 

Our campsite at Texas Springs in Death Valley NP

My daughter at Badwater in Death Valley 282 ft. BELOW sea level
My daughter and dog at the sand dunes in Death Valley

The Devil's Golf Course in Death Valley

Friday, December 23, 2011

A Hidden Pearl: Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge

Here are a few pics from a recent visit to this area which is about 1 1/2 hours west of Las Vegas.

There are several springs like this one in Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge

One of the boardwalk trails found at Ash Meadows

Mountains near Ash Meadows

Friday, October 7, 2011

A Great Outlook For Life

Just a quick post today.  I saw this and thought to myself that there was so much truth to it!

I have to say that everytime I am camping outdoors I think the same thing!  Happy Trails!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Follow Up on the Dehydrating Apples experiment

On our first blog of October, I mentioned that I was trying to dehydrate some apple slices.  I tried using both the solar oven and the windshield of the truck.  If you go back to the pictures from that blog you will see how many apple "chips" I was able to make with 5 apples. 

I am happy to annouce that it was a success.  The windshield of the truck and the solar oven both worked equally well.  In fact, I wasn't able to take pictures of the final product because they were just a little bit too tasty.  Between my daughter and I, we had those chips eaten in a very short amount of time.  I really think that I prefer the dehydrated apples over regular apples.  I think it has something to do with the fact that there is no water to "dilute' the sweetness of the apple. 

I would encourge everyone to try to dehydrate some fruit.  I simply went online and checked out a few sites to see how to do it.  Lessons I learned:

1)  Soak the apples slices in a mixture of 1 cup of water with 1 tablespoon of Lemon Juice for 8 to 10 minutes to keep the apples from turning brown right away.  (They will brown up a little in the dehydrating process)

2)  Don't look the apple chips touch each other on the dehydrating rack.  Make sure that air has a chance to get to both sides of the chips.

3)  Air temperature should be between 115-150 degrees for the best results. 

4)  Due to cloudy skies, the apples took a couple of days to fully dehydrate in the windshield.  (One full day of sunshine in the solar oven)

If you have any questions just leave me a comment.  Happy Trails!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Fall Colors of a Beautiful Mountain Range

We have a family ritual that we do every year in early October.  We find a place fairly close to us where we feel that the brighest fall colors can be found and have a picnic.  This year as with all years since moving to the Las Vegas area we went to the Mount Charleston region.

Fall view overlooking the ski area near Las Vegas
Entrance to the Las Vegas Ski Area
A look at the Las Vegas Ski Lodge

Our first stop was the Las Vegas Ski and Snowboard Resort.  Yes, there is a ski area near Vegas.  I was surprised too when I found out.  It is close to 9000' (3000 m) in elevation.  In fact, a couple of years ago I remember skiing there on the first day of business.  It was October 7th.   It was hard to believe that a ski area near Vegas could be open that early but I was there and it was.  :) 
View from Mary Jane Falls trail near Las Vegas, NV

Anyhow, after having our picnic at a nearby national forest picnic area, we traveled to my favorite trail in the area called Mary Jane Falls.  It is 2 miles out and 2 miles back.  The elevation change is about 1000 feet  (300+ m)  The views from that hike are amazing!  My wife, daughter and I had a great time and I already look forward to next year! 

Happy Trails everyone!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

I really didn't know you could do that....

For far too long, I like too many people believed that all food came from stores.  Okay, being raised on a small farm I didn't really believe that.  However, I have to admit that I have grown accustomed to relying on stores for everything.  I really want to change that as much as I can.  Today, I tried something new.  I am dehyrating apples for future use. 
Dehyrating using the windshield of the truck

I am doing it in two different sources.  1) using our the solar oven and 2) using the windshield of my truck.  I am anticipating that they will bring the same tasty results.  I hope so anyhow. 

Another use for the solar oven

As I write, a problem has developed.  A fluke rain storm has just rolled through the area.  I really need to have the sun out to have this effectively work.  Ideally, the temperature should be between 115 to 150 degrees F.  Right now, my solar oven has a temperature of 98 degrees.  The good news is that the sun is now out so we shall see. 

Happy Trails!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Enjoying the weekend with wild horses?

How often do you have the chance to spend the weekend in a community with no electric lines running to it?  We did this weekend.  We had the opportunity to attend a Cold Creek, NV community potluck.  Great food, great people and great fun!

Wild horses near Cold Creek, NV

On our way to Cold Creek, which is located just a half hour from our site in Indian Springs, we passed by a few wild horses along the road.  It is nice to know that there are a few animals left in the United States untouched by human hands. 

Crystal clear Cold Creek

All of the houses there get their power from either solar panels or generators.  (Most homes use the solar panel option)  The friends that invited us have 12 solar panels connected to a pack of 24 batteries in their basement.   They have a wood stove which supplies both heat and a cooking surface during the winter months.  It really is an impressive operation.  He is 81 years old and his wife in 71, but they still act like they are in their 50's. 

No electric lines here in Cold Creek, NV

Cold Creek is quickly becoming one of our favorite places to stay.  He were able to test out our new "old" truck camper, and it preformed flawlessly.  (Ok, maybe the mattress could have been more comfortable but nevertheless it was a great time.  We will get a egg cartoon cushion and fix that!)    Get out and enjoy the outdoors this weekend!  Happy Trails everyone!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Before and After Pictures of Our New ‘old’ Truck Camper

Last week I mentioned that we had the opportunity to buy a 30 year old truck camper.   We wanted to move up a step from camping out of the back of our pickup’s shell.  To be honest it looked a lot like what you might imagine a 30 year old camper would.  However, my wife has a talent for transforming the look of the inside of RV’s. 

The first pictures are from the advertisement that was posted on craigslist.  It is what got our attention.  To be honest with you everything was in pretty good shape on the inside, it was just that nothing seemed to match. 

The first couple of days were spent CLEANING!  It had gathered a bit of dust over the past month (maybe years) or so.  After that, we washed all curtains.  My wife bought new curtains for some of the formally ‘naked’ windows, and fabric to cover the couch cushions.  She bought a few cans of spray paint to tone down the bright red of the Craftsman toolbox that had been installed over the summer according to the previous owner. 

The pictures below are the final outcome of all of the hard work.  We think that it looks much better now.  I have decided to keep it on my truck at all times, as it has had no effect on my gas mileage.  This enables us to go do some greendocking (boondocking while going green) whenever we have a little free time. 

We hope everyone is enjoying the cooler weather!  Happy Trails!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

A New Toy to Play With!

For those of you that have been following our blog for awhile now, I am sure that you have noticed that we are not writing it daily like we used to do.  We are back working again full time as teachers.  The first few weeks of school are extremely busy and it takes a little time to get into a good working routine.  Still we are not the kind of people that like to just sit around the house watching TV.  As you could tell from our summer exploits, we love to be out of the house.  We decided to start a new project last weekend.  We bought ourselves a 1981 pop-up truck camper.  We have been working on it ever since.

As many of you know, we spent a full month over the summer camping out of the back of our truck.  We had a small shell over the bed and made it work as a camper.  It worked fine and gave us much better gas mileage.  However, I am over 50 years old now and it is not as easy as it used to be getting in and out of the bed of a pickup.  During our summer exploits, we talked a lot about buying a truck camper as soon as we could.  Over Labor Day, we found just what we had been looking for in a truck camper.  It is a fixer upper with the potential for greatness. 

In the coming days we will post the ‘before and after’ pictures of "The Project".  Our youngest daughter is coming here for what could amount to a fairly long visit (possibly 3 months) and we don't want to post any pictures of her "new home" until it is finished.  If it were up to me, I probably wouldn't have bothered fixing it up.  I would have just accepted it 'as is'.  However, my wife is quite an interior decorator and couldn't wait to get it back on our lot so that  she could get to work.  Before she began her tasks, I made sure that we had the inside of the beast working well.  The new deep cycle battery, 10 gallon fresh water tank, propane tank, sink, stove and bicycle rack were all checked before we bolted it onto the back of the truck.  It may look like a 30 year old camper on the outside but the inside should look much better soon. 

 More on this later!  Happy Trails!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

How That New Movie Coming Out Could Effect Your Life...

Imagine if you will, a virus so infectious that it can quickly travel around the world several times in one week.  By that time, millions and millions of people have become infected.   The world as we know it would no longer exist.  It sounds like a movie script doesn't it.  I have seen clips of a new movie coming out later in the month called, "Contagion".   It is based on this premise.   It is one that I definitely would like to see. 

Have you ever consider what your plan of action would be in this scenario?  How likely is it that something like this could occur?  Do you know of an isolated place where you can take your family for up to 90 days before the virus would have a chance to burn itself out?  These are good questions.   Again I hope that I do not ever have live through a situation like this  However, I have at least thought about it and feel that I would be able to handle it better because of this.  In today's blog I want write out my own answers to these questions, in hopes that others can possibly learn from my responses. 

The first part of my action plan was find a safe, isolated place for my family to rendezvous.  The spot that I have selected is miles away from a paved road.  However, it has some of the basic elements needed for survival.  This spot is located near an underground spring.  The spring creates a little stream through the desert.  All along the stream are abundant plant life, and many animals use it as their watering hole.  It makes it a perfect location to be able to hunt and trap small game.  In terms of plant life, cattails are plentiful at that location.  There are many parts of a cattail that can be eaten to provide many of the necessary nutrients to sustain life.  There are huge hardwood tress in the area which will be perfect for making shelter and providing firewood for warmth.  It is so remote that few people even know where it is and so difficult to reach that most would not want to try.  In this sort of a scenario, isolation from the masses will be key. 

The second question from the 2nd paragraph asks, "How likely is it that something like this could occur?"  About once every 100 years or so, a mutant virus comes along that humans have not seen before and therefore do not have the necessary antibodies to fight it off.  These types of viruses are even worst today since travel between nations is so common.  You could argue that these virus can travel as fast as the speed of an airplane.  Mother nature has been responsible for the past outbreaks, for example the Black Death of 1348 or more recently the virus known as H1N1.  Fortunately for everyone the H1N1 virus was not a particularly strong one.   Nowadays though, biological weapons under the control of terrorists could be used.  I read this on a website the other day: 

For example, after the recent attack on Gaddafi's palace in Libya, special operations personnel have been unable to locate stockpiles of precursor chemicals that his regime was known to possess. These chemicals may now be in the hands of terrorists who can use them to begin producing biological and chemical weapons that they'll use against their perceived "enemies," such as the American people.
Government Medical Response Will Leave You and Me Out in the Cold
In the case of a biological attack, the response by government officials may be as frightening as the attack itself. Because many biological agents are contagions, government personnel won't just clean up, treat the wounded, and call it a day. A biological attack will likely create an ongoing crisis. During such a crisis, both state and federal officials have broad powers that they can call upon to try to contain the spread of disease.
For example, in New York, state and city officials recently published a legal handbook on response protocols for a major epidemic that results from a terrorist attack or from natural causes. Local governments have the power to "establish curfews, quarantine wide areas, close businesses, restrict public assemblies, and, under certain circumstances, suspend local ordinances.  I often worry about the large number of people currently living in cities.  It will be difficult to avoid contact with others around you with the virus.  If you already know where you would go to have a "safe" location, how long would it be before you would make the move to that place.  4 days after the outbreak, 7 days, 2 weeks?  Would the government let you go? What would traffic be like if you waited too long?  Would there be any gasoline left if all workers stayed home to isolate themselves?  How long would it take before gangs started running the show?  There are no easy answers.  However, these are questions that will need to be answered in the event of an outbreak.  Why not think about it now?  If you wait too long the list of supplies that you will be needing will be less and less available with each passing hour.  Again the purpose of this blog is not to try to put fear into you.  On the contrary, I would hope that by thinking about these things in advance you would have greater peace of mind.  I go to bed each night without fear of the unknown.  I know that I am repeating myself when I say this, but I am not suggesting that these things will ever happen in your lifetime.  If it does though, I hope that you are ready.  Again, the way that I see it, if it never happens then at least I had no trouble sleeping at night, and I had a lot of practice (enjoying life) in the outdoors.  It is a win-win scenario.  
The state of Alaska came up with a multi-week program to deal with just such a situation.  Here is the link I found it interesting:  http://www.hss.state.ak.us/prepared/assets/DHSS-7Day.pdf  .
Happy Trails everyone!  I hope you take the time soon to get out an enjoy nature!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

What Would You Do If This Happened Tomorrow?

I love to read about all sorts of things.  The more that I read, the more that I know.  The more that I know, the more I can be prepared almost anything that happens in life.  I recently viewed a video created by the Discovery Channel that made me do a little more investigating.  Here is the link to it:  http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x6r5ne_solar-storms-alert-2008-2012-discov_news . (It is a few minutes long but very informative.)

I think most of our readers have heard about the possibility of solar storms striking the earth.  I know that I have heard it because of the whole "2012 end of the world" thing.  However, I didn't really fully understand how it would affect civilization.  Anyhow after watching the video from the link that I mentioned in previous paragraph, I am even more grateful to have been able to spend much of the summer living out of the back of a truck.  It was great fun, but we learned a lot about how to survive on our own without electricity. 

Here is another interesting link:  www.solarstormwarning.com .  The following are some interesting comments from that website.

Astrophysicist Alexei Dmitriev says that both Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 satellites reveal that our sun, as well as our entire solar system, is now moving into an interstellar energy cloud. Opher, a NASA Heliophysics Guest Investigator from George Mason University says this interstellar energy cloud is turbulent. Dmitriev explains that this cloud of energy is exciting the atmospheres of our planets and especially our sun. As this interstellar energy cloud continues to excite/charge the sun, it causes the sun to become more active, resulting in greater output from the sun. IE: Bigger and more frequent solar storms and CME's resulting in the Carrington effect. This interstellar cloud of electrical energy is also absorbed by the Earth, and scientist have found that it results in more earth quakes, all while dramatically effecting our weather here on earth. When asked how long will it take our sun to pass through this interstellar energy cloud, Dr. Dmitriev replied, "I don't know. But If I had to guess, I would say somewhere between two thousand to three thousand years." This interstellar cloud is a wispy band of charged particles through which our solar system is slowly moving through.

When Dr. Dmitriev was asked what are the implications of all this for earth he replied, "Global catastrophe! Not in tens of years from now, but in ones of years" ...in that this global catastrophe is basically right around the corner setting the stage for NASA's latest solar storm warning 2012-2013.
Did you know that a super solar storm would knock out most power world wide for months and take years to repair it all, costing trillions in damages world wide?
  • Are you prepared with at least twelve to twenty four months of previsions for food, water, medicine and heating?
  • Are you aware that a killer super solar storm would lock down modern countries like the United States, Europe, Asia, and Canada for months?
  • Are you aware of that countries like the U.S. have an Anti Hoarding Act that effects you during a national crises? ((Learn how not to have your food purchases tracked))
  • Are you ready to fend for yourself as food stores most likely will not be in operation for months because of looters, gangs and no power, and especially a lack of food supplies?
Now, I want to say again that I am in no way endorsing the idea that a global catastrophe is right around the corner.   There is no way to determine these things.  It could happen a thousand years from now or tomorrow.  No one knows for sure.  I just know that I enjoy my time being out in nature.  I honestly think that I could and would survive a global grid meltdown.  I owe it to the fact that I have gone out and actually tried it.  I hope that everyone looks at the fun my wife and I had traveling through the United States this summer, and will start giving serious thought to doing the same.  Even if a solar storm never hits the earth, getting out and enjoying the outdoors will probably be a fantastic experience.  If it does hit, you will have developed real skills to help you and your family survive.  Happy Trails to all! 

Monday, August 29, 2011

Hurricanes, Tornadoes, and Flooding- Are You Prepared?

I have been asked a couple of times recently what I would have done if I was living back on the east coast last week when the hurricane hit.  The answer is always the same: My house has wheels, I would have moved a few hundred miles away and only come back when everything was better.  Ahhh, the advantages of Greendocking.

This has been a crazy summer with many weather related stories.   Tornado outbreaks, the hurricane, the heat and drought conditions that some Americans are facing are all reasons to be thankful that my house can be moved.  It is more than just that though.  I know that I can also survive with no need whatsoever to be hooked up to the grid.  I really feel sorry for the many people who have lost so much already.  By the time the electricity comes back on for these same people, they will have lost much of their food as well. 

For those of you that don't have the advantage of moving your 'house', I would like to suggest that you keep a G.O.O.D bag around.  This GOOD bag stands for "Get out of Dodge".  In the military it is called a bug-out bag.  Wikipedia even has a lot to say about it.  Basically it is a portable 72 hour kit filled with things you would need to have in order to survive in a short term evacuation. 

According to Wikipedia, the suggested contents of a bug-out bag vary, but most of the following are usually included:
  • Enough food and water to last for 72 hours.
  • A first aid kit
  • Fire starting tool (e.g., matches, ferrocerium rod, lighter, etc.)
  • A disaster plan including location of emergency centers, rallying points, possible evacuation routes etc.
  • Professional emergency literature explaining what to do in various types of disaster, studied and understood before the actual disaster but kept for reference
  • Maps and travel information
  • Standard camping equipment, including sanitation supplies
  • Weather appropriate clothing (e.g., poncho, headwear, gloves, etc.)
  • Bedding items such as sleeping bags and blankets
  • Enough medicine to last an extended evacuation period
  • Medical records
  • Pet, child, and elderly care needs]
  • Battery or crank operated Radio.
  • Lighting (battery or crank operated flashlight, glow sticks).
  • Firearms and appropriate ammunition
  • Cash and change, as electronic banking transactions may not be available during the initial period following an emergency or evacuation
  • Positive Identification, such as drivers license, state I.D. card, or social security card
  • Fixed-blade and folding knife
  • Duct Tape and rope/paracord
  • Plastic tarps for shelter and water collection
  • Slingshot, pellet gun, blowgun or other small game hunting equipment
  • Wire for binding and animal traps
I hope that everyone will take the time right now to get these things together in one place.   If you need to get out in a hurry like a flash flood or tornado warning, you probably will not have the time to try and find these things.  Hopefully, your GOOD bag will never be used.  However if you ever find yourself in a situation when you need it,  you will be very grateful that you did have it available.  Happy Trails! 

Sunday, August 28, 2011

If the Ground Around You Is Shaking...

The East Coast just got hit by an extremely rare earthquake a week ago.  I was watching a show on TV last week and they said that an earthquake along the New Madrid fault in Missouri has the potential to be the worst in US history.   I wonder if there is anywhere safe anymore.  I did some research to see what could be expected if something like that happened.  Today's blog will look at what I found.

Again, I want to point out that I am not the kind of guy that will (or even wants to) spend my life worried about things that haven't happened or may never happen.  I love life and I love seeing everything that this earth has to offer.  However, I am also a person that subsribes to the Boy Scout philsophy of "Be Prepared".  The meaning of the motto is that a scout must prepare himself by previous thinking out and practicing how to act on any accident or emergency so that he is never taken by surprise.  I want to know what might happen so I can make sure that I am prepared. 

I was reading an article from a government agency in southern California.  http://www.wrd.org/engineering/earthquake-water-recovery-california.php  It dealt with surviving a big earthquake of 7.8.  (A big earthquake...yes, but remember the Japan earthquake was a 9.0, over 30 times stronger than a 7.8)   A panel was asked questions about what infrastructure was in jeopardy (pipelines, water tanks, wells, aqueducts, reservoirs), how the damage would be assessed, how repairs would be conducted, how long water supply outages would occur, and where emergency water supply sources could be obtained. Some of the conclusions were:  (I added the bold facing)
  • Fault movement will likely cause major damage of the infrastructure crossing it, including the main aqueducts bringing water to Southern California from Northern California and the Colorado River. Repairs may be hampered due to damaged roads and large scale-fires.
  • The most severe damage will be closest to the fault, but even in the Los Angeles area there will be damage to pipelines and other infrastructure due to intense shaking. In addition, the Met / LADWP outages from aqueduct damage will impact the local water supply.
  • In the first few days after the quake, there may be no water available due to infrastructure breaks and loss of power. After that, repairs will bring supplies online slowly. Each agency will be busy with their own systems, and repairs may take weeks to 6 months or more. New water pipelines may be in very short supply, as they are not in stock and will need to be manufactured.
  • A "Potable Water Plan" should be devised to describe to the public how to use water during the first few days of the emergency, when treatment plants may be offline. Avoid "Boil Water Orders" because gas lines in homes may be ruptured and people with gas stoves may cause unintended explosions. Instead, a "Purified" or "Bottled" water order should be made to emphasize drinking treated water instead of boiling it.
It is nice to know that someone in our government is at least looking at the possibilities.  However, water is an essential part of living.  You can live up to 3 weeks without food but only about 3 days without water.   Relying on the government to provide bottled water to millions and millions of people for a time frame of 6 months or more would seem unwise.  I can only imagine the rioting that could occur.  Toilets without water can't be much fun either. 

This brings me to the point that I am trying to make regarding greendocking.  We feel like we are ready to deal with this situation because we have a better understanding what can happen.  We live in an RV with a 30 gallon fresh water tank.  We try to keep it full at all times.  In the back of our truck we have a 5 gallon water tank and 5 gallon in our portable solar shower.  We have identified water sources within walking distance and a found a remote mountain spring should we find that we have to move to a safer location  until order is restored.  (Another great thing about having our house on wheels)   We visit this little spring on fun 'greendocking' camping trips.  We talk about what edible plants are available to supplement our food storage supplies.  I look for game trails for trapping and hunting and know how to skin, gut, and cook these animals.   Basically we are all set up to live for a very long period of time. 

I think that I should mention that the recent Virgina earthquake was not a major earthquake.  The Japan earthquake released nearly 30,000 times more energy than that.  However, this east coast earthquake caused some 200 million dollars in damage and could be felt from Canada to Alabama.  If it would have been a 6.8 instead of a 5.8, 30 times more energy would have been released.  The damage would have been much more severe and more widespread. 

I plan to address some of the 'unusual' emergencies which can occur in my next several posts.    Hopefully, just thinking about these possible events will get you better prepared in the unlikely event that something horrible happens in your area.   Practice makes perfect.  Get out and go camping!  Even if nothing out of the ordinary ever occurs, at least your preparation will help you get out in nature and enjoy some time with your family.  I will continue to repeat this message with each new blog that I write.  Happy Trails!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Two Big Reasons to Consider Greendockin'!

For those of you that have been following our blogs, we sincerely hope that you have enjoyed the pictures and commentary of all the fun that we have had.  One of the biggest reasons for traveling across the United States with only our truck was to show everyone just how much fun it could be.  However, there is another important reason why we made the trip.  We needed to see how feasible it was to live in the back of a truck for a long period of time.  You might now be asking yourself why?  Well that is what I want to write about today.

The headlines over the past month have shown time and time again, just how often the unexpected can happen.  A significant earthquake hits the east coast for the first time in over 50 years.  A potentially dangerous hurricane may cause casos on the east coast as far north as New Hampshire!  The largest earthquake to hit Colorado in over 30 years occurred a couple of days ago.  Riots broke out in England.  Egypt and now it appears Libya will come under new governments.  If you wanted to go back a few months before that, Japan gets hit by one of the worst earthquake/tidal wave combinations ever recorded.  Having said all that I want you to know that I am not a wacko trying to predict the end of the world.  However, I do want to point out that I feel more prepared to handle those types of situations now more than ever before.   I attribute it to the lessons that we have learned while Greendocking.

For those of you that may be reading our blog for the first time, let me quickly explain what Greendockin' means.  It is simply the ability to survive off of the grid.  In other words, being able to live in such a way as to not need the main 'conveniences' found in the world.  For electricity, we have a solar generator powered by a 90 watt solar panel.  We have a 5 gallon water tank and a 5 gallon solar shower to help take care of our water needs.  We have a toilet seat that attaches to a 5 gallon bucket for our waste products.   We also use a variety of things to enable us to cook, clean, and even entertain ourselves.  If we currently lived on the east coast in the path of that major hurricane, we could very quickly leave the area with everything we need to survive for quite a few days without spending any money on meals and lodging.   

I guess what I am saying is that beside the obvious advantage of being able have a great time on vacations, the Greendocking system may one day save our lives.  I hope and pray that it will never come to that, but the great thing about it is that we do feel prepared in case it ever happens.  For the next little while, most of our blogs will cover the little items and tricks that we have learned to rely upon in our adventures.  Hopefully as you follow along, you can pick up a few tips along the way.  Best case scenario, you will learn some things to help you get the most out of your vacations.   If the unimaginable happens in a worst case scenario, we hope that you will find yourself better prepared thanks to what we will be sharing with you.  Happy Trails everyone!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Small Town With Big Time Entertainment

How can anyone possibly have a good time when it is 100 degrees F?  Trust me when I say it can be done.  Yesterday, we covered the wonderful little town of Canon City.  The weather made it easy to enjoy all activities since it is found in the cool mountains of Colorado.  Today, we will look at the jewel of the Midwestern states, Branson.  Yes, I understand that the summer months in Missouri are hot and humid.  I am happy to report that it doesn't seem to matter.  There are so many ways to stay cool. 

Inside Silver Dollar City's Marvel Cave near Branson, MO

The first place I want to mention is an amusement park called Silver Dollar City.  There are many great activities to do that all come as part of the price of admission.  Aside from the numerous water rides, one of the best ways to stay cool is to take a tour of Marvel Cave.  The temperature inside is a constant 60 degrees F.  Also, we have always enjoyed going to the Saloon shows, many of which are set inside air-conditioned theaters.  At around 7 pm, the park has a country music show that we really enjoyed.  Again it is included in the cost of admission.  The same company that operates Silver Dollar City also runs a water park.  "Whitewater" is another fantastic way to spend a day.  I really enjoy the Lazy River.  On that 'ride', I simply get to lay on an inter-tube and let the flow of the water drift me around in nice, cool water.  There is no line in which to stand.  You simply walk into the water, find an inter-tube, and you are on your way.   

Sunset on Table Rock Lake near Branson, MO

If you like being in the water, I would suggest that you take a trip to any one of the lakes that are found in the area.  Table Rock, Taneycomo, and Bull Shoals are great places to go fishing, swimming, or boating. 

Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum in Branson, Missouri
You will not be disappointed in the number of shows that you have to chose from in Branson.  It is known for its ties to country music, but there are a variety of other shows as well.  Besides country music you will find gospel, comedy, magic, museums, and acrobats.  You really could spend a month there and not come close to seeing all the shows that are available.

There are two more attractions that I think bear mentioning.  There is a relatively new shopping district in the old historic downtown area of Branson.  It is called Branson Landing.  There you will find shops, dining, and you can listen to live music in a series of concerts from April to October.  The final place that is worth mentioning is the IMAX movie theater.  We always try to take in at least one movie each time that we go on their 6 story tall movie screen.  Every time I go, I feel like I am actually in the scenes of the movie that I am watching.   It is a great experience if you haven't been. 

We have had a wonderful summer.  Today was our first day back at work, so the blogs may not come quite as often as they have been.  One of the reasons why we have enjoyed doing it, is because of the love that we have for this life-style.  We have wanted to show everyone just how much fun it is to live in an RV.  (or even smaller vehicles like our truck).  The next series of posts will be a bit more serious in nature as we discuss the many of the advantages of living a simpler life.  Happy Trails to everyone! 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Two Small Towns With Big Fun That You Will Want to Visit (Part 1)

My wife and I had some great times this summer as we had the opportunity to explore many new places where we had never been before.   We are both teachers so we had the entire summer to head out in our truck and take in much of what America was to offer.  However, we realize that not everyone finds themselves in that ideal situation.  Sometimes families have only a week (or less) to spend on a holiday.  In today's and tomorrow's blog we want to highlight a couple of small towns where we think you could easily spend a week's worth of time and never be bored.

The first one I want to mention is Canon City, Colorado.  We had some friends recommend that we check it out.  We were not disappointed!  The primary draw to the area is the Royal Gorge bridge.  It is located only about 10 miles away from the edge of town.  At the bridge you will find a small amusement park complete with rides, shows, food, and music, not to mention some of the most incredible scenery in the entire nation.  Remember that if you get there early, (we went before 9 a.m.) you can get in for 25% off.  We paid $18 a piece.   Your admission gets you on nearly every ride, and access to all shows for no additional charge.  Here is the link to their website:  http://royalgorgebridge.com/ .

View from the Royal Gorge park near Canon City, CO

As you drive toward the Royal Gorge, you will notice a bunch of river rafting companies.  We chose a half-day package for $49 per person.  It was a lot of fun and I consider it one of the highlights of the entire summer.  We took the Big Horn Canyon trip which gave us about 1.5 hours on the water.  We went through a couple of class III rapids, but during the calmer sections of the river we took the time to check out the beautiful mountains.   Next time we go, we will definitely take the Royal Gorge trip.  The rapids are more intense (class IV-V) but the views in that canyon I'm sure will be breathtaking. 

View of the Royal Gorge Route train and river rafters at the bottom of the Incline Railway at the Royal Gorge in CO

We only stayed here a couple of nights so we didn't get the chance to experience everything that this area has to offer.  For instance, there are a couple of scenic train rides that one can enjoy in the area.  One is called the Royal Gorge Route railroad.  It costs about $40 per person.  We did not take it, but it does look like a pretty neat adventure especially for those of you that like trains.  Another one which is about 2 miles from the entrance to the Royal Gorge park, is a 'miniature', open-aired train that I believe runs about $12 a person.  In addition to this, in the town of Canon City you will find museums, an old historic downtown section, and plenty of places to eat. 

View of the sunset from our campground near the Royal Gorge in Colorado

If you don't want to spend a fortune on lodging and you like to camp, I would suggest that you use the Royal Gorge campground just a couple of miles from the entrance to the park.  It is a FREE campground that the City of Canon City operates.  However,  I believe that they ask that you do not occupy the spot over 72 hours.   We loved this campground!  We did a review of the campground in our August 19, 2011 blog.  For those of you that just enjoy being in the outdoors, there are plenty of hiking trails, or you might want to try fishing in the Arkansas River.   Another free thing to do is take a road called Skyline Drive.  It is a paved one way road going up the side of a mountain that our river rafting guide said offers some beautiful views  of the surrounding area.  Caution:  If you are afraid of heights, or don't like driving close to cliffs then this may not be the scenic trip for you.  A dear friend of mine told us that she spent the entire drive with her head in the back seat.  This was especially sad since she was sitting in the passenger side of the front seat.  Her husband really seemed to enjoy it.  I am not sure though if it was because of the scenery or the funny position that his wife maintained!

Needless to say no matter what your budget may be, you will be able to find something to do in Canon City.  (My gosh, their Chamber of Commerce should really pay me for this...haha) Tomorrow we will talk about our other small town favorite.  Until then, Happy Trails!

Monday, August 22, 2011

A Great New Place to Boondock

After spending an entire summer on the road exploring new sites, sounds, and smells, we found ourselves getting a little restless. After all, we have stayed in same spot for over a week now.  Late Saturday night we decided it was time to get up in the mountains again to cool off.  We had been told about a wonderful 'green' community about a half an hour from our new home.  We decided then that it was a great time to go check it out. 

View of one of the ponds at Calf Creek, NV taken with my cell phone camera

The area is called Cold Creek and it is about 25 miles to the southeast of Indian Springs, Nevada.  As we drew closer to the mountains, we started seeing signs which warned of the wild horses that are found in the area.  It seems that they are very use to being around humans and often graze on their lawns.  As we drove through the community we noticed that nearly all the houses were powered with solar energy.  There are no electric lines leading to this place.  According to a forest service worker that we met while camping, all the houses are either powered by solar energy or gas generators or a combination of the two.  The real draw for the rest of us that don't live up there, is the fast moving stream called Cold Creek.  It has actually been dammed in 3 spots to create three ponds.  The bottom one is stocked by the forestry department with trout.  I should mention that to get to the bottom pond we had to go 1/4 mile down a very rough road.  Having said that we did see a few RV's that had braved the road to get down there to set up camp.  We were not able to fish at that pond because the forest service was using the lake to scoop up water in large buckets carried by helicopters.  We were told that there was a small fire in a nearby canyon, and the pond was easily the largest water source in the area. 

Rv'ers at Cold Creek, Nevada

Evidently, there are a lot of people who take their ATV's up there as well, as we heard quite a few of them roaming around in the early nighttime hours.  For those of you that are into that kind of thing, there are ample trails to explore in that area. 

There was no fee to stay up there.  There are no amenities at all, so bring all your own supplies as there were no fire pits and no restrooms.  That is to say that there is nothing but cooler temperatures and plenty of scenic mountains.  We had a great time, and can't wait to get back.  Happy Trails!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Top 3 "Pay a Fee" Campgrounds of the Summer

Dean  (the husband)
Shalane  (the wife  :O)

I sometimes wish that I had video of some of the discussions that my wife and I have as we talk about our blogs.  Today, as we identify the top 3 "Fee" campgrounds, you will see that we don't always agree on everything.  We had to create a tie for 2nd place, because no matter how we tried to break the tie, we just couldn't convince the other of the merits of our own pick.  A tie for second is the best we could do.  :o)   We do hope that you enjoy our reviews of these campgrounds starting with the tie.
Cave Lake State Park near Ely, Nevada - Elk Flat Campground

Cave Lake State Park near Ely, Nevada - Elk Flat campground
Dean fishin' at Cave Lake State Park, near Ely, Nevada

Cave Lake State Park, near Ely, Nevada
Cave Lake State Park, near Ely, Nevada
Cave Lake State Park, near Ely, Nevada
Cave Lake State Park, near Ely, Nevada
Individual bathrooms and showers with cedar doors at Elk Flat. Very nice.  :O)

TIE 2)  Cave Lake State Park is just a few miles to the southeast of Ely, NV.  ($17 or $15 for NV residents)  This is my wife's choice for second.  It is a photographers dream.  I have over a hundred pictures of this state park.  Don't get me wrong, I really like it.  In fact, we have made a point of staying there each summer.  It is at a high elevation of over 7000 feet.  The summer temperatures are very pleasant.  The state park has two campgrounds.  One of these Lake View Campground, is directly across from Cave Lake, and the other, Elk Flat Campground, is a couple of miles from the water.  I have always wanted to stay at Lake View, but, as you might imagine, it is almost always full.  Elk View, where we stayed is not a bad alternative.  Each site is nestled into some evergreen trees.  There are water spigots scattered around the campground.  There is no electric or sewer hookups, but here is a dump station at the enterance to the campground.  I think one of the things that my wife likes best about this place is their restrooms.  lol I even took a picture of them. They are very clean and smell wonderful because of the cedar walls.  And because they're actual flush toilets! Ok, now I'm going to have to go back up and post a picture of the bathroom. :O)  We also like the 'green' aspect of the park.  I believe they use solar power for everything including the water heaters and lights. Beautiful mountains surround you on all sides.  We really have enjoyed both opportunities we've had to camp there. There's so much of the park that we haven't seen.  As a matter of fact, there a lot of the park that I have seen and Dean hasn't.  When we went last summer, I let him fish while I went hiking and wore out my camera.  It was so beautiful, and the photo ops were endless.
Table Rock Lake State Park in Branson, Missouri
Table Rock Lake State Park in Branson, Missouri
TIE 2)  Table Rock Lake State Park is a few miles east of Branson, MO. ($21. per night-electric only)  This is my choice for second place.  It might be because I feel bad that all campgrounds that we've put on our lists have been in the mountains of Nevada, Colorado, or Utah.  Maybe it is because of nostaglia.  I grew up just 3 hours from there and have enjoyed many wonderful vacations in the Branson area.  I feel the same way.  I also grew up not far from Branson and spent MANY weekends at various Missouri state parks.  I LOVE Missouri, but NOT in the summer!  Personally, I think it's because it is in a beautiful location.  The campsite that we occupied was surrounded by tall shade trees.  Through our back window we could see the rather large lake covered on all sides by a forest.  The park has sites with some, all, or no hookups.  We desperately needed air conditioning, so we reserved an 'electric only' spot.  We stayed three nights, because there was so much we wanted to do in the area.  My wife loves Branson and I really think that she liked the campground.  However, her biggest complaint was about the shower house/restrooms.  Branson gets a lot of precipitation.  We saw more bugs in the restrooms in those three days, than all the other restrooms we were in the entire summer.  Okay, I am exaggerating a little, (No he's not!) but Shalane would probably tell you that it was the truth.  Yes, I would.  She is not a big fan of bugs in an area where she is trying to clean herself.  Hmm.  Interesting way to put that, Babe.  Overall though, I would highly recommend it for those of you looking to set up a base camp so you can go explore all that Branson has to offer. I would HIGHLY recommend Branson, in general, but you could probably find a better place to stay.  I did like some things about this park.  I liked the view from our site, the easy access sites and the many trees.  However, in the three days we were there, the bathrooms were only cleaned once.  Hopefully the cleaning lady was just on vacation, and it's normally much better.

Bird Creek, near Ely, Nevada
The clear water creek runs right through the camp sites.  Bird Creek Recreation Area is located in Duck Creek Basin approximately 25 miles from Ely, Nevada

There's a nice group site on the other side of these bridges.  Bird Creek Recreation Area is located in Duck Creek Basin approximately 25 miles from Ely, Nevada

Bird Creek Recreation Area is located in Duck Creek Basin approximately 25 miles from Ely, Nevada

Dean attempts to start a fire with the damp wood after a nice rain shower.  It was eventually a success!  Bird Creek Recreation Area is located in Duck Creek Basin approximately 25 miles from Ely, Nevada
The storm provided some beautiful colors.  Bird Creek Recreation Area is located in Duck Creek Basin approximately 25 miles from Ely, Nevada

It also made for a gorgeous sunset.  Bird Creek Recreation Area is located in Duck Creek Basin approximately 25 miles from Ely, Nevada

1)  Bird Creek Campground is north of Ely, Nevada in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest- for better directions see our blog on 7/6/11. ($7.00!) Okay, so we had a difficult time deciding which of the above campgrounds should be ranked second.  However, we had no trouble agreeing on our favorite spot.  We accidentily discovered this campground on our way back from Idaho.  We were actually heading to Duck Creek in Nevada (not Utah), when we saw a sign that mentioned Bird Creek.  We decided to go check it out and were excited by what we found.  After going up a moderately rough road, we came to what we believed to be a picnic area.  Upon closer examination, we realized that the national forest service had converted it into a campground.  We found a spot close to a rapid little stream coming down the mountain.  There were trees everywhere.  It smelled AMAZING! I think that the thing that we enjoyed best though was watching the rain come down off the mountain.  By the time, it made its way to us it was a good old fashion thunderstorm.   For those of you reading our blog east of the Rockies, you may be wondering why this would be considered one of the 'best things.'  You see thunderstorms all the time.  However, out west it is a treat to be able to see so much water falling from the skies.  During the storm, I remember looking up to see two deer scurring across the mountain.   There are few things better on this earth than the smell of a pine tree forest after a rain.  Just writing about it, puts a smile on my face.  There really isn't too much to this campground.  There was one pit toilet in the center of the campground, a fire pit at each site and there were a few water spigots around the area.   However, the sights, sounds, and smells that we experienced there I would put up against the best RV parks in the USA.   Even the food that we ate that night somehow tasted better.  It was awesome!  We can't wait to go back again one day.  It's hard to tell, but I think that maybe our own experience as a married couple probably influenced this decision more that the actual campground itself.  I mean, it's kind of hard to be objective.  Dean and I LOVE rain, we love seclusion, the smell of pine, and clear running streams.  We felt almost childlike when we were here.  We cuddled in the back of the truck and watch the rain, then worked nearly an hour to start a fire with the soaked wood.  We had the most delicious chili for dinner that  we had cooked over the open fire, and were giddy the whole time.  For us, it was just a GREAT day.  Objectively, was it the best campground of the summer? Would our readers judge it as such?  Well, I don't know.  All I know is that this little spot holds an amazing memory for us, so it gets the number one spot!

I hope that one day soon, many of you will have the chance to visit one or more of these campgrounds.  As we continue our adventures we will keep on posting reviews of campgrounds that we think you might enjoy.  Last night, we stayed at a cool free campground near our home.  Maybe that will be our next blog.  Happy Trails!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Favorite 'Pay a Fee' Campsites of the Summer

Dean  (the husband)
Shalane  (the wife  :O)

What is it about a campground that would possibly make us want to pay for a site?  For those of you that follow our blog, you know that we prefer to travel by finding one free campsite after another.  In fact, we traveled all the way from Nevada to Kansas, stayed overnight in four different locations, and spent a total of $7 in lodging.  On the way back from Kansas to Nevada we stayed in five different locations and spent a total of $15.  As you can see, we make a point of boondocking  (also known as dry camping or wild camping) as often as we could.  Basically, it means that we try to find free primitive places to camp without hooking up to any electricity, water, or sewer.  In our most recent trip, there was one main reason why we paid for a site and it was TO STAY COOL!  There are other factors that we consider, but for the most part, it seems as if keeping cool almost always has a part in it. 

In recent blogs, I released the best free campsites that we stayed in this summer.  I made the list using my own personal preference.  With the list today, my wife and I each jotted down our favorites and then tallied the results to set up our top 6.  Today we will look at those that we ranked as 6th, 5th, and 4th.  Again, we will start with the 6th spot and countdown from there.

Cookies baking in our solar oven at our site at Beaver Dam State Park in NV

6)  Beaver Dam State Park- ($17.00 - $15. for NV residents)  Go a few miles north of Caliente, NV on US Hwy 93 & then get on a gravel road and go east 28 miles.  By the way, any time you're in Caliente, eat at J&J's.  They have a huge menu, good food and great chocolate marshmallow shakes.  :O)  Beaver Dam is one of the hardest places to get to.  Having said that, in all likelihood if you can get there, you may find that you're the only ones there and have the entire park to yourselves.  I'm not even sure the park ranger spends much time out there. There's no dam at Beaver Dam any more.  There are no hookups.  You will find some water spigots and a few outhouses scattered around the campground.  Also, there is ample firewood available for a small 'donation.'  We do like the feeling of being "out in the middle of nowhere," and this certainly qualifies.  You might want to consider taking a few hikes while you're there.  We have gone on a couple of the trails and we weren't disappointed. There is a small stream that works it's way through the park.  We haven't fished there yet, but have heard others that have had success fly fishing.  Note: Don't let the warm afternoon temperatures trick you into thinking it will stay that way at night.  IT WON'T! Be prepared for cold!  The mornings call for hot Tang or cocoa and a roaring fire.

Our campsite at Eagle Valley RV Resort near Spring Valley State Park (Ursine, NV)

Eagle Valley Resort, 15 miles east of Pioche, Nevada.

5)  Eagle Valley RV Resort- ( About $20 per night/ $200 per month) Eagle Valley is in the town of Ursine, NV.  We actually spent an entire month here.  It is tucked right up against the scenic mountains in the area.  It has full hookups.  It is only about 4 miles from one of our favorite fishing lakes in Lincoln County.   It has a snack store, a few slot machines, a very small grocery store, showers, restrooms, a laundry mat, and free wifi (if it's working) in the main office area.  As school ended, we were excited to get out of the heat of Las Vegas and to get up there and be in the mountains for awhile.  We probably would have liked it better had the promise of free wifi actually panned out.  It worked for the first week but the rest of the time there was absolutely no access to the web.   The campsites themselves are VERY close together.  The awning on the RV next to us came within inches of our slide-out.  The basic concept of this rustic 'resort' I like.  However, due to our blog (and the lack of reliable internet) it is highly unlikely that we will stay here long term again.  Due to it's remote location, the nearest free wifi is eighteen miles away.   Location, location, location.  I actually like Beaver Dam campground better, but Eagle Valley is close to a lot of great fishing, beautiful mountain hikes, the wonderful town of Pioche, NV and has all the amenities.  The people here are friendly, and our overall experience was very positive.

Calf Creek Campground near the Grand Staircase- 15 miles east of Escalante, UT

4)  Calf Creek Campground- ($7.00!)  Calf Creek is 15 miles east of Escalante, UT on Hwy 12 near the Grand Staircase.  This was one of the few campgrounds that we paid for.  Not because we needed an electric hookup to stay cool, this one we just kind of stumbled upon.  It was in a beautiful red rock canyon with a little creek running through it.  It really was a pretty place.  There was a restroom, fire pits at each site, a little swimming hole provided by a clear water stream, and plenty of trees.  It was a welcomed stop after a long day of travel.  Large RV's might have a difficult time with the small roads.  However, we did see a few large trailers there.  Another plus was that it only cost us $7 to stay there.  I really had a hard time leaving it.  There was a four mile trail that led to a waterfall that I would have loved to have taken.  Since it was our first stop in our journey to the Midwest, we felt compelled to drive instead of hike.  It was a GREAT and inexpensive little campground.  

Tomorrow we will finish the top 3 spots.  Until then, HAPPY TRAILS!