Friday, November 27, 2009

Joshua Tree to Arizona

Palm Springs, our planned stopover for a few days, ended up being a one nighter and source to gather supplies. Our RV site was very comfortable and folks very friendly (lots of British Columbia snowbirds) but the once very popular spot for weekend get-a-ways from LA LA land has seen better days. Of course, the sidewalks still have the "stars" cemented in their centres which we observed during our morning run. However, we were too young and had not had enough plastic surgery to warrant staying longer.

We both agree in our 4.5 months on the road that the most enjoyable stays have not been in the cities but rather away from the bustle. So off we escaped again, to Joshua Tree National Park. The Park contains parts of both the Mojave and Colorado deserts. We decided to camp at Jumbo Rocks famous for it's stacked boulders and picturesque joshua trees. There were no roadrunner sightings and luckily no rattle snakes either. The daytime temperatures were ideal for running and hiking though the nights and early mornings were quite cool. A memorable hike up Ryan Mountain (5461 feet or 1664 m) gave us great views and the cell coverage to leave a birthday message for my friend Diane. Time definitely slows down when we have no phone, internet, tv or radio distractions. After several days we needed to replenish our water and supplies so reluctantly we left our spot at Jumbo Rocks.

Indio, our destination to gather supplies was great. Temperatures were very hot and the RV Park was a resort with an inviting swimming pool and hot tub. We met some Californians who had just purchased a large "A" coach but had not travelled outside their own neighbourhood and were impressed to hear our tales. Next morning before heading out to "Slab City" we had a great 10 km run (my fastest in a year) through Sun City (a planned retirement community).

A description of the Salton Sea and Slab City (where we boondocked) that does it justice is hard to do with words alone. Hopefully the added pictures will help.

The Salton Sea is a saline, endorheic body of water which means water runs in but not out which in this case means polluted water in and increase saltiness due to evaporation. What was hoped to be a resort lake in the 60's in now a desolate area of boarded up motels, wrecked playgrounds, ramshackled trailers and shorelines of dead fish. Despite this it is one of the major wintering spots for birds. It was here at the Salton Sea in the Sonny Bono Wildlife Refuge that we finally saw roadrunners.

We dry camped at the Slabs. A de-commissioned World War II base now populated by a mixture of those who want off the "grid" either full-time or just wintertime.

One notable character is Leonard Knight who has been building his monument to God for the past 20 years. It is made of odd pieces of timber, hay bales, adobe and donated paint and aptly called Salvation Mountain.

Our final stop before leaving California for the last time on our trip was Quechan Indian Reservation. Our campsite here was just a short walk across the border to the small Mexican village of Los Algodones. So for American Thanksgiving we crossed the border to savour tacos, barbecued chicken, rice, refried beans, salsa, guacamole and of course cervasa. The village serves Americans and Snowbirds without drug or dental coverage. It has streets lined with dentists, opticians and pharmacies.

Arizona next.....

Monday, November 23, 2009

Baker to Big Sur

The new Nanna and Poppy are back on the road. It has been a little hard to concentrate with the distraction of our little treasure back in Canada. However, the internet is a marvellous tool and we get updates as well as pics to keep us going.

After arriving back in Las Vegas we picked up Moho who had a great rest and fine tune up and we headed west back to California. With jet lag and still feeling the emotions of our trip home we did not make it very far on the first night. Actually we got to Primm about 40 miles west of Vegas. The one and only RV park had closed and we resorted to a Casino parking lot with a few other travellers. I will add that we were too tired to spend a few quarters inside.

A good night sleep gave us energies to hit the desert again. We found an ideal camping spot with its own Ghost Town - Calico. Though it's population in 2001 was 8 people, at it's peak in 1887 it had 1200 and was a flourishing silver mining town. It also has a famous cabin constructed from bottles.

The next day was interesting driving as we passed Edwards Air Force Base (space shuttle's second home), 100's of windmills, California City (a planned city with paved roads and no houses that never quite made it) and Bakersfield (the end of the road for many migrants from the east during the depression) finally arriving in Santa Maria to commence the Pacific Coast Highway. We made a few pitstops along the way. The first being Trader Joe's (Don's new best friend and favourite supermarket) and Bubblegum Alley in San Luis Obispo. Bubblegum Alley is a narrow laneway and major tourist attraction where people have been sticking their chewed gum for many years.

We finally arrived in Morro Bay and decided to break for a few days as we try to stay off the roads on weekends. The park was small and the couple who were the owners were energetic and busily replacing most of the concrete pads with interlocking bricks. We took the opportunity to utilize the biking trails through town and did a couple of runs. The location was excellent in that we could stroll through downtown and along the waterfront boardwalk. There were many fish and chip restaurants but we opted for Giovanni's one night and purchased fresh fish from his market to cook ourselves on another night.

After four days it was time to move again and drive what is said to be "the most beautiful drive in the world" the Pacific Coast Highway section from Morro Bay to Monterrey passing Big Sur. It was indeed beautiful and the winding cliffside highway presented many views. The town of Big Sur was a little disappointing and in our opinion the entire drive did not match the Oregon Coast experience. We did not tour the Hearst Castle thinking it was not worth the $48. but took pictures from a distance and viewed the massive Visitor Centre outlining the contents of the Castle.

Before leaving the Coast we had a great RV park in Monterrey. It was situated high on a hillside in Laguna Seca Recreation Area adjacent to the Mazda Laguna Seca Raceway. We had fun watching the practice runs and the incredible speed of these cars.

On to Palm Springs..............

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Stella Emmalene Lewis

We had planned a stopover after the New York Marathon in Toronto before returning to Las Vegas. Our plan was to visit with Kirsten late in her pregnancy and celebrate with a baby shower.

But Baby Stella had other plans. She decided to arrive while all the family was together. Two weeks early! Our visit with a very pregnant Kirsten became a visit with mother and baby instead.

Stella Emmalene Lewis arrived on

November 4th weighing 6 lb. 12 oz.

We were able to spend 5 days with Stella, Kirsten & Jeff before returning to Las Vegas. Thank you Stella......

Friday, November 13, 2009

New York Marathon

November 1, 2009

It's a day I won't forget anytime soon. The New York Marathon! After 9 long years, 13 marathons and back surgery I finally made it to the start line. People said it was an emotional marathon and they weren't kidding. Close to 44,000 ran and I'm sure each had their own goal and reason to run. Of course there is a lot of hype but the logistics of moving that many people to Staten Island for the start was pretty impressive. After a subway ride to the Ferry terminal I said my good-bye to Don (the best and patient Coach ever) and boarded the 8 am boat.

The first person I chatted with was originally from Vancouver but living on Manhatten and sat next to her were a couple eating Tim Horton bagels (new to Times Square). We shuffled our way to my Blue Corral for my 10:15 wave. Here I met a mother/daughter team from Ottawa. It reminded me of Alicia's first marathon in Vancouver, Kirsten's first marathon in Tampa and Erin's yet to be decided. Time actually flew by and we were quickly herded to the start and the crossing of the Verazzano bridge. A strong wind whipped across the bridge and I thought it was going to carry me over. This was going to be a long day! However with the multitudes of people and the various types of music I soon got into a groove even forgetting my own Ipod. The miles went by and on the bottom of 59th Street Bridge, as promised, there was a familiar smiling face, Don. A hug and picture moment and I was off to the finish. New York was supposed to be my first marathon..........will it be my last.......only time will tell!

Next day we walked Central Park/Times Square to remove the stiffness and shopped a little for the grandbaby soon to be born. Off to Toronto later in the day to see family and friends that we had not seen since July.

Bryce - Zion - Valley of Fire

We arrived in Glendale, Utah to set up camp before our company arrived. The location was ideal in verdant Long Valley in the fall of the year. Our RV Park was on a working farm in Glendale complete with apple orchards, donkeys and llamas. The family had worked this land for generations.

While waiting for Erin, Brad, Rachel and Dylan to arrive we completed the final runs before the New York Marathon. Hopefully all this training at higher altitude will produce rewards when running the marathon at sea level.

We woke the next morning with cold but sunny weather and drove to Bryce Canyon National Park. At 8000 to 9000 ft. it was colder than we had anticipated. Thankfully we were able to visit here before the approaching winter set in.

We drove to the end of the road and on our return stopped at many viewpoints each

more breathtaking than the previous. The most

spectacular was Bryce Point where we had our first view of the complete Bryce Canyon


At Sunset Point we hiked into the Amphitheatre starting along the Rim Trail, dropping down into the canyon at Sunrise Point along Queen's Garden Trail and climbing back out to Sunset Point through the Wall Street section of the Navajo Loop Trail. This is touted to be "The Best 3 Mile Hike in the World". While on the trail we had lots of discussion about this ranking but all in the group decided it was one of the most beautiful hikes we had been on.

That night after all the hiking we walked to the uniquely decorated Buffalo Bistro to savour Wild Boar and Bison ribs with cheap Pitchers. With Utah's strict liquour laws the owner told us they were able to get a beer licence but it was too much hassle to get a wine or cooler licence.

The next morning we all piled back into the rented mini van for our visit to Zion National Park. We had expectations of warmer weather as this time we would be on the floor of the valley and not on the rim. The drive to Zion Valley passed through unique landforms on it's way to a one mile tunnel and multiple switchbacks into the Valley.

Along the way we stopped for a short hike to the rim of the canyon to catch our first glimpse of Zion. We toured Zion Valley the first day that private vehicles were permitted to drive after the busy summer season. We did two hikes and even though water levels were low the fall colours were beautiful. It is amazing that the present slow flowing Virgin River could have created this beautiful valley but I guess it had a long time to do it.

Rachel and Dylan left us the next day but not before picking apples for the road. The remaining four of us had 2 days to make our way back to Las Vegas. On the way we visited Pipe Springs National Monument, an early Mormon settlement in the desert. We camped at Valley of Fire State Park and wished we had more time to spend here.

Next off to New York and Toronto.........

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Moab to Zion

I know I posted on Friday about our Moab experience but this has been a short week while waiting for Erin & Brad to arrive. Funny thing we touched base in four states; Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona and then back to Utah.

Our first stop was Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado. This World Heritage Site administers the preservation of archeological sites and the relics of the Puebloen people. As the season is slowly coming to a close there was only one of the three Ranger guided tours available for us. Cliff Palace, one of the three cliff dwellings of the Puebloen people, was described in detail by the Ranger and helped us get a good understanding of the area and their lifestyle. We climbed down through the crevices in the canyon to arrive at Cliff Palace the largest of the cliff dwellings. These people inhabited the Mesa area for over 700 years and late in the 1200's moved on. We viewed original masonry as well as a Kiva (ceremonial room). These rooms were used to pray for rain, luck in hunting or a good crop as well as meeting places to simply weave and communicate. There was a scenic drive that allowed us to see many of these cliff dwellings on both sides of the canyon.

As well as Cliff Palace, we viewed Spruce Tree House. This was a little easier to access but gave a good example of the recessed village under the canyon overhang.

The drive through the desert can be boring at times but I was excited that we were nearing Four Corners; Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona. Well don't blink or you will miss it! The best thing I managed was a picture of the sign entering New Mexico. Don was honked at by a Navajo lady driving her pickup truck so we didn't take any time to look for evidence of the landmark where these four states touch each other.

After our day of exploring we travelled on to a place called Bluff where we boondocked. We camped at our first BLM (Bureau Land Management). They are primitive sites that offer no utilities but a box to deposit your $10. Again, the season is coming to a close so there were only 4 occupants in a 25 site park. So quiet we could hear ourselves breathing.

No distractions and good reading time!

Early rise and we find ourselves travelling again. This time it's Monument Valley. This area is owned by the Navajo Nation. As we approached and Merrick Butte became visible Don stated that he was sure he had seen this site before. "It's a picture!" I picked up our trusty guide book and sure enough the cover of our Frommer's was the actual picture we were looking at with our eyes. Time for a photo moment! The Valley drive is a 17 mile (28 km) unpaved dirt road where RVs over 25+ feet are not recommended. So, we viewed the Valley from the Visitor Centre and got our feel for the area by reading pamphlets.

It was a long drive to Page, Arizona but the entrance to Glen Canyon was well worth it. We stopped for supplies and did something we do not do often.....take a tour! This time it was Glen Canyon Dam. The Dam was constructed between 1956 and 1966. Much of the Colorado River's original canyon (Glen Canyon) disappeared from view and Lake Powell was formed. Today Lake Powell is home for hundreds of houseboats and motorized watercrafts. We were lucky to be visiting off season.

The drive was easy going and we decided to have a beach day. From approximately 6 km. away Don spotted some RVs parked on Lone Beach.

Our beach afternoon turned into another boondocking night. This place was truly off the "grid". We met several Canadians making their way down to their winter destinations and taking a few weeks to enjoy the peace and quiet of this location. We have met so many people that have opted to change their lifestyle and we find it very surprising the little cost that it takes to make these changes. It would have been easy to stay on Lone Beach and enjoy many "Happy Hours" with our new found friends but we had to make a move closer to Zion where we would meet up with Erin and Brad.

Still time to take an easy hike up Toadstool Trail before our destination of Glendale in Utah. Again we found a quiet little park with all utilities and close proximity to Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon. Lots of exploring to follow in the next few days. The only thing we have to watch are the temperatures which dip close to freezing at night but daytime is great at 15 or 16.

Friday, October 23, 2009


Three months into our travels and it was time to take a vacation within a vacation. Exploring can be difficult work. We knew Moab was definitely the destination to take a break. The RV Resort we chose was perfect in location and amenities. Moab is well known for it's biking and so Alicia & Chris chose to join us for a few days. Chris, the biker enthusiast, had some memorable rides in the few days. He biked some well known trails as well as arranged a shuttle to an elevation of almost 11,000 ft. with a group to return quite hungry a few hours later. Alicia, had a different agenda. She ran everyday and relaxed in the pool/hot tub while catching up on some reading. This week was so different from our West Coast Trail adventure.

Besides from the mountain biking Moab is famous due to its proximity to National Parks. The first we chose to explore was Arches National Park. The Park has more than 2,400 arches (an arch is defined as a hole in a rock with an opening of at least 3 feet) so we saw a very small percentage. The 18 mile (29 km.) scenic drive allowed us to admire the view but also explore the more popular sites on foot. My first impression of these pillars of stone were of statues that were reaching out to tell a story.

It was amazing to view Balanced Rock, a 3,600 ton boulder that sits precariously on top of a pillar and looks as though it could topple any moment. Of course, it's a great place to goof around with the camera lens.

As I said we did see the more popular tourist spots and the most famous Delicate Arch which is Utah's unofficial state symbol. This was a 3 mile (5 km) hike which we chose to do pre sunset. Upon reaching the viewpoint we joined approximately a hundred people who were there to capture the views as well. It was a comical setting while everyone waited with cameras mounted on very expensive tripods to catch that perfect shot! We also took the opportunity on our drive back down to stopover and enjoy the starry night while identifying as many constellations as possible (while sipping some wine and enjoying some cheese).

Canyonlands National Park: The Island in the Sky District was a 32 mile (50 km.) drive for us from Moab.

This high altitude mesa (or table) between the Colorado and Green Rivers allowed us to view these scenic vistas from above. We stopped at five viewpoints: Grand View Point Overlook, Buck Canyon Overlook, Upheaval Dome, Green River Overlook and Mesa Arch and did short hikes.

Grand View was great for Don & Chris to demonstrate their "adventurous behaviour" but really it was not as dangerous as it looked. From our viewpoints it was amazing to see how nature carves out the beauty in the earth's surface.

These two National Parks were a photographer's dream and even amateurs like ourselves.

But every vacation must come to an end. On Saturday Alicia & Chris headed back to Denver for their flight home. Hopefully they were rested and ready to re-enter the fast paced City life. However, we had one more chore before we moved on.

On Sunday we woke very early to drive the Moho to the start area of our Half Marathon Race in our p.j.(s) From our home at the staging area we were able to prepare (eat, dress and utilize our private port-a-potty - every runner's dream) for the Race. The course was amazing, 13 miles (21 km) through red rock canyon along the Colorado River on a closed road. Sorry no pics! It was a great psychological achievement for me being my first race in almost 18 months and 10 months since my back surgery. Definitely a great boost for the New York Marathon in two weeks. By the way, Don "achieved his full potential" coming first in his age group. It did help that he turned 55 two weeks prior to the Race.

Next we are off to Colorado and the Four Corners (Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah). More wandering in the desert while we wait for Erin & Brad to join us for a few days.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Drive from Death Valley to Moab

We are on our way again.  Good-bye to Death Valley.  It's hard to believe but we are heading to Moab, Utah for a 10 day reservation. Yes, I did say 10 days. It does seem like we have covered a lot of kms. (approaching 10000) in such a short time.

Alicia & Chris plan to join us for Thanksgiving. Canadian Thanksgiving that is!!!

One last look back at Death Valley was Zabriskie Point and Don says his good-byes. I was so mistaken by my initial impressions of the desert. It truly is a magical place.

The drive was just a little too long so we decided to take a detour into Las Vegas, Nevada. Great opportunity for Moho to get a service check and shampoo (lots of dust in the desert).

We found a great little RV park about 10 miles out of the City but still the ability to use public transit and go visit "The Strip". None of the glitz has changed since our visit to Vegas a number of years ago. There are a few new hotels. We promised ourselves we will return another time and stay at Bellagio and take in a show. However, the ringing of the slot machines was enough after a few hours but none of these were our quarters.

We did take time for a few pics especially this one outside New York, New York as we'll be flying to the "Big Apple" in just a few weeks. 

Time to head back to our quiet little moho and get ready for the road.

Interstate driving is no different from one state to the next except in Nevada where there are casinos signs everywhere. In the middle of nowhere you will find a gas station and a casino. Don is pretty excited that he is getting great gas mileage and the cost is so much less to fill than in Canada.

Well we have now reached Utah. The red rock mountains were the give away clues. 

Looking foward to great hiking and biking in Moab.