The Not So Little RV That Could

In each city we visit we have our fair share of adventures, but have I mentioned that the adventure isn’t solely limited to the activities at every stop? Cue the driving between locations. Let’s just say traveling from Simi Valley, CA, to Coyote Lake, CA, was no exception.

Now before you worry, the RV is intact, all poodles and humans emerged from the odyssey unscathed, and we did in fact make it; however, we may or may not have prayed for Jesus to take the wheel along the way!

So what incited our prayers to a higher power? Buckle in friends, allow me to take you on our journey.

Like all great stories, we must start at the beginning…the morning of our departure. You will be pleased to hear that Joe and I managed to wake up early, pack the RV, and walk the dogs prior to readying ourselves for the task ahead – crossing Slide Mountain.

Honestly, the name of the mountain says it all, doesn’t it?

Allow me to set the scene.

It’s 100 degrees outside, and the main characters consist of 2 poodles, 2 humans, a Suburban, an 8,000 lb. camper, and a mountain named after its vertical prowess.

People….we climbed over 4,000 feet in elevation in the span of 25 minutes. Oh. And did I mention that the mountain has a 14 1/2% grade?

Despite the steepness of the mountain, we inched our way up slowly but surely. As we made our ascent, we noted several trucks pulled over to cool off their engines. Before we reached the peak, we too would need to pull over for a quick cool down!

On the way up, Joe made sure to pull out all the tricks – turning off the A/C and blasting the heater to draw heat away from the motor and pulling over occasionally to open the hood.

If only the descent was easier than the climb! We counted at least 4 runaway truck ramps on the way down as we descended from 4,100 ft. to 150 ft. in elevation. Hence, the prayers!

Thankfully, we made it in one piece and will be avoiding said mountain by taking an alternative route on our return to L.A.

So, we survived the mountain and the drive to Coyote Lake, but what were we up to prior to leaving?

The day before we left, Joe and I met Rick, Andrea, and Harley for dinner at a Casa Blanca themed restaurant. Joe chose it based on its quirky decor and reputation for tasty tequila. What can I say? Marry a man who knows that you’ll find a themed restaurant endearing!

The Casa Blanca themed dinner was delicious, and despite the promise of tequila, we decided to forego margaritas in favor of driving to a mini golf course after dinner. There’s nothing quite like a friendly family competition involving putt putt!

Now, not to brag…but Rick and I may or may not have tied for mini golf champion. *insert flex. I had two hole-in-one’s though so really who’s the REAL champion? Marinate on that.

Needless to say, mini golf was a blast, and we can’t wait to come back to see Rick and the fam in a few weeks!

For now, Joe and I will continue to enjoy Coyote Lake and later, Santa Cruz! We have gone shopping at the outlet mall, hiking along the trails at the park in which we are staying, and working out at the local Orangetheory gym.

It’s both peaceful and beautiful here, and we are enjoying the respite from the big city.

Stay tuned for what’s to come!

Until next time!

Party In The U.S.A.

We have had a busy week! So busy, the change of pace has almost been a bit jarring. After all, we went from living off grid in the mountains to trying to keep up with the hustle and bustle of L.A.

In our effort to inundate ourselves with the big city, we inadvertently jam-packed our schedule with a plethora of activities. At the beginning of the week, Joe and I visited the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. When I found out we were staying 10 minutes away from this museum, I knew we HAD to go!

Why was I so excited about visiting a presidential library and museum? Well, growing up, almost every time I visited my grandmother (my mom’s mother) in Bryan/College Station, TX, she would take me and my siblings to the George H. W. Bush Presidential Library. I suppose presidential libraries are just synonymous with my childhood! So, naturally, when I saw we were close to a presidential library and museum, I told Joe that visiting was a top priority!

Admittedly, it also doesn’t hurt that I’m a bit of a history buff and was excited to see if the library and museum had a piece of the Berlin Wall. After all, Reagan is famous for his speech where he challenges Soviet Leader Gorbachev to “tear down this wall!” In case you were wondering and much to my awe, the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library DOES have a piece of the Berlin Wall, and it was so surreal to both see it and touch it.

Not only is the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library home to a piece of the Berlin Wall but also to Air Force One. I may or may not have squealed after seeing it because not only did we get to see it, but also we got to go inside it!

No pictures are allowed inside the famous plane, but a museum employee was setup at the entrance to take visitors’ pictures. I have included a few of the pictures taken by various museum employees during our visit to the presidential library and museum below. Feel free to laugh at our expense – the pictures are far too reminiscent of cringe-worthy family photos from the 70’s/80’s that you see plastered all over the internet!

Despite the high definition yet low quality pictures, touring the inside of Air Force One was incredible! Various curators are stationed throughout the plane, and their expertise allowed us to fully experience and appreciate Air Force One’s monumental impact and history.

I could honestly write an entire blog post about our visit to the Reagan Presidential Library, but it is only one of our many stops from this past week! I have much more to write about!

A few days after our presidential library and museum visit, Joe’s brother, Rick, and his family took us to Hollywood! From national history to the entertainment industry’s history – history is history, am I right? Ha!

Joking aside, we had a blast! I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the Walk of Fame, placing my hands in the handprints of Hollywood stars at the Chinese Theatre, having a family photo op at the Hollywood Wax Museum, and competing with different family members in various challenges at the Guinness World Records Museum. We stayed out way too late laughing and enjoying each others company!

Though we stayed out late, Joe and Rick were awake bright and early the next day to do some work on our towing vehicle aka the Burb.

“It should only take an hour and a half, 3 hours tops” – famous last words from Joseph Garcia.

Let’s just say 3 hours turned into 10 hours…but hey! Joe and Rick worked everything out, and by the end of the day, Joe was bringing me street tacos and a new and improved Suburban! It wouldn’t be a Garcia family get together if the men weren’t working on some sort of project!

So, that was it, right? Presidential Library, Hollywood, and Rick’s garage? Nope! This week held one more stop! Camp Pendleton.

Yep. Saying we had a busy week was no exaggeration!

My cousin, Evan is a marine stationed at Camp Pendleton, and we were too close not to make the drive to see him!

We met for Sunday brunch and afterward, Joe and I piled into Evan’s car so that he could drive us around Oceanside and give us a tour of Pendleton! It was beautiful, intimidating, and amazing. Joe and I couldn’t help but feel a sense of national pride and gratitude as we toured the base.

After driving around Pendleton, Joe, Evan, and I went downtown in search of ice cream and to spend more time with each other. Both ice cream parlors we attempted to visit were closed so we found a doughnut shop and ate doughnuts as well as drank iced coffee outside as we enjoyed the sunny, breezy afternoon.

It was so good seeing Evan – who knew California would turn into such a family stop?

We have one more week in the L.A. area before we make our way north for Joe’s work conference. Who’s to say what this week will hold?

Who knows! But Joe and I are enjoying time with family as we make the most of California.

Until next time!

See You On The 405

After 5 weeks of traveling and living off grid, we made it to California! But first, allow me to start from where we last left off.

Previously on Garcia’s Moving Castle…we were wrapping up our time in Flagstaff, Arizona. My lungs were recovering from our jaunt to Grand Falls, and Joe and I had nixed our initial plans of traveling to Mammoth Lakes, CA. Instead, we decided to take off for the coast! So, we said goodbye to our new friends, packed up the camper, and readied ourselves for the 8 hour journey through the Mojave desert.

We decided to split up the trek to Simi Valley, CA, into 2 parts. Thankfully, the first leg of the journey was uneventful, and we stopped at a KOA (Kampgrounds of America) in Needles, CA, for the night.

Let me just say…God. Bless. Hookups. After fetching and toting water, setting up solar panels and maintaining a generator for 5 weeks, full hookups at a KOA might as well as have been an all-inclusive resort in the Bahamas. A bit hyperbolic? Perhaps. Completely accurate? Absolutely.

Joe and I both agree that our night at the Needles KOA Campground was both rejuvenating and peaceful, and by peaceful, I mean we slept like the dead.

After having one of the best nights of sleep in our lives, Joe and I girded our loins for the second half of our journey…the mountain pass. Spoiler alert, we made it, but we may have sprouted a few grey hairs along the way. From flash flood warnings and random torrential downpour, to manual grade shifting through the mountains, navigating Los Angeles traffic with an 8,000 lb. trailer would make even an atheist pray!

But hey, like I said, we made it. Phew!

So, we survived the journey to California. What have we been up to since then? Lots!

Joe’s brother’s family lives in LA, and because we don’t get to see them very often, we have been making up for lost time! The first day we got in, we met them for dinner, and last night, we went to the Santa Monica Pier!

It has always been a dream of mine to visit this famous pier and ride its ferris wheel, and Joe’s brother, Rick, made it happen. What can I say? I’m a sucker for a good funnel cake and amusement park, and by the end of the night, my blood sugar was certainly feeling the effects of the pizza and sugary goodness we consumed.

Induced sugar coma aside, our time at the Santa Monica Pier was magical. Feeling the ocean breeze, laughing and talking with family, and experiencing the city from the dizzying height of the ferris wheel left me with a sense of childlike wonder.

Gosh, I’m grateful.

And with that, I am going to end this post.

Until next time!

Go With The Flow

Are you still in Flagstaff, Arizona? Where have your travels taken you? Hello! Anyone there?

Hi. Yes, Rebekah speaking, we are still alive! After our adventure to Grand Falls almost 2 weeks ago, my asthma started taking a turn for the worse. Apparently, dust and asthma don’t mix…who knew?

To be fair, my lungs were still weak from having COVID at the end of June, and between being in a high altitude and breathing in a lot of dust, my lungs decided to rebel! Thankfully, I packed my nebulizer, and after being put on a steroid regiment, I am on the up-and-up!

We should be back to programming as usual this weekend as we make our way to California! Originally, we had planned on heading to Mammoth Lakes, CA, but between its 7,900 ft. elevation, and the fires that are going on in the area, we decided to forego that plan and allow my lungs to fully recuperate by sticking to sea level along the coast of California.

Stay tuned for the exact cities and places we visit, but bring on the salty air! In the meantime, allow me to regale you with our adventures since Grand Falls.

As I said, because my asthma has been temperamental (to say the least), we haven’t recently gone to any national monuments, BUT that doesn’t mean we have been without any form of fun!

Joe and I met a fellow Texan at the local Orangetheory gym during our first week in Flagstaff and have hung out with him and his wife a few times during our stay! We went brewery hopping downtown and even enjoyed a pool day one weekend. I think all of us have enjoyed finding a slice of home out here in the desert…even if our alma maters are somewhat of rivals.

Comically, the first thing our new friend’s wife said to us was, “So, I heard you guys went to UT? [My husband] hates the longhorns.” We told her we wouldn’t hold the fact that her husband went to Tech against him. Ha!

Between enjoying Texas school rivalries and exploring Flagstaff with new friends, to appreciating the scenic bike trails and ancient pueblos, Joe and I have enjoyed our time here in Flagstaff. Until next time, California here we come!

A Grand Adventure

Vroom…vroom! Glancing up I took in a familiar sight and sound. If the roar of an engine wasn’t a dead giveaway, the picture before me told me everything I needed to know…we were about to take off on a motorcycle adventure.

There’s nothing quite like being on the back of a motorcycle. Feeling the wind and sun kiss your skin and the purr of an engine beneath you, you feel a sense of freedom and reckless abandonment. This motorcycle venture was no exception, and I could barely contain my excitement during the hour long journey to our destination. Where were we headed? A Navajo Indian Reservation, home of Arizona’s 5th largest waterfall, also known as Grand Falls.

Grand Falls is dry a majority of the year. Taller than Niagara Falls, these muddy falls flow during the months of March and April and during a short window, monsoon season, in July and August. Knowing we had been gifted rainfall that week, but our chances of seeing the waterfall flow were slim, we took off in hopes of seeing the chocolate waterfall.

The drive to Grand Falls was beautiful. The sun was shining, clouds filled the sky, and the scenery gradually shifted from forrest to desert. Not only was there a change in terrain but also in temperature. We quickly went from a breezy 82 degrees to a temperature over 100, and by the end of the trip, Joe and I were sporting matching sunburns from the intense rays.

Though the bulk of the ride was smooth and cool, as soon as we entered the reservation, the washboard road jilted our internal organs and solidified our decision to take Joe’s dual sport motorcycle with off road tires, the trusty KLR.

Finally, we arrived at our destination, and much to my chagrin, the Grand Falls were little more than a Grand Trickle. Despite, the lack of water flow, the Grand Falls was still a site to behold! Nestled in a volcanic field, evidence of the lava flow could still be seen in the charred, black rock and sand that pressed against the red cliffside of the Grand Falls.

Though we didn’t quite hike all the way to the bottom, Joe and I waded through the dark silt and marveled at the surrounding landscape. It felt like we were on a distant planet from Star Wars! I am continuously amazed by the diverse topography our country offers.

Overall, we immensely enjoyed our adventure to Grand Falls, Arizona. After all, it’s not every day a person can boast of riding a motorcycle through a Navajo Indian Reservation!

Going Down is Optional. Returning is Mandatory!

Situated in Flagstaff, Arizona, Walnut Canyon National Monument is home to ancient cliff dwellings and incredible rock faces. Though the geological formations of the canyon itself are remarkable, what truly sets this site apart are the pueblos nestled into the curved canyon walls. However, visiting these pueblos is no easy feat.

In order to walk in the steps of those who came before, visitors have two trail options. You can either casually walk the easy 0.75 mile Rim Trail which provides you with a nice overlook of the canyon and cliff dwellings, or you can choose the more physical, strenuous Island Trail that takes you into the canyon. Guess which one we took?

“Going down is optional. Returning is mandatory” are the words emblazoned on the Island Trail trailhead at Walnut Canyon National Monument. With the steep one mile trail dropping 185 vertical feet into Walnut Canyon where the cliff dwellings could be explored, did we dare undertake the 273 stair step journey? Yes, yes we did.

Before beginning our descent, park rangers posted in front of the trailhead offered me and Joe water and assessed our physical prowess. Joking! Kinda. At the start of the Island Trail, there are signs asking you to consider your physical condition before hiking. As if the 273 stair steps into the canyon aren’t enough, the trail loop follows the cliff edge and has 190 stair steps spread out over its length, as well as a lack of continuous hand railings. It is definitely wise to take a moment of introspection before undergoing the descent. Remember, “Going down is optional. Returning is mandatory!”

Despite the 6,690 ft. elevation and the combined 463 stair steps, Joe and I were ready to conquer the Island Trail and explore its hidden treasures, and boy am I so glad we did! Pictures don’t fully capture the beauty and grandeur of both the canyon and its ancient pueblos, and as we were hiking, I couldn’t help but be amazed by what I was seeing and ponder the Ancestral Puebloan people who called the sheer cliff faces home.

From collecting and storing snow melt in preparation for the dry season when water was scarce, to farming various crops, this resilient tight-knit group of people adapted to the land and its environment. I am in awe of their culture, community, and lifestyle.

I think it’s needless to say that Walnut Canyon National Monument is a historical site worth visiting. It is a sacred place full of rich history, and we cannot recommend visiting enough!

Our Setup

How do we traverse the United States in a camper while working remotely? Well…the answer is multifaceted, and to truly respond to this line of inquiry, we must begin with the very core of our setup aka the camper.

Prior to beginning our travels, Joe spent months researching different types of campers. He asked all the big questions. Did we want a couple’s camper, a toy hauler, an RV? How big of a rig did we want? Which type of camper would allow us both to take meetings from a tiny space?

Honestly, the number of questions he asked, and the various scenarios he pondered are endless. In the end, Joe narrowed the search to two options: a toy hauler, which is a type of RV with a garage in the rear and a large ramp-door for access, or a camper around the 30 ft. range with a rear bunkhouse room that could be used as an office.

We went with the toy hauler option – a 33 ft. Forest River Wildwood FSX. The garage would allow us to bring our favorite toys like Joe’s motorcycle(s) and our kayaks and once unloaded, give us ample room for an office. Plus, the rear ramp-door has the option of folding down into a deck granting inside/outside access! I have included some pictures at the bottom of this post for reference.

Once we, and really I mean Joe, determined the best camper for our needs, the next step was figuring out the internet situation. Thankfully, this was really a nonissue. Our home base in Texas is located in the boonies, and as such, we were already accustomed to utilizing an alternative internet solution. Through our trusty cell service provider, Verizon, we pay a premium price for several gigs of data that come in the form of hot spots.

On top of paying for several hot spots, we also have a moveable cell signal booster that Joe attaches to the back of our camper. Basically, with the cell signal booster, you locate the nearest cell tower, point the antenna in its direction, and voila!

So, camper…check, office…check, internet…check!

The final piece of our traveling while working remotely puzzle includes the issue or potential issue(s) of power. Sometimes we stay in state parks, but frequently, we boondock by staying off grid on public land. In order to power the camper, as well as all our devices, we have a gas-powered, silent generator, as well as a Jackery, a huge, portable solar-powered battery.

The Jackery is fantastic because it allows us to mitigate our carbon footprint by solar farming, as well as saves us gas money. Plus, many places don’t allow you to use a generator.

There are a few different types of Jackery models, but we chose to purchase a Jackery with unfoldable, movable solar panels, rather than mounted solar panels, in order to farm the best rays in each location.

All in all, we have a pretty sweet setup! For those interested, I have listed and linked everything we use under the “Resources” section of our website. There are a few items listed there I didn’t address in this post, but I plan on writing about them soon! Stay tuned for Boondocking 101.

Bandelier National Monument

Bandelier is a site that relays the story of nomadic-hunter-gatherers from over 10,000 years ago. Home to the Ancestral Pueblo people, evidence of their presence is still chiseled into the surrounding landscape – the effect is both humbling and awe-inspiring.

As if the scenery isn’t impressive enough, Bandelier offers patrons the privilege of climbing through ancient pueblos, traversing the sacred grounds of the Ancestral Pueblo people, as well as the opportunity to hike through an ecotone. Yes, you read that correctly, an ecotone!

For those unfamiliar, an ecotone is a transition area between two biological communities, where the two communities meet and integrate. For me, one of the most surprising aspects of Bandelier was its ecotone. One moment you’re scaling a cliff in the desert, and the next, once you descend, you find yourself situated in a lush forrest filled with pine trees. The image created by this dissonance is beautiful, and we found ourselves mesmerized by our surroundings.

Bandelier not only boasts a scenic and unique, historical setting, but also offers a campground, a café, a museum, and a park store! Be aware that you must park at the White Rock Visitor Center and take the 30 minute shuttle to Bandelier during the months of June-October due to lack of parking and high visitor volume unless you make the drive before 9 AM.

We tried our best to arrive before 9 AM, but with needing to walk our dogs (no pets on the hiking trails) and Bandelier being an hour away from our dispersed campsite, arriving before 9 AM just didn’t happen! Despite our lack of morning prowess, the shuttle was quick, easy, and runs every 20 minutes, so we did not lose much time traveling to our destination.

Once we arrived, we decided to complete two of the hiking trails – the Main Pueblo Loop Trail and the Alcove Trail. It took us about 2 hours to complete both of them, and though we walked to the end of the Alcove Trail, we did not climb up the 140 foot ascent to the Alcove House (the ceremonial cave). The site is eroding quickly due to wind and human foot traffic so no more than 15 people at a time can access it, and there was quite a line when we arrived, so we decided not to make the climb.

Despite not seeing the Alcove House, Joe and I relished our time at Bandelier. We were fascinated and amazed by its rich history and enjoyed the physical exertion, as well as the tranquility its hikes provided. We definitely plan on returning, especially since we felt like we needed more time!

Meow Wolf – An Immersive Art Experience

When we told people we were stopping in Santa Fe, NM, the most common question we were asked was…“Are you going to Meow Wolf?”

For those new to the art scene, Meow Wolf is an incredible, immersive art experience featuring over 70 rooms of explorable art. The Meow Wolf website describes the permanent art installation, House of Eternal Return, as “a macrocosmic adventure of seemingly endless possibilities” (meowwolf.com).

Trust us, Meow Wolf is not joking when they say “seemingly endless possibilities.” Upon entering the installation, we immediately felt disoriented – you don’t know where to look, where to start, or even how to move, because there’s SO much happening EVERYWHERE. Each of the rooms blends together into a cacophony of mismatched art, theme, and concept.

One second you’re in a bubble gum pink candy land that has the distinct smell of sugar, and the next, you’re in a florescent, fantastical rainforest with neon mushrooms and trees that take the idea of personification to a new extreme. Blink too fast and you’ll miss participants crawling out of a supposedly empty ice machine; look down, and realize that the washing machine in the corner is actually a portal to an out-of-this-world galaxy.

To be honest, it’s difficult to verbalize the onslaught of the senses that is Meow Wolf. Is it incredible? Yes. Is it an experience? Yes. Is it absolutely worth seeing? Yes. However, Meow Wolf is not for the faint of heart – it is a complete sensory experience!

If you ever plan on visiting, be sure to buy your tickets online in advance and arrive 10 minutes prior to your scheduled time. At the time of purchase, you also have the option of adding on chromadepth glasses for $0.92 which enhance the psychedelic colors and lighting of the installation, as well as tokens ($4.61 per 5 tokens) that can be used at some of the machines at the arcade, photo booth, and storage lockers.

In the end, Joe and I are glad we paid the somewhat hefty price ($42 per ticket) to visit this wonderland of eccentricity! Meow Wolf left quite the impression – it was an experience we will never forget!

Escaping The Heat

It should come to no one’s surprise that Texas is hot. No, like really hot. Like 100 + degrees Fahrenheit every day hot. SO hot…that Joe and I purposefully planned a 3 month trip, in the middle of summer, to escape the Texas heat.

Originally, we had planned to spring our jail break June 24th. Joe even took some time off work so that we could slowly begin our trek to cooler temperatures, but like all great adventures, none is without its potential setbacks. Ours took the form(s) of a pesky virus called COVID-19 and a stubborn motorcycle.

That’s right! One week before our planned departure, COVID struck the Garcia household. Now, Joe and I had never had COVID. We both work remotely and tend to be recluses, and as such, managed to not catch COVID during the height of the pandemic. Yet, one week prior to leaving and entering the sweet relief that is 80 degree weather, we both got COVID.

Thankfully, we both were fine. I will spare you the sordid details of how COVID affected each of us, but despite all odds, including the need to do quite a bit of motorcycle maintenance, we managed to recover, pack, and leave with only a minor delay. And yes, we made sure to isolate and clear the infectious period before heading out.

So, where are we headed? Though we are sojourning to several various places during our Texas heat hiatus, stop 1 is Santa Fe, New Mexico! Because of the recent wildfires, we thought our original plans of staying in Santa Fe would have to be nixed, and to be fair, they were until we decided to do a last minute check to see if the parks in New Mexico were back open, and lo and behold, they were! Thus, we are on our way to northern New Mexico.

Along the way, we plan on blogging about our journey. Though Joe and I have a natural propensity for taking a million photos, neither of us is much of a “vlogger.” Our love of photos just doesn’t translate to a desire to film everything. Instead, we wish to share our love of words, pictures, and adventure, via this blog.

From RV tips and tricks, to must see attractions, we hope you join us by following along on our journey! It’s going to be fun!

USFS Headquarters Well Trailhead – Santa Fe, New Mexico