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