The Final Stretch

Last week we made it to Las Cruces, New Mexico, where we boondocked near the base of the Organ Mountains and interacted with fellow RVers.

Naturally, this interaction and meeting leads to Garcia’s Moving Castle’s next segment of RVers in the wild.

In today’s segment, we begin with Joe. After all, he is the one who encountered the RVer in his natural habitat. The RVer, our new neighbor, approached Joe late in the evening around the local watering hole aka our collection of 7 gallon water totes. Joe was replenishing our water supply and our fellow RVer was curious if he could borrow our totes to fetch water for himself and his wife.

Joe agreed, and naturally, as all conversations do, this evolved into Joe and our fellow RVer discussing the pros and cons of a black water waste disposal system vs. a composting waste disposal system. The RVer began to passionately argue that an expensive composting system wasn’t worth it, especially because a person could buy everything they needed for a composting waste disposal system from the Family Dollar.

Color Joe both horrified and intrigued.

The RVer then proceeded to give Joe instructions on how to build his own composting system from a bowl, paper towels, and ziplocs, as well as give Joe advice on how to keep a black water system from smelling. Apparently, it’s all in the essential oils.

Don’t use water to flush! Simply spray peppermint and lavender oil after every use, and you won’t need to dispose of the black water system’s contents for 3 months.

As if this conversation wasn’t memorable enough, the RVer switched gears and began regaling Joe about government secrets. The RVer couldn’t divulge everything, but his government source had informed him that President Biden hadn’t been alive for a few months. The government was using CGI and a body double to emulate the late president.

Never a dull moment!

Stay tuned for future segments of RVers in the wild. In the meantime, allow me to fill you in on our happenings from last week.

As I mentioned earlier, Joe and I boondocked near the base of the Organ Mountains. Not only did we camp off grid near these well-known mountains, but also took some time to visit and hike around the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument.

The National Monument is home to an old mine shaft, sanatarium, waterfall, and way station. Joe and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing these historic sites, as well as the hike to each of them. Along the way, we came across a few tarantulas and several noteworthy plants! What can I say, Joe loves to identify local flora!

Overall, we had a great time visiting the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument; it is always one of our favorite things to see when we come to Las Cruces.

Because we are still a little weary from traveling and adventuring, we have decided to stay in Las Cruces one more week, but instead of spending it boondocking, we have moved to an RV park. Is there a story there? Yes, yes there is.

When Joe took our portable waste tank into town to dump at the local RV park, the front office staff told him it would cost $50 to use their dump station. Now normally, it costs about $10 to use a park’s dump station. So, Joe was both surprised and intrigued as to why this park was charging $50.

Apparently, in the last few months, someone had dumped their meth lab at the park’s dump station. So, to discourage others from utilizing their facilities, they implemented a $50 fee for all patrons wanting to dump, as well as installed a lockbox over the dump system’s entry valve.

After explaining the RV park owner’s rationale, the front office staff then proceeded to sell Joe one of the park’s spots for the day. For $34, Joe could use that spot’s septic and dump his tank.

At that point, it made more sense to just buy 6 days and move our RV over to the park. Joe knew I wasn’t going to complain about full hookups!

So, we are now enjoying the luxury of full hookups as we finish our time in New Mexico. Next stop Austin, TX!

Until next time!

Life is a Highway

Before embarking on this trip, Joe and I outlined our “must see” locations and attractions. For Joe, the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) was at the top of the list. Now, you might be thinking to yourself…what’s so special about a highway? For Joe and all motorcyclists alike, the PCH is the Mecca of all motorcycle trips! Why? Well, the Pacific Coast Highway boasts incredible ocean views, winding roads along the west coast, and endless miles of rock cliffs. In essence, the PCH contains all elements for a motorcyclist’s wildest dream. So naturally, when Joe and I were mapping out our return trip to L.A. from Santa Cruz, we chose to return via Hwy 1 aka the Pacific Coast Highway!

Now, we couldn’t drive straight to L.A. along the PCH without stopping for a few days! That would be a complete travesty. Thus, we found ourselves camping in Big Sur.

For those unfamiliar, Big Sur is the “longest and most scenic stretch of undeveloped coastline in the contiguous United States” (Google), and let me just say, it is absolutely breathtaking.

As we drove in to Big Sur, we crossed the famous Bixby Bridge and marveled at its engineering. Later, we would drive back on the motorcycle to take pictures of it and its surrounding landscape.

After admiring Bixby Bridge and taking a few pictures, Joe and I continued along the coast until we reached Andrew Molera State Park. What we thought would be an easy, quick stop to see the park’s beach and its famous, purple, sandy shore ended up being a 1.5 mile hike, but the juice was worth the squeeze! There’s something profoundly special about watching the sunset on a beach, and we finished our jaunt to the coastline just in time to see it.

Of course we took some pictures, but not before we took time to sit, breathe in the fresh, salty air, and look out upon the ocean’s waves.

It’s moments like these I find myself reflecting on the blessings in my life, and traveling around the country with Joe is one of my greatest blessings.

One of my favorite things about traveling with Joe are the unexpected friendships we make and the adventures we find ourselves undertaking. For example, during our trip to Big Sur, as we were hiking trails around Pfeiffer State Park, we came across an area of the park involving a clear river and large boulders. As we were contemplating which direction to take, a young couple appeared, and before we knew it, all four of us were helping each other clamor over rocks upstream.

Though our game of “don’t touch the lava” was fun or in this case “avoid the icy clutches of the river,” the true excitement came from the waterfall and swimming hole we eventfully found.

Now, I don’t know about you, but when I see a waterfall and/or a swimming hole, I have to jump in and swim! After an arduous hike, the frigid temperature of the river was a welcome respite, and we spent ample time enjoying swimming with our new friends as we laughed and explored the gorge.

Joe and I both agree that our time at Pfeiffer State Park was a highlight of our trip to Big Sur. We didn’t get to see everything we hoped to, but we definitely plan on coming back soon!

For now, we are enjoying our remaining few days in California. We have a few fun things planned before we take off on our return trip to Texas.

Until next time!

P.S. On our drive from Big Sur to L.A. we came across wild elephant seals! *insert squeal

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!

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!

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!