Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Tour of our Four Wheel Camper Fleet Model (pop-up)

 


In September, we took a two week trip up to southern Colorado for camping, off roading and exploring. The first week we were joined by Greg's Mom - Frances.  The second week it was just me and Greg. This post will be in two parts. 

Part 1 - Check out our recently uploaded YouTube video tour of our Four Wheel Camper - Fleet Model and see the beauty of Owl Creek Pass 



Part 2 - Full post on our two-week southern Colorado trip.  Below are a couple of highlight pics. 

Enjoy! 













Sunday, August 30, 2020

2020 Adventures & Staying Home


Our updated purpose: join us as we find and map great boondocking spots, go on hikes, off-road with our Toyota Tacoma and camp in our Fleet Four Wheel Camper. Let's explore and have awesome adventures!  


I read a joke that was perfect: 13 says "I am the worst number;" 666 says "No, I am the worst number."  2020 says, "bitches, please."

This year for our family has been both horrific and wonderful. Greg and I started off the year hopeful and excited about many planned adventures. This post is the highlights of our year from January through August 2020.

In early January, we went for a 10 day trip. We left at night and spent the night in the parking lot of Sandia Casino in Albuquerque. The next night we drove to Faywood Hot Springs near the City of Rocks State Park in New Mexico. We soaked and slept in the next day.


Our first destination was a new place for both of us - Chiricahua National Monument. Our hope was to be in warmer weather. We were surprised to find there was still snow and cooler temps.  We made reservations ahead of our visit. We normally like to just go with the flow - but this park is only open part of the year and the campground fills up quickly.

Our campsite

Our original plan was to do a number of hikes, but the snow made some of the hikes more difficult. We try to follow the jello plans philosophy. We try to go with the flow so as not to get upset when life throws obstacles into our journeys. Chiricahua has amazing trails and hikes and is known for the rhyolite rock pinnacles. We drove up to Inspiration Point with the hope to hike the Heart of the Rocks Loop. Instead, we walked around the Inspiration Point Loop trail and then took an awesome hike up Sugarloaf Mountain. I love rocks and interesting geology. I was in HEAVEN.



















I've written before about my Aunt Julie who raised me for almost half of my first 18 years. We are very, very close. She has been battling cancer and was stuck at home unable to travel in January. Whenever I have cell service and am on a great hike, I like to What'sApp Aunt Julie so she can come along with us on the hike. She also loved Inspiration Point and the top of Sugarloaf Mountain. The hike up Sugarloaf is not long and under normal conditions would be pretty easy.  The hard part was the snow on the shady portion of the trail. 





The next morning, we planned to do a 5 mile hike along the Natural Bridge Trail. The campground is just before a gate that is normally open up to the hiking areas. Our plan was to drive to the trail head. Unfortunately, the snow melted and froze overnight so the gate was closed and access to the trails blocked. But, we weren't going to let a little gate and closed road stop us.  What's a few more miles among friends? Bonus: we had the trail all to ourselves. We didn't see another person until we hiked back out and saw the snowplow driver finishing up his cleanup.


I will warn others who do this hike. It is beautiful, the terrain changes and is varied and there are views and pinnacles in all directions. However, we were not able to get close to the natural bridge. It didn't look like the photos we had seen. I didn't see how to get close enough for the awesome pictures I have seen online. But, I still loved this hike and would do it again. Having the trail all to ourselves was amazing.



Our next stop was Tucson where we spent the first night at Snyder Hill. Most of our meals were cooked in the camper. But, we really enjoy eating at Sweet Tomatoes and Tucson has one. Little did we know - this was the last time we will ever eat there since Sweet Tomatoes was one of the victims of the 2020 economic downturn caused by COVID-19. We found the warmer weather we were looking for in Tucson. The second and third nights we stayed at Pima County's Gilbert Ray Campground. We picked it for the proximity to the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum and Saguaro National Park. We explored both the East and West portions of the Saguaro National Park. We spent an afternoon at the Sonora Desert Museum and Botanical Garden especially enjoying the Raptor Free Flight "show."

One night on the trip when we were super tired after spending the day hiking and exploring in the heat, we wanted to just hang out in our camper. We had internet, so we set up our chromebook and watched The Bachelor on YouTube TV.

Snyder Hill Boondocking

Raptor Free Flight Show



Bachelor Night

It's not Tucson without a beautiful sunset


Because I am still working, we tend to do whirlwind trips out of necessity.  In August 2021, I will finally be retired and we can be more flexible, spontaneous and stay out for MUCH longer periods.

In late February, we got two shocking bits of news. My Aunt Julie's cancer treatments was not keeping up with the cancer which was spreading. She was hoping to start a new round of chemo. We also began hearing news about a virus in China that might be making its way to the US. After the death of my brother-in-law to H1-N1 in 2009 when he was only 51, we are super cautious when it comes to the flu and viruses. I don't like flying during flu season and with the stories we were hearing - I was not about to get on a plane. So instead, I took a week off during my busy budget season so we could drive and visit my Aunt and Uncle in the Bay Area.

I worked a half-day and we drove straight through to Twin Arrows Casino outside of Flagstaff and stayed in the parking lot. We were trying to beat a storm predicted for the next day. The following day we drove through a huge storm, heavy rain and areal flooding. The second night we arrived late at Brite Valley Regional Aquatic Recreation Area regional campground. We had a wonderful sleep in spite of the torrential downpour. Some people aren't comfortable in Four Wheel Pop-up Campers in wind storms, but we enjoyed our sleep and the sound of the rain and wind. I was able to test our new thermal pack which kept us warm and toasty.

Conditions were less than ideal for driving.
View out our windshield

Staying at Kern County campground Brite Valley

Thanks to my phone's hot spot, 
I was able to get some work done on the road

Greg and my Uncle Charlie

Enjoying a meal with my much loved Aunt Julie 

I was very torn when our time with my aunt and uncle came to an end and it was time to head home. I love my life in New Mexico, but leaving my Aunt while she was facing yet another round of chemo was heartbreaking even though we talk every day. Early in our marriage, Greg and I left the Bay Area where we both grew up, and went where our hearts and jobs led us. Over the next 40 years, we lived in the Sacramento area, South Lake Tahoe, Park City Utah, Twin Cities Minnesota and now Northern New Mexico. My aunt, uncle and cousins all stayed in Concord. Like us, Greg's family is now far flung - Alaska, San Francisco, Austin, Portland, Twin Cities and Florida.  My Dad is in Southern California, but my sister and brother both live back East. I am very glad we went where the road led us, but times like this I get sad about not being closer to family. 

The day we left, we had a wonderful breakfast out with my aunt and uncle. Our first night on the drive home, we stopped at Lake Isabella. We arrived after dark and drove down to the beach to camp barely able to make out the lake. I always find it interesting arriving somewhere you have never been at night and waking up the next morning to an unexpected landscape and view. 

Lake Isabella

We had the weekend to get home, so we stopped at Death Valley for a hike and another camping night. We just barely scratched the surface of the abundance of hiking opportunities in Death Valley in winter. I really want to go spend weeks there in a future year. The only camping spot available was basically a parking lot. We were fine with it because we were there to hike and see the highlights. Next to us was a guy in a tent. In the middle of the night someone pulled in next to us on the other side. I don't know what they hell that person's problem was - but his alarm kept going off at like 2 in the morning. In our sleep stupor - we thought it might be our truck. So, we got out of our camper and sat in our chairs listening waiting to see if our truck was the culprit. No, it was the idiot sleeping in the driver's seat of his LA fancy sports car. His alarm went off AGAIN and the guy on the other side of us yelled out. The offensive dude with the crazy alarm, revved his engine and drove off. We went back to sleep and the rest of the night was quiet. 

Our second night, we stayed in Tecopa at Delight's Hot Springs. We had an enjoyable soak, but then a gigantic wind storm appeared in the middle of the night. By 4 a.m., we were wide awake and decided we might as well hit the road and drive all the way back to New Mexico. Whirlwind #2. 

Rainbow Canyon
We didn't see any jets, but did see one large military transport plane

Father Crowley Vista

Darwin Falls near Panamint Springs, California
The hike is less than 2 miles round trip
The drive to the start of the hike is a bit rough

Camping at Furnace Creek in Death Valley

Zabriskie Point in Death Valley

Tecopa, California 

We got back to New Mexico the beginning of March. We are so lucky to live in a small, somewhat isolated town, to have a job that continues through the pandemic and to have the ability to work from home. Greg's folks live here in Los Alamos also, less than a mile from our townhouse. 

Our new routine since mid March and the COVID-9 explosion has been to hunker down at home, wash our hands almost obsessively, wear masks in public when around other people, only use curbside pickup to buy groceries and to purchase meals from local restaurants that we take home an microwave.  We are fortunate that Los Alamos County has 58 miles of trails and is surrounded by Santa Fe National Forest as well as both Bandelier National Monument and the Valles Caldera National Preserve. Although campgrounds are closed, we have been able to boondock in the woods both above Los Alamos and in other parts of Northern New Mexico away from other people. This has made our isolation much easier and we feel very fortunate to live where w live.   

Los Alamos County Trail Map

Like the rest of America, a number of our family members across the Country contracted corona. We have been very, very lucky and blessed that they did not have to be hospitalized and had milder to no symptoms. Our expanded family has suffered a number of deaths during the pandemic. I am, by nature, an optimistic person. I try to stay positive even when life piles crap on. It doesn't change the crap you encounter, but it makes dealing with it a bit easier.


Greg, Don, Frances and me


I've written before about
Greg's Dad (Don) having both Alzheimer's and terminal cancer. He has been on hospice throughout 2020. We have not been able to fully stay away from Greg's folks. We help them out by buying groceries, emptying their trash, picking up their mail and helping around their place. Greg's father was declining rapidly throughout January through now. In April he began leaving the apartment more and more and getting lost. Don didn't understand that he needed a mask or why we wore masks when we dropped off food and could no longer stay and hang out with them. By the end of April, he was no longer able to be at home. Because he was on hospice, we were able to move him to a memory care facility in town following a negative Covid test. He really doesn't know who anyone in the family is anymore. God bless the people who run this facility. They have been wonderful to Don. Sadly, like many others, we can only visit him through a window. But, he is safe and with a group of amazing caretakers and his familiar hospice nurse can visit him. Don continues to diminish, but is happy at his new "school."


Since May, we have taken Greg's Mom (Frances) on weekend drives or camping trips to isolated boondocking spots where we can be away from people but out in the healing elements of nature. We are obsessive about hand washing, wearing our masks, cleaning surfaces and staying away from people and crowds. Luckily, we enjoy cooking at home.


My Aunt Julie and I talk and text every day. It has been difficult for her with family not being able to visit. I am forever thankful that Greg and I took that trip to see her in February while travel was still safely possible. My Aunt's situation also got worse. Her liver function was deteriorating and the chemo treatment was no longer an option. We thought she had maybe a month. 


I took a few days off of work so we could have a three night campout. On Wednesday night I had a long, wonderful talk with my Aunt. I told her we were going camping and wouldn't have cell phone service so I wouldn't be able to "show" her the scenery via What's App. The next morning, she sent me a heart text.


Greg, me, Aunt Julie and Uncle Charlie at the 
Valles Caldera back in the early 2000's


After hearing an owl hooting in the tree above our camper throughout the night on Friday, I felt the need to contact my family. We have a Garmin Inreach for emergencies. Greg offered to drive me back home or suggested I could also use the text feature to keep in touch by phone. My Uncle gave me the news that her passing was coming much faster than she or anyone else thought. He and my cousin Danny gave me hourly updates by text throughout Saturday. Thank you Garmin Inreach! We drove home Sunday morning. That night, Sunday, July 12th, my Aunt Julie passed over. I knew this would be the end result, but it still feels unreal to me. We could not gather as a family due to COVID, but we asked people to plant a tree in her memory instead and received an outpouring of loving tributes to her on social media. She touched a lot of lives and will never be forgotten.



It has now been almost 50 days since my aunt crossed over. It still seems unreal that our daily phone calls will not happen again. My Uncle and I continue to talk almost everyday which has been wonderful. Keep in touch with friends and family, let them know how you feel or just talk about the weather, television shows or books. Let them know you are thinking of them. You don't get back those lost opportunities when it is too late. Way too many of our friends and extended family have lost loved ones during 2020. Just saying - Eff Cancer, EFF Covid-19, EFF Alzheimers!


This situation has also made Greg and I wonder if we want to have a home base while we also travel. During the pandemic, we have continued watching YouTube, reading blogs, Instagram and Facebook as RV, Sailing and Overland folks we follow were faced with how to full-time during an international crisis. I hear a lot of debate about the full-time, part-time, home base issue. Don't get me wrong - on August 1st of next year no matter what, we will hit the road and hit it hard. Life is too short to not climb that mountain, hike that trail, SUP that lake and explore. We will be out there seeking adventures. Greg's Mom will go with us, but she will also want to spend time at home in Los Alamos. It will be interesting to see what the next few years


Here are some photos from some of our hikes, camping trips and a boat rental during May through August.














Boating on Eagle's Nest Lake near Angel Fire, New Mexico


Greg and I have been cutting each other's hair for several years now. I may have forgotten to mention, I colored my hair purple at home using a product called Overtone. I have always wanted to do it, but wanted a less harsh and chemical product. I finally found it and it is a lot of fun. I will be turning 60 in December and with less than a year to go until I retire - it seemed like a great time to take the plunge because, why the hell not! Stay safe out there and happy adventures!






We use Amazon Prime

Blogs We Love


Sock Monkey Trekkers (Our Blog)

Take To The Highway

Wheeling It

WatsonsWander - Exploring and working fulltime from our Airstream

Love Your RV!

Live Laugh RV

Life's Little Adventures

Rolling in a RV - Wheelchair Traveling