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Evacuation

It was a lazy morning, until I got a text from Jenna checking to see if I was OK and ventured back outside to check on this fire thing.  The smoke was thick and ash was falling everywhere.  An hour before nothing was going on. Now Clark Road was choked with bumper to bumper traffic heading south and fire equipment heading north.

Paradise Lost

The “Camp Fire” started at sunrise (about 6:30) on Thursday, November 8, near Pulga, California.  The National Weather Service had a Red Flag Warning up for the past couple of days and firefighters responded aggressively attacking the then 10 acre blaze.  By 7:30am the fire had grown to 3,000+ acres and Paradise, a town of 26,000, was under mandatory evacuation.  By 8:30 Paradise was on fire.

Time to Go

At the RV park we lost power and water just after 9am. It was time to go. I quickly got the RV into travel mode and joined the walking speed traffic heading south. That night I’d learn at least five people burned to death in their cars fleeing Paradise.

I stopped at an evacuation center outside Oroville about 10 miles south with about 30 RVs and 200+ cars.  I brought my house while many others brought just a few photos, their  pets and the clothes they had on.  I gave away my blankets, a knit cap and gloves. Oroville residents cruised the park passing out water, food and blankets.  Overnight the low was 33 and we had one fatality. They say it was a heart attack, but I don’t really know.

Déjà vu Time to Go Two

By 5am the fire had grown to 70,000+ acres driven by high winds overnight. The southern perimeter still seemed to be 9 miles north.  The air stank of smoke, but the haze wasn’t horrible.  Nevertheless, just before noon, CHP and Butte County Sheriff’s Deputies arrived in force and said we had to go NOW, passing out maps to the fairgrounds in Yuba City, 45 miles south of the fire.

At arrival, a friend from the RV park needed EMT assistance.

The fire, just one of three major fires burning in California, is now among the worst in the state’s history.  The places I stayed, shopped and hiked in Paradise are lost along with thousands of homes, businesses and an unknown number of lives.

More to follow.

Five Years on the Road

On August 30, 2013, I drove out of Phoenix to start a full time RV adventure. My first real destination, back when I thought that destinations and stops where different, was Trinidad, California, in the redwood coast of Northern California.

After five years on the road, I’m back where I started.

Trinidad, from 2013

I’m back in the area again to close out 5 years on the road, this time a few miles south in Eureka, but Jenna and I spent the day in Trinidad.

Trinidad 2018

Highlights for Year 5

  • Arches National Park, Utah – spectacular rock formations
  • Elephant Butte State Park, New Mexico – fantastic camping at the largest lake in New Mexico
  • Bainbridge Island / Seattle, Washington – visiting Kylee and Jeffrey while staying at an island in Puget Sound
  • Lake Osakis, Minnesota – hanging out with old friends
  • Custer State Park, South Dakota – up close with buffalo and other wildlife in a spectacular setting
  • Sierra Vista / Bisbee, Arizona – Bisbee, Copper Queen Mine, Kartchner Caverns
  • Pierre, South Dakota – Capital of my new home state, camping on the banks of the Missouri River
  • Sturgis / Deadwood, South Dakota – scenic and historic Deadwood – origin of the “dead man’s hand”
  • Holtville, California – hot springs and hanging with friends

Lowlights for Year 5

  • Smoke – fires in BC, Washington and Oregon clouded the air on and off in Seattle and Oregon, even set off my smoke detector in Eugene.
  • Paint – On I-5, en route to Bainbridge Island, I drove through a spill of 50+ gallons of white latex paint covering much of the truck and 5th wheel.  Four weeks later I’m still removing it.
  • Taxes – Arizona piles on by billing me $700 city sales tax on a Truck I purchased in Oregon, after the federal tax fiasco.
  • The big truck cluster t**ck.

What Now?

I’ll be in Eureka for a couple of weeks, then a short trip to Bend, Oregon for an RV repair I haven’t addressed since July 2017.  After that, who knows. Maybe this will be the year I get to Banff and Maine.

By the Numbers

  • 102 blog posts
  • 762 published pictures
  • 335 stops
  • 3 motorcycle trailers
  • 2 scooters
  • 2 RVs
  • 1 dog

The Kessel Run

The route to Seattle is long, extra long when you’re headed the wrong way.

In Lewistown Montana with the WINs and Jenna, I had two key destinations planned – Fourth of July in Osakis, Minnesota with Janet, Duane, Wally and more, and a visit with Kylee and Jeffrey in Seattle. I was not well positioned for either one. Especially poorly positioned for both.

The route from Lewistown took me through Miles City (I’ll get back to this one), Rapid City, Pierre, and Bismark – about 1,200 miles — but well worth it. The week at Janet and Duane’s lake house was fantastic as always and remains one of my favorite destinations.

…the Millennium Falcon…the ship that made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs.
–Han Solo

Of course this left me over 1,800 miles, by the shortest route from Bainbridge Island, my Seattle area stop. So over 3,000 miles from Lewistown to Seattle. Hmm. Off I went, back to Bismarck and Miles City, and … wait, Miles City again?

It seems like you have to go through Miles City entering or leaving Montana from the east. I’ve been to Miles City before, and it’s a nice place, but the past few months I’d been there 3 times.


[ List of places visited is not shown on this browser ]

Suddenly I wanted out, out of Miles City and out of Montana. In the morning I made the Kessel Run – driving with no stopping point in mind. I kept going until late in the evening when I found a spot in a rest area in the maze of construction zones that is I-90 through Idaho. I’d gone 656 miles – well beyond my prior longest one day drive of 360.

A couple more stops and I made it to Bainbridge Island, a small island in Puget Sound right across from downtown Seattle.

This visit allowed me to meet Jeffrey, Kylee’s boyfriend. We had a great time taking in Seattle and Bainbridge Island. Jeffrey is a very likeable guy.

The only real downside of Bainbridge is the transit back and forth to the mainland. It just takes too long to get back and forth with lots of waiting for the ferry and tough traffic on both sides. Next time I have to find a way to stay in the city even if it’s a hotel.


[ Map of places visited is not shown on this browser ]


[ List of places visited is not shown on this browser ]

That’s a Wrap – 2017

The year started in Holtville and ended in Holtville. Along the way some old stuff cropped up and some new adventures were had. The new year features an epic continental crossing.

In this Post

  • Holtville Bookends
  • Again
  • Something Different
  • 2018 the Great Loop

Holtville Bookends

2017 started and ended in Holtville, California. Why Holtville? Well, it’s nice to hang out with Seann, Jenna, Gary, Joyce and Gary. The hot spring here makes a great evening ritual. It’s warm and sunny, and sometimes it’s just nice to take a break from traveling all the time.

Again

There was a lot of “again” in 2017. Flagstaff, again. Grand Canyon, again. Repairs, again and again. Holtville, again. Yuma for solar again. The solar system is working great and I haven’t started up the generator once, even for a 5 day stretch of dark skies. Electricity when you want it – what a concept.

The canyon was eye opening. The first time I ever went down below the rim. It changes the “hole” experience.

Flagstaff, this time was a finale. Kylee graduated NAU and I helped her pack up and set off for Seattle.

And of course, repairs were with me the whole first half of the year.

Something Different

One of the new things this year was a new RV. That lead me to spectacular new places.

There was also a month in Puerto Penasco, Mexico, and a night in an abandoned mall in Yuma.

The Great Northern Loop

There’s a 6,000+ mile northern arc on tap for 2018. Starting in Issaquah, Washington at the beginning of May, I’ll be going through British Columbia, Alberta – Banff and Jasper, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Minnesota, Wisconsin, making a ferry crossing to Michigan, Ontario, Quebec and ending up in Maine.

But for now, it’s time for the WiNs gathering in Quartzsite. Wagons Ho!

3:10 to Yuma

Yuma? Yes, Yuma bound. But first, back in South Dakota, I’d just become a resident by getting a driver’s license and registering the 5th wheel. No luck with the truck.

Near Rapid City, Custer State Park is a 71,000 acre wildlife preserve in the Black Hills and a great place to see herds of Buffalo.

I was lucky to visit when I did. Tragically, the Lake Fire in South Dakota has Custer State Park closed right now (December 2017) and nine of the burros have suffered burns in the blaze. The fire is now 100% contained.

On through Lake De Smet, Alcova, and Rock Springs in Wyoming, Duchesne and the disappointing Crystal Geyser in Utah, we arrived at Green River, UT – base camp (at a truck stop) to see Arches National Park. This should be on everyone’s bucket list (the Arches, not the truck stop).


On to Sevier, Utah where I was stuck in a snow storm for 2 days, then Las Vegas where about six miles away the largest mass shooting in US History happened during my stay. So, yeah. Of course there’s nothing that could have been done to prevent that – who could have imagined that someone buying scores of automatic weapons and thousands of rounds of ammo might want to use them. Really, he was an NRA hero, showing just how much you can accomplish when you buy a congress. We should get him a statue.

Hmm, I may have gotten off topic there.

OK, on to Needles, Quartzsite and finally Phoenix to end the Big Truck ClusterTr**k.

Finally 310 to Yuma

On the old RV I had a solar power system installed by Starlight Solar in Yuma and it’s just about time to do the same on the new RV. Just 310 miles to go – Phoenix to Gila Bend to Holtville CA to Yuma. Sort of a cinematic epic.

Starlight is only open from November 1st to May 1st each year, because, you know, who wants to work outside in Yuma the rest of the year. When I got the new RV I thought it wouldn’t be a big deal living without solar for 4 months or so, but really it was. I had a little generator, but having to run it every day, listening to the noise, smelling the fumes, running out for gas every other day, and having to run it to even charge up my laptop … well it really made me appreciate the solar power. Silent, clean, always there for anything I need short of air conditioning. When I pulled in on November 13th for installation I was almost giddy.


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[ Map of places visited is not shown on this browser ]

The Big Truck ClusterTr**k

Don’t buy a vehicle out of state, but if you do, handle the registration yourself.

Back in July I bought a new 5th wheel RV and a 2012 Ford F350 diesel truck to tow it. I was in Bend Oregon and my legal residence at the time was Arizona, though I don’t really live anywhere in particular. Over the years I’ve bought, well I don’t even know how many vehicles, but I do know registration was never a thing I needed to worry about, until now.

Both the RV dealer and the Ford dealer told me they’d process the registration for me. Four weeks later I got a letter from each with a refund of my sales tax and registration fee and a note that said they decided not to do the registration. WTF!? I’m driving around with no registration.

At least the RV dealer sent me the title so I could register the 5th wheel. When I got to South Dakota I changed my residence and registered the 5th wheel.

Not so with the Ford. The dealer said they sent the title to the DMV. Looking back, that should have been a clue, since Arizona has a MVD not a DMV, but of course I didn’t pick up on that. I tried to register the truck in Arizona by mail (can’t do new registration online) and after 7 weeks, MVD sent me a letter saying they don’t have my title. It took the Ford dealer another 2 weeks to figure out that they’d sent the title to an auto title agency in Phoenix and I’d have to go there in person to get it. At this point I’ve driven through Oregon, Washington, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Utah and Nevada with no plates on the truck. 14 weeks stressing out over driving, thinking I’m going to wind up with the truck impounded.

Off to Phoenix. The title agency is only a block from the UPS store that handles my mail. They would have given me the title and I could have sent it in to South Dakota saving some money on sales tax and registration, but I couldn’t take it any more so I registered the truck in Arizona and walked out with a license plate. Now I get to tell the story of the vehicle registration clustertr**k to everyone who wanders up wondering why my plates are from different states :).

New Look

The old blog has a new look, which I think you can see.

Time for a New Look

After finishing up the fourth year on the road, I started to become more critical of the design of these pages. In particular I felt like I wanted it to be:

  • Less technical looking
  • Have an easier reading layout
  • Faster to load
  • Faster to navigate from page to page
  • Use less bandwidth
  • Have an overall better experience with modern browsers

TBT, I was also bored with it and needed an incentive to write more.

Now there’s at least 100,000 premade WordPress templates out there, but I decided to write my own. Why? Because I can. It also allowed me to incorporate some of the open source stuff I’ve written and structure the whole thing so I could easily move off the WordPress platform entirely should I decide to. I was also able to make some long needed improvements to some of the functions like the maps, lists, states visited (click on a state) and add a new masonry styled gallery/slide show.

So, if you’re using a current mainstream modern browser – Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Edge, Opera, Samsung Internet – this is it. If not, then a limited version is what you’re seeing and it’s long past the time to upgrade.

I hope you, my massive audience numbering well over 1,000,000 (binary!) will find this change an improvement. I invite your feedback on the changes or the blog in general.

Technical

For web developers out there, the site is a Polymer 2.0 progressive web app. Offline capability is currently disabled, but may be turned on soon. The backend is just the WordPress REST API plus a couple of custom endpoints. Some of the images are served by Cloudinary. I’m aware I need a favicon.

It’s a Thing

Someone has to be socially aware and spot the new hip trends – be the one to identify what’s a thing and what isn’t. I’ll never spot the best new music or fashion, but camping around the country, I’m just so hep to what’s going on. Since no one else is stepping up it’ll have to be me.

It’s a Thing!

Alien Pine Cone Formations

I know some will say it’s not space aliens – cones just naturally fall and sometimes your mind thinks they are in a formation. Right, then why do they always point to abduction sites? Huh? Face it, pine cone formations are real. It’s a Thing!

Trashing the Forest

Go to any national forest and drive one mile off the paved road. Now walk 50 yards in any direction (if you’re Canadian, it’s OK to walk 46 meters). You’ll see it. A huge pile of trash, usually shot up by a thousand or so rounds. Feel free to count the shells on the ground. Pro tip – shotgun shells are easier to count than brass rifle or handgun shells.

Trashing the forest. It’s a thing! Not a good thing, but a thing.

Taking a Picture of Someone Taking a Picture

We all know that in this age of social media, if there’s no picture it didn’t happen. But, how do we know it happened to you? That’s where taking a picture of someone taking a picture comes in. It’s a thing!

RV Cows

There’s a lot of open range land in or near the national forests. If there’s mooing at 4am, you’ve just found out about RV cows – it’s a thing!

Wrapping Up Year 4

My fourth year on the road ended in a new RV, with some time in Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, visiting Kylee in Seattle, and moving out of Arizona (huh?).

Hard to believe it’s been four years.

In this post:

  • From Washington to South Dakota
  • No Longer Arizonan
  • Year 4 Map

From Washington to South Dakota

Leda and I first stopped in Quilcene, a tiny town on the Hood Canal somewhere between Olympia and Port Townsend, where I promptly rubbed a tree with my brand new 5th wheel. The tree is fine and I’ve yet to repair the damage to the outside shower hatch, but the estimate is about $500, so yea. But enough of the lowlights, one of the highlights of the stop was going to the top of Mt. Walker. It was a clear day and you could see the Seattle skyline and Mt. Rainier across the water.

Mt Rainier appears to float above the clouds. 86 miles away it still dominates the skyline. This shot is from the top of Mt Walker near Quilcene, Washington.

Next up a trip to Seattle on the Kingston to Edmonds Ferry to see Kylee. No, not with the 5th wheel, it was tight enough just in the truck – had to fold in the mirrors to get on board.

ferry pulling into port
My ride from the peninsula to the mainland – the Kingston to Edmonds ferry
Murray and Kylee with the Seattle Space Needle in the background
Kylee and I get an elevated view of the Space Needle and the rest of beautiful Seattle.
Seattle skyline from Gasworks Park
Murray in front of the Seattle Troll
Seattle Troll

Leda and I then went to Port Townsend to see Leda’s brother. Love this place, I’ll definitely be back.

In nearby Sequim (pronounced skwim) which is between Port Townsend and Port Angeles I took two days of driving lessons with the new 5th wheel. Well worth it. Better late than never.

A bunch more stops before Leda headed to Oregon to see the total eclipse and I made a crazy long one day drive from the peninsula to Spokane. Leda met back up with me there where we had lunch in the diner from Benny and Joon. Then we went through Idaho, Montana and Wyoming to Box Elder South Dakota (a suburb of Rapid City).

Fergusons’ Cafe from the movie Benny and Joon
Mary Lou’s Milk Bottle from the movie Benny and Joon

No Longer Arizonan

The point of going to South Dakota was to change my residency. I’m now a South Dakotan. It’ll save money on vehicle registration and state income taxes. South Dakota plates are sort of a badge identifying full time RV’ers.

The Maps

Holy cow, 68 locations in the past year and I didn’t even get east of the Mississippi. Lots of Arizona and southwest locations traveling with the WINs and hanging close waiting for Kylee’s graduation. Definately too many places (and I probably missed one or two).


[ Map of places visited is not shown on this browser ]

[ List of places visited is not shown on this browser ]

The Bends

Enroute to Seattle and Port Townsend, I arrived in Bend, Oregon with Leda, as RV problems escalated. Stuck again. Yes, it could be fixed, but it might take years, cost millions of dollars and thousands of lives.

Like being locked in a decompression chamber for the bends. Instead, I went for broke 🙂 and traded and sold items to buy a new 5th Wheel and a big ass truck to tow it.

(stock photo) My new RV is a 2018 Fox Mountain 255 RKS 5th Wheel. I’ll shoot some better shots soon, but right now we’re camped in dense woods.

To pull it I purchased a 2012 Ford F-350 longbed diesel. I took delivery of both on July 6th.

That means SOA, trailer 3, and a lot of other items had to go, many via ebay. So at least for 12 more days, until the sales close and items are picked up, we’re sort of stuck in Bend. Luckily it’s a really nice place with plenty to do.

Woman holding the fastest bird on earth - the peregrine falcon
A handler answers questions about the Peregrine Falcon


Catch the end as a Peregrine Falcon makes a 100+ MPH pass and snatches a bait the handler is trying to keep from her.

snow capped mountains behind desolate fields of lava rock
Mount Bachelor (left) and The Sisters (right) still covered in snow in mid July behind the Newbury lava fields
Shiny glowing slime on the lava in the cave
Iridescent bacteria on the walls of the lava tube cave near Bend, Oregon. A two mile hike in total darkness.
Water rushing toward Benham Falls
Water rushing toward Benham Falls

So, being here for a while won’t be too bad, but then it’s on to Seattle and Port Townsend.