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.

The Route to Graduation, Part 2

As I head north to Flagstaff, the RV goes south with troublesome repairs piling up.

Part 1 of the winter/spring route is here.

Trek North, Going South

Leda and I continued north with the WINs to Cottonwood and Prescott Valley. Meanwhile, the RV, Roamward Bound, was heading south. the hydraulic issue was back with a vengeance and the parts needed were nowhere to be found. The dash A/C went out, first with a freon leak, then the blower failed. The wipers stopped working. A short in a 12 volt power outlet killed my GPS. Well, you get the idea.

Vineyard grapes in neat rows
At the Alcantara Winery in Cottonwood
cows roaming around parked RVs
RV cows, it’s a thing!

It’s a Big Hole?

I’ve been to the Grand Canyon several times, but before this, never in it. We hiked down (OK, partway down) both Bright Angel Trail and Kaibab Trail well into the canyon for a whole different perspective. Can’t imagine I wouldn’t have needed a rescue service for these hikes two years ago.

A hawk flying close by 5 people posing for a picture on the rim of the Grand Canyon
A hawk flies by at just the right moment as we stop for a picture on the rim.

Mule train on Bright Angel Trail, Grand Canyon
A few miles down Bright Angel Trail in the Grand Canyon we’re stopped for a little while while the mule train heading up takes a rest.

With Leda a few miles down the Kaibab trail in the Grand Canyon

On to Graduation, But First

Finally time for Kylee’s graduation, but first it’s back to Prescott Valley for more repairs. I left the RV there and headed up to Flagstaff to watch Kylee’s Capstone Project presentation and then the graduation ceremony.

Graduate in cap and gown
My little Magna Cum Laude NAU Graduate, Kylee

Then I helped her pack up. With no place to live and no job, she’s off to Seattle to start post college life. Just gotta make it happen. And, make it happen she did. Great place to live, check! Starting a great job at a great company a month to the day after arriving in town, check! Best weather in Seattle history, OK, she didn’t do that, but what the hell, check!

A car loaded with personal belongings
And that’s everything crammed into her Kia Soul for the move to Seattle

Kylee getting into her car
And she’s off. Off to Seattle, Washington

Back to Prescott Valley

I’d really like to say this was a good result, to pick up the RV with everything working again. OK, let me try it. Everything was great!

Ahh, but not so. Nothing was finished and I was stuck there for weeks, again.

So when the repairs were finally “completed” and I could drive off, I’d really, really like to say it was a good job. Here, let me try it: it was a good job. And it was, for less than two weeks, and then each issue is back, only worse.

See how this turns out in the next post.


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


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

The Route to Graduation, Part 1

Back in August of 2013 I dropped off my daughter Kylee at NAU to start her college adventure and started my own, taking off for full time travel in my RV. This winter and spring graduation was on my mind as I roamed not too far from Flagstaff.

went places, did stuff, RV upgrades, anticipating Kylee’s graduation.

Part 2 of the winter/spring route is here.

Southern, Man

Traveling with the WINs after Quartzsite it was on to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument along the southern border of Arizona.

View of the Organ Pipe Cacti against a mountain backdrop
Out on a Hike at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

Sunset with cacti in the foreground
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument Sunset

It’s a beautiful place with good hiking (carry pliers for the inevitable cactus strike), but we were all looking ahead, farther south, to …

Puerto Penasco, Mexico

Not my first time out of the country with the RV (I’ve been to Canada – Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec) but it was the first time in Mexico, not too far in Mexico, but Mexico just the same. There were 60 RVs in the caravan south and another 40 or so traveled independently to our boondocking location on the beach.

RVs line up for a caravan from Lukeville Arizona to Puerto Penasco, Sonora, Mexico
The caravan starts to form in Lukeville bound for Puerto Penasco, Mexico. I’m following Leda with the kayak on her bumper. Wound up with 60 RVs in the caravan. Some 40 WINs headed out separately.

Walking the dogs on the beach
The first dog walk at the beach, out with Leda, Diamond, Opal and of course Kiera. We found out a few minutes later that leashes weren’t required here.

RVs parked on the beach with a sunset in the background
As the first day draws to a close, there are 100 WINs in 100 RVs boondocking on the beach.

A board listing some of the activities and outings in Puerto Penasco
Some of the activities in Puerto Penasco

My ultralight flight in Puerto Penasco.
My ultralight flight in Puerto Penasco.

Leda grinning broadly in front of ultralight plane
Leda is All Smiles after Ultralight Flight
Workers painting RV
All the faded and cracked decals were removed and painted back in with a sparkly, color shifting, navy blue paint.
Driver side captain's chair in chocolate brown and tan leather
The captain’s chairs were recovered in two tone leather while in Puerto Penasco.

Not all fun and games, I also had the RV’s captains chairs recovered in a nice two tone leather and had the exterior decals removed and painted back in with sparkly color shifting navy blue paint.

Back to Arizona

Back in the states, well state, we continued traveling with the WINs to Wilcox, Safford and Theodore Roosevelt Lake. My drone finally arrived (that would have been nice to have in Mexico), a DJI Mavic Pro.

View of Roosevelt Lake from the Tonto National Monument
View of Roosevelt Lake from the Tonto National Monument

And …

Continues … Part 2 is here.

The Expected and the Unexpected

As I roam the country, I’m always encountering both the expected and the unexpected.

TL;DRthere are surprises everywhere you turn.

Omaha
Dodge City
Oklahoma City
Sayre
Tucumcari

Omaha

Big Red. Sure you expect everything to revolve around Cornhusker football. I watched a local 4pm newscast on a Tuesday and they managed to work “big red” into every story – traffic accident (won’t impact Saturday’s big game), robbery, back to school backpack drive, art fair, utility rate hike, and on and on.

The Old Market. But I was surprised to find The Old Market District, a hip downtown area of restored and preserved buildings from the late 1800s and early 1900s. Many of the buildings have been converted into chic lofts with restaurants, bars and retail on the ground level. Hipsters, cowboys and tourists mingle in the easily walkable downtown.

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The Missouri River runs by Haworth Park in Bellevue, NE. On the other side, Council Bluffs, Iowa.
The Missouri River runs by Haworth Park in Bellevue, NE. On the other side, Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Dodge City

Boot Hill. Dodge City fully embraces its old west heritage. The Boot Hill Museum preserves a street that looks like it came right out of Gunsmoke. Throughout the city center preserved or period appropriate designs dominate.

Unexpected Service. While I was in Dodge City I placed an Amazon order. Amazon screwed up the shipping label (removed all spaces and line separators, WTF?) and UPS couldn’t deliver the package. After a few calls I was told I could pick up the package at the UPS depot. It was only about 12 miles away so I rode over there. The agent saw the size of the box (typical Amazon, the 3 ft x 18 in x 24 in was holding 90% air), and my bike, and offered to follow me back to camp in her personal vehicle and deliver the box. Now I was prepared to unpack the box and discard all the packing on site, riding home with just my purchases, but I accepted her gracious offer. Who does that? Extraordinary.

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Long Branch Saloon
Long Branch Saloon
General Store
Boot Hill Museum

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Grave marker at Boot Hill
Grave marker at Boot Hill
Boot Hill
Boot Hill

Oklahoma City

Tornados and Oil. Sure you expect three tornado warnings in ten days and to see oil wells everywhere.

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The National Memorial. Of course if you’re in Oklahoma City you go to the National Memorial honoring the victims of the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building. I wasn’t prepared, however, for just how big an emotional impact it would have. The site stuns with its beauty and tragedy. The museum walks you through the timeline from before the bombing to the execution of Timothy McVeigh. Near the beginning of the tour you sit in a recreation of a hearing room that was across the street from the Murrah building, where a water resources board was conducting a routine hearing. You listen to the actual audio tape of the hearing that started at 9am and ended with the sound of the blast.

169 empty chairs representing the men, women and children killed in the Oklahoma City bombing.
169 empty chairs representing the men, women and children killed in the Oklahoma City bombing.
One of the 169 chairs at the memorial. Each is engraved with the name of a victim.
One of the 169 chairs at the memorial. Each is engraved with the name of a victim.
Oklahoma City National Memorial - the reflecting pool with the mammoth field of empty chairs behind.
Oklahoma City National Memorial – the reflecting pool with the mammoth field of empty chairs behind.

The 9:01 Gate at the far end of the reflecting pool symbolizes the last moments of peace before the destruction.
The 9:01 Gate at the far end of the reflecting pool symbolizes the last moments of peace before the destruction.

Maybe the most disgusting thing at the museum. McVeigh was wearing this shirt when he was arrested. It translates to "thus always to tyrants".  In 1995 there were maybe 200 people in the country sick enough to do what McVeigh did.  Now there are probably that many at a typical Trump rally.
Maybe the most disgusting thing at the museum. McVeigh was wearing this shirt when he was arrested. It translates to “thus always to tyrants”. In 1995 there were maybe 200 people in the country sick enough to do what McVeigh did. Now there are probably that many at a typical Trump rally.

Sayre

Sleepy Town. Naturally, a small town of 4000 has very little going on.

Crazy big City Park. This little town has a beautiful, well maintained city park cover half a square mile. There’s a nine hole golf course, basketball, tennis, volleyball, a pool, rodeo grounds with seating for the entire population and even RV parking.

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Tucumcari

Route 66. Like every town along Rt 66, you have kitschy souvenir shops, themed diners, and murals of the glory days.

World Class Dinosaur Museum. Mesalands Community College has a well regarded paleontology program and operates a world class museum where you see the fossils they’ve recovered and see the scientists working on fossils.

Dinosaur Leg

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T-Rex Egg

Mesalands Dinosaur Museum

Three Years on the Road

Just over three years ago, on August 30, 2013, I set off to see the country living full time in my motorhome. On the journey I’ve covered 35,000+ miles, visited 210 places in 37 states and three Canadian provinces, and yet …

In this post
Off track and weary
The wait
Top of the 210
Up Next
Almost all the Stops – map
Almost all the Stops – list
States and Provinces Visited

Off Track and Weary

I had a coffee mug that said “Not all that wander are lost.” Sometime in June I lost the mug, probably left it behind somewhere in North Dakota. I have to say that since then I’ve felt like this wanderer is lost. Stops that are repeats or have no purpose.

There’s also been way to many stops this whole year. I’ve been to 57 places just in 2016 and it’s only the beginning of September. When I started this journey I thought most places I’d visit for 2-4 weeks. Going into 2016 I’d planned to hold the number of sites to 50 the year. Yet, 57 in September. Not working.

I’ve also had an aversion to planning more than the next location. That’s more or less fine, except in the summer. Summer vacationers and booked up camping locations have made it clear that I’ll need to plan the summer months well in advance.

Ready to quit? No, no, no. I definitely have to get my head in the game though.

The Wait

No, I mean “the weight.” From April 2015 through May 2016 I lost over 70 lbs. (and maintained that since). Besides feeling much better, I no longer have to take blood pressure or cholesterol medication (so no meds at all).

Top of the 210

Top spots on the journey, so far:

If I was trying to pick a place to live year round, I couldn’t do it. The best I could say now would be maybe Ashland, Gold Beach or South Haven in the summer, maybe Madeira Beach in the winter.

Up Next

As I write this I’m in Nebraska, just outside Omaha. Next week I’ll head out on a 1,500 mile journey back to Phoenix, arriving in the first half of November. I’ll find myself in Oklahoma City, Santa Fe and Flagstaff along the way. After that I’ll want to stay within about four or five hundred miles through May when Kylee graduates from NAU.

Almost all the Stops

I know I’ve missed a few, but this map has nearly all the overnight stops on the RoamwardBound journey, so far.


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

States Visited

The states I’ve visited on the Roamward Bound journey – just those with an overnight stay.


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