My Favorite Campsite

My Favorite Campsite

A common question I get is: “where is your favorite place you’ve camped?”. I’ve never had much of an answer because I’ve liked most of the places I camp so much that it’s not worth wondering which is my favorite. But now, I found a place I like so much that I can call it my favorite campsite. 

I was planning to go this general direction, but wasn’t sure exactly where I wanted to go or where to camp. My brother solved that by finding this spot on Instagram. A guy with an account named @fiftyfivesquarefeet posted a drone video from when he camped there.

Navajo Nation

I drove up from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. So I drove about 100 miles through the Navajo Nation (A huge Indian Reservation that covers the northeast corner of Arizona). It was an interesting drive. A good deal of the land there looked odd and inhospitable. There were a lot of hills of odd colored dirt/sand/rock with absolutely no plants. There are a lot of very small homes in the reservation. Some people would call them shacks or shantys. There are also clearly no type of building code enforcement. If I had a house, that’d be about the size I want. So I’m not entirely sure whether these shacks are because that’s all they can afford, or if they have housing preferences similar to mine.

The Navajo Nation is a mysterious place for me. I don’t fully understand their rules related to camping there. It seems that you need to pay for a permit (maybe $15), and pay a nightly fee (Maybe $5). If I understand that right, I probably won’t camp at all on the reservation unless it’s to camp out at a specific place that I want to photograph. It’s not my style to pay money to sleep in my own van in the middle of nowhere when I can do it for free all over the place.

 

Getting there

The campsite is on the west side of the Colorado river. In this area, the river is the border between U.S. and the Navajo Nation. The reservation is on the east side of the river. The campsite was on the west side, on some BLM land.

Crossing the river was cool. There are two bridges right next to each other. The newer one was built because the older bridge wasn’t designed to support the heavy loads that are common now.  So now the older bridge is for pedestrian traffic. There’s a little visitor’s center on the U.S. side that you can part at and walk out on the bridge.

My Favorite Campsite

Boaters on the river

There are a lot of boaters floating down the Colorado, especially here. They get on the river at the old site of Lee’s Ferry. It’s the only place in hundreds of miles where it’s easy to get down to the river.  Nearly all of the river passes through a canyon like in the picture above. The river cut this canyon out over millions of years. Lee’s Ferry was situated at the one place where there’s an easy and gradual hill down to the river instead of near vertical cliff walls.

People get on the river at Lee’s Ferry and float down for various lengths of trips. Some of them will go all the way to Lake Mead (the reservoir at the Hoover Dam). Getting permission is difficult. There are two options: go privately, or pay an outfitter. To go privately, you’re supposed to get a permit. The permits use to be given out using a waiting list. But, the waiting list got to be 20 years long. So they changed to a lottery. I think about 5% of the entrants get a permit. The other option is to pay an outfitter. This is really expensive – $300 per day on the cheap end. I learned this from a group of older guys that came to the campsite one day to have lunch. They set up a table and got out a cooler and a bunch of supply boxes. I went over to talk to them. They gave me a beer and lunch. They’re from Flagstaff and have done a ton of outdoors stuff around here over the years. I asked them about how to score myself a spot on a boat for free or really cheap, and it seemed an unlikely thing to accomplish unless I wanted to work on the trip cooking, cleaning, and carrying people’s poop.

Down below the campsite, there is a stretch of rapids (going over the rocks that got washed into the river from the offshoot canyons on each side), and then a large beach.  Some of the boaters stop here for a break or to camp overnight.

Driving into the site

My Favorite Campsite
On the highway

 

My Favorite Campsite

A highway passes along closer to the hills that are visible in the background.  This road is gated (with a BLM sign that says to close the gate after you go through), and is about 2 miles from the highway to the end near the river.

My Favorite Campsite

 

The Campsite

The end of the dirt road is situated at the edges of both the river canyon and a big branch of the canyon shooting off at about 90 degrees. So – you get a lot of big views.

It was really windy the first couple of days there.

I stayed for about two weeks. Quite a lot of people came and went during that time. No one stayed more than two nights. Quite a few people drove the two miles to the end of the road, got out for only a few minutes, and drove off.

Every couple days, someone would come in and hold up an antenna connected to some kind of box. They were scanning for transmitters that have been placed in California Condors. There are only about 400 of these condors alive now. They’re dying off because they end up eating meat tainted with lead bullets/shot. The condors are huge – they have up to a 10 foot wingspan.  They also have the ugliest head/face of nearly any animal in existence. A condor will travel up to 200 miles per day scanning for food. They eat mostly large animals like deer, sheep, elk, or cattle.

I saw one flying around and got out my binoculars to watch it closely. They are the most elegant and efficient birds you’ll ever see. The one I saw flew 10 miles without flapping it’s wings once.

My Favorite Campsite

My Favorite Campsite

 

My Favorite Campsite
I walked along the edge of the cliff above the river many days

 

My Favorite Campsite

 

My Favorite Campsite
A group of people with overlanding rigs showed up one day. They’d been at the Overland Expo in Flagstaff the previous weekend. As they approached, I figured they were big time overlanders who’d been to far away places. Nope, they were some dudes from California and Texas who go on weekend trips sometimes. Gear nerds, basically. Or, I guess, just normal people with normal jobs who don’t have much time for this.

 

My Favorite Campsite - Stars - Astrophotography - Milky Way - Astro

 

My Favorite Campsite

My Favorite Campsite

My Favorite Campsite

 

A RAINBOW!

My Favorite Campsite
Can you see it?

RAINBOW

A HIKE

I wanted to go down to the river. There’s a very nice looking beach down below the campsite. It’s about 500 feet down, with nearly vertical walls. But there are these other little canyons at 90 degree angles to the river – and the campsite is next to a big one. I’m sure these have a real name – what are they called?  I’d walked along it a bit, looking down to see if it appeared walkable.  Most of it looked good, but there was a section I was worried about. It looked like there were pretty big drop offs. But it’s hard to tell from a distance. Sometimes, once you’re there, you can find ways to walk or scramble down and up slopes that look impassable from a distance. (I easily made it about a third of the way down the cliff right next to the river, which you’ll get a look at in the drone video).

The day I tried to hike down, I walked most of the way back toward the road, to a place where I could walk down the edge into the offshoot canyon. But I didn’t make it very far after that. I hit the big drop offs. It would take someone with climbing gear to get down and up that with certainty.

So I waked back up the canyon a bit, and up the other side, and generally wherever it looked fun to go. I like this kind of no-trail hiking.

Hiking in Badger Canyon Arizona
It’s further down than it looks. Maybe 200 feet. When it rains really hard, a torrent of water comes crashing through here, so thick with sediment that it looks like mud more than water, and so fast that it will pull up all the plants and move rocks as big as cars.

 

Hiking in Badger Canyon Arizona

SARDINES - Hiking - Snack
Snack break. mmmmmm, sardines.
Hiking in Badger Canyon Arizona
This is pretty much at the top/start of the offshoot canyon.

MORE OF THE AREA

 

VANLIFE

 

VANLIFE

 

My Favorite campsite - drone view

 

DRONE VIDEO

I shot a lot of drone footage while I was there. The area is nearly perfect for it. The main challenge was that it was too windy much of the time. The other was waiting for clouds that make it look more interesting.

After a couple days of shooting, I realized the video was often shaky. I guessed that this was related to a weird noise and shaking that the gimbal made right after starting the drone. It would turn on, and the camera would move around, and then it would start shaking and making a pretty loud noise. I did some research online and found that this is fairly common, and the likely culprit was a set screw on an arm that holds the gimbal being too loose. It could be tightened with a 1.5mm hex key. I have a ton of hex keys. I had a 2mm. I had a 1mm. But no 1.5.

I’d just went into Page the day before to get food and water. A hundred mile round trip. Ugh. Normally, I’d wait until I was in town the next time to get something like this. But this was such a great place for drone shooting. So I drove to Page again, found a set of hex keys at Wal-Mart, and tightened the screw. And, it fixed the problem. YES!!

 

 

LEE’S FERRY

I’d told the old guys that I had lunch with about how I tried to hike down to the river. I’d seen a trail shown on Google maps on another offshoot a couple miles upstream, and asked them about it. It’s called Cathedral wash, and yep, you can walk right down. Problem is, there’s not a beach where that wash meets the river. But there is a nice beach another couple miles upstream at Lee’s Ferry. So instead of doing the hike to the river that I’d been imagining I just drove down to the beach 😀

Lee's Ferry
Driving there

 

Lee's Ferry
These take many thousands of years to happen. A big rock falls from the hill above (the wall is now ~100 feet behind where I took the picture), rain and whatever erodes the ground away, except for the part holding the rock up – turning it into a pedestal. Eventually the rock will fall off. There were many of these right next to a certain hill/cliff. I don’t understand why they happen here and not in most other places.

 

Lee's Ferry - Beach
A beach near Lee’s Ferry

 

Ok. That’s it. Do you have a favorite campsite? Tell me about it. 

 

May 2017 Adventures

May 2017 Adventures

In May I spent some time camping with my brother, found my favorite campsite so far in all of my travels, and played around with the drone and video editing. I went to Sedona, the Grand Canyon, further up the Colorado River, Horseshoe Bend, and Zion National Park. Wow!

MAP OF TRAVELS

May 2017 Adventures

I started out the month in Las Vegas. I’d been there to meet up with friends who flew down from Portland. I had a wonderful time with them.  I drove from Vegas to Sedona to meet my brother. On the way, I stopped for a night in Flagstaff. That city really has a pull on me. I like it a lot. It’s an awesome place to spend some time during the summer.

SEDONA – WITH MY BROTHER 

My brother, Brandon (@thetinglytraveler ), realized he had multiple sclerosis in 2015.  He was having a standard successful American life: a stable job that he was very good at and was promoted to manager, a nice house in Denver with a sweet garden, time and money for his hobbies

If I understand correctly, the biggest challenge he had (other than now M.S.) was all the stress at work. He was extremely loyal to his company, and thus ended up having a lot of responsibility and stress there.

After his diagnosis, he changed his life quickly. He Started eating healthier and running, and lost excess weight he’d been carrying for years. He found a wonderful girlfriend. He started thinking about how to reduce his stress at work.

House prices had went up a lot in Denver. Brandon sold his house in Denver and moved in with his girlfriend. Then, they sold her house. They both quit their jobs. They got a truck and a travel trailer. They’ve been traveling around the U.S. the last few months.

They expect to choose an area to buy some land and start a homestead. He’ll probably work more. I expect it will be in a technical role that he enjoys.

I’m proud of my brother, and I’m excited for them.

We crossed paths Sedona and camped together.  It was nice camping with them and catching up on their travels so far, trying to give each-other things that we no longer use and don’t need (neither of us were successful at offloading much of anything), comparing ideas of places to travel to, sharing some meals, going on a hike, and so on.

May 2017 Adventures

 

May 2017 Adventures

 

May 2017 Adventures - Sedona

 

May 2017 Adventures - Sedona

Remember that drone that Dan of Big Ox Little Bird gave me a few months ago? I had a heck of a time getting a charger and batteries for it. I’d gotten the charger after about a month, and one of the batteries I ordered didn’t arrive in Phoenix until after I’d left the city. (The other never did).  When my brother passed through Phoenix, he picked it up from me from my cousin before heading north to Sedona. So, I finally got to use the drone. It’s a lot of fun.

May 2017 Adventures - Sedona

This was the first video I recorded with it. I wasn’t even checking the exposure and the sky is all blown out.

We had loose plans to travel together for a while. We weren’t sure how long it would work out, as we have our own sort of speeds of movement, and they would need to go back to Denver fairly soon. We made plans to go up to the Grand Canyon next. I got itchy feet about a day earlier than they did, and headed up there. it was useful for me to go first as I could scope out potential campsites for them. Their trailer doesn’t have a lot of ground clearance, and their dog is scared of other dogs and people. So – I could go check what the roads were like and try to find a campsite that’s a bit secluded from other campers.

The next day, after they ran errands and started heading up, they had trouble with their trailer. Something with the wheel bearings – I believe not having quite enough grease and basically burned up. So they were stuck down a bit south of Flagstaff for a few days.

GRAND CANYON

I camped in the National Forest south of the Canyon. I ended up staying in 3 or 4 different spots. I’d drive over to the canyon each day, and then just go to a different spot. At the spots nearest to Tusayan, there was a lot of low flying helicopters, so I only stayed there one day.

I didn’t really like taking pictures of the canyon. It’s so huge that the other side is all hazy. When shooting with a wide lens, it’s basically all the same and just blends together and looks flat and boring. I did go shoot there during sunrise one morning. I didn’t think I got much of anything, but I did end up with one picture I really like (the first one).

May 2017 Adventures - Grand Canyon

May 2017 Adventures - Grand Canyon

May 2017 Adventures - Grand Canyon

 

May 2017 Adventures - Grand Canyon

 

May 2017 Adventures - Grand Canyon

After a few days, there was some cold weather approaching. I didn’t know when my brother would get the trailer fixed and head up, and I wouldn’t be of any help if I went back down there. I wasn’t crazy about the canyon, so I headed off to a really cool campsite that my brother found on Instagram

ALONG THE COLORADO RIVER

This was my favorite campsite of all my travels so far. It’s on some BLM land that goes right up near the edge of the canyon. It’s near the old site of Lee’s Ferry, and it’s quite remote. It’s only like 10 miles from Page as a bird flies, but it’s 50 miles of driving.

I stayed here for about two weeks. I ended up making 3 trips into page. One of those was an extra trip to go buy a 1.5mm hex key. A hundred miles for a $.10 tool.

Why? Well, I was flying the drone a lot, and realized it had a problem. The gimbal was shaking around a lot. With a little research online, I saw it was likely because of a certain set screw not being tight enough. I needed a 1.5mm hex key to tighten it. I have a ton of hex keys in various sizes. I had a 2mm, and I believe a 1mm. But no 1.5. I wanted to fix it while I was still camping out here because it was an awesome place to record drone footage. Tightening the set screw did fix the gimbal vibration issue. So, then I had to re-record all the clips I’d gotten so far.

I have a lot more pictures from here, and an incredible nice drone video, but I’ll save it for a specific post about the spot. Here’s a taste of it:

May 2017 Adventures - Colorado River

 

May 2017 Adventures - Colorado River

 

May 2017 Adventures - Colorado River

I was flying my drone a lot and one evening I was sorting through clips and editing them together. The way I had my van parked, the setting sun would shine in through a window and reflect on my computer screen, so I had my curtains up. Those curtains sort of blocked out my view of the sunset.

While editing, I glanced out the front windshield and noticed a bloom of color on the clouds. A brilliant pink.

I jolted out of my seat, grabbed my camera bag and tripod, and scurried over to the edge of this canyon. I only had about 5 minutes before it faded away

May 2017 Adventures - Colorado River

PAGE & HORSESHOE BEND

I shot there at 3 different times. Here’s a picture from the first time. Yep, looks just like all the other Horseshoe Bend pictures.

 

May 2017 Adventures - Horseshoe Bend

I wasn’t that crazy about this place. The view is nice. There’s just so many people coming in and out and taking the same pictures. It’s sort of a zoo. At one point while I was set up and shooting, an old Asian lady who couldn’t speak english thrusted her camera into my hands and gestured for me to take a lot of pictures at different zoom ranges. I think she was scared to go up to the edge.  That was actually kind of nice because she had a Sony a7 and I’d been wondering what it was like to use their electronic viewfinders.

ZION NATIONAL PARK

After a couple weeks near page, I figured I should get on into Utah. I’ve never been to southern Utah, and I’ve been looking forward to it a lot.

I drove back through Page and then to Zion National Park.

May 2017 Adventures - Zion National Park

 

May 2017 Adventures - Zion National Park

 

May 2017 Adventures - Zion National Park

I drove through the park – on that road that goes through the south end. WOW! It’s an incredible drive. It’s a continual stretch of amazing views – literally the whole way, other than while inside the two tunnels you go through. The next day I hiked up Angel’s Landing.

May 2017 Adventures - Zion National Park

 

May 2017 Adventures - Zion National Park

 

May 2017 Adventures - Zion National Park

 

May 2017 Adventures - Zion National Park

I’ll probably have a bunch more pictures to share from Zion. I spent a couple days walking around the canyon and shooting.

PLANS FOR JUNE:

It’s gotten hot, and I’ve left Zion.  I’ll come back again at the end of the summer or in the fall. I have a loose idea of where I’ll go next – maybe something like what’s shown below. This whole stretch from Cedar City to Zion looks super remote. The towns on the way are extremely tiny. I haven’t researched actual places, so if you know the area and have any suggestions, please share them!

 

How full time travel makes appreciation harder, and what to do about it

Full time travel appreciation

A common issue for those traveling full time is that when you’re seeing a ton of different places, they can start to fade together in your memory, and you start to have less appreciation for new places and adventures. I’ll write today about why that happens, how it feels, and share some ideas of what one can do about it

VACATIONS FROM WORK – SO SPECIAL!

When I used to work all the time, going on a trip or vacation was a special. In my last few years of work, I traveled a lot for my job. On a few trips, when I went to Flagstaff or southern California for work, I made the weekends before and after the work week into camping trips..

These trips took me to places I’d never been. While driving, I’d often pull off road, get out, and take in the view. I’d daydream about having all my time free to do this stuff much more – to do it all the time. These places – these landscapes – grew to be where my dreams took place.

Those trips had a huge impact. I looked forward to them for a month before they happened. And I’d think about them after, enough to work those places into my daydreams. I’d imagine going back there with my van, retired and able to stop for a week or more. I can still remember many small details of these trips. The campsites, what at I ate, hikes, how I felt, and what I was thinking.

I appreciated these trips tremendously. Because I had time to think about them before and after going, I set the details into my long term memory. Also, I had my early retirement dream (and the actual point when I could retire fast approaching), so these trips were a peek into my future life. 

Vanlife: Camping in the Rockies near Jefferson Colorado - Landscape Photography Sunset
Camping in Colorado with my dad and brother

IMPACT OF FULL TIME TRAVEL ON APPRECIATION

Now, I’m about one year into realizing that dream of retiring and traveling.I’ve been through 10 states and all kinds of wonderful places. Mountains, forests, rivers, deserts, beaches, cities.  I’ve enjoyed it a ton. One thing I’ve noticed is that I have grown less likely to feel wonder and amazement. 

After about 6 months, I began to notice a couple things. First, that compared to when I went on trips while working, it was now much harder to remember the details of my adventures. Second, I’m not feeling as much wonder, or amazement – or basically appreciation of my travels as on those other trips. This is a common experience among long term travels.

To be clear – I love doing this. I’m having a wonderful time. I just notice sometimes that I’m not appreciating this like I know is possible. I’d say on an appreciation scale of 1-10, I average 6. I think I should be closer to 8. (To be clear, I consider a 6 to be pretty high, and a 9 or 10 would be too high because it would dominate my thoughts and make me act weird) 

Hiking with friends in Oregon

WHY THIS HAPPENS:

There are a multitude of reasons for this ‘appreciation challenge’, but I believe the main ones are straightforward:

1 –  When I’m moving on from one great place to the next, I don’t spend all the time I used to thinking about them before and after going. Now, It’s just on to the next one.

2 – Since I’m traveling full time with no specific end in sight, I don’t feel I have to go all out to make every day really special. (And I shouldn’t. No amount of trying could make that happen. Real life doesn’t work that way – partly because #3 below)

3 – Hedonic adaptation. I’ve gotten used to spending my days at leisure in beautiful places. It’s now the norm.

Full time travel and appreciation
A redwood grove in northern California

HOW TO INCREASE APPRECIATION?

Here are things that I’ve been doing, or may start, that help increase appreciation and enjoyment:

1 – Go slower. Stay in one place longer. Leave and come back to your campsite many times (on hikes, bike rides, drives into town for supplies, etc.). Ideally, stay more than 10 days.

2 – Journal about what you’re doing and how you’re feeling. Translating thoughts into words helps clarify or highlight them.

Full time travel appreciation

3 – Stay aware of bad feelings. When they happen, don’t fight them. Accept them as they come. Ask yourself why you’re feeling that way. 99.9% of the time, bad feelings are created in your own mind. Mostly they are from responding to an event negatively – and that mental response often does much more damage than the actual event.

4 – Being able to separate yourself from your feelings – to almost look at your emotions as a third party – helps to realize how trivial the bad ones often are, and to recognize when you’re feeling great and why. When you’re upset, ask yourself ”I’ve got all these things going great, and I’m unhappy about THIS?” (in a comedic way rather than judgmentally)

3 – If you take pictures or write about your travels, look back through them regularly. Set those places and days into your long term memory bank.

Full time travel appreciation

4 – Regularly think about what you have to be appreciative for. This could initially be forced – like forcing yourself to list 3 things each day. When you develop a habit of it, it works better. (For example, whenever I’m driving any significant distance, it usually crosses my mind how great my van has worked out so far and how amazing it is that I can get something so useful for so little money)

5 – Talk to other people about this stuff. It doesn’t have to be a cheesy “what are you thankful for?” type thing, just reminders here and there of how great many things are.

Do you have other methods to increase your appreciation? What are they? 

 

April 2017 Travels

April 2017 Travels

I spent most of my April in Arizona. A few incoming packages took longer than expected, and kept me near Phoenix longer than I wanted. I camped up north of Phoenix along Highway 87, and also near Sedona. Then I headed over into Nevada to meet some friends in Vegas.

Here’s everywhere I went in April (starting in Phoenix)

April 2017 Travels

SPOT WEST OF 87

(33.94633,-111.45529)

There’s a nice little group of spots to camp just a couple miles off hwy 87. I’ve camped here three different times. This last time, I went down to a spot that’s a bit off of the road and behind a hill. I’d never seen until midway through my second time camping there when I noticed that a few people went back there. It’s a little hairy getting there (the road is slanted sideways), and it’s really hard trying to find a flat spot down there.  But it’s nice though.

April 2017 Travels
You can see the van down there near the middle of the picture

April 2017 Travels

April 2017 Travels - Camping north of Phoenix April 2017 Travels - Camping north of Phoenix

April 2017 Travels - Camping north of Phoenix

April 2017 Travels - Camping north of Phoenix

PHOENIX AGAIN:

I drove back into the city to pick up a package, and stayed for a few days. I watched the last few hours of the Paris-Roubaix bicycle race online. That’s always a fun race to watch.

SEDONA

During two of my three vehicle living test trips, I spent time in Sedona. It was one of the places where I decided I wanted my current lifestyle. I’d been looking forward to going back. I tried to go camp in the exact same place I did the first time there, but it was occupied. I ended up camping in three different spots

1 – Southwest of Sedona: (34.68848, -111.86182). 

This is one of the spots that a guy at the visitors center recommended. It was ok, but not very good as far as campsites near Sedona go.

April 2017 Travels - Camping near Sedona

 

2 – West of Sedona – Forest Service Road 525c. (34.879, -111.94486)

This was close to the where I’d camped on the test trips.

April 2017 Travels - Camping near Sedona

April 2017 Travels - Camping near Sedona

It’s close to the Robber’s Roost – a cave overlooking the way into Sedona. Robbers and bandits, used to hide out here when they had some heat. From the cave, they could see people approaching from far away. Also, while in the cave, you can hear people from below very well.

Robber's Roost

Robber's Roost

 

3 – “Base Camp” – Forest Service Road 525 (34.82324, -111.90566)

I went into town in the afternoon, and didn’t leave until it was starting to get dark. I didn’t want to sleep in Sedona, so I came out to this spot – just about the first place you can camp on 525 when coming off the highway. Many people stop here and then find another more secluded spot somewhere along 525 or 525c and move to it.

I stayed here one night. Some balloons landed nearby.

April 2017 Travels - Camping near Sedona

April 2017 Travels - Camping near Sedona

 

4 – Forest Service Road 525 (34.8682, -111.90365)

Near the north end of where you can camp on 525 is closer to the hiking and biking action. A lot of the spots on 525 can hold many rigs and end up being communal spots. There were 3-5 other groups present while I was there.

April 2017 Travels - Camping near Sedona
My campsite is in this picture, over towards the right

April 2017 Travels - Camping near Sedona

 

April 2017 Travels - Camping near Sedona

April 2017 Travels - Camping near Sedona

April 2017 Travels - Camping near Sedona

The weather was absolutely perfect in Sedona and I was enjoying being there. After about a week, I was getting itchy to move on though. I had plans to meet some friends in Vegas at the end of April, so I found a place to camp on the way there.

LAKE MOHAVE – Telephone Cove

(35.23068, -114.59371)

Telephone Cove has free camping. And others, I believe. It’s a pretty nice stretch of beach. The pictures below don’t show it, but it was a bit crowded here because there was some kind of boys’ camp going on at the other end of the beach.

April 2017 Travels - Camping at Telephone Cove - Lake Mohave

 

April 2017 Travels - Camping at Telephone Cove - Lake Mohave

 

April 2017 Travels - Camping at Telephone Cove - Lake Mohave

 

April 2017 Travels - Camping at Telephone Cove - Lake Mohave

 

April 2017 Travels - Camping at Telephone Cove - Lake Mohave

Then I got itchy feet and drove to Vegas early.

LAS VEGAS

Parking lot behind the LINQ – (36.11835, -115.16655)

Street with parking near the Link/Ferris Wheel/Westin/Cromwell (36.11631,-115.16643)

I went out to Vegas 9 days before my friends would getting there. I’m not entirely sure why I went so early other than that I felt like moving on from where I was previously. I spent the first weekend at the strip and it was fun. I’m very used to going places and doing things by myself, but I’ve only been to the strip when it was with friends. This time, on my own, it wasn’t quite the same.

Camping on the Las Vegas Strip
This was a good place to park the van. It’s a big parking lot for the LINQ casino/hotel. It’s temporarily free until after they do some kind of construction project. There is a ton of security patrolling the lot and it’s well lit. You have to not make it obvious that you’re sleeping in a vehicle though or security will tell you not to.

After 3 or 4 days at the strip, I went and hung out around other parts of the city. Vegas isn’t all that nice. The UNLV Library is really really nice though. I go to a lot of city/county libraries, and sometimes there are too many bums there. Really stinky ones. At this library on UNLV campus, it was only students. Everyone’s clean. Everyone’s nice. The wifi is good. And it’s beautiful – I mean, just look at this place:

April 2017 Travels - UNLV Library

I think I’ll start hanging out around campuses more when I’m in cities.

My friends arrived the next weekend. While waiting for them in the airport cellphone lot, I did the following:

  • Ate dinner
  • Moved water from my big reserve jug to my smaller jugs that I normally use
  • Repaired my sandals (Sewed part of the velcro back on one)

Once my friends arrived, I drove them to their hotel on strip, and we hung out at the strip that night. The next day we went to their pool, walked around the strip, went to the pool again, and then went to Fremont Street to gamble a bit and walk around. I think we had more fun at Fremont street than on the strip. It’s smaller and sort of simpler. You don’t have to spend 10-15 minutes walking to go from one place to another like you often do on the strip. We also walked past what’s probably considered the normal end of the Fremont street area (on the east end) and continued. There are some fun weird/hipster type places there.

Downtown Las Vegas - Fremont Street - Zoltar Machine
On Fremont Street. (Downtown Vegas)

 

Downtown Las Vegas - Fremont Street - Zoltar Machine
My friend is a champion of making stupid faces

 

Downtown Las Vegas - Fremont Street - Gold Digger

The last day they were there we went over to a thrift store (a Buffalo Exchange north of the strip – it is a good one), and then back to some casino where we had lunch. Then they headed back home, and I was ready to get out of that city.

Wow. When I put all the places I went in one month into one post, it sure looks like a lot.

PLANS FOR MAY

  • Go meet my brother and his girlfriend in Sedona
  • Go to Grand Canyon
  • Go through Northern Arizona and into Southern Utah

Cost of Vanlife: Spending Update – 2017 Q1

Spending Update

Two of the most common questions asked of people who travel full time are: “How much does it cost?” and “How do you earn an income while traveling?”. In this post, I’ll share my spending details for the first three months of 2017. I’ll continue these updates each quarter. This may help you estimate how much you’d spend living a similar lifestyle. In other future posts, I’ll share more details of how I saved and invested in order to create (what I hope will be) enough lifelong income to fund all my spending.

I want to show you that a lifestyle like mine – full of travel, adventures, living in beautiful places, meeting fascinating new people, and even pursuing hobbies that aren’t exactly inexpensive – can be had for quite little money.

First, some clarifications:

  • I will share a spending update at the end of each quarter.
  • I track and include every single dollar of spending. These updates are not just the money I spend on travel or my van, it is every dollar I spend.
  • I’ll share the total of how much I spent, and details of what I spent the money on. I’ll differentiate between spending on what I’ll call “essentials” and “extras”. If you’re thinking about how much you’d need to spend for a certain lifestyle, it’s likely my “essential” spending amounts will be more useful than the “extras”. The lists below show what I include in each category. As you’ll see, there are grey areas, and a lot of what’s in the essentials category is not truly essential. But for the sake on simplicity, this is how I’m categorizing them.
    • ESSENTIALS:
      • All Van-related costs (gas, insurance, registration, maintenance, repairs, improvements, tolls, tickets, etc.)
      • Food (including eating out)
      • Healthcare (Insurance, any services, any supplements)
      • Hygiene products, household goods, internet, clothes
      • Anything else that doesn’t fit in the “Extras” category
    • EXTRAS:
      • All spending on hobbies
      • Any extra travel (like if I fly somewhere to see family or friends)
      • Dating
      • Alcohol, tea
      • Books, movies/shows, concerts
      • Any other spending on entertainment
      • When I sell some hobby equipment, I count it here as negative spending
  • I have a more or less fixed income of around $1,500 per month. I spent a decade being a good cog in a large manufacturing machine. I invested much of my income and those investments are now the source of my ongoing income. So far, the $1,500 per month seems like more than enough to fund my lifestyle. I’m motivated to spend less than that, but I don’t much desire to spend as little as possible. Many other travelers are in different situations. Some work full time and need a way to find enough income to cover their spending. Some who travel have saved up some money and are spending that cash. Once they run out of money, they’ll go back to work. These last folks have much more motivation to spend as little as possible because it means traveling longer.   My income will continue no matter what I’m doing, so I don’t have those reasons to reduce my spending as low as possible. Other people who travel or live in a vehicle full time have told me they spend only $200 per month.
  • One of the reasons I’m sharing my spending is to help dispel a common misconception people are indoctrinated with from childhood: that spending money makes you happy. For the most part, there is little connection between spending money and happiness or joy. Recent data currently shows that happiness increases as income increases, but only up to $75,000/year, and then it doesn’t really make a difference. Consider for a moment that this data comes from a population indoctrinated that more money means more fun. Much of the money I’m spending is not to “buy happiness”.  It’s mostly just to exist as I do. My happiness and joy come primarily from the perspective from which I view things, and secondarily from how much I’m learning/growing and how many fun things I’m doing. Much of my spending on “extras” is to buy things that I will use and many many times. It’s not trading money for one-time happiness or entertainment. It is important to break yourself of the common misconception that spending money = entertainment/happiness. I don’t mean to say that spending money on experiences is wrong for absolutely everyone, but I do think many people spend money this way indiscriminately. I’ll surely rant on this in later posts.

Spending Update – 2017 Q1

For Q1 of 2017, my average monthly spending was $670.  This is right about where I like it.

Spending Update

I spent an average of $500 per month on essentials, and $165 on extras.

My “essentials” spending in Q1 was mostly food and gas, and the level of spending is about what I want and expect. My food spending feels pretty high, but I’m eating very well.

Spending Update

The “extras” spending in March included:

  • Some tea
  • Bike parts – tubeless tires and some parts for setting them up
  • Bike parts – a smaller inner chainring (I’ve been riding up some really steep forest service roads and have to walk sometimes)
  • Drone parts – two batteries and a battery charger

If you remember the last post I made about spending, in which I shared how much I spent over my first 6 months of travel, my spending was much lower these last three months. This chart shows what changed:

Spending Update

I expect my ongoing spending to be close to what I spend over the last three months.

 

Spending Vs. Income

The chart below shows how much I spent each month (the red bars) compared to how much income I had (the green bars, with income shown as a running 3 month average to smooth it out), and a running total showing the surplus/deficit (the light red area, which goes negative).

Spending Update

In another month or two I will have gotten back to zero from the big camera purchases I made in October. That was a very uncommonly large purchase for me.

Like all types of numbers, the way this data looks depends a lot on what I select to show. I did my taxes in March and got a fairly big federal return. That money is not shown in the chart above because it’s really essentially just getting back my own 2016 income. It doesn’t apply to what I use the chart for.

If I start this chart at the beginning of the year, and include that tax money, I have a surplus of over $4,500 because I’ve spent only 30% of my income. YEAAH BUDDY!  Got it made.

Spending Update

I’ve wanted to start earning some income from hobbies.  As you can see, as long as I don’t spend a lot, that investment income easily covers all my spending. Months like January and February where I ended up with an extra $1,000 per month don’t motivate me to earn more income.

What about you?

Earlier today, I listened to the latest Mad Fientist podcast. His guest was a personal finance icon: Vicki Robin. She’s the author of “Your Money or Your Life“. If I had to recommend one single personal finance book to the wide population, this is it. In it, she helps you remove unhealthy views of money and spending (feelings of sacrifice, or guilt, or “I deserve it”). She teaches you how to properly quantify and analyze your money as your “life energy” (your time). Also, she shows you how to spend money more intentionally, in line with your personal values and with what brings you joy. She shows you how to take complete control of your spending. No more feelings of guilt or sacrifice.

Near the end of the podcast, the host asked Vicki “If you could share just one piece of advice for our audience, what would it be?”. Her answer was: track and review your spending.

Do you track your spending?

If you do: what do you get out of it? How much do you spend per month on average? Are you happy with that amount?

If you don’t track your spending: Why not? And, if this is you, stop whatever you would’ve done after reading this, and read Your Money or Your Life.

Exploring Arizona 4 – New Friends

New Friends

I went back to camp at the same area as two trips ago – the place where it rained for two days while I was there. This time, I had 6 days of absolutely perfect weather there. Also, I met some new friends.

I had been wanting to find a place near Phoenix to camp – somewhere still down in the desert but not all messed up with trash, noise and shooting. I asked on the CheapRVLiving.com forums and members there recommended a place just southwest of Phoenix. I was excited to go there.

My mom visited Phoenix for over a week, and I stayed in the city then. After she left the city and I was ready to go camping, it was hot in Phoenix, so I decided to go up in elevation rather than the hot desert spot.

Campsite:

New Friends

 

Mom’s Advice:

My mom said I should post more pictures of myself here. I’ve been taking a lot of pictures, but never of myself. When I looked at my Instagram Feed after she asked, I noticed I hadn’t posted a picture of myself for many months. I suppose some pictures of me would make it more personal and more interesting. So, I took a few of myself on this trip. More coming in the future. My grandma once told me I could be a male model. She’s probably the most biased person in the world, and that was like 15 years ago.. Anyways,… here’s a start:

New Friends

New Friends

New Friends

The Weather

I don’t see how it could get any better:

  • ~75 degree highs
  • ~55 degree lows
  • Slight breeze
  • Sunny nearly all day every day

Bike Rides

I went for two bike rides along the Forest Service Road I was camped by. The road goes about 8 miles into the forest, eventually hitting a wilderness boundary and hiking trailhead. I rode out and back both times  and it was fucking amazing. I recorded some more footage with the GoPro. It really doesn’t do the views justice.

Someone recently asked if I record any different views while riding so I tried turning the camera around. It works pretty well, and now you get to look at my crotch a bunch 😛

 

New Friends from Instagram

I met a couple name Dan and Cindy and they camped with me for two days. Dan had sent me some messages on Instagram. Him and Cindy live in Tuscon and had a trip planned to go to Havasapai falls at the Grand Canyon. I was pretty much on their way, so they stopped to hang out a while.

You can find out a bit about them at:

I’m just going to post a picture of my journal entry from the day after we parted. My handwriting has really went downhill since I stopped working. I used to write a lot by hand at work, and since I quit, I’ve done very little. If I start posting journal tidbits like this regularly, that will give me a good reason to improve.

New Friends - Journal - Handwriting
The blurred part is nothing bad. It’s just something about them that I’m not sure whether they want shared publicly.

New Friends

 

New Friends

 

New Friends - Journal - Handwriting

 

New Friends

 

New Friends

Exploring Arizona 3 – Road to Four Peaks

Road to Four Peaks

For my third trip out of Phoenix, I went up Hwy 87 again, and explored some back roads that go up over a pass right by Four Peaks.

On my second trip, where I got rained on a ton, I had a challenging time finding campsites down in the desert, due to, as I call it, the “Party Zone” surrounding the city. So I did more research before embarking on this third trip. I used My Maps on Google, which works well for this. My Maps allows you to add many markings and notes to a version of Google maps. You can add a pins and other shapes with names and notes, you can highlight a certain route of road, and you can draw shapes you want to highlight areas. You can switch quickly between views – including the normal map, ‘satellite’ view, and ‘terrain’ where you can see topography.  You can access and update your map on a computer or your phone. The only bad thing is that you can’t access or update the maps offline (I need to check that for sure though). 

Google My Maps

Google My Maps

 

Google My Maps

 

Road to Four Peaks

I found a lot of areas that I highlighted and want to go explore in person.  One of those areas have some Forest Service roads going all the way up over a pass right next to Four Peaks. The roads traverses 30 or so miles from Hwy 87 over to Hwy 188 near Roosevelt Lake.  It looked like it has many good camping spots along the route. I did already know that there’s an OHV area there. And that this close to the city, many of the campsites would be occupied by shooters or littered with their mess. I expected that I may have to go pretty far up the road to find nice campsites, but I was sure that I’d find some before the pass.

I drove about halfway to the pass before I found a camping spot I liked, and settled in for a handful of days. The path up to Four Peaks is a great drive. It’s one of those cool Arizona drives where you can go from 2,000 foot elevation desert up to 6,000 foot or so where you have pine trees. It’s also popular for people driving around in SUVs, trucks, side-by-sides, and dirt bikes.

Road to Four Peaks

One odd thing happened up there: on Saturday evening, I heard a police car siren. I looked around and spotted a Sherrif’s SUV coming down the road quickly. He was obviously in a hurry. Two more Sherrifs followed within 10 or 15 minutes. I wondered whether they were responding to an incident along this road, or if they were using the road to get from Hwy 87 to Hwy 188. 

Road to Four Peaks
My home for this trip

 

Road to Four Peaks
My van is down there in the middle

 

Hiking

Road to Four Peaks

 

Road to Four Peaks

 

Biking

“I’m glad these people have to go to work on Mondays”

I drove up and found my campsite on a Saturday.  There was quite a lot going on out there. Just people driving around and shooting (not at the same time).  Sunday morning as I awoke there were two guys on ATVs at the road who appeared to be thinking about coming up the little offshoot where I was camped. They did, parked, looked around the area with binoculars a lot, and then walked off with their guns, binoculars, and tripods (for the binoculars). An hour or so later, a group of about 25 people traveling in a 10+ side-by-sides took a pit stop in my camping area. They hung out, talked, and drank beer for an hour before moving on. I heard gunshots all day long in sporadic bursts.

Monday morning I had peace and quiet for hours at a time. I wrote in my journal:

Sometimes I’m happy that other people work every week. Out where I’m camping, over the weekend I’ve heard a steady stream of noises from OHVs and guns. Now, Monday morning, it’s just me and the singing birds

Road to Four Peaks

 

Road to Four Peaks
When I start putting stuff down instead of putting it away, I have a mess like this really quickly

 

Road to Four Peaks
But it only takes about 5 minutes to get it this clean again

Tea Time

Road to Four Peaks

 

Road to Four Peaks

Two more trips near Phoenix, and then where?

I’ll be around Phoenix for a few more weeks – until the end of March. After that, I’ll meander north. I expect to spend 6 or more weeks in central and northern Arizona.  I’ve been to some wonderful places in this area that I want to go back to, but I’m sure there are a lot of other places I should go. So, if you know the area, tell me! 

Where should I go? 

Road to Four Peaks

Here are some places I’m expecting to go or thinking about going:  (The ones with question marks are places I haven’t been and am not sure about)

  • Apache trail / Lake Roosevelt again. Maybe see the cliff dwellings there
  • Montezuma’s Castle ???
  • The Meteor crater east of Flagstaff ???
  • Camp along the way to Payson. Maybe same spot as I went before
  • Camp up along the Mogollon rim just north of Payson. 
  • Sedona area
  • Grand Canyon.. (south rim??) 
  • Horseshoe bend??
  • Three Monuments??
  • Stuff in the Navajo Reservation? What/where??? (need to research visiting/camping there)
  • Hang out in/near Flagstaff

What else???

 

Before Vandwelling: Test Trips

This post is a bit of background for some upcoming posts about Exploring Arizona. Arizona holds a special place in my heart and my imagination. In 2014 and 2015, I went on three vehicle camping test trips to help me decide whether or not I wanted to live in a van, two of which were in Arizona. I also took long scenic drives on backroads between Phoenix and Flagstaff a few times.

Approaching Retirement

At around age 29 I decided to ramp up the amount of my income I saved. This would allow me to retire much earlier than most people. At first, I expected to be able to retire by age 40. Then I reduced my spending further and thus saved more each year while also reducing my net worth retirement target. I ended up retiring at age 34.

I expect that over the rest of my life, I’ll spend my time in different phases that last  2-10 years each. Some of the phases I’ve had in mind are below Some phases could happen concurrently.

  • Living in a van and traveling around the western US
  • Living in other countries (Southeast Asia, and/or Latin America)
  • Living in a shack/cabin in a remote area with access to some kind of nice terrain (Mountains, coast, etc.)
  • Bicycling a ton
  • Living in a small town for a while
  • Living in a big expensive city by means of some uniquely cheap housing (like living in someone’s guesthouse in exchange for a bit or work or just so they have another person around)
  • Living on a sort of homestead/compound
  • Doing some entrepreneurial projects
  • Working some fun jobs
  • Improving the world in some way
  • Very deep/serious romantic relationship(s)
  • Bicycle touring
  • Slow travel internationally
  • …. and others

As I approached retirement, I wanted to decide which to do first. I’ll share in another post all the details about the various reasons I decided to live in a van. For this post, I want to describe the test trips I went on to get a feel for what it would be like to live in a vehicle.

 

Test Trip #1: Sequoia National Park

Starting in 2013, I traveled a lot for work. I went to different factories. Many of them were in small towns surrounded by thousands of square miles of farms. Or in medium/large cities that are also surround by thousands of square miles of farms. But sometimes I went to more interesting places. In the fall of 2014 I went to a factory near Fresco, CA. That’s close to Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Parks. So I made that my first test trip.

I worked there during one week. Tuesday through Thursday. Instead of going home after the factory visit on Thursday or Friday like usual, and flying to the next location the following Monday, I stayed out in California the whole weekend and on Monday flew straight to the next work location. This gave me 3.5 days to go do my own thing. I brought along my camping and outdoors gear.  I found a first-come-first serve campsite fairly high up in King’s Canyon that would have open spots when I could get there.

I had a wonderful time. Just driving through these National Parks is a treat – let alone camping and hiking there. Camping among 200 foot tall sequoia trees was wonderful. A hiking trail passed near the campsite and I explored it in both directions. I saw a bear while hiking. And more while driving. I was really cold when the temperature dipped near freezing overnight. The last day I went for a hike at lower elevation and drove through Sequoia NP again – through dropping temperatures and freezing rain. I had a splendid time.

Driving through Sequoia, there are a ton of places calling out for to you to stop and soak in the view

 

My original version of “Cowboy Cuisine”. It’s gotten a lot better now :-D. That’s tea in the bowl

 

 

This is the hiking trail near where I camped. I saw a bear within a couple hundred feet of here. It was running along and making a TON of noise in the brush and sticks on the ground.

 

Test Trips
Pretty darn nice place to sit and read Meditations

 

Test Trips

 

Test Trips
My Campsite

 

Test Trips
My vehicle setup

 

Test Trips

 

View from high in Sequoia. Just off the road

Test Trip #2: Coconino National Forest – Near Sedona, AZ

In 2015 I started going to Flagstaff, AZ for work. I’d fly into Phoenix and drive up to Flagstaff for a few days. Some of my trips there were with another person, in which case we’d ride together from Phoenix to Flagstaff, and I couldn’t go do my own thing. My first trip there by myself was in April, so I made that my second test trip.

I drove up to Sedona, went to the National Forest Visitors Center, and learned about dispersed camping. I camped out on the Forest Service roads ~5 miles northwest of Sedona. Again, I had a wonderful time.

Test Trips

 

Test Trips

 

Test Trips

 

Hiking. This trail goes up the Mongollon rim and higher. And just on a walk, you can see many many different types of plants

 

Test Trips

 

Test Trips

 

Test Trips

 

Test Trips

 

Test Trips

I bought my van a few weeks after this second test trip.

Test Trip #3: Coconino and Tonto National Forests

I went back again in May and made and did the same thing. For my drive from Phoenix to Sedona, I went up highway 87 to Payson, and drove about 30 miles along a Forest Service/Fire road that traverses the top edge of the Mongollon rim. There are many campsites along the rim.

Test Trips
At the rim edge

 

Test Trips
One of the wonderful campsites along the rim. Past the edge you see in the foreground is basically a cliff of a few hundred feet

 

Test Trips

After my work week, I went to the same area near Sedona as the first trip, but it was cold this time. I went over into Tonto N.F. where I could go a bit further south and to lower elevation. I camped in a little valley south of Payson, I believe right here. That hiking trail up the road (Barnhardt) is pretty good.

When my days were up and I needed to head back to Phoenix, I drove over to check out Roosevelt lake, and saw the old native dwellings there

Test Trips

 

Test Trips
Entrance to this area (A National Monument) was free the day I came because there were a bunch of bees at the dwelling. You couldn’t go all the way up there though. Some rangers(? or I don’t know what?) were stationed on the trail as far as visitors are allowed, to stop them from going further. Since they had nothing else to do, I asked one of them about 50 questions. It was fascinating. And it was very impressive how they knew so many details about the people who lived here (and many times I asked “how do you know that?”).

By chance, I drove the Apache Trail to get back to Phoenix. I was just looking for a fairly direct route, and that’s the one. I was blown away on the drive! The Apache TrailI follows the Salt River from what is now Roosevelt Lake to Apache Junction (what is now a far east suburb of Phoenix). I assume the original real Apache Trail followed the river all the way. The road now goes over a pass that’s 500 or 1000 feet up above the river. I stopped many times on to take in the view, and to imagine myself back there, retired, camping, soaking in the area and letting days pass as they come with no schedule forcing me to push through the area in just one afternoon.

Test Trips

 

Test Trips

 

Test Trips

 

Test Trips
What a nice place to camp, huh?

 

Test Trips

I made another trip or two to Flagstaff by myself in 2015. I was already busy building the van, so I went home to work on it rather than spend extra days in AZ. I drove the Apache trail again:

Test Trips
Roosevelt Lake

 

Test Trips

 

Test Trips

 

Test Trips

 

Test Trips

Result of Test Trips:

I could’ve easily done test trips in my car somewhere near my home. Since I was already traveling for work, I took the opportunity to do them in beautiful places. These three test trips all went very well and cemented my decision to build and live in the van as my first post-retirement phase of life.

About two years passed between my first test trip in California and quitting my job to travel full time. Over those two years I imagined, probably many hundreds of times, being free of work and moseying around the U.S. I imagined being able to settle in to camp for a week or more at a time. I imagined sitting around relaxing, reading, writing, hiking, watching the stars, and so on. In many of these daydreams, I was in Arizona. I was out near Sedona. And, most common of all, I was along the Salt River.

I’m writing this post from Fountain Hills, AZ, which is a Suburb in the far northeast corner of Phoenix. I’ve made two trips out of Phoenix so far. I’ll tell you about them soon. Can you guess where the first trip was?

2017 Rubber Tramp Rendezvous

2017 Rubber Tramp Rendezvous

I went to the 2017 Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (The RTR). The RTR is a yearly gathering of nomads, mostly people who live and travel out of vehicles like Campervans, truck campers, and trailers. They gather for about two weeks each year in the desert near Quartzsite, AZ. The purpose of the Rendezvous is to make friends and to share/learn about how to live this lifestyle well.

I spent about a week there. The event is growing in size each year, and this year there were over 500 attendees. The median age was likely over 55. Most attendees are of normal retirement age and are now traveling cheaply.

I walked around quite a bit to look at the various types of rigs. I did a fun photography project I’ve called Rigs of the RTR, which includes pictures of 47 different rigs of RTR attendees. I wasn’t feeling particularly outgoing, but I did talk to quite a few people.

 

Three fascinating RTR attendees:

Of the people I spoke with, three were particularly fascinating. I came to the RTR hoping to meet and speak with Randy Vining. If you’ve seen the documentary Without Bound, you’ve seen how charming and convincing Randy can be. I’d been reading his blog for many years, back well before retiring and building my Campervan. Randy is among a very small number of people I consider my personal heroes.

I was successful in getting some time with Randy. We visited in his trailer for over an hour discussing life, people, and philosophy. It felt wonderful talking with him and I hope that becomes the starting point of a friendship.

Two other men I met and visited with also had incredibly interesting life stories. I’ll share some highlights of the lives of these three men below. They are mixed together for anonymity and mystery.

Snapshots of people living in full

  • Retired 40 years ago at age 30.
  • Unashamedly self-centered, with a contagious positivity that makes people want to be around him.
  • Has a knack for ‘getting the gold out of people’. Gave me good advice on getting people to open up / share their stories / get past small talk
  • Drummer for many different bands. One was a Jazz group that toured Europe (and when ‘they’ ran out of money, they started paying him in cocaine). Another was a punk band. Another were The Cockettes (as I understand, an all male and all gay (except for him) group that did something like male burlesque shows in the 70s in San Francisco) and more…
  • 75 years old and in wonderful health. Surfs a lot and also treads water to photography surfers. Nearly got into a fight recently while surfing, with a 19 year old who kept cutting him off. The 3rd time the 19 year old cut him off, he forearmed the guy and knocked him off his surfboard… Then he says to him “Ok, since i started it, we can go back to the beach and you can choose: fists or knives”
  • Has a ton of old travel adventure stories, many of them starting with some interesting details such as: “I was parked out next to the military base in my 1958 Porsche.. You could sleep in one of those if you recline the seat and put your feet into the trunk. And I had a girl with me. A tiny one, that way she could sleep with me in the same seat…”
  • “Well my drug of choice is LSD….”
  • Got hired and flown all over the world by Sports Illustrated to photograph Formula 1 races
  • Was a professional boxer
  • Lived in a commune for about 15 years
  • Said he was a Gigolo for a while
  • All three were in the military, though they didn’t talk about it other than brief mentions (and I didn’t ask, as their own personal stories were more interesting)
  • Lives in Mexico, right near some big surfing beach that gets huge waves. Has this really cool Toyota pickup with a camper on the bed and travels up and down the western coast fairly regularly, surfing and photographing surfers along the way (they buy the pictures, and pay him to make paintings of the pictures they really like). They know/like his work enough to email/call him and ask when he’s coming to their area again

There were more I heard that didn’t remember,  and surely many more that they didn’t yet tell me about. These are the kind of lives that happen when you don’t restrict yourself to current societal norms and expectations.

Rigs of the RTR

Rigs of the RTR

I spent a week at the 2017 Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR). The RTR is a gathering of people living nomadic lifestyles. It lasts 13 days and has been happening each year in January near Quartzsite Arizona since 2010. There were, by my own very loose estimation, about 750 different vehicles present at the RTR while I was there. Some there the entire time, some that stopped for just a day or two.

While there, I started a fun little project I’m calling “Rigs of the RTR”. It’s pictures of various mobile dwellings. I’ll share nearly 50 of them here. I wasn’t trying to shoot every vehicle, but rather to capture a good representation of what was there, and to shoot some of the more interesting rigs.

While there are some people here and there who were ~forced into this lifestyle through financial struggles, for the most part, each rig below represents a person (or two) who chose adventure, who set off boldly to pursue a better life. These are people with open minds and curious souls. They aren’t all full of bravery and bravado though. If you want this kind of lifestyle but have fears or reservations, I present these rigs as evidence of people who [i]used to[/i] have same exact reservations.

Rigs of the RTR

 

Rigs of the RTR

 

Rigs of the RTR

 

Rigs of the RTR

 

Rigs of the RTR

 

Rigs of the RTR

 

Rigs of the RTR

 

Rigs of the RTR

 

Rigs of the RTR

 

Rigs of the RTR

 

Rigs of the RTR

 

Rigs of the RTR

 

Rigs of the RTR

 

Rigs of the RTR

 

Rigs of the RTR

 

Rigs of the RTR

 

Rigs of the RTR

 

Rigs of the RTR

 

Rigs of the RTR

 

Rigs of the RTR

 

Rigs of the RTR

 

Rigs of the RTR

 

Rigs of the RTR

 

Rigs of the RTR

 

rubber tramp rendezvous RTR2017 Rigs of the RTR

 

Rigs of the RTR

 

rubber tramp rendezvous RTR2017 Rigs of the RTR

 

rubber tramp rendezvous RTR2017 Rigs of the RTR

 

rubber tramp rendezvous RTR2017 Rigs of the RTR

 

rubber tramp rendezvous RTR2017 Rigs of the RTR

 

rubber tramp rendezvous RTR2017 Rigs of the RTR

 

rubber tramp rendezvous RTR2017 Rigs of the RTR

 

rubber tramp rendezvous RTR2017 Rigs of the RTR

 

rubber tramp rendezvous RTR2017 Rigs of the RTR

 

rubber tramp rendezvous RTR2017 Rigs of the RTR

 

rubber tramp rendezvous RTR2017 Rigs of the RTR

 

rubber tramp rendezvous RTR2017 Rigs of the RTR

 

rubber tramp rendezvous RTR2017 Rigs of the RTR

 

rubber tramp rendezvous RTR2017 Rigs of the RTR

 

rubber tramp rendezvous RTR2017 Rigs of the RTR

 

rubber tramp rendezvous RTR2017 Rigs of the RTR

 

rubber tramp rendezvous RTR2017 Rigs of the RTR

 

rubber tramp rendezvous RTR2017 Rigs of the RTR

 

rubber tramp rendezvous RTR2017 Rigs of the RTR

 

rubber tramp rendezvous RTR2017 Rigs of the RTR

 

rubber tramp rendezvous RTR2017 Rigs of the RTR

 

rubber tramp rendezvous RTR2017 Rigs of the RTR

 

rubber tramp rendezvous RTR2017 Rigs of the RTR

 

Thanks for looking. And thank you for Dreaming.

 

 

Get the hell out of the city: Camping near San Diego

Get the hell out of the city. Camping near San Diego.

I’ve been traveling down the California coast for the last few months and have spent a few weeks in San Diego. The coast is wonderful. But it’s not very good for (free) camping. Especially right when I passed through, with the entire National Forest area at Big Sur closed due to a fire. So even though I’ve been driving down that coast and seeing wonderful places, I spent every single night in a city. Curtains up. Peeing in a bottle and dumping it out on people’s lawns. Driving multiple times each day. These are slightly annoying details of a way of living that is still very easy. But being in cities so much fed a longing to get the hell out of the city, go camp/hike/bicycle, and stay parked in one place for days at a time. So I found a nice place to go camping near San Diego.

 

Where?

I was in San Diego. There are numerous options. Extremely nice ones if you’re willing to drive a few hours. But I wasn’t. I looked at the big chunk of Cleveland National Forest that is directly east of San Diego. It looks nice, but the places that look good to camp are at a fairly high altitude (~3,500′) and in December would be colder than I like. There is a smaller part of Cleveland National forest to the north of San Diego (and a bit east) – just directly north of Ramona. It’s at lower altitude and looked promising on the maps.

I went just a few miles north of Ramona, and then up a hill. There is a Forest Road, or as they call it here, a “Truck Trail” that follows the top of a ridgeline. This meant I got nice views in at least two direction. WOO HOOOO!

Get the hell out of the city. Camping in Cleveland National Forest near Ramona and San Diego

Driving up:

Get the hell out of the city. Camping near San Diego.

Here is the first spot I camped:

Get the hell out of the city. Camping near San Diego.

 

Get the hell out of the city. Camping near San Diego.

 

Get the hell out of the city. Camping near San Diego.

 

Get the hell out of the city. Camping near San Diego.

 

Get the hell out of the city. Camping near San Diego.

 

What do you do up there? Do you get bored?

Here’s what I did over 6 or 7 days.

  • Hiked a couple times
  • Bicycled on three or four days
  • Took a lot of pictures
  • Recorded video of driving the van along the ridge top, and of bicycling (For my friend to use in a video that he’s making)
  • Watched a football game (Yep, I had internet up there)
  • Wrote a bunch of blog posts (to get caught up on my travels to date)
  • Played a computer game
  • Read a book
  • Read and watched stuff on the internet

Nope, not bored.

Get the hell out of the city. Camping near San Diego.

 

Get the hell out of the city. Camping near San Diego.

 

After a few days, I moved to another spot where I could walk just a little ways to take really nice pictures and fairly good video to give to my friend.

Get the hell out of the city. Camping near San Diego.

 

Get the hell out of the city. Camping near San Diego.

 

Get the hell out of the city. Camping near San Diego.

Get the hell out of the city. Camping near San Diego.

 

If you want to go here:

The coordinates are 33.123648,-116.879194. This was the first places I went in the part of the National Forest, so for all I know, there could be way better places to go.

The good:

  • Great views from the ridge
  • Great Verizon signal (for 3G at least)
  • Good hiking/biking along these truck trails
  • Not very far from San Diego
  • Fairly low elevation (less than 2,000′), so it’s not all that cold

The bad:

  • This area used to be designated for gun shooting. There are casings and shells all over the ground in many places. And a lot of broken glass. There are signs warning about high lead content. Don’t lick the ground here!

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Get the hell out of the city. Camping near San Diego.

 

Get the hell out of the city. Camping near San Diego.

 

This really doesn’t do the view justice, but here you go

Ocean in View! Oh! The Joy! (Northern Oregon Coast)

Ocean in View! Oh! The Joy! (Northern Oregon Coast)

After a 4,000 mile trek through what is now the United States, and being attacked by and killing many grizzly bears, and fending off attacks and thefts from some natives, and receiving lifesaving help from others, after 862 days after leaving St. Louis, the “Corpse of Discovery” team lead by Lewis and Clark set eyes on where the Columbia river meets the Pacific ocean. Clark wrote in his journal: “Ocean in View! Oh! The Joy!”. Actually, he wrote:

Ocian in view! O! The Joy!

Surprisingly, none of the 59 total members of the Corps of Discovery died from the journey. One of them did die, but it was probably from appendicitis. I bet he would’ve died wherever he was. No one died from bear attacks, boat crashes while navigating rapids, indian attacks, or falling off cliffs. That’s incredible.

I ended up following a similar route. I went from St Louis out to Astoria on a meandering path. And I didn’t die once! My meanders were to see wonderful places, to travel by back roads instead of the straight interstates, and to stop to see friends. Even with most of my days committed to leisure, it only took 90 days. In just a couple hundred years, man has created amazing technological marvels: roads, internal combustion engines and vehicles, refrigerators and little propane stoves, handheld computers with maps of the entire country including satellite images and elevation profiles, etc. etc. Wow!

Astoria

I drove out west from Portland to go on a hike with a guy I know from the internet. He took me along a river he fishes regularly. We did quite a bit of wading through the river and got back to a waterfall that is only accessible by doing the wading. Then I continued west to the coast and stopped first at Cannon Beach. I did very little research and was heading down towards Oswald West State Park, but I saw the huge haystack rock from highway 101 so I stopped in Cannon Beach.

I also went up to Astoria. These are near/from the Column in Astoria:

Ocean in View! Oh! The Joy! (Northern Oregon Coast)

Ocean in View! Oh! The Joy! (Northern Oregon Coast)

A Chinook canoe. The natives out here had figured out how to make canoes much better than were used in much of the world. 

Ocean in View! Oh! The Joy! (Northern Oregon Coast)

Ocean in View! Oh! The Joy! (Northern Oregon Coast)

Corp of Discovery Winter Camp

While in Astoria, I went to the place where Lewis and Clark’s Corp of Discovery spent a winter. They built a fort here but the one in the picture is a recreation. There is a small museum there with info, movies, and some period or recreation objects similar to what the expedition team had with them. I suspect not a single thing is from their actual trip because they didn’t make any effort to save any of the gear and actually sold or gave much of it away.

Ocean in View! Oh! The Joy! (Northern Oregon Coast)

A picture of one of their journals

Ocean in View! Oh! The Joy! (Northern Oregon Coast)

They carried powder to make ink with

Ocean in View! Oh! The Joy! (Northern Oregon Coast)

Manzanita

Ocean in View! Oh! The Joy! (Northern Oregon Coast)

Unfortunately for the Corps of Discovery, they arrived in November and the weather was absolute shit up until they left the following spring.

Ocean in View! Oh! The Joy! (Northern Oregon Coast)

Ocean in View! Oh! The Joy! (Northern Oregon Coast)

 

Ocean in View! Oh! The Joy! (Northern Oregon Coast)

 

Ocean in View! Oh! The Joy! (Northern Oregon Coast)

 

Ocean in View! Oh! The Joy! (Northern Oregon Coast)

 

Camping With Friends

My friends came out for the weekend.

Ocean in View! Oh! The Joy! (Northern Oregon Coast)

We went to the beach near the campsite in the morning, and my buddy didn’t change from the warm clothes he’d slept in. 😀

Ocean in View! Oh! The Joy! (Northern Oregon Coast)

Hiking

We went for a hike in Oswald West State Park – on the Falcon Cove trail. It was a pretty nice trail with very nice views at the end.

Ocean in View! Oh! The Joy! (Northern Oregon Coast)

Ocean in View! Oh! The Joy! (Northern Oregon Coast)

Ocean in View! Oh! The Joy! (Northern Oregon Coast)

Ocean in View! Oh! The Joy! (Northern Oregon Coast)

Ocean in View! Oh! The Joy! (Northern Oregon Coast)

Ocean in View! Oh! The Joy! (Northern Oregon Coast)

Ocean in View! Oh! The Joy! (Northern Oregon Coast)

Ocean in View! Oh! The Joy! (Northern Oregon Coast)

Ocean in View! Oh! The Joy! (Northern Oregon Coast)

Ocean in View! Oh! The Joy! (Northern Oregon Coast)

Then we went to the beach! There’s a really nice beach in Oswald. Ocean in View! Oh! The Joy!

Ocean in View! Oh! The Joy! (Northern Oregon Coast)