The following daily posts are a summary of our first days on the road and include a few of our somewhat comical misadventures during this, our test trip of nearly a month out and about. The main purpose or “test” was to see how well our recent electrical or other improvements made with boondocking in mind, actually work as intended. And, since we have not been on the road in quite some time, we also wanted to make sure that our rig and tow setup functioned properly. Very quickly, it became obvious that our previous extensive RV experience was a bit rusty.
Day 1 – Sept. 4th, 2015
Somewhat by choice, we decided to get on the road “sometime around noon”. We had been hoping to have FedEx deliver our 9 x 12 outdoor mat before leaving but such was not to be the case. It had actually been scheduled to be delivered yesterday. Of course, when we performed a “tracking” later at the end of this our first day on the road, it had been delivered and is now sitting on our front porch…for the next 3-4 weeks.
A couple of things happened on our first day of a “yikes” nature. Both were caused by pilot error. And one was a bit more serious than the other. The first was that I noticed an extreme pulling to the right as we were departing our driveway. Although it felt like a motorhome issue, it turned out to be our Jeep “toad”. I had accidently put the key in the “lock” position when I thought it was in the unlock “off” position. Fortunately, we were not going fast nor far, so once we figured out the problem, we were well on our way to Costco for our first gas fill-up. Price: $2.99 per gallon. Not bad considering this was California. Using thGas Buddy website, we checked prices in Kingman, AZ. just across the border in the direction we were heading. Prices there were $2.65 per gallon.
The other “yikes” moment was more serious. In preparation for our trip, we recently had extended our awning in the driveway. After checking things out, we retracted the awning but, unfortunately, I forgot to lock it in place. About 125 miles down the road, the winds roaring across the desert decided to try and rip it and all its hardware from the motorhome. By the time we got the Bounder and Jeep pulled over on Interstate 40, about half the awning had unfurled and the aft arm pieces were lying on the ground. In the extreme winds, there was no way the awning could be retracted or worked on. The only thing that COULD be done was to roll the unfurled portion up on to the roof and try and strap it down. That’s when the fun began. Imagine high winds and a shoulder just wide enough to fit the width of the motorhome on the extremely busy interstate 40, and you “me” are on the roof. Can you say “18-wheeler”? About 500 times.
After about an hour in the heat and the wind of the Mojave Desert, we managed to get the awning’s “sail” strapped down sufficiently to stay put until we could work on it when there were no winds. That time came on Day 2 while boondocking in a national forest off Hwy 89 just north of Flagstaff, Arizona. Amazingly, no damage was done. The awning had no rips or tears and the metal pieces all went back together nearly as though nothing had happened.
Day 1 ended in Seligman, Arizona. But not before committing another bonehead full-time RVing sin; actually two. The first is that, although we have read it over and over on other
blogs that you should plan to start looking for a site for the evening, say, in the mid afternoon, we continued to drive until after dark with no place in mind to stop for the night. Big mistake number 1.
The second mistake was our failure to perform site reconnaissance using our tow vehicle, as opposed to the motorhome. So, as we are tooling down the interstate, we see a sign for what looks like possible camp spot for the night. It says “Hualapai Mountain County Park”. We take the offramp and turn right as indicated by the sign. Almost immediately, we are on a mountain road with no place to turn around or even pull to the side of the road. Other than our headlights, it is pitch black darkness. All we could do is continue on this narrow two-lane ever-climbing road until such time as we could find a place suitable to turn around. As it turned out, that place was 14 miles from the interstate.
Due to this, and our previously mentioned misadventures,we rolled into Seligman KOA at about 11:30 in the evening. The office was closed at that time of night, so we just used their night drop to pick a site and go park for the night.
Since we knew that Day 2 was to be a short drive to just north of Flagstaff, we used every bit of the 11:00 a.m. checkout time, eating breakfast, taking showers and meeting our KOA neighbors.
So, the conversation starts off like this. I say “good morning”. He says “good morning” and adds “where you coming from?”. I say “oh, we’re just starting out, we live over in the High Desert of Southern California”. He says “that’s where we live, what town?”. I say “Apple Valley”. He says “we’re from Apple Valley”. So after introductions, we compare notes and discover that we know many of the same people socially and in business. He’s a Elder at a local church where Sharon was the bookkeeper for a few years. Small world.
Soon, we parted company and headed toward Flagstaff and our first boondocking experience. We chose a site recommended by Campendium, a national forest road. Price: Free. Gotta love it. Using our new Garmin GPS, and the coordinates provided by Campendium, we literally drove to the campsite. Although it was only to be for one night, we arrived at 2:00 p.m. (lesson learned) and had a pretty relaxing afternoon and evening AND we put the awning back together after our experience on Day 1. All went well.
Although we did not use the solar due to fully charged batteries, we DID start experimenting with the Xantrex inverter…microwave, curling iron, coffee pot, toaster and recharging of our phones and Kindles. As for camping for free, Sharon commented that we were at this point averaging $18.00 per day for camping. Day 3 would bring that average to $12.00 per day.
Day 3 – Sept. 6th, 2015
Today was a very scenic day. Our route took us from our forest camp on the shoulder of the San Francisco Peaks north of Flagstaff, to Jacob Lake at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. This would start out as U.S. 89 north to U.S. 89A, not quite reaching Page and Lake Powell. Been there, done that.
Highway 89A took us by the Vermillion Cliffs, which were absolutely stunning, down into Marble Canyon and the Colorado River just prior to it running its course through the Grand Canyon. This is a popular launching point for raft trips down the Colorado.
The route from Marble Canyon is a ever-increasing climb across what I would call high desert, but movie set beautiful. Then the real climb begins up to the North Rim. Very steep for a motorhome pulling a 4,000 lb. Jeep. Ultimately, we made it nevertheless. And interestingly, although I wondered about boondocking spots in the area of the North Rim while researching from home, I need not have been concerned. Using our Garmin GPS, we quickly located several forest roads in the area of Jacob Lake and settled on a spot about a 3/4 of a mile up Forest Road 248F. The photo below is a web photo, ours having been deleted from the camera (see It Never Happened post). Nevertheless, the site is nearly exactly as what we found.
The next morning, while heading out from Jacob Lake toward Kanab, Utah, we saw many additional “forest access” roads, which I’m sure had other campsite opportunities as well.
Day 4 – Monday, Sept. 7th, 2015 – Labor Day
Today started at Jacob Lake, Arizona, and ended in Ritchfield, Utah. Actually, kind of a long day, with stops in Kanab and a small town or two along Highway 89. Originally, we planned to camp at Red Rocks Campground just off 89 at the entrance to Capital Reef National Park. Although we DID tour the campground, we decided to continue northward. The setting was absolutely beautiful, but it WAS Labor Day and the campground was a bit crowded, although not full. Reportedly, this campground gets only moderate use throughout the year, which was an attraction. But the available sites this day were a bit tight for our purposes, so we moved on. We knew we had yet another long day tomorrow, so we decided to at least get a quick to Interstate 70. After a quick check of the Benchmark Atlas, we decided to head for Richfield, Utah, just east of the 89 and Interstate 70 junction.
Boy, were we in for a pleasant surprise. We were able to get online and search Campendium for “camping” near Richfield. One of the places offered up was a KOA. Generally, we are not big fans of KOA, especially after our experience in Seligman (see our site review in Campendium). But, we were ready for full hook-ups. This particular KOA had not been reviewed as yet on Campedium, but we decided to take a look at it since we were already there. As it turned out, WE reviewed this KOA, giving it FIVE STARS across the board. This HAS to be one of THE best KOAs in the country. And nice owners as well.
Before I forget, the original and primary purpose of this trip, aside from seeing our beautiful country along the way, is to test our newly installed electrical equipment. So far, we have been boondocking twice, relying on being self-contained. The solar has worked flawlessly, as has the 2000/4000 watt inverter, although we decided to do some testing of its capacity. Our intent is to generally use only one appliance at a time. But during our test, we maxxed out and tripped the inverter’s built-in circuit breaker by simultaneously running a microwave, coffee maker, and charging a Kindle and a phone. It’s all about amps. 2000 watts can handle just so many amps running continuously. If those amps are exceeded, the circuit breaker is going to trip.
Day 5 – Sept. 8th, 2015
Today was a long drive day, made more so by the route I chose. For future reference, what appear to be a shortcut on a map, is not necessarily the case. Except for the fact that we had never been to or seen Moab, Utah, the route south and then east of Moab, around the southern shoulder of LaSal Mountain, was a big mistake for a motorhome pulling a toad (Jeep in this case). This route was at high elevations causing a loss of horsepower and included very tight and curvy 9% grades. Somewhere along the way, we entered Colorado. And although we made it, passing through towns of Naturita and Norwood, it was not the route to take. We probably added at least two hours to our drive versus having stayed on Interstate 70 to Grand Junction and then south through Montrose. Ultimately, the route took us along the San Miguel River which was quite beautiful, and then past the turn-off (pun intended) to Telluride and on to Ridgway, Colorado and Ridgway State Park, our “home ” for at least the next five days. As it turned out, our first day there was almost over by the time we arrived.
Wednesday, Sept. 9th, 2015
Although we got a late start, today was explore day. First, we drove around the various campgrounds and facilities that make up Ridgway State Park. The park itself is adjacent to the Ridgway Reservoir situated between the lake and Highway 550 just north of the town of Ridgway. The state park is divided into three sections. The day use area is at the south end of the lake, where the Uncompphagre River enters. About mid-lake, with a separate entrance, is an area called Dutch Charlie, consisting of the park visitor center and 2 or 3 “loop” campgrounds, one of which is Elk Ridge where we camped for 5 days. This particular campground sits atop a ridge overlooking the lake and park, or the Cimmaron Range or to the south, the “Swiss Alps” of the San Juan Mountains including Mt. Sneffels and others at or approaching “14’r” status (14,000 ft. or greater).
The third area of the park includes Pa-Co-Chu-Puk campground and the down stream fishing area as the river exits the lake. We moved from Elk Ridege after 5 days and spent another 9 days here because this campground has full hook-ups. All have wonderful restrooms, laundry and shower buildings.