Monthly Archives: April 2021

Death Valley National Park

As a former runner, Death Valley for me is always associated with the extreme Badwater ultramarathon. Billed as the toughest footrace on earth, the race begins at the Badwater basin, the lowest point in North America at 280 feet below sea level. Oh yeah, it’s in JULY in freakin’ DEATH VALLEY. Daytime temperatures at that time of year average 110 degrees F! If that’s not bad enough, the race covers a whopping 135 miles, ending at Mt Whitney in the Sierra Nevada mountains. The course goes over 3 mountain ranges in the process, ascending a cumulative 14,600 feet.

I’ve long been fascinated by endurance events, especially extreme one like this. I’ve read several books on the topic, and a personal acquaintance of mine (Bob Becker) completed a Badwater Double a few years ago. That’s the even more insane unofficial “round trip” event whereby one completes the official event, climbs to the highest point in the continental US atop Mt Whitney (14,505 feet), and hoofs it back to the Badwater basin starting point! That’s a round trip distance of 292 miles! And did I mention that he was the oldest person to have done so at the time at age 70? Just incredible.

After reading about the various way points and locations within Death Valley National Park, it was exciting to me to actually see them in person. Places with names like Badwater, and Stovepipe Wells, and the Devil’s Golf Course. I was interested to see just how remote they are. Because of its location in one of the driest places on earth, I did not realize that there was actual water at Badwater. Hydraulic pressure from the surrounding mountains forces mineral-laden water to the surface at this lowest spot. Evaporation creates large salt flats, but there are always puddles, even in the extreme heat. The mules of early explorers refused to drink the “bad” water, hence the name.

One of the advantages of having a 4-wheel drive truck is the ability to take some of the “off highway” roads. By driving just outside the Park we were able to pick up the one-way, 26 mile long Titus Canyon Road. The road took us through the desert flat, up and over Red Pass. The scenery was spectacular, and the road was only scary in a few places! (A high clearance vehicle was definitely required at times) Coming out of the pass, we encountered Leadville ghost town with its closed mine and few defunct structures. Before reaching the Death Valley floor, the road snaked through Titus Canyon. The walls of the canyon seemed just wide enough for our vehicle in places, and towered above us. We had hiked through slot canyons before, but driving through one was a completely different experience! The entire drive took several hours, but it was entirely worth it.

Death Valley …. another Passport stamp and another National Park checked off our list!

It’s Vegas, Baby!

Coming from the serenity of the Grand Canyon, the contrast couldn’t be greater. The Grand Canyon was all about majestic natural wonder. Vegas is the king of kitschy architecture and excessive partying. From the darkest of night skies to the brightest of lights. What a difference a week makes!

After months of social distancing, walking the crowded Vegas strip seems almost claustrophobic. I’m not worried about COVID at this point, being fully vaccinated, but the sheer press of bodies seems unnatural. According to local news media, Vegas tourism is almost back to pre-pandemic levels and based upon my observations — I can believe it! It’s good for the local economy, but it is quite a re-adjustment for me. The hotels, restaurants and casinos are still requiring masking and social distancing but the sidewalks of the Strip …. not so much.

I do like Vegas, though — as long as I’m not staying right on the Vegas Strip. I can take the Strip’s over-the-top-ness only for a few hours before I need a break from the overstimulation. By staying off-strip in quieter environs, I can meter the experience into smaller doses. We are parked at the very lovely Oasis RV Park, conveniently located just south of the Strip. This is a true resort, with many amenities. It is a great location to park for a month!

Our stay overlaps a week with a couple of our Tucson friends, Johnny and Patti. We knew we would meet up here, and just happened to end up only a few sites away in this very large RV park! Jeff has his mountain bike buddy for a few days more, and we’re having fun experiencing Vegas together, playing cards, and just socializing.

A month in Vegas. What could possibly go wrong?

Campground Review: Trailer Village RV Park, Grand Canyon National Park

Campground Review Summary

  • Name: Trailer Village RV Park
  • Dates of stay: April 15-21, 2021
  • Location: Grand Canyon National Park, South Rim
  • Type of campground: National Park (run by private concession)
  • Cost: $65/night
  • Additional fees: none
  • Stay limit: unknown
  • Accepts mail / packages: did not ask
  • Cell reception: none
  • Website:
  • Pros: You’re in the National Park!
  • Cons: pay showers, sloped sites

Full Review

The Grand Canyon South Rim complex includes two campgrounds: Mather Campground and Trailer Village. Mather Campground has no RV hookups and is operated by the National Park Service. Trailer Village offers full hookup sites and is operated by Delaware Parks and Resorts, an authorized concessionaire. This is the first time we have ever been able to camp within a national park! Normally, we’re too big to get in anywhere. But Trailer Village offers big-rig capable sites AND full hookups to boot!

We had seen some worrisome reviews claiming that navigating big rigs into the campground would be problematic (low hanging branches, etc), but we had no problems whatsoever. Our angled pull-through site was paved and more than long enough for the bus. (We had parking room for the truck next to the motorhome) The full hookup utilities (50/30 amp electric, water, sewer) worked flawlessly. We even had cable TV! Our site was open and satellite friendly, so no issues with our DirectTV.

We had essentially zero AT&T cell service, though. Our WeBoost antenna managed to pull in a slow data trickle, enough to receive texts, but not send a text back or make a phone call. For cell service, you have to drive over to the Village area or the Visitor Center. There, we had 4 bars of service.

Just a couple of potential negatives to note. Our site was fairly level front to back, but was sloped to the left. We were able to manually adjust to an acceptable degree, but could not completely get to level. The other item to note is there are no showers within the campground, at all. There are restrooms — old school, but clean and serviceable. For showers, there is a camper services building located between the two campgrounds. That building was closed completely during our stay due to Covid, but normally showers are available ($2.50 for 5 minutes) as well as coin laundry facilities. Since we had full hookups, it was no problem to simply use our own shower and laundry equipment. In normal times, shuttle buses can take you directly from the campground all around the South Rim complex, but most routes were not running during our stay.

But these are minor inconveniences. From the campground, you can hop on paved trails and walk or bike one short mile to the Visitor Center and the Rim Trail. Elk wandered by our rig, calmly grazing on grasses between campers. Infinite stars shone in the night sky.


Bottom Line: A unicorn! Big rig capable, full hookup campground inside a national park!

Grand Canyon National Park

One of the great blessings of this nomadic lifestyle is the ability to see and explore some of the truly iconic landscapes of our marvelous country. Every time I explore one of these wonders, I give thanks that our nation had the foresight to set aside and protect these special places.

The Grand Canyon is one of those iconic places. I’ve seen photographs since I was a child, but photos simply can’t convey the scope and scale of the enormous multi-colored ravine. This park also gave us two notable firsts: the first time we drove our big rig into a national park, and the first time we were able to actually camp in a national park campground! Typically, parks can’t accommodate a rig of our size.

I’ll do a full review separately, but the Trailer Village RV park on the South Rim was simply fantastic. We had seen troublesome reviews complaining of narrow roads, and low hanging branches, but we had no trouble navigating into our site. We had full hookups with 50 amp electric and, surprisingly, cable TV! We didn’t have any kind of cell phone coverage, but that’s a small price to pay for camping next to one of the world’s great wonders. As a bonus, several elk frequently roamed the area, grazing unconcerned next to campers. The night sky blazed bright with a zillion stars. You just don’t get that in your typical RV resort!

Due to COVID, some of the services weren’t available, such as most of the shuttle buses. However, the area is well-connected with a network of roads and bicycle paths, so getting around was a breeze. We were camped just a mile from the Visitor Center and the rim trail. Strolling the rim trail was almost a spiritual experience — I felt like an insignificant speck next to the enormous canyon.

During our week here, Jeff embarked on a long-planned backpacking adventure into the canyon. He hiked down Bright Angel trail and pitched his tent for two nights at the Indian Gardens campground, about 2/3 of the way down. There was a bit of a hiccup with our ancient backpacking tent. Although we checked to make sure all of the pieces were there, we didn’t actually set up the tent. When he arrived, he found the rain fly to be a fused mess after years in storage. He painstakingly peeled it apart (more or less), only to have one of the main poles snap when he attempted to erect the tent. Ever the Eagle Scout, he found a sturdy forked stick, lashed it to the tent, and managed to secure the jury-rigged pole into place. It worked!

The second day, he hiked down to the Colorado River and back, and viewed the sunset from Plateau Point. The following morning, he packed up and headed up. Mindful of the significant elevation gain (and on tired legs), he started off intentionally slowly and conservatively. Four groups passed him by initially, but as he went up, he picked up steam and ultimately passed them all! (They nicknamed him the Tortoise.) He was tired, but in good shape, and happy to have had the experience.

The South Rim is an expansive complex of visitor center, hotels, campgrounds, service buildings and shops. There is even a surprisingly well-stocked grocery store. A week wasn’t enough to see and do it all.

Definitely a place to return to.

Two Myths of Fulltime RV Living

I originally posted this in November 2018, after our first year on the road. We’ve now been doing this for 3.5 years, and this post is all still true!


mythDespite all of my research before embarking on this nomadic lifestyle, I still retained a few misconceptions. Let me dispel a couple for you.

Myth 1: RV living is less expensive than living in a stationary home.  The costs of RV living add up quickly: campsite fees, telecommunications (phone / TV / internet), insurances (RV, vehicle, health), food, and entertainment. Maintenance/repair is a never-ending fact of life for a home that experiences the equivalent of an earthquake every time you travel down the road. And having motorhome service done isn’t cheap! Depreciation on the RV is a hidden, but significant, expense, depending on what you spent on your RV. And if you have elected to retain a home base or a storage unit, those costs can be quite significant. And that assumes that the RV and toad (or tow vehicle) is paid off – monthly loan payments added to all of this can simply bust the budget for many people.

We owned a paid-off 4 bedroom home in South Florida before we retired. When you add up all of the costs of home ownership (utilities, taxes, insurance, maintenance), it would have been less expensive for us to stay put than go on the road, especially the way that we are doing it (which is NOT on the cheap). Of course, we wouldn’t have this life of adventure, either! It IS possible to cut your costs and live relatively inexpensively, by following some of the tips below:

  • RV selection: Buy a (quality) used RV, one that has already taken a depreciation hit. A shorter than 40 foot rig has more options for campgrounds than a Big Rig, many of them less expensive. If you are handy and can do some of your own maintenance and repairs, that can also save big.
  • Campgrounds: Stay in the more basic campgrounds, or boondock.  Stay longer at one place to take advantage of weekly/monthly/seasonal discounted rates. You also will burn less fuel since you aren’t hauling the RV around. Become a work camper to get a free site, and maybe even get paid a little. Some people do well with certain campground memberships (like Thousand Trails), but check the fine print carefully to ensure it makes sense for your needs and travel style.
  • Other costs:  Downsize your belongings to just what you can carry with you – no storage fees or expensive home base. Cook rather than going out. Maximize free activities like hiking and bicycling. Take advantage of campground or coffee shop wifi, rather than using your own data plan. Live with “over the air” TV channels instead of subscribing to an expensive satellite TV plan.

The RV community is full of people who successfully live relatively inexpensively, but you have to recognize that there are trade-offs in comfort, amenities, and fun.

Myth 2: RV life is a never-ending, fabulous vacation. It’s true that we do have a lot of fun, but this is also real life with all of the real life stuff that must get done. Typically, for vacations, we postpone or delegate our life chores, so that we can devote 100% of the limited vacation time to play. With full-time RV living, all of those chores have to get done in between the fun stuff. Real life involves cleaning, maintenance, banking chores, seeing to health needs, working out, grocery shopping, cooking, laundry, and dealing with family drama. It’s harder, in a way, because we’re a constantly moving target. Handling banking business, getting maintenance done, making dental appointments and such is much more challenging when you have to schedule around location AND timing. You are also living with your significant other (and possibly children and pets) in a confined space that can seem much smaller after several days of adverse weather! You have limited space for storage and for food preparation. Outdoor weather influences inside temperatures in an RV much more noticeably than in a better-insulated “stick and brick” house. The process of packing up, moving, and unpacking is time-consuming and tiring. Every new camping spot requires figuring everything out again: locations of grocery stores, gas stations, banks, etc. If you are accustomed to having familiar surroundings, the constant location shifting can be disorienting.

Don’t get me wrong – we love this lifestyle. But we’ve learned to look at it just like that, a life “style”, not a vacation. We’ve learned to slow down, relax, and allow time for necessary life tasks, interspersed among the fun adventures. We do things together, but also separately, to give the other person some space. We’ve developed strategies to reduce the stress of moving days – such as, packing up the night before, and scheduling more time to get from one campsite to another to allow for unexpected problems or delays. We stay longer at some locations, to take advantage of longer-stay discounts and to make it “home”, for just a little while.

It’s not a fabulous vacation, but it’s a pretty fabulous lifestyle.

Petrified Forest National Park

The Painted Desert and Petrified Forest National Park lies about a 3 hour drive away from our Cottonwood area RV park. The drive itself is beautiful and varied as it takes you up and around the heights of Flagstaff and back down into the high desert terrain.

I’ve seen the occasional isolated petrified log, but I’ve never seen anything like the scale of lumber-rock that exists in this park. It fools the eye. From a distance, it looks just like someone has mowed down a bunch of trees. Because of the way the long, heavy logs fracture, it even looks like the lumberjacks chain sawed the logs into neat chunks, awaiting some purpose. But when you get close …. it’s all rock!

Petrified wood is, in essence, a fossil. 225 million years ago, the land that makes up the Park was located about where Costa Rica is now, part of the massive Pangea continent. The area was in a tropical climate and covered in dense forest. Giant trees lived, died and were buried in river sediment and volcanic ash, which prevented their normal decay. Over the millennia, those buried logs were saturated with minerals which replaced the organic material, creating the petrified wood. Eventually uplift and erosion caused the logs to re-emerge from the sediment they were buried in.

Petrified Forest National Park is essentially a “drive through” park with stops and short trails at several highlight features. It is located within the Painted Desert, with its hills, mesas and valleys of brightly colored horizontal sandstone layers. Along with the scenery, the Park includes Puebloan ruins and areas with petroglyphs. But for us, the highlight was the amazing, ancient petrified wood.

I really wanted a chunk of that stuff to keep, but of course, collecting anything within a National Park is a great big no-no. However, just outside the park in the nearby town of Holbrook, you can find gift shops that are simply loaded with the rock. Tons and tons of it! So, if you want to collect a piece, there are ample legal alternatives! I was able to obtain my multi-colored specimen.

On the way back, we stopped in Winslow, immortalized in the Eagles song, “Take It Easy”. We took the obligatory photo at the “Standin’ on the Corner” statue and grabbed a late lunch. It’s nice to know that a little piece of old Route 66 still survives.

You know the song is stuck in your head now! You’re welcome.

“Standin’ on the corner in Winslow Arizona, such a fine sight to see. It’s a girl, my Lord, in a flat bed Ford, slowin’ down to take a look at me ….”

Hitting the Sedona Trails

The scenery around the Sedona area is simply mind-blowing – Jeff calls it nonstop “eye candy”.  The deep-green vegetation against bright red sandstone formations is spectacularly beautiful. And there’s no better way to see the beauty than by hitting the extensive trail system.

Many of the trails are multi-use, that is, open to hikers, bikers and equestrians. In fact, we hiked some of the same trails that Jeff loves to bike on, just so I could see what he sees. There are all levels of trails from easy to double-black-diamond. None of the trails have extreme elevation changes, although there are stretches of rather steep up and down. The more advanced trails have some narrow and gnarly trails with steep drop offs that aren’t for the faint of heart. But there are ample moderate trails that take you into the heart of the red rock formations. While hiking, I had to stop frequently, just to take it all in. Magnificent!

Sedona also boasts a number of four-wheel drive trails. We rented a Razr two-seater one day and took it for a spin. Jeff has immortalized the day in one of his you-tube videos. The video doesn’t really show how steep some of the sections are! It was definitely more interesting and more technically challenging to drive here than in New Hampshire (where we last rented a 4-wheel machine).  The weather at this time of year is glorious – sunny and crisp.

We have a four-wheel-drive F-150 truck for a reason, so took the truck out on some of the mellower OHV trails. Near our Clarksdale RV park lies the Coconino National Forest with its network of trails. We saw a number of boondocker RVs, taking advantage of free BLM land camping. The forest also hosts amenities such as a large model airplane airfield. We watched one Sunday morning as enthusiasts piloted enormous remote-control airplanes through aerial dives, spins and stalls. One hobbyist piloted his aircraft using virtual reality glasses. I guess he was getting the cockpit view through a camera mounted at the front of his plane. I’ve never seen anything like that!

Farther up the trails, we encountered a First Peoples historic site, the Honanki Cliff Dwellings. A short trail took us by ruins of dwellings built on the ground against the cliff, taking advantage of rocky overhangs. We could also see some well-preserved petroglyphs.

The Sedona area is beautiful and interesting, no matter whether you bike, hike, or drive!

Campground Review: Rain Spirit RV Resort, Clarkdale, AZ

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 023.jpgCampground Review Summary

    • Name: Rain Spirt RV Resort
  • Dates of stay: March 17 – April 14, 2020
  • Location: 551 South Broadway, Clarkdale AZ 86324
  • Type of campground: Private / Independent
  • Cost: $19.33/night (monthly rate)
  • Additional fees: electric
  • Stay limit: none
  • Accepts mail / packages: yes
  • Cell reception: ATT not so good
  • Website:
  • Pros: Central location, very affordable, nice and new
  • Cons: none

Full Review

Rain Spirit RV resort didn’t even exist during our last visit, 3 years ago. We stayed nearby at a Thousand Trails facility, and weren’t all that thrilled with it. We thought we might stay at the only campground inside Sedona, but the big rig spots there are extremely limited and anything in Sedona is expensive. We were very happy to find this brand spankin’ new RV park located in the nearby town of Clarkdale.

This RV park is just perfect. Their big rig sites are level, solid, long, and easy to get into. It’s just laid out well. The FHU utilities work perfectly — the sewer is even a downhill run! There’s no cable TV, but you can get a number of over-the-air channels. All of the sites are satellite-friendly. The park itself is located in a lovely setting with hills all around you.

For a small park (53 sites), the amenities are quite nice. There’s a pool, hot tub, small work out room, coin laundry facility, and small lounge with lending book/DVD library. The bath house consists of six spacious individual bathroom units (toilet, sink, shower), which I very much prefer over “dormitory style” bath facilities. They are clean and beautiful.

The only possible negative is the poor internet connectivity in the area. Our ATT hotspot slowed to a crawl, especially in the evenings. The free campground wifi was no better. It’s not a reflection on the park, the data signal just isn’t robust here. Phone and text was fine, email was slow, and something like zoom was completely out of the question.

The park is conveniently located near a number of attractions: Tuzigoot National Monument and Verde Valley railroad is just up the road. Old Town Cottonwood is less than 2 miles. Sedona is a half hour away. You can drive to Jerome in about 15 minutes. Cottonwood can meet all of your shopping needs including grocery, Wal-Mart and Home Depot.

This park is also extremely affordable. Our month-long stay on a big-rig site ran us $540 plus electric. Shorter stays are pricier, but even a month isn’t long enough to explore all this area has to offer.

We’ve already booked our month for next year!

Bottom Line: Great little park, inexpensive and in a great location.

The Power of Science

I’m a scientist and have seen many marvels in my lifetime, but one of the greatest has to be last year’s development of the COVID vaccine. I’m not going to get into the politics – I have good friends that are choosing not to be vaccinated at this time and I respect their position. This is a free country and people have the right to choose or refuse medical treatment according to their individual circumstances.

But, to us …. It’s freakin’ miraculous. Normally, vaccines take YEARS to be developed. The fact that several vaccines were developed AND tested AND scaled up for mass production within a single year is simply unprecedented. It’s not just the vaccine itself, it’s producing all of the ancillary equipment needed for mass distribution, and setting up the logistics for mass vaccination. I’ve never seen anything like it in my lifetime.

Jeff and I intended to get the vaccination from the outset. As healthy under-65-ers, we expected to wait quite some time before we were eligible. But as States began prioritizing by age, our opportunity arose sooner than expected. As moving targets, a two-dose regimen posed some logistical issues for us, but we solved that by scheduling both doses in Phoenix. The vaccination registration website was clunky and overburdened, but we managed to secure appointments on the same day, if not at the same mass vaccination site.

For our first dose, we drove up from Tucson. The drive-through vaccination process was actually inspiring. The entire process was quick and efficient as we were ushered through multiple lanes and checkpoints by friendly volunteers. Jeff received his jab, waited the required 15 minutes, and we drove away, heading to a second vaccination site for my turn. It took longer to drive to the second location than it did for me to receive my shot. Easy-peasy!

For our second dose, we drove down from Sedona. As before, our return appointments were at two different locations (and no, they wouldn’t just give me the shot at the first location because of the way they allocated doses, believe me, we tried!). My original site had closed, so I was booked into a new location. This one was less than efficient, and we spent well over an hour waiting in line. But, we got-er-done!

It’s such a relief.

Finally, I can see an eventual end to pandemic restrictions. I’m tired of a wearing stupid mask everywhere. I want to go to the theater and out to dinner. I want to go on a cruise. I want to play cards, and bingo, and socialize in the campgrounds we visit. I want to hug my loved ones and not worry, just a bit, that I might pass along a potentially deadly disease. I want my normal life back.

We’re getting there!