Friday, December 25, 2015

Holiday celebrations in San Carlos

With old and new friends in town, we had a great excuse to delay our departure here, and celebrate the holidays with them. We were glad we did!  Tod and Tessa baked cookies for Santa Claus on Christmas Eve and they were set out on the companion ladder; Tessa and I enjoyed some Christmas caroling in the marina, and several boats organized a colorful boat parade with pretty Christmas lights. Life is good here in company of great people, no need to rush to our next place. Bliss is happily back in the water, and her crew is content to just go with the flow/wind.

Although we are in Mexico, this part of the Sea of Cortez is not very warm in the winter and has strong Northerly winds blowing through. We are still sleeping with duvets, have our oil lamp burning at night, and our fans have not been needed much. We have played on the beach, but no swimming yet. We will have to sail several hundreds of miles south to experience that in January. And that will happen when the time/winds are right.

Is it something about traveling in a different culture that bonds people and make them pull up chairs and share stories, laughter and drinks, independent of the mode of transportation? On our first and only night in a tiny RV park in Mexico on our drive south, several RV'ers invited us over for happy hour, and made us feel welcome, just the same as we experience in the boating community.

Tessa and I made holiday decorations with pine cones from our land travels

Tod and Tessa prepping the cookie dough

Lighted boat parade coming back in the marina

captivated by her new toys

" and she is coming down the mountain", Bliss driving from the boat yard,
ready to launch

Ready to splash

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Double trouble and 4 Bliss too many

The crickets doing their concerto outside, Tessa and Tod are having happy hour, and I have a quick moment to update our blog.

After 9 days of being on the hard in the work yard, Bliss is being launched in her natural setting tomorrow morning.  We arrived in San Carlos on the 11th, and we were all excited to see our home again. Mhm, yes, she was supposed to be in the work yard, but where is she? Somewhat confused we walked back to the office. "Yes, she is all the way in the back". Ok, second try, but no she was not there. Turns out, this large yard currently has 5 boats named Bliss in their dry storage (yep, seriously, could we be a bit more original in our name picking), and they had moved another Bliss to the work yard. No big deal, one hour later we recognize our home on the stands. She had the expected dirt on the outside after 7.5 months, but inside she was just how we left her. For Tessa, it was early Christmas, or late Sinterklaas (Dutch celebration on December 5th), as she was having a blast with all her toys we had left here.

We have been reading the book "Double Trouble Groundhog Day" a lot before bedtime lately, and double trouble seems to be applicable to us when it comes to refrigeration. The LPG fridge on our RV Betsy started to act up during the last days of our trip to Mexico. When Tod turned on our DC fridge aboard, there was not much coldness coming our way. The engineer he is, he tinkered with it all night, but with no success. Not wanting to travel without a fridge here, back up plans were formulated, like driving back to Phoenix (7.5 hrs drive) to pick up a new unit, as DC units are not available here. Fortunately, the morning cruising net came through with an excellent recommendation for a local fridge guy, and 350 pesos ($22) later we were back in business.

We are looking forward to be back on the water again, and our tentative plans are to head South on the East side of Sea of Cortez after Christmas, once we have a good weather window. We will miss our cruising family buddies on s/v Kiribati and s/v Let it Be this season, but were glad we got to spend some time with them on land before we drove down.

Happy holidays from the Bliss crew!

Bliss with raised waterline. Five months from now we will strip all
the bottom paint off to the gel coat. 

hundreds of boats sitting in the dry storage waiting

Friday, November 13, 2015

Random ramblings from 4500 feet, Sedona in Arizona

We were in Sedona, Arizona, at the city park, surrounded by gorgeous red rock formations. It’s a light travel day, so we are doing our routine “quiet time” after lunch. Tessa stopped napping a few months ago, and while we were living a more routine life in Berkeley, getting some alone/quiet time in during the day was easier to do. Not so easy to do while you are traveling about 5,000 miles in 6 weeks time.

We tell Tessa this is time to recharge your batteries. She knows all about batteries, and knows when they are discharged, you run out of energy (hey, it happened again a few nights ago, as we had run the heater since late afternoon due to freezing temps after a snow storm near Flagstaff.  Because this is a trial season with our RV, we decided to not make any electrical upgrades like adding battery capacity, but it’s on the ‘to do’ list for next season).

That quiet day time is also important for Tod and me, as we get to do some of our own things that don’t involve playing/interacting with our 3.5 yrs old. We do end up playing with her more than when we travel by boat.  One of the differences I have noticed between our RV travel and our boat travel is the people we have met. While we have been lucky that we have met 3 interesting traveling RV/camper families, in general we have not connected much with other Rv'ers, and we for sure miss that connection. To be fair, we are traveling outside the main travel season here in the US, where in Mexico we cruise during prime time, so the chance to meet people you connect with are higher. Even when there were no cruising families around, we met fun and interesting sailing couples, and enjoyed spending time together. Boaters tend to be a social bunch, and a wave while passing underway, or chat while sharing an anchorage is more common than not (or talking on the VHF radio at night when you see a boat close by). We have not experienced that same ease of contact while traveling with our RV.

As the blog title says, just ramblings. Just ask me again next RV season.

As you can see from the pictures, no more snow storms for us, but heat from the dessert near Phoenix. No more off season for RV'ing this far south either, as we got one of the last spots in Lost Dutchman State Park near Phoenix. Two more days here , then we leave Betsy in Phoenix for 2 weeks to fly to Tod’s parents in Ohio. Early December we will be back in Phoenix and drive Betsy to Bliss in Mexico for another cruising season.

awning out for the 1st time in Lost Dutchman State Park
Lake Pleasant County Park, 45 miles north from Phoenix

boon docking "anchoring" outside Sedona
we stopped at interesting visitor center of Glen Canyon Dam, Page, Arizona

Friday, November 6, 2015

Warmer? Not so, but so much Canyon beauty!

This morning Tessa and I stayed in our bed, covered under the blankets, while Tod drove us out of our dry camp spot covered in light snow. The road was unpaved, we were 12 miles from Bryce Canyon in Utah, and during the night our house battery got discharged enough that we couldn't use our heater any more. Outside it was well below freezing. No need to feel sorry for us -- well OK, you can feel sorry for Tod, as he got up, while we were cozy in bed. He drove for 20 min, while we had the heater blasting again getting Betsy cozy inside, and 30 minutes later we ate pancakes while enjoying a great view.

Since we left Montana, we have seen temperatures of 70 degrees (21 C) in Provo, Utah (unusually warm we heard), to 15 degrees (-9 C) at night near Bryce. But weather doesn't matter that much when you are surrounded by the incredible beauty of Utah. We visited Capital Reef National Park, and did a great hike with Tessa. Unfortunately our camera stopped working....We drove on to Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, and stayed at a simple camp ground right inside the canyon (Calf Creek).  At one point Betsy was really struggling going up the hills. No wonder, as we got to summit of 9,850 feet (3,000 m) on Boulder Mountain, the tallest summit we passed with our RV.  The drive along Highway 12 from Capitol Reef to Bryce was quite wonderful, with multiple different breathtaking landscapes.  In Bryce it was cold enough that Jolanda & Tessa stayed close to Betsy while Tod did a quick hike/run into the canyon (and played with taking pictures in "Vivid Color" mode... you can tell which photos those are!)

We are now in Zion National Park, and unlike other places, it's busy here ( I don't want to think what high season looks here)! The campgrounds in park is full, so we are staying 1 mile outside the park in a RV park . Warmer weather (55F), and a long holiday weekend must be some of the reasons, plus the fact that it's the last weekend for the trolley here that takes you on roads that no regular traffic can go. Another great hike for us three today, and it's really fun to see Tessa hiking up and down, and enjoying it.

beautiful Bryce Canyon NP on a sunny day 

The snow in Bryce made the colors stand out even more

up, up, up hill in Zion

At the top of hike in Zion - Upper Emerald Pool

Betsy just outside park at Capitol Reef NP

The drive between the parks on SR-12 Scenic Byway is stunning too

Messing around on rocks at our campsite in Escalante NM
Tod & Tessa climbing up rocks  at our campsite in Escalante NM... can you find them?  You will need to zoom!

panoramic view along Highway 12

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Yellowstone, just in time!

We are really stretching traveling during the “shoulder season” up north: camp grounds are closing a day after we leave (or shut off the water for the season), roads are about to close. So far, we have been really lucky with the weather. The drive up to Yellow Stone was beautiful. Tod and I both visited the world’s first National Park independently decades ago, and I forgot how huge it is.  Just when you are happy to arrive at the West Entrance, it is still 60 miles to the only campground open in the South this time of the year, Lewis Lake.  We saw our first bison and elk on our drive south, and also the first snow. Not much snow, but we can imagine it piling up here in the winter. Fortunately 2 visitor centers were still open, and Tessa enjoys visiting these centers a lot (especially when there are movies playing!). On our second day, we waited for the old Faithful geyser to erupt (the famous geyser of this park, but Yellowstone has many others, and has the most geysers in the world), then drove out to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River with waterfalls.  Our second night in the northern part of the park, Mammoth Hot Springs, was warmer, but not so warm that we wanted to go out for a long hike, just a short visit to see the terraces composed of travertine.

Once we made the decision to visit Yellowstone, we called our cruising friends of s/v Believe, Sherilyn and George, in Bozeman, Montana north of Yellowstone to see if they were home. Spending time with them was great, and we are looking forward to see them again in a few months in Mexico. They recommended to us to visit the Museum of the Rockies in their town, and boy, are we glad we did! This museum has a huge exhibit of dinosaurs of different eras, the largest one on display was about 38’ long!  With many interactive displays and films about the discovery of the dinosaurs in this area, combined with a special kids section, makes this museum well worth a visit.

Sherilyn knows how to make a girl happy, and made these for Tessa, now
we can hear here everywhere she goes
Time to move south now, as the weather is changing!  As we came south past the west side of Yellowstone park we encountered a bit of snow that was starting to stick on the roads, so we were happy that we didn’t stay any longer in Montana.  With our LPG heater we are staying warm, but outside play is a bit more restricted, and that’s what we like to do.

change of scenery: after long drive, we arrived in Bear Lake State Park, Idaho

Some stats: we have done more than the 3500 miles, and also crossed the $1000 level for gas (yikes). Camping fees for the month of October, mostly state and national parks and forests, average $14/day (off season rates). You can spend way more when you choose RV parks with full electricity, water and sewer hook-ups, but we tend not to like RV parks.  The most expensive overnight stay was $35 in a RV park in Vancouver (well worth its cost due the location).  To dump our grey and black water tanks, and fill up our water tanks for showers and dishes, we use a handy app on our phone that locates places all along the US. LPG for our heater, fridge and stove is readily available everywhere we went so far.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Stark, beautiful in its own way: Craters of the Moon National Monument, Idaho

A place where NASA’s Apollo Astronauts came to learn about basic volcanic geology in 1969 as they prepared for their moon missions…how stark can that be? It’s hard to describe and my photography doesn’t do any justice, but then I don’t know if any pictures would do the trick. This is a park that you just want to experience. Walking in lava tubes, seeing landscape covered in lava from the most recent eruption about 2,000 yrs ago, and having a rocky campsite in the park, unprotected from wind, makes this a memorable visit. Add to that our first “ happy hour” with 2 other traveling families with young kids, and we are happy campers. 

"sky light" in the lava tunnels

short bike ride, as it was cold!

On our way here we stopped at the Oregon Trail Interpretative Center – in Baker City, OR – which has done a great job in telling the story of 300,000 people crossing the harsh Oregon Trail from the East in search of a better life, and the Native Americans they met and who lived here way before their arrival. We had to move on, but Tessa could have stayed in this interactive museum for a long time.

Before we know it, we will be melting in the Mexican sun again, so we decided we could gear up for some extra snow/cold, and added Yellowstone to our itinerary before their campsites and roads will be closing around November 2nd (we are getting a lot of mileage out of our $80 annual National Park pass!). Tessa got excited to see the little snow on the deserted campground of Lewis Lake, at altitude of 7,800 feet. More about Yellowstone next time.