I’m a little bit late creating this blog. We’ve been on the road for a week already (since Aug. 1, 2012). But the story actually begins back in April when we purchased “The Bear“. We hadn’t planned on buying a motorhome until our boat was sold. We had been living on a 49′ sailboat and cruising the world for the past 7 years. I kept a website during those years with stories and pictures of our life aboard – www.svaquila.com.
We decided we were ready for a new adventure .. plus we missed our kids and grandkids. We were too far away. Touring the US in a motorhome sounded like fun to us. So we sailed to Florida, put the boat up for sale, bought a car and made a leisurely drive back home to California, stopping at various RV sales lots along the way to acquaint ourselves with all the options.
We got as far as Arizona when ‘it happened’. We were looking at a coach in our price range, when the sales guy asked us to look at another one that had just arrived. We said no, that it was more than we wanted to spend. He managed to get us inside it, and we, of course, fell in love with it. It looked brand new but was being sold as used. He told us to make an offer and we said they would laugh at our offer. He said it was a bank owned repo and you never know what they’ll accept. So we threw a ridiculously low number at him because we weren’t really serious about buying yet. Fifteen minutes later, we were the proud new owners of a 2011 Monaco Cayman 40′ with 4 slide-outs! Yikes! We’d never even driven one before! The mechanic took us out for a 30-minute driving lesson, and I began to question my desire to do this. It’s so big and scary and noisy and rattley. I’m used to the smooth silent motion of sailing! I told myself I would get used to this (and I’m getting there). But at that time, I really didn’t like the feeling of going so fast while squeezed between the white lines. It was very frightening.
We ended up driving our car to our daughter Kimberly’s house in Moorpark, California, where we were staying for the next few months. Then, Mike and his son Sean returned to Arizona a few days later to drive the RV home. Glad I didn’t have to do that! I wasn’t ready to do a long drive yet.
During the following 3 months, we took her out for several outings. First, to San Diego for a weekend at an RV Resort so we could watch our granddaughter, Paige, play in a Softball All-Stars tournament. Then, a day trip to the Pasadena Rose Bowl to watch the 4th of July fireworks show with all the kids. The following week, we did a 4 day trip to Lake Casitas Campground with Kimberly, Lance, and the kids for a mini-vacation. After that, we stayed 2 nights at the beach campground at Camp Pendleton with Sean and family. And, finally, we took the Bear to Lake Elsinore for 3 days to watch Garrett play in an All Star Tournament in Ontario.
We were starting to get things figured out. I wrote and re-wrote our Set-up and Departure checklists (it’s still a work in progress), and little by little decided where to put all our stuff. We made many trips to Camping World, Walmart, Home Depot and Costco. Then we decided we were ready to do it for real.
We planned a 3+ month route and took off on August 1. Our first official ‘destination’ was Valley of Fire in Nevada. We stopped for the night in Calico Ghost Town on the way there, just to break up the drive. We learned the hard way that we should disconnect the cub (that’s what we’ve decided to call our towed Ford Edge), before driving deep into an unknown campground.
We found ourselves at the dead end of a skinny road and made the mistake of trying to turn around. It quickly became obvious that we didn’t have enough turning radius, and would need to disconnect the cub, and back up the bear. The problem was that we were in a jack knife position and the tow bars didn’t want to release. It wasn’t easy, but we finally got the creatures separated. We inched our way back to the road and headed straight to the KOA for the night. Easy in, easy out. Ate dinner at Peggy Sue’s 50’s diner. Mike actually ordered meatloaf! The wine list was short: Chablis, Rose or Burgundy. We had fun listening to the 50’s and 60’s music and playing the trivia games in the little booklets at the table.
The View From Our Campsite in Valley of Fire NV
Arriving at the Valley of Fire in Nevada the next day was breathtaking. THIS is what we envisioned for our road trip. So beautiful! The red rocks are amazing. Nevada is so hot in August that the campground was almost empty. We had our pick of spots all to ourselves. Loved it! Tonight we celebrated with champagne. We sat in the shade of the Bear and watched the setting sun change the colors of the rocks. THIS is the beginning of the journey.
We took a morning hike to see some of the interesting rock formations before it got too hot. We wanted see the sights that we learned about in the Visitors Center. Hiking through the red rock canyons and cliffs was absolutely beautiful, but it was very hot (over 100 degrees)! We spotted a couple of big-horned sheep. That was very cool! On our final evening in the Valley of Fire, we saw lightning in the distance. It went on for quite a long time, but we never heard thunder and it didn’t rain.
Before departing the Valley of Fire, Mike filled the water tank, added distilled water to the batteries and topped up the anti-freeze in the generator. Then we stopped at the dump station and emptied the grey and black tanks.
We continued on to Interstate 15 and the Virgin River Gorge Recreation Area in Arizona. This is a BLM (Bureau of Land Management) site with no hook-ups. Again, the campground was empty. It is sweltering hot here. We took a site with a covered picnic table overlooking the Virgin River Gorge. There is a tall red rock cliff on the other side of the gorge. Very pretty, but hot, hot, hot.
Virgin River Gorge, AZ
We planned to monitor our generator voltage and find out how long we can last without running the generator. The generator is used to charge the house batteries, and is also necessary to run the air conditioner, washer, dryer, and microwave (just like in the boat). The main draw on our house batteries is our residential refrigerator. We wanted to see how long it would take for the refrigerator to pull our voltage down. But it was too hot to ever turn off the generator because we needed the air conditioning! This cheap $4 site was turning out to be very expensive … in diesel fuel! We estimate that we burn about 1/2 gal per hr.
After enjoying an early morning hike into the gorge, we packed up and headed for Utah. We found a Passport America campground called St. George’s RV Resort in Hurricane, Utah. A full 50 amp hook-up, with free cable TV, and a swimming pool and spa was only $13. The site is very tight, but it’s got some shade and our front window looks out at the vivid red rock cliffs on the other side of the highway.
We took a fun 2 1/2 mile hike in the Red Cliffs Recreation Area this morning before breakfast. Saw dinosaur prints in the red rocks, which was very cool. I’m really enjoying these little hikes we’ve been taking. The exercise feels good and the views are spectacular. But mostly we seem to be driving into St. George to shop or else we’re watching TV in the comfort of our air conditioned home!
I got a new camera lens for my Canon DSLR, so I’m excited about that. Can’t wait to play with it. Actually, I got two. My camera was acting up, so it forced me to go to a camera store to work out my problem. I had to replace my lens, and while we were there Mike encouraged me to get the other lens I’d been wanting. So I did! And now we have GOT to stop spending money! We keep thinking of things we must have and finding little projects to do in the Bear. Today Mike put handles on my cabinet doors (which I love).
I am still learning how to do this blog. Hopefully, I will soon be able to get pictures posted the way I want. And I need to learn about ‘widgets’ and all that. I plan to create a category just for stuff that we are doing to the RV. And another one with details about each campsite we stay at, for example the price, services, etc. Anyway, this will be a work in progress and will hopefully provide value to somebody! Good night for now!