25 April 2016

Our 2016 North America adventure begins

We arrived back in the USA in mid April and I’ve spent the last couple of months working on our itinerary for our next trip - we are going to the East Coast. I never usually do so much preparation for a camping trip but we need to book ahead in a number of places such as New Jersey for New York. I’ve been reading other people’s blogs to get ideas of where to go, not many people have blogged about the East Coast so it's difficult finding out information.

We spent a couple of days with our friends Dale and Shelly in Yucca Valley CA. We aren't usually here in spring to see Shelly’s cacti when they are in bloom, so it's really nice to see some of them this year. The flowers are absolutely gorgeous and amazingly fragile looking for such an ominous plant.

Lindsay always has a couple of jobs to perform on our camper before we ever go anywhere, this time it was installing a new electronic grey water tank valve. He did the black water tank valve before we left for Mexico and liked it so much he wanted to do the grey valve too. It makes doing a horrible job a lot easier. They are called Drainmaster and it takes about two hours to install, which includes the electrics. So now all he has to do is hook up the sewer hose and press a button. We also got new license (registration) plates for our truck as they have changed the way they charge us, it is now based on the tonnage of the vehicle, so they had to be replace the old ones.

We are now back on the road and it feels good. We got on the road by 8am on the first day and drove 335 miles, which took us to Williams in Arizona. We’ve taken out a Passport America subscription this year as I think we might actually use it. For $45 year, you get 50% off the normal rate of some RV parks ($40 if you buy through Campingworld + 3 extra months). Often there are restrictions during peak periods, holidays or Friday and Saturdays – so we won’t be able to use it at all participating parks. For transit stops we often camp in Walmart but there aren’t any in Williams so we found a PA membership park and saved $24, so we are halfway to recouping our membership already. As we pulled into the campground another camper alerted us to a noise he could hear coming from one of our wheels on the trailer. After we parked, Lindsay found it was red hot. He thought a wheel bearing had gone even though we had had them serviced last year. We rang around a number of people until one said he could come. It turned out that a brake adjuster had come undone, so a brake was dragging. $225 later all was fixed. Lindsay gave a couple of beers to the guy who alerted us and he was going to give the mechanic one too - until he got the bill!

The next leg was 368 miles Williams AZ to Edgewood in New Mexico. The brake guy had suggested that we stay at the Casino just out of town but Lindsay remembered that he needed an oil change so we found a Walmart. We got an oil change, did some shopping and got somewhere to stay for the night. We spent nearly $250, so it works out well for them too.

We were hoping that it wasn’t going to rain as our wiper blades had disintegrated due to the desert sun and dry air. Looking at our GPS there wasn’t an Autozone within 400 miles in the direction we were heading. Luckily there was a Napa along our route, so we picked some up and by the time the rain should have arrived we were in a different state. We had to replace our Tom Tom GPS last year as the old one kept turning itself off, annoyingly just as needed it to turn a corner. We replaced it with the Garmin RV model which is fantastic. We’ve put in the height of our 5th Wheel and so far it hasn’t taken us anywhere we can’t fit under. The screen is super big and the extra information is really handy, now we just need to work out where to find everything in the menus!

We’ve had four or five time zone changes in less than a week, so we’re getting up at some stupid hour as we’re awake. It’s working out well though as we get away early and get most of the driving out of the way by just after lunch. I’ve been making sandwiches every day for the first time so we that don’t need to stop. I hope we can keep it up.

Palo Duro Canyon state park

It's a green canyon, not quite as Grand as the one in Arizona

In Texas we had planned to stay in Palo Duro Canyon state park that our friend Steve suggested. It’s the Texas equivalent of the Grand Canyon, so I was really looking forward to seeing it. There were no reservations available online but it said there were some first come first served sites available. We got there before 12pm hoping luck would be on our side, but there was nothing left. It’s the weekend after all, so this is a warning to make future reservations for Friday and Saturday nights. We went back the following day and chose a six-mile moderate walk to the Lighthouse. Lindsay knew very quickly that he wasn’t going to be able to keep walking as driving 300+ miles a day had taken it’s toll. So we parted ways at 1.2 miles and I went on alone with my heavy camera. America has amazing parks, trails and wonderful scenery. I love being back here.

the main trail
A reptile scuttled across the track and into the scrub. He blended into his new surroundings and it took a few minutes for me to find him again. About three groups passed me before one stopped, it’s a horny toad, one of the girls said; a Texan emblem apparently. He’s in the shape of a toad which is where he gets his name from, but in fact he’s a lizard.

A Thorny Toad lizard

I was about half-way now to the Lighthouse, which is a large rock formation the lady in the visitor centre had shown me through the powerful scope. A large thermometer on the track told me it was 80°F, it was getting warm. There were about three tracks in the general direction of the Lighthouse and I was told the left one was the quickest. Yes, the quickest but the steepest! I didn’t have any trouble getting up, but I knew getting down was going to be a problem and I didn’t have Lindsay with me to coax me down. You can actually climb right to the top but I settled for the first level.

the quick route, this section had places to put my feet, further up it was like a slide
Nearly there, I went to the flat bit between the two towers
View of the canyon
Coming down looked steeper from above so I crouched down and moved slowly using my hands as anchors. It was tempting to slide down on my bum, but the rubble would have ruined my shorts and I may not have been able to stop. It made me feel a bit better when a number of others behind me followed suit. Apparently I just missed a rattlesnake - quite happy to miss one of those.

On the way back the temperature had risen another 5° and my camera was feeling heavier. It’s been a while since I wore hiking boots and blisters were forming on my heels. Most of the benches were in full sun but I did find a couple in the shade to sit as I needed to get the weight off my shoulders. Lindsay was going to give me another 20 minutes before he came looking for me as there were a number of fast moving mountain bikers on the trails and he was worried one had ridden into me. We’d been told it was a four-hour walk and it had only been two hours since I’d left him, so I thought I was doing pretty well. People only started passing me towards the very end; that last mile was a real killer.

People climb to the top but I thought I'd save my energy

So our first impression of Texas? flat wide open spaces and lots of wind turbines.

flowers along the trail, a pity I didn't have the right lens with me
For our leg through Oklahoma this morning we set off at 7am, our earliest yet. We were treated to a magnificent sunrise as well as green grass and shrubs all along the highway, we are officially out of the desert. Tomorrow we head to Memphis.


  1. Great capture of the cactus flower, they are so vibrant !
    Palo Duro has been mentioned to check it and from your beautiful photos it looks worth a visit. If we ever come through Texas this will be our only stop.
    It looks like you are both excited with your East Coast trip. Just keep in mind to always look up to the sky before moving on and keep your air condition in perfect shape.

  2. thank you ML for the advice, though we may not have the luxury of waiting out any rain! I just want to thank you for your blog, it certainly helped me plan this trip, so I may not have too many places to alert you to as you will have been to most of them!

  3. great update - Palo Duro is pretty amazing - glad you made it

  4. I'm way behind on your blog posts -- for some reason I haven't been getting updates. Anyway, welcome back to the States and the glorious adventures awaiting you! I'll be interested to follow along as you explore the East Coast. We loved our stay in Memphis in the fall -- hope you like it, too. And we always enjoy Texas. We're making our way slowly back to the West Coast for the summer and just left Austin. Happy and safe travels!

    1. Thanks Laurel, you have inspired me with your Florida posts and I hope to fit in some of those places on our trip in 2018!