Camping

Spring please

This winter has been the most challenging since moving to Portland. The weather has been contributing to our slow start to this years adventuring. We were greeted with an ice storm early December which was followed a month later with a snow storm that dumped ten inches of snow in Portland.

IMG_4160.JPG

Portland ice storm December 9, 2016

The city shut down for a week with temperatures hovering between 20 – 32 degrees. It’s rare to find a shoveled sidewalk since most people don’t own a shovel for the once a year one inch snow fall. I used our dustpan to remove snow from the steps so Wiley would tolerate going out. The sidewalks became packed down and turned quickly to thick layers of ice. My Sorel boots worked wonderful the first couple of days but as the snow turned to ice they were useless. Those metal spikes for the bottoms of shoes seem like a white elephant gift, but are sctually practical. I broke down and ordered a pair but they arrived a week too late. I am prepared for next year!

img_5209

Portland snow storm – January 11, 2017

Having grown up in the Midwest, it was a strange site seeing cars and busses driving around the city with chains for a solid week. The streets were the quietest I have ever seen. The first few days it was easier to walk the street than the sidewalk. Nights were lively with adults and kids playing in the snow. So much snow art could be found throughout the city.

img_5222

Southeast Portland snow art

By the third day of work from home, I was restless and needed to get to the office. I rummaged through our Minnesota bin to find the essentials, snow pants, mittens, hat and the warmest coat I own. I hobbled on the snow and ice covered side walked to my bus stop. Pro tip, the schedules are never right with bad weather. The TriMet app will say one minute till arrival and the bus never shows. I have concluded the city is filled with ghost buses. When the bus actually does arrive it was so packed the driver would not pick up anyone else. So I started walking towards the next stop. Lucky for me, the next stop one person got off and I was able to hop on. Chains can be noisy and vehicles should only go a maximum of 25 mph. On the bright side it makes for a scenic commute across the Burnside Bridge.

Exactly a month later we reserved a site at Cape Lookout State Park for our first R-pod adventure of the year. The temperatures were promising highs in the 50’s which felt quite warm after the chilly January weather we had been experiencing.

img_5604

First camping of the season – February 11, 2017

Removing the cover was much easier than expected. Mike, thinking ahead, bought a pump to fill the tires. We added a few belongings for our one night stay and we were quickly on the road. The R-pod isn’t that large but requires extra attention and being alert in traffic.

We came across a few challenges on our first R-pod adventure. Our first discovery was the battery no longer holds a charge. The battery is five years old so that is not much of a surprise. The second surprise came at Cape Lookout State Park. They have incredible RV sites with water hook ups, electrical and sewer dump at each site. We took this opportunity to fill the tank with water. While organizing the bedroom, I peaked in the bathroom and saw a steady stream of water flowing down the drain. The pipe connection at the base of the toilet was spraying water. Thinking back on it we forgot to use the pressure value and may have just had too much pressure causing the water to spray. We’ll need some further investigation. I swear that toilet has it out for us.

IMG_5611.JPG

Cape Lookout State Park, Oregon

The rest of the weekend went smooth. On the ride home we did find one minor hiccup that the sewer water cover had fallen off during our drive back and had been bouncing as we drove. Now the cover won’t stay on due to a few prongs busted off. Easy fix though – we’ll just need to order a replacement.

I have to say, I am proud to have Mike as my partner. We have an ability to work through the unexpected together without fighting but rather laughter. Seriously he is the best.

Shit Happens

We made it to Wisconsin on Labor Day ready for our tiny home travel trailer r-pod adventure to begin. We exchanged a quick hello with my parents and immediately began our r-pod lessons with my dad. We had two days to learn all we needed on its operations before our 2,500 mile trip back to Oregon. We knew we had a long journey ahead of us.

img_2758

Beaver Dam, WI

While at my parents we slept in the r-pod to help learn as much as possible and to become comfortable navigating the small space with two humans and a small dog. It was a humid week which guided our first lesson, how to run the AC. We plugged into the garage electrical to power the AC. Next we learned about filling the water tanks and how to care for the toilet. An important note about the toilet, always remember to use the fancy pills and special TP in your travel trailer.

The second night we switched the r-pod to run on propane. The refrigerator is able to run on electric or propane. We made the switch to the propane tank no sweat. We were nervous about the battery holding charge since the r-pod had been sitting for four years, but no problems thus far.

Mike took the 4Runner to the dealer for an oil change and assistance hooking up the electrical cabling for the trailer’s lights and brakes. It was a much harder task than we expected, which required removing paneling to expose the hidden the wires.

One of my favorite memories was jamming four of us into the trailer, including Wiley, for our nightly happy hours. The second day through the night we were greeted with pouring rain and very active thunder showers. We were able to really test the r-pod’s window seals. The morning after the storms checked the rain gauge and it had recorded 7.5” of rain!

img_2685

Happy hour in the r-pod

It took two hours to prepare for departure and for us to learn the final steps of how to hook the trailer to the 4Runner and setup of the sway bar. Easy peezy. Mike tested our successful connection by circling through the driveway to quickly find the trailer brake sensitivity was to high and were locking hard anytime he braked. Thank god for my parents experiences navigating trailer issues and their support. We had to turn down the setting so the trailer brakes wasn’t so sensitive. We were on the road by noon with a full charge, full water tank and packed optimally for no spills.

The r-pod definitely brings a different dynamic to our adventuring lifestyle. For long road trips it was beautiful pulling into a rest stop to sleep for free in a real bed. Our lunch stops were delicious and typically consisted of a variety of cheeses, salami and hummus with carrots. It was also convenient and pleasant being able to stop anywhere for bathroom relief in a clean toilet.

The not so attractive aspects was the slower highway speeds and decreased mpg, which was expected. Gas stops became much much more frequent, which Wiley didn’t complain. Our feel economy went from 18 to 12 mpg. Any mountain pass were painfully slow but allowed for scenic daydreaming for longer periods than usual.

After a few days we arrived in Utah for a longer stay. We found a great spot off of the Columbia River were backing up the r-pod wasn’t to stressful. I would have never guessed temps would be in the high 90s in the middle of September. Luckily at night it cooled down to a comfortable temperature for comfortable open window sleeps. We used the day hours for exploring back roads of the surrounding area and soaked up the 4Runner AC.

img_2894

Fisher Tower, Utah

The sunrise and sunsets across the red rock left me speechless. It was like watching a painting transform before your eyes. The fine red dust was left everywhere in the 4runner and even stained our feet red. One of my fondest memories was taking a shower in the open air lite by the full moon. The water was cool but the air was refreshingly warm. Any water temp would have felt amazing after four days with no shower.

img_2915

Watching the sunset at our campsite

Our last full day in Utah we traveled the Shafer Canyon Road, which had two hours of incredible views that no camera could capture it’s true beauty. The next morning we packed up and hit the road. We were chasing storms for miles and watched the dark rainy skies closing in on either side of us. As we hit western Utah the angry skies greeted us with a hail storm that pelted our left side. The sound was so loud it felt as if the r-pod windows would break at any moment. We pulled over to wait it out. The site of hail was much more beautiful at a stand still.

img_3064

Shafer Canyon Road, Utah

We made it to Great Basin National Park that same day. Where the desert meets the mountains. We started the morning with 90’s and pulled into our campsite with temps in the low 30’s. I looked out of place, running around in flip flops and a sundress as we passed campers wearing winter coats, mittens and hats. Wiley preferred the comfort of the r-pod to outdoors. We made a hot meal on the gas stove and snuggled up for the cold evening.

img_3282

Great Basin National Park – elevation 10,000 ft

We pushed hard the following day to find a great stay at Crystal Creek Hot Springs in southeast Oregon. We rolled in barely making it in time before they closed. We were able to hook up electrical for a comfortable evening with heat. At 10pm we took an evening soak in the 101 degree pond. The skies were clear, the stars bright and the swim felt so good. With a center of 7 feet deep swimming laps gave a good workout. We also took a morning dip, followed that up with a hot shower.

img_3309

Crystal Creek Hot Spring, Oregon

We finished our road trip at one of our favorite campground, Trillium Lake. This is where the journey went quickly from easy to stressful. Before bed I used the toilet and noticed the water had difficulty draining. I mentioned this to Mike and he thought nothing of it other than maybe try to use more water. The following morning the water wouldn’t go down at all. Rather it seemed to fill the bowl the more water we used. And we learned quickly concluded, the shitter must be clogged. Our brilliant next idea was to find a long stick and push the backed up toilet paper down the hole. Well that severely backfired, literally with a bowl full of brown poop water. This is where the panic set in and our minds raced. To stop our near freak out, we took a walk around Trillium Lake to think. Two miles later our solution emerged, cling wrap the pot and seal with painters tape.

img_3349

Trillim Lake and Mt. Hood

One of Mike’s many hidden talents is his ability to have an instant gag reflex when smelling vomit or poop. So, that left it up to me… rolled up my sleeves, held my breath and wrapped the pot as quickly as possible. Of course the bathroom fan had to stop working at this very minute even though it worked the whole trip up until this point.

img_3330

The calm before the storm

Fun fact, the majority of RV repair shops will not work on toilets. The one place that did in the area had a 6 days wait. We quickly switched gears and focused on our necessary DMV trip to Sandy to register the trailer. Another fun fact, no storage facility will accept your trailer unless it is registered in Oregon.

As I waited the hour and a half for my turn at the DMV, Mike gave the toilet another attempt in the Safeway parking lot two blocks away. He sacrificed a set of tongs, a few sticks and a waste bucket for our new trailer. I questioned nothing. My number was finally called and was thankful to be greeted by a bubbly smiling lady. We completed the necessary paperwork and then the nice lady requests to see the trailer for VIN validation to complete my registration. I give an awkward smile since this should be an easy ask but little does she know of my poopy toilet problem.

I call Mike, “Babe you need to drive over to the DMV now.” Mike replies, “Umm yeah the toilet is full of brown poop water and uncover.” At this moment I am walking outside with the DMV lady listening to her rave about how she can’t wait to get her own travel trailer someday. I giggle and quietly reply, “Prepare for some adventures with the toilet.” Mike rolls up with a very uneasy face and makes small talk with the nice DMV lady as she gushes about our cute trailer. A few minutes later we’re verified and Oregon registered. I meet Mike in the Safeway parking lot and go full action with rubber gloves and cleaning supplies on the toilet. I lysol every inch of that  trailer as quickly as possible and cling wrap the pot secured with painters tape for no spillage, maybe?

We needed to find a dump station and the closest was 30 minutes the opposite direction toward Mt Hood. It was a fancy camping resort that charged $12.50 for a dump. At this point all that mattered was figuring out how to unclog the loo. We pulled up and found this magical 3ft long rebar sitting next to the dump. With rubber gloves, shirt covering his face, Mike bravely went into the bathroom and forcefully shoved the rebar down the shoot. It takes a few attempts and finally I hear that sweet chucky sound of bile flowing through the poop shoot. We both cheered loudly at our accomplishment. We flushed a few gallons of water through the tank and thoroughly wiped down every inch of that bathroom.

img_3357

Hello Portland!

Next we dropped the trailer at our storage and cleaned out all used items like dishes and bedsheets. That last 30 minutes home never felt so good. We both were exhausted and smelled like shit.

We have a bitter sweet feeling toward the r-pod. My first thought was thank god this happened our last night of vacation instead of in the middle or in Utah with those hot temps. We would have both been throwing up from the smell. We’re looking forward to getting our r-pod again sometime soon. Cheers to whatever our next adventure throws at us. It can’t be worse than a clogged toilet I hope. Shit happens but it’s all apart of the adventure.

Where it all began

We had a rough start to 2014 having to return early from our around the world trip for Mike to recover from dengue and typhoid. The silver lining is this setback provided time for us to discover a new found passion which ignited our adventurous spirit and love for the outdoors.

In late January, four months into our international travel, we flew back to the states. We opted for Arizona’s sunny skies rather than Minnesota’s frigid below zero temps. We had our 60 liter backpacks, holes in our cloths, we were sun-kissed, exhausted but happy.

img_6693

Oro Valley, AZ visiting Mike’s mom

We had no official home or even a vehicle to get around. Mike found a great deal on a Mazda hatchback in Minneapolis, so we flew back to buy the car. We exchanged cloths, visited family and friends and were reunited with Wiley, our amazing pup. We grabbed what little camping gear we had left which comprised of sleeping bags, pillows and a coleman stove. Next we hit the road to Colorado to see my brother and their new baby girl, Kadence Lillian. Luckily for us Travis wasn’t planning on camping anytime soon so he borrowed us his tent and headlamps.

A week later we were on the road again, headed southwest toward Moab. Utah instantly captured my heart as we drove south on Hwy 128 surrounded by the massive red rock walls and the babbling Colorado River. We saw campsites available as we drove closer to town.

13545811213_7ed3d04832_o

Hwy 128 heading toward Moab, UT

We rolled in Moab for gas, looked at each other and agreed immediately we should stay a few days. Our most affordable option was to camp. Moab was smaller than we expected and fortunately for us we were able to find everything we needed at the True Value Hardware. The essentials included a blow up mattress, two spoons, two bowls, canned soup, triscuits, firewood, an axe and of course, our camping staple, hot sauce.

Camping in Utah during March was colder than expected. You know it’s cold when Wiley paws you awake in the middle of the night to crawl into your sleeping bag. In the morning, Wiley was shaking from the chilly morning air. We boiled water for our coffees and cranked the heat in the Mazda for Wiley to warm up. We headed into town and found the best breakfast burritos.

img_7093

Big Bend Campground, Utah

We spent the week exploring Utah’s five National Parks and camped our way back to Arizona. We kept our camping momentum for the next several months as we road tripped around the western states exploring the national parks.

It’s been two years since this trip and last summer alone we camped almost every weekend, started in April and ended in October. On a rare occasion we were in town we would get the itch and need to, at a bare minimum, take a day trip to a national forest or the coast.

We closed out this summer with a 5000 mile road trip to Wisconsin and back. We picked up a cute little travel trailer, the r-pod, from my parents. Thanks mom and dad!

img_2744

Leaving Beaver Dam, WI

We found it only fitting to repeat our Utah adventure on the journey back to Portland, OR. I was beyond excited to cross off another bucket list item – driving the 37 miles of the Shafer Canyon Road in Canyonland National Park.

fullsizerender-2

Top of Shafer Canyon Road

I am humbled and honored by what nature provides us. It surrounds us everyday, from the smallest of creatures to breathtaking views. Appreciate your surroundings no matter the scale. It can be as simple as a snail crossing or a waterfall pouring down from a giant mountain. Seriously, where does all that water come from? Find a tree wider than your arm span or wake before the sun to watch it rise.

image-1

Natures beauty

Find that sense of wonder and appreciate all life has to offer. Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed. Love hard and do things that make you happy. Get out there and keep discovering!

Finding Comfort in the Discomfort

By my very nature I am a planner. In my work life I am a project manager and in my personal life I create spreadsheets to plan for every trip or major life event. 

There is something exhilarating and terrifying  about traveling with no plan in place. The stress of where will I sleep tonight or where is my next bathroom option are top of mind. This past weekend we did just that, left the city with a general goal of seeing the Painted Hills but nothing concrete was planned. 

As the sky grew dark and the long day fell upon us we started the hunt for a campsite. We passed by a KOA which gave me comfort there was a backup plan a few miles away. Our first stop was Haystack Reservoir Campground and to our surprise it had a few sites still available. We setup camp on top of the hill facing the lake. As the yellow morning glow grew across the hilltops we were greeted with the site of Mt Jefferson in the distance.

IMG_9928

The Ochoco National Forest provided a maze of exciting and scenic gravel roads for Clifford, our loyal 4Runner enjoyment. Painted Hills in the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument was a heavenly site of magical rainbow ribbons paired perfectly with the bright blue sky backdrop.

IMG_9953