Day 385 – Leaving early for Flagstaff

The general consensus was that Lake Mead is too hot.  So, we left a day early to go back to the cool elevation of Flagstaff.

It seams funny to say but, there is almost nothing of interest between Lake Mead and Flagstaff.
Flat open road with a few elevation changes to keep the trip exciting.
The rig doesn’t do well climbing long hills with the Jeep in tow and the tractor trailers don’t do much better.  There is a lot of jocking for position that goes on while traveling up and down all the long hills.

On the way up the hills we gradually slow down to about 45 mph.  Some trucks are empty or carrying lighter cargo and pass all the heavy trucks on the climbs.  Then we get to the top and start rolling at highway speeds again down the mountains.  We hit 70 and 80 mph coming down the mountains with engine brakes ON to keep the speeds under control. This avoids us from burning out the mechanical brakes.

The posted speed limit for most of the trip was 80 mph but, I typically don’t travel at speeds over 70 mph.  The rig feels more manageable at lower speeds and thats important if you need to change lanes quickly or if the traffic comes to stop quickly.  The motorhome doesn’t like to stop quickly and I’ve had a few scares that made me think twice about my life.  

If you have to stop, it will stop but, everything in the rig gets reorganized in the process. Plus, you have to deal with the smell of burning brake pads that comes with bringing 20 tons to a commanding stop.  

Sometimes you come around a corner and the traffic light is RED or there is some traffic backed up and I’ve had a few chances to really put the brakes to the test.  I like to keep those opportunities to a minimum so, I drive a little slower most of the time. I also leave lots of room between me and the guy in front of me and always give others the right of way.  It’s been working out very well for me.

So, back to the journey….. We drove 3 1/2 hours to Flagstaff and I loved seeing the signs as we got closer to our new home town.  (FLAGSTAFF 130 MILES).
We stopped off in a small town, called Seligman, for gas and lunch only to realize that we were on Historic Route 66.  There was an old barn with pictures of Mater and Lightning McQueen from the movie “CARS” painted on the side. 

There are so many rustic small towns that you would never know existed as you fly by them at 80 mph on I-40.  I’m glad we got to see this one.  It was a nice break from a long day of driving and the people here were so nice.

As we approched Flagstaff, we caught site of the San Francisco mountains.  These are the tallest mountains in Arizona and I found out that it used to be the home of a volcano.  The Flagstaff local ski resort “Snowbowl” is in these mountains now and only a 30 minute drive from our new home.  I don’t know very much about everything “Flagstaff” yet but, I will find out more as I live here.

We love Flagstaff and all the beautiful places up in nothern Arizona.  Route 66 runs right through town as well as freight trains that roll though each day with 60 to 100 cars “click clacking” there way by.  There is something very special about this town which I just can’t put my finger on.  There are tons beautiful restaurants and eclectic shops, as well, which makes this place fun to explore.

With all that said, we are just happy to be home right now!

We close on our new home July 30th and we have some mixed emotions about the sadness of ending our trip and the excitement of moving into our beautiful new house.  We really enjoyed the constant excitement of seeing new places every few days and getting to explore and hike all over the US.  We will definitely miss that and having a house to spread out into is something we can’t stop thinking about.

This was one of my favorite moments from our trip across the country. We all got soaked rafting, frozen from hail, warmed back up in a hot spring and came out smiling from an incredible adventure. I will miss this trip but, I look forward to tomorrow.

Day 384 – Hoover Dam and Boulder City

With no AC in our Jeep and a lot of water, we set out today to see the Hoover Dam and to pick up a few items at the grocery store.

Oddly enough, the Dam was closed. They had federal security guards turning cars around at the main gate and we had no choice but to turn back.  There was no place where you could see the dam at all.

We drove across the new 4 lane bridge that was built a few years ago and the guard rails were too high and we couldn’t see the dam from there either. 

Maybe if we hiked down into the canyon we could have gotten a glimpse of it but, everyone was overheating in the 117 degree heat so that option was out.

I’ve noticed that I am talking a lot about the heat and many of you may have lived in 110 plus heat and are saying to yourself, how bad could this be.  I’m not one to shy away from hot weather.  I loved the heat in the Florida keys and really enjoyed places like Marco Island and Sanibel Island.  It was hot but, there was lots of respite from the heat. We were never far from the ocean, a pool, an air conditioned restaurant, our RV or even our Jeep.

The problem with Lake Mead is that there is no where to escape the heat (even for a few minutes).  The visitors center was closed, the pools are all closed, the beach is a 10 minute drive away (plus there is nothing at the beach except the 85 degree water),  there are no stores or shops anywhere near the dam and there are no trees to find shade anywhere.

Our RV would cool down in the shade of a palm tree or evergreen tree or any kind of tree but, it can’t cool down in direct 115 degree sunlight.  Plus, we love to adventure and the adventure comes with lots of complaining and a level of suffering while we travel anywhere.

With that said, we left the Hoover Dam without actually seeing it and drove about 10 minutes to the Boulder City grocery store.  Here we found some respite as the store was open and air conditioned. 

We hooked up the kids with Ice Cream to cool them down.  All the red faces was a bit much to take and they looked about ready to drop.

We also picked up a few additional items at the store that we overlooked while shoping in St. George’s a few days ago.

We were honestly looking for any reason to spend a little longer in the AC.  We hadn’t experienced cold air conditioning in days and it felt so good.

The ice cream melted in our hands all the way home and all the kids laughed about how quickly it was turning to mush.

Jenn and I decided that this place was not enjoyable and I called our Flagstaff campground and added tomorrow to our reservation.

We will be leaving this crazy heat tomorrow.

Our view of the Hoover Dam from the bridge. So disappointing!

Day 383 – Wow its hot

I’ve never experienced anything like this heat at Lake Mead.  It’s absolutely brutal and there is no escape.

The AC units on the RV have not stopped running since 7am this morning and it actually keeps getting warmer in our RV as the day rolls on.  

Last night we were able to turn off one of the units to give it a rest while the temperature dropped into the high 90’s.

We went down to the lake again today to cool off.  The kids loved it but, you start to heat up again within 5 minutes of leaving the water.

Our AC in the Jeep is out. So, traveling anywhere outside of a 5 mile radius is completely out of the question.  When we drove to the beach today it was 116 degrees outside.  We brought a ton of water with us and it goes fast as we travel.

Jenn and I visted the campground store today on our bikes.  It’s hard to travel far in this heat but, we are constantly trying to make the most of each day.

Day 382 – Swimming in Lake Mead

It was 115 degrees at 11am and with all 3 of our AC units running we couldn’t get the RV below 74 degrees.  

At that temperature you can’t really go outside for more than 15-20 minutes without winding up in a hospital.  So, we hung out inside and played board games, setup forts and did everything we could to have fun.

I left a plastic cup up against the window while driving yesterday and, while cleaning up today, I found the cup had melted.  The sun here is so hot that can’t leave anything in the sun or it will melt. So, I pulled down the GPS and the Jeep braking monitor from the windows to avoid losing any of my tech.

At about 2pm we decided to take the kids swimming in Lake Mead.  The beach was a 5 minute drive from our campsite and it was brutal in the heat, which had actually increased to 119 degrees.  Remember that our AC in the Jeep went out 2 days ago near the Grand Canyon. 

It’s Murphy’s law that your AC unit fails 2 days before you visit the hottest place on your year long adventure.  Sometimes life works that way.

So, we got into our very hot Jeep and drove the 5 minutes to the lake for a dip.  When I say that it was hot…that is an understatement.  It was like a furnace outside. 

Jenn and Luke said that having the windows down in the Jeep felt like a blowdryer blasting on their faces. We actually realized that having the windows rolled up about 80% was the best experience.

Jenn and I laughed with the kids while telling stories of the trips we took growing up before we had air conditioning in cars.  Sitting in our family cars baking hot and usually in traffic.  For me it was a Buick station wagon with all of my siblings moaning about how hot it was and who just farted. Lol

We arrived at the lake and jumped into 85 degree water.  We were looking for 70 degree water for some refreshment but, that just wasn’t the case.  All things considered, it felt great to jump in that lake and swim with my kids. 

When you step out of the water you dry off in about 3 1/2 minutes.  It is so dry here that you don’t even sweat.

We drove our “hot box” (the Jeep) back to our campsite and that was our adventure for the day.

I don’t think we are going to last long in this place if it doesn’t cool down.

Day 381 – Driving from the North Rim to Lake Mead

Coming down from 8000 feet in Northern Arizona was a little rough on the ears. Everyone was dealing with the pressure change. Las Vegas is at about 1500 feet and although we made our decent in increments, you feel it.

We had to travel North to eventually go Southwest around the Grand Canyon. This put us back in Utah for a short amount of time.

We found a road side Hamburger/Pizza stop in Utah with diesel fuel truck pumps. Its hard to find gas stations that you can get a 64 foot rig into and out of without having to disconnect the Jeep or, at the very least, back up.

Remember that you can’t backup when you flat tow a vehicle. The front wheels of the tow vehicle just turn and lock in one direction and then things start breaking. So, finding an easy access gas station in the middle of nowhere was a true find that I wasn’t going to pass up.

We grabbed a nice enjoyable lunch and got back on the road with a full tank of diesel. We drove for a while in Utah through valleys of rock walls and dried up river beds. The altitude change caused the temperature to rise up into the 100’s and we started up the generator to run our three AC units as we traveled down the road.

All the towns we drove through were very small and not very inviting. We all wondered what it would be like to live in these places. It felt like a tuff like growing up in this part of Utah. It was very flat, dry and extremely hot.

We eventually came upon St. Georges. This was a large city with a very modern feel. They also had every store known to man. They had lots of palm trees which came as a surprise to us, being in Utah. I always think of Utah as a cold place but, I realized that we were very far south and at a very low altitude.

We found a great place to grab some organic food and restocked our RV. Its been about a week since we left Salt Lake city and we haven’t seen any grocery stores since then.

Next on our list was a new bike for Caitlin. Her last bike had a host of problems and blew a flat tire during our trip to Mt. Rushmore. I’m not sure how the tire went flat while being transported but, that was the last straw and it found a dumpster in South Dakota.

We found a Dicks Sporting Goods and I managed to get the rig into yet another small parking lot to do our shopping.

The store had a bike that Caitlin loved. I honestly thought she wanted a pink or purple bike but, when she saw all the bikes, she went straight to an orange bike and said that this is one I want. It had 18 speeds and fit her perfect.

We added a water bottle holder, kick stand and a bell to make it perfect. Away we went to the check out and within 40 minutes we were back on the road again towards Las Vegas.

We are camping out tonight at the RV campground in the Lake Mead Recreation Area. This is a national recreation area attached to the Hoover Dam and its roughly 40 minutes from Las Vegas. Since the AC went out in our Jeep and the outside temperature was 115 degrees, we decided that it would be best to drive the Las Vegas strip today instead of trying to drive back here with no air conditioning. So, I put the Mirage into our GPS and drove the Las Vegas Strip.

The kids were blown away by all the hotels, the statue of liberty, the Eiffel tower, roof top rollercoaster, huge coca cola bottle, water fountains and of course the pyramid with the sphinx.

It would have been nice to spend some time walking around but, there was no chance of finding a 65 foot parking spot here.

We continued our drive from Las Vegas to Lake Mead. When we arrived, after our long day of travel, the campground office was closed. I was thankful to find an envelope attached to the front door with my name on it and inside we found our campsite number and directions. Just as I released the air brake to find my campsite, a staff member came flying in on his golf cart to lead me to my site. That was a welcome site. He took me straight to my site and saved me from making any wrong turns along the way. We setup to camp for the night at Lake Mead in 116 degree weather.

The sun had set and it was still incredible hot outside as we went to bed. I woke up at 3am and it was still 98 degrees. This was a very hot place.

Our view of Lake Mead from the campsite.

Day 380 – A day of rest in the national forest

We are in a dusty campsite filled with tall evergreen trees, 8000 feet up in Kaibab National Park, about 1 hour north of the Grand Canyon. 

Honestly, there isn’t much to do here if you’ve already seen the Grand Canyon.  
The girls took out their hammock and asked me to hang it up.  Luke took a nap while Jenn and I caught up with a few business tasks.  

I find it incredible how much business we can get accomplished from wherever we happen to be (even with poor internet access).  I’m so thrilled we are able to make it work while seeing all the wonderful places we have seen.

We all did our own thing for most of the day and then I got everyone to go with me to the ranger station fire tower. 

This was a 80 foot tall steel truss tower with a lookout both for spotting and directing crews to wild fires.  The booth itself was closed and locked but, we were able to hike 95% of the tower and it was scary/exciting for the kids.  Luke walked up about 20 feet and had second thoughts about the climb.  He retreated back to the bottom, thought about things a bit and then climbed all the way to the top to meet us. 

Sometimes you just need a minute to check in with your fears before you can overcome them.  I was proud of him.

We climbed back down after taking a few pictures and headed back to our campsite for the evening.

Tomorrow we are heading to Las Vegas and Lake Mead.

Day 379 – The Grand Canyon North Rim

We got out a little later than expected today due to a little extra work we need to get handled and some mortgage docs that we had to complete for our upcoming closing at the end of July.  It’s not a lot of fun trying to get a mortgage approved in this climate.

Printing and scanning documents is time consuming and our internet access is so slow that it takes forever to download and upload anything here in Kaibab National Forest.

Luke said the internet access was so bad that he can’t do anything.  His playstation won’t connect to the outside world and his friends are all upset that he can’t join them.  This is life as a 12 year old during COVID.

Anyway,  we did make it to the North Rim but, not until about 3pm.  It was a 1 hour drive from our campground (just outside the park) to the rim.  There is absolutely nothing but, open untouched land for the entire journey with one exception.  There was a small country store about 1/2 way to the rim which had a small supply of groceries, some gifts and a food truck.  

There was also a primitive campground across the street from the country store with absolutely no hookups or internet access. I knew this campground was here and after reading the reviews decided that driving the extra 1/2 hour to be in some form of civilization was worth it.  We had zero cell signal and that just doesn’t work for us.

The north rim is a very tranquil and beautiful place.  It’s quite the opposite of the South Rim and gives you a feeling of what the Grand Canyon was like in the 60’s and 70’s.  Old log cabins with small porches and rocking chairs, a large stone and wood lodge as well as hiking trails everywhere.  

We even came across some bridal paths for horseback riding although we didn’t see any horses.

We walked the Bright Angel trail out to a point in the canyon.  The wind was blowing and the trail was narrow with cliffs that fall away on both sides.  It feels a little awkward when you look down.  The entire world spins for second until you can get your bearings.

The kids didn’t enjoy some parts of the walk and Sydney held my hand for a good portion of the trail. I have to say that I’m not a big fan of heights but, I generally handle it well.  Today, I could feel the butterflies in my stomach as we looked over the edge in certain spots.

After our hike the kids said it was really awesome and that they were happy to be back in the car.

I love sharing things with them that they will remember forever.  I got the feeling this hike would stick in their heads for a while.

We stopped at the general store on the way out of the park and we picked up a few items to remember this place.

I’ve always had a huge fascination with the Grand Canyon and I enjoy every opportunity I’ve ever had to come here.  This was officially my 6th visit to the canyon and it never gets old.  I even camped down in the canyon many years ago, something I don’t think you can do very easily any longer.

While it’s only 82 degrees on the North Rim today, it is easily 105 down near the Colorado River and many people don’t know that.  When traveling down the narrow paths to the canyon floor you have to be extremely prepared for that experience.

In two days we will be heading down to Las Vegas where it is 115 degrees this time of year.  So, we will get our chance to fully experience the hot weather from the shore of Lake Mead.

Day 378 – Bryce Canyon to the Grand Canyon North Rim

We woke up this morning and headed south out of Utah to the Grand Canyon. 

We crossed the border into Arizona and changed time zones today. It’s always confusing changing time zones because it throws off all your calls and meetings.

Most of Arizona doesn’t change their clocks for daylight saving time so, for most of the year they are 3 hours behind New York instead of 2 hours (like the rest of the mountain time zone).

I found us a campsite that is just outside the Grand Canyon NP and has full hookup for the RV.  Kaibab Camper City is the name of the place and it turned out to be a very beautiful campground deep in the woods. It’s also 8000 feet up in the mountains and it was nice and cool.

There is absolutely nothing here except this campground and a gas station but, we are as close as we can get the entrance of the national park.  It’s roughly a 40 minute trip to the park entrance and about 1 hour to the rim of the Grand Canyon.

When we arrived at the campground, I started up the Jeep to disconnect it from the RV and the AC condenser started hissing out air.  So, the AC is no longer working in the Jeep.  That really stinks. 

One of the things I never really liked about the jeep is that the AC condenser has no protection from rocks flying up off the road.  The front grill has large bars with 2 inch openings where a rock could fly through and cause damage.  It finally caught up with me.

We got settled into our spot at the campground and set up for the night.  It is so quiet and beautiful here.

Day 377 – Bryce Canyon National Park

We slept like babies last night. Their are no freight trains in National Forests. Lol

The temperature dropped during evening and we opened the windows to the cool night air.  It was such a refreshing evening and a beautiful morning.

We cooked up a nice breakfast and headed out to our reserved campground to check in.  Our plan was to check in, get the rig hooked up and then head to Bryce Canyon NP for the day. 

The campground was decent but, they had an electrical issue at our campsite.  We decided to just let it be because we were only spending one night here and all we really needed was a safe place to park, water and sewer hook up.  The solar panels on the roof are awesome and they would keep our batteries topped off while we hit the National Park.

Bryce Canyon was incredible.  We hiked a 3.5 mile loop that started on the Rim trail, turned to the Queens Garden trail and ended with The Wall trail.  The trail drops gradually,  over 700 feet, into the canyon and then comes back up quickly at the end.  Hence the name WALL TRAIL. We ascended 700 feet with a series of switchbacks held together by brick walls and staircases.  It was an intense climb that took us somewhat by surpise.

Caitlin loved the hike and led our group the entire way to the top.  Jenn kept telling everyone that she was training for the Olympics as she raced her way to the top.

The Wall trail out of Bryce Canyon. Wow!

We had no idea that we were in for such a steep climb and I had to carry Sydney for a portion of the trail as her legs and energy ran out.  It was a bit too much for her so, I got to be her rockstar for a little while.  A fathers work is never done. Lol.

We finshed the day with a trip to Rainbow Point which we drove to.  Our legs were feeling like rubber after climbing The Wall and I couldn’t have talked them into walking to a steak dinner at this point. So, we drove to Rainbow Point which is the highest point in the park at 9,115 ft.  It provided an incredible view of the entire park.

On the way out of the park we stopped at the visitors center to get Caitlin and Sydney their junior ranger badges.  We picked up the junior ranger workbooks when we entered the park and Sydney and Caitlin were working on the books all day with a lot of help from Jenn.  There was no way we could leave without those badges.

We headed home for dinner with a head full of great memories, a magnet for our fridge, a stuffed animal chipmunk named Bryce, some postcards (for our friends) and last but, certainly not least, junior ranger badges.

Tomorrow we are off to the Grand Canyon North Rim.

Day 376 – Salt Lake City to Bryce Canyon

We had another terrible night sleep with the freight trains blowing through town all night.  I think 6 trains came through last night and at one point Jenn and I started laughing at how ludicrous this was.

When the morning light came Jenn and I were sure we weren’t going to stay here for another night and I started looking for places to go.

The kids were back outside today, having fun with their new friends so, we let them play all morning and didn’t leave Salt Lake City until about 3pm.

We were once again, leaving a paid campground in search of something better but, we needed to follow our instincts and Salt Lake City was bad for my health.

After doing some research, I found that Bryce Canyon National Park was almost directly on our path to the Grand Canyon.  The only problem was that we couldn’t find a campsite to stay for the night.  I was able to book something for tomorrow night and with that, we left Salt Lake City.

It was a 4 hour drive to Bryce and we stopped once for Diesel along the way which added about 20 minutes more. 

When we finally reached Bryce around 7:30pm all the state forest campgrounds were full and there were a few shady looking campgrounds that we simply passed over. 

I would rather sleep in the woods than stay in some of the campgrounds we passed. The only problem I had was that I couldn’t find a spot in the woods. 

I parked the RV in a rest area that did not permit overnight camping and jumped in the Jeep with Sydney to find a campsite.  It was now about 8pm and everyone was getting hungry for dinner.  

Sydney and I found a dirt road that took us into Dixie National Forest and there were signs for dispersed camping sites as well as a campground 7 miles down the road.  

I always loved the idea of dispersed camping but, thats kind of hard to do with a 42ft motorhome towing a 15 ft Jeep with bikes hanging off the back. 

Most of the sites we found were designed for a small car and a tent.  Some of the access roads were not wide enough or tall enough to take a motorhome down.

We ended up going 7 miles down the dirt road, with the Jeep vibrating as we drove the rough road, to the campground.  This campgound was awesome and it was on a lake however, every site was in use so we had to turn back.

Jenn and I were a little concerned at this point.  The sun was starting to set and we had no place to camp.  As a final ditch effort, Sydney and I drove down a side road about 2 miles from our RV and hit the jackpot.  Dispersed camping sites with fire rings made of stones, all setup a waiting for us to move in.  There were about 6-7 other sites on this road and about 1/2 of them where occupied.

We drove back to the rig, hooked the Jeep back up, and drove everyone back to the campsite.  We were so relieved to find a spot and we were so happy to be camping in the woods.

The stars above where absolutely incredible tonight.  It was so dark in the woods that you could see millions of stars, the milky way pouring across the sky and millions of stars that you would never see without perfect conditions.  I was blown away.

And it was so quiet… freight trains. YES!