Truck Camper and Small RV Storage Tips!

We’ve been taking our new-to-us truck camper on short jaunts this summer. These “shakedown” cruises are helping us figure out the ins and outs of traveling in a truly tiny home, and we’ve learned a lot about living large in a very small space.

In the process, we’ve come up with some storage ideas that we’d like to share.

Truck Camper and Small RV Storage Tips

Northwood Manufacturing did a great job with creating large storage spaces throughout our 2005 Arctic Fox 860 camper. There is a full height closet, two shirt closets, huge bins on either side of the bed that can hold lots of clothes and good sized storage spaces under the dinette seats, not to mention several cabinets and a sliding pantry.

However, creating storage spaces for small things like keys, glasses, flashlights, pocket knifes, pens, pads, small tools, etc., are projects they leave up to us RVers. And it’s been fun to get creative!

The first thing we noticed on our maiden voyage was that all our small stuff kept ending up in a huge pile on top of the dinette table. Nothing makes a small space feel really cluttered than having a single horizontal space piled high with stuff.

So, we mounted a few different types of storage spaces for small items on the walls.

As a reminder of what our camper looks like inside, here are pics of the interior so you can see the bigger picture of where each storage item wound up.

Arctic Fox 860 truck camper kitchen

The kitchen needed a few extra goodies to increase the storage sapce

2005 Arctic Fox 860 Truck Camper interior

The dinette also got some simple upgrades to keep the dining table clutter-free.

For starters, we put a spice rack on the wall next to the range hood right below the microwave’s swinging door but high enough to be out of the heat of the flames on the range. This is handy for all those things I like to have “right there” for cooking.

Spice rack on RV camper wall

A spice rack near the range makes cooking essentials easy to reach.

There is very little counter space, and I found that a second spice rack under the window helped get things like dish soap up off the counter so other things could be tucked underneath as needed.

The towel rack was already in place, whether from the manufacturer or the previous owner, I don’t know. I added another towel rack for a dish cloth.

Spice rack on RV camper kitchen wall

Wire spice racks proved useful in the kitchen and elsewhere! A towel rack for the dish cloth helps it dry fast and keeps it off the faucet.

We like bananas and when we lived in our fifth wheel we had a banana hook for hanging banana bunches that we used a lot. So, we put a ceiling hook (also called a “swag hook” for hanging plants) in between the range hood and the kitchen light. It is screwed directly into the bottom of the cabinet. We may put a second one on the other side of the light too. In that position it would be further from the heat from the range burners.

We’ve found in both the fiver and the truck camper that the bananas actually stay on the hook while we’re in transit, even on bumpy dirt roads, and this helps keep them from bruising as we move from place to place.

Truck camper storage upgrades banana hook

Bananas bruise so easily we like to hang them up on a ceiling hook!

Although we rarely used a toaster in our fifth wheel, we’ve been enjoying having one in our sticks-and-bricks life and we wanted to have one in this camper too. Toasters and other small kitchen appliances are bulky and awkward, and I almost gave up on finding a home for it.

However, there’s a large cabinet over the sink that has just one shelf in it, and if I could get a second shelf in there it would be perfect for the toaster. After tossing a few ideas around for installing a shelf in that cabinet, I found a standalone shelf unit that fits perfectly. The dishware is stored underneath and the toaster fits on top. I take the toaster down and put it in the sink when we travel, but while we’re camping it is wonderful to store it out of the way and be able access it easily when we want to use it.

Standalone shelf for kitchen cabinet in truck camper

The big kitchen cabinet needed a second shelf. Building one in would be a good idea too, but I like this standalone shelf unit.

We’ve always had key hooks over our entry door, so we put two sets of four hooks over the door.

Key hooks on RV camper wall

Our many keys and glasses all need a home of their own and these key hooks work well.

After a few trips, we realized that these 8 hooks weren’t enough. Between the keys to the camper, the truck and the RZR plus multiple pairs of sunglasses (light ones and dark ones), multiple pairs of reading glasses (strong and weak) and various hats, we decided to add two more strips of 7 hooks each going right across the wall so there would be plenty of room for all those things.

There is almost no space between this rear wall of the camper and the slide-out wall as it slides in and out. So, all the things on the hooks have to be put elsewhere when we travel, but the hooks themselves fit just fine and it sure is convenient while we’re camping to have a home for all those items.

Key hooks inside RV camper

A long row of key hooks gives us lots of hanging options, and although we have to remove the items to move the slide-out, the strips of hooks themselves don’t interfere with the slide-out movement.

One of our earliest outings was a trip to visit our friends Ann and Phil who were camping nearby in the woods.

Phil and Ann have been living in RVs for over three decades and are a wealth of knowledge. They travel in both a “winter home” that is a beautifully appointed Alpenlite fifth wheel and a “summer home” which is a smaller, really well laid out and more maneuverable Class C. Phil spent his working years as diesel mechanic and mobile RV mechanic and he has an incredible shop built onto the back of his Freightliner that is a sight to behold. He and Ann ran an RV park for many years, and Ann is full of great ideas for ways to make life in an RV comfy and cozy.

During our visit they had two great suggestions for us. The first was to use a product called Alien Tape to mount lighter things on the walls of the RV. This is a double sided tape that has a stronger stickiness than any tape we’ve seen before, and it doesn’t ruin the walls when you remove it.

We used this tape to mount the key hooks and it was a snap. Later, when we mounted a clock and then decided we didn’t like the location, all it took was a good strong twist and the Alien Tape came off of the wall and also came off the clock and didn’t leave a mark or a stain behind.

Key hooks and Alien Tape for mountain inside RV camper

Alien Tape makes it a cinch to hang things on the walls — and remove them too!

We also wanted a bigger storage area for things like sunscreen, moisturizer, bug spray, wallets, flashlights, etc., right by the door. I found two cloth hanging baskets that fit perfectly in the space next to the bathroom sliding door — his and hers!

Hanging wall storage baskets on walls inside RV

These hanging baskets are good for slightly bigger items including wallets, moisturizer, sunscreen and flashlights that we want by the door.

You can also see the side-view of these baskets in the previous photos of the keyhooks.

The tricky thing with finding places to mount mini-shelves and storage areas on the walls is that we didn’t want to bump into them as we moved about and we didn’t want them to obstruct the movement of the slide-out as it went in and out.

The bare walls in the dinette were begging to be useful. Those walls aren’t near the slide-out movement, but we did have to worry about banging our heads on anything we put there if we leaned back in our seats.

Empty wall in RV dinette

This wall could definitely help increase our storage.

Empty wall inside RV truck camper dinette

So could this one!

They turned out to be the perfect places for more spice racks to hold things like our two-way radios, current book we’re reading, iPad, etc

We put one on each wall. Both were mounted high enough so if we threw our heads back they wouldn’t hit the racks.

Spice rack for storage in RV truck camper dinette

The spice rack can hold pocket knives, a book or two, an iPad and other goodes.

Spice rack doubles as a shelf for extra storage in a truck camper

The movement of the slide-out wouldn’t impact this space at all but we did have to place the spice rack high enough so we wouldn’t hit our heads on it if we leaned back in our seats.

We both enjoy reading magazines, especially if we’re camping in a place with no internet (which happened quite a bit this summer!).

There is a big open wall space next to the refrigerator that could definitely hold something. However, the slide-out comes in along this wall, so there is only about an inch of depth, just enough for a magazine or very thin book but not enough for a solid plastic wall filing system.

I found a fabric magazine rack designed to hold manila folders for school teachers, and it works perfectly. I put a manila folder in each pocket to keep the pockets from sagging. Mark used extra screws and washers on either side to hold the whole thing flat against the wall.

Hanging wall magazine storage in RV truck camper

We like to read magazines and this fabric magazine rack is nearly flush to the wall which makes it ideal for avoiding the slide-out wall as it moves in and out. It holds plenty of magazines!

We’ve always had a big struggle with shoe storage. We like to have a variety of shoes — a pair of running shoes, hiking boots, slippers and slip-on shoes/sandals for each of us — so the pile of footwear by the door is huge no matter where we live.

There is a tiny space between the step in front of the dinette and the back wall of the camper where I squeezed in a single tier shoe rack.

This shoe rack comes unassembled as a bunch of rods and shelf supports with holes in them for the rods. The smallest model I could find was a five tier unit, so I took the rods and shelf supports for just one level for the camper and built a separate four tier unit to use in our home.

Shoe rack inside RV truck camper doorway

Our shoe chaos was solved with one tier of a multi-tier shoe rack.

It doesn’t hold absolutely all our footwear, but the thin and flexible slippers and slip-ons can be shoved behind the dinette seat. The main thing was to get the clunky boots and shoes out of the way so we aren’t tripping over them each time we go in and out of the camper.

Shoe rack inside truck camper RV

Now the big clunky shoes and boots are out of the way.

There is just one drawer in the whole camper, right next to the range, and it is so narrow it has just a single divider inside. I use it for silverware on one side and cooking utensils on the other. I hadn’t really thought about how to get more drawers into the camper, but our friend Ann showed us an absolutely fabulous product that she is using in her Class C to hold her silverware. It is an “Under desk drawer.”

Under desk drawer storage in a truck camper

The Under desk drawer (or “add-a-drawer”) is a single unit that gets hung under the desk or table with double-sticky tape, Alien Tape or screws.

The whole sliding mechanism of the drawer is built into one unit, and you mount the drawer under the table using either the stick-on tabs they provide or Alien Tape (or screws if you wish). I bought two drawers that fit perfectly on either side of our dinette table — his and hers again! Surprisingly, they are shallow enough that our knees don’t hit when we slide on and off the settees getting in and out of the dinette.

Under desk drawer storage in a truck camper

Two fit side by side just right and our knees don’t hit them!

Each drawer comes with a small sliding compartment so you can separate smaller and larger items if you wish (or you can remove it). These drawers are great for small tools and hardware as well as pads, pens, scissors and other office goodies.

Under desk drawer storage in a truck camper

These can be used for paper, pens and other office items or for small tools and hardware or even for silverware or cooking utensils.

Under desk drawer storage in a truck camper

I just love these — thank you, Annie, for your wonderful tip!

Well, that’s it for now. If you’ve got a small RV like ours, I hope these tips help you make the most of your space, and if you’ve got other cool space saving ideas please share them in the comments below!

Oh goodness, there’s Buddy under the covers. He took a nap throughout this whole post!

Puppy sleeps happily in truck camper RV bed

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After I took this pic, he opened one eye and said, “If you aren’t going to talk about Lizard Hunting or Rabbit Chasing then I’ll just keep snoozing under the covers.”

Happy campers

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More tips and anecdotes from our Life On The Road and At Sea:

2005 Arctic Fox 860 Truck Camper – Grand Tour!

After 13 years of living on the road, first in a 2007 27′ Fleetwood Lynx travel trailer and then in a 2007 36′ Hitchhiker 34.5 RLTG fifth wheel, we switched gears and moved back into a sticks-and-bricks home.

But we didn’t want to give up the thrill of the open road completely! Since we still owned our 2016 Dodge Ram 3500 dually pickup truck, we decided a truck camper would do the trick for shorter duration adventures.

A 2005 Arctic Fox truck camper turned up on Craigslist in excellent condition, garage kept and barely used. Counting our lucky stars, we took the plunge, bought it, and have been having fun setting it up and taking it on a few short trips.

Here’s a quickie tour of the camper that will be our new little home on wheels.

2005 Arctic Fox 860 Truck Camper

Our new little buggy!

The Arctic Fox 860 has one slideout on the passenger side and is on the smaller size for a long bed truck camper. It is designed to be carried by a single rear wheel pickup truck so it is an easy load for our dually.

2005 Arctic Fox 860 Truck Camper

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One of our goals was to be able to travel with our Polaris RZR in tow. We had triple towed the RZR on a small flat bed trailer behind our fifth wheel for two years. That worked, but it was cumbersome.

Having the RZR right behind the truck now rather than 40′ behind us makes it a lot easier to bring the RZR along on our travels. One thing that Mark has found, though, is that because our utility trailer is only 5′ wide, he can’t see it in the rear view mirrors when he’s driving unless he makes a very sharp turn. This makes it a bit tricky to back up!

Also, because our utility trailer is only 10′ long, it holds our Polaris 900 series UTV but can’t carry our bikes at the same time. I have a secret wish for a larger utility trailer which might solve both problems… we’ll see!

2005 Arctic Fox 860 Truck Camper

We can tow the RZR easily with this new rig.

The Arctic Fox 860 does not extend beyond the back of the truck. Many larger truck campers hang out a foot or two beyond the back bumper of the truck. With those campers you need a hitch extension to tow anything behind. With this model, the RZR trailer hitches directly to the hitch receiver on the truck without an extension.

2005 Arctic Fox 860 Truck Camper towing Polaris RZR 900 XC

The camper doesn’t hang far off the back of the truck, so the RZR can be hitched directly to the ball mount in the truck’s hitch receiver.

FLOOR PLAN

The floor plan for the 2005 Arctic Fox 360 is very similar to the current (2021) Arctic Fox 811 truck camper. The 860 is 6 inches shorter than the 811, but other than that, the floor plan is the same as far as we can see.

The dinette converts into a bed, but at just 64 inches long, it is not long enough for most adults. This is one shortcoming that was improved with the later model Arctic Fox 811 which has a dinette bunk lenth of 68 inches.

Arctic Fox 860 truck camper Floor Plan

Arctic Fox 860 truck camper floor plan

The tank capacities are small and have been increased in the Arctic Fox 811 model.

Here are the 860 capacities with the replacement 811 model capacities in parentheses:

Fresh Water: 46 gallons, including 6 gal. hot water heater – (50 gallons w/ 6 gal heater)
Gray Water: 25 gallons (38 gallons)
Black Water: 25 gallons (23 gallons)
Propane: 14 gallons (60 lbs.) (same)

Furnace: 20k BTU (same)
Air Conditioner: 11k BTU (same)

By comparison, our fifth wheel’s capacities were:

Fresh Water: 70 gallons, including 10 gallon hot water heater
Gray Water: 78 gallons
Black Water: 50 gallons
Propane: 14 gallons (60 lbs.)

Furnace: 40k BTU
Air Conditioner: 15k BTU

The tank capacities and heating and cooling units are much smaller than our fiver, of course. However, it is a miracle so much can be fit into the bed of a pickup truck! While we will have to watch our water usage, we will be able to use our small Honda EU2200i portable generator to run the air conditioner. Also, with the same overall propane capacity, the small furnace and hot water heater will use a lot less propane and make it last longer, even if we decide to camp in cold places.

INTERIOR

Oh look, there’s Mark at the door. Let’s head inside!

2005 Arctic Fox 860 Truck Camper

Come on in!

The interior is open and bright.

2005 Arctic Fox 860 Truck Camper interior

The slideout (right side of the pic) gives the interior an open feeling.

The dinette is on the passenger side as you walk in and it’s very comfortable for two. Since there are no recliners or sofa, we both like to turn sideways on the benches, lean against a cushion behind us and stretch out our legs!

The louvered window makes it possible to keep the window open even when it drizzles.

2005 Arctic Fox 860 Truck Camper interior

The dinette is comfortable and the window brings in lots of light.

The three-way 6 cubic foot refrigerator can run on 12 volt DC electricity, 110 volt AC or propane. The fridge is the same size as the one in our Lynx travel trailer that we lived in during our first year on the road. Our fifth wheel had an 8 cubic foot refrigerator.

2005 Arctic Fox 860 Truck Camper interior

The 6 cubic foot refrigerator is a 3-way (12v DC, 110v AC, or LP) .

The bathroom is on your left as you enter, behind a sliding door, and the kitchen is beyond that.

2005 Arctic Fox 860 Truck Camper interior

The bathroom and kitchen are on the left (the driver’s side) as you enter.

The bathroom is a wet bath, so we get to take showers with Mr. Toilet standing right there next to us and then wipe him dry afterwards. It’s awkward but manageable.

Models that have a dry bath are longer and hang off the back of the truck. Buying used, you get whatever’s out there, and all-in-all the wet bath was a compromise we didn’t mind. If we’d bought new and could order anything we wanted, we probably would have gone with a longer model that had a dry bath.

As an alternative for showering, there’s also an outdoor shower. Back in our days of camping in our little popup tent trailer, we made good use of our outdoor shower and got a kick out of bathing in the fresh air (in remote places, of course!). Mark used to love showering on the back of the boat too!

2005 Arctic Fox 860 Truck Camper interior

Wet bath (ie., the toilet is your shower companion)

2005 Arctic Fox 860 Truck Camper interior

Wet bath

The kitchen is small but workable. There isn’t much storage space, but the slide-out pantry is very handy. We had one of those on our boat too. We don’t eat a lot of canned goods, but other things fit nicely in there.

2005 Arctic Fox 860 Truck Camper interior

Sliding pantry rack

The cupboards and drawer space are minimal, but keeping dishware and cookware to a minimum helps.

Years ago, for the boat, I bought a stainless steel Magma nesting pots and pans set which has several sizes of pots, pans and tops that all stack into each other along with two removable handles. I’ve always said this high quality, handy dandy compact kit would be ideal for a truck camper, and it is! (I just noticed that Camco and Stansport make similar smaller sets that are much less expensive).

I’ve never used the plastic cutting board sink covers in our previous RVs, but I find I tend to cover one side of the double sink all the time in the camper to get a little more working area when cooking.

2005 Arctic Fox 860 Truck Camper interior

Small but functional kitchen

When we took the camper out for our first overnight, we quickly realized we needed a little trash can. Mark improvised and converted a Deschuttes Pale Ale 12-pack box. Ya gotta have a little whimsy in life, so we’re keeping it for now!

2005 Arctic Fox 860 Truck Camper interior

Mark’s Deschuttes Pale Ale trash can is working out well!

The bed is in the cabover part of the camper and is a queen size. The current model Arctic Fox 811 has a 58″ x 80″ bed but our older 860 model has a true 60″ x 80″ queen size. So, a queen fitted bottom sheet is nicely taught across the mattress, however you don’t have those extra two inches to tuck in the rest of the bedding on the sides, and it’s a tight squeeze if you need a lot of blanets! We are using the inner spring mattress that came with the camper with a 2″ My Pillow topper and it is quite comfortable.

2005 Arctic Fox 860 Truck Camper interior

The bedroom 🙂

On either side of the bed there are two shirt length hanging closets with mirrored cabinet doors. There’s also an alcove with a window on each side. This makes the bed feel wider than a queen.

2005 Arctic Fox 860 Truck Camper interior

The queen bed feels bigger because of the deep alcoves on each side of the bed.

I found a dog bed that fits in the alcove just right, and Buddy loves to lie there and look out the window. When we open the window he sniffs the air!

2005 Arctic Fox 860 Truck Camper interior

Buddy claimed one of the alcoves and sleeps in his dog bed there.

Each alcove has lift-up tops to access a deep storage area underneath. We can easily fit two week’s worth of summer clothing with plenty of room to spare.

2005 Arctic Fox 860 Truck Camper interior

Each of the window alcoves has a deep storage area beneath cabinet doors that lift up.

At the foot of the bed on the driver’s side there is a TV cabinet with a slide-out tray for the TV to sit on (flat screen TVs weren’t around in 2005). Since we don’t watch TV we’ll use that for something else.

2005 Arctic Fox 860 Truck Camper interior

There is a large cabinet for a TV at the foot of the bed on the driver’s side (kitchen side).

On the opposite side at the foot of the bed a small door opens to reveal a full-length hanging closet that goes deep below the level of the bed.

2005 Arctic Fox 860 Truck Camper interior

Behind this door is a full length hanging locker.

And that’s the tour!

I’m heading out — I think there’s a hammock under the trees waiting for me out there!!

2005 Arctic Fox 860 Truck Camper interior

A sweet little home that fits right into the bed of our truck!

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Greetings! Long Time No See!!

OMG, it has been a full year since I posted anything here.

In years past, I wouldn’t have dreamed of leaving this website untouched for more than a week, and now 85 weeks have gone by since I published articles here on a regular basis!

Don’t look too closely…I’m afraid cobwebs are growing on the edges of these pages. And I’m sure many of you who signed up for our newsletter during our silence are reading this wondering who we are and why you got an email linking to this post. I hope you’ll stick with us!

We are alive and well

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THANK YOU FOR REACHING OUT TO US

We’d like to say a most heartfelt “thank you” to the many kind people who have reached out to us during the past year to see if we are still “alive and well,” as I last reported. Your concern has touched us deeply and we really appreciated hearing from you.

Pink Rose blossom

Thank you!

The answer is still a resounding “YES!” We are indeed alive and well, and we feel blessed beyond belief to tell you that our life’s journey has taken us down a new and exciting path.

We are doing just fine even though we’ve been in hiding for a while!

As happens when choosing a new direction at any fork in the road, certain doors have closed behind us as we embark on this new trail, but other wonderful new doors are opening wide ahead of us.

WHAT ABOUT COVID?

Like everyone, our jaws dropped clear to the ground as world events began to unfold at the beginning of 2020, and like so many, our jaws are still that way a year and a half later.

We have been extremely fortunate to have spent the intervening time in a corner of the planet that has been relatively untouched by draconian rules. For the most part, life has been quite normal for us in terms of personal restrictions, personal freedoms and personal relations.

Masked Moon

Masked Moon

We haven’t been untouched by the disease, however. Although for the first 10 months we didn’t know anyone who caught the virus, we lost our beloved friend and first RVing mentor in Montana over Christmas.

At 86, he had the unfortunate underlying condition of Valley Fever lung disease when Covid caught up with him, battled him for his life, and eventually overtook him. We miss his good humor and his gentle, noble soul immensely.

Three other friends and family members around the country also got severe cases that ravaged them for two to four weeks or longer. They were all middle aged and in good shape beforehand, and thankfully, all have recovered.

To say that we feel blessed to have been spared so far is an understatement.

A FORK IN THE ROAD

So, what have we been doing, besides not blogging?

In a nutshell, we put down roots, sold the fifth wheel and bought a truck camper for summer travel.

Trail scout

Our little Trail Scout, Buddy, leads us down a new path

This wasn’t quite as surprising a turn of events as it may seem at first glance. A variation on this theme had been in the works for us since the Spring of 2019.

As you may know, we had leased out our previous home during our traveling years.

That home was a fabulous rental, but it was a home we never really liked living in ourselves. We knew when we pulled out of the driveway for the last time and ventured into our new traveling lifestyle in 2007 that we’d never move back in.

Rain clouds at sunset

Change in the air

So, we decided two years ago that it was time to sell the rental and buy a different rental that we liked enough to move into seasonally or perhaps permanently “someday.” Certainly we wouldn’t do that NOW, of course! We’d just lease it out and keep traveling until “that day” came, many years down the road.

We sold our old place a week before the disease hit our shores, and then, unexpectedly, the real estate market took off into the stratosphere in a parabolic upswing that has never let up! Holy smokes!

Suddenly, properties that had been affordable eight months earlier were now out of sight for us. How discouraging!

The last time that had happened, in 2005-07, we had thrown up our hands and jumped into an RV to start traveling full-time!

What kind of hat trick could we pull this time?

Lightning bolt across the sky horizontally

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Eventually, we gave up on the idea of finding anything in the areas where we wanted to buy, and we headed out for our usual summer travels in Cool North Country as the pandemic settled in for what became a very long stay.

At that moment, though, we figured we’d let some time pass and let the world and the real estate market get back to normal.

Columbine flower

This pretty columbine flower is oblivious to the foibles of human economies

Somewhere along the way, we stopped in a small town to do our laundry, looked around and said, “What a cool area!”

This has been one of our favorite sayings over the years as we have traveled from one cool place to the next.

As a lark, we checked for properties online, and lo and behold, there was our dream home staring at us. It had been on the market for two hours.

Puppy running

Weeeeeee!

NEW BEGINNINGS

We knew within a few days of putting it in escrow that we would not be renting it out to anyone. We loved it and we couldn’t imagine anyone living in it but ourselves. Neither of us had ever owned a home that we truly loved. What a heavenly feeling that was!

As with everything great in our lives, the most important detours and unexpected turns have come to us on their own, unplanned and uninvited and yet totally appropriate and natural when they appeared.

We knew that by saying “hello” to this home we would be saying “goodbye” to a lifestyle we had cherished.

We realized that finding our dream home meant the end of our nomadic lifestyle even though the timing was some 10 to 15 years earlier than we’d ever expected it to be. But it just felt right to make this change, dramatic as it was.

Desert oasis on the river

This huge decision involved a lot of inner reflection about our life’s dreams

On the practical side, to go from a furnished and fully equipped 350 square foot fifth wheel to an unfurnished home with gaping empty rooms was quite a shock.

The long long long hot showers were a blissful change from all those years of one gallon showers while boondocking or anchoring out. But, believe me, setting up housekeeping from scratch during a pandemic when absolutely everything from furniture to tools is out of stock is quite an experience.

Pink sunrise

Sunrise brings a new day

When we’d left to begin our full-timing travel adventures, we’d kept our memorabilia, photo albums and bicycles, and nothing else. Those few things had all fit easily into a 5′ x 11′ shed in a friend’s yard.

Now, in our new non-mobile lifestyle, we suddenly needed all those other things that go with living in a stick-built home…except for the simple kitchenware, clothes and tools that we already had in our fifth wheel.

Puppy in snowjacket in the snow

We had the clothes on our backs and the goodies in our trailer, but a stick-built home requires more than that!

After we moved in, a friend peeked in the walk-in closet that held two weeks’ worth of clothes on two shelves — our standard for the last 13 years — and he said with a smirk, “You don’t have many clothes!”

Truth was, we didn’t have much of anything!

Craigslist became our go-to resource for almost everything. Swap meets and yard sales rounded out our shopping destinations. As for anything new, if we could find what we wanted in stock anywhere, which was rare, it was only available in pea green with pink trim, or in a mustard yellow plaid pattern, or something along those lines.

But the thrill of starting a new chapter was deeply fulfilling. It felt so good in the midst of the world losing its mind to be able to gather ours together, shut everything out, and bury ourselves in fun new home projects.

Happy camper sitting by a creek

Finding peace in our own little world away from the world

Where our lives before had been one continuous sightseeing photography tour for 13 straight years (a shopkeeper in Mexico had told us we were “Professional Tourists”), suddenly our hands were dirty all day every day as we painted, nailed and sanded things and dug into the soil to nurture plants and flowers that held the promise of a stationary future.

Lantana flower

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Desert willow flower

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We slept on the floor for weeks waiting for a new mattress to arrive, and we sat in folding camping chairs or on pillows on the floors inside each room for months.

But we didn’t care. We felt like newlyweds just starting out! We were loving life and we were oh, so happy.

Playful puppy in the snow

Loving life!

SELLING AND BUYING RVs

One day a friend of a friend passed word to us that he was looking for a good quality fifth wheel to live in at his property. We hadn’t intended to sell ours just yet, but suddenly, our home of a dozen years was gone, headed towards the horizon to become home-sweet-home for someone else.

After a pang of sadness at seeing it go, we jumped online and began looking for truck campers. What a blast!!

2005 Arctic Fox 860 truck camper on 2016 Dodge Ram dually truck

Hmmm…this could be fun!!

All the anguish we had felt for the final few years of our travels as we’d weighed which kind of fifth wheel or toy hauler to buy to replace our aging rolling home completely evaporated as we dove into the idea of traveling in a nimble little truck camper with our RZR in tow right behind. No more triple-towing! No 44′ long toy hauler to haul around!

Mark soon found a truck camper on Craigslist that was just what we wanted. It is a 2005 Arctic Fox 860 (almost identical to the modern Arctic Fox 811 model but six inches shorter). It had been garage kept and rarely used since it was new. It looked great and all the systems worked.

2005 Arctic Fox 860 truck camper and Polaris RZR 900

Our 2005 Arctic Fox 860 truck camper is a breeze for our 2016 Ram dually to carry, and the 2017 Polaris RZR 900 is easy to tow behind on its little flatbed trailer

LOOKING BACK

Although our blog went dark for 19 months, I kept writing for the RV industry magazines. Seven of our photos appeared on RV magazine covers and another six appeared in artsy wall calendars (2020 and 2021).

With each article I wrote, our astonishing experiences came alive in my mind once again, and I marveled at what a fabulous adventure our wandering lifestyle had been.

Escapees Apr-May 2021 Cover copy

Stars swirl above us on the Escapees RV Club magazine cover for March/April 2021. During our blogging blackout we published many magazine articles, covers and commercial wall calendar photos

Mark and I find ourselves reminiscing all the time now.

Whenever we go back through our hundreds of thousands of photos to find a particular image for someone, we get lost in our recollections and take four times as long as necessary to find whatever we’re looking for because the photos tell a steady stream of vivid stories.

We thank God every single day for the life changing experiences we had and for the window of opportunity that appeared in our lives at just the right time in 2007.

Stellar's Jay on picnic table

In our traveling life we could land anywhere.

We were the right age, we were overflowing with curiosity, and we had limitless faith that our Big Adventure would prove to be the best years of our lives.

Every aspect of our lives up until the moment we departed had led us to and prepared us for the incredibly free-spirited years that unfolded before us on the road.

It was a beautiful life of total freedom and wonder that just isn’t possible when you are rooted in place by a stick-built home.

Ocotillo flowers in bloom

The sky was the limit

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED – DREAMS FULFILLED

One thing that neither of us anticipated at all, though, was the sudden bittersweet feelings of sadness mixed with joy that overwhelmed us as we opened the door to this exciting new phase of life.

The heartache wasn’t due to ending our travels but was due to what was silently implied by having completed a lifelong dream and checked it off of our Big Life List.

With a shock we realized we’d had a huge dream, had chased it down for all we were worth, and had fulfilled it more brilliantly than we ever imagined we could, completing what we’d set out to do with more flair and greater depth and beadth than either of us had ever thought possible.

Puppy running in the snow

We had chased our dreams for all they were worth

Yet now our biggest dream to date has been completely fulfilled — and then some. It is behind us and can’t be called a “dream” any more.

Instead, we have transformed our greatest dream into a cherished memory and integrated it into the very fabric of our souls.

Most shocking, though, is admitting that now a big chunk of life is behind us. There’s a tangible wistfulness that goes with that.

Sunset

The sun sets in a glorious spray of color across the sky

Where all those years have gone is a mystery, but there is no denying that the wet-behind-the-ears 47 and 53 year olds who drove off into the sunset full of wide eyed anticipation in a 27 foot travel trailer are now a pair of travel-seasoned 61 and 67 year olds whose memories are brimming with fantastic travel stories and whose understanding of the world around them has been vastly enriched.

Purple cactus flowers

A prickly, thorny cactus welcomes Spring with big beautiful purple flowers

Recently, the new RV Magazine (which is a combination of the former Trailer Life and Motorhome magazines) asked me to write an article on the theme of “Life Advice from Seasoned RVers” for their August 2021 issue.

I’m certainly not comfortable dispensing Life Advice to the world at large, but I took the assignment as an opportunity to express how important it is to uncover your innermost dreams and then do all you can to make them come true.

In a world where we all find ourselves saying, “Who Moved My Cheese?” over and over, month after month, as things get crazier and crazier around us, it is more important than ever to keep our most cherished dreams in the front of our minds while holding faith deep in our hearts that we can make them come true somehow.

Ponderosa pine tree forest

It is easy to lose sight of the whole forest of Life for the abundance of individual trees unless you spend time with your dreams and envision yourself living them until you find a way to make them come true.

As Escapees RV Club co-founder Kay Peterson once wrote, “If you don’t fulfill your dreams now, when will you?”

And as Mike Mitchell, CEO of NuWa (the Hitchhiker fifth wheel manufacturer), once wrote on his company’s owners’ forum back in 2008 when the RV industry was starting a years-long nosedive into near oblivion (paraphrasing): People who have dreamed for years of traveling in an RV during retirement are not going to abandon that dream just because of a bad economy or faililng RV industry. They’ll adjust the dream so they can still live it.

Our dreams are still unfolding and we hope our little truck camper will bring us new pleasures that we can share with you. Our first few forays have been eventful and rewarding.

In the meantime, thank you for being a part of our journey. What a ride!

Rainbow over the landscape

A promise of beautiful things to come

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We’re Alive and Well and Camping in Arizona!

Life is good on Arizona’s hiking trails!

Hi there! Long time no see!!

And a warm welcome all of our new subscribers — we’re so glad you’re here!

I took a blogging vacation starting in early November, and over the winter it morphed into a full fledged Blogging Sabbatical.

Holy smokes! I had no idea when I signed off on my last post about vacationing in Hawaii that it would be June before I got back to my keyboard to put together a new blog post for you.

Another gorgeous Arizona sunset.

Many people have contacted me to find out if we had fallen off the planet and to ask if we were okay.

I can’t thank you all enough for the incredible warmth, affection and concern expressed in those emails and messages.

We were both blown away by how much this blog has meant to some of you, how much it has inspired you and how much you missed it.

Thank you!

Saguaro cactus at dawn.

The funny thing is I think the personality on our blog that everyone missed the most was Buddy.

He continues to be a true delight every single day, and one of the most common phrases we say to each other is, “What an amazing dog!”

While I relaxed and recharged and enjoyed my blogging vacation, I suspect Buddy missed his celebrity status. He kept nudging me when a really great photo of him turned up on our cameras. “Write something!” he’d say.

Actually, Mark began saying that a few months ago too. “You could write about this,” he’d say. Or “Your readers would love to hear about that,” or “Just write something short so they know we haven’t perished out here!”

Desert sunset

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He even threatened to start his own blog at one point. But blogging is a ton of work and he was having way too much fun processing his many beautiful photos (which takes many hours too!).

Morning reflections.

Every photo in this post is his, by the way, because I let my cameras gather dust while I took many long deep breaths and waited for inspiration to strike.

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We met some interesting folks during our time off. They came from all walks of life. And some walked on all fours.

Wild burros check us out.

We also did some fun sightseeing.

The fountain in Fountain Hills

But mostly we laid around and relaxed.

Nothing to do and all day to do it…!!!

I just LOVE that hammock, by the way, and I use these straps to hang it between any trees that are handy.

It’s a dog’s life.

We have been in various parts of Arizona since late October, and we’ve moved with the seasons as it got colder at first and then got warmer as the months rolled by.

On May 22nd we celebrated 13 years of traveling full-time. Wow! What a spectacular life and magnificent opportunity it has been!!

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Arizona has lots of boats and boaters!

Arizona is a very diverse state with several different major ecosystems ranging from low desert studded with saguaro cactus to high desert filled with ponderosa pine trees. And over the last eight months we’ve seen a lot of it.

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When the pandemic hit and everyone stayed home for a month or two, we did too.

Fortunately, Arizona was one of the least restrictive states. Employees were laid off or had to work from home, and all but “essential” businesses were shuttered for a month or so, but we weren’t prevented from going outside and no one was forced to wear a mask or risk a fine if they didn’t, as was the case in other places.

Life for us didn’t really change, and we lived pretty much as we always do.

Trail scout.

Buddy’s private digs (for naps with dad).

The major change we experienced was the shortage of goods at the store and the shock of seeing places like downtown Mesa completely devoid of people and all the storefronts closed.

Morning dew…

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However, once we got home to our trailer after running errands, life was the same as always.

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I gave Mark a macro lens for Christmas, and when the wildflowers began to bloom and the bees started to do their thing, he had a ball taking flower and insect shots with it. What fabulous photos he took of dew on the flower petals and pollen caked onto bees’ legs.

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Loaded with pollen!

I’ve seen many thoughts expressed online about RVing as it relates to pandemics and situations where you want to keep a little distance from your friends and neighbors for a while.

One couple who had been RVing full-time for three years decided that now was the time to buy some land rather than be forced to rely on campgrounds or dispersed campsites that might close. At one point Campendium.com had a notice on their home page that 42% of the RV campsites they have listed on their website were closed.

Other folks trapped at home seemed to feel that traveling in an RV would be the ideal way to have some fun while practicing social distancing. They seemed to long for a life on wheels.

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The leaders of the RV industry at Thor and Camping World have been reporting that they are seeing the RV market exploding lately.

How exciting that RV sales are up!

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For those that are curious about what we’ve witnessed as full-time boondockers living through a pandemic and an accompanying economic shutdown, our experience over the last few months falls somewhere in between “RVing is ideal for pandemics” and “An RV is not at all the place to be during a pandemic situation.”

Getting away from it all on public land was a little harder than normal because once all the RV parks and public campgrounds had closed, everyone who wanted to run off in an RV for a while ended up boondocking.

Boondocking campsites that might ordinarily support 3 RVs suddenly had 12.

People who ordinarily would have been going to work while their kids were in school suddenly took off in their RV to “work from home” with their kids and dogs in tow, and they headed out to the boondocks because that’s all that was available.

What a fabulous idea and great way to bond as a family.

However, it was not the isolated experience people usually think of with RV boondicking. At one point we were surrounded by a big group of families and friends from Gunnison, Colorado, as they escaped the more severe outbreak of the disease in Colorado to spend a few weeks in Arizona where there were far fewer cases.

Cactus flowers.

A heron rests by the shore

Also, since an RV has limited holding tank capacity and boondockers have to to remain on the move (there are 14 day stay limits in most places), we had to make periodic trips to some very busy RV dump stations. What a shock it was to find that some RV dump stations were closed!

In addition, in a world where other people’s bodily fluids had suddenly become absolutely terrifying, RV dump stations took on a whole new look.

But as I said, in most respects our lives over the last few months have been pretty much the same as they always have been. And when Spring arrived it was beautiful.

In one campsite we had a cardinal as a neighbor. He sang and sang, and even though he never attracted a mate during our stay, he did develop quite a relationship with his reflection in our truck mirror. For hours on end we would see him hanging on for dear life with his toes as he pecked away at the mirror.

This guy was a hoot. He pecked at his reflection in the mirror for hours!

Buddy worked on his hunting skills and blossomed from the last phases of puppyhood into A Very Responsible Adult Dog. Hunting lizards is now his all-day-long passion. He even catches one every so often!

In between hunting exploits, he guards our little rolling casa with the utmost vigilance.

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I hope you have stayed well and have navigated these recent months with spirit. As I’ve always said, there’s a beautiful world out there, and it is still beautiful and it is still out there today.

2020 has been epic for the entire world so far, and along with everyone else, our little family has had some extraordinary, life affirming and life altering experiences that I will write about someday.

It’s a beautiful world out there!

In the meantime, enjoy your travels and keep dreaming great dreams!

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A Hawaii Vacation!

October 2019 – Sometimes we get a little busy in our full-time traveling lives, and not all of our adventures make it onto the pages of this website. That’s how it was in the spring of 2017 when we were still posting our photos of our mind-blowing trip to Thailand and Cambodia even as we hopped on a plane to Hawaii.

Hawaii Vacation on Oahu

A wonderful tropical vacation on Oahu!

Once we got back to the mainland after reveling in the Hawaiian tropics for a week, we dashed off in our RV in such a flurry of excitement that we never even mentioned our Hawaii trip on this blog (although we did later publish an article about it in the Nov/Dec 2018 issue of Escapees Magazine!).

View of Waikiki from Diamond Head Oahu Hawaii-min

View of Waikiki from Diamond Head on Oahu

So, this week, as we embark on a little blogging vacation, it seemed fitting to share our pics and stories from this classic vacation destination!

View of Waikiki from Diamond Head Oahu Hawaii-min

Waikiki

We stayed on Oahu right in the thick of it all next to Waikiki Beach. There is nothing like getting off of a long plane ride and moments later strolling along a tropical beach!

Waikiki Beach Oahu Hawaii-min

Waikiki Beach is a short trip from the airport!

Waikiki Beach Oahu Hawaii-min

Waikiki Beach.

Our hotel room at the Sheraton was just steps away from the beach, many stories up in the air, with a balcony that hung out over the inviting pool far below.

Swimming pool Waikiki Oahu Hawaii-min

A palm tree’s shadow fills the water in the pool below our balcony

Waikiki is a bustling tourist city of high rises. There is a special beauty along the waterfront at night, and we discovered wonderful pockets of tranquility tucked away in quiet corners during the day.

Waikiki at night

Night lights.

Palm trees at sunset in Waikiki

Palm trees and volleyball at sunset.

Hawaii palm trees-min

Relaxing.

On other parts of Oahu, away from the urban hustle and bustle, we found remote beaches that were pounded by wild seas. As we strolled along the water’s edge, the seething surf crashed so hard the ocean had dug deep valleys in the sand.

Surf on Oahu in Hawaii

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Surf's up in Hawaii

Surf’s up!

Beautiful beach north side of Oahu Hawaii-min

Vivid turquoise waves carved patterns in the sand.

Everything about Hawaii is tropical, from exotic flowers to familiar birds dressed in fabulously outrageous outfits.

Flower Oahu Hawaii-min

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Red crested cardinal Oahu Hawaii-min

A red crested cardinal

A hike up Diamond Head gave us incredible views of the city and a wonderful glimpse of Diamond Head Lighthouse far below.

Diamond Head Lighthouse Oahu Hawaii-min

Looking down on Diamond Head Lighthouse

Our favorite spot was Hanauma Bay State Park where a crescent bay embraced a vibrant reef system soaked in warm, shallow turquoise water.

Hanauma Bay State Park Oahu Hawaii-min

Hanauma Bay State Park

Hanauma Bay State Park Oahu Hawaii-min

The brown patches are a coral reef that’s teeming with tropical fish

We rented some snorkeling gear and waded in from the beach!

Snorkeling Hanauma Bay State Park Oahu Hawaii-min

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We had done a lot of snorkeling on our sailing cruise of Mexico’s Pacific Coast and we’ve both snorkeled quite a bit in the Caribbean on various bareboat charters and commercial cruises. We also had a great snorkeling adventure in Thailand. But the variety of fish here at Hanauma Bay may have been the best of all!

Fish light Hanauma Bay State Park Oahu Hawaii-min

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Reef fish Hanauma Bay State Park Oahu Hawaii-min

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Tropical fish Hanauma Bay State Park Oahu Hawaii-2-min

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Colorful fish Hanauma Bay State Park Oahu Hawaii-min

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Spotted fish Hanauma Bay State Park Oahu Hawaii-min

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Tropical fish Hanauma Bay State Park Oahu Hawaii-min

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Many of the fish swam alone, but when we turned a corner around a coral head, we found ourselves in the middle of a huge school of fish!

Reef fish Hanauma Bay State Park Oahu Hawaii-min

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Years ago when we were sailing Mexico’s Costalegre (which cruisers have nicknamed the Gold Coast), we’d visited the aptly named (and little visited) Paraiso anchorage and seen a school of tiny fish that was so massive we thought it was some sort of rock or sea grass darkening the sandy bottom. At the time, we were scouting out spots to drop the anchor, so what a shock it was when this huge dark patch on the sand moved away!!

Back in Hanauma Bay, once the wall of fish parted and let us through, we saw a parrot fish hanging out with his pretty little orange buddy.

Hawaii Parrot fish and friend Hanauma Bay State Park Oahu-min

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Parrot fish and friend Hanauma Bay State Park Oahu Hawaii-min

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Parrot fish and friend Hawaii Hanauma State Park-min

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Hawaii is one of those “you can’t go wrong” types of destinations. This wasn’t our first trip and it won’t be our last, but every visit is utterly unique. A trip to any part of Hawaii is a wonderful way to spend a week immersed in tropical beauty.

Hawaii 2017

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This website has been home to our travel stories and the tips we’ve learned about the sailing and RV lifestyles since we first created it while camping at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon back in the summer of 2008. Not only was that some 165,000 truck miles (or so) ago, but it was also long before we bought a sailboat and cast off the lines to cruise the Pacific coast of Mexico!

Sailboat in Hawaii sunset-min

Hawaiian sunset.

We’ve had a lot of fun posting articles here ever since, producing new articles anywhere from 3 to 12 times a month. In the process we’ve created a travelogue and travel lifestyle resource for RVers and sailors of around 1,000 articles!

At long last we’ve decided to take a little blogging vacation. Among other things, during this time we’re going to revisit some of our older articles on here that are still read hundreds of times a day (even though they were first published as much as 10 years ago) to make sure they remain up to date.

If you’re on your way to the beautiful Sonoran Desert in Arizona with your RV for the winter, that’s where we’ll be. You’ll find dozens of articles on this site to give you ideas for places to go, things to do and sights to see in this rich desert landscape.

Click here for an index of all our Arizona travel articles.

Thanks for reading. Happy travels. Back soon!

RV under the Milky Way-min

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Williams, Arizona – Home of the Grand Canyon Railway!

October 2019 – We have spent a lot of time in the neighborhood of Grand Canyon National Park this year, and in recent days while traveling with our RV along I-40, we paid a visit to Williams, Arizona, the Gateway to the Grand Canyon.

Williams Arizona Gateway to the Grand Canyon-min

Welcome to Williams!

Williams lies at the junction of I-40 and the road that leads to the popular South Rim of the Grand Canyon, so its “gateway” claim is well deserved. But it is also a Route 66 town and was the last town on Route 66 to be bypassed by I-40.

But perhaps it is most well known and beloved for the Grand Canyon Railway, a train ride that starts in Williams and goes through ponderosa pine forests before arriving at Grand Canyon’s South Rim.

Trains cars on the Grand Canyon Railway in Williams Arizona-min

Williams is the home of the Grand Canyon Railway

Mark and I took this delightful train ride nearly 20 years ago as a weekend getaway and loved every minute of it. So, on this trip we wandered down to the train depot to see the train off one morning.

Railroad crossing Williamd Arizona 2-min

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The trees were changing color and the daytime temps were pretty cool. Overnight temps in the area were in the low to mid 20s, and we were glad to have our trusty blue flame heater keeping us warm in our rig.

Fall colors in Williams Arizona-min

Fall was in the air!

The Grand Canyon Railway ride is a great family outing, and the train trip is popular in every season. The ride is especially popular with kids, and there are tons of family amusements all around the depot to keep everyone entertained while waiting for the 9:30 departure each morning.

With Halloween around the corner, the whole area was decorated with pumpkins and ghoulish goodies.

Ticket booth in Williams Arizona at Grand Canyon Railway-min

The ticket booth was decorated for Halloween!

We had fun taking photos of each other with the many props.

Corpse in a coffin at Grand Canyon Railway on Halloween-min

There are all kinds of fun things to keep passengers entertained while they wait for the train!

Pumpkin man and puppy-min

Buddy checks out Mr. Pumpkinhead!

Buddy saw Mark posing as Mr. Pumpkinhead and he wanted to join in the fun too. He spotted a circus lion cutout and wanted to poke his nose through!

Puppy dreams of being a lion-min

Puppy chow!

Suddenly we heard the distant rumble of a train and we looked up to see a Grand Canyon Railway train rumbling down the tracks.

Grand Canyon Railway train arrives in Williams AZ-min

The train arrives at the depot

The train essentially backed into place with the conductor at one end and the engineer at the other. The engineer gave us a wave and then climbed down out of the train.

Train engineer on Grand Canyon Railway Williams Arizona-min

The train’s engineer waves to us.

Train engineer climbs out of Grand Canyon Railway train car-min

It’s a long way down!

The Grand Canyon Railway has been in operation for all but 20 years since 1901. Back when it opened, the fare was $3.95 which was a whole lot cheaper than the alternative $15 stagecoach ride to the South Rim from Flagstaff. It was probably a whole lot more comfortable too!

Sunset Cafe train car on Grand Canyon Railway in Williams Arizona-min

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We walked along the train cars and were astonished to count twelve of them. Could that many people be taking the train to the Grand Canyon on a Tuesday morning in October? We sure didn’t see that many people around.

There were lots of fun references to train travel around the depot grounds, and we noticed a park bench made from two train wheels. After staring at the park bench we had to check out the real wheels on the train cars. Who’d ever think of recycling old train wheels to be park benches? Very cool!

Park bench made from train wheels Williams Arizona-min

This fun park bench was made from train wheels…

Train undercarriage Grand Canyon Railway-min

…so we had to run back and see what the train wheels look like when they’re on the train!

Suddenly we heard a loud train horn blast. Buddy jumped and so did we!

Horns on train car 239 Williams Arizona Grand Canyon Railway-min

Those horns could really let out a blast!

As we walked along the train platform we noticed a large group of people gathered at the far end. As we got closer we realized they were gathered on the edge of an old western town.

Crowd gathers at old west gunfight-min

There was a crowd gathered by a mock-up of an old frontier town.

We stood on our tiptoes and peeked between everyone. To our surprise a midget cowboy was expertly twirling a rope getting ready to lasso someone or something.

Roping

He could really make it spin!

Then we heard a shot, and the midget was on the ground!

Gunfight at the saloon in Williams AZ-min

Uh oh… it’s a shoot out!

We noticed a cowboy reaching for his gun and then there were some more shots and some more cowboys fell to the ground.

Reaching for his gun-min

Watch out!

Old west gunfight Williams AZ 2-min

Two down…

Old west gunfight Williams AZ 3-min

Oh dear, now they’re all dead.

The crowd laughed and applauded and then slowly made its way to the waiting train. A gal walking next to me said, “That was fun to see here, but I hope they don’t do it on the train!”

I just smiled. Back when Mark and I had taken this train all those years ago there was a holdup in the middle of the woods, complete with horseback riders rushing the train and forcing it to stop. The cowboys had jumped off their horses and run through the train cars making quite a commotion!

Tourists line up to take the train at Grand Canyon Railway in Williams Arizona-min

Everyone made their way to the train platform.

As the passengers filed onto the train we chatted a little bit with the conductor, Bernie. He said today’s train was a small one with only about 500 or so passengers on it. On busy summer days the train would be about twice as long with 1,000 passengers on it.

Taking tickets at Grand Canyon Railway in Williams Arizona-min

.Lots of folks take overnight bags and spend a night at the rim.

During the holidays, from November 8th to January 4th this year, the Grand Canyon Railway runs the Polar Express train. Bernie said about 100,000 people, mostly kids of course, take that ride each year. Wow!!

In no time the train was full. As it pulled away from the depot, a small group of us on the platform waved and the people on the train waved back. We were all grinning. It might all sound a little hokey, but it was all a lot of fun even though we didn’t get on the train this time around.

Grand Canyon Railway train departs from Williams Arizona-min

The train heads off on its two hour journey to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.

As we walked through the Grand Canyon Railway yard back into town we noticed a funny looking little train car on display. It was a Cog Railway train car that was used on the Pike’s Peak cog railway in Colorado.

It was tilted forward because it was designed to crawl straight up the mountain.

A few years ago we took the Mt. Washington Cog Railway train ride in New Hampshire up to the blustery tippy top of Mt. Washington in the White Mountains. It was a blast. Ever since then, the Pike’s Peak cog railway ride has been on our bucket list!

Cog railway car from Pike's Peak on display at Grand Canyon Railway in Williams Arizona-min

One of the old cog railway train cars from Pike’s Peak in Colorado.

After all this train excitement, Buddy said he wanted to go to the coffee shop. We’d been going to a really nice place on the main drag called Brewed Awakenings during our stay, and he excitedly led us right up to the back door.

Ready for a puppaccino at Brewed Awakenings in Williams Arizona-min

Buddy led us right to the back door of Brewed Awakenings.

Before my latte order had even been made, Buddy was quickly devouring his puppaccino (whipped cream in a bowl). Yum!

Puppy eats a puppaccino 2-min

Is there anything better than a puppaccino??

If you are traveling to the Grand Canyon and want to go to the heart of the South Rim’s historic Grand Canyon Village, the Grand Canyon Railway is a great way to go. Revived in 1989 after shutting down in 1968, the train has reduced the number of cars visiting the Grand Canyon by some 50,000 since it reopened!

Even if you don’t take the train ride, if your RV travels take you along I-40 in Arizona and you have a hankering to walk the pretty main street of a Route 66 town and join the excitement of the train’s daily departure, Williams makes a great stop!

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Drag Boat Races in AZ – Top Speed FUN on the Colorado River!

October 2019 – We took our RV to the Colorado River area near the town of Parker in the northwestern part of Arizona and just happened to hit the river on the right day. The Arizona Drag Boat Association was holding a weekend of drag boat races!

Arizona Drag Boat Association Race in Parker Arizona-min

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We could hear the noise of the drag boat engines long before we saw them, and we quickly ran down to the water to catch the action.

Boat 506 Arizona DragBoat Association Race in Parker-min

Racing drag boats in the Arizona desert.

There was a line of drag boats on trailers in the parking lot, and one by one they were being launched at the boat ramp. From there they were towed out to the starting line by people on jetskis.

Boat tow to the start line Arizona DragBoat Association Race in Parker-min

Getting a tow to the start.

The race was a “liquid” quarter mile, and they raced it in pairs with the winner of each race advancing to face another challenger in another race.

Arizona Drag Boat Association Race at Blue Water Casino on Lake Havasu-min

High speed fun!

Each drag boat leaped into action and then flew past us. One guy got such a fast start that he was knocked right off his feet in his boat. Luckily he was okay and his safety tether stopped the boat engine so it didn’t fly off with no one in control.

Driver falls in ADBA dragboat race at Blue Water Casino-min

Oops!

The sound of the engines and the speed of these drag boats was astonishing. To capture the motion we played with slowing the shutter speeds on our cameras and panning the action so we could blur the background but keep the boats in focus.

Arizona Drag Boat Association Race in Parker AZ-min

Weeeee!

Arizona Drag Boat Association Race Blue Water Casino Parker AZ-min

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It was an absolutely perfect day to hang out on the grass and watch these exotic drag boats fly by. Even though it was mid-October it felt like summertime!

Spectators at Arizona Drag Boat Association Race at Blue Water Casino Parker AZ-min

A beautiful sunny day on the Colorado River.

Fun at Lake Havasu Arizona-min

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Arizona Drag Boat Association Race in Parker AZ at Blue Water Casino-min

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Up in the air a helicopter flew around, hovering over the drag boats at the starting line.

Helicopter surveys the starting line of Arizona Drag Boat Association Race at Blue Water Casino-min

A helicopter hovered over the start line.

As each boat leaped into action it popped a wheelie. What fun!

Popping a wheelie at the start line of Arizona Drag Boat Association Race in Parker AZ-min

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Drag boat racing on Lake Havasu Arizona-min

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Hole shot at Blue Water Casino drag boat race-min

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Some of the drag boats came clear out of the water!

Flying high on Lake Havasu in drag boat race-min

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Out of the water Arizona Drag Boat Association Race in Parker AZ-min

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On shore, some people were so inspired by all this racing action that they couldn’t help but fly off the ground in a full sprint too!

Puppy leaps for joy-min

Leaping for joy!

Above it all, the helicopter chased after each pair of racing drag boats to the finish line and then circled back to the start. When things got quiet between races it flew up and down the river close to the shore.

Helicopter chases two drag boats at the ADBA drag races on Lake Havasu-min

Getting a bird’s eye view of the finish line.

Blue Water Casino hosts Arizona Drag Boat Association Race in Parker-min

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Blue Water Casino island ADBA drag boat rades-min

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They were taking pics of us as we were taking pics of them!

Flying helicopter at ADBA races Blue Water Casino Parker AZ-min

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Not all the water action was dragboat racing. This section of the Colorado River was closed to through traffic for the day, but periodically they had to pause the racing to let some boats cruising the river pass through.

Inside the marina a fellow played on practice wakeboard that was tied to a cable system spanning the calm water.

Water play Blue Water Casino Parker Arizona-min

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And in between heats of drag boat races a few jetskis took to the race course to see how fast they could go.

Jetski flies on Lake Havasu in Arizona-min

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But drag boat racing was the game of the day, and the spray was flying. Many races were neck-and-neck to the finish.

Speedboat drag boat race in Parker Arizona on Lake Havasu-min

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Racing drag boat on Lake Havasu Arizona-min

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Neck and neck drag boat race at Blue Water Casino Park Arizona-min

She got him in the end!

Most drag boats had huge towering engines, but one yellow boat had an outboard. When he lost his race Mark caught an image of him behind a fantastic wall of spray left by the winner.

Drag boat with outboard motor Lake Havasu Arizona-min

How will the outboard do?

Through the spray in a drag boat race-min

Well, he was left behind in the spray!

We were about to leave and started walking back to the parking lot when Mark noticed some truly exotic drag boats being backed down the boat ramp. These drag boats had covers that flipped down to protect the driver.

When the first boat got into the water and revved its engine we could feel the rumble in our chests. We asked one of the people helping roll the drag boats into the water what racing class this was and she said it was the top level group called “Pro-Outlaw.”

OMG. We couldn’t leave now!

Closeup of drag boat engine-min

Raw power!

Pro-Outlaw class of drag boats at ADBA race in Lake Havasu Arizona-min

The Pro Outlaws line up to race.

The drag boats sat at the starting line and rumbled for a while. Then we saw two boats lower their hoods. And off they went!

Pro-Outlaw drag boat racing at ADBA Lake Havasu race-min

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These Pro-Outlaw boats were hitting over 190 mph. Holy smokes!!

Pro-Outlaw class ADBA drag boat races Lake Havasu-min

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Drag boat race on Lake Havasu in Parker Arizona-min

190+ mph!

Pro-Outlaw qualifier race Arizona Drag Boat Association Lake Havasu-min

Pro Outlaws.

The Colorado River and Lake Havasu area in northwestern Arizona always seems to have something going on, and we’ve enjoyed several stays there.

From an unexpected and really fun “timeshare tour” of an RV park timeshare program to balloons rising over Lake Havasu to a VW microbus rally to a close encounter with burros on the California side of the river, we’ve bumped into some fabulous thrills in this water-filled part of the Arizona desert!

Drag boat race on Lake Havasu in Parker Arizona-min

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Seligman, Arizona – Birthplace of Route 66!

October 2019 – Back in the early- to mid-1900s, Route 66 was the main highway — the ONLY highway — between Chicago and Los Angeles, and looking back (with not quite 20-20 vision), it seems like it was 2,448 miles of sheer fun.

Earlier this week we stopped in for a visit at Seligman, Arizona, which we found out was the birthplace of Route 66!

Seligman Arizona Birthplace of Route 66

Seligman Arizona – Birthplace of Route 66

Sometimes it’s not easy to trace historical roots accurately, so we’ve since found that Springfield, Missouri, is also considered to be the birthplace of Route 66…!

Either way, the little town of Seligman, Arizona, has just a few stores lining both sides of the main drag, and every single one is dolled up with decorations celebrating Route 66 history. Everywhere we looked we found another fabulous photo op!

Mural in Seligman Arizona on Route 66-min

Lots of buildings in Seligman Arizona have fabulous murals.

route 66 memorabilia Seligman Arizona-min

Seligman Arizona offers a total immersion in all things Route 66 and early 20th century!

Murals Seligman Arizona on Route 66-min

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This place is a memorabilia lover’s paradise and a great place to find gifts for loved ones.

Let's all go to the gift shop Seligman Arizona on Route 66-min

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Back in the day, Seligman was an important stop for motorists to gas up, and there were several gas stations in town. Nowadays, these gas stations have found new life as boutique gift shops, but the original architecture remains.

Old car and gift shop Seligman Arizona on Route 66-min

The old gas stations in town are now gift shots, but the architecture remains as it was.

Old gas station Seligman Arizona on Route 66-min

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Old car and Texaco sign Seligman Arizona on Route 66-min

Visions of another era

There were lots of vintage cars parked here and there, and Mark even found a motorcycle like the one James Dean rode!

Posing with James Dean motorcycle Seligman Arizona on Route 66-min

Mark found James Dean’s motorcycle!

Then he found James Dean himself. He was having a smoke outside a store.

Posing with James Dean Seligman Arizona on Route 66-min

Tough guys.

Betty Boop was in town too, wearing a hot outfit and roller skates and serving burgers and drinks.

Betty Boop Seligman Arizona on Route 66-min

Betty Boop!

It seemed that every square inch of town offered a glimpse into times past. Music from the 50s played in the gift shop doorways, and relics from the early 1900s were all over the place.

Looking at our photos later, we even found an original Good Sam Club poster with Sam himself looking quite different than he does today!

Funky Route 66 art Seligman Arizona-min

Good Sam was in his red circle but looked older and less sporty!

Route 66 store front Seligman Arizona-min

You can’t get lost here — you’re on Route 66!

Snow Cap and old cop car Seligman Arizona on Route 66-min

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Of course, there was plenty of history in this area long before Route 66 was built. This was the Wild West, after all!

We turned a corner and suddenly saw a classic old western storefront with a cowboy standing in a doorway on the porch and a few ladies of the night luring visitors to sit with them by the front door.

Old west store fronts Seligman Arizona on Route 66-min

A nod to the old Wild West… Seligman BEFORE Route 66!

Obviously, Seligman is 100% a tourist town, and some might call it a tourist trap. But we loved it. And we weren’t the only ones. Several tour buses came in and disgorged groups of people looking for a souvenir and a photo of themselves eating a burger at a classic 1950s diner.

Tour buses Seligman Arizona on Route 66-min

Lots of tour buses stop by Seligman!

Tour buses and RVs aren’t the only way to get here, though! People come to Seligman in all kinds of vehicles.

As we admired various antiques in one shop, we noticed that all the tourists in the shop were decked out in black Harley Davidson logo motorcycle gear: black leather jackets, black t-shirts, black pants and boots with black leather chaps. And black bandanas on their heads. They’d ridden in on motorcycles and their bikes were parked out front.

We overheard them chatting among themselves, and it sounded like German. But Mark noticed a French flag on one of the bikes. I asked one of the fellows where they were from. “Europe!” he said. I kinda smirked, and he laughed and said, “Europe’s big. We’re from Holland.”

Motorcycles Seligman Arizona on Route 66-min

A line of Harleys (all rentals with Montana plates!)

Well, Mark and I hadn’t been too far off! Dutch sounds a lot like German from a distance, and the Dutch flag looks much like the French flag flown sideways and with the colors reversed.

He told me his group of friends rides motorcycles together in Holland. They were on a two week loop tour going from the west coast to the Grand Canyon and back, hitting many fabulous stops along the way and doing it all on wonderfully scenic and swoopy roads ideal for motorcycle riding.

“Are your wives with you?” I asked, since I hadn’t seen a single Harley mama anywhere.

The fellow guffawed and winked at me.

This was definitely a two week trip these guys had dreamed of for a long time, and it had a boyhood sign all over it: “No girlz aloud.”

Foreign tourists traveling between the great American national parks stop in Seligman, Arizona, often, and one gift shop had a colorful spray of foreign currency under glass at the checkout counter. How totally cool was that!

International currencies at gift shop Seligman Arizona on Route 66-min

People from all over the world come to Seligman!

We wandered the streets and poked our heads in the stores for a while longer. What a fun spot.

Historic Sundries Seligman Arizona on Route 66-min

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Route 66 relics Seligman AZ-min

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Antique truck and gas pump Seligman Arizona on Route 66-min

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Gravestone Seligman Arizona on Route 66-min

Don’t touch that Edsel!

Life is short Seligman Arizona on Route 66-min

Good reminder!

Seligman is an easy town to visit while traveling east-west on I-40 in Arizona.

There is an I-40 exit on either end of town, so you can pull off the interstate at one end of town, cruise into town on Route 66, park, walk around and have lunch, and then drive out on I-40 at the other end of town.

Route 66 goes right through the heart of Seligman, so you can also venture down the historic highway a ways, either east or west, and imagine what it was like for Americans travelers crossing the country on this skinny strip of road back in the early 1900s.

Route 66 sign Seligman Arizona-min

Seligman is definitely worth a stop.

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Heavenly Theatrics in Utah’s Red Rocks

September 2019 – We spent a lot of time roaming around in the backcountry of Utah in recent weeks, and some of our best days were when we the skies grew gloomy or when the sun and clouds chased each other across the beautiful vistas.

FB 1200 Light and Shadow in the red rocks of Utah

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Some of the trails and two-track roads we ventured out on started out simply enough.

Backcountry trail in Utah-min

Red rocks beckon in the distance.

And then within a few minutes we’d find ourselves staring at the most amazing view from up on a plateau.

Red rock vista Utah-min

What a view!

Sometimes storm clouds would gather, and we’d notice the patterns they formed in the heavens complemented the patterns of the rock formations on the ground.

Red rocks and clouds Utah-min

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As we would gawk at the mysterious wonder of the beauty before us, Buddy would keep it real and look for chipmunks in the bushes!

Puppy in red rocks Utah-min

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There are vast networks of trails and two track roads through all the Utah National Forests, and the possibility of discovery lured us down one trail after another.

Red rock view from a Polaris RZR in Utah-min

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Cloud formations and red rocks in Utah-min

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On some excursions the dramatic views changed with every turn in the road or trail. Our little Trail Scout would lead the way, but sometimes he’d have to run back to us to see what was taking so long (we’d be busy with our cameras!).

Red rock trail in Utah-min

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Puppy on the trail in the Utah red rocks-min

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Running on a red rock trail in Utah-min

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Shades of orange and red dominated many landscapes, but we found the most curious patch of yellow rocks mixed in with the orange ones in one spot.

Yellow patches in the Utah red rocks-min

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The cloud patterns were astonishing and everchanging. One day, we watched one group of clouds that looked like space ships moving across the sky. It was amazing how these clouds and others seemed to mirror the shapes of the rock formations below.

Crazy clouds in the Utah red rocks-min

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Wild cloud pattern over red rocks in Utah-min

Wow!

Beautiful red rocks in Utah-min

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One afternoon the sun came out and chased the big fluffy clouds all over the sky. The sun spread warmth and light across the hills only to have the clouds sweep everything into darkness for a brief moment. Then the sun would return and embrace the land once again.

Dramatic sky and red rocks in Utah-min

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Light and shadow on red rocks in Utah-min

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Red rocks in Utah light and shadow-min

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Utah red rock cliffs and clouds-min

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Afternoon sun in the Utah red rocks-min

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Utah continues to be our favorite state, and it’s easy to see why: breathtaking views like these are all over the place. It’s no wonder that lots of folks say Utah’s most minor destinations would likely be National Parks if they were located somewhere else!

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A Utah Backcountry Adventure!

September 2019 – We enjoyed several trips into the backcountry area near Capitol Reef National Park during our Utah RV trip.

View from one of the many backcountry roads in Utah.

On each excursion we just loved the sudden transition that came after riding our Polaris RZR through the woods of Fish Lake National Forest when the thick trees cleared and the red rock views of Capitol Reef National Park far below began to come into view.

Running the trails on Thousand Lake Mountain Utah-min

A backcountry road crosses a meadow in Fish Lake National Forest

Near the top of the woodsy mountains it was very cold, and we all bundled up in winter jackets, even our pup Buddy!

View of Capitol Reef National Park from Thousand Lake Mountain Utah-min

It’s coooold up here. But between shivers, what a view!

While we drove in our side-by-side behind him, Buddy zoomed down the twisting road ahead of us as the incredible views grew ever larger all around.

Running free near Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

The descent had some fabulous views.

Overlook at Capitol Reef National Park from Thousand Lake Mountain Utah-min

View from an overlook.

Storm clouds were brewing overhead, giving the astonishing views a really dramatic flair. As we descended towards the valley floor, we hoped the clouds would clear once we got free of the mountains and out into the red rock desert.

Red rock views looking down at Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

An exhilarating run — with views!

Capitol Reef National Park Utah views during run on Thousand Lake Mountain-min

A new view with every turn.

Running above Capitol Reef National Park Utah Red rock views-min

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Storm and rain over Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

Light and shadow.

By the time we got to the bottom, though, the sun had come out and the air had warmed up at least 20 degrees. Buddy shed his jacket but Mark and I hadn’t been running like he had, so we kept our hats, jackets and gloves on a while longer!

Taking a break-min

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The backcountry roads in and around this area go on forever with lots of little off-shoots and detours and diversions along the way. There were signs pointing out different destinations, but we just followed the roads that looked intriguing without a particular destination in mind.

RZR ride in Capitol Reef National Park-min

There are dozens of roads and just as many great destinations.

Lots of rain all summer long had left the valley unusually green. The lush verdant carpet of vegetation around the base of the red rock pinnacles and cliff walls was just wonderful. One especially prominent pinnacle was Solomon’s Temple.

Capitol Reef National Park view-min

First glimpse of Solomon’s Temple.

Pinnacle in Capitol Reef National Park-min

Solomon’s Temple.

As we walked around taking photos, the storm on the horizon seemed to intensify.

Photographing Capitol Reef National Park during backcountry drive-min

This whole area was wonderful for taking photos, especially as the storm rolled in!

Storm in Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

Rain was falling in the distance.

The backcountry road weaved and twisted and turned as it ran between the pink sandstone hills.

Backcountry road in Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

The gravel road was very squiggly!

Pink sandstone hills in Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

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There were storm clouds in every direction by now, and we began to feel droplets of rain here and there. We wanted to keep going, but the clouds were becoming really threatening.

Storm clouds Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

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Storm threatens RZR ride in the red rocks-min

Hmmm… those clouds were getting very dark.

Storm clouds descend in Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

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Storm clouds Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

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We began to head back towards the mountain we’d come over hours earlier, but we noticed that a huge storm was pelting the very place where our road went. Yikes!

As we watched the thick rain cloud gathering steam over the distant hills, we realized it was headed our way.

Arriving storm

A particularly threatening storm cloud hung over the mountain we were returning to.

We looked around and noticed a group of ranch buildings and barns nearby. We ducked into a three sided barn for quick shelter. Luckily, the three walls around and behind us protected us from the approaching tempest.

Waiting out a storm-min

We hid out for cover for a few minutes

While we huddled inside waiting for the storm to blow over, Buddy noticed some rabbits zipping around. He could hear and smell them on the other side of the barn wall. Gosh, did he go crazy over that!

Puppy hears rabbits behind barn wall-min

Buddy passed the time eavesdropping on the rabbits on the other side of the wall

A bunch of old, used horseshoes had been hung on a half wall that formed a pen for smaller animals. How cool!

Horseshoes

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Fortunately, the worst of the storm missed us, and before long the sun had come out again. We made our way back up the switchbacks and over the mountain just in time to see a rainbow crossing our fifth wheel.

Rainbow over fifth wheel RV-min

A beautiful rainbow filled the sky after the storm passed.

The network of backcountry roads around the outside Capitol Reef National Park and in Fish Lake National Forest surrounding the Park is immense, and there are all kinds of interesting things to be seen, whether by 4×4 vehicle, side-by-side, mountain bike or horse!

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