2022 Genesis Supreme 28CRT Toy Hauler – Our Big RV Reveal!

Everybody loves celebrating “Big Reveals” announcing special surprises these days, so here is our Big RV Reveal: Our new rig for our summertime travel adventures is a 2022 Genesis Supreme 28CRT Toy Hauler!

My last post left off with a bit of a cliff-hanger after I described selling our Arctic Fox truck camper. I dropped a big hint about what was coming, though, with this final image:

The Journey Begins - Genesis Supreme Toy Hauler

It is the logo that appears on the back of all Genesis Supreme toy haulers!

2022 Genesis Supreme 28CRT Toy Hauler ramp door

Back when we were full-timing, we struggled for several years with figuring out what to get to replace our 2007 Hitchhiker fifth wheel. We went on several factory tours in Elkhart, Indiana, and I even did a big research project that resulted in a feature article for Trailer Life Magazine about the larger toy haulers on the market at the time. It appeared in the September 2019 issue of Trailer Life.

However, we couldn’t find a toy hauler that was built as solidly as we wanted for full-time use. We also wanted a separate garage that was at least 12′ long, but that meant the whole trailer would be north of 40′ and even as long as 44′. That is a Really Long Trailer! And Mark was not enthused about towing such a huge beast.

Also, the longer trailers were often a bit skinny on Cargo Carrying Capacity for our RZR plus full tanks and all our stuff (you have all your worldly possessions with you when you’re full-time). We’d had enough trouble with failing axles and a failed suspension on our fifth wheel trailer (and it wasn’t even overloaded beyond the factory specifications) that we didn’t want to risk towing around a huge trailer that was at or near its load limit.

Basically, we wanted it all, but we wanted it to be fairly short and really stout too. But we couldn’t find such a rig.

While we were camping in our truck camper last summer, I realized we could make do with a tiny kitchen and tiny bedroom for a few months of travel but we needed a big open area inside the trailer to relax and stretch out — recliners, sofa, something! If we could convert that open area to be a garage for the RZR and bikes while we were in transit, I’d be thrilled!

It suddenly dawned on me that what we needed was an open box toy hauler!

These rigs have a big garage area that converts into a living space with moveable furniture. The advantage over a unit with a separate garage is that you can arrange the living room furniture any way you wish and the overall length can be quite modest. The disadvantage is that you have a stinky dirty toy in your living room when you travel. It’s a tough trade-off and one we’d never make if we were living in the rig full-time. But for a few summer months it holds a lot of promise.

We would be able to haul the RZR and bikes inside the rig rather than having the RZR outside on a trailer or the bikes collecting road grime on a hitch receiver mounted bike rack. It would also give us an onboard gas tank to fuel up the RZR rather than carrying jugs of gasoline and we’d have an on-board gas generator which would allow us to turn on the air conditioning at a moment’s notice. If we bought a modern open box toy hauler, the ramp door would convert into an 8′ x 8′ patio off the back of the rig. All huge pluses!

Here’s where we landed:

Genesis Supreme 28CRT Toy Hauler Floor Plan

2022 Genesis Supreme 28CRT Toy Hauler Floor Plan
Ours has the two slide-outs. The “power queen bed” is on an electric lift system.

But how did we end up here?

There aren’t a lot of open box toy haulers on the market. The big Indiana RV manufacturers are focused on building toy haulers with a separate garage because no one wants that stinky dirty toy in their living room.

However, a small builder in California, Genesis Supreme, is manufacturing them under the brand names Genesis Supreme, Vortex and Wanderer.

Ironically, while out camping last summer, we met a guy camping in a Genesis Supreme Vortex. It was a massive model — 42 feet long — and it was cavernous inside. He didn’t use it to bring any kind of toys with him, though. Instead, being a really outgoing and fun-loving type of guy, he’d set up the whole interior to be Party Central for him and his wife and his crowd of friends and family that he camped with regularly.

He could fit 18 people in his rig comfortably (he had several Euro Chairs and gravity syle reclining camping chairs for them all). He also had a fully stocked bar and a beautiful huge kitchen with tons of counter space. The bedroom had a king bed and the shower was a full size tub enclosure rather than a stall shower. He stored it 10 minutes from where he liked to camp and he’d just drive his truck from the house to the storage lot (an hour’s drive) and then hitch up and drive a few miles to go camping. An ideal situation for him.

We went back to our truck camper in awe and with fresh new ideas swimming around in our heads. We woudn’t want to tow that beast, but my oh my, the things you can do with an open floor plan and moveable furniture!

I began searching online for open box toy haulers and there were very few. Genesis Supreme makes open box toy haulers exclusively, however, and they had a really cool unit that would suit our needs: the Genesis Supreme 28CRT.

2022 Genesis Supreme 28CRT Toy Hauler

2022 Genesis Supreme 28CRT Toy Hauler

The fresh water tankage was better than the Hitchhiker by 22 gallons and although the waste tanks were smaller than ideal they were manageable for shorter-term, on-the-go, frequently-moving travels. It also had a generous an on-board gas tank for the RZR and the on-baord generator:

  • Fresh Water: 100 gallons
  • Gray Tank: 40 gallons
  • Black Tank: 40 gallons
  • Propane: 14 gallons
  • Gasoline: 40 gallons

I used to wonder why toy haulers are so often built with huge fresh water tanks and totally inadequate gray tanks — where did the manufacturer expect all that water to go? Well, most have an outside shower or hose for cleaning off the toy before putting it away. So, the assumption is that much of the fresh water will be used that way and will end up on the ground and not in the gray tank. Needless to say, the manufacturers should provide an appropriately sized gray tank for people who won’t be pouring fresh water on the ground as they wash their toys.

The weights and carrying capacity were good too (CCC nearly 5,000 lbs) and could easily accommodate full propane/gas/fresh water tanks (which is how we typically travel) as well as the RZR and our gear, clothes, bedding, tools and food:

  • UVW: 15,000 lbs
  • GVWR: 10,110
  • CCC: 4,890 lbs

When looking for a rig, especially a toy hauler that will carry something heavy, it’s important to add up all the fluids in the tanks plus the toy and then estimate the weight of all the other stuff you’ll be carrying, including upgrades with hidden weights like extra solar panels and batteries.

Our RZR is 1,250 lbs, our two bikes are 50 lbs, a full 100 gallon water tank is 830 lbs, a full 40 gallon gas tank is 244 lbs, and 14 gallons of propane is 60 lbs. The total for all that is 2,434 lbs. That leaves a comfortable margin of 2,486 lbs for any upgrades we install, our kitchen gear, tools, spare parts, clothing and food.

We saw plenty of toy haulers that had just over 3,000 lbs of cargo carrying capacity, and some of those had a 160 gallon fresh water tank which weighs 1,328 lbs. We wouldn’t be able to use one of those rigs and bring any clothes or food.

The Genesis Supreme 28CRT is 3′ shorter than our Hitchhiker was, a foot taller and 6 inches wider:

  • Length: 33′
  • Width: 8′ 6″
  • Height 13′ 6″

Although we don’t have the measurement from the Hitchhiker, the Genesis Supreme appears to have less of an overhang behind the rear wheels, a plus when taking a tight turn which makes the back end swing out and potentially hit things. Years ago our Hitchhiker hit a guard rail which peeled the entire fiberglass endcap back about a foot, revealing all the insulation and wiring inside the wall. Ugh! The cost of the repair (covered by insurance) was 25% of the new purchase price of that 5th wheel.

It also appeared that the Genesis Supreme was higher off the ground than the Hitchhiker which is good when going through dips and washes.

There was a Genesis Supreme 28CRT for sale at a dealership an hour or so away, so I went there with a tape measure, notepad and camera in hand to see what it was like. Mark decided to stay home with Buddy and he just said, “If you like it, make an offer!”

I really liked it, but I wasn’t going to commit us to anything without him seeing it and liking it too! I came home and we went over all the photos and discussed it at length. He liked the looks of it but didn’t particularly want to go to the dealership to negotiate.

“I don’t want to buy anything unless it falls in my lap!” He said.

I agreed 100%. Fall-in-the-lap deals are the best. You set the stage, do your homework, and aim for success, but you can’t force the right thing to happen. I’ve come to realize that every seemingly “perfect” deal that tragically falls through does so because it is making way for a better deal to come along. I knew RVs were selling fast, though, and I was concerned we’d lose this one if we didn’t act soon.

I called Genesis Supreme to see how busy they were. It’s a small enough company that you can actually call and easily get through to someone knowledgeable who has real answers! They said they had several dealer orders for Vortex 2815V models in the coming months and that those units were identical to the Genesis Supreme 28CRT models inside but were painted a different color on the outside (battleship gray instead of white with black, blue and gray stripes). These units would be shipping with a higher MSRP, of course, but at least the unit at the dealership wasn’t the last one to be delivered for 12 months as I’d been told last summer about a Desert Fox model I liked and that was nowhere to be found west of the Mississippi.

2022 Genesis Supreme 28CRT Toy Hauler

2022 Genesis Supreme 28CRT Toy Hauler

One night, I casually looked on Craigslist, and tucked in between all the dealership ads for 2022 Genesis Supremes there was a 2022 Genesis Supreme 28CRT for sale by a private party. Huh?

I contacted the seller and he said he’d had it for 5 months and realized it didn’t work for his purposes. He’d bought it to visit his inlaws on weekends and travel a little on the side but decided it made more sense to buy a small second home near his inlaws and get a small motorhome for traveling.

That would all be much more money than a truck and trailer, but he was more concerned about getting the right solution than the cost. Plus, a second home is an investment that will generally appreciate whereas an RV is a asset that will generally depreciate in value. We were intrigued that he didn’t own a big motorized toy like a RZR and he used the trailer to haul two big tricycles for riding around his inlaws’ neighborhood.

I asked if we could see it and he said, “Yes, but unfortunately I’m storing it in a lot that’s 90 miles from where I live…”

It turned out his storage lot was right down the street from where we live! WOW!!

It seemed like a very cool opportunity was falling our laps!

We saw it, loved it, struck a deal that was way below what we would have paid at the dealership, and brought it home. The unit at the dealership didn’t have an onboard generator because of supply chain issues while this one had a generator and some other small upgrades already installed. It had been used so few times that the microwave and stereo still had plastic film protecting the display.

The furniture is black, which is not my first choice. The unit at the dealership had more appealing cream colored furniture and some lighter trim which lightened the interior significantly.

However, unlike a full-time rig where I’d be very fussy about the interior, we’ll be in this for just a few months at a time, and hopefully we’ll be outside doing and seeing exciting things most of that time. We don’t have to worry about the long dark months of winter when full-timers can wind up staying inside quite a bit.

Stepping inside, you are facing the kitchen, and the garage/living area is to the left.

2022 Genesis Supreme 28CRT Toy Hauler Interior

The sofa is pretty comfy both for sitting and for napping (it’s a jackknife sofabed)

The length of the garage area is 15’11” from the ramp door to the refrigerator. Our RZR is 9′ long. There are two small 20″ deep slide-outs, one in the main area for a fold-up sofa/bed and one in the bedroom for some drawers and a closet.

2022 Genesis Supreme 28CRT Toy Hauler main living area

An open box floor plan allows you to arrange the interior however you like with moveable furniture!

The tiny L-shaped kitchen is workable although not optimal, but with some minor modifications we’ve made it more spacious (details coming in another post).

2022 Genesis Supreme 28CRT Toy Hauler Kitchen

The sofa and kitchen are on the driver’s side

2022 Genesis Supreme 28CRT Toy Hauler Kitchen closeup

The L-kitchen is small, but with some simple modifications (not shown here) we’ve made it more spacious

The interesting thing about open box toy haulers is that everything is geared towards making room for and bringing in that big ol’ toy. The jack-knife sofa can fold out into a full-size bed but it can also fold up against the wall to make room for a big toy.

2022 Genesis Supreme 28CRT Toy Hauler sofa side

The jackknife sofa in its “living room” position.

2022 Genesis Supreme 28CRT Toy Hauler sofa up in travel position

The sofa is folded up against the exterior wall in “travel position.”

The recliners are very light and can be moved easily. The official setup has a small removable table between them.

2022 Genesis Supreme 28CRT Toy Hauler Recliners

The recliners are light and can be moved easily. The factory provides a removable pedestal table.

But they could also be set up in the rear. This is where the guy who towed around Party Central really had fun. He could arrange seating for all his friends and family in many different ways. For us, we’ll see how we end up using it. I like having options!

2022 Genesis Supreme 28CRT Toy Hauler Living room

The recliners can also be placed in the rear of the rig the way they are in many traditional fifth wheel trailers.

In the rear there is a queen size top bunk (60 x 80 inches) and two sets of “rollover” sofas that can face each other or be laid flat to form a full-size lower bunk bed (54 x 80 inches).

Both bunks can be raised and lowered. The sofas (lower bunk) are the ones that actually move up and down the track while the top bunk simply rides on top of them. There are stops placed a few feet down on the rails to force the top bunk to stop descending as the lower bunk is lowered. Once the top bunk has stopped, the sofas that make up the lower bunk can be lowered all the way down to be set up as either opposing sofas or as a single full-size bed.

2022 Genesis Supreme 28CRT Toy Hauler Happijac beds up

The bunk beds in the back are in the fully raised position so you can walk (or fit a RZR) underneath.

2022 Genesis Supreme 28CRT Toy Hauler Happijac halfway down

The top bunk rides on top of the two opposing sofas which flatten out to make a full size bed.

2022 Genesis Supreme 28CRT Toy Hauler Happijac lowered

The top bunk stops descending at some stoppers placed midway down the track. The sofas (laid out as a lower bunk) descend down to traditional bed level.

The top bunk is really cozy and comfy and you get a great view out the window at the beautiful outdoors. The lower bunk is surpisingly comfy too, and what we’re finding is it’s fun to have it set up as a kind of lounging area, great for napping, reading a book or for watching the Outdoor Channel (Buddy’s favorite station on his Window TV).

Heading upstairs, the spaciousness missing in the kitchen has been totally regained in the bathroom. It is big and roomy.

2022 Genesis Supreme 28CRT Toy Hauler bathroom sink and shower

The bathroom is very spacious.

2022 Genesis Supreme 28CRT Toy Hauler shower

Fancy stall shower.

2022 Genesis Supreme 28CRT Toy Hauler bathroom

What the kitchen lacks in space, the bathroom makes up for in spades!

The bedroom is very small and the bed is a short RV queen (60 x 74.5 versus 60 x 80) that runs “north-south,” i.e., parallel to the road. There are two hanging closets, four drawers, a lot of storage over the bed and a cubby for laundry as well as a bedside table. Plus there are windows on both sides of the bed.

2022 Genesis Supreme 28CRT Toy Hauler bedroom 1

The bedroom has good storage space but just a short RV queen bed (60 x 74.5 inches).

2022 Genesis Supreme 28CRT Toy Hauler bedroom 2

There is plenty of drawer and closet space in the bedroom.

Oh, look who just jumped up on the bed!

Buddy feels right at home here!

I think he wants to head outside, so let’s go.

Camping in a 2022 Genesis Supreme 28CRT Toy Hauler

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One thing we love is that the windows are very large.

Camping in a 2022 Genesis Supreme 28CRT Toy Hauler

The trailer is 13’6″ tall and you can see the height in this pic where Mark seems quite small next to it.

Another wonderful feature is the back patio. The ramp door opens up and hangs on cables from the frame to form a patio that can hold 3,000 lbs. A set of railings (by MorRyde) roll out and clip into place. Those rails will be handy for giving Buddy a way to be outdoors at times when we don’t want to let him run free.

Ramp door patio 2022 Genesis Supreme 28CRT Toy Hauler

The ramp door to the garage converts to a patio.

There’s a back gate you can open to get down to the ground.

Back patio of a 2022 Genesis Supreme 28CRT Toy Hauler

It’s very cool to have an elevated outdoor space to hide out in!

Playing guitar on the patio of a 2022 Genesis Supreme 28CRT Toy Hauler

Happy camper!

2022 Genesis Supreme 28CRT Toy Hauler ramp patio

“What’s going on up there?”

Solar Power

Another bonus is that it came from the factory with a basic solar power setup. All the components are from Go Power. It’s a small system, but it may be enough for us to squeak by in the summer months when the days are long, the sun is high, and we use very little power because we go to bed at sunset and wake up at sunrise.

  • One 190 watt solar panel
  • Solar charge controller + Battery Monitor
  • 1500 watt pure sine wave inverter
  • Four 12-volt Group 24 wet cell batteries

We’ve never had a battery monitor before, so this is a new gizmo for us. We always kept an eye on the voltages reported on the solar charge controller to get a sense of how the batteries were doing. Now we can glance at the screen in the living room and it tells us the batteries are 100% charged, or whatever. How accurate it is, I have no idea!

As for all the other solar gear, we’ll do a summer with the factory installed setup and see how it goes. Down the road we might put more solar power on the roof and/or upgrade the batteries and/or upgrade the inverter. But for now, in 9 days of camping in mid-May, the system did just fine and the batteries were fully charged before nightfall. Of course, there’s always the onboard generator that has a switch in the kitchen and a switch by the bed so if you feel a need for power at 2:00 a.m., you can roll over, hit the switch, and snooze to the hum of the genny.

Sunset over a 2022 Genesis Supreme 28CRT Toy Hauler

We really enjoyed our shakedown cruise and can’t wait to go on our bigger summer trip.

A few other big positives for us are:

Refrigerator

We didn’t want one of the huge 18 cubic foot four door refrigerators because they go through propane pretty quickly when boondocking and, over time, there have been more problems with them than with the smaller 6 to 10 foot double door refrigerators.

The double door 8 cubic foot refrigerator on this rig is the same size we lived with for all those years in our Hitchhiker, so we’re used to living with a small fridge. This particular one has a bigger freezer than our old one, so that’s a nice plus.

In our Hitchhiker, our 8 cubic foot fridge and our range used 7 gallons of propane every 3 weeks. If we had a refrigerator that was more than twice as big, we might be hunting for places to fill our propane tank every 7 to 10 days. It’s not always so easy to find propane, and it’s enough of a pain to unload the tank from the rig and into the truck and then chauffeur it to the propane store and load it back into the rig that we’d rather do it as infrequently as possible.

An electric fridge is fine if you have enough solar power to support it, but we’re just trying to have fun for a few months each year and we’re not looking for a long term full-time RVing type of solution.

Two Fresh Water Intakes and No All-In-One Compartment

Unlike most modern fifth wheels that have an all-in-one filling/dumping compartment on the side of the rig, this unit has all those things placed separately but near each other. We like having them all spaced out and operating independently of each other and not having to follow a chart for switches to be aligned different ways to go between dry camping, winterizing and full hookup camping.

Tank management on an RV

There are 2 separate fresh water intakes, one for filling the tank for dry camping and the other for a fresh water hookup.

The all-in-one sanitation compartments often have the fresh water intake recessed within the compartment which makes it impossible to add water to the tank with jerry jugs. It’s possible to rig up a pump to pump water out of a tank or jug and into that recessed intake, but we like the simplicity of hoisting a jug up and emptying it into the tank rather than getting out the pump and all that. Obviously, with some creativity, it is possible to make it very easy to use a pump and many people do.

Some rigs we’ve seen don’t even have a gravity fill fresh water intake which makes it difficult or impossible to add water to the tank from water jugs. The system uses switches instead to direct the water flow to the holding tank or to the interior of the rig.

This unit has one fresh water intake specifically for filling the fresh water holding tank that is located a little lower than the one on the Hitchhiker which will make it easier to access. It has another fresh water intake for a city connection for when we have fresh water available at our campsite (which is rare).

Electric Awning

Mark never thought he’d want or like an electric awning, but he’s loving this one. “As long as the motor keeps working!” he says. Hopefully it will because even I can open and close this awning in my sleep at 3 a.m. if I have to!

Keyless Door Lock

Again, we never thought we’d want or like having a keypad on the entry door that can be used in place of a key. But we love it! So often we approach the door and realize we don’t have the key with us. Now, we just punch in the magic code and Sesame opens for us!

There are keys for the door too, so you can use a key if you wish. There’s also a key fob with a remote so you can open or lock the door from a distance too!

RV keyless entry

Keyless entry is handy when you don’t have your keys on you.

Radio Reception and Outdoor Speakers

We could never get good radio reception on the radio in the Hitchhiker and that was something we noticed right away when we bought the Arctic Fox truck camper because it got great reception. It is so nice to listen to the radio and tune in to whatever is going on locally.

2022 Genesis Supreme 28CRT Toy Hauler outdoor speakers

Music outside – what fun!

We’ve enjoyed many a radio show consisting of call-in classified ads for farming and ranching equipment in the big rural western states, something we just don’t find elsewhere. The Genesis Supreme gets great radio reception and the outdoor speakers are an added bonus.

Shhhh — We promise to keep the outdoor volume down so we don’t bother the deer and the rabbits!

Sunset over a 2022 Genesis Supreme 28CRT Toy Hauler

Hopefully we’ll enjoy many years of travel in this baby!

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Capitol Reef NP – Cathedral Valley – A Stunning Backcountry Drive in Utah!

September 2019 – One day, while enjoying the beautiful lakes and woods of central Utah, we took our RZR up and over a mountain and found ourselves staring down into a world of stunning red rocks: Capitol Reef National Park’s spectacular Cathedral Valley.

Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah

We took our RZR for a ride in sensational Cathedral Valley — WOW!

The road wound around through the mountain woods and passed a few small ponds and meadows and then branched off on a spur to an overlook. What a fabulous view!

View from a RZR Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

The red rock towers of Cathedral Valley beckoned from a distance.

Lookout at Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

Buddy looks out at the astonishing view.

Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

Cathedral Valley lay far below us.

In the distance we could see a dirt road crossing the valley floor heading off towards the towering red rock cathedrals.

Road to Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

A road through Cathedral Valley wound towards the pinnacles.

Towers in Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

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The road descended quickly and made some sharp switch-back turns.

First glimpse Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

We got down towards the level of the valley floor.

We stopped on a little promontory and wandered around on a narrow sandy trail. Such views!

View of Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

Exotic stone towers seemed to jut up from the desert floor.

Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah views-min

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We rounded one final hairpin switchback turn and then the view widened. The towering cathedral pinnacles seemed within arm’s reach.

Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah view-min

“Cathedral Valley” is the perfect name for this place.

Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah pinnacle framed by tree-min

View through the branches of an old dead tree.

Some of the rock formations were sharp and jagged, while others had a more rounded and softer appearance.

Sandstone towers Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

Some rock towers had knife-like edges. Others were softly rounded.

Striped sandstone formations Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

Horizontal stripes and undulations

Pinnacles Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

Varying shapes and layers.

Once we got down to the valley floor, our little canine trail scout, Buddy, insisted on showing us the way.

Puppy runs in Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

The views made Buddy want to run run run!

Puppy runs in Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

What a place!

We were all alone in a fantastic and desolate land. The sun was warm on our skin and there were exotic red rock cliffs and pinnacles in every direction around us.

RZR side-by-side ride in Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

Moon unit in a moonscape!

We hopped out of the RZR onto the sandy trail, and down at our feet we noticed that even though we felt like we were alone, there were lots of other creatures enjoying this beautiful place along with us.

Footprints in the desert sand-min

We were not alone out here!

Further down the road a thin wall of pinnacles rose up on one side of us.

Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

Some pinnacle walls were very sheer.

Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

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At one spot there was a a U-shaped window in the thin wall.

Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

The razor’s edge of the cliff wall can be seen in this unique window

Window Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

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A little further down the road we saw an old dead tree permanently arched as if blown by a persistent wind.

Old tree in Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

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As we progressed down the road we had to stop every 100 yards or so to get a closer look. Such beauty absolutely everywhere — it was breathtaking!

RZR side-by-side ride in Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

We hopped in and out of the RZR a lot. There was just so much to see up close on foot!

Pinnacle peaks Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

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The name “Cathedral Valley” is perfect for this area. One formation in particular seemed to have buttresses along the flanks of the cathedral and a steeply pitched roof.

Cathedral buttresses and roofline Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

All it needed was a tall steeple at the far left end!

While Nature has created these fabulous rock formations, ranchers have put their imprint on the land as well. We came across a small wooden building that was used by the cowboys of yesteryear when they brought their cattle to this valley for summer grazing.

There was a hitching post out front and a small corral for their horses off to the side. Inside was a table and set of shelves that held many of the relics that have been found around the property: rusty cans and utensils, bits of pottery, cookware and some leather straps and buckles.

There was a row of hooks on the wall for coats and cowboy hats.

Old cabin and hitching post Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

We found an old cabin cowboys used to use in the summertime.

Window view old cabin Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

It was ultra-simple living out here in this remote land, but I’m sure the cowboys loved it.

Back on the road we savored the views in every direction. While we snapped endless photos, Buddy pranced along on his own four paws.

Pinnacle in Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

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Puppy runs in Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

These glorious open spaces make some people want to grab their cameras and other people want to run!

Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah puppy on the trail-min

Working up a thirst!

Water break

Ahhh! A cool water break in the shade!

The back roads through Capitol Reef National Park are open to highway licensed vehicles, bikes, horses and hikers, and they are drivable with a 4×4 passenger vehicle if you take it slowly.

Some parts are narrow, steep, twisty and washboarded, and in a few places the road was covered with fairly deep sand, but we did see a pickup go by. We loved driving in our “little tank” because it is open air, it floats over the bumps and is so easy to hop in and out of.

Side-by-side RZR ride Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah

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This remote back side of Capitol Reef National Park is gorgeous. As with all the National Parks, though, we recommend that first time visitors check out the sights by the front door of the Park at the outset.

After all, visitors centers and major overlooks are always located at the most spectacular spots, and there is much to see along the truly eye-popping Highway 24 “All American Scenic Drive” as it goes through the main part of Capitol Reef National Park before venturing into the Park via this more rough hewn back door!

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Casto Canyon Trail – A Delightful ATV / UTV Ride!

August 2019 – When we were casting about on the internet to find beautiful places to ride our Polaris RZR side-by-side, we came across a claim that Casto Canyon in Utah is one of the top 10 ATV trails in the country. Wow!! We had to go!

Casto Canyon ATV and UTV trail ride in a Polaris RZR-min

Casto Canyon is a gorgeous ATV / UTV / hiking / biking and horseback riding trail

Casto Canyon (there is no “r” in the word “Casto” ) is located on the back side of spectacular Red Canyon, a unique collection of red and pink hoodoo pinnacles that acts as a warmup show for visitors heading to Bryce Canyon National Park.

We eagerly hopped into our RZR and hit the two track trail.

Two track trail across a wash in Casto Canyon Utah-min

Casto Canyon Trail is a two-track trail that follows the route of a huge wash.

The Casto Canyon ATV trail follows a wash that winds through the canyon and criss-crosses it repeatedly. In no time we had a view that totally warranted that “Top 10” designation we’d read about.

Casto Canyon ATV trail goes alongside a wash in Utah-min

After just a few minutes we were in the middle of a gorgeous red rock canyon.

Our little Buddy ran along ahead of us in his usual role as Trail Scout and sprinted down the two track trail as it ducked back into the woods.

Casto Canyon trail goes through the woods for a while-min

The trail wandered between the wash and the woods, perfect for a puppy prance.

Two track ATV trail in Casto Canyon Utah-min

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The Casto Canyon trail parallels the wash and hops back and forth across it repeatedly. We had the whole canyon to ourselves, and the rising sun felt warm on our skin each time we emerged into the wash from the deep shade in the woods..

Red rock pinnacle and puppy in Casto Canyon Utah-min

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Red rock pinnacle on Polaris RZR ride in Casto Canyon Utah an ATV : UTV trail copy

The red rock hoodoo pinnacles rose up around us.

Red rock pinnacles in Casto Canyon Utah-min

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The Casto Canyon ATV trail crosses a wash many times-min

The Casto Canyon wash is very wide and quite deep. What a rush it must be when it floods!

UTV Polaris RZR ride in Casto Canyon Utah-min

The trail crossed the wash many times.

Casto Canyon Trail is only 5.5 miles long, but we took our time, riding a few hundred yards and then stopping to take pics and explore on foot. At first, the shadows were long and deep, but gradually the sun rose higher and the shadows crept back towards the base of each tree and red rock hoodoo.

Sunrise in the red rocks of Casto Canyon Utah-min

Early morning was a great time to explore this canyon.

Red rocks through the trees in Casto Canyon Utah-min

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Casto Canyon Trail is a multi-use trail that is open to horses, hikers, bikers and motorized vehicles. It would be possible to ride it on a bike, but we knew we’d be jumping on and off our bikes a lot to walk through the more difficult patches.

Casto Canyon ATV trail in Utah winds in and out of a wash-min

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As we explored the fringes of the trail, our gaze was drawn both down to our feet where delicate flowers were in bloom and up high above us where the red rock spires reached towards the sky.

Flowers in Utah-min

Pretty flowers were blossoming here and there.

Red rock crack in Casto Canyon Utah-min

Such fantastic shapes!

At last we came to an intersection with Barney Cove Trail. This spot marks the end of the dramatic red rocks lining the sides of the wash and the trail. Buddy decided it was time for a rest!

End of Casto Canyon at Barney Cove and Fremont Trail junction-min

We stopped for a break when the Casto Canyon trail intersected the Barney Cove Trail

Suddenly we heard the sounds of a motor in the distance, and then an ATV appeared on the trail ahead of us. The driver stopped and took a break while he waited for his companions behind him.

It turned out that he and his friends were on a 12 day long 300 mile ATV adventure. They had already covered 100 miles in the first four days and they had another 200 miles to go.

They were carrying all their gear on their four wheelers, from tents, clothes and food to drinking water and gas for the ATVs. They were staying on or near the trail in the wilds the whole time, and they were having a blast.

As we watched him and his buddies ride off down the trail behind us, we agreed that they were probably about to see the most beautiful scenery of their whole trip.

ATV on 300 mile journey on Paiute Trail and Casto Canyon Trail-min

A group of ATVs passed us. They were 100 miles into a 300 mile multi-day trip!

Nearby, we found a trickle of a stream flowing. The wash is enormously wide with steep eroded dirt walls that have been carved by blasts of rushing water in some places. But at the moment, in mid-August, there was just a dribble of water here and there, likely from the recent afternoon monsoon storms.

Creek in Casto Canyon red rocks in Utah-min

Recent monsoons had left a dribble of water in a few spots.

We continued a little further on Casto Canyon Trail. Casto Canyon is a narrow trail and we were glad we had a skinny trail model RZR when we squeezed through one tight spot.

Narrow passage on Casto Canyon ATV trail Utah-min

There were some tight spots on this narrow trail.

The trail got rougher as we went along, and the most stunning red rock scenery fell behind us. So, we turned around and headed back. The sun was much higher now, and with the different lighting and in direction the views were all new.

Casto Canyon Utah AtV UTV trail through a wash-min

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View in Casto Canyon on the ATV - UTV trail-min

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The size of the red rock canyon walls is hard to comprehend, but the size of the trees gives a hint.

Green tree in the red rocks of Casto Canyon Utah-min

A big tree snuggles up to the base of a red rock canyon wall.

RZR ride on Casto Canyon ATV - UTV trail in Utah-min

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Even as tall and rugged as the red rock hoodoos were, we kept finding dainty little things down at our feet. We were immersed in Nature’s wondrous beauty.

Morning shadows in red rock country-min

Not only were the towering hoodoos eye catching, we found beautiful things at our feet!

The trail twisted and turned around berms on the edge of the canyon on our way back.

Woods and red rocks in Casto Canyon Utah-min

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Two track trail in Casto Canyon for ATV UTV Horses and hiking-min

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The red rock hoodoos stood cheek-by-jowel on the edges of the wash, each one covered with horizontal stripes. When we turned one corner, we noticed a red rock hoodoo that had slipped on its foundation and was lying at an angle. Cool!

Casto Canyon trail in Utah follows a wash through the red rocks-min

The hoodoos sported horizontal stripes.

Tumble down red rock pinnacle Casto Canyon Utah-min

One of the hoodoos had slipped and fallen!

Even if you don’t own an ATV or small UTV, Casto Canyon is a true delight to explore. The views begin within the first few hundred yards, so even a short out-and-back hike is rewarding. If you are comfortable riding (or walking) a bike across multiple washes filled with loose sand and gravel, Casto Canyon would also be lovely to experience from the seat of a bike.

Casto Canyon ATV trail follows a was through a red rock canyon-min

What a fun morning this was!

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Stunning Grand Canyon with a Private View at Timp Point

July 2019 – We’ve been exploring back roads leading to the lesser known edges of the Grand Canyon for the past few weeks, and we’ve seen some fabulous views at Saddle Mountain and Point Sublime. But those overlooks require a long drive in a 4×4 high clearance vehicle to reach. This week we discovered an overlook called Timp Point that offers some gorgeous private views that can be reached — with a bit of patience — in a passenger car or truck.

Timp Point Overlook Grand Canyon Arizona-min

Timp Point Overlook at Grand Canyon Arizona

We took our Polaris RZR 900 side-by-side on a fun 50 mile round trip romp on a well maintained dirt road out to Timp Point, and we just loved the views we found at the end of the road.

Polaris RZR ride through ponderosa pine forest in Arizona-min

Our little RZR took us through the beautiful ponderosa pine forest to a glorious Grand Canyon overlook

For anyone venturing on this road with a car or truck, sticking to the main roads is a good idea. They may be a washboarded and dusty, but if you go slowly they’re passable. However, since we have a zippy little buggy that can take on just about any kind of crazy terrain, we decided to skip a few miles of the graded road and take a cool shortcut on a pretty two track road.

Dirt road through the woods on the Kaibab Plateau-min (1)

“C’mon guys. Let’s go!”

We’d driven a few miles on that two track road with our pup, Buddy, running ahead of us when suddenly Buddy screached to a halt and looked back at us with a huge question mark on his face. Mark put on the brakes too when we saw a huge ponderosa pine tree had falled right across the road, blocking our way completely.

Polaris RZR ride stopped by tree trunk across trail-min

Oops — there’s a tree blocking our way!

We got out of the RZR to see if we could find our way around it, but the woods were extremely thick with all kinds of evergreens and aspen in addition to ponderosa pines. There was no way to get around this blockage. So, we did a U-turn and made our way back to the main road.

Tree trunk across trail in the woods-min

It was impossible to get around this tree.

It’s about a 25 mile drive from the paved highway, AZ-67, out to the overlook, and no matter what kind of vehicle you’re in, a comfortable average speed is less than 20 mph. But when we finally reached the overlook the views were spectacular.

Grand Canyon overlook at Timp Point-min

It was a long dusty ride to get to the edge, but what a rewarding view greeted us!

Timp Point overlook at Grand Canyon-min

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Grand Canyon view at Timp Point-min

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View of Grand Canyon at Timp Point-min

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There was a small hiking trail that went out to the rim and followed the contour of the land for a while, giving us beautiful views of the Grand Canyon. We were surprised that at this part of the Grand Canyon, which lies northwest of the North Rim Visitors Center, many of the hillsides in front of us were covered in lush green vegetation.

Timp Point Overlook view at Grand Canyon-min

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Green hillsides at Grand Canyon-min

A blanket of vivid green

Limestone peaks at Grand Canyon overlook-min

Limestone pinnacles far below

The views were not unobstructed, however. We had to peer over bushes and between tree branches to take in the stunning landscapes. Unlike other parts of the Grand Canyon, especially within the National Park where the viewpoints are on huge treeless rock outcroppings, the tiny trail hugged a slope and it was a bit treacherous in some places to find solid footing where we could comfortably savor the views.

Polaris RZR ride through the woods to a Grand Canyon overlook-min

Mark makes his way towards the view

Timp Point Overlook at Grand Canyon-min

We had to scramble and balance precariously to get our photos…

Timp Point Overlook at Grand Canyon-min (1)

…but once we steadied ourselves, the views were spectacular.

The Rainbow Rim Trail is a hiking and mountain biking trail that goes from Timp Point north to several other viewpoints. Each viewpoint is reachable by a motorized trail as well, but each fork leading out to a viewpoint is several miles long, making it the kind of area that is fun to explore at leisure over the course of a few days. Trying to drive to all the viewpoints in one day would constitute a lot of slow bumpy driving on dirt roads for just a little overlook-gazing.

Overlook at Timp Point in Grand Canyon-min

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Likewise, a map of the Rainbow Rim Trail showed that it wandered away from the rim into the woods and then wandered out to a viewpoint in a zig-zag manner, flirting with the views of the Grand Canyon in between long treks through the woods.

Overlook at Timp Point in Grand Canyon-min

Greenery and red rocks

Red rock cliffs Timp Point in Grand Canyon-min

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Timp Point has two overlooks that are only 6 miles apart, so we decided to visit both. At North Timp Point yellow wildflowers were in vibrant bloom everywhere.

Wildflowers at North Timp Point Grand Canyon-min

Beautiful wildflowers were in bloom at North Timp Point

Wildflowers on trail at Timp Point Grand Canyon-min

The little hiking path was lined with flowers

The wonderfully fragrant Cliff Rose was in bloom too, and even Buddy was impressed by its incredibly sweet smell.

Puppy sniffs cliff rose at Grand Canyon-min

Buddy checked out the sweet fragrance of a cliff rose flower

We slowly strolled along a narrow hiking trail around North Timp Point, taking in the beautiful views. Fewer trees and bushes had grown up along this trail, so the views were a little easier to see, and they were magnificent.

Grand Canyon overlook at Timp Point Arizona-min

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Orange and green landscapes at Grand Canyon-min

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View at Grand Canyon Timp Point-min

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Beautiful overlook at Grand Canyon Timp Point-min

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Grand Canyon Overlook Arizona-min

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Patterns in Grand Canyon view-min

Intriguing patterns in the distant landscape

After enjoying a PB&J lunch break with a view, we hopped back in the RZR and made our way back through the woods. Once we got the RZR loaded back on its little caboose trailer behind our truck, we stopped at the North Rim Country Store to refill its gas tank.

This little country store is all there is for gas and groceries on the 45 mile long Highway 67 that goes between Jacob Lake and the North Rim. They carry all the essentials and have even more on their shelves than can be found at Jacob Lake. However, like the highway to the North Rim itself, it is seasonal and is open only between mid-October and mid-May.

North Rim Country Store Grand Canyon Arizona-min

North Rim Country Store offers a whiff of civilization in a vast wonderland of nature

Way back when we first started traveling full-time and visited the North Rim, we met the couple who had just purchased this country store, and we were delighted this year to discover that their son and daughter-in-law have opened a coffee kiosk right on the property.

How awesome it was after an early morning RZR adventure in the wilds of the Kaibab Plateau to be able to sip a luxe hazlenut latte with a heart drawn in the steamed milk on top! We might have been dusty and dirty, but this little bit of yumminess was a nice taste of modern luxury!

Meadow's Edge Coffee Kiosk North Rim Country Store Grand Canyon Arizona-min

Need a fluffy coffee before or after your adventure? The new Meadow’s Edge coffee kiosk has one for you!

If you have the time after visiting the more easily accessed and mind blowing overlooks at the end of the paved roads inside Grand Canyon National Park’s North Rim, and you don’t mind a long slow and occasionally bumpy drive down a dusty dirt road, Timp Point makes for a fun day trip.

Road through the Arizona woods-min

As rugged dirt roads go, the one to Timp Point isn’t too bad for a passenger car or truck.

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Point Sublime – A Wild Ride to a Stunning Overlook in Grand Canyon!

July 2019 – While visiting the North Rim of the Grand Canyon this year, we made it a point to visit a few overlooks that aren’t easily reached by car. Saddle Mountain Overlook on the northeast side of the North Rim Visitors Center was lovely, but Point Sublime Overlook west of the Visitors Center was calling us. With a name like that, we just had to go see it!

Pt. Sublime Overlook at Grand Canyon North Rim Arizona-min

Point Sublime – It wasn’t so easy to get there, but what a feeling when we finally did!

There are two ways to get to Point Sublime, and both involve an 18+ mile long adventure on a rugged dirt road.

One day we started out on the more southerly of the two roads which is accessed from the Widforss turn-off of Highway 67 inside Grand Canyon National Park. But we forgot to bring our map and we weren’t really prepared.

We met a passenger car about a half mile down the road and asked them if we were going the right way. “You are, but it’s a four hour drive to get there,” the woman said. “And it’s a miserable drive.”

“Even in this?” We asked pointing at our RZR.

“Even in that!”

We sure didn’t want to embark on a four hour drive just then, especially without having studied the map a bit and brought it with us too! So, we decided to go to Saddle Mountain that day instead which we wrote about here.

Polaris RZR ride in the ponderosa pine forest-min

Our little Polaris RZR 900 has made it possible for us to get to some wonderfully remote places!

The more northerly route to Point Sublime goes through the Kaibab National Forest and is the route the Forest Service and Park Service rangers drive their trucks on when they have to get out to the Point Sublime area.

It is known to be very washboardy, but at least it isn’t super rutted or have any crazy steep sections. However, it starts with Forest Service Road 22 next to Demotte Campground, and we’d driven that road a little bit already and it was incredibly dusty.

The more southerly route is known to be a wild ride in any kind of four wheel drive vehicle. It has sections that are full of huge holes and steep grades, and it’s very narrow in places. It goes through the woods and isn’t especially dusty or washboardy, but it does a good job of shaking you up even so.

After mulling it over, we decided to give the more southerly route a second try despite its fearsome reputation. Why not have a true RZR adventure? So far, our trips on the RZR had been on pretty easy to drive dirt roads and two track trails.

At first the road went through a lovely wide open meadow, ideal for our energetic pup Buddy to run ahead of us and get some of his wiggles out before we got to the tough stuff.

On the road to Pt. Sublime with a RZR and a puppy-min

Buddy loves to hop out of the RZR and run ahead of us at top speed.

Pup runs ahead of the RZR on the road to Pt. Sublime Grand Canyon-min

Zoom zoom.

The 18 mile drive took us about 90 minutes all together in our RZR, going from the paved state Highway 67 out to the Point Sublime overlook. The only other people or vehicles we saw on the entire trip out there was a single guy on a dirt bike. He waved as he rode past us. For the whole rest of the trip we had the woods to ourselves.

Dirt bike heading to Pt. Sublime Grand Canyon Arizona-min

The only other person or vehicle we saw on our trip out was a guy on a dirt bike.

The two track deeply rutted road wound its way through the ponderosa pine forest. In many places the forest floor was carpeted with a beautiful tapestry of purple lupine wildflowers and lush green grass. We stopped several times to enjoy the quiet and peacefulness of the forest and its spring flowers.

Polaris RZR ride to Point Sublime Overlook at North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona-min

Half the fun of our RZR rides is getting out of it to explore on foot.

Lupine blooming at foot of scorched ponderosa pine trees-min

Beautiful waves of lupine were blooming between the trees

Ponderosa pine and lupine in the National Forest-min

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Buddy loved sniffing all the earthy smells around him. At one point he climbed up on a log and did a little tightrope walk along it.

Puppy tightrope walks on a log in the ponderosa pine forest-min

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We had such fun taking pics.

Photographing model puppy in lupine wildflowers in ponderosa pine forest-min

Buddy poses in the flowers for Mark.

Beautiful dog in lupine wildflowers-min

Nice shot!

About five miles into the drive the road became extremely rough. We averaged 4-5 mph for quite some time as we navigated the deeply eroded ruts in the road.

At times the little RZR tipped wildly off camber, but it never seemed like it would tip all the way over (thankfully!). Side-by-sides are like miniature tanks. Mark put it in four wheel drive and it was able to grind up or down just about anything.

Eventually the road smoothed out a little bit and then the trees parted on our left side, revealing our first glimpse of the Grand Canyon stretching into the distance.

Limestone cliffs near Point Sublime Grand Canyon Arizona North Rim-min

Limestone cliffs on the outer fringes of the Grand Canyon

Exploring Grand Canyon overlooks near Point Sublime-min

We had a blast climbing around on the rocks (not too close to the edge, though!)

Grand Canyon overlook near Point Sublime-min

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Huge craggy boulders begged to be climbed, and rugged rocky outcroppings jutted out into the view. We wandered through the woods and along the edge of the overlook for a long time, thrilled by the extraordinary vistas and the utter solitude and peace we felt in this far remote corner of the earth.

Grand Canyon view just before Pt. Sublime at North Rim-min

The views were so immense!

Overlook near Point Sublime at North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona-min

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This warm up spot for the “real thing” at Point Sublime was a good place for a snack and a little drink.

Water break on the road to Point Sublime at North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona-min

Water break!

We climbed back into the RZR and followed the two track road a few miles further. We knew the Grand Canyon was just over our left shoulders, but the woods were thick and the road wandered away from the edge, so we waited patiently as the buggy rolled along until suddenly we were driving out onto a huge peninsula.

To our right, as we drove out on the peninsula, the late morning sun lit up the multiple layers and many rich shades of Grand Canyon’s red rock cliffs. Wow!

Brilliant red rock cliffs at Point Sublime Overlook Grand Canyon-min

Our first view at Point Sublime. Just gorgeous!

Colorful red rock cliffs Point Sublime Overlook Grand Canyon North Rim-min

Red and orange of every hue.

Spectacular red rock cliffs at Grand Canyon Point Sublime-min

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After not seeing a soul besides the one dirt bike rider at the beginning of our journey, it was a surprise to find a big pickup truck parked at the end of the Point Sublime overlook.

I asked the fellow standing next to it if he’d come the way we had, the southern route through the National Park, and he said no. He’d come through the National Forest on the northern route and he said it wasn’t too bad. This was good to know since we now realized we’d never consider taking our dually pickup (or any other car or truck) on the road we had just traveled!

The Point Sublime peninsula jutted so far out into the Grand Canyon that it gave us 270 degree views. We wandered along the edge utterly enchanted by the way the views changed from one side of the peninsula to the other because of the way they were lit by the sun.

Stunning view at Point Sublime on North Rim of Grand Canyon-min

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First glimpse at Point Sublime Grand Canyon North Rim-min

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Point Sublime Overlook at North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona-min

The views and lighting were different in every direction

Grand Canyon Pt. Sublime view at North Rim-min

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Point Sublime has a few rock outcroppings that hang out over the view and we took turns peering over the edge. Such majesty!!

Puppy checks out Point Sublime Overlook at Grand Canyon-min

Buddy takes it all in.

The remoteness and the vastness were overwhelming, especially after such a long drive through the woods to get there.

Point Sublime Overlook Grand Canyon North Rim Arizona-min

What a view!

Photographer at Point Sublime Overlook Grand Canyon North Rim-min

Mark takes it all in.

Point Sublime Grand Canyon North Rim Arizona extraordinary view-min

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Far in the distance we could see the Colorado River. There were some whitewater rapids out there, and undoubtedly there were river rafters riding down the narrow ribbon of water and gazing up at the sheer cliff walls, admiring the Grand Canyon from a totally different perspective!

Grand Canyon carved by the Colorado River at Point Sublime Overlook-min

The Colorado River was faintly visible far in the distance.

View of Rapids on Colorado River at Point Sublime Grand Canyon North Rim-min

There were probably rafters down there blasting through the white water rapids!

As we started back from Point Sublime in the RZR, we met a couple coming towards us in a pickup truck. They had just finished the most hair rising part of that more southerly route we’d taken.

The guy leaned out the driver’s window and we started to ask him how the ride had been. But we’d barely gotten a few words out when he blurted out in total exaspiration, “What’s the fastest way to get to a paved road?”

His wife was in the passenger’s seat, and she was white as a ghost. “It was horrible!” She said staring straight ahead out the windshield, eyes like saucers. “Just awful! The worst drive you can imagine.”

Tree and shadow Point Sublime Overlook Grand Canyon North Rim-min

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Unfortunately for them, the nearest paved road was at least an hour and a half away. But the Point Sublime overlook was just a few miles further on and the last bit of road to get there wasn’t that bad.

Best of all, they’d be able to confer with the guy in the other pickup at the overlook who could give them directions for the washboarded but slightly easier route through the National Forest back to the highway.

Fifth wheel RV camping at sunset-min

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If you have the chance and a rugged four wheel drive vehicle and a taste for adventure, give the trip to Point Sublime a try. It is well worth it.

But if you don’t have a way to get out there, the other North Rim overlooks that are accessible via paved roads are just as wondrous and every bit as breathtaking.

Sometimes it’s about the journey, but a lot of times it’s really about the destination, and the Grand Canyon is glorious from every angle!

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    Saddle Mountain Overlook – A Different View of the Grand Canyon!

    June 2019 – The Grand Canyon is a huge, winding crater that wanders across the northen part of Arizona for about 275 miles. However, Grand Canyon National Park’s North and South Rims take up just a few miles on either side of the Colorado River in the middle of it all. For anyone up for a little adventure, there are lots of other places along its length outside the National Park where you can peer over the edge in awe.

    Saddle Mountain Overlook above the Colorado River in Grand Canyon Arizona-min

    Outside of Grand Canyon National Park there are many absolutely stunning overlooks.

    This past week we took our Polaris RZR on a back country tour through the woods and the aspen trees of Kaibab National Forest to check out one of the many overlooks that are outside Grand Canyon National Park: Saddle Mountain Overlook.

    Two track road through aspen trees-min

    Our RZR ride took us through ponderosa pine forests and aspen groves.

    The two track road was fun to ride on, but the best part came at the end when we got to the overlook at Saddle Mountain. Wow!

    Saddle Mountain Overlook Grand Canyon Arizona-min

    Saddle Mountain Overlook

    Saddle Mountain Overlook Grand Canyon Colorado RIver-min

    What a wonderful view this was after riding through the woods for a few hours.

    Grand Canyon Saddle Mountain overlook in Arizona-min

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    Colorado River overlook at Saddle Mountain-min

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    We walked along the edge and admired the amazing views. Every time I see the Grand Canyon, I marvel that a narrow ribbon of river along with some wind and rain could have carved all these extraordinary patterns in the cliffs!

    Erosion patterns Colorado River overlook at Saddle Mountain-min

    Beautiful patterns carved by the Colorado River over the course of millions of years

    Red rock erosion patterns Saddle Mountain Overlook at Grand Canyon Colorado River-min

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    Saddle Mountain overlook on the Colorado River at Grand Canyon-min

    Saddle Mountain Overlook offers a different view of the Grand Canyon!

    We had jumped out of the RZR as soon as we saw the views, and savored every one. After we’d gotten our fill of the beauty, we decided to continue down the two track road a little further to see where it led.

    Puppy watches the approach of a RZR side-by-side-min

    Buddy ran out front for a while and then stopped to watch Mark drive the RZR down the trail.

    Puppy watches the approach of a RZR side-by-side-min

    “Want a ride?” “Sure!”

    What a wonderful surprise it was to arrive at another overlook.

    Panorama view of Saddle Mountain Overlook at the Colorado River Arizona-min

    A little further down the trail we found another stunning view.

    Grand Canyon view from Saddle Mountain in Arizona-min

    We made our way through the brush for a closer look.

    Grand Canyon from Saddle Mountain Overlook-min

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    There was a narrow trail that led down a hill and then climbed up another, and Buddy and I just had to find out where it went. Mark stayed behind and watched us make our way out to the end of a stone peninsula. It didn’t seem so scary to us out there — there was plenty of room!

    Walking to the overlook at Saddle Mountain Grand Canyon-min

    Mark hung back to take pics while Buddy and I ventured out on a rock outcropping

    I have to admit, though, that when I crept towards the very end to get a photo, Buddy wisely stayed seated behind me. I scooched out in a sitting position!

    Grand Canyon Saddle Mountain Overlook Arizona-min

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    The American West is full of places that have experienced huge land upheavals. The Kaibab Plateau, which surrounds the Grand Canyon, is part of the larger Colorado Plateau, and in some places it is easy to see exactly how huge expanses of land were thrust upwards, sometimes at an angle.

    Uplift of Kaibab Plateau and Colorado Plateau-min

    “The earth moved under my feet.”

    Overlook at Saddle Mountain on the Colorado River-min

    The Vermillion Cliffs are in the distance. Three “prescribed burns” of about five square miles each were burning on both the North and South Rims, making the air hazy.

    In the distance we saw the Colorado River winding towards us. It’s amazing how the land at the top is flat and featureless for miles and then a deep trench cuts across it, dug out by the river over many millennia.

    Looking down on the Colorado River from Saddle Mountain Grand Canyon-min

    Lined by steep cliffs, the Colorado River disappears into the distance.

    Colorado River views from Saddle Mountain overlook at Grand Canyon-min

    The Colorado River lies at the bottom of those steep canyon walls.

    We hopped back in the RZR and were soon back in the woods. The trees were really green and the cool shade felt so good. What a fun little excursion that was!

    Happy campers in the aspen trees-min

    Mark and Buddy took a break in the cool shade.
    What a contrast to the sun baked and wind whipped red rocks of the Grand Canyon!

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    RV Camping in the Arizona Woods – Coconino National Forest

    June 2019 – Arizona is one of America’s most beautiful and varied states, but lots of people think of it as a place that has only cactus and dry desert landscapes. The surprising thing is that Arizona is home to several radically different types of ecosystems that vary by altitude, and lately we’ve been enjoying some wonderful forest camping in the pines at a cool 7,500′ elevation.

    Happy RV campers in the forest-min

    We’ve been enjoying warm days and cool nights in the forests of northern Arizona.

    Deep in the ponderosa pine woods of Coconino National Forest we’ve been getting out on small two track trails to see what we can find.

    RZR ride on a trail in the forest-min

    Our RZR took us on some cool two-track dirt roads.

    While most of the scenery is just woodsy landscapes filled with pine trees, one day we came across a small stream.

    Polaris RZR on the trail in the forest-min

    What a neat surprise it was to find a small stream!

    It was early morning, and as we followed the streambed we saw some fantastic mirror-like reflections in the almost-still water. In an instant we parked the RZR and began exploring on foot.

    Beautiful stream in the woods-min

    The reflections in the glassy water were very pretty.

    Forest stream in the woods-min

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    Reflections in a forest stream-min

    I just loved this rock and its mirror image!

    Puppy wades into a forest stream-min

    Buddy marched right into the reflections.

    Stream reflections-min

    .

    After a nice stream-side stroll, we got back in the RZR to explore some more trails and then got out on foot again to hike in the woods and soak in the peace and solitude.

    All of a sudden, we saw a wooden cross near a tree. As we came closer we noticed a big pile of stones in front of it.

    Was someone buried out here?

    Grave in the woods-min

    Is that a grave? Yikes! Whose??!!!

    The wooden cross was well constructed. When we bent down to get a better look at it, we noticed it had a dog collar wrapped tightly around it. We could see the word “Good” hand-written in pen on the visible part of the collar. Maybe it said “Good Dog” on it?

    Carved into the varnished wood was the name, “Mause” (perhaps an “r” was under the collar?). The words “Bird dog” and “Companion” had been carved on it too. On either side of the cross were the dates 11/04 and 04/18. He’d lived to be about 13 1/2 years old.

    You could tell just how much this dog was loved by the care with which his owner had buried him. There were flowers placed under the cross. We wondered why this particular spot had been chosen and if it had a special meaning to the owner or the dog, or both.

    Grave marker cross in the woods-min

    Beloved bird dog “Mause” lies here.

    We left the dog to rest in peace but returned to the little stream a few more times during our stay in the woods. Buddy just loved it there, and he’d run in crazy circles between the two of us to let us know just how great he thought this place was.

    Perhaps that bird dog had loved the spot near the tree in the woods just as much as Buddy loved this little stream.

    Puppy plays on the rocks in a forest stream-min

    Buddy loved coming to this stream.

    Puppy poses on a rock in a forest stream-min

    In between poses, Buddy ran in happy circles between us.

    These were lazy, happy days for the three of us, and Mark and I both took endless photos of our playful puppy as he posed and pranced along the stream.

    Taking pics of puppy in the forest-min

    Mark caught me taking Buddy’s pic…

    Pretty puppy poses by a stream in the woods-min

    And here’s the pic I took!

    Puppy in the forest-min

    At home in the woods.

    Puppy poses on a rock in a stream-min

    Posing one way…

    A puppy poses on a rock in a stream-min

    …and then the other!

    We planned for this year to be our test-run with the new RZR to see if it was fun enough to bring along in our future travels. Even though the triple towing is a bit of a hassle (but, really, would maneuvering a 44′ to 47′ toy hauler be any easier?) we’re finding that our little 4×4 buggy is taking us places we would never get to otherwise.

    Polaris RZR adventure on a forest trail-min

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    Forest reflections in the early morning-min

    A beautiful place for reflection.

    Other years we have traveled through five states by June. But covering shorter distances and staying for longer in each place has given us wonderful rewards this year.

    Early morning by a forest stream-min

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    Sunburst between the trees in the forest-min

    The morning sun twinkles between the trees.

    Sunrise in the forest-min

    Dawn light.

    Fifth wheel RV in the forest at sunset-min

    Sometimes it’s nice just to relax in the forest and get away from it all!

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    Black Hills Back Country Byway – Spring Flowers in Arizona!

    April 2019 – After our quick trip to southeastern Utah to photograph the red rocks and fantastic rock formations, we took our RV back down south to eastern Arizona. Leaving Utah’s chilly late winter air behind us, we found Spring was in full bloom in the Arizona desert.

    RV Camping in eastern Arizona

    Exploring Arizona’s Black Hills National Back Country Byway.


    The most extraordinary display of wildflowers covered the hillsides at the base of the Salt River Canyon, and we can’t recommend highly enough making a trek there to see the flowing blankets of yellow poppies and purple lupine that ripple between the towering canyon walls at the peak of spring.

    Unfortunately, now that we drive The Train, we weren’t able to stop and savor the views. The pullouts are plenty big enough for a rig like ours if it’s the only thing parked there, but each one was filled with cars and happily gawking tourists who were gazing at the wonder.

    Next time!

    Wildflowers and puppy with mountains in Arizona-min

    Buddy romps in a blanket of wildflowers.

    But once we set up camp, our RZR got us out into the desert and we saw some beautiful wildflowers.

    Mountains with wildflowers as far as the eye can see in Arizona-min

    Spring flowers! (Sneeze!)

    One day we decided to take the RZR on the Black Hills National Back Country Byway, a dirt road that was first built by settlers in the 1800s as a route connecting the flat farmlands around Safford with the mining communities in the hills around Morenci.

    Black Hills Back Country Byway Plaque-min

    There are picnic areas and plaques explaining the local history along the Black Hills Back Country Byway.
    After Buddy was done reading the plaque, he rested in the cool shade below it.

    This dirt road is about 21 miles long and it winds up into the junipers and back down into the desert on its journey.

    RZR on Black Hills Back Country Byway Arizona-min

    Black Hills Back Country Byway

    Black Hills Back Country Byway in Arizona

    Arizona’s Black Hills Back Country Byway

    The views were very nice, but what caught our attention were the many different kinds of wildflowers tucked into nooks and crannies here and there.

    Lavender wildflowers Arizona-min

    Delicate and sweet.

    Bud and flower in Arizona-min

    Before and After (if you can believe it!).

    Arizona wildflowers-min

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    Purple Arizona wildflower-min

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    Big pink flowers in Arizona-min

    These things are huge and were in bloom all over the place.

    From tiny purple flowers wriggling in the breeze to pretty yellow poppies dancing in the sunlight, we saw all kinds of flowers brightening this otherwise relatively drab landscape.

    Yellow desert poppies in Arizona-min

    Yellow desert poppies.

    Fuzzy leaves with Arizona wildflowers-min

    Fuzzy leaves and pretty blossoms.

    Purple Arizona wildflowers-min

    So cheery!

    Wildflowers in Arizona-min

    Little pink stars.

    Desert daisies in Arizona-min

    Desert daisies.

    White dandelions in Arizona-min

    Surely in the dandelion family!

    The fun thing about doing this drive with the RZR is it was easy to hop in and out of it every few miles to poke around and take pics. It was a balmy Thursday, and in our three hours on the road (we go slowly!) we saw only one other vehicle, a motorcycle.

    Puppy sniffs wildflowers in Arizona-min

    .

    Buddy sniffed the flowers now and then, but he was more interested in the little critters that make this area home. We had seen two red-headed bugs with antennae flying while linked together. It was spring, and they were doing what the birds and the bees tend to do in springtime!

    Then I noticed a patch of purple flowers that was loaded with these red headed bugs!

    Bug in the wildflowers in Arizona-min

    A bush full of purple flowers was also full of red-headed bugs!

    Buddy has discovered the joys of lizard hunting, and he chased quite a few on our excursion. He loves the chase, and on rare occasions he actually catches up to one too. They’re clever though, and they play dead to make him stop chasing!

    Lizard with colorful belly Arizona-min

    A lizard plays dead at Buddy’s feet.

    Lizard in Arizona-min

    Buddy found this guy who was actually already quite dead and stiff!

    There are several picnic areas along this route with views that look out into the hills. These rest areas have picnic tables and ramadas covered with copper roofs and lots of information about the history of the area.

    Black Hills Back Country Byway Phelps Dodge Copper Mine Overlook-min

    Black Hills Back Country Byway at the Phelps Dodge Copper Mine Overlook

    One of the most amazing views is of the Phelps Dodge copper mine in Clifton-Morenci. This is one of the largest copper mines in the world and has been extracting copper from the hills for almost 150 years.

    Phelps Dodge copper mine in Clifton-Morenci Arizona-min

    The Phelps Dodge copper mine in Morenci Arizona has been extracting copper since 1872.

    Arizona schoolkids learn that Arizona is known for the five C’s – Cattle, Copper, Cotton, Climate and Citrus. We saw two of the C’s together while driving the Black Hills Back Country Byway!

    Cow and Copper Mine in Arizona-min

    Two of Arizona’s “Five C’s” in one photo – Cattle and Copper!

    At the mine overlook there were several big boulders with copper embedded in them along with detailed descriptions of how the copper is extracted.

    Copper in a boulder-min

    Copper waiting to be extracted. It looks a little like lichen!

    It was fun at another point on this drive to see tall red penstemon flowers against the backdrop of a boulder filled with lichen.

    Penstemon and lichen_-min

    Pensetemon flowers with a lichen covered boulder in the background.

    Another thing Arizona is known for is sunsets. The word doesn’t start with a C, but reliably dramatic sunsets definitely make Arizona a very a special place!

    Gorgeous Arizona sunset-min

    The sunsets in Arizona are hard to beat!

    Sunset at Roosevelt Lake Arizona-min

    Lakeside sunset overlooking Four Peaks.

    Flower Power in Arizona-min

    Flower Power!

    As we’ve continued experimenting with triple towing, we’ve learned a few more things in recent weeks. One of the attractions of a toy hauler is the very cool back patio deck most have, and I’ve been drawn to several units that had side patios too.

    Well, one afternoon I looked at our utility trailer and realized it would make a wonderful little raised patio!

    If the rig is positioned right, the whole rear wall of the trailer can shade the patio, and by being up off the ground you don’t get that bitter cold breeze from under the trailer that you do when you hang out on camp chairs at ground level.

    RV triple tow utility trailer patio deck-min

    The utility trailer makes a nifty raised patio!

    Triple tow patio deck-min

    A nice spot to share a sundowner… at the risk of someone saying:
    “You know you’re a redneck when your back patio is a trailer!”

    Another thing we’ve learned is that when you make a super tight turn, depending on the design of the utility trailer, it may be possible for a front corner of the utility trailer to make contact with the back of the fifth wheel trailer.

    So, if you are getting set up to triple tow, you might consider taking your rig to a huge and vacant parking lot to try a few slow sharp u-turns to see just how tightly your rig can turn before contact is made between the two trailers.

    RV camping in the Arizona desert at sunset

    Sunset in Arizona

    Arizona is a beautiful state and we’re looking forward to watching Springtime continue to unfold here.

    Puppy silhouette at sunset-min

    A yawn at sunset.

    Arizona starry sky-min

    “Blue moon…You saw me standing alone…”

    !

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    SE Utah – A Mars Colony, Wide-Angle Photography & Snowy Mountains!

    March 2019 – We arrived in southeastern Utah just as snow flurries were abating. It was unseasonably cold, but at twilight the Henry Mountains were utterly radiant, a visual gift that was a happy exchange for having to run around in hats and mittens in mid-March!

    Henry Mountains Utah at dusk-min

    Henry Mountains at dusk

    We snuck out at the first light of dawn and found the red rocks were glowing with an inner beauty.

    Utah Red rocks glow in early morning light-min

    Radiant red rocks at dawn

    When a thick blanket of clouds filled the sky and chased the sun away for a few days, we could see the myriad of colors that are hidden in many of the exotic rock formations.

    Colorful rocks in Utah-min

    Lots of earth tone colors in the rocks

    Off in the distance the classic desert mesas led the way to the horizon in receding layers.

    Layered mesas in Utah-min

    Mesas on the horizon

    An excursion to the Dirty Devil River revealed an immense canyon reminiscent of tributaries within the Grand Canyon.

    Dirty Devil River and canyon-min

    Dirty Devil River and Canyon

    We got a few sunny days, and with the ground still damp from the recent rains, we enjoyed some dust-free rides on our Polaris RZR.

    Polaris RZR and puppy with driver in Utah-min

    “Are we going for a ride? Yippee!”

    Puppy and Polaris RZR in Utah-min

    “I want to run alongside for a while.”

    These UTV rides took us into the back country of Southeastern Utah where we went from one jaw dropping landscape to another. In some places the desert was flat and wide with immense jagged boulders balancing on the soft soil here and there.

    Rock formations in Utah-min

    It’s easy to get lost in these rocks!

    In other places vividly striped mounds formed a gently rolling landscape.

    Puppy explores striped red rock dunes-min

    Buddy checks out the rounded mounds of purple, pink and deep brown rocks

    Snow capped mountains and purple striped red rocks in Utah-min

    Moonscape

    “It feels like we’re on another planet!” We kept saying to each other!

    This land is so photogenic it’s hard not to take a photo with every step. And it is so whimsical and cheery you just have to strike a pose in a lot of shots too!

    Rock formations in Utah-min

    Buddy watches Mark pose praising the heavens under a jagged spire.

    Utah’s breathtaking and otherworldly landscapes are beloved worldwide, and lots of folks from all over the place come to visit in large numbers between Spring and Fall.

    Purple striped red rocks in Utah-min

    A huge labyrinth of a layer cake.

    When we arrived in Hanksville, a massive and sweeping public land bill had just become Federal law with enthusiastic support from almost everyone in Congress.

    We hadn’t known anything about it, but as we talked with the locals we soon discovered they weren’t too pleased. They were frustrated that motorized and mechanized vehicle access to some of the most popular places nearby will be prohibited because they’ll be designated “Wilderness” areas. Also, the locals hadn’t been notified of the bill until three days before it was voted on, so their views were never heard.

    With those conversations still ringing in our ears, we were astonished to take our RZR around a corner on a well trodden road on the Bureau of Land Management’s vast square miles of open public land and suddenly see a sign planted in the ground that said:

    “The Mars Society. Private Property. No Entry Please.”

    Mars Desert Research Station Utah-min

    Mars…or BLM land in Utah?

    We stood by the sign and stared at the buildings lined up against the striped red rock mounds in the distance. There was a collection of what can only be described as Mars Pods along with a large solar panel array installed on the ground nearby.

    We looked at each other in amazement. What in the world was this?

    Mars Desert Research Station Utah-min

    A Mars colony

    We heard voices yelling in the distance and saw the door of the main pod opening and closing repeatedly as young, energetic people ran in and out the door. The yelling didn’t sound like English.

    I cupped my hand to my ear to see if I could figure out the language they were speaking, but I couldn’t tell. My first guess was Spanish, and then I thought I heard some French.

    Main Pod Mars Desert Research Station Utah-min

    There was lots of commotion in a foreign language.

    Suddenly, a side-by-side four wheeler came driving out from the pods towards us. There was no engine noise. It looked to be a Polaris Ranger UTV that had been converted to run on an electric engine.

    Then two more Mars Rover side-by-sides appeared behind it.

    The three vehicles zoomed passed us in a flash and disappeared down the road. One had the word “Opportunity” across the front hood, and they all had a pair of young folks in the seats.

    Mars colonizers at Mars Desert Research Station Utah-min

    Three UTVs converted to electric engines zipped by

    We decided to head into the compound and see if we could learn a little more about what this place was. Driving a short distance, we arrived at the main pod and were greeted by a friendly dog and a young man.

    “What is this place?” I asked him.

    “Private property.” He said with a strong accent.

    “I thought this was BLM land. Public land.” I said.

    “We’re borrowing it.” He told me.

    Mars Desert Research Station-min

    Mars Desert Research Station

    I asked if he meant they were leasing the land from the BLM, rather than borrowing it, and he nodded, and then I asked where he and his friends were from, and he said Peru.

    He went on to explain that international groups of kids visit this place on two week rotations to live in the Utah desert and drive around in electric UTVs so they can get the feeling of what it would be like to land in a desolate landscape on Mars and establish a human colony.

    We later learned that one of their current tasks is to fly teams of 8 drones at a time over the Utah landscape to make digital image maps.

    We also learned from some Utah Capitol Reef area tourist literature that describes this Mars colony that whenever the kids step out of the pods into the Utah landscape they are supposed to be wearing space suits just as they would on Mars.

    Curiously, we did not see a single space suit on any of the kids going in and out of the pods or driving the UTVs across the desert. They were in street clothes and they looked no different than any other ATV/UTV owners who like to cruise around on dirt roads and go exploring.

    Mars colony rovers in Utah-min

    Future Mars colonists drive off into the desert in their UTVs to map the desert by flying teams of 8 drones at a time! Despite claims they wear space suits, they actually wore street clothes and looked no different than any other ATV/UTV group playing in the desert.

    When we left, we saw a large sign on one of the building pods that said, “All funding by private donations. The Musk Foundation.”

    The Musk Foundation-min

    Major Sponsors (all funding via private donations)
    The Musk Foundation

    As I’ve said many times before, the public land debate is immense and complex and there is a lot more to it than meets the eye.

    We continued on our own little safari at a modest 18 mph down the dirt road, lost in our own thoughts.

    Suddenly, a huge SUV came up behind us from the direction of the Mars colony at about 40 mph and swerved around us, narrowly missing the left side of our little open air buggy. The driver hadn’t beeped to let us know he was coming, and we were left in a cloud of dust.

    Dust flies off fast car on Utah desert road-min

    Yikes! That was close!

    We had come Utah very early this spring to attend a photography workshop with Ian Plant that soon got underway. It was focused on how to take wide angle images that emphasize near-far contrasts.

    This was fascinating to study, and we had some outstanding experiences both in the classroom and out in the field.

    It will take us a while for us to master the techniques we learned, but we had a lot of fun starting to retrain our eyes to look for interesting patterns at our feet and combine them with interesting things in the distance.

    Near-Far wide angle perspective-min

    We practiced near-far compositions that go from the shapes at your feet to shapes on the horizon

    Morning glow on Utah red rocks-min

    More practice with some red rock hoodoos at dawn.

    Utah pinnacle at sunrise-min

    Early morning light envelops a distant pinnacle.

    There are quite a few slot canyons in the area, and these proved to be wonderful for wide angle photography and playing with the shapes created by shafts of light.

    Leprechaun Slot Canyon Utah-min

    Beautiful light inside Leprechaun Canyon

    At one point our instructor, Ian, walked towards Mark as he was taking a photo. The light hit Ian perfectly and suddenly he looked like he was receiving a message from God or being beamed up to the USS Enterprise!

    Ghost in the light in a Utah slot canyon-min

    The ghost of our instructor

    Mark also got a fantastic selfie at a slot canyon opening.

    Slot canyon in Utah-min

    Mark took a selfie.

    There are sand dunes in the area too. Talk about an other-worldy landscape!

    Sand dunes in Utah-min

    Maybe this really is Mars

    After the workshop was over, the rain and snow returned. We watched in awe as banks of black clouds came in.

    Incoming storm in Utah red rocks-min

    An approaching storm

    The snow-covered Henry Mountains were suddenly surrounded by swirls of clouds that changed shape with every passing minute.

    Henry Mountains with snow panorama Utah-min

    Clouds surrounded the Henry Mountains

    Clouds over snow capped Henry Mountains in Utah-min

    Late afternoon light on the clouds and snow on the Henries

    Henry Mountains with snow and red rocks Utah-min

    Snow-capped peaks above and red rocks below – Magic!

    Snow and clouds on Henry Mountains in Utah-min

    The mountain was whisked away by the clouds…!

    Snow on Henry Mountains Utah-min

    .

    There is so much to see in southeastern Utah that we feel like we’ve barely scratched the surface despite several return visits. We think we’re headed back south to Arizona now to finish up a few things there, but the lure of these exotic red rocks and spectacular vistas will probably keep us here a little while longer!

    RV Camping in the Utah Red Rocks-min

    Southeastern Utah is a beautiful area.

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    Triple Tow or Toy Hauler? How to RV Full-time with a RZR?

    We have spent the last two years going back and forth about whether to move into a new fifth wheel trailer or a new toy hauler as we look forward to our second dozen years of non-stop travel and full-time RV living. We’ve been to tons of dealerships and did a bunch of toy hauler factory tours in the Elkhart area of Indiana as well as in Missouri and Oklahoma (there’s more about those tours is in the 2nd half of this article).

    Triple tow Dodge Ram 3500 dually 36' fifth wheel and Polaris RZR on utility trailer-min

    The Train

    Right now we are in the testing phase of toting our Polaris RZR 900 XC EPS Edition on a 5′ x 10′ utility trailer in a triple-tow configuration (sometimes called a double-tow) behind our 2016 Dodge Ram 3500 dually truck and 2007 36′ Hitchhiker fifth wheel trailer.

    Triple-tow fifth wheel RV with Polaris RZR side-by-side UTV-min

    Another view of The Train

    As I’ve mentioned a few times over the past few months since we started this experiment, triple towing is working out a whole lot better that we expected!

    This may be in large part because the utility trailer is only 5′ wide compared to the 8′ width of our fifth wheel trailer, so even on a tight U-turn, the wheels on the fifth wheel carve a tighter turn than the wheels on the utility trailer. So, if there’s something we don’t want to roll over or hit, the vehicle at risk is the fifth wheel, just as it has always been!

    The utility trailer just cruises along behind. It’s a little caboose!

    When we’re triple towing we notice a lot more chucking action than when we don’t have out caboose connected. This is due to the accordion and jerking action of the three vehicles moving apart and back together as they rumble down the road. It’s not a violent sensation, but we can definitely feel it.

    Gas station with RV dump station with triple tow Polaris RZR behind fifth wheel trailer-min

    We’ve been to a few gas stations… yikes!

    We have been to several gas stations fully hooked up as The Train. Even though The Train is quite long and winds up curved far behind us as we turn in to the pump, as long as the gas station is large enough and there aren’t too many customers, it all works out.

    Gas station with RV dump station with triple tow Polaris RZR behind fifth wheel trailer-min

    That RZR sure is a long ways from the pump!

    We have also been to several RV dump stations with The Train, and again, as long as the approach and exit to the dump station aren’t too narrow or laid out in a tight turn, we can align the fifth wheel sewer hose and other goodies with the RV dump station while the truck and utility trailer sit in a curve ahead of and behind the dump station sewer.

    RV dump station with triple tow Polaris RZR behind fifth wheel trailer-min

    We’ve been to a few RV dump stations.

    RV dump station with triple tow Polaris RZR behind fifth wheel trailer-min

    We’re okay dumping our tanks as long as it’s fairly long!

    We set up the utility trailer with a spare tire and tire cover just in case that trailer gets a blowout. At this point we don’t have a backup camera to watch the utility trailer while we’re towing. That may come in the future but will take some research as we figure out which model and where to place the monitor in the already full cockpit of the truck.

    Unfortunately the utility trailer is too small to carry our bikes as well. A 12′ long trailer would be long enough, but our RZR came with this trailer so it’s a natural starting point. So, for the moment, we have left the bikes behind at a friend’s house.

    Triple tow Polaris RZR 900 behind fifth wheel trailer-min

    We’re leaving the bikes out of the equation for the moment.

    When loading the RZR onto the utility trailer, Mark drives the RZR’s front wheels flush up against the front of the trailer which leaves enough room behind it for two 5 gallon gas tanks lashed down on the utility trailer.

    Triple tow Polaris RZR 900 behind fifth wheel trailer-min

    With the wheels flush against the front railing there’s room for two 5 gallon gas tanks in back.

    Before hitching up The Train the very first time, we had to sort out the different heights between the tongue of the utility trailer and the hitch receiver on the back end of the fifth wheel.

    Our fifth wheel trailer now sits some 6 to 8 inches higher than it did when we first bought it. After our fifth wheel got a desperately needed suspension overhaul when the suspension failed (blog post here), the fifth wheel sat higher than it had originally. Then, when we installed the MORryde SRE4000 equalizers, it sat even higher.

    This is awesome for those pesky gas station ramps and other sharp dips in the road that are so steep they cause the back end of the fifth wheel trailer to drag on the asphalt. It’s also great for bumping over washes and other things on gnarly dirt roads.

    However, all that good drag-avoidance stuff got thrown out the window with the decision to triple tow!

    The utility trailer has 15″ tires and sits quite low, and in order to keep that trailer relatively flat instead of nose-up while towing, we had to put a 10″ drop hitch mount on the fifth wheel trailer’s hitch receiver to reach down to the utility trailer’s level.

    Fifth wheel trailer triple tow 10 drop to bumper trailer-min

    We needed a 10″ drop hitch mount to reach down to the utility trailer

    We use a receiver hitch tightener to eliminate any possible rattling in the connection between the receiver hitch and the hitch mount, and an electric plug ensures the lights on the utility trailer are powered and light up at night as well as when Mark hits the brakes.

    Trailer light connection and hitch receiver tightener for triple tow fifth wheel and bumper pull trailer-min

    The hitch tightener keeps things from rattling and the electric plug lights up the lights on the utility trailer

    If you stand behind The Train at night and have someone tap the brakes in the truck, it’s quite a light show because not only do the lights on the fifth wheel light up, but the ones on the utility trailer do too. We almost never tow at night but it’s good to know The Train is so visible on dark and stormy travel days.

    RV in rainbow stormy skies Glacier National Park Montana

    It was a dark and stormy morning…

    We’re really glad we decided to jump in with both feet and buy a RZR before we figured out how to transport it because there is nothing like hands-on experience to figure out what works and what doesn’t.

    This is also why we always encourage new would-be full-time RVers who haven’t owned an RV before to get a cheap and small RV and go have some fun before investing big bucks in a full-time rolling home.

    The biggest surprise we’d never thought of before is that it is super handy to have a utility trailer to tote the RZR behind our truck when we’re going to a trailhead that is a long distance from our campsite.

    Dually truck Polaris RZR 900 XC EPS Edition and utility trailer-min

    There’s an advantage to being able to tow the RZR to a distant trailhead.

    Although our RZR can go 70 mph and is licensed for the road, driving it on the highway is not what we got it for. We’d rather drive 25 or 50 miles to a trailhead in the comfort of our truck and then arrive with the RZR gas tank full of gas so we can enjoy our off-road adventures without worrying about carrying spare gas.

    The RZR has a 10 gallon fuel tank and gets about 15 mpg. So far, none of our adventures has been more than about 40 miles, so we don’t foresee a need to carry gas with us on the RZR any time soon.

    At the end of a day of off-road adventure, after the sun has set, we find it’s much safer to drive our truck on the highway than to be out there in a little open air buggy that sits a lot lower on the road than most cars and trucks.

    Utility trailer ramp down to load Polaris RZR 900 XC EPS Edition-min

    The RZR rolls on and off the trailer ramp.

    Lastly, we’ve wanted to ensure that Buddy loves the RZR. For us and our lifestyle there’s no reason to own a RZR if our puppy doesn’t want to come along. We’ve integrated him into our lives so he doesn’t spend any time in our fifth wheel by himself. If we’re going to have RZR adventures, he’s going to be a part of them.

    When we’re in the RZR, Buddy sits on my lap. I don’t want to go more than about 35 mph with him sitting in there. He’s not too keen on the loud noise of the RZR engine on the highway and of vehicles passing us, and I have to say, neither am I.

    His favorite thing riding in the RZR is to sniff the air when we’re off-road, watch for rabbits, and to stare down at the dirt road going by just below RZR door. All that is lots of fun at 10-15 mph, our typical dirt road speed.

    Polaris RZR 900 XC EPS Edition on utility trailer-min

    Mark has mastered driving the 56″ wide RZR onto the 60″ wide trailer!

    We have a B&W Stow & Go hitch on the back of our truck, and the utility trailer hitches up to the truck very easily. After one or two tries loading the RZR, Mark has figured out how to align it so it drives in without rubbing the wheels on the railings at all even though the railings are 60″ apart and the RZR is about 56″ wide.

    Ready to tow Polaris RZR 900 on utility trailer behind Dodge dually Ram truck-min

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    When we arrive at a trailhead, Mark drops the ramp door of the utility trailer, hops in the RZR, and backs it down the ramp. The driver’s door on the RZR swings out above the railing on the utility trailer, so he can get in and out of the RZR easily when it’s on its trailer.

    Preparing to tow Polaris RZR 900 XC EPS edition towed on utility trailer behind dually truck-min

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    Dodge Ram dually tows Polaris RZR on trailer-min

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    Unloading Polaris RZR 900 XC EPS edition off of trailer-min

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    The RZR came with a windshield, roof and a fancy stereo that the previous owner had installed, and this XC EPS edition of the RZR 900 includes upgraded wheels, wider fender flares, a hitch receiver and the Polaris Ride Command navigation system.

    However, the trunk is just a shallow open area at the back, not the best place to store stuff if you don’t want it to get dirty.

    We tossed around ideas and finally bought a Lifetime 55 quart cooler that sits very nicely on an old welcome mat in the back of the RZR. It is lashed down to keep it in place.

    Lifetime cooler used as trunk for Polaris RZR 900-min

    We use a Lifetime 55 quart cooler for easy flip-top trunk system.

    What we love about this cooler is that we can keep all the little essentials we always want with us — emergency water, toolbag, flat repair & spare air kit, first aid kit — in the bottom of it at all times, and we can throw things like jackets, hats, cameras and snacks on top as we need them for each ride.

    The flip top lid makes it super easy to access everything in the cooler, and it has an excellent seal when it is closed which keeps everything inside dust free. We’ve also put a long shank padlock on the cooler to keep the less determined thieves out. Of course, anyone that really wanted that cooler and its contents could simply carry it away.

    Another great feature of the cooler is that the things in the bottom of it don’t get overly hot. The engine sits right below the RZR’s trunk area, but since this little “portable trunk” is actually a cooler, there’s lots of insulation between the contents of the cooler and the engine below.

    You can see a hilarious video of a grizzly bear trying to get into one of these coolers here.

    We’ve found that the multi-use trails that allow motorized vehicles are not only lots of fun for riding but are also great for running and hiking too. Sometimes Buddy and I hop out to run while Mark drives.

    Unlike yours truly, Buddy can easily keep up with the RZR and loves chasing it at top speed. But after he’s done a 5 minute mile with some surges to 3 minute mile pace thrown in, he’s usually ready to ride again, and he happily jumps back in.

    Dog and Polaris RZR 900 XC EPS Edition-min

    Need a ride?

    Dog approaches Polaris RZR 900 XC EPS Edition-min

    Come on in!

    Dog jumps in Polaris RZR 900 XC EPS Edition-min

    Easy!

    We’ve experimented with quite a few scenarios for arriving at a campsite and unhitching the bits and pieces of The Train.

    The utility trailer has to be hitched up to something — either the truck or the fifth wheel trailer — in order to drive the RZR on or off of it. Otherwise, once the RZR wheels roll on or off the ramp the tongue of the utility trailer will fly up in the air.

    So, at campsites where we want to use the utility trailer with the truck to take the RZR somewhere, we have to move the utility trailer from its caboose position at the end of The Train to a place where it can be hitched to the truck, and then we reverse its location before we leave.

    We can move the utility trailer around small distances by pushing or pulling it ourselves. However, if the RZR is on the trailer, neither is going anywhere until the utility trailer gets hitched to either the truck or fifth wheel.

    The RZR has a hitch receiver on it, and we purchased a ball mount for it, so the RZR can tow the utility trailer around if needed. This is handy in small campsites since the big long bed dually truck isn’t very maneuverable in tight spaces.

    Tow Polaris RZR 900 XC EPS Edition on utility trailer-min

    Luckily the RZR can also do the job of towing the utility trailer, if needed.

    Polaris RZR 900 XC EPS Edition towed on utility trailer-min

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    Again, we learned a few things that we hadn’t thought of before.

    First, although it seemed daunting to back the fifth wheel to the utility trailer to hitch it on when it’s already got the RZR loaded on it, it’s not all that bad. Using our two-way radios as Mark backs up the fifth wheel and I stand at the tongue of the utility trailer, and then using our feet to shove the tongue of the utility trailer the final inch or two, we can get it done quite easily.

    Second, if the utility trailer is already hitched to the fifth wheel but is at an angle to the fiver and not aligned straight behind it, there is a lot of lateral force on the fifth wheel’s stabilizing jacks and the front landing legs when the RZR drives onto the trailer.

    If the utility trailer is aligned with the fifth wheel, the fiver takes the impact much better (I’ve stood inside the fifth wheel and felt it both ways!).

    Strap down Polaris RZR 900 XC EPS Edition on uility trailer-min

    Mark has sorted out how best to tie down the RZR on the utility trailer.

    Close trailer ramp door for Polaris RZR 900 XC EPS Edition-min

    The ramp door folds up.

    We are liking this triple towing thing and may stick with it. We’ll see. If we do, then our new home search will be focused on conventional fifth wheel trailers rather than fifth wheel toy haulers.

    There are pros and cons to both conventional fifth wheels and toy hauler fifth wheels. Here are a few we’ve come up with:

    Conventional 5th Wheel Toy Hauler 5th Wheel
    More Living Space Less Living Space
    More Closet Space Less Closet Space
    More Cabinets Fewer Cabinets
    Bigger Kitchen Smaller Kitchen
    Recliners + Sofa + Dining Table Pick any two
    Generally, bed in slide w/ windows each side Generally, bed not in slide & window on one side & small wardrobe on other
    Modest fresh water (60-90 gal) Huge fresh water (100-150 gal)
    No gas tanks (onboard generator propane) Two gas tanks for toy & onboard generator
    Outside RZR Storage Enclosed RZR Storage
    Outside Bikes Enclosed Bikes
    Porta-bote or inflatable kayak possible Porta-bote AND tandem inflatable kayak possible
    Workbench on truck tailgate Workbench/toolbox in the Garage
    No Porch/deck (except KZ 382MBQ) Back Deck AND Possible Side Patio (always includes 2nd bath)
    Tow RZR to trailhead behind truck Drive RZR on highways to trailhead
    Triple tow not legal in some states Always a legal beagle
    Can travel w/o caboose Full length toy hauler is always with you (47′ in some cases!)

    TRAILER LIFE ARTICLE – SHORTCUT to TOY LAND!

    The March issue of Trailer Life Magazine features an article I wrote surveying some of the 2019 offerings in the toy hauler market. I chose four different toy haulers to highlight in that article and included another dozen models in the lineup.

    Our personal favorites for sheer innovation and cleverness and/or ruggedness are the Aluminum Toy Hauler fifth wheel and the Keystone Raptor 427.

    Aluminum Toyhauler Company (ATC) has been making stackable car haulers for the high end racing car set for ages. They build an incredibly strong and durable toy hauler. Unfortunately, they don’t have any models with slide-outs yet, but their toy haulers are built like tanks and can haul 9,700 lbs. of stuff in a trailer that has a GVWR of 21,000 lbs. Unbelievable!

    The Keystone Raptor 427 is a fabulous new entry into the garage-under-the-master-bed style of toy hauler. Montana and Grand Design have these floor plans too: the Montana High Country 380TH and Grand Design Momentum 376TH (and formerly the Grand Design Solitude 374TH which was discontinued a few months ago).

    I included the Montana 380TH in my full-time fifth wheel article in Trailer Life Magazine that appeared in the October 2017 issue.

    All of these manufacturers place the bedroom in the rear of the trailer and put a small garage big enough for bikes or a motorcycle under the bed itself. A workbench could fit in this garage. The bed above the garage raises and lowers if you need full standing height in the garage.

    Montana and Grand Design place the kitchen in the middle of the rig. Montana has a beautiful open L-shaped kitchen with counters along two walls, a style that I like, and Grand Design has an island kitchen that is very popular. Both put the living room in the fifth wheel overhang.

    The clever idea in the Raptor 427 is that the kitchen, which doesn’t need vaulted ceilings, is smartly placed in the part of the trailer where high ceilings can’t exist: the fifth wheel overhang. I don’t know what the headroom is there, probably around 6′ 4″ or higher, but it was more than sufficient for cooking, dining and even entertaining a cocktail party or buffet crowd! And there’s a window in the front cap so you can see out in all directions.

    The kitchen is truly vast, and there is a side-by-side dinette for two that overlooks the living room. We just loved the design. For us, though, it’s too long a trailer since we’d have to tow our RZR behind (it’s 44′ long), and we’d prefer hydraulic slides to cable slides in the bigger slide-outs. Our two hydraulic slide mechanisms and single worm-gear electric slide mechanism on our current trailer have pushed our slides in or out an estimated 2,000 times so far.

    Keystone Raptor 427 toy hauler fifth wheel front kitchen 3-min

    The Keystone Raptor 427 has an immense kitchen in the front of the trailer.

    Keystone Raptor 427 toy hauler fifth wheel front kitchen 6-min

    The counter space is incredible (although I could do without the purple lights)

    Keystone Raptor 427 toy hauler fifth wheel view into Living Room from Kitchen-min

    Seating for two overlooking the rest of the trailer – very cool!

    Keystone Raptor 427 toy hauler fifth wheel front kitchen 7-min

    Opposing loveseats in the slides plus dual recliners facing the TV (not seen in this pic).

    Keystone Raptor 427 toy hauler fifth wheel front kitchen 4-min

    Looking back up into the kitchen above the recliners

    Keystone Raptor 427 toy hauler fifth wheel ramp door-min

    The bike or motorcycle sized garage is under the bed. The ceiling raises and lowers.

    You can read my article discussing the various toy haulers on the Trailer Life website here: Shortcut to Toyland with 16 Great Fivers

    The March issue of Trailer Life happens to include two other articles of mine with photos by both of us: a feature article about RVing in the Canadian Rockies and my back page column about lovely Maroon Bells in Colorado!

    If you are new to RVing, Trailer Life is a good magazine to subscribe to. If you are a motorhome person, the sister publication Motorhome Magazine (which also features our work from time to time), is another excellent magazine.

    Another outstanding RV magazine and RV advocacy group and discount camping membership club and mail forwarding service, among many other things, is Escapees RV Club which we highly recommend joining.

    IMPRESSIONS from VISITING the TOY HAULER FACTORIES

    When were in Elkhart, Indiana, last fall (2018), we visited several RV manufacturing plants. We hadn’t done a factory tour in Elkhart since the spring of 2009 when the industry was in the midst of collapse.

    The consolidation in the RV industry since the beginning of the recession of 2008 has been staggering and has whittled the list of RV manufacturers down to three conglomerates: Thor, Forest River and Winnebago. It has also reduced the list of major component suppliers down to two, Lippert Components and Furrion. Mom-and-pop shops making fifth wheel trailers independently of these conglomerates like Aluminum Toy Hauler, New Horizons and Space Craft and smaller component suppliers like MORryde are exceedingly rare.

    The fraternity of talent at the top of the RV industry is very close knit and goes back many decades. If you follow the mergers and acquisitions back to the 1960s and 70s, the same names appear over and over in the executive suites of each company. The brothers who founded Keystone together with another executive who oversaw its huge growth sold it to Thor which itself was the result of the acquisition of failing Airstream from Beatrice Foods. After the three held top executive positions at Thor, these three men went on to found Grand Design and oversee its growth and sale to Winnebago. One of the partners sat on the Board of Directors over at Lippert Components, and after the sale to Winnebago another of the partners left the RV industry to start a pontoon boat company in partnership with Lippert Components.

    The advantage to the rise of the conglomerates is wonderful economies of scale, but the flip side for the brands under these corporate umbrellas is the loss of the wild frontier style innovation that made early RVs so fun and funky as well as the forced adoption of quality standards that may not match the standards these brands had back when they were independent companies.

    A Dishwasher = “That True Residential Feel”

    Perhaps the most shocking thing for us was to discover how few people in the RV industry actually own and use RVs. I asked the general manager of one brand and a national sales rep of another what kind of RVs they owned, and the answers were, “I’m too busy to vacation in an RV” and “My wife likes hotels.”

    This lack of personal RV experience has caused a disconnect between the manufacturers and their customers’ needs.

    A perfect example was when a top executive at one brand told me that full-timers want a true residential feel to their fifth wheels, so every unit in his line of full-timer fifth wheels would be shipped with a dishwasher in it starting in 2019.

    Now, of course, lots of full-timers want a dishwasher in their RV, but a lot of full-timers don’t want one.

    Another executive at a different company told me, “Well, the dishwasher is a great place to store your dishes in an RV.”

    It is? I’m not keen on mixing my clean and dirty dishes in the same storage place!

    A National Sales Rep proudly showed me the outdoor kitchen on his toy hauler. He was so excited about it when he pulled it out, “Emily, you’re going to love this!” But when he pulled it out, it came to shoulder level on me. I’m 5′ 4″. I raised my arm and made a stirring motion with my hand in front of my chin and said, “I can’t cook like this.” He was crestfallen.

    I began asking the executives we were meeting how they get their feedback from customers, and it seemed that they rely on a combination of the orders placed by the dealership buyers and by talking to people at trade shows.

    So, it turned out that because 95% of the units of the one brand had been ordered with dishwashers in 2018, it was obvious there was a massive demand for dishwashers. So that’s why all units will have dishwashers going forward.

    Similarly, since the sales rep with the outdoor kitchen had seen only grins and enthusiasm when he showed it to folks dropping by the booth at trade shows, he thought his outdoor kitchen was something his customers loved.

    Ironically, doesn’t it make sense for dealers to put predominantly fully decked out units on their lots to show customers what can be ordered? And when you’re gallivanting around at an RV trade show and having a ball dancing in and out of tons of brand new units, are you really going to tell that smiling and friendly sales guy that his outdoor kitchen would never work for you?

    The takeaway we got from all this is not to be shy and to find out who the buyer is at your local dealership and to tell them what you like and don’t like about the units on their lot. It seems that the closest the residents of the RV manufacturers’ executive suites come to their customers is the contact they have with the folks ordering their units in their dealer network.

    ESCAPEES RV CLUB and WINNEBAGO

    Fortunately and fabulously, Escapees RV Club and Winnebago have begun working together to get real feedback from real RVers into the design process. This project is in its earliest phase right now, but the emails I’ve received from Escapees about it are very encouraging. It is because of this kind of innovative and forward thinking at Escapees that we keep recommending our readers join Escapees. (They give us a tip if you mention “Roads Less Traveled” when you sign up, but we’d recommend them anyway!).

    Founded by Kay and Joe Peterson, Escapees RV Club has been led by three generations of family members who have spent years on the road living in their RVs. They are the real deal when it comes to understanding the RV lifestyle.

    TRAILERS BUILT by the AMISH

    On a completely different note, some folks feel that a trailer built by Amish hands is of better quality than one made by other hands. It certainly makes for great marketing, especially for the companies that are in the heart of Amish country and employ lots of Amish people. We saw Amish workers in some of the plants, both men and women, but we didn’t see how their work could be substantially different than the work done by anyone else on the same assembly line.

    Amish buggy at Open Range RV factory-min

    The Amish really do work at the RV factories. They do the same jobs as other assembly line workers.

    The factory workers are given jobs to do and are told how to do them. The quality standards and aseembly techniques are determined by corporate goals in areas like profitability, target market share, and unit build time to completion.

    While a conscientious individual might put tremendous thought and care into a backyard project at their own home, the work they do on the assembly line at their job for an employer will be done the way management demands and not necessarily in a way that they would choose for their own personal project at home.

    Before I tell you, take a quick guess at how long it takes to build a 44′ toy hauler fifth wheel. A month? A week?

    At the Raptor plant we were told it takes 3 days. At the KZ plant it is 2.5 days. They have a ton of hands working simultaneously, and they all get the job done as quickly as possible.

    INDEPENDENT MANUFACTURERS – ATC, Sundowner, Luxe, Space Craft, New Horizons

    Independent RV manufacturing plants like ATC and Sundowner (another new entrant into the toy hauler market coming frome the horse trailer industry) take a few days longer to build their units than the bigger mass market brands. This partly because fewer people work on each trailer at a time, and partly because they start from scratch and build their own frames, doors and ramps rather than buying a ready-made frame, door and ramp.

    Both ATC and Sundowner looked appealing to us, and we toured each plant. ATC is near Elkhart in Nappannee and Sundowner is in Oklahoma.

    Unfortunately, without any slideouts we couldn’t fit our lives and belongings into an ATC fifth wheel toy hauler, and although the Sundowner toy haulers are an aerodynamic two feet shorter than standard fifth wheel toy haulers and are built with a fifth wheel gooseneck hitch which makes a fabulouos connection to the truck and completely frees up the truck bed when you’re not towing, they are also built with a very small bedroom because of the short gooseneck overhang.

    However, for folks who have other lifestyle needs than ours, both the ATC and Sundowner deserve a good long look as they are sturdy, well built and rugged trailers that can be modestly customized on order and that have an intermediate price point between the mass market trailers and the high end custom units (New Horizons, Luxe and Space Craft). We visited Luxe and went to Space Craft a second time but will get into that in another post.

    ALTERNATE SUPPLIERS – MORryde, Dexter

    I mentioned the RV parts manufacturer MORryde, and as we studied toy haulers it seemed to us that there are two components in toy haulers these days where the MORryde version is superior to the competition: the ramp door and the stairs. Likewise, the Dexter brand of axles is considered to be superior to the competition (although the axle brand is a moot point if you plan to upgrade to the MORryde IS suspension which replaces the axles completely).

    When our second factory-installed axle failed on our current trailer after our first axle failed and was replaced under our extended warranty, we replaced both axles with Dexter brand at our own expense (not under warranty) and have been very pleased.

    So, in our evaluation of toy haulers during our own personal search for ourselves, the brands we focused on came with these MORryde and Dexter components. Generally, if a brand doesn’t specify in its marketing literature that it has a MORryde or Dexer branded component, then it doesn’t have it. There is marketing value in advertising that your trailer includes these brands, and the RV manufacturers call it out in their literature.

    One of the side benefits (or disadvantages, depending on your point of view) of massive industry consolidation is that a hugely dominant parts supplier can strong arm its customers into buying its products by bundling them or offering other perks as part of the deal, something like: “If you buy our doors and windows we’ll throw in our stairs for free,” or “If you buy our stairs and ramp door we’ll warranty the frame for three years.”

    MORryde Zero-G Ramp Door

    Check out this video comparing the deployment of the MORryde Zero-G ramp door and the Lippert ramp door:

    MORryde StepAbove

    We like the old fashioned flip down front stairs on our fifth wheel, but that design is antiquated these days. The MORryde stairs called the “StepAbove” deploy easily.

    FINAL TID-BITS

    One of the interesting fallouts from the wholesale decimation of the RV industry that began in 2008 and went on until 2013 or so is that the smaller companies that survived the downturn did so because they engaged in some true soul searching and revised their self-image.

    The folks at B&W Trailer Hitches began making farm fencing, and they had enough cash flow to pay their employees to work for the town where they are headquartered, providing groundskeeping and other municipal services. This not only kept everyone employed but it heightened their pride in their town and their loyalty to their company. Amazing and very smart. The folks at MORryde also branched out into non-RVing related products in a similar way.

    The management at ATC took a long hard look at how to motivate their assembly line workers to make the best product possible. Rather than providing incentives based on the number of units produced, which is a common metric, they offered incentives that focused on quality control and reducing mistakes and system failures. ATC has the longest and deepest warranty of all the fifth wheel toy hauler manufacturers.

    PHEW — THAT WAS LONG!

    We’ve got more thoughts to share as we ponder this fork in our less traveled road. At the moment we’re leaning towards a new traditional fifth wheel trailer because the triple-towing seems okay, but who knows what the coming months will bring as we travel further afield and encounter a wider variety of situations with our rig.

    Stay tuned!!

    Triple tow Dodge Ram 3500 dually 36' fifth wheel and Polaris RZR on utility trailer-min

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    — Published March 2019