Sunday, December 31, 2006

La Paz

Arrived in La Paz last night, having spent the last couple of days in Loreto. It was only a 70 mile drive on from the beach where we spent Christmas, but it's a great old mission town, better shops and much cheaper prices. We'd heard it wasn't up to much but we liked the place a lot. It also gave the chance to charge up the vehicle and house batteries after 2 weeks of being savaged - the day we left the low voltage alarm went nuts and we had to start the generator to get enough power to start the engine!! Oops!

Loreto to La Paz was 220 miles - the longest we'd driven in one day since arriving in Baja 5 weeks ago. It took about 6 hours and was a pleasant drive. The road followed the coast for a while after Loreto then up into the Sierra La Giganta which offered some great views back where we'd come from. Along the way we saw many roadside shrines - often erected at the sites of accidents some are really simple, but we saw some crackers today - great brick built buildings and some sculpted shrines - particularly love this cactus one! At the moment all the shrines seem to be decorated for Christmas.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Christmas on the beach

What a wonderfully different Christmas we had! It was never going to be traditional. Not really used to having Christmas by ourselves – I love having family around me, so it was going to be difficult to make it ‘special’ We had English muffins toasted on the BBQ to start the day off, opened our few presents, went for a quick swim (just to say we did!), walked along the beach, and sat out in the sunshine. Although we’d bought all the ingredients we decided to forgo the Christmas lunch in favour of lots and lots of snacks and munchies – devilled eggs, freshly made salsa and tortilla chips, smoked sausage, pickled chilli peppers, olives, cookies and of course chocolate! As the sun set we lit a campfire on the beach and drank wine. We met a couple from Dublin out walking so we invited them to join us around the fire and we stayed up late into the evening chatting and drinking with them. It’s now Boxing day and I don’t feel very well…….!!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

The exploding restaurant! Ray's Place is no more...

It was just gone 11pm last night, and I’d been asleep for perhaps 1/2 hour. The noise woke me. Totally alien, but loud and getting louder by the second. It was like a jet plane was crashing, or a truck was careering off the road near the beach. I bolted upright and looked out the window on my side, Chris beside me. I think I’d just about realized what I was seeing – a fire – then there was an explosion, and the fireball went up. Still dazed from sleep my mind was slow to register but Chris realized straight away that it was Ray’s Place.

The fire raged. It was after all a giant palapa and the dry wood and palms were quickly devoured by flames. I was shaking, it was a shock and the destruction of someone’s beloved business upset me (especially since we’d met Ray only last week)

We expected the fire department to turn up. But nothing happened. The fire took less than an hour before it had nothing left to fuel itself and it started to quieten down. The onlookers moved away, back to their beds. I struggled to get back to sleep. I was spooked by it all, and then worried that the sparks would ignite the palapa next to us – my mind was on overdrive as I thought through the various elaborate scenarios.

Next morning it seemed strange to look out and see nothing there. And I mean NOTHING! The place was raised to the ground good and proper. The ashes were still smoldering, and the heat was still intense up close. We could see the burst propane tank lying on its side – the cause of the explosion.

So sad, so unbelievable, so frightening.

[These are the BEFORE, DURING and AFTER photos]

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Merry Christmas from Helen & Chris!!

Are staying on Playa Santispac for the Christmas period - it's too nice to move on! Best wishes to you all for Christmas and have a very Happy New Year!!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Bahia Concepcion

Possibly the ultimate Baja destination. We are parked 10 feet from the water on a white sand beach. The water is protected by the bay, and is clear and sparkly blue. We even have our own palapa for shade and protection from the breeze. Locals pass by offering us various things for sale - fresh clams, scallops, jewelly, rugs etc so the hardest part of the day is turning them away. There's a excellent restaurant on the beach too and I even enjoyed the fresh shrimp (and I am NOT a seafood person). Basically life is tough.....

Currently in an internet cafe with no immediate plans to be in anywhere more cilvilised - who would when we're already in paradise! So if we don't get online again - best wishes to everyone and have a very Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Guerrero Negro

So we're now in Guerrero Negro - the first town across the 'border' into Baja California Sur. We crossed the border with tighter security here than we had coming into the country! They checked our papers & had a quick glance in the fridge. They also charge $2 to fumegate your vehicle - apparently to prevent spread of agicultural type beasties. This is also the 28th Parallel, and we've put our clocks forward an hour - back on Mountain time (GMT -7 hs).

The town isn't all that exciting, but had a reasonable grocery store (although I did have to pick my way through about 4 pallets loaded with bloodied carcasses just to get to the fruit and veg! - running the gauntlet back again I was dodging the pools of blood they'd left behind on the floor - nice - thank god I have no vegetarian tendancies!). We are in quite a 'posh' campsite (by this I mean it's expensice at $20 a night!), but it has a good reputation for having a great restaurant - so we checked that out tonight and indeed it has!.

This is the area for grey whale watching but we're still a little early in the season for that right now. Also home of the most enormous Salt works here in town - in fact this is a company town founded on the salt works nearby.

On to San Ignacio tomorrow...

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Bahia de Los Angeles

What a change in temperatures; from yesterday morning sat out in the early heat to getting to Rancho Santa Inez in Catavina and being, (almost literally) blown away by the howling winds, to here by the Sea of Cortez where although it’s still windy, it is lovely and warm again! Nice campsite and only $2 per night, although no hook-ups; it used to be a govt one but has been neglected so there is neither electric nor water but the sewer still works! There is a guy here who will truck in water if needed but I don’t think we’ll be here more than a couple of days so shouldn’t run out.

And the views are stunning; looking out to the turquoise sea there are islands dotted around and on the other side, rows of mountains! We really are right on the beach this time; not even any dunes in the way. We’ve only parked one row back so we’re not blocking the view of anyone else. There’s a couple from Oregon here that we saw back at the deaf ranch and three 5th wheels from Canada; it seems to be a place where the full timers hang out for the winter; I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I really couldn’t sell up to do this with no option of going back!

The drive over the hills both days has been pretty wow; loads of empty desert, mountains, cacti absolutely everywhere, the occasional vehicle going the other way and the odd semi ploughing past us on their way to wherever. We did pass two semis on their sides; no cabs so presumably they rolled a couple of days ago, but at one point we even caught one up that had passed us; if he was going that slow coz of the winds, so was I!

Last night’s campsite was huge a huge open expanse of open dirt, but it didn’t stop me reversing into the only object in the whole Wal*Mart car park sized place! There was a bin in the middle of the area and even with a reversing camera; I still managed to not see it! Donkey now has another war wound in the guise of a scratched front mudguard!

Two weeks today and still no sign of Montezuma!!! There now, that’s the kiss of death!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

The latest...

Have stayed in San Quentin the last couple of nights. First night we had the 100-space campground to ourselves, last night it was invaded by a 30-40 vehicle caravan heading north - OMG We are SO glad that we never did anything like that! Seemed so regimented, complete with their own little Sgt Major on the CB radio marshalling everyone into their slots! Quite funny really, we watched as we sat out in the sun supping Bloody Mary's.

Have been having good weather. Warm in the days, but gets pretty chilly as soon as the sun goes down. Really just enjoying chilling out and not doing very much.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Mexico Safe and Sound

So here we are...been 5 days already! Right now we are in Ensenada - about 70 miles down the coast from the border.

Travelled over the border on Monday. Simple stuff though it didn't stop me worrying! Buying liability insurance for the vehicles, getting tourist cards, going to the bank to pay for said tourist cards. And all the while not speaking the lingo. We've bought a phrase book are are determined to learn as much as possible. Drove to lovely campsite, completely in the middle of nowhere, down a 7 mile dirt track that took nearly an hour to navigate. On our stroll out to explore we got as far as the bar....and that's all I remember of our first night in Mexico! (we did meet 3 american dirt-bikers who we had dinner with, and picked up some good tips for getting along in next bit!)

Wednesday morning we drove on out. Just at the end of the dirt track before hitting the highway back to civilisation we got pulled over by the police. We had no front number plate (don't need one in Florida where the RV is licensed). And it would cost us (now there's a thing) He took our papers hostage and chatted with his mate. Decided that if we paid him $40 there and then we could go. Or a visit to the police station where it might be as much as $65. And so here's where it helps picking up tips from well-travelled dirt-bikers.....agree to go to the police station. We started up the engine and waited for him to lead the way, all the while watching him in the rear camera. Funny old thing....his bluff was called...he waited a few seconds and then came knocking on the door, handed back our papers and let us on our way!!! Top tip - always agree to go to the police station!!! Apparently it's a nightmare in paperwork, and I still wonder now if not having a number plate is even a problem!!! So we felt quite chuffed with ourselves for encountering and overcoming our first potential Mexican mishap!

Drove on into Tecate where we stopped by the main square for tacos and a free beer in the Tecate brewery beer garden (limit 1 a day - you get your ticket as you go in the gate!).

That night we stopped at Rancho Sordo Mudu (it means Deaf ranch) in Guadelupe Valley - about 40 miles south of Tecate, 25 miles north of Ensenada on the inland Mex3 road. This is an amazing place where we have spent the last 2 days and loved every minute. This is a school for Mexican Deaf children. Many come to the school with no language at all and here are taught not only Spanish but also American sign langauge (did you know all sign language is different - how mad is that?!). On our first night we were invited up to the school to join them for supper. We had a quick tour of the place and in supper had many inquisitive pairs of eyes in our direction!

Yesterday was Thanksgiving here. We joined them again for a traditional thanksgiving lunch of Turkey and stuffing and Pumpkin pie (which we'd never had before!) It was joked we must've brought them good luck since all their food is donated and someone had provided 6 turkeys for them that week - it would never have been such an elaborte meal otherwise! We spent time in one of the classrooms that morning, answering hundreds of questions from the kids and explaining what we'd been doing. They gave us sign names. (these are 'made up' and are given based on you - what you like, your personality etc, e.g Chris was the sign for C then placed on his shoulder representing the rank slides of the military, mine was the H drawn in a smile across the chest - so sweet) We learnt signs to spell our names and Good Morning (which so strangley would not be recognised by a british signer). It was such a great time. These kids are so happy, the workers there are all volunteers and all have such passion for what they are doing and achieving at this amazing place and all the happiness and love is so infectious.

Friday, November 17, 2006

The last week

It may seem we haven't been busy in terms of things we've done and places we've been but it seems to us we've been dashing around like headless chickens. We now have just 3 days left till our US visas run out and we head south of the border into Mexico. Are looking forward to it with excitement and maybe a little apprehension - mainly just the unknowns. Have been out getting some minor work done on the RV in preparation and stocking up on supplies (probably buying lots of stuff we don't need to be - stuff that will be available in Mexico and probably for half the price than over here! but still - we're well stocked!)

Spending the last couple of nights in a lovely campground on the outskirts of San Diego. Sadly not sure we'll have time to spend in the city itself - a shame coz we hear such good things about it.

Not sure what internet access will be like in Baja - only time will tell. But for now we're assuming that we won't be online often to send emails and update this blog - we'll do what we can!

Hasta la vista baby!

Monday, November 13, 2006

US Costal Route 1

So we’re back from our trip up the coast, and I can’t remember the last time I was as wet and cold as I was today; I woke up at 5 am to the sound of rain, when we left the motel at 8:30 it was raining and it pretty much rained the whole way back – apart from the foggy bit when I couldn’t see far enough to know if it was raining or not! We’d taken lightweight waterproofs ‘just in case’ as it was such a warm sunny day yesterday – hah!!! After two hours I needed gas so we stopped for lunch; two hot chocolates, a burger and chips later and the cold was still steeped into the still wet bones! The idea of seeing the stunning Californian Coastal Route 1 from the opposite direction today was just that – an idea! Apparently the sea was to our right but who knows!

Yesterday thankfully, was a different story; the day although chilly when we set off, turned out to be blue and cloudless. (Well, until we got nearer the top end of the route anyway!) We stopped to watch huge elephant seals do, well, very little actually; at this time of year they come ashore to rest before the mating season, and apart from the odd scuffle for the best bit of beach and the occasional clumsy flicking of sand to protect their wobbling carcasses from the direct sunlight, they couldn’t have been less entertaining if they’d tried!

The road, once away from the towns and out onto the very edge of the earth, was biking nirvana; twisty and hilly enough to make the 55 mph speed limit almost fast enough for a change. The view really did change around every corner and over every brow; from miles of golden beaches, gentle waves seemingly lapping at the wheels, to waves crashing against the rocks hundreds of feet below, the sheer drop also seeming to lap at the wheels, to open meadows and darkened forests ignored by the sun. Apart from the odd roadworks to repair recent landslides, and a mild smattering of traffic, the pace was uninterrupted, smooth, brisk and flowing!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Carpinteria State Beach

Drove back to Carpinteria State Park the day before yesterday. Chris and I had stopped here on our way to Palm Desert and fell in love with the place - had to bring Mum and Dad here for their last night. Gorgeous beach, sunsets and plenty of dolphins, sea lions and seals to watch. the 'last supper' with M&D was a beach BBQ and campfire - perfect and very sad to say goodbye to them after 3 busy weeks - come back soon!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Joshua Tree NP

Last few days were relaxing. It all seemed spookily quiet without Andy and the kids around. It was so great to see them - such an unexpected bonus to our trip to have them come out and visit. We've just been relaxing in the apartment and by the pool.

Yesterday stayed in Joshua Tree National Park. Camped in the northern part of the park in amongst the huge rocks and joshua trees - the scenery is just so funky, and last night the moon was so bright we could see our own shadows whilst scrambling around on the rocks by the RV. Today we spent cruising around the park in the car. Went to the Cholla Cactus garden - a small area where this particular cactus grows - the conditions have to be specific and are just right in this one area so there are literally thousands of the them. Also had a spectacular view from Keys View - a viewpoint at 5100 feet overlooking the valley and Palm Desert off in the distance - it was quite a dramatic drop down to the valley.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Madness and mayhem

Totally maxed out the last week or so! Last Friday Mum, Dad Chris and I all checked in for a week at the Marriott Shadow Ridge in Palm Desert (a timeshare exchange arranged by M&D). That same evening my Uncle Andy and 3 cousins flew in from London and also joined us - hence the hectic last 5 days. I'm now sat here in (comparitive!) blissful silence, and, due to the layout of the ,Chris and I finally get our own bedroom (rather than the sofabed!) for the last 2 nights of the stay here - Hooray!!

So a completely busy 5 days. Mostly involving long breakfasts, swims at the pool, long lunches, playing 'it' outside the apartment dangerously close to the beautifully manicured golf course (hey - it's grass - its fair game for running all over - no?!) etc.

Sunday night/Monday Chris and I were daft enough to volunteer to take all 3 kids away camping for the night in the RV. Didn't go far - just a couple of junctions down the interstate in fact, but long enough to for them all 'to ride in Harvey sat on the sofa!'). Had an outdoor BBQ, went swimming in the morning and then all went to the Living Desert in Palm Desert. A zoo basically, saw lots of cool desert animals - giraffes, gazelle, meerkats, Oryx and A MOUNTAIN LION!! This is probably the only time Chris and I will ever see one - it's the only BIG wild animal in north america I can think of that we haven't seen in the wild! Still I think it all went pretty well - everyone arrived back to the apartment in one piece ready for responsibility to be promptly handed back over to Andy! - phew!

Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Spent an awesome day at Disneyland today. So much fun, especially with kids! All 8 of us bombing around the park, maxed out with things to do. Having the 'arguments' about who was gonna ride with who! Such a top day! Loved it!

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Santa Barbara

On our way down the coast we stopped in Santa Barbara - what a pleasant surprise! The end of such a lovely sunny day anyway we pulled into the Carpinteria State Park. The campsite was really close to the beach, and the beach is sandy and a mile long. Watched the sunset and just as the sun disappeared we then saw dolphins playing about 200 feet offshore! and then saw a seal and lots of dive-bombing pelicans - so cool! Spent a lovely lazy evening enjoying a BBQ and campfire.

Monday, October 23, 2006

San Francisco

We got to San Francisco area last night, and spent the night camped out in a Walmart carpark (a little different to the 5 star hotels my mother is used to!!!!). Today we drove into the city. Went over to Sausalito for breakfast and then Mum, Chris & I went over on the ferry to Alcatraz. Such a cool place (actually my third visit! - and would have been Dad's 5th or 6th hence he opted out and rode the cable cars all morning!) Did the audio tour, lasting about 45 mins round the cell block - narrated by old residents - be it prison wardens or inmates. Went to a ranger talk on the 'famous' inmates - Al Capone, Robert Stroud 'the birdman' and others, and finally watech a discovery video about the island. Time flew by - we spent about 3 hours in all and such great views of the city, the bay and the Golden Gate bridge from the ferry.

Dad is pretty familiar with the city so it was great have a knowledgable driver. Went up to Coit Tower where we got some great views of the city from 'up high', drove down Lombard Street (the wiggliest street!), went to the cable car museum and engine house, and generally cruised around a bit! Chris and I had been recommended a great curry house by a Pakistani guy who worked in a gas station up the coast, and we then found the listing in our Rough Guide so we headed there. In 22 months we definately haven't had as good a chicken tikka masala as this! (well apart from our 3 weeks back in the UK earlier this year!!). Great dive called Shalimar - by the looks of it you would SO walk past! But isn't that the way with great authentic food!? The guys in there barely understood what we were ordering - that's how Indian they were!, and the food was great.

For sunset we drove out to Lincoln Park where we walked along the cliff path with a great view back east into the bay and the bridge lit up 'golden' by the setting sun, then when that light faded there were great sunset colours with just the right amount of clouds in the sky to make it really pretty.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Political opinion!!

Not ours.......As seen on a car bumper in the state capital - Sacramento!!

Monday, October 16, 2006

525 miles later...

Just got back from a 2-day, 500 mile ride on the bike up the coast and back. Didn't want to miss out on the US Coastal route 1, we rode from north San Francisco as far as Rockport where the road turns inland. Lots of great scenery, although pretty misty and overcast yesterday - although it all adds to the rugged coastal charm! The earlier part of the day along the Sonoma coast was particularly lovely - quite undeveloped, and some FAB fish n' chips in a crummy looking cafe in Bodega Bay that turned out to be quite a find! (love it when that happens)

Spent the night in Fort Bragg. Walked to Glass Beach - which is a beach full of glass....It was used as the town dump until the 60's. Was cleaned up, but never so well that a lot of glass was left there. Over the years the waves have crashed and ground it all up and now all that remains is a very pretty beach of tiny smooth glass pieces - had to do some beachcombing here! Had an awesome meal out last night in the Mendo Bistro.

Today we drove through the Chandelier Tree in Leggett - well it had to be done - rude to have driven on by even if it costs $3 to drive a 1/4 mile loop road!! Ahhh - the things we do for a photo op! Drove back south via Highway 101 which stayed inland. Ultimately ending up in Calistoga and the Napa Valley - such a lovely day out, but we resisted the temptation to stop at the wineries - will do all that once my Mum & Dad arrive.....TOMORROW!!!!!

Saturday, October 14, 2006


Time has rushed by. We've spent most of the last week in Yosemite National Park. We didn't actually camp in the park itself - most campgrounds were closed for the season and bizarrely the 2 open were both full! (somethings wrong there!!) Stayed just 5 miles outside the west gate in one of our membership parks so it was free!! It did mean we had to travel in each day which was about 30 miles to the valley (which is where lots of the attractions and hikes are or start from). Thankfully we have the motorbike (the roads were so hilly I'm glad we didn't have to do the journey in the RV - much of the time on the bike we got stuck behind RV's like us with their brakes stinking from over-use!)

We did travel to the south of the park and Mariposa Grove which is the largest of Yosemites groves of the Giant Sequoia trees. These big old fellas are the largest living things on the planet and grow up to 30 feet in diameter and 300 feet tall. They can also love about 3000 years! Pretty amazing stuff. There's the California tree which has a pedestrian tunnel through it (and the tree is still alive and growing), and the Grizzly Giant which is the largest in the grove. Also the Fallen tunnel tree which fell in the winter of 1968-69 but before that did have cars driving through it! So we hiked around alot and came back through the park at sunset (which was nice but very, very cold on the bike!)

Spent a couple of days in the valley. Most of the waterfalls are dried up at the moment - well perhaps trickles of water if you squint and look very closely! We walked around the meadows which are changing colour at the moment and smell lovely! Did a small hike out to Nevada Falls which did actually have some water, but were'nt very 'in the hiking mood' of late. It's been fun to just amble around... Did sign up for an excellent and informative Photography Walk. It's run by the Ansel Adams Gallery in the park and runs 3 times a week for free!! Such a good deal - you spend 2 hours with a professional photographer just strolling around the valley picking up tips and techniques - our subject matter was 'light' - so good!

Saturday, October 07, 2006

More Lake Tahoe

It's great to have Chris back!! (No more driving hills for me for a while - think I've done my fair share!!) Have had a wonderful couple of days relaxing at Lake Tahoe. What a beautiful place. And it's so autumnal!! (although on the downside it does also mean it's quite chilly - and to think less than a week ago I was on meltdown in Death Valley!).

Today we rode the 72 miles round the lake on the bike. I have a lovely new comfy seat which Chris brought back from New Mexico with him - so it was just great! Stopped for lunch at a great little cafe, and numerous other times at scenic viewpoints taking photos and admiring the views. A local small town was having it's Oktoberfest celebrations so we stopped for a while to wander round the craft stalls, listen to some awful German-style music, smell the bratwurst and consider the beers....

Had a great campfire tonight - was mad for it - so much so we paid $9 for a bundle of firewood - yes you really did read $9 - NINE dollars for a few logs of wood! Still worth it. Such a great end to a lovely, lovely day at the lake.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Lake Tahoe

Having left Death Valley I drove north. About 200 miles on Sunday, then another 140 Monday to get to Reno, NV. Nice enough place - it's got shops and lots of people and being by myself that's nice to be around! And shop I did (serves my husband right for 'abandoning me for 10 days!!).

Now staying on the shores of Lake Tahoe. Gorgeous place. And it's autumn!! (we've been in such hot places lately I hadn't seen the signs of autumn until I was driving here) It's great - smells great! Woodsmoke, dampness, falling leaves - FAB! Season here is definately well and truly over. Lots of places are shut - including campgrounds and tourist atrractions in the state parks etc. Spent last night in a great park that was open - went for a walk down to the lake this morning - all a bit spooky though walking through the woods - it's bear country again and I'm just not used to hiking alone - I don't make enough noise with no-one to talk to! (had to whistle and clap lots - got a couple of really weird looks from a couple of fellow hikers!)

Now back in a small lakeshore town, will stay here tonight and hopefully tomorrow Chris will come back!! Can't wait :-)

Death Valley

Boy - was it hot!! I arrived in the park around noon. About mid-90's - I can do that! However when I went into the visitor centre and chatted to a ranger I found out the hottest part of the day is around 4pm - and was expected to get to 106 degrees - Oh boy! Camped out in the park service campground in Furnace Creek area - no hookups so I found the closest thing to shade and flaked out. Went out for a sunset walk up a shaded canyon which was nice, although in places the heat did seem so, er, hot! Had trouble getting to sleep that night. At 11.30pm it was still 95 degrees.

Next morning got up before sunrise (gotta beat that heat somehow) Finally it was cool - bliss! Went to Zabriskie Point to take photos - quite the little party of early risers there - wicked colours of gullied land and Manly Point catching the early morning light, with views of the distant mountains. (I actually wore a cardigan this morning!!) Next stop was Badwater Basin. At 282 feet BELOW sea level it is the lowest point in the western hemisphere (apparently - doesn't an east/west divide of the 'hemisphere' rather depend on where you are at the time?) Some of the hottest temps ever have been recorded here - 134 degrees - meltdown!! Things were hotting up for me by now too....drove 25 miles up t'road to Stovepipe Wells - who had RV hookups - hoorah! Booked in late morning, plugged in the electric, shut the curtains and turned up the aircon high (nothing like 'expericing these wonderful national parks au naturel eh?!) And basically hid for the rest of the day. To be honest limited somewhat by a) where I can get to in the RV b) where I'm prepared to wander off to by myself c) the heat!

This morning got up early again to wander 2 miles out to the middle of the sand dunes - reaching up to 100 ft high - kinda cool - a good workout trudging across the dunes. Met an 'interesting' couple near the highest of the dunes. They'd been taking 'artistic nude' pictures of each other until I turned up - think I rather pissed on their parade!! They did ask me to take some photos of them - thankfully with their clothes on (though they did debate whether or not to?!?!!?!?!?!)

Had the time of my life (NOT) driving out of Death Valley. Sea Level to 5000 ft in about 18 miles - so the engine hovered dangerously close to the overheating point. Then having gone uphill I enevitably had to come back down again - so then the brakes started overheating - great. Much of todays driving followed much the same vein... Lots of stopping in lay-bys chilling out waiting for either the brakes or the engine to cool down...

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Our own adventures

After a relaxing couple of days in Vegas we spent an excellent day at Red Rock Canyon on the outskirts of the city rock climbing - lovely grippy sandstone and a really great day out (just to wear ourselves out again!) Then moved on westwards to Pahrump - about 60 miles away. Drawn by the promise that the RV resort had it's own winery on site!! Excellent! Have done the wine tasting and bought a bottle or 10! From here we're heading separate ways for the next 10 days. Chris is off on a Buell owners Biking weekend in Santa Fe, NM - about 650 miles away. 3 days to get there, 3 days organised biking and 4 days to get back. In the meantime I'm chilling out for a couple more days in Pahrump, then heading to Death Valley...

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Our Grand Canyon Hike

Our hike into the canyon was brilliant. Nowhere near as hard as it was hyped up to be.

7.6 miles and just under 5000 feet downhill the first day on the South Kaibab Trail, which was really tough later that day once our muscles and joints had ceased up. We started about 9am which was way later than we'd been reccommeneded (beacuse of the heat - we just weren't very organised that morning) but even that was OK - nothing compared to Palm Springs and SoCal only days before!! Got to the bottom - Bright Angel Campground and Phantom Ranch about 1pm and chilled out, had a nap. There were a couple of ranger programmes that afternoon and evening so we went to both (brilliant ranger - Soooooo enthusiastic and interesting!). Cheated a bit on the first day - we'd booked evening meal and breakfast next morning at Phantom Ranch (for the grand total of $90 for both of us for both meals - expensive but we didn't have to carry the food!). Temps at the bottom of the canyon are about 20-30 degrees hotter than the south rim - so about 90 degrees for us and a low of 65 at night so nice. 2 funny old residents at the campground - 2 wild turkeys called Bill and Mark. They wandered away from their 'flock/gaggle/gang' that normally reside on the north rim last thanksgiving and wandered all 14 miles to the bottom where they obviously rather enjoyed - they've been there ever since! Apparently though they're getting a free ride out soon as they have become a bit agressive and nipping at people - plans are in action to helicoptor them out! (Chris was wondering whether if he hung out at the Bright Angel campground being agressive towards fellow campers and generally being a pain whether he could've got a heli out instead of walking!!!!)

2nd day was just a 5 mile hike up to Indian Gardens along the Bright Angel trail. The first 2 miles of which were along the river and the trail was really easy going - we had our new camp set up by 10.30am!! Rest of the day to do not very much - lots of lounging around, chatting to some of the other campers. Around 4pm we walked out to Plateau Point where we had a great sunset view up/down the canyon and the river below.

Our final day was another 5 miles uphill back to the rim. Started fairly early, although the majority of the hike was in the shade. A bit steeper gradient than yesterday, and we walked a little slower (those achey joints!) Got to the top around 9.45am. Much cooler temperatures which we really noticed as we ascended and up on top quite breezy too! Had a much needed shower and left the grand canyon by noon in search of the nearest Cheesecake Factory!! (I was in need of a big lardy meal). So we're back in Las Vegas!!!

Sunday, September 17, 2006

We've got our kicks & London Bridge

And we still didn't get to the Grand Canyon the next day either! Drove via Lake Havasu - a rather dull town on a nice lake, but it's one claim to fame is it has the original London Bridge. Bought by the millionair developer of the town in 1968 it was dismantled into 10,000 odd bricks of granite then shipped over here. They even made an island for it to go across!! It was re-dedicated here in 1971. It's got a nasty tacky hopeless attempt at an 'olde englishe village' but there was a great brewpub overlooking the river so it kinda re-gained a few brownie points for that!!

Next day we started from Kingman, AZ which is one of the key towns on what remains of the old Route 66. The road did stretch from Los Angeles to Chicago until the interstates and freeways did a better job. Much of the old road doesn't really 'exist' any more and one of the longest stretches that does in in Arizona - from Kingman to Seligman. Actually do I dare say it but it was a pretty dull road....not as dull as the interstate I admit!! A few roadside curios, shops, cafes, saloons but since we were driving at 7 in the morning most everything was shut. But we have had our 'kicks on route 66'!!

Finally Friday afternoon we made it to the Grand Canyon!!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Fixed RV in Palm Springs

The last couple of days we've been in Perris California. A somewhat unscheduled stop on our trip, we've had an ongoing problem with one of our water tanks - fixed (or rather bodged) last summer, it went again whilst Pat was out. The only thing for it we decided was to have the factory do the job. Quite a rare task your average garage will probably never have done the job before - at least the factory do it every day. So lots of money later hopefully everything is lovely and leak free....

It was about a 300 mile trip out of our way from Vegas, now we're heading back east to the Grand Canyon. Looking forward to's been one of the biggest 'must do's for me the whole trip. Don't expect to be online much since we hope to stay in the park.

As it happens we got as far as Palm Springs cruising down the highway when I commented on a really nice looking RV park on the side of the road - it was one of our membership campgrounds (we get to stay in for free) so despite being 11am we checked in for the night and spent most of the day by the pool. Will drive on tomorrow...

Sunday, September 10, 2006

A Surprise for Tess & Steve!!

So Tess and Steve arrived in Las Vegas late last night from Cyprus. Little did they know we were in town (I haven't been able to update this blog for the last week in case she read about our whereabouts!!). With the help of Janet and Larrie (Steve's folks - thanks guys!) we arranged to meet this morning at the local Einsteins Bros Bagel shop for breakfast!! I just love surprises!!!!!

Fantastic to see them both again - twice during our trip so far (we hooked up with them in Seattle last fall too!!)

Friday, September 08, 2006

Las Vegas Showtime!

Well, I can honestly say I have never, (ever) been as impressed by a performance as I was tonight! We’ve just got back from seeing ‘O’ by Cirque Du Soleil and there really is no way to adequately do it justice without dragging you here to see for yourself! Just the most spectacular entertainment I’ve ever witnessed. I don’t even really know how to describe it; a musical, a circus, an opera, a ballet; actually all of them. The cast were all dancers, synchronised swimmers, high divers, gymnasts, athletes, actors, comedians… and whatever they get paid – it’s not enough!! The whole ‘show’ was done to live music and was all performed in, over or under water! The stage, (inside a hotel) is a huge, (as in American huge!) circular affair which goes from being a solid floor to a deep, (as in 100 ft high diving) pool. It must be built like a jigsaw as one minute people are dancing on dry land, the next they’re splashing through inches of water and then bodies appear from under water; you never know which bit of the stage will be wet, dry or what! Much of it is aerial on trapezes and which ever performance you’re watching at the time, another equally impressive act/dance/display is happening in your peripheral vision. I could go on and on but I’m all too aware of over emphasising a point so I won’t. But I could trust me; and the more I go on about it, the more I wouldn’t be able to do it justice. It was expensive, being the most raved about show in Las Vegas; but I would pay twice the cost, and I could watch it every night for a week and still see new stuff!!!

Anyway, enough going on… what else have we been up to? This morning we took the bike into town to go and see “Bodies” the exhibition. These were real (dead) bodies in all sorts of states of dissection. Muscular, skeletal, respiratory, reproductive, coronary systems on show. Every bit was real human tissue, bone, muscle, arteries, skin, tendons, and organs exactly as they are inside us. The only change was the moisture that holds our bodies together had been replaced by a silicon polymer as it wouldn’t dehydrate like the real stuff does when you’re dead! It was fascinating stuff, but then we went to ‘O’…

'O' was in the Bellagio hotel which is the flashiest hotel in Vegas and has a large pond/small lake in front of it and every 15 minutes has an incredible fountain display to music. The word fountain makes it sound so average. Of course it’s not, this is Las Vegas! The water comes from hundreds, maybe thousands of moving, swivelling jets under the surface and are all lit up from underneath; and the whole thing is choreographed like a dance troupe to 29 different pieces of music from classical to jazz to modern dance music – have I used the word impressive too much yet??

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Penn & Teller

We decided that since we're in the show capital of the country we should at least make some effort to see a show or 2. Got tickets this morning to see Penn & Teller - the magician duo. Have seen a couple of their TV shows and they're so funny. Held at the Rio Casino & Hotel we got there early and ate at the World Festival Buffet. $24 All-you-can eat. It was HUGE! We were slightly pushed for time which was such a shame - next time we aim to get there early and eat at a more relaxed pace!!

The live show was great, a few tricks we'd seen before but just very funny - stand-up style (by Penn of course, Teller doesn't talk!). Got my picture taken with Penn after the show!!!

Did we mention what a great campground we're staying in. We just started chuckling when we drove up the several hundred yard driveway which was lined with fairylight-clad palm trees. There's a fountain outside the reception area and the whole clubhouse/store is glass and marble - this is unlike any other RV park we've stayed in - but then it's Vegas!! It is JUST a campsite for goodness sake!!!! Gorgeous pool & spa area - and since schools are back there's not many people about - we had 1 pool just to ourselves for the afternoon!!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


So, today’s hike; ‘The Keyhole!’ Why ‘The Keyhole” I hear you ask? Coz if you aren’t shaped like a key, you ain’t gonna fit! The hike is only ¼ mile long – when you get to the start of it…the start is about a mile from the parking area to the start of the actual canyon; a mile in the mid-day desert heat, up a steeply climbing rock face, wearing a wet suit and carrying a pack with a 200 ft climbing rope plus abseiling gear, extra clothing, water etc.

Anyway, back to the job in hand; the hike through the keyhole consisted of four different abseils, numerous ‘climb downs’ into the darkened canyon that never sees sunlight and is therefore cold as you like, especially considering the heat outside. Each abseil and ‘climb down’ of course ended up in water; no, not nice fresh river water but (very) cold, murky, stagnant water that had laid there since the last flash flood! How deep? Anywhere from knee deep past waist deep, to full on chest deep and at one point a full on swim, and all of it through what smelt like old sewage!

So there I am; the guy who always wears appropriate biking gear, riding helmetless, dressed in a very wet, wet suit, a climbing harness, and carrying a rucksack full of wet heavy rope and stuff, probably harbouring all sorts of dead things hidden away about my person – mmm, very attractive!!! Why? Because it was there I guess and someone mentioned on it which was enough for me to need to do it!

Monday, September 04, 2006

Zion National Park

Arrived in Zion National Park after Harvey's little hiccup! Have a campsite just outside the gates, where we can pick up the excellent free shuttle bus services into the park. It's so nice to not have to get ourselves anywhere - can just be lazy and be driven everywhere in Zion Canyon between 5.45am and 11pm!! Yesterday morning hiked up to Angel's Landing - 1500ft above the valley floor with fabulous views up & down the canyon. It was a very 'trecherous' walk - very narrow paths - sometimes only a couple of feet wide along the top of the fin of rock that is Angel's Landing - with long drop offs either side of us back to the Canyon floor!!

This morning we walked 'The Narrows'. Basically the top of the canyon where it gets really narrow. The path IS the Virgin river. Without a permit we could walk 5 miles upstream then turn around and come back out the way we came. We hired 'Canyoneer' boots - great things! Chunky ankle boots worn with neoprene socks and heavy duty rubber tread soles, along with an essential walking pole to use to 'feel' your way through the enormous 'pebbles' and rocks lining the river bed. In places the canyon narrowed to 10 feet wide with wall to wall water. Had to watch for high ground opportunities as it's prone to flash floods!! (great!) Much of it was wading in water mid thigh deep but apparently there were 3 swims to get to Big Springs which is the day-hikers turn around point. We only found 1 of them! (Lucky us!) And in fact with a little probing Chris did actually find a route through that only involved chest high water (by which time I'd taken the plunge and swum my way through 10 yards of water!). Awesome hike to have done. Took us 4 hours 45 mins to do the 5 miles to Big Springs which is super-slow for us as it was hard going. (In comparison we did the downstream hike in just 3 hours and normal hiking we'd have down the one-way distance in about 2!)

As it's Labor weekend here it was busy and at the outfitters yesterday every man and his dog were kitting themselves out with boots for the Narrows so we'd figured on an early start to beat the crowds (in the water about 7.30am - it was fresh!) - in fact we saw just 5 other people heading upstream in the morning (Along with a handful of down hikers who'd camped along the full 16 mile route) Coming back was a different matter though - it was a zoo! Most people apparently don't make it as far as the Big Springs - and we saw many turning around at the deep water (they missed the best bit!) By the time we were heading downstream it was way warmer - around noon the sun hit overhead so we did see sunlight for a while, we were quite happy about the getting wet part by now - in fact at times it was quite refreshing!

Absolutely shattered now - and I have very sore inner thighs from 8 hours of wet shorts rubbing have taken their toll - ouch! And we now definately deserve a good lie-in!

Friday, September 01, 2006

RV problems...

Hopefully fixed already though. Broke down last night on our way to Zion National Park. The engine started mis-firing then we lost all power altogether. After a 2 hour wait on the side of the road we were recovered about 10.30pm last night and towed back the way we'd come (very, very slowly when you're towing a 10 ton vehicle!) - to Cedar City, an hour and a half away to a garage that was shut, wasn't expecting us and couldn't even neccessarily fit us in to have a look at it!! Thankfully this morning they were able to look at it and after a relatively painless 3/4 hour labour and a $85 part things seem to be working fine again. So back on our way to Zion.....

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

InSpiral Coaching

How exciting! Chris has finally got his website up and running for Inspiral Coaching. I think it looks great. A friend of a friend designed it - all in the space of about 5 days - Amazing - thanks Peter!! For those of you who didn't know Chris studied for his Life Coaching diploma last year and has been doing some freebie coaching over the course of the year. Finally it feels like it's all really happenning with the website up and running! Check it out!! Now he just needs to start making some money so we can carry on travelling!!!

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Moab Brewery, Canyonlands & stuff

A few days have passed since our last update. Got back from a great couple of days away in Mesa Verde - what a place! Back in Moab - which is beginning to feel like a home away from home we've been here so long! (for us anyway!) The Slickrock Campground in Moab is super-friendly with a great little pool and hot tubs so we've just loved our time here - and decided that the best campgrounds we've had so far in 20 months are definately down to personality - and this one gets it (the owner base-jumps and talks about buying a Ducati after-all! - clearly Chris made a friend!)

Spent another day out of our little 'home' and ventured 30 miles to Dead Horse Point State Park and Canyonlands National Park the night before last - great state park campground - excellent sites with a fab picnic shelter with electric and even a cupboard!! (mmm - I can see that you might find it a little strange that I can get so excited by a cupboard! - you had to be there!) Anyway this is where they filmed the finale shots in Thelma and Louise where they cruised the car off the cliff. I guess if you're into that sort of thing it would be a fairly impressive way/place to go! Had a great BBQ which we became so engrossed in we missed the sunset - made up for it and watched a sunrise the following morning - only 2 others about that time of the morning - where is everyone?!!?! - Such a beautiful place in summer and there's no-one around?! (the schools are back here on the whole so already we've noticed things getting slightly quieter - good on the whole for us!). Did spend the night out in Dead Horse Point - just camped out at the back on the RV in sleeping bags under the stars - which blew me away - what a sky?!!?!? I didn't want to close my eyes to such a view. Really not much light pollution about in this corner of Utah - nearest town was 30 miles away and that's only small.

Next day spent in Canyonlands National Park. Whizzed round all the main viewpoints and did a couple of short walks out to arches or viewpoints. Nice views of Upheaval Dome - 2 theories on how it got there - either a meteor crash or a salt uplift of the deposits of salt from when this area was covered by oceans - about a gazzilion years ago (I think they are a little more precise with the dates which I don't recall myself right now - but it was a really, really long time ago) Also a FAB arch called Mesa Arch - like a short hike to this arch and this sheer drop off with no warning at all - it was still early and the whole underside was all glowing in the early sunlight - cooooool!

Anway. Back to the present. Back in Moab. Hanging around really waiting for some new tires for the motorbike to be UPS'ed to us here. Have 'discovered' the local Brewery which in itself is a good enough reason not to move on. Spent this evening there for their 'end of summer' celebrations - won a $25 gift certificate (which went some way to paying for our evening out!) in the raffle and enjoyed $1.75 pints - god I hate happy hour prices!!!! Imaginatively named the 'Moab Brewery' I can highly recommend - and their beer and cheese soup is to die for!! (get the extra chilli sauce poured on top to give it that extra kick - mmmmm!!)

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Our road trip within a road trip!

We've left old Harvey parked up in some dusty lot back in Moab, UT and we've come away on a little adventure on the bike for a couple of days! Back into Colorado - and Mesa Verde National Park in the south-western corner. (gives us some insight into how travelling into Mexico on the bike will work - and it's going to be tough - we almost filled the luggage as it was for just 2 nights away!) It was only 150 miles so nothing too tough on our first outing with the bike loaded up - will need to do some 'tweaking' at some point to shift the panniers so I can sit more comfortably.

Found a cheap and cheerful motel in Cortez and went to explore.

We had a couple of hours in the park yesterday evening and toured one of the houses open to the public - the 'Cliff Palace'. It's the largest of the cliff dwellings there and it quite well preserved. It's dated from around AD1100.

Found the local brewpub on the main street in Cortez and had a great meal and evening.

This morning we went to Arizona, Utah, New Mexico and Colorado - and were done by lunch! Visited the Four Corners Monument - the only place in the US that 4 states meet. There's a bronze plaque and lots of cheesy Indian arts & jewellery to tack the place up!