I thought I would put together a trip summary, for us, and anyone who might be interested in a little read. I won’t be offended if this turns into a TLDR kind of experience for you.
Quick overview. Lars and I set out on a road trip, southwest US, with our rig, which consisted of a pickup truck with a rooftop tent (RTT), and hauling our small utility trailer with our two 250cc road plated dirt bikes.
We left Sept 12 and were back home November 27, 2019.
Camping in the RTT, and riding motorbikes. Avoiding the cold and staying in the sun as much as possible.
From Victoria, our first stop was Sunglow Campground near Capitol Reef in Utah. The red rock in this area are truly amazing. Beautiful landscape and scenery, everywhere!
We had been to Capitol Reef in 2018, and we really found it to be a special place.
Highlights: Riding our bikes through Capitol Reef Park to Capitol Gorge, riding and driving the Burr Trail Road, endless access to the Fishlake National Forest, and riding through Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
This was our first stop, and we stayed about ten days or so.
Some pics Sunglow, Capitol Reef etc. : https://photos.app.goo.gl/jhA7eK31hpVm3EJG8
Pics of Bryce Canyon: https://photos.app.goo.gl/DBpaPBcLXR2qMAm17
It was time to move on. We considered Moab, Zion, Kodachrome State Park and Bryce, but it was a busy time of year, and, it was fall. The elevations at these parks and the change of seasons helped us decide to try Lee’s Ferry, near Marble Canyon, in northern Arizona. It did not disappoint. So beautiful. Vermillion Cliffs, Marble Canyon. Colorado River. Who could ask for more. Ok, I could. Lee’s Ferry Campground was nice but rundown and not terribly clean. No showers either. Evening swims in the Colorado River are refreshing, but… Also, in terms of camping, all the campsites are unserviced, so that means that big rigs are beside tents; and the big rigs are often, if not entirely, needing the gas powered generators. Generator hours are generous in the states. 6:00am until 10:00 pm. Seriously, what’s the point of camping if you’re in a rig, with a TV on? It’s a type of recreation I do not understand.
The normal course of the evening for us was to watch the setting sun, the change of colours on the landscape, then the stars rising and rotating. Exceptional except for the mind numbing sounds of generators. There were a couple of nights where it was truly hard to take. We camped for 10+ days there.
Other things about Lee’s Ferry –
Lee’s Ferry was the first ferry crossing of the Colorado River, back in the early 1800’s. The industrious Mormons were responsible, and I assume in this location as the banks on both sides were shallow enough to permit. The landscape here is unreal; the Vermillion Cliffs, Kaibab Plateau are probably less popular as the tourist drives, but, wow, so beautiful. We rode our bikes from our campsite at Lee’s, to the rim of the Grand Canyon, through the Kaibab BLM land. Was truly amazing and spectacular.
More pics of this area https://photos.app.goo.gl/nFXMPfUkmS8hrPU59
It was time to go, we had been there long enough; and the weather was turning. We hemmed and hawed, and decided to move on to Cortez Colorado. We usually spend the better part of a day packing up, putting things back in their places, oh so neat and tidy.
So, we left Lee’s Ferry, in the direction of Page Arizona, then headed north east. The drive was beautiful, the entire Colorado Plateau is something special. Not so certain about Four Corners though. I’m glad the American Indians have a serious revenue stream, but it truly wasn’t worth it for us. It’s $10usd to go into a compound where the geographic corners of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah meet. For us, another reason to avoid these touristy spots. Anyway… In Cortez, we stayed at a lovely BnB for a few days. It was our first introduction to the Pueblo culture at Mesa Verde, Hovenweep, Lowry Pueblo. Tremendous.
Here are some photos of Pueblos, and more to experience in Taos New Mexico.
After our share of hot showers, we moved on to New Mexico.
New Mexico, wow. It seems so wild and raw. So much history there and we barely scratched the surface. We stayed at an air bnb “casita” in Taos. Visited the Taos Pueblo, (very much worth the effort); twice hiked along the Rio Grande – spectacular and every bit as impressive as the Colorado River Grand Canyon; a day trip to Santa Fe; and then on to more camping in an old lava flow at Valley of Fires Recreation area Carrizozo NM.
Near Carrizozo, we rode the dirt bikes to old ghost towns and cemeteries. We were close to Holloman Air Force Base, so quite a few times we had night shows with jets flying. The night skies were clear, a bit of ambient light and were able to see the shooting stars on a few occasions.
All of this was nearby:
White Sands Missile Range – Trinity Site, where they detonated the first nuclear bomb.
Billy the Kid territory, Lincoln County
Three Rivers Petroglyph site, (21,000 petroglyphs to keep you peeking) and;
Smokey Bear’s backyard too.
Further south we spent too little time at the White Sands National Monument.
So much more to experience there.
Next time, whenever that might be, New Mexico is in our sites. Gila Cliff Dwellers, Chaco Culture, Chama, the Very Large Array of satellite dishes, Hillsboro area, Black mountain hiking.
After camping at Carrizozo, did I mention it was windy?
We moved on to Truth or Consequences, which is another trip! We participated in the New Mexico Off Highway Alliance fundraising Rubber Chicken Ride! A very organic GPS coordinates provided DIY event. We did two rides and they were both amazing. More info on that in this blog post.
New Mexico pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/mpUsWMWHjxg6zQ7L7
Ok, the slow turn homeward. From Truth or Consequences, we headed to Tucson Arizona. We stayed at an air bnb, and spent a couple of days in the area. We went to the Sonoran Desert Museum, with wildlife, flora and fauna of the area; and those beautiful cactus so symbolic of the desert. Very much worth the effort. They have raptors flying a couple times a day.
After Tucson, we headed to Lake Mead Nevada, where we camped at Echo Bay for almost two weeks. We had been to this same campground in the spring of 2018. We liked it so much that we wanted to return. It was so quiet, I think the first night we had the lower campground all to ourselves.
While we stayed there, a fellow camper offered us the use of his SxS off road vehicle, so we were able to explore a little bit. We rode up the wash, which is basically the dry riverbed which I would imagine are pretty amazing when it rains. It’s actually classified as a road in Lake Mead. We did try riding it with the motorbikes, but that was next to impossible. It’s super soft, no traction, and a time consuming energy suck. It was great to drive around in the SxS, it was a ton of fun! See our little video below!
On another day we walked from the Lake Mead Visitor centre to the Hoover Dam and back. A flat 15kms out and back. We did the same walk last year, but the temps were substantially higher. It was nice and easy this time.
The Hoover Dam, Glen Canyon in Utah, Lake Mead, the Colorado River and the Grand Canyon supply water to 25-30 million of people. There are so many recreation opportunities available on these areas of water. It’s such a different approach to water supply; here in the Capital Region, the reservoir is totally off limits. Fences and fines are all that are available here. Some rethinking is needed.
The water levels at Mead Lake/Echo have dropped an incredible amount over the years. In the photos, you can see huge cement blocks, and tires, which used to moor houseboats, probably in the 1980s. We saw signs probably 30’ up on the cliff, that said “Slow, no wash”.
Anyway, with our bikes we were able to explore quite a bit, mostly outs and backs. But it doesn’t take much to get away from the normal path of tourist traffic. Outstanding views and scenery, from the Boathouse Road, to the backroads in beside Valley of Fire State Park. It’s hard to believe it’s so quiet, and some places so remote, and yet, Las Vegas is only an hour away.
After almost two weeks at Lake Mead, we packed up and headed to Death Valley. Via Pahrump to have a shower break and stock up for supplies.
We b-lined to Mesquite Spring Campground, which is towards the north half of the park, near the road to Scotty’s Castle.
We did two rides, to Tea Kettle Junction and the Racetrack; and to Crankshaft Crossing to Eureka Dunes. While it’s a price to pay, a lot of boardwash and loose big gravel for both rides, the payoff is so worth it. Views, vistas, quiet, serenity, dramatic landscapes that really take one’s breath away.
We also did more of the tourist trail, Badwater Basin, and Artists’ Palette. Badwater was a little so-so, but the Artists’ Palette was very beautiful.
All I can say is, if you have the ability, take the opportunity and get down there.
Death Valley photos.
We would have stayed another week – ten days, if we could have. The weather was changing, and it wasn’t a blip of a day or two; it was more than a week of lower temps and rain. Which meant snow in the passes. So, after only a week, we really did begin the trek home. To Beatty, Reno, a few days at Ocean Shores Washington before coming home.
Tally of kms:
- Truck 11,119
- Motorcycles approx 2,500
So, you might be wondering why or how we could spend so long in each place.
We are slow travellers, that’s obvious, but also, it’s a lot of work in setting up. We had an annex-tent structure that attaches to the iKamper RTT, but we found it impractical. Setting it up meant that we could not use the truck.
The annex got jettisoned pretty quickly, only used at Sunglow for a few days. Eventually we replaced it with a large standalone tent – we didn’t set it up until Lake Mead, but we found it was what we needed. We could use it for storage, instead of having to pack everything back into its places between uses; and also we could wash up comfortably, and stay warm in the evenings. The dark comes quickly, so the evenings were sometimes too cool to sit outside for too long; and too early to head up into the tent for the night.
I think in the beginning we thought we could use the bikes for errands as well, but the distances were sometimes quite great, and traffic moving too fast for the small bikes to be our principal mode of transport while camping. We used the truck a lot more than we anticipated.
Throughout the whole trip, we were tweaking and adjusting our gear, placement of it, when we cooked and ate, what we cooked and ate. We found that having a big meal around noon worked well, and then if we needed more food later in the day, it was just a snack/top up vs having to cook and clean up in the dark. It was a trade off to use the valuable daylight hours for meals and clean up, but it was so much more comfortable than struggling with all of that in the dark.
As much as we enjoyed this trip, it was too much work for such a long time. It was camping, not on the ground, but still camping. We spent the majority of our time outside, and it’s lovely and all, but it would be nice to move inside, once in a while. So, we’re making plans to get a travel trailer. A 19′ Escape Trailer Stay tuned!