Spring Jaunt 2019 . . . 92 days, 5 states, 7000 miles, 36 blog posts

This was my fifth spring jaunt. It’s hard to believe I began this new lifestyle in August 2014. Arizona was the winner this year based on number of days per state. I’m glad I spent time exploring this state I considered devoid of beauty during the five years I called it home. My eyes have certainly been opened to landscape diversity as my appreciation for geology blossomed over these past few years.

I added 7,000 miles to my 2008 Honda CR-V during this jaunt. How many miles on my feet? I don’t know as I don’t keep a log, but I wore out at least one pair of shoes. My guess is 600-800 miles.

My Honda CR-V was my home away from home when I wasn’t backpacking. This was my first long jaunt were I didn’t stay in any paid lodging. I only stayed four nights in paid campgrounds as I prefer dispersed camping options. Showers are more important to me than lodging so at least once a week I sought that solution ranging from $1.50 for 5-6 minutes (campgrounds/RV parks) to $10-12 for unlimited time (travel centers/truck stops).

This map includes my spring travels with linked blog posts. Note: If a link doesn’t work, most likely the location is from a more recent adventure and the post is pending release.

High Points:

My first goal was to chase wildflowers. I can mark this as a WIN! Below are a couple of my favorites:

Rock art (pictographs and petroglyphs) became an unplanned focal point.

There were so many other memorable moments, like spending time adventuring with Joan and Nancy, adding to my Arizona Trail miles, and hiking both Little and Big Grand Canyons. Watching sunrises, sunsets, star-studded skies and the moon cycles. Plus so many firsts like photographing a colorful collared lizard, driving through three butterfly migrations, and seeing blooming ocotillo, joshua trees and century plants.

Low Points:

I also had a few challenges, as can be expected on a long journey. Weather played a significant role this year; it seemed I was always running away from or being chased by storms.

Dealing with a spot on my camera lens after dropping it in the sand was a low point. Initially the lens was stuck out which would have been a deal breaker but thankfully with a little cajoling the mechanical problem resolved. I purchased accident insurance through SquareTrade just for this reason.

Finding myself on a couple roads where I wasn’t comfortable but had to push through. First was on a one-lane road with blind corners and hills, those 20 miles kept my heart pumping. Second was on a sandy road after rain where the sand encased my tires eliminating anything resembling traction. It was a white-knuckle drive up a one-lane steep hill with serious consequences should I slide.

Choosing a legal dispersed campsite can be tricky at times. I have a layer loaded on my Gaia app which shows public lands. Additionally I check with visitor centers, ranger stations and BLM/FS/NPS websites. Well this was a first I’d prefer to avoid. I was at Lake Mead National Recreation Area. Entering the park from the north means no resources other than a park map. I checked the map for any information on dispersed camping as well as their website. Nothing was noted. At 9pm one night, we were confronted by vehicle spot lights and two Law Enforcement Park Rangers informing us of our illegal campsite referring us to the Superintendent’s Compendium, a word I’d never heard. In all the years I’ve been asking about dispersed camping not one person had ever used that term. Once home I researched further and found this park includes very vague information on their website about backcountry camping, which includes vehicle camping. They include a link to a camping map which wouldn’t have been helpful even if we had a copy in advance. Thankfully I wasn’t solo and we didn’t get cited, although they ran our plates and licenses. As a result we ended up at this nearby campground packed beyond capacity on Memorial Day weekend.

By far the worst part of traveling is coming home to chores and responsibilities. My invisible twin just doesn’t take care of things in my absence. I still haven’t found the right solution. With motivation to get in and out within a month, I stayed focused and things came together efficiently. First priority was cleaning my car. You can imagine what the inside looked like after living in it for three months while driving on dusty roads. It took me a few days to get the grime and stank out!

Adventure Date(s):

  • March 1 through May 31, 2019

Tip(s):

  • I use a laminated yearly planner calendar to keep track of where I’ve been, what I’ve done as well as future commitments. I like the At-A-Glance version as it’s two sided. I use one side to mark activity and commitments, the other for location, etc.
  • I travel with an atlas and state maps. I use permanent highlighters to mark my travels. Thus far I’ve only found these markers at Office depot.
  • I use a note app on my phone to journal.
  • I mark my Gaia app with my campsites, even when disperse camping. I find it very helpful if I end up traveling through that area again. I write notes on the waypoint as to whether it was quiet, ok in the rain, had cell signal, etc.
  • I have a lot of details outlined in my posts about traveling and living in my car (link).

Links:

 

Me and My CRV – Picking and Packing

After my introductory article on CRV Living, several readers asked for more details about packing.

Step 1 – Customize

  1. What are the necessities of your travel lifestyle?
    • How long will you be gone?
    • What types of activities are planned?
    • What are expected weather conditions?
  2. How will you make your car a home?
    • Do you need to level your sleeping area?
    • Will you want window coverings?
    • What size containers will fit your vehicle?
    • Are you open to rearranging your vehicle each night?

For this trip, I expected the full range of weather, temperatures and activities. I prepared to backpack, hike, snowshoe, play tourist and traveler while moving between cold and snowy to uncomfortably warm environments.

These are the choices I made.

Front row of photo: 

  • Large bin on left is used to level my sleeping area. I store things in it I don’t need frequently.
  • The cardboard box lives on my cargo area shelf and is used for daily items I want easy access to such as plates and my lantern.
  • The bear canister is just as much of a pain storing in the car as it is in my backpack. It’s filled with immediate use snacks. As soon as I have room in one of the larger bins, it’ll move into one of those.
  • The dishpan holds 3 gallons of water and my pee jar. It lives on the backseat floor.
  • The open bin contains all my in-the-car, immediate-use meal prep items such as my stove, fuel, mugs, tea, coffee, utensils, etc. It lives on the floor behind the driver seat giving me convenient access from my sleeping platform.
  • The 3 same-size containers fit perfectly in my cargo compartment. One contains food, another backpacking gear, and the final is stocked with additional supplies such as laundry soap, repair and maintenance items, resupply items like vitamins, ziplocks, etc.

Left rear of photo:

  • Bedding and comfort items which mostly go on what I call the sleeping platform.

Middle rear of photo:

  • Backpack which gets stored either behind driver seat or under pillows if I want it hidden.
  • Orange travel bag contains maps, etc and gets stored on floor of passenger seat.
  • Ice chest is stored on rear passenger seat

Right rear of photo:

  • Shoes, I’ll bring 2 pairs and wear one. Storage location varies.
  • Two duffel bags, one for hiking clothes, the other for traveling clothes. They are stored under the cargo area shelf/table while traveling and moved to the back passenger seat with the ice chest when sleeping.
  • Snowshoes, initially they’ll live on floor of front passenger seat. A bit like the bear canister, challenging to store.
  • Umbrella, hiking poles and chair are stored on edge of sleeping pad.

Step 3 – Pack

This is how I pack.

The area under the cargo floor:

In addition to the tire, jack and tools which come standard, I added chains, a shovel, fix a flat canister and jumper cables. If I need any of these items, I’ll have to unpack my car and that won’t be fun.

Making the bed:

I remove the large backseat to allow for a sleeping platform as my seats don’t fold flat. 

I add a plastic bin on the floor behind the passenger seat to provide a flat platform.

I made my sleeping platform and mattress out of stuff I already owned. After placing the plastic tub on the floor, I add chair cushions to help level, then a yoga mat, an air mattress and a quilt. I top it off with my 10-degree backpacking sleeping bag and a few pillows. 

Filling the holes: 

You can see how the 3 bins fit perfectly in the back next to my sleep area. The black & orange item in middle back is my new Moon Lence chair and to the right is that dang bear canister. I have my boots stuffed into the niche to the left of the bins. My extra pair of shoes fits between my mattress and the lip of the cargo area. The box I use to mail my snowshoes home is folded flat and is between the cargo carpet and the lid to the spare tire compartment.

The security table/shelf makes my CRV car camping infinitely more comfortable. You can see how the bins fit perfectly under the table, which folds up making for easy access of the items underneath. I can sleep under the table and use it for my cooking surface. I added a little velcro to the bottom of the box to keep it from sliding around. 

The backseat area includes my ice chest, my backpack and a bin with items I want to reach from bed such as coffee. You can’t see, but also on the floor is the dishpan with 3 gallons of water and my pee jar. I also include three beach towels. One for the passenger front seat, one for the back seat and the other for anything else such as when using the pee jar. 

I store my travel bag on the floor of the front seat, and on this trip also my snowshoes. 

Step 4 – Create Privacy

I added small 3M Command Mini hooks to attach insulated curtains, which I just cut slits in the hem for hanging. I used a tension rod to hang the curtain in back of the front seats.

When not in use, the tension rod curtain is hung off the table/shelf which also helps to hide storage items. 

When traveling, the sleeping bag gets pushed to the back of the cargo area so the duffel bags can be stored in front. These bags get moved to the passenger back seat when I’m using the sleeping platform. In fact those are the only items I need to move to sleep, although I typically move my backpack to the front passenger seat so I can more easily access my kitchen items.

The other two curtains are stored on the table/shelf while traveling. 

Step 5 – Trial and Error

This is my third year living out of my car while traveling between hiking destinations. It’s taken time to find what works for me and within the constraints of my vehicle. Don’t worry if you’re uncertain initially. You’ll learn from experience and make changes along the way. Shipping to/from home is always an option so don’t get hung up on perfection. And, since you have your vehicle you can also buy things along the way or order online.

What else would you like to know about my vagabonding lifestyle?

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Me and My CRV – Eek, there’s a Mouse in my House

mouse5

Run for your life, dang mouse.

You are NOT welcome in my house!


After my recent Ah Sh*t” post, I received some fun comments that I thought my readers might enjoy.

Dave had these humorous thoughts:

Situation: Mouse in car.

Symptoms:

(1) You see mouse looking out at you from behind dashboard. (More likely with older cars having mechanical HVAC controls.)

(2) You see reverse dimples in headliner caused by mousie feets as it runs around over your head.

(3) You hear a faint buzzing sound as mouse blows you a raspberry. Followed by tiny gales of wild laughter.

(4) You hear slight, intermittent scratching noises all night.

(5) Upholstery begins disintegrating in nest-sized patches.

Issues:

Mouse not only rips up upholstery to make nest, but additionally poops randomly into, onto, beside, on top of, and/or under everything. Mouse demonstrates superior agility and intelligence, eats stuff, makes you feel helpless.

Possible Solutions:

(1) Simplest: Take everything valuable out of car. Set car on fire. Buy another car. Guaranteed. (Also fast.)

(2) Slower but cheaper: Take everything valuable out of car. Take everything else out of car. Remove seats. Set traps. Wait.

(3) Most appealing: When you see evidence of mouse running around above you inside headliner, slap at it. Slap at it hard. Smash it. Worry about cleanup later, or sell car within 24 hours and leave town. Do not return.

(4) Prevention: Close vents as soon as car stops moving. This keeps mousies from crawling in through the vents. If leaving car unattended, or planning on parking off-road and going to sleep, then also close windows either completely or so far that you can barely stick the tip of your little finger into the gap. If that. (Mousies are small.) Smartest option. Effective unless mouse has a master key.

Meanwhile a friend started this facebook thread:

Flippin mouse ((mice??)) keeps getting in my car. It springs traps and gets away. I fed it decon poison via the trap, it ate 1/4 of a bait and is still arriving for more car exploration. There are repellent packets all over the car and there is NO food in my car. I have scrubbed the inside with lysol until it is pristine. I do not know what it wants…there are no crumbs even. Do you think they just love being in a clean car??? The Hyundai mechanic showed me where to stuff crevices with those cloying scented dryer towels, he says they hate them. Did that work, noooooo. I just caught the little turd with a glue trap. My son is my hero! Threw that little sucker down the hill! Off he went, stuck, wiggling, and squirming, flying like a frisbee. There better not be more…because I have more glue traps!

Suggested Additional Solutions:

  • Save a Heart Trap. Put food, peanut butter on a piece of bread, in it. Capture the dude and drive him away, about 5 miles and let him go so a snake or bird or coyote can have a meal . .  if they can catch them . . . afterall second chances are fair, right? NO! 
  • Peppermint. They sell bagged peppermint mouse repellent. You can also use essential oil. The rodents don’t like anything minty. Bait air filter and vents (air and defrost).
  • Mothballs. Place them on the ground around car.
  • Get a Kitty. Visualize the cat, smashed up against a window, meowing, “Forget the mouse! Let me out!”

I personally love the kitty idea, not only would my car be mouse free, but I’d also have a travel and adventure buddy.

Hopefully I’ve had my one and only rodent visitor. Do you have other suggestions?

All food will live in plastic bins in the future.

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Run bastard run . . . and don’t even think about coming back!

 

 

Me and My CRV – the Ah Sh*t Moments

If you don’t laugh, you might cry . . .

There was a mouse in my house!

Expensive cup of coffee

That was an expensive cup of coffee

I got screwed

After a near miss . . . on a remote beach . . .

Dinner with an unexpected guest

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Me and My CRV – Showers, Laundry and Recharging

There are necessities that need to be addressed occasionally such as cleaning yourself and your clothes, but just as importantly making daily decisions and being constantly on the move is exhausting and you’ll need some downtime. Trust me! Furthermore, if you’re traveling solo, you may find the need for human contact.

Networking

A major benefit of social media, is making connections with people all over the country and world, that is if you’re willing to (1) invest in building these relationships, (2) reach out when you’re in the area, and (3) take the risk of meeting strangers.

This has been by far the best part of my new lifestyle. In 2016, I spent about 50 nights with friends, mostly strangers who hosted me or met me for hikes and who are now forever friends. It doesn’t happen magically. You truly have to cultivate these relationships and go in with an open mind and heart. Every experience is different and I’ve never regretted the chances I’ve taken.

Tip: Use removable tape to mark your map with contacts and their numbers so you’ll remember when in the vicinity. 

If you do stay with friends, family, strangers, be a most-excellent guest. In exchange for a bed, laundry, showers, food, be sure to give back generously. Some of the things I’ve done include helping with chores, errands, providing gift cards, money, cooking meals, backpacking gear, etc. Figuring out the right amount of time to stay can be tricky. Keep the channels of communication open and be sure to ask about expectations, and reaffirm if you’ve stayed more than a few days. Watch for signals, some people feel uncomfortable telling you “it’s time to leave.” Get everything ready for the next guest before you leave.

Tip: Travel with thank you cards and stamps. Send them out timely or leave as you depart. 

Low Cost Laundry and Shower Options

Many campgrounds and RV parks will allow you to use their showers and laundry facilities, some small towns have laundry facilities with shower rooms, and hostels are another good option.

Tip: Travel with laundry detergent (I carry the pods) and quarters. I also use OxyClean for my hiking/backpacking gear especially socks. 

Reset, Recharge, Regroup

There will be times you just need a day or two or three off the road and you don’t have a nearby contact or just need some quiet time. Spending a day in your vehicle when it’s raining or snowing is just not fun, unless you have it planned as a travel day. On these days I might visit a local coffee shop or library, somewhere I can have internet access to catch up on my blogging and correspondence. I’ll also use it to accomplish town chores; I keep an ongoing shopping list just for this reason. Budget for occasional lodging. Many times I found myself needing a second night. I tend to stay at motels offering a laundry room, wifi and hot continental breakfast. Many times its worth the free membership to earn rewards for multiple nights or stays. Also consider using discount apps or sites such as HotWire.

Tip: If you’ve been backpacking, this is a good time to sterilize all your water containers. I carry denture tabs for this purpose. 

Package Delivery

If you need to order something or have something sent  from home, have it shipped to places you’ll be staying (if motel call first), or you can pay a small fee to pick it up from a UPS or retail mailing store. Sending Amazon packages via USPS General Delivery tends to be problematic so I’d avoid that option. I noticed during the Christmas season Amazon was offering alternative delivery locations such as grocery stores. That may prove to be a great option in the future.

Tip: If you need to send something home that requires special packaging, travel with the box (i.e. snowshoes).

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Me and My CRV – Eats on the Road

Just because you’re traveling doesn’t mean you need to bust your seams or your budget.

This is what I’ve learned.

  1.  Say NO to fast food and mini-markets (unless you don’t care about your weight, health, or budget).

Exceptions:

a. Restroom use

b. Refilling water (just ask, I’ve been charged once, never been told no)

c. Ice (free at some McDonald’s)

2. Say YES to grocery stores and pre-planning

A benefit of having a car is you’ll be driving through at least small towns where you can resupply frequently, especially fresh food. I tend to stock my car before I leave home with non-perishables (i.e. bars, cereal, coffee, nuts, jerky, home dehydrated meals, canned meat, etc.), some semi-perishables (i.e. fruit, veges and tortillas), and the ice chest with perishables (i.e. hard boiled eggs, cheese, salad makings, etc).

While traveling, I usually buy the plastic containers of lettuce so I can easily add other fixings to make a salad, have a container to eat out of and store leftovers in my ice chest. 

Many places now have healthy, reasonably priced, prepared food options, and also have a microwave available for heating or cooking purchased food.

Many tiny towns have great deli’s with options beyond fried food. Dollar General is becoming a frequent presence along many of the backroads. You’ll find Walmart and Safeway in mid-sized towns, plus WinCo and CostCo in larger communities.

When it’s time to replace bars, buy them in boxes vs individually to save money. I buy my nuts in large containers at CostCo. If the local stores don’t carry what you like or need, order from Amazon and have them shipped to a place you plan to stay (i.e. friend or motel). They also have options to ship to a lockbox facility such as a grocery store. Retail mailing stores and UPS stores will hold packages for a fee. I don’t recommend sending Amazon to the USPS General Delivery as there always seems to be confusion since they prefer shipping FedEx or UPS.

When you stay with friends, prepare hard boiled eggs and other foods for the ice chest to give you some variety.

Budget funds for eating out. You’ll want a change. I got bored with my car options, plus you may want internet access. McDonalds has free internet but it’s painfully slow if you want to upload photos. Starbucks has faster internet. Many times library speeds are even better.
Tip: if you plan to visit places with problem bears such as Yosemite, Tahoe, Yellowstone, you’ll be told you can’t park your car with food in it. Usually there is a bear box nearby where you can stash a cooler or a small bin. After having a mouse get in my car in Washington, I recommend storing all food in plastic bins.

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Me and My CRV – Where to Overnight?

This becomes a very personal decision, one you’ll learn with experience. When the option exists I’ll take dispersed camping over a public or private, developed or undeveloped campground.

Dispersed Camping

This is an area on public lands where you can camp for free in primitive conditions. Sometimes there may be well-used spots that include a fire ring and a picnic table; more frequently it’s a pull-out along a dirt road. It’s best to ask for a map and recommendations from a local visitors center or ranger station to determine rules for a particular area. Be sure to disclose type of vehicle as that will affect accessible roads especially after recent rains (i.e. high clearance 4×4 vs baby 4×4 or low clearance sedan).  In Death Valley, you can camp “along dirt roads at least one mile away from any paved road or ‘day use only’ dirt road, and only in previously disturbed areas.” A federal recreation pass may be required on many roads. States such as Washington have their own pass for state-owned back roads. Some areas require free permits such as Grand Staircase-Escalante.

Campgrounds

Sometimes you don’t have a choice. In many National Parks, dispersed camping is not allowed and there aren’t any nearby options. Be sure to carry either checks or cash in various denominations to pay at unattended campgrounds, which in my experience has been 99% of the time. Few take credit cards. There are tons of online resources and phone apps you can use to find campgrounds that suit your needs. Since I don’t plan very far in advance I can usually obtain the necessary information from a nearby visitor center or ranger station, or sometimes I’ll just check out places while in the vicinity. This can be more problematic during peak season.

Parking Lots

If you are traveling through more urban areas and want to sleep in your vehicle for free, there are online resources and phone apps which provide options such as truck stops, retail stores, casinos, parks, rest stops, etc. I’ve never used this option.

Friends/Family/Acquaintances

Mark your map with names and numbers so these spots can be considered as potential overnight parking locations. I’ve slept in my vehicle in driveways when it’s a better option than sleeping inside.

Tip: I use removable tape on my maps to mark not only contact info but also potential destinations, etc.

Don’t be a schmuck, show your appreciation for their hospitality!

Tip: Carry thank you cards and budget for generous giving.

Motels/Hotels/Lodges/Hostels

Most likely at some point you’ll want this option. I’ve found most frequently this has been my choice when weather is inclement and I want to stay in an area, or when I’m exhausted and I need to regroup. Budget for it. Find a chain you like and that seems to be available along the route you’ll be traveling, join their membership program (free) and reap a few rewards. Obviously there are tons of ways to obtain discounted rooms. I had pretty good luck with Hotwire last year.

Resources:

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