Category Archives: Travel

Green River Overlook

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As soon as we paid our camping fee and set our chairs out on our site in the Willow Flat Campground, The Lady of the House and I went out to explore the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands National Park. We were on our epic road trip through Arizona and Utah, and we didn’t want to waste a minute.

The Green River Overlook was close to the campground, but I drove us there to save time and energy. There was a lot we wanted to see in our approximately 24 hours in that portion of the Park.

After I parked in the lot near the Green River Overlook, but before we got out of the van, The Lady said she wanted to play something to get me in the mood. She had her iPod and speaker prepared, and a song queued up. At the touch of a button, the Creedence Clearwater Revival rendition of “Green River” was blasting. Now whenever I hear that song (and I heard it a lot over the summer because the other clerk played the Sirius Radio Classic Vinyl station every day at work), I think of the moments right before I saw the beauty of the Green River below me.

As I’ve said before, it’s so difficult to describe the beauty I saw on every leg of this journey with The Lady. My camera wasn’t up to the task either. I fear you’ll read my words and look at my photos and think, Oh, that’s nice, without understanding the majesty of all I saw.

I fear all the good descriptive words have been taken. Surely someone has said the Green River snakes across the arid land like a magical serpent bringing life to where there would otherwise be none. I don’t know how to make you understand how stunning the landscape was (I was stunned) or the awe it inspired in me . I do know I could have stayed at that overlook for hours, watching the light play over the landscape. Alas, there was so much more to see, and The Lady and I moved on.

I took the photos in this post.

 

California Fantasy Van

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Folks who’ve been reading this blog since the spring may remember a post I wrote in May about spark! Mesa’s Festival of Creativity. Nolagirl and I attended this March 2018 festival in Mesa, AZ meant to celebrate “the imaginative spark in all of us.”

There were so many cool exhibits at the festival, including “The Night Garden,” “Community Still-Life in Clay,” and my absolute favorite, art cars!

According to the article “Artistic Autos: Art Cars,”

An art car usually begins with an old or used vehicle that is need of repair. Instead of focusing on transforming the inside of the vehicle, the owner radically changes the exterior of the car. Art cars are made by ordinary people and are often driven and owned by their creator…

One of my favorite art cars I saw at the spark! festival was really a van. California Fantasy Van  was created by Ernie Steingold of Burbank, CA and was on loan from the Art Car World Collection in Douglas, AZ.

According to a short article from wesclark.com, this 1975 GMC panel van was embellished by “late Burbank resident, Ernie Steingold,” a vacuum cleaner repairman.

Over the course of ten years, he spent much of his free time locating and attaching more than 5,000

Detail from California Fantasy Van–laughing Buddha

brass items to the van after completely covering it with thousands of coins.

An ABC News slideshow about the World’s Craziest Cars says Steingold welded the brass colored items onto the van. He

drove the vehicle slowly and eventually ruined its tires and brakes because of the car’s weight.

I thought this decorated vehicle was really cool! First of all, it was a van, and we all know I have a soft spot for vans. Secondly, I loved all the little doodads attached to the van. I spent a long time looking at all the items catching the spring sun.

Third, I love imagining Ernie Steingold obsessing over his creation. In a time before the widespread use of eBay and the internet, Ernie must have spent a lot of his time and energy looking for objects to add to his van creation. I bet he scoured flea markets and swap meets and antique stores and junk yards to find pieces to add to his rolling exhibit.

Detail from California Fantasy Van–Bad Dude

I wonder what Steingold’s wife and three children thought of his artistic endeavor. Did they support him in his quest? Did they enjoy the hunt for just the right additions too, or did they think Steingold was a bit daft? Did they ridicule his work, simply endure it, or actively support and encourage it?

Inspired by Ernie Steingold, I sometimes fantasize about turning my van into an art car, especially when I find cool objects that are too big or heavy for my collage work. Maybe I could decorate my van with items related to Arizona, the Sonoran Desert, and the U.S. Southwest. Maybe I could have a Route 66 van! Then I remember that once I have anything attached to the exterior of my van, any semblance of stealth I may have is gone.

Good-bye California Fantasy Van!

 

Rubber Tramp Art Community

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Sarah Meg shows off the Rubber Tramp Artist Community flag that she made.

If you’re headed to the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR) or the Women’s RTR, you might have heard about the Rubber Tramp Art Community. If you’re wondering what the group is all about or if it’s a group you might want to join, this post will give you information on how it came to be and how you can get involved.

The group’s Facebook page says,

The Rubber Tramp Art Community (aka RTAC) is an intentional community for nomadic artists/creative travelers. We meet up to camp together along the way; creating art together, eating together, teaching each other new skills, helping each other, and just spending time together as a community.

The group is open to new members. If you’re on Facebook, joining the Rubber Tramp Art Community there is a good way to start your involvement. You have to ask the join the group, and you will  be asked to answer some questions. The intention is that members of the group will actually live nomadically and creatively. This is not just another general group for vandwellers, RVers, or other nomads and vagabonds.

If you’re at the RTR, find the Rubber Tramp Art Community and visit with members there. At this time, I don’t know where the group will be camped, but ask around. Word of mouth is a great way to find cool people and groups at the RTR.

Over the summer, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sarah Meg, one of the movers and shakers in the Rubber Tramp Art Community. We had a lot of fun talking, and the interview turned out longer than I planned. I decided to run our conversation about the Rubber Tramp Art Community as a separate post at a later date.

That later date is today!

Rubber Tramp Artist (RTA): You’re one of the founding members of the Rubber Tramp Art Community. Could you tell me what the group is, how it came about, how you got interested? I think it was pretty much your idea, from what I remember.

Sarah Meg (SM): It wasn’t really my idea to be honest. All I did was the footwork. The ideas came from the group, and I put in the effort to make it happen.

RTA: So could you tell us first what it is?

SM: The Rubber Tramp Art Community is an intentional community for creative nomads. We like to say “nomadic artists,” but a lot of people who are very creative and artistic wouldn’t consider themselves artists.  If you’re thinking about joining and you’re creative and you’re a nomad, I would love to hear from you [via Facebook] as would anyone else who’s working on membership of the club currently.

We started out at the RTR [Rubber Tramp Rendezvous] in 2018. Sue Soaring Sun started the RTArt Camp at the RTR. You were there as well.

RTA: I was there.

SM: You’re one of the founding members as well.

RTA: I was assisting Sue. Before we got together as a group, I was assisting Sue and then other people came out and contributed as well.

SM: It’s actually kind of funny. It took me an hour and 45 minutes to find Art Camp when I was first looking for you guys, so this almost didn’t happen, we almost didn’t have the Rubber Tramp Art Community because I almost gave up [laughter] trying to find you guys.

I believe there were nine of us camped [at the RTArt Camp] who were there almost every day, helping and doing artwork together and just having a ton of fun. We had a campfire one night where we burned an incredibly toxic log, got a little loopy, and started talking about how fun it was to have art camp. One of our founding members said, “Wouldn’t it be awesome if we did Art Camp all the time?” I started thinking about it. I thought, “It would be awesome if we did art camp all the time, but how would that work?” Then there was a conversation over the next couple days while we were still at the RTR about how we could make a community out of Art Camp, how could this be a traveling community.

Our first idea was that it would be a community that caravanned together and was together all the time. That quickly fell through because herding nomads is like herding cats. I did not want to do that and neither did anyone else. We within two and a half months had broken off the group into smaller groups and then went to events throughout the year. Currently what we’re doing is anyone can host an event. Nobody but me has done it so far, but you guys can. Anyone in the Rubber Tramp Art Community can host an event, and if people show up, yay, if they don’t, then, hey, you had fun in the forest or the desert or the beach by yourself.

We’ll be hosting Art Camp, of course, at the RTR, and eventually, there’s been quite a bit of talk with other members about eventually making this a nonprofit for various reasons. The first reason was actually brought up in the first month when a part of our group was camping together was that we wanted to have a fund for people [in our group] who were very low income, so we could help people out. If their rig broke down, we could help pay for repairs. We didn’t know how that could work, and then we thought about selling t-shirts to put that money into the fund. So we’re working on, I’m thinking of how we could become a nonprofit. That’s our next stage, although that might take quite a while.

 

 

10 Must-Have Items to Pack for Every Solo Trip (Guest Post)

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Shallow Focus Photo of World Globe

Today’s guest post is for everyone who’s always traveled with friends or family members and relied on other people to fill in their packing gaps. When these folks go solo, they need some packing help. Here are some reminders of what solo folks should take along on their journeys.

Are you an adventurer who enjoys traveling alone? There is an incredible feeling of freedom and liberty when you travel solo that one perhaps cannot replicate on a family holiday or if you travel with friends. Having a solo trip allows you to explore the world at your own pace and style, and to truly immerse yourself in the culture and mingle with the local population. You can do everything that you want, how you want it, and when you want it.

If you are traveling alone, you need to make sure that you pack everything that you need, as you cannot rely on your partner or friend to bring something that you forget. So make sure to list down everything before going on an adventure, and plan what you take so you don’t find yourself caught short.

1. Documents or Copies of Your Important Documents

It is essential to have certain documents with you anywhere you go, including your travel insurance, travelers Person Putting a Passport on Bagchecks, credit cards, plane tickets, and hotel reservations. Always bring your license or ID, your passport, and of course, your visa. Make sure that these documents are kept in a waterproof bag or envelope. Our advice is to keep all of your documents together in a wallet so that you know you have them. Also, keep photocopies of these documents in a separate location, like your suitcase or backpack. If you lose the originals, being able to access the information via the copies will speed up the process of replacement.

2. Your First Aid Kit

Be sure to prepare a first aid kit. The kit should include daily medications, water, alcohol, aspirin, paracetamol (acetaminophen), Benadryl, Lactacid, and Imodium, as well as cough and cold medicines. You can also add band aids, antibacterial ointment and cotton balls. A first aid kit is particularly important to have if you are traveling to a remote location where you may not be able to find a chemist.

3. Toiletries and Detergent

Make sure to include a basic supply of detergent and toiletries in your bag. Normally when we travel, we take an antiperspirant, an eau de parfum, and some travel detergent, that can be used to wash your clothes in your hotel’s sink, particularly if you run out of underwear, as you inevitably will!

4. A Contact Card Containing Emergency Numbers

Wherever you go, you should have an emergency card in your wallet. This will help people recognize you should an accident occur. This could be your passport, though you may want to keep this in your hotel in a safe place, or a simple card with an emergency contact, which can help the authorities contact your next of kin in an emergency.

5. Interesting Books

If you are bookish, you should definitely take a few books with you on your travels. We recommended you 2 Book on Brown Wooden Stairtake at least one guide book to help you find interesting places at your destination, and a novel that you can read whilst you are catching rays on the beach or while traveling by bus or train.

6. Spoon, Fork and Glass or Water Bottle

Bringing your own spoon, fork and glass or water bottle will mean that you always have these items no matter where you go. Packing these items may actually be necessary if you go to a remote destination without the most basic amenities or if you are going on a adventure holiday.

7. Safety Whistle or Safety Alarm

In case of an emergency, it is necessary that you memorize your phone number. You must also take a safety whistle or safety alarm wherever you go. If you do find yourself in an emergency situation, you can always alert passers-by and gain their help with a safety whistle or alarm. If you are alone, you can use the whistle or alarm to attract the attention of others if necessary.

8. Portable Charger

Bringing a charger is necessary when you travel. This is particularly true in the modern world, when we use social Grayscale Photography of Person Using Smartphone While Chargingnetworks to document our trip, Spotify to soundtrack our holiday and Google Maps to help us to find our hotel. It will keep your phone alive, thus your family and friends can reach you anytime. With a portable charger, you’ll always be able to keep your phone charged so you can keep your lifeline with you everywhere you go!

9. Portable Power Bank and Inverters

You might also need a portable power bank or a power inverter. These are useful when you need lighting, music, or to listen to the news whilst on the go. As stated previously, your devices have never been more important, and an extra battery will mean that you never get cut off, even if you cannot access a power outlet.

10. Motor homes are cool to bring too.

You may also bring your RV with you, even if you are just alone. Some prefer bringing their campers and motor homes for a safer travel. It is also perfect for overnight camping. Your motor home or RV can give you an even greater sense of freedom, allowing you to ‘set up camp’ in any place at any time. What is more, it will to help you economize, as hotel prices, particularly when you are alone, can be expensive.

For hassle-free travel adventure, make it a habit to list everything that you need. This will certainly save you time and energy.

Mia is the author of this post and owner of InvertPro.co. As a keen traveler Mia started InvertPro after struggling to find the right kit to stay in touch in an increasingly connected world. Mia has travel every continent and plans to visit them all again.

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/shallow-focus-photo-of-world-globe-1098515/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/person-putting-a-passport-on-bag-842961/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/2-book-on-brown-wooden-stair-159675/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/grayscale-photography-of-person-using-smartphone-while-charging-1308749/.

How to Find The Friends You’re Going to Camp With

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Many camping areas in remote locations have no cell phone service or internet access. Lots of folks are accustomed to having instant access to communication and are totally surprised when they arrive in their remote camping location and realize they can’t make or receive phone calls, send or receive texts, or update their social media. This lack of phone service can enhance one’s ability to hear the birds sing and to engage in uninterrupted conversation with friends and loved ones.

Lack of cell phone service can also mean it’s more difficult to find the people you plan to camp with if you come up in different vehicles at different times. Plan ahead so you can find your group. Here are six tips to help you meet up with your people once you leave civilization.

#1 If you’re meeting in a campground and have reservations you didn’t make, know the first and last name of the person who reserved the site. For example, if your brother’s girlfriend booked the site under her legal name, Elizabeth Brown, and you only know her as Liz, the camp host may not be able to direct you to the right site.

#2 Make sure you know what region, state, and county you are going to. The United States is a big place, and campground names are sometimes repeated throughout a state, region, or even throughout the country. For example, the same region of California has two Wishon campgrounds. If you’re supposed to be at the Wishon Campground at Bass Lake and instead you end up at the Wishon Campground off of Highway 190 in Tulare County, well, your weekend has started off on the wrong foot. You might have a similar problem is you’re supposed to be at the Giant Sequoia National Monument but end up in Sequoia National Park or you confuse the Sequoia National Forest with the Sierra National Forest.

#3 Know the exact name of the campground or camping area you’re going to. When I worked on the mountain, there were three campgrounds within a five mile stretch of highway that all had the word “meadow” in their names. There were also two additional meadows in the area where folks could boondock, as well as a road with the word “meadow” as part of its name.  That’s a lot of meadows! If a person didn’t know exactly what meadow to look for, it might be difficult to get to the right place.

#4 Your GPS system nay not work in a remote location either, so use a good paper map of the area to find your way around. Get your paper map and study it before you leave home. Have a good idea of where you’re going and how you’re going to get there before you start driving. If you’re traveling with other people, designate someone with good map-reading skills to be the navigator.

#5 Plan for folks to meet at the camping spot before the sun sets. Sure, folks with jobs might want to leave work at five o’clock and get on the road so they can start the camping fun on Friday night. Maybe you’re a boondocker who likes to sleep until noon and not start driving until 3pm. If you get a late start, then get stuck in traffic or lost, you might find yourself looking for your campsite in the dark. Get on the road as early in the day as possible so you’ve got plenty of daylight to help you find your camping spot.

#6 Designate a time and place for your group to meet if everyone doesn’t show up at the camping spot. Make the meeting place a prominent location and the meeting time before dark.

Bonus Tip Meet at a location within cell phone service and caravan to the remote location together. At least if you get lost, your whole group will be lost together.

I took all the photos in this post.

 

10 Budgeting Tips for Long-Term Travel

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You have John and Jayme of Gnomad Home to thank for the article before you. Yes, it was writting by Lauren & Jesse of The Wandering Stus, but it was John and Jayme who suggested they reach out to me about writing a guest post. Since I’m always open to quality guest posts, I was excited to have Lauren and Jesse submit a piece. These two know what to do to save money in order to make long-term travel possible, and today they pass that knowledge on to you.

First, let us just tell you how FREAKING EXCITED we are that you are reading this! Why? Because it means you are toying with the idea or planning to hit the road to live that long-term travel life and that, our friend, is AMAZING! We’re here to guide you through budgeting tips for long-term travel.

What makes us qualified to give you information on budgeting tips for long-term travel?! Well, we did it. We quit our jobs and lived almost one year on what we saved. So, we know what  you are going through. As exciting as it is, it can be equally overwhelming. Well, that’s why we are here, to give you 10 budgeting tips for long-term travel. Dun dada, dun, Wandering Stus to the rescue!

#1 Set Your Daily Budget

First things first, you can’t budget for long-term travel if you don’t set a daily budget. You need to do two things:

  • Figure out what suits you. Can you get by with no aircon in the bedroom? Are you fine sharing a room with strangers? Do you need certain amenities? Basically, you need to determine what kind of traveler you are; a “shoestringer,” luxury inclined or somewhere in between?
  • Where are you going? The cost of living between continents and countries can vary, and sometimes there are big variances.

We were traveling to Southeast Asia and Nepal. We deemed ourselves “shoestringers” who would probably need to splurge every now and again. Based on the countries we were going to and what our needs were, we ended up budgeting $50 a day.

#2 Eat Cheap

A great way to save some cash is eating cheap. Street food is not only some of the tastiest food, but some of the cheapest you’ll find. Plus, the whole experience of eating street food will give you all the “local” feels.

Another way to eat cheap is going grocery shopping and making food yourself. If you have a place with a kitchen, awesome! Make enough food for a few meals. If you don’t have a kitchen, you can still make food – think peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, toast with Nutella, etc.

#3 Stay with Friends

It’s always cheaper to stay with friends. Think hostels. Learn from us, the folks who always thought staying in hostels in the shared rooms was the best and cheapest option to go with. While yes, it is cheaper than a hotel, it is not always the cheapest option. We actually found it cheaper to book a “private room” or “family room” than reserving a bed in a shared dorm. If you are traveling with two other people, take a look at some private room options. We think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

#4 Take Overnight Transportation

Taking overnight transportation may not always be the most comfortable or most restful experience you’ll have, but it will save you some cash. Think about it. If you travel during the day you 1) waste a day of exploring and 2) have to pay for accommodations once you arrive. If you take overnight transportation, the transportation is your accommodation for the night and you don’t miss any exploration time.

#5 Know What the Per Person Rate Is

If there is any sort of haggling tip you need to know to save some cash it’s never start a negotiation by asking for a group rate. Go in asking what the price is for one person FIRST. Once you know the per person rate, start your haggling.

If you know the per person rate, then you know the base they expect and you’ll be able to negotiate smarter for a better price. And when we say negotiate, we mean it! Go in low and be stern about it!  Also, do NOT be afraid to walk away. If there is one thing we’ve learned, walking away usually results in you getting the price you want.

#6 Take the Scenic Route

Okay, so since you have no deadline on when you are returning home, you essentially have “all the time in the world”, so why not take the scenic route when getting to a new destination? Any time you can take a bus, boat, train or hell, even walk… do it. Sure, it will take longer than flying but it’ll be cheaper. Plus, you’ll get to see some scenery you wouldn’t have seen otherwise.

#7 Book Your Accommodation with the Same Booking Site

We used Booking.com for a lot of our accommodations. We not only found it to be the cheapest of several booking sites, but we also were pleasantly surprised to find that if we booked enough through the site, we became a “Booking Geniuses” and got 10% off all bookings through the site. Pretty sweet.

Always shop around but consider booking through the same site if there are incentives to do so.

*Please note, we are not paid or sponsored through Booking.com – we’re just here to give helpful money-saving tips.

#8 Book Direct with Your Accommodation vs. Through a Booking Site

If you are okay with winging it and putting in a little extra work, going to hostels or homestays in person will save you a few extra bucks in accommodation costs. The booking sites take their cut of what you pay for your accommodation. If you book directly with the accommodation, you don’t have to pay those booking site fees.

Also, if you are staying for more than a few nights, ask for a better nightly rate and ALWAYS ask to have breakfast included in what you pay.

#9 Always Ask for a Better Price

If there is one thing to take away from this post it’s never be afraid to ask for a better price …. where applicable. Usually on food and drinks, the price quoted is pretty much the price, but on excursions, taxi/tuk tuk rides or trinkets, haggle away! Fight for that better price. It’ll be worth it in the long run if you save a few bucks everyday through haggling.

#10 Limit Your Alcohol Intake, Drug Use and Partying

If letting loose involves the three listed above, you’ll see your bank account dwindle at a faster rate. One of the most fun but expensive parts of travel is experiencing the nightlife of a place. We’re not saying don’t drink or party but if you can set a budget on how much you want to spend on beers and other fun in a week, it’ll help you stay on track.

Basically, try and budget where you can. Even a dollar or two a day will add up over time. If your main goal is to travel as long and as far as you can on what you saved, you’re going to have to make sacrifices along the way. However, just think, for every sacrifice you make, you allow yourself another day in paradise.

PIN IT FOR LATER!

About The Wandering Stus:

Hi! We’re Lauren & Jesse. A travel couple who quit our corporate jobs in 2016 in order to fulfill a dream of making time for ourselves, living in the now and exploring the beautiful people and places Mother Earth has to offer. You know, all that good stuff. We’re here to give you travel tips, epic itineraries & overall travel inspiration to help you plan your next adventure!

For more travel tips, guides and awesome travel shots, be sure to poke around our website and follow us on Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook.

Photos provided by the Wandering Stus.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Managing in the Mountains

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I love these mountains in Taos County, NM.

Most fulltime rubber tramps know that going up in elevation is the key to cool comfort in the heat of the summer. For every rise of 1,000 feet in altitude, the temperature falls about 3.6 degrees.  If, like me, you grew up a flatlander, you may not know the tricks to staying happy above sea level. You want to go up the mountain, but you may be a bit cautious about doing so. After spending the better part of the last five summers above 6,000 feet, I know a thing or two about mountain living, at least during the spring and summer months. Today I’ll share my tips for managing in the mountains.

#1 Know that altitude sickness is a real possibility. I’ve been very fortunate; I’ve never suffered one bit of altitude sickness, but some people get it bad.

According to a comprehensive Health Communities article about altitude sickness remedies,

acute mountain sickness (AMS), is the most common type of altitude sickness. It can occur at elevations as low as 5,000 feet, where it is likely to last only a day or so, but is more common above 8,000 feet. At elevations over 10,000 feet, three out of four people will have symptoms.

The article lists these symptoms of altitude sickness:

  • Increased rate of breathing
  • Headache
  • Lethargy
  • Fatigue and insomnia
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dizziness and nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Shortness of breath and rapid heartbeat accompanying physical exertion
  • Impaired thinking.

The article also lists some precautions to you can take to acclimate to higher elevations.

  • Acclimatize and take it easy. Spend your first day at high altitudes relaxing…
  • Do not smoke and avoid drinking alcohol. Smoking and alcohol consumption increase the risk of dehydration and decrease respiration rate during sleep…
  • Drink extra water. Drink as much as you can to remain properly hydrated, at least three to four quarts. Your urine should be clear and copious…
  • Eat foods that are high in carbohydrates.
  • Get headache relief. Acetaminophen or an NSAID (such as ibuprofen) can be taken for headache.
  • Don’t go up until symptoms go down. If you start showing symptoms of moderate altitude sickness, don’t go any higher until they decrease—or descend a few hundred feet to a lower altitude.

I suggest you read this entire article and familiarize yourself with the symptoms of and remedies for altitude sickness before you start your ascent.

#2 In the mountains, it stays colder later in the year and gets colder sooner. Early May in Flagstaff brought a storm with a predicted high of 43 degrees and a chance for two inches of snow. The Man and I headed out before the storm to avoid the inclement weather, but we experienced chilly nights and mornings in the California Sierras until well into June. Memorial Day weekend gave us a foggy Saturday where temperatures in the Mercantile never climbed above 42 degrees. If you’re too hot in the flatlands in spring and decide to move on up, either find a camp in the middle elevations or be prepared for chilly morning and nights

Fall may come to the mountains before you expect it. It was never long after Labor Day on the mountain where I worked that I found myself sleeping under my down comforter and wearing a jacket the first few hours of every morning. You may want a decrease in elevation before the official beginning of autumn.

#3 The weather can change quickly in the mountains, so be prepared with appropriate gear. If you store your winter gear away from your rig, but sure to pack a warm hat, warm socks, and decent jacket before you go up the mountain, even in the heart of summer. Take sturdy shoes to protect your feet if the weather turns cold and/or wet. If you have room, it’s not a bad idea to pack your Mr. Buddy heater too.

At the Rio Grande Gorge outside of Taos, NM (elevation 6, 969 feet) I’ve literally seen the weather change from sunny and hot to cloudy with lightning and thunder to rain and hail to rainbows and sunshine, all accompanied by a temperature drop of 20 degrees in less than an hour. Of course, these are not usual weather conditions, but proof that such changes can happen fast.

I seldom got my speedometer above 25 mph on this curvy California mountain road.

#4 Get yourself a good paper map. Don’t depend on GPS or your vehicle’s navigation system which can be entirely useless in remote, high elevation locations. If you get your directions online, be sure you can access then if you lose phone service. Your best bet is mapping out your route on your paper map before heading up.

#5 You might not have cell phone service either. Be prepared to live without cell phone service. Make all your calls and send texts before you start heading up the mountain. Warn anyone who might worry about you that you might not have cell phone service for a while.

#6 If you’re not accustomed to driving on winding, curving, twisting, mountain roads, plan to drive slowly. It takes a lot longer to drive a mountain mile than it takes to drive a mile on a flat stretch of road. The first summer I worked as a camp host, I picked up my mail 25 miles from the campground where I lived. Google Maps said it would take me 45 minutes to drive there, but it took me at least an hour.

This road outside Santa Fe, NM takes folks up up up the mountain.

#7 If you look in your review mirror and see a line of cars and trucks behind you, pull off in the next turn out and let the other vehicles pass. Folks accustomed to driving in the mountains may be able to drive on those roads faster than you can. That’s ok, but save the people behind you lots of frustration by letting them leave you in the dust.

#8 Be aware of bears. While you don’t want to succumb to bearanoia, if you’re boondocking in areas bears are known to frequent, you should take precautions so you don’t attract them to your camp.

In the book Bear Aware, author Bill Schneider offers an entire chapter detailing camping in bear country. The most important tip is to check potential campsites for signs of bears before you set up camp.

If you can see fresh sign [of bears] move on to another site with no signs of bear activity.

The second most important tip is to separate your sleeping and cooking areas.

The sleeping area and the cooking area must be separated by at least 100 yards.

Also, be prepared to “hang everything that has any food smell” or store those items in bear canisters.

If you’re unsure if the area where you want to boondock has issues with bears, visit the local ranger station to find out about bear activity before you choose your camping spot.

#9 Watch out for other mountain critters too.  You probably won’t see a mountain lion, but be prepared to react appropriately if you do. The Mountain Lion Foundation says to do the following if you meet a mountain lion:

  • Seem as large as possible.
  • Make noise.
  • Act defiant, not afraid.
  • Slowly create distance.
  • Protect yourself.

Again, I recommend you read the entire article before you need the information.

Where I worked in the mountains, we were more likely to see a timber rattler than a bear. To prevent a nasty bite (and a trip to an emergency room that may be more than an hour away), watch where you put your hands and feet. Don’t put any body part in a crack or crevice or under anything without first visually inspecting the area. If you see any snake, give it a wide berth so it can escape without feeling like it has to go on the defensive. For more information on how to avoid a snakebite or what to do if a rattlesnake does strike you, see this article from Denver Health.

The Man and I saw these wild horses just off the highway in Colorado at about 8,000 feet.

The part of the National Forest where I worked is open range, so people driving there have to watch for half wild mountain cows. I don’t know how common open range is in other mountain locations, but city folks are often quite surprised when they see cows on the road on their way up the mountain. If you see cows on a mountain road you’re driving on, slow down and give them plenty of room; sometimes cows bolt when they get nervous. The same holds true for wild horses, deer, elk, and moose, so be alert for large animals hanging out along mountain roads.

#10 Stock up on food, supplies, and fuel for your rig before you head up the mountain. Many mountain towns are secluded, and may not have the supplies you need. On the mountain where I worked, there was no diesel, none of the special fuel tiny backpacking stoves require, and no fresh vegetables for nearly 40 miles. If you are able to find what you’re looking for, you are going to pay a premium for items that had to be trucked up thousands of feet. In mountain towns, I’ve paid too much for ice ($4 for a seven pound bag), one-pound propane canisters ($6.95 for what costs under $4 bucks at most any Wal-Mart), and water ($3-$4 a gallon). You’re better off getting everything you need while you’re still in civilization.

There’s no way to imagine or prepare for every situation one might find oneself in while at a high altitude. In life we run into situations that could lead to harm, whether we’re in the city or the wilderness. I hope these tips help you plan for your health and safety when you leave the flatlands and venture up to higher elevations.

Remember, Blaize Sun can’t prepare you for or protect you from every danger you might encounter in the mountains. You are responsible for our own self. Research the problems you might encounter in the area you plan to camp in before you get there. If applicable, call the Forest Service ranger station responsible for the place you want to camp and ask about hazards in the area. Think before you act. If something you’re about to do seems potentially dangerous, don’t do it!

I took the photos in this post.

Short On Time and Funds? You Can Still Have Your Dream Vacation (Guest Post)

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I recived several guest posts all at once, so I’m getting them scheduled. Today’s post is all about vacations and how you can manage to take one even if you have limited time and money. It was written by Catherine Workman.

Taking a vacation is a dream that many of us fantasize about, yet don’t follow through. We think that we don’t have time, the funding isn’t there, or that it might add stress instead of give us the relaxation we need. If it’s been too long since your last vacation, here are some tips to taking a stress-free holiday on a budget.

The Surprising Benefits

Many may put off taking that vacation simply because they see it as a luxury. However, much can be said for making taking time off a priority. Studies suggest that having a break from normal life can reduce anxiety, even once you get home, refreshed and recharged. It can aid in levels of life satisfaction and may even help you physically by improving quality of sleep. Getting better rest can leave one energized and feeling happier. It may also lower blood pressure. All of these can help you feel better, so if you have been feeling particularly stressed, or have had difficulty sleeping, it might be time for a vacation.

Time Your Trip Wisely

One way to save on the expenses during your trip is to go outside of peak season. Look at what area you might want to visit, and research when most people go. Next, choose whether you would like to visit during off-season or shoulder-season, which is between peak and off-season. Off-season may find you with less to do during your stay, which is why shoulder-season is a good compromise between saving money and still having lots of fun. You can avoid some of the heavier traffic during this time as well, which may mean less gas bought and less stress overall. You can take a shorter trip, and enjoy it just as much as you might have during peak season.

Go Domestic

Often, the word vacation sparks ideas of tropical climates and foreign landscapes. However, by traveling somewhere closer to home, you can have a fulfilling and relaxing vacation, without spending the vast sums that overseas travel often requires. You could try a beautiful national park, or even the Grand Canyon. There are several times during the year where access to national parks is free to the public, so you can plan your trip around these.

Or, you could go to a historical destination to learn a bit, and stay in affordable accommodations, such as at Williamsburg, Portland, or San Antonio. If you’re looking for a beach to relax on, places such as Myrtle Beach in South Carolina are far cheaper than more popular alternatives including Miami and California’s Newport. Since these places are closer to home, you don’t need to devote as much time to them as you might traveling abroad. You don’t even need to leave your time zone.

Use Your Club and Credit Cards

Many club-type stores, such as Costco and Sam’s Club, offer vacation packages at a discount. You might be surprised at the variation, and the low price, of vacations offered. One of the benefits of using an all-inclusive vacation deal from such a venue is what comes with the package. Often, your travel costs are covered, as are car rentals, hotels and other features, such as tickets to theme parks and sports stadiums. There are a variety of options from which to choose, and the packages usually rotate. It’s therefore important to check frequently to find something you might enjoy and book it before it’s gone.

Another way to save a little extra is to open a credit account with a company that offers miles for the points you earn. By using your card throughout the year, you can quickly add up points that can be translated into free, or heavily discounted flights.

Keep Things Calm at Home

One reason we may put off travel is because leaving our homes would simply be too complicated, especially if we have pets. If you’re traveling by plane, it may be best to leave Fido at home. However, just because we leave our pets behind does not mean they aren’t constantly on our minds. During your vacation, your focus should be on relaxation, not worrying about whether or not your dog is doing OK. To allay some of your fears, you may want to hire a dog boarder. See if your vet has any recommendations. Visit any potential boarders or kennels, and make sure it’s a place you feel comfortable leaving your dog. Ask plenty of questions, such as how often your dog will be walked, if playtime with other dogs is included and what the policy is on dogs of different sizes and play-styles. If your dog is timid, you don’t want them being overwhelmed by an aggressive, larger breed after all. The boarder should be able to address all of your concerns, so you can relax during your vacation.

Making time for yourself is important. Finding new ways to relax, and let your batteries recharge, is not an act of selfishness but of self-care. Plan your trip wisely, go somewhere unique and avoid the busiest seasons. You may be surprised to find how affordable, enjoyable, and rejuvenating vacationing on a budget can be.

Catherine Workman believes we should all leave our comfort zones once in awhile. She uses travel to boost her physical and mental health.

Image Courtesy of Pixabay.com

7 Benefits of Seeing the UK From A Caravan (Guest Post)

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I’m running several guest posts this month, and this is one of them. Although it’s written specifically about folks in the UK, it can certainly apply to readers in the U.S.

Not sure what a caravan even is? According to the Cambridge Dictionary, a caravan is a

trailer; a wheeled vehicle for living or travelling in, especially for holidays, that contains beds and cooking equipment and can be pulled by a car.

In the United States, we might call a caravan a “camper”, a “pull-behind”, an “RV” (Recreational Vehicle), or a “trailer.” Just substitute one of those words whenever you see the word “caravan” in this post.

With cheaper flights and low-cost international luxury being enjoyed by more and more UK holidaymakers, the simple charm of a caravan holiday might not be the first thing to spring to mind if you want a really picturesque and unforgettable getaway. But it’s also true that family finances in the UK are getting that bit tighter, and so caravan holidays can offer a low cost, but memorable holiday choice for a family or group of friends who may want to choose a vacation on a budget.

So if you’d ruled out a caravan holiday in the past, here’s seven reasons why it might be time to think again.

The opportunity to meet new people

The nomadic lifestyle inherent in a caravan holiday means you’ve got a great opportunity to meet some like-minded holiday makers. Obviously, making new friends isn’t a benefit exclusive to caravan holidays, but you’re more likely to find yourself embedded with a range of different communities at every stop you make. It also offers you the best of both worlds when you want a bit of solitude, which can be harder to find if you’re staying in a crowded hostel. The UK countryside is home to a friendly and open campsite culture, so why not hit the open road in your caravan and take advantage of it?

No need to book in advance

There’s an added freedom to embarking on a caravan holiday, as you don’t need to book your destination in advance. Your caravan gives you a flexibility which isn’t normally afforded to the average holidaymaker. Owning a caravan gives you and your family the flexibility to grab a relaxing break whenever you want.

Save money

You and your family can save a tonne of money from travelling the UK in a caravan. Instead of forking out a lot of money on hotel bills and expensive restaurants, the average campsite allows you to cut costs whilst still enjoying a memorable, relaxing break. You’ll have to do your own cooking, but consider life in a caravan a chance to flex your culinary muscles and take advantage of some home cooked food.

It’s a more meaningful experience

Again, we’re not suggesting that beach holidays or city breaks don’t offer the chance to spend some quality time with your family, friends, or loved one. But there’s something unique about the caravan experience which makes it that much more likely to foster treasured memories. If you’re with your family or friends, then you’ve got more time together, contributing towards all the necessary chores and errands which are required for the upkeep of your caravan. Likewise, you have to be more creative with your leisure time, whether it’s board games or campfire stories to pass the time.

The picturesque locations

Most caravan sites in the UK are often on the doorstep of a whole range of beautiful landscapes. When you consider that the UK has the Lake District, the Peak District, the Cotswolds and the Scottish Highlands, the incentives for camping in the UK countryside are hard to ignore. Again, you can see picturesque locations from the comfort of your caravan, without the added cost of flights and hotels.

It’s better for your fitness

If you’re staying in some of those picturesque locations we’ve already mentioned, then there’s a greater incentive to put on those walking boots and explore the local scenery. If you’ve got young children on your caravan trip with you, then this is your chance to introduce them to the natural world.

They’re a long-term investment

We’ve already discussed the ways in which caravans be a great cost saver when it comes to planning short term getaways. But it’s worthwhile thinking about how caravans can be a great long term investment for you and your family. They retain their value over time, and you may get a decent return on your investment should you ever decide to sell your caravan.

 

Go See Do: Tips for Finding Fun Out On the Open Road (Guest Post)

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License plate artwork discovered at a Denny’s restaurant, somewhere out on the open road.

Brenda Cordray was one of the first people I “met” through Instagram. I somehow stumbled upon her feed @twentyonefeathers and thoroughly enjoyed her photos, especially the ones of flowers and heart-shaped rocks and other little bits of nature. She and her man are nomads, so I introduced myself and my blog to her and offered her the chance to write a guest post. That guest post is now in front of you. Today Brenda will share her tips for finding fun things to do in the new places you visit whether you’re on vacation or living the life of a rubber tramp.

After 5 years of both solo and tandem road life, I am often asked about boredom. Don’t you ever get bored? I am not a person who experiences boredom. I have often said that I have a rich internal life. I find more than enough things to ponder and consider, especially when I am not stimulated by the hustle and bustle and endless noise of the outside world. I have a dozen projects in the works at any given moment, and many that are sprouting tiny green vines of possibility on a daily basis. The truly creative mind rarely rests.

I have been known to sit for weeks out on the desert in my van all alone. I was perfectly content and never needed the sound of anyone else’s voice for entertainment. Now that I am newly married, my nomadic experience has changed quite a bit. These days I wait patiently for my beloved husband, Dan, to wake up so we can enjoy a good conversation about what we would like to do with this one blessed day that is unfurling before us.

A quick peek out the window reveals our latest sittin’ spot. Sometimes that in itself is a surprise! The scenery outside our windows changes regularly. It takes no effort at all to find things to amuse ourselves out in nature at any given location. We truly are outdoors people, at our best and happiest when we are outside. The outdoors is always fertile ground for exploration, but often we long to venture out into parts unknown to store up precious shared memories.

We aren’t fans of touristy venues, although we have been known to brave the crowds (off-season or on weekdays) to see things that are of keen interest to either or both of us. I love to post pictures of unusual or off-the-beaten-path locales! It is my joy and pleasure to be the navigator, so it falls upon me to ferret out these treasures.

How do I find them, you may ask. Exploration of any area begins with maps.  I love old-fashioned paper folding maps, hefty road atlases, Google Maps, hand-drawn simple maps, or even highly detailed topographical maps that others would have no interest in exploring. All maps are valuable to me. Each has a precious bounty to offer if given the chance to tell its stories.

Stopping at rest area Welcome Centers as you cross state lines is a great way to pick up free and updated folding maps of any state. I replace my old ones often, although the ones that have handwritten notes along the edges and circles and arrows and plenty of Scotch tape holding them together are solid keepers. Racks and racks of glossy travel pamphlets, some with discount codes or coupons, are free for the taking. There are often helpful folks behind the counter who can give more details about local attractions, like whether or not dogs are allowed, or if the attraction you are considering would be suitable for a preschooler or stroller. They are happy that you bothered to ask and are often a wealth of information for the curious traveler.

Statues of American Folk hero, Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox, located in Bemidji, Minnesota.

Truck stops, restaurants, gas stations, and coffee shops often have racks of pamphlets, too, and local weekly circulars that include calendars full of events and happenings. Many include descriptions of nearby businesses and are a great resource for buy-one-get-one-free meals or discounts on attractions or services.

If I meet a new friend who insists that we go see their home state, or their favorite state, I shush their suggestions long enough to go grab my paper maps and a pencil to mine these priceless bits of information. I often write their names and phone numbers there as well, and where we met, too, since many tell me to call them when we are heading that way because they will have surely thought of more to share.

We are given directions and gate codes from perfect strangers in the event that we venture close to their summer cottage or homestead and would like to stay, even if they don’t happen to be there at the moment. If you are a person of integrity, many will entrust you with prime sittin’ spots. Quite a few will suggest that you stay forever, and it will take your very best efforts to politely disengage and ease on down the road. Those who get out of the house now and again will suggest places of interest for your enjoyment. We are very happy when they give reviews of all the best local restaurants, for days when van-made grub sounds less than appealing.

If you truly enjoy a certain place, stay awhile. Immerse yourself in the ambiance of the area. Strike up conversations with locals. Some of our best travel tips have come from people we may never see again, but will always remember. The places that we have stayed for extended periods of time are often the places we describe to others who are looking for something fun to do. It’s nice to feel that you truly “know” a place you have just left instead of just having a vague recollection of your visit.

Lucy the Elephant, built in 1881, and located at Margate City on the New Jersey Shore.

I am always astounded by driveway surfing hosts who have no idea where the nearest park is or how many truly fascinating things there are to see within a few moments of their home or the neighborhood they grew up in. What fun it is to explore their world and bring it back home to them! Not everyone would enjoy the idea of traveling as much as we do, but one should at least gather up the low hanging fruits of local events and attractions. Weekends aren’t just for chores, people. Recreation is good for the soul and makes the days in between the weekends more tolerable.

When tracing a path from point A to point B, Google Maps is also a great resource. Using two fingers to expand the map uncovers all sorts of fascinating places along your route, and entering a keyword like “museum” can add plenty of depth to the outcome of your search. Even if what you find is not something you plan to do right away, tagging that spot with a star or flag can jog your memory in the event that you venture that way again at a later date.

A Google search of any area being considered should include the top 15 things to do in a few local cities. TripAdvisor offers a detailed list of the most popular sites in any area.The list also includes reviews from those who have been there and have something to say about it. TripAdvisor is usually the first thing that pops up in a Google search. If you scroll down a bit, you may find blog posts, newspaper and magazine articles, Facebook pages, and a variety of links that will flesh out the big picture and lots of smaller details about the area you plan to visit.

Atlas Obscura offers a website that gives you the opportunity to type in a specific location and come away with a list of unusual things to see, like a museum that holds a collection of life and death masks; or the Salt Palace, a museum in Grand Saline, Texas, made entirely of salt. Without this valuable resource, you might pass right by the 200-year-old The Horse You Came In On Saloon in Baltimore, Maryland, whose claim to fame is having served Edgar Allan Poe his final drink. The website includes stories and pictures detailing the history and current particulars about interesting places all around the globe. They also churn out printed books, for those who don’t have to worry about limited space or weight in their chosen road chariot. I carried their book in the van until a fellow nomadic friend who had moved back into sticks and bricks posted that she wanted it badly. I popped it in the mail so she could do a little armchair exploring. Being able to access the same information online is a better choice for me than hauling around a thick reference book.

West Quoddy Head lighthouse at Quoddy Head State Park in Lubec, Maine, the easternmost point of the contiguous United States.

Sometimes I come across interesting places to see in areas we have just left, like the Montague Book Mill, in Montague, Massachusetts. It is said to hold books you don’t need in a place you can’t find. That sounds like a challenge to me, and I love a good challenge!  25,000 books crammed into a 175-year-old building, perched on the banks of the Sawmill River (which holds black river stones smoothed by cold, flowing water) sounds like pure Heaven to me. That one warrants a check mark for next time, and a sigh of disappointment for not discovering it when we were close enough to stop by. At the very least, Atlas Obscura will show you what you are missing right next door, and will give you something to do when you are “bored”, if you are so inclined.

Many of the coolest places we have visited have been the result of serendipitous drive-by discoveries. Once, after taking a wrong turn, we spied a hand-lettered sign that simply said “fort” with an arrow pointing down a backroad outside of Savannah, Georgia. Fort Jackson (the old one, not the modern one) is the oldest brick abutment in Georgia.  It was occupied during three wars, and it protected the city of Savannah during the Civil War. Dan wrote a blog post about our visit.

We spent an entire weekday in this nearly empty fort, enjoying a personal tour given by a newly hatched tour guide who was very excited to share his knowledge.  We were able to really feel the history of the fort without the input of dozens of chattering voices.

We easily took dozens of photos without having to wait for hordes of visitors to move out of the way of the shot. We sat in silence after reading the placards accompanying the displays and deeply considered the sacrifices made by our forebearers to secure this nation’s freedom. We mined the treasures of the museum at our own pace, and felt happy to leave a donation to support the upkeep of this privately funded property because we could clearly see its value. We have seen many historic places defaced by graffiti and feel that if people truly took the time to appreciate them, they could not possibly consider such a heinous crime.

Reading the blog posts of fellow travelers or following their Instagram or Facebook page posts can offer up interesting suggestions as well. We have been honored when our followers have added to their travel plans or bucket lists based on our adventures! You can find literally thousands of photographs of our travels on our Instagram pages, @twentyonefeathers and @fireman428. I love to find free or very cheap places to visit and camp, so be sure to explore the captions below the photos for a plethora of ideas.

Our pups at Camp Wildcat Civil War Battlefield near London, Kentucky, site of one of the Union’s first victories in the Civil War.

I offer these suggestions with the hope that you will find a few jewels through the resources mentioned here, and that you also share your OWN gettin’ spots for unique adventures below in the comment section for others to enjoy. Boredom out on the open road is a mindset that is easily remedied with a bit of creativity and a passion for unearthing hidden spots to explore, both near and far. If you are a weekend or summer holiday traveler and not living the nomadic life, you can squeeze more fun into the time you have available by utilizing a few of these resources. As Dan always says, get out, be safe, and go adventure!

Brenda Cordray is a vandweller who is currently writing a book about her personal journey towards her lifelong dream of nomadic life, and her experiences while living five-plus years out on the road. She is sending out a call to fellow freewheeling souls for interviews about their journey and quest for the nomadic life for possible inclusion in her book. She can be reached at twentyonefeathers@gmail.com. Brenda travels with her husband, Dan, and pups Liberty and Layla, in their repurposed community transport van, Erik van Home.

If you need more ideas of what to do with your free time, see the Rubber Tramp Artist post What Do I Do Now That I Have All This Time on My Hands?

Photos and their captions provided by the author.