Tag Archives: Flagstaff

Boondocking Near Walnut Canyon National Monument in Arizona

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The Lady of the House jumped out of the van and took this photo for me.

The Lady of the House and I started our epic road trip by camping outside of Flagstaff in a location we found courtesy of the Free Campsites website. We planned to visit the Meteor Crater National Landmark and Winslow the next day, so the location off I-40 was perfect for us. The free camping is in the Coconino National Forest right outside Walnut Canyon National Monument.

According to Wikipedia,

Walnut Canyon National Monument (Hopi: Wupatupqa) is a United States National Monument…The canyon rim elevation is 6,690 ft (2,040 m); the canyon’s floor is 350 ft lower. A 0.9 mi (1.4 km) long loop trail descends 185 ft (56 m) into the canyon passing 25 cliff dwelling rooms constructed by the Sinagua, a pre-Columbian cultural group that lived in Walnut Canyon from about 1100 to 1250 CE.

This photo shows the well-maintained dirt road into the boondocking area. I believe this is the road Google calls Oakmont Drive and says becomes Cosnino Road.

From Interstate 40, we took exit 204 as directed by Google, then turned onto Walnut Canyon Road, which we followed to Cosnino Road. When we saw the Walnut Canyon National Monument sign, we knew we were close. We arrived before dark, so it was easy to see where we were going.

We turned off of the main road (Walnut Canyon Road) onto a well-maintained dirt road, which I believe is the road Google calls Oakmont Drive and says becomes Cosnino Road. This well-maintained dirt road had no signs, but we suspected we were in the right place because we could see RVs parked among the trees.

We hadn’t gone far down the dirt road before we saw a flat spot with evidence of previous camping (a fire ring made from stones, a log fashioned into a bench). We decided that site was good enough for our overnight, and I pulled the van in between the trees.

While we were preparing and eating dinner and later while we were getting ready for bed, something mildly strange occurred. At differnt times, a couple of different pickup trucks drove like bats-out-of-hell on the well-maintained dirt road past our camp. The trucks weren’t gone long; shortly they were driving fast in the opposite direction, ostensibly back to their camps. It was as if the drivers had gone to the end of the road, then turned right around and come back. Where did they go? Why did they come back so soon? What was the huge rush? Other than these strange drive-bys, the camping area was very peaceful. We heard no evidence of partying–no loud voices, no loud music.

Campers before us made a fire ring from stones and fashioned a bench from a log. I sat on that bench to eat my dinner.

The Lady discovered this mountain view.

The next morning The Lady went for a short run and came back to tell me she’d found a mountain view and other campsites. She said she’d show them to me, so I went on a brisk walk with her.

The other campsites were at the top of a slightly steep incline. The

Rutted and rocky dirt road

problem getting to the sites wasn’t the road’s climb so much as the road’s poor condition. I was glad I hadn’t tried to take my van up the rutted and rocky dirt road.

The campsites up top (evident because of stone fire rings) were nicely tucked into the trees and deserted, which surprised me. Sure, it was early April, not prime camping season, but I thought someone would have camped up there on a Friday night. However, it seemed we’d had that entire part of the boondocking area to ourselves.

Unfortunately, the fire rings weren’t the only evidence of previous campers; folks had left trash on more than one of the sites. Also, not far from where we camped, we saw the remains of two sofas. I can’t imagine how anyone could have forgotten two couches out in the woods. Maybe it’s supposed to be a hunting blind? The Lady asked

Whoever left these couches on public land left a pretty big trace!

skeptically. I don’t think so. I think the sofas were hauled onto public land specifically for dumping! What a travesty!

Overall, The Lady and I were pleased with our free camping. I would absolutely stay in this boondocking area again.

 

Traveling Kids in Flagstaff

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We left the Sonoran Desert and headed north on I-17. Three hours and an almost 5,800-foot increase in elevation later, we were in Flagstaff. The 68-degree air sure felt better than the desert heat.

Our plan had been to spend a couple of days in Sedona, spend a couple days in Flagstaff, then go to the Grand Canyon during one fo the weekends when National Park visits were free. I hadn’t seen the Grand Canyon since I was a teenager, and The Man had never visited the natural wonder, so we were both excited.

We ended up bypassing Sedona, itching to get to Flagstaff, but things didn’t turn out quite the way we’d hoped.

When The Man had been in Flagstaff a few months before, he’d stumbled upon the Whole Foods dumpster. He’s been telling me about all the delicious “made fresh daily” food that had been thrown out because the day was over. Sushi–sandwiches–wraps–I’d been salivating over tales of those delicacies since we met.

We’d been at McDonald’s using the free WiFi, and it was dark when we set out for Whole Foods. Several roads came together in a weird way (thanks for that, city planners!), and I missed a turn. We ended up in some dark residential area, and The Man said, Let me drive! so we switched places. But I didn’t know how to use the GPS function on Google Maps, and we ended up switching places again. It was as close as we’d come to having a fight.

For me, it was like so many other nights when I’d gotten me and my ex lost in the dark and my ex yelled at and berated me. Of course, The Man was neither yelling at nor berating me. He was exasperated but not taking it out on me, but tell that to my brain. My brain had gone to a dark place where memory and current reality are all intertwined, and it’s difficult to remember then is not now.

A combination of what The Man remembered from his previous time in Flagstaff and the Google Maps GPS lady guided us into the Whole Foods parking lot. I pulled the van into a space and killed the engine. Here we were!

We looked over at the dumpster, clearly in view on the left side of the store. We were disappointed–nay, dismayed– to find the dumpster was now barricaded behind locked gates. WTF? We knew good food–delicious food!–was going to waste back there.

We walked over to the dumpster area anyway. The Man sized it up. He could step there and jump over the wall…but my heart wasn’t really in it, and I don’t think his was either. By the time we made it back to the van, he was asking if I really wanted to do this.

Maybe we should wait until the store closes, I said.

Maybe we should wait until all the employees go home, he said.

The store wouldn’t be empty for another couple of hours, and frankly, I was just tired. Then The Man muttered, I don’t really want to go to jail over this tonight, and the endeavor was called off as far as I was concerned. When people start worrying about going to jail, all fun’s gone out of an activity for me.

We decided to go to Taco Bell.

From there we used the GPS lady to try to find Forest Service land right outside of town where we could stay for free. We got close, but the GPS was a little off and sent us down a private driveway. We ended up pulling off on the side of the highway and switching places again. The Man found the spot, which was little like a campground (no toilets–flush or otherwise, no trashcans, no nothing) and more like wide spots on the side of short, narrow paved areas near a trailhead. The Man parked the van, and we went to bed. I slept poorly, waking up multiple times in the night feeling frustrated and useless, wondering if anything about my life was a good idea.

The view from the windshield of the trees that helped me breathe.

The next morning was a brighter day. The Man and I were tentative with each other, careful, but no one was issuing ultimatums or asking to call off the romance.

The spot where we’d parked was beautiful. We were surrounded by tall, tall evergreen trees, the first I’d seen since I left California six months before. Those trees helped me breathe a little easier.

We went back to McDonald’s to use the internet again to try to figure out our next moves. Nothing was clicking. Nothing seemed right. At some point, we admitted to each other that we both really wanted was to go back to New Mexico.

You realize the Grand Canyon is only 75 miles away? I asked The Man.

The Grand Canyon will always be there, he said. Let’s go home.

We decided to go downtown first, check out the library lawn where traveling kids and others proper society sorts tend to view as riffraff congregate. No one interesting was hanging out there, so we started walking through the “cool” part of town where college kids go at night to drink in bars. We came upon Heritage Square, where some folks were drumming and a man and a woman were sitting out with the kind of cases traveling kids use to carry their handmade jewelry and shiny rocks. Sure enough, when we got up close, we saw each of them making beautiful, intricate pendants from wire and stones. The four of us started talking about shiny rocks and Quartzsite and drugs and traveling and selling handmade jewelry. Either The Man or I mentioned we were soon heading to Northern New Mexico. Within five minutes, the traveling man asked if they could go with us.

They both had gentle, peaceful energy. Neither of them had said a single sketchy thing. I quickly decided I wouldn’t mind having them in my van. The Man and I glanced at each other and silently communicated yes.

Sure, y’all can come with us, one or the other of us said.

We sat there a while more, talked rocks more, listened to more drumming, decided to leave in fifteen minutes, at three o’clock.

The kids had been crisscrossing the Southwest on foot, hitchhiking, driving when they’d had a vehicle. They’d had a car, but they’d traded it. They’d had a van, but the engine had seized. I cried when that happened, the fellow admitted to me.

We’d all been in Quartzsite at the same time, but neither The Man nor I had run into them. They’d made it to Truth or Consequences, and we may have overlapped there too. They’d been riding with a couple of heavy drinkers and had gone to Sedona with them, but the day before they’d decided they were done with the drunken antics and had hitched to Flagstaff. They were enjoying Flagstaff but were excited to go to Northern New Mexico where they had never been.

It was closer to four o’clock by the time we put gas in the tank and headed east on I-40. I drove and drove and drove while The Man and the passengers (mostly the guy) talked. He was 26 (a lot younger than I’d thought) and had gorwn up in foster care. He’d only met his father once.

His best story was how he was kicked out of the Army for “failure to adapt!” Failure to adapt! Sounds like the story of most of my life!

The view when we passed from Arizona into New Mexico was so beautiful in the early evening light. I should have stopped and taken photos, but at the time I was hellbent on getting us home.

It wasn’t quite dark when we got to Gallup. I navigated the strange exit and got us to the Wal-Mart where The Man and I were getting hummus and crackers for dinner, and he was looking for a knife to replace the one he’d lost to the Sonoran Desert. We grabbed the food, and he found a knife he wanted locked in a case in the sporting goods department, but we had to wait an eternity for the one employee in the area to unlock the case and accept our payment. We had a great time waiting in line, dancing to the 80s music playing over the PA system and laughing together. It was as if the struggles of the night before had never happened.

When we finally got out of Wal-Mart, night had fallen. The traveling kids had gotten some dinner at Carl’s Jr. I drank deeply of the iced tea in my bottle, then got us back on the road.

I drove and drove and drove, then had to stop at a casino outside of Albuquerque for a restroom break. I still thought I’d get us north of Santa Fe that night.

I made it through Albuquerque, but the long, dark stretch of Interstate 25  between that town and Santa Fe really took its toll on me. I was tired. I started thinking it would probably be ok for me to close my eyes and rest for just a little while.

I pulled into the casino between Albuquerque and Santa Fe. Couldn’t we sleep here for a few hours?

Well, there wasn’t room in the van for all of us to sleep, and while the traveling kids were accustomed to rolling out their sleeping bags and spending the night in the bushes, casinos were not very good places for that. We get kicked out of casino property,  the traveling woman said.

I knew there was a rest area just before we got to Sant Fe. Surely the kids could find some bushes to sleep in there. The problem would be keeping my eyes open.

I powered on, forced myself to stay awake. Just a little further. Just a little further, I told myself.

Finally, there it was–the rest area–our home for the night. We’d made it.

The kids grabbed their packs and tumbled out to find their spot. I brushed my teeth under the harsh parking lot light. Then The Man and I climbed into bed, snuggled, slept.

The Man and I are early risers, so we were up before the kids. They were still dead asleep when I walked over to let them know we were ready to leave. We were on the road again shortly. It was much easier to drive in the daylight.

I drove those kids right out to the Bridge, told them how things worked out there. They said they’d go back to sell their pendants of stoned wrapped in wire.

Back in town, we parted in the supermarket parking lot. I was sad to see them go, but one thing I’ve learned is that a traveling kid can’t be held onto.

 

 

 

 

 

Beaver Street Liquor

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Beaver Street is a funny name for a roadway. It may be named after the animal or maybe it’s named after a Mr. or Ms. Beaver, but all I can think of is the slang name for a woman’s private anatomy.

The Man and I were in Flagstaff, just leaving the free National Forest camping area where we’d spent the night. We were following the directions of the lady in the phone (I’ve since named her Mildred Amsterdam) to get to McDonald’s, and we crossed Beaver Street. Just on the other side of the street, we saw a store called Beaver Street Liquor.

Oh dear! That was funny!  “Beaver” already had a naughty connotation in my mind, but then add in the word “liquor,” and I’m thinking of jokes like “Beaver in the front and liquor in the rear.”

The Beaver Street Liquor store has a nice mural on the side wall. The mural shows a rather tipsy-looking semiaquatic rodent holding a bottle of wine. I like public art, even murals (probably) paid for by capitalist ventures. The Man wanted a photo too, so we turned around and pulled into the store’s tiny parking lot.

According to the store’s Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/pg/BeaverStLiquor/about/?ref=page_internal), it is

a locally owned and operated liquor store. Providing Flagstaff, Arizona with a wide selection of beer, liquor, wine, & spirits. Opened in 1962[.]

I tried to find out the reason for naming the street “Beaver” by doing a Google search. Nothing. I couldn’t find any information on Flagstaff’s Beaver Street. (Granted, my internet searching skills aren’t that great.)

My friend NOLAgirl is a transplant from Louisiana but has made herself quite the Arizona expert after living in the desert state for a couple of decades. I asked her if she knew how the street got its name. She said she had no idea. She said she could explain many other names in Flagstaff, but not that one. She did say many of the streets in that part of town are named for people, but she thought “beaver” was a reference to trade industry and pointed out that Flagstaff was established because of the railroad. So Beaver Street probably has more to do with fur coats and hats than anything naughty.

If anyone has any additional information, please let me know.

I took the photos in this post.

10 Things I Love About Van Life

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The Man and I tend to say Van Life! to each other when things go wrong. We may mutter the words while shaking our heads or say them with glee, but when we lose something in the vortex of the van; spill the entire contents of the dog’s water bowl onto the grungy carpet; or the New Mexico wind is too strong for cooking outside, and one of us is on our knees on the dirty floor trying to make dinner, it’s Van Life we blame.

In response to the occasional hardships of living in the van, I got to thinking about the joys of van life. I came up with 10 things I love about van life, in no particular order.

#1 No toilet to clean–ever!

#2 Less space in which to lose things. (Although, believe me, with two people living in the van, things are often misplaced. I think things are sucked into an invisible van vortex) At least when I lose something, I know the lost item is in the van somewhere.

#3 I’ve got interesting travel stories to tell at parties.

#4 No rent to pay for a sticks and bricks dwelling, and I don’t typically stay at campgrounds that charge fees, so I can spend my money on fun and not on housing.

#5 If I get tired of living in one place, it’s easy to go somewhere else. I barely even have to pack!

#6 On a related note, if I end up near neighbors I don’t particularly like, I can leave.

#7 I can also move with the weather. No more being stuck in snow! No more being stuck in the heat! I can move up and down in elevation when I get too hot or too cold.

#8 Most of my meals are picnics.

#9 Beautiful landscapes are often right outside my door.

I took this photo of the view from the van’s windshield in April 2017. This forest is right outside Flagstaff, AZ.

#10 I can get the entire van home clean in less than a couple of hours.

I wonder what other folks love about van (or car or Jeep or SUV or RV) life. Feel free to leave comments about your favorite parts of your transient way of life.

And as always, feel free to ask me questions about my van life.

To read more about why I like living in a van, go here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2017/01/01/ten-reasons-i-like-living-in-my-van/.

(Guest Post) Cows & Boy Scouts

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Thank you to Blaize for allowing me to guest blog for her today.  We met Blaize while camp hosting in Sequoia National Forest this summer.  We (Jeremy & I and our 2 dogs Dakota & Crosby) traveled from Ohio to California and now are staying in Taos New Mexico.  We live in a converted school bus and are enjoying our traveling adventures!  I do not currently have a blog but I do write and the following is something from our stay in the Coconino National Forest near Flagstaff AZ. We camped there almost 2 weeks and most days we had a huge area all to ourselves…but not this day.

camp-spot-coconino

Tent pitched too close to the author’s bus, viewed through the windshield.

I woke early.  The first up actually.  Don’t gasp!  It happens, regularly even since being on the road. I think I am still operating on Ohio time, or perhaps I’m more in tune out here.  Getting up closer to sunrise, going to bed early…not too long after dark. That, however, is beside the point. As I said I woke early. Usually I have my coffee and sit on our front porch, aka driver seat of the bus, and enjoy my three-sided view of the forest, scanning for wildlife in the growing morning light.  Not this morning.  This morning I have woken to the multitudes of squealing children. “Boy Scouts, why’d it have to be Boy Scouts?” I mutter in the spirit of Indiana Jones. I roll over. It appears we have been invaded by a family troop excursion.  Dozens of tents and pick-up trucks now dot my view. One in particular has set up their tent not 50 ft from the front of our bus.  Seriously? There are acres and acres of open space here.  He has set up closer to our bus than to his own group.  Camping etiquette folks: Give a camper their space!

The group arrived yesterday while we were doing “town” stuff.  I almost wish we had been here when they arrived.  Surely the barking of my dogs would’ve encouraged a respectful distance.  Maybe Crosby will pee on their tent which has so obviously been placed within his territory.  Actually that prospect is pretty likely. The thought makes me smile and consider letting him out and maybe not watching him too close for a minute.  A wave of guilt passes over me and then quickly recedes as a pack of wildings run squealing through our camp.  Boy Scouts always conjure up images of Lord of the Flies for me.  It’s unsettling.  In the woods they are downright frightening.  I’d rather camp next to a pack of wild coyotes than in the midst of a group of Boy Scouts.

Suddenly an angry low of a cow cuts through my thoughts and the melee of the boys.  If you don’t think a cow can sound angry you’ve not spent time around wild forest cows.  Out west cows roam everywhere, especially on National Forest land.  Around any given corner you can encounter a cow standing in the middle of the road.  Many of which have large horns…and attitude.  This one sounded very angry.  Not the gentle moo of a cow contentedly chomping grass, but an almost roar.  Think bear growl crossed with a moo.  This cow was seriously pissed.

Rounds of squealing Boy Scout ruckus followed the bellow, and then more angry moos.  I can visualize the wild pack of boys harassing the cow.  I can hear the cow getting angrier and angrier.  Oh this is going to end badly.  More squealing, more angry moos.  Suddenly a whistle blows long and hard.  Still squealing and angry moos continue.  Another whistle blow and the squealing abates.  Another angry moo or two.  Evidently an adult has finally stepped up to control the situation.  The whistle serving as a sort of code to call in the wildings. A dark side of me is disappointed.  The karma of a cow trampling through their camp seems almost appropriate. There are a few moments of silence and then the ruckus begins again, without angry moos. The cow must have moved on, probably as perturbed by her unexpected visitors as I am.

I pour my coffee and remind myself that the forest belongs to us all. Wildings, cows and buslife hippies alike.

Later that afternoon I breathe a sigh of relief…they are packing up.  Just a one night trip.  We have our peaceful forest back, the cows are pleased.

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The author took the photos in this post.