Author Archives: Emily Turner

Day 26 – Driving to Saline Valley 

May 17 

The next morning, Marc and the other XP vehicles were going to continue on the South Eureka Valley Road to Steel Pass and then down into Saline Valley.

We’ve gone through Steel Pass in other vehicles, but the Robinson Fuso is too big to make it through. So we were going to take the Saline Valley Rd. to enter the valley from the north on roads that can handle larger vehicles. 

After all of the washboard yesterday, I wasn’t looking forward to the inevitable washboard today. The roads did take us through some pretty areas. There were lots of wildflowers blooming along the road. 

We passed through a section of high desert with Joshua Trees. 

The road also winds through a Juniper – Piñon pine forest.

We stopped at canyon where there is an old, abandoned mine. Jon took a hike while I took photos of the area and wildflowers.


We were buzzed by a low flying jet. 

The road then drops down into the Saline Valley which means a lot of more washboard. The Fuso began having problems going up the hills. We stopped and Jon discovered that the strap holding the truck’s batteries had come loose. A strap would do the trick for now. 

One of the problems with washboard is that all the vibration causes everything tries to work its way apart.

We reached turn off for the Warm Springs. The palm trees are visible from a long way out. We stopped at the Bat Pole for photos of the Fuso with her new look. 

When we got to the Warm Spings, it was evident that Marc, Adam and Dean had not made it to the Warm Springs. We set up camp and relaxed.

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Day 25 – Death Valley National Park

May 16

An incredible sunset

Death Valley National Park

The next day we drove through Nevada to reach Death Valley National Park. It required driving through the endless traffic and suburban sprawl.

We stopped in Pahrump for supplies before taking Highway 190 into Death Valley. 

It is a good way to get lots of picturesque views of the park. 

The weather was very cooperative, too. It was hot, but in the 90’s hot rather than the 100 + temperatures. And it wasn’t windy. A couple of years ago, we were here during a big dust storm. Even once the storm was over, there wasn’t much visibility for at least a week. 

The air was clean so we could see all the important features, like Zabriskie Point

The iconic, vintage Furnace Creek Inn was currently under construction. We stopped at the Visitor Center. Their sign claimed that it was 92 degrees. The displays are interesting. 

We stopped by the post office to mail a letter. How many letters have a Death Valley postmark?

We continued north following the Scotty’s Castle Road up to Grapevine where the road to Scotty’s Castle is closed. We continued up the Death Valley/Big Pine Road to Eureka Dunes, our planned campsite for the night. 


After following us most of this drive, Marc and the guys went ahead.  It didn’t take Marc and the other vehicles to get out of sight. 

This section of the Death Valley/Big Pine Road is gravel, not paved. As expected, it was almost all washboard. It was a bone jarring experience. Thank goodness the views along the way are interesting, especially from a landscape and wildflower perspective.


We caught up with them, not too far from the turn off onto South Eureka Valley Road. They had been stopping to take photos of the Cube and the other two XP vehicles. 

Since the light was fading, we headed out to Eureka Dunes. 

The XP vehicles took off in front of us again.


The light on the mountains as we came into Eureka Valley was beautiful.

Eureka Dunes are in an enclosed basin. They are appropriately three miles wide by one mile deep. At over 680 ft, they are the tallest sand dunes in California and among the tallest in North America. One unusual feature is that under the right conditions, they sing.

Eureka Dunes

One of campsites was occupied, but all the others were available. We picked one near the end.

We took several photos of the area.

Marc cooked a very fancy dinner which included filet mignon, asparagus and a grilled Caesar salad.

We all ate and drank well and went to bed.

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Day 24 – Post Overland Expo 

Edit

May 14 evening through May 15

We usually go to the BBQ on the last night of the Expo (Sunday). This year was no different.  We find it easier to wait until Monday morning to leave rather than leaving on Sunday. Much less chaos and it means we can make some distance before camping for the night. 

After hanging around with friends and talking with vendors, we went to the BBQ where we did more of the same.  

We planned on heading towards Death Valley with Marc Wassman and his crew.  However,  the Cube had been having trouble with its wheels because the bolts on the split rim wheels had been over-torqued. The only definitive solution was to replace them all. At about 35 per wheel, that is a significant exercise. 

We carry an air compressor and a significant number of tools and equipment. So Monday morning was to be spent on replacing all of those bolts. 

As it turned out, it took all of Monday morning and a good part of the afternoon, even with the additional tools.

And those wheels are heavy and awkward to handle. It was a hard day’s work. 

Adam and Dean put in a great effort to get it done.

We helped out for a while. I took photos. Jon caught up with some work online and I worked on getting some blog posts finished. 

Around 3:00, things had finally finished up. After a few minor delays, we headed west on I-40.

One thing we love about the southwest is the skies.

We turned off at Kingman to head in the direction of Death Valley. Jon found a great campsite on BLM  (Bureau of Land Management) land near the site of Old Chloride, AZ.

It was a nice, relatively flat area near an old mine site. 

We arrived just before sunset. The view was beautiful. 

 We all spent some time getting set up and comfortable.

Everyone spent a little time wandering around checking out the site. We saw an owl roosting in the old mine.

There was a huge, abandoned nest in the mining structures. 

We had a group dinner and hung out for a while.  It was great to be on our way to new adventures. 

We really enjoy Overland Expo, but it is a relief to be on the road again. 

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Overland Expo West – Vendor Photos

May 12 – 14, 2017
Lots of photos of the things we saw this year.

Vendors

Campers & Overland Vehicles

XP Camper 

XP Camper

We did catch up with Marc Wassman of XP Camper on Thursday night and visited his vendor site off and on during the weekend.

The Cube

Built on a Mercedes Truck chassis

Earthcruiser 

We stopped by to visit Earthcruiser several times.

Global Expedition Vehicles 

GXV

A very large truck


AeroContinental

Aero-Continental


Their vehicle is metal covered with rivets.

Jon checks out the back of the vehicle


Bliss Mobil BV

Bliss Mobil

This one was very large.



Alaskan Campers

Alaskan Campers

A hard-sided pop up truck camper



VMI Offroad

VMI Offroad 

They have an unusual pop-up 

Kodiak Trailhead Pop-up

A Few from Unknown Vendors

Roof-top Tents and Trailers

There were quite a few of these this year.

Terracamper

Terracamper

A pop-up roof

Tepui

Tepui Tents

Friday night, they had a happy hour with free beer and a musician performing from one of their rooftop tents.

We were impressed.

Taylor Rae

AT Overland 

AT Overland

An interesting rooftop tent by Nemo.

Camping Structures 

Advanced Shelter Systems

Shelterpod

It was great to see Shelterpod at Overland Expo. They’ve been to a couple of these before and their tents held up well against the strong winds. 

Overland Vehicle Rentals

You don’t have to buy your own Overland Vehicle, there were several that rent them, too.

Adventure Travel Sports Rentals

Adventure Travel Sports Rentals 

They’ve been to several Overland Expo’s, too.

Adventure Rentals 

They brought a couple of items to the show.

Additional Vendors 
And a few more vendors

The Turtle Expedition was there. 

They had started out in the Showcase Vehicle section but moved their vehicle to the vendor area. It was good to see them again. 

Kargo Master Safari

The brought live music, too. It is an interesting trend. 

Garmin inReach 

As always, we always visit the Garmin (formerly DeLorme) booth. 

We love the inReach. It is a great device for two-way satellite texting and reaching out for help in case of emergency. We used it last year when we were stuck in the Black Rock Desert Playa. We didn’t have cell service, so being able to reach out for help was great.

ARB 4×4

ARB USA

They brought a great display for their air lockers.

Here are a few more images

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Overland Expo West – Our Classes & Programs

May 12 to 14, 2017

Our classes

Jon points out the refrigerator electronics

We taught our Basic American Camper, Tricks & Tips on Friday and Saturday at 11. 

Friday worked well. We made it to the Demo Tent in plenty of time. 

On Saturday, the traffic to come to Expo was so backed up that we resorted to driving contrary to the flow of traffic to get there in time.

Jon discusses carrying spares

 

Jon talking about propane and maceraters

Our Presentation 
On Sunday afternoon, we gave our presentation “So This Happened: A heavy-vehicle recovery story”. It was on getting stuck in the Black Rock Desert Playa last year. If you want to know more, check out our blog posts from July 2016.

Our presentation was at 1:00 on Sunday afternoon. Most Sunday afternoon classes are lightly attended and ours was no different. 

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Day 20 – Arriving at Overland Expo West 


May 11, Thurs

On Thursday morning, we took our time getting ready to go. Once we had packed up our stuff, filled up with water, dumped our tanks, bought groceries and fuelled the vehicle, we were ready to go. 

New location very close and easy to get to,  but actually getting into the main area with registration, vendors and the Overland Theater was a little bit of a challenge.  

We arrived before the actual check-in time, so hung out with folks and chatted. Checked in. 


We were in the Showcase Vehicle section. At the old location, the Featured Vehicle section was between the vendors and the campground.  This time we were past the vendors and few visitors came over this time.  That was ok with us since we weren’t selling anything. For those individuals needing traffic,  it was a challenge.

Our assigned spot was too small for the length of our vehicle. The campsites were just regular parking spaces. Giving us two of them didn’t help. The area organizer did a great job of rearranging the assigned spots so that we were all able to fit.  

We were camped next to Bevan & Clare Walsh, a really nice Australian couple and their modified ambulance. We had been camped near them during the Overland Expo East in October. 

Terri Ann Wakeman and her Irish Wolfhound, O’Reilly, were close by. Since we have owned Irish Wolfhounds in the past, I always enjoy spending time with them both.  

She was selling her book, The Essential Guide to Overland Travel in the Exhibitors Tent.

We set up our camper, talked with our neighbors, and then headed out to check out the new venue before the Instructors meeting that afternoon. 

We always enjoy watching the Vendors get set up and with the new location, it required a little more imagination to picture what it would look like by Friday. 
We saw the Land Rover test track. The pavilion was up, but they were still finishing their preparations. 

We found our class location at the Hands-On Demo area. There were a couple of guys putting out chairs.

There were a few Food Trucks preparing for the crowds. I really hoped that we would be able to get a wood-fired pizza later. 

We attending the meeting in the Overland Theater building. There was quite a bit of echo, but the technology was up and running with a minimum of delay.

We wandered around the Vendor area talking with friends. It was great to see Lance and Michelle from Earthcruiser. 

Marc Wassman from XP Camper hadn’t arrived yet, but a happy customer was there already. 

It was a long day and we didn’t finally get to bed until quite late. Our first class started at 11:00. 

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Day 18 & 19 – Flagstaff KOA 

Our campsite at the KOA.


May 9 – 10

We always stay at the Flagstaff KOA for the two nights before Overland Expo. It gives us a chance to stock up on supplies, dump our tanks, fill up with water and fuel, do any needed repairs, wash laundry and clean the camper. 


It also becomes a great place to meet up with friends new and old before the Expo. 

Plus there are lots of interesting vehicles there, too.

Great paint job on this rental camper van


This year we stopped in town and picked up a few things before heading to the campground.

Our usual spot had changed quite a bit since our last visit, so we drove around trying out different campsites before finally settling on one. 

We took a few walks around the campground checking out the changes and the vehicles.



We had a laid back evening.


On Wednesday, we had a slow start to our morning. Then I started laundry. 

Fortunately, there weren’t any other people in the laundry room when I arrived. I was able to get all the laundry started at once. About half of the dryers were out of order. Some of the dryers were occupied. At least the prices were pretty reasonable. The Santa Fe KOA was almost twice the price.

We took a walk around onve the laundry was done.

We met Laura & Hassan from Grumpy Nomad. They had quite an amazing trailer. They had gone to Overland Expo East and because of that experience, were now attending Overland Expo West. 

We met a really nice woman from NC who had also gone to Overland Expo East. She picked up her travel trailer in Colorado and was going to Overland Expo West for her first time. 

The friends from Alberta that we met at the Santa Fe KOA camped next door to us. It was great to see them again.

It turns out that our neighbors on the other side were also from Alberta.

In the late afternoon, we went out to the new Gear & Beer and Cool Ride Party in downtown Flagstaff. We took an Uber down  and back so that we didn’t have to worry if we had a drink or two. 

We started at Peace Surplus which is on Historic Route 66.

Peace Surplus

The next stops were Aspen Sports, Mountain Sports and Babbitts Backcountry.

Aspen Sports

Mountain Sports 

Babbitts Backcountry 

There were a number of Overlanding vehicles of various kinds parked along San Francisco St for the Cool Ride Contest. I took photos of a few of them.

I loved the Overland Scooter. 

I’m always a fan of Pinzgauers.

I’m glad we had a chance to visit the local active gear shops. I expect we will be visiting them again next year.

After wandering around the area checking out the downtown area, we stopped for dinner at Karma, a great Sushi and Japanese restaurant. 

The tuna three ways appetizer was incredible.

After a little more walking around, we called Uber and got a ride back to the campground. 
We made an early night of it. Off to Overland Expo tomorrow.

Categories: Adventures, Spring/Summer 2017 | 2 Comments

Day 16 & 17 – El Malpais National Monument 


Days 16 & 17

May 7 – 8

We left Cochiti Lake the next morning and headed to Albuquerque to resupply. We needed to be in Flagstaff, AZ on May 9th for the pre-Overland Expo. We always spend a couple of nights at the Flagstaff KOA before the Overland Expo West. 

El Malpais National Monument 

After picking up groceries and refueling, we decided to camp at El Malpais National Monument for the next couple of nights. There is only one campground with 10 campsites on the Eastern side of the park. We tried to camp there last year, but all of the sites were full when we got there. 

Dispersed Camping at El Malpais

Granted, we didn’t show up until around 9:30 last year after we spent a great deal of time in the parking lot of a Home Depot replacing our grill. 


This year, we got there in plenty of time and had about three campsites to choose from. We picked a spot on the outside of the ring with a little more space. Because the rear of our vehicle is a little higher than the front, we try to camp in spots with the opposite arrangement. This campsite meant that we wound up in kind of a peculiar position with our front and rear almost in a couple of big bushes. 

As night fell, a couple of sites gained occupants and a couple of occupied sites lost their inhabitants. The owner of a modified blue camper van came over to say hi. We talked for a long time.  It turns out that he was traveling with his dog and cat. I took him up on his offer to let me meet his pets.  

We talked for a lot longer before it was time for dinner and bedtime. 

El Malpais National Monument centers around a chain of volcanic craters and the lava field created by them. 

Last year, we drove the Chain of Craters Scenic Byway from the eastern side of the park to the western side and camped at El Morro National Monument. That campground was very nice.

El Malpais and the Chain of Craters Scenic Byway

El Morro National Monument 

This time, we wanted to do some of the trails on this side of the park. We stopped at Sandstone Bluffs. The area gives you am opportunity to walk along the top of sandstone bluffs that look down on the lava field. 

The views really are stunning.

We spent a lot of time climbing up and down around the rocks at the top.

We followed a trail leading to the bottom of the bluffs. I enjoyed getting a chance to see the bluffs from the bottom. 

We walked along the bottom for a while. 

We eventually followed a track back up to the top. 

The only people we saw on the sandstone hike was at the top near the parking lot. 

After a break, we drove further south and stopped at the Narrows picnic area and the trailhead for the Narrows Rim Trail.

The trail climbs up a sandstone bluff and continues to gain elevation along the edge of the bluffs until it ends at a view of the La Ventura Natural Arch. It is almost exactly 8 miles long. 

The trail alternates between walking on rocks, soil and sand. I was really grateful that almost all of the deep sandy parts were uphill on our way out. I was already a little tired and really didn’t want to have to hike uphill through them on the return hike. 

The views were pretty amazing.  

I really liked the views of the collapsed lava tubes. 

The hike was certainly worth doing.

We came across a solo hiker about a mile from the trailhead on our return hike. 

It was a great day.  We were ready for a quick dinner and then bed. 

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Day 15 – Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument 

May 6, 2017

Our plan was to visit Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument. It is a relatively new monument and there aren’t very many hikes. 

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument Brochures 

But the Tent Rocks seemed interesting. 

We started later in the morning than we would have liked. Plus, it was a Saturday. Most of the places we have been to haven’t had a lot of people. This place was certainly an exception. I’m really glad we took the motorcycle. It might have been a challenge to find parking otherwise. 

We wanted to do the Slot Canyon hike. It connects to the Cave Loop. The trail climbs significantly. 

At first, it is mostly just a gradual up through typical trees. 

After it breaks off of the Cave Loop, it quickly turned into a slot canyon with very little vegetation. 

Because it was also formed by the eruption of the volcano at Valles Caldera, the rock is made of very soft pumice, ash and tuff deposits. 

 It wears away in a very distinctive conical shape, like a teepee, hence the name “Tent Rocks”. 

The slot canyon part of it is pretty interesting. 

There were a very large number of people also taking the same trail. I was astounded by the number and the varying levels of fitness, etc. It is a challenging hike with some tight spots that might intimidate most people. 

It requires a significant climb to get to the top.

But we saw all sorts of people on the climb.
The last bit was the steepest part of the hike. 

The view from the top was great. 

There were a lot of people at the top close to the top of the trail. 

We walked a little further along where there were only a couple of people. One of them was nice enough to take our photo and we reciprocated. 


The climb down was uneventful but pretty. We took the other leg of the Cave Loop Trail. The highlight of the Cave Loop Trail was a cave. 

There was a Native American family at it when we arrived. The grandfather remembered when you could climb up to the cave. There were numerous signs stating all the things you couldn’t do, including climbing up to it.  

After a snack at the trail parking area, we rode up to the other part of the park. There was almost no one there. 

There is a wonderful overlook called appropriately enough, Veterans’ Memorial Scenic Overlook. 

You can see some of the tent rocks from here.

It had a great view of the Dome Plateau that we drove down the day before. 

There is also a one mile hike at the top of this hill. 

It was relatively uneventful, but the view of the sky was incredible. 

After we finished, there were no cars left in the parking lot. 

We headed out and had a nice dinner back at the campground. It had been a good day of hikes and interesting sights.

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Day 14 – Valles Caldera

Image from the Los Alamos Nature Center


May 5, 2017

This part of New Mexico has some pretty spectacular views and geology due to the eruptions at Valles Caldera about 1.6 and 1.25 million years ago.  Both of these eruptions ejected about 300 cubic kilometers of magma across the surrounding area. The tuff at Bandelier National Monument formed from these two eruptions.

Image from the Los Alamos Nature Center

The volcanos were both emptied by these eruptions. The second one formed the Valles Caldera. Initially there was a lake in the center of the caldera. 

But between a number of peaks that have emerged in and around the caldera and the San Diego Canyon, the caldera now consists of a series of small peaks and grassy valleys.

Image from the Los Alamos Nature Center

Most of the caldera is now part of the Valles Caldera National Monument.

NM 4 follows along the southern side of the caldera. You get some beautiful views. 

http://www.jemezmountaintrail.org/Site_Map.html

We stopped at Valles Caldera National Monument, but the facilities are very limited and only allow daytime visits.

We did follow the Cerro La Jara hike that goes around a small peak near the Visitor Center. It turns out that it had points of interested that talked about the area, but we didn’t find that out until we were out on the hike at a sign labelled 2. Even though I had talked with the Ranger, she didn’t mention or offer a guide.

We left to find camping nearby, but after checking out the area, we decided to head down to Kasha Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument. It, too, was formed from the Valles Caldera eruption. It is just much further south. To get there,  we took National Forest Road 289 (Dome Road) through Santa Clara National Forest. 

We didn’t find out until later that the road was designated “4-wheel drive road. Impassable at southern end. Closed in winter.” It was an interesting drive with views of the geologic results of the volcanic eruptions. There had been a large forest fire that had burned a significant portion of the trees.

The road did end in what was basically a stream, but it wasn’t really muddy and we had enough clearance to get through it.

We camped at Cochiti Lake, a COE site. It was a little odd for a recreation area. There was a lot of fencing around it. We passed a large area with picnic tables, but of the vintage that I can’t imagine it gets used very often.

To get into the campground, you have to stop at an office that seemed more like a security facility than a campground. The woman at the office assigned us a campsite without giving us any options after we told her what we drove. 

We wound up in the older campground area which seemed to have been built around the same time as the picnic area. It was really exposed at the top of a hill. Fortunately, we had long enough hose and electric lines to be able to plug in. 

It was really hot, especially compared to being up at altitude. And it was really exposed. 
So we had a quiet evening. But, since no alcohol was allowed at the campground, we didn’t do much walking around. Plus, it had been a long day. 

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