A little Jeepin’ in little Switzerland

Ouray, Colorado calls itself the Switzerland of America. Set in a picturesque mountain valley, people have said it looks like a Swiss mountain village. I’ve never been to Switzerland, but if it looks anything like Ouray it is surely worth a visit.


Ouray also calls itself the Jeeping capital of the world. The town was one of the first places to begin offering commercial Jeep tours after Jeeps were made available to civilians. Ouray’s first Jeep tour company opened in 1946 and today the town is full of different companies offering tourists the opportunity to experience the off-road trails of Colorado by Jeep. These trails are mostly on public land and are accessible to anyone with a capable vehicle (be it a Jeep or other 4×4 vehicle). You probably know what’s coming, lots of pictures of Gunner parked somewhere cars were never meant to go.


One of the very cool things about staying in Ouray was the sheer number of Jeeps we saw. Although Jeeps have a huge cult following, we have never been anywhere where Jeeps were the primary mode of transportation. They were everywhere! Walking down Main Street we saw Jeep after Jeep and we were part of the club! Jeepers all wave to the other Jeepers and many are happy to stop and chat with you (about Jeeps, of course). Brandon was in heaven and I immediately regretted not booking a longer stay in Ouray.

DSC01802 Continue reading “A little Jeepin’ in little Switzerland”

Rocky Mountain High 

We left Toas, New Mexico very early to try to beat the heat. We knew we had some serious climbing ahead of us, plus we were ready to see come mountains!

We had to be quiet leaving the park as it was only 6:30 in the morning. Starting our loud diesel engine while someone nearby is sleeping is a bit rude. After taking Alpha to use the facilities (i.e., the dump station) we were on our way.

We planned to avoid Highway 64 through the San Juan Mountains because it looked like a steeper climb. Instead we followed Highway 68 back to Espanola and followed Highway 84 north to Pagosa Springs, Colorado, just across the border. Where Highway 96 intersects with 84  we noticed a sign with a vehicle restriction: vehicles weighing less than 10,000 lbs and under 30 feet in length only. We don’t qualify as either. However, there wasn’t anywhere to turn around so we continued down 84 despite the warning. Our other option would have us driving through another desert.

Our plan was to drive a bit farther, look for a spot to turn around, and evaluate the road. The restriction might have been referencing Highway 96 and not 84. The placement of the sign wasn’t exactly clear. We hadn’t driven very far when we started seeing big rig truckers and full-size motorhomes towing cars coming from the other direction. If these guys could make it so could we. But if we came across a sketchy bridge that might not hold our weight, we would still turn around.

The first half of the drive was lined with enormous red sandstone cliffs. The scenery suddenly becomes lush and green when you enter Colorado on the other side of the cliffs. The entire drive is gorgeous and we have no idea why there would be a vehicle restriction on this road. Although there are some steep climbs and some narrow curves, we were one of many large vehicles easily navigating the road.

Highway 84 eventually led us to Pagosa Strings, Colorado. I stayed in Pagosa Springs while on a ski trip in college, but I don’t remember the town being all that exciting. But then again, we spent nearly every day of that trip up on the mountain at Wolf Creek. So when Brandon and I drove through Pagosa Springs we were pleasantly surprised. The town is full of adorable store fronts and restaurants and also has hot springs! If we didn’t have a reservation already we probably would have stopped. Oh well, for another trip. (We’re both already thinking that Colorado needs a second run through during the winter season!) Continue reading “Rocky Mountain High “

Northern New Mexico: Santa Fe and Taos

Our first stop outside of Texas was Santa Rosa, New Mexico. Santa Rosa is a small town on historic Route 66, but as far as we could tell, that is about all the town has going for it. It was also 100 degrees when we arrived and we were both still hungover from staying up late drinking wine with Monty. We closed all the blinds, cranked up the A/C and worked on inside projects until we felt human again. Later that day I actually saw the thermometer read 107, so I think we made the right choice, hungover or not.

We ordered dinner from the BBQ joint that shared the building with the RV park, mostly because they deliver to your RV! It was definitely not the best BBQ we’ve ever had. Brandon’s 8 oz chicken fried steak was really just two previously frozen 4 oz patties and I’m pretty sure the ribs were boiled, not smoked. We went to bed early, ready for an early departure to Santa Fe in an effort to beat the heat. When it’s very hot out, driving in the morning is much easier on the motorhome and us.

I spent most of our day in Santa Rosa booking camping spots for the next few weeks. We like to stay flexible but when we got to Santa Rosa I realized that I didn’t even know where we would be staying the following night in Santa Fe. We were also nervous about not being able to find a spot during the popular 4th of July weekend. It took me a while but I managed to find us really awesome spots all the way through July 6th.

Our first “real” stop outside of Texas was at the Trailer Ranch RV Park in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The park is also home to a 55+ community but that should not discourage anyone in the under 55 set from staying there. The RV park was no more of a 55+ community than any of the other RV parks we’ve stayed at (we’re used to being younger than all of our neighbors). The only difference with this park was that there were no children. Although the 55+ community is actually separate from the RV park and you do not need to be over 55 to stay there, the park still maintains a strict no kids policy. All overnight guests must be 21 or older.

I was initially hesitant to book a spot in what was essentially a retirement community, but I had few options when booking in Santa Fe only one day in advance. Surprisingly, Trailer Ranch actually turned out to be one of the best RV parks we’ve stayed at. When I called, someone actually answered the phone instead of the usual answering machine that never returns my calls. Even better, the person on the other end of the line was very organized, asked all the right questions such as how long our RV is and what we were towing, and cheerfully answered all of my questions such as “Can we still stay there even though we’re only over 55 if we combine our ages?”. When you arrive at the park someone comes out and leads you to your spot in a golf cart and even helps guide the driver as they back into or pull into their spot. They call this “marriage-saving” assisted parking. All of the sites were meticulously clean and well shaded, but best of all, every single staff member we met was friendly and seemed genuinely happy to be working there. They were also full of recommendations for where we should eat and what we should go see and didn’t try to send us to a single chain resturant. They told us we need to try the “local” resturants to really get a feel for the place. Love it!  The only downside to Trailer Ranch was the price. The per night cost was at the high end of what we usually see, but that often happens when you try and stay inside a popular city. But unlike some other expensive parks we’ve stayed at, this one was actually worth the money. And I promise they did not give me a discount in exchange for writing this.

After setting up camp we went out to lunch at the Plaza Cafe – South location. The Plaza Cafe is a Santa Fe institution. The original location on the main plaza has been serving their signature mix of diner classics and New Mexican specialties since 1918.  We each had a margarita to start. A friend of ours told us that the margaritas in New Mexico are especially good and she wasn’t wrong. Fresh lime juice instead of the usual sugary mix is really the only secret but it makes all the difference. For lunch, Brandon ordered the chicken fried steak and eggs (he needed a redemption after his sad school-cafeteria style steak in Santa Rosa). I ordered the quinoa-covered avocado tacos. Everything was fantastic but our favorite dish was the Greek fries we had as an appetizer. They were your typical French fries but they were topped with feta cheese, olive oil, lemon, and herbs.


Continue reading “Northern New Mexico: Santa Fe and Taos”

Airplanes and Absinthe in the Texas Panhandle

We left Fredericksburg around 9am, heading West towards Big Spring, Texas. Everytime I drive out of Texas I am reminded of how gosh darn huge this state is. If you try to drive from one end to the other (either East/West or North/South) it will probably take you about 24 hours, including stops. We don’t really like to drive more than five or six hours in one day so we planned multiple stops on our way out of Texas.

I planned all of our stops out of Texas using a program called Harvest Hosts. Harvest Hosts is a network of farms, wineries, and museums that allow RVers to camp on their property for free for one night (additional nights can be negotiated between the camper and host). Utility hook-ups are not guaranteed and I’ve heard that most places don’t offer them, so you need to be self-sufficient for at least the one night (not a problem for us). To join the program for one year we paid $44, which gave us access to the Harvest Host directory of host sites. Although the camping is technically free, Harvest Hosts suggests that you either purchase something that the host sells or make a donation to their business (generally at museums). And really, this is just the right thing to do. I suspect most of the hosts join the program to draw business and it would be rude to leave empty-handed.

Our first Harvest Host was the Hangar 25 Air Museum in Big Spring, Texas. The museum is tucked away in the back of what appeared to be the old municipal airport. The area is currently being used as an industrial area. We saw lots of  construction equipment being stored and big rigs waiting on repairs. There is also a Federal Prison nearby. You can see the fence topped with constantine wire from the Hangar. We were warned by the host that the prison was nearby, but I wasn’t really too concerned. The prisons I’ve toured (as a courthouse employee, not a criminal) were very secure. Or maybe I just got really comfortable while working in the criminal justice system.

The museum houses a small (and dusty) collection of planes and memorabilia that showcase the Hangar’s history as an Air Force Base. Hangar 25  was an operational Air Force training facility through WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. During WWII it functioned as a secret Bombadier School. Bombardiers were trained there to use special equipment that allowed them to accurately see what they were about to drop a bomb onto (ideally, avoiding civilian casualties). The Hangar was retired as a training facility after the Vietnam War. The museum runs entirely off donations and volunteers, and to be honest, could use a little love. Being located in a small down in West Texas does not attract a large number of visitors. Looking at the sign-in book, they appear to average one group of visitors per day. We made a donation even though we had already decided against camping at the Hangar. It was just too hot (over 100 degrees) to spend the rest of the day parked on a concrete runway with no air conditioning.  Continue reading “Airplanes and Absinthe in the Texas Panhandle”

Willkommen to Fredericksburg!


Day 1 on the road:

Saturday, June 11th was our first “official” day on the road. Technically, we moved into the RV on March 10th and technically we have already driven from Oregon to Texas. But that felt like an entirely different time, with an entirely different goal. We were selling a house, moving, getting to Texas as quickly as we could so that we could finish planning a wedding and get married. After that we felt like we were continuously evacuating the same two parking spots while we wrapped up trip preparations. Saturday was different. We were leaving on a journey and would not be coming back (until December).

We picked Fredericksburg, Texas as our first official stop. Fredericksburg is an adorable town a little over an hour West of Austin. The hill country area surrounding Austin was primarily settled by German immigrants and the influence is evident in everything from the architecture and  food, to the beer and wine.

After settling in at the Fredericksburg RV Park (only a mile from historic Main Street) we stopped by the Auslander for a late lunch/early dinner. Note: I like to call this meal “lunner”while Brandon prefers “dunch”. Only time will tell which word prevails.

Lunner at the Auslander was great and only partially because we were starving. We were excited to finally be on the road again and around 4pm realized all we had eaten that day was potato chips and trail mix. I had the jäger schnitzel (fried pork  cutlet with a mushroom, paprika, wine sauce) and Brandon had the schnitzel burger. The beer was cold, authentic, and on tap. But the interesting part came when our waiter brought us a to-go cup. For the beer! Continue reading “Willkommen to Fredericksburg!”

Yes, we’re still in Texas . . . 

We had planned on leaving Texas and heading east by June 1st. Well, today is June 2nd and we are very much still here. 

If you live in Texas (or follow national weather conditions) you probably know that it has been raining in Texas for what seems like forever. And not just the light drizzle we became accustomed to in Portland. No, it has been pouring down buckets of water into the already full lakes and rivers. All of that water has to go somewhere and with the ground already saturated beyond capacity, it has caused severe flooding and damage throughout the state, including where we are in Cental Texas. But no worries, we are perfectly safe! We have been watching the weather and river levels closely and just move to higher ground when needed. 

However, the rain as also created a new problem for us: our roof is leaking. 

Our roof has leaked once before, when we first left Oregon and drove through a crazy storm on the way to Sacramento. Ever since then the roof leak has been a total mystery to us. We can’t predict when it will happen or where. Sometimes it rains and there is no leak. And how is it possible that we owned this RV in Oregon, where it rains all the time, and never experienced a leak! Even more frustrating, before we left Oregon we paid to have our roof seams sealed (by the same company that did the shoddy installation of that brake valve . . . ) Obviously, whatever they did either fixed nothing or made things worse. 

After lots of investigating and research we think we have found both the culprit and a solution. Our roof is made of fiberglass. When fiberglass ages in the sun it can become brittle and pourus. This could explain why the leaks seem to appear in such inconsistent places. Water is seeping through the fiberglass. We also think that we need to replace the gaskets around our A/C units. So the solution is to replace the gaskets and also have our roof treated with a type of rubber roof coating that will seal and reinforce the fiberglass. We think this should solve the problem. However, we can’t work on our roof in the rain. We need at least a day or two of consistent dry weather. Ha! So here we are, waiting out the Texas flood. 

We’ve decided that we might as well keep waiting for dry weather to fix the roof because we are also waiting on some important mail. We can’t leave until we receive my Texas drivers license (I doubt my temporary paper license will go over well out of state), the new camera we ordered (happy birthday to me!), and our cell signal booster (will be a necessity out west).  If we still haven’t been able to fix the roof by the time all of those packages arrive, we’re taking off and fixing the roof somewhere else, somewhere drier. 

Speaking of drier, we have also decided to change our route. We had originally planned on touring the eastern side of the US first. But all of this rain has made us rethink weather conditions. If we go east right now we will be driving through the south during the height of summer (and mosquito season) and then hanging out on the east coast during hurricane season. We also think that we would feel rushed to get back south again before early snowfall in the most northern states.  And finally, rain. If we go east it might still be raining. But if we go west . . . 

So there you have it, instead of turning right we’re turning left. We haven’t fully worked out the route yet, and we might just plan it as we go, but our first stop will be somewhere dry and our second stop will be somewhere in Colorado. After that we will likely head further north to visit the Dakotas, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and (ironically) Oregon! While the weather is still nice we would like to continue north through Washington and into Canada (neither of us has been). When the weather starts getting cooler we will head back south to visit the deserts in the southwestern states. Of course, this is a very loose plan, but I hope you stick with us to see where we end up. And hopefully in my next post you will find us on the road again with a lovely leak-free roof and no mention of anything breaking.