View Full Version : Happycampers on Tour
07-08-2012, 03:43 PM
My wife and I are about to start an adventure to Alaska Canada and the lower 48 US states that will hopefully be the precursor to a Central and South America expedition in a year or so.
We realise that this has been done by a few people in the past! We are not reinventing the wheel and will be taking lessons from various bloggers on here and elsewhere, notably Adventrouspirits, UNURBAN, Ruined Adventures, Pan Am Notes etc and I thank you all for going first and telling us about it.
We leave Brisbane, Australia, tomorrow and fly to America to pick up our vehicle and camper and head north.
The 1998 Dodge Ram 2500 was bought over the internet, after much research and an extended search along with many skype calls. It was located in Pennsylvania and we plan to be with family in Nevada prior to depatrure so we have tried to get the car across the country with a carrier, so far with out success. This is an industry with many players and some interesting practices that we are working our way through. We will give them another day or two then it will be time to bite the bullet and go and get it ourselves.
We also secured a Four Wheel Camper in Georgia that is being delivered by the owner to his home in Seattle, Washington, for us to collect later in July.
All things going well we should be on the road to Prudhoe Bay by 22 July
There are some logistical problems to overcome but we have started. We will attempt to keep this updated at least weekly, and there will be photos!
Ross and Jenny
07-08-2012, 06:27 PM
May be post an itinerary. Looking forward to reading the updates
07-08-2012, 08:07 PM
:sombrero: Whereabouts in Nevada ??
07-09-2012, 02:53 AM
Itinerary is set in jello so far as the start date is not quite nailed down.
Basic plan is to hug the coast northbound until in Alaska then head for Prudhoe, having a better look around on the way back.
Once in Canada southbound we will go via Jasper to Calgary for a family get together with nephew Tim and his fiancee Steph.
We will based outside Reno to the south east.
07-09-2012, 05:08 AM
:sombrero: OK, When I'm not in California, I'm in my place in Fernley--30 minutes East of Reno (I80)-
If you need/want anything when you're here-PM me for phone No. !
07-09-2012, 05:27 AM
if (and I strongly suggest you do....) you come through Tahoe, you are more than welcome to stop here at our house. We are in Truckee, right next to Prosser Lake. There are camping spots right next to the house - or at the house!
(full disclosure - not my pictures)
07-10-2012, 06:07 AM
Hi Laythers. Just to let you know BrookyTom has managed to master the registration process (I think) and hope the flight went well with plenty of foot room and wonderful gluten free food. Good luck with the early logistics. All the best.
07-10-2012, 03:52 PM
Have a grand adventure! You will drive right past my house on your way to Prudhoe. I've travelled the haulroad many times in my Ram2500 / FourWheel camper. I look forward to seeing a picture of your combo eventually. We've driven the Alcan / Cassiar highways a few times also. Holler if I can be of assistance.
Jim K in PA
07-10-2012, 05:08 PM
Best wishes for a great trip. Where in PA is the truck? We are heading out on 12 July to the U.P. of Michigan to do some camping, otherwise I would be happy to offer assistance with the pickup in you are heading to eastern PA for the truck.
Looking forward to the updates.
07-10-2012, 10:52 PM
If it works with your timing, stop in at the Overland Rally in Leavenworth WA (Close to Seattle), July 26-29, you will meet a lot of fun people.
The thread is here:
Looking forward to following along... the wife and I are making the Alaska trip in 2013.
07-13-2012, 07:53 PM
Thanks all for the good wishes. We have been in Reno for three days waitng for various parts of the registration process to fall in to place. Now waiting for an UPS delivery which is 2.5 hours late. When it comes we register the vehicle and get the tags and fly off to Pittsburgh to get it.
The car transport companies desipte their promises and good intentions have cost three weeks, but no $$$ .
07-16-2012, 03:06 AM
We flew to PA Friday night, got a temporary transit permit Saturday and are now on the way back to Reno for permanent registration. That should be done Tuesday or Wednesday and then we will be on the way to Seattle to pickup the Hawk FWC.
The north calls.
07-24-2012, 03:55 PM
Well another week has passed and we are now in Canada!
The drive back to Reno was enjoyable with nothing of note except long days on the blacktop.
registration was a breeze.
we had a couple of outings with the relations watching Colin paragliding. That place has everything, skiing, hiking, kayaking and hilss to jump off. They think it is heaven.
Next day it was off to FWC to have the eye bolts attached.
That night we stayed in Bend OR after a part lap of crater lake, very spectacular!
Then we got to the home of the FWC Hawk which we purchased. Albert and Jola live in an idyllic setting on Bainbridge Island, on the water right accross from seattle. Lovely and relaxing to sit on their deck and watch the world go by. The very gracious hosts looked after us handsomly, thankyou. But there was work to do . Jenny shopped for all the things needed to equip for extended touring, like a coffee plunger etc and I got stuck ito wiring up the battery isolator. By the end of saturday the camper was on, all systems go!
Sunday was a day of rest and we took the ferry to Seattle and had a look at the markets and art gallery. Australian Aboriginal art on tour was the special exhibition, long way to go to see some sand paintings!
Yesterday we toured the Boeing factory in Everett and crossed our first border, into Canada. It went smoothly as expected.
The best part of thet day was meeting our daughter Amanda who we have not seen since Christmas day. She will tour with us for three weeks.
More soon and photos, yes I know you want photos.
07-26-2012, 03:10 PM
Amanda and camper at Glacier View park Smithers BC
07-27-2012, 04:52 AM
After picking up Amanda on Tuesday we set off late morning. Sensational drive up through Whistler where we had a lunch stop and a walk around. Interesting to see the ski fields being used for summer pursuits like mountain biking and ziplining. Ended up that day at a Green Lake campground.
800 km followed on Wednesday and a great campsite looking at a glacier and two waterfalls on Hudson’s Bay Mountain.
Another big day of 750km finds us at Dease Lake. Beautiful view and the thunderstorms seem to be passing around us. We will be cosy in the FWC.
The Dodge is marvellous; it loves cruising along at 60 mph and sips the diesel at about 20 mpg (Aussie gallon).
07-27-2012, 06:32 AM
Hey Happycamper, Great setup you got there.
You are in one of my favourite areas of the world right now, and are heading into what I hope to see in a few years. I've been to Smithers three times, and plan on heading to Deadhorse diner for breakfast one day. Congrats on getting it all organised, and getting out and doing it!
07-27-2012, 01:15 PM
:sombrero: Sorry I missed you guy's last week, I got back to Fernley on the 24th and I'll be here for a while--
The Boeing industry is a real treat, Heh Heh, I visited them In the 50's, at MOSES LAKE-
I'll keep an eye on your posts-
Good luck and enjoy-
07-30-2012, 03:09 PM
Our day after the camp at Glacier view camp consisted of a walk to the falls coming off the glacier , on the waterfront with a beautiful view. We did meet a few mosquitoes here that wanted to eat us. This is a constant issue here when outdoors and the deet repellants seem to work OK .
It rained overnight so we slept in, packed up a wet tarp and got away by 1000, late by our standards. Stopped at a Jade selling place an hour later for coffee and we continued to Whitehorse for supplies.
Here we met Ben Davenport “Cornwall2Capehorn” who after crossing Russia a year ago has fallen in love with Canada and his travel has stalled temporarily. We had a good night with him and were inspired to get on with it!
Next day was to be a diversion as we headed south to enter Alaska at Skagway, take the Alaska marine highway ferry to Haines. This area has a fascinating history as the stepping-on point for the goldminers heading to the Klondike in the 1890’s.Skagway is very tourist orientated as up to 5 cruise ships stop here daily through the summer! People everywhere. We were happy to get on the ferry. Haines is much more overlander friendly!
Sunday was spent bear spotting at Haines, checking out the fishing, the salmon are starting their run upstream to spawn, and then driving north to Alaska again. We rentered Alaska at 1800 and ended the day at the Border City Lodge, which is essentially a roadhouse with campsites out the back. Adequate for us. Today – Fairbanks
07-31-2012, 06:30 AM
Imagine these with the previous post, you decide which goes where!
Keen followers will notice the non Engel refridgerator, at least it is not called a Waeco over here. (but it sure looks like one!)
Evening work station.
We saw a man catch a fish, trout I think, and release it.
The way to Skagway was foggy and misty
Ferry we took from Skagway to Haines.
Two blokes doing a survey/count of the number of salmon going up stream to spawn, presently about 1000 per day.
Grizzly bear crossing the road between a house and some camps.,
Our excitement for today came when we checked in at our RV park and saw a sign on the wall saying the road to Prudhoe Bay is closed on Tuesday!! Further research reveals that it may be closed between 0700 - 1900 or it may require pilot cars to get us through the work area, which is between about 86 - 100 miles from Fairbanks. We cannot get there before the start so plan to head off after lunch and arrive close to the end of the work time, use the long evening to get to our half way point. Plan B is to sleep wherever we end up. Will let you know in a few days how we go.
The North calls.
Wow it looks awesome! I'm glad I finally got to see some photos!
08-04-2012, 07:22 AM
Big sky (24 hours light)
Big achievement! Yay.
Dalton Highway completed, up and back. 1 puncture the only mechanical issue. Weather was OK to cool and foggy/rainy on the second and third days, otherwise fine. Roads were very good, lots of dirt but compared with our remote places, Birdsville track, Plenty Highway, Cape road, etc, were like freeways. Speed limit 50 mph, little corrugation well maintained and signed and pretty much all weather. Accessible to all vehicles I believe, even 2WD. Do not discount the achievement however, it is a remote place.
We are "ice road truckers" now.
We were there on the last day of this year when the sun does not set, 2 August. We stayed in the Deadhorse Camp (a lodge), although there is camping available out of town for free and also at the servo and a pub in town (cost unknown)
Deadhorse is a real working man's town and would be awesome to see in the depths of winter when it is really alive with the workers searching for and extracting the oil. Everyone flies in/flies out, evet the tyre guy and coffee shop lady! .
The tour to the Arctic ocean is well worth while as an educational pursuit and as a must to understand the operation.
We are back in Fairbanks now but off to Denali tomorrow, so you will have to wait for some pics. - sorry about that.
08-04-2012, 11:08 AM
Brisbane to Prudhoe Bay. How many k's did you say that was? Great job!
08-04-2012, 04:16 PM
Amanda wrote this report of our trip north and back to Fairbanks. She captures the mood nicely.
"We are now back in Fairbanks after going right to the tippy top of Alaska! It was a 4 day round trip from here to there. We had heard all these horror stories about how hard the road was, so we had made some preparations, including checking on the air in the spare and wrapping and packing everything in the back of the camper with extra care. Then when we arrived in Fairbanks before heading up, we saw a sign in our RV park (what they call caravan parks here) saying that the Dalton Highway was going to be closed the next day - the very day we needed it to be open! We double checked and sure enough, it was closed 7am to 7pm about 100 miles up from where we were. So we had a lazy morning in fairbanks, went to a musem and cooked scrambled eggs for breakfast and headed up to get to the blockage at around 4, with the hope that they might open early.... They didn't, but we ended up chatting with some people from the other 20 or so cars and trucks waiting there, and typically, the party ended up being right outside our truck. It's possible that this happened simply because we were about middle in the line, but i feel like it was more to do with Mum's amazing ability to talk to everyone. While we were waiting I also picked a whole heap of blueberries which were growing by the side of the road and we had blueberry pancakes the next morning! That night we camped on the artic circle and got in at around 10 at night! crazy.... ever crazier was that it was still light. On the way up, at different points we saw caribou, Musk-ox, Dall sheep and lots of artic ground squirrills - no moose though. and when we went over the pass which is the highest point on the road I ran over and made a couple of snowballs from some snow that hadn't melted yet (this in summer!). We also found some really cool rock formations which I liked (obviously), and got a flat tyre. shame really, cos the roads were really not bad at all! everyone was kicking up such a fuss but it was a much better road than everything we've faced that's dirt in Australia.
Once we got to the top, we stayed in a hotel/camp thing - it sas like a camp where the workers stayed but for tourists, but pretty basic facilities. Still, it was warm and dry and as outside was wet and probably the coldest night to date, we didn;t mind too much. It was crazy arriving up there though cos about 30 miles from the coast was this wall of fog that we drove into, so you drive out of a beautiful blue day into the sea fog drifting over the land. It means the whole time we were up there you couldn't really see much, but I don't know whether there was much to see so that's ok I guess.the next morning we did a tour - as the land up there is all owned by different oil companies, you can't actually get through to the sea without getting a tour. It was cool though, the tour guide/security officer told us a bit about everything and we saw heaps of different birds around the place which he told us about. Then we were at the Arctic Ocean, we all touched the water, Dad and I went for a paddle (but not mum - too cold) and some crazy people from our bus actually went swimming! I was wearing too jumpers so that didn't sound like fun to me. We saw some grizzly footprints on the beach, and on our way back in the bus we saw a grizzly and her cub! she crossed right in front of us on the road, got some great photos!
Anyway, then we left and came back down to here again! It was kinda rainy and cloudy the whole way.You should see how dirty the car got! thick mud too. We gave a cyclist a lift today, cos it was rainy and hilly. It meant I had to sit in the back but I didn't mind at all - in fact I wish he'd wanted to go further cos I got super comfy and was just getting ready for a nap!
That's all for now. Heading to Denali National Park tomorrow for a couple of days - North America's tallest mountain is there but apparently like cradle mountain is very hard to see cos of the weather. Maybe we'll get lucky! It's also supposed to have a massively high number of wild animals in the park with a strong possibility of seeing them so that's cool. Then after Denali, going down to Anchorage, then to Seward, Homer south of Anchorage"
08-07-2012, 05:40 PM
The mighty Yukon river
Pipeline scene- our constant companion
Still a bit of ica at Atigan pass
08-12-2012, 06:12 AM
We will make contact on our return. we are familiar with Truckee and love that area. would be good to meet you.
08-12-2012, 11:12 PM
Hey, great to see all the progress and achievments. Wendy brought up the site at Jen's bday dinner last night and then accessed at work here today. Noticed the Captain in the photos and looks like a suitable guard against the cold. All good out at Brooky though your mixer is getting a bit of a workout. Footings for the three tier 1 walls done and Frank has done some great work with the excavator on gully diversions and access road. Keep up the progress and the photos - hope Denali is/was good, I'm sure you'll see a moose there (if not Mt McKinley). Enjoy [not sure if this going to work through?? Here goes..]
08-13-2012, 03:42 PM
Wow you guys have really seen a lot to date. Sent an e-mail in regards to trip to Cape Cod after wedding. Need some info from you before I can make plans. Have fun and really looking forward to seeing you at the wedding. I'm sure you will have lots to tell us about your adventures.
08-13-2012, 04:59 PM
Travel on Monday to thursday will be good; and we will get you back home. We can make plans at the wedding. You will need some bedding. It will be cosy, but fun.
08-13-2012, 05:04 PM
Thanks for the update. Having some issues with emaill and access.
Captain has been good, yes we did see moose in Denali, along with many other critters. Excellent.
Now at Dawson City, Canada.
Keep layoing those rocks
08-13-2012, 05:55 PM
That is as far as you can go
These were in the main area at Deadhorse
Dalton Highway dirt
08-14-2012, 03:44 PM
So do you want me to look for camp sites near Cape Cod? When you say bedding, would a single blow up bed fit or is there already something in place and I just need sheets, pillow and a comforter? I am really looking forward.
08-15-2012, 03:00 PM
We picked up Mike on the Dalton Highway.
He had been on the road for 7 hours on a cool drizzly day with some very long hills and decided that was enough. We drove him 20 miles to the Yukon river camp and restaurant. He was very grateful.
08-15-2012, 03:22 PM
Cornwall2capehorn met us on his way up
Denali was next with awesome animal sightings, even some mountains which are very hard to see and magnificent vistas
08-20-2012, 05:01 AM
Wow- those Denali snaps are great. Is that the mysterious Mt McKinley. And you seemed to be above the mountain goat (or whatever it is). Heard you were in Calgary over the weekend. Hope the hosts were hospitable - I'm guessing the Kiwi was happier than the wallaby follower. Sunday night was the congrats night for Tash and Nat who did the ride to conquer again - and a thank you from them for the supporters (including absent happy campers). Tough ride with the EKKA westerlies in full force on the first day (the westerly run!!!). Life goes on..I must snap some local animals to make you home-sick. Apparently one human animal is missing JL. Enjoy.....
08-20-2012, 02:29 PM
Thanks for the update Tom.
We had a wonderful two days here, super dinner in the Calgary Tower last night.
Off towards Yellowstone today, and goodbye to AJ.
More pics in a day or two.
08-21-2012, 07:17 PM
Lisa's friend Joan, who has vacationed in Cape Cod many times and knows the area well gave me quite a few ideas of where to visit and what to do while there, even some directions. We probably can talk to her a little more about it at the wedding or at Lisa's on Sunday. I've talked to several firends who have also visited Cape Cod and all of them love it there. I believe we are going to have a great time. Less than 2 weeks away. YAY!
08-24-2012, 02:32 AM
Hope you don't need towing up here, the boys are a bit rough
Beautiful campsite near McCarthy
08-24-2012, 03:19 AM
The Alaska pipeline. Interesting engineering solution to pipes on the tundra; the radiators on the top of the posts keep the ground from thawing with the heat from the oil.
Biggest collection of stolen public property from all around the world
Copper mine buildings at Kennecot
Another victory for the road. It had just been graded and one of the pointy little rocks pierced the Firestone HT centre tread!
08-24-2012, 06:05 AM
Good Luck.... Ross & Jenny... wish you a Happy Journey. post the itinerary.. so we should also follow you....
08-24-2012, 06:34 AM
U both are looking good... Keep it up...
08-25-2012, 03:37 AM
We are now in the USA, south Dakota and will be in the lower 48 for a month before going back to Australia for a period of time, yet to be determined, and then we go south.
We will add a little to this now and in 2013 we go down.
Thanks for following.
08-29-2012, 12:59 PM
After SD we drove up to Duluth and around the north shore of Lake Superior and across to Ottawa where we rae now. Next will be Montreal tonght trhen down through some fall coloured forests to Springfield MA for the weekend with family.
We are loving this travelling, although the last 4 days were long ones on the road. Yesterday was a day of Tim Hortons coffee shop stops. We find they are perfectly spaced for the chain coffee consumer. People are wonderful and the pssing scenery is awesome. Off to see the cuty now.
09-01-2012, 01:26 AM
We left Montreal ant 0900 ish heading south. Smooth sailing until we got to the border. The crossing took an hour! Cars idling, road rage happening as people pushed in after getting their duty free shopping. And the last coffee making its presence felt.
Eventually we crossed without incident and are now at a place within an hour of where we have to be for the wedding at 1600 saturday. Quite a relief after an epic dash across the continent.
On Monday we will see the Atlantic ocean in the Cape Cod area, can't wait.
Ross and Jenny
11-15-2012, 03:23 PM
To finalise this part of the trip, here is a summary of our time and the travelling and a little of our expenses.
This leg was very much a travelling holiday with about 18500 miles travelled in 65 days, a fair pace in anyone’s book. This was the plan though, to test ourselves and the truck and camper. All came through well but we will definitely slow down from now on.
We had 68 days total, 55 with the camper on and we camped 38. There were 16 nights with friends and family, 13 nights in motels/hotels and 1 in a plane.
We spent $1800 setting up the camper with porta pottie, fridge, bedding, appliances, utensils and basic food stuffs.
RV parks and camping cost about $25 per night with the highest being in Vancouver, $62, ouch! Motels etc averaged at about $100 per night
Fuel spend was about $5000. It was all cheaper than we are used to in Australia so did not concentrate on the highs and lows too much.
We put $500 into tools and spares for the Dodge and spent $2200 on brakes, a wheel bearing and servicing it. Registration and insurance were $1200 for a year. One puncture repair and one tyre replacement came to $400.
The Alaskan marine highway cost us $650 for two small trips but was very enjoyable and I would say good value.
We made almost all of our own meals when camping, lunches too and found value in the supermarkets everywhere. Restaurants when we were in the hotels/motels boosted the daily average.
We will hope to travel more cheaply in Central America on the next leg.
For me the highlights were,
- the Dalton Highway and its terminus at Deadhorse, 70˚north, being the end of one endeavour and the start of a trip to Ushuaia.
- Seeing the animals, bears, sea otter, caribou, musk ox, moose, arctic squirrels and so on that do not exist in our country.
- The canyons and gorges of Utah, Icefields Parkway in BC, glaciers, top of the world highway, Dempster highway and I really liked coming out of Yellowstone and driving to Cody Wyoming.
-Cape Cod was unexpectedly enjoyable and Martha’s vineyard was not so, but I am glad to have seen it and the lighthouse tour at Rhode Island was awesome value.
- We stayed away from the big cities mostly but loved Seattle, Denver and Montreal.
- We appreciate man’s ability to engineer solutions to nature’s barriers and we saw some great examples of this in the Alaskan pipeline, Duluth lifting bridge and the locks on the great lakes. There are some great road solutions too, the USA truly is the country of the automobile
But overall the best things are the amazing people that we met everywhere, from family who hosted us to travellers in campgrounds and at fuel stops, waiting for roadwork to complete or stopping us in the street for a chat. We love you all. We will be back.
01-24-2013, 06:25 PM
Today we jump on the on the flying kangaroo and get back to Nevada to get the truck out of the storage shed.
I expect flat tyres, batteries and maybe gellid diesel fuel since we put it to bed in the summer and now it is close to freezing in Carson City.
Needs new tyres too and there will be a solar panel to install plus some new suspension for the truck.
Hopefully we will be mobile in a day or two and the adventure will continue.
01-30-2013, 02:56 AM
We got the Dodge out of storage and, surprise, surprise, after re connecting the batteries we had a start. 4.5 months and still strong, unexpected and a super result. Tyres also had held their pressure. (This was after a tip from a friend to leave then on blocks of wood, not concrete.)
Spent the next day not leaving, but getting a set of BFG A/Ts on the truck and doing a little restocking.
Sunday woke to fresh snow on the ground, and still falling but it was time for action. So in the driving snow I screwed a solar panel to the roof of the FWC and fitted a bench in the back of the truck where the rear seat used to be. This houses the Dometic (Waeco in Australia) 80l fridge.Then we left Reno (Virginia City Highlands), after the false start Saturday, on Sunday morning for a big drive to Truckee. Thanks again Colin and Hope.
Had a great visit with Christian P and fiancée, Persephone, lots of travel tips, fun and laughter, and then on to Sacramento. New window in the camper to allow access to the cab of truck where the non-Engel resides. Very good result. Happiness in the camp.
Monday night was in silicon valley with Jerry and Sally extremely gracious hosts and tonight we stealth cooked at a best western in Porterville and slept in the motel!!.
Plan is to head towards Phoenix for Suspension mods and the enter Mexico via Nogales in about a week.
01-30-2013, 01:21 PM
01-30-2013, 08:52 PM
Good luck and safe travels
02-01-2013, 06:03 AM
Another day and another plan. Parts will not be ready in Phoenix for a week or so. So we are off to Baja on Friday morning.
We spent today in San Diego getting last minute bits and pieces for the truck along with insurance, tourist cards and a book of the best campsites in Mexico.
Are we ready? Almost as underprepared as I have ever been before an expedition, well not really but we sure could use some more Spanish experience, a bit more of an itinerary, slightly better vehicle preps and greater knowledge of the country we are about to enter.
02-12-2013, 10:40 PM
On 2 Feb. we crossed at Tijuana with no issues and our trepidation evaporated with the miles as we got south. First night at San Quentin and then in to the desert of the Baja peninsular, which is absolutely spectacular. The weather is warmer down here and spring is coming with some flowers on the various cacti.
Thicket of plants in the desert
Interesting form of cactus
02-12-2013, 11:04 PM
San Ignatio next night after a close call with inappropriate speed on a road not suited for that. Big fright, lesson learned. Then on the Sea of Cortez with a couple of stops for churches and fish tacos for lunch at Loreto. These things are really good, a couple of small pieces of fish deep fried in batter on a soft taco shell with all the bits and pieces as well. 2 for about $2.50 makes a great lunch!
Eifel designed church
Colourful fruit stand
Alfresco seating in a pickup
Sea of Cortez
That is the life
The perfect drink to go with fish taco
02-12-2013, 11:25 PM
Spent two nights at San Jose del Cabo and did the tourist thing of the boat trip to the very bottom of Baja, where the Pacific ocean meets the Sea of Cortez.
La Paz dining
La Paz waterfront
Sea lion jumps on the cavitation plate of the fishing boats waiting for a morsel or two.
Arch with the Pacific ocean on the far side.
Sea lion with a lofty bed.
02-13-2013, 12:36 AM
Once you are at the bottom of Baja California the only way is up and so we set off towards the north and Phoenix where the truck will have a birthday present of new suspension fitted next week. First two days were biggies with a stop at Loreto and a great little RV park in the middle of town and then on to Guerro Negro and a cheap camp on the Oro del Libre for some whale watching the next day.
Sunrise at a resort
Sea of Cortez, great camping, fishing etc.
Sea of Cortez
Could you stay here?
Whale watching camp
02-13-2013, 02:02 AM
Whale watching tour was enjoyable and successful, there are hundreds in the lagoon. Our boat had just Jenny and me with the captain/guide who got us amongst some mums and calves. We also had one whale which wanted to be near us and Jenny was able to pat it many times over during the next 45 mins.
Grey whale skeleton. They can weigh 70 tons.
Two storey toilet, with a view to the whale lagoon.
Military checkpoint, we saw a few of these.
More desert, amazing plants.
02-13-2013, 02:22 AM
Sounds like you guys are still having a fantastic time. When you are in Phoenix will you be able to swing 2 hours north and visit us at the HQ of ExPo/Overland Journal? We'd love to say hi, give you some decals for the truck, and some copies of the Journal to give out on your travels.
02-13-2013, 03:05 AM
Left whale watching venue at 1200. Unable to get out of the desert by dark so we elected to stay near El Marmol at Sonora gift shop and RV park. This was at the low end of the scale with just a pit toilet but we were happy to get there and pay the $1.60. This proved to be our last night in Baja although we did not know that at the time.
Had a good start next day and got to Ensenada for fish tacos at lunch time. There was a parade and fair happening making parking difficult. We then stopped at a winery on the way to our proposed camp place. This was at a school for deaf students that has a camp area associated with it. Unfortunately they had no water and we were really keen for a shower after the last couple of days without. So we looked around, asked people but struck out as far as finding an RV park goes. Plan B was enacted, drive to Tecate and cross to the USA. This meant that we would get there about 20 minutes after last light. All the hints say do not drive after dark and do not stay near the border and here we were doing both. There were a few stressful moments getting through Tecate in the dark with minimal maps and the signs to the border are tiny. We got through OK and found a place to sleep within another hour north of the fence.
Now we are in Phoenix and get the truck back in the morning so the journey can continue. Mexico again Thursday.
This is what you get for $1.60 camp fees.
Fish market Ensenada
02-15-2013, 01:29 AM
We had the truck out of our hands for nearly three days and then just wanted to get on the road south again when we got it at 1500 yesterday. So now we are in Hermosillo heading back to the Sea of Cortez tomorrow.
We will back through Phoenix and possibly Flagstaff in about 5 weeks and would love to drop in then.
We will PM when on the way back to get exact location.
Thanks for the offer.
Ross and Jenny.
02-28-2013, 10:02 PM
The two Craigs at Strapt performance in Phoenix took a couple of days to undo all the suspension bolts and install the Dodge Off Road 3 inch lift with rear shackle flip. Performance is a noticeable improvement in comfort and the steering brace has tightened up the guidance system somewhat – new tyres helped here too.
Next day we were off to Mexico again after a few last minute tasks, like top up the Propane tank.
The crossing at Nogales was a no worry affair, with just an hour spent and very helpful staff on hand to deal with the ignorant gringos.
Hermosillo was reached just before dark and we enjoyed a restful night, just us and the trucks and few feet away. Headed off to Las Glorias for a night by the sea and had an absolutely beautiful sunset and a very peaceful night with the waves lulling us to sleep.
Tepic was at the end of Saturday’s run, 700 km ish away. Took 10 hours and once again arrived close to the sunset. We were the only campers at a great site in the heart of a shopping strip.
One of the toll collectors dropped the boom gate as we were moving through it and it just hit the bonnet of the car and windscreen before the ever alert driver halted the vehicle. Got out and had a quick look at things but people behind started tooting so we did not notice that the radio aerial had been sheared off. Had a few days of silence until a bit of wire could be inserted into a drilled hole for a makeshift repair.
We reached El Rosario but the RV park we were heading for proved “unfindable” or closed so we settled down in the car park of the butterfly walk. Our first free night! The toilets were opened at 0800 and we were off to find where the monarch butterflies were spending their winter.
We climbed higher than we thought we would have to go and Jenny started getting a bit of altitude sickness at 11500 ft, so down we came. By this time it was 1100 and the sun was penetrating the trees to the clearings and there were butterflies everywhere. We loved seeing all these but realize that a sleep in and shorter walk would have been better. Ah hindsight.
Left the parking lot and headed down the hill only to find that what had been a deserted street the night before was now a marketplace, with every kind of stall imaginable. What was not so clear was that the stalls had tarpaulins attached to both sides of the road and we were driving under, or almost, the guy ropes. There was much shouting to alert us that we had snagged one of the ropes with the top of the camper and the rope had in fact passed between the camper and car roof, bending the CB radio aerial in the process. Two days and two aerials gone! We put things to rights and were carefully shepherded down the next two hundred and fifty metres of crisscrossing guy ropes with stall holders raising them up with sticks so we could clear them. Very harrowing.
There is a system of sharing the road in Mexico state and city so that each vehicle has one day when they cannot enter based on the registration number. So we found out that our number excluded us on Monday! We did a little backtracking to Morelia and in lieu of an RV park found a hotel close to the city centre, with a lockup garage where we spent Monday night. This is a lively city with outdoor art show happening, cars and motorcycle displays, street theatre, people everywhere and one of the nicest cathedrals to be seen.
Pics in a day or so.
03-03-2013, 03:02 PM
Departure from the garage gave us another slight hiccup in the otherwise smooth sailing so far when the camper took a lurch to the left at the critical moment and caught the winder for the rear leg between the door and the door jamb of the exit door. We were stuck fast, transfer of weight to the other side of the car would not open enough of a gap, we could have jacked up a wheel but the simplest solution was to remove the leg for a minute. Which we did and had it replaced just as quickly and we were away.
We got ourselves on to the outer ring road around Mexico city at about 70 km radius and had a good run to Cholula. This is a newish toll road and we went for 270 km without seeing a fuel stop so we had to exit to fuel up. No biggie really but where there have been Pemex stations elsewhere at regular, short, intervals this was different. They are building some stations but I guess these are a few months away yet.
Cholula was another almost empty RV park except for one other camp. We met Croft and Norma of http://croftsmexico.blogspot.mx/2013_02_01_archive.html and decided to accept their invitation of a drink and chat rather than rush off to see the sights. We spent a couple of hours tapping in to the local knowledge of these experts and had a pleasant break from the rushing around.
Villahermosa was the destination for Wednesday, some 600 km away. This took us 8.5 hours, a good run really. Highlights were descending from the 8000 ft plateau near Orizaba and then there were about 50 km of corrugated asphalt which were very uncomfortable to drive on, just could not get the speed right. The camp was at a swimming pool but it was cool for us so we kept out of that, making do with a cold shower instead! We are now at 18 degrees north and it is warm and steamy. Had a visit from the state police, but they were just curious about the rig and were able to give us some Spanish lessons and travel advice too! Once again we were the lone campers.
We had our sights set on the Mayan ruins at Uxmal for the next day and managed to get there and set up camp in the carpark in good time. For our 131 peso ($11.00 AUD) fee you get nothing but a very peaceful campsite to yourself. But the advantage is that you are right there and have easy access to the ruins. We enjoyed the light show in the evening and were first through the gate next morning for a good tour around this sight. There is great access and information about how the Mayan people lived between 500 – 1200 AD and we are becoming experts.
03-03-2013, 03:32 PM
We then used up a bit of timeshare at a resort on the Playa del Carmen for a week. It was super luxury at a price, and we only had a motel room, that is with no cooking facilities or fridge. So we bought a stove and made multiple trips to the car and managed a comfortable week with much self catering keeping the costs down.
While there I used one day to complete the electrical installation of the solar panel and some Led lights in the camper. Both jobs were successful, I reckon on three+ days fridge/house battery range, if the sun shines. I still had not waterproofed the holes drilled into the roof to mount the solar panel in the Reno snowfall, and later in the week it became clear that this is a priority! We had rain overnight and a leak from one of the screw holes left a book and cushion soaked. This waterproofing has now been done, but we need rain to prove its success.
We saw some sights like the Tulum Mayan ruins which were super being located right on the coast, and went to a theme park. This is called Xcaret and has a great many animals and birds on site, along with marine animals too, horse shows “Flying men” from an 18 metre tall post, musical show at night. A wonderful day as long as you realize that you are in a totally artificial environment.
One day we went snorkeling in an underground cave. This was quite an experience. There are many caves here along a 65 km long river underground, and enterprising operators will take you down for a swim amongst the stalactites and stalagmites in the most crystal clear water. Water is not cold and the sights are wonderful – to be recommended.
03-03-2013, 10:30 PM
Just caught up on your couple of moths of travel. Sounds great (and interesting). Hope things continue to go well (and interesting) and we can get to feel some of the vibe in discussions when home. You know I love deserts - so those photos are very attractive to someone in rain-sodden Brooky! Progress on Pavilion very slow - need a couple of helpers and drinks on sunset - floods keep taking away the grass seeding and limit rock collection and placement activity but we'll get there. Have to wade through spillway lately to get to work!!!! Keep up the good travels and pics.
03-08-2013, 03:38 AM
Headed for Chichen Itza and stopped at a tequila factory on the way. This was a purpose built one for the rubber necks, so we loved it!. Very basic but it does produce three types of beverage which were sampled and enjoyed. Some take away was purchased for later enjoyment. Our camp was in front of a motel which once again was almost deserted, certainly we had the only camp.
We were knocking on the door of the Mayan ruins at opening time the next day and spent an enjoyable three hours exploring the ruins. We were amazed that souvenir stalls are along all the main footpaths between the various sections of the park and you are constantly under attack from the zealous vendors. Prices are good, "almost free" or "one dollar" until you stop and things of greater value are offered. Jenny made a couple of sellers happy with their first sales of the day and she got some bargains too, we hope.
Had lunch in the camper, in the carpark and then headed off to Merida for a date with the Hotel Dolores Alba so as to be near the action of the shops and street fairs on Saturday and Sunday. This is a grand colonial hotel and only twice the price of a night camping in an RV park, with breakfast included, so we were happy. This is the place to buy hammocks, so we did, along with some other bits and pieces for the folks back home. saw the street dancing and cultural displays.
Monday was a highlight of the trip with a visit to Celestun and a boat tour to see flamingos in their natural habitat. Truly this is an awesome experience with many thousands of the pink/orange birds wading around in the shallow inlet.
03-09-2013, 04:35 AM
hi.. first time.. all looking good from my angle.. it's been entertaining catching up.. please can I see some butterfly pics.. more plants?? and don't touch the hamburgers! jan xx
03-11-2013, 02:17 PM
On departure from the flamingos we travelled for an hour or so and then crossed into Campeche State. This crossing was little more than an inspection point for plants or dirt. The inbound lane, for us, on the road ended in cones and the other lane did not seem to be the place to be, so I left the road and proceeded through the truck area. This was off to the side with lanes marked and a roof over the top. The State policeman spoke to us there after I’d stopped and said I was in the wrong place and I should reverse and go in the outbound lane through the other part of the checkpoint. When I got there he had walked over, 15 metres, and said that we had committed an “infraction” and intimated there would be a fine to pay!
There was a bit of to and fro with Jenny coming to the aid saying we would not pay, “take us to the police station”, “what is your name/number” and so on as standard defenses to these blatant money grabs.
The elder man at this checkpoint, a civilian, then came to have a few words to the policeman and ultimately our “infraction” was overlooked and we were away. All this took five minutes or so and we were the only people there.
Club Nautic just south of Campeche hosted us that night to the tune of 350 pesos, but for very nice location and facilities, the most costly of all the places we have stayed, and once again we were the sole occupants.
On the road again and on entering Compoton we were stopped at a checkpoint, singled out and waved to the side. I did not know what for so undid my seatbelt and got out of the car. The officer, another Campeche State policeman wanted to see my license and said I was not wearing my seatbelt. This was a total untruth.
Once again the argy bargy occurred, this time in front of many other cars and police and a few soldiers. Two of them came to our rescue with one being an English speaker. They found out the truth and convinced the policeman to let us go. I am sure that Jenny’s requests for the officer’s name and number had an influence. This policeman did not want to give the ID number saying, “I am police” and pointing to his badge. Well, this time he did not add to his, or the state’s income and we are thankful for that.
There are many of these incidents documented and we have been through many checkpoints with excellent, respectful, professional officers getting their jobs done. It is hard not to generalize about Compeche’s finest, I would just say be careful there.
03-11-2013, 02:52 PM
In Villahermosa we wanted to see the Olmec statues and after a drive through some other suburbs and a few “U” turns we found ourselves at the place. They are wonderful reminders of an earlier civilization some 3000 years ago and were removed to this place from 100 km away when oil exploration got serious there. A very pleasant couple of hours were spent, also observing animals, birds and reptiles in this park. Then it was off to our camp at the swimming pool which seemed to have had a price rise of 100 pesos since we were here a fortnight ago!
03-17-2013, 12:16 AM
150223Onwards to Cholula and camping again at Las Americas for a couple of nights. For once we were not alone and met Yves and Madeline from Quebec. We spent the next day touring the church on the pyramid, and walking through the pyramid itself. Took advantage of nearby laundry and had everything washed for a very reasonable price. We also took a taxi to a nearby Talavera pottery factory and gallery. This work is amazing and of course we do have a piece to bring home. Just a short walk from Las Americas is a shopping mall with movie theatre and we shouted ourselves a night at the movies. Les Miserables was showing, in English, and this was a great way to spend a few hours that evening.
A blast up the autopiste was on the cards for Friday and we reached Guanajuato in good time, then wasted an hour getting lost and found, eventually setting up at Morrill in a great spot with a view of the valley. This view meant we were exposed to the noise of the valley too and there was at least one dog per household, and they took it in turns to bark at shadows and sometimes all chimed in at once. Another disappointment for us was that the hot water had failed and would be a day or so to be fixed. It is warming up but a cold shower is not what we call fun. We did see some of the vehicles in rally of Mexico passing by on a transport stage.
We wandered down to the town the next day and searched for a few items, postage stamps, a nut for the inverter, and then took a walking tour for a couple of hours around the main part of the historical centre of town. This was great value and we learned a bit more Mexican history.
The north was calling and we headed out to Zacatecas next morning. Camping here was once again above the city, this time in the carpark of hotel. This was Ok and we felt very safe here as there were about 40 Federal police staying here and they had guards posted around the clock looking after their vehicles (about 20 of them) and by default our vehicle as well. Checked the city that afternoon and it was relatively quiet, compared with Merida the same day a week earlier.
There is a cable car which starts next to the hotel and goes to a peak across the city. We did the return trip and came back to do the mine tour which is also next to the hotel but ends down in the city. Very good for us gringos. There are many museums in this place but many were closed because it was Monday. Luckily the shops were open and some more souvenirs were purchased. We would leave Mexico in two days.
03-30-2013, 07:01 PM
Zacatecas saw us again Tuesday morning in an attempt to see another museum but this effort was thwarted also because it was closed on Tuesdays! We shopped a little and then it was time to hit the road north to Santillo. We managed to get ourselves slightly geographically embarrassed but were guided by a lady who told us to follow her to the road we wanted. We were close, just a few miles away! Thankyou m’am.
The camping place we had chosen here proved to be 460 pesos, approx $40, to stay in the back of an hotel, in a construction zone, but there was an option of taking a hotel room for just a few dollars more, which is what we did. Walmart is a short walk away and we enjoyed a nice meal at a nearby steak house. They do good fish too..
We were now within striking distance of the border at Columbia, just downstream of Laredo, Nuevo Laredo and bridge 3. True to our form of late we did a lap of the carpark at crossing 3 before being straightened out by the Federale who put us on the track to Columbia 20 miles away. Once in the right place the crossing was easy, give back the car sticker at a drive through facility and then cancel the tourist permit just up the road. We had a bit of to and fro here when we found that we did not have both receipts for the permits. The lady in the banjercito was able to print a copy of the missing one thus saving us from paying twice for it. Another lesson learned.
We answered a few questions of the USA customs service and we were once again in the land of the free. After a few more hours we stopped just short of Del Rio at a good RV park.
The next days were spent moving slowly towards Carson City and the end of this leg of our trip. Highlights were Carlsbad Caverns, Roswell and large radio telescope in New Mexico and just about everything in Arizona . We stopped back in at Phoenix to have the suspension checked over and then drove up to Prescott and dropped in on Overland Journal headquarters at the invitation of Ray Hyland who made us welcome and showed us around. We were given the current edition of the magazine and a bit of advertising gear to dress up the truck with and hit the road west.
London Bridge has a home in Lake Havasu City and we went there to see it. This place was full of students on their Spring Break and they were partying hard. The weather was warm here and it seems the dress code was swim suits only during daylight hours, slightly more at night.
03-30-2013, 07:14 PM
Hardware in the OJ carpark
Overland Journal office
Clean rig, ready for storage
Aliens at Roswell
Mini lighthouses at Lake Havasu
Arizona cactus - needs support
Ray from OJ with some Huskys under test
04-10-2013, 03:07 PM
Our last couple of days were spent getting back to Carson City and preparing the car and camper for storage again, washing, sorting, tidying, packing, discarding, changing fluids and cleaning. Of course we had to drive 650 miles as well. we got to Beatty first day and then had avery cold day for our last day on the road. The heater was on all day and temps stayed down around 10 C for the duration. We were back in the north and at some elevation. Hope and Colin at VC Highlands made us welcome again with a sensational Mexican meal and the best bed of the trip. Thankyou.
We got the truck in the shed again on Friday and did a little last minute window shopping before grabbing our flight out in the evening to LAX. Two hour changeover and we were on QANTAS to Brisbane.
Journey over ...... for now.
The next leg will be to Ushuaia with a start date to be advised, but probably July 2014.
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