"Life is either a daring adventure or nothing"
- Helen Keller

Saturday, January 29, 2011

A treasure in the desert

Our site at Nevada Treasure RV Resort and Spa

I have to say the name of this park fits. Here we are in Pahrump NV, which my friend Nancy calls the “arm-pit” of Nevada, in a very nice RV resort, one of the nicest we have been to. When we left California we were looking for somewhere to contemplate our next move. John’s back was bothering him so he wanted somewhere with amenities like a hot tub. I remember this one from Evelyn and Kevin’s blog. Showed it to John and he was sold. It also was in between the two areas we were considering - Zion and Arizona. Well we have already made use of their outdoor hot tub and if the weather gets colder they have one inside in each of the locker rooms in their fitness center. The weather has been beautiful. Sunshine and the high 60’s, low 70’s and NO fog!!
So what’s to do in Pahrump NV? How about some wine? Sounds good to me. Today we visited the Pahrump winery and enjoyed a wonderful tasting and bought a couple bottles of wine - cost a wee bit more than the stuff we have been getting from Trader Joe’s so will save for a special night. Valentine's day is just around the corner. The winery also has a very nice restaurant called Symphony. It has been awhile since we ate in a nice classy restaurant. We(mainly me) decided we should stay for lunch. We have cut back on eating out but it looked really good. We tried to keep it light ordering an appetizer (crab,artichoke and spinach dip)and soup. I had the Lobster bisque a house specialty and John had the french onion, both were excellent. So if you ever visit here I would highly recommend both the winery and the restaurant.
Cheers from Symphony and the Pahrump Valley Winery
So after such a classy place where did we head but Walmart. Back to the real world.
This also is a great stepping off place to visit Death Valley National Park. I think we will head there on Monday. From what I understand this is a great time to visit, the temperature is just right. They are talking a little rain on Monday so may have to be flexible on that. Death Valley is the hottest, driest place in the USA but the way our winter has gone it just seems appropriate for it to rain while we are here. :)
Lastly, I have found a place for us when we leave here. We had many of our friends recommend Tucson and John wants to go somewhere warm and sunny (I think the fog really got to him) so we are off to Tucson. On the Excel owners forum there were many who had been to Justin’s Diamond J RV park in the Tucson area. I called and they said to come as they would have some spaces opening up about that time. She said worse case senario would be one night in overflow parking. This park got pretty good reviews and at a good price as electric is included and not metered as it is many places. We have tried twice now to do at least a month stay and still haven’t made it, Mother Nature just didn’t cooperate so we are hoping we make it a month in Tucson, just ready to slow down for a bit. Well I’m off to read a good book or maybe watch a movie, it is a rough life.(hehe)
The Winery grounds

Vineyard in the desert
Happy Trails...........

Friday, January 28, 2011

A surprise entry

As many of you know I try to get John to write more. He is a talented writer, a lot funnier than me (he makes me laugh everyday, some days so hard I am actually crying). Yesterday after posting I was checking my email and I found one from John that was part of the post he was working on. He wrote it on the iPad and didn't have what he wanted to save it so he emailed me the post. I'm not sure why he didn't go back and get it to add into his post. I did ask his permission to post it. So add this to the post of a couple days ago. So here's Johnny....

The second day
And on the second day, we drove out of the fog.
We were banished from the kingdom and decided to head south and east in  search of sunshine. I figured if we left after noon we would avoid the densest fog, and I was right. We could actually see for over 500 feet when we left. (California puts markers on the freeways so you can calibrate your loss of vision.) Fog lights all the way to Bakersfield. The next morning was even worse, and we had to leave before noon. I hate getting up before noon. The navigator assured me we would drive out of it as we left the valley, and it came to pass. We drove into the sunshine at 55 mph, as fast as we could legally go in California and about all the truck could do hauling the rig up that pass. It was awesome. 35 pounds of turbo boost, and we left that fog behind. Sweet

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Pahrump NV

Still haven't decided where to land so decided to go half way in between the places we are considering. Thought about going back to Zion but maybe somewhere further south. We are leaning towards a place in Tucson or Buckeye Arizona. Need to make some calls tomorrow. I think John is leaning towards somewhere further south. We are at Nevada Treasure RV Resort and Spa in Pahrump NV for the next week. This is a resort that friends of ours visited (Evelyn and Kevin) and it met our in between status. We haven't had time to check out all the resort has to offer but will do more exploring tomorrow. One thing we do want to do from here is check out Death Valley. Thanks for all the suggestions, I think we will find something that fits our needs. John just wants to find somewhere to land for a month and then we will start our journey back to Iowa for the summer.

Happy trails.......

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Leaving Middle Earth (by John)

Eastman Lake from the kayak

You can’t kick us out, ‘cause we’re leaving. 
Actually we were asked to leave so they could close the entrance road into the park while they repair an unstable hill next to it. This is the second time we’ve been asked to leave a campground due to weather related problems in the last two months. It’s good to be mobile, but I’m looking forward to staying somewhere for more than a month. Maybe somewhere warm. With sunshine. And full hook-ups.
Our beautiful little hummingbird
Eastman Lake reminded me of Middle Earth the day we arrived. Very green from all the rain this area had received with lots of hills that might appeal to a folk who preferred to build their homes in the side of a hill. The piles of boulders scattered about added visual appeal and a bit of mystery: how did all these rock piles end up here? 
Buddy another volunteers puppy who was always
 ready to help
The park’s campground had already been closed to the public by the time we arrived the first week of January. We had to drive around the barriers to get to our camp site. So for the next two plus weeks, we shared this beautiful park with three other couples who were also volunteers, the park staff and more wildlife than I’ve ever seen in one place. We even had our own boat ramp to the lake and it inspired us to get an inflatable kayak that came right before we had to leave. Still, it was sweet.
John's favorite little Acorn tit-mouse
The wildlife here included some very active humming birds and a slightly crazed bird that attacked our bedroom windows every morning. Better than an alarm clock, except you couldn’t turn it off. Lots of wing flapping and window pecking. Multiple windows, multiple times. Very well dressed in a gray bird suit with pin-stripped wing markings. We were able to find his picture in a the National Geographic Bird Book. He’s an Acorn Titmouse, and he’s a little crazy. I’m going to miss him.
So goodbye Eastman Lake. It was fun. Hope to see you again soon.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Learning Flexibility

The fog makes it hard to see but this is the road and the unstable hillside

Well, just as we thought we will be leaving Eastman Lake. They have found the funding and the contract goes out this week and as soon as February 1st the work on the hillside could begin. It will force the closure of the whole park for awhile. The people here have been great and the situation is just what it is so we are searching out some different options. I put the word out to a few of our RV friends and forums for suggestions. We are looking for somewhere probably in Arizona that we can stay for a month for a reasonable rate. I always trust the reviews of people I know over the internet, though I use the internet a lot. I have some leads on a few places but if you have any suggestions feel free to add to my list.
Red Tail Hawk

Originally we were going to head to Sonoma for a week but while cleaning the shoreline John stepped wrong and something in his hip popped. He hobbled back and we put ice on it (20 on 20 off just like our favorite ortho doc has taught us). It is better today but he doesn’t feel he will be up for any long bike rides for a little while so we decided not to do that trip just now. Adding to that, the valley fog is back and another friend of ours said Sonoma has lots of fog this time of year too. We will be back and it will stay on our list.

These little things keep teaching us that in this lifestyle as in any flexibility is a necessary skill.  The good thing is it is a little easier to do when you are mobile. So it is on to new adventures.
Woodpecker-not sure type

Thought I’d share a few photos of some of the feathered creatures that we share this park with. I’ve seen more than this but these are the only ones I caught in the camera.

Happy Trails..........


Thursday, January 20, 2011

A New Toy!

Sunset over Eastman lake

Went into Madera today to get mail, supplies and our new toy. Our Sea Eagle 370 inflatable kayak. John got on the tracking for it and saw that it was on the truck for delivery. Went to the UPS store first but it wasn’t there so we asked them to call if it came later in the day. We went to Sal’s, a little Mexican restaurant we found last week for lunch, they have a chorizo and egg entree that is John’s new favorite thing. Then found a Starbucks for a little coffee time - we are suckers for coffee. Then it was groceries and fuel. Just as we were leaving the grocery store we got the call that it had arrived. Yea!!!
Getting ready
Ready for the Lake
Once we got back we could hardly wait to get it out. John had read online that we needed to inflate it and wait 24 hours (to check for leaks) before taking it out on the water. So we got it out of the box and inflated it. How cool. We have to check on a few things before we take off, like does it need to be registered. It doesn’t have a motor so maybe not. We will check with Ranger Keith tomorrow. 
I love these oaks against the lake.
Tomorrow is a big day too. There is a volunteer meeting with the “bosses”. As I have mentioned before, our campground is closed due to an unstable hillside along the only access road. We had been directed to only take the road when we needed to go to town. It is a problem for this park because all the campgrounds and the camp offices are on this road. The day use area is not affected. We have been in limbo since we got here not knowing if we will be staying or if they feel we need to leave. The consensus among the volunteers is that we will be asked to leave. We are all glad that tomorrow we may get our answers. I was out on the web last night looking at options if we do leave. The only thing we know we will do is go to Sonoma County and spend a week in wine county. They have an RV area at there county fairgrounds that has a reasonable rate. This is an area where we really want to spend some time. We love good wine and they have some bike trails we would like to ride. Got a route to the area from our friend Rich (another Excel owner) who works here in California. The only bummer is he said to drive it in the middle of the night or very early morning on the weekend as the traffic is crazy. I think we will do an early morning on a weekend.  Otherwise we are looking for somewhere that perhaps we can spend at least a month or maybe two that is affordable. Any suggestions??? We’ll let you know our status after tomorrow’s meeting.
A beautiful night
Happy Trails............... 

Sunday, January 16, 2011

First Week work-camping done

Rain in the distance from Lake View trail, Eastman Lake

One week into our work camping and we keep thinking we will take a day off but the people we needed to work with were on this weekend so back to work we go. I learned how to use their slide scanner and while I am doing laundry I will also be scanning their slides, since they are all in the same building. Scanning slides is a tedious job that I am very familiar with. I scanned about a thousand slides of John’s dads a few years back. The computer they have this set up on is old and incredibly slow. If John was assigned to this I think he would shoot the computer or maybe throw it out a window, he has no patience for old slow computers. We also are learning about trail maintenance and water bars. John spent Saturday with the student ranger Adela and today all three of us went out to work. We are working on the Lake View trail that is 4 miles in length and hasn’t had much maintenance done in the last few years. We made it about 3/4 mile today. John and I are hoping we can make a difference on this trail before we leave. It is a trail with incredible views and deserves some TLC.
John and I working on the trail

We are enjoying the physical work of our job here. The other work-campers are not physically able to do some of this work so we are glad we are here. When we talked about how we wanted to work-camp, one of the things that is important to us is that we are giving back to the public lands that we so enjoy. In this time of recession the budgets for these parks has been trimmed and we want to make sure these places survive for our children to see. That is why we have chosen state and National Parks as our main emphasis though we are not opposed to some private parks if they fit in with our goals.
Trail maintenance 
The weather here has been pretty foggy so I haven’t taken as many photos as I would like. It is suppose to improve so if it does we will take a day off for our own hiking and photography. I want to hike the length of the Lake View trail (4 miles one way) and see all of it. About half way there is an area with a pair of nesting bald eagles and I so want to get to that area. One of the eagles flew over head while we were cleaning the shoreline but I couldn’t get the camera out in time to catch it. We also have seen coyotes and the back end of a bobcat that was crossing the road. There are a lot of birds I’d like to photograph too. This place is full of wildlife and I am looking forward to the challenge of photographing some of it. I keep hoping the fog moves out for awhile, though I know this valley is known for it. At least it is not raining, or snowing and the temperature are staying moderate(50s). I know back in the midwest they are dealing with lots of snow and cold so it is hard to complain.
Happy Trails...........

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


Eastman Lake

What a beautiful day we had today. The sunshine made it’s way to Eastman Lake and it was a joy to behold. I’m not sure what our high temp was today but I know it was in the 50’s and after several weeks of 40’s and grey days we were celebrating the sun.

We like this park more each day and from what we can tell it is a well kept secret in California. One of the rangers said they don’t even have it on the printed California map, though you will find it on Google maps. We have met people from Fresno (50 miles away) that had no idea where it was and one of our fellow volunteers said even people in Madera ( 20 miles away) don’t know where it is. So if you are looking for a place in the foothills of the Sierras, actually not that far from Yosemite, this would be a great place to stay. Now you will have to wait until at least April as they have closed the campground (except for the volunteers) until then. The day use area and boat ramps are still open.
The dam looks closer than it actually is in this photo

I think I mentioned in the last post that the road going up to the campground has a hillside that is not real stable. They do have one lane open around it for those of us who need to get through. That includes all the rangers and staff as the office and maintenance buildings are also up that road. Yesterday when we were on our way to the day use area to work, there were a whole lot of people having a look and discussing what they want to do about it. Hopefully they let us know if they close the road. It is the one thing that we have noticed and all the volunteers agree on is that communication is not this groups strong point.  They all are nice enough people to work for but they forget to let the volunteers know what is going on, hopefully that will get a little better because we really like it here.

John on litter patrol
John’s favorite job is litter pick up. After all those years being an engineer who would have thought what he really wanted to be was a garbage man. :)  What is nice about it is we can hike all the trails and the shoreline and do litter patrol, logging hours at the same time. We are trying to do the shoreline. This is a big bass fishing lake and I think a lot of things are blowing out of these peoples boats. Plus I do get disgusted with just how negligent people can be, but it keeps us busy. 

We have been wanting to order an inflatable Sea Eagle Kayak for sometime and John decided now is the time. We just got a mailbox set up at the UPS store in Madera so now he can order it. We figure we can do more shore cleanup and get some kayaking in at the same time - we are just into this muti-tasking our fun and work at the same time. We know several other of our RV blogger friends that have these kayaks and we are looking forward to getting out on the water.

The first pen we filled.
Another job we are doing makes me think of my friend and coworker back in Iowa City, Becky. As long as I have known Becky she has had horses. She lives out by the Coralville Reservoir and I know the horses have always kept her busy, lots of chores come with them. Well we aren’t mucking out stalls but instead are adding fill dirt to the pens in one of the equestrian camping areas. We got one pen done but the second pen needed a lot more dirt than the first and we have to wheelbarrow it up (up a hill) to the pen. We know these old bodies aren’t cut out for hours of that so we are trying to work a couple hours a day on it and then do something a little easier. My back and shoulders were a little sore yesterday but in a good way. 

The best part of this gig is that it is keeping us very active and we spend most of our day outside. Yep we are liking it.
Some of the shoreline at Eastman Lake

Happy trails..............

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Arrival at Eastman Lake

Eastman Lake

Our site

We have finally arrived at Eastman Lake Recreation Area near Madera CA.  This is where we will have our first work camping experience. For our friends that aren’t RVers work camping is simply working for your site in many cases and sometimes for pay. We have chosen the volunteer route where you volunteer to work a set number of hours a week in exchange for your campsite. We feel this is a way to lessen our expenses and at the same time be of benefit to the parks that are really feeling the pinch in these difficult economic times. Parks have used work campers for many years but from what we have been told they are relying on them even more now.
California had lots of rain in December and consequently lots of flooding so last week I called to check on the campground. On Monday they were fully open and things were fine. When we arrived there were signs indicating the campground was closed and the road up to the campground was blocked off. We went off towards the day use area so we could find the number to call the office.  That’s when we found out out how weak the cell coverage is here. I finally got the number and called the office. The lady on the phone said they were expecting us and she would send someone down to help move the barricades so we could drive up to the campground. The campground had been closed because at the area where the road turns to go up to the campground they had a rockslide earlier in the week and until the weather improves they decided to close it to all except the rangers, staff and volunteers. We haven’t met the other volunteers yet but there are two other trailers here and we all have the campground to ourselves.
This terrain is different than anything we have seen before. It is the foothills of the Sierra so it is hilly with lots of rock outcroppings. John thinks it looks like Middle Earth from the Lord of the Rings (just needs a few hobbit houses). Each campsite has a covered picnic table and fire ring and the driveway/pad is asphalt. We are near the entrance. We walked the campground last night and the road is narrow but there are many nice sites that would fit even big rigs. The sites are varied in their services: a few FHU sites, some water and electric and some with no services. The best sites are actually a couple with no water or electric, that have long enough drives and overlook the lake. Someday when we have solar we’ll have to come back and stay in one of those sites. 
Middle Earth??
Ranger Angela took us around all the buildings and areas of the park today and explained many of the jobs we could be doing. I think first up is to move some fill dirt into the horse pens in the Equestrian campground. That ought to burn a few calories. We also are going to hike the Lakeview Trail (4 miles) to check on it’s condition and do littler pick up. We are looking forward to doing some manual labor we have been much too sedentary this fall. There are some other projects she has in mind as time goes on.
We also are looking forward to some of the wildlife we are likely to see here. We were told there is a bobcat with some kits that is often seen in the campground. They have a pair of Bald Eagles that are nesting on the lake not far from our site. We have already seen several Red Tail Hawks, hummingbirds, egrets and heron. And that was just one hike. I am including a couple photos, but the weather is pretty gray with lots of fog right now so they are not the best. I am looking forward to doing more photography once the sun comes out, hopefully later this week.

Also to follower E Squared and Mui,  I have been unable to find my disk for Lightroom. It is funny how when you move some things just disappear. If I could find it I definitely would have it on my computer. It was my favorite photo editing program, I’ve tried others and though they are ok, they just don’t have the ease and abilities in RAW format that Lightroom does. Thanks for trying to help me out. I think what I need are more memory cells!



Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Travel Day

Finally we have left Las Vegas. We need to get to Eastman Lake north of Fresno CA on Saturday so today we drove as far as Bakersfield. Not the tourist mecca of California but found a park with a stay 2 nights get one free rate for FHU so it works for us. Not sure what there is to do in Bakersfield but I will do some searching tonight. Maybe we can find a winery - we passed a lot of grape vines on the last part of the trip - or maybe a microbrewery/brewpub.  We really don't need much to entertain us.

The trip went well considering these roads were closed 2 days ago. There is some snow left in the mountains but it looks like everything else had melted away.  The only difficult part of the trip was on CA223 from CA58 to the resort. Just a few miles off CA58 we ran into thick fog that stayed with us on and off until we got here. Luckily it was only about 25 miles worth. An RV friend of mine, Rich, had warned us that there had been a lot of fog in CA lately. Thanks for the warning, we just took it slow.

Wind Farm near Tehachapi, CA
On our drive near Tehachapi CA was a large wind farm on the mountains, this is also just north of Edwards Air Force Base.  I thought it was interesting so I got a photo. It is not as clear as I'd like but I took it from the truck moving 55mph. Also as we got into the mountains you could see it changing from the desert we have been in for 3 months to the forested hillsides. It is a refreshing change. I like the desert but I miss seeing the greens. 

I probably won't post again until we reach Eastman Lake, but you never know, if something interesting comes our way, we will make sure and share it with you.

Happy Trails.............

Monday, January 3, 2011

Leaving Las Vegas

Red Rock Canyon from the effect in the foreground.

We are still lounging away in Las Vegas. Our next stop is Bakersfield on our way to Eastman Lake, California. We were hoping to leave tomorrow but today highway 58 in California and I-5 are closed because of snow. The weather has been just crazy out here. The good news is tomorrow the sun is suppose to come out and temperatures are going up. Even though there is a chance the roads would be open tomorrow we decided to give it one more day to make sure. Pulling our rig through this area in snow is not something we would like to do. There are a couple small passes on our way, nothing that would bother us at all in good weather.
John....looking good!
I called ahead to the resort we want to stay at in Bakersfield and called Eastman Lake to check on conditions. Both said they are fine. Eastman Lake said the lake is up but no flooding in the recreation areas. This will be our first work-camping position and we are looking forward to getting there. Eastman Lake is in the foothills of the Sierras and, as our friend Rich says, it is in the frost zone but not necessarily the snow zone. Looks like it will be in the 50’s when we get there on Saturday. The ranger I talked to this morning said the park is very green right now after all the rain. We are looking forward to getting out of the city. Two weeks in a metropolitan area is enough for us. 
John takes a photo...hey that's me!
It is a new year and we hope it is a good one for everyone. We are looking forward to continuing this full-time RV life style. We have loved it so far and are looking forward to seeing even more of this country. One thing we are considering is work-camping at Zion River Resort next winter. Just starting to talk with Mason about the possibility. We love that location. The only drawback is it may be almost six months. Still, it would allow us to travel and not need to work camp in the summer, and it is a place we know we would enjoy and we know there is so much there still to see and do. Many of the places we want to see are ones that we would need to do when the weather is better so it just may be the perfect fit.
Happy New Year from Janie & John
Happy Trails.........