What’s it like to actually live the #vanlife? Ride along with us in the Bobs as we explore Utah’s San Rafael Swell and try to find a sheltered campsite on a very windy day – a typical day in our road-based life.
For photos from this episode: visit our blog, Driving Inertia
This episode was written and produced by Lisa McNamara. It was recorded and edited by Lisa McNamara and Paul Olson. Music by Michael Kobrin from Pixabay. Transition music by NaturesEye from Pixabay.
This is Road Tripping in America, a podcast about life on the road. I’m Lisa and this is Paul.
We’re exploring the US in a pickup truck with a camper – we named our setup The Bobs. We’re in search of off-the-beaten-path adventures and new experiences. Join us for some entertainment from the road!
Today:I talk about where we are now and why it’s Utah, then we take you along in the Bobs as we explore the San Rafael Swell and try to find a sheltered campsite on a very windy day – a typical day in our life.
This is series four, episodeone: Back West.
This episode was recorded on a fairly windy day in the Utah backcountry.
We’re back in Utah at a dispersed camping site so beautiful that it’s hard to focus on writing or anything else. Look at the horizon, starting to the center left: Over there are the snow-covered La Sals, the gorgeous mountain range that towers over Moab. The full range is visible, catching the afternoon light, the snow fields that will still cover the tops for months glowing a brilliant white. To the north of the La Sals, the red cliffs along the Colorado River are on view. To the right of the La Sals, the spiky mesas that tower over the southwest side of Moab make a stegosaurus ridge.
Next comes Arches National Park. First the grouping that includes Double Arch, The Windows, and all those other fun arches that everyone sees – we can even see one of the arches from here. Then the sandstone bowl that holds Delicate Arch, whose very top is only visible to us when the setting sun perfectly lights it up for a moment. With binoculars, we can see many tiny humans rounding the final curve in the trail before the arch pops into view and then waiting in line to take a selfie under said arch. Tiny cars crawl on the road through the park, way too many cars. Thousands of people are just over there, but they’re far enough away to seem unreal. After Delicate Arch comes the Fiery Furnace, with red sandstone fins marching back into the hillside. Then the Devil’s Garden with the grouping of sandstone ridges and fins that includes Landscape Arch, which we can actually pick out from here, its thin band of sandstone delicately spanning the gap in a sandstone ridge.
Continuing to the north, closer by, there’s a ridge of yellow sandstone and in it an unnamed arch that we tried to climb to earlier, scrambling across the petrified dunes and down washes until we were stopped by a dryfall that was too high to climb down and too surrounded by beautiful cryptobiotic soil crust to circle. Behind that yellow ridge, closing out the view to the right is the line of the Book Cliffs with I-70 at their base, filled with many tiny little cars and tractor trailers streaming across the state, way too fast.
We’re camped on the edge of a petrified dune that has eroded into patterns that look like reptile skin. I’m walking on a giant dragon that fell here and was petrified. In the middle ground between here and arch-land there are countless red sandstone mounds, green-tinged meadows, fields of small shrubs, fine red sand dunes covered with healthy cryptobiotic soil, cacti, and small shards of what looks like petrified wood.
It’s hard to relax thinking of the sheer number of adventures, both known and unknown, that we can see from this spot. It’s hard to sit still, but we found this campsite early and we had to have it, we just had to occupy this piece of the world for a night or two.
We’re back in Utah – we’re finally back West.
But let’s quickly catch up on where we’ve been for the last few months. The second to last time we checked in, we were wrapping up our first five months on the road in Durango, CO. After CO, we did way too much driving and flying, first to WI, then NY, then WI again, then a long stay in FL, then AR where we found some lovely camping and mountain biking that we want to check out in the future when it’s warmer, then to KC. We spent almost no time camping in The Bobs, instead staying with friends, family, house-sitting, dog-sitting, a month at a rental in Florida, a blend of hotels.
Then we were inarguably headed back West. We stopped in St. Francis, KS, whose free city campground was the site of our last night of camping on our first year on the road ten years ago, the site of Paul’s ultimate triumph – which you’ll have to ask him about sometime. That place had unresolved sad feelings for me and being there again unexpectedly exorcised those old end-of-trip blues.
Then we crossed the state line back into CO, where I picked up the happiness I didn’t realize I had left at the border when we headed east in November. Some say the edge of the West is found at the Mississippi River. Some say it’s the Rockies. I say you know the edge of the West when you get there. It might not be one consistent place, but rather a feeling. This time the edge of the West was at the CO border for me, because that’s when I finally felt like I was home.
Oh how I love CO. When the sky isn’t blue, it’s filled with drama. People seem so much happier to be alive in CO. I know how things work in CO. In CO, we told everyone that we saw that we were heading south to New Mexico next – we’d been telling people that for weeks. Then, the night before we left, we promptly changed our minds and pointed The Bobs straight west to Utah.
We had spent the past four months in the East longing for the West, for the easy and free camping, lack of crowds, dry air, plentiful hiking, mountains, deserts, and everything in between. We could have gotten that stuff in New Mexico, easily. We were eventually going to get around to Utah. But Utah was calling too loudly to wait. There are webs of dirt roads to explore between Moab and Escalante and Green River and Page, AZ. The weather is perfect right now. OK, it’s still kinda chilly and the wind has been epic, but it’s perfect enough. “Why not just get right back into what we want to do?” we asked ourselves. Ourselves didn’t have any good response to that, so to Utah we went.
Everyone has heard about the big five National Parks in Utah, which are amazing, but they’re way too busy. We’ve been there, done that. There is a TON more to explore in Utah. Even setting aside the State Parks and National Monuments, there are tiny dirt roads leading to amazing features everywhere. There are so many areas that I’ve looked at from I-70 and wished I could explore. Now we’re going to try to drive on as many of these dirt roads as the Bobs can handle. Because every single thing in this state is amazing, not just the things within the bounds of what someone decided to call a National Park.
We haven’t seen many people on our dusty drives, which could make my plan to bring in other voices for this series a little tricky. But it’s never lonely. We have a noisy crow for an alarm clock. For entertainment, we have lizards that run so fast over the sand that they look like they’re floating. We have a beautiful dark brown wild horse who dances curiously at a safe distance from our campsite, all legs like an awkward pre-teen. His hooves have never known horseshoes. We have an owl that hoots quietly throughout the night for company, if we happen to wake. Seeing another person this far in the wilderness is strange, anyway. It’s like walking into your living room and finding a stranger sitting on your couch.
For our first recorded day in the life, we are bringing you along as we explore Red’s Canyon and hunt for a sheltered campsite in Emery County, a truly underrated section of Utah west of Green River (the town and river) and south and east of the mountain ranges that run north to south up the state towards Salt Lake City and Park City.
Note that there is some swearing in the Saturday day in the life version of this podcast, so be ready to cover baby Eliza’s ears! And Mom, be ready to cover yours too!
The day always starts with coffee. Pour over flavored coffee for me and unflavored coffee for Paul. Today we woke up in a dispersed campsite in a Bureau of Land Management area off a road called Temple Mountain Road.
L: I don’t know how to start!
P: Well, so, I just did the Wordle. I could have gotten it in three, but I wasn’t paying attention.
L: Saturday morning, and we have internet access, so we can do the Wordle. Which – I didn’t start doing the Wordle until like, two weeks ago, because I resisted getting involved in it, because I knew I’d get hooked on it. And now I’m hooked on it.
P: Now you usually do it before me.
L: Yep. So it’s Saturday morning, and we’re doing a day in the life. Early April, Utah. Got up a little while ago.
P: Yesterday was nice weather, tomorrow’s gonna be shitty weather, and today’s going to be the transition.
L: So our main goal for today is to find a sheltered place to camp later, and see some cool stuff.
P: Today, one year ago we picked up our camper and camped for the first night.
L: Too bad we don’t have any Champagne!
P: Well, this is a good day in the life – one year in.
L: So we’re in the middle of Utah on this plateau called the Sinbad Plateau.
It’s actually called Sinbad Country and Hondu Country. This whole area is part of the San Rafael Swell.
L: And it’s this area that’s basically south of I-70, southwest of Green River, UT (the city) and northeast of Capitol Reef National Park. And it’s this big area that we’ve always wanted to explore. We’ve been seeing some cool things – yesterday we saw some amazing pictographs. We’ve seen some arches. There’s not a ton of traffic – it’s mostly side-by-side or OHV or dirt bikers. A few campers, but mostly a ton of huge RVs close to the road, all posted up in these big open spaces, but once you get a little ways in, it really thins out.
L: But what there is a ton of is cows – there’s cows everywhere. The area is heavily grazed – surprisingly so. Probably the most heavily grazed area we’ve ever seen. So that’s a little weird. A lot of the places we thought we’d be able to camp that were road spurs were really leading to watering holes for cattle, which are just completely destroyed around them, just wallows. All the vegetation is trampled down. Even when you get into a treed area, they’ve really dug up around the roots of trees. So, kind of amazingly heavily grazed. But still beautiful.
L: Being on this high plateau – it’s maybe 7k feet in elevation, and when you climb up onto a hill, you can see all the mountain ranges around here. Just beautiful. Still covered with snow.
L: It’s been pretty warm. Today’s the warmest. And then it’s gonna be freezing! So today’s the change day, and we always know these days of transition are gonna be – they’re gonna be rough. Because we know it’s going to get really windy, it’s going to be temperature dropping. So. Paul just came back in. So yeah, it’s gonna be a rough day and the whole main point of the day is going to be searching for a campsite – after we find some cool trails to hike.
L: We’re going on – no, wait. This is day five of no shower. So at this point, you’re just kind of pushing the dirt around with wipes. (laughs) So it’s getting pretty gross in here. But the good thing is, because it’s been kind of dry, you don’t really get that sweaty. So, it could be a lot worse.
L: The tough thing about Utah is that – well, it’s wonderful too – it’s remote. There aren’t that many towns for long stretches. And then when you do get to a town, they don’t always have services for dirty travelers.
It’s hard to describe how remote we are right now. The I-70 exit that eventually led to this area was a dirt road on/off ramp with nothing there – one of those exits that says “no services.” We’re about a two hour drive from Green River, UT, the closest large town. The only non-hotel showers in Green River are at the truck stop on the edge of town, which is one of the busiest truck stops I’ve ever seen because it’s the only one for at least a hundred miles.
We don’t do “out and backs” because we don’t want to waste the gas and time – if you want to get into the remote spots, it takes multiple days and that means no showers. It’s like through-hiking but we’re way less sweaty and we can change our clothes more often.
And we’d never do a water-intensive gravity bag shower this far from a water refill, even if we had one of those things. Water is too precious out here to waste on bathing, and we don’t carry enough of it for bathing anyway.
L: So instead, we just stay dirty. For like, a week (laughs). And, you’re not really seeing other people, so it’s alright (giggles).
L: So we’ve wiped the dirt around our bodies as best as we can, so now that the personal cleanup is done, we start putting away the stuff in Bob the camper. We already pushed in the bed earlier, so now we just have to put away all the bedding – pack that up. Put away all the loose things (that’s the fridge again). What else, Pauly?
P: Lower the toop!
L: You turn the propane off already?
P: Propane’s off!
L: Paul’s job is taking the top down. I don’t know why, but we have this division of labor. It works. Oh, I forgot the Cheez-Its (thunk). Alright, my part here is done.
(Top of camper closing audio)
L: OK – everything’s packed up and we are ready to go!
(Car starting audio)
L: Alright, Paul has to clip the top. And it looks like we’re good! Good?
L: Alright! Adventure is starting!
P: Did you turn off the propane (laughs).
L: You turned off the propane! …right?
P: Yeah, just teasing.
Alright, here we go! While we were drinking our coffee, we consulted the Gaia map to plan the day’s route. We decided to go counterclockwise around the Red’s Canyon loop, which I immediately forgot as soon as we got going. We ended up going around clockwise.
L: So we’re on this really high ridge, like a plateau on the edge of a ridge, looking down into this ridiculously gorgeous canyon, hoping we get down into it.
P: And Cathedral Valley’s like that, over there.
L: Yeah, right!
P: So maybe, we can see into it?
L: It’s another view that’s just so amazing that you can’t even, like, take it all in.
P: Yeah, it’s gigantic.
L: Oh, I gotta pause.
P: Well, maybe stop taking it all in (laughs).
L: Yeah, I gotta pause. Where’s the road wider? Let’s jump out for a sec.
After driving along the edge of the ridge, looking down into Red’s Canyon, we quickly ran into some scary road as we descended into the bottom of the canyon. I did not know that Paul was recording my driving noises. Thanks Paul.
L: (squealing) Oh god, this is scary! I like how they bank it in! Bank it in real strong! Please, no one coming around the corner!
P: We’d see their dust.
P: Oh wow – we’re going all the way down there.
L: Holy shit! Ahh, this part right here!
P: Just get through it.
L: Fuck, fuck fuck, fuck fuck. I don’t like roads like this.
L: So we just drove down this insane road, it was like a shelf road at times. We lost how many feet, Paul?
P: Close to 2k.
L: From the top of the plateau down to where we are now, in the bottom of a canyon. And we came to look at this arch called Hondoo Arch. And at the bottom there’s this – what do you call that thing? Oh, they’re calling it a powder magazine. A little structure. And – it’s also…
P: A uranium mine.
L: I don’t know what uranium looks like…
P: So, alright, this is a good lunch spot.
(Lunch making audio)
P: Sandwich sounds!
L: Are you recording?
L: Oh! You gotta tell it what you’re doing!
P: Making sammiches! (laughs) It’s dusty as hell in here, and it’s a little bit of a mess. So, top-down sandwich making, is vertically difficult, but easiest (laughs).
P: Alright, we only have three cheeses.
L: I know, so we’re going to have to fight for the last one.
P: Sacrifices, Lis. Sacrifices.
L: So that means you don’t get the cheese, I get the cheese.
We had just been marveling at the fact that we hadn’t seen anyone else all day when four friendly ATVers buzzed by, taking pictures of the arch as they passed. Then, we had our lunch spot to ourselves once again.
L: Thank you.
P: Alright, good?
P: I’m going to stop this.
L: Lunch is s…
Served! He was too fast with that stop button. After lunch, we did some more driving. And driving. And driving. The hunt for the perfect sheltered campsite was not easy. There was plenty of time for inane chatter along the way.
P: I think we might be getting to potential campsite spots. There were two that were up on the left, tucked in. Um – hopefully out of the window. They should be coming up soon, I think.
L: Cool – there’s some nice trees back there too.
P: Yeah, which would help. The wind’s not crazy yet – it seemed like it was supposed to be around noon. Maybe just early afternoon?
L: Four wheeler!
P: Just the one. It’s amazing how many of those people wear ear protection. Oh – one more!
L: Well, I wonder if it’s to keep the dust out of your ears, more so than the sound. Because I bet you get a lot of dust in the ears.
P: Yeah – that’s not a bad point. Did you see that guy was like, power-sliding around this corner?
L: (scoffs) Yeah.
P: We could do that if you want, just say it. Just say the word.
L: I’m good.
That first potential site didn’t work out. Because there weren’t any actual road spurs where Gaia maps showed road spurs. That happens a lot. Try number two.
L: So we just went down this spur that we thought was going to be a possible camping option.
P: How many side-by-sides were there? There were four, five, six. (thud)
L: Oh, Jesus!
P: That guys was coming in hot!
L: Holy shit! Well, we almost head-on-collisioned with that one. And that one. Oh my god. Idiots. Phew.
P: Whew. Those guys weren’t joking around.
P: Alright, so… (laughs)
L: Got some adrenaline going!
P: Uh yeah. Six side-by-sides maybe. Two Jeep Wranglers. And us. All converged in the middle of nowhere. (laughs) To look at empty shacks and old mines. We didn’t even know there was a mine there. It just seemed like a good camping spot. Definitely people have camped there, definitely creepy with abandoned houses.
L: Yeah, so we could have camped there, but number one, there would have been people rolling in all day, and also, nothing to stop other people from camping there too, and not a ton of privacy, so not ideal. So, going onward down the bumpy road.
When we keep talking about finding a site that is private or that has good privacy, we are mainly talking about making sure there’s somewhere we can go to the bathroom without being seen from the road or by another camper. Following ‘leave no trace’ principles, of course!
L: So now we’re climbing out of the bottom of Red’s Canyon. There weren’t any dream spots down there. Which is probably a good thing, because the clouds are actually really dark and most of the road was a wash, so I think it’s OK.
P: Or clay, right.
L: Clay, right.
P: Clay dust.
L: Clay dust. So we’re climbing up this steep weird little thing, back onto the plateau.
P: Nice and steep!
Once we’re back out of the canyon, we venture down some side roads by a cool-looking butte called Family Butte. But there are already a few people back there in the ideal spots. We check out another spur to see if there are any good sites there.
L: So the little spur here is eight tenths of a mile long. I think it goes back up into that little canyon right there. Or that little bowl. This could be a spot right here – there’s a fire right. Hard to tell if it’s a wash or not, though – it’s hard to tell if the road is the wash.
P: It sure seems wash-y. Although the wash is down there, officially.
L: That could be another one.
P: Looks kinda dicey.
L: Yeah, uneven.
P: Alright, so that one, that is semi-protected. Minimal private, you want no traffic if you’re gonna dig a hole. Are we on BLM?
L: Oh no, we weren’t.
We keep talking about being in a wash as being a deal-breaker for a campsite – a wash is a dry riverbed that will become a river again if it rains anywhere in its watershed. Never, never, never camp in a wash. Even if it is not raining and not expected to rain – just don’t do it. It’s too risky. And you’re not going to get a good night sleep thinking about being washed away in a flash flood.
L: I think almost everywhere we are back is here is wash.
P: Yeah. (sighs)
L: Now we’re on BLM again.
You might be getting a little tired of this by now – we were getting tired of it too! After we got to the end of the spur, we parked and walked around and found that this area wouldn’t work either, because it was a mine ruin, which – you got it, that means it would be unlikely that we’d have a site that was private enough, on top of all the other issues we spotted on the way there.
L: Scouting for a campsite…it’s tough today because we have these specific criteria. We found a bunch of really great sites earlier, but they were right on the ridge, so that’s not gonna work today. And unfortunately this one’s not gonna work either. No flat spots, just a bunch of mining wreckage everywhere. So…keep looking!
L: So there’s this lower spot down here.
P: And I just didn’t think it felt very private. This whole area feels ATV-ish, like we’re gonna get buzzed all day. And maybe we won’t. But the other side of the road was so quiet. And we didn’t really see anybody until we got past that mid-point. So I feel like everyone else might be doing that northern route in, and might just be doing in-and-outs. And if we go on that other road, it might be quiet. We just don’t know about the wind, right. So we’ll just see – it’s gotta start soon. And then…there’ll be the moment of truth.
L: Yeah, maybe this time they’ll be wrong in the opposite direction and there won’t actually be any wind.
P: It seems like whenever they’re wrong, it’s like, extra wind. (laughs)
Finally, we think we’ve found our spot. Now we just need to get into it.
P: I think it’s just over this rise.
P: Yeah, back in this thing.
L: Alright, cross your fingers that nobody’s back there!
P: So – backup spot, spot we saw two, three hours ago.
L: The first spot we saw!
P: The first, relatively decent spot we saw. Which might not even be a spot. We can make it into a spot.
L: We’ll make it into a spot. So it’s kind of a typical road up into nowhere, and then a circle up in the trees, and a fire ring.
P: Oh, a turn around.
L: Where’s the turn around?
P: This is the turn around. You said circle in the trees.
L: Was that not obvious?
P: No (laughs).
L: Alright, you’re going to have to help me find a level spot, man. How about over there?
P: Yeah, let’s look around. I’m going to pause this.
L: But this is the fun part, for how we figure out how to get level!
P: Alright, we’ll keep recording (seat belt unbuckles).
L: So – this is typically how it goes. We find a spot, Paul gets out, looks around, makes little arm motions, tells me where to go (giggles), and I try to do it. (sigh) This is going to be a tough one.
P: Alright, crank it right. Alright, straight.
L: This feels terrible.
P: It is – it is terrible.
L: It is terrible, he confirms. (beep)
P: Just pause right there.
L: That feels pretty good. So this is where the level app comes into play. Paul checks all the sides and then checks the floor, and usually, we have to adjust a bunch.
L: So this spot is kind of up against a ridge, to the direction we think the wind is going to come from, like north and west. And then it looks out over this big meadow. And we’re pretty high elevation, so it’s probably going to be a little chilly. (yells out the window) What’s the word?
P: I’m going to get some rocks.
L: OK. He’s getting rocks.
P: We might need a lot of rocks.
L: (stilted laugh) (thud) This is the part where Paul gets rocks, stacks them up underneath the tires (clunk), and then I drive on them. At these sites there are always abundant flat rocks, either from the fire pit or just laying around, because everybody does this. (clunk)
P: Alright, let’s give this a shot (nervous laugh). So it’s a two-stepper.
L: Forward or backwards?
L: Forward, OK. (car shifts into gear)
P: Like a foot – there it is.
L: OK. (engine revs)
L: Wow, that feels very high.
P: I over-rocked?
L: I feel like you over-rocked.
He did over-rock. Leveling can be a tedious process. I have actually spared you many of the details of our many attempts at leveling in this site.
L: Leveling, take four. This feels pretty good. I feel like this is going to be good.
P: Alright, we’re at like one degree with our front a little low. I think it’s good. Nice work.
L: Alright, we’re done. Good job.
(Car turns off audio)
L: Engaging the e-brake. And done. Oops, didn’t roll the window up all the way. And done.
L: So we’re going to climb up to the top of this little hill behind us and see what’s going on back there.
P: Yeah. But it’s 2:30, we’re stopping a little earlier than normal, just because we’re expecting to get rocked by some wind.
L: Right, and because we just wanted to find this like, perfect site that doesn’t exist anywhere else.
P: Yeah, a sheltered enough site so that we can sleep here (laughs). And it’s Saturday, so.
L: Yeah. So let’s climb up to the top of this rock! There is no crust here, I will tell you for the record. We’re not stepping on crust! Anyway, there’s also cow shit everywhere, so…that.
If you followed series two of this podcast, you’ll know that I’m not a huge fan of cows. I don’t have anything against the cows themselves really. Other than being slightly scared of them. It’s just that grazing cows on areas like this in Utah just seems insane to me. There’s barely anything for them to eat. There’s no water for them to drink. Ranchers need to deliver water to strategically distributed tanks and bring in salt and mineral licks to make up for their nutritional deficiencies to keep these cows alive. The cows look mangy as hell. When I see free-range Utah beef on a restaurant menu, now I see these cows and I’m not sure their life was any better than a feedlot cow’s life. I really pity these cows. It doesn’t seem like a good deal for them, for the ranchers, or for the people who eat them. Is the amount of lasting land damage they create really worth having one more cow to sell and eat? Anyway, I digress. Back to hiking to the top of the hill, where there was no crust aka cryptobiotic soil to destroy.
P: Phew. Still up high. We did not get low elevation. There’s sun over there! What is that, Family Butte? (wind)
L: Family Butte.
P: So it’s got – one, two, three, four, five, six little pinnacles (wind). And the wind. This is kind of a westerly wind?
L: West is like, this way.
P: I would think it’s more that way (laughs). Yeah, true.
L: Yeah (sighs), what do you think?
P: It’s worth trying. I don’t think we can get anything better.
L: Yeah, I don’t either.
L: Alright, time to pop the top and see how the wind treats us (wind).
(Latches clicking audio)
L: Turn on the propane.
(Propane valve turns)
L: Last night, we forgot to turn it on, and Paul managed to jump out, turn it on while the stove was lit, before the stove went out, which I think was…pretty impressive.
P: (laughs) I got a lot of skills.
L: Don’t forget the bungee!
P: (groans) Popping the top.
L: Lotta dirt on the back. Lotta dirt. The seal around the door is – kinda worn out a little bit, so we’re getting a lot of this fine dust in our camper. But it seems to stay close to the back.
P: Yeah, I mean, once it gets in here, there’s no wind, so it just settles.
L: Stays around the door. So we’ll brush it off with the sweeper in a minute.
P: Top is popped.
L: Alright, so we shifted some stuff around, and now I’m basically going to redo everything I did earlier – in reverse. Ugh, it’s gritty. I’m going to get the wipes and give the surfaces a wipe (wiping sound). Lotta dirt back here. It’s a tough day – tough day for cleanliness.
L: So after I did the surface clean, I attempted to take a nap, but it didn’t work, because I am the world’s worst napper. And Paul’s reading. At about 3:30, the wind started picking up so…we think we’re OK. But, in terms of like, jiggling, we’ll see. Not bad yet. But did start to smell some smoke – from like, fire smoke. And they were doing some prescribed burns yesterday, so. Pretty far away, in the national forest to the north of Capitol Reef. So it’s probably just like – leftover from that, or they’re doing that again. But, I’m climbing back up to the top of the hill to see what I can see. (nervous laughter) It’s just always concerning to smell this smell. Especially living in Fort Collins for the big fires in – what was it, 2020? The smell is just kinda – freaks you out a little bit now. Ah, there’s more I could go up to see better but – (breathes heavily) – it’s steep, so. I may give up. And, no cell service here either. But yeah. We’re always kind of dodging the weather, looking at the forecast. Keeping tabs on the fire tracking sites. I’m just going to stand up here for a little bit and see if I can pull in some cell service. Sometimes it takes a minute.
P: I just started it.
L: Oh-kay! It’s close to 5:00, so that means it’s happy hour time! (cooler opens) What do we have for happy hour?
P: Uintah beer.
L: Paul’s digging it out of the cooler.
P: I think our last Uintah beers.
L: Yeah, I think so. So this is a Uintah Grapefruit Nosh IPA. I’m actually drinking an IPA. And I like it! Not sponsored by Uintah. (laughs) Yet.
P: (laughs) The taste of Utah!
(Beer cans open)
L: Cheers! So, since my ill-fated attempt to get cell service and see the smoke, it doesn’t seem quite as smoky.
P: Latest from Garmin – 20% chance of rain right now. (laughs nervously)
P: Which is interesting. And also, peak wind isn’t until way later in the day than the earlier forecast said. So peak wind’s gonna be around like, eleven. So that’s – but it’s 40 miles an hour, which is not insane, but it’s a lot of wind. So – restless beginning. By five am though, it should be way died down. So we just have to get through the middle of the night. The other thing – it seems like it’s kind of warm! It’s supposed to be 41 at least, here.
L: I thought it was supposed to be 21! (laughs)
P: That’s good news. (laughs)
L: This is impossible.
P: Yeah – because the difference between 41 and 21 is a very different sleep strategy.
L: I mean, I guess the forecast I got was just garbage. OK, well, fingers crossed it’s 41.
Yeah, like a lot of old married couples, we spend a lot of time talking about the weather.
L: So, let’s talk about the exploration that we did today. So it was mostly vehicle-based exploration.
P: Yeah – we didn’t find any good hiking trails, really. I kinda thought we might.
L: No. I thought we would, especially because the Garmin showed hiking trails…
P: Gaia maps showed hiking trails.
L: Gaia – sorry, Gaia maps showed hiking trails. But what we found was that it really was an area that was pretty much all about off-road vehicle driving.
P: And cow grazing.
L: But it was spectacular! It was absolutely spectacular!
P: It was beautiful.
L: It was way more beautiful than I thought it would be.
P: We’re at 6,800 feet right now, we went down to like, almost 5,000 over the course of the road and then climbed back out. (wind gust) You hear that? This is the wind. (hum starts) Refrigerator: on.
L: The beer is icy cold!
P: It is icy cold and delicious.
L: Thanks Dometic! (laughs) Click on the link! Get us 10%!
P: Yeah! I think we drove about 40 miles off-road, mostly dirt. Didn’t see anybody for the first, like, half, and then a little bit more traffic the second half. It was all afternoon. Our first half was all pre-lunch and then – I think we were in the busier section in the afternoon too. Where a lot of ATVs know to explore. There’s some old mines and ruins and shanties and stuff to poke around in.
L: How would you even describe that canyon?
L: I mean, it had so many different rock layers and so many different colors.
P: There’s a lot of that horizontal red layer stuff, that we drove through in the top part of it. But then you eventually get to that white sandstone with the uh, you know, uh, rust stains and the um, copper stains and stuff on it.
L: The copper stains were cool, I don’t feel like I’ve ever seen, like, different color stains on it like we did today, like the green and the red and the…you know…other colors.
P: Yeah, and then by the time we got to the bottom of the road, we were in like – a river valley. There was a real river with real water. Trees – or not trees but like, vegetation.
L: Where the hell did that come from?
P: Yeah, we’d have to look that up.
L: In hindsight, because we never saw it again.
P: I think it cuts through and we stayed on the one side of it the entire time, like the wash that leads into it (big gust).
L: Oh, jeez. Oh, that’s a good gust.
P: Solid gust. But yeah – that smooth…well, not smooth, but like, wavy sandstone was gorgeous and there was a beautiful arch – Hondoo Arch. Gigantic arch. Off at the top of one of these mesa-y things.
L: It was like, every layer of rock that you see in Utah, and then, different colors. That brilliant red volcanic ash, and that deep red sandstone – we need to be geologists! But, there was so much rock!
P: Lot of rocks, and the rocks were different.
L: And they were pretty colors. And it was so cool, at the top before we descended down, how you could see it all spread out, and then you could see the top, the high mountain ranges behind it with snow on the top. (big gust)
P: Yeah. Outside of the fun of the drive, and maybe camping at the arch viewpoint area, is there anything that you’re like – I gotta go back and do?
L: Well, I wish there was stuff there. It didn’t feel like it would be easy to explore that area.
P: It seemed hard, yeah.
L: Like, even – I was picturing that, even without trails, I was thinking that we’d be able to get into a wash and hike up into an area, but it just felt like…
P: It was very steep. The road was kind of in the thing that was accessible.
(Loud click and whoosh)
L: Oh shit! The door just blew open! Alright, usually we lock it when the wind gusts, so we need to do that! Man, you couldn’t plan this stuff. But yeah, that’s a really good point, because even if we could get into a wash, we would have quickly been shut down by a dryfall.
P: Yeah, they were super steep. (door latches) So tomorrow, we’ll have to see how cold the forecast we get tomorrow is.
L: Yeah – who knows.
P: Well so right now, this area – let’s look. Garmin button (click click).
L: Not sponsored by Garmin.
P: We paid good money for both of these things! Low of 29, low of 30 Monday.
L: I mean, that’s not terrible!
P: No, we’ll survive.
L: We’ve been having that. So I think the last time we dealt with a windy day like this, we were saying, oh, we’ll stay at a hotel the next time it happens, but we know there’s a couple of really cold days coming up in the future that we’re planning to stay at a hotel, so we decided to just deal with it.
P: And we dealt with it the other day and it went fine, as long as we got the good campsite. We ended up, that day, that was windier than it was right now. And we got a camp spot and jammed the truck up against a rock and a tree to try to get out of the wind – and still didn’t really escape it. And then eventually just popped the top around dinnertime so we could make dinner, even though the wind was still blowing. And then it finally calmed down after. And it kicked up so much dust and dirt.
L: Well, you could see it hanging in the air above the canyon!
P: Yeah, it was just amazing how much material was moving around. I got so much out of my ears. It was disgusting.
L: Oh my god. I either don’t have it in there or I haven’t gotten it out.
P: It was that first day. With just a little Q-Tip, and it was just like – grit, grit, grit, grit. (laughs)
L: Eww! Gross.
P: But you gotta exfoliate your ears, everybody knows that. So yeah, we’re trying to be tougher and more strategic about our hotel nights. Coming up, supposed to be chance of rain, super cold, also windy. That means we’re in a hotel. (laughs) And we need showers! It’s been a while.
L: Oh yeah, we need showers so bad.
P: How long has it been?
L: Uh, I said that earlier today. Five days? Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday…(fades)
P: Let’s confess. So tonight’s – so we’re on like, a weekly cadence here. Don’t want to overdo it.
L: I think the dirt sucks up some of the oil, too.
P: Yeah, it’s cleansing. I mean, people pay good money for clay masks. (laughs) That we just have to sit in the wind for.
P: Um – oh, what was the scariest part of the road today?
L: Scariest? The fucking shelf part! Whenever we’re on a shelf and we have to bump up over – a bump – and the bump makes you cantilever towards the shelf, that’s my worst nightmare. Or, when I brake fast and the wheels lock up, and you skid a bit to the side? Holy shit! When we stopped to take the picture I did that, I braked too hard, and it did that. And I hate that.
P: The gravel’s like ball bearings – you can feel it in the corners too.
L: How about you?
P: I think that, yeah, the part you drove downhill into the area was the worst.
L: (laughs) It was terrible!
P: Yeah. I got, like my part uphill was pleasant. The shelf’s not that bad. It’s such a nice road.
L: I mean, for back here, in the middle of nowhere, it’s a very nice.
P: It’s the – it’s like, the crème de la crème of dirt roads.
L: Yeah! County road level dirt road!
P: Oh yeah, that’s a huge compliment! It’s like it’s maintained by the county, not just total shit.
L: Exactly! It’s county road level, it’s good. We’ve been on – oh sorry, go on.
P: They might even plow it in the winter.
L: Yeah, right. We’ve been on much, much worse roads, and I was definitely expecting it to be like that. So, that’s the only reason we were able to do that whole loop today.
L: Cheers to Bob the camper’s one year anniversary. Of having us live in it. Cheers, Bob.
P: Yeah so, a year ago, I had quit my job, Lisa had already quit her job, and we drove out to Reno, Nevada, to pick up the camper so that we wouldn’t have to pay California sales tax.
P: Well, we eventually paid Colorado sales tax.
L: Yeah! You pay your home state sales tax.
P: Yeah, but we didn’t want to double-tax. We picked it up that morning-ish, in the parking lot of the Home Depot.
L: It was – we’ve, we’ve spoken about this together. It was all on the up-and-up. (laughs)
P: Yeah, it was all on the up-and-up. (laughs) But yeah, we had it all installed, it rode nicely, and then we drove basically just to the other side of Reno, outside of the city, and got to that reservoir park area. I don’t know if that was a free campground, or?
L: Yeah, that was. We were – we just dispersed camped on the beach.
P: Because we didn’t have propane yet, we didn’t have the refrigerator yet. We were pretty lean and mean. But I remember being pretty happy that we had it. And I think we were – we were not quite on our leveling game then. But we had lucked into and OK spot that was pretty level.
L: Well – that’s when we started to learn that if we’re not level, it’s extremely uncomfortable to sleep.
P: It’s less comfortable, yeah. (laughs)
L: Yeah, after that, we became more obsessed with the leveling game.
P: Trying to get a degree off, at most. Or two. I think lately, I’ve been going for one.
L: You’ve been killing it, man.
P: We had three days, or two days of 0.3, and yesterday was 0.2, that was the best. Today, the streak ends, that’s fine! (laughs) So it’s been one year, we picked it up, parked it in front of our house, because it doesn’t fit – or didn’t fit into our old garage. And uh – bid our time?
L: Full circle on the podcast too! Because that’s where we started. So, here is – one year later.
After a little more reminiscing, it was time to actually make dinner.
L: We’ll make superbowls for dinner. Did we make up the name superbowl, or did that come from somewhere?
P: Well, there’s a sporting event that…copyrighted the term. (laughs)
L: I mean – related to food.
(Match striking audio)
L: But it really is the real day in the life, man. Taking forever to level. Multiple match strikes.
P: Yeah, matches man.
L: These are the infamous superbowls. We’re trying to eat more veggies and not just eat canned chili and ramen noodles and pasta…
P: And Indian food in the bag.
L: And Indian food pouches. Which are all high in sodium. But delicious! So, our – Lisa’s and Paul’s superbowl recipe is as follows. Base: white rice.
P: Usually basmati, today jasmine. No basmati at the store. Green River almost had everything – great grocery store, really appreciate it being there. Did not have basmati rice. Totally fine! Jasmine’s delicious! We have jasmine. And we make it weird, we make it by boiling it for nine minutes and letting it sit for nine minutes, because like, high altitude, requires different technique and this seems to work, because it has a big window of done-ness, vs. other strategies, which we haven’t been as successful in.
L: Yeah, and I’m really picky and I think it’s delicious, so, I love this strategy.
P: So, phase two, we poured out the rice, we just put in the harder vegetables to steam for two minutes, which I’m keeping track of in my head. And then the rest of the veggies will go in after that and steam for about two minutes.
L: (snorts) So when Paul talks about harder veggies, he means like, cocaine and heroin…
P: Yeah, yeah yeah, the real stuff.
L: Actually, broccoli, and whatever. So the whole – the base is a grain, and the topping is vegetables. And they’re both cooked vegetables and not cooked vegetables. So first goes the hard veggies.
P: Which is broccoli and a variety of other stuff from the Green River grocery store. Where they had just a bag of washed veggies, and that was very convenient. And then we also have peppers, onions, and carrots going in. Um, and then raw, after that, will be tomatoes and avocado. And then the topping will be salsa.
L: And…cheese. And a squeeze of lime.
P: Oh yeah, cheese too. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
So that’s a super bowl! If you want to see pics of that or anything else we talked about today, check our website, roadtrippinginamerica.com.
L: While we were cooking – while we were prepping the veggies, we listened to the new Band of Horses music, which was perfect. And then later, we’ll listen to a podcast.
P: Also, the wind is very variable. Right now it’s awesome. I feel like it’s gonna get worse. But, currently we’re happy.
After a delicious dinner, at long last (at the late hour of maybe almost 9pm) it was time to get ready for sleep. That involves making the bed and getting things situated.
(Door opens and closes)
P: I just got a good door recording.
L: Honey, I’m home! (giggles) So I’m going to set the thermostat for 45? Er, oh wait, 46. 46. Door’s definitely all the way fully closed. You want your sleeping gloves?
P: No. (laughs)
L: The fact that it’s still above 60 at, after 9pm, is huge. So did you tell the day in the life how our evening ended?
L: So, we listened to a couple podcasts – The Journal and, what is that other one?
P: Compound and Friends.
L: Compound and Friends. Ate dinner. Didn’t play cards because Paul didn’t feel like getting beat. Wind has not been bad at all, knock on wood. We kinda psyched ourselves up for nothing. So now we’re getting in bed. And we’ll either check in the morning, or we’ll die. (laughs maniacally)
P: What’s gonna happen is that we’re going to turn the recording on at 11, when it’s insane, and we’re like, oh, we’re gonna die! I mean, you can hear it…
L: See you then! Either the end, or to be continued.
That wasn’t where we intended to end the day in the life! Around 2am, Paul wanted to record the gusty wind sounds but the handy recorder battery was dead from the cold and the long day it had had. The wind really wasn’t as bad as we expected. Was that because it was not as strong as had been forecasted or because we picked the perfect sheltered spot? We’ll never know. But a few nights later, as we sat in a hotel in Green River, UT with 50+ mph winds buffeting the Bobs outside our window, filling the valley with a thick cloud of dust, we knew that the wind wasn’t that bad. We were very glad we saved our hotel night for that night.
So where to next? Well, who really knows? We might tell you one thing, then change our minds tomorrow. What we do know for sure is that we’re staying West. We’re staying in Utah until we feel ready to go or until we need to be back in Colorado later this summer. I can’t imagine we’ll ever get sick of Utah. I just wish there were more wine shops.
Next time, we’ll talk about money and advice – how the outflow is going, how we got to possibly maybe early retirement, and how much you really need to spend to equip yourself for roadlife. We’ll also share some of the unsolicited advice we’ve been getting and then unironically throw some unsolicited advice at you.
Thanks for listening.
blooper – what else we got going on? Nothing!