We headed out of the beautiful colorful Colorado and through Wyoming before we made it to the Western part of South Dakota where we met up with our good friend Tali. There were big plans of drinking beer, doing karaoke, and visiting the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in Sturgis, SD. Oh yeah, and we were going to take a nice hot shower at Tali’s house. Before we get into the whole story, it should be noted that we van camped in a few awesome places before arriving in Rapid City, South Datoka that will be discussed in the 2nd half of the post. So what did we do first once we got there? Head to the local watering hole of course! This place was called “Clock Tower Lounge” and it was pretty badass. We made some new friends and Bailey killed it as usual on the karaoke. She did an always enjoyable Honky Cat by Elton John. Classic!
It was safe to say that we all had enough drinks on Friday at the clock tower that on Saturday we basically sat around all day and watched movies, history channel, and the like. It was a great day of relaxation. We capped off the day with a delicious order of pizza and wings from local papa johns.
Sunday afternoon we headed out of Tali’s place in Rapid City and drove the 45 minutes up to Sturgis. We saw so many motorcycles on the highway and people camping at all the RV parks with all their gear. We toured much of the town of Sturgis before heading over to Continue reading “Sturgis Motorcycle Rally 2017 Recap”→
From our last stop in Utah, we hopped on I-70 once again and headed east to enter Colorado. We were heading to Vail, CO to visit my cousin, Jack, and his fiance, Callie. There were big plans of spending the weekend at one of their favorite hot springs on the Colorado river. Bailey and I also had some plans for downhill mountain biking since we were in Vail. Why not, right? Plus… we had our employee passes so we got a fat discount!
After a nice Friday night of beer drinking, we loaded up some of Jack’s friends and all the camping gear and headed out towards the springs. These springs are cool because they are right along the edge of the Colorado River. You have to hike down a steep cliff side to get to the springs. You can also take the fun way down – jump from about 40ft into the river below, then swim to the riverside and crawl into the spring from there.
Even though it’s so secluded, it was a fairly popular spot while we were there. Maybe it was just the weekend but it seems like a place the locals definitely know about. The water is probably around 85° coming from the source, so definitely not the hottest springs we’ve ever been in. Perfectly enjoyable non the less.
It was on Hwy 21 headed southeast out of Great Basin that we finally crossed the Utah state line. Great, we were going from one desert to another. But this desert happened to have 5 national parks! Thats right, good ol’ Utah, USA. Instead of doing a seperate post for each national park (because you know we had to go to all of them) I’ll just make this a longer post with different sections and loads of pictures, of course. Before I continue I should say that at this point the van has been running good ever since the first little overheating bout. I just put oil and tranny fluid in it every couple weeks and it keeps moving down the road. Oh yeah, and gas, we put a lot of gas into it! It’s a blast to drive though. Anyways let’s get started with park numero uno….
Scootin Utah; Pt. 1: Zion National Park
I gotta say right off the bat, this park feels a little like Disneyland to start. People are everywhere. It’s funky because to access most of the hikes and other cool things, you have to ride a park shuttle that take you to and from different stops along the main park road. I’m sure they’ve done this because it would be a madhouse with park if they let everyone drive their vehicle up the road. The bus ride did have some informative looping speach playing which was relatively interesting to listen to while we road the bus to our stop.
We really enjoyed our time in the park once we got onto the trails. We did the Angels Landing trail which was awesome. Paved path all the way up which was certainly easier than what we are used too. The last half mile though is across, up, and down all sorts of skinny rock edges and whatnot. There are even chains in some spots where you need them to hold onto to pull yourself up. Awesome hike that is highly recommended. Unfortunately we did not hike The Narrows, a very popular canyon hike straight through a river, because of potential flash floods. The entire canyon of Zion is very cool but plan for lots of people. Show up early to the visitor center for a parking spot and to get on the shuttle bus without a wait. We biffed it and waited more than 30 minutes to get on the bus, DOH!
For camping we were able to find 2 great spots outside of the park. The first spot we stayed was a mesa hilltop off Dalton Wash Rd. about 3 miles in. Great views of the surrounding scenery and a nice spot up a dirt road where RV’s with their generators can’t get. Pretty quite spot. I even got to ride my mountain bike all the way down that hill on the way out! The second site we stayed at was on another dirt road that lead to a mesa top that has some cell towers and other service buildings on it. Only a few sites were off the road but Continue reading “Scootin’ Utah: Touring the National Parks of Utah”→
We took the loneliest highway in America all the way to Sacramento Pass BLM area. Sweet free campground to pull into right around sunset and only a few miles away from Great Basin NP. We setup camp, Bailey made her always delicious chili, I made a little fire for heat, and we enjoyed ourselves for awhile before heading to bed. In the morning we made the regular bacon, eggs, and coffee from the Coleman 2 burner stove. We loaded up our belongings like we always do before heading down the road towards the park. We didn’t see even one other camper there the whole time, and there were plenty of sites.
We arrived at the park, went to the visitor center for the park movie, and decided where we were going to camp for the night. We stayed in Baker Creek campground inside the park for a small fee so we could remain close to the visitor center where we went to the astronomy program that evening. Before we went to the astronomy program we did a nice 6 mile loop through pole canyon that was relatively close to our camp. The astronomy program was fun and informative, unfortunately we were unable to look at the stars through the telescopes they had setup for us because of the bad cloud cover.
The next day we drove up the 10 mile scenic drive to the base of 13,000ft Wheeler Peak where we setup camp in Wheeler Peak campground for a small fee. The next day we would hike to the top of Wheeler Peak, a 3000ft vertical gain around 9 miles round trip. Not exactly your regular walk in the park. Punny huh? We woke up early the next morning to make breakfast and Continue reading “Exploring Great Basin National Park”→
So there we were, driving the old 1985 van in the heat of the desert, when I looked down and noticed the temperature gauge reading hot. I continued to drive for another few miles before I pulled over and let ‘er rest in the only bit of shade I could find amongst some old decrepit buildings that were covered in graffiti at a weird intersection out in the middle of nowhere. The artwork wasn’t bad though…
It was right about this time when I began to question myself on this whole idea. Why had we bought a 30 year old vehicle? What made us think that driving around the country in a vehicle older than me was a good idea? We were barely into the trip before we were getting hot on the highway. I had checked fluids and everything. I didn’t know what to do. I was really starting to get worried.
After a little while of exploring the abandoned buildings and letting the van cool down, we hopped back in and continued on our way. We made it to Tonopah, NV where we pulled into the gas station to reload on fuel. This is where I noticed coolant bubbling out of the overflow Continue reading “Spencer Hot Springs in Nevada”→
From the previous post, we had the flooring, walls, bed, and fantastic fan put into the van. A clean pallet for building our design. If I still had Bailey’s original “inside van sketch” I would certainly post a picture of it but when we were done, it came out really close to what we were shooting for. So…. after the bed was built we moved onto the countertop, cabinet, and storage area. It was perfect for the far side of the van because there are no windows on that side of the van. It made sense. Basically, we built a storage cabinet from the floor to the ceiling directly behind the drivers seat. The lower area of that cabinet would house all of the solar system items (batteries, inverter, fuse box, etc.) and the upper shelves would be mostly food storage and whatnot. Water jugs will be housed underneath the countertop area. We built the storage cabinet and the under-counter storage to fit some cool shutters that we scored from a local friend here in town. Shoutout to Mike O’Neill! They are old antique mini shutters. The shutters are perfect for the job because they hide all of our crap while also making it easily accessible. We painted them a cream white color to match the ceiling. Bailey did a stellar job at putting some fabric that we got from Jo Ann’s on the ceiling. The trick? A whole bunch of 3M 90 spray adhesive. That shit really holds stuff good! I’ve blabbed on a lot here, but we are somewhat close to being done with the build. I’m sure I have forgotten some things. There are plenty of small things still to do and I’m sure we’ll find another hundred things to do once we hit the road, but in the mean time… we are pretty proud of our progress!
First picture above is on/off switch to turn the solar panels off to stop charging the batteries when we aren’t using them. You can also see the charge controller and fuse block. A separate write-up on the solar system is coming whenever I quit being lazy. So you’re not chomping at the bit, it’s 2 – 100 watt panels on the roof running to 2 AGM sealed Vmax batteries wired in parallel for double the storage. This is plenty of power for what we will be running (LED lights, fantastic fan, charging phones, etc). The middle picture is the counter and cabinet just after we put the shutters on. You can see how great of a job we did. Hey, they hold stuff in!
After we had the flooring and walls up, it was high time we installed our new Fantastic Fan. They have many different models but after researching we decided to go with the medium model that has 3 different speed settings and the manual vent open and close. The more expensive ones that come with automatic rain sensors, reverse, 10 speeds, etc. just seemed like a little much for our application. Here is how we installed our fantastic fan vent into our 1985 Ford 4×4 van. A classic write up with lots of pictures is always good and relatively easy to follow along.
For this application, there was already a standard 14′ x 14′ hole cut that was housing an old manual vent that the previous owner installed in the van. From my research that is the scariest and/or toughest part, basically because you are cutting a hole in the roof of your rig. If you are installing the fan in an RV, there is a good chance that you already have the hole cut and are just replacing your old vent for the new Fantastic fan. This write-up is perfect for you.
To start, I needed to get onto the roof and start scraping away at the old sealant from the current vent. With a paint scraper, screwdriver (for scraping), and my drill with the proper bit, I was able to easily remove the old screws fairly easily. After the screws were out I was able to remove the old vent without much problem with a bit of Bailey’s help down below.
In the photo above you can see what the hole looks like with no vent in it. Getting the vent out was pretty painless. Now the real work starts…. I’d say I spent a good hour scrubbing and scraping at all of the old sealant and caulk on the roof. Honestly this was the hardest part of the whole installation, LOL. In addition to the paint scraper and my screw driver, a bottle of mineral spirits and a rag is great in this situation. The mineral spirits really helped to bring all that old crap up without jacking up the paint. Goo gone also works just the same.