From the minute we picked up this RV, we couldn’t stop laughing. First of all, how is it possible that for $150 a night some dude just handed us the keys for this 27 foot rig? He very casually showed us a few things, and said, “See you in a week!” As we drove down the hill into PB we were totally excited but we kept cracking up as we saw our reflection in the storefronts.
Our very overzealous plan was to drive all the way to Sedona, Arizona on the first day. Well, by the time we got the RV it was 1pm, and then it took us about four hours to actually leave San Diego (lunch, visiting Rhodes, grocery shopping, a quick stop by Mark’s mom’s house…you know how it goes). So we get on Highway 8 East at 5:15pm, just in time for rush hour traffic. A bit unnerving in a gigantic vehicle that Mark barely has a handle on.
Anyway, the sun’s going down and we are in east San Diego by now and thinking, hey, let’s try camping somewhere around here. I mean, yeah, our plan was to make it all the way to Sedona (450 miles), but hey, we’ve already gone 60 miles, this looks good. So we had read a bit about “boondocking,” which is what you call it when you park your RV out in the middle of nowhere for free. I quickly scanned the area and it looked like we were near Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land, which means dispersed camping and boondocking is allowed. So we take the next exit and go right. I don’t know if it’s in our blood or what, but some sort of instinct was calling us back to Mexico. In a few minutes we saw the wall of the border, and a couple border patrol trucks stationed up on the hill. Almost back in Mexico—this spot felt right.
So we pull down a little dirt road and as we are going down a sandy hill, oops, we hit the bottom. I jump out and Mark curses for a bit, but we manage to back it out and get on flat ground. We think, here, then? We start looking around and suddenly notice a man lounging (sleeping) about 100 meters away on the main road, with a bicycle. We are literally in the middle of nowhere so we are thinking, “Hmm…that’s strange.” We start wondering what he’s doing, and then we spot a big beige bronco heading our way. As he gets closer, it dawns on us. Minute man. Guy waiting suspiciously on the road. Shit, we gotta get out of here!
We get in the car and start laughing at how stupid it would have been to spend the night there. Typical Mark and Michaela, entitled bastards who think we can do whatever we want. Anyway, we get back on the Highway 8 and make a new plan. Let’s pull into the next RV camp we find. Not very adventurous, but who the heck do we think we are, anyway? We spot a sign and head into Jackson’s Hideaway, and tiny RV camp with about 8 RVs that look like they’ve been there for 100 years. No one is in sight, so we figure we’ll pay at the office in the morning. We pull in, I dig around in the cactus until I find the electricity cord, we plug in, and we’re good. Too exhausted to do anything else but fall into bed, and we wake up to this:
On Day 2 we say, ok today we will make it to Sedona. Nope. After a late start, we finally cross the state border and as we cruise through Yuma the In and Out calls to us. From there we do a few circles around the shopping mall (I’m driving now and turning around is not as easy as you would think!) and keep heading north east. It’s close to 4pm and we are nowhere near Sedona, so we think, maybe we should try boondocking somewhere around here? I had read a blog about a spot off the I-95 in Kofa Wildlife Refuge Area, so we head in that direction. We pull down the dirt road and it’s amazing! Exactly the desert beauty that had spurred us to take this trip! Tons of beautiful red rocks, blooming cactus, and red earth. We find a remote spot without a soul in sight and set up camp (which by the way, is super easy in an RV. Basically we park on a flat spot, throw out some lawn chairs, and open a bottle of wine). Well, wait, we didn’t open the wine yet. It was still light so we went for a run through the desert. Mark did 5 miles while the dogs and I trotted around for a mile until I realized they were getting stickers stuck in their paws, so we hobbled back to the RV and opened said-bottle of wine.
The night is warm and we cook up our bean burritos and sit outside and enjoy the stars. We are two extremely happy campers!
On Day 3 we finally make it to Sedona after driving for what seems like forever. We follow directions to another boondocking spot of the FS 525, about 10 miles south of the town. Using Mark’s (painstakingly slow) decision making skills, we find the perfect camping spot (I have to admit, he chose wisely). The view is incredible, we are all by ourselves, and we crack open a couple Budweisers that we bought in honor of being in a motorhome (thanks, Dub, for the wise tip to get Buds, not Bud Light).
Here’s a short video to show you how amazing this place is:
(Be sure to click on Settings and then for Quality to select 1080p HD for best version)
Mark gets up early to do an awesome desert run, but I’m saving my legs for the bike ride—it’s been four days and I haven’t been on my bike at all, so I’m anxious to go! We drive into Sedona and find a spot to ditch the rig, and jump on our bikes to ride down 89A towards Oak Creek Village. It’s incredibly scenic as we ride through the red buttes and orange canyons. The bike lane is wide and comfy compared to riding in Mexico, and I’m having a blast. The ride ends quickly because I misread the map (it was only 7 miles, not 14), so we grab some lunch in Oak Creek Village and then head back to Sedona. One of the most scenic rides I’ve ever done, even though it was short!
That afternoon I say, “We should stay here another night,” which becomes the joke of the trip because I say that every day. It’s just that each place we stop in is so amazing! But Mark convinces me to push on, and we drive all the way to Monument Valley, Utah (well, it’s right on the border of Arizona and Utah). We get in late, pull into the last spot at Gouldings RV campsite (which we called ahead and reserved thank goodness) and head to bed early because we have a big ride in the morning.
Monument Valley is the reason why I planned this trip. I had heard that you can ride there at sunrise and the views are spectacular. Our rig was camped just 7 miles from the park entrance, so we were poised for an epic ride in the morning, assuming we could get our butts out of bed by 6:15. Well, it was a rough, cold night (we hadn’t figured out how to turn the heat on yet) and the wind was blowing when we peeked our heads out of the RV. We were grumpy and cold and tired, but after I walked the dogs the dawn was breaking and in the distance we could see just a glimpse of the beauty down the road. Mark jumped on his bike and I followed after him about 10 minutes later. I rode on that beautiful road listening to YoYo Ma and trying to record every moment in my memory forever.
We had read that once you get to the entrance, you can’t go any further unless you have a good vehicle to navigate the 17 mile dirt road (certainly not possible on a road bike). So I parked my bike and enjoyed the silence of the morning, drinking coffee and learning about the history of the Navajo people.
Meanwhile, what do you think Mark did? Well, having arrived at the dirt loop before the park opened, there was nobody stopping him from rolling in on his road bike. He figures, “I’ll just start and see how rough it gets.” Well, three hours later he peddles the last of the seventeen mile loop, with a number of scratches and bruises from multiple falls. So he is possibly the first dude on a road bike to ride the whole valley and he swears it was the best ride of this life. I’m sure it was.
We meet back at the campground and compare notes, giggling with excitement. We decide to head back to Monument Valley in the RV so the dogs can see how beautiful it is, and we have a lovely lunch in the café.
Now it’s mid afternoon and time to make a decision. Although I say, “We should stay here another night,” we agree to push on to Valley of the Gods, which is only 40 miles away. Valley of the Gods is known as a mini-Monument Valley, and the great appeal to us was that it was in BLM land that allowed us to camp by ourselves wherever we wanted. And boy did we find a campsite!
So we set up camp and sit down for our sundowners, basking in the glory of the day. The light changes and Mark says, “Wow, I gotta fly the drone right now!” I remind him that he’s not much of an agile pilot after a few drinks, but he says he’s got it, and takes off for the most gorgeous flight of his life. As we watch the camera capturing the footage of the valley, the buttes, and the canyons, we gasp as it seems the drone is just too close to the butte. All of a sudden, we lose signal and it’s gone. Nooooo!!!! Not only does this mean we have lost the drone, but also its last flight footage. We scan the horizon, and we have a good idea of where it crashed. Unfortunately it’s about 600 meters up a cliff. I make the executive call, “Run! Let’s go find it before the sun goes down!” So we go sprinting down the road and start shuffling up a shale covered red mountain. It’s like an easter egg-treasure hunt, and we spread out racing to find it before it’s too dark to find our way back. I decide we are turning back at 7:45, and then give us a few extra minutes, and at 7:47 Mark yells, “I got it!”
Now we hustle our way back down the cliff before it’s completely dark (it gets kind of sketchy, and I don’t think the alcohol was helping) but we make it, and it’s time to celebrate again! Check out the footage of this drone’s last flight:
(Be sure to click on Settings and then for Quality to select 1080p HD for best version)
Well, those are enough stories for now. We head north the next day for a very different landscape, and there are few more good stories to share. Stay tuned!
April 24, 2017 at 11:05 pm
Hi guys! It’s so nice to hear from you again! What an amazing trip! Big hug from Belgium, Peter and Evi
Tim and Joanne Joseph
April 25, 2017 at 2:40 pm
Mark and Michaela, this is fabulous! Not only have you convinced me that I want to see Valley of the Gods, but I MUST learn about flying a drone and how to shoot a video doing so. Wow, I really enjoyed seeing your shots. Thanks!
April 26, 2017 at 3:06 pm
Beautiful shots! I just happened to open up an old computer and saw your guys link, so I thought I would check in. Glad I did. Looks like an awesome (very familiar stop). Hugs to you guys and just a heads up Jake and I are in Vegas now per Jake’s job. Let us know if you come through.
April 28, 2017 at 10:46 am
Hi Nat! So nice to see your note! We were thinking of you guys big time as we passed through Paige. We are in Mammoth for the next week or so…..if you happen to pass through!
April 30, 2017 at 7:08 am
This is fantastic, Michaela!! And an entirely different kind of adventure for you two. I love how you wrote this and felt like I was on the journey every step of the way with you! The pictures are exquisite and quite breath-taking.
And thank goodness your famous drone survived!!
Sending much love and can’t wait to see you both!!