Our dear friends Caroline & Chase were moving back to Austin from the mountains of Northern California.
Caroline, pregnant with her second child, proposed an adventure that included us flying out to her cabin near Mount Shasta, to hop in her Ford F150 hitched with her Casita travel trailer named Tawanda, and load us up with two more travel companions, Augie the Tiny Tiger (a 150 pound Great Dane) and Ink (a nine pound rescue who may be part poodle and piglet) in order to drive across the country. Eastbound and down towards Texas.
Naturally we accepted this mission and before we knew it we were hitched up and rolling out of Shasta, CA howling out of the open windows with our pack. With the mountain in our rear view, we made a quick stop at the headwaters to fill up our bottles with ice cold spring water from volcano Shasta herself. There were gorgeous Pacific Dogwoods blooming off smaller trees, with towering Pines trees all around us so tall that you had to strain your neck to see the tops. The golden morning sun streaked through and we were off on the open road learning every moment how to travel like real road dogs. “Start before you’re ready” was our understated mission statement.
About an hour into the 2,250 mile trip, Augie the Tiny Tiger (not tiny at all) must have been car sick because he had explosive diarrhea all over the back seat. All over our luggage. All over Inks bed and blanket. But we handled that shit. Bryan pulled everything out and threw away the soiled bedding, rinsed down our bags and doused everything in essential oils. Onward we went, a bit shook but maintaining high spirits.
We drove south through the sprawling Sierra plains toward Yosemite National Park. Up, up, up winding along the 120 to the Big Oak Flat entrance. There was one ten minute steep climb up the side of a cliffs edge that got out hearts pumping and pushed the truck and trailer to its limits. We sang “RV Parking Angels” as we approached the entrance, because naturally we made no reservations to camp. 5 minutes later we were backing into the last trailer parking spot left in Hodgdon Meadow. We grilled broccoli and cauliflower with chicken sausage which we made in our portable gas grill sitting on top of a steel bear lock box. Post noshing we rolled out a blanket and began to decompress from the long day on the road. While laying under the tall pines we spotted chickarees, a massive mule dear, an acorn woodpecker, peregrine falcon, a blue magpie and other woodland creatures but we never were able to find a black bear.
We learned so may lessons in one day about trailer travel - one being that flat surfaces are everything! Our spot (#6) was on a lean so our bed, kitchen, and bodies were on a lean. At that moment, we were so tried we didn’t care but made note of this fact. We slept hard and woke up a 6am ready for a new day. Whipped up breakfast tacos and overnight cold brew, we loaded up and rolled towards Yosemite Valley. Looking upon the valley it was hard to believe a place this beautiful exists, and it’s here in America. We felt like we were in a mix of Peru, Switzerland and Vermont but with a majesty all it’s own. The views were unbelievable, as the colors of the expansive valleys blended into the sky creating the most colorful work of art. Waterfalls, river, and granite cliffs, like the famous El Capitan and Half Dome, where rock climbers from all over the world come to play. I hand’t thought of this before but national parks like Yosemite are international destinations. It’s a melting pot of culture here. Travelers from all walks of life, speaking in their own tongues but the unmistakable sense of awe was shared between all people.
At one point during our exploration of the valley we parked at the base of El Capitan with a view of Horsetail Fall under which we had a picnic consisting of mixed salads with spring spinach and rainbow chard, PB+J’s and matcha lattes. The area was blooming with California’s version of a bluebonnet, the Lupine. We laid in the sunshine and talked about life with this perspective… 1)We are crazy! 2) We are brave to do this adventure and to do it with a beginners mind. 3) “It’s OK to make mistakes while learning” 4) We stick out! Our home on wheels has a unicorn spray painted on the side. Our tiger pet and pathetic piglet, our hippy dippy shirtless yoga sessions. It’s all pretty loud, we may not be screaming but we are for sure songbirds.
As much as we wanted to stay, the road called to us. We drove out through Tunnel View and Wawona Road. Once again winding along cliff edges with rolling mountains and every shade of blue and purple, peppered with burnt pine trees still standing all strong and charred black. The lasting image of Bridalveil Falls in our rear view mirror.
Coasted down from 6,000 ft onto the the 99 south out of the high Sierra through dry looking flatlands over grazed by cattle in close quarters. We share this stretch of the road with giant transporter semis and raced along freight trains through industrial lots. As soon as you take the exit for 58 east, you see green re-appear before reaching the golden, purple and blue shades of the Mojave Desert. You can feel the vibe change from a buzzing to a rolling energy.
Road along next to a fellow Texan for a bit, who was just as loud as we were.
We pulled over in the middle of nowhere off Silver Queen Rd and had a picnic for two with only the wind and the sun. As soon as we drove onto the other side of Granite Peak, the weather shifted dramatically, the temperature dropped 20 degrees and a heavy low hanging cloud of mist engulfed us. The wind picked up and rejuvenated us. So we set the self-timer to capture a few wind-whipped self portraits.
We pulled into Desert Hot Springs and somehow found a gem of an RV park that had a natural mineral spring hot tub and pool. The wind was so wild still and the park’s care taker, Dean, and his husky/akita puppy Bandit told us we were wise to get off the road when we did because these winds are known for blowing over RV and travel trailers like tumbleweeds. Yet another lesson learned.
We immediately soaked our road dog bones in the hot healing waters before taking a sunset stroll in the desert evening. The oleander blooms swayed swiftly in the wind as the stars appeared and the howls of coyotes scored this trippy night in the desert.
The next drive day was short and sweet as we made our way up 62 through Morongo Valley where we stopped for a 15lb box of the best Medjool dates you’ve ever tasted to bring back to our friends in Texas. It’s as if you arrive on another planet when you reach Joshua Tree. Bryan and I climbed the granite formations left by aliens ;) and laid in the sunshine warming our bodies from the chilly breeze. We looked on in wonder at the views, the vastness, the difference in terrain and the precise climate that makes these Joshua Trees thrive
I sat in stillness for hours, captivated by the vibe here. The only words I can find to describe it is this feeling of unconditional love. A deep relaxation. The wildflowers and cactus blooms on the 100s of species of plants out here is overwhelming. All the colors of the rainbow sprinkled along the desert floor. We slept under the stars so grand and vast, windows open with the cool desert air blowing in.
By 6 a.m. the next morning we were eastbound and down through Joshua tree national park. We stopped to make hot oatmeal with fresh blueberries before we hit I-10. 6 hours later, we had arrived in the Sonoran Desert on the outskirts of Tucson Arizona by lunch time. Here in the Saguaro National Park, the monarchs of the cactus world reach out to welcome you to this surprisingly lush and diverse land. We just so happen to be here to witness these 150+ year old saguaros in bloom, each wearing what looked like white flower crowns. The tallest may reach 75 feet.
We camped among this multicolored landscape and had an outdoor shower to rinse away the dust before cooking dinner under a vivid sunset.
Guadalupe Mountain National Park would be our last stop on “The Trip”. This park preserves the rugged spirit and remote wilderness of the American West. Here in the ancient Guadalupe Mountains, which tower majestically into the Texas sky, you get a chance to hike a marine fossil reef from 260 million years ago!!! We layered on clothes bc the temperature had dropped into the 40s. We laughed once we realized there is yet another massive cliff edge named El Capitan here. We spotted a ring-tailed lemur in an Alligator Juniper tree. He watched us as much as we watched him, and we considered it good luck before the longest drive day of them all across the great state of Texas and home in the Hill Country.
After 8 days on the blacktop, life as a road dog has captivated me.