The Great Winter Vancation: Camping Reviews

A lot of people ask me about where we stayed in the van — and I’ve noticed that expectations are all across the board. Campgrounds? Parking lots? The side of the road? Wal-Mart?!?!

For the most part, campgrounds were the obvious choice, though we ventured to BLM land when we could, and we actually did end up on the actual side of the road once twice.

For the camp-curious, read on …  Continue reading

The Great Winter Vancation: The Itinerary

It’s been a couple of weeks since the conclusion of the Great Winter Vancation and the Creaky Sausage Boat is now resting quietly at her dock. Weather and responsibility may keep here there for the month, though we keep tossing out ideas to get away again.

For those who may be interested, below is a rough map and itinerary of our trip. I really enjoyed the magic of some of the places we visited and for anyone travelling to these areas, perhaps you will also want to pay them a visit. It would be a terribly long post to discuss them all, however, over the coming weeks, I expect I’ll be able to say a piece about each.

map Continue reading

The Great Winter Vancation: Part 3

We are home! A day or two early — not as if we were planning, though. In retrospect, two weeks is a long time away from home and we may have worn ourselves out a bit over-touristing the first week. We saw so much. It was super awesome, but I think we needed a few days of vacation from our vancation.

Also, the weather. The cold can be a bit overwhelming after so many days. On the morning after night nine, we woke up to ice on the insides of the van — on every exposed metal and glass surface. We had an early night, alone at Joe Skeen Campground, in the El Malpais National Conservation Area (see also: El Malpais National Monument).

It was an amazingly beautiful night; cold, but calm and very quiet. The stars absolutely killed it. We had just driven from our Christmas weekend rental house in Tesuque Village through Albuquerque, where we spent a couple of hours in old town, visited with an old friend and made some final touristy purchases (ie: southwest patterned socks, locally roasted coffee and chocolate doused in chili powder). We finally ate tacos and replaced our beloved bluetooth speaker that took a nose dive.

Back to Joe Skeen Campground. The morning was clear and beautiful, however, we knew that by Thursday night another storm would be rolling in. We left for El Morro National Monument with the plan to decide our direction of travel after our visit.

[Side note: El Morro National Monument is very cool. The staff at the center were awesome, and the monument itself was beautiful and the trails well maintained and cared for. This monument is also totally free. If you are ever in this area, please check it out! And offer support via donation if you can.]

After an amazing hike and a weather analysis, we determined that we’d miss out on local climbing, hit Petrified Forest National Park for sunset, and then power through to the Arizona/California border that night. We picked up burritos and coffee to go in Flagstaff, turned up the tunes and sped off into the cold, foggy night to our final roadside camp just east of the Mojave National Preserve. A short morning drive and we arrived at Sawtooth Canyon Campground for two days of climbing at one of our favorite crags, and one final night of vanlife in our favorite campsite.

We couldn’t have asked for better weather. The rock was cool, the sun was warm and the wind almost non-existent. Our skin was soft and lacking callus, as we’d been shut out from climbing for over a week, and had barely touched rock for the whole month prior to our trip. We climbed until our fingers couldn’t take it anymore, made one last meal in the Creaky Sausage Boat, and then headed for home, beating the rain by only a couple of hours.

This, was a great way to end the road trip portion of the Great Winter Vancation.




My “deck” shoes


Final post-climb meal in the CSB

More to follow!!!

The Great Winter Vancation: Part 2

Christmas Day. It’s after noon and we’ve had a hearty breakfast and a dance-off in the kitchen. Mr. Ridiculous made bacon and eggs and coffee; I made terrible bloody Marys with beet infused horseradish, because that’s all they had at the market last night. We got a dusting of snow throughout the night and I’m perfectly happy sitting in front of the fireplace for now.

Patches of blue sky are starting to appear through the clouds, even though it’s starting to drop snow again. We’re currently planning the next few days of our trip. If the weather cooperates, we expect to get in a couple of days of climbing on our way home. We’ve been sussing out potential campsites and discovering all of the lesser known national monuments and forests between here and Flagstaff. Six more days to go.

Since I last wrote, we have been to the New Mexico Space History Museum in Alamogordo, the Three Rivers Petrogylph site, Villanueva State Park, Pecos National Historic Park, Santa Fe Climbing Center, Bandelier National Monument, Los Alamos, Cross of the Martyrs in downtown Santa Fe and countless other roadside stops. I will have more to write on these things later, but for now, time for festivities! Here are some photos  🙂


Our second night of rain, at Holloman Lakes, outside of Holloman Air Force Base & White Sands National Monument


The roughly finished “kitchen” in the Creaky Sausage Boat



White Sands National Monument


New Mexico Space History Museum at Alamogordo


Three Rivers Petroglyph Site



Villanueva State Park


Pecos National Historic Park


Bandelier National Monument

The Great Winter Vancation: Part 1

It’s currently Night Four and we have cell reception at camp! We are currently boondocking at Holloman Lakes, just outside of Holloman Air Force Base. There’s one other car and a tent, some lights in the distance on one side of us and a very still lake that is part of a wildlife refuge on the other. At sunset we hiked around White Sands National Monument (which is AMAZING), and tomorrow I am so excited to visit the Space History Museum. The below was written last night, while we were outside of cell range. 


White Sands National Monument, NM

As I am writing this, we are on night three in the Creaky Sausage boat. Mr. Ridiculous is cooking pasta and we’re listing to my favorite playlist. I’m lounging on the bed with my laptop after chopping vegetables and washing a frying pan … during which I somehow managed to douse my left leg and shoes in soapy pan water. We are having quite the adventure. It isn’t at all how I pictured it, yet it is exactly what I was hoping for.

We left home Saturday afternoon to spend one night with family in Big Bear, making our final preparations and taking some time to relax. I’m going to call this Night Zero. Night one was spent in a gusty stretch of desert south of Joshua Tree and north of the 10 Freeway after a short drive and a long trip to the market to stock up on supplies. We learned that even in the van violent wind gusts make for minimal sleep, just minus the tent walls flapping.

Night two, and tonight, have been more than pleasant, unseasonably warm for Tuscon, parked up on Mount Lemmon in the Molino Basin campground (where camping is only $5 a night with your interagency pass!).

I am warm, I am comfortable; we are working out all of the kinks that come with a mobile lifestyle. I have installed hooks here and there, fashioned a door stopper that adjusts the sliding door to a desired opening size; we’ve figured out that cooking with one burner can be a challenge and that drawers must absolutely be secured. Velcro, utility cord and Command hooks are our friends. We successfully installed a strip of LED lights and tested out the solar panel.

We’ve already passed through two national parks, including a clear, moonlight drive through Joshua Tree, a sunset hike with petroglyphs and an abandoned mine in Saguaro National Park, and climbed at the hairpin on Mount Lemmon.

Even rest stops hold their own species of magic. We are here, in this place, right now — and that’s all that matters. This moment right now, this is the ideal moment, the one that is happening. Time means nothing. Even sleeping past the alarm, as we did this morning, didn’t matter. It’s okay to take time when you need it — when it serves the soul. What matters right now if how we feel — that our minds and hearts and souls are healthy.


Saguaro National Monument West



Goodnight from Holloman Lakes

The Great Winter Vancation: The Pre-Trip

This is me. And that sleeping beauty behind me is Mr. Ridiculous. And we would like to formally introduce to you THE CREAKY SAUSAGE BOAT.

The what?!?! Better not to ask too many questions.

The Creaky Sausage Boat is going to carry us through many, many adventures to come. As individuals, we both held on to dreams of hobo life; of being able to finally publicly acknowledge our inner dirt-bag in spite of our obligatory clean-cut-office-grind appearance. In an attempt to pack as many climbing trips into our lives as possible, our habit of ultra-light backpacking slowly morphed into minimalist car camping, finally culminating in an aggressive annoyance toward finding campsites and setting up tents in the dark. We want to just drive up and go to sleep. Neither of our cars have room for both us, our stuff, and the crash pad that we use mostly as a couch. The solution? Buy the biggest damn van possible.

And thus, the CSB was born.

Over the previous three weeks, we have built out what might be the most amateur cargo-van conversion I’ve ever seen. As people who generally sit at desks for most of the week, it’s been a bit of a learn-as-you-go process. But I think it’s coming along quite nicely.

That said, we gave ourselves the most unreasonable deadline of December 17th to ready ourselves for a two week adventure through Arizona and New Mexico, which we have lovingly dubbed, the GREAT WINTER VANCATION. This last weekend was our preview trip — a trip in which we (actually just me) bit our nails in anticipation and sheer anxiety. Destination: Red Rock Canyon.

This weekend was full of awesomeness … from the plethora of vans trending in the campground, the super cool couple and adorable dog that we shared a campsite with, Jeff and Mindy from the PNW that we met at the warm up boulders, the super strong local girls on the potato chip rock who were nothing but encouraging, to the adventurous Floridians that needed a ride into town, and the inspiring Diana, who served us at the Mexican joint on our way home; Naps on the side of road, wine under a super bright moon, finishing up the third pitch of Big Bad Wolf by headlamp and then laughing at ourselves as we navigated the walk-off after dark; A side trip to the strip for drinks and dinner with friends, a lesson on navigating large vehicles in places designed for compact cars, and realizing you have the biggest vehicle, yet can carry the fewest people (legally, anyhow).

It was a strong pre-trip and we learned that we really need more insulation, more storage and a counter top. We also learned that the van bed is amazingly comfortable and we are going to have the best time ever.