A Travellerspoint blog

Travel Life - A Woman's Point of View - From Jan Wilson

Jan Wilson's views on traveling in an RV

Personally, I think all that Jan talks about is related to any sort of traveling- whether camping for 7 months, biking for 7 months or traveling in an RV - everything has it's place, must be put back when done using, and put away clean. Enough from me, I'll let Jan share her thoughts with you.

If you are interested in following Jan and Rob on their 7 month trip to 50 National Parks in the U.S. , follow them on
facebook by clicking here

You can also follow them on twitter by clicking here

Jan's first instalment:

We’ve been on the road for over 80 days now in our little home on wheels.

When I say home, this is home for us. We don’t have a house or apartment waiting for us to return to. We sold most of our belongings when we moved to Denver, Co a couple of years ago and bought enough furniture to furnish a small apartment there. Now our son has all that in his apartment in Columbus, Ohio.

We are on an adventure, with plans to relocate to Orlando when we complete the tour. We are no strangers to change, having moved over 30 times in 35 years of marriage so we know that this is only a plan at this point. We will wait to see what unfolds for us. Any suggestions?

As I sit here in the Sprinter Interstate I realize that we are living in luxury when it comes to RV’s. Being only 22 feet long and 8 feet wide, everything on board is compact.

But we have all we need. The most important motto for us is “everything has a place and must be put in that place when we are finished using it”. After 35 years of marriage Rob has become a “neatnick”. But that is the rule of the road in Rving.

Up front we have four leather seats, the driver and passenger seats turn so that we can set up the table and have seating for four.

A galley kitchen has a sink, two gas burner stove, a micro/convection oven and 3.1 cu foot fridge. Bathroom includes shower (although we use the shower at RV parks when available).

The rear lounge area, converts to a queen size bed, very comfortable I must say and there is plenty of overhead storage for all the necessities for seven months on the road. (see photo)

I equipped our kitchen with dishware and cutlery for four and the minimum of pots/pans, and microwave dishes. How quickly you realize that all that “stuff” for the kitchen you left behind is not necessary.

Baggies are extremely important to the RVer, they really save storage space in the cabinets and the fridge.

As for clothes – well, there is no one to impress with a different outfit each day so we do fine with a very minimal wardrobe. Inside the back two doors (behind the lounge) there’s space to store our various jackets and fleece for the different climates we’ll be traveling in. I use a space bag to save room.

We each have two pairs of hiking boots (thank you, Merrell!!), a pair of sneakers and a pair of sandals (actually I have 3 pairs of sandals). We store them in the various cubbyholes under the seats.

I added over the door hooks on the bathroom door for towels and jackets.

Now I must admit that I was very concerned about the storage space before we moved in. But we are managing quite well thanks to the storage container on the back of the RV that Airstream added for us. (Thanks Sue Dooley, VP, Marketing, Airstream, for that lifesaving container!!). (see photo)

Inside that we store a small grill and propane bottles (although we could hook up to the propane on board the Interstate), a small “roll-up” table, two folding chairs, a large frying pan, a small tool box, our hoses and electrical cord for hooking up the water and power at the campsites and other odds and ends for outdoor use.

This box has become Rob’s little nook and he’s quite good at making sure everything goes in its place.

Stay tuned for the next installment of “what’s our daily life like!”

Jan's second instalment of living in an RV for 7 months:

What does a typical day play out like?

It took us a couple of weeks to really get into a routine of who did what.

We usually plan our next day’s itinerary the night before so we aren’t wasting time in the morning. We wake early to the sun rising and the sound of birds singing. Sometimes I set the alarm if we want to make sure we leave at a certain time. So it’s up and at ‘em.!

I make up the bed, converting it back to a sofa to give us more room while making breakfast. We grab our toiletry totes, our towels and clothes and head off for showers. I always take longer than Rob, of course. Some higher-end RV parks have private shower rooms and others have several shower stalls together.

Seldom do we have to wait for a shower since we are usually up so early. If we use the shower in the RV we use the navy shower method, no long showers on those days.

By time I get back from my shower, Rob has the coffee going (we use a little 4 cup Cuisanart coffeemaker we picked up at Walmart). Breakfast is usually fruit, cereal and toast or sometimes when we are not hurrying off to a park, Rob cooks up one of his BIG breakfasts on the outside grill and we eat outside at the picnic table.

Those mornings, we linger over a cup of java and enjoy the sounds of the birds and chatting with our neighbors as they get up for the day. Our Sprinter Interstate attracts lots of interest at RV campsites. There is always someone who saunters up to ask what this “thing” is. The men usually want to know about the engine and the women want to see inside. We get “ooooohs and ahhhhhs” from everyone. It’s so interesting to hear about the travels of fellow RVer’s and they are full of good advice on places we are heading to.

With breakfast finished, the dishes are done, Rob washes, I dry and everything is put back in its designated place.

We take a day about every 10 days or so as a workday. Rob has writing and photos to download and catch up on. I have laundry and believe it or not cleaning to do inside RV. The laundry facilities at most RV parks are clean and it doesn’t take me long to do a few loads since I can use a couple of machines at one time. A wash can vary from $1 to $2 and a dryer from $.25 for 20 minutes to $1.50 for an hour.

We have a rechargeable vacuum the makes quick work of the dirt on the floor and I give the floor a good washing. We sure bring a lot of dirt back with us from those hikes!

Groceries are usually done that day,too. As I said earlier, gourmet meals are not high on our priority so we are finding that we spend far less on groceries than we did before the trip.

No room for the gallon of ice cream in the freezer either. We treat ourselves once and a while with a cone at a specialty shop.

Rob sometimes has to empty the grey and black water holding tanks into the sewer system at the RV campsite. A very easy chore, done in a few minutes and the hoses stored back in the storage box.

Before we can pull out for the day, I take care of stowing away anything that may become a missile while we are driving. I close up windows, take down the drape that fits the front window and generally tidy up.

Meanwhile Rob unhooks the electric and water and stores everything away in the storage box. We climb into our comfy seats, start up the Sprinter Interstate and off we go for the day’s adventure, ready for more discovery in the National Parks.

Jan's 3rd and final instalment:

So we’ve been out at a park or been on the road for the day. What’s next?

Most nights we’re pulling in at dark because we try to make the most of every day. Rob hooks up the electric and water while I turn the front seats around and hang up the front window drape and close the blinds.

On the nights we make a point of getting in early, we grill out and we cook extra so that we have leftovers for those evenings we arrive at our campsite late. Perhaps a grilled chicken breast and a great salad, or hamburgers – our favorites, big and juicy!

I know it’s unusual for the typical RVer but we are on a different mission. Simple meals that are easy to put together at the end of a long day work best for us. We have no problem filling up our stomachs though after burning all those calories on a hike. (We’ve each lost over 10 lbs so far on this trip.)

We keep a few frozen meals in the little freezer for those days when the two of us are just too worn out to prepare a meal or we know we have a heavy evening of downloading photos and writing ahead of us.

Most nights we do enjoy a little time at the table outside. There is nothing better than winding down after dinner by a fire and talking about the day’s adventure.

We usually wrap up with working on photos, writing, and making sure all our batteries and equipment are fully charged for the following day. (We blew some great photos opps once because of a dead battery – never again!)

When the day is over and the dishes are done (they have to be done so we can use the same ones the next day) I set up the bed again (an easy process) and get our clothes ready for the next morning.

Last one in bed makes sure the lights are all turned off.

One thing for sure is we have no problem falling asleep. We’re too busy to be worried about anything else than the discoveries awaiting us the following day.

Sweet dreams!


Posted by johnwilson 17:17 Archived in USA Tagged tips_and_tricks Comments (0)

Grand Canyon National Park

The Grand Canyon: The 10th Factor of Immensity - some thoughts on the Grand Canyon by Rob Wilson

Here are some of Rob's thoughts and feelings about the Grand Canyon. This was one of his stops on Rob and Jan's National Parks Tour. He was kind enough to share this with me.

If you would like to follow Rob and Jan on the 50 National Park Tour:

Their facebook site is here

Their Twitter site is here

Of all the descriptions written trying to capture the grandeur and immensity of the Grand Canyon, immensity is what dominates.

Oh, it’s a gorgeous cleft in the earth, all right - with colors in abundance, not to mention wildlife, forests, flowers, rivers, waterfalls. The Big Ditch is simply overwhelming to the senses. It is too big, too grand, too long, too wide, too deep to fit within our limited vocabulary.

But immensity-defined is the Grand Canyon.

We’ve long talked about hiking to the bottom one day, all the way down to Phantom Ranch. It’s a dream held for a lengthy time, and we thought we could make it halfway down this time around.

We warmed up at the North Rim, a place that is a world apart from the South Rim. Astonishing forests creep up to the very edge of the canyon. The quarter mile walk along the rim in front of The Grand Canyon Lodge provides astounding views and plenty of vertigo opportunities.

Or you can simply kick back and relax without missing much along the extended veranda porch fronting the Lodge and bumping up tight against the canyon’s sheer cliffs. Watching sunrise and sunset from this vantage point is a real delight. It beats the heck out of Imax in this writer’s opinion. But then I am biased towards being there. Nothing like the real thing to grab complete control of your mind and thoughts.

Staying at the Lodge is a must-do. You’ll get whisked back in time to a slower pace, a more realistic value system, and perhaps memories of by-gone days if you’ve accumulated enough years. Might as well be on another planet as today’s world is left far, far behind. The cabins are marvelous, the lodge itself drenched in history. If the Canyon is in your plans, this is a don’t-miss-it kind of place, even if only for a couple of days. (add in link!)

Then there is a drive-by road on the east side of the park that not so many travel - Cape Royal Road. It takes you to multiple viewpoints that deliver a perspective on the GC that is unforgettable. Photo opps abound at every jaw-dropping stop. Colors, formations, forests. It is a wonderful drive, and most folks pass on it because it is a good half hour drive from the Lodge, then a good hour to hit all the overlooks. So many visitors will not step beyond the main drive and overlooks that are steps from their cars, it is hard to understand why they bother to visit.

Of course, we did a hike at the South Rim after our mule ride on the North Rim. If you get the chance and can handle a sore bum and aching legs, a mule ride is well worth it. The cowboys add a lot to the understanding of the canyon and of mules. That’s where we learned that mules walk along the outside of the trail (near the cliffs, where the riders get to grip that saddle horn like a vise, white knuckles and all) because they need to see the edge. Once they know where the edge is, they relax and make easy work of the trail. (watch the video here: http://bit.ly/deCfLO )

The hike we took on the South Rim was one recommended by a follower, the Lower Kaibob Trail. We had high hopes of going all the way down, but that was quickly dashed as the temps climbed and the steepness got to us. We put in a good 5 miles round trip - it felt like 10 on the hike up. The word “steep” was invented here.

There was a family (grandfather, parents, and kids) on the same hike from Erie, Colorado, near where we used to live. They are experienced hikers, having climbed many a trail in the Rockies. We had a fun exchange with them as we departed down, down, down on the Kaibab.

Rob left Jan at a plateau and hiked another quarter mile down for some views and photos. On the way back up, there’s the couple - Steve and Kirsten Harris - with a medic-ranger. Kirsten has her ankle bandaged, is laying flat on her back in the shade of some big boulders, looking might peaked, and the Ranger is radioing for assistance. Even with a light-hearted brief conversation, it was clear Kirsten was very stressed. Turns out they had to bring 6 more Rangers down with a stretcher (a big wheel in the middle for rolling down the trail.) They took her down to a plateau where she could be helicoptered out of there.

Steve emailed the x-ray to us; it was a broken ankle, all right. From a simple misstep. Made us think a lot harder about our preparations when we hit the trail. They needed more water and more snacks to offset the trauma/shock. And simply to stay cool in the heat. But it was not a big strenuous hike so..... (watch the video of Kristen getting medical assistance on the trail @ http://bit.ly/btTbPP )

We continue to see people hiking on such trails in sandals, tennis shoes, flip-flops. If experienced hikers wearing good hiking shoes can break an ankle by simply taking a wrong step, we cannot help but wonder how these other folks make it back alive.

But that’s all part of the adventure. We prefer the safe side, stacking the odds in our favor. Great Merrell boots and shoes and backpacks, along with extra water. We alternate between Merrell and Teko socks, to keep our feet comfy and without blisters. Wide brimmed hats. Sunscreen. And we stop often so we don’t overextend ourselves.

Good lessons for hiking the canyon - or anywhere else, for that matter.

We should not forget to post a few on Rob's great pictures from his visit!


If you would like to see all of Rob's photograph's from his visit, click here

Posted by johnwilson 16:45 Archived in USA Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Petrified Forest National Park

petrified forest national park, national parks tour, traveling, U.S.A. , America,John Wilson

Well, the next stop is the Petrified Forest in Arizona. Rob and Jan Wilson have allowed me to share some photographs that they took while visiting the park.
For a complete guide to their visit , log into their site on facebook here : Sprinter Tour
Or you can follow them on Twitter.com here: Sprinter Tour
For more information on the park, visit Wikipedia

Posted by johnwilson 03:13 Archived in USA Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Joshua Tree National Park Photos

joshua tree national park, photographs, traveling, national parks tour posting by John Wilson

Joshua Tree National Park - a story and photographs that my brother (Rob Wilson) and his wife (Jan Wilson) have allowed me to share with you from The Sprinter Tour.
You can follow their adventure live on facebook.com/sprintertour
and their twitter site sprintertour
For additional information on the park, visit Wikipedia for a little history and the size of the park.

Weird Trees, Alien Rocks, and an Oasis: Joshua Tree National Park

The Joshua tree is pretty cool all by itself.

It’s not a tree as we know them elsewhere. It has no rings so you cannot count its age when felled.

Instead, it is made up of thousands of small fibers, much like a cloth that gets thicker and thicker as time goes by. But without those rings, it is difficult to tell a Joshua tree’s age. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yucca_brevifolia

Its’ top-heavy branch system is supported by an enormous root system, sometimes reaching 36 feet away from the trunk.

We expected to see forests of these plants when we arrived at Joshua Tree National Park, as you would see a forest in, say, Colorado. Or in northern Utah, around the north rim of the Grand Canyon.

Not the case here. Joshua trees grow far apart from each other. Maybe it’s because of that amazing root system and the fight for scarce water in this arid area. There are indeed hundreds and hundreds of Joshua trees - likely thousands - but the dense tree forests of the east and northwest are missing here.

Beautiful sights in their own right, these odd-shaped growths coming out of the ground.

But when you add in the freaky geology of the park, it moves from cool to wonderment.

Stacks of huge boulders are scattered throughout the park. Rocks that seem to emerge from the ground without reason, gigantic things, mounds of them, some of them towering overhead. Rocks, rocks, and more rocks. Flat desert ground and then these enormous boulders.

Go figure.

What it makes for is quite amusing. Those amazing trees, flat dry land, and then those rock formations. You know everyone else is asking themselves the same question: “where did all these rocks come from?” But you cannot help repeating that question to yourself over and over and over.

We were careful not to ask a ranger about the rocks, like it’s the most often asked question there. But we got waylaid by a ranger on a short hike to a small reservoir built in the early 1900s. She offered - uninitiated by us! - to explain the rocks. Being polite, we listened to her geological explanation.

But we knew better. We’d spent quite a bit of time figuring this out, and we already knew it was space pods from alien beings. Nothing else made sense to us. And the shapes, the rounded shapes that invite climbing and clamoring around on them - well, it was quite evident to us aliens had been visiting some time ago.

The only question was, when would they give birth?

We moved on to something more realistic to deal with, opting for a hike to an oasis.

Funny thing, an oasis. We’ve all read about them. Seen movies where an oasis saved the day. Or the failure to find it determined certain death.

But we’d never seen one for real.

We did hike to what was called an oasis in Guadalupe NP, but that was NOT the oasis of stories, fables and movies. And that was what we were after.

This hike did not disappoint. Some pretty decent vertical gain through some of the driest dirt we’ve ever tromped on. Up and down some steep hills.

Neither of us wanted to say we saw the oasis palms. We both thought we were seeing things, thinking perhaps a mirage on the landscape. Finally, one of us asked, “Are you seeing anything over there? Like palm trees?”

And then we really could see it, nestled between two colliding hills, forming a “v” shape in the landscape - the tops of very bushy palm trees. Not just any palms, mind you, but the only palm tree species (California fan palm trees - also known as the desert palm) native to western North America. http://www.desertusa.com/magnov97/nov_pap/du_nov_fanpalm.html

As we drew closer, it seemed that the oasis was on two levels. An upper area, near a bit of water flowing downhill, and a lower area, much more dense with palms, and a pool of water there.

Wow, just like the movies! Palm trees growing at the edge of a pool of water. Life amidst the barren hills. Not a tree to be found until we saw the oasis. Lots of green, lots of birds (not that they would sit still for photo, mind you) and a nice cool change in temperature.

Just as we had imagined. Except for the fact that the stands of palms had withstood fire! How on earth did fire start here? No brush, no undergrowth, no campfires. Hmmmm. Another mystery on the Tour. Or was it the aliens trying to stay warm while depositing their birth pods?

We hung out for awhile, just drinking in the experience. And trying unsuccessfully to get into the camera some of the birds flitting about.

Not at all what we expected at Joshua Tree National Park. The trees were different, the rocks clearly came from another world (there is no other logical explanation), and then the movie-come-true oasis.

The memories just keep coming.


Posted by johnwilson 02:28 Archived in USA Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

The National Parks Tour 2010

50 National Park Tour with Rob and Jan Wilson in the U.S.A., by John Wilson

Welcome to the National Parks Tour, glad that you have decided to check out my site. This is a site dedicated to the travels of my brother and his wife, Rob and Jan Wilson -The Sprinter Tour , a 50 National Park Tour that they embarked on in April of 2010.
Presently heading up to Alaska, Rob and Jan have allowed me to share their adventure with you folks!
I have submitted some questions to Rob and Jan , to allow us to catch up with them - as they are about half way through their journey.This will allow us to :
1) Learn where they have been
2) Enjoy some of the stories they have written about
3) Take a look at some of their pictures from the National Parks they have visited.

First park Carlsbad/Guadalupe National Park, followed by some picture that we hope you will like!

Life in the Midst of Barren Lands: Carlsbad Caverns/Guadalupe National Parks

Carlsbad Caverns kind of sneak up on you.

That’s what caves of this size and length are like: their entrances are tucked away in hillsides and canyons. In Great Basin NP, without the formal entrance built by the park you would never know the caverns are there.

The man-made entrance for Carlsbad Caverns is contained within the visitor center and an elevator whisks you down 750 feet into the cave in a couple of minutes. Or you can walk from the real cave entrance, and you are in for a 30 minute trek that drops you 750 feet in one and half miles.

Carlsbad is where our serious appreciation of caves begins because of an excellent ranger-led walk through Kings Palace. We had never thought of caves as an unexplored world, a world never having experienced light nor the touch of man. Until the cave explorers show up with their lanterns and measuring instruments.

We also learn that caves like Carlsbad are much larger and longer than the original caverns. Exploration and discover continues even today, and the current known size of Carlsbad is almost three times the part that is open to the public. Think in terms of a cave structure that goes on for over 100 miles and you begin to realize the scope of these creations.

It turns out that 4 of the worlds 5 largest known caves are in the U.S., and we’ll be visiting 3 of them: Carlsbad Caverns, Wind Cave, and Mammoth Cave. Jewel Cave is the fourth one, but it is not a national park so we’ll be whizzing by that one.

Because we started with the ranger-led tour, our Big Room self-guided tour was that much more rewarding. We better understood the forces at work, the sensitivity of the cave to human visitors, and the life forms that live here.

As cave exploration and discovery continues around the world, heretofore unknown microbes are being discovered, some with amazing properties. One of these extreme-a-bobs - as named by our Ranger guide - eats plastic. That stirred our imagination a bit about the unknown potential residing in these dark, hidden places.

The real thrill of Carlsbad Caverns was yet to come - the bats. Not that you see the bats in the caves when you are down there. But they come out each night in search of food, responding to some programmed signal that night is falling and it is eatin’ time.

At peak bat season, there are 400,000 bats residing in the caverns. And when the programmer rings the call for dinner, out they come, wave after wave after wave. They begin just as the light is finally loosening its last grip on the day, and exit in one continuous stream of bats. Bats, bats, and more bats.

As they exit the cave, they form a vortex-like circle and spin out of it at the top and head off into the night in search of food. Some bats will fly 30 miles to get fed.

So here is the question that needs to be answered. Who decides which of the 400,000+ bats comes out first, and who decides which of the 400,000+ bats is last?

We sat in silent awe with about another 100 people watching this phenomenon unfold for over 30 minutes, and still the bats come.

Guadalupe NP is just around the corner from Carlsbad. It’s so close, we stay in a Carlsbad RV park and “commute” to Guadalupe.

The park is there because of some rare geological formations. They can only be accessed by pretty strenuous hikes of some length - as in 6+ miles, with steep vertical gain.

Not for us in the 100 degree heat.

We stick to the lower levels with minor inclines and hike to an oasis of sorts. Figuring we’ll find water and some coolness there, we arrive to a dry waterhole and increasing temps. There are people who actually lived here and made a life and a living from this very empty place. What tough stock they must have come from.

Slipping back to what passes for a visitor center, we check out the exhibits showing how the Guadalupe area was settled. Farming (how on earth?), sheep, and a flexible, versatile approach to what the land and weather served up is how they did it. They built their homestead over a spring - still delivering much needed water. The structures they built at the Frijole Ranch in the early 1900s to capture and distribute the water around their property is still standing and functioning today. The original “built to last” pilgrims in a harsh and unforgiving land.

We take a second, shorter hike up for a look-see of the ruins of a second homestead. Leaving the park for Big Bend has us scratching our heads - how did they accomplish all of this, and why? Surely in country as big and as full of good land and water as the U.S. is, they could have found a place much more hospitable to making a life. Tough bunch, these settlers - something to look at for inspiration in these supposed tough times in the U.S.

Heading south, we see the El Capitan cliff dominating the landscape. With some bright yellow flowers in the foreground, a fitting farewell shot of Guadalupe NP.

Two very different parks, almost across the street from each other. Yet life springs forth in both under most trying and unusual circumstances.

Carlsbad - National Park Service


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Posted by johnwilson 16:34 Archived in USA Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

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