The end and the BEGINNING!

Over the past 7 months Tate and I have driven around 10,000 miles visiting 24 States, 9 National Parks and numerous other monuments and State Parks. We experienced wide ranging climates, landscapes and demographics and met some INCREDIBLE people including many that have followed our refit and sailing adventure for years before this RV trip. Through a combination of National Forest, Bureau of Land Management (BLM), friend’s lands and the occasional Walmart and Flying J truck stop’s we ended up not spending a penny on a night’s stay!

The entire seven months living expenses were around $9,100 ($1,300 a month excluding gas, boat storage and RV purchase price), while our gas bill over the 10,000 miles was about $2,800 an average of $2.50/gal for us. I’ll share more details of the cost in a later post but what do all the details add up to? THE END OF OUR RV TRIP (sniff).

OUR RV IS UP FOR SALE! (detailed sales post to follow)
2002 Itasca Sunova 27c Sale AD on RV Trader

So where are we now?…In Tulsa, Oklahoma actually. Does this guy look familiar?
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This is Doug Jackson, the mastermind behind SV Seeker which is a giant 74′ steel “boat the internet built”. Tate first showed me Doug’s videos WAYY back around 2011 or 2012. His massive project gave us hope that we could tackle our smaller project aboard Sundowner. Welders, mechanics, sail makers and just awesome people from all over the world come by and help Doug with this construction.

Why build a giant steel boat you ask? Doug says it best here:
“If your interests are in exploration, discovery and adventure then what could be better than a boat to take you where you want to go. SV Seeker is our 74 foot steel origami hull, junk rigged, cargo, motorsailer. Once completed she will be a part time research/charter vessel and full time home on the water.”

He is even building a “low cost” ROV for underwater exploration over 3k feet in the ocean!
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Wow really?
SV Seeker – Check out his project here (He has about 75,000 You Tube subscribers!)
You Tube channel

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However seeing SV Seeker was just lagniappe to the REAL reason we came to Oklahoma on the way back to Louisiana. We came this way to see some other long time blog followers and aspiring sailors (who also happen to be our biggest Patrons for our video series) Eric and Joanna Knox!
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We spent an incredible weekend here sharing delicious meals like thyme and lemon stuffed wild caught rainbow trout, venison and sausage burgers and a homemade gumbo from the man who has the BEST recipe (Tate) and also dreaming of the future. Our own future sailing but also what the future might look like for them.

After following our adventure for 5 years they have now put in place their own 5(ish) year plan to go cruising one day! It was SO great to meet them and they have inspired us to keep sharing our lives but also to soak in each and every moment of our trip.

Seeing how much other people want to do what we are doing is a good reminder to never let our lives feel ordinary or take our experiences for granted. They even sent us on our way with local jam and bbq sauce and homemade salsa, tomato sauce and banana walnut muffins. This picture is all that remains of these muffins.
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But wait, weren’t you just in the Tetons hanging out with Montana folk and wild red foxes? Why yes we were, at least back in August. It’s now almost October so I suppose we’ve fallen a bit behind on updates.

Allow me to catch you up real quick. We left the Grand Tetons, WY area in early August and drove south to Utah where we stayed a GLORIOUSLY cool month at about 8,500 feet. This location was called “Duck Creek” and while there we visited both Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks which were only a 40 mile motorcycle ride from our RV. This campsite and these parks were definitely one of the trip highlights for us.

In early September we drove from southern Utah to Flagstaff, Arizona where we picked up Tate’s dad (Mr. Logan) who proceeded to join us for the next 10 days. We visited the Grand Canyon (wow) and then drove up through Utah again (and Zion) before making it all the way to Northwestern Wyoming near Cody and Yellowstone National Park.

Mr. Logan had always wanted to go to Yellowstone and Tate and I discussed going there with him way back when we were still on the boat in Panama. I’m so happy he came and made it happen.
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We drove to Denver, Colorado with Mr. Logan where he flew out and then we spent a week visiting with my cousin Timmy’s family (who I haven’t seen in YEARS) and some old work acquaintances. After Denver we headed here to Tulsa and now today…


That’s just the details of the RV trip but there has been much much more going on in the background. Over this past year every time Tate and I would think of something we’d like to bring back with us to the boat in Panama we’d add it to our “boat list”. Now finally I am buying the various items we’ve jotted down and we are so grateful that Mr. Logan is letting us use his address to receive these many packages.

I’ll try to write a more detailed blog post about what we are bringing back with us for just to give you an idea here is part of the list:

  • Bilge pump
  • Bow sprit bolts
  • Hand bulb
  • Watermaker membrane
  • Propane detector
  • Sails
  • Checks
  • Cash
  • Pipe tobacco
  • Protein powder
  • Flax and Chia seeds
  • Vitamins
  • Sunscreen
  • Summer clothes
  • Hair shears
  • Conditioner
  • Argan oil
  • DVDs
  • Hard drive storage
  • Tablet
  • Laptop
  • Microphone
  • Camera
  • Underwater housing

I usually try to look for quality used items in order to save as much money as possible and while I don’t exactly LIKE to buy used camera equipment I found a pretty good deal on Ebay in Greece from a nice man who was selling a gently used Canon G7x with the underwater housing, dive tray and light. I was REALLY excited about this deal. The seller I feel is trustworthy and has good equipment that he just isn’t using anymore. I paid for the camera package and it was shipped without issue and made it all the way down to Lafayette, Louisiana where it shows it arrived at the Post Office on Monday Sept 19th but has no tracking after that.

Mr. Logan visited the post office for me but they said they can’t find the package. I have also called (twice) and now they are opening an investigation into the matter. They may have had a trainee on the route that day so they said they are putting 2 people on the task of finding my beloved camera gear. There was no delivery attempt. The tracking just stops at the Post Office.

I don’t often share the intimate dramas that Tate and I face from time to time but this issue really makes me sad. I have contacted the seller who says he didn’t insure the item (even though I suggested but didn’t confirm that he did) and he asked that I wait a while for it to show up. I have read online about non-insured international packages going missing with the USPS and apparently it’s not uncommon for packages like this to never show up. I’ve also read other instances where the packages DO show up.

So for now I will keep checking the tracking number with hopes to see it delivered or at least it’s location pinned down. I will try to have faith that it will show up. Even though the package made it all the way safely with tracking from Athens, Greece through New York and into Lafayette the seller is still liable for the package not making it to me. According to Ebay and Paypal I’m protected because the seller should have purchased insurance. But he didn’t. Not to be malicious but because he thought it would be ok I suppose. It’s not the sellers fault if the package gets lost, it’s the USPS fault but in the end it’s his responsibility.

It’s a no win situation here. I don’t want that nice man (and fellow diver) to be out his equipment AND money because of some mishap at the local Post Office. On the flip side I also don’t want to be out the precious $800 I paid for this whole deal. I feel the pressure everyday of this issue and it pains my heart so I pray and hope that it will get resolved soon.

Unfortunately I don’t have 3 months to wait for this item to show up. Our best camera from the sailing and RV trip is on it’s last leg. With it’s lagging pictures and blurry details in film it is time for a new camera. This Canon G7x is a camera that I’ve been researching since we started the trip. It’s the mac daddy of vlogging camera but also takes great pictures and is a FANTASTIC underwater camera. Since Tate and I spend the majority of our activities under the sea I am really looking forward to having better camera gear. This will be the best camera I’ve ever owned.

If the package isn’t found in the next week I’ll have to file a case with Ebay and then also buy another camera. We have to pack up to fly back to Panama and unfortunately I don’t have the time to wait for 3 months for it to show up. But like I said, while on occasion I feel a stab of anxiety and dread regarding this issue I am trying to be positive and believe that it will work itself out. There is nothing I can do about it anyways, it will be what it is.

Over this past year I’ve written emails back and forth to Panamarina (where Sundowner is dry docked) near the San Blas islands and ask that every three months they replace these “mold packets” and also pump our bilge. This month in fact they renewed our year long Panama cruising permit for the boat and when we fly back we’ll be given 6 month visas through the airport. We have no idea the condition of the inside of the boat as it’s been sitting the past 5 months in 90+ degree temperatures with high humidity and heavy rain about everyday. It’ll be interesting to do a Grand reveal to show the status once we arrive. We’ve heard all kinds of stories of mold growing on everything to Monkey’s living aboard. We’ll see.

Once we arrive we’ll put the boat into the work yard area where we’ll have the bottom sanded and painted, we’ll replace the bowsprit bolts and various other project before splashing and heading back to San Blas for a couple of months before our Panama Canal passage in early 2017 followed by (hopefully) our biggest passage yet…the Pacific Ocean (40 days at sea).

We have lots of catching up to do with friends and family as well as packing our duffle bags over these next few weeks but our goal is to be back aboard in early November to get things moving. We also have to catch up on our videos and we’ll start a new video series for the sailing trip. (check out our channel and RV adventure here on You Tube)

Until next time!

Up 7,000 feet to the Grand Tetons

We found ourselves only 4 hours away from the Grand Tetons National Park near Jackson Wyoming and soo…we just couldn’t help ourselves. The scenery driving from Idaho to the Grand Tetons was breathtaking. The Snake River made it’s mark clearly in the countryside as we made our way to a free campsite DIRECTLY opposite of the Tetons.

We scouted out Shadow Mountain on foot before taking RA up the mountain to a great spot where we stayed for 2 weeks. The Grand Tetons are 14,000 feet tall while our spot on Shadow Mountain was over 7,000 giving us a nice up close view of the snow peaks.

Our friends from Montana joined us for a portion for steaks and fun. Check it all out live in action in this cool video.

Thanks for stopping by!

Tate and Dani

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Not a footstep in California

I still remember right before our return to the US when we were still onboard in Panama, sweating out the 90+ degree temperatures Tate asked me what I wanted to see most on our RV trip (this was before we even knew what we would travel in) and I answered “Why, the giant Redwoods in California of course!” Being brought up in the south where the largest trunked trees are short (albeit beautiful) Live Oak trees the idea of seeing some trees, hundreds (or more) feet tall with trunks as big as a house, was enthralling and something I’d drive across the country to the northwest point in California to see them. But in the end we skipped the Redwoods and actually all of California.

We spent basically a month in South Dakota, a month in Montana and a month in Washington State. This is a much faster pace than we enjoyed while sailing (typically 3 months in one port was our “fill” moment) but still slow when you have a truncated timeline. Really our only hard schedule this whole trip has been the arrival of Tate’s Dad (Mr. Logan who also came to visit us in Isla Mujeres, Mexico on Sundowner in the March of 2015) in Flagstaff in early September. Now that it was getting to be the middle of July that left us with roughly 6 weeks before we needed to pick him up in Arizona. 6 weeks, holy smokes that’s nothing!

We thoroughly enjoyed our wet but fire laden time near the rainforest and when we departed we fully intended to go south through Oregon and high tail it to the Redwoods National Park. BUT once we actually got on the road I pulled out our old trusty Atlas (yes, a real PAPER map) and calculated the distance to the Redwoods and possible other stops in California before continuing onto the deserty areas and found that it would be 700 miles “out of the way” to go to the Redwoods before heading back East and so we really had some thinking to do.

The high costs and difficulty (impossible in most places) to free camp in California has been preached to us from a variety of sources since South Dakota…We all know that California is one of the most expensive states in the country and that they tend to be more “rule happy” than the rest. This really doesn’t bode well for our kind of lifestyle, one that is on a budget.

Even though we were always stead fast on going to California (I mean how could we NOT we are RIGHT here) the apprehension has built until finally in Portland, Oregon I made the call to instead head back East.

I said you know…we have seen a lot of trees. I mean the last few months have been in forests really. We’ve seen some pretty big trees in Glacier, Snoqualmie National Forest and the Hoh Rainforest (Olympic) and I honestly have gotten my fill of the giant things. I’m always in awe of the living Giants but is it worth all the expense and time to go see the Redwoods. In the end is was not. We go where the wind takes us and the wind was taking us to the desert, a landscape we haven’t yet got to enjoy on this trip, which is ending in a couple of short months.

I know California is a BEAUTIFUL state with so much to offer in terms of Parks (Redwood, Sequoia, Sierra Nevada just to name a few), food, wine, beaches, mountains etc. The list goes on and on but for me California is sort of like Europe. It’s probably better for us to see all of what these places have to offer later in life when we have more money to truly enjoy it. I’d love one day to take a couple of weeks and go to the Redwoods and also Napa Valley and maybe San Francisco. It would probably take years to see the whole state and well we just don’t have that right not. So we skipped it.

We turned east at Portland, not really knowing where we would go. We stopped at a Flying J for a couple of nights on the East side of Oregon and then headed into Idaho and to a few camping spot about 20 miles West of the Crater’s of the Moon National Monument which is an area created by old lava flows and explosions out of the Earth’s crust (ages ago) so it’s full black volcanic rock looking stuff with HUGE craters in the Earth’s surface that look like a bomb went off. Very interesting place, though it’s in the middle of nowhere Idaho.

The drive through Oregon and into Idaho was Beautiful! I have to say that the driving portions of our trip have been some of the most enjoyable for me. The scenery is usually breathtaking and it’s like a hike without all the work. The giant windows in our Class A RV have really paid for themselves in spades. The view only is definitely a pro when considering buying a Class A. Class C’s are basically the same as a Class A of the same size but with truck windows. We are up high in RA and enjoy a fantastic panoramic view of the Country as we drive along.

I NEVER get tired of seeing the Pacific Union trains cross back and forth along our routes.

We are always treated to spectacular views of water and mountains.

Our campsite near Crater’s of the Moon monument was really dusty and kind of noisy near the road but I did a couple of jogs around the area and found the scenery on top of a nearby “hill” to be stunning. I loved seeing the farmland at the bottom of the mountainscape.

Crater’s of the Moon itself did not disappoint and Tate and I went on a 1.8 mile hike called the “North Crater Trail” which was just incredible in terms of varying conditions and surfaces on which to hike. A very very sad thing happened though. After all the footage was taken, both video and photo, I accidentally deleted most of it when transferring it to the computer. We only have the first 20 mins or so of a few hour hike and the end of the hike was the most spectacular. Oh well…lesson learned and hopefully I don’t destroy any footage moving forward.

We only stayed in the Crater’s campsite about 3 days before checking our Atlas again and finding that the Grand Tetons National Park was only 4 hours away…Of course we had to go check it out. But that is for next time.

The days keep ticking down on the RV trip. Both Tate and I talk frequently about the boat, what to bring back with us from the States and what we need to do once we get back (bottom job and some rigging) and how we can’t wait to arrive once again to the Swimming Pool in the San Blas Islands while we wait out our time for the Panama Canal crossing and eventual Pacific crossing. Our next “big sail” is going to be the Pacific, estimated to be 4,000 from Panama to the Marquesses. I think it’ll be a good thing being super refreshed from our time in the States. But who knows..with the way we change plans nothing is certain, except that we’ll be back in Panama before the end of the year.

Check out our shift in plans and visit to the Crater’s of the Moon Monument in Idaho in our new video!
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The Hoh Rainforest

Leaving Port Angeles was quite an ordeal. It seemed that everyone in the area had some personal idea of where we should go and how we should get there. Maps were consulted. The Internet was consulted. And finally even gas station attendants who brandished more maps at us. We went to fill up the RV with gas and this guy saw our motorcycle on the trailer. He steamed out of the store shouting things about the “best” roads. Dani was enthralled. I thought the whole process was dubious. It was a bewildering time attempting to escape. But in the end I fell back to my old patterns and simply left one morning on the motorcycle and went for a long ride.

I usually don’t take Dani with me when it is time to go scout out new campsites because it is a lot easier to turn the motorcycle around on dirt roads without two people on it. But it also gives me time to think and to ride a little harder than I would have otherwise. I cruised past beaches and campers in their jam packed pay for camp sites. Some of them I can understand, like the ones on the beach. I mean there is no other beach spot, but some I don’t, like the RV parks. I headed down as close to the Hoh rainforest area as I really could and just started darting down National Forest Service roads in search of a nice and quiet spot to park the RV.

I went down some really long and beautiful back roads before I found a nice big level spot that used to be a gravel pit but was totally surrounded by the forest. When we left Port Angeles in the RV, this is where I knew I was headed. It was flat, huge, secluded, and close to the places we wanted to visit. I zoomed back to say our goodbyes to Gary and Sheila (SV Irish Rose Westsail 28) and then the next day we set off to occupy the found spot.

Getting the RV to the campsites I find is not always easy. The roads on the Olympic Peninsula are very winding but worse, they go up and down slightly but constantly. This means a lot of braking as you ride into corners too fast on a slope. This means going slow. This means stopping from time to time to cool the brakes or downshifting and riding with the engine revved way up. It isn’t the RVs fault, we were probably the biggest vehicle on those roads most of the way and anything with our weight would be having a little discomfort. But we pulled through. The RV was fine in the end and while I was fighting the road, other drivers, and “adventure bikers”; Dani was lost in her personal wonderland with her face pressed up against the windows and her camera rolling. She loved that road as we sped past Crescent Lake. She loved it so much I just knew I was going to have to windex her nose print off the side window. Luckily she opened the window during the latter half of the journey.

Most of our RV trip has been driven by my desires. I wanted to go back to the Blueridge Parkway. I wanted the Natchez Trace. I wanted to see Montana again. Etc. Dani hadn’t even heard of many of the places we went to. But over time my desires dwindled and I experienced a “dark” period of wanting to be back aboard Sundowner. As though I’d had enough of this road trip. At that point, I divorced myself from the idea of trying to come up with “stuff” to do and told Dani that we could do whatever she wanted. This could have been a great decision or one of the worst mistakes possible. Giving Dani control of a trip is like disabling the brakes, but my energies were spent and I needed new eyes to draw me to things I wouldn’t otherwise have seen. And this is how we ended up passing the beautiful Crescent Lake on our way to the Hoh rainforest, which Dani told me were going to see.

We arrived at the spot I had picked out. No one had taken it while I was away. And no one really ever came by the whole time we were there. It turned out to be a great spot for peace and quiet. Well, at least from people. There were some birds that would sing to us at sunset when we built campfires. Dani called them the super sonic birds because their songs accelerated and pitched upward in inhuman ways that we cannot even attempt to replicate. They were the only birds we really saw or heard there except the occasional crow or hawk that went over.

We built a great many fires. It was chilly. It was wet. It was beautiful and calm in the evenings and we hadn’t had camp fires in a long time. The forest was piled with old dead wood and it made it easy to build fires. I didn’t have an axe though and so some of the later fires were a little wild looking. I would just drag a dead tree out of the forest, lay it over the fire ring and burn the middle out before dumping each end back into the fire ring. We stayed up late. Cooked marshmallows. Looked at the stars. And Dani would dance around the fire. In all, it was an extremely peaceful time. My inner aches to be back on the water dulled and I was able to enjoy the forest again.

I thought everything was good. I thought we’d found peace. I thought all we had to do would be to visit the Hoh. No. The map brandishing gas station attendant came back to haunt me. He had infected Dani’s mind. Told her the best beaches weren’t the ones right down the road from the campsite but instead were down some obscurely marked road where (as he told me in a hushed “man” voice) you can go triple digits. Now I like to ride fast but my bike isn’t doing 100mph anytime soon. Anyway, his geas was upon Dani and so off we went down some back road in the middle of no where to see a beach. A Pacific beach.

The ride was alright but the beach wasn’t. It had been closed due to some sort of shell fish infection. Infestation. Something. Dead birds marked the path down onto the cool, wet sands. The sights were pretty but it was not my idea of a beach. Maybe I’ve just been too spoiled by sailing all the tropical islands. I expect to see palm trees. Waves. Warm waters. Dani in a bikini. Instead there were strange people wearing all black milling about in the full sun as a constant light fog rolled over the sands. Hell, it was bringing back all those thoughts of longing for Sundowner. I needed a drink.

Dani made the most of it. We filmed it and she went back and forth over dinner if she liked it or not. We found this little town along the way back that looked like something out of Florida or Alabama. I suppose beach side towns are the same the US over. You know the one. Vacationville. Open 3 months a year and dead as a doornail the rest of the time. But it was high summer and so we found a place open and willing to serve us cocktails. I recovered from the beach. Dani still maintains we didn’t see it at its best.

As harsh a critic as I am of the beaches, I will say that I have become a great fan of the forests in Washington. We waited and waited. We prayed and did weather dances. We invoked Indian and animal spirits. Finally, about a week into our camp, the sun came out fully. The rainforests get 130+ inches of rainfall a year. As you can imagine this doesn’t leave a lot of time for the sun. Being sailors we know that time, tide, and sunlight wait on no mortal, so we, like everyone else, jetted off to finally see the Hoh rainforest.

Things started bad. The forest turned out to be so far off the main road (20 miles off!) that by the time we got there I realized I would have to seek gas immediately after our hike. The speed limit into the place was slow and we were on the tail end of a huge traffic snake. In the park, the parking lot was FULL! Thank God motorcycles can park just about anywhere.

This turned out to be a non event though. Once we started down our chosen trail, the people became sparse and the nature became rich. When most of us think “rainforest”, I believe we think of the dense tropical jungles nearer the equator. This forest was of an altogether different nature. It had huge trees draped in moss and it was carpeted with soft ferns and lichens. It was cool, breezy, and close to sea level.

The Hoh rainforest really was another world. All the fantasy shows you’ve seen with elves living in trees or hobbits under a hill could have been true here. The size of the forest seemed to make us smaller than we are, and its comfortable weather and nearby blue watered river gave it an inviting aspect. It was full of flowers highlighted by beams of sunlight that penetrated the canopy. We found berries and mushrooms. We saw owls and butterflies. The hike passed in just a blink of an eye.

We had ventured out to 5 mile island (appropriately five miles away) and back. I don’t think either of us will ever forget that hike. I can’t really fully describe it but please check out our video of the forest if you can.

We didn’t stay in the camp site too long after visiting the Hoh. We headed south with big plans for Oregon and California. Check out our new Vlog with live action! Until next time…

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