Tag Archives: rv travels

Road Trip to Portland

In early June, we packed up the Traveling Cat Adventure Vehicle and headed north to visit Glenn and Michele in Portland for what would end up being a three-week road trip with the cats on board.  We took a leisurely three days to get to Portland, stopping overnight at Lake Shasta, spending an afternoon in Ashland, staying at a campground along the Rogue River west of Grants Pass, visiting the surprising Applegate Trail museum along the I-5, and overnight at the Waterloo Park riverside campground before finally reaching Portland in time to greet Glenn and Michele as they finished a half-marathon.  Somehow we took practically no pictures on the way up there.

  

For the weekend with Glenn and Michele, we went out and found the first ever official geocache and discovered that Pan likes to geocache (or, really likes forests anyway), did some hiking and more geocaching in Forest Park, and went flying the drone around Saint John’s Bridge on the Willamette River.

Darlene only had a few more days before she’d have to return to work, so we spent an afternoon in Oregon City, including visiting the End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center (fascinating place to visit!), and then two nights at Silver Falls State Park where we enjoyed a really fantastic day-long hike on the spectacular “Trail of Ten Falls”, before returning to Portland to put her on a plane home while I continued the adventure with Pan and Hera.

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Escape to Death Valley

When we set out on our mid-May, nine-day adventure in the Traveling Cat Adventure Vehicle, we headed for the Eastern Sierra because a very cold storm front was dominating everything more northerly.  Well, with just a few days left, we saw the storms and cold weather were now reaching Bishop so we decided to turn south and escape the storms by heading to Death Valley National Park.  With 95+F degree temperatures, we certainly escaped the cold front.

  

Coming into the park late, we struggled to find some dispersed camping the first night and ended up settling for a space at the Stovepipe Wells “campground” (aka, a parking space).  Over the next two days we got to explore some fantastic slot canyons up Sidewinder Canyon, checked out the Artists Palette Drive, hiked up Golden Canyon, camped out in Greenwater Valley, and drove the Traveling Cat Adventure Vehicle all the way to (and through) Titus Canyon.

Oh good grief that was terrifying: driving the 24-mile Titus Canyon Road in a 25 ft. Sprinter-based RV.  I’ve driven that dirt road decades ago in a compact 4WD and it was fun and uneventful, but I couldn’t remember what the entire road was like.  Mind you, we checked with the ranger beforehand for advice on appropriate roads but there clearly must have been some misunderstanding.  As it turns out, it starts out merely annoying with miles of washboard dirt road and the finale in Titus Canyon itself is easy and gorgeous but in the middle you have miles of narrow, very steep and twisty unpaved road with sheer drops on one side or another in a tall, heavy, long-wheelbased RV that teeters side to side over every little uneven track no matter how slowly you try to creep forward and the gravel gives way and the vehicle slips forward under the 10,000 lbs of weight when you try to stop your forward momentum.  And Titus Canyon Road is technically a one-way route!

At a couple of points, we had to stop to fill in some large potholes with rocks to keep the vehicle from tilting any more dramatically.  I regret not taking any pictures or video while in the truly scary stretches but at the time all I wanted is to just get through it without falling over or slipping over the side.  I’ll never do a road like that again in such a vehicle!

We survived though and Titus Canyon itself was marvelous.  In hindsight, it would’ve been more pleasant to park at the exit of the canyon and ride our bikes in (which is allowed).  A mighty dust storm punctuated our evening departure but we found a place to stop and sleep off a dirt road outside the park.

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Around Bishop

  

As part of our road trip up through the Owens Valley in mid-May in the Traveling Cat Adventure Vehicle, we spent a few days in the Bishop area.  I showed Darlene around Bishop (where I went to high school), we drove out to Mill Pond and up to Lake Sabrina and then ended up camping out for two nights in the Buttermilk area after going for a hike.  We also visited the Laws Railroad Museum and had a nice afternoon down at a warm spring along the Owens River.

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Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest

      

Click through for pictures and video from our attempt to visit the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest (oldest living trees on Earth!) while on our Owens Valley road trip in the Traveling Cat Adventure Vehicle in mid-May.  Unfortunately, the remaining snow from this winter’s very heavy storms kept us from driving all the way and then we attempted to continue on our mountain bikes but it was just too much snow!  We stayed up there two nights though and got to watch the sunrise spread over hundreds of miles of the Sierra Nevada from the vantage of that fantastic Sierra vista point up there:

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Revisiting Manzanar

  

Darlene and I spent several hours at the Manzanar National Historic Site on our visit to the Owens Valley in the Traveling Cat Adventure Vehicle in mid-May.  I went to high school in Bishop in the 80’s, so I’ve certainly seen Manzanar before, but it’s quite different since I last visited.  They’ve converted what had become a county storage shed but was originally an auditorium in the internment camp into a very impressive and engaging interpretive center.  You can now see some of the belongings and artifacts of the people who were forcibly relocated there during World War II as well as hear recordings of their stories and enter restored versions of some of the camp buildings. It’s an incredibly well done exhibit and all the more relevant today with all of the new fear mongering going on.  It’s definitely worth half a day or more to visit.

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Small RV/Campervan Shopping Notes

These are my notes from looking at and shopping for various small RV’s (class B, B+ or C) during 2015-16:

RoadTrek CS Adventurous 4×4

  • narrow Sprinter body, 4×4 option
  • advanced electrical options
  • 800Ah lithium battery, 470W solar, 3500W engine generator w/auto-start, 2500W inverter
  • compressor-driven refrigerator (AC/DC), induction cooktop x 2, (E-Trek version has smaller fridge)
  • optional diesel Alde heating system, remove propane system??
  • tankless on-demand hot water
  • not very good construction or build quality
  • poor layout makes space seem very cramped – compare to Pleasure-Way

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Five Days on the Sonoma Coast

Here’s some pics and video from our longest run yet with the cats in the Traveling Cat Adventure Vehicle – five days on the Sonoma coast from Bodega Bay to Fort Ross, coming back home on New Year’s Day.

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After another rough start with the cats (they still aren’t too keen on being trapped in the big, noisy moving house) and after cleaning up a messy episode with Pan, they eventually settled down for the journey.  We spent a couple of nights at the Bodega Dunes campground exploring the area on foot and finding a few geocaches by day.  On the following day we only ventured up the coast a few more miles and overnighted in an overflow area at Wright’s Beach.  We then continued on to visit Goat Rock to watch the crazy surf, check out the harbor seals at the mouth of the Russian River and hike out to the mammoth rubbing rocks.  We got to Fort Ross just before closing on New Year’s Eve and slipped in the exit gate to run around and check it out before they kicked us out.  On New Year’s Day, we started making our way back, watching for whales far off-shore as we made leisurely progress heading home via the Russian River valley.

The cats seemed to be doing well with slow speed travel and frequent stops and they definitely enjoyed a nice, extended lunch stop off-leash on some empty, grassy school grounds in Santa Rosa.  After five days in the traveling cat adventure vehicle, it was really going well and seeming like this was ready to work for extended trips.  Unfortunately, we had a bit of mishap just before getting home.  One of the solar panels came loose and started smacking around on the roof before we realized what was happening.  It broke free before I could get off the freeway and we ended up pulling over to assess the damage.  Before I knew it, Darlene was off running across the freeway to retrieve the lost panel and then we attracted a highway patrolmen who came over to scold us (and see if we needed assistance).  The noise and drama was all quite traumatic for Pan and a lousy ending to an otherwise promising start to future extended traveling cat adventures.  (And of course now I need to redo the solar panel installation.)

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Little Cat House on the Coast

After Thanksgiving day, Darlene and I loaded up the Traveling Cat Adventure Vehicle and headed down the coast south of Monterey.  My intention was for us to stay a couple of nights at the Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park campground, but I forgot it was still closed from the impact of the Soberanes fire earlier this year.  D’oh!  So we kept heading south as the sun set (there’s no overnight parking allowed along the highway here), passing several alternate, full campgrounds until we found space at the San Simeon State Park campground.  We walked to the beach in the rain the next morning before heading out, stopped to let the cats out for a scary adventure when the rain let up later, caught a tour of “Nitt Witt Ridge” in Cambria and made it to Morro Bay by nightfall.  On Saturday night, the campgrounds were full so we found a nice out-of-the-way spot to boondock for the night. On Sunday, we visited the bay, the rock, the natural history museum and the Monarch butterflies before heading home in the evening up 101.

      

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Little Cat House in the Forest

Just some pictures from another little overnight excursion with Pan and Hera in the Traveling Cat Adventure Vehicle, this time in the redwoods of Butano State Park.

 

We’re slowly building up to longer outings with them and they do seem to be adapting to it as a second home.  They’re also learning to go out for a little exploration in their harnesses.  Hera’s become quite the little explorer while Pan is still pretty nervous and reluctant.   Neither of them are happy about being in the vehicle while it’s in motion though.

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Little Cat House on the Beach

Just some pictures from our first real excursion with Pan and Hera in the Mobile Cat House (aka, Traveling Cat Adventure Vehicle).  To the beach (Waddell Beach) for Sunday afternoon and evening:

 

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RV Tips, Upgrades and Customizations

My 2016 Leisure Travel Vans Unity, otherwise known as the Traveling Cat Adventure Vehicle

I have a 2016 Leisure Travel Vans “Unity 24TB” (Twin Bed) 25 ft. campervan/RV, built on a 2015 Mercedes Sprinter diesel-powered chassis.  While the Leisure Travel Vans build lacks somewhat in some of the technical features I wanted, the rest of the craftsmanship, aesthetics and build quality are fantastic.  (Here’s more on how I came to buy this unit and here’s a page of my shopping/comparison notes.)

I’m maintaining this page to share information about the various upgrades and customizations I learn about and make to hopefully help others wanting to do similar things. Continue reading »

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Traveling Cat Adventure Vehicle

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Holy cat snacks!  I bought an RV!!  To be otherwise known as the Mobile Cat House, Traveling Cat Camper, Cat-Assisted Adventure Van, Traveling Cat Adventure Vehicle?  The idea here is to be able to take extended road trips and bring the cats along so that I don’t always have to make arrangements for a cat sitter.

I wanted something small enough to be able to take most anywhere (cities, state/national parks, even dirt roads) and yet large enough that the cats won’t go stir crazy and hate it.  Darlene and I intend to use it mostly, if not always, “dry camping” (or “boondocking” without hookups for water or electricity); in other words, our intention isn’t to travel to RV “resorts” or campgrounds.  We’ll prefer being able to camp out on open national park, forest service or BLM lands.

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Now if this wasn’t mostly about being able to bring the cats along, I’d definitely go for a compact 4×4 Sprinter van conversion that would allow us to go anywhere we would have previously gone and still easily fit in city parking spaces. However, to better accommodate the cats (it is the Traveling Cat Adventure Vehicle after all), I eventually settled on the somewhat wider and longer Leisure Travel Vans “Unity 24TB” (Twin Bed) model, built on the Mercedes Sprinter diesel-powered chassis.  It’s a little wider and longer than a normal Sprinter van and thus a “class B+ or C” but it should still be reasonably manageable both in the city and in the wild.  Unfortunately, there aren’t yet options for electric drivetrains on campervans and motorhomes, but they’re coming.  Mercedes-Benz may well have an all-electric option for its Sprinter chassis in a few more years.

While the Leisure Travel Vans build lacks somewhat in some of the technical features I wanted, many of those aspects can be upgraded after the fact.  The rest of the craftsmanship, aesthetics and build quality are fantastic.  (I’ve posted my shopping/comparison notes here from my RV/campervan selection process as a sort of a review of what’s available that might be helpful to others.)

Anyway, I found and bought this only very slightly used 2016 Unity from a previous owner in Montana, with just 3100 miles on it, before I drove it the 1250 miles back home.  It was great to find a relatively new used one, to avoid the immediate depreciation hit of buying new and also to skip the 6-8 month long backlog for new orders.  Leisure Travel Vans are hard to come by and dealer’s orders seem to sell immediately.  I wasn’t even able to look at one in person anywhere in California.

It remains to be seen if Pan and Hera will adapt to taking extended road trips in their new Traveling Cat House.  If it doesn’t work out with the cats, I’m sure it’ll still be a fun adventure and it should be easy enough to sell again if I find it’s not something I want to keep.  In the meantime, there’s a number of changes and upgrades I’ll be making to the Traveling Cat House which I’ll document here, to hopefully help out others like myself:  RV Tips, Upgrades and Customizations

Update:  The cats are doing great and have adapted well to traveling in the RV.  Follow this tag (“RV Travels”) to see and read about Pan and Hera’s traveling adventures!

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