A Tour of Lake Mead, Zion NP and South Rim of the Grand Canyon,

18 - 30 Aug 2011 - Slideshow Below Text

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We met Andy & Jason through the Airforums a couple of years ago. They had not found their Bambi when we first started communicating, but after several disappointing leads, they did find one — practically in their back yard! They found a wonderful and very gently used 2007 16’ Bambi Ocean Breeze. It’s a very sweet rig.  And it’s perfect for them. They named it R2DTUBE, and promptly ordered vanity plates for it! The rest is a happy history.

We had planned this trip with Andy & Jason for weeks, maybe even months, and finally the time was here! The plan was to meet them at Lake Mead, stay there long enough to take in Hoover Dam and the new bypass bridge, then head from Lake Mead to Zion National Park and on to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon … then they’d travel further east to circle back through Flagstaff and on home on I-40. We would leave them when we hit Flagstaff to head south for Tucson. We’d both be making a huge circle of camping adventures, sharing the lion’s share of the trip. It would be an 11-day trip for them and a 13-day trip for us.

There is a lot to show and tell, so we hope we don’t wear you out … but this ended up being one of the very best trips we have ever made, partly because of the great places we got to camp, and partly because we could not have made a better choice of travel partners. It all worked out beautifully. The only problem was that it had to come to and end too soon.

But let’s start at the beginning. We had a pretty dry summer in terms of camping. Circumstances just kept us home. We hadn’t been out since the Pride gathering in June, so we were really itching to be on the road. We left Tucson on Thursday, 18 August 2011. We got up at 7:00 AM, finished the last minute packing chores, got the Girls secured in the truck and we were out the drive by 10:30 AM.

You may remember that we had lost our black cocker Annie in November of 2010, just after our trip to Mexico. Sadie, our blond cocker, had gotten quite used to being the only little princess in the house, but that came to an end earlier in August when we brought Abbey-Gail (as in “storm”) home from the Pima County Animal Care Center. She’s a Standard Schnauzer and was about 2 years old and 25 lbs when we adopted her. This was Abbey’s very first camping trip! (In hindsight, we were lucky that she travels pretty well, considering this was more than a long weekend jaunt.) Nothing like initiation by fire!

We took I-10 north to Phoenix, but had to make a stop in Chandler as we passed through. Terry’s glasses frames had broken and the only place to get them repaired was in the Valley. He decided to get new lens at the same time, so we’d sent the broken frames up to Gilbert, AZ and he was using his spare glasses. Happily, we got a call that the frames were frames were repaired and the new lenses in the day before we were to leave! Perfect timing! The optical store was located in the Chandler Fashion Mall, just off I-10. So we pulled off the freeway, into the mall parking lot, and Terry went in to pick up the new frames and lenses. It was only a half-hour delay before we were on the road again. Some things work out just perfectly.

We headed through the heart of Phoenix and by 1:30 PM we were on northeast bound on US 60 for Wickenburg, northwest of Phoenix. We passed through Glendale and Surprise, AZ, and stopped for gas along the way ($3.359/gal). In Wickenburg we picked up Highway 93 toward I-40 near Kingman, AZ. We had never driven this particular route, so this was new territory for us … always a plus. This is the most direct route from Phoenix to the northwest corner of Arizona and the Las Vegas area, so the highway is well traveled and well maintained.

Terry had heard of a BLM campground called Burro Creek Campground about 50 miles south of I-40 on Highway 93. He wanted to check out on the way through, and possibly even stay there the night before continuing on. Of course, Terry missed the turn off 93 for the campground, so we had to go about 3 miles before we found a place big enough to turn around and go back. Greg was not pleased, but he survived.  Burro Creek was actually a pretty nice campground. There were great views, a fair number of low trees because of its proximity to the creek, shade structures for most of the sites and even a dump station. There is a great arched bridge on the main road above the creek and the campground. Unfortunately it was also 106 degrees outside, and completely deserted, so we did not stay the night there. We had both generators with us, of course, but still — 106 degrees? However, we did think it would be a great place to stay at a better time of year, like spring or fall. The campground is down in a ravine about a mile from the highway, near the creek. The creek was dry when we were there, but we could imagine it would be nice when the creek was running. Running water is such a premium in Arizona deserts. We’ll have to stop there at another time, for sure. 

So off we went again. “Plan B” was to stay the night in Kingman, AZ which is just 12 miles west of where 93 meets I-40. We arrived in Kingman in the late afternoon after driving 299 miles ...  and checked into Blake Ranch RV Park. It’s very easy to get to, just north of the Interstate — pleasant, clean and relatively quiet, and has trees throughout the property. It’s also priced-well. We’d stay there again. It’s obviously a convenient and well-used over-night RVer stopping place along I-40. It was pretty empty when we arrived, but by evening it was quite busy. They have a fenced off-leash dog run that Abbey really enjoyed. She romped happily with a boxer named Juliette. Sadie observed and interjected a bark here and there … a good level of participation for her! Abbey had done well for her first day in the truck. She watched the world go by through the window, slept and didn’t fuss or bark much. It looked like she was going to be a good little camper! (Whew!)

We didn’t unhitch the truck since it was just an overnight. We had a sandwich, caught some news on TV … and learned that there had been a haboob in the Phoenix area just after we passed through — not 3 hours earlier. Terry had noticed that the sky south of I-40 looked awfully hazy … and that was the reason why. We were glad we had missed it. We’d had good, albeit hot, weather all the way north from Phoenix.

The next morning, Friday, we got up about 8:30 AM and were on the road toward Lake Mead shortly thereafter. Our assumption that Blake Ranch was largely used as an overnighter was confirmed … it was nearly disserted by the time we were up, though we hadn’t been bothered by others getting early starts on their journeys.

We gassed up a couple of miles east of Blake Ranch ($3.359/gal), and continued on I-40 to Kingman, where we exited I-40 and took Highway 93 north toward Lake Mead and Henderson. One of the reasons we’d decided to meet Andy & Jason at Lake Mead is that the new bypass bridge has been recently completed and we wanted to see it. And we all wanted to tour Hoover Dam. Before the bypass bridge, all traffic crossed the Colorado River over the Hoover Dam. The new bridge, completed in 2010 and called the Mike O’Callahan - Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, is quite an engineering feat (not unlike the dam), and was created as a means to improve traffic in general, but more importantly we suspect, to reduce risk to the Dam by ill-intentioned traffic over it. The new bypass bridge is the widest concrete arch bridge in the western hemisphere, and nearly 850 feet above the Colorado River. We were all excited to experience driving over the new bridge, but when we got there, we couldn’t see a thing from the bridge! It has sidewalls high enough that you can’t see anything, and of course, you can’t stop on the bridge either … probably to keep it from becoming the new favorite place to jump to one’s death! (Yikes!) In fact, we were over the bridge and on the other side before we even realized we were on it! Oh well. We’d be back the next day with Andy & Jason, and would see it from below, so we didn’t worry about it too much.

We arrived at Lake Mead RV Village at about 12:30 PM, after an easy 92-mile trip from Blake Ranch RV Park. It was 110 degrees outside. And as you might guess, it was pretty quiet. Lake Mead Village is one of those parks on the lake that has a lot of “park models” in it — permanent trailers set us as turn-key lake resort or weekend destinations. There are a lot of boats on the property as well, which is understandable. It’s privately run but sits in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area which is National Park Service property and has land in both Nevada and Arizona. Since it was pretty hot, it was very very quiet there. There were only a few folks here and there passing through, like us. It seemed that no one was there for a long stay. But in less searing heat it is surely a bustling place.

After setting up and deploying the awnings, etc., Terry was soaking. Our clothes were sticking to us because of the heat … but we could sit in the Bambi in air conditioning and look at the Lake in the distance … and wait for Andy & Jason to arrive. They had reserved the site next to us. But they could not leave until later in the day. We expected them around 8-9:00 PM. Unfortunately, as they were leaving LA a guy in a car next to them motioned that something was going on with one of the tires on their trailer, so they pulled out of traffic to look. Sure enough, there was a goose egg on one of the tires … indicative of tread separation. So they had to make a quick change of plans and go purchase two new tires for their Bambi at 4:00 PM on a Friday afternoon ... and then fight the infamous LA traffic to get out of town. Not something you plan to do on your way somewhere, but at the same time, it was better to deal with it then rather than find themselves disabled along the road somewhere. They made the right decision to stop and take care of it.

This made them even later. Terry made guacamole for a snack for when they arrived and we just waited until we saw the lights from their truck come around the corner. They got there about 10:45 PM … tired and worn out, but happy to see us, as we were to see them … finally! We all talked at once, of course. After they got set up for the night, they came to our trailer and we had drinks, snacks and chat. We said our goodnights about 12:30 AM and then we watched a movie, putting us in bed by 2:00 AM. It had been a long but fun day, and we were finally connected with Andy & Jason!

Saturday morning we were up about 8:30 AM. Greg got the inside of the trailer put together again, and Terry walked the Girls. Around 10:30 AM we met up with Andy & Jason to go to Hoover Dam to see the sights and take the Hoover Dam tour. Jason fixed sandwiches for a picnic lunch and we hit the road to the Dam … a whole 10 miles from the RV park.

Hoover Dam is even more impressive than the Bridge, and is under the auspices of the US Bureau of Reclamation. It was built between 1931 and 1936 during the Great Depression by a consortium of six companies called Six Companies, Inc., with a work force of over 5,200 people at the highest count, and at the cost of 112 lives. Despite the massive undertaking, it was completed more than 2 years ahead of schedule and was dedicated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1935. It was named in honor of President Herbert Hoover. To day it has more than a million visitors a year, and is an icon of Deco Era industrial design. Of course, the dam created Lake Mead and the town of Boulder City, Nevada … which was originally constructed to house workers.

None of us had toured the Dam before, and we were truly in awe of its sheer size and bulk. The Deco architecture and statuary was stunning … and that’s just what you see from the outside. The tour took us into the bowels of the dam … via elevators and stories down to the inside of the dam … we walked through tunnels carved out of stone that suddenly opened into cavernous rooms filled with electric turbines and machinery. It was really quite astounding and should not be missed if one is in the area. The Dam supplies electric power for California, Nevada and Arizona, It truly is a huge monument to engineering and man’s ability to harness nature to benefit both economic and recreational resources … and stylish to boot!

We got back to the RV park about 2:30 PM and had lunch at Andy & Jason’s trailer … and visited until dinnertime. Greg made fresh cole slaw while Terry set up the blender to make party drinks before dinner. Then we grilled hamburgers with all the trimmings to go along with the slaw … all followed by chocolate mouse courtesy of Andy.

Later, Andy & Jason headed out to get gas and ice while Terry & Greg washed dishes and settled in for the evening. It had been a great day, but we were all bushed.

On Sunday, 21 Aug, we got and started our pack-up and move on routine. Greg got the inside of the trailer ready to go, and Terry walked the Girls and took care of the outside chores. Andy & Jason did the same and by noon we were checking out. It was already over 100 degrees and by the time we were ready to roll we were quite glad to get into the truck with AC. We are from Arizona, and of course are used to high summer temps ... but this was especially punishing.

We were off on the next leg of our adventure — Zion National Park! We had decided the night before to take “the scenic route” on Route 169 along Lake Mead rather than going back to the Interstate. We weren’t really doing much on this trip in terms of enjoying the Lake.  It was just too hot, and we could od that another time. We had accomplished what we came for, so it was time to move on. The route along the Lake was nice, though and a far more pleasant drive ... a good decision. We led the pack on this leg of the trip. We had our walkie-talkies so we could communicate with each other, which worked out great. We stopped for a break at a red-rock formation that was really interesting, and made a great backdrop for stretching our legs and taking pictures of our rigs. We felt like we were shooting an Airstream commercial! This was our first travel in Nevada, by the way, so we were adding a new state to our repertoire, no matter how brief! Yea!

Eventually we had to leave the shoreline of Lake Mead to pick up I-15 near Glendale, NV. We passed the entrance to Nevada’s Valley of Fire State Park. It was tempting, but we would have to save that for another time. We stopped for gas in Mesquite, NV, just before the NV/AZ border ($3.519/gal).

I-15 crosses the extreme northwest corner of Arizona, so we were strangely back in Arizona for about 30 miles before entering Utah … another first for us! that little corner of the state kind of a bizarre area and strange convergence of Arizona, Nevada and Utah. Just over the border of Utah is St. George, UT. From there we continued on I-15 until we exited onto Route 9 and headed east toward Hurricane, La Verkin and Springdale which is very near the southern entrance to Zion National Park. We got to Zion Park about 4:00 PM and 181 miles from Lake Mead. We had reservations next to each other in the Watchman Campground for three nights. Terry used his Senior Pass (which we unapologetically call the “Geezer Pass” ... there’s no denying it after all) and we got into the Park free and a 50% discount on camping fees. Not too shabby! Watchman is just inside the entrance to the Park and within walking distance of the visitor’s center and the free tram up into the Zion Canyon. Watchman has electricity and water and is a great base camp for visiting Zion.

We pulled into our sites, which were right along the Virgin River, and to our delight, there was a 19’ Bambi International parked across the road from our site. Almost as soon as we were out of the truck, the occupants of the other Bambi were out to greet us. The guy said, “I know who you are! TBRich, right?” (From our Airforums handle, of course.) It wasn’t long before we’d all introduced ourselves to Rick & Rita from San Diego. They were thrilled to run into another bunch of Airstreamers, as were we, and we all have a great time holding an impromptu mini-rally. It was great fun! We talked non-stop for a couple of hours … covering trailers, gadgets, life experiences and life with our Airstreams. etc., etc., etc. Plus we toured each other’s rigs. We were surround in the park by lots of Europeans in their Class-C RV rentals and families in tents. We were asked more than once if we were having a rally!  We said, “Yes, a very impromptu one!” That evening, we had dinner at Andy & Jason’s. Jason made a taco salad at their trailer.

Unfortunately, Terry’s time in the excessive heat the day before and the morning packing up to leave for Zion finally caught up with him and he suddenly got sick once we were back to our trailer. It was not pretty. He had let himself become dehydrated and had suffered heat exhaustion. At least that’s what we think it was. Terry is rarely under the weather, but this really hit him hard — and suddenly.

For the next couple of days he had to be careful not to overdo and allow himself rehydrate. He couldn’t eat much and nothing but plain water appealed to him. Our little band of travelers was very kind and made the group decision to stay in the campground on Monday to let Terry recuperate and take it easy. He did his best not to let this keep the group from having a good time and tried to pace himself until it had passed. Greg was very attentive and Andy & Jason were concerned and everybody made gracious allowances. It’s nice to have understanding friends.

We didn’t waste the time, however. We took the opportunity to walk the campground and to play in the Virgin River, just steps from our campsites. Andy & Jason went swimming and Greg & Terry took the Girls to play in the water. Sadie likes to wade and get wet up to her belly. After getting wet, she found a little shade on the beach and planted herself in the cool sand and just watched us. This was Abbey’s first experience with a moving body of water that we knew of, and she was intrigued! She was cautious but it was no time before she was in the water, romping and paddling and playing with Andy & Jason. She would dive down, with her head completely submerged, grab a fist-sized rock from the bottom in her mouth, and carry it to the sandy beach, where she deposited and it went back for another. It was very cute.

Later that afternoon we began to get ready for dinner … Rick & Rita joined us for happy hour of wine and snacks and we had grilled steak, asparagus and salad, followed by pie for dessert. It was a great meal and a good time for all. The six of us visited into the evening, breaking up for bed about 9:30 PM. Terry was feeling much better by this time, but still not completely recovered.

Tuesday morning we set off for the visitor’s center and piled into one of the free buses that go to the top end of Zion Canyon with stops along the way. You can get off and on the trams as much as you like. They don’t allow private vehicles up the canyon as they once did. Traffic would be unbearable if they did. It’s actually a nice way to see everything because no one is tasked with driving. 

We took the tram to the end of the line, and got off. From there we took the 1-mile walk on a paved walkway further into the Canyon ... with sheer red and golden rock walls reaching into the sky with the Virgin River at the base. It was stupendous. Terry & Greg had bought a new camera just in time for this trip and it sure got a workout that day. Everywhere we looked, there was something interesting and beautiful to capture. Those interested in more hiking may hike further into the upper reaches of the canyon, but we stopped at the end of the paved walkway for Terry’s sake. (Thank you for that, guys!)

We caught the tram for the return trip down and got off at Zion Lodge, about halfway into the canyon to look around, check out the gift shop and have a late lunch. The restaurant was pretty empty so we had the full attention of the waitress and host. It was a very pleasant, restful lunch with good food and even better company.

Back at the campground, Terry took a shower, checked email and laid down to rest with Sadie while Greg & Abbey met Andy & Jason at the River for more swimming and wading.

That evening, our last night in Zion, Rick & Rita joined us at Andy & Jason’s trailer for another dinner … grilled chicken, Caesar salad and grilled broccoli. (Did we mention that Andy is a chef? And Jason’s pretty handy in the kitchen as well. This group will never go hungry.)  Rick & Rita brought over a wonderful cheesecake for dessert and we were all in hog heaven — again. Thank goodness Terry was feeling more normal by this time and was able to enjoy dinner.

Wednesday, 24 Aug was our day of departure from Zion. It had been a wonderful visit. Just long enough to see the sights and enjoy the relaxation of the River and the company … and not hurried at all. We were so pleased to have run into Rick & Rita, too. We have remained in contact with them, and hopefully one day we can have a reunion and all go camping together again — something to look forward to.

We were up by 8:00 AM to pack up. We said our goodbyes to Rick & Rita. It was sad as we pulled away, leaving Rick & Rita behind waving. We made the obligatory stop at the dump station and we were merrily on our way to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, continuing on Route 9 through the lower part of the Park. There’s a tunnel on that route that everyone must go through to exit the park on the east side. You pay a fee for passage through the tunnel when you enter the park if you are planning to exist that direction. The reason for the fee is that traffic through the tunnel is one-way. It’s old enough that taller rigs would not be able to pass through if it were two lanes of traffic. So when we got to the tunnel, we had to wait until it was our turn to be lead through. The character of the terrain changed dramatically as we exited the tunnel on the other side of the mountain. There seemed to be less “red rock” and more of what looked like granite formations, but it was still beautiful.

About 25 miles outside Zion we picked up US Route 89 and headed south to Kanab, UT, and on to the UT/AZ border and Fredonia, AZ. It was a pretty area with forests and red rock. In Fredonia, we took US Route 89A southeast through the high country and forests to Jacob Lake, the gateway to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Jacob Lake is a major crossroads for travel in that area. It’s the closest location outside the Park for accommodations (including RV parks). From there you go west to Colorado City and the infamous FLDS/Warren Jeffs Land, north to Kanab, UT, east toward Page, AZ and to cross the Colorado River, or south on Route 67 to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. We would be coming back this way after our stay at the North Rim to continue our tour.

The drive from Jacob Lake to the entrance to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon is quite a distance … at last least it seemed that way driving in. So we were really pleased that we’d made reservations for four nights at the Rim Campground inside the Park in place, and did not have to stay outside the Park. We went through an area that had been burned years before and is slowly making a recovery, and through wide grassy meadows surrounded by the Kaibab National Forest, which extends both north and south of the Grand Canyon National Park as far south as Williams, AZ on I-40.  Finally we came to the main entrance and ranger station of the Park, with a big sign that said, “Sorry, Campground Full” … what a long drive it would be for someone who did not have reservations in place! Again, we got free admission into the Park with the Geezer Pass (and 50% off our camping reservations). From there we proceeded with anticipation toward the North Rim, where none of us had ever been. It was just 117 miles from Zion to the North Rim.

North Rim Campground is only a mile from the Lodge at the North Rim … and our site was on the outermost loop relatively close to the edge of the precipice that the area sits on. It was within walking distance of a Rim trail ending at the Lodge and offering great views into the Canyon. In some of the pictures of the campground below you can see blue sky through the trees. That’s because the drop-off is not that far away, and it is blue sky! Sleep-walking is not advised.

Upon arrival we set up our site, and Andy & Jason did the same… they were in a neighboring site with a well-worn path running between the two. It was a perfect set-up … except for the fact that the sites were extremely uneven — guess that’s the price one pays for being closer to the Rim! But it wasn’t something we couldn’t overcome. That’s what they make leveling block for, after all! We moved immediately from set-up and settling into cocktail hour with wine & snacks. We chatted for a long while with stories of camping, and work and life experiences. It was great fun getting to know Andy & Jason even better than we had.

Terry had made his famous spaghetti sauce and froze it before the trip, and tonight was the night for spaghetti and garlic toast … with more wine, of course! It was the perfect way to begin our stay at the North Rim. We had lost an hour when we crossed the AZ/UT border, so after dinner and visiting we all turned in.

Thursday morning Andy & Jason got up before we did and took a hike and went to the Lodge. Then we all gathered at Terry & Greg’s to have waffles for “brunch.” How civilized. That afternoon, while Andy & Jason lounged, we drove to the Lodge, checked out the view from the Lodge, visited the gift shop where we bought a Pendleton Blanket to add to our “collection” as a memento of the trip. We also made reservations for the four of us at the Lodge Dining Room for Friday evening (Thursday was already booked solid).

Then it was back to the campground for a relaxing rest of the afternoon. We had planned our longest stay of the trip at the Rim so that we could do just that and not feel like we had to rush around to do everything at once. Lots of lounging, chatting and laughing took place.

Early that evening we all piled into Andy & Jason’s truck and went back to the Lodge for drinks and appetizers on the patio. It was most pleasant. The Lodge at the North Rim is impressive, but not as “grand” as that on the South Rim. But unlike the South Rim, it sits on the very edge of the Rim. The patio is great for relaxing with beautiful panoramic views of the Canyon … and you can see the South Rim in the distance on the other side. The dining room has huge windows to provide diners with unobstructed views of the Canyon and sunset. There are cabins for rent that flank the main part of the Lodge, as well. The North Rim in general, is not as developed as the South Rim — this we found to be very nice. There were fewer people, a somewhat slower pace, and it felt quieter somehow. Part of the reason for this is that the North Rim is seasonal — closed in the winter under several feet of snow. It also snows on the South Rim but the South Rim stays open year-round. We have been to the South Rim several times but have never camped there. Somehow it doesn’t seem as appealing because of the density of tourists and traffic. We both liked the North Rim more. Of course, it’s a much longer and roundabout trip getting to the North Rim, too! There’s that disadvantage. And frankly, no matter where you view the Grand Canyon, it is indeed breathtakingly “grand” … and no one should miss seeing it.

Thursday evening back at the campground, we gathered for snacks and drinks around the campfire and Jason made prosciutto ham and cheese pizza in a skillet on their cook stove. It was wonderful! And there was more chocolate mousse courtesy of Andy … and finally he gave up the “secret” recipe. It’s made with tofu and totally vegan … save for the whipped cream, of course! (Greg has since developed his own version of the mousse, and it’s always such a treat! Thanks, Andy!) The rest of the evening was spent around the campfire telling yarns.

Friday we had a lazy morning followed by lunch with Andy & Jason after which we sat and watched the weather. There were rain clouds coming and going with sprinkles here and there. Nothing dramatic … just enough to settle the dust and freshen the forest air. It smelled great!

Terry took a short walk along the Rim trail to take some pictures, and by the time he was back, it was time to begin getting ready for our trip to the Lodge for cocktails and dinner. We got a table near the windows in the dining room and enjoyed cocktails. We each had a different entree ranging from trout to fettuccini … and it was all very good. Andy the Chef was impressed. It was a most pleasant meal and an enjoyable time … we were glad we’d done the dining room thing. You never know what to expect in this sort of setting, but it really was excellent.

Back at the trailers we sat under the stars and chatted and spent some time with the Girls. It was a mellow evening which ended fairly early — Andy & Jason had booked a 4-hour mule ride down into the Canyon for early Saturday morning. They needed their rest.

When we got up Saturday Andy & Jason were already gone for the mule ride. We decided to take the Girls for a ride back to the Ranger Station/Entrance to the Park where Greg acquired his very own Geezer Pass! He’d turned 62 in June but had not yet got his own card. It took about 5 minutes, which surprised Terry because when he got his at the BLM office in Tucson, it had taken a good half-hour to fill out the forms, listen to the yada-yada and get all the materials they give you. Apparently each agency that handles them has their own process. On the way back to the campground we slowed to take pictures of a bunch of fire fighters working a controlled burn along the side of the road. Of course, they all posed appropriately when they saw the camera come out!

By the time we were back to the campground, Andy & Jason had returned from the mule trip. They had a great time, but did say that the mules, although very entertaining, were very “gassy” too, and if you were down-wind, you got the full strength of their flatulence. They were glad they had done the mule ride. It made a great story.

The guide for the mule trip had told them they ought to go to Point Royale for some fantastic views of the Canyon, so that afternoon, Andy, Jason and Terry took off to Point Royale, cameras in hand, while Greg stayed behind with the Girls and began preparing for dinner … shrimp and beef skewers on the BBQ.

Point Royale really was a beautiful place to visit. There were two different legs to the trail … one ended on one side of the precipice that extended out from the main Rim area. The interesting thing about it is that the whole formation was a sort of arch formation. You couldn’t see the window in the arch from the top of it where the viewpoint was — only from the trail leading to it. It was pretty amazing. Terry got some great shots (below). The other leg of the trail went to the other side of the precipice … with equally beautiful views and a great viewpoint. The viewpoints are surrounded by rails to keep you inside, and for good reason — it would be a very long fall to the Canyon floor. The views were well worth the drive to get there. Terry wished Greg had come along, too.

When we got back to the campground, lo and behold, another Airstream had parked in the site across the road from Terry & Greg’s rig! And even cooler, was the fact that we knew them! It was Don & Marilyn, fellow members of the Four Corners Unit! They were there with friends and just happened to reserve a spot near us. What a small world! That’s was the second time we had “run into” someone we knew somewhat on this tour … Rick & Rita in Zion … and now Don & Marilyn! (It just goes to show that one must behave at all times, lest someone you know witness inappropriate behavior! Let this be a warning!)

Later Andy & Jason came over to our rig for drinks and Don & Marilyn stopped by, beverages in hand, to join in for a bit… it was nice to see them! And totally unexpected. We love when that happens!

Terry needed to run the generator a bit, so he cranked it up and showed Andy how it all worked, just in case they should decide to go that route some day. They had installed solar on their Bambi, and ours came with solar. They have gotten very good at relying on solar for their power needs while dry camping. We like having solar as well, but because we often make trips where we need to top off the batteries after several days being off the grid, or need to run the AC, we decided to have the generators at our disposal as well. We now feel ready for anything!

Dinner that night was at our trailer. Greg had made fresh potato salad that afternoon when the rest of us were at Point Royale.  And he’d also baked some short bread. So domestic! So we had shrimp and beef skewers for the grill, with potato salad, with strawberry shortcake for dessert. We were really roughing, it, huh? After dinner we sat around the campfire and had a very good time. This was our last night at the North Rim, and while — once again — we were sad to see it coming to an end, we knew there would be other camping trips to enjoy.

It dawned on us during the trip that we all had taken a real risk by planning a 9-day joint camping trip with people we’d never met in person before! We laughed a lot about that. It could have been a real disaster if we hadn’t clicked. But happily we did … and it really never even crossed our minds that it was risky until we were well into the trip! We all agreed that we could not wait to do it again, and that we wished it could have been for longer! We also all agreed that part of the success of traveling together is that we did not try to be “joined at the hip”, and that we didn’t have to spend every second together. Everybody got to do what they wanted to without worrying about the others — that’s the secret to traveling with others we decided. It makes for good travel companions. We finished off the night and headed to bed … another successful day under our belts.

Sunday, 28 Aug — departure day, we were up earlier than normal (for us). We packed up the trailers and trucks and hit the road back to Jacob Lake. We stopped there to gas up gain ... and Greg took the opportunity to go into the gift shop and discovered a wonderful Koshare Story Teller that he could not pass up for his collection of Native American pottery. He was pleased.

By noon we were driving east through the Vermillion Cliffs area on US 89A headed in the direction of Highway 89. It’s a really interesting geological area. We wished we had more time to stop a few places and take pictures — but it would keep for another time. From the intersection of 89 and 89A one can go north to Page, AZ, or south toward Flagstaff. Of course, we headed toward Flagstaff, which was the designated point where Andy & Jason would head west toward home and we would head south. We decided to stop at the Cameron Trading Post on Highway 89 about 50 miles north of Flagstaff. We could gas up there and it would be easier to stop there to say our goodbyes than to deal with the traffic in Flagstaff. None of us wanted the trip to end, but it was time. It was very hot outside. So hot that we didn’t want to let the Girls walk on the hot pavement. So once we were gassed up, Terry stayed with the Girls at the truck and Andy, Jason & Greg went in to check out the trading post. It was a bit touristy for their tastes, which we expected … but you never know. We’ve found great things in the most unexpected places!

When they came back out, we got the Girls out so everyone could say goodbye. It was both happy and sad. It was the “last hug” of a great trip together and we said we couldn’t wait until the next time to get together and laugh and play. So back in our trucks and back on the road we went. We caravanned as usual until we got into Flagstaff. Andy & Jason turned to access I-40 at the east end of Flagstaff to head west and Terry & Greg stayed on the main drag to make their way through town to Lake Mary Road. Andy & Jason honked and waved as they pulled up beside us, miming tears and sad faces … and off they went, their little Bambi shining in the afternoon sun. Andy & Jason were due at Andy’s aunt & uncle’s place in Mojave, AZ, near the Lower Colorado River that evening, so they had to keep moving along. We heard later that they made it there safe and sound and enjoyed a day with Andy’s people on their boat before heading back to Los Angeles.

We had made reservations to stay at Pinegrove Campground in the Coconino National Forest southeast of Flagstaff for a couple of nights. Pinegrove, one of our favorite places in northern Arizona is always a welcomed and familiar place for us. And this time was no exception. It was the perfect place to relax, regroup and reflect on the time we’d spent with Andy & Jason.

After a 223-mile drive from the North Rim, we were at Pinegrove Sunday and Monday nights. We then headed home to Tucson on Tuesday, driving south through the mountains to the west side of Phoenix Metro and on home through Apache Junction and Florence. We arrived home in good time … and no surprises. Just the way we like it. It was another 247 miles home form Pinegrove. Overall on this trip we had towed the Bambi 1160 miles and out total trip (including non-towing miles) was 1193 miles. Not a bad trip — and every mile was fun!

We know this has been a long story, but there was a lot to tell. And there are a lot of pictures below, as well. But good times and beautiful places cannot be related in a few words and a few pictures. So enjoy and maybe we’ll run into you down the road! This trip showed us that you just never know who you’re going to meet! Safe travels and happy trails!

You can click on the button to return to the trips list page and there’s another button at the end of the photo section. Enjoy!

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