Travel Notes & Pictures: Catching Up
Ok, I haven’t gotten a lot of my travel notes and pictures posted here in the last month, so this is intended to be an overview or summary of places we’ve been and things that have happened so far.
If you’re new to reading this site, here’s a quick recap: We started traveling and camping in various national forests at the beginning of July 2009. We primarily tested the waters around Arizona for most of July, getting use to the new setup and tweaking things. In late July we "broke" the truck (details forthcoming) and took several days fixing that. Then we picked up a cargo trailer and we’re now in the process of traveling across country to South Carolina. We’re working on turning the trailer into a little camper as we have extra money available.
So… in early July we bounced around to camping spots near Tucson. Those notes and pics are in previous posts. The next place we decided to try was on the back side of Mount Lemmon. This still isn’t too far from Tucson but far enough to be forest land. This is actually another section of the Coronado Forest area. The camping spot we chose here was right next to the forest road, so we ended up seeing lots of ATVs and vehicles passing throughout the week.
We have discovered as we’ve gone along that things get really quiet during the week in most places. This is pretty nice
When we went back into Tucson the next time we discovered some land for sale in Northern Arizona, so we decided to go take a look at that. The drive up was gorgeous but after taking two days and nights driving through places where the cows don’t even come home… and the "roads" are little dirt tracks you can barely see… and making the mistake of going over a wash we shouldn’t have gone over – even with 4-wheel drive – we broke the truck. And we never found the land.
I really wish I’d gotten better pictures of this but I didn’t so oh well We went over a pretty big wash out area. It was probably two feet wide by 2-3 feet deep with steep sides. We went over it the first time without problems, but when we got to a much bigger river sized one that didn’t have a way across we turned around to go back. Going back was the problem. There just wasn’t a good spot to do it in.
We bent and twisted the frame mount for our lower control arm (that’s the picture above) and the U-joint took a huge bite out of our muffler. The entire suspension seems to have shifted towards the passenger side slightly, and our front tires had sidewall damage.
We were getting a really bad metal grinding sound when we tried to drive but since we were a solid 6 miles out in the middle of a cow field we limped it closer to a regular road. Once there we decided to limp our way back to Tucson at ~25MPH.
Roughly 50-100 miles down the road the U-Joint finally won and sliced the muffler in half. This at least ended the horrible screeching and grinding we’d been getting.
So we holed up with family a few days and got things sorted and patched with the truck… then to test it we drove to Artesia NM
We had planned on going over to visit with family a bit but between the stress of breaking things and the long drive over we were a little cranky. We ended up camping at Brantley Lake and just taking some time off. We saw family for maybe 30 minutes but that was about it.
The strong winds in that area took our tent out of the equation the first night (and broke our fish tank), but after several days relaxing and sunning here we were all in much better moods. Then we decided to go back to Tucson and get a trailer or camper
So we hung out with family in Tucson several more days while researching, then buying, then preparing a camper/trailer for travel. I was anxious to get on the road and start heading to SC so we didn’t do a whole lot yet but we got started.
This is the trailer we chose. It’s a 5×8 enclosed cargo trailer, and we think it will turn into a pretty decent small camper. We plan to outfit it sort of like a Teardrop. Our bed will be the width of the trailer and about 6 feet long, with around 2 feet of storage room underneath of it. We plan to make the bed so that it can be sat up into a couch during the day and give us a bit more moving around room.
For now though, we have a bed pallet on the floor with our supply bins off to the side. We drilled some air/vent holes in the floor by the door as well as at the top front on both sides. This way cool air can enter from under the trailer while warm air rises and goes out the higher holes.
Once we had the trailer we headed off across country. We ended up stopping for a couple of days in the Gila National Forest so I could get some work done, then we took a slight detour to visit Artesia again because we needed to get Onyx his Kennel cough vaccine. He’ll stay two nights at a kennel in South Carolina while we do family day and graduation with Manda.
This was our Gila campsite. We’re using the trailer like a "hard tent". The front of the Jeep has our kitchen washing setup, and between the truck and trailer we have a little port-a-potty bathroom area set up. Not shown in this picture is our table and chairs off to the right.
After going to the vet in Artesia we finally set off for the longer part of our journey. And I have to tell you, crossing Texas takes time.
I’ve done it before but it’s been roughly 15 years I think, and I can’t remember much of that trip. This time I discovered Texas is roughly 600 miles across (guestimating).
We caught up with I-20 just inside Texas and we’re staying on that all the way to the East Coast. Driving the I-20 is pretty scenery, but possibly the funest part of the entire crossing was seeing all the cops around. They were *crawling* that Interstate! Almost everywhere we turned we saw police lights flashing cause they had someone pulled over. It got pretty funny after awhile
Another really cool thing about Texas: They have great rest areas! They’re really nice park-like areas with plenty of picnic tables, grass, and water fountains. The bathrooms were generally clean and really pretty, plus they have large parking spaces and free WiFi at every one. We slept in the trailer at one of those because we had just been driving way too long.
Once we left Texas and entered Louisiana, we didn’t go too far before hunting up the forest. We needed a couple days rest, time for work, time to allow more money to arrive in bank accounts, and time for showers. That’s the one thing that would really be a great additional feature at rest areas by the way: Showers
So I’ve written this update from the Louisiana Kisatchie National Forest which catches me up a bit You can read about that spot and see the pics for it in my Louisiana Camping post.