The Painted Hills and Boondocking on the John Day River

Painted Hills and Boondocking on the John Day River

Our world is amazing, but in case you don’t believe me then go ahead and visit the John Day Fossil Beds Painted Hills Unit.

Each layer represents climate change or volcanic action in history.
The colors shift with shadows and cloud coverage.

To see the history of the world laid out before your eyes makes you feel so young and small – even if you are an old fart!

This path give you a close encounter with some very colorful mounds – I think there is a dirty joke in there somewhere, but I will leave it alone.
The dark red is representing a much wetter, almost tropical, climate.

The painted hills and mounds are rich in clay and were formed over 35 million years ago by different volcanic eruptions and changing climate patterns.

The red clay.

While visiting the hills we stayed at a small BLM campground nearby. No charge for up to 14 days stay is the perfect price as far as I’m concerned.

Dusk on the John Day River
Perfect for a slow float.
View near our camping spot.
Views of the John Day River
There is a lot of raft and canoe traffic during the summer.

The dispersed camping is right on the John Day River. The location is perfect for fishing, swimming, or just floating the river. We spent about 20 hours a day swimming with our Rusty and Milo.

Milo is part shark.
Duuun dun duuun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun BOM BOM dun dun dun dun dun dun….
Rusty is more of a guppy.

There is plenty of scenery and wildlife at the dispersed camping area.

John Day duck.
Hawk.
Bald Eagle.
Freedom.
M-O-O-N.
Man-made scenery, but a couple of old guys with their old cars came to visit, too.

5 Things About Compact Living That Drive Me Bat Shit Crazy(er)

We chose to live in a small trailer with two full size dogs. We made this choice, and it has been an amazing choice so far. But let’s be honest here….it is not all campfires and s’mores. There are things about compact living that drive me nuts and I wanted to share them…not to talk you out of full time rving, but to make sure you are aware that it does have…complications.

Top 5 Things About Compact Living That Drive Me Bat Shit Crazy(er)

  1. The refrigerator/freezer
    We exited a very large house with a full size family living in it, to our tiny home with our tiny fridge. It is difficult to adjust from monthly family-size shopping trips to only being able to fit a week’s food at a time. It has been a challenge. Just last night we realized that it’s nearly impossible to put an ice cream tub in our freezer. We considered staying up all night and eating all of the ice cream, but decided if we use that as a storage strategy we soon won’t be able to fit in our tiny home at all. We ended up only eating half the tub of ice cream and then cut the container down half the size so it would fit.
  1. Sweeping the floor. Over and over and over and over and over –
    Regardless of whether we are on the rainy coast of Oregon or in the dry desert of Arizona, we have to sweep the floor soooooo much. Be it tree needles, sand, grass, dirt, gravel, dust, cactus….seriously. There is so much sweeping. And then the dogs come back in the house, and it turns out that sweeping was pointless.
  1. When the weather is crap and we are forced to stay inside –
    When all four of us are in the trailer, it is difficult to get around. There is a lot of strategic placement of our dogs. The placement depends on what we are doing; cooking, cleaning, reading, or just trying to get to the bathroom. It can be frustrating, but more so for the dogs, I think, than for us. At least they aren’t stepping on our ears (Sorry again, Rusty and Milo!).
Full size dogs, trying to take up as little space as possible – and working together to try to protect their ears from me accidentally stepping on them.
  1. The moisture –
    We have been back on the coast since Thanksgiving. It has rained almost the entire time. With four creatures living in the trailer the condensation is terrible. We have to open certain windows, depending on which way the trailer is facing and how the rain is falling. We run a heater almost constantly, and run the exhaust fan over the stove. We bought a Dri-Z-Air container that absorbs quite a bit of moisture (but also takes up valuable counter space).
    About once a week we have to lift the mattress off the bed and the cushions from the dining area and prop them up for about an hour to make sure everything is staying dry. At this point, I am VERY much looking forward to some time in the desert.
  1. Moving things around
    We have to stack the pillows and blankets on the table to change the sheets. We have to move the heater from the table to under the bed to be able to eat. We have to take the garbage can and broom out of the bathroom to take a shower. We have to move the garbage can and broom back to the bathroom and move the heater from the table to under the bed to eat our lunch. We have a cutting board that covers the sink to give us counter space, and every time we need water for coffee, cooking, etc., from the sink we have to move the cutting board/counter space somewhere else, and then have to move it back over the sink because we need the counter space to make the coffee, food, etc. It is a constant re-arrangement of all items that are not permanently attached.

The moral of this story is that there are things that can be quite maddening about living in a tiny, movable home. I have begun to understand why people go for the larger RV’s and 5th Wheels. While I still don’t believe that we need a traveling mansion, if we purchased a larger trailer someday it wouldn’t make me sad at all.

I do not regret our choice. I have enjoyed the traveling we have been able to do so far. I have loved the amazing displays of beauty that our planet has to offer.

If I were to write a pro and con list of full time rving, the pro list would far surpass the con.  

 

Arches National Park

Arches National Park

This post is more difficult to write than anything I have written so far, because I  don’t think that I come up with the right words to describe the beauty and power that you will find at the Arches National Park. If the Arches are on your bucket list, move them closer to the top and if they are not on your bucket list, add them immediately.

We took two days to fully enjoy the Arches, as it is much larger than you could imagine until you actually see it. The first day we covered the first half of the park including the Visitor’s Center, Balanced Rock, Courthouse Towers, and The Windows.

The Courthouse Towers is the first really breathtaking viewpoint in the park. It includes the Tower of Babel and the Organ.

KODAK Digital Still Camera
Balanced Rock
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The Tower of Babel
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The Three Gossips
KODAK Digital Still Camera
The Organ

We hiked a trail that takes you to the North and South Windows and the Turret Arch. From the same viewpoint you are able to see the Elephant Butte and Parade of the Elephants.

KODAK Digital Still Camera
Parade of Elephants
KODAK Digital Still Camera
South WIndow
KODAK Digital Still Camera
North Window
KODAK Digital Still Camera
Touret Arch
KODAK Digital Still Camera
Elephant Butte

From there we headed to see the Delicate Arch.

KODAK Digital Still Camera
Delicate Arch

Day two we drove all the way to the end of the park and worked our way back. At the end is Devil’s Garden, which includes the Tunnel Arch  and Pine Tree Arch. There is a much longer, much more difficult and primitive trail that we did not take this visit that leads to Dark Angel Arch and Double O Arches…we will catch those next time.

KODAK Digital Still Camera
The Tunnel Arch
KODAK Digital Still Camera
Tunnel Arch
KODAK Digital Still Camera
Yay! Bunny!
KODAK Digital Still Camera
Pine Tree Arch

Like I said at the beginning, I don’t think that I can find the words, or even the pictures, that can explain to you the amazing work of nature that exists in the Arches National Park — but I will try. Breathtaking. Awe-inspiring. Majestic. Glorious. Amazing. Astonishing. Beautiful. Dangerous.  Exhilarating….

KODAK Digital Still Camera

KODAK Digital Still Camera

William M. Tugman State Park – Lakeside, OR

William M. Tugman State Park

The park is located just north of Lakeside, OR. We arrived on Wednesday, September 7th. A Loop and C Loop were already all reserved, but B Loop sites are all first come/first serve so we didn’t have any trouble finding a spot.

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There are plenty of trees and shrubbery between the sites, giving you a nice feeling of privacy. All of the loops have trails that lead to the center where the bathrooms and showers are. The facilities are clean, and there are even doors on the showers! It did quickly occur to me that we need shower shoes…just how many people have peed in those showers over the years? Now shower shoes are at the top of the shopping list, and I am thinking a pair of these Feiupe Non-slip Shower Sandals look pretty great.

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Most of the sites have electric and water hookups, other than the hiker/biker spots, which are off on their own. There is the beautiful Eel Lake within walking distance of the camground for swimming, fishing and boating. The park also includes a large playground, with plenty of open grassy areas for volleyball or other sports.

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There are two hiking trails around Eel lake. A 1.5 mile on the west side, and a 3 mile on the east side. The hiking trails are not loops, so you have to turn around and finish off the way you started. The trails are fairly easy and well maintained, with log benches along the way. There was a warning sign regarding a recent sighting of a cougar…I hadn’t even realized that people had noticed me…

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Prepping for Launch Part Two: Serenity Systems Check

Prepping for Launch Part Two: Serenity Systems Check

Now it is time to move onto the other half of daily living and go over the electrical systems. There is a virtual cornucopia of information out there about solar panels and generators. I can’t tell you what is best, because it really comes down to you and your RV. It depends on what you need, how many comforts from your stick-and-bricks home you are taking with you. For us we looked at how much dry-camping we want to do and how few electronic devices we are planning on running. (Side note: I will be redoing this section in a couple of months just to share how well or how badly this little electrical plan ends up working.)

Due to the limited amps we need to run our stuff everyday and how much we don’t want to run back and forth to the nearest town while dry-camping, we elected to pass on the generator. We opted for solar. We’re frugal remember, and solar ends up cheaper and solar allows to pretend we are space-agey (The trailer is named for a sci-fi spaceship after all). Since we are not running anything with a major draw the math says we could get by with two 40-watt panels. All I could say was wow, seems like too little. As many of the things we read said, there is no such thing as too much power from solar. So we decided on purchasing a 120 watt-200 watt system.

Wait.
“Oh Honey,” I said, “we may have a problem with this solar idea.”
“What’s that?”
“Um… lack of roof space.”
“Okay, so how are YOU going to fix this?” She smiled when she said this, an evil little grin.

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So I began reviewing foldable systems and settled on an Eco-Worthy 160 Watt System

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After purchase I can say it is a sufficient system, but I am more likely to recommend one of these two in the future: 

AnpoweTM 200W 12V Poly Portable Folding RV Solar Panel Kit
Or
Go Power! GP-PSK-120 120W Portable Folding Solar Kit

These recommendations are based around similar power needs. Need more power? I recommend starting with Roads Less Traveled, a travel blog with great information. They have great insight from doing their own systems and can walk you through deciding just how much you’re going to need. There’s more info out there, this is just one of the best starting points for the in depth reading that I found.

While the Serenity showed no signs of leaking, we felt you can never be too safe. Based on all that research, and the recommendations of the few people we know with RVs, all the seals were treated with a combination of two methods. Number one is the ultimate in preemptive work; EternaBond 50 RoofSeal Sealant Tape. I suggest ordering a roll and keeping it on hand. As for preventing leaks, you’ll never be happier, but like every boy scout says, be prepared. Brace yourself. I am about to say something that is beyond belief…

There really is an “as seen on TV” product that works as advertised; Flex Seal Clear. Yes, as in that stuff in the commercial with a rowboat and a screen door. It works! Tried and true. We’re keeping a can on hand at all times. Perfect emergency repair until you can refit the bad seal.

To finalize it all we did a little bit of a dry run; meaning we “used” the trailer while still sitting in our own front yard. Testing the systems and finishing it all off with a bath. Now the Serenity is ready to go and all is shiny!

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The Starting Dot on the Map – Coos County, Oregon

The Starting Dot on the Map

We live in a small town on the southern Oregon Coast. We are not beginning our traveling journey because we think the grass is greener on the other side – I’m not sure that there is anywhere that the grass is greener than it is in Oregon. It is beautiful here and I wanted to share what our little dot on the map has to offer, because there is plenty!

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Golden and Silver Falls, Allegany, Oregon

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Siuslaw National Forest – Daphne Grove Campground, Powers, Oregon

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Cape Arago State Park, Charleston, Oregon

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Hobbit Beach & Trail, Florence, Oregon

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Park Creek Campground, Coos Bay District BLM, Oregon

These links and photos are just a tiny example of the beautiful and wild land that is area has to offer. It is certainly worth a visit!

Serenity Remodel Part Four – The Finishing Touches

Serenity Remodel Part Four – The Finishing Touches

Our way of getting a new mattress for the trailer was to simply cut our queen sized cooling gel memory foam mattress down to fit. We had just purchased the mattress back in February and figured we shouldn’t let that go to waste! We used a Gerber Gator Machete [31-000758] to cut the crap out of it (after measuring carefully). We also made a slit in the center of the mattress on the underside, so that it could fold easier into a futon style couch in the trailer. It’s not a perfect fit, but it is pretty comfortable.

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We purchased a few valance curtains, since they were the perfect length for the smaller windows.

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We added a dry erase board as the refrigerator door.

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As you can tell by now, we here at Write on the Road are a couple of geeks. How many fandoms can you find?

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The Remodel Part Four

Serenity Remodel Part Three

Remodel Part 3

The lovely, early 90’s, trailer upholstery did NOT match the black and white theme we were running with. They were faded hunter green seat cushions for the table, with blue and green plaid back rests. The seat cushions were pretty squished and useless. The bed railing and seat edges were upholstered in a fuzzy fabric that used to be pink (I think), but now just resembled Pepto Bismol mixed with mud. Ugh. Nope, gotta go.

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The seats had the hideous plaid back rests for comfort as well as for laying them down to make a bed when the table was lowered. We didn’t need a second bed, as we were pretty sure the dogs could handle sleeping on the floor…maybe. So we just needed to upholster the new seat cushions we were going to get to replace the old flat ones, and the dirty Pepto seat trim and bed rail. I like artsy-fartsy-crafty stuff as long as it doesn’t involve sewing. So, how do we re-upholster the cushions without me having to sew? Staple gun! Not only effective, but somewhat fun if you think about some great action or horror movies scenes over the years! The perfect tool for the job was a Stanley TRE550 Electric Staple/Brad Nail Gun – great for making seat cushions and would probably be efficient in acting out your favorite movie scene as well! (Disclaimer – we are NOT telling you to staple gun your friends and family…or anyone.)

We started by throwing out all the old cushions from the table area. Underneath the seat cushions was a thin panel of wood that stabilized them, and that is what we decided to use as the bottom of the seat cushions to staple fabric to. Now we just need to buy the cushions and the fabric. Wait a minute…we’re frugal, remember?

The trailer had come with a twin size Tempurpedic mattress that was in great condition, but just too small for the two of us. So, we decided to cut it to fit the seat cushions. Now we just needed to buy fabric. Nope. I came up with the idea to upcycle the blackout curtains from our house. The fabric was thick and could be wiped off with a damp cloth; it was perfect.

Well, it was perfect until I decided to throw them in the washer. Don’t do that. The blackout backing peels off in the washer (if you didn’t know that, now you do. If you did know that, don’t judge me – I can’t always be pretty AND smart and that day I picked pretty). My advice is to just take them outside, hose them down, and wipe them clean. In the end, they worked out anyway, it just took some extra wiping and straightening.

The process for reupholstering the cushions was basically to put the new cushion (mattress piece) on top of the (cut-to-fit) upside-down blackout curtain, and then place the wood panel on the underside of the new cushion. Hubby then got on top of it all, squished it all down, pulled the fabric tight, and stapled it to the wood panel. If you’re as old as we feel, don’t worry about the cracking and popping, that’s just your knees and back during this process, I’m sure you’ll be fine.

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We decided not to put the dirty pepto pink seat trim back up, and replaced it with a small wooden trim painted black.

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The bed rail was a lot simpler. It was really just a straight piece of trim that had been upholstered. We didn’t bother removing the old pepto fabric, but simply cut the curtains to fit, pulled the fabric tight, and stapled to the back side of the wood. Voila!

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Total cost so far:
The Serenity: $1000.00

Kilz Primer – 31.25
Paintbrushes/Roller – 6.99
2 cans Spray Paint – $4.00
Gallon Semi-gloss white paint – on hand
Paint tray/roller handle – on hand
Frog Painters Tape – 5.59

Remodel Part 2
Gallon Black Semi Gloss Paint – 11.99 (Fred Meyer Home Design Brand)
Black Spray Paint – (2) 1.99
New drawer and cabinet pulls – (18) On hand from other furniture projects

Remodel Part 3
New foam for cushions – on hand with the mattress that came with trailer
Fabric – Upcycled blackout curtains on hand
Seat trim – $3.99

Serenity Remodel Part Two

The Remodel Part 2

With the walls now a nice shiny (come on, Serenity…shiny…if you don’t get it you need to watch a Joss Whedon TV show, specifically Firefly: The Complete Series) white, we decided to go with black for doors, windows trim, and miscellaneous things like vent covers, light covers, etc.

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We had already removed everything to paint the walls, so that part was already done. We did an initial coat of the KILZ Primer primer again. Then we laid all the doors out on a tarp in the yard and used a roller to cover as much surface as we could; faster and way easier than the contortionist acts that we had to do to paint the inside of the trailer.

A few coats of black paint and they were good to go…sort of. To save money and time, we only painted the outside of the doors. Considering the small space, we knew we wouldn’t be leaving any of the cabinets or doors open, so why bother with the inside? The only issue here was a couple of days of extremely humid weather. The paint didn’t dry as quickly as it would have without the humidity, so there were some runs on the backs and edges of the doors, so we just took some light sandpaper and gently went over the chunky parts; good enough for someone with only slight obsessive issues.

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We bought a semi-gloss black spray paint to paint all of the extra pieces and knobs. This part was easy peasy. (Painting tip for knobs or handles – use a cardboard box and set the knobs up in it. They will stand up straight and you can turn the box to get all sides – I used a Dominoes pizza box.)

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Total cost so far:
The Serenity: $1000.00

Kilz Primer – 31.25
Paintbrushes/Roller – 6.99
2 cans Spray Paint – $4.00
Gallon Semi-gloss white paint – on hand
Paint tray/roller handle – on hand
Frog Painters Tape – 5.59

Remodel Part 2
Gallon Black Semi Gloss Paint – 11.99 (Fred Meyer Home Design Brand)
Black Spray Paint – (2) 1.99
New drawer and cabinet pulls – (18) On hand from other furniture projects

Side note on mixing paint –  If you use a hand held drill to mix your gallon of paint and it slips up farther than it should, it looks like this! Paint flung everywhere!

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The Remodel Part Three

Serenity Remodel Part One

 

 

The Remodel Part 1 –

We decided to start the remodel process by painting. Which really means that you start the remodel process by removing anything and everything from the trailer that is removable. Cushions, cabinet doors, bathroom doors, drawers, bed pieces, etc.

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Next up was scraping the crap out of the paper and laminate on of all the cabinets and walls with a razor blade scraper. This is only difficult if you are impatient, which I am. I may have gouged and marked up some of the pressboard cabinets. Oops. Point is, have patience and go slow it will be better in the long run.

Next step is pretty self explanatory – tape everything. We used FrogTape.

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Primer. We used KILZ Latex Interior/Exterior Primer. Kilz is great coverage for wallpaper and pressboard and gives you the added advantage of stopping any mildew if needed. It is more a more expensive brand, but definitely not one of the things you want to skimp on.

And then for the painting. I began this process thinking it was going to take no time at all and just be a piece of cake. By the time I was done I was completely out of patience, wishing I was a yoga master and my piece of cake was old and stale. It is a lot more difficult than just painting a room in a sticks and bricks house. So many corners, hidey holes, and awkward ways I had to lay on the tiny floor space to reach the tiny cracks and crevices. We started with a latex semi-gloss white paint (already had this for other projects were going to do) for the walls. Larger spaces were covered with a roller and all the corners and small spaces, we used a cheap paint brush.

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First, don’t use a cheap paintbrush; go ahead and spend the couple extra dollars and get a thick one with small bristles. The roller did great on the larger areas and only needed two coats. On the brushed areas we were on coat #3 and it was still streaky. We racked our brains for a few seconds and decided to get some cans of semi-gloss white spray paint to cover all the corner areas. It came about better than expected and I’m happy with it, considering the amount of money we saved, even if we didn’t save on the frustration. (“Duh” tip – open the windows in your trailer while spray painting, it gets very strong smelling, very fast.)

Total cost so far:
Trailer: $1000.00

Kilz Primer – 31.25
Paintbrushes/Roller – 6.99
2 cans Spray Paint – $4.00
Gallon Semi-gloss white paint – on hand
Paint tray/roller handle – on hand
Frog Painters Tape – 5.59

 

The Remodel Part Two