It's been a long, long time inbetween EarthRoamers travel posts... apologies to all our family, friends, fellow bloggers and website followers for our absence...but now we are back!
So then... what happened? Well, some of you will know we had a "little diversion"...just sometimes life and things in general conspire against your well laid plans...if only we had some of course! As always we look to the positive outcome... firstly, our new vehicle, "Little Henrietta", she was delayed in production, but what we eventually got was an even better rig than we had originally ordered, with an all new electric lift system from Germany...and then The Blonde had her own challenge health wise, which has also turned out well and now we are fully focused towards our forthcoming adventures.
We picked up our new "home" away from home the first week in May, 2018, from the XP Camper factory in Grass Valley, California. After 3 days of familiarisation and some great support work from the team at XP Camper we were finally out on the road and giving "Little Henrietta" her first roaming outing. (see separate blog "Introducing....Little Henrietta", for more details of our new ride).
Little Henrietta @ the XPCamper factory in Grass Valley, California
On Friday May 11th, 2018, we started out on the next leg of our travels around the world...this will be what The Blonde calls our "Organic Tour", in other words we have no specific plans for the next 5 months that we will be in the USA, it will just develop...organically!
Little Henrietta....ready to roam!
Firstly we head east from Grass Valley to the Nevada border. Our first night out in Little Henrietta will be at Lake Tahoe. We work our way from Grass Valley onto the Interstate 80 heading towards Reno. It is very early in the season so many of the campgrounds at higher elevations are still closed, roads being impassable after the heavy snow late in the season. In fact most of the campgrounds at Lake Tahoe are not "officially" open, but by some good fortune, we meet up with a camp host just setting up for the season at Kaspian Recreational Area on the western shore, and he agrees we can stay a couple of nights. What we want to do is not only take sometime out to explore this area, but to start a shakedown on LH not too far away from the XP factory to make sure everything is working well.
Our first night out in Little Henrietta @ Kaspian CG, Lake Tahoe
Great bike & hike path along Lake Tahoe waters edge.....
The weather is sunny but with a really crisp like mountain air. We take a nice walk along the lakeside trail into Tahoe City. Lots of preparation work going on in town getting ready for the Summer season...a very good tourist information center where we pick up some brochures to study and then "successfully" missing the bus that would take us back to the campground..so we hike all the way back. We did find a great bagel shop in town with gluten free everything....The Blonde in seventh heaven...and good coffee as well, plus, we found bears!
Ed's Bagel House in Tahoe City....great breakfast bagels!
Tahoe City has bears hanging out all over....
Saturday 12 May - It’s a cold but sunny start and there is steam rising from the lake. We’ve spent our first 2 nights in LH and we were comfortable if a little cold. That’s not LH’s fault. It’s because we have only one blanket until we reconnect with all our other bedding. Our second night was better as we got the hang of the Webasto diesel heater. The space is great and we can’t wait to get everything loaded and organised. The mattress looked a bit thin but is surprisingly comfy with the special spring system underneath. The shower works well (not quite as yummy as Big Henry but still good).
Sunrise and Little Henrietta @ Lake Tahoe
We set out heading East on the I80 to drive the 1000 or so miles (1,600 kms) to Lyons in Colorado. There we will collect all our worldly goods for travelling which we had removed from Big Henry back in October 2016 and left with our very dear friends Susan & Steve....and their beautiful golden retriever Dudley! This was going to be the longest drive we had ever done on an interstate...previously we have tried wherever possible to avoid them....but this time we are on a mission to get from A to B and get ourselves all packed up and sorted for this years travel. Our focus today was to try and camp just outside of Salt Lake City in Utah which would be roughly half way house. The first thing we were pleased to notice about our new travelling home was how easy to manouevre she is compared with Big H. and the fact that she handled so much better at speed. Also most pleasing was the much lower fuel consumption, especially as prices on average were 20% up on what we had paid last time we were travelling in the USA. Big Henry would overall average around 10.5 miles to the gallon, now we were achieving over 15....nice.
Apart from the occasional speeding truck, the drive across to Salt Lake was pretty uneventful...we were hoping to camp somewhere around Bonneville Flats...motorcar racing has taken place at the salt flats since 1914. The racing takes place at part of the Bonneville Salt Flats known as the Bonneville Speedway. Bonneville "Speed Week" takes place mid-August followed by "World of Speed" in September and the "World Finals" take place early October. We were of course going to be too early to witness these events but we hoped to get a photo of Little Henrietta "at speed" on the flats. Alas this was not too be....recent rains had closed the flats, and so we pushed on towards Salt Lake City where just 30 miles before the city limits we found Knoll's OHV area.
Little Henrietta @ Knolls OHV Park
There are a few ATV’s or OHV’s running about but they all go well before dark.The Blonde manages a quick gallop out with her "resistance band", whilst I do yet another pack and repack of the outside storage boxes. It’s good to stretch legs our after almost 11 hours driving. It’s quiet overnight and we watch the lights of trucks travelling along the highway in the distance.
Our view from the "dining room" in Little Henrietta.
An early start after a quiet night and soon we were through SLC and climbing out of the valley on the I80 heading into Wyoming. Again a fairly straight forward drive, road conditions were pretty good apart from a strong headwind as we dropped down into Laramie and filled up with fuel....there were storm clouds ahead and some rain forecast...it got blacker and blacker, darker and darker and then we drove straight into the storm....large hailstones!! Fortunately it only lasted for a few minutes.
We finally pulled into the driveway to Susan and Steve's new house just around 5pm....Steve had been watching our progress on DeLorme Eartmate and is outside the house waiting for us with a huge grin and big hugs, quickly joined by Susan and of course a big welcome to the new house by the most important occupant of the house...Dudley!
Our plan for the next few days was to take time out to enjoy a big catch up with Susan and Stev...to do some Dudley walking time and of course to"play house" retrieving all our gear which S & S had so kindly looked after for us for the past 18 months and get installed into Little H. Packing and re-packing was the oder of the day...what would fit and what wouldn't. We of course had less overall space to play with in Little H. but we soon learnt that all those little extra storage areas she had were more than enough to accomodate what we needed....in fact we had space left over! The bike rack required an extra long extension which we had to wait for but when installed was just the ticket.
Little Henrietta loaded up....with bike rack finally installed.
We only had to "lose" one or two items. This included our large memory foam mattress...just too big and heavy...a gas portable cooker, no longer required and we had never used anywway...and a couple ot tools we had also never used and did not anticipate a need for. We even found space for all those extra clothes we had packed originally and had not used. Indeed, the storage space specially designed under our new bed proved to be cavernous and just absorbed all our clothes plus other bits....fantastic! Of course there were a number of "re-packs" required to get everything ship shape but we were delighted by how everything worked into the space.
All our "worldly goods" ready to pack into Little Henrietta...plus a couple of bikes!
I was so excited to find that FACE the acapella group we saw at Nissi’s in Boulder in October 2016 were in the area again. We wanted to take Susan and Steve as a thank you for looking after all our things. We had enjoyed the band so much before although Steve did not get to see them last time and hasn’t managed an event since so it will be extra special to introduce him.
The venue is very different to the ‘jazz’ style bar of Nissi’s but FACE can perform anywhere. They were hugely entertaining again and as Susan had managed to get us seats just 3 rows back we could get a better appreciation of just how they make their music. It was a great performance and even included an acapella class from a local school who were really good too. Amazing to hear a 10th grade singing Bass. The Blonde loves this part in the group. FACE’S bass is a short guy and his deep voice seems almost unreal! The ‘drummer’ is incredible too. But what we love the most is that they have been singing together for 17 years and they all seem to have so much fun and respect for each other. Outside of performing they go to workshops and teach their skills to other aspiring individuals and groups. In fact they’re on their way to Tasmania in August to participate in workshops and then give a concert. A LONG way to go for just 3 days. I’m sure the Tassie’s will appreciate them though - just as we did. Steve seemed thrilled to have seen them at last and was up on his feet with the rest of us with standing ovations and "The Man Dance". All good fun! Want to see some FACE...here you go... "The Man Dance"
Susan and Steve as always are the most perfect hosts. The Blonde yet again is getting more "free" photography lessons from Steve... for more about Steve and his amazing career go to.... www.steveuzzell.com ...just look through some of the amazing photographs he has taken during his rich and varied career, now as an inspirational speaker he has over 500 lectures under his belt in all 50 states and in many other countries. Susan likewise is a professional photographer and also an author and she is inspirational in helping us look at new opportunities...see her website @ www.susanwlambert.com
The Blonde and "Tutor" Steve out on another shoot....
Susan & The Blonde.....could a "Bear" have two better models to pose for him? I think not!
As always, Dudley likes to be the star of the show...he is so photgenic and guess what....he knows it! He of course reminds us so much of our own retriever Leo, who we left behind in the UK over 25 years ago now when starting out our working life overseas. Dudley has the most wonderful temprament, loves to have a wrestle, loves to run and most importantly shows heaps of love to his master and mistress....just the greatest companion!
Dudley in "pre wash" mode...not a setting you find on every dishwasher!
Flat out Dudley...in full frog pose after a tiring wrestle with his arch rival "The Armadillo Mangler".
Dudley on guard! Guarding my shoe that is....!
"Can I come to?"....Dudley liked the idea of a road trip with "Little Henrietta & The EarthRoamers"!
Two weeks fly by! Little Henrietta is all packe up and ready to roam...and with a heavy heart we are therefore ready to depart from Lyons. So on Tuesday 22nd May we start out looking for new adventures with Little Henrietta...but not before we have to extricate Dudley from the back of LH as he was settled in ready for the ride. We are so looking forward to travelling with Susan & Steve and Dudley of course, when they get back on the road again. Adieu our dearest of friends until next time.....
The Blonde & Little Herietta....ready to roam....