Sunset in the Coconino National Forest, looking northeast toward Sedona, AZ, 4/17/15

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Plan

After Easter, I'll head south toward Death Valley National Park in Southern California.  I'm looking foward to enjoying a grand view of the night sky.  I'm hoping too, that the wild flowers will put on a show while I'm there.

After Death Valley, I hope to meet up with my brother Gary and his wife Mary.  They are full-time RV'ers wintering near Palm Springs.  Next are the National Parks in Nevada and Utah, eventually zig-zagging to my east-coast destination on Long Island, NY ... then I'll head home mid-October.

Here is a map of the various stops I'm currently planning to make.  This order of stops was automatically determined by my GPS software (Co-Pilot Navigator) as the most efficient. 

Whatever my route, it's always open for revision if alternate roads pique my interest.  So, if you have any ideas for scenic highways or interesting places to visit or camp, please make a comment or send an email.  I love taking those roads less traveled.  Now, if only my Prius RV was a 4-wheeler :-) ...

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Technology for the Tour

I plan to use a few technologies on my cross-country trip because they provide some conveniences and protections.  Here is what I'm bringing and why.

Laptop -- Even though I won't be able to get online within the National Parks, I plan to use my computer a lot.  Due to lack of room in my car for hard copies of travel books and maps, I'll input that information onto my laptop.  (For back up, though, I will carry some paper maps and a compass.)  Also, a GPS software/receiver (Co-Pilot Navigator) will be my primary routing tool for the overall trip.  For evening reading, I'll download a few novels.  The laptop recharges while driving using a converter.  I'll have an extra battery as well.

Smart Phone -- I just got this device and am having a grand time learning how to use it.  It's a phone (but I will also carry a phone card when no cell service is available).  It's a browser, with lots of apps to find stores, get weather, traffic, the news, maps, etc.  It's my camera.  It has GPS, a level, compass, and it tells me where the shade will be.  I'm able to recharge the phone using a car charger, USB cable, or solar charger.

SPOT GPS Messenger -- In my visits to national parks to date, I haven't had any cell service.  So, I wanted a way to call for assistance if needed.  This SPOT device has several functions that use GPS instead of cell towers.  The "SOS" button is like dialing 911 via GPS satellites, sending rescuers to my coordinates.  Another button is for road service, emailing family to send AAA to my coordinates.  Other buttons email my location.   No recharging is available, but I carry extra batteries.

I'll also bring a crank weather radio and USB battery chargers.  As always, I'll depend on the Prius' GPS and bluetooth technologies.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A Prius RV

My 2010 cross-country trip is a car camping trip.  That is, my '04 Prius will be my abode when touring the National Parks.  Before I arrived at this type of camping, I'd considered some other options.  I originally thought about towing our 4.5'x8' teardrop trailer.  But, I find the teardrop too large for me when I camp solo.  Then I thought of building a one-person, lightweight teardrop trailer.  Finally, I realized I could probably fit a bed and gear into my Prius and not deal with a trailer at all.  So, I did some research and found people who travel and live in their vehicles full-time (vandwellers).  I even found a couple of folks who have lived or camped in their Priuses  (,  I learned a lot from this research.  But, I needed to try it out for myself to see if it was going to be a good fit for me.

So, in Oct '09 I outfitted my Prius and headed south to meet up with brother Gary and wife Mary, full-time RV'ers, in Yosemite.  Although I slept on the couch in their 5th Wheel several nights, I actually found the cot-sized bed in my Prius more comfortable. 

My bed is a 1.5" cot mattress with a regular ThermaRest pad underneath for warmth and to "hide" the latch-bump.  It is made up just like a regular bed with sheets and a large down comforter.  I can double the comforter for extra warmth, if needed.  The bed is located behind the front passenger seat.

The seat behind the driver is my "entry way."  It's where I can sit and read before bed, use the laptop, plan the next day's adventure, get ready for bed, or dress for the next day.

I made window coverings out of black fleece.  During the day, the material hides the bed and gear from anyone who might look into the car.  At night, the fleece attached to the headliner with Velcro.  I don't cover the front windows.  Rather, I hang a long black curtain just behind the front seats.  At night, my car feels like a cozy cave.  Also, if the nights are cold, I put Reflectix, cut to size, on all of the back the windows.  Reflextic is bubble wrap with foil on each side.  It's a pretty good insulator.  My coldest night so far was 30F at Lake Tahoe where I was plenty warm.

This paragraph has kind of graphic information, so, if you don't want to read about bathrooms and bathing, you can skip it.  When I was camping with Gary and Mary, I used their bathroom occasionally, and their shower once.  Mostly I used public restrooms and campground showers.  Or, in lieu of a shower, I used unscented baby wipes.  When camping solo, I picked campsites near the restrooms and showers.  But, for those o'dark-thirty nature calls, I learned to "pee in a bottle" which I carried out later in a discrete container for disposal.  Also, I had, but never used a bucket and some Double Doodie Bags.  These bags are made to handle human waste for easy disposal.  Also, a female urinary device (FUD) came in handy while hiking.  "When placed against your body, [it] allows you to relieve your bladder while standing ..."  OK, enough of these details.

The unused half of the Prius' hatchback area held my gear -- butane stove, butane cannisters, cooking and eating utensils, tarp w/rope and stakes, duct tape, bungee cords, trash bags, folding chairs, trekking poles, tire chains, fire extinguisher, and an extra gallon of gasoline (not included on cross-country trip), etc. 

The front passenger seat and floor was where I stored my clothing, coat, towels and shoes (low-top hikers, sandals & thongs for showers).  I used soft sided duffel bags that collapsed inward as I wore the clothing, making room for my growing dirty-clothes bag.  I kept the hatchet, knife, air horn, SPOT, cell phone, etc. within easy reach.  On the floor behind the front passenger seat I stored the bucket w/Double Doodie Bags, hiking boots, and day pack.  The laptop was upfront with me while driving, and secured in back at other times.

Directly behind the drivers seat, I stored anything with a scent -- food, toiletries, cleaning supplies, medications, and water.  When camping in bear country, I moved these to a bear locker before setting up camp.  Otherwise, I moved them to the driver's seat at night.  I didn't use a cooler.  Rather, I purchased any need-to-be-refrigerated foods just before eating them.

Not only did I find that camping in my Prius was a good fit for me, but it worked better than imagined.  I enjoyed being able to set-up and break-up camp in a matter of minutes.  I was glad to have a mini galley area under the hatch for the stove when I didn't have a table or when it was raining or windy.  I appreciated using the hybrid system to efficiently power my electronic gear, fan, and heater (like a generator that only runs to recharge the battery).  I loved touring in a vehicle that gets great gas millage, has an integrated GPS and hands-free bluetooth.  The only things that would make it more perfect, is if I could sit up straight in bed and stand completely upright to dress.

A Prius makes a great RV!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Safety and Security

When I talk about my plans to take a solo cross-country trip with friends and family, concerns for safety arise. So, I thought I'd share how I'm preparing for the unexpected. This is probably more detail than anyone wants, but here it is.

-Situational awareness -- if it doesn't feel safe, I leave.
-Don't act like a potential victim (act with purpose)
-If attacked, fight back, yell (re-taking a self-defense class in April).
-Have a mechanically-sound, well-maintained car, good tires/spare, fix-a-flat, chains, flares, extra fuses
-Share itinerary with family & friends with regular check-in times
-Carry first aid kits w/whistle (in car and day pack)
-Carry bear spray and won't hesitate to use it
-Carry key fob with car alarm button
-Carry cell phone (kept charged with car and solar chargers)
-Carry SPOT GPS Messenger (911 caller, when I don't have cell reception)
-When dark, have a bright flashlight (also, useful as a small bat)
-Keep hatchet and knife within reach while in car
-Air horn next to bed (along with above carried items)
-Set up camp with two chairs so it appears that two people are camping here
-At night, put out a large dog food bowl w/heavy-looking chain leash (even tho' I won't have dogs)
-When in bear country, use bear lockers (for food, toiletries, cleaning supplies)
-Lock car when sleeping/resting in it.
-Cover windows with black curtains while sleeping in car, hide gear/bed under curtains when not sleeping in car.
-Seat belt cutter / auto glass hammer in glove box
-Fire extinguisher
-Tire air compressor
-Battery jumper cables
-Weather radio
-Duct tape
-Heavy duty garbage bags
-Extra food and water
-Car owner's manual
-A secondary stash of cash and credit cards hidden in car
-A money belt to carry valuables when among crowds of people
-Copies of drivers license, credit cards, w/800 numbers in case of loss or theft
-Maps and compass

I don't expect to need any of these "tools;" and I will use them if necessary. Leave comments or email me if you have other ideas.

I'm not planning to build any campfires while on my trip.  But, if I do, I'll follow Smokey The Bear's rules. Because, "Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires! (Picture taken near Mt. Hood, Oregon, Sept 09.)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

In Memory of Elise

It's been over 16 months since Elise's death and I still think of her every day.  She loved the outdoors and camping ... so, it seems natural to remember her as I prepare for this trip.   For those who don't know, Elise was my daughter who passed 8 months after going to the emergency room with brain cancer. 

I'm also remembering Elise today because of a happy Valentine's Day memory.  Seven years ago I got a phone call from her with great news.  She and Cameron were pregnant!   I was so excited to be a Gramma.  And, as Jasper grew, so did my pride in Elise as a wonderful mother.  

Suanne (me) and Jasper on Tiger Mountain ('07).  I love being a Gramma ...
and I loved being the mother of the mother who took this picture.

Elise and Jasper on top of an old stump during our
last camping trip before her diagnosis. (Aug 07)

One of Elise's last wishes was to make happy memories with her family
 on a trip to Yellowstone National Park ... and she did. (June 08)

Van with a queen bed and teardrop trailer with a full bed
 for our trip with Elise to Yellowstone.
Sunset at Missouri Headwaters SP. (June 08)

This is one of my favorite pictures that Elise took ('05?).  She was on a hike
 with Jasper and her friend Jorj near the middle fork of the Snoqualmie River.
She loved the moss and so do I.   It's the picture I use for
the background on my desktop ... so peaceful.

Elise would think it was pretty cool that her newly retired mama was going on this cross-country adventure.  And I trust that this journey, among the nation's most amazing natural wonders, will be salve for my soul as I learn to live the rest of my life without her.

American Brain Tumor Association:
Seattle Brain Cancer Walk:

Friday, February 12, 2010

2009 Camping and Gatherings with family and friends

I enjoyed camping and get togethers with family and friends last year.  Here are some pics.

Teardroppers of Oregon and Washington (TOW) had over 50 trailers show up at the Spring Fling Gathering.   It's a fun time of camaraderie, entertainment, and lots of good ol' dutch oven cooking.  Our teardrop is on the far right.  (May 09)

Hubby John at Cabe's Cove Demonstration Grist Mill in The Great Smokey Mountains National Park, TN.  (June 09).

Camping at Pearrygin Lake State Park (Winthrop, WA).  Brother Kyle, Sister-In-Law Mary, Hubby John, and Suanne (me) in the background with our teardrop trailer.  (picture from The Arys Blog, July 09)

Brother Gary modeling his seaman's garb in preparation for he & wife Mary's over-night journey on a tall ship, from Anacortes to Roche Harbor, WA.  (July 09)

Mary and Gary on the tall ship, "Hawaiian Chieftain" on their way to Roche Harbor, WA. (picture from The Arys Blog, July 09)

Grandson Jasper and I on the ferry on our way from Anacortes to Friday Harbor to meet up with Gary & Mary at the Pig War Encampment (reenactment) at Roche Harbor, WA. (July 09)

Grandson Jasper & I on the tall ship "Lady Washington," anchored in Roche Harbor.  (July 09)

Suanne and Mary kayaking on Deception Pass, WA.  Launching from Deception Pass State Park, we timed it so we rode the tide under the bridge, and then took the changing tide back to the beach.  (Picture from The.Arys Blog, July 09)

Me & brother Gary on Hurricane Ridge, Olympic National Park, WA.  (pic from The Arys Blog, July 09)

Me and Mary at Cape Flattery, the northwestern most point of the contiguous US.  (pic from The Arys Blog, July 09)

Rex, Gary and Mary's malamute, poking his head out of the slider of their 5th Wheel.  To the right is our teardrop trailer where brother Kyle and Debbie stayed the week before.  They are parked in our side yard in Fall City, WA.  (from The Arys Blog, July/August 09)

Gary and I at Multnomah Falls, Oregon.  (pic from The Arys Blog, Sept 09)

Gary, me the the background, camped in Welches, OR.  Their 5th Wheel, and my Prius "RV."  (pic from The Arys Blog, Sept 09)

Mary & Gary overlooking Yosemite Valley.  (Oct 09)

Rex, Mary and Gary's malamute, at a campground at Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Park.  Rex went to doggie heaven in December.  I will miss him.  (Oct. 09)

Gary near the arch in the rock, hiking with Mary and I at Joshua Tree National Park.  (Nov. 09)

And now some non-camping family pictures ...

Grandson Luke's first birthday ... "Yum, that's good cake!"  (Jul 09)

Grandson Lane, big brother to Luke, at Luke's 1st Birthday Party. (Jul 09)

Grandson Lane (the birthday boy) with step-daughter Echo holding grandson Luke.  (Nov. 09).

Brothers Ray, Kyle and Gary taking a break at Kyle's 50th birthday party.  (Nov. 09)

Gail, brother Glen's wife, a most gracious and hardworking Thanksgiving hostess for myself and all 4 brothers. (Nov.09)

Brother Glen carving the Thanksgiving turkey. (Nov. 09)

Debby and brother Kyle at Thanksgiving.  (Nov 09)

In the back are brother Glen, Uncle John, Aunt Opal, and me, with brother Ray in the front.  Aunt Opal and Uncle John are our last surviving aunts and uncles.  (Nov. 09)

2009 was a good year for spending time with family.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

2009 Camping Pictures

Last year I took a few car camping trips.  Some trips were shared with family and others were by myself.  The solo trips were "test runs" for my 2010 trip.

Here are some of my favorite '09 scenery images in chronological order.  (All pictures taken with my RAZR V3 cell phone).
Hubby John and I camped a couple of days at the Elkmont Campground in The Great Smokey Mountains National Park to see the synchronous fireflies. It rained every afternoon ... sometimes a down pour ... the tarp came in handy! (June 09)

  The view near Clingman's Dome on top of Ol' Smokey, just after crossing into North Carolina from Tennessee in The Great Smokey Mountains. (June 09)

  On a scenic drive in The Great Smokey Mountains, just outside of Gatlinburg, TN. (June 09)

Sunset on the Straight of Juan de Fuca just west of Port Angeles, WA. Here I camped with my brother Gary and his wife Mary who are full-time RV'ers (Aug 09).

  Multnomah Falls, OR with Gary and Mary. (Sept 09)

Mt. Hood's reflection off of an alpine lake, Oregon.   Kayaked with Gary and Mary. (Sept 09)

  Looking north at Mt. Shasta from Hwy CA-89. Going solo on my way south to Yosemite. (Oct 09)

  Emerald Bay at sunset, Lake Tahoe (Oct 09)

  Tufa at Mono Lake, CA. Tufa are calcified formations created from springs when they were under water. (Oct. 09)
  Yosemite Valley from the Tunnel View with Gary and Mary. (Oct 09).

  View from Glacier Point, Half Dome over Yosemite Valley. Shot from where we were seated on top of some huge boulders having lunch. (Oct. 09)

  El Capitan from the valley floor, Yosemite. (Oct 09).

Upper Yosemite Falls, after 24 hours of rain.  It was totally dry the day before. (Oct 09).
  Lower Yosemite Falls after the rain. (Oct 09)

View of both Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls from a distance.  (Oct. 09)

Cool rock colors.  On our way into Kings Canyon at Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Park with Gary and Mary. (Oct 09)

The top of "General Sherman" a Giant Sequoia at Sequoia NP. This is the 2nd largest tree in the world, by mass. (Oct. 09)

A drive through a grove of redwoods at Redwoods NP. The redwoods are the tallest trees in the world. Traveling solo, going home via the coast. (Oct. 09)

Sunset on the Oregon coast (Oct. 09).

Very amazing rock formations, joshua trees and yuca plants at Joshua Tree National Park, CA. Solo camping trip before spending Thanksgiving with extended family in So. Cal. (Nov 09)

The preserve and oasis at 1000 Palms, CA. This is near Gary and Mary's temporary winter home in Desert Hot Springs. (Nov. 09)

 Those are a few of my '09 scenery shots.  Now, I'm "biting at the bit" to begin my 2010 trip ...