THE Naked Cowboy

Welcome to our next bus adventure!

This time we’re with three of our kids, plus our beloved Marigold PLUS a second VW Westfalia that we are renting.  A double-bus adventure begins.

Post Baja, we stored Marigold in Irvine, California for a few weeks until our return on March 12th. We decided to take the kids on a camping adventure in SoCal for March Break.

Two buses hit the road from Costa Mesa with Jalama Beach (2 hours north of Santa Barbara) as our first destination. En route, we decided to check out famous Venice Beach. We strolled along the boardwalk, people watched, saw the famous Muscle Beach and then walked along the sand. It was 33 degrees and gosh was it ever busy! Apparently it was the nicest day of the year so far – by a large margin.

When Debbie returned to the busses, there was a whole lotta activity going on with the car parked right next to us. Cowboy hats on the roof of their car, guitars on the ground and white cowboy boots laying around.


DbleBus CA March 15-1

Then Debbie noticed the writing on the hat. It clearly stated, “Naked Cowboy”. This immediately took her back more than 10 years ago when she first saw the iconic Times Square ‘Naked Cowboy’. She first thought this was an imposter until she made eye contact with the 6’5” blonde, blue eyed, pony-tailed, ADONIS and realized he was the real deal.

Yes – the NYC Times Square real deal. THE Naked Cowboy.

Frisking the Naked Cowboy

Image our good fortune. Now imagine the look on our kid’s faces…..

Robert – aka The Naked Cowboy – got into costume. Yep – ripped his clothes off down to his corporate sponsored ‘Fruit of the Loom’ tighty whities. Then put on his gigalo-white boots, slung his guitar over his bare chest with it strategically placed to give the illusion of nakedness, and put on his white cowboy hat. He was ready for action.

While he is synonymous with Times Square, he shared with us that his real start was right here at Venice Beach where he used to model.


So here he was, on vacay, back where it all began.  And with his wife in a scantily-clad bikini alongside.  She is apparently the Naked Cowgirl.

We had a good chat with him as he was getting ready to ‘perform’.   He was super curious about our two busses and our story. Funny – while we were away from the busses and cruising the boardwalk, he was observing the plethora of people taking photos of Marigold and our rental Ruby.

We said our goodbyes, but not before we got a bunch of autographed photos, and learned about his new venture, Naked Cowboy Oysters.

Then onwards to Jalama Beach, where we are spending 3 glorious nights camping directly on the beach.

And as the Naked Cowboy told us today as we parted ways, “Each day keeps getting better”.

Thanks, Robert. That is now our trip mantra, and words we will cherish forever….

‘Moon River’

We didn’t have an opportunity to post all of the blogs we created while in Baja.  Here’s one from our time in Bahia Concepcion.

On our way northbound, we could not wait to return to Bahia Concepcion.  A breathtakingly beautiful place where the mountains meet the azure blue waters of the Sea of Cortez.  Having met many travellers, we learned that Playa Escondida was THE beach to camp on.  It’s called Hidden Beach and is set back from the highway, over a mountain saddle away from everything. The roads leading to this beach are rugged and large RV’s cannot make it here.  We had no issues navigating the dirt road and welcomed the company of smaller campervans at our destination.


The beach camping area was smaller than we anticipated and much busier.  The winds were strong and this was one of the few sheltered camping areas.  So we picked our spot and settled into our base camp for the night.

Our immediately neighbour, Dan, came over in the afternoon and introduced himself.  He quickly commented on our Nikon camera and its large zoom lens.   In the most respectful and courteous way,  Dan begged us to take a picture of the moon rising from behind the island in front of us.  He described the islands and the cactus and the mountains beyond, with the moon shining over the ocean water. And the incredible silhouette of the cactus atop this island.   It was quite the picture he was painting.   We were game.

Throughout the day, Dan gently reminded us of the time the moon hit this magical moment.  7:00 pm……

Now the pressure was on.  We set up our tripod and snapped as many shots as we could, hoping that we captured the image for Dan.

Dan was on a father-son camping trip with their golden lab, Timber.  He was a widower who has been travelling to Baja for many many years.

His description of the big event was impeccable.  The beauty of the moon rising, illuminating the Bay, back lighting the cactus was something we will remember for the rest of our lives. We all stood in silence soaking up the moment.


Then as the moon rose higher and higher in the sky, a river of light appeared on the Sea of Cortez.  It was so bright none of us needed flashlights and Orion’s Belt was hardly visible.


Dan asked us if we knew the song,  “Moon River”.

Debbie replied, “Yes.  It’s by Henry Mancini and I happen to have it on my iPod”.

Dan was gobsmacked.  He got a little emotional and shared with us that he had not heard the song since he was 12 years of age, more than 4 decades ago.   He asked if we could play it.

So Debbie queued up the song – an old time favourite of her late father’s.  She recalls him singing it to her when she was a little girl.

Under the full moon, Dan, Debbie, and Jeff crooned out loud the lyrics from this classic.  It was one of those precious shared experiences that brought Dan to tears and got Debbie choked up.  A special moment for each of us an individuals, and for us together – being total strangers.

Moon river, wider than a mile
I’m crossin’ you in style some day
Old dream maker, you heartbreaker
Wherever you’re goin’, I’m goin’ your way

Two drifters, off to see the world
There’s such a lot of world to see
We’re after the same rainbow’s end, waitin’ ’round the bend
My huckleberry friend, Moon River, and me

Two drifters, off to see the world
There’s such a lot of world to see
We’re after the same rainbow’s end, waitin’ ’round the bend
My huckleberry friend, Moon River, and me






Jeff’s Banana Hammock

Day Eleven:  Playa Escondida, Bahia Concepcion to Guerrero Negro (350 km)

While initially we were planning on staying 2 nights at Bahia Concepcion, midday we decided to break camp and move on.  But not before a kayak around some islands to chase a pod of dolphins.


And not before checking out the hand made goods from a beach vendor.  They came along selling the usual blankets, jewellery, etc.  However this vendor was selling something very special…..

…a Banana Hammock!!!



No, not the Speedo variety popular in Europe.

We bought the REAL DEAL.

A genuine hand-made Mexican mini hammock for our banana’s and other fruits.  (If your mind is elsewhere, focus).  We could not stop laughing after we made this purchase.  It actually works perfectly and gentle cradles our fresh fruit.  We picked a yellow hammock to match the bus interior.  Several fellow campers on the Baja are seriously envious of Jeff’s Banana Hammock.  It seems everyone we meet wants one like ours!

Now back to our travels….

Having the freedom and flexibility to change our itinerary to suit our daily desires is one thing we love about road tripping in Marigold.

Now that we are backtracking north, we get a chance to repeat things that worked well for us – not to mention the amazing scenic drive on Mex 1.


One of the highlights was a stop at a famous 100+ year old bakery in Santa Rosalia.  This town has a church designed by Eiffel, which was built in France then shipped overseas and re-assembled.  The bakery – no doubt – was influenced by the Parisians.  We stocked up on their famous warm Conchas (Pandulces or sweet breads).  Pure yummy-ness.

We arrived in Guerrero Negro to find our friends from Montreal camping here.  It was nice to get caught up with them and camp beside them.

The bus is making the most peculiar sound.  We had to visit Chinos Garage here in Guerrero to determine how serious the problem is.  It’s been a stressful day determining how to proceed – whether to flat bed or carry on.  The Mexican mechanics believe her engine is solid and there is some wiggly part in the fan making a racket.

chinos1 chinos2

To be safe, we are spending an extra night in Guerrero to drive solely during the day.

Stay tuned.  750 km to the border……fingers crossed.

BTW, in case you were wondering, Jeff wears board shorts, not Speedos.

Banditos and Boojums

Day Two:  San Quentin to Bahia de Los Angeles (380 km)

Woke up to find that we were robbed last night while we were sound asleep.

Our double burner Coleman camp stove, special cooking table (that we picked up in person from Go Westy), pots, frypan, and lighter were stolen in the night.  Jeff was pissed off about the lost goods.  Debbie was pissed off about some crooks being 3 feet away from her lurking in the dark.    After the initial anger and upset, we counted our blessings that we were okay and that only a few replaceable things were stolen.


The morning after….

Things always happen for a reason, so we decided that we weren’t really meant to cook all of the time on this trip, but rather visit more fish taco stands and local eateries.  Fortunately we travel with a small MSR Whisper Light stove as a backup, so we can still enjoy our tea in the morning and making the occasional single pot meal.

Before leaving the San Quentin region, we took a sunrise stroll on the beach to shake things off.  What a glorious morning.


Nowhere did we read about locking everything up at night or bringing ALL of your belongings inside.  So you’re hearing it first from us folks – bring EVERYTHING inside. Leave nothing to chance.

We learned a big lesson here and will be vigilant about keeping everything locked inside the bus.  And also selecting campgrounds that are busy.  Counterintuitive for us, as we long for solitude while in nature, but during this trip we will hunker down with others.  Call it what you will – herd mentality or safety in numbers.  We are seeking the company and security of other travellers.

After breaking camp a little quicker than usual (strange how that occurs with a few less things to pack), we made our way south to El Rosario, then onto the Sea of Cortez..  This is north end of the famous ‘Gas Gap’, with the next gas station more than 300 km away.

We fueled up the bus and estimate her range to be about 400 km on a full tank.  So no need for a Jerry Can.

On our way out of town, we passed a cute hotel and cafe that advertised it had WiFi. We stopped to charge our devices and access WiFi.  Plus chow down on Chilequiles and Huevos Rancheros for breakie.  And watch their two chihuahuas play together.

photo 5

Today’s drive took us southeast across the peninsula from the Pacifc to the Sea of Cortez with spectacular scenery and desert flora along the route.

A highlight for us was seeing all of the Boojum trees around Catavina.  These tall skinny cactus look like something created by Dr. Seuss.    They resemble a furry giant carrot growing upside-down. There are Seuss-like tufts at the top.  So bizarre and cute at the same time.  No where else in the world can you find these funny trees which only grow in central Baja.


Debbie is standing next to the Boojum Tree – look closely!

Boojum Trees

We also passed an area littered with massive granite boulders.  It looked like the home of Fred Flintstone.  On our way back north we will stop here for a hike.

Finally, we turned off Mex Hwy 1, towards Bahia de Los Angeles (Bay of Angeles).  This region is considered to be on of the most scenic spots in all of Baja with its blue waters and barren desert shoreline backed by rocky mountains. The huge bay is protected by a chain of islands making it the perfect playground for fishing, snorkelling, scuba diving and sea kayaking.


Our home tonight is Dagget’s Beach Camping.  Lovely spot just north of town where we have our own palapa and direct ocean access.  Not many spots in this campground, however there are 2 other Canadians as our neighbours tonight.  We are in good company.


Buenos Noches, from the Sea of Cortez.

To Baja With Love

The trip of a lifetime awaits us in 7 days.

After a pretty quiet summer here in Canada with not a heck of a lot of bus roadtripping, we shipped Marigold to southern California.  Days before the Snowmageddon in Buffalo, we dropped off our bus at a dealership in order to be auto transported across America. Although we are based in TO, we save nearly $1,000 by shipping from the U.S. versus Canada.  Strange but true.

So about this big Baja adventure……


We are driving 3,400 km from Costa Mesa, CA all the way down Baja California penninsula to Cabo San Lucas (and back) in 16 days.  We will be crossing the border on December 27, 2014.  The inspiration for the trip came from various things, people and experiences.  Quite frankly we didn’t think we could pull this off until the kids were older.  (We are travelling just the two of us – no kiddlets).  Thanks to our schedules, and the best Chistmas gift ever from Deb’s mom (the gift of babysitting), we are taking nearly 3 weeks for this trip.  Let us share a bit more about our love of Mexico and Baja specifically….

Jeff has many deep connections to Mexico.  Namely his mom, dad and sister (who are Canadian) moved to Mexico City when he was in high school.  He was fortunate to travel much of the Mexican countryside, truly experience the culture and learn some Spanish.  It was during this time he fell madly in love with air-cooled Vee Dubs and dreamt of owning one someday.  Sadly, Jeff’s mom was diagnosed with cancer while they were in Mexico and she passed away in Mexico City in 1988 at the young age of 46. An emotional connection to this country will forever stay with Jeff.

Meanwhile, Debbie first visited Baja in 1989 on a college trip.  Back then , Cabo was a sleepy fishing town wanting to grow big and become the next Puerto Vallarta.  It was love at first sight for Debbie.  The California grey whales, the sand, ocean, desert, fish tacos, and majestic mountains pretty much won her over.  She left Cabo longing to return someday.  It took more than two decades before her return.  In the last five years, she has visited Cabo three times, learned to surf and has shared this place her kids and several friends.

While on her most recent trip last Feb. 2014, she bought a book called, ‘Travellers Guide to Camping Mexico’s Baja’, by Church and Church.  She got this as a gift for Jeff hoping to spark his interest in driving Marigold there someday.  Debbie also took the time to speak with locales last year about the drive, safety, duration etc.  Everything checked out a-okay and they told her she bought the best resource guide – Church’s, ‘Baja Bible’.


Little did we know the trip would become a reality so quickly. Guess that’s the power of positive intentions.

The last little while has been a mad scramble getting maps, auto insurance, health insurance, our FMM (tourist VISA) planning our route, researching all of the incredible things to see and do, and dreaming of the possibilities.  We are grateful for all of the people who have helped us thus far – Kristina Pearce who insisted Deb buy the Baja Camping Book while in Todos Santos a year ago, Jay Dean from Schmitt’s Audi in Buffalo for welcoming Marigold when auto shipping, Bill Staggs of VW Surfari in Costa Mesa, CA for receiving our bus and storing her until Boxing Day, plus all of the other people who have shared their knowledge of Baja with us.

Baja 2

Our plan is to cross at Tecate and drive about 3 – 5 hours per day before setting up camp and settling down for the night.  Stops will allow us to do some adventuring – namely snorkelling with sea lions and whale sharks in the Sea of Cortez, seeing Scammon’s Lagoon where the California Grey whales give birth to their young, surfing, sea kayaking, scuba diving, camping on remote beaches, and then spending a few glorious days at boutique hotel – Rancho Pescadero – before turning around and heading back north.  We plan to camp in our bus the entire time, except our splurge of 2 nights at Rancho Pescadero just south of Todos Santos.

While Mexico has been getting a bad rap, Baja is isolated from the mainland drug lord violence. That being said, we are expecting some police checks along the way. Additional advice we received was to get as far away from northern Mexico as possible.  So, Day One will involve a lot of driving once we leave Tecate.  The other advice Debbie received was NEVER to drive at night.  The cows down there are jet black in colour and meander all over the roadways, making it impossible to see them from a distance.  So we will drive during daylight hours only and avoid getting the ‘horns’.

We’ve immersed ourselves in reading dozens of blogs of other RV and campervan adventurers posted over the years.  Many make this pilgrimage down the coast an annual tradition – and some have been doing this trek for more than three decades. We feel extremely comfortable and safe in undertaking this journey.

That being said, it is still a great big unknown.  We look forward to the mysteries and new discoveries during this epic road trip to a magical part of the world.

We plan to blog every day where possible and post loads of photos.  Our only limited factor is WiFi.  Not sure what we’ll find, however where there’s WiFi, there’ll be a blog.  We invite you to follow along.

To Baja:  Here we come!

With Love: Deb, Jeff and Marigold  XOXO

12 Things Every VW Campervan Must Have

It’s been a year of incredible adventures with our 1976 VW Westfalia camper van, Marigold. Spending days on end living out of a 90 square foot home (plus another 50 sq. ft. upstairs when the top is popped) can be present some interesting challenges!   During this time we discovered many things that worked, things that didn’t work, and things that are now a must-have with any bus adventure.  Here are our absolute favourite things that make our bus trips extra special and give that ‘glamping’ feel:

1. ESPRO French Press Coffee Maker

This award-winning coffee maker will guarantee to put a smile on your face each morning.  It’s double-filter, double-wall vacuum insulated design keeps coffee fresh, and warm for a long time.  It’s stunningly beautiful and makes a wicked cup-o-java on the road.  We opted for the large size which fills 2 large travel mugs. Part of the fun is buying fresh roasted coffee from local shops on the road.  Two of our fave’s are Macy’s in Flagstaff and FireCreek Roasters in Sedona.  Bonus: Designed in uber-cool Van-Groovy, British Columbia, Canada. (The Green Beanery Toronto)

Big Sur coffee



esproCoffee...!espr 2

2. Mr. Heater – Little Buddy

After a weekend camping trip in Zion with -10C mornings, we set out to find the best indoor portable heater.  This unit meets all of our needs – compact, safe, and efficient.    It runs off of a standard 1LB propane cylinder, has a large diffuser, shuts off if tipped and most importantly, heats the bus perfectly!  Uses a technology that reduces emmisions, however we crack the window  a bit.  We use this at night before crawling into bed, and in the morning to heat up our ‘living room’ before leaving the comfort of our bedroom.  (Walmart)

Mr. Heater - Little Buddylittle buddy

3. Mini Hozuki by SnowPeak – LED Lantern

This little light is a real gem.  Pinky promise.  This tiny orb lights up the entire bus interior at night with its wide diffused light.  It has a strong magnet for hanging just about anywhere.  We love to wrap it’s handle around the pop-top push bar.  The Mini Hozuki can be dimmed, for setting the perfect mood.  And it’s collapsable, compact and fits in our kitchen drawer.  Plus a sleek and simple design.  Don’t get turned off by the pricing (as we did initially).  It’s worth every penny.  Trust us.  (MEC)

mini in tentmini hozuki

4.  Center Console Seat Box / Stool

If your bus is missing the box seat situated between the driver and passenger, read on. This was one of the first items we purchased after buying Marigold.  It stores our garbage can, maps, hand cream, camera, purse, and loads of other things that we often need quick access to while driving.  It hides away valuables while you make a quick trip to the store.  It also serves as an extra seat or footrest when relaxing at your campsite.  Cool factor is being able to match your interior fabric to the upholstered seat cushion. Or build your own custom stool.  (Bus Depot)


5.  Under Dash Parcel Tray

Coffee travel mugs, hand-held devices, and other road trip nick-nacks were not happening in the 70’s.  So in order to deal with some of our daily ‘stuff’, we installed some under dash trays to hold these things.  It is really incredible to have quick access to lip balm, iPad, change for the toll roads, our National Parks Pass, and our mileage logbook.  There are several kinds of trays, however we love the solid black which matches the dash.  Sweet. Tip:  Buy ‘Grip-It’ shelf liner in black and custom line the bottom of the tray.  Keeps everything in place and prevents things from rattling around.   (Bus Depot)

Blog 1photo

6. Stainless Steel Foldable Drink Holders

As passionate coffee/tea drinkers, we scratched our heads for a while trying to figure out the best way to travel with our water bottles and coffee travel mugs. Bus owners will be well aware drink holders were not a thing of the 70’s and 80’s.  The solution?  We looked to the Marine industry for inspiration and discovered these gorgeous stainless steel foldable cup holders.  A solid base, with foldable arms to give your morning cup a hug.  They are in close reach for easy access.  When not in use, they fold away discretely.  Splurge and get the stainless steel for strength and stability – not the cheap plastic ones.  Hint:  When mounting, leave enough space between for a large water bottle such as a 1 litre Nalgene.  (Any marine supply store – we got ours through

cup holercup holder close upphotocup holdersphoto

7. OnSight Toiletries Kit

We keep a full toiletries kit for each of us on board.    We played around with several different models and settled upon onSights hanging toiletries kit.  When the top is popped on your bus, it hangs in the corner with loads of clearance below.  Nothing falls out when accessing the various zippered pockets.  Ours fold up into a barrel roll and fit perfectly in the cubbies in the rear.  (MEC)

DSC_7144 OnSight Toiletries Kit


8. Storage Cubes from Closet Maid 

These soft-sided, strong, flexible storage cubes fit the cabinetry of our ’76 perfectly.  They measure 7″h x 7″ w x 6″ d  and hold everything safely and securely.  We have a separate cube for our dish washing gear,  our spices, our cups/mugs, as well as our tea and coffee.  We can get 3 – 4 of these per shelf.  Pull one out and voila!  Everything is neat and tidy and self-contained.  When not used they fold flat.  Bonus:  You can colour match these to your bus interior. (Target)

kitchwen cubesphotocloset maid 2

9. Rare Earth Magnets

Outrageously strong little magnets.  Allows towels to double as curtains, holds up dishcloths, secures curtains from blowing around when windows are open.  These tiny mighty strong magnets are a must have on board. (Lee valley)


10. Marshmallow Sticks

We quickly learned it was pretty darn hard to find sticks in the high desert.  Not much around, and most of it was damn prickly.  We love our Lee Valley telescopic  marshmallow sticks and cannot imagine bus life without them. (Lee Valley)


11.  Dry Pack Towels XXL 

We travel with several of these compact extra large towels (in green of course to match the bus interior).  Ours double as a privacy curtain when we are too lazy to put up the windshield curtain. Be sure to get the XXL size which covers the front baywindow width to width.  Use your rare earth magnets to secure.  (Any outdoor/camping store)

dry pack

12. Fiamma Bike Rack

Lightweight, easy to install and enough real estate to display your stickers (from all of your awesome destinations).  We are more than pleased with this wisely designed bike rack which keeps a high clearance off the ground for camping on BLM lands. Plus easy access to the engine.  Adjustable for 29, 27.5 and traditional 26″ wheels.  (Bus Depot)

Fiamma Bike rackFiamma Bike RackDSC_7262


Alarming Start to our Road Trip

We bailed on our plans to drive our VW Campervan, Marigold, home to Toronto from Vegas in March.  The damn Polar Vortex thwarted our plans to drive across the entire USA.  But that was just fine.  Plan B involved a road trip throughout Utah and Arizona.  Sunshine versus snow?  Tough choice.


The trip started with a delayed flight from YYZ to LAS.  Groggy-eyed, jet-lagged, yet super stoked about the trip, we checked into a hotel for our only night sleeping with a roof over our heads.  Hit the pillow at 1:30 am local time (that would be 4:30 am back home), only to wake up to ear-piercing fire alarms squealing at 3:30 am local time.  We were evacuated and spent an hour in the hideous parking lot of a Best Western in Henderson.  We watched an episode of Dexter to kill the time (LOL), while the small fire was extinguished.

That was it.  Nuff of electricity, fire alarms, bright lights, and big city.  We could not wait to leave Vegas and connect with the outdoors.

The next day we packed up Marigold which is becoming quite a sacred ritual for us.  We first hit Trader Joe’s and loaded up on our usual grub – Kale Salad, fresh pasta, pre-made wraps, fresh organic salmon, plus their Triple ginger snaps.  This is the most glorious grocery store and we will drive out of our way to find one.


We also got our camping supplies – propane, water, Mr. Heater ‘Little Buddy’, and webbed 70’s folding lawn chairs.  In green, of course, to match our plaid interior.

Off to Zion, via Lake Mead’s north shore scenic drive.  We had the entire roadway to ourselves, as it meandered through the mountains with views of Lake Mead to our right.  Far superior to the I-15 to St. George, and not much longer in distance.

Stopped for lunch at Echo Bay on Lake Mead which was interesting.  Ate lunch on a dock by the main boat launch.  Loved the variety of ducks that swam by and attempted to mooch food off us.  We’d recommend another place to stop along Lake Mead – this site was underwhelming.untitled-10

Then onwards to Zion National Park.  We love this place and it’s immense beauty.  Camped again at the Watchman campground just inside the western park gates.  We rather like our campsite #B039 with its open views of the surrounding peaks. After sleeping here in late January and waking up to -10 C weather, we decided to invest in a portable heater.  We are LOVING our Mr. Heater ‘Little Buddy’ and the warmth it kicks out.  If tipped, it shuts down.  It runs off a standard 1lb. Coleman propane cylinder.  It can run continuously for 5+ hours, and is fairly portable.  We found it perfect for heating up the bus prior to bedtime, and waking up toasty warm in the morning.  🙂


Fortunately this time it only reached  -3 C, so our water didn’t freeze into solid blocks of ice.

The time in the hotel with the fire alarm was a reminder that we are happiest in the outdoors, underneath the stars and away from the hoards of people.  The only early morning alarm we need to contend with in the outdoors are the coyotes yipping around the bus.  We’ll wake up to that alarm any time – morning, noon or night.  And the only fire we wish to deal with is the one we use for toasting marshmallows.  Nighty night from Zion…..

When Stars Align

Whew.  What a long day of driving.  Four states in one day – CA, NV, AZ and UT.

We finally arrived in St. George, Utah, near the famous Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks.  We booked a site at a State Park, as we were planning our trip during the US Gov’t shutdown, and we needed a guaranteed campground reservation.  Snow Canyon State Park was such a special treat – highlighting the best that Utah offers.  Buttes, mesas, red rocks, sandstone, cindercone volcanoes, and canyons.  Site #25 was our home for 2 nights, while we took in some world-famous mountain biking nearby.


Jeff had brilliantly done some research beforehand, and conveniently booked some spa treatments at the Red Mountain Resort and Spa.  Little did we know, the Resort sits in the wilderness at the mouth of Snow Canyon – a mere 10 minute drive from our campsite.   The stars are indeed aligned.

Our first day of mountain biking took us to the Barrel Roll Trail in St. George.  This was after a yummy breakfast at Kneaders on Bluff Street.  Perfect trails to re-familiarize ourselves with our pedal-powered machines.  Beautiful sunshine, blue skies, arid climate and 21 degrees.  You couldn’t ask for better riding conditions.

St. George is a real gem.  We intentionally are NOT going to share much about this southwestern Utah town.  We wish to keep real estate prices low (yup – although a long shot, we actually are intrigued with the possibility of buying property here).  Let’s just say St. George is a cycling ‘Nirvana’ for both mountain and road riding.  It only gets one day of snowfall per year and that white stuff usually melts within the hour.  Warm, dry, sunny, big sky and a deep commitment to cycling (unlike the state of California)

Day Two of riding took us north towards Zion, and the famous Gooseberry Mesa Trail.  It was about an hour drive from St George through derelict Hurricane, UT and upwards through non-descript ranch lands.  We were a bit perplexed wondering where the heck this ‘epic scenic’ ride was occurring.  We picked Windmill Trailhead, one of the three launch points.  Shortly after saddling up, we were riding along the rim of a massive mesa overlooking Zion Canyon.  Drop offs were 1,000 + feet.   It reminded us of Porcupine Rim in Moab, and as far as we were concerned, it was equal in its majesty, and fun factor.


Other than the super nasty spill Debbie took into some Utah rock and sharp Juniper bushes, we had a riot (she forgot to adjust the tension on her new XT pedals and was unable to unclip fast enough….oops).  The stars were aligned in that at EVERY outlook point, another rider seemed to magically appear.  And we only saw 2 other groups on the entire trail system.  Interestingly, one of the groups was a real surprise.  There were 5 elderly gentleman, accompanied by a guide, that had to be in their late 60’s to mid 70’s.  They were riding some of the easier trails, were a bit round through the middle, but were riding nevertheless.  And they seemed like little boys on their bikes – grinning from ear to ear.  So inspirational.

Next time we ride Gooseberry, we will camp on the BLM lands for free near the trailhead.   This seem to be the way of many in this region.  Camping on BLM lands is free, easy, plentiful and permissible by the State.

Post ride, and after nursing Debbie’s 3 massive Gooseberry goose-eggs, we packed up Marigold and drove to our final destination, Vegas.  But not before shooing some rogue cattle off our road, which blocked our way back to Hurricane, Utah.


Checked into our Vegas hotel, quickly rinsed off, and then hit the Strip.  It was shocking to our systems, to say the least.  After sleeping underneath the stars and the desert darkness for a week, we were blinded by the lights and felt claustrophobic in the roaming crowds.  After less than 3 hours strolling the craziness of Vegas, we packed it in.  Done.  Nuff of the drunk craziness, cigar smoke and all the other gross excesses that Vegas embodies.

Marigold was parked safely at a storage facility near the McCarron airport.  She is a rock star.  Drove 1,300 miles problem free.  Tackled numerous high elevation mountain passes, kept us warm at night, and endured our off-road forays to reach trailheads and lookouts for photo ops.    She was our transportation, our shelter, our kitchen, our happy-people-meeter-greeter, and our conduit to adventure and the outdoors.

As we sit at the airport getting ready to fly home, it will likely takes days or even weeks for all of this to sink in.  In certain ways this trip was a sensory overload – in a good way.    We have so much to be grateful for.

The stars were certainly aligned for these 9 days of our lives.  Memories, however,  were created that will last a lifetime.

Payoff: The Golden State

What a nutso summer.  Crappy weather put a real dint in our cycling.  Our bus, Marigold, continued to baffle us with an intermittent fuel problem.  We kinda felt down in the dumps questioning some of the decisions we had made – especially around Marigold.  All of our dreams seemed to be moving further away from us.  And we were getting cranky.

We threw up our arms in September with our bus.  Jeff had spent the entire summer rebuilding the engine and the fuel injection system.  Every week we had new bus parts arriving and every week was another disappointment when the hopeful solution didn’t work.

Marigold was flatbedded 100 km away to an air-cooled engine guru.  Who solved the problem in one day.  Bits o’ silicone rubber were floating around the gas tank, at times blocking the fuel supply.  We would have NEVER found this problem.  Gas tank was drained, the mischievous nuggets were removed, and now the bus is running like brand new.

There is a rainbow after every storm. And every rainbow leads to the pot of gold – if you are patient and believe.

Campsite #9 Mount Diablo, California

Campsite #9 Mount Diablo, California

Welcome to our first bus adventure just the two of us.  Right now we are sitting atop Mount Diablo in northern California, under a perfect sunny morning having camped with Marigold under the stars.  Campsite #9 in the Juniper Campground is THE site with an expansive view to the West.  We can even see Mount Tamalpais and the Golden Gate Bridge. Dinner last night was take-out from our favourite place to eat in San Francisco – The House of Nan King.  Can you spot Marigold in the photo?IMG_0111

Okay, so you’re wondering.  How the heck did the bus end up in the Golden State?  Well, one of our dreams was to have her flatbedded to the Southwest USA, and have her stored in a warm dry (rust free) climate for the Canadian winter.  This would allow us the opportunity for a few getaways.

We had the bus shipped from Buffalo, NY to San Francisco a week or so ago.  We are forever indebted to Arash Hadari of Serremonte VW in Colma, CA.  This dealership agreed to receive our bus.  And we guess they really fell in love with her.  She was washed, waxed, tires greased and then put on display in their showroom.  She looked brand new!

Jeff riding to the summit

Jeff riding to the summit

Yesterday we flew into San Francisco, picked up the bus and are now on a 10-day adventure.  We have no specific plans, however intend to drive through Yosemite, Death Valley and then onto Zion National Park in Utah.  We have our mountain bikes in tow, so we can’t wait to ride some incredible singletrack along the way.

Good morning Sunshine.  :)

Good morning Sunshine. 🙂

This morning we were up super early.  Part due to being on East Coast time and part due to yipping coyotes in the campground at 4:30 am.  So we got up, made coffee in the dark, then saddled up and rode nearly 1,000 feet to the summit to watch the sunrise.  What a treat for our first morning here.

California sunrise!

California sunrise!

Off to ride some more singletrack on Mount Diablo, then driving west towards the Sierra Nevadas and Yosemite.  And cooler weather before the stifling heat of Death Valley.

In the meantime, we are on the hunt for tarantulas.  It’s mating season and apparently the palm-sized males are on the prowl for the ladies.  Contrary to popular belief, these arachnids are harmless, have NEVER killed a human being anywhere on earth, and are nervous nellies.  They jump vertically when startled.