An Extended Sprinter for Canada Day, Eh

Happy Canada Day, all our fellow Canucks! We’ll be doing a bit of light climbing (surprise?), perhaps indulging in a sweet or malty treat, and perhaps taking in a few of the Canada Day festivities.

But the more exciting news? We’ve put in the order for our Sprinter Van!! We spent a lot of time on our 3-month trip talking about traveling more often, possibly full-time, which turned into even longer discussions about what our van (which we had already named!) would look like and how we would design it to fit our needs better.

ClimbEatCycleRepeat.com | Sprinter van order

So, one week before my sabbatical comes to an end and I head back to work full-time, we decided to go ahead with our van-dreams and placed an order for “Moby”. He needs to be built in Germany and shipped over here, so should be making his way to Vancouver late November / early December.

After many hours of researching, googling, emailing different outfitters, googling some more, looking at cost factors, googling some more… we have decided to convert the van into an RV ourselves. To call this a huge undertaking will still underestimate the amount of work, but we are very excited about turning this shell into our perfect RV! We’re already planning here, and here, and here, and here! 🙂 Luckily, the Sprinter is the de-facto choice of van for those that can, and there are great online resources, articles and books on how to proceed.

Here’s to Canada, and looking forward to the second half of 2015 and 2016!

How to Win in an RV in Las Vegas

Our second-to-last climbing stop was Red Rock Canyon (aka that BIG pile of rocks just outside of Vegas). As we’ve done for Bishop, Joshua Tree and Hueco Tanks, here’s our rundown of how to beat the house (and when the house clearly won!) in Red Rocks.

Time frame:

April 8th – 21st, 2015

Where to stay:

There are a few casinos that have campgrounds attached to them (Circus Circus, Main Street Station Casino) but from the reviews we read, they are somewhat sketchy and tended to be quite pricey. Spending some quality-time with Google, we found out that Las Vegas has a few city bylaws that make overnight parking in most areas prohibited, and we didn’t want to test their “punishable by towing” signs. So we ended up moving around quite a bit, staying a night and a night there.

Sam’s Club (7175 Spring Mountain Road, Las Vegas, NV):

  • There was a Sam’s Club and Walmart side-by-side and, ironically, the Walmart did not allow overnight parking (we were quickly pounced on by the parking-lot security), but Sam’s Club did allow overnight parking. He suggested we find a nice quiet corner, and we did. Every night, we saw the security patrol drive past us, with no issue. Score! After 6 or 7 nights, though, we got the knock on the window. Apparently we were only allowed 4 nights maximum so we had to move on: he suggested kindly that we try parking right next door, at the 99-Cent Store, as that store did not have parking security. We stayed there for one night only, as it felt a bit uncomfortable.

Red Rock Campground:

  • The good: This campground is minutes away from the climbing areas, so it’s a good spot… IF you can get spot (we tried twice, but it was always full)
  • The bad: There are no services here (no water / electrical hook-up, no RV dumping, no showers), so for $15.00/night it seemed a bit excessive, especially when fresh water and dumping are so important for us!

ClimbEatCycleRepeat.com | Resting in the shade after bouldering, Red Rocks NV

King’s Row RV Park:

  • The good: This campground was only $18/night for a full hook-up, and had laundry facilities. It was also on a main road with buses running to the regularly, so we ended up taking the bus down to The Strip one evening.
  • The bad: It’s on the other side of town from Red Rocks, so unless you want to spend 45 minutes of traveling each way, it’s not the most convenient place to camp.

Clark County Shooting Range:

  • This was the most unusual place we stayed, but it had a fantastic view of the Vegas skyline, and it was only $20/night for full hook-up. This was also one of the flattest spots we’ve ever had! It passed the “Pearson Level Test” with flying colours! It’s worth spending a night here, and watching the downtown lights as dusk turns to darkness.
  • Pearson Level Test = Open the fridge door to see how quickly it flies open, and in which direction. If the open door doesn’t move, you’re on a level spot!

Mount Charleston Campgrounds:

  • We spent one day climbing up in Mount Charleston, to beat the heat of the canyon. To save the drive up and down the mountain, we camped at the McWilliams Campground. It was $21/night for no services, so not a very good deal; the lower campground was full but looked like it had better services.

Where to shop:

  • In a big centre like Vegas, there is a plethora of options: Whole Foods, Safeway, Sprouts, local Farmers Markets… all exist in abundance. The choice is yours.

ClimbEatCycleRepeat.com | Farmers Market produce, Las Vegas NV

Where to shower:

  • Desert Breeze Aquatic Center: We paid $3/person for access to the pool. We would often use the pool / shower here and then stay in the parking lot to make dinner. The center was part of a big green-space area (ball parks, dog-walking park, skateboarding area) and made for a relaxing parking spot.
  • Red Rock Climbing Center: This indoor gym has shower facilites for $4/shower. It works in a pinch, and would be a good rainy day indoor-climbing option.

Where to eat:

This is Sin City, so the sky’s the limit! We ate out a few times, but the few “treat” places we really enjoyed were…

Where to drink:

We had fun sampling some of the great craft-beer in Las Vegas!

ClimbEatCycleRepeat.com | Jonty outside Big Dog Brewery, Las Vegas NV

Making friends with the big dog.

Where to recycle:

  • Tricky, tricky, tricky (as always). Whole Foods Market has bins for paper, plastic and aluminum. Target stores have bins for plastic, glass and aluminum. So between the two places, we were able to recycle most of our stuff. Hallelujah!

Where to fill-up and dump:

  • This was unexpectedly hard on the Red Rock Canyon side of town. There were very few places to dump that weren’t miles across: King’s Row RV park was the closest place we found that allowed you to dump for a fee ($4/dump, which was very reasonable). The only other place we could find was Oasis RV Resort, which charged $15/dump.

Where to cycle:

  • Las Vegas ended up being a great (and easy!) place to cycle. We covered some of this earlier on.

ClimbEatCycleRepeat.com | Jonty cycling, Red Rocks NV

Where to get Beta:

  • Desert Rock Sports: This shop is right beside the indoor climbing gym and has a great selection of gear and guidebooks.

ClimbEatCycleRepeat.com | Sign in Las Vegas

While there was tonnes to see and do in Vegas, we found it a little tricky to stay in an RV, if you want to be climbing. When we come back, we’re going to see if we can book into a hotel or use Airbnb to remain on the canyon side of town, at least for part of our stay to make life easier…

The City-to-City Seven

We’ve been travelling in Eddie (and living the Van Life) for two months already (where has the time gone?!) and thought some people might find it interesting to know what we look for when we’re moving to the next destination. We’ve definitely improved our “technique” for when we move to a new centre, but we’re always learning and adapting and trying to make the transition as easy as possible.

So here’s our list of the Top 7 Things we consider when moving to a new location in the RV.

1. Where to stay:

Usually, we look for a Walmart Supercenter for an initial landing spot, at least for the first night, then look for somewhere that might work better after that. We’ve adapted to a lack of 110V electricity, and we know we can get about 4 days out of our holding tanks (fresh, grey, black) so have been opting to dry camp whenever possible.

ClimbEatCycleRepeat.com | Smith Rock through the RV window

2. Where to get fresh water / RV dump / propane:

This is usually the second thing we search for when we travel to a new centre. Our holding tanks are pretty small, so by the time the black water is showing 2/3 full and the fresh water is 2/3 empty, we start to get a bit antsy. Some places have stand-alone RV dumping stations, often at a gas station or rest stop. Other centres will only have these services offered at an actual campground (most charge a nominal fee to use their dumping facilities only). Not all dumping stations have potable water, so it’s good to confirm this and pick one that does. If it doesn’t, it means you have to empty the black/grey tanks but cannot fill the fresh water tank and have to find somewhere else to do that (more stops, more hassle…).

ClimbEatCycleRepeat.com | Sunset, Red Rocks NV

3. Where to get food / groceries:

We like to cook so it’s always a bonus when we can find a decent grocery store with good-quality meat / produce. We’ve been to places where this isn’t the case, and we always struggle to feel at home when we can’t get the produce we want. This may not be an important factor for everyone, but it’s something we search for when we move to a new location.

ClimbEatCycleRepeat.com | Making toasted egg sandwiches

4. Where to climb:

Given the name of this blog, finding a place to climb is usually the reason for traveling to a given destination! However, we don’t usually have a guidebook for that destination. Before we decide on a place, we look for online guidebooks, and check out Mountain Project online to see how much there is for us to do. When we get to a new place, we’ll head over to the local climbing-gear store and talk to the staff to figure out where to go on Day 1.

ClimbEatCycleRepeat.com | Cycling, Red Rocks NV

5. Where to cycle:

If we’re lucky, we’ll see lots of designated cycle lanes as we’re heading into town; this is good as we know getting out on our bikes will be a piece of cake! While this isn’t always the case, a bit of googling usually does the trick. We’ve found websites like Map My Ride, or searching for “Best Places to Cycle in XYZ”, are good ways to get us started with getting out and about. We’re always on the look-out for good cycling routes and once we’ve been in a place for a few days, we usually have a decent lay-of-the-land and can make up a few routes.

ClimbEatCycleRepeat.com | Jonty's bike, Red Rocks NV

6. When to travel:

We’ve been trying to time the travel days to our “climbing rest days” in order to maximize our climbing time. We’ve found traveling in the evening or very early morning works quite well, as the traffic is usually lighter and is generally less stressful.

ClimbEatCycleRepeat.com | Jonty driving through California winter sunrise

7. Best of…:

This is often the most fun part of a new place. Our “Best of” searches include: Where’s the best coffee shop, where’s the best bakery, where’s the best gastropub, etc. In our two months of traveling, we’ve found that these “Best of’s…” have often been the make or break of a centre. If the climbing is good AND they have a stellar bakery, the Pearson’s are in for the long-haul 🙂

Who, How, and What in Hot Hueco!

We spent two weeks bouldering in Hueco Tanks State Park and Historical Site (just outside of El Paso, Texas). As for our stints in Bishop and Joshua Tree, we’re providing a little break-down of our stay in the area – what we did, what we ate, where we stayed, etc.

Time frame:

March 20th – April 3rd, 2015

Where to stay:

  • Rock Ranch: We spent one night here ($10/person/night), primarily to get a look at the guide book 🙂 It’s a 10 minute drive from the park, has showers ($5 if you don’t stay there), kitchen facilities and some WiFi if you’re sat in the main building. This is a good option if you’re an American Alpine Club member, as they get a discount.
  • Walmart Supercenter parking lot (El Paso): We spent most of our time in the Walmart on Montana Avenue (the main road heading out to Hueco). This seems to be our jam, so not much more to say about that. This one was one of the busier Walmart we’ve stayed at, so if you find yourself in the same location, our advice is to stay in the parking lot closest to the Lowes store. The other perk of staying on this side is that you can pick up the free WiFi from Lowes, if you need it.
  • Hueco State Park Campground: The places to get fresh water and an RV dump in El Paso are quite limited. The campground inside the State Park had full-service hook-up ($16/night) and a dumping station ($5 if not camping), so we stayed here whenever we needed fresh water, which ended up being about three nights in total. The scenery was fantastic, the campground was quiet, and the bathrooms and hot showers were clean. Good enough for us!

Where to shop:

  • Vista Super Market: This is a local grocery chain (maybe three or four in the city). They have a pretty decent produce and meat/seafood section and a REALLY great bakery section. They make their own tortillas (yum!), donuts, bread and baked goods. They also had a pretty decent craft beer selection. We felt pretty happy to find this place and did most of our grocery shopping here when not getting bulk items at Walmart.

Where to eat:

We talked to a few locals and consulted quite a bit with Señor Google for places to eat, drink and be merry. There is not a big coffee scene in El Paso, nor is it big on craft beer / gastropubs, so not much to report on this front.

  • Habaneros Fresh MexThis Mexican restaurant is in Las Cruces, a town about 1 hour outside of El Paso. We actually stopped here as we left El Paso, but the food was fantastic! Definitely recommended.
  • El Prado BakeryThis little bakery had great reviews on-line, and it didn’t disappoint! It was a pretty authentic Mexican Bakery (i.e. we were the ONLY non-Mexicans there, and they ensured we had the English-speaking server to help us). We pointed a bit and asked a lot of questions, and ended up with a pretty good selection of baked goods, most of which I don’t remember the names!

Where to shower:

  • El Paso Aquatic Centers: El Paso has a good selection of aquatic centers in the city, and where there’s a pool, there’s a shower! Access to the pool is only $2, so a total score! We used the Marty Robbins Aquatic Center a few times and it was just fine. The only issue is that they are closed for a few hours in the afternoon, and weekend hours tend to be a bit short, so phone to confirm they’re open.
ClimbEatCycleRepeat.com | Sunset, El Paso TX

The view across the playing field at the Marty Robbins Aquatic Center.

Where to see the strangest characters:

  • Buddy’s Beer Barn: This place was a literally a big barn, which you could drive through if you wanted to, full of the weirdest, craziest crap. It was like a looking at a garage sale in your sketchy part of town. BUT they had a really good choice of craft beer! We were also given a box of day-old donuts because we were Canadian (not sure if we should have been offended by this? A guy drove through in his car and pulled out ~10 boxes of day-olds for the owner). We tried a few… hmm, more like 3-day olds… even Jonty has limits… The owners were friendly but, man, it was weird!

ClimbEatCycleRepeat.com | Stocking up, El Paso TX

 

ClimbEatCycleRepeat.com | Stocking up, El Paso TX

Where to recycle:

Ummm….

  • This seems to be the trend on our travels. Recycling for the traveler isn’t popular here either, but is certainly better than Joshua Tree! They do have a few drop-off depots, called Citizen Collection Stations. When we drove up to one, the workers looked at us like we were crazy, asking to recycle our plastic, glass and paper, and pointed us to a big dump truck for “everything”. We’re pretty sure it all just went straight into the landfill. Disappointing, but we tried!

Where to fill-up and dump:

  • Hueco Tanks Campground: This was the easiest place to go, if you plan on climbing in the park. There were a few campgrounds within El Paso, but we didn’t bother with those. Likely needs booking in advance in prime climbing season.
  • Flying J Travel Plaza: We came across these travel stops when we hit Arizona. These are great places! You can fill up with gas and propane, empty your black/grey water, fill up with fresh water, AND get a hot shower inside! We’ve stopped at these stations a few times on the road.

ClimbEatCycleRepeat.com | Boulders, Hueco Tanks TX

Where to cycle:

  • We’ve found 35 km a good distance for us to cycle on our non-climbing days, and we made up a few routes around town, with the aid of Map My Ride and the El Paso Cycling Club websites.

Where to have the strangest conversation:

As we were driving into El Paso for the first time, we realized that we needed reservations to enter the park. Jonty finally got through to the correct phone number for the reservation line and spoke to Michelle. Now, make sure you pull out your BEST Southern accent for this conversation.

Jonty: Hi, I just phoned to make a reservation but got disconnected – I think I spoke to Michelle a few minutes ago.

Michelle: Well, ma name’s Michelle, but my co-worker is ALSO named Michelle, and ah don’ think you spoke to me, so ah bet you prolly spoke to the OTHER Michelle! There’s two Michelle’s but we have different last names.

Jonty: Ah, okay, well I’d like to confirm our reservation for tomorrow, and I’d also like to confirm the directions into the park. One website says you turn onto a road near the building that looks like a spaceship.

Michelle: Where’d ya hear that? I don’ know of no spaceship-lookin’ building! You jus gotta look for the sign! I’ve been to the park before and I didn’t see no spaceship! Which website?!

Jonty: Ah, okay, we’ll just look for the signs. It was on Mountain Project.

Michelle: Well I ain’t ever heard of no “Mountain Project”. And there’s no spaceship-looking building I know of…

The next day, this is what we saw, turning onto the only road that leads to Hueco:

ClimbEatCycleRepeat.com | The Spaceship, outside Hueco Tanks TX

The “Not a Spaceship” building.

Final Thoughts:

We found Hueco a very hard place to get started in, what with the access hurdles and guidebook hurdles, but we did enjoy our time there. We will definitely come back, as the climbing was really good. We will just make sure it’s earlier in the year, though – February / March time would have been perfect.

ClimbEatCycleRepeat.com | Jonty checking out Hueco Tanks boulders

Jonty figuring out where the heck we are!

Now for some climbing in Red Rock Canyon: Vegas, here we come!

New Meal Monday: Maple-Chili Glazed Tofu with Greens

We’ve been experiencing some hot weather down in Hueco Tanks and our dinners have been gravitating toward simple salads paired with a protein. Last week we had electricity so cooked up tofu in the toaster oven, it could easily be cooked in a pan, but the oven requires less attention.

Tofu is a blank canvas and can handle some bold flavours so I think pairing the sweet maple-syrup and spicy chili flakes worked really well. If tofu isn’t your thing, this glaze would be great on prawns or chicken or even veggies!

Our salads usually involve kale and spinach as the base, adding an assortment of rotating veggies depending on our mood. We don’t believe in store-bought dressings (waste of money, full of junk…), all you need is a fat (olive oil or avocado), an acid (balsamic vinegar or fresh lemon/lime juice) and seasoning to taste. Simple ingredients, great flavours!

ClimbEatCycleRepeat.com | Green salad

This marinade is simple to make and can even double as a bit of a dressing for the salad. For the tofu, I let it marinate for a few hours, but even 30 minutes would be fine.

ClimbEatCycleRepeat.com | Maple-chili glazed tofu with greens

Maple-Chili Glazed Tofu with Greens
 
Nutrition Information
  • Serves: 4 servings
  • Serving size: 1 portion
  • Calories: 214
  • Fat: 15.4 g
  • Saturated fat: 2.2 g
  • Carbohydrates: 7.9 g
  • Sugar: 3.2 g
  • Sodium: 305.4 mg
  • Fiber: 2.3 g
  • Protein: 15.7 g
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg
Recipe type: Dinner
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Ingredients
  • 14 oz package extra-firm tofu, drained and diced into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp dried chili peppers
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • ½ tsp sea salt
Instructions
  1. Directions:
  2. Whisk together the maple syrup, olive oil, chili peppers, lemon juice and salt. Place the tofu in a container with a lid. Add the marinade to the tofu and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate until ready to cook (at least 30 minutes).
  3. To cook, remove the tofu from the marinade and place on a pan. Broil for 20 - 30 minutes, flipping every 10 minutes, or until the tofu crisps.
  4. Serve with your favourite salad.

Enjoy!

ClimbEatCycleRepeat.com | Maple-chili glazed tofu with greens