Rocky Ops 2022

Flew to Denver with some buddies in April for 3 day weekend of running model trains, railfanning and seeing others layouts

Originally scheduled to fly from Seattle, when we cancelled our Camano island farm trip I scrambled to purchase flight on United. Had planned to use alaska air miles but now have a large charge on credit card. Oh well.

So now an early morning wake up call and drive to SMF airport. Find a parking spot and head to airport

I am meeting several buddies in Denver. Mark and Dwight from Atlanta, Phil from Tucson, AA Pete and Mike from Portland. We will stay at same hotel in Longmont, and attend same 3 model RR operating sessions. Should be fun. A couple of the guys were late in arriving thanks to airline delays. Seems to be the norm these days.

We first visited Pat Lana’s n scale CRANDIC model railroad based in the Iowa. Lots of fields and cows and green trees. It is all about 5 feet off floor almost at eye level. It’s completely in the center of the basement room not touching any walls. Full walk around.

After a quick dinner we moved over to Harry Lindsey’s Los Pinos HO scale layout. Harry is also a classic car collector. Has 6 of them. Fun operating layout and Harry a great host

Stayed overnight in Longmont Saturday morning we drove up to Cheyenne to operate on the Wasatch & Union Pacific NScale model railroad built by John Rimmasch whose career is in restoring old steam engines and rail cars.

Icing on the cake after lunch was a visit to the Cheyenne railroad park to see the biggest engine in the world, the Union Pacific “Big Boy steam engine. Only 25 were ever built back in 1941 just before WW II.

In Greeley, Colorado, we visited the Colorado model Railroad Museum, an amazing HO scale layout in a 10,000 sq ft building based upon the Oregon California and Eastern (OCE) The OCE runs between Klamath Falls to Lakeview, Oregon. It is a fictional representation of a real railroad with a lot of creative license. The builder turned the whole operation into a non profit museum run with volunteer help. For more info visit https://www.cmrm.org/

We visited a couple more layouts in the evening

We spent Sunday morning operating on an amazing layout. A BN or Burlington northern RR set in 80’s. The owner built the house over that layout. Quite amazing. Takes an hour to run from one end to the other.

All’s in all a satisfying weekend. Next train trip in august. To Atlanta.

Sound Rails 2022

A little bit different this week. I am traveling but using a plane and car. Flew to Seattle area for long weekend of running model trains on very sophisticated model railroad layouts in people’s homes. This has been a life long passion of mine and i used to have my own large model railroad layout(s) with operations. We downsized, went full time RVing for awhile and moved back to our home at Ananda Village. Many friends asked if I would build a new railroad empire. NO WAY! Been there, done that, have the tee shirt. Now i just get to visit and enjoy other people’s train layouts.

First stop in Olympia was Mud Bay & Southern Railroad.

We flew in early to go down to Olympia for lunch and running trains. Layout builder and owner, Jim Younkins, has been a friend for 30 years and one of the best modelers I ever met. He used to come up and help me on my layout. I ran his Elma yard, one of several yards on the railroad.

We visited another layout in North Seattle in the evening. Interstate 5 from Olympia to north Seattle is real fun ( understatement). Kirk Reddie publishes a model railroad magazine and his layout is based upon Milwaukie Railroad in Puget Sound along with Great Northern and Northern Pacific. Features King Street Station, and cascade mountains.

Friday we are headed to Mill Creek NE of Seattle to operate on the Everett & Monte Cristo RR. A beautifully crafter HO scale layout based upon a gold mine 68 miles up in the cascades. Trains ran from Everett to service the mine and towns along the way. We are running in the 1890’s here. The “good old days”

Late afternoon we drove over to south Issaguah to see a beautiful Great Northern railroad in south Issaquah. Beautiful northwest scenery.

Our hotel was in east gate area of Bellevue. Nice accommodations and centrally located while still affordable.

Saturday found again up in north Seattle at Burr Stewart’s basement HO layout modeling the old Burlington Northern railroad in the 1970’s.

Sunday we drove

down to Tacoma to run on a beautiful N scale railroad (1/160thcscale), called the Tenino Weayern RR and owned and operated by Tyler Whitcomb who works for Union Pacific Railroad. Beautiful scenes as Tyler originally was an art student before he drove real trains.

All in all it was a wonderful weekend of running trains and visiting with long time friends and acquaintances. now back to Ananda Village for Springtime at Ananda during April.

March trip report

Change of plans last minute. Headed to Desth Vally first instead of coast.

Headed across Mojave to coast. Saw some wildflowers near a town called Arvin south on Bakersfield

Morro bay state park is becoming our go to place. Second visit this year. we rented Kayaks

Had a couple nice bike rides including one with Sraddha. Forgot to take photos.

We head home Thursday via Central Valley. Saw this photo on one of my rv travel blog emails.

And so it goes

When it’s not a travel week

We spent this past week doing deep cleaning in the house. Perfect time since the arctic blast we had this past week made it more fun to be inside than out. The house has suffered from all our travels. Now, every room is refreshed, things we don’t need anymore went away and still more to come. Spring cleaning came early thanks to cold weather. We also found and hired a house cleaner to maintain what we have now even whilst traveling.

Feeling very uplifted in this endeavor. Also a bit sore and worn out.

We laid to rest a good friend recently, one of the reasons we returned early from last travel. Anandi was a very good friend and how she lived her life was uplifting to both of us, and inspired us to increase our meditations and other spiritual activities. A life well lived

Living area nice and clean

So now we rest a bit as the temps begin to warm and make it fun to be outside again and we get back out for some bike rides

Out for a long ride with friends

California Central Coast

We headed down to central coast camping at Morro Bay state park.

The marshes and bay are fertile areas for many bird species

We stayed one night up at the strand north of town then back to MBSP for the most amazing Sunday football games ever

Monday found us heading south to Pismo beach state park

A section of Grover besch is alloyed for drivi g on so we went down there, parked and walked the beach then had lunch watching the surf waves roll in.

We scored 2 nights in a wonderful spot in the north Pismo state park campground

Our campsite at North Pismo Beach state park

Next door to the campground inside the park is a butterfly grove. Thousands of Monarch butterfly’s hanging out. About 28,000 by last count. According to AP news, over 250,000 counted overwintering here in California. Way up from recent countd.

We hiked down to Oceano campground via the beach then returned thru the dunes.

This was the easy 1/3 mile. The other 3/4 mile was a slog

Time for a nap

Next day, after 2 days in Pismo and a long discussion, we elected to head back to Morrow bay state park. I rode my bike up 33 miles on back roads while S drove the van. And I beat her! Haha. We knew, from looking at reservations site,there were dry sites available so when we arrived at the entrance the lady gave me several open sites to review and we rode our bikes around to check.

Our campsite

Decided on one with plenty of sun for solar and general warmth (it’s cool in winter here) then dumped waste tanks and have settled in.

Morning bird watching out on the bay. Morro Rock in the distance.

Early morning we made our coffee, dumped waste and headed home up the 101. Found a spot to wash the van in West Sacramento. IW for a little R&R at home.

Fun on the road last week

Eating lunch at rest stop

We pressed on. I-5 brought us sticker shock.

$4.99999/gallon.
We scored a delightful site
at Morro Bay state park

Reserved 3 months in advance and it is a slow time of year. We lucked out in the weather this week with dry daytime temps in upper 60’s and low 70’s.

Morro Bay Harbor and Rock

We did a lot of local riding around the town. I went to liberty twice to use internet. And got a long ride to Avila beach 22 miles south near San Luis Obispo.

Along the harbor the Sea Otters rest and nurse their young.

Avila beach.

Didn’t know there was such a wonderful marsh area across the road. Birds galore. Spouse in heaven. For the first time we saw a California Thrasher. Lotsa shore birds; white pelicans, egrets, amazing wildlife in the area.

Harbor across from campground

Now time to move on. We have reservations for Arizona, however are going to remain on central coast for rest of week then head home. The weather has been amazing.

Finding places to camp

We are working on Arizona reservations for late January. Currently we are booked down in Morro Bay for my birthday and now working on a couple weeks over in the desert both in Maricopa county parks and in tucson if possible. Need cancellations at this point.

Of the many travel apps, we have come to rely upon a couple. AllStays Camp & RV app has been our go-to app for years in looking for public and private campgrounds in any specific geographic area. It links to directions in both google and Apple Maps along with phone numbers and website links. Details such as elevation and # of campsites are included along with amenities

All Stays Camp & RV app

Campendium website and app is wonderful to see recent reviews and also check strength of cell service. It links to Google map overlay for location and direction information. Also really good for finding dump stations. I get weekly emails from the website offering fun places all over.

The website has lots of good articles about different places and camping etc. Tremendous resource

Campendium App

We are going to use Harvest hosts this year more also since a lot of public campgrounds like national and state parks fill up faster and it sometimes is hard to make all the plans far in advance. It is a subscription app and has added Boondockers Welcome section as well as many golf course who will allow overnight stays. Wonderful places like wineries, museums, farms, private homes even. Reservations are required in advance thru phone or email.

For finding boondocking sites , we like Campendium and iOverlander which is crowd sourced and a favorite of the DIY van crowd. Campers leave comments on every site along with GPS so you can find them.

I OVerlander App

We are going to use Harvest hosts this year more also since a lot of public campgrounds like national and state parks fill up faster and it sometimes is hard to make all the plans far in advance. It is a subscription app and has added Boondockers Welcome section as well as many golf course who will allow overnight stays. Wonderful places like wineries, museums, farms, private homes even. Reservations are required in advance thru phone or email.

Harvest Hosts App

We use a cool website called Wanderinglabs to find last minute cancellations. Put in dates needed and a campground and it will regularly search for available reservations. When sites become available it will text and email me. The bad news is it doesn’t work for Arizona state parks or Maricopa County parks. Then we check each morning around 730-8 to see if anything opens up. It does work for California and Oregon State parks and the recreation.gov sites.

Last minute note as of publication today—We scored 12 nights at one of the Maricopa County parks so will see how it goes, still looking for a couple more days but we may just try some boondocking sites we haven’t tested before. YAY i think….

The end for today. Need to get back to finding sites for Summer and fall.

Welcome to 2022

We begin the third year of the pandemic where the virus seems to still be the boss. Still we are making adjustments to live as “normal” as possible. Instead of cloth or little surgical masks we are wearing the N95 or Kn95 masks. We have received our boosters and feel we can go out as long as we mask up.

We have a couple restaurants at which we can eat outside under propane heaters in the colder weather. Also a couple take out places but mostly we cool at home. Our community, Ananda Village, has a co-op market providing essentials and a few other fun items. We do shop in town which is 30-40 minute drive. In this pandemic we limit our public interactions but always welcome encounters with friends.

Snow Days outside

We had over 12-14 inches snow last week which is slowly melting. Woke up to 27 degrees this New Years morning and decided to ride. My friend and I usually ride on saturdays together so we loaded up the bikes and headed for lower levels.

The snow had melted a bit but i still needed to scrap if off the back deck in order to open the shed where the road bike is stored. The black object in the back there is my trail bike covered for protection.

I regularly ride my road bike in the area having switched to electric to help with the steep hills.

Loading the bike on back of Jeep in very crispy crunch 28 degree snow
Out on the road riding. It was cold in lower 40’s but fun ride at lower elevations

This quote from one of my teachers is something Itry to live by.

“Forget the past, The vanished lives of all men are dark with many shames. Human conduct is ever unreliable until anchored in the Divine. Everything in future will improve if you are making a spiritual effort now.”

Lord knows i have made many mistakes and have regrets. However, i try to remember this quote when my monkey mind starts thinking of these mistakes and regrets. It really does help. One thing for certain is we can stay in the past in our minds or move forward and be in the present.

Things I will be amazed by, proud hopeful or, grateful for in 2022

1. Amazed we can plan ahead for everything we are doing already

2. Hopeful we can do these things.

3. Concerned about what might happen with wildfires, pandemic, politics

4. We hope The pandemic will no longer the major issue although it will be with us for a long time in some form.

5. Always hopeful The Seahawks win the Super Bowl

6. Am expecting The Warriors win the NBA championship

7. Wouldn’t it be something if Tiger finishes top 5 in the Masters?

8. Hopeful that our village ponds are full in July

9. Looking forward to viewing the photos sent back from the James Webb Telescope.

10. Hopeful We can travel the west in late summer without wildfire smoke

11. Hopeful I’ve created more photo art.

12. Enjoying the new Lord of the Rings Prequel on Prime in the fall.

EnJOY your day. Be Happy!

Christmas 2021

What a year! We decided to go for it this year with our van. 8 trips with 108 nights out over 15,562 miles driven around the West!

We love stopping in the Mojave Desert at Amboy Crater
on I40 east of Barstow for a quiet winter night

Jan/Feb – Arizona – Our first trip in January found us heading for what we thought would be warmer climate down in Valley of the Sun. spent a few days cycling at White Tanks and Lost Dutchman parks then down to our usual haunts in Tucson where we stayed at Tucson Mountain park, and house sat for our friends in Oro Valley.

March – Death Valley- Since all national forest campgrounds within 300 miles of us are closed we elected to head to Death Valley. Caught a break in weather which allowed us to drive over Donner Pass and down US 395. Was snowy but roads were dry. We spent 4 days exploring the area with temps in 60’s, some rain storms in valley gave new experiences. And driving to the 5475 ft top of Dantes’ View in SE area gave us a wonderful perspective on the valley.

April – Had to get out somewhere so we headed back over to the eastern sierra for boon-docking in the Alabama Hills near Mt Whitney south of Bishop California. Biking the dusty trails and hiking for a few nights. This is where many old western movies were filmed back in 30’-50’s

May – One place Sraddha has always wanted to explore is the San Rafael Swell in central Utah. With features like the “Little Grand Canyon, Slot canyons and majestic geologic views. Most people head to the amazing national parks which we have done several times. This is less traveled and we had the place to ourselves much of the time. Trail cycling here was a lot of fun. We explored Goblin Valley, Temple Mountain, Swinging Bridge, Lake Powell, and Valley of the Gods.

Early June – finally the sierra opens up to camping so I went up to Lakes Basin for a few quiet days alone hiking and cycling. Explored some new trails and just hung out.

Late June/July – Colorado beckons. We had planned to meet Sraddhas family in Pagosa Springs for few days of fun. Our route took us across central utah and thru the Rockies to Lost Lake above Crested Butte, Colorado for a few days then winding down thru central Rockies to Pagosa Springs. Return trip thru Moab.

July/August – Wildfires and smoke caused cancellation of a couple trips into the sierra but finally the smoke cleared and we were able to get up to one of our favorite places near Tahoe and also went to Sea Ranch on California Coast for a few days of cycling and hiking.

August-September – Smoke again changed our plans. Originally scheduled to spend a week in Tetons then Idaho and on over to Puget Sound, we canceled the eastern part of trip and spontaneously headed up the Oregon and Washington coast for a real fun time. It is getting harder to find great places to camp on short notice but we lucked into some wonderful places along the coast including the Hoh River Rainforest campground. We stayed with friends over the weekend in Portland area and also visited the Ananda farm up on Camano Island (where we plan to return in the spring to help with planting a “cutting flower garden”. Camping on a city street in Edmonds at my cousin’s place is always fun. Great neighborhood there. We returned via Cape Disappointment SP at the mouth of Columbia river , Nehalem Bay, Umpqua Lighthouse and Bullards beach near Brandon.

October – Our last trip of the year was the most challenging. Our route took us down eastern sierra for a few days then on to Usery Park in Mesa, AZ where i would then fly to Atlanta for a few days of model railroading with some buddies whilst Sraddha explores museums in the Valley of Sun then on to Catalina State Park in Tucson before heading back home.

En route thru Nevada we stopped for propane. A couple days later, while camped at 9500 ft elevation, we started having issues with the propane system. We ended up cutting our eastern sierra travels short and headed to Las Vegas for repairs. The Van City service center took us in and diagnosed the problem to be bad propane. We ended up spending 3 day in Valley of Fire State Park to bleed out and empty the propane tank and 2 nights at a KOA near a casino in Vegas. A very different experience than was planned but much, but not all of the problem was solved. Still intermittent issues but we soldiered onto Mesa with our plans having set up a return visit to Van CIty for a couple other repairs we needed on Mightee Wonder Van.

This year has been a blessing. When we bought the van back in late 2019, we figure to continue travels as long as one of us has a valid drivers license. Didn’t anticipate the pandemic but we have found ways to safely travel and have fun.

I continue regularly with cycling, averaging about 60-70 miles per week mostly at elevation. We are blessed with good health, a safe community in which we live amongst good friends

Welcome to Chez Swell. Sand is our specialty.

In Chez Swell, located in the the San Rafael Swell in central Utah, we have a smorgasbord of sand for your delight. You can look at it, walk on it, wipe it out of your eyes and ears, shake it out of shoes, clothing, car, van, bed, dishes, brush it off your phone, wash it off your bike.

Basically it is everywhere. And the wind tunnel that is central and southern utah ( and frankly most of western USA, delivers it in very fun ways.

Up near Temple Mountain in the San Rafael Swell, Utah

The flavors vary depending upon location. The whole Colorado plateau encompassing western Colorado, southern Wyoming, eastern Nevada, much of Utah, and northern Arizona is sand in various forms. It came from ancient seas and lakes and rivers formed by the various tectonic plates moving around. 

Near Goblin Valley, Utah. San Rafael Reef in distance

How about some 2 billion year old Moenkopi sand on your plate found in Buckhorn draw?

What about Wingate sand from the majestic sandstone cliffs of the xxx period formed when seas rescinded forming a Sahara like desert in between the Rockies and what is now Nevada? These are seen everywhere.

Sandstone cliff

Earlier in the week on Monday, we were encamped in a little hoodoo like alcove across from the San Rafael reef. (Beautiful isn’t it?) 

Wind is blowing and we close our eyes, feeling like Lawrence of Ananda (haha). Such is life of the traveler. Like getting caught in a ice storm only it’s 80 outside and wind gusting to 30 as another front moves through. No wonder this place is only suitable for tourists!  

Time to entreat to the safe confines of Mighty Wonder Van where it is not so sandy. Except for the thin layer of sand on everything.

Sand on my outdoor Moon Chair


Such Tapasaya! Om Guru.

The resident gourmet chef prepares sautéed Napa cabbage with Ginger and the dishwasher pulls out his mundane Walmart macaroni salad. A few slices of pre baked protein round it out. Remember to eat your veggies while traveling. They help with regularity. 

Tuesday, the wind died down to a low comfortable breeze. Daytime Temps in 70’s. Night mid 40’s. We hiked Little Wild Horse slot canyon which is arguably the most popular hike in the swell. Two canyons go clear thru the reef the you hike in between in back side. 9 miles.
Here is link to video of the hike

Little Wild horse Canyon

Wednesday, we headed towards Capital Reef just south of the Swell. More reefs, more sand. Avast yea mateys.

We had considered heading to Bryce but decided to remain in Capital Reef. The park campground, Fruita was full of course but we did managed to dump tanks and take on fresh water for $5. Such blessings🙏🏻
We also did one brief hike of 2 hours 3 miles 

Driving thru the reef in early morning to refuel in Torrey.

Now we are encamped in a BLM area east of park up on a bluff where we have an amazing view of the east side of the reef. With its Navaho Sandstone sticking up like worn off teeth.

Capital Reef in background

No cell so will send this Thursday then route back to the Swell sandbox for some more gourmet sand.
{LATE BREAKING NEWS!}— after morning meditation and caffeine it was decided we will drive south down the Eastern back side of capital reef to Bullfrog, Utah where the Lake Powell ferry will take us across then on to Natural Bridges and Valley of the Gods in SE AZ. 😳
Not sure of cell service but will check in sometime and we will still be home on or before Tuesday. 🙄🤞🏻

Driving thru Capital Reef
Camping in Valley of the Gods near Bluff, Utah (founded in 650 A.D.)
Swimming in Lake Powell Upper end. Bullfrog, Utah

🙏🏻Blessing from the sand pile
Sraddha and Kent

Pre wash