The run for the coast: Rocks, repairs, and relaxation

  • The scene of the crime: Rock vs. The Epic Van

Last week, we left Scottsdale heading toward the coast and our annual gathering with my fellow Stanford Fellows at Manzanita Beach in Oregon. The trip already is a roller coaster of repairs, setbacks, leaks, as well as desert beauty, sequoias, solitude and relaxation.

We first headed toward our Las Vegas repair shop to install a new ceiling fan (the old one gave up after nine years and weeks of 110-plus days in the driveway). We spent the night at our now-regular parking lot at Railroad Pass Hotel & Casino, a short roll into Vegas for our 9 a.m. appointment.

No problems. A couple of hours and we were back on the road, headed for Tecopa Hot Springs, anticipating a luxurious soak to unwind the kinks of responsible life in the city. Tom spied an informational sign about the Tecopa cutoff on the Old Spanish Trail, hung a left, and CRUNCH, one of the loudest grinding metal sounds I’ve heard in nine years of running over holes, logs and debris.

Climbing out to survey the situation, we found water dripping, not gushing, but steadily dripping, from our fresh-water tank. Too late to make it back to the repair shop, we began searching for a place to camp to return in the morning. Everything in the area west of Las Vegas was closed because of recent flooding, so back we went to the casino.

We had a restless night, wondering how bad the damage was, whether we would be able to keep any water in the tank, whether, if we found places to shower, there would be enough to flush the toilets and wash dishes, whether we would have to get a second 5-gallon water jug, like we use for drinking water, and use it to flush the toilet, whether we would have to turn around and head home.

By morning, I was determined that, whether or not we had water, we were going on. Even if we had to drag jugs of water with us, wash our hair with La Croix or, like a bear, go in the woods. We were on the road, dammit, and there was no turning back.

Groundhog Day. To the repair place at 8 a.m.

They put The Epic Van on the rack, and found what we suspected. The rock had driven the plastic tank into the metal bar above it, poking a hole in the tank. It would need replacement or repair, neither of which could be done immediately and would require a couple of days. Because the leak was in the top of the tank, we could partially fill it and be judicious with our water use.

We made a repair appointment for our return trip and rolled on, past the scene of the crime, skipping Tecopa and heading instead to Red Rock Canyon State Park.

The dusty, Joshua tree-dotted campground, with glorious views, is just our cup of tea, and we soaked in the glaring sun to bake out our added tension. Nights were warm, but our new fan kept it tolerable. Deep breaths.

After Red Rock, another first, up the north fork of the Kern River on the western side of the Sierras, just south of Sequoia National Park. The first night, we found a national forest site along the river, then for the weekend, grabbed a commercial site outside Kernville where we could shower and preserve our onboard water.

The road to national park is closed because of flooding, but you can get to the Trail of 100 Giants, a wonderful path through sequoias and sugar pines.

We wandered the trail, marveling at sequoias up to 20 feet in circumference. Down river, we set camp chairs under a cottonwood beside the rocky river, where I could dip my toes in the refreshing cool water. We read, we did some yoga (and I did some knitting) and slept, beginning to feel reeeeeaaaaallllly relaxed.

Next stop, Pinnacles National Park, another first for us, and a campsite beside a stream, where I sit writing as I listen to the burbling water and the calls of birds. Tomorrow: a hike toward the volcanic zone at Pinnacles.


  1. Reply
    Keven September 15, 2023

    Life never stops being a roller coaster, eh? So glad you’re back “on the road again.” Kiss some sequoias for us….

    • Reply
      Judy September 15, 2023

      Will do. Keep looking at camping spots and saying, “The Casita could fit there with us!”

  2. Reply
    Kirstin September 15, 2023

    Drat! My Tom is really skilled at seeing and avoiding things in the road. Me, not so much. Your two camp spots sound utterly divine. Keep the news coming!

    • Reply
      Judy Nichols September 15, 2023

      We’ve done pretty well, but that noise is terrifying. Arrrgh.

  3. Reply
    Jen September 16, 2023

    You two are my heroes!!

  4. Reply
    Judy Nichols September 17, 2023

    Same to you!

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