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Old 03-25-2017, 01:05 PM   #1
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Location: San Francisco Bay Area
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A quick Sprinter pre-Spring Trip

Suzy Bogguss is a favorite country western singer of ours. Looking at her schedule revealed she would be in Laughlin NV over the St. Patrick's Day weekend. The only thing to do - ROAD TRIP!

We drive a 2016 4wd Sprinter and it's road manners are great, the end result of which is that we find ourselves on the road in it a lot. That's kind of the point of it all, isn't it? This will not be your classic trip report, but it is one that is becoming more the norm for us as we settle into the Sprinter (we turned 10,000 miles on the odometer this trip) and the way we use it.

We tried something different on day one. We had the van packed and ready to go and I worked until 5:45 pm. Home by 6:30 pm and on the road at 7:15 pm with the goal of putting the Bay Area and its traffic behind us. We got on I-5 south and by 10:00 pm we were fueled up and settled in at Harris Ranch. They are very accommodating and allow overnighting in the parking lot between the motel and the restaurant, very convenient to a good meal at either end of the day! Here is a picture in the morning before we walked over for breakfast.

Night 1, Harris Ranch in CA

Suzzy Bogguss was at 8:00 pm, so we had a leisurely day in front of us with none of the morning commute Bay Area traffic to contend with. This get-out-of-town-the-night-before plan worked really well for us, it looks like it will become the new standard.

On to Laughlin NV, where we had reservations at the campground across the street from the casino. There are over 750 spaces in this particular campground, and it was by no means the only one there, nor was it the largest. It never ceases to amaze me how many people spend the cold winter months in their RV's moving around this part of the country. Anyway, it was convenient and the show was great, so far the trip was off to a great start.

Night 2, Riverside Casino RV Park, Laughlin NV

When planning the trip we determined that if we were going to be in this part of the world a visit to Zion National Park was in order. Reservations were made months in advance, so off we went. It was a beautiful spring day, thus a great day for driving and seeing the countryside.

Spring wildflowers

Lake Mead, just above the dam. Plenty of room for more water.

Cactus flower

A Butte on the side of the road

We arrived at Zion in the late afternoon and settled into the campground. It was St. Patrick's Day, thus there were lots of friendly people wearing green to be seen, along with a couple of Irish Toasts to be made...

Night 3, Watchman Campground in Zion National Park, UT

The Valley floor is essentially closed to vehicles, with shuttle busses the way to move around the Valley. We caught the shuttle in the morning and off to the far end of the Valley we went. Here is where out first disappointment occurred. We had planned to hike in the river at the Narrows at the far end, a favorite memory from trips past, but the water was too high and thus hiking the Narrows was out of the question. But the scenery was great and the Valley as impressive as ever. Laura took lots of pictures and she will be posting them on her Instagram account with her detailed geological explanations, as for me I prefered to just soak it all in.

From there we continued down the Valley with several other stops along the way and then came disappointment number two. The Emerald Pools trail was closed. The Pools were still accessible, but only via another trail that added more miles to the hike than we had allotted time (or energy) for. We consoled ourselves with a late lunch at the lodge, then continued making our way down the Valley on the very-crowded-in-the-afternoon shuttles.

We found ourselves back at camp just before 5:00 pm and here is where the freedom of these great vehicles we drive hit us. We decided we didn't want to stay in the park that night, but that we would rather head out and point for the desert to get in some unplanned rock hounding! We dropped the PH and drove away from a paid-for campsite on a Saturday evening in one of the most beautiful of the National Parks. We told the Ranger and hopefully we made someone's day when they found a campsite at the end of their long day! As for us, we went happily down the road with a detour along the Virgin River and a much less aesthetic, but very much adequate, spot to park that night.

Night 4, the view out the front windshield at Whiskey Pete's parking lot in Primm NV, just before the CA line

From here we knew we wanted to get out in the desert by the Cady Mountains in the Mohave, along the way we stumbled across a great road that led to a remote cell tower site. This took putting the Sprinter into 4wd, but it marched right up the hill in fine form.

From here we went to the desert to rock hound, this is a typical road we start out on when we go on these types of excursions. We were by ourselves so we didn't venture too far off the beaten path, we typically get out in the middle of nowhere and then do a lot of walking looking for "treasure"!

At the end of the day (Sunday) we decided to put some miles on, knowing that I had to be back to work on Tuesday. So up the road we went in our well-mannered Sprinter, eventually stopping at a rest stop on I-5 north near Bakersfield for the evening.

Night 5, I-5 rest area just north of Bakersfield CA

In the morning we knew we could easily drive home and get back into the swing of things OR we could do something else...we're both glad something else won out! We got off I-5 and wondered around and through the old oil fields enjoying the spring flowers along the way, eventually ending up in Parkfield, population 18, and known as being one of the most active areas on the San Andreas Fault.

This is a great little spot, with one restaurant (closed for the season, thus no lunch there for us) and a small Inn, both there mostly to service the USGS Geologists that frequent the area and the monitoring stations they have throughout the area. The hidden gem for us in this detour was the road from Parkfield up and over the range of hills and down the other side into Coalinga. This was a great, mostly one lane dirt and gravel winding road with wonderful scenery, lots of elevation, and (remember the sign on the back of the van - We Stop For Rocks), many geological features being so close to the fault. Once at the crest of the hills the road turns to asphalt and makes for a pleasant drive down into Coalinga.

We had a late lunch in Coalinga then we headed over to I-5 and continued the drive home, arriving about 6:00 pm. You know the routine from there, clean up, pick up, and get ready for the work day tomorrow.

Looking back, it was a great five day trip that saw lots of miles and lots of scenery and that highlighted for me once again the way the van has changed our way of taking trips. We no longer concern ourselves much with where we are going to spend the night, rather we spend the entire day doing what we want to do and then at the end of the day we make our plan for that night and the next day. Flint has been a great paradigm shifter for us, and I would encourage anyone planning to take the plunge to realize just how differently you may use these vans vs. whatever you have used in the past.

“Flint” - 2016 SMB Sprinter 4x4 144" RB 150S w/ PH
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Old 03-25-2017, 02:02 PM   #2
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Location: Vancouver, BC
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Thanks for sharing, enjoyed perusing the text and pics! Cheers :~)

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Old 03-26-2017, 08:31 AM   #3
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Enjoyed your trip report. Looks like a fun trip. Totally agree, a van can change the way one travels and provide so much flexibility.
2008 GMC 3500 Quigley Weldtec 4x4 Savana SMB
2006 BMW HP2 Enduro
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