If you are on social media or routinely turn on your TV, you have seen the news stories of crisis at the border between Mexico and the United States with armed military on one side and a mob of angry Mexicans on the other side hell-bent on crossing the border and ruining the American economy. For a lot of folks on the border and for us, this simply wasn’t the case when we crossed in the first week of January 2019.
We crossed into Mexico at the Tecate border crossing mid-morning on a Saturday. The border area was small and only two lanes of traffic were open to incoming traffic. We were waived over, our rig was looked over and we were given permission to pass into Mexico. We parked our truck on the street near the town square and walked back to the border to complete paperwork for legal entry for the 4-months that we planned to be in Mexico.
In the immigration office was a Mexican border agent that requested our FMM (tourist visa), FMM receipt showing payment, and our passports. Then it hit me, I neglected to print the Visa. I printed the receipt and never went back to my e-mail to print the actual Visa that I needed to stay in Mexico for the rest of the Winter. I explained that I didn’t have the Visa and he instructed us to walk back into town to the nearby copy shop, print the Visa, and bring it back to be stamped. So we did. The copy shop was right where he said it would be, the shopkeep was friendly and helpful, and the border agent stamped our Visa and Passport quickly and efficiently. Easy as pie!
This would have been a perfect opportunity for the “ruthless savages” of Mexico as described on Fox News to take advantage of the gringos that aren’t familiar with the process, don’t speak much Spanish, and are clearly vulnerable. But that wasn’t what happened. Everyone was extremely helpful, gracious, and friendly.
Once we crossed into Tecate we pointed our rig West and headed for the coast, Ensenada specifically. We are housesitting at a home in the mountains of Baja Norte and we planned to meet the owners of the home in Ensenada the next day for Tacos de Pescador and instructions on the house. We explored a bit and found a sweet camping spot near the beach with excellent views of the city and the ocean.
The campsite at La Jolla Beach Camp was a little expensive, but it seemed to be the only beachside camping in Ensenada and it gave us a secure place to hunker down for the night. There were hot showers, bathrooms, and trash service.
We met with the home owners the next day, loaded up on as many groceries as we could fit in our 4Runner and drove South. Driving in Mexico is interesting as speed limits aren’t real. They are posted, but no one follows them. Most locals pull over and drive on the shoulder if you are traveling faster than they are. It takes some getting used to, but we feel like we have it down pretty well.
We arrived at a campsite near our turn off for the house and drove the 15KM road down to the beach for a beautiful sunset and great shrimp tacos. Our first few days in Baja are turning out to be okay after all.
The next morning we drove the 70KM’s to the driveway and another 6KM up the drive way to get to the house. From when we turned off on the “driveway” to when we pulled in the gate at the house it took nearly 45 minutes. The road is gnarly and super vulnerable to the weather and nature. We are definitely looking forward to more trips down this thing in a couple of weeks.
We are so excited about this stage in our adventures and we hope you will follow along as we learn as much as we can about off-grid living, remote ranch living, and Baja in general. As always, thank you for reading along on our travels and adventures. Hopefully you were entertained, enlightened, or otherwise felt like the last few minutes reading this post was a worthwhile investment of your time. If you enjoyed our content, there are a few ways that you can help promote what we do and keep us on the road a little longer:
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We have all seen the images or videos of the picturesque scene with the bikini-clad paddleboarder gliding across the iconic crystal-clear water of Lake Tahoe and it looks like she is the only person on the lake. This is NOT REAL. Being one of the prettiest and largest freshwater lakes (that also happens to be surrounded by an immense tourism infrastructure from the winter season) makes Tahoe a destination for thousands as soon as the snow melts. This means that most everything will be expensive; however, we found a way to actually cut our weekly expenses in Tahoe and still enjoy most everything that the area had to offer.
Camp or Boondock to Save on Lodging
The Tahoe Basin is one of the most popular destinations for outdoor recreation in California and Nevada. That being said, during the summer, all of the beaches and campgrounds are extremely full. Even Forest Service Campgrounds with no water service will cost you $20 or more. We chose to park for FREE!
Everyone knows you are trying to park for FREE. Business owners that cater to the needs of millionaire tourists year-round know when you circle their empty parking lot that you are looking for free parking, keep that in mind when trying to park in Tahoe.
As with anywhere, keep your eyes open for stores, shops, and trailheads that will be empty or low-traffic in the evening. Don’t hang out all day and don’t be obnoxious. Avoid locations that have signage prohibiting overnight parking. We spoke with several shop employees that recommended spots all over the lake to park for free.
It’s Lake Tahoe, there is so much to do outside you can’t actually do it all without living there all summer. We’ve outlined a few of the activities that we did while in the basin and that we would recommend to travelers in the area.
SUP, Paddle, or Swim
There are a lot of day-use ($$) beaches to put in your paddleboard or kayak or to swim in Lake Tahoe, but there are also some free beaches to enjoy the water.
Thomas F. Regan Memorial Beach
South Lake Tahoe, CA
GPS: 38.944427, -119.985645
Regan was a great place to park for the day and enjoy the view, have lunch, and take a swim. The parking was more than adequate and flush toilets and water were available for FREE. There was a playground and a sand-beach for swimming.
Tahoe City, CA
GPS: 39.170372, -120.140866
We spent the afternoon on Commons Beach while taking a low-mile day on the Tahoe Rim Trail while we re-supplied for the rest of our hike. Thursdays at the beach boast a Farmer’s Market (talk about good luck, we walked in to TC on Thursday; more on that later in the article). The beach is beautiful and didn’t seem very crowded. There was water and flush toilets on site with kayak rentals available on the beach.
South Lake Tahoe, CA
GPS: 38.939583, -120.047892
Kiva Beach was a recommendation from a nice Forest Service Tech named Jennifer that we met while hiking the Tahoe Rim Trail. This beach is not as well signed as others in the area and requires a walk down a short trail from the Visitor’s Center. The walk is well worth it as this beach is pristine. This hard to find beach should be at the top of your list in Tahoe.
Hike the Tahoe Rim Trail (in sections or all at once)
The Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT) is a 170-mile scenic trail that circumnavigates Lake Tahoe, mostly on the rim above the lake. This trail system can be broken down into day hikes or tackled all at once for a 10-14-day adventure.
We chose to thru-hike the rim trail all at once, starting at Kingsbury South Trailhead and re-supplying at Tahoe City, CA. Rachael and I finished the trail in 13-days and could have easily cut it to eleven or twelve. For tips and more information on thru-hiking the Tahoe Rim Trail, check out our post with tips and things that we wish we had known before we set off.
As accessible as most of the trails in Tahoe are, it is no wonder that mountain bikers flock to this area to ride some of the smoothest single-track in the country. From extreme downhill, to cross-country, to bikepacking, Tahoe has something for EVERYONE. Below is a list of recommended rides in the Tahoe Basin:
Big shock that the guy that enjoyed the 170-mile hike around the rim would suggest riding around the lake on your mountain bike, but sure enough, my favorite ride in Tahoe is essentially riding the entire lake in 4-5 days.
Although most of the TRT is open to cyclists, some sections such as Desolation and Mt. Rose Wilderness are bike-free, so the route linked above starts in Reno, NV, takes you through the heart of Lake Tahoe, and back to Reno a week later. There are plenty of re-supply points and places to stop for food, coffee, and a dip in the lake, which makes this route very appealing for a beginner or seasoned bikepacker.
We met a group of guys at Tahoe Meadows that had just started this route and happened to run into them a few days later while we were camping outside of Reno (conveniently on the same route) and they had the same smiles on their faces 4 days later as they did on the second day of their trip.
We hiked up and past this trail on our way around the lake and it is knarly. It offers plenty of rugged downhill, berms, jumps, and obstacles for the most experienced riders. We advise renting a full-suspension, long travel bike for this trail as the old hardtail probably won’t make it out alive.
Enjoy the ride up the Forest Service road leading to Armstrong Pass and let it rip on Toad’s all the way back to lake-level.
The Flume Trail is as iconic of a mountain bike trail as you can find. With very little climbing and beautiful white sand single-track, it’s no wonder that thousands of mountain bikers flock to this trail every summer.
Get to the trailhead early and expect to see a bunch of riders, hikers, and potentially some equestrians as this trail is extremely popular.
Food, Groceries, and Amenities
GLUTEN FREE RATING: A+
We spent a total of about 15 days in Tahoe and 13 of them were on the Tahoe Rim Trail where we made our own food every breakfast, lunch, and dinner. That being said, on our days before and after our hike and on our half-day in Tahoe City, we found Lake Tahoe to be incredibly Gluten Free Friendly.
Groceries were simple in South Lake Tahoe with a Safeway that had everything that we hadn’t picked up in Carson City, NV a few days prior. Speaking of, Carson is a great location to fill up on cheap gas, restock your groceries and supplies, and enjoy the dry heat before heading into the Tahoe Basin. We found gas in Nevada to be over $1/gal cheaper than buying in California.
Rachael’s Pick in Tahoe
As mentioned above, there is an excellent Farmer’s Market in Tahoe City on Thursdays that had a ton of fresh produce, gluten free pastries, fine wines and cheeses, and even live music. We highly recommend scheduling your time in TC to include the Common’s Beach Farmer’s Market. We picked up some gluten free goodies from Sugar Pine Cakeryand pick up some raw white cheddar from Spring Hill Cheese, the cheese was unreal!
A quality of life indicator that we look for in our travels and observations of potential new homes is the abundance and quality of the outdoor stores in the area. Despite a moderate addiction to Amazon and REI (we are working on cutting back…) we would really prefer to live in a place that has a decent and affordable outdoor store for when our gear breaks or we feel the urge to upgrade. On day one of our 13-day trek, the shoulder strap on my cheap, 6-year old pack broke, snapped right off at the seam. We rigged it up and got into Tahoe City on a bum strap and shoulder from the maldistributed weight.
The folks at Alpenglow Sports saved the day! Not only did they carry Osprey packs, the brand that I have been eyeing for years, but they also had a knowledgeable sales person that had hiked most of the TRT and knew exactly what type of pack to suggest. She helped me pick out a really solid pack at the price point that we were comfortable paying. They even let me try it on, load it down with weight, and walk around the store with it to make sure it fit just right. Did I mention that we hadn’t showered in 7 days?
*A bonus perk of Alpenglow Sports is that if you are thru-hiking they will let you ship a resupply box to their PO Box and they will hold it for you until you hike into town, FOR FREE! Talk about great customer service!
This is an area that we really don’t get to comment on too often, because we live in our bus and don’t stay in hotels or even campgrounds very often. However, after wearing the same clothes for 13 days with no shower, we decided to splurge on a $50 hotel room in Reno, NV. Accommodations in Tahoe, even during the week, were over $100/night and we simply can’t afford that. The Harrah’s Casino in downtown Reno was cheap, clean, and a great value! We spent a full day relaxing, cleaning and sorting gear, and stuffing our face at the two-for-one buffet. For the money, you really can’t beat a casino hotel after a thru-hike!
We have been on the road for 2 months traveling through some of the most beautiful parts of America and we have come to a few realizations:
We are extremely blessed! We have both lived very fortunate and privileged lives growing up in nuclear, Christian families in the Bible Belt. We are both so very grateful for the upbringing that we have had and the support that continues to this day. Although this is a good thing, it has led us into point #2…
We have grown up in an age of consumption and entitlement. By being extremely blessed and comfortable as young people, we have grown up in a generation that consumes much and cares little about it. Part of the motivation for moving into the bus was to simplify our lives and focus on issues that really matter (see point #3).
We want to help others while we travel and we need your help! We have felt a calling, burden, whatever you want to call it to help others while we travel around. We have tossed around the Peace Corps and feeding the homeless, but we don’t really know where to start.
Most organizations just seem to want donations, which we don’t really have the ability to do and the Peace Corps is a huge commitment that we might not be ready for yet. We need your suggestions. Do you know someone doing inner city work in Seattle or have a cool idea that would require you to quit your job and be mobile to do it? Let us know. We are on the West Coast until Fall and are up in the air after that. Send us an e-mail at email@example.com to give us your ideas or connections.
When you make the turn on HWY 191 to start the descent into Moab, Utah, you transition from a world of pine trees and alpine peaks to a landscape splattered with globs of slick-rock and arches that are a million years old: it’s like being on Mars. We spent a week in Moab and found it to be a very interesting little town, with just the right amount of quirk.
Moab is a free camping paradise! The entire town is surrounded by either Forest Service (FS) or Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land. Not to mention the fact that you could probably stealth camp on Main Street and no one would notice, or care. You can see all of the campsites we visited while in the Moab area, we have included GPS coordinates so you can find them on your next visit.
Considerations for boondocking in and around Moab:
You can’t poop in the desert like you can in the woods
Due to the sensitive nature of the desert soil, defecating on the desert floor or even burying your poo is highly destructive to the environment. Bring along a portable toilet or use public facilities that are scattered all over town. Most campgrounds won’t allow you to stay unless you have a toilet set up.
It is a desert, bring plenty of water, sunscreen, and common sense
Seriously, temperatures can reach 100+ in the summer time and mixed with the dry heat can zap the energy right out of you. Remember to carry emergency water in your vehicle and always fill up at the visitor centers that offer free water. Below are a few of the free water locations we found in Moab:
7-Eleven on Main St– FREE potable water to fill your RV or water jugs
Arches and Canyonlands National Park Visitors Center– The National Parks don’t want you falling out on the trail, use their water, you’ve paid for it already
Moab Visitors Center on Center St– The visitors center has every brochure and map you could need to navigate Moab and they sell OHV permits for off-roading. Stop in and ask the clerk about the guy from Louisiana with a strange accent.
Moab is home to some of the most unique and beautiful landscapes in the world, most notably in Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. These national parks boast some of the most premiere arches and canyons in the World. The town supports world class mountain biking, hiking, and off-roading with a fine mix of culture and entertainment to go with it.
Arches National Park
Based on the name, you can guess what you will see at Arches National Park. Countless 300-million-year old arches abound in the park. These sandstone structures litter the horizon of this well-kept park. We became spoiled in Arches, because the road was just finished in the Fall of 2017 and is in excellent shape. On your way into the park, be sure and stop in the Visitor’s Center and fill up plenty of water bottles and jugs if you have them. You will be surprised at how much water you can drink in the desert.
The Windows Section of the park gives a warm-up hike to a set of arches that are all within a half-mile of the parking lot on easy trails. North Window, South Window, Turret, and Double Arch are well worth the short walk from the car.
Delicate Arch is the main attraction for park visitors and it seems the only way to secure a photo of the arch with no one in the middle of it, is to hike up in the early morning and secure a spot before the sun rises. We did not do that and wished we had. The trail to Delicate was littered with hundreds of people trying their best to climb the moderate slickrock trail. It was hard to be frustrated with the number of people, because at least they are outside taking their kids on a hike. The arch itself is beautiful and well worth the 3-mile roundtrip hike.
Devil’s Garden is the furthermost section of the park and it boasts the most remote trail in the Devil’s Garden Loop Trail. On this 7.2-mile loop, you will see Tunnel Arch and Pine Tree Arch, as well as Landscape Arch. Landscape Arch was especially impressive due to its 306-foot span and interesting history. In September 1991, a massive, several hundred-ton rock fall caused a section of the trail to be blocked off. Hikers were the witnesses to the rock fall and had to scramble to safety.
Canyonlands National Park
Canyonlands has a lot to offer both in Island in the Sky and the Needles District. The Island in the Sky offers views and trails from the top of the mesa, down. And the Needles District is known for its needle like features that grow out of the valley floor. The two districts are only 20 miles apart as the crow flies but take over an hour to drive between them.
We opted to stay in the park at the Willow Flat Campground. The campsites were super clean and much closer to the attractions in the park than they would be if we drove in from Moab. Just down the road from our site was the Green River Overlook which sports an amazing view of the Green River from a couple thousand feet up.
Rachael’s Pick in Moab
If you only get time for one stop in Canyonlands make it Mesa Arch. This is a very short hike from the parking lot, about 300 yards. The arch itself was not the grandest we saw, but the view behind the arch was spectacular! We got up just before the sunrise and biked to the trail. It was a cloudy morning, so the sunrise wasn’t awe-inspiring, but as the rays of the sun began to light up different parts of the canyon it seemed like every few minutes the view would change just a little bit. The distant horizon started as just a dark expanse but had so many shapes and colors as the sun brought it to life!
If you have enough time for a little bit longer of a hike take the two-mile round-trip hike out to Grandview Point. Island in the Sky gets its name because the park is on a big mesa. This hike takes you to the southernmost point of the mesa. As you walk out and look to the east there are several layers you will see below you. About 1,500 feet down is the White Rim. It is a layer of rock that looks white compared to all the red rock around you. On this layer there is a trail, the White Rim Trail (they thought really hard about the name), if you are lucky you will see either 4x4s or mountain bikers making the 100-mile trip around the mesa. As you look past the white rim and even further down you can see the Colorado River several thousand feet below you. As you approach the point look to the west and you will see the Green River. At the point you can almost see the confluence of the two rivers and you realize the shape of the mesa is formed by these two rivers.
Both hikes each had great features of their own, but the commonality of the two is the vastness of the views. It was amazing to realize just how far into the distance you could see.
If getting off of the road is your thing, then Moab is for you. Whether it is in a 4×4 or on a mountain bike, you can find a perfect trail system in Grand County. Because we live in a bus, we chose to hop on our Mountain Bikes and check out a couple of Trail Systems in the area.
This trail system has something for everyone. Easy, rolling blue/green runs or black diamond expert runs are available from most every trailhead. We chose to start at the top of the Mesa and ride the downhill first on the Getaway Trail. In hindsight, we would have started at the bottom and ridden up to enjoy the downhill on the way back to the trailhead. You are rewarded at the bottom with a short hike down to the Gemini Bridge which has formed over a stream and is a real sight to see.
The world-renowned trail at slickrock is world renowned because it is difficult. The entire trail is, you guessed it, slick rock. The terran is steep and you must have the appropriate gear and attitude to ride it successfully.
Bring the appropriate bike
It seems that the most successful of riders on Slickrock were on 27.5-29” full-suspension bikes, with flat peddles. Most had some sort of knee protection and had aired down their tires a bit.
Have a good attitude
If you never rode in Moab and you expect to fake it until you make it, you will be very frustrated at the experience. Come in willing to learn and willing to try a section a couple of times before you get it right.
Zach’s Pick in Moab
Klonzo has something for every skill level of rider, even specifically for young riders that are new to the sport. This park is located off of Willow Springs Road and is located on BLM land. The trails are well marked and well mapped. I really enjoyed the Wahoo and Vertigo lines on the North side of the road as they really pushed me and my riding ability. The trails combine slickrock and dirt singletrack as well as tough climbs and spirited downhill sections.
Start on the South side and warm up on Rollercoaster, then head over to try your hand at the more difficult but much more rewarding North side.
Food, Groceries, and Ammenities
We typically don’t eat out very much and Moab was no exception, the only place we visited in town for food was a coffee shop, Moab Roasters. The coffee was high quality and they sold pastries and gelato, but no gluten free food options. Other than the coffee shop we did not eat-out, so this review is really only for the grocery store. The City Market on Main Street had plenty of GF options and they were clearly marked with reasonable prices. If you are willing to cook your own food Moab can accommodate!
We did laundry at Moab Laundry Express and it was exceptional. The building was on a quiet street, the inside was clean, and the machines worked great. There are also 24-hour security cameras on the premises, which made us feel even better about the location. The next time we are in Moab, we will do laundry here again.
Moab, UT is such a unique and strange little town that everyone should come and see. Even if you aren’t a die-hard mountain biker or if you don’t like 4x4s, Moab has something to offer everyone. Come check it out before it gets too big and too developed to enjoy.
As always, you can keep up with our photographs and stories on Instagram and Facebook as well as our YouTube page. We hope you are enjoying this journey and we are glad you are following along.
The Okienomads have had a great year! We are increasing our followers on Instagram and have just started building our following on Facebook and YouTube and to celebrate, we are giving away a print from our gallery! The print will be 16″ x 20″ and printed on professional paper, just like what I sell in my gallery. The winner will get to choose the print plus some Okienomads Swag to go along with it!
The rules are simple:
Follow us on either Instagram, Facebook or Subscribe to our channel on YouTube.
Comment on one of the above social media pages and tag a friend that you think would enjoy our page.
Once we reach 1200 Instagram followers, 100 YouTube subscribers, or 250 Facebook followers, we will draw randomly for the prize! The more likes and follows, the better your chance of winning.