Monday, February 22, 2016

Days 43-46 (Lake Mead, Hoover Dam, the Grand Canyon and Four Corners)

We tried and we tried to leave Las Vegas but every time it was time to go we found and excuse to say. We were finally able to pull up stakes after 11 days there. We packed up and headed to Henderson, just outside of Vegas, for an oil change and then we would be off. The oil change went fine. We found ourselves in a little diner in a road side casino while we waited. We each got the breakfast special, which was eggs hash-browns, bacon and toast plus Averie got a pancake and I got coffee. Our total was $10.22 for everything. Wow! Now I'm learning the secrets to Vegas ;-). Feed them cheap and hope they drop a few coins in the machines (which I did). 

After we were back on the road it wasn't even an hour before we came upon the most spectacular site... A lake in the middle of the desert. It was stunning. Even my kids put down their gadgets to admire it's beauty. When we drove passed the National Park Service sign that sealed the deal. We we're stopping. We toured the visitors center, got our junior ranger and explorer pack materials as usual. We then learned of a scenic route that we could take that led to campgrounds and that sealed the deal that we would stay. 

We drove the route, found the campground, and stayed for two days. I won't detail our stay at the lake but I will offer some pics... The pics say it all. 

We left the lake very reluctantly. I could've stayed another week but I knew we had to move on. We got on highway 93 and witching thirty minutes were soon face to face with the Hoover Dam. Of course we stopped. The Hoover Dam is a spectacle to behold. The manpower and logistics that it took to build it is quite impressive. Seeing it there with our own eyes in all its glory is was even more so. 

We didn't stay long as we were on a mission to make it to the Grand Canyon. We could've made it to the GC that very day if we wouldn't have gotten distracted with the awesomeness of Route 66 in Kingsman, AZ. We certainly got our kicks on Route 66. First at the Powerhouse museum where we were inundated with any and everything we could ever want to know about Route 66 and then across the street at Mr D'z diner where we had hands pun milkshakes and homemade rootbeer right where Oprah Winfrey once was (I mimicked her picture while drinking my own rootbeer lol). After the diner we got started on our route and traveled the old highway all the way to Seligman. 

The sun went down quickly and we stopped for the night an hour outside the GC south rim entrance. 

The next morning we were up and on the road early, eager to knock out tat last hour and see the canyon. 

Where do I even begin when mentioning the Grand Canyon? There truly are no words to describe this seventh wonder of the world, so I won't even try. I'll just fill you in with pictures here. 

We left the Grand Canyon this morning. We took route 64 which was perfect. We got these amazing glimpses of the canyon along the way and had the road to ourselves mostly. It was a very scenic drive and me wonder why anyone would ever drive any other way. 

So let's stop here so  that I can tell you that the Grand Canyon was as far as I got in my planning for this trip. I didn't know where we would head after that. I had remembered Averie mentioning she wanted to see the four corners, where Utah, Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico meet, so we headed in that direction. I got in touch with my friend who lives near there and told her where we were going and they met is there. The monument is on the Navajo reservation and there was a small entrance fee by the but it was worth it. 

After seeing the monument we headed back to my friends house where we parked the RV and hung out with her and her girls until bedtime. It was wonderful seeing our friends and hope to see them more often when we head back this way. 

I don't know where we're off to next but I look forward to telling you all about it. 

Until I see you on the road or somewhere around the globe... Love Life (like the graffiti artist so elegantly tagged on several buildings along highway 180)

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

What an Honor (blog post feature)... Promoting Diversity in the National Parks and the Great Outdoors

I am so honored to have been featured in Teresa Baker's blog about the kid's and I on our RV trip and trying to promote diversity in the National Parks.

Check out the post here:

We were thrilled to also be mentioned and Teresa Baker's blog rehashed with Audrey Peteman's post at the Huffington Post.

Check it out here:

Big things are happening in regards to my campaign to promote diversity in the National Parks and to get more people of color enjoying the great outdoors.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Day 31-40 on the Road: Las Vegas!

Wow! What a week. We have been living it up in Las Vegas for the last nine days. This is truly a fantastic city. It has so much to offer for city goers as well as those seeking a more suburban feel. There are museums, parks, nature preserves, lakes, amusement parks, interactive farms and orchards and that's no even considering all that there is to do downtown and near the strip. There are groups and clubs to join that satisfy even the most unusual hobbies and interests. The kids and I love it. We love it so much so that we are strongly considering packing up and moving here, making Las Vegas our new home base.

We drove into Vegas after spending the night at a truck stop in Barstow, California. We were all excited to be able to get on a piece of the historic Route 66 right outside of Bartstow even if it was only for a few miles. Of course we stopped and took pictures.

The  drive into Vegas was smooth. We arrived before dark and checked into our spot at the Clark County Shooting Complex. This is an interesting RV park. It is literally right in front of the largest outdoor shooting range in the country. I chose this place for my oldest son who is a shooter and of course he was in heaven. After we were all settled in we had time for the kids to shoot one round of trap. We spent the next day at the shooting range again and then first thing Monday morning we called Enterprise to come pick us up for a rental car.

We have spent the week exploring the area in the rental. We've visited museums, local parks, walked the strip, rode roller coasters, saw wild burros up close at the Red Rock Canyon preserve, as well as soaked in the tub in a fancy hotel downtown. We had dinner with my nephew and his family and I got to kiss on my sweet great niece. We've explored neighborhoods and visited schools and we are pretty confident this is where we want to land. We have also taken this time to get some rest on our journey. This is the longest we have sat anywhere since we began our cross country RV trip. Honestly, I'm not really ready to pack up and leave tomorrow. I could use another week settled in one spot, but the journey must continue.


Our next stop is the Grand Canyon and we are all looking forward to that trip. Fortunately, it is only two hours away from Las Vegas so it should be a stressful travel day.

So for now, I'm going to cut this post short and go finish enjoying this luxurious hotel. So until I see you on the road or somewhere around the globe... peace, love, and viva las vegas!

Friday, February 5, 2016

Days 27-30 on the Road: $4k fix, Santa Monica, and the Giants

We are free! Free at last. And no, that's not in honor of black history month (that's a separate post). It is in honor of the fact that we are finely done at the mechanic shop. Those four days waiting around the Morongo Valley/ Joshua Tree area felt like a sentence and we were counting down the minutes. 

I had barely handed over the check for a thousand dollars more than I was quoted before I was starting up the engine and shuffling kids inside the rig. We thanked everyone and off we went. 

We made it to the next street before I was calling the shop for help again, because I was stuck in the mud. Two of the mechanics  graciously brought the truck over and pulled us out. Embarrassed but not bruised I tried to leave again. This time was a success and we were really off. We only had one more stop to make before we officially left the area and that was back to the skate park so Nay could try out his new skateboard he got for his birthday.

We ended up reaching Santa Monica by 430p. It was an easy drive there and even easier to maneuver my big rig through the Santa Monica Pier parking area. We parked and spent the next four hours riding, playing , eating, and buying on the pier. 

We all had a blast and I definitely look forward to our next visit.  

We got on the road late. It was around 8p before we pulled out of the Santa Monica Pier parking lot. I got a couple hours of driving done before I had to find a place to park for the night. After a slow creep up a steep mountain we landed at a random truck stop for the night.

The next morning we were up and driving early. We spent five hours on the road, stopping at several little neat places along the route, before arriving at our next stop… Sequoia National Park.

A visit to the International Agriculture Museum and Learning Center

I was so excited to experience this park but the more and more I read about getting there the more nervous I became. My nerves really spiked when I stopped at a tire shop about thirty miles away from the park. As I purchased tire chains for my rig, because that’s what the NPS website said to do, the gentleman who helped me also informed me how treacherous the route was, how I needed to drive really really slow, and how I could very well slide of the road. I wasn’t comforted when the park ranger at the ranger station several miles down the road informed me of the same. I heard this same message at each and every stop I made up until I began the treacherous journey up the mountain. 

Why oh why did I think driving up the mountain to see the giant sequoia’s was a good idea? It was the worst terrifying, gut wrenching, death defying stunt I have ever pulled (and will never pull again). The drive up was slow and shaky but we made it to the top…6500 ft up… in our big ole RV.

The only word to describe the view from the top is ‘WOW’, just wow! It was spectacular. I have never see trees like those giant sequoia’s. There are very few words I could use to describe their awesomeness so I won’t even try. I’ll just let you see what I mean through pictures:

Yes! We are inside of a fallen tree

Can you see me down there looking like an ant next to that giant tree?

Uh-Oh SNOW!!!!! 

She's trying to get the perfect shot of the sun setting as we're coming back down the mtn

It's been a whirlwind two days and we have seen and experienced so much. We made it to the end of our journey and now the only to go is east. Although I'm definitely not ready to be back on the east coast I'm determined make the drive east just as thrilling and exciting as the drive west.

So until we see you on the road or somewhere around the globe... Stay happy and healthy and keep chasing those dreams.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

"Brown Folks Don't Camp" and Why this is Ridiculous

I’m sitting beside my rig in my anti-gravity chair enjoying the cool breeze from the California air. This campsite is really beautiful. The desert is on one side and the Colorado River on the other. The sun is shining, the wind is gently blowing. It’s perfect right now. The only thing missing is a drink in hand and other brown people. Where are all the other brown people?

Oh boy! Here we go. A post about race. Well, hold on a second. While this post is about the lack of diversity on campsites throughout the southern US it is not about race necessarily. I’m not going to start in on issues of disenfranchisement, racism, and civil rights (although I could). This post isn’t going to be that heavy. All I really want to know is where are all the brown folks?

I asked the question, ‘Why don’t brown folks camp?’ in on online public forum that is geared to the traveling, adventure seeking person of color. The responses that I received were mostly expected ranging from not liking bugs, to camping being to much work for a vacation, to not wanting to rough it. The other responses I received were that brown folks do camp, and I was cited a lot of resources showing just that.

I realized then that I had asked the wrong question. Instead of asking ‘why don’t brown folks camp?’ I should have asked ‘why don’t brown folks RV?’.

When most people hear the word camping they think of the woods, tents, cooking over a fire. The often thing of the not so fun side of camping that includes bugs, the physically labor that is involved in camping, and limited bathroom facilities. To some this sounds absolutely fantastic. I’ll raise my hand here because it truly does sound wonderful. To others this does not sound like much a vacation and they can imagine many other places they’d rather be. But did you know that camping is more than sleeping in a tent in the woods? I’ve done my fair share of camping in secluded wooded areas but I’ve also camped on beaches, in the middle of cities, and in historic towns. During these experiences I’ve slept in my own bed, cooked in my own kitchen, and used my own bathroom. How you ask? By utilizing an RV. That’s right! Camping doesn’t have to be all about pitching a tent. There are thousands upon thousands of people who RV. Some even live in their RV full-time and travel the country with their families. Others RV recreationally which mostly includes the weekends and holidays. My family is somewhere in the middle. My family RVs at least five months out of the year. We are not full time necessarily because during those other seven months of the year we are either gone internationally or at our sticks and bricks house in North Carolina. Needless to say we love the RVing/Camping lifestyle and I want to encourage other people of color to get out and give it a try.

Now I know that brown people camp. I know we are out there somewhere but I’m wondering why is our representation so small? Why aren’t we filling these campgrounds and enjoying the wonderful experiences to be had outdoors? We are filling cruise ships, popular international destinations, theme parks in Florida, fancy restaurants in New York, beaches in California, but we do not represent when it comes to utilizing and being a part of the very essences of this earth… nature and the outdoors.

This particular campground that we are parked on, for example, proudly boasts that it has eight hundred and twenty spots on its property. Yes, you read that right, 820 camp sites. The resort is full with the exception of one or two sports yet my kids and I are the only brown family here. Now I haven’t walked up and knocked on each and every door to see who resides there but I have walked this entire property, visited with people sitting outside their rig, seen those driving up and down the streets of the camp resort, visited the store, the bar, the beach area as well as the laundry and the bathrooms and I have not encountered a single other brown person. 

This isn’t anything new. It is a phenomenon that my kids and I have noticed quite a bit in our travels. As we currently cross the US from North Carolina to California, and last summer when we traveled from North Carolina to Canada we have become more and more aware that we are frequently the only brown family. It baffles me because camping is truly amazing and is something everyone could and should enjoy. From being one with nature in a more rugged camping style to a more luxurious clamping experience there is truly something for everyone. So why is “everyone” not participating?

My Sammie Blue... It doesn't have to be fancy to have a good time!

I asked several friends why they don’t camp and was not surprised by the responses I got. I hope I can address some of the reasons I heard ‘brown folks don’t camp/ RV” in an effort to dispel some myths and encourage more people of color to get out and experience it. 

1. Why sleep on the floor in the woods when there are 5 star hotels out there?

Ok! That’s valid. There are many nice hotels with wonderful amenities out there. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a sucker for a nice hotel. I love getting pampered and wined and dined like the next person. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give camping a chance. While sleeping in a tent is amazing in it’s own right it is not the only way to camp. I’ll admit I haven’t tent camped in years. My current method of camping is sleeping in my own bed, using my own bathroom (including my own shower with hot water), and cooking in my own kitchen in my own RV. Camping doesn’t just mean pitching a tent and living that rugged life although it can. There are many different styles of camping and the RV is a popular choice. There are many different types and styles of RVs to choose from, from the simple and used RV to the million dollar mansion on wheels. So if luxury is the only thing you require when vacationing then camping should certainly be on your list of options.

2. I don’t want to deal with bugs and wild animals.

Trust me, I don’t either. I’m pretty sure that many of the campers I’ve met on the road don’t particularly want to deal with bugs and animals either. Fortunately, this is an issue that you probably won’t even have to deal with. While it is true that camping probably does increase your chances of a run in with bugs and animals it does not mean you absolutely will encounter anything creature outside of the same ants and spiders you might see at home. In all of the years that I’ve been camping I have had a run in with only one animal and that was a deer standing in the middle of the road while I was driving. The same thing could have happened to me in my car too. The only bugs I’ve encountered was being invaded by ants not unlike what happened in my sticks and bricks home last summer. Animals and bugs are just not a major part of camping. Or at least they don’t have to be. If you choose that rugged style of camping in the woods with tents and sleeping bags you just might have a greater chance of encounter bugs. Even in these type of camping settings animals will more than likely try to avoid you and your chances of even seeing them, much less having a run in with them, is slim.

3. I can’t afford a fancy RV to camp in and I certainly don’t want to sleep in a tent.

I get it. You want to camp but don’t really want to do the tent thing.That only leaves you with the RV option. You don’t know anyone to borrow one from and you can’t afford to buy one. Let me tell you that you probably can afford to buy one. RVs come in all shapes and sizes and price points. Like I mentioned earlier they ranged from a million dollars all the way down to a couple of thousand. My very first motorhome cost me $3500. It was a small rig that got my kids and I all the way from North Carolina to Canada and back. The rig we are currently in now, while slightly newer and definitely bigger, still didn’t break the bank. At just under $10k it was an investment I made for my family. This rig has, so far, gotten us from North Carolina to California. Not to mention all the places it got us before we started on this grand journey. We’ve had no mechanical problems or otherwise. But stop right there. Let’s back up. You don’t even have to spend that kind if money on an RV. There are numerous RV rental companies scattered across the US that will lend you their rig and let you experience the joys of camping without the major commitment that purchasing brings. Heck, if it will get you out of the house and into the campgrounds I’ll even rent you mine.

4. There’s nothing to do. I’ll be bored.

This statement is so far from the truth that’s it’s almost comical. Granted the things to do while camping are unique and might be outside of your realm of comfort but there is certainly not a lack of things to do. Depending on our locale we have gone swimming, boating, fishing, hiking, and biking while camping. I have hung out at the bar, read a book while swinging in a hammock by the lake, eaten at extraordinary restaurants that were either near or on the campground I stayed at. My kids have played at the playgrounds, watched movies in the theaters, and played with groups of kids from around the country. Depending on where you are some major rest and relaxation is in store. Camping doesn’t have to just be secluded in the woods. There are urban campsites scattered about  that you can consider as well. At these sites you can take advantage of what the town or city has to offer just like you would in that five star hotel but for a fraction of the cost. So, you see camping doesn’t have to be boring. It really is what you make it, just like any other vacation you find yourself on.

5. Camping is for older folks.

Hmmmmmmm. Looking around it is hard to dispute this one so I won’t even try. We are not only often the only brown family but usually the youngest too. But let me let you in on a little secret. The retired generation that travel the country in their motorhomes have figured out life and are doing it right. I’m just trying to do it decades earlier. But the campgrounds aren't only filled with people of retirement age. More and more we’re meeting other young families and individuals on the road.There’s even groups dedicated to families that live full-time on the road. So, no, camping is not just for “old people”. Camping is for everyone. Plus that is not an excuse for you and your family to not get out and give RVing a try it. Regardless of the age make-up you are more than likely going to meet some amazing people full of fantastic and wonderful stories to share around the campfire. So at the end of the day, who cares (as my kids would say) what the age break down of campers really is?

6. Brown folks just don’t do that.

So that is the major myth that I hope is dispelled and never resurfaces. I don't like the idea of being lumped in a group that does or doesn't do something simply because of the color of my skin. "Brown folks don't camp", "Brown folks sure can dance", "Brown folks eat fried chicken and watermelon". To far? Ok Ok I'll tone it back down, but I hope you can see how all of those statements are just plain ridiculous. 

The whole "brown folks don't camp/ RV" isn't completely true anyway. I’m brown and I love camping. I have several “brown” friends that also love to camp so I know they exist. I just hope more and more give camping and RVing a try. Forget the stereotypes and the ideas that you will loose all your swag or that your proverbial “brown card” will be taken if you camp. Ignore all of the nonsense that says brown folks don’t do something and go give it a try yourself. If you hate it you never have to do it again but at least give it a try (this is what I tell my kids when trying to encourage them to try something new and it's worked pretty well so far). 

Have no equipment or don't know where to start? I will be more than happy to offer advice and assist in any way that I can in helping you set up or look into camping a experience. That is what my new campaign, URBAN RV (unless you can come up with a better name), is going to be about.... offering guidance, advice, and assistance to those (any and everyone) that want to give camping a try but don't know where to start. For now email me at or visit my website at

So what reasons have you heard that “Brown Folks Don’t Camp/RV”? I would love to hear from you so that I can continue to add to this list and hopefully change a few minds to realize Brown Folks actually can and do camp and it is fun and amazing.

Until I see you on the road or somewhere around the globe… Get Outdoors and give RVing a chance!!!

Monday, February 1, 2016

Days 25-26 On the Road: Joshua Tree National Park

We have been completely off grid. No electricity, water, cell, or Internet service. It wasn't on purpose that this happened but we are glad that it did. The views alone are worth it. 

I'm laying her now typing this post and can't help but to keep glancing out of the window. I've been watching the mountains made of boulders turn from black, to brown, to tan as the sun rises. 

We are nestled in a spot deep inside of Joshua Tree National Park. And when I say deep, I mean it. This campground is about 15 miles into the park and the park is another 5 miles from the town of Joshua Tree. 

It has actually been pretty great being off grid. No annoying phone calls, no tiny electronic gadgets glued to our hands, no FB posts, no video games. Instead, we've hiked the boulder mountains, explored natural caves, gotten a laugh from the local wildlife. We've read together, played board games, told stories, made plans for future trips and have genuinely enjoyed each other's company. 

We are parked here as we wait for our generator to be fixed. Yes! That's right. We survived in the freezing cold mountains with no generator. We are actually in this area because I finally found someone to take a look at all the issues Sammie Blue had including the generator.  I had been calling around to different RV shops for two weeks prior to coming here and no one was able to get me in within the week (we're nomads... We couldn't wait nine days in one area just to be seen by a mechanic). So when I found someone who could get me in AND he was in the direction we were headed anyway I made that appointment. 

We got to Morongo Valley, CA on Saturday for our appointment. It was an easy drive from where we were on the Colorado River. It took us only a few hours and that included the cool stops we made along the way. We got there only to learn that parts were needed that they didn't have and since the next day was Sunday it wouldn't be until Monday that we could get things fixed. Since we were only 15 miles from Joshua Tree NP we decided to head back up the hill and revisit the park. 


The first night we stayed in the park until bedtime but then we chickened out and drove the twenty miles back to town and stayed in the Walmart parking lot. We woke up early, did a little Walmart shopping and headed back up the mountain to the park. We spent the entire day in the park and decided to just stay the night. No more chickening out. 

Of course the night that we decide to stay a winter storm comes through the area. Outside of almost freezing the wind was really something. We were under a severe wind advisory but I had no idea what that meant. Let me say, I have never ever experienced wind like that... Is that a west coast thing or just a desert thing? All night long the wind tore at our rig. It pounded against the sides and shook the whole RV. I knew at any second our rig would go toppling over with us inside it. I listened to the wind beat us up and the little pellets of ice hammer down on our roof. Needless to say it was a sleepless night for me. Things finally started to slow down around two thirty in the morning and I was finally able to shut me eyes and get some real sleep (at least until my natural alarm clock woke me up at 630). 

Joshua Tree NP has been an interesting experience. The beauty and absolute majesty of the place is unreal. And although we happened to come when they were hit by a winter storm we won't hold that against them. We'll definitely be back to visit again. 

So until we see you on the road or somewhere around the globe... Peace, Love, and Visit a National Park near you!