Adventures in the Little Red Trailer (2017-2021)

Desert Nights, Cambodian Noodles, and Ice Cream

Writing on the road is a funny thing. In dog training, we talk about an emotional state called “conflicted” – feeling two opposite things at once. In my case, to get off grid, away from technology and deadlines, but also loving to reach out, to write, valuing all the armchair adventurers who join us vicariously by tuning in and reading these posts. What to do? For dogs, we watch body language, offer agency, teach them make the choice that puts them most at ease. For me, it’s ice cream. Two scoops.

Cookie dough. Rum raisin. Cherry garcia. McConnell’s salted cookies ‘n’ cream in a waffle cone, served with a side of California sunshine.

What’s yours?
Ocotillo cactus in bloom, Kofa NWR

Before coming off the road for a week with family, we packed in two more nights in the deserts of the southwest. The first was in Kofa National Wildlife Refuge near the Arizona-California border. It was one of those near-perfect boondocking sites: a wide and very flat space big enough to host 20 campers (but that night hosting none save our little Rocinante), a sand-dirt pause in the austerely beautiful but prickly and fragile desert vegetation, domed with a starry, starry sky. The only reason it got the slight holdback of near-perfect was the distant but still-visible lights of the Mexico-US border checkpoint through which we passed along highway 95, a flash photo of our license plate joining the Great American Database.

Rocinante in the desert, Kofa NWR
Next morning’s breakfast tacos to fuel up for a desert hike.

Mid afternoon we reached Joshua Tree National Park, and had the sudden, fantastic, and of course entirely unique idea to stay at a campsite in the National Park itself. As we got closer it dawned on us that it was a Thursday night during National Park Week. There would likely be more campers than spines on a saguaro, and they’d be more dug in at their early-booked spots than a cholla caught on a puppy’s paw. Cottonwood is reservation only, but we drove through and asked about openings in vain hope. And by some miracle still beyond us today, we got a spot! It was pretty central and so a touch busy, but we maneuvered the trailer to create a little nook so we could sit fireside away from the path, and were off for a bikeride in time for sunset, Katie riding behind me in her basket, nose in the air to smell the world.

Our campsite at Cottonwood in JTNP. The busiest spots can turn out to be the best. We met a family who had flown to California and had opted for a single night of camping. We talked them through our gear, culmination of long planning: cozy bed, camp kitchen cuisine, titanium teapot. But for one night in JT? Who needs it? This family settled for beach chairs and duvets borrowed from their Vrbo vacation home rental. Gazing at our Solo campfire, they considered the possibility of bringing along the rental’s furniture to burn on their own campfire. We all had quite a chuckle together.

In the morning were up early for another bikeride and another National Park hack: while dogs must be on paved roads only, they can also be 100 feet off the road on either side – just enough wiggle room to find a rocky breakfast outcrop with a view, Katie quietly snoozing on her leash beside us. NP heaven, our tax dollars at work.

Cholla at JT

One last stop in the area is at JT Country Kitchen in Twentynine Palms, which we discovered in 2017 when it was a breakfast shack with a writeup in Lonely Planet – not for the eggs ‘n’ sausage, but for the chef-owner’s specialties, made daily and tucked in a cooler. She had since sold the place, but her legacy continues: if you go, pass up the dime-a-dozen breakfast burritos and burgers, and instead head straight to the noodle and peanut slaw dishes of Mareine Uy’s native Cambodia. Good enough for Anthony Bourdain, and worth a trip of 1000 miles for us (3000 miles, really – we pulled in last October, only to find they were closed on a Tuesday.)

Days on the road: 6

Days achieving out-of-breath goal: 5

Out-of-breathers: desert morning hike through Kofu; biking at Joshua Tree NP two days running (that’s in a row… not running. Just clarifying.) where, through some quirk of gravity, there’s a two-mile section where it really IS uphill both ways.

From there, we were ocean coast bound and by nightfall, we’d arrived with my folks. Staying with them is a treat and we looked forward to a week at a very different pace, with local fresh-catch sushi nights and Blue Mountain coffee with whipped cream mornings. Can one get out-of-breath points eating an ice cream?

Happy Camper

2 comments on “Desert Nights, Cambodian Noodles, and Ice Cream

  1. Pat Eirish

    I was just thinking of you this am and wondering “where has my little dog gone” with her her hooman parents. I so enjoy your travel log and am so happy you are adventuring again. Safe travels. You are so loved. Hugs to you and Katie too!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Aunt Pat! Little Katie is settling into travel once again with aplomb. You should see her set up in the truck – She has a very cozy and snuggly bed on a raised platform where she can be clipped in for safety but still see the world through the windows. Arizona is great, but she sure wishes she was in Washington with Aunt Chicken instead!


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