Since northern California is an area where neither of us have spent time, and we ultimately wanted to start making our way north for the summer, we decided to spend a few weeks exploring northern California on our way to Oregon/Washington/Idaho. As always with our lifestyle, our timeline also gets dictated by work, so although we explored Mammoth, Tahoe, Sierra Buttes, Lassen National park and Sha...
It’s been a while since our last blog post, and we realized that the last three months have flown by! We left Baja with so many good memories and stories to tell well as the 20 tacos we had in the fridge from the Baja Burro, Ensenada MX. We also smuggled bags of grapefruits and limes that Blake thought were so much better than US fruit, so we tried to bring across the border. Before leaving, we filled up our propane tanks since we knew we’d be in California and still had that issue with our tanks being too old and not California certified. After the typical 3 hour wait to get across the Tijuana border, we got sent to secondary screening because the camper set off the radiation alarm at the border crossing. Apparently, propane can do this. We had to get radiation screened, and they put the drug dog into the camper to search for any drugs. All I was thinking was don’t find my tacos!
King of the Hammers:
We went straight from the border to Johnson Valley, California (in the desert north of Palm Springs), to film with the Rugged Radios team at the King of the Hammers off-road race. They had their support team and vending booth along with their RVs out at the event all week, and brought us out to film some of their support efforts. We brought the tacos for the Rugged Radios team since they introduced us to the Baja Burro, and we thought it would be such a surprise, but the first thing that they joked to us when we pulled up was “did you bring us tacos?” Everyone loved it! KoH is one of the gnarliest off road races with the trophy trucks and UTVs having to go through crazy rock sections. We got to take the Rugged General UTV out to film at some of the sections with the hardest obstacles. It was terrible weather all week as well, with the ground just turning into pure mud, and cold and windy, but fun to hang out at the bon fire at night.
After KoH we drove into the LA area. Our goal for our whole journey was always to travel for the fall months, and drive Baja until December or January, and then take a break and try to get some work in LA for the winter until it was nice enough to drive north along the coast in the Spring. So as of mid-February, we were pretty on track for this goal- it just turned out that we also worked all of the fall months as well. We were really excited to be in LA to network in the film industry and take advantage of new opportunities to work with others in the area. Our friends Luke and Lucy in the Brea area offered us their house to stage at while in LA, which we completely took advantage of to get all of our laundry done, shower, edit video at a real table, and even get out of the camper for a few nights and stay in their second bedroom. We stayed there for a couple weeks to get a couple projects done, visit with a few clients, and and we even got out to drtbike with Luke for a day. He took us to Hesperia, one of the closer riding areas in LA, but it turned out it had snowed the night before, but still had a really fun day riding!
LA in February had some really intense rain storms, and we started getting a few leaks in the camper. We noticed three in one day- over the stove, over the table, and over the bed, so we had to get some roof repair and touch up a few of these spots. Around this time we began to really start questioning the integrity of the camper. Baja was pretty rough on it, and the cab-over portion had really started to sag a lot more. It used to slam down on the roof at big bumps or dips in the road, but after two months on the Baja roads, it started to completely rest on the roof, and squeak constantly while driving. We even lifted up the bed and realized that the wood underneath had started to become moldy. Not only were we starting to become concerned about the health affects of the mold, but the constant slamming on the roof was really starting to irritate us, and cause long term damage to the roof. So here’s when Blake and I started to consider other options for our living situation. We still absolutely loved the idea of the truck bed camper, but had seen a lot of different home-builds on social media, and started thinking of returning to Denver in the fall to make our own composite camper and flat bed our truck. Blake spent days researching what would be the perfect set up for us. We had different ideas to make a double wide door into the camper and be able to wheel our dirt bikes into the camper instead of have our bike carrier. We also played around with the idea of making a “garage” section on the flatbed that would house the bikes. But after weeks of different research and finally pricing everything out, we decided that the build would be too expensive for us at this time to do it exactly house we wanted, and settled on trying to find a newer version of our camper on craigslist. So began weeks of scanning all the RV trader websites.
While all of this was occurring, we were also staying busy in LA getting new opportunities to work with others in the film industry, and also got to check out so many new places around SoCal. In February we drove 5 hours north to Pismo Beach to film with Rugged Radios for a week and see their headquarters in Arroyo Grande. We filmed their new moto radio helmet kit at the Pismo sand dunes as well as in the Pozo recreation area where we discovered some really awesome riding, and got us really excited to drove along the central coast come summer.
We had a quick weekend back to Denver for my grandpa’s 95th birthday! It was supposed to be a surprise, but with our crazy schedule we ended up changing our flight three times which kind of ruined the surprise. It was a quick two day weekend, but we got to see all the family members and friends while home.
In the end of February we got to film the press release of the new Honda Talon UTV in Sand Hallow, Utah for a week. Sand Hallow was absolutely beautiful! We were staged at the Sand Hallow Resort and spent the week filming above the lake in these coral pink sand dunes, as well as filming on the Barracks trail an hour outside of Sand Hallow.
Valley of Fire:
On our way back we checked out the Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada, which we hadn’t heard much about before. It was very similar to Moab, and we did some small hikes with slot canyons and rock scrambling. We even woke up at sunrise to get the iconic picture on the main road through the park – we only got sun for about 2 minutes and snagged the pic.
Hellwig Suspension Products Installation:
In March we had a big upgrade on the truck! Back before we drove to Baja, the guys at Rugged Radios introduced us to Mike Hallmark, the marketing rep at Hellwig Products, and told us that we need new sway bars on our truck to make our camper drive better. After hearing our story, Mike invited us to Leona Vally to install new sway bars and airbags, and he had a video team to film the install and get a testimonial from us about the before and after effects of the new suspension products! All those times we’ve sat behind the camera during a terrible interview, and now we got the camera turned on us! After the install, we drove up a mountain pass to test how the sway bars and air bags prevented a lot of the sway that we had been experiencing with the camper. And it drove amazing! We couldn’t believe how steady and solid it felt going around tight corners. The camper actually felt locked to the bed of the truck. We couldn’t thank Hellwig enough for this improvement! Watch their video of us here:
California Super Bloom:
Around this time, people were starting to talk about the California Super Bloom. Apparently, if certain conditions are present, such as having a really wet year after a dry year, and the temperature changing from cold to hot at a certain moment, then the hillsides in southern California explode with orange poppies! This occurred in the Walker Canyon in Lake Elsinore, and we had to go check it out. Traffic was backed up down the canyon with everyone flocking to see the flowers.
Even on a week day, we barely found a parking spot, and headed up the canyon with our camera. Clearly we weren’t the only ones there to see the flowers. The hillsides were completely covered in other Instagramers. People had gone so far as to bring portable lighting and changing tents and bounce boards to take professional photos. Girls were in dresses and hats and climbing down steep hillsides to set themselves in the best fields of flowers. It was absolutely ridiculous…but I guess we weren’t much better. I got my fare share of selfies too! The next day we had the chance to film in the poppies again, this time with a world champion endurocross rider Colton Haaker who lives right in the area, and couldn’t believe how beautiful the footage looked with all the poppies.
We spent the rest of March working on other projects in the LA area, before jumping on a plane back to Cabo! We flew to Cabo to film a huge estate south of La Paz, and were excited that it was actually in an area that we didn’t go to on our previous trip to Baja, so we got to see a completely new area. The Bahia de los Suenos was a magnificent bay, secluded from the touristy areas in Cabo, and we got to spend a whole week there filming. The water was the perfect aqua color.
I even got my first experience in a helicopter during the week – we filmed both the helicopter landing with the drone, as well as got in the helicopter to film the property. The estate has a restaurant and staff on site as well- and we had the best shrimp tacos all week. It was good to be back in Baja. We extended the trip to film another property in the Pedregal neighborhood of Cabo San Lucas. We filmed at a fantastic restaurant, Tres Sirenas, in order to add some lifestyle to the video, and got to eat there as well. The specialities we filmed (and ate) were a lobster caesar salad made from scratch at our table, as well as flaming Mexican coffee and bananas foster for dessert, and they made all of these in front of us at the table.
After 9 days in Cabo, we flew back to LA and had visitors the next day! Blake’s brother, Clinton, and two friends, Nate and Jordan, flew out to LA to visit and attend the WLF Mission III Veterans Ride Event, which we were volunteering to film. WLF Enduro, a moto enthusiast group, puts on this event in Johnson Valley, gets dirt bikes and raffle prizes donated by industry sponsors, and invites a bunch of veterans to come ride and camp for the weekend, all as a tribute to those who have served our country. Nate, a US Marines vet, and Jordan, who is in the Airforce reserves, got to be one of the invited veterans and participate in the weekend. We haven’t seen Nate since he moved to Wisconsin before we started our journey, so it was a really special weekend for everyone. Blake had a fun experience wiping out on the pavement after a wheelie the first day of the event, and had to deal with road rash on his arm and hip the rest of the week. After the event, we spent one day with these guys at Huntington Beach before they all flew back.
Just a couple days later, my parents came to visit us and we stayed at a house right on Newport Beach. We walked the beach, ate well, and explored Crystal Cove State Park for a couple days. The flowers were still in full bloom and we walked in fields of yellow flowers along the coast. After their quick weekend trip, we headed straight to Big Bear for another motorcycle filming project, and were so excited to actually feel like we were in the mountains. It was even supposed to snow while we were there, but it actually turned out to be sunny and nice anyway.
We’d been trying to find a time and place to go ride with our friend Ian in between LA and San Francisco, but had been so busy the past two months that it kept getting pushed back. Finally we had a weekend free, so after Big Bear we drove to the Kern River Valley by Lake Isabella to camp with Ian. We called the ranger district and most of the areas we looked at were still closed due to more snow this year, so this was one of the only areas already open. The camping and access to the trails was not good, but the actual trails were some of the funnest we’ve ever rode! We pretty much had to camp on a dirt pullout on the side of a road, and due to seasonal closures of trails, we had to load up the bikes each day and drive to the different trail heads in order to ride. Before getting there, we thought we would be in more of a desert area, because thats what we’ve seen so far in LA, but now that we were closer to the Sequoia National Forest, everything was so green and mountainous! The trails we rode were cut so steep into the side of the mountain, we were doing switchbacks all day, but we think because the access to the trails was so poor, the trails were barely ridden. There were points where the whole trail was overgrown with tall grass and wildflowers. At some points the trail was 6 inches wide on a steep drop off above the Kern River. So much fun, but also so tiring!
There are a few natural hot springs in the Kern River Valley, so we went to check out the Remington Hot Springs, where locals have poured concrete into pools along a side of the river where the spring comes in, and decorated the concrete with sea shells and hippie art. It only fit about 4 people, and we had to patiently wait our turn, but was so relaxing in the end to be able to sit in a hot tub along the river. We were beat after two days of riding, so we drove a couple hours north to the eastern Sierras in Lone Pine to check out the Alabama Hills. This area is so picturesque with rocky hills sitting below snow covered Mt. Whitney. So many movies have been filmed at the Alabama Hills, mostly old westerns, and you can drive around to see where some of the most famous ones have been filmed. We did a couple small hikes, but also just relaxed and enjoyed our camp spot before heading out the next day. So glad we got to see Ian, because that weekend actually concluded our time in California for a bit…because… BIG NEWS… we found a NEW CAMPER… and we’re headed back to Denver to get it!