Top Posts in October Are…

This blog’s been QUIET the past few months, as we’re doing all of our posting for Going Mobile. Here’s what’s getting clicked on in that space:

How to score a camping site at Arches National Park

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We lucked out after talking with the helpful camp hosts at this very popular campground.

8 awesome places to eat and drink in Aspen

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The pate at Meat & Cheese in Aspen, Colorado, is exceptional.

Outdoorsy offers opportunity to try before you buy

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We’ve rented all sorts of vehicles through Outdoorsy.

4 essential tips for experiencing Mesa Verde National Park

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We loved catching the sunset at the Far View Lodge in Mesa Verde National Park.

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Dreamy Destination: Ka’anapali Beach

We’ve spent the weekend on the water off the shores of Maui’s gorgeous Ka’anapali Beach, paddling, swimming, wishing we knew how to surf because those masters of the waves make it look like so much fun. Here are a few photos from the 14th annual Wa’a Kiakahi Canoe Festival and Maui Jim Ocean Shootout.

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The Ka’anapali Beach Hotel canoe arrives for the Wa’a Kiakahi festival.
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Opening welcome is offered for the Wa’a Kiakahi festival.
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Athletes prepare for the Maui Jim Ocean Shootout at Ka’anapali Beach Hotel.
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John tries his hand at paddling in an outrigger canoe during a trip with Maui Paddle Sports.
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Leslie paddles during a stint in the Ka’anapali Beach Hotel sailing canoe.
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What’s SUP? John heads out with a group on a SUP session.

 

 

 

6 Reasons Why We Absolutely LOVED Airstream’s Basecamp

We recently hit the highway in an Airstream Basecamp, the smallest model from the most recognizable name in trailers. Here are 6 reasons it was an absolute blast.

1. It’s So Adorable

The stylish, super sporty design of this cozy pull-along is attention grabbing. It received Basecamplogo2lots of admiring looks as we traveled around North Cascades National Park  and in one instance, it stopped traffic. As we were taking photos on State Route 20’s Washington Pass, a couple from Seattle pulled over to ask about it. Of course, we gave them a tour. Because it’s such a departure from the classic Airstream, it comes as a sweet surprise when people learn about this fairly new product. (It first debuted in 2017.)

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The Airstream Basecamp proved to be nimble on the roadway.

2.  It’s Easy to Manuever

Because of its tidy size, the Basecamp feels nimble on the roadway. We had an Infiniti QX80 loaner as our tow vehicle, and that sweet ride was plenty powerful to haul this 3,000 pounder. Backing into campsites was fairly smooth, though we did get into a jam in a parking lot of a trailhead, pulling too close to a barrier. Fortunately, a couple good citizens wandered over and helped guide us out of that pickle. Thanks, guys!

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Breakfast was a breeze on the nice Basecamp stove.
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Northwest succotash with prosciutto-wrapped shrimp was easy to do on the two-burner.

3. The Kitchen is Dreamy

The galley setup is at the front of the rig, facing a bank of windows. Brilliant! It has lots of cupboard space for pantry items, and the fridge is large enough to stock up for a week-long trip. Two propane burners fired up easily and cooked food quickly. The sink was off to the side, so it was a little too tight in the space for the dishwasher to be cleaning up after the messy cook at the same time. There wasn’t a ton of counter space, but we made the most it.

4. Comfy Sleeping Space

A seating area doubles as a bed, configured by moving cushions around. Not exactly the easiest bed to make — it’s roughly the same size as a queen, but is rounded at the bottom of the vehicle. However, once everything’s all tucked in, it’s comfortable. There are open shelves above that hold a surprising amount of stuff, clothes, towels, books, etc.

5. Outdoor Shower’n

If you’re in a private campsite, you can snake the shower head through a small opening and — ahhhhh, that feels good to cool off outside. If you’d rather get ‘er done inside, it’s a toilet-in-the-shower-stall kind of situation. Good to know: The Basecamp has one tank for both gray and black water, so it fills up more quickly than those RVs that have two tanks.

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The seating area was a comfortable place to enjoy wine and snacks.

6. Happy Hour in the Cafe

That’s what we nicknamed the seating area, after chilling and sipping wine, talking about our thrilling hike that afternoon. We spotted four bears — from the comfort of our car — on our drive up to the Thornton Lakes trailhead. It was one of those amazing moments that seems almost unreal, and reaffirms that insatiable desire to get out and enjoy nature.

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In North Cascades National Park, we explored the Skagit River Loop Trail in Newhalem, Wash.
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The Basecamp was a fun rig to take up in the mountains of North Cascades National Park.

 

Tiny Kitchen Challenge: Making Pizza

Leslie says: I’m kinda shocked to discover I really love the challenge of cooking in a tiny kitchen. On a recent hot springs tour around British Columbia, I used the excellent setup in our  CanaDream Class C RV to grill steak, stir smoked salmon into risotto, and, my biggest triumph yet, making pizza!

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Prepping is Key

Before we hit the road, I spent a few hours in my home kitchen, getting some dishes dialed in. Even when you’re traveling, though, that’s such an essential part of putting together meals in a flash. Plastic containers and ziplock baggies are perfect for keeping ingredients sorted. Even if it seems obvi, label and date everything. A little trick I picked up years ago, working as an apprentice in Tom Douglas restaurants.

Making Some Dough

Adapted from my favorite pizza dough recipe from the awesome Sara Moulton, I added the dry ingredients to a plastic bag and planned on finishing the dough on Pizza Day. That special dinner came at the end of a long day on the road and a relaxing soak at Fairmont Hot Springs, with the Rocky Mountains in the background. The kind of breathtaking, Instagram-worthy setting that reinforces this kinda crazy journey we’re taking. Before hitting the pool, I added water and some olive oil and put the wet dough in a sealed container, covered in the filtered afternoon sun. Two hours later, it had doubled, and was ready to go.

Crank Up The Heat

A blazing fire is best for creating the pleasantly blistered on the bottom, yet still soft inside crust and we had hoped to try this over bunch of crackling wood, but the weather turned drizzly. So, I tried the next best thing and heat my Lodge Cast Iron grill pan in the teeny oven. Ten minutes in, the smoke detector started shrieking. Not an uncommon experience when I’m in the kitchen. Johnny removed the battery — temporarily — and we were back in business.

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Charcuterie from the exceptional Oyama Sausage Co., on Vancouver’s Granville Island made this pizza extra special.

Getting the Dough in the Red Hot Pan

This took some team work, and while my first attempt to fill up the skillet wasn’t spot on, it convinced me to go smaller on the second round. While Johnny propped open the oven door, I transferred the dough from one of those floppy cutting boards. There were many ways it could have gone wrong, but it worked. I added the toppings — fresh mozzarella, pesto, chopped cherry tomatoes — after about 10 minutes, and let it cook another five. Probably could have gone a little longer.

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Arugula on top this caprese pie means you can skip the salad course.

The Take Aways

Our Grand Tour has been evolving towards a pretty low key approach to breakfast and lunch, while dinner is a big deal. It’s the evening’s entertainment — followed by a round of cribbage (we’re all tied up in this epic battle!) — so, I put a lot of thought into meal planning. Going forward, I’m going to focus on recipes from some of my fave cookbooks. First up, next trip: PNW Veg by my friend, Kim O’Donnel.

Wine Pairing

You think reds when it comes to pizza, but instead I poured my current obsession, an Oregon Pinot blanc from Elk Cove Vineyards. I love how this crisp, fruity white has the backbone to stand up to strong flavors like the pesto. It balanced the richness of the creamy cheese and brightened up the dreary spring evening in beautiful Canadian mountains. Of course, because we’re in British Columbia, we followed that up with a glass of merlot from Tinhorn Creek.

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Elk Cove Vineyards Pinot blanc is perfect with pizza.

7 Fun Things to Do in Vancouver, B.C.

We’ve been on an epic road trip around British Columbia, starting with a couple days in Vancouver. This gorgeous city is so much fun to explore, whether it’s on foot, or an itty-bitty ferry. Here’s some of our favorite fun things to do.

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Leave the car and take the False Creek Ferry to get around.

Jump on Board a Water Taxi

These small boats stop at spots along False Creek, the main waterway on the south side of town. Ride it the full length for about $3, an incredible deal, before getting out at Granville Island. There, walk through the bustling marketplace. There are loads of cafes to get a meal, drink or coffee. Or, go DIY and score some outstanding charcuterie at Oyama Sausage Company before heading outside for a picnic. Talented buskers entertain the crowds on sunny days.

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The Sea Wall has some exceptional viewpoints around the perimeter of Stanley Park.

Walk the Sea Wall at Stanley Park

Take the roughly 4-mile perimeter trail around the premier park that helps define the urban area’s embrace of natural beauty. You’ll see snow-capped mountains in the distance and lots of ship traffic on the busy commercial gateway to the Pacific, all while sharing the path with runners, cyclists and skaters. Plan on spending some time in the English Beach area on the end of your hike. The Sylvia Hotel‘s bar is excellent for happy hour or a casual meal. Try the fried squid and the signature cocktail, a delicious gin-based drink called The Vancouver.

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Wet your whistle at the Sylvia Bar on English Bay.

Eat Southern Fried Chicken in Chinatown

Juke nails the crunchy, seasoned just right bird at spot on the edge of Chinatown. The vibe is fast food, order at the counter, but the results are shockingly sophisticated. Definitely drizzle some housemade hot honey over the golden pieces of perfect poultry.

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Juke fries up some outstanding chicken on the edge of Vancouver’s Chinatown.

Drink a Toast to Gassy Jack

Head upstairs to The Diamond, a retro cool bar with a view of Gastown’s heart, Maple Tree Square. The soaring windows look down and a statute of one of the city’s founders, John Deighton, aka Gassy Jack. Trust the friendly staff to make suggestions on beverage and food, but, if you’re adventurous, order the brandade. This sassy dip is made with potatoes and salt cod, which might sound strange, but it’s wonderful.

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The Vancouver at The Diamond in Gastown. Via Facebook
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Walk around Canada Place for a great view of the downtown Vancouver waterfront.

Go Downtown and Get a View

Canada Place, the iconic sailing-ship-themed convention center and gathering place on the downtown Vancouver waterfront, is as striking up close as it is from afar. Take a walk around it. While you’re there, consider going on the Fly Over Canada ride. It’s a bit cheesy, but undeniably fun. You’ll watch a beautiful big-screen view of the Canada’s beauty while hanging over a dark abyss. For another nice city view, ascend Vancouver Lookout at nearby Harbour Centre.

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Take in the city views from Vancouver Lookout downtown.

Eat a Boatload of Sushi

There are about a million sushi options in the city, which means the competition’s stiff. We checked in with the super helpful concierge at the swank hotel where we were staying — The Douglas — and he recommended a few spots within walking distance. We were so impressed by the depth of fish selection and pristine quality at Bistro Sakana in the buzzy Yaletown neighborhood, and its gracious staff. It was also pretty darned affordable, with dinner for two ringing up at under $70, Canadian.

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Photo via Bistro Sakana’s Facebook.

Start the Day Brunching

Medina Cafe is crazy popular for the morning/midday meal, so if you don’t arrive early, you’re going to have to wait. But you’ll be in good company. Your patience will be rewarded by inventive global twists on brunch like the egg-topped paella, cassoulet and spicy Moroccan lamb meatballs. The legendary Belgian-style waffles are a fine way to start a meal, or end it.

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Brunch at Cafe Medina might require waiting, but it’s worth it, especially if you like Eggs Benedict.

 

 

Gear Review: Love the Coleman Stove

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When it comes to outdoor cooking, you want something that’s easy to use and store. For many years, we’ve been devoted to the Jet Boil for its light weight and ability to heat up quickly, but on a recent trip, we were mighty impressed with the updated version of the classic Coleman Stove.

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It’s About the Size of a Briefcase

Growing up, our family used Coleman stoves, and while they worked well, they were bulky and heavy. The newest model weighs just 10 pounds and fits neatly under a seat or in the trunk. It was included as part of the thoughtful perks that came along with renting a Westy from Peace Vans in Seattle. (Thanks, guys!)

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Compact, yet Powerful

This two-burner propane-fueled model throws out 20,000 BTUs, 10K per burner. Which is hella hot. We used it to cook sausages and fry potatoes and dinner was ready in 20 minutes. It was a little trickier to dial down the heat to scramble eggs, but we figured it out.

Wind Shield’s Are Cool

It wasn’t breezy enough to blow out the flame the days and nights we cooked outside on the Coleman Stove, but we still appreciated the aluminum shields that pop easily into place to keep the fire going.

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The Price is Right

Our beloved Jet Boil costs about $100 and is really best for heating up water in a hurry. (Does somebody NEED that morning cup of coffee? YES!) The Coleman retails for around $70, and has double the cooking space. It’s not going to make it into the backpack for an overnight hike, but it certainly makes cooking at a campground or at a picnic a lot easier.

 

8 Reasons We Fell in Love with the Peace Van

She says: We recently took an amazing trip to the beautiful Olympic Pennisula in a 1987 VW Westfalia from Peace Vans, a rental company in Seattle. It was our first real taste of what Van Life might feel like, and I think we’re in love. Of course, it didn’t suck that the mid-March weather was spectacular, which you can see in the photo below from our stellar site at Kalaloch Beach. Here are 8 reasons we love the Peace Van.

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Kalaloch Beach campground has a few spots right on the bluff. This one’s D-33.

1. Peace Out

After an excellent tutorial at Peace Van HQ on all the features of this retro rig — thanks, Jimmer! — we hit the highway, and soon we were getting flashed the peace sign from cars coming in the other direction. So groovy! That’s the universal way to say hey when you’re behind the wheel of these beloved vehicles.

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Bring on the tie dye! Leslie Kelly photo

2. Shockingly Comfy

We got the 411 on popping the top. It’s easy! Getting it back down and all the fabric tucked in is more of a two-person job, but we handled that. And while the top bunk is designed for sleeping, it was a little too cold for that this trip. Plus, you’ve got to do some gymnastics to get up there. And we like to drink wine around the campfire — Lange Estate Winery Pinot noir from Oregon was the fave on this trip — so, hopping up top seemed a little bit like an accident waiting to happen. Next time!

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We kept the bed out most of the trip because it was easy. Leslie Kelly photo

3. There’s a Place for Everything

Talk about downsizing! It’s an amazing challenge to keep it as tight as this snug space allows, but we made it work. The plastic bins the Peace Van team loads up with kitchen essentials, including condiments, spices, and a French press felt just about right. Not too much, or too little.

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Plastic bins help keep everything organized. Leslie Kelly photo

4. Two Burners are Plenty

I’m typically a messy cook who covers every surface of the kitchen, but this setup forced me to dial it way back. The two-burner cooktop inside worked like a champ. I scrambled eggs and made coffee in the morning, and in the evening, we used the powerful Coleman stove to sear steaks and grill bratwurst. Brilliant!

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Bavarian Meats bratwurst and Olsen Farms potatoes for the WIN! Leslie Kelly photo

5. The Way the Bedroom Doubles as a Living Room

Once Johnny figured out how to swivel the passenger seat around — on the last night — we tucked the bed back into its couch form and — boom! Suddenly it felt like we had a whole lot of room. Might be different if it was pouring rain for days and we were stuck inside, but this was a very cool revelation.

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Living room, bedroom, office, we were surprised by how roomy it felt. Leslie Kelly photo

6. No More Wet Tent

We’ve camped plenty in the rain, and even when it’s not dripping, there’s usually heavy dew. The weather turned nasty on that last night, and it was such a pleasure not to have to stake down the rain fly on a tent. Raindrops falling on the roof of a heated camper van sounded pretty sweet.

7. It Started Some Great Conversations

We enjoyed talking with fellow Peace Van fans, especially the mom and daughter we met at Peace Vans HQ in SEA. They were from Toronto and so pumped to explore the west coast, from Vancouver Island down to Cali. Randomly, we ran into them on our last night out, parked three spots away! So fun!!

8. They Make Road Trippin’ Extra Fun and Easy

On this chapter of Our Grand Tour, we went places we’d been before and saw them in a whole new light. Pull into your spot and you’re good to go. Also, having this self-contained teeny shelter pushed us to try some spots we probably would have avoided if we were tent camping. In La Push, for instance, we were basically hanging out in a parking lot with a bunch of surfer dudes. But we were steps from the most incredible beach, where we ate dinner and witnessed one of the most glorious sunsets of our lives. No joke!

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Explore: Hike the Bluffs and Beaches of Whidbey Island

Obviously, Joseph Whidbey was onto something.

It was springtime 1792 when Whidbey, a member of the Vancouver Expedition, sailed around the largest island in Puget Sound, rocketing through the currents of Deception Pass. Capt. George Vancouver was ecstatic, naming the island after his intrepid crewman.

Just like old Joe, you should take your own spin around Whidbey Island.

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The arching bridge at Deception Pass.

Explore these Whidbey Island parks

Whidbey Island is home to several excellent parks, each offering fine hiking opportunities. Deception Pass State Park at the north end of the island is a must-visit location to see the wild currents and historic bridge arching 180 feet above the water.

Deception Pass sprawls across more than 4,000 acres and offers camping, hiking and seasonal kayak rentals. This is Washington’s most visited state park for a reason: Aside from the recreation opportunities, the beaches offer great views of the pass and the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the west.

Two other fantastic state parks are located just south. Fort Casey and Fort Ebey state parks were originally constructed as coastal defense locations on the west coast of the island. Their gun emplacements are still there, an invitation to explore on the bluffs overlooking Admiralty Inlet.

But it’s not all about the armaments. Each park offers camping and excellent hiking opportunities along their headlands and beaches.

One of the best day hikes in Washington state starts at the Prairie Overlook Trailhead in

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A blockhouse on the prairie at Ebey’s Landing Historical Reserve.

Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve just west of Coupeville, traveling onto a bluff high above the water. At six miles roundtrip, it offers a lesson in history about the Ebey family, the first white settlers on the island, stunning views of Admiralty Inlet and the opportunity to walk the wildest beaches on Whidbey Island.

Other worthy parks for visits include Joseph Whidbey State Park, South Whidbey State Park and Double Bluff Beach, a county park that offers access to a dog-friendly strand near the town of Freeland.

Coupeville and Langley

Tourism is centered in Coupeville and Langley, both cute-as-a-button historic towns that have restaurants and shopping options for visitors. Coupeville, on Penn Cove, is the mussel capital of Washington state — try them at Toby’s Tavern or the Front Street Grill.

Langley on the southern end of the island is just an hour away from Seattle (including the ferry ride), but it feels much farther, with picturesque waterfront shops and restaurants and a small marina. An excellent seafood restaurant, Saltwater Fish House and Oyster Bar, is a handsome stop for lunch or dinner.

You’ll want to skip Oak Harbor at the north end of the island. The mostly charmless commercial center is also home to Whidbey Island Naval Air Station.

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Coupeville’s historic waterfront.
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The waterfront in Langley.

Why visit Whidbey?

Whidbey Island is just a short drive and ferry ride (Mukilteo to Clinton) from Seattle, making it equally appealing as a day trip or overnight destination. A lively arts scene, a welcoming hippie vibe and two attractive tourist towns are worthy of your attention.

But the best part of the island is its beauty, best explored from a number of excellent parks.

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The bluff trail at Ebey’s Landing overlooks Admiralty Inlet.