The Great Pacific Friend and Family Tour Part I

Telling people that we live in an RV can sometimes leave the wrong impression.

As we are on land now, land folks almost inevitably want to know where we live.  Usually, the question is followed by a long pause during which we all look at each other with curious smiles on our faces.  But that is just part of the fun.

From the boat, we loaded up into the RV rather unceremoniously.  We were so ready to beat the heat that a few days later we thought how nice it would have been if we had put a bit more thought into what we brought onto the RV.  We realized we were missing a few things, like a decent set of knives, a cast iron pan, a few more tools and several other bits and pieces.

We drove north through the Sonoran desert from Guaymas up Highway 15 all the way up to the border crossing at Sonoyta, MX into Arizona.  It was about an 8-hour drive in the RV, the roads were generally pretty darn good and despite the constant construction as they improve the road, it was pretty easy.

Like always in Mexico, you just have to keep your wits about you.  It is not idiot proof… just like the sidewalks, where you always have to be on the look out for that random missing utility cover right in the middle of the sidewalk.  This exposes a two-foot drop into a pile of garbage – consider yourself warned.

Along the way, there are tons of places to get gas and little towns here and there where you can grab a taco.  We had been told by other cruising friends that Sonoyta was a quiet crossing and right at the other side was the Organ Pipes Cactus National Monument, a great place to camp for the night.

The border was as advertised.  The slightly grumpy and bored border agent didn’t even come inside the RV, just asked us where we had been and gave a very half hearted “welcome home”.   As we entered the US we were all amazed at the beauty of the desert in the National Monument.  It was like going from black and white into a colorful canvas.  We kept on asking ourselves “Why?”, “Why is it so much more beautiful here!?”  It was like a garden!

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

We stayed that night at the Monument. The campground was effectively empty, the weather was perfect, still warm, but so much more pleasant and we all reveled in how comfortable we were sitting outside for breakfast the next morning.  We felt like we were on vacation after the hot work of putting the boat away.

The Organ Pipe Cactus

The interpretive center at Organ Pipes was small but very well done and the girls participated in the Junior Ranger program, earning another badge.  Here we learned that the monument, established in 1937 by FDR, was heavily used for ranching and mining beginning in 1698 with the establishment of the first mission all the way until 1959 when all grazing rights were terminated.  In 1976 it was declared an International Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO.  This protection has restored the desert to its current state of beauty and diversity.  It was a striking lesson in land management.  I would heartily encourage anyone to visit this amazing place.  We wished we had more time to explore it.

But onward we pushed.  That same day we were back on the road.  We were on our way to Santa Barbara to spend the 4th of July with Cameron’s sister Kim and her boyfriend Colin.  As a perfect overnight stop on the way, we drove to Joshua Tree National Park where the girls worked to gather yet another Junior Ranger Badge.  Here again, we were struck by the beauty of this special place where the Sonoran desert meets the Mohave.

Katie Walker waiting on us while we check out Skull Rock

Santa Barbara was so fun, we love this part of the world.  We had a blast as usual with Cameron’s sister and her friends, going bowling and enjoying the parade and fireworks.  We even had a winery visit with Adam at Crown Point Vineyards, an up and coming winery in the Santa Ynez Valley.  This little Santa Barbara stop kicked off quite the Pacific Coast tour of friends and family.

Stops along the way have included Monterey to see our friends the Chandlers, Benicia where my parents live, and the Napa Valley where we steeped ourselves in comfortable old friendships that picked up right where they left off.  It was a joyous time for the girls especially as they rekindled their relationships from home.  It was also emotional, especially when it was time to move on.

Adelaide “enjoying” the winery tour

We hiked past the slide on 101 on a play day in Big Sur
Congratulatory beers at the Big Sur Tap Room mid said hike
Big Sur River
Play time with the Suhr girls
Check out this little Facebook story on what Adelaide and her BFF got up to while in Calistoga
Cameron Birthday Celebration!

We realized that one mistake we made in the purchase of our RV, is that it has a huge hind end.  It can barely enter the Safeway parking lot without the hitch leaving a nice sized gouge on the pavement.  We will NOT be off roading…or at least, we hadn’t planned to.  But, we forget this sizable fault when we are parked, plugged in and relaxing for the evening.

We’ve had some questions on the RV.  We have named her Katie Walker, for the previous owner (JR Rodeo Champion stickers all over with her name) and the Tennessee Walker (breed of horse) on the front plate.  The RV is a 1999 Jayco “Designer” 3230K, it’s a 32.5ft Class C RV.  There is one slide to give us a bit more living area while we are parked which is a MUST.  It has the Ford V10 Triton engine.  And because I know you want to ask… we get between 7 – 10 miles to the gallon… ouch.

She has kept Cameron fairly busy fixing this and that, whether it is replacing the house battery, fixing a leaky hot water tank, or replacing the awning, new faucets, the main breaker, sealing roof tears, reinstalling the black water vent, replacing the EGR valve, fixing the sticky windshield wipers, re-securing the exhaust system or troubleshooting the fridge when it was acting up.  Needless to say, Cameron is getting her ship shape.

Cameron trouble shooting the fridge at a stop in Joshua Tree

So if cruising on boats, is “boat maintenance in exotic locations”  the RV life is not too far off.  Stay tuned in a few days for Part II of our Pacific Friend and Family Tour.


  1. JAMES "NICK" VAWTER says:

    I recall the Monterey Canning Company from my time at Ft. Ord in 1966. The entrance was a small Barber Shop with a telephone both on the back wall. You entered the both and cranked the ringer, then the back wall of the both swung aside and you entered a HUGE room, (the whole building). It had about a hundred 8′ folding tables, a huge bar and the walls had about 30 big screens that they were playing old silent movies on. It was to replicate an early 1900 speak-easy.

    I also remember a restaurant called the Wharf that was on the end of a wharf. Outstanding seafood.

    • Anne Vawter says:

      Hey Nick,
      Those are some awesome memories! Thank you for sharing that. I love how everyone has unique experiences with places.
      Hope you are well and thanks for keeping up with us.

  2. M&m VLS and fam. says:

    Fun fun fun. Adventure explore discover! Thanks for bringing us along with your great narratives. Love following you guys along the way.

  3. Toya Huijon says:

    Anita everything you writing is like we are traveling with you guys. You need to start writing novelas, Im very happy so Saw Cameron in Calistoga, I feel sorry to don’t have the opportunity to see Your Ninas and to You. Keep enjoy your trip and dreams, happy summer!!
    toya Huijon

    • Anne Vawter says:

      Hi Toya,
      I am writing a novel, it is just going to take a while:) We love you Toya and I’m so glad you got together with Cameron when we were in town. Next time we want to all see you too! Miss you and love you!

  4. Janis and Fred Blue says:

    Hello again DEAR ONES, Again, sharing your adventures is wonderful. The rock formations are beautiful. We’ve never traveled West except flying over in a plane. You could print a “private ” Vawter’s Travel Scenery ” publiciation. What is so wonderful is that you have friends and family all along the way from S America to Canada to visit. ENJOY and BE SAFE! <3 A Janis & U Fred <3

  5. Kathy Lord says:

    What an incredible adventure!! Thank you for sharing❤️ Sorry to have missed you when you were here. Next time!! Xo

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