My ninja suit vs. angry bees in the Valley of Fire

It was the tail end of a 26-day camping trip that took us from Texas, to New Mexico, Arizona, California, Nevada and Home again. It was at the peak of the 2017 Phoenix heat wave — 117 degrees outside — and we were journeying toward a place known as the Valley of Fire.

I opened the car door at a gas pump 15 miles from camp. The wind blew the door wide open — as if it might rip it from its hinges. I stepped out into what felt like a giant hair dryer. I might have looked like Beaker from the Muppets if not for my shaved head.

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Hug Like It’s Your Last

Most people don’t know this about me, but I’m a hugger. If we become friends, the first couple of times I give a courtesy warning, “I’m a hugger, so are you ok if I hug you?”

I’m not talking about those side hugs, or what in my youth was called a church hug where you just kind of acknowledge, “Yeah, we’re sorta friends.”

I’m talking about those “Hi grandma, I haven’t seen you in 3 years” kind of hugs. I’m talking about those “Hey kid, you did a great job in the spelling bee, even if you didn’t win” kind of hugs. I’m talking about those “You mean something to me” kind of hugs.

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At the fire, we looked up and stared a bear in the eyes.

“Thirteen bears.”

That’s how many the ranger said were frequenting the area where we camped in Glacier National Park.

“Mostly moms with cubs. So far, not aggressive. But, comfortable, which isn’t good.”

Those last words were from the park ranger I affectionately call Janice – because I don’t remember her real name.

So, we did everything by the book. Food stuffs, including our camp stove, went in the bear box. No scraps behind, not even bacon grease or food scraps on the fire. Nobody wants to wake up to a hungry bear tearing a hole in the canvas or you.

Still, the kids wanted to see a bear.

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Here is how I unintentionally creeped out a small family.

In 2017, we were north of San Francisco, where we had just seen an old farmhouse that was used in WWII to watch the coast for enemy ships. The gem of history was amazing.

Then, we decided to continue further up to an overlook that supposedly had amazing views of the ocean. So, we meandered up the curved highway.

As we drove, my mind wandered. I felt my leg itch, so I reached down and scratched the scrapes I’d gained so far on the trip. As we neared the area of the overlook, we entered a heavily treed area — normally a source of comfort. But, at the start of the woods, there was a disassembled van. The engine was removed and tilted against the car like a lazy thief decided it was too much work. It had clearly been there for some time. Clearly cleanup crews didn’t often this way come.

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Why is our travel name “MacBeTrippin”?

When I was 17, I got my first job at a movie theater. That job came with an amazing uniform — a fluorescent vinyl hat, apron and bowtie. I won’t ever forget that gig.

Over time, I worked my way up to Assistant Manager Trainee, and ultimately passed the exam to become an Assistant Manager. My boss for a season, Delibra Wesley — a woman with a gentle smile — affectionately called me Mac.

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My first camp hack was a redneck air conditioner that went horribly wrong…

It was our first camping trip. We had planned for weeks, and we were getting ready to take Addie and Emmie on a quick trip down to the state park in Glenn Rose, TX.

LaShera had borrowed a family tent from a friend. The temperatures were warm. And we didn’t relish being in a tent during a Texas summer without some sort of insurance against the heat.

So, I decided to tackle my first, cheap, DIY camping project — a redneck air conditioner for $25.

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Video: Maiden Voyage of our New (Used) Pop-up Camper

It is always exciting to take a new pop-up camper into the wild. We upgraded our pop-up back at the beginning of January. After a few modifications and fixes here and there, we took a long President’s Day weekend to get use to the new digs.

Watch this special video for a look at the inside of our camper and a taste of how we kick it. In particular, watch to learn how Libbie’s first experience with Kayaking went. (Hint: not well.)

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Oh how embarrassing! The most awkward moment of our California trip…

There are few pleasures in this world that rival espresso. Campfire coffee from the percolator is fine most mornings. And our little hand grinder does a fantastic job. But, sometimes I find myself craving a good, stout, fruity espresso.

Quite often, our 3-4-week camp itinerary includes local espresso joints. I meticulously scout the ones with top reviews and the best hipster vibes. Only 1 in 3 cups matches my expectations. But, I enjoy the hunt.

In 2017, we were on a 4-week journey through California. As we entered Fresno, I had that familiar craving. We stopped off to get groceries, and I wanted some caffeine.

I pulled out my phone and did a simple search. There were two choices near us. One of them was better reviewed than the other, and it was a drive-up espresso joint. Since we were towing the pop-up behind us, the drive-up seemed a better option than parking in a cramped lot.

So, off we headed to Bottoms Up Coffee.

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