You haven’t experienced real love until you and your significant other stand together, watching your shit pour onto the ground at your feet.

No, this is not a metaphor.

Ruined  That’s how my latest Scampabout began, in my driveway. And before you RV pros chastise me for not cleaning out the black water tank last fall, I did! I swear! But apparently my clean up left some, uh, residuals, which were released when we flushed (groan) the winter’s anti-freeze.

So we gaped at the torrent, like slowing down for a car wreck on the highway. Then, as a testament to my boyfriend’s awesomeness, he laughed. Then I laughed.

Then, we ran like hell to escape the stench. Because despite what the romantics say, love does not, in fact, conquer all.

We – BF, Sam the Wonder Pup, and I – left the day before my birthday for Durango, CO. We found a sweet campsite in the San Juan National Forest called Snowslide for $15/night by a river. No services other than an outhouse, but clean and quiet with pine trees and aspen, butterflies and hummingbirds. (Durango’s Visitor Center has non-potable water for the fresh water tank and an RV dump.)

The bonus was the camp host, an old guy who scooted up to us on a golf cart after we arrived and announced, “I’m the envelope.” Apparently we weren’t the first campers who had searched in vain for the mailbox where you put the camp fees.

You probably know I’m obsessed with seeing all the national parks, and this time I knocked off three, bringing my total to 63. Out of almost 400, I know. Baby steps, people!

Mesa Verde National Park, CO

Mesa Verde is a big park, and we kicked it off with a hike up the Point Lookout Trail. The sign estimated it would take two hours round-trip, but it took us less than an hour with a photo-op break. Maybe that running we did down my driveway got us into shape.

We drove the Mesa Top and Cliff Palace Loops and saw ruins, ruins, ruins. We’re talking a lot of ruins, which are surprisingly interesting. (Or maybe I’m just nerdier than I thought.) The cool thing is that the loop guides you through the ruins in chronological order, so you can see how the architecture and society changed over time.

The Anasazi lived for 600 years in villages on the mesa, then moved south and lived only 100 years in cliff dwellings. Then, poof – they up and left.

I’d always heard it was a big mystery why they left, but the park ranger said it’s no mystery at all, that we know they simply moved onto pueblos. But why so suddenly?

There’s no evidence of warfare, though the architecture got increasingly defensive with towers, tunnel entrances, and tiny windows for lookouts. The last structure, the Sun Temple, was built in the late 1200s, and has no doors, kivas, roof, or evidence of habitation. After all the work of building it, they abandoned it. Theory is it was a last ditch effort to appeal to the gods, but no one’s sure.


Anasazi Barbie Cliff Dwellings


One of the village dwellings.


A kiva in the cliff dwellings. Not for the claustrophobic.


See? Not Barbie-sized after all.

Sadie Clearly Hadn’t Heard You’re Supposed to be Nice to People on Their Birthday

We left Mesa Verde and headed back to camp for a shower, since this Scamper likes to be clean for her birthday dinner. I’m fancy like that.

Sadie had other plans: no water. The pump seemed to be working, and the tank’s water level was almost full.

We bought a multi-meter at Wal-Mart and BF checked fuses, connections, everything, which were fine. It was driving him crazy – he’s a plumber by trade – but it was my birthday and there was celebrating to do, so we let it go. I bathed with a strategic use of sanitary wipes that, despite the packaging claims, did not make a girl feel “shower fresh.” Sigh.

We had a delicious, but petite (I could have eaten twice the salmon I got), dinner at the Cypress Café in Durango. Finished with a slice of ginger cake festooned with chocolate, whipped cream, and one pink-striped candle per BF’s request. Yum.

Downtown was hopping on a Friday night, and it was warm so everyone was out strolling and smiling. Abundance was everywhere. We crossed the street to Steamworks Brewing, a big, loud place with great beer and had a nightcap. (Okay, two. It was my birthday.)

Mystery Solved

The next morning the pump worked but still, no water. I told BF the faucet sounded like it was trying to go – I swear I’d heard it whisper “I think I can, I think I can” – and BF had an idea.

He took off the aerator, which happened to be blocked with a plug of sediment. (I’d never used the fresh water tank, so there was probably gunk in there that got flushed – aagh! – through.) BF plucked it out and voila! Running water. He did the same thing for the shower, and we were set.

We were drinking coffee and reading outside when it started to rain. BF jumped into action and unhooked Sadie’s awning – another first – but since setting it up wasn’t as obvious as it could have been (as in, not obvious at all), I stood inside Sadie and read from the instruction manual while BF wrestled the awning into place. It snapped back and almost took his head with it, but he was undeterred (and, happily, uninjured), and soon we were sitting with coffee and books under the awning while the rain pattered above.


What awning success looks like.

A Scampabout Tradition

For me, no Scampabout is complete without an Egg McMuffin.

I’m not kidding. It’s a must.

There was a McDonald’s in Cortez on the way to the next two national parks, and we were racing the clock because breakfast is over at 10:30 a.m. – and McDonald’s does not budge on that deadline.

So we broke all the speed limits and skidded into the lobby at 10:27 a.m. to place our order. They were out of English muffins so I ended up with an Egg McBiscuit, hash browns, and coffee, which was close enough to keep the tradition intact.

Have you ever witnessed a menu change at McDonald’s? It’s military in precision. At exactly 10:30 a.m. a woman in the kitchen shouted, “We’re on lunch!” and it was as if MacArthur himself was storming Normandy. Placards flipped, spatulas flashed, and hash browns disappeared as Big Macs took over. It was a wondrous sight.

Yucca House National Monument

It wasn’t obvious on the map how to get to our next stop, which was Yucca House, so after McDonald’s we swung by Cortez’s visitor center and got help from another sweet old guy behind the desk. (Apparently Southwestern Colorado is full of adorable seniors.)

He wasn’t sure about Yucca House either – “I’ve only been working here five days!” – so he called his colleague over, a spry 60-something. I told her where we wanted to go and she gave me a puzzled look, then produced a black-and-white copied photo of Yucca House, which basically looked like a dirty ol’ pile of bricks.

She said, “This is what it looks like,” as in, “What the hell is wrong with you.” I explained my mission to see all the national parks, which lit her up, then out came a typed sheet of directions, down to the tenth of a mile. (Yucca House is on private land and you have to navigate someone’s dirt road.) We were off.


Okay, the lady was right. But I checked it off the list, dammit!

Hovenweep National Monument

Last stop was Hovenweep, just over the border in Utah, which was way more impressive than I expected. (The more national parks I visit, the more I realize this is usually true.)

(I also realized I have a strange love of ruins. I’m seeking therapy.)

On June 2 it was already pretty hot, but after a quick scramble down to the trail, it was an easy walk around the rim. Bonus: Sam the Wonder Pup got to join us. Though he doesn’t seem to love ruins quite as much as I do, since he kept trying to sit in the shade and gave me looks that implied he’d be choosing something different for his birthday celebration.


Ruins, ruins, ruins!




Where I plan to live if all hell breaks loose.

We took the long way home and checked out the Sand Canyon Pueblo in the Canyon of the Ancients because, surprise! There were more ruins, and god knows I hadn’t seen enough already.

Then we spent our last night in camp with snacks, champagne, and a fire. Pretty civilized stuff considering how the Scampabout started.

Do you have a road-trip tradition? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

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  1. Susan Embry March 3, 2015 at 7:48 pm #

    I love ruins too! I am so there with your telling of this story. The ruins remind me of Chaco and some sites around Bloomfield. Mesa Verde is on my bucket list. With your post, it moved way up the line. Thanks for sharing this wonderful experience.

    • deonne March 4, 2015 at 7:54 am #

      Susan – So glad you’ve bumped up Mesa Verde, it’s a wonder. I haven’t been to Chaco – tried to go last year but I can’t bring Sam – but I’m going, probably this spring. That and Tent Rocks, the other park where Sam isn’t allowed. Can’t wait to see them.

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