Saturday, April 6, 2013

I love me some Android!


I figured I'd write a post on some of my favorite apps that I have found to be beneficial during our travels.  And seeing as how I'm a cheap bastard, all of these are available at the Marketplace for free.
Note - these apps are not listed in any particular order.  Although I do use some more than others, I find them all to be useful in their own ways.

  1. Gas Buddy
    This app gets used quite a bit.  In our travels, it seems that in most towns you enter, the gas is always priciest near the freeways.  Drive about a mile in and you may save yourself up to 5c per gallon.  This adds up nicely when you are filling up an RV.  Using this app can save you a few wasted miles by showing you the gas stations with the best prices in your general area.
    What I love most about this app is the map view option.  GPS will show you where you are located and zooming out from there will show you nearby gas stations as well as the latest reported price.
    Another way I like to use this is if I have about a 1/4 tank left, I'll scout ahead to upcoming cities/towns and see if gas is cheaper where I am or if I should keep driving to the next town.
  2. Local
    This is not exactly an app but rather a Google tool that came with my Galaxy pad.  I guess you could describe it as a Yellow Pages of sorts.  I've only recently started using it but it seems to help finding local businesses.  We've used it to look for grocery stores, coffee shops, and other places like that.  I'm sure we'll get a lot more use out of it in the near future.
  3. Pilot
    Ever since we took to the road I've noticed that Pilot and Flying J gas stations are located all over the place.  The gas is reasonably priced, they have a decent store, cheap coffee, clean bathrooms, paid showers, and are overnight friendly.  Vanessa and I have stayed overnight at these places more than a few times nestled up amongst the big rigs.  Its nice to wake up in the morning and hit up a clean bathroom and grab a large cup of coffee before continuing along our way.  Most of these have some sort of fast food chain attached to them as well, such as a Subway or McDonalds in case you are hungry and want a cheap, crappy meal.
  4. Oh Ranger! ParkFinder
    This is an app I wish I would have discovered before we began our journey.  First you enter a zipcode or city or have it use GPS to find your current location.  Next you choose from a list of activities such as hiking, camping, RVing, etc, or select all.  It will then give you a list of all parks in the general area that meet your criteria.  It also provides a map view which is what I prefer.  Selecting one of the parks takes you to a more detailed description along with directions, phone numbers, and a link to their website.
  5. Propane Refill Station Locator
    Not the best app but has proved useful occasionally.  Basically, as the name suggests, it lists propane refill stations that are nearby.  The problem is that this app needs some updating.  I generally prefer using UHaul to refill my tanks since they usually offer the best prices and Yelp or Local seems to do better than this app in tracking one down.
  6. RV Parky
    This one is a great find, although I haven't used it too much or doubt we ever will since we have never stayed at an actual RV park and doubt we ever will.  But I really appreciate this app and think others can get a lot of use out of it.
    I plan to keep it handy for one specific purpose.  If Vanessa and I are feeling especially grubby and need a shower and perhaps an RV dump station, I think I'll be able to find a nearby park with this up and broker some kind of day use deal with them in order to use their facilities.  In fact, there's a place not far from where we are currently located that has a hot tub that I am considering calling up for after our Zion 100 adventure.
  7. Sanidumps Lite
    I think trying to locate a decent propane station is the thing I hate worst about travelling.  A not distant second is trying to locate a free dump station, or at least one that doesn't charge an exorbitant fee.  Our tank is fairly small and I'll be damned if I'm going to pay someone $20 to have it emptied.
    This app is decent for being free but has led us astray a few times by not being properly updated with closures.
    In addition to this app, I have also found the following websites to be helpful:
  8. Swim N Hole
    When the weather warms up a bit more, I hope to get a lot of use from this app.  I found this one quite some time ago and eagerly awaited hitting the road and hitting up some of it's recommendations.  We have visited a few of its listings but the water is too cold at the moment.
    I'm not sure how often this gets updated, or even if it does, but the list of places is pretty nice.  I've also recently discovered the Swim Places app which I intend to install as a comparison to this ap.
  9. TruckSmart
    Much like Pilot and Flying J, the TA Travelcenters are quite abundant and a safe haven for travellers looking for a safe place to park for the night.  They also provide dump stations, showers, restrooms, etc, as well as wifi at a small price ($5 for 24hrs).  They have a card membership where truckers can earn shower credits for every 50 gallons of diesel purchased.  I'll have to see if they have anything for RVers since a free shower would be nice once in a while.
  10. US Hot Springs Guide
    Ever since Vanessa and I stumbled upon the Holtville Hot Springs, we've been on the lookout for other hot springs ever since.  As long as they are free that is.  This little app does a nice job at showing you where to find these hidden gems.
    Please use caution when driving to these as some of them may be off the beaten path and tricky to get to.  And ALWAYS remember to clean up after yourself.
  11. Wi-Fi Finder
    One of the things we can't break our addiction to is free WiFi.  This app is pretty useful in scanning the area around you for wifi signals.  Bonus that it has a database for offline usage.  One of the best apps of its kind out there.
  12. Yelp
    In this day and age, I really hope I don't have to give a breakdown of what Yelp is and what it can do for you.  One of the first things we do when we roll into a town is to search for "wifi" to find the free broadcasts.  It's also great for trying to locate decent food, farmers markets, trails, etc.  If it's out there, someone has more than likely yelped a review on it.
  13. YPmobile
    This app comes highly appraised from quite a few bloggers I follow and so I felt compelled to install it myself to see what the fuss is all about.  I haven't had much opportunity to use it much but I do foresee its usefulness. 
Well there you have it folks, the list of apps I keep handy during our travels.  I highly recommend you grabbing a few of these for yourself and testing them out.  If you know of any apps that are excellent for travelling around, please feel free to let me know.  Must be Android though since I don't do the I.
Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013


Flagstaff Pt 2
Being broken down at a car dealorship is not the best way to visit a city.  We had spent a long weekend broken down at the Scottsdale dealership and now we were doing the same thing in Flagstaff.  Not a good way to visit the city sights.  The only plus I see is that Flagstaff, from what I've researched, is severely RV unfriendly.  Living on the dealership parking lot prevents us from being woken up in the middle of the night by the police and being told to move along.
While at the dealership, Vanessa and I watched a pretty neat movie titled "Craigslist Joe", a story about a guy who decided to see if he could travel around the US with nothing in his pocket besides a laptop and a cellphone, subsisting only on the generosity of people he connects with via Craigslist.  This got Vanessa and I thinking that we could help out others on our journey by offering them rides if their destinations coincided with ours.  Plus, it'd be interesting to hear their stories.  We found a few people wanting campanionship on hikes and dogwalks, etc but the ad that caught our eye was from a brother and sister who were travelling the US on foot/bus and would be arriving in Flagstaff shortly and was asking for a ride to the Grand Canyon. I immediately shot them a response saying that we were heading over to the Canyon as soon as the RV was fixed and they were welcome to share a ride.  I also mentioned that it would include a hike on Mt Humphreys as well as a hike down to the bottom of the canyon.  Not too long after that I got a response that they were in and so we arranged a meetup for the following day.
We awoke Tuesday morning with a little bit of joy in our hearts.  Today was the day that our parts would arrive and hopefully we can hit the road and slowly make our way to the Grand Canyon.  Late afternoon I was handed the bill and the keys and Vanessa and I took off to the Lumberyard Brewery where we were to meet the siblings.  We ordered some drinks and waited for about 30 minutes for "the twins" to arrive.  (I don't really think they are twins but have taken to calling them this anyways).  We share a few drinks over the storeys of our lives and then head over to show off the Summit Seeker and then call it a night.  We decided to park at their hotel so that we can leech their wifi, snag some free breakfast in the morning, and get an early start to our trip.
Mt Humphreys
Our first stop with the twins was to try to summit My Humphreys, a local mountain that peaks out at 12,637' and is the tallest mountain in Arizona.  Vanessa and I had tried to summit it the last time we were here but missed it by a few hundred feet due to the gusty, freezing winds at the top.  This time we didn't make it to the top either due to all the snow on the trail.  At a little over 10,000', I noticed that Ginger's paws were looking pretty red and decided I'd turn around with her.  Charlotte decided to join me while Eddie and Vanessa wanted to go further up.  When Charlotte and I got back down, we got into dry clothes and then hit up the bar to wait for the others.  It turns out they only made it another 500' or so due to the amount of snow on the trail.  After a couple of beers we decided to move on to our nexst destination.
Sunset Crater Volcano
Around 900 years ago, a volcano erupted right outside of where Flagstaff currently resides.  Since it is a National Park and we now have a pass, we decided we'd stop by for a quick look since it was along our route.  The lava trail is a .5 mile climb and barefoot friendly too I might add.  Reaching the top led to spectacular views.  The only letdown is that visitors aren't allowed to go to the crater itself.  
Grand Canyon
Driving to the canyon via the East entrance is a great experience and one that I recommend to anyone visiting the area.  The roads are fairly empty and the views are magnificent.  We made it to the park right after the sun set and tried our hardest to figure out how to get to the S. Kaibab trailhead since we knew of the campground right outside there.  The maps and road signs for the park really suck and offer little help.  And my Garmin Nuvi doesn't offer much assistance either  But we eventually found it and got a nice parking spot to call home for the next couple of days.  The twins decided they'd like to sleep outside and so we loaned them our tent and helped get it set up.  I was a little jealous, wanting to sleep outside myself, but I am not a fan of being cold and stayed indoors where I could snuggle up against Vanessa and Ginger if extra warmth was needed.  The night sky and the brilliance of the stars here are simply stunning.
The next morning, we put everything away, locked the doors, said goodbye to Ginger, and hiked over to the trail.  We gave ourselves a 6-8 window to get back to the vehicle, figuring any more time than that and then Ginger's bladder may explode.
The Grand Canyon never ceases to amaze me.  It's just one of those things where pictures don't do it justice and you have to see it in person in order to truly appreciate it.  At the Snow Bowl bar on Mt Humphreys, the bartender told us that the average time spent at the canyon is 7 minutes.  People drive up, take a snapshot or two with the kids, and then head back home.  Can you imagine?  Given my wish, I would like to stay here for at least a month if not more.
Charlotte and Eddie aren't runners or hikers by any means, and Eddie smokes a lot as well, but they have been travelling a lot by foot and I was hoping they'd be able to make it down to Phantom Ranch and back in the allocated time.  At the S Kaibab trailhead, we said goodbye to the twins, wished them luck, and took off down the trail, stopping every once in a while to snap a photo or two.  The weather was perfect, the sun was newly risen, and we were having a grand time.  There wasn't that many people, unlike the last time we ran this.  We'd encounter an occassional hiker making the trek out with their huge backpacks, returning from what I assume was a lovely weekend camping adventure at the bottom of the canyon.  We'd nod one to another and continue on, delving ever deeper into the canyon.  We arrived at the Ranch and went in to cool down.  Beer and lemonade was in order and we relished the cold.  I grabbed another beer to take with me in case we encountered the twins, figuring they'd enjoy a cold one. Leaving the Ranch, I noticed that it had now been two hours since leaving the campsite.  Well on target since we had assumed 2hrs down and 4hrs up.

Incredible views all the way down!

Cooling down

The trek up is a serious haul.  It's tough, it's hot, and it kills your calves.  But we were still surprised everytime we'd look down and see how far we'd climbed back up.  About 2 miles up we encountered the twins talking to another hiker.  They were a little low on water and curious if they should continue or head back out.  After seeing us, they decided to head back up with us.  I offered them the beer which they declined, reasoning that it would dehydrate them and cause them to run out of water before making it to the top.  We continued on with the climb up, lagging slightly behind the twins and admiring their perseverance   We'd catch up to them when they would stop for some shade and immediately hop back up to continue on, leaving the shade for me and Vanessa to enjoy for a few brief moments.  This went on and on until we arrived at the Oh Ah Point.  The trail started getting really crowded with the "family hikers".  Everyone was in great spirits, no one carried water with them.  Why not, this was just a 2 mile hike for them with a picnic thrown in.  The four of us must of looked pretty ragged in comparison.  I offered Eddie a few sips from my spare bottle which he finally accepted after a lot of convincing.  He had been hiking hard and was dry, and I still had plenty in my main bottle.  Not much later we all arrived at the top, did a few high fives, and made it back to the campsite where Ginger was elated to see us again.  
The next morning, we packed up, drove over to the local coffee shop, and then headed back to Flagstaff.  We had heard about the Black IPA made by Mother Road brewery and went there to have a round and say our goodbyes.  The beer didn't disappoint.  Saying goodbye to Eddie and Charlotte however was sad.  But our two groups have our own journeys to continue and they happened to be in opposite directions.  Vanessa and I needed to head back North to Zion and the twins needed to go South to Phoenix.  Thus our entwined journey came to a close.

Hurricane, UT
That night, we parked at a Home Depot in order to watch some television and were interrupted by a security guard informing us that we could not spend the night there and would have to move along.  City ordinance.  Vanessa wanted to go back to the dealership but I had had enough of that place and chose to head over to one of the Walmarts instead, one that we had stayed at the previous year.  They have signs posted all over stating no overnighting but there are always RVs and campers there parked in the very far corner of the lot.  
The next morning we made the drive up to Hurricane, taking the 89 towards Page.  There was a road closure leading into Page due to a recent rockslide, but we were heading West on the 89A right at the closure.  The trip was a little boring, being very desolate with just minor little towns along the way, if you could even call them towns.  We rolled into Hurricane (pronounced (her-kin) just as the sun was setting and called it a night at the local Walmart since I needed to do a little bit of shopping anyways.
The next morning we found a nice little park to throw the ball with Ginger.  We were approached by a young boy who threw the ball for Ginger for about 30 minutes, all the while telling us about his life growing up in this lovely town.  Afterwards, we walked around town for a bit and then parked at a local fast food joint blasting free wifi and called it a night.  The next morning we headed to Springdale which is right outside Zion National Park.  Springdale is a pretty awesome town.  There are a few boondocking sights, a nice dog park with trails and river access for Ginger, a couple of great restaraunts, and trails galore to hike on.  All within view of the wonders of Zion.  And the best thing is that we get to stay here for over 3 weeks!