After flying to San Francisco, renting a Westy and attending Syncrofest last year I knew we needed to plan to make the drive there with Libby. Lesa and I schedule 2 1/2 weeks off of work so we could make the long round trip which ended up being about 4,900 miles total. This trip took place from April 23 – May 10, 2015.
Las Cruces NM.
Lesa went with me last year to Syncrofest and was excited that we were taking Libby this year. It was funny last year she kept asking were all of the USB plugs were in our rental Vanagon Westy so she could charge her phone and I had to explain there weren’t any. Goes to show how good she has it in Libby having charging sockets spread out all over the place. Hehe.
Like most trips, I think I came home with more photos of my van Libby than I did of sights along the way. We had 7 days planned to drive the 2,300 miles to Hollister CA which is where Syncrofest is held, then about 6 days after the event to drive 1,000 miles to Moab in order to attend Syncro Solstice the following weekend. Yea… oh and don’t forget the 1,300 miles from Moab back to Houston. Yikes.
Here’s a photo from along I-10 just west of Las Cruces NM. We ended up spinning a wheel bearing in Deming NM which is about 100 miles west of Las Cruces NM. AAA towed us back to Las Cruces where we got the wheel bearing replaced and the spindle was kinda in bad shape so I knew it still needed to be addressed. We drove about 400 miles to Phoenix where a friend of ours, a fellow Vanagon owner, Anna (IG @krakow311) already got us an appointment with her mechanic and he was expecting us with a new driver’s side spindle waiting. Yay!
We spent 2 days in Phoenix getting Libby’s new spindle installed and then we were headed west to California. We opted to stay in Joshua Tree National Park.
Joshua Tree National Park was on our “Must Visit” list and I’m glad we made time for it.
Getting to camp in daylight hours is my goal every time. This way we could setup, relax and get to enjoy the park a bit before nightfall. Many vanners prefer to drive as long as they can and get to camp sites in the dark making sure they put in as many miles per day as they can. Even with our break down in Las Cruces we still had plenty of time to enjoy the drive and the trip to Syncrofest.
A night time long exposure photo before heading off to bed. The moon was full and it was so bright without a cloud in the sky.
Lesa’s favorite band is U2 and just a short drive north out of the park is the Harmony Motel in Twentynine Palms CA. This motel is one of the places where the band stayed while they were driving around shooting photos for the Joshua Tree album artwork. The main motel sign also made the cut and is in the album artwork as well.
Fast forward several days after Syncrofest. This post is chronicling the road trip to Syncrofest and Syncro Solstice. I’ll create posts for those two events separately this they are big enough to stand on their own. You can find the Syncrofest post HERE and the Syncro Solstice post HERE.
We travelled north from Hollister into Yosemite National Park. Yosemite Valley was fully booked for camping but I recalled hearing about another campground just outside the park that usually has spots open. Diamond O Campground which is just north of the Big Oak Flat entrance station on HWY 120 had plenty of spots. It was a Sunday when we stayed here and it was pretty empty, we got a prime spot backed up to a river so we could hear the water all night long which was very relaxing.
The campground was beautiful. No full showers/bathrooms like we were used to but it served the purpose. It gave us a nice place to stay for the night.
Next day we got to venture into Yosemite Valley and look around.
We stopped for lunch at The Ahwahnee Hotel for lunch and before we were done it seemed a storm was a brewing. Figured since we’ve spent over a week in the van already that we’d splurge for a night’s stay here. It is not cheap by any means but it was nice to have a good shower and nice bed to lay our heads on while the storm passed.
The Ahwahnee Hotel driveway.
The view from our hotel room.
The hotel was very nice. I was impressed with it and I think after dinner we spent the evening watching TV since we hadn’t had a TV fix in over a week. lol
Tioga Pass had just opened a day or two before so it was just in time for us to cross The Sierras on our way to Moab UT.
We met up with Dai, Heidi and family (IG @syncrostyle & @byjhs) from Colorado in their Tristar Syncro. They were also heading to Syncro Solstice from Syncrofest so we figured we’d caravan it there together. Don’t let this photo fool you. They had the VW 1.8t engine powering their Syncro so I was playing catch up most of the time with my GoWesty 24500cc. Hehee.
We stayed at The Inn at Benton Hot Springs in Benton CA for the night. They had some cool camp sites which had their own hot spring fed hot tubs.
Ok this place struck me by surprise. I’ve seen this image floating around on the internet for awhile and as we drove through Tonopah NV I caught a glimpse of the sign and had to stop! It was the exact place I had seen online. The Clown Motel which every room was decorated in a creepy clown motif.
Oh and if that wasn’t creepy enough there’s an old mining graveyard right next to the property. Seems legit. Ha!
Rolling through Nevada was a bit sketchy since there was a stretch of highway that was 110 miles long without a single store, town or gas station. Luckily I had 10 gallons worth of fuel in my Jerry Cans which came in handy since I had to dump 5 gallons into the tank in order to get to the next town. Not only were there no towns but there was no cell service either with a big storm blowing in. Yikes!
We’ve had really good luck finding places to stay on this trip. The next place we’d call home for the night is Cathedral Gorge State Park in Panaca NV. This was definitely one of the nicest, well groomed state parks we’ve ever stayed in. I am, very impressed with this place and haven’t been in a nicer state park since.
This campground had a full service bath house and ample are per camp site.
The park even have a small theater area for presentations or kids movies etc. Pretty neat.
Finally got into Utah and we were on our way to Moab to meet up with more Vanagon peeps!
The roadside scenery in Utah was simply amazing. I really wish I had more time to explore this state.
Fast forward a few days to our trek home to Houston. Here are some photos from Dead Horse Point on HWY 313.
Finally made it back to Texas. Amarillo to be specific which is still 600 miles north of Houston. Ouch. I couldn’t be this close to The Big Texan Steak Ranch and not stop to try it. I had heard many things about this steak house and I totally went into it thinking it was just a fad or gimmick. Boy was I wrong! I had the best steak ever here. It totally blew me away. I need to go back!
A parting shot with our achievements written on the storage box. Up to this point… still 600 miles and 12 hours from home we were at:
107 Hours Driven
TX > NM > AZ > CA > NV > UT > CO > NM > TX