Insights From the Road: Taking Kiwi to Palm Springs

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Editor’s Note: In her last columns, Shelly Zavala wrote about her adventures purchasing a Dodge Ram Promaster 3500 Roadtrek Zion, and getting ready for her hiking and camping outings. This column, she heads to Palm Springs for her first outing in the vehicle she has nicknamed “Kiwi.”

First night in Kiwi. It was fun chilling and hanging out in the van. However,r sleep was not an easy feat. The seats/bed was uncomfortably hard and the sleeping bag was slippery. It went from being too hot to too cold. I woke up around 5 a.m. Trying not to wake Daph, my 14-year-old dog, I just lay there as the sun slowly slipped through the cracks in the van blinds.

At 5:50 a.m. I dropped my phone and that was it. Daph was wide awake and ready to get up. I am excited to get out early before the heat and the crowds.

After a 25 mile drive I get to the trailhead. It was straight up for the South Lykken Trail, 1,000 feet, but so beautiful. The chunky bright red cactus that stood out along the trail with stark black rocks sprinkled over the hills. The trail often dropping off on one side, and the view looking over the valley of Palm Springs. The sky stark blue with the sun rising further up in the sky. The heat also rising.

Thinking of Daph in Kiwi, hoping she is okay, although I parked in the shade with the window vents in and the fantastic fan.

I get to the end of the hike and rather than turn around and go back the way I came, I walk the street back. I would prefer to hike back, but my concern for Daph was calling me to do what is easier.

Deciding to go shopping for an air mattress to be more comfortable at night, I head to Walmart and Big Five. I settle for a foam topper and two new pillows. After all that hiking and shopping I’m now hungry, so I decide to go to Tommy Bahama’s for lunch.

Shelly Zavala hike

Enjoying the spring weather, I sit outside and inhale my Mahi Mahi tacos. Daph is totally worn out and as I sit here she hardly moves. Poor girl, she has been taken from the comfort of her home and is made to be my travel buddy. I’m sure if she could speak, she would be rolling her eyes and saying “I’m 14 years old and you are making me go camping with you!”

One thing I have to say, staying at a campground with showers and a pool is what I call foo foo camping, meaning it is not really camping to me. I think of camping where you are away from all civilization. I laugh as I write this, as Kiwi is not really like camping either. I have all the niceties of home. Oh, let me not for about the ice cream pies they served up at the pool for a $1.00. Chocolate chips, graham crackers, whipped cream with caramel and chocolate sauce. I let Daph lick the bowl. As I was saying, not the campgrounds I am used to.

On the way back to Kiwi I see a van that really is a beast. It is like Kiwi on steroids. So I poked my head in and the owners showed me around. The tires were nearly as tall as I am. The couple are from Bend, Oregon, and own a company that makes chipotle sauce so they gave me a bottle. I then enjoy a quesadilla for dinner with their sauce and of course, s’mores for dessert. The sauce nearly burned a hole in my mouth but still good.  Fun day. Now I’m relaxing in my bed, I’m so much more comfortable.

Shelly Zavala hike

I slept better with the mattress pad, but woke up at 4 a.m. Patting Daph and snuggling with her, I finally got up around 5:30 a.m. It is starting to get light now which I enjoy. I love the morning. It’s my favorite time of day. The air so still, so quiet.

It is amazing how messy it can get when living in a small van. Not quite like what you see on social media. I’m learning a lot, like only take a bicycle if you know you will use it. Everything needs a home. I am finding my bed is ending up as a catch all and then when I want to go to bed this evening I have to do something with all this stuff.

One of the hardest things I’m finding is changing clothes. Still need to work that one out.  Right now, I just make sure no one is passing by and quickly remove clothing and replace it hoping that no one just happens to peak in. I have to say, that’s a little stressful. I think putting a curtain up by the front seats might help. Put that on my to do list.

I think I have the electrical system down, although you almost need to have a degree in electrical vanning. Seriously, there are switches and buttons everywhere that just have to be turned on or off in perfect unison.

I really love cooking in Kiwi and being able to take the van everywhere and I have everything I need with me.

After a short breakfast I head off for another hike.

I pick a hike up Murray Peak in Palm Springs. It was a tough one, lots of gain. Amazing views of the snow on San Jacinto and of Palm Springs below. Just over seven miles and 2,300 feet of gain. Met some interesting people on the trail. Nothing better than returning knowing I can open my fridge and take out a nice cold bottle of water.

I drive Kiwi home. I’m getting used to her. She is actually fun to drive but you have to be aware of your length. Scary in the beginning, feeling like I am taking up too much space.  I stopped at Hadley’s on the way home for a yummy date shake with some chocolate in it. Daph was very happy to be home, but I’m ready for my next adventure. I’m tired, but a good tired. Ready for Anza Borrego. I’m going to enjoy these trips. I’ll let you know how that goes.

HIKES: South Lykken Trail, Santa Rosa Mts, CA, 7.3 miles, 2,257 ft of gain / Murray Peak, Palm Springs, CA, 6.8 miles, 1,853 ft of gain

CAMPGROUND:  Palm Springs/Joshua Tree KOA, Desert Hot Springs, CA.

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