Our Overlanding Kitchen

GoGoTacoNegro

We often get asked about our setup and how we cook on the road. Since Michael is a chef by trade, and I have been known to enjoy a good meal, there was no way we were going to live on energy bars or gas station food while traveling.

I’ll put up a post soon that shows our storage platform in more detail, as well as all of the things we keep back there. For now I’ll just focus on our kitchen.

Our setup has not changed much in our almost 14 months on the road…

GoGoTacoNegro

This is an under-the-bed storage bin. We chose it because it fits the dimensions of the storage platform we built for the back of the truck. The lid of our bin is hinged, so we end up with what we call the front half and the back half.

GoGoTacoNegroThe front half contains the things we tend to use on a daily basis, like the silverware packet, our pots and pans, plates and bowls, chef knife, and the coffee. Our other kitchen items – the cast iron dutch oven and the Camp Maid stuff – live in a compartment in the storage platform.

I can’t remember why we keep the coffee in the kitchen and not in the pantry with the rest of the dry goods. I do know it’s a lot simpler for me, the maker of coffee every morning.

GoGoTacoNegro

The back half contains the lesser-used items like tea, extra salt, the cutting board, aluminum foil, and towels. The tea saw a lot more use back before summer – and the heat wave we found ourselves in along the west coast.

 

GoGoTacoNegroThe silverware packet contains a few other items, like our only measuring cup (for oatmeal) as well as our spiralizer and that container of Nuun, which is an electrolyte drink tab that I put in a big cup of water first thing in the morning. I tend to wake up thirsty but plain water first thing can taste a little gross (I can’t be the only one who has this problem, right?). I picked the strawberry lemonade flavor because it’s pretty light and I don’t tend to burp it up later.

On to the things we cook with.

GoGoTacoNegro

 

 

Our 10″ chef knife (with cover) and steel.

 

 

 

GoGoTacoNegro

 

And our pot/pans.

 

 

 

Yep, that’s all of it. One pot, one cast iron skillet, and one non-stick skillet. (Along with the not-pictured and less-frequently used Dutch oven.) Because space is at a premium in the kitchen, these items nest together along with our two plates and two bowls. The coffee filters live underneath the GSI collapsible drip cones.

GoGoTacoNegro

With just these tools Michael has created some truly amazing meals.

When we pack up, the kitchen goes in first – meaning it’s all the way in the back. Vera, the world’s most irritable stove, goes in next, and then the container of dog food. I’m sure Bailey appreciates that his food always comes out first.

GoGoTacoNegro

Our table (shown above) goes on top of all those things – we flip it over and the leg, held in place with a piano hinge, folds up.

It’s a pretty good system, and we’ve had plenty of time to get it dialed in. I have generally found that organization is key – even more so when you live in a tiny space.

 

A last little getaway

After Michael gave his notice at work, we took the opportunity for a little getaway and headed up to the high country with the dogs and the bikes.

GoGoTacoNegro

I apologize for these pictures – they are definitely not up to my standards. But with the house sale going on (inspections and appraisals and such), I didn’t make my standard list of things to bring. As a result, I forgot a couple of things. Like my good camera. So these pics are all from my phone. Good enough for Instagram, but…

Anyway. After looking over all the weather reports we decided to head up to Winter Park/Fraser. I saw a 40% chance of rain each day. Well, that’s a 60% chance of no rain! Besides, the forecasted high temps for Curt Gowdy State Park were in the 90s. No thanks.

I should have remembered how weather works in the high country. A 40% chance of rain actually means a 100% chance of rain at some point in the day. And so it was. Each day it rained in the afternoon, anywhere from a couple hours to about 6 hours, before clearing off.

Michael got creative and set up the Noah’s Tarp. I bought this thing at an REI garage sale years ago. But every time I’d try and use it, I’d find such a tangled mess of guylines that I would immediately give up and shove the whole thing back in the bag.

Michael sat down with it during this trip. And I’m really glad he did! This tarp is 12×12 and completely awesome.

GoGoTacoNegro

Next time we might try to cover more of the topper, but as Michael set it up we had this fabulous space to hang out, read, and watch it rain.GoGoTacoNegro

 

The blanket Michael has is called the Puffin Blanket. This beauty has synthetic insulation and a DWR finish (so it’s water-repellent). Plus, it’s got buttons so you can make a little pocket for your feet! Michael also used this blanket in place of a sleeping bag, and said he kept toasty warm in 40 degree temps.

 

 

Now, it wasn’t rainy the whole time… each morning started out sunny and warm! We rode on Wednesday morning and ran on Thursday morning. The rain came in the afternoon. Proof:

GoGoTacoNegro

 

Michael set up the hammock for some quality rest time. Bailey the Snuggle King just didn’t want to be left out… in fact, I’m kind of surprised Bailey didn’t try to jump in there with him.

 

 

Elvis did his own thing for down time. He kept up really well with Bailey, despite his senior status. But when everyone was sitting around, he’d pick a spot in the grass and curl up for his nap.GoGoTacoNegro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are other pictures – ones with me in them, too! But they are on Michael’s phone. And he’s at work. I asked him to send them but… he tends to actually be busy at his job.

So those pics will just have to wait for another post. Stay tuned!

The Big Announcement

This one’s a doozie, I’d say. It’s been in the works since last October, and everything is falling into place. It’s time to let everyone in on the secret:

Michael and I are going to run off and be adventurers for a year. In Taco Negro. We’re bringing the dogs, our bikes, and our running shoes. And not much else. Think of Taco Negro as the Tiny Tiny House On Wheels.

Taco Negro Cascadia RTT

The Moab trip back in March was actually done to test out all of our new gear – the RTT, the insanely expensive cooler, the solar lights – and I’m really glad we did it. I’m sure there will be more kinks to iron out, but I really do think we got the major ones out of the way.

We’re selling the house and most of our possessions – so if you want any of our crap, let me know. What we don’t sell/want to keep will go into a storage unit.

I have no idea where we will end up. I think we’ll just figure it out along the way.

Some details:

The house is already under contract and barring any problems (those do sometimes happen in real estate), we close on July 27th.

Keep in mind that RockyGrass starts on July 28th, and we wouldn’t dream of skipping that. We’ll board the dogs and camp out at Planet Bluegrass.

Monday morning, August 1st, we’ll pick up the dogs and head out towards the Aspen area. Why? I have my very last gig with Steel Pennies at Aspen Bluegrass Sundays on August 7th. (So if you’re looking for some high country fun, come out and see us!)

After that – Monday, August 8th – is when we will head out of the state. Michael said he’s never been to Devil’s Tower in Wyoming, so that will be our first stop. After that, we’ll track west into Yellowstone National Park.

And after that…. well, that’s what maps are for. We’ll figure it out along the way.

I plan on posting twice a week so friends and family can follow along on our adventures, so stay tuned!

Finally, some mountain biking!

The sun continued to shine on us here in the desert, so we packed up camp and headed for the KlonZo trailhead. Located just east of the Sovereign Trail, this network of trails was created in 2012 and is just for mountain bikers.

Michael has ridden KlonZo before but this was a new trail for me. There’s a pretty good map at the BLM website. Super fun! And considering as how it was my first mountain bike ride of 2016, I was super proud of myself.

Michael went back out for Round 2 (there are north and south loops at KlonZo), and I hung out with the dogs at the trailhead. That’s about the time when I realized that I’d left Elvis’s medication at home. Dammit. It’s arthritis medication, so it’s not life threatening, but still. He needs it. Especially since he was about to be super-active for the next 8 days.

GoGoTacoNegro
He doesn’t spend all his time asleep, you know.

So when we headed into Moab, while looking over the cool stuff at Poison Spider Bicycles, I looked up all the veterinarians in Moab. There are exactly two. One said they couldn’t prescribe medication without actually seeing the animal. But the other was game, so Michael called up our vet and had them fax over Elvis’s prescription.

 

One more adventure with dogs. Luckily this one did not involve poop.

Eventually we started our drive south towards towards the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park. I haven’t been in this area since 1999. In fact, I thought I’d never get back.

Our plan was to head down a BLM road that was on my map, and find a place to camp. We found the road with no problem. The first site we passed looked cool, but didn’t have a fire ring, so we kept going. As we passed this little two-track Michael said, “I bet there’s something cool down there,” and pulled in.

We drove down this little road for about a 1/2 mile. At some point (maybe about 100 feet?) we crossed private property, before getting back on to BLM land. And then – there was something cool down there, all right:

 

GoGoTacoNero

An established fire ring, a bundle of firewood, and this view across the valley:

GoGoTacoNegro

I mean, damn. Never in a million years did I think we’d score such a beautiful campsite, completely free. Thank you BLM!

In the morning I took even more pictures:

GoGoTacoNegro

GoGoTacoNegro
We even had our own hoodoo!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GoGoTacoNegro

And we had it all to ourselves.

I was sad to pack up and leave, but it was time to go to Canyonlands!

Here’s my view on the RTT so far: it’s awesome, but not perfect. I love how roomy it is, how comfortable it is, and we can have it set up in 10 minutes. Breakdown takes a little longer right now. (I’m sure we’ll get faster.) But here’s the thing: once the tent is set up, we’re can’t move the truck… without breaking down the tent first. So the RTT decreases our mobility slightly. It’s not a dealbreaker or anything, just something to get used to.

Next post: set your eyes to stun, because the Needles District is heavenly.

Adventures with dogs

We’ve made the decision to travel with our dogs whenever possible. Since Michael and I are the outdoorsy types, it’s fun to plan our travels with them in mind.

GoGoTacoNegro

 

 

Sometimes they are the monkey in the wrench, though.

 

 

We set out for Moab on a bright, sunny Monday morning.

GoGoTacoNegro
Fully loaded for the first time.

Everything was going great. Made it over Vail Pass with no problems. But then, we pulled into Grand Junction. Specifically into the parking lot of the Grand Junction Qdoba. I opened up the back to get the dogs, take them for a potty break, and found the back of the truck pretty much covered. In. Poop.

It was everywhere. On the cooler, smeared into the carpet and both of the dogs’ sleeping bags.

No Qdoba for us. We loaded the dogs back up and drove to the nearest car wash. I took them for a walk while Michael unloaded everything out of the back – including the storage platform, which comes out in 3 pieces – and went to work with a power washer. Luckily this place also had a wet/dry vac, so the carpet on the storage platform came out clean and fairly dry.

We had to toss the sleeping bags. Which meant we had to replace them with something, as we knew it was going to get chilly during our time in Moab. I guess I really am thankful for smartphones sometimes, because Michael used his to look up Grand Junction’s Salvation Army. Driving there we came across a pickup loaded full of stuff, surrounded by 3 cop cars and twice as many cops. There was a man sitting on the tailgate with his hands cuffed behind his back and for some reason his attire sticks in my memory: black jeans. Black leather jacket. No shirt. One of Grand Junction’s most upstanding citizens, I’m sure. He didn’t look particularly worried.

Anyway – we found the Salvation Army a few blocks later. It took us all of five minutes to find 2 kid-sized sleeping bags and go on our merry way.

This was our setup along Willow Springs Road, just outside Moab:

GoGoTacoNegro

GoGoTacoNegro

The addition you see is called the Annex. It came with our tent. It has a bathtub floor and boy were we glad we took the time to set it up – even thought the initial set up was a total PITA and took forever. See, it rained sideways all Monday night. And Tuesday morning. (Actually, this is also why I’m really glad we found those sleeping bags for the dogs.) All the stuff we stored in the annex? Totally dry. Just like us in the tent. I wasn’t expecting to try out the waterproofness of that tent so quickly, but I’m happy to say it passed with flying colors.

The sun finally came out Tuesday afternoon. Nothing like the desert in springtime!

GoGoTacoNegro
View from our site

Things were a bit chilly, even after the rain left – but Michael still cooked me an amazing dinner while I photographed the dogs.

GoGoTacoNegro

Bailey

GoGoTacoNegro
Elvis is afraid of my big camera so it’s easiest to photograph him while he’s crashed out. But I love how he’s sleeping on top of a thorny bush. He’s a strange dog sometimes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stay tuned for more adventures – more great stories to come (none of them involve poop) and I’ll go into greater detail about the pros and cons of our setup.

Getting ready for Moab

Just over a week until we leave for Moab, and the excitement is building. We’ve already got most of the gear in the living room.

I’m super excited to try out our new Roof Top Tent. I know they’ll be fine, but I kind of wonder how the dogs will like sleeping in the back of the truck by themselves. (Last time we camped, on a trip up to Crystal Mill near Aspen, we all crowded into the back. It was… crowded. Although that didn’t seem to bother Bailey AKA the Snuggle King.)

I got some great photos on that trip, though:

Taco Negro

Taco Negro, Icebreaker

Taco Negro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taco Negro
I found the fabric for the curtains at Hancock’s for $1/yard.