Tales from the Road: November 2018


All Tales From The Road since the beginning of times:


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Sterling Power B2B Charger Review

The Sterling Power BB1260 Battery to Battery (B2B) Charger play a major role in keeping our camper van electrical system balanced and healthy. How’s that? The B2B charger uses the van alternator power to charge our house (auxiliary) battery while we drive. It’s an install-and-forget device: it turns itself ON/OFF automatically when driving the van, doing its things without user intervention. Neat! It means that we don’t have to worry about running out of power AND that the house battery lifespan is maximized. Sounds too good? Keep reading this review as we get into more details…

Vanlife Actual Cost

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Tales From The Road

November 2018 Interactive Map:


Tahoe City

Today we’re swapping Isabelle’s Avid Code brakes for the new Shimano XT 4 pistons (M8020), for a few reasons:

1. Having common parts is a big deal for us: it means less spares to carry around (pads) and less tools too (bleeding kit).
2. Bleeding Shimano brakes is much simpler than SRAM brakes!
3. DOT fluid (SRAM) is corrosive and toxic, while mineral oil (Shimano) is pretty much like vegetable oil; it makes awesome dumplings.
4. It’s also interesting to note that DOT fluid (for SRAM brakes) doesn’t age well as it absorbs humidity after the bottle is opened; we don’t have to worry about that with Shimano’s mineral oil. We buy 1 liter bottle and carry it around.
5. At last the CODE are great brakes, but Isabelle never really got used to them; she much prefer the feel of the Shimano XT… (Antoine too!)


Buckeye Hot Springs

Very cool spot by the river, with many pools at different temperatures. Worth the detour!

Buckeye Hot Springs, California

Tioga Road

Road 120 (Tioga Road) going through Yosemite National Park DELIVERS! (just make sure it’s open before going as it’s closed during snow season)


Yosemite Falls & Point

A steep and strenuous hike with incredible views of the Yosemite Valley!

Yosemite Valley North Pine

BOOK IN ADVANCE, or show up at the campground reservation booth before it opens in the morning; if you’re lucky (like us) they will have a few spots available. We normally don’t pay for campground, but we think it’s worth it here!


Vernal and Nevada Falls

Classic hike trail to do in Yosemite National Park. While Yosemite falls are dry, these two falls are still… falls! Probably not as impressive as they could be in spring, but definitely worth the hike. Even though this trail is popular, it isn’t an easy hike.


Parker Lake

Parker Lake is a short hike (6 km total, out-and-back) on a mellow grade. It’s not a highlight, but if you’re looking for a easy hike in the area it’s definitely worth it; the lake is peaceful and the view is awesome!

Parker Lake California

Near Mono Lake

Free dispersed campground located near a creek. Quiet.


Duck Pass

Isabelle and Eric went to hike Duck Pass. Mellow hike, one of the favorite in the Eastern Sierras! Many lakes to see along the hike and the views are astonishing!

DC-10 (Mammoth Bike Park)

Meanwhile, Antoine went for a bicycle ride. Mammoth Bike Park is closed for the season, but it turns out that “Brake Through” is the perfect climbing trail: smooth grade and not too technical. I needed to break-in my new brake pads, so I chose to ride down DC-10: it’s sometimes steep, sometime technical, but always sandy! You’re basically surfing sand from top to bottom!

Mammoth Bike Park DC-10

Near Deer Mountain

(just 8 minutes out of town)

The area has many boondocking options; just drive through the service roads and you’ll find something you like :)

14F OUT,
66F IN :)


Morgan Pass and Gem Lakes

Mammoth Lakes

Here’s a mellow hike that starts at 10,200ft and bring you up to 11,100ft elevation into the alpine. Don’t forget your skates! (?!)

Apparently, it is more common than we thought!

(À écouter avec du son si vous êtes québécois et nostalgique)

Wild Willy’s

Easily accessible (3 minutes walk). Hot temperature (around 105F). Recommended!


Chain Smoke

Mammoth Bike Park

Looks like these trails need a lot of maintenance; the bike park’s been closed for a while and it’s all turning into a sand pit!

Yeah we’re definitely a bit late in the season…

Black Doubt Brewing Company

AWESOME BEERS! All of them! Give it a try, you won’t be disappointed!


Crystal Lake & Mammoth Crest

Mammoth Lakes

Sustained climb with beautiful views over Lake George, Crystal Lake, Lake Mary and Horseshoe Lake.

Buttermilk Boulders


Awesome desert landscape! Find your way up the boulders to enjoy the view.


Rest Day!


Sometimes it’s OK to rest!

No shower curtains needed here :)

The mountains are calling…


Bishop Pass


We started late, it was cold and we didn’t have time to do the Chocolate-Ruwau Loop Trail for additional views… Nice hike, but not our favorite!


Fresh Tank Cleaning

We’ve been procrastinating WAYYYY too long before sanitizing our water system, but better late than never so here we go. We just followed the instructions on Sanidumps (we used about 1/2 bleach for our 25 gallons tank).

We found this BEER BONG (!) on Amazon, so we can reach to our fresh water tank hole. The hose is a little short, but it works for us…

Dropping in!

The water tank’s drain is finally put to use!


Kearsarge Pass & Mount Gould

Driving through the valley, the Eastern Sierras are an incredible sight. But their inner beauty is even more mind blowing… So park your van, put your hiking shoes on and go get it!!
The view from Kearsarge Pass on King Canyon National Park makes it well worth the hike. If you still have energy, scramble your way up Mount Gould; it’s about an hour to climb.

National Forest

Dramatic view on the valley and the Eastern Sierras, just 5 minutes drive from Independence! There was no one else here, but if it’s taken, just open Google Maps in satellite view; there are back roads with pull outs everywhere in the area…


Alabama Hills

Really awesome boondocking spot surrounded by boulders all over. It’s very popular and crowded, but still worth going. Just show up, drive and find a spot near a boulder!

Sure, Alabama Hills is a must-see (as its popularity and crowd testifies): from out there, the Eastern Sierras are magnificent. Rugged, dramatic and huge. But trust us, their inner beauty is even more mind blowing… So leave your van in the valley, put on your hiking shoes and go see for yourself! It’s worth it.


North Fork Lone Pine Creek Trail

This is a not your typical hike-in-a-park; some sections are exposed and technical (scrambling) so get ready! We turned around shortly after Lower Boy Scout Lake as it’s quite a long hike.

You can actually see Alabama Hills at the bottom of the valley in the picture below:

Vista Point

After the hike, we headed towards Death Valley and spent the night on this Vista Point which overlooks the road descending into Death Valley. Neat.


Desolation Canyon

3.7 miles out-and-back; make sure to make it to the very end as you will be rewarded with an awesome view on Death Valley!

360 VIEW:
(click on “play” button to activate, then click full-screen at the lower-right and drag with your mouse to view 360)

Furnace Creek

There are not really dispersed camping option within the National Park, so for the first time of in 15 months (excluding when we had friends visiting) we paid for a campground!

I’m not sure why I keep playing Backgammon with Isabelle, she always beat me to it…


Dante’s View Point

It is quite a long drive to get to that point and we weren’t sure it worth the detour, but it does! If you have the time, do it!

Badwater Basin Salt Flats

Probably the main attraction of Death Valley!



Natural Hot Springs easily accessible. Temperature feels like 98-100F. Not the cleanest water but it’s worth stopping by.

China Date Farm

After soaking in the hot springs, we were ready to go at the China Date Farm. It’s been a while (almost a year!) since Isabelle wanted to go. They grow many varieties and it’s possible to taste most of them! They make delicious date milkshake and their date bread is as good!


SkyPark at Santa’s Village is a small “bike park” with a few trails ranging from beginner to expert. It’s mostly gravity-oriented but it’s all PEDAL-assist (no chairlift), so we can’t possibly understand how they can charge 68$ for a day-pass… but hey, the entry ticket get you to see Santa any time of the year so what the heck. Fortunately (for us) we only found out we had to pay after our day; we promise we’ll pay next time!

We noticed an irrigation system on the trails, so it’s the best dirt we rode in a while; kudos for that! From flow, techy and jumps, the trails more or less emulate what you would find in places like Bellingham (WA) or British-Columbia, so that was fun.

Sorry we forgot to take pictures of the trails, but here is Isabelle above the clouds instead:


Deep Creek Hot Springs

Best hot springs ever! There are a couple of hot pools and temperature is just perfect. These pools are surrounding a cold water river (that feels more like a lake). There is plenty space to hang around with hammocks, tents, etc.

There are two ways to access this hot springs.
Bradford Ridge Path is the longest hike (about 5 mile total) and is the way we took. There is a long steep section, might be challenging your knees! The other way is from Bowen Ranch (less than 4 miles). We never hiked it. We read there is a fee of 5$ (10$ if staying overnight).

Oh! and be aware half the people are nude. This is why we haven’t take too many pictures…


San Juan trail is a nice blue trail that descent over 1000m into the Cleveland National Forest, just south of Los Angeles. Many people choose to climb it, but since we met with Bus Hops and had 2 vans, we shuttled it :) It starts somewhat technical, but it get easier as you progress in the descent. We normally prefer more technical trail, but we must say we really had fun and we think it’s worth the detour!



We spent the afternoon at Laguna Beach and we feel like beach bums already.


These trails just exceeded our expectations! The black trails are steep and surprisingly grippy even though sand is lying on the rock.

Jonathan in Stairsteps:

Isabelle in Laguna Ridge:


A 5,000ft drop into Los Angeles? Who knew!

We enjoyed Mt. Wilson Trail for its huge loss of elevation, but also because it’s a good all-around trail: it’s relatively technical at first (but then gets easier), tight switchbacks are kept to a minimum and the pace is pretty fast all along. Oh and the views are great too!

For 25$ each, Mt Wilson Adventure Shuttles dropped us on top. Worth it!

We added Sturtevant, Zion (descent) & Upper Winter Creek (brutal climb) to the mix, but we wouldn’t recommend it as the fun factor is very low (hiking trail with super tight switchbacks and too much overgrown vegetation).



All Tales From The Road since the beginning of times:



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Hello! We’re Isabelle and Antoine 🙂 In 2017 we sold our house (and everything in it), quit our engineering careers and moved into our self built campervan. We’ve been on the road since then and every day is an opportunity for a new adventure; we’re chasing our dreams and hopefully it inspires others to do the same!



  1. Comment by Brian J

    Brian J Reply December 10, 2018 at 7:18 pm

    Glad you’re having a great time! Make sure to check out Highland Park Brewery in LA! And let us know if you pass through Arizona this winter – we’re back!

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply December 10, 2018 at 7:56 pm

      I think we missed that brewery… next time! Thanks!

      We’ll be where it’s cold and dark this winter, not Arizona haha…

  2. Comment by Dave Rhinehart

    Dave Rhinehart Reply December 8, 2018 at 9:39 am

    Love the shot from Vista Point in Death Valley. When I worked there we did quite a few car commercials up there, occasionally we’d get interrupted by fighter jets flying up the canyon. You did a nice job hitting the highlights!

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply December 8, 2018 at 12:19 pm

      Hey, not a bad place to work!! 🙂

  3. Comment by Ross Levin

    Ross Levin Reply December 7, 2018 at 5:28 pm

    Nice work, I like the new “journal” format of your travels this month. We’re also fans of the Shimano hydraulic brakes for all the reasons you listed. For us, the road bikes are also part of that equation.

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply December 8, 2018 at 12:20 pm

      Glad you like it 🙂
      Have a good one!

  4. Comment by Interstate Blog

    Interstate Blog Reply December 7, 2018 at 5:52 am

    Great description, as always. Regarding the beer bong, I use a couple of 4 liter MSR Dromedary bags to transport water to my fresh tank when hose connections are not available. I fill them in some sink or bathtub, and then “squirt” the water from the bags into the tank to top it off. The bags are great because they roll up for easy storage.

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply December 7, 2018 at 10:34 am

      Nice, thanks for the tip!

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