Trying to not get stuck: 3 nights on a not-so-dry lakebed

After three nights spent camped outside Oatman recovering from our nasty sinus infections, we were ready to move on.  (I think it’s the first time ever I didn’t take a single photo of our camp.)  We moved a little over an hour away to a dry lake bed outside Las Vegas.  We figured it was a good place to go thru the last of our food before restocking in Vegas.  What was intended to be a one night stay turned in to three.  Here’s what happened…

We arrived on a Friday night to some gorgeous weather.  Saturday we decided we had no reason to be in a hurry to move on and we didn’t want to be out wandering around on a Saturday night, in an unfamiliar area, looking for a place to sleep.  We checked the weather, as we always do, and saw rain in the forecast.  Though a dry lakebed isn’t a place you want to be in the rain, the forecast was a 20% chance with under a hundredth of an inch of precipitation expected.  So we stayed.

nevada camping

(Side note: that inflatable couch Mark is laying in…it’s as good as it looks : )

Saturday night we went to bed to a very light drizzle.  Then, in the middle of the night we woke to a total downpour, that lasted…a while.  We both lay there, thinking to ourselves without actually speaking, that we probably should have moved.

We opened the camper door the next morning to find ourselves surrounded by water.  I was pretty amused.  Mark was not.  At that point in time, there was really nothing we could do but laugh.  We knew we weren’t going anywhere.  If we tried, we would only get ourselves in a worse situation.  So, like watching paint dry, we hung out and waited for the sun to slowly bake the lakebed back to it’s hard, crisp surface.

nevada camping
nevada camping
nevada camping
nevada camping
nevada camping
nevada camping
nevada camping

We watched in the distance as several people came and went, getting there fill of muddy lakebed fun.  Doing donuts, tearing up the lakebed and coating there vehicles in a thick coat of mud in the process.  Our greatest challenge that day was getting Kaia to a drier spot on the lakebed to go potty.  We really didn’t want her bringing the outside inside.

nevada camping
nevada camping

Kaia wondering what her humans have gotten themselves in to.
nevada camping

A couple hours before sunset we decided to take a walk.  We were still surrounded by water but could see in the distance where it was drying.  From our walk we learned that we were parked in one of the wettest spots.  Some areas were completely dry, others were close to it.  By our observations, if we could move the truck and trailer a hundred feet, we’d be out of the worst of it.  Just for the sake of being able to walk Kaia and move ourselves around without getting coated in an inch of mud, we really wanted to give it a shot.

We didn’t want to bury our tires in the mud and we didn’t want to tear up the lakebed so Mark proceeded with caution.  On the first attempt the tires just spun.  He stopped, reassessed and decided to let a bunch of air out of the truck tires.  That was the ticket.  At about 2 mph he was able to slowly move our rig to drier ground.

nevada camping
nevada camping

Our second challenge would come the next morning when we would attempt to leave.  There was about a mile of lakebed to cross to get to the highway where there were only two designated exits. Not only were there still plenty of wet spots to avoid, it was a maze of rutted puddles from all the people out mud-bogging the day before.  I was feeling extremely skeptical that we would make it out.  

nevada camping

Taking it slow was the name of the game and Mark hopped out a few times to scout out the best line. 
nevada camping

We made it to the exit only to find that it was completely destroyed from everyone coming in and out.  More scouting around and we found a way thru.  And just like that, we were back on solid ground and on our way to Vegas.
nevada camping
nevada camping

I have to say, in all our years of camping, I’m shocked this is the first time we’ve dealt with something like this.  Years ago, I would have panicked because I just didn’t know any better.  Now I know it’s just about making good decisions and not doing anything impulsively.  In hindsight, we should have moved the night the drizzle began to the edge of the lakebed, closer to the exit.  We definitely could have at least positioned ourselves better, just in case.  All in all, it wasn’t so bad, albeit a little messy.

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  • After we decided to do a cross country trip I found your blog. It even helped me decide a FWC was the way to go and it helped convince my wife we could do it. Three months later we left Massachusetts heading to California by way of Florida.

    Over the next five weeks of traveling one of us was sick 90% of the time and it rained 75% of the time.

    When we got out of the swamps and into the desert it continued to rain and I just about lost it.

    I think there were times we openly cursed you two and it appears the voodo gods were listening. I never would have done so if I knew I had that kind of pull with them. Sorry about that.

    We’ll be leaving CA next week for a three week trip back to MA and I’m hoping for better times for all of us.

    Keep up the great work. ;).

    BTW, helpful hint to people heading out on a long trip… don’t go and see all your sick family and friends right before you leave. Just send them a text.

    • Oh man…I truly feel for you two! For a moment while reading your e-mail, I wasn’t sure if you truly disliked us! I hope that’s not the case : )

      That was an ambitious trip and being sick is a surefire way to take the fun out of it. Add in the rain, and well, that just sounds downright miserable. I truly hope you have a better experience on your way back to MA. We wouldn’t travel any other way than in our FWC but it definitely has it’s fair share of highs and lows.

      I could’t agree more with your helpful hint! I hope things are looking up for you both!

      • We still love the blog. I can now attest to how hard it is to keep up a travel log as you do. Taking pictures and video is pretty easy compared to editing, packaging it up in a story, and actually uploading it.

        • Yes, it’s definitely a time consuming process to document everything and package it all up nicely in to a post. I enjoy it for fun but would never want to try to make a living at it!

  • Man I had a good laugh on this post. I never believe the weather forecaster. One time I was camped out on the Burr Trail road and they foretasted a slight chance for rain. Since I was tent camping I was debating to move or not. Just for safety I thought it best to move to higher ground just in case. Turns out it poured…and I had been in a low spot. It would have been ugly. So glad you’re out and Kaia didn’t have to get her feet muddy 🙂 Safe travels!

  • Hey were you two out are Ivanpah or Red Lake? Thanks too for your consideration on trying to leave the surface in a good condition without doing donuts and other crazy acts that leave these playas in a sad state for years. As land sailors we crave smooth surfaces to test our skills to get upwards to 60mph with only the wind to power our sails. If you hit tire ruts, they can launch you skyward and jar your teeth. Love you travels. Adios and “Stay Dry My Friends.” “Dusty”

    • We were at El Dorado South of Vegas.

      Land sailing sounds like a lot of fun but I could just imagine how a rutted surface could take a lot of the fun out of it!


We’re Mark & Michele, modern-day nomads perfecting the art of slow, full-time travel.  Our tiny home on wheels and slow-paced travel style allows us to minimize our expenses while maximizing our freedom.  May our unconventional way of life inspire you to design a life that you love.


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