and the Tetons
We drove the quick (compared to the rest of our driving days so far) trip from Big Sky to Jackson Hole excited for things to come. We stopped by Jackson on our trip to mexico/central america in the bus years ago to see good friends, but that was mid-summer and we’ve always been excited to come back in the winter.
Sadly, those friends wouldn’t be around for this visit, but as we crossed over the pass and descended into town we were thrilled to explore. There was also no new snow forecast for a few days, so we knew we had time to immerse a bit into the town and explore the region.
What we didn’t realize, is that as we drove around town we would find that every single street is very clearly posted with No Overnight Parking signs that apply all winter long. So much for our easy stay… We kept searching the town and finally stopped into a local taco shop for dinner and to get some intel. Turns out, its true… despite no slow to clear, if we park on any street in town we will almost certainly get towed. We enjoyed our meal and waitress very much, but eventually headed out to up our stealth camping game to a new level.
Over the next few days we ventured further out of tow to explore the are and the wildlife so present here. We drove through the elk refuge, through a few different valleys and spend hours stopping to stare at elk, sheep, moose and deer and in between in awe of the snow covered Tetons taking over the horizon seemingly within arms reach at all times.
Sadly, as we drove and explored, the temperatures kept dropping. Pretty soon our heater is getting taxed and the thermometer is back in negative temps even midday. The days and nights were incredibly cold again…despite our plans to head south to avoid them.
The combination of no snow, the cold and a few outstanding van projects (it’s turning out to be VERY difficult to complete projects when also trying to stealth camp) made us decide to start looking for lodging options. We quickly stumbled upon the perfect answer for our needs. In between the town of Jackson and Mountain Village was a small resort that offered tiny houses. Each tiny also had its own firepit, a parking spot for the van (easy projecting, except for the cold) and access to a communal hot tub. We’re in!!
We moved into our tiny, feeling like it was equal parts respite from the cold and research for zenbox. The place was beautiful, and the fireplace kept us entertained our entire stay. Always so nice to book a warm, spa-like room in the middle of a journey like this. The splurge doesn’t seem so extreme given all the money we save living in the van along the way… and after a few weeks in the van everything from the bed to the shower to simply having a heated space simply feels opulent despite how comfortable we are inside the van.
After our core was warmed up and we had a nice relaxing night we got busy the next day tidying up the van, finishing the insulation project in the back to separate the gear area from our living space, and a bit of rewiring at the battery that was still lingering from our last repair.
It was bitter cold, but being able to head back inside to get a glimpse of the fireplace and football games in between tasks made everything far easier and kept smiles on our faces.
At night we hit the hut tub for a soak (jogging briskly to and from our tiny cabin in our bathing suits and puffy jackets before and after), and then enjoyed a campfire for as long as we could take the cold and until our tequila hot toddies started freezing in our hands.
We retreated to the cabin for a nice warm night of sleep despite temps dropping to -20F, but when we went to start loading the van in the morning we realized we had a problem.
The van wouldn’t start and all of our research told us that the diesel in the tank/engine had “gelled”, which apparently is a nice term for partially frozen. We continue to feel like rookies as people ask if we were using “antigel”…but later learned that half the diesels in town also gelled despite apparently using the antigel. Nothing we could do would get the engine to start and we finally ended up having to put a space heater under the engine for a few hours to warm/loosen things up. A great/easy solve…unless like us you tend to camp in the middle of nowhere and have no access to electricity to run said space heater. =/
A few hours with the space heater and a jump start later and we were back on the road. Exhausted from a less-than-stressful morning, but glad to be back on the road and trying hard not to imagine what would have happened if we were camped out in the wilderness to avoid getting towed in downtown Jackson.
We even stopped into a mechanic to have him check the error codes on the mercedes brain just to make sure everything was in working order, but other than needing to reset a bunch of low voltage codes we are in good shape (still wrapping my brain around the difference/mindset of driving a new electronic vehicle vs the old “drive until something fails and then fix it on the side of the road” bus mentality…
We loved our time in Jackson…but the cold (and lack of snow) once again chased us away. We headed back over the pass, and across snowy Idaho…watching our temperature rise as we drove. We had been watching both the snow and weather reports in Sun Valley for a few days, and while our plan was to ride at the resort in Jackson first, we decided to change our plan and head once again for warm and snow.