Posts Tagged Boondocking

Bryce 100 Ultra Trail Run

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While we were camping at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon  Jeff and I wanted to do a shakedown trip to Bryce Canyon before we moved the RV there for the Bryce 100.

I had researched boondocking sites near the Bryce Canyon National Park. We drove down a couple of dirt roads and through the Red Canyon Campground but none of them had any connectivity. After passing through the two arches on Hwy 12 with a 13’6” height restriction, we found an incredible boondocking area on Toms Best Spring Rd, just across the street from the start of the Bryce 100 at Coyote Hollow.

And with excellent connectivity it was the winning location.

Our only apprehension was the height restriction through the arches. Our girl is tall like Jeff and I, so squeezing her through 13’6” was about 6” short of her Amazonian stature. Jeff devised a plan on how we could measure the height. With his 8’ overhead arm reach while holding our 5’ truck bed bike rack we could tell that the arch still had 5-6’ of clearance. As long as we stuck to the center of the lane we were golden!

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Plenty of headroom for the Domani

A couple days later we packed up camp at the North Rim and made the two-hour trek to Bryce.

We left early in the morning and dumped our tanks at a gas station in Kanab. We wanted to get an early start so that we could avoid too much traffic while trying to fit our square peg of an RV through a round hole of the arches. All went smoothly with plenty of clearance and we picked an awesome boondocking spot to spend the next two weeks.

We used these two weeks to scout out trailheads and aid station checkpoints for the Bryce 100. Our campsite happened to be in the perfect location for hitting two different checkpoints on opposite sides of the course. This would allow me to swing by the RV to catch a quick nap and make Jeff a couple of smoothies during the 36-hour race.

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Sweet Bryce campsite..Sam approved!

We took the opportunity to do a couple of training runs in Bryce National Park. Our first sunrise hike was on the Rim Trail that connected to the Navajo Loop Trail. The trip down the canyon was steep with switchback after switchback to make the grade more manageable. What was dynamic about this hike is that the initial trail takes you up close and personal with tall hoodoos and slots that appear to be held up by the smallest of pebbles of crumbling dirt. Just one flick of a finger would appear to bring it all tumbling down.

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Switchback City

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Nature at it’s finest

Another favorite is the Fairyland Loop. Eight miles of dusty dirt to kick up while taking in the sites!

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Hoodoos standing at attention

As the sun came up it set the rocks on fire, heating up the canyon with a warm radiant heat. Every turn gives a fresh vantage point of endless hoodoos that speak straight to my soul. “Come and explore so that I may show you a whole other world”.

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This is why I love Bryce

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Holy smokes I love this guy

God’s creation moves me. It speaks to me. And I am whole again.

After such a moving experience we went to breakfast and did laundry at the Bryce Canyon Inn. Hey, that’s the reality of life on the road. One minute you are basking in the glory of nature, the next you are buying propane and dumping your poop at the local gas station.

As the race quickly approached we met up with two friends from our Arkansas running group who also had entered Bryce 100. Janet and Chris are the ones who encouraged Jeff to run this race with them. Strategies were talked about, meals were eaten and all checked in for the race. The pain fest was about to begin!

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Yup…crazy people!

On June 16 the gun went off and the crowd of 250 shuffled off with high hopes for the next 24-36 hours of 18,565’ of vertical climb.

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6AM start

I stopped at the RV for a quick nap and made Jeff a smoothie before heading off to the first check point about 19 miles out. The tough part of being a spectator at these types of events is that it can be challenging to spectate. Check points can be spread out over 100’s of driving miles down poorly maintained roads.

Proctor Canyon aid station was no exception.

Support crews had to park miles away and wait in long lines to hitch a ride on the back of a pickup truck who then made the 40 minute rock crawl to our destination. Thinking I had left a couple of hours gap before seeing the “Arkansas Travelers” (AT-team) they showed up 30 minutes after my arrival. They were making great time!

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Walking it in to mile 19

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Who is racing 100 miles? This guy!

All systems were a go and Jeff, Janet and Chris quickly moved on. I made the rock crawl back to my vehicle and drove back to the RV to reload for the next aid station at Straight Canyon, mile 41.

Another interesting thing that happens during these races is that you start questioning your timing. You do the math over and over again to insure you arrive at the aid stations when you “think” your athlete will be there. But then they show up early to the first location and throw off all your projected times for the day.

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Got caught in a cattle traffic jam

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Discussing the next leg over a smoothie

So when I made it to Straight Canyon the AT-team was already heading down the road to the next location. I managed to see Jeff for a few minutes, and then we were all off to the next spectator aid station at the turn around…mile 51.

Crawford Pass was 10 miles away for the runners, but only 3 miles for the crew. So I settled in for a bit of a wait. The sun was going down by this time and the temps were beginning to drop. I tried to nap in the truck but I wasn’t able to sleep. So I put on warmer clothes and decided to help the athletes coming in by picking out their needs bags and getting them food.

By mile 51, everyone is getting pretty tired and I saw quite of few people decide to call it quits. Jeff and I had a strategy in place, that if he came into an aid station and wanted to quit I would encourage him to wait to make the decision at the next aid station. These races are as much mental as physical and if you can delay a decision until the next stop, sometimes that’s enough time to get the athletes out of their own head and back on the trail.

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Mile 51

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Taking a break at the turn around

Jeff came into Crawford pass about 10pm and the rest of AT about 40 min later. Jeff used this aid station to take a 30 min nap while I took his shoes and socks off, washed his feet and put on new, fresh socks. Jeff didn’t have a single blister in sight and was feeling pretty good after his nap.

Jeff has always been a VERY optimistic guy and to see him with his happy-go-lucky attitude at this stage amazed me to say the least. There was no hint of not making it to the finish and I knew then that he would accomplish this race!

Our other teammates were not having the same experience. Chris had such an upset stomach that he wanted to drop out. While the rest of us tried to encourage him to delay his decision he walked into the woods to throw up, then announced that he was out!

By this time Jeff had already left the aid station.

Janet wanted to continue on but did not want to run in the dark by herself. She was going to drop out as well until a pacer for another runner (that had dropped out) offered to run with Janet through the night. This wonderful gal ran with Janet until the finish of the race…50 miles away. What a super hero!!!

Since this race was an out-and-back, Chris and I drove back to Straight Canyon, now mile 62. We fell asleep in the truck and woke up just as Jeff was leaving the aid station. He made awesome time again and was still feeling good. Janet followed a bit later and Chris and I headed back to the RV where his car was parked.

I’m not going to lie. By now it was 3am and I was exhausted. The 45-minute drive was pure torture in sleep depravation. Chris went back to his hotel and I slept for a couple hours at the RV before making one more smoothie for Jeff. Our last spectator aid station was back at Proctor Canyon, mile 84. This time Chris and I drove my truck to the aid station and offered up rides to others waiting in the long line again.

Jeff was able to get a text message every once in a while to let me know what time/mile he was at. I knew that he was within 4 miles of Proctor, so I set out back tracking the course to pace him into the aid station. I ran into him with two miles to Proctor and he filled me in on the perils of night running and things that go bump in the night. With sleep depravation, exhaustion and a bit of hallucinations there is quite a story to tell!

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On the trail to Proctor Aid Station for the last time

By now it was getting very hot and the rest of the course was in full sun.

At Proctor we did one last foot cleaning and clean socks and Jeff made a quick exit. His cut off times were starting to get tight and he didn’t want to run the risk of not finishing under 36 hours.

I watched as other runners came into the aid station. Some looking fresh. Some looking terrible. It is scary when an athlete stumbles into an aid station not knowing who they are or babbling something incoherent. It was sad to see one runner who was pulled off the course by the medical team with just 16 miles to go. It was definitely warranted, but sad just the same.

By this mileage there are plenty of runners crying due to pain, skinned knees from falls, blisters on top of blisters and those who just want to stop. I admire all these runners for the perseverance it takes to finish a 100-mile race. My respect goes to each and every one of them…those who start and those who finish! Who does such a thing????

With 16 miles left Jeff pushed his legs further than he ever has and had a kick to the finish with an hour to spare.

Jeff completed his first 100!!!!

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Bryce 100 in the books!

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A well deserved seat!

I cant tell you how proud  I am to see Jeff cross that finish line. All the long training runs, all the mounds of food consumed to fuel that training, all the head games to convince himself it can be done, all the research and conversations from those who have gone before. It all came together for a perfect race!

Janet showed up with her pacer about 20 minutes after the cutoff. Anyone that finishes a 100 mile race is a “finisher” in my book.

Jeff and Janet received their belt buckles!

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Way to go Janet!

48% of the field dropped out of the race that weekend…48%! There were ambulances at the finish to escort some weary runners to the hospital. Jeff got some food at the finisher’s tent, and then we made the short drive back to the RV.

We had a quick travel turn around to make it to Denver. With a flight scheduled to Elkhart IN for meetings within a couple days my plan was to load up Jeff and the RV right after his finish and head down the road. But we were both too exhausted. It wasn’t going to be safe for me to drive so we decided to wait until the next morning to leave Bryce.

After a VERY long day of driving to Frisco, CO we stopped at a campground before making the last push to Colorado Springs where we parked the RV in a friends driveway for our Indiana trip.

Since Jeff’s race 4 months ago (I know…I am waaay behind on this blog) we have been stationary for the most part in the mid-west. We have been hit with some life events back home so I will fill you in on the excitement next time!

Goodbye for now Utah!

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Majestic Utah

Cacti Bloom

Desert Bloom

After working the Easter Jeep Safari Jeff and I headed to Salt Lake City so Jeff could catch a flight to Elkhart, Indiana.

I made a week long reservation at the Salt Lake City KOA for its close proximity to the airport. We have stayed at this KOA before during the Outdoor Retail Show and had found it to be very comfortable despite it not being in the best part of town.

Salt Lake City is surrounded by amazing scenery. Snow capped mountains and lush green foothills that are visible everywhere. And of course Salt Lake is just west of downtown.

I got caught up on expense reports and cleaned up the layer of dust that had accumulated in the RV from windy Moab. Sometimes it’s nice to be parked on concrete just to take a break from the rustic dirt lots we gravitate to. The beauty of living in a tiny home is that it only takes 30 minutes to do a deep clean compared to three hours in my former sticks & bricks life.

While in SLC I wanted to get back on my trail running training plan. Jeff and I are signed up for the Bryce Half marathon (Me) and 100 Mile (Jeff) in June.

 

Bryce Canyon is one of a six trail races held in the Grand Circle Trail Series. The six races are Antelope Canyon (Feb), Monument Valley (Mar), Zion (April), The Grand Canyon (May), Bryce (June) and Tushars (July).

We have a goal to complete all six races. So far we both have done Zion, while Jeff also completed Monument Valley.

The nice thing about the Salt Lake City KOA is that it backs up to the Jordan River Parkway Trail system. The trail is approximately 40 miles long and for the most part, runs North/South along the Jordan River.

Salt Lake City Trails

Jordan River Parkway Trail

Within a half mile from the KOA is a huge dog park right along the trail, so if you are looking for a nice walk for doggy, this is a wonderful trail to take. I will say. While running early morning (during the week) I was a bit uneasy, as there were numerous homeless folks that use the Jordan River banks as their overnight beds. Some of the trail got a bit closed in and isolated, which added to my concern. I make sure to make eye contact, say good morning and keep moving.

I needed to take Sam for grooming, so I headed to the East side of SLC. While Sam was getting a once over I headed to the Parley’s Historic Nature Park, a 68-acre open park in Parley’s Canyon. This is a completely fenced in park where dogs are permitted off-leash and free to run. And with Parley’s Creek (what else would it be named) running through the park, there is plenty of drinking spots for pets.

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The entire park is fenced in for dogs

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Creek access

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Beautiful views

The views were amazing and it was such a tranquil place despite running right next to a major highway. One loop around the park was 2-miles with some good hills to get the heart rate up. I was going for 3 loops and got caught in the rain. Luckily I was close to the parking lot where I could wait it out and then jumped back out to get my last 2 miles in.

While in SLC, Preppercon was having its annual show.

Preppercon is an event that showcases disaster preparedness and for some, the apocalyptic zombie invasion. Not really being afraid of Zombies, this is not a topic of interest to us. We went to see if it would be an appropriate event for Dometic to showcase their Mobile Cooling line as a vendor. In case you were wondering…it’s not!

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Kilts?

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Hurricane Simulator…in Salt Lake City

As a full time RV’er, we have run into some very “interesting” people. Especially in Quartzsite. But this a whole new level of interesting. There was no shortage of kilt wearing men (not sure what that is all about), firearms, dehydrated foods, generators, underground storage containers and a hurricane simulator. Not that there is anything wrong with that. Respectfully, it is just not our thaang.

I did enjoy the self-defense course that was offered. I now know how to get out of a mean chokehold! With all of the isolated running situations I put myself in, the class gave me great hands on tips in a matter of 30-minutes. It‘s all about confidence in certain situations and 30-minutes did just that. My plan is to take a full self-defense course soon, as I could quickly see how valuable this training would be!

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Learning how to get out of a choke hold

After Salt Lake City, we had two weeks before we needed to be in Las Vegas for the National Hardware Show.

I really wanted to check out The Valley of Fire in Nevada but the temps were already in the 90’s and too hot to boondock. So we decided to head to higher elevation at Capital Reef National Park. This was a 3 hours detour off course but thought it would be worth the adventure.

We researched boondocking spots in the area and found some camping reviews that said where there was a few bars of cell coverage. But after arriving, we couldn’t find a connection. AN.E.WHERE. Since Jeff had been traveling he had some work to catch up on. We quickly decided that Capital Reef was not going to work for a weekday visit and we packed up the next day and headed to St. George Utah.

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A brief sunset view from Capital Reef

With that 6 hours experiment behind us, we settled into a favorite location in Leeds, where free dispersed camping is offered right along the Red Cliffs. We stayed here last spring as our jumping off point for the Zion Ultra Trail Run (aka Mudageddon) and Zion National Park. After our mouse invasion here last year, I came fully prepared with plenty of mousetraps. I thought maybe the mice were just a fluke. But we were invaded once again! Darn critters!

Despite fighting off the nightly invasions, we really love this location for running.

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Watching repelling lessons from our campsite

You have every possible trail running opportunity here. Single track, ATV roads and gravel roads are easily accessible and we took advantage of them all! Jeff was on one trail and was startled by something out of the corner of his eye. At the sight of a rattle snake he jumped so hard he hurt his shoulder. Of course he was not injured enough to stop for a photo.

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That is one ginormous snake!

It started to get a bit hot while we were here. So hot that we drove into St. George for an afternoon and hung out in a furniture store, then went to dinner just to be in some air-conditioning. The next day we drove down to the holler from our campsite and put our lawn chairs in Leeds Creek and drank smoothies for a few hours. The creek was cool and refreshing, especially after our long runs.

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Yummy single track Silver Reef Trail

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ATV roads along the Red Cliffs

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Gravel Roads to somewhere

We had to park in the campsite right next to the Silver Reef Trailhead, which saw a lot of traffic. Groups were coming out for repelling classes, which were entertaining to watch. But instead of taking the trail, the day-users felt comfortable walking right through our campsite just to avoid a few extra steps to their cars. Either I don’t remember this from last year but the road was non-stop with cars and ATV’s driving by day and night with their hair on fire. The wind was fierce this time too and we found ourselves spending more time inside just to get some relief from the dust being kicked up by the cars.

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Cooling the dogs in the Leeds River

Overall, we still love it here and will probably be back. I just need to restock the mousetraps before we do.

Jeff and I did take an early morning trip over to Zion National Park. We had Sam with us in the truck so we found a shady parking spot and took a short hike to Hidden Canyon. It requires a shuttle ride to Weeping Rock where Hidden Canyon spurs off. It was a short 4 miles round trip, but definitely beautiful and fun.

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Trailhead

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Cut in trail with chains

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To your right is nothing but net

The initial climb is very steep (just like every trail in Zion) with numerous switchbacks. As things begin to level out the trail becomes narrow. Some areas have permanent chains imbedded in the cliff side to give hikes a bit more security. I’m not sure who put in this trail, but they would have had to have nerves of steel cutting in to a sheer cliff face.

We eventually came to a sandy slot and scrambled over rocks and logs to get to the end of the canyon, denoted by a sign telling us to turn around.

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You talking to me?

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Sandy slot

On our way back down we turned on to the short trail to Weeping Rock. This is a paved trail and bit crowded, but non-the-less beautiful. Water seeps through cracks in the cliff face above. All the vegetation is green and lush here with a backdrop of deep red, black and green rock. It was refreshing to catch a little bit of dripping water on our skin.

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Weeping Rock

After our shuttle back to the parking lot we went to Cafe Soleil in Springdale for lunch. We came here a couple times on our last visit and love their fresh salads and smoothies. We can sit outside with Sam in the gorgeous weather and visit with other tourists.

After Zion we pulled up stakes and made the trek to the belly of the beast…Las Vegas. The only thing I can I say about Las Vegas is that we always look forward to when our time is over and we can get back to solitude.

We again stayed at the Circus Circus RV “Resort” just a mile and a half from the Convention Center. This works out well for me to run back to the RV to relieve Sam during the Hardware Show. Even though CC is quite run down and prime for an epic dynamite implosion, they did add a very nice water park since the last time we were here. The laundry room may not have a single functioning washing machine, but the water park will be fun for families who choose to bring their children to the land of debauchery.

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A quick hello with good RVing friends!

We did get to see our RVing buddies John and Becky for a few minutes as Becky was also working the show. Sometimes you just got to squeeze in a howdy and hug where you can, making our Las Vegas trip totally worth it!

Las Vegas was short lived as we left the show a day early to drive to Flagstaff to set up for the Overland West Expo.

Now that’s more our style!

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THE END!

 

 

 

 

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Ultra Mania and Utah Bliss

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Words to live by

September 23-October 31

Last year just after the Arizona Ironman, I asked Jeff if he was ready to take a break from full Ironman competitions. It’s a huge time commitment to train for, which is especially challenging during RV show season.That, and it is a very expensive sport. To my delight shock he decided to take a break from long distance triathlons. At least until he ages up into a new age group in a couple years!

But as an athlete, when one goal or bucket item is crossed off, there are dozens more to follow. For Jeff, the next challenge is a 100-mile ultra trail run.

I know. I know. There is a collective “whaaaaaat?” whenever he shares his goal.

To think that a 100-miler is any less training time is a mistake. But when you can train on beautiful wooded trails and forestry roads around pristine alpine lakes, it does provide “get lost in the scenery” moments that you just don’t get riding your bike on life threatening city streets or swimming laps at a local pool.

So when Jeff heard about the Stagecoach 100 race from an Arkansas friend, he thought it would be a perfect race to enter.

The Stagecoach 100 is a 100-mile trail run from Flagstaff to the South rim of the Grand Canyon, two of our favorite places! It is run on the Arizona trail and follows the historic stagecoach line that tourists took to reach the Grand Canyon in the 1890’s.

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Out for a practice run on the Arizona Trail

The course starts in Flagstaff around 7,500’ of elevation and climbs to nearly 9,000’ before descending into Tusayan at 6,600’. There is about 7,000’ of climbing overall and must be completed within 31-hours.

Since this was Jeff’s first year to attempt a 100-miler he opted for a two-man relay, putting Jeff’s leg at 55 miles and friend Jason’s leg at 45 miles.If this went well, then he was going to sign up for the Javelina Jundred in Fountain Hills, Arizona the following month.

After a week of rain and snow on Humphreys peek, race-day could not have been more perfect weather conditions. An abundance of sunshine, cool temps and golden aspens kicked off the race.

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All smiles at the start…Sam thinks he gets to go too!

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Beautiful run through Aspens

I don’t compete in these long distance races, preferring half marathon trail runs. As a spectator I get to witness the days journey for a lot of athletes. The excitement and nervous energy at the start followed by the real struggle, pain and doubt somewhere in the middle of the race. And at the finish, total elation, outpouring of emotion and collapse.

It’s so inspirational that it makes the laziest of couch potatoes start to think that they too could attempt such a race! Me included!

After seeing Jeff off at the start, I loaded up the RV and drove to Forestry Road 688 just south of Tusayan. What I really LOVE about the West is that there is no lack of free camping spots around great locations. This FR is within 6 miles of Grand Canyon Village on the South rim. The road was amazingly groomed with plenty of private camping spots for big rigs and decent cell coverage.

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A pot of gold campsite…for free!

The Stagecoach 100 is not a spectator friendly course, so there was nothing I could do but stuff my face with chocolate and take a nap wait 15 hours in eager anticipation, imagining Jeff’s struggle and drudging out 55 miles with him in spirit!

The heartburn for Jason and I was trying to find the transition point on a spider web of unmarked forestry roads after dark. After 2 ½ hours of driving we somehow managed to find the transition 30 minutes after Jeff had checked in.

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Found an aid station…just not the right one!

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Finally!

It was 10:30pm, and after 15 hours Jeff was ready to be done. He handed off the last 45 miles to his friend and we made the 2-½ hour drive back to the RV. Jason finished the race the following day. I’m so proud of Jeff and Jason. After the pain has worn off they both are ready to challenge themselves to run a full 100-miler.

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The Arkansas Travelers

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The legendary Jim Walmsley

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Got the buckle!

We stuck around the South Rim for another week, and just for grins, Jeff decided he wanted to do another double crossing of the Grand Canyon before we left.This was partly a test to see how his legs felt for the Javelina.

With tired legs from his Ultra just 6 days before, he headed down the South Kaibab Trail, summited the North Kaibab to turn around and head back to SK. He was so exhausted on the return trip that he lay on slabs of rocks three different times to sleep. He did persevere but pushed his body to its limit casting doubts on his goal of Javelina.

Before we left the South rim we stopped into the Bright Angel Lodge for dinner. When we were finishing up we noticed an odd glow coming from the Canyon. I grabbed the phone and ran outside to witness the most spectacular rainbow. When we saw waiters and cooks running outside with cameras we knew we were witnessing something special.

The rainbow illuminated the clouds to a  fiery red glow. Just about every spectator there was crying, including me. It’s one of those moments you realize you will only see once in a lifetime! It was stunning!

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After enjoying the South Rim we drove to Las Vegas where Jeff had to fly to Louisville on business while I stayed with the RV at the Oasis RV Resort.

Once he returned we hitched up and headed to Kanab, Utah for Trail Fest. Trail Fest is a three-day trail running festival. Day 1-Zion. Day 2-Bryce. Day 3-North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Once back at camp you are free to participate in seminars, movies, food trucks and music.

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Trailfest 2016, Kanab Utah

This was the first year of this event, with home base out of Kanab. Tents are provided or park your RV on site. Showers are available at the community center. Shuttles picked up 400 runners each morning and dropped them off at the days designated trailhead.

Jeff and I were too late to register for this wonderful event, so we volunteered to help set up and direct parking. Because we volunteered we got credits towards a future trail event.

While runners were out on their trails, Jeff and I hiked in Bryce Canyon. Our favorite hike was the 8-mile Fairyland Trail Loop. This is a moderate hike with hoodoos galore. It’s one of those hikes that you have to force yourself to stop taking pictures to get through. I love this place and can’t wait to spend more time here!

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After Trail Fest we headed to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Actually, we boondocked on National Forestry land in the town of Fredonia, Arizona 45 miles north of the North Rim. Besides hiking the Rim2Rim, we have never explored the North rim. We really enjoyed our stay. Nights were in the 30’s with daytime highs in the 50’s.

The only draw back was that it was hunting season, so we had to be careful where we got our runs in.

I had read about the pancakes at the little gas station in Fredonia, so we stopped and had breakfast before driving to the North rim. The pancakes lived up to the hype, but our waitress was…odd. We got to talk to several hikers that were either getting ready to start their Grand Canyon Rim2Rim crossing, or had just finished it.

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After breakfast we drove to the North rim to check out the views. The lodge was already closed for the season so we didn’t get to look around there. But what a wonderful little cabin community! Compared to the South Rim there are less amenities and less people.

A couple days later Jeff heard from his twin brother that he and our sister-in-love were on vacation at the South Rim. So what does a guy do when his best friend is across the big ditch? Why he hikes the Grand Canyon overnight to have breakfast with him.

While Jeff was hiking in the dark down the North side he stubbed his big toe. Actually, he broke it at mile 7 and then hit it a couple more times just to add to the misery. Kind of hits you in the crouch don’t it?

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He finished the 15 miles across, had breakfast and jumped on the 8am shuttle back to the North Rim. His broken toe made the decision to not enter the Javelina Jundred.

We were hoping to leave the North rim and hike the Narrows at Zion National Park, but we lingered too long and had to drive straight back to Las Vegas to work the SEMA Automotive Show.

Utah is stunning and it left us wanting A LOT more.

We will have to catch you next spring Utah!

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California Coast and Naked Runners

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So Jeff and I finished up a hard pressed 5 weeks of work responsibilities that took us from Las Vegas, NV to the northern coast of California. It was A LOT of miles with little sleep and sore rumps. Our schedule was rough (compared to FT RVing standards) but we did manage to experience some amazing places!

Vegas Baby!

We attended the National Hardware Show in Las Vegas. This is where retailers “shop” for new innovative ideas displayed by suppliers from all over the world. Other than this show, Jeff and I really don’t have an appreciation for Las Vegas.

Las Vegas

Jack Links…Feed Your GIANT Wild Side

It’s big and loud. For peeps who like to take in scenic runs and prefer dirt of dusty trails it’s just not our kind of place. But sometimes you just do what you gotta do!

We stayed at the Circus Circus RV Resort, which was 1.4 miles from the Hardware Show on the north end of the strip. We picked this park for convenience over amenities so our “camping” was a parking lot with full hookups.

Despite being in the city we found our stay to be quiet, especially since we ran the fan on the air conditioner all night. I’m not quite sure what the neighbors were up to but I did notice a shoe on the roof of their RV one morning.

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Interesting people and rigs at the Circus Circus RV Resort parking lot

Our RVing buddies Donna and Mike Kuper from Flying the Koop were in Las Vegas for the show as well and we had a quick dinner together before we all went our separate ways.

After the Hardware Show we had to zip over to the West coast for a company photo shoot. The shoot took us to Pacifica, Carmel, Santa Cruz, South Lake Tahoe, Auburn and San Francisco.

Jeff jumped on a plane in Vegas for a quick transition to San Fran while I made my maiden solo voyage in the RV. Though I do 80% of the driving, this was the first time I was alone for the trip. It really felt like the very first drive I took after I got my drivers license.

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Quick solo overnight stop in Bakersfield, CA

The training wheels were off and I had to make decisions on gas station approaches and clearances and conflicting GPS routing all by myself. I survived the drive and was reunited with Jeff a day later in Santa Cruz.

Santa Cruz

We stayed at the Santa Cruz Ranch RV Resort for it’s central location. It also happened to be within a mile of Jeff’s high school swim coach.

Santa Cruz CA

Jeff and our beloved Coach

Jeff grew up in Sacramento and started swimming in high school. His coach would take a group of swimmers to his parent’s trout farm in Santa Cruz every summer. This was the start of Jeff’s career in the Junior Lifeguard program that he still talks about today.

Coach is retired now and lives on that same trout farm, even though the fish are now long gone. But what he lacks in fish he has made up in feathery friends. He has geese, exotic chickens, parakeets and turkeys, all squawking to be fed twice a day.

Coach is a part of Jeff’s family and even though our time was tight we did have an opportunity to have breakfast together and feed his plethora of animals.

Carmel

We had a day of shooting in Pacifica and another day in Carmel. We roped some RVing buddies John and Becky into using their RV at some stunning locations. One spot was on private property on the cliffs of the Pacific Ocean. WOW…what a location!

I had some heartburn watching our friends take their very nice Class A motorhome 4-wheeling on this rough farm property. The photographer wanted the RV as close to the edge of the cliffs as possible so I held my breath just hoping the RV would not roll right off the cliff into the water!

Carmel CA

4-Wheeling in a Class A

Carmel CA

John and Becky relaxing during the shoot

We spotted a pod of whales and a shark chasing a sea otter. The water was turquoise blue, the sun warm and the sunset unobstructed. IT. WAS. MAGICAL!

Since the photo shoot would last into the dark we approached the property owner to let us camp on his property until morning. He graciously agreed and we spent the night in our friends RV being lulled to sleep by the crashing waves. Best boondocking spot EVER!!!

Carmel CA

Best boondocking spot EVER!

Funny story though. While one of the models was changing in the RV the sliding bedroom door got stuck and we couldn’t get the model out! John had to climb in through the emergency window and work on it for 20 minutes before they both could be freed.

Carmel CA

John climbing through the emergency window to save the day!

We wrapped up our Carmel stop with giant strawberries from a roadside fruit stand and big breakfast at Lou Lou’s on Monterey Fishermans Warf. Jeff and I found this little place years ago while Jeff was working for The Scotts Miracle Grow Company. They supported a Walmart junior golfing event a Pebble Beach for 3 years and heard about this place from a local.

The servings are huge and they have a special pancake called The Hubcap. And yes, it is the size of a hubcap! Get there early to get a seat before the line starts to back up around 9:15AM.

South Lake Tahoe

Our next stop was at various locations around South Lake Tahoe. We stayed at the Zephyr Cove RV Resort on the Nevada side of the lake. This was a wonderful campground with a delicious restaurant and beach just across the street on the edge of the Lake.

In 1980-something Jeff swam across Lake Tahoe in a relay. Freezing water made for an unforgettable experience!

South Lake Tahoe

Jeff “lifeguarding” at Lake Tahoe…oh the memories!

We had asked one of Jeff’s high school friends, Sabrina and her significant other Roger to be models for the photo shoot at this location. This gave us time to get reacquainted since high school. They both recently retired and are adventurous people, so playing hikers in the woods of Tahoe was not a stretch for them!

IMG_2892

Sabrina and Roger (R) talking to the photographer

Tahoe is one of my all-time favorite summer places to be. Cold nights and warm days, the smell of pine needles and the sound of wind pushing through the trees…all rejuvenating to my tired soul. But alas, our time was short and we had to get to the next location.

Loomis & San Francisco

Jeff headed to San Francisco with the team while I had pulled the RV to the Roseville just NorthEast of Sacramento so that we could visit with family while we were in the area.

Jeff heard about an epic race called, “Bay to Breakers” that was being run the day he would be in SF. It’s a 12k race that started in 1912. And in typical SF fashion it’s known for its nude runners, costumes and salmon runners who run the race in the opposite direction.

 

Jeff also got to squeeze in a visit with our nephew and his fiancé’ who just moved to SF.

In the mean time I was having some challenges finding a place to park. After calling 5 RV parks I found a spot at the Roseville Fairground RV Park. It was a bit rough there and after spending one night Jeff’s cousin insisted that I relocate to their driveway in Loomis.

Free. Nice views. Safe neighborhood. Wine. What’s not to love about driveway surfing!

Loomis CA

Driveway surfing at its best!

Steve and Vicki were over-the-top lovely hosts and I parked here over a week while Jeff wrapped up the photo shoot and flew off to another event in Flagstaff. I loved my time here with wonderful family. I got a personal tour of the town of Loomis, had some delicious meals, drank more wine than I have in a long time ever. It was a joy to visit and we look forward to getting together again in the future.

It was 5 weeks in a pressure cooker and we were ready for a break. I had made reservations at the Yosemite Ridge RV Resort over Memorial Day week so I can’t wait to show you what we did there!

See you in Yosemite!

Santa Cruz CA

He’s a handsome fellow don’t you think?

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The Naked Truth About “Q”

Quartzsite 2016

All hooked up and heading to Q

It’s been a while since my last post. Partly because of healing my wrist, partly because we have been stationary.

As new temporary residents of Mesa, Arizona we’ve become quite familiar with city streets, favorite Walmart stores, the local cycling club and yummy places for lunch. Even Sam has been in on the action for grooming and walking the canals.

But these RV’s are made for roll’in and roll’in is what we do!

After 3 months, we had to refresh ourselves on how to hook up the Domani. It felt odd to be pulling out of our temporary driveway with something a little bigger than a bicycle behind us.

But just like riding a bike, it all came back to us quickly. We were finally headed away from sirens, helicopters and thumping music of the city and heading towards yipping coyotes, running generators and whipping winds of the desert.

Here we come Quartzsite!

Quartzsite 2016

Sunrise over the Big Tent

The Quartzsite RV Show, or “Q”, is billed as the largest gathering of RV’ers in the world. Folks from all over North America come to the desert of “Q” for warm January temps and cheap RV living. “Q” is surrounded by unlimited BLM, making this quirky destination a playground for boondockers, solar enthusiasts and ATV’ers.

We were here last year working a booth for Dometic and we were here to do the same this year.

Working a booth at a RV show is a fascinating study in people. Especially RV’ers!

“Q” is always a different kind of show in that the majority (98-99%) of this audience is actual RV owners. And not just owners but what I would consider RV super users… those who live in their RV’s 6-12 months out of the year.

And with super users comes lots of experience and lots of stories! Usually experiences and stories that center around bathroom habits and holding tanks.

Quartzsite 2016

Gotta have a sense of humor if your going to RV

I had to laugh when a 70-something woman asked if we had any toilet seats that fit into a receiver hitch of a truck because, “I aint poop’in over a log no more”. I deferred her to Amazon…they have everything in two days or less for Prime membership.

One of our friends shared his story about emptying his black tank at a dump station. Unbeknownst to him, the dump was full which he didn’t find out until he saw his black water running all over the ground. After shutting off the valve he was left with suspending both ends of the hose in the air with his hands in order to contain the sludge until someone would let him dump in another line! OMG!!!

Other toilet discussions at the booth drove me to drink at the end of the day. And since I’m such a light weight, half way through a glass was sufficiently enough to regain my sense of humor.

On another funny note…did you know that Escapees has a nudist club? They sure do! And Jeff and I got a first hand look at it while delivering a Dometic portable refrigerator/freezer to their encampment…on BLM…in “Q”.     Y.U.P.

Quartzsite 2016

UUUUUMMMMM!

I offered to deliver the item as the purchaser was on a motorcycle and he happily accepted my offer. While being rung up he slipped in a, “oh-by-the-way”, and we were off to the nudist encampment hoping the cool temps and cloud cover would keep the in-the-buff RV’ers a bit more covered!

Of course the ONLY person that was not covered up when we got to the area was this nice gentleman’s wife…buck naked…in front of his coach.

Not being well prepared nor experienced in this sort interaction, eye contact was our top priority as well as a keen concentration to keep our jaws from hitting the desert floor. I was relieved when his wife offered to put some clothes on. But that relief was short lived when she returned with only a wrap around her waist.

Quartzsite 2016

Oh look! An American flag on top of Q Mountain!

Introductions were made and a tutorial on how to operate their new purchase was given…topless…boobs a sway’in in the gentle breeze…bent over the freezer on the ground. There are just things you can’t un-see folks!

After declining their invitation for a beer we were treated to a boob photo bomb while having our picture taken with their rig logo. Yup…in her full glory…in the background of a picture her husband took with OUR phone.

Oh…could it possibly be that I now have seen it all? Probably not.

Quartzsite 2016

Oh look! Sam at sunrise on Q Mountain!

Jeff and I have had one other run in with nudists. It was on our honeymoon 22 years ago in Jamaica. The resort had a clothing side and a clothing optional side. When we arrive the first night we were informed that our room on the clothing side was not available despite our specific reservations.

The next morning our beautiful ocean front balcony view was marred by the bare butts of wrinkly old men strategically moving their lawn chairs directly in front of our room. Not the full moon over the water view I had in mind!

From my total of two nudist “shock-and-awe” incidents, I’ve noticed that nudists are not usually the bouncing six pack stacked Bay Watch type of people to be gazed upon with appreciation for the human form. But leathery sun worn bodies that have sufficiently been pruned over time. Just my humble unwanted observation!

Butt But you know what? More power to them!

It was an interesting time at “Q” as it usually is. We did see friends and managed to stay an additional week in beautiful desert BLM solitude after the show.

Quartzsite 2016

Nice hike in the desert with friend Donna

We had dinners, campfires and even watched football with John and Becky, my hiking buddy Marshall, Jeff’s new cycling buddy Don and his wife Debbie and Flying The Koop’s Mike and Donna.

The incredible desert sunrises and sunsets burned new images into my retina’s that I will carry with me as we head back to Mesa. Even the illumination of the full moon will forever be a memory too! 😉

Quartzsite 2016

Don’t Worry Pee Happy!

 

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The B-line to Albuquerque

ABQ

Sunset from the road heading west

We made a B-line to Albuquerque to take in the splendor of the Balloon Fiesta and IT IS SPECTACULAR!

From Dumas Texas we made a 2 hour drive to Ute Lake State Park to camp for two nights. This is a dry, barrow campground overlooking the very nice Ute Lake. Evidently this is a great spot for birders and fisherman alike. The lake is shallow with a lot of reeds and grasses along the banks. What is brown and desolate by day turns to an incredible glow of oranges, yellows, blues, purples and pinks when the sun hangs low.

The sites are packed gravel, super long and have great separation. Each site has a covered patio with picnic table, fire pit, grill and lots and lots of goat head stickers. Sam enthusiastically jumped out of the camper ready to explore his new surroundings and was stopped in his tracks with paws full of stickers.

If it were not for the goat heads we would have stayed a bit longer. But after two days we decided to move on.

Our next stop was just 20 miles down the road in the little town of Tucumcari, New Mexico. Tucumcari mountain is an isolated mountain in a sea of brown dessert that was a landmark back in the 1800s for those traveling west from Arkansas to California.

We camped at the nastalgic Cactus RV Park, one of those original destinations back in the hay day of Route 66.

Tucumcari New Mexico

Tucumcari Mountain…a landmark for wary travelers heading West

Tucumcari banks on those who follow old Route 66 as a bucket list travel trip. Though the town is a bit weathered and tired, The Cactus RV park had charm. On one side of the unimpressive office is a vintage looking “motel” face with the look of old New Mexico brick and stucco with a courtyard RV parking lot of crushed gravel.
The sites are maticulously groomed with lovely shade trees on some of the sites. Though the sites are fairly close together the trees offer defined seperation, giving the impression of space. And for $24/night (includes tax) for full hook ups, you can’t beat the price. Don’t come here looking for amenities because you will not find them.
From their website, “This is a BASIC OVERNIGHT PARK with 30/50 AMP, working WIFI and CABLE TV, and easy PULL-THROUGH spaces.  This is a SATELLITE FRIENDLY RV Park. We are mostly an adult RV Park.  We do not have a pool, playground, game room, laundry, showers, or restrooms.  To those people who expect too much, we say that, “you have the pockets of a pauper and the expectations of a prince.”‘
Would I stay here again? Absolutely! It’s convenient to Hwy 40, clean and quiet. What more could you ask for an overnight stay.
After two nights it was time to make our last push to Albuquerque, arriving two days before the big kick off, on a Thursday.
We pulled in around 1:30pm at the “General” campground just south of Balloon Fiesta Park. There was no traffic on the highway nor pulling into the campground. Lots of folks were here already, but most would be pulling in Friday afternoon.
This is dry camping, so be sure to have empty holding tanks and all the water you can carry. The General campground does have a third party provider who will pump your tanks for $25 and fill you water for $25 if you need it.
ABQ

Sandra’s Mountains from our ABQ campsite

This will be our first boondock camping with the new rig which meant Jeff had to get to work at connecting the new solar panels to the batteries. Before we left Arkansas we had just enough time to mount the panels on the roof and put the batteries in their assigned compartments. But we had no time to connect anything. And, our solar controller was on the slow boat from china…so we didn’t even have all the parts.
Fortunately for us Technomadia had an extra solar controller that they let us borrow until ours arrives here in ABQ. So up on the roof Jeff went to connect the panels to the combiner box with the help of our ABQ neighbor who is an electrician with some really nice tools.
As of day 5 with no hook ups we are generating power, still show 95% full on our water, 0% on our gray and 10% on our black.
Boon docking life is good!
ABQ

Be sure to check your shoes. You never know what you will find in the desert!

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Anarchy in the desert of Borrego Springs CA

Full moon over Borrego Springs

Full moon over Borrego Springs

We’ve met tons of new people in the desert at Borrego Springs.

Most RV’ers are drawn to this area to spend winter for the plentiful sunshine, be-still-my-heart 70+ degree January temps and thousands of acres of free camping. Our nearest neighbor is a football field away, yet walk by your neighbor’s camp and you will be greeted with a hearty hello!

We’ve been invited to an outdoor movie/meet-up with a large group of full time, location independent 30-40 something road warriors who have bucked the system and work from their Airstreams, vintage bus or motorhome. Conversations usually revolve around connectivity, data plans, drones, instagram hash tags, is whiskey spelled with an “E” or without, local brews, holding tank management and local farmers market.

This is a group of hipsters for sure and Jeff and I went from being some of the youngest in this desert community to being the oldest. But that hasn’t kept us from being invited to the afternoon happy hours, taco tuesdays, nightly bonfires or karaoke night.

Various jobs amongst the tribe include a composor/musician, web and app developers, writers, investment trader, road schoolers, photographer and professional bloggers. It was an inspiration to meet everyone living their version of “the dream” right from their 80-360 square feet of what they call home.

The blog and instagram roll of our group is:

AirstreamLifeAluminarium@asolojourner@dreaknufken,

@journeywithhappiness@kmpuccio@malimish_airstream@russhaynie,

Rolling Recess@sethkhughesTehcnomadia@theroamingpint,

The Scenic Route@toddmbToSimplify@upintheairstreamVanTramp, Wheelingit

One evening kicked off with what the group dubbed, “Soup Anarchy”. Everyone brought an ingredient or can of soup and we dumped it all in one pot…like a Hairy Buffalo, but with soup instead of booze. No rules, just wild, throw-caution-to-the-wind, dump what pleases you, into the pot. Ok. There may have been some booze slipped it somewhere because…it is soup anarchy after all!

It was BYOBS (Bring your own bowl and spoon) and set up a chair for a soup anarchy inspired movie. The selection of movie was picked from films that had to do with soup, anarchy or RV’s. We ended up with “The Adventures of Power” which by the way had nothing to do with anarchy or soup. It did have a split second flash of a vintage bus, and that was good enough for us. It was a quirky, hilarious, sweet movie about a guy named Power who tries winning an air drum competition. Yes, it really was as awful as it sounds. But the film was made memorable by a funky group of RV’ers watching a movie on the side of a vintage bus in the desert. How cool is that?

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Borrego Springs has been a memorable stay and a place to come back to for sure, especially if there is an opportunity to see our new community of friends.

We plan on being here for another week before heading back to Quartzsite to the largest gathering of RV’ers in the country. So we may have more to report on Borrego Springs before we go.

Stay tuned!

Can a movie be awful and awesome at the same time?

Can a movie be awful and awesome at the same time?

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