Posts Tagged Cycling

The Gifts of 2017

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What can I say about 2017?

NOTE: I started this blog back in January…dang it! So here we are in April with a whole lot of travel under our belt for 2018 and I’m getting ready to post something about 2017. That is SO last year!

At the risk of feeling like I am writing about a time “back in the day”, I’m going to post it anyway!

What is it about January 1 that resets everything in our brains to start over?

Start a diet to lose weight. Start working out at the gym. Start emptying the inbox by the end of every day. Organize the kitchen cabinets…I got this!

I’ll be the first to admit that I do this myself… Every. Single. Year.

I started using my Lose It app again to take off these stubborn 10lbs. Why I couldn’t make myself do it October 17th is beyond me. But come January 1? I am so excited to track my intake, count every almond, cut out cream in my coffee and kick my evening piece of chocolate to the curb! Easy peasy.

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But over time the enthusiasm fades, the rules become more like suggestions and I am once again carrying an extra 10lbs around my midsection.

I think from now on I’m going to declare “JANUARY 1” once a quarter, since that seems to be the longevity to my New Years commitments. WHO’S WITH ME???

Despite my lack of stamina for some things in 2017, Jeff and I had a wonderful year of RV’ing. Not everything went as planned, but we are thankful for a lifestyle that allows us to be nimble enough to take on whatever life throws us.

So here are some of our favorites and some of our surprises from 2017

Favorite Boondocking Location

We started the year thinking we were going to go to Rocky Point Mexico. But after pricing insurance for the rig we went to Yuma, Arizona instead. Specifically, American Girl Mine BLM just across the border of California from Yuma.

It’s probably the most barren landscape we have ever spent time at. But the amount of trail running was endless, the Internet speeds were crazy fast, city conveniences close by and a Mexico experience within a half marathon.

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A few “things” you will see in Mexico!

Days are warm. Nights are cold. Unbelievable sunsets. Other RV’s as close or as distant as you please. All free for the taking.

Favorite Work Location

Working in the RV industry we worked plenty of RV shows in 2017.

Quartzsite

Good Sam Rally-Phoenix

The Escapees Rally-Tucson

National Hardware Show-Las Vegas

Overland West Expo-Flagstaff

Easter Jeep Safari-Moab

Overland East Expo-Ashville, NC

By far our favorite show is the Overland West Expo. To start, we love Flagstaff! Camping amongst the pines. The wind creating a very distinct sound through the trees. The smell of pine needles baking in the sun.

Then there are the customers we get to interact with. They are inventive, savvy, astute and creative. They are not only well travelled, but minimalists who travel in modified Land Rovers, Toyotas, Motorcycles and Earth Roamers. They are not confined to USA borders but prefer to explore the backwoods of the world.

Favorite Sporting Event

This category is a bit tough to isolate. Trail Runs, Hiking The Grand Canyon, Ultra Runs, The Bentonville Arkansas Half Marathon, and Vacation Race series.

I’m certain that Jeff would consider his very first 100-mile Trail Run at Bryce Canyon the highlight of 2017. Pushing his body not just during the race, but for a year of training was a challenge. All to see if he could actually do it! What an accomplishment.

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Mile 51

For me was the Bentonville Half Marathon. I ran the race with my sister-in-loves in my hometown surrounded by friends. It was a race and a family reunion that was so special. I ran the Grand Canyon Half too, but Bentonville and family made this one a standout.

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Lastly, the bike ride across Iowa during RAGBRAI was special as well. Riding along with our RV’ing buddies with endless laughter and great food made for a memorable time.

Favorite Hikes

We did a lot of hikes in 2017 but the two that stand out the most are two hikes that are hard to get permits for.

The Wave. What a special experience this was! Having our number drawn for a permit, the challenge of finding it, having our dog Sam and friend Whitney along and the isolation from it all made for a memorable experience. The color and texture was unlike anything I have ever seen and I feel so fortunate to have hiked there.

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Havasupai Falls Part 1 and Part 2. The hike to the falls was not that incredible, but the falls themselves and day hikes from the campground were stunning. Blue green water that appears fake at times, were unbelievable. This was our first ever backpacking trip without the RV and it gave me confidence that, with the right equipment, I can manage some overnight hiking trips in the future.

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Biggest Surprise

Spending 6 months in the mid-west. This was NOT part of the plan for 2017. My Grandmom passed away 7 days before her 100th birthday. So we stayed in St Louis for the memorial. Then I was so thankful that my Mom decided to move closer to my brother. So we sold her house, packed everything up and moved her to a new home.

Then I needed to have two unplanned surgeries. Nothing life threatening. Just necessary. Tests, doctor appointments, surgeries and recovery. All took a better part of June through December.

Second Biggest Surprise

We adopted a new dog. Sammy-do-da is getting up in age (13 years) and we were considering getting a younger dog for Sam to mentor. Sam is an amazing dog and we would love for his good manners to rub off of another dog. We are partial to Wired Fox Terriers and had been keeping an eye out on WFT Rescue Facebook sites.

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Bullet (L) and Sam (R)

Dogs have come up but Foxies have a certain temperament that doesn’t always mesh with kids or other dogs. We can’t have that with our RV lifestyle so we have taken our time to wait for just the right fit for our family.

One popped up in Tulsa just 2 hours from home. Bullet’s description sounded very similar to Sam’s and we reached out to his Foster. We set up a meeting and Sam and Bullet hit it off. That day we came home with a new dog.

Bullet (B for short) it super sweet just like our Sam with about 10 times more energy and hearing that can detect a wrapper from rooms away. We are having to adjust to having a dog that does not come when we call him or mind his manners. Training has become a new priority which leaves us exasperated at times. But he has a good heart and we will continue to do our part to bring out the best in our sweet B.

Well, thats it for 2017. I will hopefully get caught up on our travels in 2018 very soon. Since January 1 has come and gone and I am 17 days into my second January 1, I am committed to getting my blog back on track.

Now where did I hide that chocolate!

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Off to another lame adventure!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Continued Migration to the Pacific North West

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Welcome to Track Town USA!

After leaving Bend, Oregon Jeff and I headed west to Eugene so that we could stop into AM Solar.

About a year ago we got most of our RV projects/repairs completed in Elkhart, Indiana and made a dash back to Arkansas to regroup. We had planned on having a month to catch our breath and install our final project, solar, before we headed to the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta.

Unfortunately our repairs lingered on in Indiana and we were left with a measly week to complete our final project.

As I mentioned in my last post, Jeff is extremely handy. His single Mom of five kids became a General Contractor in California and raised her kids to know how to “raise a barn” from the ground up. Jeff was certified in solar installation and has installed hundreds of solar water heaters all over California and Arkansas.

 

Installing 4-6 little solar panels on an RV roof would be a breeze!

Oh our plans!

We had a Solar panel that was damaged during shipping and our NorthStar  batteries needed to be picked up 2 hours from home. The week flew by and we only got as far as installing 3 panels on the roof, batteries placed and inverter mounted. No connections were made and we left for ABQ without a functioning system.

Once in ABQ we received our replacement panel. With a little help from our friends, Kuhl Odyssey and Technomadia, we finally got our system up and running.

Over time Jeff has tweaked our system and it has been running beautifully. We got all of our supplies from the highly recommended AM Solar in Eugene/Springfield, OR. Since we were in the neighborhood Jeff wanted a consult just to have them give us the once over.

AM Solar made a few modifications and after $800 our completely functioning system… wasn’t working properly! Darn it!!!

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AM Solar “fixing” our system

We couldn’t have planned a delayed stay in Eugene any better since the Track & Field Olympic trials happened to be going on. We headed over to Track Town, USA to Hayward Stadium. Interesting history…The University of Oregon outgrew their football stadium. Instead of demolishing the old stadium it was retained as a track-specific venue that is held in reverence to those who have competed here.

The day we attended, the women’s Hammer Throw was happening. We learned that this was the first time ever that the hammer throw was being held INSIDE the actual stadium. Normally the event was held off-sight with very little attendance. But this year was different and the Hammer Throw was given its just due. The crowd was still small but we heard that the ladies were feeling honored to finally be having their beloved event inside the stadium.

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Top 3 Olympic Qualifiers..Good Luck in Rio!

Neither Jeff nor I knew anything about Hammer Throw, despite me growing up in Track and Cross Country. We learned that HT is about pure technique of heel-toe foot action with maximum spin in order to hurl the 8.82lb hammer down field.

The top 2 ladies at Olympic Trials competed in Rio where Amber Campbell finished 6th and DeAnna Price finished 8th.

Toutle, Washington

Toutle (too-tle) is a very small town that was located in the devastation zone of Mount St. Helens that erupted in 1980. There are times in your life that you remember certain world events. The eruption of Mount St. Helens was one of those events for me and I remember hearing about the mushroom cloud of ash that re-routed airplanes states away and covered towns as far as Alberta, Canada.

Tootle, WA

Morning run along the Toutle River right from our campground

Jeff had heard about a training bike ride from Toutle to Mount St. Helens, so we stayed at the Harry Gardner City Park in Toutle. This park was destroyed in the 1980 eruption and was never re-opened until 2015. There is a very nice 14-site campground in the park with water and electric hook-ups for $20/night. We were there on a weekend and were one of only four RV’s parked here. We loved this CG on the Toutle River. Unfortunately there was no connectivity what so ever and we had to shorten our stay.

Jeff’s bike ride was cold, rainy and 80 miles of long hard hills and 6,000’ of elevation. Since I wanted to see Mount St. Helens from the Johnson Observatory, I took a drive and met Jeff there.

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Some of the group in front of Mout St Helen

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Before and after photos of Mount St. Helens

What a sight! The drive was stunning and the regrowth of trees were so symmetrical that I was almost dizzy until I reached the blast zone. The devastation is still palatable even after 36 years. I listened to the Ranger talk about that fateful day and learned that 57 people lost their lives, how rivers were rerouted, new lakes formed and the mountain lost about 1,300’ of elevation. Ms. Helen has remained active off and on since then, with her last recorded activity as late as 2008.

Auburn, Washington (Seattle)

We were getting to Seattle a little earlier than planned so I made last minute reservations at the Game Farm Wilderness Park in Auburn WA. This was another gem of a find especially since most RV parks that I spoke with in Seattle were booked up.

There was a wonderful paved trail system that ran through the park and it was also home to the busiest 18-hole frisbee golf course in the state! Over 300 people come here daily to play!

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Beautiful Des Moines, WA Marina

Since we had a lot on our plate for work we didn’t really explore too much of Seattle except to have Sunday brunch with a co-worker of Jeff’s at a marina in Des Moines. It was a beautiful sunny day and we finished our meal with a relaxing walk out on a peer.

Abbotsford & Vancouver, Canada

 Jeff had an intern years ago that was getting his master degree from John Brown University. They hit it off and have stayed in touch since then. He and his wife have been asking us to come for a Canadian visit for a long time, so we purposed to make it happen this summer. The added “bonus” was that the Ironman Whistler was taking place during our stay. Not one to miss a race, Jeff signed up for the half.

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Not sure what Sam was thinking but we were prepared for our boarder crossing!

This was our first boarder crossing in the RV and we were a bit nervous and had braced ourselves for a long wait. We used up most of our produce and got rid of the rest. I had Sam’s medical certificate and our passports ready. We nervously pulled up to an empty boarder crossing where we were asked where we were heading, how long we were staying and if we had any fruit on board. Then we were waved through. Easy peasy!

We spent our first couple nights in our friend’s backyard getting caught up before heading to Whistler for the Half Ironman. The drive from Vancouver to Whistler was spectacular! I’ve never been to Switzerland, but this drive made me think of the Swiss Alps.

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Jeff and Sam relaxing before the big race

Incredible blue water, dramatic mountain views and lush forests. We were on sensory overload for sure! We stayed at the Wonderland RV Park in Squamish, B.C. and made the 30-minute drive to Whistler for the race. It was a great race on a beautiful sunny day in a picturesque setting!

Vancouver

After Whistler we returned to our friends backyard in Abbotsford, BC. We spent time exploring their community, visited mutual friends, tasting some farm-to-table food and just hanging out with their family.

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Another awesome driveway surfing spot!

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Dear friends Dave and Danaya taking us to Harrison Lake for dinner. Truly a delightful evening!

We planned a day trip to Vancouver via a train, water taxi and city buses with 4 kiddos in tow. Our first stop was Grouse Mountain known for the infamous Grouse Grind. This is a 1.8-mile hike, 2800’ elevation gain, and 2,830 stairs at a 30-degree slope to the top. There is a tracking device at the bottom and top of the mountain and you can see how fast people are hiking here.

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After shredding our gluts and hams on “Natures Stairmaster” we took in the Lumberjack show, saw two grizzly bears in captivity and our favorite…the Birds of Flight show at the top of the mountain.

The Birds of Flight featured an Eagle, Falcon and Owl that were released high above the outdoor amphitheater and swooped down over the crowd to gracefully land on designated perches. What a treat to feel and hear the power of their wings as they flew just above our heads. It was interesting and highly entertaining and we would highly recommend this show!

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Giant carved lumberjacks

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Grouse Mountain resident bears

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The beautiful eagle on Grouse Mountain

Funny…the falcon flew off into the surrounding valley and was enjoying its freedom until a wild falcon aggressively went after him. The two tangled and the captive Falcon made a b-line back to the safety of his handler. Poor guy. Out for a leisure stroll around the airways when the big bully showed up!

After we were all sufficiently sunburned we took the sky tram down the mountain where we picked up the city bus. The bus was air-conditioned and super comfy and all eight of us took power naps while we were transported back to downtown Vancouver. We stopped for a late lunch then walked the city a bit before catching a train back to Abbotsford.

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Train ride into Vancouver

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Sky Tram ride down Grouse Mountain

It was a great day full of new adventures with our host family of 6! Our week’s stay flew by and before we knew it, it was time to head back to the states!

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The Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta 2015

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Beautiful start to the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

The internationally known Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta has wrapped up and what a spectacular event it was!

The Balloon Fiesta is a bucket list item for a lot of folks. It’s  one of the most “hands on” events there is as you can be right on the field with Darth Vader, The Bumble Bees and the crowd favorite, Spider Pig.
Have questions about ballooning? Just walk up and ask the crew how things work while they are airing up. Or better yet, volunteer on a balloon crew and get free entrance for the week and possibly get a balloon ride as a thanks. Stand in one place too long and your liable to be bumped in the behind by a rapidly expanding balloon preparing to launch. Hear the Zebra’s whistle as the balloons take flight right over your head…by the hundreds! (550 of them to be exact)
Our camp site was in the General campground just south of the launch field. It was dry camping so no hookups for $30/night. What you lack in amenities is made up by the close proximity to Balloon Fiesta Park.
While thousands of others sat in traffic for hours we walked to the field in 15 minutes flat, 5 minutes if you catch a shuttle right from the campground.
However, the biggest bonus was being woken up to the whoosh of balloons firing right about the RV…for two hours straight. RIGHT OVER OUR HEADS! If we didn’t feel like going to the field in the morning we just waited for our whoosh alarm clock, made tea and headed to the lawn chairs right from our campsite.
Landings in the campground happened pretty much every day, so be prepared to set your coffee down and jump up to help.
Though we went to the Dawn Patrol a couple of mornings our very favorite event was the Glowdeo where the Special Shapes balloons were ignited after dark. Nothing is more magical than walking around the field being surrounded by glowing balloons. It’s enough to make grown adults feel like kids again. There is so much laughter and smiles at this event…it’s the happiest place on earth (Sorry Disney World).
Want more info on the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta? Check out RV buddy WheelingIt who did an amazing 4 part recap of the event, including some gorgeous pictures!
While we were at the Balloon Fiesta we were a part of the newly formed Xscapers RV club.
RV club, Escapees, was originally created to provide encouragement and resources for full time RV’ers. But as the Escapees population has aged and retired a resource for a younger crowd was needed. Thus, Xscapers has been created in order to appeal to a bit younger crowd who are still working on the road.
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A small group of Xscapers sharing dinner our last night in town

Xscapers came into being just this year and the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta was our very first “Convergence”. A convergence is a rally of sorts, but without all the fan-fair and stringent structure. Since most people in the group are still working, Xscapers intentionally do not schedule seminars/workshops during working hours. There were a few activities and happy hours scheduled through the week but not until late afternoons after working hours.
Other activities and socials organically formed, creating plenty of opportunity to get to know our group better. Drive Dive Devour hosted an impromptu, “How to make pizza on your grill”, The Roaming Pint set up a teekee bar complete with gas fire pit. We invited others for a hike in the Sandia Mountains and there was a bike ride to a bike-up coffee bar.
We made lots of new like-minded friends that we hope we run in to on our travels down the road.
Well, that’s it from Albuquerque.
Next stop…Flagstaff!
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Heading down the road to Flag!

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Preparing to Launch

RAGBRAI

RAGRAI…The Registers Great Bike Ride Across Iowa

So Jeff and I have been stationary for the most part for about 6 weeks now. We planned on leaving today to head to Elkhart to pick up our newly remodeled/repaired RV from MasterTech RV. But considering she is still without a roof, our plans are on hold.

We’ve been told that our AC’s will be installed later this week, so the roof should be completed by then. Unfortunately, we’ve been told “the new roof will be on by the end of the week”, every week since May. So….

Our first trip was to participate in RAGBRAI, the bike ride across Iowa. This would be the 3rd year for us. It is a 7 day ride, riding 50-100 miles each day. There are destination towns on the course that host approximately 20,000-30,000 cyclists each night, with entertainment and food vendors. These are very small towns with populations under 5,000, so you can imagine the spectacle and economic boost that occurs from that many people. After the infestation of locusts devours the little overnight town, we all move on to the next.

RAGBRAI is on two lane county roads that are closed to the general vehicle traffic. But if a car does manage to make its way onto the course it is quickly swallowed up by thousands of bikes that have just been waiting for an opportunity like this to torment an unsuspecting motorist. It’s a role reversal for us cyclists who get flipped off, run off the road and things thrown at us by a motorist on a regular basis. Now, it’s our turn! Whoaaaaa!

RAGBRAI is a sight to see for sure with riders, teams and families wearing costumes and decorated helmets. I’ve had the experience of riding next to a friend and quickly losing them in the crowd by looking away for a split second. Bright colored bike attire and distinctive helmet gear make it a bit easier to find your party. But I’ve lost my group very easily before only to find them again at our designated campsite.

One of the fan favorites on the routes each day is Mr. Pork Chop. Look for the pink school bus selling inch thick slabs of pork chops cooked over charcoal and dried out corn cobs. You don’t really “see” Mr. Pork Chop as much as you “smell” Mr. Pork Chop. Oh that sweet grilled aroma of charred pig hot off the grill. I’m not going to lie…I was a vegetarian until I met Mr. Pork Chop…seriously…a VEGETARIAN! I fell off the vegetable wagon hard when I met him and I haven’t looked back.

To make my self-inflicted dietary restrictions worse for ware and my RAGBRAI food confessions complete, I also have eaten some of the best homemade ice cream and Amish pie I have ever tasted. It’s the only place you can ride your bike 500 miles over a week and gain weight at the same time.

Beyond food there are also front yard beer gardens for those wanting to try intoxicated cycling amongst friends. Or how about a 200 foot long homemade slip and slide and cow pond skinny dipping to cool you off.

Need a bathroom? Just pull over at a corn stalk relief stations wherever the urge hits you. Road kill? Road kill is shown it’s due respect for it’s disastrous attempt to get from one side of the road to the other by being adorned with Mardi Gras beads…God rest his furry soul.

Campgrounds are plentiful in Iowa, most of them being County or City owned. At $15 a night for water and electric the price can’t be beat for some great sites. But when you throw RAGBRAI into the mix, camping accommodations are a challenge. Most of campgrounds have first come first serve sites available in addition to reservable sites. Since I typically don’t make reservations I leave each overnight town by 7AM in order to snag an available campsite around the next town.

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Jeff catching a lift

This year the route has posed a bit of a challenge, as the overnight towns do not have many camping options nearby. Not to worry though. This is one time a year when overnight parking on random streets, parking lots, front yards and driveways is perfectly acceptable.

RAGBRAI is scheduled to start July 18 and I am cautiously optimistic that we will make the first few days of the ride. Frankly, I’m ok with that since I usually drive the RV while Jeff rides his bike. With a new RV and going from a 21’ travel trailer to a 32’ fifth wheel, there is going to be a learning curve for me to hook, unhook and back up the Domani (while remembering to put the tailgate down…oh boy!). I would like to get supervised practice in before taking her out on my own.

Time will tell if we will make it to Iowa to see some of our countries most beautiful rolling farm land.

Here’s to hoping that I don’t back into a power pole, crush the tailgate or take out a picnic table before we get there!

RAGBRAI

When we pick up the RV…

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