Posts Tagged Running
Jeff and I spent Christmas and New Years in Why, Arizona. After being in the big city of Mesa for 6 weeks it was time to get to some desolation, isolation and motivation of the desert.
Why Why, Arizona?
It was supposed to be our launch site to travel to Rocky Point, Mexico just 80 miles to the south. Beachside living, endless shrimp dining and the sound of waves lulling us to sleep. It would be our first Mexico crossing in the RV and we had our dog health certificate and passports ready.
But when we went online to get our insurance, we were shocked to say the least! $600 for a two-week stay in Mexico! OUCH!!!
As much as we were looking forward to spending New Years in Mexico, the $600 spend was just too much for us to justify. The waves. The sand. The shrimp. They would all have to wait for another time. We were spending NYE in Why, Arizona.
Don’t feel bad though. Once we got over our visions of beachside grandeur we settled in nicely to our new surroundings while free camping on Bureau of Land Management property.
This is our third winter in the desert southwest and we love it here.
Not many years ago, I would be on a flight over the Southwest and think, “Why would anyone want to live there”? Brown. Dull. Dusty. Void of any green. It always seemed to lack any beauty or color.
But what I’ve learned the last three winters is if you spend a little time in the desert she will show you her true colors.
You see. The beauty of the desert is cast low in those few minutes of sunrise and sunset. When the sun is making itself known and when it finishes its day. It casts a glowing spell on the desert, turning it into the beautiful creature that she is. Texture. Dimension. Color. It’s all there if you are patient!
Our BLM spot is just north of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. Organ Pipe is a UNESCO biosphere reserve that stretches 517 square miles along the boarder of Mexico. It is the only place in the US where the Organ Pipe Cactus grows wild. It got its name due to its shape that looks similar to the pipes of an organ.
Right at the perimeter of the reserve there is a distinct change in the landscape.
What’s flat, barren and brown suddenly turns to rolling hills, black volcanic rock and a lush green. Well…as “lush” as a desert can be. But it is beautiful and very different than the mid-west landscape that I grew up seeing.
Our camping area is in a hotbed of illegal border crossings, drug trade and human trafficking. For the most part, they leave us campers alone. Unless you happen to leave out a water bottle or leave bicycles unlocked. You may wake up to some things missing. The dessert is scattered with rusty bike skeletons that didn’t hold up the rigors of a rugged desert crossing.
There are endless ATV roads scattered all over this place that are under the watchful eye of the Border Patrol via helicopters, trucks and 4-wheelers. Their presence is felt, seen and heard at all times. I had a helicopter swoop down over my head while out on a run…just to say, “I know you are there”.
The trail running was great and Jeff decided to ride his bike 27-miles to the Mexico border on Christmas Day where I picked him up in the truck. Then he had to outdo himself by running from the border to our campsite on New Years Day. His run was a bit eventful. Four drug smugglers darting across the road mere steps from him in broad daylight. All five of them were startled! Jeff later looked at his Strava from his run and saw the spike in his heart rate at that moment. Everyone went their own ways and we called the incident into the border patrol.
The community of Why has a Christmas day potluck at the local community center. For $5 each, the town provided the turkey and ham, while the attendees brought in the side dishes. It was a great deal, super food and a lot of fun visiting with the winter locals of this tiny community.
Though the desert here was nice, we never quite felt settled. We would check and double check if things were locked and we turned on a few more lights to take the dog out after dark. Even Sam was on edge since coyotes would run right through our campsite.
After two weeks we finally pulled up stakes and made our way to Yuma.
We stayed in Yuma 2 years ago and didn’t particularly enjoy our stay at Mitrey Lake. Between mosquitoes and mice we weren’t sure we would ever come back. But cooler heads prevailed and we decided to give it another go.
This time we headed to BLM at American Girl Mine off of Olgilby and boy were we so glad we gave this town another go. That location turned into one of our favorite campsites ever!
It might be a bit barren for some folks, but for us it was boondocking perfection. Full exposure to sun for solar charging. Well-groomed wide roads. As much or as little privacy as you want. ENDLESS and I mean ENDLESS trails to run. No worry about coyotes for Sam or drug runners for us. Lightening fast Internet. And those sunsets!
We just could not get enough of this place!
Yuma is the closest city to the Los Algodones border crossings. We crossed the border two years ago and found a delightful restaurant that we wanted to go back to. And since we didn’t make it to Rocky Point the previous week we decided to walk to Los Algodones for a dental cleaning and some lunch.
This was our first experience with Mexico dental. I say “our”, but Jeff was the guinea pig.
It was an AMAZING experience, and we will not longer be hesitant at taking the plunge. We picked a dentist that was highly recommended by other FT RV’ers that we personally know and decided to walk to the office a couple days before his appointment to make sure we knew where she was. And if you have any hesitation about walking there yourself, the dental office will send someone to meet you at the border to escort you to their door.
One thing you have to be prepared for when crossing the border is the bombardment of sales folks trying to sell you the exact same thing the guy right across the street is selling. Pharmaceuticals, dentists, eyeglasses and your typical assortments of trinkets, jewelry, blankets and cowboy hats are about it for this small town. A polite “no thank you” is enough to put a stop to it, until you hit the next booth.
While at lunch one day a nice lady from a local “spa” stopped by and gave me a free 1-minute shoulder massage while I drank my margarita. Her skills were impressive, and we actually went to her shop a couple days’ later and got $13 pedicures.
Our original intent was to stay in Yuma for a week before heading to Quartzsite, where our fellow Xscapers RV club was having a convergence. But Olgilby Road was just too perfect a spot to breeze through and we stayed for two weeks.
We did get to see our RV buddies Flying the Koop, Mike and Donna. It had been a while and they were blowing through town on their way from San Diego to Phoenix. Our time was short, but oh so sweet. We will get to see them a bit more after Q.
Well, onward to Q for the largest gathering RV’ers on earth!
After a 3-week visit back to Nashville and Bentonville Arkansas…or as I call it, the land of humidity, we flew back to our RV in Mesa.
We had lunch with our RV buddies John & Becky and Don & Debbie at Liberty Market in Gilbert. There was so much to talk and laugh about and so little time before we all headed off into different directions. We are going to miss these guys but are confident we will see them out on the road!
We pulled out of Mesa for the last time Thursday, March 10 and started our northern trek to Moab. We would have taken our time for the 488-mile journey but Jeff and I signed up for the Canyonlands Half Marathon & 5Mile run on the 12th.
Our plan was to stop half way, but I find that after we have been in one place for a while, we don’t mind putting in some miles on our first day back on the road. We drove 428 miles (9.5 hours) and got within an hours drive of Moab, stopping in a truckers lot in small town Utah for a free overnight.
Neither Jeff nor I have ever been to Moab and when we pulled into town I felt…disappointed. I guess I had pictured a quaint little mountain town like Breckenridge or Tahoe. But my first impression was…junky.
I hate to say that out loud especially now that we have stayed for two weeks. After experiencing all that the great outdoors Moab has to offer, I’m a fan…sort of.
We were in Moab during the Easter Jeep Safari, when 5,000 jeeps roll into town for this annual event. Jeff and I worked the Dometic booth at the expo showcasing their mobile cooling products. The patrons were fun and everyone remain completely clothed!
We camped at the Sand Flats Recreation Area, home of the famous Slick Rock off road trail system. This is a mecca for off-roading anything. Jeeps, ATV’s, dirt bikes and mountain bikes and they flow constantly through this campground…all hours of the day and night.
It wasn’t our customary dispersed camping. That, leave your shades up, silent paradise that we strive for. But more of the dusty, loud, drive as fast as you can in a 25 mph speed zone, don’t care how loud my radio is at 1AM and the rules don’t apply to me type of camping.
But despite the noise, here are the highlights for Moab.
Moab Half Marathon (Jeff) & 5 Mile run (Deb) and Monument Valley Half Marathon
This race takes place on the very scenic HWY 128 that runs along the Colorado River. The city shuts down Hwy 128 where 2300 entrants were shuttled by bus from downtown Moab to the start of the race. We had the entire highway to consume while running through the canyons.
I’m not sure but it felt like the race was all downhill…my kind of race for sure! Either that or I was just taken in by the surroundings. Colorado River flowing on my right, shear red cliffs everywhere I looked, Native American drummers out on the course and lots of local support.
Also, Jeff decided to enter the Monument Valley Ultra Half Marathon the following weekend…It was spectacular!!!
Hiking Slick Rock Loop
Slick Rock was just out our RV door, so we laced up our shoes and got after it. This is a 9.5 Mile loop over petrified sand dunes that make Slick Rock what it is.
Contrary to the name, Slick Rock is not actually slick, but very sticky. That’s what makes it the mountain bike & 4×4 mecca that it is. The texture of the rock makes these trails very tacky which is great for rubber to hold on too. It’s a good thing because this trail has some vertical climbs that defy gravity.
The mounds of petrified dunes are endless and all look the same. So I was thankful for the very well marked trails by white stripes painted along the surfaces.
We had to share the trail with mountain bikes and dirt bikes, which isn’t really my preferred nature experience.
We found that the best time to hike/run Slick Rock was before 8AM. By the time we finished up the parking lot and trails became full with people there to enjoy their adventure too.
The Arches National Park
Jeff and I also headed to The Arches National Park. We toured the visitor’s center and watched a very good movie on how arches are formed, then headed to the Delicate Arch trailhead.
Delicate Arch is probably the most photographed arch in the park and requires a strenuous 1.5 mile one way hike to get to. We arrived about noon and the parking lot and trail was crowded. The majority of the trail was wide-open space so there was plenty of area for the crowd to spread out. That is until you get to the last ¼ mile where it is a somewhat narrow trail on the side of a bluff.
Once we rounded the final corner we caught view of this amazing arch that has a natural amphitheater built into its surroundings. You can sit and ponder life or visit with others from all over the world. It really was a beautiful sight to see!
While Jeff went off jeeping one day I drove back to The Arches and hiked Devils Garden loop. It’s a 7.5 mile hike that gives you an opportunity to take in 7-8 arches.
Let me tell you…this trail did not disappoint!
It is probably my #2 most beautiful trails that I have ever hiked (#1 Grand Canyon).
The rocks in this area form as fins that the trail traverses up, over and in between. Each turn around a corner showcased another view better than the last. At one point I just had to stop taking pictures and keep moving.
And the arches…most framed views just like a pretty portrait. WOW!
We made one last trip to The Arches on Easter Sunday morning for a sunrise service then to the Eklectic Cafe for a birthday breakfast (yea me).
Jeeping Steel Bender
We met a very sweet couple, Jeff and Jennifer, in our camping section, who have been coming to the Jeep Safari for 20 years. Jeff asked my Jeff if he would like to ride along on a group 4×4 ride. How can you say no to something like that!
Jeeping is nothing either of us have experienced. The trails are steep and rugged and with a a name like, “Steel Bender”… they are not for the faint of heart. You creep along with 10-12 other jeeps, each driver challenging themselves to take the hardest route. Things fall off and jeeps break down all from the strain of being tested.
After 8 hours Jeff learned a lot about the jeeping community. If he ever trades in his bicycle a jeep may be a consideration.
I think my ultimate struggle with Moab was just the shear natural beauty of the area that makes up the Canyonlands while having a feeling of destruction and wear.
It was both beautiful and sad at the same time.
The nice thing about RV’ing is we can move on from here and have a totally different type of experience just waiting around the corner!
Until next time Moab (maybe)….
We’ve spent the last two weeks traveling out west and back again.
Our trip started with driving to St. Louis to drop Sammy-do off at my Mom’s for a little paw sitting. Sam loves going to his grandma’s because the food scoop overflows, the squirrels are plentiful in a fenced in back yard and the cute factor gains a little extra loving. We hate traveling without him, but it’s comforting to know he is being super spoiled while we are gone.
While we were in St. Louis Jeff and I decided to try something new. We took a running tour of downtown. After 3 hours and 6 miles I learned things about St. Louis that I never knew. We went with St. Louis Running Tour, THE ONLY running tour in St. Louis. Our tour guide Joe showed us iconic buildings like Union Station, The Arch and Cardinal Stadium. Joe also gave the behind the scenes facts and sometimes seedy drama that unfolds during the development of the new frontier.
It is a run and it is a tour so there are lots of stops to talk with bursts of running to the next destination. Our longest stretch of running was no more that ¼ mile, so if you do this thinking you are going to get your 4-6 mile solid run in, you won’t.
We didn’t take the tour for the run, but to learn & see more about the city that I grew up around…while getting a little low-key exercise. Definitely a very fun morning with Joe!
That afternoon we flew off to Las Vegas for the National Hardware Show. Dometic had a huge display of their new portable refrigerator/freezers (CFX) that run off of 12V, 24V or 120 and their super insulated coolers. They are great for tailgating, RV’ing and boating. We have a CFX frig/freezer that is the best! You can set it to freeze or refrigerate anywhere from 50 degrees down to -8 degrees. That’s a lot of frozen solid ice cream…on 12volts of power no less! It makes up for the small refrigerators that RV’s typically have.
Las Vegas is an interesting town and one that neither of us is particularly comfortable in. I recharge in tranquility and nature. So when you go out for a run at 5AM and the street department is already at work with jack hammers and the all night partiers are just reaching their peak volume, my soul is just piled on with more noise that I went out to decompress from. Throw in a couple of propositions from some ladies of the night (Jeff) and we were ready to get rolling.
From Las Vegas we drove the Dometic RV back to Elkhart Indiana. We were going to hit the central, most direct route through Colorado, but with forecasted snow in the mountains we redirected to the southern route. Our first stop was in Flagstaff where we drove though sleet, snow and rain.
Saturday morning we woke to 1” of snow. The sun popped out and we decided to wash the Vegas grime off our running shoes with a trail run before hitting the road. We stayed at the Flagstaff KOA and they have access to trails right out the back gate. It was a stunning 5-mile run as the sun filtered through the snow-covered foliage. Now this is what I’m talking about! Running through the woods fully alive…nothing is better for the soul. I love this KOA for its convenience to town, trails right out back and very little road noise.
Our other stops
Albuquerque, New Mexico– Long push day to the KOA. Very nice park with level sites, good spacing but very close to the highway. I was able to get a 3.5-mile walk in just within the park by making 3 loops. It was a big RV park! We met a group of French Canadians who where traveling together. One of them had a Heartland Edge, similar to our Ironman Can we just sold. We are hoping to come back here in October for the Xscapers very first Convergence at the Balloon Fiesta.
Amarillo, Texas-Oasis RV Resort. This was a really nice RV park as well. Very level and spacious sites with weight room, hot tub and pool. We didn’t use any of the amenities and reviews are mixed on this RV Park as it relates to smell. There are a couple of VERY LARGE cow farms nearby. So the prevailing winds has a directed correlation to the type of experience you will have here.
Luckily the temps were cold and the wind was blowing from the North, so we had no issues of smell.
Tulsa, Oklahoma-Long push day to KOA at Will Rogers horse racing track. This is mostly grass covered RV parking. A lot of the sites were flooded with the recent rains, so we were upgraded to a raised gravel site that backed right up to the horse track. We arrived at 4pm so we were able to catch the last 3 horse races.
It was entertaining as the horses made their 90-second run (if that) around the track, then a water truck and 3 tractors made their way around grading the course with diligence and speed. Their job took about 15 minutes that was repeated after each 90 second run. We found it quite humorous and had more fun watching the tractors than we did the horses. I know…we are strange that way.
We went out for a run the next morning at 6AM to soothing country music over the loud speakers while the horse trainers were already out running the horses. We definitely felt like we were back in our part of the country where people wave as they drive by. If you are from the country you know the wave…one or two fingers just barely lifted off the steering wheel just to give you a friendly hello.
St. Louis, Missouri-Long push day to Mom’s house. We got to see our fur baby and stayed two nights so that Jeff could put in a solid workday that didn’t involve the swerving and jostling that comes with driving a can of marbles down the road at 70 mph. It was hard to leave Sam again especially when he was lying in front of doors, at our feet and around our shoes to ensure that he is not left behind. 😦
Elkhart, Indiana-Long push day to our final destination, MasterTech RV. They are doing the work on our personal RV project. The slide on the Dometic RV decided to stop working in Albuquerque so MasterTech is going to work on it for us. And they provide free parking with electric hookups.
It’s been a long trip with a few memorable moments. Now that we are here in Elkhart we get to check on the progress on our personal RV project over the weekend. The water damage on our roof was much more extensive than we originally thought…but everything is fixable.
More on our project in the next post. Until then…get out and play!
We flew from Phoenix to St. Louis is order to pick up our fur baby, Sam. He has been staying with Grandma for 5 weeks while we were attending our RV rallies out west. We missed our little guy so much. But there was something amiss when we arrived. Evidently while we were gone someone stole his eyebrows. That’s right. My mom took him to Petco for some grooming and while he was there someone swiped his curls and his eyebrows right from above his terrier nose.
Of course Petco is not quite sure what happened. But nothing could be done. The incident has already happened and Sam will have to endure the embarrassment of an expressionless head until they grow back. It’s nothing that a treat can’t help improve his mood, but he may need some therapy to regain his terrier mojo. Poor guy.
While in St. Louis we tried to lighten Sam’s mood with a run, so we headed to Old St. Charles MO to jump on The Katy Trail. The Katy Trail is considered the most successful rails-to-trails projects in the US. A portion of the Missouri KT Railroad experienced a flood in 1986. Since the railroad was in decline and the cost to repair the tracks were excessive, the railroad disbanded and ceased to exist. In 1989 it was decided to convert the old railroad tracks to a trail system and the first segment of the Katy Trail was officially opened in 1990. It is considered the nations longest rails-to-trails system that spans 237 miles from Machens, MO to Clinton, MO.
This was our first time running on The Katy Trail, and after experiencing a small section we are determined to add biking this trail to our bucket list. There are companies that can help make this happen by hauling your gear from stop to stop over the course of 5 days and make your overnight accommodations for you. Or you can ride or hike the trail unsupported. Obviously we would like to use the RV for our stop overs, but that requires finding someone who is comfortable pull/parking a camper and can take the time off to do so. All logistics that can be worked out in due time I suppose.
Sam and I ran/walked an out and back for 6 miles while Jeff ran the entire 12 mile section from St. Charles to Machens. I then drove to pick up Jeff at the trailhead. It was certainly a beautiful day with temps in the low 70s. Shades-on-sunroof-open kind of day. The frogs were croaking and the birds where in full song. Sure signs of spring on the horizon (hopefully).
After being in the dry desert for so long it is definitely a world of change coming back to moist air (code for humidity) and dark brown soil. The contrast is striking. It’s a contrast that I am at odds with. I miss the dry air, amazing sunsets and abundance sunshine of the Southwest. But there is something comforting about the familiarity of the Midwest. It will be nice to be home to experience spring, but my mind is still out on the road.
We had a nice dinner with my Mom and my Grandmom. I have my big 5-0 birthday coming up and it still astounds me that I have a Grandmother still alive. She will be 98 this July. She was living alone, driving and mowing her 1.5 acres until 92 when she finally moved in with my Mom. We got her situated in her own apartment about a year ago at an assisted living facility where she is safe and well cared for. No more going down a flight of stairs to the basement to do laundry when no one is home. Her short-term memory is a challenge now, but she is always willing to talk about the old days.
Jeff put on some Big Band music and asked her to dance. She loves listening to music and it brought back memories of her and my Grandpa going out dancing every Saturday night while my Mom and her brother were free to play with the other kids outside the VFW hall. It was a sweet visit and we never know if this will be our last with Grandma. She hopes she gets to see us again and we do too. She is a feisty gall who loves sweets and ribs…and a few beers in her day. Now her favorite drink is a chocolate shake. Jeff asked her what she attributes her long life to. “Hard work and eating anything she wants”. That sums it up folks…eat more ice-cream!
We will be driving back to Arkansas soon, memories and eyebrow-less dog in tow.