Monthly Archives: January 2013

DAY 128 – 01/20/2013 – In Which We Hike in the Snowy Woods with the Livingstons

We have but one neighbor in the Heart of the Rockies RV Park and they are as much fun as we could want. The Livingston’s are traveling with their 4 young sons in an RV and, like us, chose to stay in Salida and ski for a while. You can check out their blog, Livingston Family Adventures, here.

There’s no new snow right now at Monarch Mountain, so we decided to take a hike together.

From left are Mason, Asher (with his eyes closed), dad Gabe, Adin, mom Marcie and Mark

From left are Mason, Asher (with his eyes closed), dad Gabe, Adin, mom Marci and Mark

The sky was cerulean blue and much, much warmer (mid 30’s and sunny) than it had been a couple weeks ago.

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The Colorado Trail is 486 miles and runs past our campground home, just a couple miles up the mountain road.

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The boys are pretty small but they can hike! Mason rode on Gabe’s back and the other three were troopers.

We signed in; necessary to find you if you don’t come out! Also, keeps track of trail usage.

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The boys each carried their own backpack and were wearing snowpants and boots. Asher led the way:

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We had some nice views:

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We saw animal tracks.

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The paw print could have been someone’s dog but we preferred to think of it as a wolf or coyote track!

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We walked into the woods quite a way, but the boys started to get a little cold and tired. Besides, snow that only comes up to my ankles is knee deep to a child!

Adin

Adin

A yummy alfresco lunch back at the car:

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Mason, Adin, Asher and Mark

The boys still had some hiking left in them so we headed up the snowy road in search of a geocache.

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Some scrambling was required. Gabe had an opportunity to give the two older boys a little rock climbing lesson:

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Sadly, no cache was found, but lots of fun was had!

– Jane

DAY 124 – 01/16/2013 Skiing at Copper with Jon & Naomi

Yesterday, in the sack lunch room at Ski Monarch, we met a very nice couple. Their names are Jon and Naomi. They’re from Maine.

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Naomi & Jon. Married about a year! Isn’t that cute!?

Of course, we blabbed on about our trip. And we gave them one of our new cards. (Yes, we ordered up some ‘business’ cards. After being asked if we had a card many times. So, now we’re cool.)

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We liked Jon and Naomi right from the start. We had that lovely ‘instant rapport’ going on. You know the feeling. When you have things in common that make you feel comfortable right away, but your curiosity is piqued and you want to spend some more time together.

David, Naomi, Jon & Jane

David, Naomi, Jon & Jane

Our new friends mentioned that they were going to try Copper Mountain ski area the next day. While David held his breath in anticipation of revisiting Copper, I asked them if they wanted company. I told them to check out the blog and send us a comment if they had an interest in skiing with us.

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David said later that he wasn’t going to push for the Copper side trip but he sure was glad that I brought it up. David taught skiing at Copper, back in the ’80’s.

Of course, we are loving our ‘home’ mountain, Ski Monarch. It’s everything we hoped it would be: low-key, inexpensive and close by, with that beautiful Colorado snow and big scenery.

Some of the Copper Mountain base lodges

Some of the Copper Mountain base lodges

But, Copper Mountain is a different sort of resort from Monarch. It’s huge! Many times more lifts; much more acreage. It’s glamorous. And expensive, so Copper would be a rare treat for us.

We heard from Jon and Naomi later in the evening. Yay! We’ll have a fun day at Copper! We packed our ski bags and went to sleep early.

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Next morning, we met up with our new friends inside one of the Copper Lodges. We quickly realized that exploring the mountain with them would be a good experience!

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Naomi has been skiing for a while; Jon just started a couple years ago; I am a constantly-learning ski veteran and David is the happiest man on Earth right now!

My wonderful David. Happiest man on Earth - to be skiing in Colorado!

My wonderful David. Happiest man on Earth – to be skiing in Colorado! He says skiing with me makes it even better…

We all skied to our joyful limits. David sprinkled in some really useful tips for everyone and we used those hints, cruising down ‘blue’ runs and testing ourselves on some ‘black diamonds’.

We were absolutely done. Spent. But, someone said (as someone inevitably does)  “Let’s go down one more time!”. And, so we did, closing down the lift on the very last run up the mountain. Whoo Hoo!

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We said goodbye to Jon and Naomi and started the long drive back to the Tramper. The evening Alpenglow atop the now-slumbering mountains bid us a beautiful goodbye.

– Jane

Do we hurry our road? Or help where needed…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn the exciting drive to Copper we saw a silver-grey van stopped, stacks of backpacks and 6 or 8 college students waving as we slowed, but drove just beyond.  Realizing they were waving for help, I thought, they probably have Verizon too (no service here between towns).  I backed up along the shoulder.

The first question was, “do you have any different tools”?  “Our lug wrench is slipping”.  First glance showed 7 loosened lugs on that big right-side, rear van wheel.  My “lug wrench” is part of a pared-down toolbox tossed into a lightweight Homie’s Orange plastic box.  A Craftsman breaker bar and deep socket; it fits both the Tramper and Marfa the 4 Runner.  It did NOT fit the Colorado Mountain College van.

After allowing tries with several other size sockets, it was clear this was a stubborn lug nut.  My “hammer”  is a camp axe, but is in the cubby of the Tramper, back at the campground.  I smacked the offender a few times with the heavy breaker bar.  Shock is your friend against friction.  A small vise grip was quickly tried, broken and abandoned (I gave permission to break or abuse anything as needed).

My next attack included a little trip back into my toolbox and some “creativity”.  I grabbed a hacksaw blade, bent it at about the depth of a socket, 3/8″ or so.  Then, a student handed me the key:  A Bigger Hammer!  This was no ordinary hammer, it was his ice axe.   I pounded the socket over the lug nut with the hacksaw blade wedged  into one flank of the hex.  Pounded some more.  I pushed down with all my weight and pressure inwards to keep that socket on.  Not a budge, despite a few grunts and cuss words.

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Then, I recomposed myself, flipped the wrench to give me the best torque, pulling upwards and grunted some more.  I think it was a Scottish heritage grunt; a Grant Grunt!  And so the lug turned.  Advising them not to worry about driving with 7 out of 8 lugs, I threw my tools back into the box, shook a few hands and ran back to our car.  (Had it not yielded, I would have added a few drops of oil or transmission fluid from a dipstick, and asked if anyone had a camp stove.  Heat, your other friend against friction.  The other, priceless tool is persistence: remember, “The mechanic will have his way”.)

Off to Copper.  They, in turn were soon on their way to ice climb at Vail.

“How the Heck Can They Do That??”

HE SAID:

That’s the question. How is it that we, David and Jane, managed to temporarily quit work and travel for 3 months or more?

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Kitchen table Command Center!

First we started dreaming and discussing.  Our own inner conversation was perhaps the biggest obstacle to deal with.  What if?  What if something happens?  What will we do with our house, cars, bills, cats?  These and countless other thoughts are probably what keeps most people from trying out their own dreams.

Having a wonderful, mature, self-sufficient daughter helps more than we knew.  Our home and cats are in capable hands,  The house has more people living in it now than before this whole trip was conceived.

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Jane, Olivia and David on launch day

Jane and I are able to imagine options and dream without internal criticism sometimes.  We imagine big choices, brainstorm without reserve or critique and just see the routes that might unfold.  We do this with a lot of decisions, money management, future ideas, loans, projects, and any old dream.  While allowing a possibility, we get to outline many of the unfolding details without ever taking a first actual step.  Remember when you were thirteen?  Just paint a picture.  Don’t block  your own thoughts.

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Tents were considered, we love tent camping, but the thought of taking down a tent every day for months was eliminated early. Bed & Breakfasts were entertained, but the prices and fixed distances between could have precluded that possibility.  We hate generators and have an aversion to the fields full of “Rock-star buses” (big RV’s), KOA’s and campgrounds that look  like parking lots.  I researched those options and older RV’s and came up with a renovation/revival as an “off-grid” solution.  In our Tramper we are capable of warmth, showers, light, cooking, music and all the comforts of home without any hook-ups or support for more than three weeks at a time (other than filling our tanks with water and propane).

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Next, we had to look at our present lifestyle and bills.  This began in earnest more than 2 years before the Voyage.  But even before this, our lifestyle included numerous preventions to inordinate debt.  We drive old cars with “liability-only” auto insurance.  We live in a small older house, much “smaller” and cheaper than our realtor suggested for a two income family.  We try not to buy things we don’t “need”.  Thrift stores have surprises waiting as they also have fine clothing for your normal needs, especially used work khakis (for $10 instead of $80).

Pins on the map...

Pins on the map…

During our direct preparation, we eliminated ALL credit card use and other debts possible.  I paid my student loan in double payments, managing to pay 9 months in advance.  Nearly all materials for renovation came from weekly paychecks and not from savings.  This gradual approach fit the tasks as I spent 2 years rebuilding.  The first stage was on a new frame, brakes, tires and lights to create a safe “outline” to work with.  My car rebuilding, machinist, creative, research and contacts all formed the background assembly.

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The second year followed with three test trips where we took notes on what the interior needed, how to rearrange and how to weather a real Winter.  I even did a solo trip to the Catskills for the cold test at 12 degrees F.   The second stage of renovating started this March, after that cold test, when I gutted the interior, insulated, wired, plumbed, ran gas pipes and lines and finally recreated the warm Birch  interior I liked so much about the original.

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The ‘in-process’ view. The finished view is above.

– David

SHE SAID:

There are three things that came together that made this trip possible:

1. We both have professions that will (hopefully) allow us to step out for a year. David is a Physical Therapist and I am a Nuclear Medicine Technologist. When there are job openings, we could plug right back in. In the past, we both tried the management route and found it to be more of an irritant than it’s worth. So, we are now well-paid cogs in the wheel and content to be so. If I had finally attained my “dream job” after many years of climbing the ladder, well, I probably would have been a lot less likely to leave it.

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2. We have a small house. We bought it in 1999. It’s 1000 sq ft or so. Much less house than the realtor wanted us to buy. Much less house than we could have gotten financing for. We drive used cars. We have one TV. We have “dumb” phones. Our credit card balances are zero. Neither of us likes to shop particularly much. The sum of all this is that our expenses are relatively low. So, cash is available for a trip like this.

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3. Our personalities make this possible, as well. We are willing to take a calculated risk (leave our jobs and travel) for a really cool benefit (leave our jobs and travel)!

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Other things make the Tramper Voyage, if not possible, then a lot easier. Our daughter is 26 and is living in our house while we’re gone, so we didn’t have to sell or rent our residence and it’s in good hands. Our investment house actually makes a small income each month. Our child-rearing days are done. David’s mom, who needs constant care now, is in the excellent hands of David’s three sisters. (Hmm, wonder if it will be a lot more on us when we return? Well, that would be okay!)

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Moonrise in Texas

So, the circumstance fell into place; because we made it happen and because we’ve been fortunate in life.

the great Rio Grande!

the great Rio Grande!

But, the one thing I haven’t mentioned, the one thing that brings it all together is – David Grant! David can assess used cars and determine if they’re OK. He can do the work necessary to get those cars through inspection and keep those cars on the road. He can rehab a 1957 trailer so that it’s not only quite livable, but luxurious to live in! His common sense and his good ideas keep us happy and healthy.

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On the road and at home.

– Jane

DAY 120 – 01/12/2013 – Apres Ski Hot Dogs

Gabe leaned his head out the window and said, “Y’all are crazy!“.

Mark, the oldest.

Mark, the oldest.

David and I have heard this before. And we love it! Hearing that phrase means we’re doing something out of the ordinary. Not necessarily something truly insane, which might have terrible consequences, but something a bit daring. Maybe something cool that others might hesitate to try.

The day was absolutely frigid on the mountain. After just a couple of runs, you’d have to come inside to warm up.

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Asher, with his motor home in the background

But, you know, I was jones-ing for hot dogs cooked outside over a fire. It’s one of the joys of camping and we are, despite the weather and time of year, still camping.

So, when we arrived home at about 4pm, we decided to dig the snow out of our campsite fire pit so that dogs could be cooked. Digging got us nice and warm.

It also drew the attention of our wonderful neighbor, Gabe. He and his wife have 4 cute boys. Before Gabe pulled his head back inside the warm motor home, the boys were interested in cooking hot dogs on a fire, too. Has any boy ever not been interested in a campfire?

from left, Mark, me, Adin, Asher and Marci, their mom. Adin is still very little, so he got cold, cried, and went back inside before he cooked a dog.

from left, Mark, me, Adin, Asher and Marci, their mom. Adin is still very little, so he got cold, cried, and went back inside before he cooked a dog.

The two older boys suited up and brought over a couple of logs they had collected. Their mama must have taught them to never go to someone’s house empty-handed! That’s so dear.

The Livingston boys are really helping me out. I miss my small friends at home. Back home, there are Charlie, Julia, Katie and Jack across the street. Austin and Emma are a few doors away. I see my godson, Parker, a lot. My step-grandson, Zealen, lives a little farther away now but I see him as often as possible.

David with Mark & Asher

David with Mark & Asher

David calls me the ‘Baby Whisperer’ but, phppbt!, I just like to play. And kids are little, innocent miracles (especially when you can give them back).

So, anyhoo, we cooked some dogs on sticks over the fire. Yum!

– Jane

Jane is truly one of the very few adults I know who “GETS” kids.  She listens, prompts their input, and doesn’t seem ever to look over their heads and ignore them.  I HAVE NEVER SEEN HER ANSWER A PHONE OR TEXT IN A CHILD’S PRESENCE!  She is present to the moment she is choosing to share.  I never know quite what to say to little ones, I just wait to see what’s on their minds and hope I can add something they care about too.  I can’t help but be instructive; ask leading questions and hope to trigger them to solve their own little challenges.  I guess that’s whispering too…?

-David