Category Archives: Barriers

DAY 182 – 03/12/2013 – Two Last Ski Days in Colorado

“I noticed the carny nature of your trip”, said the gruff-looking security guard as he allowed us to camp in the ski area parking lot overnight.

I won’t name him nor will I name the ski area where he works. We don’t want him to get in any trouble for his kindness which I’ll describe below.

I wrote down this quote as soon as he said it. It was too good not to note. At one time in his life, he was a ‘carny’ – a carnival worker and a vagabond himself.

After we left Sequoia National Park, we turned Eastward for home. Marfa, the 4Runner, faced one more great challenge: getting back over the Rocky Mountains! But, David wanted to ski a bit more. We were right there, where all the big Colorado resorts were. And, we had a good line on a discount for some of them.


Up and up and up, over one of the passes through the Rockies

So, we picked one and it was a beauty! Fresh snow all over. Deep and puffy and so much fun! Certainly the deepest powder we skied all winter.

But, the one barrier to enjoying all this snow was the Tramper itself. We were in Summit County, a very chi-chi area of Colorado. We were actually rejected by the only campground open. Because the Tramper was too small!! Tiger Run has a HOA (home owner’s association) and I guess the trailer owners have an attitude because they live in an expensive resort town. Phhfftt! It’s still a trailer park, for heaven’s sake!


Soon we will say goodbye to the beautiful West!

We checked into the La Quinta that night. Seemed simpler than driving around looking for a place to park. What a nice hotel! (We have only used a hotel one other time on The Tramper Voyage. In Kayenta, on the Navajo Rez. Because the Navajo Nation has their own laws which we do not know.)

Still, we couldn’t leave skiing behind, yet. So, we decided to do what we’ve done successfully before. Park overnight on the ski area parking lot. Did we ask anyone if we could do this? Nope. Sometimes, it’s better to ask forgiveness than for permission.


As snow kept piling up around us, we settled in and made dinner. Then, an authoritative knock on the door! David opened up to reveal the ski area security guard. “There’s no overnight parking here. Didn’t you see the sign?”

Well, no, we didn’t. David got out and began talking with this gentleman, explaining why we parked here. David is one of the most personable people I know. He didn’t try to convince the guard to let us stay. He simply began sharing some of the Tramper Voyage with him. Soon, there was a smile on the guard’s face. He turned out to be a kindred spirit; one who had wandered with a carnival! He said that which is quoted at the beginning of the post. He could see then that we were not some 20-somethings who would get drunk and do something stupid. (Apologies to my 20-something friends who would never do this!)


Dawn. In our ‘secret’ location.

The guard showed us to another parking lot. A bit higher up. A bit more secluded. Nicer. Wow! I’m so lucky to be traveling with David. He connected so nicely with the guard. OK, maybe part of it was my sad face!

– Jane

PS –  In her ever accommodating and sometimes apologetic way, Jane insisted I “take a few runs on my own”.  I don’t always agree to those suggestions, skiing or biking entirely with her is a joy and only slightly slower or less intense than I’d do alone.  But today, up I went above the treeline and into a bowl.  A bowl is a huge open area of snow, usually “bowl-shaped” and exposed.  This one had filled with snow!  Lots of snow!  I like the exposed nature of these places as there are always surprises. High mountain winds can scour one place to an icy plank while, with a little thought, you can find where all that snow was deposited.  Several turns of each of my runs found that familiar ice.  I kinda like ice, having grown up skiing Pennsylvania boilerplate.  But then I found it, each run was also buoyed by the knee-deep glee of a powder day.  Bounding up and down til I was near spent, I laughed my way back to our meeting place before leaving the western slopes!

– David



A a perpetual student of science I find myself wondering about a fairly standard “human” thing to do.  We measure everything. Sure this is critical for science, engineering, medicine, architecture and a host of other endeavors.  But should we do it every day to Every Thing!?  Should we measure the things we do for fun?

Inches, stones, millimeters, pounds, grams, Miles, seconds, bushels, pecks, hours, degrees, angstroms, dollars, increments galore!


imagesI am not wearing a watch for this trip.  Somehow I wake up every day.  The sun seems to bring me around most often, but even foiled windows at a bright parking lot don’t keep me sleeping.  We’ve found when we leave campsites in relaxed fashion after a good breakfast and cleanup, it is almost invariably 10:00 AM by the clock in Marfa.  We are noticing the sun more, tracking the distance and time we can safely hike or pedal before sunset by “feel”.  Only for the longest or most arduous treks like into a canyon do we note the take off and midway times/points for safety.


We have a nifty borrowed device from John, a hiking GPS that can track, then display every step or ride we take, then plot it out on a topographical map.  Even play the trip back in fast motion, three minute time-lapse to show the “track”, the speeds, and the elevation profile.  It would probably even show little detours for drinks, snacks or sneeky bathroom breaks.  Then we can compare maximum speeds, means, and every detail for recreation or relocating a place.  We have used it for a few hikes and a few rides. Another friend Richard, showed us his “smart phone” app that would do the same for every training ride.  You can include a heart rate monitor and track every calorie burned.  We could track and measure every inch, every experience of this whole trip.


We don’t want to.  I am beginning to feel one of the forces that drags people down is measurement applied in unnecessary ways.  I don’t measure music, art, love or any of the natural joys.  I don’t measure a sunrise or sunset.  I don’t measure the compression felt in a ski run, or the sweeping glee of twisting on a trail.  I don’t measure my cat, nor my meals or squeals.

As a machinist I measured the thickness, diameter, length etc of parts in thousandths of an inch.  For function, parts need to fit together and be interchangeable.   A human hair is ~.003″, or about three thousandths, paper is also about that same thickness.  In the right positions we can easily feel this thickness, one page of a book slipped back can easily be felt by your fingertips.  A hair in the wrong place, like your eye, seems like a log.  But it is just these innate measurement capacities that eliminate the need for a tool to measure every thing.

We have a general idea how far we have driven at the end of a day.  Should traveling less make us feel it was not a good travel day.  Mountain biking is notoriously slow compared to road biking.  We typically spend over two hours to ride ten woods miles, including breaks and pictures.  Just because I could ride 30 miles on the road in the same time, is it wasted time?  Certainly not.  In fact, now that we are alternating hikes and rides so gloriously frequently, I want measure less and less.

See if there are areas where measurement lessens your joy and throw the bum out.  We’ve even had numerous events where trying to “get a picture or capture the moment” detracts from the actual moment.



DAY 158 2/15/2013 Farewell Friends and Monarch!

Rolling down off the site

Rolling down off the site

Today we packed up, hitched up and rolled out.  This was a near daily event on the Voyage until Heart of the Rockies where we’ve been docked since January one.  Here we skied.  Here we met our hosts, Hollly, Gayle, and the ever-so-happy Aiden.  Here we met The LivingstonFamilyAdventure!  Gabe, Marci, Mason, Adin, Asher, Mark, Niko.  We met Jeff and Snoogins.  And all have found their way into our hearts.  We were a community surviving the cold with the common Mountain interest.  Living in the venturi above Salida we all braved the scouring high winds.  We cooked out apres- ski at 10 degrees as the sun went down.  We opened our door to the wind ripping it out of our hands more times than not.  Double dates, potlucks of Gumbo, Curry, Ribs and laughter will not be forgotten or taken for granted.  Gathering those joys is truly life’s bounty.  Warmth in the cold of Winter.

Bye Bye Monarch

Bye Bye Monarch

Another odd thing for David to do is leave a ski area just as the season gets rolling, all trails opened and the backcountry getting deeper.  But this is not a ski trip.  This is not JUST a ski trip.  It is longer, deeper and open to a tomorrow with whatever it brings.

We have left family, new friends and new places before.  Sometimes just a few days after meeting them.  Its hard, but the road calls…the next adventure hides around the corner.  This time it was much  harder.  Climbing Monarch Pass to cross the Continental Divide felt like leaving old friends again!  Unprompted, I looked over at Jane once and knew she had the same lump in her throat.

But here we go.  Yup, another milestone driven.  Colorado DOT webcams to give a limited idea of road conditions.  Four new inches of snow at Monarch was not “EPIC” enough to delay leaving.  The roads below the pass were dry, and above 10,000 feet looked like just a little snow pack.  Ice too would have kept us safely parked at “home”.

Poor Marfa (the Faithful 4Runner, as you’ll recall), strolled up the pass with her 3400 lb load, going only 25 mph on the steeper sections.  Coloradans have no hesitation to pass, but I don’t put myself in a ditch for their convenience.  Hazard lights flashing and a caution triangle emblazoned on the spare should be enough to send ’em around.  Even the downhill!

Rolling down slowly

Rolling down slowly

Especially the downhill gave me caution.  30 mph caution signs at cliff-edged curves, a “runaway truck ramp” and snow packed surface combined; I went 25-30 downhill too.  Never have I driven a rig that demands attention like this.  Adrenaline is usually served only for sports, not just driving!

We pulled a big “hundred mile day” and found a National Forest access road to the Cimarron River.  A peaceful night capped off our dusky walk seeing an eagle and nice herd of elk!  Quiet, 0 degrees, cozy.  Off we went again in the AM.

Off West past Gunnison, Wifi’d our safe departure to family and the Colorado community and on we went.  South on 550.  Had I known Red Mountain Pass I may have gone another way.  It was dry, clear and sunny;I definitely would have detoured if it weren’t…but wow!


Jane peers out the window into the abyss (note small piece of road in right corner)


Nice scenery-NO GUARDRAILS!


The Valley Looms 500-1000 feet below!  Did I mention NO GUARDRAILS?

Sometimes a glimpse of the road ahead has you wondering where it squeezes through?

Sometimes a glimpse of the road ahead has you wondering where it squeezes through?


Coalbank Pass' road as an engineering marvel stretches out below

Molas and Coalbank Pass’ road as an engineering marvel stretches out below

I had heard Monarch is one of the higher passes, but had no idea normal cars would be routed over anything like Red Mt (and it’s requisite partners Molas and Coalbank) year round.  Poor Marfa, her transmission started to overheat as indicated by a little red warning light.

Removing ALL cardboard from radiators and checking transmission fluid!

Removing ALL cardboard from radiator, trans cooler and checking transmission fluid!

14 miles uphill at 20-28 mph, no guard rails, thousand foot cliffs, very few pullouts, warnings not to stop secondary to avalanche areas and more than a few ice chunks falling on us while we crawled!  WOW!  Did I say Monarch was stressful?  We pulled into a small passing area and I pulled all of the cardboard that had been shielding the shivering radiator and transmission cooler from the Winter’s air for the past months.  Poor gal, she needed all the air we could give her on THIS climb!  We made it.

Arriving at Durango Mountain Resort (formerly Purgatory) we knew the right move.  Pull in, stay, ski!   (hee hee)  A great dinner was had and improved immensely by visiting across tables with two new friends from Tucson, Angelo and Debbie.  Plus there was a torchlight parade!  Could  it get any better with careful planning?  (As you know, “Serendipity is often our guide!”)


(Fast Wifi allowed lots of pictures today courtesy of Durango Joe’s Coffee)

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.


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??”


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


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.


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.


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).


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.


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.

camper progress 045

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

– David


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.


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.


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)!


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!)


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.

Feb mar 11 067

On the road and at home.

– Jane