Tag Archives: long time friend

Virginia Mountain Bike Weekend!

The Tramper, though we love her dearly, is taking up way too much space in our driveway. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMore importantly, David’s workshop is totally blocked with the Tramper in the driveway. No projects or cars can go in or out for servicing. Horrors!

The Tramper will never be sold and will never be retired. Just…. out of our hair! Some friends made a lovely offer so we’ll relocate the Tramper soon. But first, one more trip!

It was just a long weekend. A tiny speck of time compared to the Voyage. But big fun!

Ready to go!

Ready to go!

We attended the Virginia Mountain Bike Festival held each year near the Shenandoah in George Washington National Forest.

We love this bike fest! The attendance is small but the trails are huge. They even un-complicate the camping a bit by feeding us a few meals.

Our rides varied from 2 hours to 6 hours and we had loads of fun! To get to the gorgeous singletrack trails, an hour of road riding was required. Road riding is not our favorite (danger from cars, exhaust fumes, blazing sun, etc.) but we were richly rewarded for our efforts by views from the spine of the mountain.


Knowing that you climbed the mountain by bicycle power makes it all the sweeter! Did I mention the trails can be quite rocky?


This segment of trail is tame compared to some of the others. But, I was fighting for my life on the truly rocky bits. No time for photos!

Seen in the woods, on the ridge top: Pink Ladies Slipper! It’s the first time I’ve photographed them in the woods. Enchanting!



Here’s a bouncy bridge over the poetically named North River. I had fun jumping on it! I don’t think the friends who were with me had as much fun on the swaying, leaping bridge as I did, though.

The Tramper was a cozy haven when the weather turned chilly.

He, Rich! Refuse to smile for the camera at your own risk!

Hey, Rich! Refuse to smile for the camera at your own risk!

Another great weekend with the Tramper!

– Jane

The Incredible Weight of Simplicity


“Wow, 190 day trip.  How would you even pack for that?”  a first question of a coworker upon reunion.

Well that really brings together old and new thoughts, pre and post trip musing.  In the planning stage was the same question.  Now, I look around my home and life and wonder what all this crap is.  I wonder why I have all this stuff and how I can make sense of it, or ever get it organized.

Packing, we knew we’d be facing four seasons.  We knew the sports we’d ply.  Lists sprouted: Skis, boots, poles, long undies-tops and bottoms, coat, shell, ski pants, helmet, goggles, glove and mittens.  Hand warmers for Jane, so many accessories- but all easily listed and known.  Then the bikes with their shorter list, kayak with only paddles and life vests.  Hiking, the simplest, added only hiking boots and a day pack.   All easily splayed out in the house or garage, but a bit harder to condense and fit into a tramper and 4Runner.  The obvious and self explained necessities!

Next came clothing.  We heard the wise words of a traveling PT friend.  Bring less, he said.  “I’ve been to China for two weeks with no more than a small knapsack carry-on”.  Wise indeed, but it may have been months before we really “got” it.

Rebuilding the Tramper gave me time to ponder and plan.  Each drawer, shelf and cabinet was to have a purpose.  Some I left as in 1957.  Others had to be removed and revised.

The kitchen, including ALL pots, pans and tools

The kitchen, including ALL pots, pans and tools

The toilet room became a shower and storage for soap and shampoo, the grey water tank, our little commode, laundry detergent and sport wipes.  The table had drawers for 4 forks, spoons,  and 2 knives (one butter, one sharp).  Another drawer, the requisite “junk drawer”, post-its, pens, pencils, a sharpie and small details.

Two drawers, nicely added by a previous owner, (date unknown...1950's 60's?)

Two drawers, nicely added by a previous owner, (date unknown…1950’s 60’s?)

I had built a deep cabinet next to the fridge with 4 shelves above the right wheel well.  The bottom was purpose built to hold two boot-bag knapsacks.  Each of our indulgent boot packs “always” houses those big, heavy ski boots, a helmet, gloves/mittens, neck warmer, sunblock and just a few small accessories.  System organization.  My favorite!  And it works at home, as one can keep the categorized toys or tools of one need in one place, “always” knowing just where to look.

This puzzle piece was 17″ high though.  The boot bags ate a big chunk of space, but their weight nests right over the trailer axle.  Above was divided into 2 shelves each 2 for Hers, 2 shelves for His.  On two were baskets to hold ALL of each of our “normal” clothing.  Into the house they went and piles of underwear, T-shirts, long sleeve shirts, short and long pants were tossed.  Not long before they were overflowing, you can imagine!   Out came a few things.  Then more discussion.

In talk with our selves and travel consultant, John, the PT we knew less was going to be plenty.  Only we could decide how much less.  Clean socks and underwear a necessity, how often would we do laundry?  Having the small shower stall and hot/cold running water was a luxury we knew afforded hand washing as needed.  We settled for about 5 pairs of socks and undies each, washing them nearly every day.  Twas fun to note humidity’s effect on drying.  The dank week of Hurricane Sandy in Rosendale threatened us with that “sour” laundry smell.  The arid deserts and Western mountains dried things overnight or faster and the air we breathed was softened by the humidity.

Of course the mesh laundry bags that piled with bigger loads and heavier clothes were relieved mostly in campgrounds, occasionally in towns at laundromats.  So there we were, with the fewest clothes we thought we could make it with.  Several waves of subtraction left us each with one basket to live from.  And live we did!  An astute observer might notice the small selection in our pictures.  (They always wore the same few clothes)  We didn’t mind a bit.  Prompted me to get rid of and donate quite a pile on return home.  Jane has “halved” her closet compared to before the Voyage!


(I’ll try to get some more pics of our total clothing basket)

DAY 138 – 01/30/2013 – It Fell From the Sky!

Ponder your Winter.  Grey skies, wet sidewalks, dirty cars and cold fingers.  Maybe even fumbled car keys in the frigid dark, frozen locks and dead batteries.  Imagine the only way moisture came down from above was in that classic Northeast style.  Yup, cloudy grey, damp, and near 100% humidity at 31 degrees, then rain.  Its freezes on bushes, branches and grass.  Pretty sight in small doses, but add the extremes like in Maine and you’ve got downed trees and powerlines across your commute!  Yes, if all Winter precipitation were rain and freezing rain, the world would be a different place.

But that’s not the only way it falls.  It falls as snow!  The eskimos have “hundreds” of names for it, (although this is disputed by Wiki).  And in Colorado, nearly everyone follows the weather.  Commerce depends on snow.  Summer cities 200 miles away depend on the gradual delivery from the snowpack.  So this week as the snow came again after more than a week without, people were abuzz.  Interstate Route 70 West was filling up.   Smartphones everywhere ticked the totals at the resorts.  People planned their drop ins.  Snowfall ranged from 2-4″ at Cooper, 7-8″ at Beaver Creek, to 29″ down at Silverton.

GREEN Trees and Thin snow: had to watch out for early season rocks. (Jan 24)

GREEN Trees and Thin snow: even had to watch out for early season rocks. (Jan 24)

Look at it Now!  (Feb 1)

Look at it Now! (Feb 1)

We were fortunate enough to have a standing invitation Wednesday to join a wonderful friend at Beaver Creek to stay in her condo during her vacation.  Her brother, some extended family and friend have annual trips to ski there.  We, of course typically take vacations like theirs too.  But this time we were Trampers, just visiting from the middle of our voyage.

A perspective I hadn’t recognized follows us now.  On all my previous ski trips, I lobby for long trips of more than 7 days, wake up for first tracks and close the lifts.  On the voyage, I’ve set this mode aside.  We wake without alarms, ski a little or a lot.

View from Monarch Ridge, top of Panorama lift.

View from Monarch Ridge, top of Panorama lift.

Winter is HERE!

Winter is HERE!

Monarch operates in San Isabel National Forest

Monarch operates in San Isabel National Forest

We arrived in Beaver Creek, settled into the beautiful condo and waited for Megan.  Plans had already been laid out for all of us, we were riding the 8:00 shuttle to catch the lifts as they opened.  The overall village arrangement includes “a million beds” and free shuttle services to avoid parking hassles and fees.  This meant leaving the condo in ski boots with sandwiches in pockets.  Lately we’ve been at such small places that we park 50-100 feet from the door on the bottom floor of the lodge and carry our boots in knapsack bags into the sack-lunch area to dress.  (The next day, Thursday, inside of the Ski Cooper cafeteria there were 11 other people total at 10:30 AM)

Where do we go first?

Where do we go first?

At Beaver Creek, clearly a fabulous and delightfully diverse mountain, the Trampers suffered culture shock.  We were amazed traversing the connectors of that big mountain.  I was humbled as I stood on the ledge of the Screech Owl Jump along the Birds of Prey men’s Downhill course.  Those Olympians are SO, SO amazingly out of my league.  We felt as we were skiing in a city, a big bustling city.  We had fun, but felt our budget could be spared any more days of full-price/big mountain lift tickets.  Maybe we can spend that hundred on dogsled rides?  We chose to ski only one day there, then head back to our beloved Monarch where our season pass continues.

Most fortunately we loved our visit and hosts.  Megan’s family was in the Vacation Mode.  You know the one.  Each person injects his or her expectations and the clock cannot and will not stop anything from fitting in.  Apres ski, hot tub, happy hour, dinners and best of all; wine and cheese in their room.  We went by, and thoroughly enjoyed the evening of chat, tasty box wine, yummy cheeses and snacks.  The chat is MY favorite.  Each of us seemed prompted to share a tale or story of some notoriety, many from or fed by skiing and the lifelong love thereof.  Surrounding the fires of memory we shared the oral tradition in all its glory.  All of us laughed therapeutically and hard.

My only regret was that all our searches during the ski day for the leeward relief from wind, the best snow or the best trails to share detoured us from sharing runs with anyone but our more direct host, Megan.  Even then, our search blurred some of the blissful runs.

All-in-all, I hadn’t realized how unlike a vacation the Tramper Voyage is.  We’ve set an alarm only 2 or 3 times in as many months.  Ski for an hour or all day with our cheap picnic squeezed in the sack-lunch area.  Skip a day, have a soak, or take a hike instead.  And scarcely squeeze anything extra into the days.  Even shopping or going 15 miles into town is spontaneous and barely weekly.  We sure are enjoying this and hope the picture stays with us to color our future lives, and vacations.

Jumping for Joy!

Jumping for Joy!

– David

DAY 94 12/17/2012 Texas Tour de Quebecois

In our long road West, we just had to visit Jean-Philippe in College Station, Texas.  Since he moved from Baltimore, we have missed him and his wife Anne.  They are temporarily apart by career investigation needs. Anne is now teaching in Sackville, New Brunswick. J-P is finishing projects here in Texas and abroad in Chile.

In them we found an intellectual curiosity that piques our own.  An ability to work hard, like it, and still have joy to throw into life after work.  In them we find laughter and a hope that earth is a pretty good place to live.  We looked so forward to visiting J-P that we drove hard from New Orleans.  Our one Walmart stop in Lake Charles led to being surprised by the Toys-For-Tots inspiration (see previous post), then back on the road!

The rural roads and dreaded Interstate in these big Southern states have 70 and 75 mph speed limits!  We just Tramp along at 55-60 and let our bright LED tail and marker lights, reflectors and red triangle warn everyone to pass at will.  They do.


J-P, center, the laser physicist in his instrumentation lab with, from right, Travis – mechanical engineer, David, and two undergrad students. Real-life Big Bang Theory!?

College Station, of course, is the town around Texas A & M.  A multi-specialty University with everything you’d expect supporting and surrounding it.  J-P is a gracious host and guide.  He claims we hosted him with more cooking and feeding.  I’m not so sure, but we do like bringing our own kitchen and bedroom.


We were treated to several Texas treats.  Mostly we learned Texas has a lot to offer!  It is a more beautiful and varied place than we could have imagined.  There is a lot here and the people couldn’t have been warmer or more friendly.  We ate a fresh grilled Texas steak, oh yeah, delicious!  Sampled fried pickles at a bar and grill named Crickets.  We ate Tex-Mex at Los Cucos and enjoyed really their scrumptious enchiladas, relenos, and then the next night we also ate at a great Texas BBQ, J Cody’s.  There may have been an excess of mounted deer on the walls, but the friendliness was real and the food as moist as a treasured family cookout.  Jane and I especially liked those fried pickles at Cricket’s, now slices instead of spears.


Jean-Philippe brought us mountain biking too.  First we went to Waco, where any of my own preconceived ideas disappeared at a delightful riverside park, Cameron Trails.  A slow level river ride was a nice warmup that led to a mix of old and new trails with names like Hale-Bop, Cedars, Slinky,  and Highlands.  There were trees and hills!  Lots of trees, cedars, pines and a generously thick thicket.  There were smooth buff twisty single tracks.  Lacing them with roots and rocks added the treat we bikers love.  Jane enjoyed the bulk of our ride before insisting I take off with J-P.

He’s  been club riding regularly, racing a bit and is as slim, svelt and fast as ever.  He complimented me in saying no matter what we do, we are always the same speed.  I can’t say I’ve been training, but I also won’t pretend the voyage life isn’t a great diet of play, light good food and Very Regular activity.  We chased each other gleefully up and down for an extra hour and a half!  Aerobic exercise just isn’t work when the trail beckons and a friend is in reach.  Nice to know I still have that “old-guy-strength”.

A rare day of rain led us to rest, go see The Hobbit at a local theater and plan the Tramper updates.  Saturday I bought new tires for the trailer.  Without getting too technical, I wanted a bigger margin of safety.  In Maine, the trailer weighed in at 3460 lbs.  The original tires I selected during rebuilding are “C” rated for ~1800 lbs. each.  They also only held 50psi and seemed to be wearing badly at the inside edge (as seen in the Greensboro, NC posts).  I found wider, slightly bigger tires that are “E” rated for ~2800 lbs each and can be run up to 80 psi.  This should be MUCH better!100_7441

I had also noted that even though the 4Runner brakes were new when we left Baltimore, the truck now pulled slightly Left under hard braking.  A cursory look showed no particular problems.  Closer inspection did reveal an anti-squeal shim that had slipped and seemed a little off.  I knew doing nothing would change nothing.  I also couldn’t be sure whether a new pair of brake pads ($30) may or may not solve anything.  The hydraulics seemed OK, no leaks and no obvious signs of a stuck caliper.  (I had cleaned ’em and bled ’em in Baltimore, evacuating and flushing  ALL old brake fluid with over a quart of fresh Castrol high boiling point fluid).

So there I was with a possible way to improve it without going overboard.  The new brake pads were higher quality, better fit, and infused with ceramic.  I figured the odds trying something were better than the odds of doing nothing and just wondering what was wrong.  Then the guys I met at Napa were super nice too.  Apos is a Geology major and suggested lots of cool stops on our way West in addition to helping out with car parts.

I cleaned things up, popped in new pads and Voila!  It works, No More Pulling!  Sure is nice to pay for parts only.  I solved the problem for about $30 total.  Then on Tuesday morning, I paid someone else do our oil change.  I didn’t want to buy a big drain pan and deal with recycling the oil and cleaning out a pan…just pay the guys at Shell to take care of that.  They too became enthralled with our journey and added a few good suggestions.  Mostly each to a man wished us safe travels!  “Safe travels” spoken like they meant it; it rings so deep when I hear that.

Lastly, Jean-Philippe followed us down near Brastop to a small private mountain bike park called Rocky Hill Ranch.  They host 24 hour races and run the admission fees by honor system, keeping maps available at the “restrooms”.  We had yet another good shared ride, starting with scrambling up Fat Chuck’s Demise (rumored to have brought on an early end to its namesake).  The only bad aspect of this particular start is right off the lot, it is climbing.  Clawing up and around a handful of twisty roots,  laced heavily with egg and potato-sized rocks is a tough way to start.  Mountain bikers sometimes call these loose nodes “baby-doll-heads”.  Altogether they are much easier to roll over on downhills.

When J-P and I added our boy-time ride to use up the last of the light we headed deeper into the forest, finding a great piney narrow sinuous place of middle-ring/middle gear aerobic glee.  We traded leads again and again as we rode hard and steady.  Sometimes I miss racing.   But really, I miss riding hard and steady with such a good host and great friend.  Besides, our non-race rides now often last 5 or 6 hours and we snack and laugh much more than racers ever do!


J-P gets ready to ride at Rocky Hill Ranch.


Fun trail at Rocky Hill.


– David

DAY 64 11/17/2012 Museum of the Cherokee Indian

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI will do my best to avoid scolding all of us for a history that is past and cannot be changed.  As heard anecdotally, we should learn from our history, to avoid the same mistakes.  “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it” George Santayana.  

During undergrad at Essex Community College I attended a wonderful class called the Sacred Art of Indigenous Cultures, taught concurrently by two instructors.  Each was equally intelligent and credible, but they often contradicted each other emphasizing that study of history, fossil or fragmented remains, and artworks leaves something to the individual to interpret.  Interpretations change from person to person and from time to time.  Kind of reminds me that when I was a kid, the Indian was a fierce savage and the Cowboy was clearly portrayed as the good guy.  Later, we seem to deify the indian and wish we could live in half their harmony.  Even that 1971 “Crying Indian” commercial with Native American in the canoe paddling through an industrialized river with a tear in his eye sits heavy on my memory…Maybe thats part of why I still don’t litter?

We, of course, were all curious about this museum.  Horses, arrows, pottery, tepees, buffalo, turquoise, harmony, feathers and all.  Yes, there must be beautiful sights for us to see.  The Museum too tries not to scold us.  The town of Cherokee seems  to broadcast two messages:  1)Transformation Through Forgiveness and 2)Unity!  WOW.  Gandhi right here in America.  Like Martin Luther King – peace under violent oppression.  All of the most admirable traits of religion and philosophy lead this way.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere is a traveling Cherokee sculpture to spread the message of forgiveness.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEven the rail-trail graffiti was encouraging.







OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe museum was informative and led us through exhibits following a timeline.

The Paleo period 13,000-10,000 years ago showed the stone tools and spears of earliest Americans, Cherokee ancestors.

The Archaic and Mississippian periods from 10,000 to merely 500 years ago saw improvements in climate, leading to easier hunting, agriculture and “more free time” allowing the beauty of daily tools, pottery, baskets and adornment.  Much of our impression of the Cherokee, of course is “post-contact” as we could only chronicle what our culture was there to see.  Square foundation houses, meeting halls, sweat lodges look like any pioneer period you’d expect.

Of course the trend accelerated by about 1540.  Settlers poured in faster than they could forge a life of their own.  De Soto brought Spanish explorers in search of gold and riches, but brought disease and decimation also.  Despite an open-hearted welcome, coexistence was not to be.  In 1762 as emissaries of peace, Chief Ostenaco went with several other Cherokee leaders to England to meet King George III and declared mutual peace along with allegiance to the King.  A proclamation was sent back to British settlers to allow Cherokee to continue their ways unfettered.

Probably the real death knell was the American Revolution when this edict was repeatedly ignored as settlers demanded land and moved into the best territories.  Against the recommendations of statesmen such as Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, Davy Crockett the government enacted the Indian Removal Act of 1830.  By 1838 the U.S. forcibly exiled the remaining Eastern Band of the Cherokee.

Approximately 16,000 Cherokees were moved into pathetic stockades in groups of 1,000 beginning in the spring of 1837 and continuing throughout the fall the following year. Under the command of General Winfield Scott, the Cherokee were driven west by 7,000 soldiers and volunteers. Some in covered wagons, but most walking with little more than shared blankets as their only protection.  An estimated 4,000 Cherokee Indians died during the almost 200-day “Trail of Tears” by disease, malnutrition and exposure.  They were afforded no privacy, no sanitation, meager food, and slept in groups on the ground between daily forced marches.

Over 30 treaties were inflicted on the people from 1684 to 1835.  A final deal of $5 million in compensation and 13 million acres in what is now Oklahoma was closed by  Andrew Jackson despite admitting an Indian saved his life once, as he signed the final removal papers.

We are familiar with other reservation photographic policies from powwows and previous travels.  Out of respect we took no pictures inside the Museum, If you would like to see them, everything is available on their website.


Before we went in, Jane and I hung our heads down half jokingly.  But, near the end of my tour, I cried.  It seemed like a good deep cry, I wasn’t really witness to the indignities but empathize.  I think I am MOST relieved to see the town’s peaceful messages as direction for the rest of the world.

– David