Tag Archives: Mountain biking

The Voyage Continues

Or does it?

If you read between the lines.  If you’ve read all of the comments and our replies.  If you’ve glanced at a map or noticed a change in our pace.  If we bothered to tell you anything at all.  Put these pieces together and take note.  A circle is completed as we write from our Towson home.  Travel decisions each day were affected by so many things.  We left in hopes of “6 months to a year on the road”.   A chance to bike, hike, ski and live wherever the day took us.  One hundred and ninety days later we felt the calls homeward.  Each day on the road we asked, “where should we go tomorrow?”

As we drove down from the Rockies toward Denver, my answer was “maybe we should head home?”  This thought was cemented as we spoke of finances.  A warm day of mountain biking was enough to detain us in Kansas, but not to change our direction.  A few grey days on the road, and storms that kept threatening from the North nudged us Eastward.  A final clear day, snow on the Ohio and Pennsylvania grass led us to see I-70 as a good way home, despite previous months of avoiding Interstates.

Over my shoulder we knew the Baltimore sign depicted the long road from Fort Cove, UT

With a quick picture over my shoulder we knew this Baltimore sign depicted the long road we drove from Denver, and Utah near Zion and Moab

Locals had led us to unexpected jewels!  Serendipity showed us safety and regular smiles!  I got to ski a whole lot!  We hiked peaks, canyons and caverns!  Jane saw warmth and wildflowers!  In fact, today we see the old tricks of March; wet snow, heavy branches and refrigerated blossoms.  No worry, it melts fast this time of year.

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The pressures that led us home were many.  We ran out of paper towels.  The Tramper account has seen only withdrawals for months now.  Both of us need to find jobs and pay some bills.   Marfa kept raising concerns about that big Continental Divide.  If needed, I’d imagined a plan to rent a truck in Utah, towing the heavy Tramper over the mountain passes to Denver if necessary.  With  Jane driving the 4Runner sans trailer, it would do fine.  The concerns continued, passes provided 25 mph crawls, but the transmission temperature never went out of control again.

Ahh, but the concern for this and other bits went on.  The 5  Day weather reports gave us windows to travel in.  (I won’t tow in snow and have even avoided rain as much as practical)  Safety is always a lens of concern for me.  My focus on joy and adventure is tempered by wanting to get home safe.  My responsibility to “keep Jane safe” is not just a funny topic.  Many nights were lightly slept in anticipation of noises or vehicles arriving nearby.

Yes, we crested one of the highest points in our journey, skied a few more times, and headed East.  I poked fun at our nation; “they’ll be nothing to do between here (Summit County, CO) and the Appalachian Mountains.”  “My cousin used to drive from Colorado to Baltimore in 36 hours.  We’ll be home in 3 or 4 days”.  Fortunately Kansas threw a surprise at me.  The world is full of surprises.  You’d think I would have remembered that lesson from earlier in the “Voyage”. 

We have many thoughts to share.  We have over 11,000 pictures to peruse and condense to a more sharable 100 or so.  We have memories of our longest “vacation” ever.  We have lists of new friends.  We have blog and Facebook followers.  And we have lots more to say.  We will be looking back at the trip and looking at its impact on us.  One visitor we met in Colorado asked, “How has your perspective changed”.  I shied from an answer, telling him I will know more a few months after our return.  If I don’t change actions or lifestyle, how can I say my perspective has changed?

We wonder if there are other questions out there.  We are likely to post retrospective thoughts.  Maybe a bit of logistics, maybe we’ll post what we’d do differently, perhaps a few suggestions for future travelers.  I want to post a piece with all of the barns we saw.   I see a whole post of cool things seen on trucks.  Trains became our favorite night time neighbors.  Wind energy prompted inquiry all across the country.  We hope to add more thoughts and questions.  Our life now has the vision of the Tramper.

Over all it was such a treat!  Jane and I lived in a 70 square foot space, awoke and stayed together 24/7 and not once broke into fisticuffs as Jimmy Cotton, our new friend in North Carolina had feared.  We truly hope that as we traveled, you enjoyed.  As we posted pictures, you felt a fraction of the awe we shared.  Surely if we can do The Voyage of the Tramper, whatever you are dreaming of is possible too!

-David

DAY 185 – 3/13/2013 KANSAS has AWESOME Mountain Biking!

How Interstate 70 sees Kansas

How Interstate 70 sees Kansas

Really!  Yes, really!  Driving along Interstate 70 toward the Baltimore Beltway, albeit ~1600 miles away, my job is to keep the rig on the road safely, and keep Marfa running happily.  Several over 10,000′ mountain passes behind, I assure Jane that the “World’s largest prairie dog and a 5 legged steer may be our only entertainment for quite a few miles.  In fact, here we are wondering what Appalachian adventure to look for and what the weather will give us on official arrival to the East.

We do also so look forward to several possible visits.  A  favorite who we met in Rosendale, Jason is training in Indianapolis.  We really hope to share at least a meal or a few hours with him.

We had wanted to steer North, see Yosemite, The Pacific Northwest, Glacier, the Dakotas, The Upper Peninsula and a host of other wonders around this great country.  We have, however, run out of paper towels.  Yes, my skimpy rationing has kept Jane laughing with little corners or half-towels all across America.  J-P endowed us with quite a few in College Station, TX, some 6 or 7 rolls!   But now with the Salida refills running low, we acknowledge we must bring our Voyage to some realistic close.  Actually it may be our bank accounts suggesting finding jobs again.  But it’s so much more fun to track paper towels and take their lead, money reasons would be SO tiresome…

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So driving along, Jane’s job is finding adventures, entertainment and cool diversions.  I can always count on her!  She used Singletracks.com to find the cool trails in Franklin, NH.  She and this little laptop have led not only to coolness, but also contributed to safety.  As I must concede to checking weather.com for travel routes and to avoid storms or improve our timing.  With an 8000 lb rig I can’t afford to chase powder days or other whims; if snow, we just dust off the solar panel and sit tight.  Maybe unhitching Marfa and skiing nearby.

But this day, charged with finding fun in Kansas, I had little hope.  I do admit to the stereotype and the I-70 perspective of flat, boring, wide and soul-less land.  Yes, I know, according to the sign “an average Kansas farmer feeds 155 Americans”.  But I don’t subscribe to such a large-scale mono-culture anymore anyway.  Buy local, grow local etc.

Jane was searching the “hometown of two fictitious characters” who will stay un-named.  Lawrence, KS is right on the path homeward, can’t be bad detour to get a little “Welcome to Lawrence” pic, right?  That resourceful and wonderful wife of mine found MORE!   She found a mountain biking trail at a state park and reservoir built by the Army Corp of Engineers!  Clinton Lake and Clinton State Park. They offer trail networks for hikers, Mt Bikers and a separate equestrian area.

Not just a trail, but a GREAT trail!  23 miles of dedicated single-track!  Flowing, technical, rocky and WONDERFUL SINGLE-TRACK!  Maps supplied in the kiosk showed us the basic parallel paired White and Blue Trails leading out to “West End” of the park, following the great rocky-ridge just between the campground and Bluebird Restoration Habitats and above the water level of the lake.  We followed the “more difficult” White Trail outward as it crawled up and down delightful dips and rolls of the terrain.  The mile markers ticked by slowly.  This was a trail that rivals any trail I’ve ridden in my many states of the union!  My 27 years of riding and even old racing days carried me from Vermont through the rocky Mid-Atlantic and South into Virginia.  This trip did the same, and more…extending my experience into New Hampshire, Maine, Big Bend, Moab and Colorado.

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The dancing up and down on this long ridge provided a rolling ride with just enough climb to get ya breathless without a complete downshift, then rewarded with similar bumpy, “bumbling” downhills.  Many of these “little climbs” felt truly rewarding as I “cleaned” a bunch of them.  The times I dabbed were neither embarrassing nor too frustrating to keep me from clipping right back in and trying again.

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We saw the requisite curious herd of deer.   At the furthest reaches I thought I’d spied a cactus.  Jane saw it too.  And later we read the name, “Cactus Ridge” on a detail map.  I also happened upon the most self protective tree ever, Honey Locust.  Thorns as big as my hand.  Don’t lean on that tree; don’t even brush against it riding by.

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Trying to get $10 worth of Slime from the tubes bought in Terlingua; "Pump and Pray" they said.

Trying to get the $10 worth of Slime from the tubes bought in Terlingua; “Pump and Pray” they said.

Watching Jane on the rocks was also a great joy.  She learned long ago that rocks have more traction than roots.  With aplomb and only a late bit of fatigue she mustered deep into our five hour ride.  Conveniently, the park layout allows a bailout at any time to go onto the plateau and refill waters or ride park roads back if it’s ever needed.  KANSAS has AWESOME Mountain Biking!

Here’s a link to the Lawrence Mountain Bike Club. They maintain these trails in concert with the Kansas Trails Council. Great job!!

– David

DAY 178 – 03/07/2013 – Moab, UT Slickrock Bike Trails

So, we arrived at the world-famous Slickrock Trails in Moab, Utah. We set up camp across the road from the entrance.

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Gorgeous campsite! Right across the road from the trailhead.

Even though it was about 40 minutes until dark, we tried out the trails, intending to ride more extensively in the coming days. Or, rather, I tried out the trails. David had already been to Moab several times before. He loved this technical riding and looked forward to introducing it to me.  He calls it riding on Velcro!

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The 11 miles of Slickrock Trail routes climb up and down the petrified sand dunes, actually Navajo Sandstone. It’s not recommended for unskilled mountain bikers. The scenery is gorgeous, with the snow-covered La Sal Mountains as a backdrop.

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David on the Slickrock

And I hated it. Really didn’t like it at all! To be fair, we had just driven all day to get here and were tired. We hadn’t changed into bike clothes, just put on our bike shoes and set out on the Practice loop. It was scary. I could not get up most of the hills. Going down was so nerve-racking, I hopped off the bike only to find that the metal cleats on the bottom of the shoes slipped on the rock surface. Gargh!

The formations are called “Slickrock” because horses, with their own metal shoes, did not have reliable footing. Not so for the rubber tires on bicycles and motorcycles. The rock surface is similar to sandpaper. Tires grip really well.

David is a very patient man. He was disappointed that I didn’t like one of his favorite mountain biking experiences. But, he asked me to try it again the next day, this time with my running shoes, for grip when I step off the bike. Instead of heading for the marked trails, we practiced on a big rock in the campground. And, slowly, I got the hang of it.

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“Grippy” shoes helped. (even a pair of old platform pedals would have been nice)

We advanced to the Slickrock Trail. Now that I trusted the surface, it became easier. And much, much more fun! Lots of ups and downs and turns. There were white dots on the rocks to mark the trail, but you can ride your own course to navigate the hills and valleys, staying near the dots, if not exactly on them.

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David was non-stop smiles!

Yes, the Moab Slickrock Trail was fun! We rode the loop one way, then turned around and rode it the other way. The next day, David went back out for more.

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Moab novice Jane eyes her mark.

On The Voyage of the Tramper, we have found many wonders we’d like to visit again someday. Moab is definitely one of them now, for me and for David! Future “Moab Mountain Bike Weekend”, anyone?

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David goes for the top, and makes it (of course!)

– Jane

Photo of the Week #1

 

This is the first installment of what will be a weekly post. These photos are not necessarily the most beautiful, but the ones we think are special. For one reason or another.

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This pic was taken in Moab, Utah. Almost every campground has a toilet or two. This one is unusual because it has no roof! Just the sky, day and night. You can use the facilities and admire the view, all at the same time.

I’ve had a shower outdoors; one with just walls, no roof. It’s quite lovely, as long as it’s not too cold. If you ever get the chance to shower without a roof, do it! It’s great.

A toidy with no roof? Not so much. But it does have better ventilation.

In preparing this photo, I noticed the handy safety bar next to the toilet. Ok, I know what the one next to the pot is for. But, how about that one in the back? Gets you thinking doesn’t it?

Jane & David

“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