B sides: April 8-22, 2017

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Desert Sage.  JEM Trail, Hurricane, Utah.

 

This was Amelia’s last two-week Spring Break for the foreseeable future.  Her district is going to one week next year, like most districts.  So we kind of went big and traveled a lot of miles, maybe too many miles, over 2,200.  We did a lot more stops and things besides White Sands, Dog Canyon, and Valley of the Gods.  A single stop doesn’t really warrant its own blog.  And how many times can I actually write about Hurricane and Cortez?  Our main objective with the blog is to entertain, educate, and inform.  We also hope we are inspiring people to get out and explore the beautiful country we live in.  And lastly, to put it bluntly, our minds are shit.  We have the hardest time remembering all of our trips.  So this blog provides us with dates and details, a history of our adventures and wanderings, it also helps solving disagreements that always come up between us regarding where we’ve been and when.  🙂  This post is a summary of the two weeks.

We left on Saturday April 8th.  By design our first day was going to be our longest.  We were hoping to get to a BLM boondock spot called Indian Bread Rocks, south of Bowie, Arizona off of Interstate 10.  This was the first time the Airstream had been east of Tucson on the I-10.  When we were 90 miles away from Bowie we saw the first warning sign, 80 miles ahead I-10 was closed due to high winds and zero visibility because of a dust storm.  Apparently, it’s a common occurrence.  There was a detour that routed you north and dropped you off in New Mexico.  Basically, where we wanted to go wasn’t accessible.  Good thing we had a back up plan in case we got too tired, and that was the Cochise Visitor Center in Willcox (with double ls).  And it’s a good thing it wasn’t yet dark, because the iPhone maps directions were all screwed up, but we found it.  A trippy little place that allows you to spend one night in their parking lot.  It took us nine hours.  I’m sure we’ve said this before, but that’s too long to drive and we won’t do that again.

Amelia figured out we could get free wi-fi from the visitor center, no password needed.  It was the fastest wi-fi ever, so we made the most of the situation and streamed a couple of episodes of Grace & Frankie and drank beers.  It was windy all night, and that was the beginning of me saying for the entire trip, “There’s San Diego weather, then there’s everywhere else.”

 

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Cochise Visitor Center.  Willcox, Arizona.

 

Our impression of New Mexico is it’s a poor, sparsely populated, beautiful state.  The population is just a little over two million, with more than half of the people living in the Albuquerque metropolitan area.  There are a lot of Indian Reservations and of course Native Americans.  In the lower half of the state we saw a lot of pistachio groves.  And roadside stands selling pinon nuts and beef jerky are a big thing.  One gas station at the north end of Albuquerque had two different beef jerky vendors set up in the parking lot!  That still strikes me as bizarre.

 

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A cool White Sands pic that somehow got left out of the post.

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There are 154 National Forests in the U.S. of A.  Part of Dog Canyon is in Lincoln National Forest.

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The not so glamorous part of glamping, dumping the tanks at Oliver Lee.

 

After we left Oliver Lee, the next stop was The White Ridge Bike Trails Area, aka White Mesa, outside of San Ysidro, N.M.  Many websites rank this as the number one trail in the state, all sites have it at least in the top 5.

 

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If you are ever on the 380 in New Mexico around the Carrizozo area and need a place to spend the night, the Valley of Fire National Recreation Area is a pretty sweet little campground.  We stopped to check it out and stretched our legs, then got back on the road.

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To get to White Mesa you have to drive through the Res, on an at times rough dirt road.

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What a great partnership to make this very unique place open to mountain bikers.

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Dragon’s Back, the first segment on the 8 mile White Mesa loop, at times it had a high pucker factor.  The wind didn’t help.

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Dragon’s Back was about 3 miles long, often nothing was in your peripheral vision, so that was weird.  And the wind…

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My wife is a mountain biker!

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Some really strange terrain to be riding on.

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It was definitely a unique ride, but if this is one of the top rides in the state, then Utah has nothing to worry about.

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I’m sure there are people who ride past the danger sign, but this time not us.  We started to hike a bike it, but even that was sketchy so we turned around and finished on another trail.

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We spent the night in the trailhead parking lot.

 

Up next was three nights in Cortez, Colorado.

 

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Bernie and Shawn, the two brothers that own this KOA.  They do an absolutely fantastic job running the property.

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If you like mountain biking, then you must go to Cortez to ride Phil’s World.  Rib Cage will blow your mind.

 

After Cortez was Valley of the Gods, then off to Hurricane, Utah.  Where our friend Shelli met us and stayed with us for two nights.

 

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After Valley of the Gods, the old WillowWind RV Park in Hurricane was a visual assault on our senses.

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If your eyesight is good enough to see those two specs, that’s Amelia and Shelli, and of course Molly’s Nipple.  I just had to include a Molly’s Nipple pic!

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I can’t believe that dude is wearing a Dipsea T- shirt from 1994!

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Prince’s Plumes.

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Shelli brought Sara’s boyfriend, Osborne.

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My girls.

 

After Hurricane, we went to Cathedral Gorge State Park in Panaca, Nevada for one night. For the second time this trip, the iPhone maps let us down.  It directed us to a dirt road, that may have taken us to Utah Highway 56, but 8 miles on a dirt road, that we weren’t even sure about, didn’t seem like a good idea.  So we busted out an old-fashioned paper map and corrected course.  Lesson learned, for now on double-check route with a paper map.

 

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There’s a lot of strange places in the west, but Cathedral Gorge is right up towards the top of strange.

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All kinds of slots, nooks, and crannies to explore.

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Tight.

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Quite strange.

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Sara was going bonkers exploring.

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Strange and beautiful.

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Wild horses on the side of Highway 93 in Nevada.

 

Then it was off to Vegas to see my dad and his wife.  We spent the night in the Airstream in front of their house, woke up at 4am and peeled rubber out-of-town.  We really do not like Vegas.

We ended up “free camping” 4 nights, KOA 3 nights, RV Park 3 nights, and 4 nights in State Parks.  We encountered wind, thunderstorms, more wind, more really strong wind, and winds that just wouldn’t quit.  More than one person was trying to tell me it’s always windy in the spring.  All I know is, there’s San Diego weather, then there’s everywhere else.

Two last things Amelia wanted me to mention:  Why is it so hard to recycle in all the states we visited?  We finally, with guilt, just started throwing the cans and bottles into the trash.  And it just felt so wrong.  Secondly, when you go into a grocery store and bring in your own reusable bags, the clerks and baggers just stare at you like you are from another planet.

I guess to a lot of people we are from another planet.

 

 

Valley of the Gods: Easter 2017

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This ain’t the Walmart in Hurricane Utah, like Easter 2014!

 

With the advent of social media nothing is a secret anymore.  The days of a friend telling a friend about a secret spot, you feeling special because you are now in the know, and holding the secret, are over.  Now someone blabs and the whole world knows.  The blogosphere is going nuts about Valley of the Gods.  One can only hope it doesn’t get too popular.  Yet here I am blabbing about it, posting it on the blog, where it will rattle around in cyberspace for all to see.

Being on the road you run into strangers all the time, some folks are genuinely nice. Once we pulled on to the Valley of the Gods road we stopped, got out of the truck, and assessed the rutted creek crossing that every single blabber on social media is concerned about.  Sometimes it’s really bad, sometimes it isn’t.  As we were walking towards it, a guy pulling a Lance trailer was coming at us.  He was solo, stopped, and started chatting us up.

“Don’t worry, you guys can easily cross it.”

I typically let Amelia do the talking since she’s a talker, “Great, we were slightly worried. How’s the road the rest of the way?”

“A little washboardy, but I’ve been on worse.  Is your Airstream a 25 footer?”

“Yes, we love it!” says Amelia, all smiles.

“You two should take the site I just vacated.  It’s elevated a little bit so it can be windy, but the views are gorgeous.  Go 4 miles, and you’ll see it on the left.  If you get to the little Casita you’ve gone too far.”

“Wow, thanks!”

“You know, every time I see a beauty like yours I kick myself in the head for not buying an Airstream.”

What a nice guy.  And what a nice site.

 

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Valley of the Gods, between Bluff and Mexican Hat.  Monument Valley straddles Utah & Arizona.

 

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Front door view.

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Dining room view.

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Boondock heaven.  Free range Puggle.

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As I was relaxing, thinking positive, and writing down my thoughts, Amelia went on a scouting mission to take a look at what looked like a wash from our vantage point.

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It would be dead quiet, then we would hear the wind in the distance, a gust would come up, then absolute silence again.  Occasionally a dust devil would blow through.

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Amelia came back from her scouting trip and insisted we hike down to the water.  Good, because I wanted a shot like this.

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Lime Creek.

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A majestic Cottonwood.

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Droplets were falling from the cliffs.  The water was amazingly clear.

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Free ranging and hunting lizards is exhausting!

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Billion dollar view for free.  What a great swath of BLM land.

 

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That’s the little white Casita trailer about a half mile away.  Our closest neighbor.

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Monument Valley in the distance.

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Sunrise.

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Sunrise on Battleship Rock.

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Time to leave.

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The morning light was just right for seeing all the Indian Paintbrush.

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The worrisome creek crossing.  I know, it looks like nothing, but you have to remember Airstreams have really low clearance and aren’t really designed for off roading.

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Adios Valley of the Gods!

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Run, Forrest, run!

WildFlowers of Dog Canyon: April 11th, 2017

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Golden Columbine.

 

While visiting the White Sands we spent three nights at Oliver Lee State Park.  If this park is any indication,  New Mexico has some nice state parks.  The campground is situated at the base of the Sacramento Mountains and Dog Canyon.  The canyon is a box canyon with a fabulous hiking trail that is over 11 miles round trip with 3,100 feet elevation gain.  We only did 7.5 miles and 2,200 feet after I had the bejesus scared out of me with the closest encounter of my life with a rattlesnake.

Seeing rattlesnakes is a weekly occurrence while biking back home.  I’ve even rode directly over one that was stretched out and sunning himself on the trail.  That gave me a jolt of adrenaline.  Heck, Sara was bit by one in our backyard.

This one totally caught me by surprise.  A nice peaceful quiet trail, Amelia was yards behind me, then bam, out of nowhere the unmistakable loud hiss and rattle.  I was literally six inches away from him, for about a second, then I turned and ran like a striped ass ape down the hill.  I was scared and shaking from all the adrenaline.  The snake was scared, pissed, and sounding like a Rainbird sprinkler.  That was too up close and personal with a Black-tailed Rattlesnake for me.

My wife, she wants to keep on hiking, “Come on, it slithered into the rocks.”

“F you,” I said, “Look at me I’m still shaking!  The last time I was shaking this bad was when I skied Phillippe’s solo.”

“Come on, we can get by it.  Let’s just go around the next corner and up some more.”

“Are you kidding?  Then we have to come back down right by it again.”

“Oh my god, let’s go.”

So of course we kept hiking, eyeing the rattlesnake hissing and rattling at us as we ran past it.  We only hiked for about another half mile and decided it was time to turn around.  We were already out for about two and half hours, and promised Sara we wouldn’t be gone for longer than five hours.  Once we got to the spot above where I almost stepped on the rattlesnake, we started throwing rocks hoping to scare it off the trail in case it was sunbathing again.  We didn’t hear anything so we slowly started walking, saw the trail was clear and felt completely relieved.  “See, I told you,” says Amelia.  Then it rattled and hissed and we ran for our lives down the hill.

 

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Our site at Oliver Lee State Park.  That’s Dog Canyon behind us.  And a 90 degree back-in by Amelia!

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Dogweed.  Kind of a crummy “common name” for such a pretty flower.

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Blackfoot Daisy.

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Firecracker Penstemon.

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Indigo Feather Bush.

 

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Damianita Daisy.

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White Prairie Aster.

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Fendler’s Bladderpod.

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Spreading Fleabane.

 

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The second plateau on the Dog Canyon hike.

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Fragrant Ash.

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Threadleaf Phlox.

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Claret Cup Hedgehog Cactus.

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Black-tailed Rattlesnake.  Look closely, you can even see his tail.

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Gray Five Eyes.

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Puggle.

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Juniper Globemallow.

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Trailing Four O’Clock.

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Paleface Rose-Mallow.

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Rainbow Cactus.

 

No guarantees, but I’m pretty sure we’ve properly identified everything. 🙂

Other-worldly: White Sands National Monument

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Sand dunes bring out the kid in Amelia!

 

We knew the White Sands were white, but holy cow, they are shockingly white!  Snow blinding white.  Crazy white.  Vertigo producing white.  Other-worldly and white.  The sand is white because it’s gypsum crystals.  Even in the warmest weather you can walk barefooted on the dunes.

This is the world’s largest gypsum dunefield.  It covers 275 square miles.  The next largest is a measly 3 square miles.  The National Monument is only a small fraction because the rest belongs to the White Sands Missile Range.  Yes, they still launch and test missiles.  When they do, they actually close down the park up to three hours, as a precaution.  The world’s first atomic bomb was detonated 65 miles north of the park on July 16, 1945.  We stayed by the nearest town, Alamogordo.  While in town I was keeping my eyes open for strange looking people with deformities.  I didn’t see any, then again they are probably all dead now.

 

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What a great sign.

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Our first day had clouds which soften the white sands.

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It was breezy.  Amelia’s hair matched the wispy clouds.

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Just like snow shoeing downhill!  Sometimes we would sink to our knees.

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This gives you an idea of the vastness.

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No camping in the park.  They actually shut the place down at night.  But there’s plenty of room during the day for your rig.

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Better safe than sorry.  We don’t need some missile mishap taking out a bunch of cars on the highway.

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I was so inquisitive about the no alcoholic beverages date range that I tracked down a ranger to ask.  In a nutshell, they do not want the place to become a Spring Break haven for drunk college kids.

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Day two, middle of the day,  no clouds.  Sunglasses were an absolute must.  See that green mound right of center?  That was our goal.  It was further away than it appeared.

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And here it is!  A Skunkbush Sumac.  It grows dense deep roots that help form a pedestal after the dune moves on.

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Beautiful.

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In between the dunes some of the basins looked like this.  It appears to be hard and crusty but you can walk right through it barefooted no problem. 

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We completely lucked out and saw a Bleached Earless Lizard.

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Vanilla Bean Ice Cream.

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Purple Sand Verbena.

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I couldn’t help myself, but here’s the sappy last picture!

Palm Canyon Epic: April 1st, 2017

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Sensory overload 2017.

 

Palm Canyon Epic (PCE) is a true SoCal classic mountain bike ride.  The trail begins at the top of the Pines to Palms Scenic Byway (California State Route 74) at 4,400 ft elevation in the Ribbonwood/Spring Crest area and ends in Palm Springs.  It’s not a particularly long or difficult ride, 30 miles and 2,500 feet elevation gain, but you need to be fit, have better than intermediate skills, and no fear of off camber trails with sheer drops.  A good sense of humor is also a plus because invariably there’s always an incident or two.  And the incidents always add hours to the ride, which leaves you on the trail in the heat of the day with the sun sucking the moisture and energy out of your body.  In years past we’ve seen a concussion, broken wrist, cholla painfully imbedded in various body parts, slashed tires that have been unrepairable, broken chains, broken spokes, and flat tires are a given.  Oh yeah, and plenty of blood.

Naturally, the bigger the group, the higher the odds of incidents.  We try to limit the group to 5 people max.  This year was Amelia, myself, Bill, Tim, and Quan.  Bill and Tim had never met Quan.  Quan, Amelia, and I had never met Tim.  None of us had ever ridden with Tim.  And Quan and Tim had never done the ride.

Hmm… sounds like a recipe for all kinds of incidents!  Truth be told, it was just your typical PCE ride.  A slashed sidewall at 3.6 miles.  The sealant wouldn’t seal it, so we inserted a tube.  While Tim and I were doing that, the other 3 were about a half mile down the trail.  The girls got to witness Bill do a triple somersault over his handlebars.  I’m so bummed I missed that!  Thankfully he was not injured, only bloodied.  Miles further down the trail Tim was upside down like a turtle.  A few miles later his chain came off and he crashed into a cholla.  And a potential disaster was adverted towards the end of the ride when the girls noticed Quan’s rear thru axle was loose.

We unintentionally had a new finish to the ride, and it seemed like it was never going to end.  It cost us at least an hour.  If you are ever out here, avoid the Araby Trail.  It’s not the way to finish.  Everyone was out of water, dehydrated, dying from the heat, and barely holding on to their sense of humor.  When it was all said and done, we were on the trail for almost 7 hours.  About 2 hours too long.  We left home at dawn and got back at dusk.  It was a 13 hour odyssey.  What a great day!

 

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The girls at the top. One of the big time sinks is shuttling the cars.  It’s about a 90 minute round trip to drive two cars down the hill, leave the truck at the bottom, because it can carry 5 bikes, then come back up in Tim’s car.  The girls guarded all the bikes and gear at the top.

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Just past the start.

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Scarlet Locoweed.  Small and beautiful.

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My singlespeed is looking good here.

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But somewhere after the previous pic this occurred to my fork, only to be discovered the next day.  Probably a good thing I didn’t realize it during the ride.

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Right around here Bill did his triple somersault!

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And the next day, some nice identical bruises appeared on his hands from the triple somersault.

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There were some really lush spots.

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Quan.

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Amelia.

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Blurry pic of Mallow.

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Miles and miles of yellow from the Brittlebush.  Riding through it was amazing.  I’m sure it’ll be one of those experiences we’ll always remember.

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The group.

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California Barrel Cactus.

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Wow! There are directional signs now.

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White-lined Sphinx Moth Caterpillars.

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The start of a long amazing descent.

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Chia.

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Tim pulling the Cholla needles out of his arm.

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Tim’s cracked phone.  He had a heck of a day.

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Amelia and a dude we met on the trail.  The best female and male riders on the trail that day, hands down.

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Storksbill.

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Chaparral Yucca or Our Lord’s Candle.

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Happy girls on the trail…it is a beautiful thing!

Borrego Super Bloom: March 10-12, 2017

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A colorful carpet at dawn.

 

The hype on the much anticipated Borrego Super Bloom hit overdrive about a week ago.  The New York Times, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Times, social media, various media outlets across the country, and of course our local rag and TV stations were selling the H eee double toothpicks out of the story.  I’m here to tell you, it lived up to the hype.  I could go on and on with adjectives trying to describe the scene, but mind-boggling is probably the best description.  As beautiful as these pictures are, it doesn’t even compare to seeing it in person.  The immensity is amazing, add in the fragrance and your senses are overwhelmed.

Amelia’s friends were out there a couple of days before us and gave her a heads up on the crowds.  They said there were even big tour busses dropping people off.  Her friends were out viewing flowers before sunrise to beat the heat and crowds.  The early bird gets the worm, so we too went out early.

All the media hype came to a head on Sunday with the biggest crowd ever to hit the small town of Borrego Springs.  For those of you that don’t know the town, it might have a population of 3,000,  there are no stop lights, not a one, only a traffic circle, Christmas Circle.  The poor little town was completely inundated with traffic and people.  As we were leaving town mid morning on Sunday there was a bumper to bumper traffic jam coming all the way down Montezuma grade into Borrego Springs.  We were super glad to be leaving and not arriving.  What a crowd scene!  Yet it still took us twice as long to get home.

 

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Henderson Canyon Road right after sunrise.

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Arizona Lupine with Dune Evening Primrose, Desert Sand Verbena, False Mustard, Popcorn Flower, and Desert Sunflower mixed in.

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Mostly Brown-eyed Evening Primroses with Desert Sand Verbena and Popcorn Flower .

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Desert Sand Verbena and Dune Evening Primrose.

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Spectacle Pod.

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Dune Evening Primrose.

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Our boondock site. R’s Apex, Birch’s camper, and the mothership in the middle.

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Bigelow’s Monkey Flower.

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Booth’s Evening Primrose.

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Tiny Checkerspot Butterfly.

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Gold Poppies.

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Wild Canterbury Bells.

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Desert Wishbone Bush.

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Beavertail Cactus.

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Freemont’s Pincushion & Desert Dandelions.

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Georgie, OMB, R, Amelia, Diego, and Sara.  Post nap, beating the heat, chewing the fat, while waiting for the evening excursion.

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Two Gregs under a full moon.

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Three young hippie chicks and a dude were dry camping at Arroyo Salado out of this rig.

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Just beautiful.

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Desert Lily.

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Henderson Canyon Road early Sunday morning.  Look at all the people in the field of Desert Sunflowers.  This was before it got crowded.

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Sunday morning gridlock in Borrego Springs.  We’ve never seen cars parked aong this road.

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Eight miles of bumper to bumper traffic down Montezuma Grade.  This never happens.

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Loving the Gold Poppies!

 

Happy Day Light Savings Time everyone!

Borrego: Presidents’ weekend 2017

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Not your typical Borrego weather.

 

The drought in California is over, now it’s a deluge, one storm after another, relentlessly pounding us.  Welcome to the age of extreme weather.  Boondocking in Borrego on Presidents’ is becoming a tradition.  The crowds were sparse this year because of the weather, and it was nice not having some drunk guy muttering at us, “You’re not welcome here, you’re not welcome here.”  The Pineapple Express blew through SoCal on Friday, so we hunkered down at home and waited till midday Saturday to head out.  No sense putting one’s self and loved ones in harm’s way.

Everyone is predicting a super bloom this year for the Borrego Valley.  We hope the predictions are correct, if so we will be back out again to witness it.  We saw a decent amount of flowers this trip, but a super bloom is insane.  Imagine the stark valley floor turning into a carpet of colors, so many flowers you can hardly walk without trouncing on them.

The great news is there’s a new restaurant in town!  Kesling’s Kitchen, it’s attached to the Borrego Art Institute, right on Christmas Circle.  Their banner caught our eye.  Wood-fired Pizza, Sandwiches, Salads, 8 Beers on Tap!  The eight beers on tap really raised our hopes.  We were joking the 8 beers better not be Bud, Bud Light, Coors, Coors Light, PBR, Old Milwaukee, MGD, and some other swill.  When we walked through the front door it was as if we entered a parallel universe, one where I owned and operated the restaurant.

It is quick casual, order at the counter, get a number, grab a table inside or out, and relax.  The wood-fired oven is the center piece of the restaurant.  As we were ordering Steve Earle was coming through the speakers.  When we sat down, we were by the kitchen and all the food coming out looked amazing.  Johnny Cash, Robert Earle Keen covering Peter Case’s Traveling Light, Dylan, Wilco, and Sun Volt playing in that order, while sipping on our beers.  What a music mix!   Where the hell are we?  The place was bustling with business, the vibe positive, and the views through the big windows awesome.  And the Fresh Funghi pizza was delicious.  It was not quite Industrial Eats magic, but it was damn good and a huge surprise for Borrego Springs.  We will definitely be back!

 

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Desert Sand Verbena.

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Brittlebush on the verge of exploding.

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Baby Jimsonweed.

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Jimsonweed.

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Second water crossing in Coyote Canyon.  As one would expect with all the rain, Coyote Creek was flowing.  This is as far as we drove.

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For once the road in Coyote Canyon wasn’t sandy.  Amelia couldn’t pass up the hero dirt.

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So she rode back.

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She’s thinking, hurry up mom before someone catches you picking those lemons!

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Wet, but beautiful morning.  All the dampness was from fog.  It was the first time we experienced fog in the desert.

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That’s a band of fog against the mountain rolling back in from Clark Dry Lake.

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Brown-eyed Evening Primrose.

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Pygmy Gold Poppy.

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Desert Chicory.

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I just had to include an Ocotillo.

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Bigelow’s Monkey Flower.

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Rock Daisy.  It was my favorite.

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I ran into this long lean athletic chick in Henderson Canyon.  

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Arizona Lupin.  All those green splotches in the wash will become Lupin.

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Desert Lavender.

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Gold Poppies.

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Desert Lotus.

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No swill at Kesling’s!  Amelia had the St.Archer White, I did the Duet.

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Here’s some of the menu, really reasonably priced.

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Busy short trip, but we still slipped in a bike ride before leaving on Monday.

 

 

Picacho Peak Hike: December 30, 2016

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The view of Picacho Peak heading west on I-10.  Like most peaks it looks different depending on the viewing angle.  This is the most dramatic view.

 

As we approached the entrance gate to Picacho Peak State Park a nice twenty something ranger greeted us. “Good afternoon, do you have a reservation?” “Yes, Harris, site B-4, two nights.” “Hold please,” a few moments later, “Got it, please hang this from your rear view mirror, and here’s a brochure.” Looking for something to do in the afternoon I asked, “Do you have any hikes here?” He lit up with that question. “Oh yes, my favorite is Hunter Trail.  It’s two miles to the summit.  There are cables but they are mostly for balance so bring gloves.  I did it with my buddies from college just yesterday, on my day off of course. Let me show you where it is on the map.”

As we were driving to our site we decided that sounded like a nice little afternoon hike.   Next thing you know it was 3pm and I said, “We better get going or we’ll be chasing daylight.” So we gave chubby Sara a kong with kibble and peanut butter, jumped in the truck, and drove the mile to the trailhead.  We filled our camelbacks, grabbed our biking gloves, and started hiking.

 

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Here’s the view of the peak from the Hunter Trail trailhead.

 

We were less than a half mile into the hike and we started seeing cables.  We didn’t put on our gloves, hell we didn’t even grab the cable.  I’m thinking what’s the big deal, granted it’s steep and the quads are getting worked, but there’s no need to use the cables.

 

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This is after the initial cables.  And about when Amelia let out a “Damn, I have my zumba shoes on, not my hiking ones.”  I’m thinking how many shoes do you have…

 

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The view of I-10 before the saddle.

 

The mass majority never make it to the peak.  They turn around at the saddle when they see you have to suddenly descend a long way with cables, and then obviously go up again to get to the peak.  We started the initial descent, but yielded to an energetic 12 year old kid who was coming up.  Wondering what lies ahead, we asked the kid.  He responded all wild-eyed, “Craziest hike ever, good luck.  Some parts are straight up and super scary, good luck, good luck.”  Five minutes later we ran into his parents.  My thoughts were, ok, if they did it we certainly can, even if they are twenty years younger!

 

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The descent brings you down the backside to this intersection.  Now the fun begins.

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Fun?  Amelia is seriously pondering turning around.  As you go up you can’t help but to think, damn I have to go down this.

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Nice little healthy grove of saguaros between the two steep cabled sections.

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Here’s the next precarious section.  And this picture does not give you the true steepness.

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The catwalk.  White knuckling the cable.

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Southern view, still not at the top yet.

 

We are finally getting close to the peak and both pondering how we are going to get down.  Do you go down backwards like on a ladder?  One more corner, here we go, the summit!  And bam!  All I see is a big breast full of milk with a 6 month old latched on.  We both try to be polite and look away.  Mom continues to milk and starts chatting us up.  So does the father of her child.  What a couple they were!  It’s just another day for them.  They do the hike all the time.  Last year before the kid, they summited with all three of their dogs, not little dogs, big dogs.  He would load one dog up at a time on his back, get through the treacherous cables and catwalk, go back down to get the next dog, then repeat again. Holy f’n cow!

 

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View of the Catalina Mountains from the summit.

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Photo courtesy of the guy that puts dogs on his back and summits.

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Ominous clouds in the south.  The dogs on his back guy takes nice photos.

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He also likes stacking cairns!

 

And now it’s time to descend.

 

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Being limber and strong helps. There’s a lot of stretching to reach the next foothold.

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The descent was easier than our minds worked it up to be, but it was still scary steep.

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Luckily it was dead calm.  Strong winds would have really scared the poop out of us!

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Chasing daylight!  We are off of the steep descent, up next the steep ascent to the saddle.

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Amelia and her zumba shoes, pulling on the cable up to the saddle.

 

It was dark when we finally got down.  It’s been about twenty years since I did Angel’s Landing in Zion.  My recollection isn’t totally clear, but this hike seemed a lot more difficult and hairy.  The peak is only 3,374 ft, but can be seen from downtown Tucson 45 miles away.  Total elapsed time for the less than 4 mile hike was 2 hours and 40 minutes, with 2,403 ft of elevation gain.  Once a peak has been summited you look at it in a totally different light.  Doesn’t matter the peak, Whitney, White, Elbert, even Iron, Woodson and Black Mountain in San Diego County.  There’s a real satisfaction and smile when looking up at it.  The entire next day I couldn’t keep my eyes off of Picacho.

Airstreaming Arizona: December 26, 2016 – January 1, 2017

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Saguaro, pronounced Sa-WAH-ro. Native to the Sonoran Desert and just plain ol’ cool.

 

We spent a wonderful week in Arizona.  Our friends Georgie, Sara’s boyfriend, Diego, and Greg, or as we affectionally call him Old Man Birch (OMB) were able to join us.  They came out in their truck & camper.  It’s always fun to share the road and adventure with friends.  We stayed in three different spots: Yuma, Catalina State Park, and Picacho Peak State Park.

Like most places in Arizona, Yuma is hotter than Hades in the summer, but habitable in the winter.  The snowbirds love it there.  The population swells by 100,000 during the winter.  The retirees flock in, mostly in RVs, and take up residence in the many RV Parks.  The only time we ever shop at Walmart is when we spend the night in their lot.  It only seems right to spend a little money since they allowed us to stay overnight for free.  The Walmart where we stayed in Yuma had a greeter who was a snowbird from Minnesota and the guy who helped me in the RV/camping department was from Michigan.  He always winters in Yuma.  Both of these guys were easily in their mid 70s and happy to not be in the snow.

Catalina State Park gives you a lot of elbow room.  The space between sites was almost like boondocking in a popular area, but with electricity and water!  There’s a time for boondocking and a time for being hooked up.  The dead of winter, cold weather, and anything above 90 degrees warrants a hook up.  Two years ago we were here and it was stupid cold and we were dumb, staying at a site without electricity.  Lesson learned.  This state park and Picacho Peak both include hot showers with the price.  No hoarding quarters to feed into a slot for a timed shower.  It’s kind of strange having unlimited water usage in the desert, but I guiltily enjoyed it.  Amelia, she enjoys showering in the Airstream.  One more tidbit about Catalina, people from Salida, Colorado love it.  Both of our trips here we’ve ran into people from that small town.

Picacho Peak State Park is right off the I-10.  It’s between nowhere and nothing.  It’s a nice campground, but really just a one or two night max stop.  If you are fit, limber, agile, and not afraid of heights it’s definitely worth the stop, if for nothing else, to hike to the peak.  That’ll be the next post!

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There’s three Walmarts in Yuma.  The best one to stay at is off of exit 9.  We landed a choice spot.

 

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Birders are kind of a goofy bunch.  I’m a birder.  Georgie and I went on a guided group birdwatch our first morning in Catalina.  I added three birds to my life list.  Gila Woodpecker, Pyrrhuloxia, and Rufous-winged Sparrow.  Birds 313, 314, & 315.  According to our guide some birders fly in from all over and pay top dollar to see a Rufous-wing.

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Our Catalina State Park site.

 

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Amelia, Georgie, and a big old saguaro.

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Beautiful sunset in Catalina State Park.  Some followers will get a kick out of my sweatshirt.

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It was one of those sunsets that just kept giving.

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Winter equals those dreaded short days and dark nights.

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And playing games to pass time in the evening.  This a a crazy game called Suspend.

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Awesome sunrise at Catalina.

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Can you see OMB and Diego?

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Upclose shot of a rock in the Montrose pools.

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Montrose pools.

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Reflecting upon 2016.

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Our Picacho Peak State Park site.  I’m declaring us officially proficient at backing in.  Amelia does the driving and I hardly have to guide.  We were giddy like a couple of teenagers when she wheeled it right into the spot.

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The view of Picacho Peak while heading east on I-10.

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Evening pic of Picacho Peak from our campsite.

 

Our last evening at Picacho we experienced a heavy downpour.  Rain in the desert is a beautiful thing!

Fantasy Island: December 29, 2016

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Da plane! Da plane!

 

This is a bikecentric post. The next one will be for mass consumption.

Fantasy Island is a chunk of square land on the east side of Tucson.  It’s not a difficult ride by any stretch of the imagination.  We rode 20 miles with only 215 feet elevation gain. What it is, is fun.  It’s super fast turny singletrack with cacti all around.  If you veer off the trail you are getting poked.  It’s fun to have fun and the Tucson mountain biking community have had a fun time decorating the trails, especially bunny trail.

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Wait till you see this obsession with bunnies!

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I probably only got pics of half the bunnies.  I’m sure I missed many focusing on the trail.

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There’s also a trail called Bunnies Revenge.

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Welcome Spring.

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Stuffed one in the Cholla has seen happier days.

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This kind of stuff was everywhere.

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This was my favorite.  The poor thing seems sad and lonely.

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Indeed!

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Hardy har har.

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And of course license plates.

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Old Man Birch in the lead and Amelia going for 3 points between the Saguaros.

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Indian land?  

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A real memorial.

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This was a fun section!  And also where Old Man Birch was nowhere to be seen.  Maybe he wasn’t lost, but he was certainly no longer riding with us!   After many calls back and forth we finally ran into him.  

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Over.

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Under.

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Ain’t that the way it always goes…the city of Tucson sold a substantial piece of Fantasy Island to a developer.  The island is getting smaller.

Later that day we stopped by Catalina Brewing.  A great mountain bike themed vibe with  all kinds of cool paraphernalia.  Coming from San Diego County, the epicenter of craft beer, we have grown accustomed to high standards.  That being said, we rated the beer below average.  I couldn’t wait to get back to the Airstream and have a Karl Strauss Aurora Hoppyalis!

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Really love the theme.  We bike, we brew.

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They have been open less than year.  

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The entire bar had a glass top with biking stuff underneath.

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They give an educator discount!  So Amelia and Old Man Birch scored.

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Shelf in the bano.

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Great shower curtain in one of the bathrooms!

 

Here’s a couple obligatory pics from the famous 50 year trail.

 

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OMB, 73 years young and an inspiration to us.

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Desert riding is different!

Happy New Year!