Final, Final Post!

Ooops, those last two post came out in the wrong order.  I set the scheduler wrong.

You weren’t supposed to read ‘This is the End’ until 1:30 PM today (not AM).

What a way to ruin my big Finale…

OK, now this is really the end.  Now it’s off the the RV repair shop for 6 weeks…

Cheers!

Zion to home

Zion was great as usual.  This is another spot we’ve visited a few times in the past and always enjoyed.

Ten years (and 20 pounds) ago we climbed Angel’s Landing for the first time.  This hike is only for the most sturdy of individuals!  After about 1.5 hours of hiking steep switchbacks you are greeted with this welcome sign just as you are about to begin the real climb.

 

If you are afraid of heights, get dizzy, etc., etc. it is not recommended that you continue.  We’ve seen people start this climb ahead of us and then turn around after they reach the first chain hold.  Right about where Tina is in this picture.

 

If  you can handle the heights and fairly a strenuous climb you’ll feel like you’ve really accomplished something after finishing this 5 mile round-trip, 1400 ft climb.  Many spots along the route have nothing but a sheer drop off on either side of you and a chain to hold on to if  you’re lucky.

OK, here we go…

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I think it was this picture where I almost fell!!  Seriously!  You know me. I’ll do anything to get that perfect shot.  I was trying to get this little animated image and was not holding on to the chain. As I swing the camera around my head I leaned a little too far forward and got just a tad off balance!  As I looked down to my death I got a blast of adrenaline through my gut and I quickly grabbed the chain behind me… whew!  🙂  (Don’t tell Tina or my Mom)

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In this shot Tina is walking along the top of Angel’s Landing.  There are no hand holds here.  It is a sheer, 1400 foot drop on either side of this little path.  It may look wide and safe in this picture, but with just a little wind you don’t feel secure at all.

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Let’s climb!

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It ended up taking us almost the entire 4 hours that the park estimates to make this trek, but that is only because it was soooo crowded this trip.  Many spots on this climb are only wide enough for a single person at a time to pass.  We had to wait multiple times for groups of hikers to file through a bottleneck before we could proceed the opposite direction.  This slowed our progress quite a bit.  And then once we made the top it was like a crowded beach.  People sprawled out all over the rock leaving very few places to sit and rest. IMG_20150920_123215291-ANIMATION But it was still fun.  Next time we’ll start earlier and beat the crowds.

We were staying at a KOA in St George this time so we also drove into
town and had some great brick oven pizza, did some shopping (Tina got a great deal on a new sweater at the outlet that is just too cute!) and picked up some outstanding blackberry and lemon meringue pie from a famous little pie place.  They do chicken pot pie too.  Excellent place, wish I could remember the name.

Finally a chance to sit down and rest on the peak of Angel’s Landing (Yeah we started way down there at the bottom!).

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After a day and a half in Zion we headed to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.  We’ve never been to the north rim before and I have to say I think it is prettier and definitely less crowded than the south rim.  There aren’t as many facilities (restaurants, shops, and stuff), but there is enough for us.  We couldn’t get reservations at the campground in the park so we stayed at a nice RV campground in Jacob’s Lake about 1 hour north of the park.  We saw some buffalo and deer and that weird looking little Kaibab Squirrel.  We walked a couple of short trails and scenic overlooks.

 

Living on the edge!

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I think this was called the Angel’s Window.  You can see people walking across it.

 

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The lodge has a real nice sitting room on the edge of the canyon, enclosed in glass with a great view of the canyon.

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The North Rim Lodge…

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After the north rim was Flagstaff.  Since we are also contemplating retirement locations on this trip we wanted to look around Flagstaff again, oh, and Tina just happened to find a 55K trail race to run for fun while we were there.  Yay.

And they’re off!  Tina’s in the pink shirt and white hat behind the big green dude.

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And then,  8 hours later…  HERE SHE COMES…  The clock says 3:55 PM.  She started at 8 AM… 7 hrs 55 mins!

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Tina ran her 34 mile race and it nearly killed her.  She came in 4th in her age group, good job Tina.  She ran out of water 2 or 3 times and this trail run was not setup with a lot of water stops. You were supposed to be prepared with all your own supplies.  Fortunately,  they did set up a few water stops where she could refill her CamelBack…

 

Flagstaff is a nice little town and stays much cooler than other parts of Arizona.

While there we visited Sedona, another first for us.  I wasn’t that impressed.  It was much bigger and far more commercial than I had imagined.  Some beautiful mountains, no doubt, but the town was crowded and touristy… nah… not for me.

After that it was time to head home.  We decided to take it slow and not drive too many hours in a given day.  After leaving Flagstaff we headed to Phoenix and as I mentioned in the last blog post it was HOT!  We haven’t had to deal with hot weather in a few months.  Most of our trip has been in northern climates and upper elevations where, for the most part, it was never hotter than low 80’s!  We get down to Phoenix and its over 100!  Nooooo!!!

From Phoenix we drove to Lordsburg and spent the night in a nice Flying J gas station.

From Lordsburg we make it to Ft. Stockton and stay in a Walmart (and no one parks right next to us… weird).

From Ft. Stockton to  San Antonio, visit the Alamo, riverwalk and buy a box of Krispy Kremes!!!.

Then from San Antonio home.  We got home Thursday morning, Oct 1st.  It’s kinda nice to be home.  However, I’m still waking in the middle of the night or morning and can’t remember which town I am in… for a second or two…  😉

 

 

 

 

This is the End!

OK, this blog is officially on hold now that we’ve returned home.  I don’t know if I’ll pick it back up or not on the next trip.

 

I’m writing this Monday the 5th and we’ve been home since last Thursday, Oct 1.  I hope you’ve all enjoyed following our little trip.  Several of you have mentioned you enjoyed my writing (apparently those remedial English classes in College helped out?), even Tina said she enjoyed reading my blog posts because it was like reliving a vacation that she doesn’t remember happening (at least not the way I told it :-/  ).

We spent almost 4 months living in the RV as sort of a test for ourselves.  It is definitely doable.  We had a lot of fun. Tina was ready to come home sooner than I was, but we were both tired at the end of 3 months.

One of the biggest challenges we found is constantly making plans for where you are going next, where you’ll stay, making reservations, etc.  Several things were planned before we left, but we purposely left several chunks of time open for random fun.  That was great, but also a challenge.

This can be mitigated by making plans to stay in one area for a longer period of time.  We moved around too much, but that’s what we wanted to do.  Next time we’ll plan differently.

I haven’t tallied all the costs yet, but it was definitely more expensive than I had expected.  The majority of that extra expense was fuel cost.  At just under 6 miles to the gallon I was filling that beast up every day or two.  Again, this would be mitigated by staying in one place for a longer period of time which is something we’ll definitely plan on if we do this again.  So it was more expensive than planned, but not unmanageable with just a little better planning.

Now we’re home and will spend time doing a “Post-Mortem” on costs, pros and cons of RV living and so on.

The “Enterprise” goes into space dock tomorrow for a 4 to 6 week repair visit to have the right side deflector shield replaced and several other issues addressed.

The shuttle craft has already been to the detail shop to have all the dog hair and odor removed from the carpet (Yuk!).  The shop did a better job than I expected.  Getting that dog hair out of the carpet was a challenge and we may need a followup visit in a month.

(My biggest piece of advice for you if you are contemplating such an adventure:  Don’t bring an animal!)

But when we arrived home Thursday the first thing I wanted to do was get my truck out of the garage before I parked the RV in the driveway.  However, the battery in my truck had died.  I knew this because I received a text message from my truck back in July that the battery was dying (Yeah, it can do that).  I decided to ignore it and figured I would just charge the battery when I got home.  Here’s what I learned from letting my battery die:

  1. If your battery dies, your keyfob won’t open your electric locks.
  2. If you’ve removed all your manual locks for security purposes, you can’t manually unlock your doors (go figure).
  3. If you can’t open your doors you can’t open your hood.
  4. If you can’t open your hood you can’t recharge your battery.
  5. If you fiddle around enough you can disengage your hood mechanism and get the hood open.
  6. However, this triggers your alarm which still has enough battery power left to start blasting your horn and alarm speaker. You still can’t get into your vehicle to insert your keys to reset the alarm.
  7. Due to battery discharge the keyfobs are no longer programmed properly and will not stop the alarm.
  8. Cutting the wires to the alarm speaker only stops the speaker, not the horn.
  9. The horn on an F250 is securely mounted behind the front right quarter panel over the wheel well and almost impossible to reach without disassembling the truck.
  10. When you finally yank the battery cable off the horn stops (yes!) but you still can’t get into the cab.
  11. After much googling and considering and trying wires through the doors, you decide the only option is to carefully remove the back window and crawl into the cab to manually unlock the doors ( and you do it without breaking the window… must be living a charmed life).
  12. Since your alarm was triggered your ignition system has been disabled so you can’t start  your truck and drive to a technician with the horn honking even if you wanted to.
  13. Finally with help from the alarm systems tech phone support you hook up the battery, start the horn blaring while you perform the sequence of key turns and valet button pushes to disable the alarm just as the neighbor from across the street rambles into your garage begging you to stop honking your car horn because she has a horrible migraine headache.  Frankly, at this point I have a splitting headache too.  Believe me I wasn’t doing it for fun!
  14. Now just sit back and wait for the auto glass man to show up and replace the back window that you pulled out (still waiting – but at least the red duct tape holding it in place matches the red paint job).
  15. BAM! That’s all there is to it.

 

Well, with that little episode resolved, I get up Saturday morning and it’s time to take a nice hot shower in a big roomy shower. No banging elbows into the RV walls of the tiny shower for the first time in 4 months…. nice…. except there is no hot water… wait, what?  And the RV is already at Ford for the weekend getting the oil changed and inspected so I can’t even take a shower in the RV.   I check the water heater.  Pilot light is out.  I try to restart it multiple times, no luck.   Long story short, the water heater is under warranty, the manufacturer says it’s a known problem, they’ll get someone out first thing… Monday morning….ugh…

 

My hair just doesn’t look right washed in cold water. I’ll just stay in all weekend because I have some financial work to get caught up on anyway.  Which is when I discover some suspicious charges on our credit card that we’ve been using this whole trip.  I let Tina call the credit card company, after much time and questioning, they determine that someone used our card number and a fake email to open a new account in our name.  So now our cards have been cancelled, new ones are on the way, we’re living in cash only society until the new cards arrive.

 

And on top of all that… my big toe hurts!

 

Ahh.. It’s nice to be home…  😉

 

 

 

Bryce

After leaving Capitol Reef we drove a few hours and spent the night in the Walmart in Richfield, UT.  We’d been pushing that RV hard up and down steep mountain slopes that had a grade up to 8%.  Many times I had the “pedal to the metal” and could barely maintain 35 mph up these hills.  Sometimes 18 wheelers were passing me and other times I had a row of cars behind me that couldn’t pass because of the curves.  I wasn’t about to pull out and let them pass either.  I think it must be an RVer rule not to use pullouts and I didn’t want to break that rule.

After a couple of days of hard mountain driving, we roll into the Walmart in Richfield and are cruising around the parking lot looking for that perfect, scenic spot when I notice the engine is making a funny noise… Ruh-Roh.  When I’m coasting it sounds fine but as soon as I apply just a little throttle the engine makes a rattle or tapping noise… “Oh No, stuck in Richfield-nowheresville”, I’m thinking.  We parked for the night and hoped that the noise would go away after the engine got a good night’s sleep.

Which reminds me, there is another RVer rule that annoys me.  Apparently, when you pull into a Walmart or other parking lot for the night you are supposed find another RVer and park as close as possible to them for the night.  I mean like within 5 feet, side by side.  What’s up with that?!?  I don’t know how many times on this trip we’ve had a nice little parking space in a huge parking lot and then some other RVer pulls up right next to us!  This Walmart was no different.  After finding our little, private spot we went shopping in walmart, when we returned there was an RV parked right next to us… there were plenty other available spots…what gives guys???

Just last Sunday night we were in Phoenix on our way home and decided to spend the night in the very nice Cabela’s parking lot.  It’s a 5 acre parking lot, huge.  We arrive around 9 PM.  There are 2 truckers and one RVer on the far side of the parking lot, we grab a nice empty spot on the near side of the lot.  It’s hot in Phoenix.  I’m running the generator and AC.  About midnight it has cooled off so I turn off the generator.  Within 15 minutes I hear a car go by.  But it seems to stop.  I look out the window and there it is!  A dude in a truck pulling his trailer has parked right next to us, literally within 10 feet of our RV.  Why?!  Is he going to try and siphon gas from my RV?  There’s like 1 million other empty parking slots all around!? I lay in bed for a bit trying to get to sleep, but the dude is outside his trailer banging his door open & closed, coughing and hacking, turning his radio on, and just milling around.  Weirdo.  Well it’s starting to get hot again (the insulation in these RV’s is nothing to write home about).  The dude has parked right next to the exhaust pipe of my generator with his trailer door open.  If I turn on my generator it’s going to gas him out as well as be very noisy for him…hmmm….Well, the heat wins over. I can’t help it if he parked so close I’m turning my generator on.  Wow, it was amazing how fast he got in his truck and drove away.  He parked on the other side of the parking lot like he should have done in the first place!

Back to Richfield… Unfortunately, after a good night’s rest the engine was still making that rattly noise.  We drive on, hoping I wasn’t damaging the engine, to  Cannonville near Bryce where we’re staying at a KOA.  My only guess on the engine is low oil so I give it a check. Sure enough, looks like my engine has burned a few quarts.  The local Ace hardware carries some 5W-20 so I grab a few quarts, add 3 to the engine and that seems to have solved the problem.  It just needs to make it about 2 more weeks ‘til we get home.

From our base in the Cannonville KOA we visited Bryce, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and Boulder UT where there are some Anasazi ruins.  The Anasazi ruins aren’t really worth the drive unless you’re a hard core anthropologist or something.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But while we were there we took the time to hike a nearby, short slot canyon.  It wasn’t a very long canyon, but what a great place for a cattle rustlers hideout! There’s water for your horses and a hidden entrance.

 

Behind these bushes…

Is a stage coach robbers paradise (Not that I’m in favor of robbing stage coaches)!

Zoe was impressed…

She enjoyed the spa, too…

She enjoyed lots of new smells…

And, what’s this?  Seriously!? She stole my phone and started taking selfies?!?!  I’ll have to teach her that cool people don’t take selfies anymore.  It’s out of style.

This would make a great camping spot (assuming no rain and flash floods).

 

We also drove Hell’s Backbone Road, named because of the treacherous conditions the workers endured while building this road in the 30’s.  Especially this particular bridge.  Two or three guys felled some timbers across this gorge then convinced one of the dudes to drive his tractor across the rough timbers!  They’ve made improvements since then.

 

 

This  was the original road from Escalante to Boulder, UT.  It is a decent, 35-40 mile, dirt road with a few patches of pavement.  Four-Wheel drive not needed and there were some beautiful views near the top of the road.  Like this tree clinging to the top of the cliff.

 

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We also stopped in at the Escalante info station/Ranger station.  The Escalante Nat. Monument is run by the BLM and has fairly liberal rules on back-country hiking.  Out here you can hike virtually anywhere.  No trails to stay on, no assigned campsites.  You have to file a trip plan before you leave so that if you don’t show up on you scheduled return date they’ll think about sending a search party after  you… nice…

 

 

 

The dog had to go with us everywhere so we couldn’t get far off trail, especially in Bryce, so we only spent one full day in Bryce.  We ate at Ruby’s Inn for dinner one night.  I had the all you can eat buffet.  I highly recommend it if you have lots of money and don’t care what your food tastes like.

Let’s head over to Zion Nat. Park!

Utah Bound

Today is Wednesday, Sept. 30th.  I’m writing this from Ft Stockton.  We stayed in a nice Walmart overnight and will be in San Antonio this evening.  Expect to be back home tomorrow, Oct 1.    I knew when I saw the bumper sticker on a pickup truck that said, “This driver only carries 45 caliber ammo” that I was back in Texas!

It’s been two weeks since we arrived in Utah, visiting some state and national parks.

We’ve visited Bryce and Zion Nat. Parks a couple of times in the past and have always enjoyed them.  We wanted to go back to Bryce and Zion but also visit a couple of new parks as well.

 

From Colorado we headed for Moab to visit Arches and Canyonlands.  

Wow, I think Canyonlands is as big a canyon as the Grand Canyon.. Huge!

 

Here I am jumping a massive and highly dangerous fissure at the edge of this sandstone cliff!  Unfortunately, the photographer  only caught the amazing landing…

 

 

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And, of course, Arches is just very cool (except that it was very hot).

 

At this point in our travels we’re still kind of pooped out from the Rocky Mountain hike.  It was also hot in Moab and we didn’t have a place to dump the dog so we only did auto-sightseeing.  But we still got to see some cool stuff.  Did a little Jeep, off-roading (that was just bumpy). And we have a better idea of what to expect and what to do when we come back.

 

Our last night in Moab we didn’t have an RV reservation.  We checked Arches for a campsite, but they were packed so we decided to try the local National Forest campsites.  They’re usually first come first served and self check-in.  We tried a couple of camps along the Colorado River and found this one in the Big Bend campground.  We got a great spot right on the river hidden in the trees.  Built a campfire, roasted hot dogs and marshmallows! Went to sleep with the gentle sound of river water rushing over rocks just outside our bedroom window…. ahh…

 

 

We also took this time to make plans for Zion, Bryce and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.  I.e. find RV parks with vacancies!  We were expecting crowds to thin out after August when all the kiddos went back to school, but we still haven’t seen a shortage of tourists (lousy tourists).

 

We’ve met a lot of interesting folks from around the world and Germans seem to be among  the top visitors to our national parks.  The ones we have met have all rented RV’s from either Frisco or L.A.  One German couple told us the RV was quite challenging because all they’ve ever known were little Volkswagens in Hamburg (It wasn’t even a very big RV they had) !  🙂

 

On the way to Zion & Bryce we stopped at Gobblin State Park and Capitol Reef Nat. Park.  The Gobblins were awesome.  We only spent a couple of hours in this park, but could have spent a couple of days.  There are a lot of desert trails and mountain bike trails and just running around through the gobblins was more fun than a corn maze!

This was the week of all the heavy rains in Utah which saw flash flooding and some deaths from the flooding.  Therefore, some of the parks trails were not recommended due to the possibility of flash flooding the day we were there.

 

Later, in Zion we learned that 7 hikers were killed in a flash flood in their park.  Apparently hiking through a slot canyon and no way to get out.  The park is now re-examining their back-country permitting process…

 

You should visit Gobblin State Park if you’re in the area.  You can even take your dog out to the gobblins with you!

 

Can you see me out there on the Gobblins?

Here’s a closer view.

 

It was shortly after this shot that Tina informs me she read a sign saying you’re not supposed to climb on the gobblins….  Thanks for letting me know… too late…

After Gobblins we popped by Capitol Reef where we drove the RV down a road that the park ranger said would be OK for our RV, but wasn’t.  Too many steep dips in the very narrow, two lane road.  Many tail dragging incidents… no bueno!  Good thing I’ve installed the heavy duty skid wheels after destroying two other, smaller sets of wheels.

 

It was a beautiful place.  Tina needed to get out and run 8 miles so I dropped her off out towards the end of the road and left her there while me and Zoe drove back to the visitors center and waited.  Zoe and I walked aroung the little park area and Zoe was very interested in the deer that were grazing nearby in the grass.  They seemed interested in her too.

Tina finally showed up so we hopped in the RV and headed out.

 

 

Now it’s on to Bryce and Zion…

 

 

After Yellowstone

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As previously noted, Yellowstone was a great visit.  I didn’t mention everything we did like places we ate or less deadly animal encounters.  I think we ate at all the lodges and Inns.  The buffalo chili was very good (hehehe, buffalo traffic jam revenge!), but DO NOT get the pork medallions at the Yellowstone Inn (It’s just over cooked Canadian bacon with a weird sauce drizzled on it).  Other than the chili all the other food we got in the park was marginal, park food.  We also ate in Jackson a couple of times.  Liberty Burger, that was a good burger joint.  I had a burger with burger, ham, bacon, hash browns AND an egg on it!  Wow!

 

However, it was time to move on and our next plan was to head back down to the Rocky Mountain National Park and go back country hiking!  Yeah!

 

It’s funny how you lose track of time and days of the week become a blur on a long trip like this.  We didn’t realize we ended up back in Estes Park Friday of Labor Day weekend!  We hadn’t planned that, therefore, It was tough to find an RV place to stay.  And it was tough to find empty back-country campsites.  After talking to the back-country ranger it was clear that it would be best to start our trek on Monday the 7th.  Most people would be finishing up their back-country hikes just as we started ours.  This also gave us time to go back down to Fort Collins and do a little shopping.

 

It was also tough to find an RV park with openings.  We found one night in a KOA in Fort Collins and two nights in a nice Walmart in Fort Collins.  We stayed one night in Walmart, then moved to the KOA, then back to the Walmart we liked sooo much.

 

I mentioned that we rented the main hiking components: backpacks, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, tent and bear container.  This was surprisingly cheap.  For 2 nights/3days all of that cost $114!  I’ve had a funny rash ever since sleeping in that rented sleeping bag, but, hey, a new, 20* sleeping bag runs 2-300 bucks easy.  Cha-ching!  Money saved. The rash will go away… eventually.

 

In addition to the rented items we spent some time at REI and purchased a few items of our own like a camp stove.  I got the MiniMo Jetboil stove.  More expensive than a basic stove, but I do think it boils water quite fast with its patented boiler plate.

 

I needed a warm and lightweight jacket and REI had some nifty ones. I found some hiking pants on sale (they’re really Kuhl!  get it?) and we won’t even go into all the stuff Tina “needed”.  We bought a bunch of freeze dried food and as I mentioned, I didn’t enjoy them.  We also brought way too much food.

 

It’s fair to say we spent a lot more an incidental items than on the rental of the core equipment.

After the hike in RMNP we knew we wanted to head back down through Utah and check out some new and old favorite spots.  We began heading west on I-70 to Utah and stopped in Vail for a quick visit.  We’ve never been there before.  It was nice.  But we had to keep moving on.

 

Selfie of a selfie!

 

I’ll be your tour guide through Vail…. not.

 

Further down I-70 we hit some bad road construction.  It was a parking lot.  I was even able to convince Tina to just “mind the wheel” for me, while I got up and made some tea in the back and got out some sunflower seeds.  We weren’t moving so what could go wrong?  Well, traffic started moving slowly, but Tina was doing fine.  This is great.  I plopped my feet up on the dash, threw a wad of seeds in my mouth and relaxed!  This is nice.  I went back and sat on the couch for a while.  Comfy.  I looked through the fridge for more food.  Why couldn’t we travel like this ALL the time?

 

 

 

But then the traffic merged into one lane.  And then the traffic started speeding up.  And then the lane got tighter and tighter with concrete barricades on either side.  And then I tell Tina she’s not going fast enough and cars are starting to really pile up behind us (I realize I was wrong to say this).  And then I tell Tina she’s getting really close to the concrete barricade on my side and I don’t want remove all the paint on just one side of the RV (again I fail to be a supportive husband) .  Can you feel the background music reaching a maximum crescendo now!  Finally we found an exit ramp.  It was still very crowded, but Tina wanted nothing but to get out of the drivers seat!  As we got to the stop sign we had a few brief moments where she could jump out of her seat and I could take over…  Amazingly not a scratch on the rig.  I’m pretty sure she hit over 35MPH on that little drive.  Tina hasn’t driven since.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now on to Utah.

 

 

 

Yellowstone, Episode 5 – Almost killed by herd of Grizzly!

I’ll make this my last Yellowstone Episode.  I didn’t really cover it all.  There were more geysers, mud pots, hot springs, waterfalls and animal sightings.  After a while in Yellowstone you start to get annoyed with people that want to stop in the middle of the road to look at a flock of deer or a gaggle of Bison.  Come on!  You’ve seen one colony of 300 bison you’ve seen them all!  Move it!

However, on our last day in Yellowstone we had yet another “existence-threatening” encounter.

 

But first, here are a few more beautiful nature shots (and some of me too).

 

Seriously?!  I get no respect!

 

Here’s Riverside geyser.

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Our near-death, buffalo stampede experience started with an innocent stop in Lamar valley to look for wolves.  This is a popular spot to spot them with a spotting scope and when we arrived, sure enough, there were a lot of people with binoculars and spotting scopes along the side of the road.  We walked around asking people what they were looking at until someone offered us a look through their spotting scope.  Sure enough, wolves.  They were across the valley beyond the bison herd (that later tried to kill us) near the tree line.  Even with a spotting scope the wolves were difficult to see. If someone hadn’t told me what I was looking at I wouldn’t have known those little, gray, fuzzy dots moving around were wild wolves in the wild.

Much like our near-death, buffalo stampede experience, once again we were stampeded and nearly exterminated by a herd of one grizzly bear!  When it comes to grizzly bear I’m pretty sure one constitutes a herd!

Here we go again. We’ve been driving around the park all day and I want to get back to the RV for some rest.  Driving through Hayden Valley we came around a bend in the road and there they were,  dozens of cars stopped alongside the road.  I started to groan assuming it was nothing more than elk or bison creating a traffic jam.  Once we got close enough, though, we could see the lone bear herd out on the prairie digging for food (good thing a ranger didn’t see.  I’m pretty sure you can get a ticket for digging up the vegetation in a Nat. Park.).

After looking a little closer we could tell it was a grizzly!  Yessss!  Score!  I pulled up and blocked two or three other cars and got out like everyone else to get as close to the grizzly as seemed safe ( which was not nearly as close as many other people).

I found it interesting that when the grizzly began moving towards the cars and people, the last people to back away were the oldest and least-able-to-move-quickly people of the whole crowd.  Shouldn’t you older people be setting a good example for us younger people?!

Anyway, we stood there for 20 minutes or more watching the bear dig in the dirt and were just about to leave when he started moving towards us!  Ruh-Roh!  People started moving back to their cars fairly quickly (except that “older” couple %=/  ).

The grizzly approached the cars and for a minute it looked like he was coming directly for us!  So, yes Melvin,  I jumped in the car and fumbled with my camera trying to promptly acquire a position of safety just in case he came our way!  (That’s what you’re SUPPOSED to do!   Hey… waaaaiit a minute?  That’s not you in that video below is it Melvin?)

In this first video you see that as the grizzly starts to amble closer to the daredevils and risk-takers that were too close, most of them began to back off, heading towards the protection of their cars (Video is best if you click the “full screen” button in the bottom right corner of the video player).

 

However, in this video you see the couple I referred to earlier.  If that bear had wanted to chase them down he could have caught them, no problem!

 

You also see my skill as a videographer and how I was able to get this amazing shot in the face of breathtaking danger!

 

 

 

Previously, while in the backcountry office I took a picture of this informative and critical bear information.  Do you see what’s missing?  THE MOST IMPORTANT STEP – What to do if the bear is CHARGING!  “ Stand still… *($&!(#&#) ($ (@^@#@*,   the bear is 10 yds &^@*($… leave the area * “

 

What?  Do what?  He’s charging… stand still and… what? then… Aaaaahhh!

 

 

 

Well those are the highlights of Yellowstone.  I’m goin’ back as soon as I can!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yellowstone, Episode 4

It’s Saturday morning Sep. 26th, 2015 and we are in Flagstaff AZ.   I just dropped Tina off in the woods and will go pick her up in the desert later today – she needed some time alone.

 

Actually, she is running the Flagstaff 100 Stagecoach run and Relay.  She’s running 55 kilometers (34 miles) along the Arizona Trail, the old Mexico to Utah stage coach line.  The 100 mile portion of the race runs from Flagstaff all the way to the Grand Canyon.  Fortunately it doesn’t get as hot in Flagstaff as other parts of AZ, but it will still be hot today.

 

We are winding down our trip and should be back home some time next week.  We’re still rambling a little, though.

 

Now, Back to Yellowstone…

 

 

A couple of other small, Yellowstone adventures were bike rides to nifty places.  First was a 5 mile round trip to the Lone Star Geyser!  That’s right pardner… however, it wasn’t named after Texas.

I strapped my GoPro onto my chest with my new chest mount and recorded the whole ride…. yep, pretty boring.  But here’s a short clip of the beginning of the ride.

 

Start of bike ride

 

Turns out we got to the Lone Star Geyser about an hour before blowing it’s cool.  Fortunately we brought some lunch.   We hiked around a bit and found those backcountry campsites.  We investigated those as research for our upcoming backcountry hike.  We also caught a cute little snake.  Tina’s getting to be quite the snake charmer!

 

 

As we got back from our hike the geyser had just started.  It went on and on.  I’ve got at least 20 minutes of geyser video.  Here’s a short clip.

 

We also took about a 3 mile round trip bike ride to a natural bridge formation the next day.  This ride was a little more difficult for me because I discovered I had a flat front tire once we arrived at the trailhead!  bummer!  I rode it anyway, but maneuverability is greatly degraded with a flat front tire!

 

We rode our bikes to the trailhead and then hiked up the short, steep trail to the bridge.  Again, we brought our lunch and had a nice little picnic.

The trailhead starts down below the bridge almost dead center of the hole in this picture. You are no longer allowed to walk across the bridge, I think because it is weakening.

 

 

 

 

Tina is getting a little more daring in her old age.  I had to tell her not to jump.  It wasn’t worth it.  We could quit the RV lifestyle and go home (fingers crossed behind back).

 

 

 

 

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Yellowstone, Episode 3

 

 

One day we left early to drive down to Jenny Lake in the Grand Teton park to meet up for some fishing.

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On the way we were attacked by a CRAZY ELK!  It was about 6:30 am, we saw him on the side of the road and turned around to get a picture… Apparently he doesn’t dig on paparazzi!

 

The picture didn’t come out great, but if you watch closely you can see him lower his horns and rush our car (Step on it Tina!).       Why does wildlife keep trying to kill us?  What did we ever do to it?

 

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We went on to Jenny Lake, rented some fishing poles and got our fishing license.  Tina didn’t want to fish so she went for a run around the lake.  She ran into a traffic jam of MOOSE on the trail.

 

Several people on the trail who were making fun of us for not catching any fish (whatever!) also mentioned seeing a bear on the path.  Alright!  Now we’re talking.  Unfortunately we never saw the bear, however we did see some very fresh signs of his presence, right on the trail!  We had been very close.  We did see the moose that Tina told us about, later along the lake’s edge.

After catching no fish and seeing no bears we caught the shuttle boat back across the lake and went for lunch!  There I am with my fishing pole on the dock  🙂

 

 

 

On another day Tina and I took a short hike along the Elephant Back Mountain trail.  This is the trail where 2 weeks earlier a photographer was attacked and killed by a grizzly bear.  If you followed the story in the news you know the grizzly was put down and her cubs sent to a zoo in Ohio (I think it was Ohio).

 

I spoke with the backcountry ranger before we took this hike and asked about the incident.  The ranger noted that the man who was attacked probably did at least 4 things that they strongly discourage:

He went hiking alone.

He went hiking without bear spray.

He went off trail (about ½ a mile).

Being a photographer he “probably” was trying to be very quiet to get a good picture of this grizzly (you should be noisy!).

 

They suspect he was trying to get a picture of the grizzly, somehow startled the grizzly and/or accidentally got in between the grizzly and her cubs.

 

The trail is not very long, but is fairly steep.  It took about 40 minutes to the top.  At the top, Nikko was sitting in his hammock with his guitar playing old Cat Stevens songs (Nikko could use a little more practice. I would rather have been listening to the birds chirp).  Once you get to the top of the Elephant Back Mountain you get a great view of Lake Yellowstone.

There it is…

 

Besides crazy squirrels and a few birds (and Nikko) the only wildlife we saw was a deer on the path.  He was on a collision course with us at the next switchback.  Surprisingly, a wildlife creature that did not try to kill us.  Once he hit the switch back he bounded off into the forest and did not collide with us (yes, he really bounded, very bambi like).

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Go Visit Yellowstone… 🙂

 

Yellowstone, Episode 2

 

Our friends, whose vacation we crashed, brought their 2 daughters along and somehow these conniving young ladies conned Tina and I into going WHITEWATER RAFTING with them!!

What were we thinking?!

 

They used sneaky tactics saying little things like, “You’re not chicken are you?”,  “Is that a yellow streak I see on your back?”,  “You’re not too old to have a little fun are you?”.  You know, the kind of taunting that only an immature high schooler would fall for.

 

“No!  I’m not chicken!  If you can do it I can do it”!  I blurted out.  Ooops – did I say that out loud?

 

Oh and did I mention it couldn’t be class 1 or class 2 rapids. No.  It had to be at least class 3 rapids!  Tina and I have only rafted in our swimming pool before.  The raft in our swimming pool had no class at all… (?).

 

Well, if I’m going to die then at least I’m going to get it on video.  I bought a chest strap for my GoPro (really an SJ4000), called my lawyer to confirm my last will and testament was up to date then signed some legal form with very tiny print at the rafting office.  Let’s do this thing.

 

Here’s how it goes.

  • FIrst they cram you into an old school bus that probably is no longer street legal.
  • You sit in little kid seats that your legs no longer squeeze into.
  • You drive to the launch point listening to corny jokes the driver tells (the one about the Wyoming cowboy shooting the Californian was especially not funny!).
  • They strap a life vest on you so tight that you can’t breath.
  • Then tell you to get in the boat and shove off.

 

I didn’t like that vest strapped so tight.  I loosened mine to the point I could easily slip out if I needed too.  Much like seat belts, I want to be thrown safely from the car in an accident.  So too in a life vest, if it gets snagged on a tree I want to slip out of the life vest and float to safety.  Right?

Anyway, I loosened it enough to breathe at least.

 

Whitewater rafting turned out to be a blast (except the part where I almost died in the freezing cold water after being told it was safe to jump in and swim around a bit – dumb – that jump into the cold water was a shock to the system.  It took me a couple of minutes to start breathing again!! ).

 

 

 

Once you jump out of the boat it is almost impossible to get back in these big rubber rafts by yourself.  They need some handles on the inside you can grab ahold of to pull yourself up, but they don’t.  So the procedure, as explained by our guide, is that your boat mates grab ahold of your life vest, shove you down in the water then pull you up over the edge into the boat.  If it hadn’t been for my new found Romanian friend, Konstantin, Tina and the old guy ahead of me could have never pulled me back in.  Thanks “K”.

 

Here’s a little sample of the action.

 

 

The moral of this story is, don’t yield to peer pressure -or- whitewater rafting is actually fun!