Wednesday, February 27, 2008

White Mesa - Ojito Wilderness

Saturday 23- Tuesday 26,
Dave, the bike shop guy, told us about going to White Mesa in the Ojito Wilderness area. He said there was a lot of nifty geology there to. Turned out to be the best trail we had every ridden. It had it all fast rolling single track on hard packed dirt and crusty gypsum bed rock, technical drops, tricking climbs, and scary narrow ridge line trail . And the views were breath taking lots of interesting geology also. I want to meet the mastermind behind this trail. Words can't describe it so here you go...

We decided to try out the video camera- and here are some of the shots- warning, you may want to turn the sound down- Since I'm not trusted with the video camera, who knows when I'll fall over, I got to be the star of the videos

Here is an example of some of the really narrow stuff on the trail

I decided to go down this last one, probably against my better judgement, but I made it down without incident. It's kind of hard to tell, but it's rather sheer on both sides.

Oh yeah, and this was our view from our free campsite- we ended up staying and riding there for 3 days because it was so great. We didn't even get to ride the whole loop, we tried once, but after following some drainage ditches (I swear there were bike tracks in there) we ended up with 50 pounds of clay mud stuck to each tire, and on top of a gypsum mine. We heard some equipment running so we scurried for our lives down one mighty gravel road, and back 4 miles along another dirt road to our campsite. I guess it's best to try that part when it's dry.

On our way Don't know where we're going

Tuesday Feb 19th We're finally heading to the Southwest

To get our tan on ...

Decently warm temperatures got us through Missouri and half of Oklahoma before we stopped at a rest stop for the night- It's so nice to be able to comfortably sleep in a vehicle.

The next morning we finished up Oklahoma, went through a bit of Texas, and got to New Mexico- yay!

Managing to stay mostly in front of the storm. We stayed just outside of Albuquerque in the National Forest. We fired up the stove and cooked ourselves a can of corn- but as we watched in horror, our functioning stove dimmed and extinguished. This was the first time we had used it, and the propane tank had been full!

We woke up to snow and rolled down the hill to Albuquerque.

After getting some bike trail advice from a local bike shop, we wandered around the city for the rest of the day and stayed next to the trail head for the foothills, which we would ride in the morning.

The riding was good- The trails were mostly on weathered granite with sharpened cactus that lined the single track nicely, not allowing much room for error. On the first climb my rear tire spun on the loose gravelly sand and down I went right into a cactus. My glove is now held onto my hand by this pointy plant. I pounced up as I saw Emilie coming my way, and spent the next 10 minutes pulling the cactus from my hand and glove. I shamefully walked my bike the rest of the way up the hill. As we rounded the corner we ran into the guy from the bike shop (Dave). Dave then offered to show us around the area. We were happy that we ran into him as the trail was a maze with tons of different technical levels.

I only had one major crash, man some of that trail was loose, but don't worry mom and dad, I'm fine. I swear the only reason that I fell over was that I was so focused on Mike flailing around, with one foot in his pedal, and some how He stayed on his bike (sigh). Another problem with riding so close to cacti is that my bike tires seem to attract them. Thank goodness that we are both riding tubeless- it's already saved us about 5 flats, and I'm sure they're will be many more to come.

That night we decided to try to find some National Forest land closer to town, So we drove up to the Sandia Crest Tramway, thinking that there had to be something along there. We ended up sleeping in the tramways parking lot, but it did have a very nice view of the city. At about 3 am, we were rudely awakened by a security guard, who I convinced that we had permission to stay there- we actually did too.

The next morning there was snow...again...

The poor bikes

The rest of the day was spent driving back to a gas station that had propane (we had already driven all over the city looking for a place that sells it- when we finally found a gas station that had it, they closed there propane at 5 pm- this had been the night before) only to find out that the person certified to do it was on lunch- so we went to a uhaul instead. We're becoming quite familiar with Albuquerque. And it's absolutely amazing how bike friendly it is here. There are bike routes, lanes, and trails everywhere! But anyway...we finally got a gallon of propane, and were off to find the White Mesa bike trail.

Pop Top Off Pop Top On

Now it may seem easy enough- take old pop top off, put new one on- done. But as we are discovering, nothing is ever as easy as it seems...

Step 1- Remove old tattered pop top

Step 2- Remove all 150 thousand staples that are lodged in the 4 tac strips

Step 3- Add 170 thousand of your own staples to those tac strips and the new pop top

Step 4- Somehow manage to stretch the new top just right so that you can attach the bottom of the top to the roof of the car with about 40 teeny tiny screws.

And then ...Success...

These 4 simple steps took us 31 hours to complete...31 cold dark hours

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Arkansas Adventure (Test Trip)

I'll set the stage: Dark, very very cold, some maniac chasing you with a chainsaw through the southern Missouri woods- Newest horror flick?

Nope, last weekend

It all started on a rather blustery Thursday January 24th- We had decided that it was time we took the newest member of the family out to see how she was gonna behave when it came time for the big show. So we loaded up the vanagon with a weeks worth of dog food- 2 dogs- a whole bunch of stuff for Mary (Mikes sister) a few odds and ends. We left around sunset- 4:30ish?
Things went smoothly, Baxter and Maggie settled in nicely and we were sure the heat would kick in any minute....any the sun set, and we continued to drive and drive...any minute as the temperature kept dropping....well maybe a sleeping bag will help- I already have on every single layer that I own. Well maybe Baxter on my lap inside the sleeping bag will help...well maybe curling up into a tiny ball inside the sleeping bag with Baxter will help....And then...Whats that sound?

It started as a tap tap tap noise, so I slowed down and it developed into a BANG BANG BANG noise coming from the rear drivers side wheel. With thoughts racing through my head such as oh no a flat tire, or the wheel is falling off, I knew I shouldn't have gotten new tires from Sam's club, they didn't even know how to take the hub caps off. So I pulled over hopped out as Emilie calmed the dogs. Took off the hub cap and tightened the lug nuts which is all I could think of doing and everything seemed tight. The noise persisted so being unable to make my hands function in the 14 degree temp in and out of the car I decided to do the reasonable thing and ignore the noise. 7 hours later, and 4 hours later than planned we crashed through the door of Mary's apartment.
The next day we took the van into a vw shop, but they weren't going to be able to get to it until Monday- so we took the dogs for a hike- There's Maggie at the lookout...
The weekend was great-with many fine meals and good fun, including a mighty game of solarquest, and lots of mint chip cookies. Other adventures included biking around Conway AR and taking the dogs on lots of secret walks-no pets, no exceptions- at the apartment. Then on Sunday we decided to load up the whole crew Mary, Joe, Alisha, Mike, myself, and both puppies- and went rock climbing in Batesville.

Baxter nearly caught 2 armadillos, he had one by the tail, as we trekked down a hideously muddy 1.5 mile long puddle until we finally reached the cliffs.

Then we hiked down the "dog walk" which Baxter was especially fond of ...

The climbing was good, when we finally got to it, and the weather was sunny and warm.

Lets see... We got the vanagon fixed Monday and Tuesday, apparently cv joints are essential to make the car go- and had a great time visiting with all the Arkansas folks.

Here we are sittin' round the table fixn' to fix some bikes

Tuesday was the warmest day of the week, so we decided to drive... The wind was blowing and we were cruising with the windows down, dog hair blowing everywhere, we all had

stupid grins on our faces (even the dogs). The wind was picking up and was pushing us closer to Missouri at warp speed 64mph sometimes faster. Everything was great, the car was doing great no noises or anything. The wind was steadily increasing to gale force and became a cross wind. At this point my knuckles became whiter. After being blown off the road three times I became scared. Then KABOOOM Baxter flew up to Emilie's lap. My fears were confirmed, the pop top blew open reducing the bedroom to tatters. I pulled the car over while Emilie calmed the dogs down, and with all my weight pulled the pop top back into its secured position. Turns out there are 2 clicking noises as you pull it down, the first closes it and the more illusive click (when you hang on it after it clicks) locks it. Well now we know and now we don't have a bedroom.

And how does all this relate to the horror movie we started with? Don't worry-we're almost there. So we continued along our windy way, once again the temperatures started dropping. But instead of going straight home from Mary's back to st louis, we had decided to stop by the house in the woods-a small solar powered house that Mike's parents have near the Mark Twain National Forest in Southern Missouri. By the time we turned on the gravel road leading to our hippie haven it was dark, and much colder. So we think we're about to get a nice dinner and relax with the dogs, when suddenly we have to stop about a mile from the house- because there's a tree down in the middle of the road. Luckily both Mike and I are hosses and were able to get it out of the road, and keep the dogs in the van, and avoid catastrophe. But then we rounded the next corner and there is the mother load of trees lying quite

comfortably across our path. Since it worked so well last time, we got out and tried again, just in case- and the tree wouldn't budge. So we bundled up and leashed the dogs, and ran the 1/2 mile to the house. Threw the dogs in the house, picked up the chainsaw and entered the woods in full horror movie mode. The next hour and a half consisted of cutting the tree, cutting the tree some more, fixing the chiansaw cause it broke, sawing the tree in another spot, and then finally moving the tree out of the road. We loaded our frozen carcasses back in the van, and had a wonderful dinner, very happy to be out of the 17 degree weather.

The next morning we romped with dogs all over the woods and left to go home good and tired luckily with no problems. We Immediately ordered a new poptop canvas (250$ from )and waited...

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Our New Home

1982 Volkswagen Westfalia L

Color: Ugly Orange/Brown
Interior: Puke green, brown, tan stripes with brown carpeting and dash
Engine: 1.9 liter air-cooled 4 cyl.
67 Horse Power
4 speed manual transmission
Rear wheel drive
15.9 gallon fuel tank
17 mpg city
22 mpg highway
Wheelbase: 96.9"
Length: 179.9"
Width: 72.6"
Height: 72.2"
Ground clearance: 7.5"
Turning radius: 34.5 ft

Vehicle Equipment (standard)
Camper Pop Top w/front tent window
Queen sized bed in pop top
Back seat folds into 2nd queen bed
110 Volt AC electrical outlet
Circuit breaker
Liquid Propane Gas stove (2 burners)
Liquid Propane Gas tank
Sink & water storage tank (13 gallons)
Fire extinguisher
Clothes locker w/mirror
3 shelf closet
Overhead storage cabinet
Privacy curtains
Removeable bug screen for rear hatch
LPG-110VAC-12VDC refrigerator
2 folding tables
Exterior water and electrical hook ups

We bought this fine Vehicle on craigslist for a meager price of $1600. Drove it home with no brakes and handed the keys over to Walters Foreign Car $1400 later I had a whole new brake system and new exhaust.

The next intelligent thing we could think of was to quit our jobs and plan for an adventure of a lifetime...