Wednesday, June 29, 2016

We have moved blogsites

Having trouble composing on the ipad, so moving the blog

Tuesday, June 21, 2016



Wait three minutes. Repeat. And repeat. And repeat. Every three minutes for 2000 miles. We wanted you to have just a taste of that fun. So imagine the microwave beep sound, twenty-six consecutive beeps, and then repeating every three minutes. You cannot turn it off. That was one of the crazy occurrences on our westward journey.

 It turned out to be a problem with our leveling jack system. A pump sealing piece had a small plastic O-ring break, and then the pressurized fluid forced the seal to break...spraying hydraulic fluid all through the compartment the reservoir was in and then proceeding to leak and spray all over the outside of the camper as we drove.  Can you say horrendous mess? Discovered in Pennsylvania. Not fixed until Montana. Beeep.....Beeep.... Beeep....  many thanks go to Pierce's RV for fitting us into their busy schedule and getting us back on our way.  We do not think it made us into total lunatics, but the verdict is still out. You can decide as you hear about the other fun things we experienced along the way.

We turned up the volume very loud on the audio books we listened to, and interspersed that with NPR at times. Radio stations are often sporadic and static-filled which always renews our desire to get satellite radio installed. Paying for a new roof at home had to be our priority over satellite radio, however.

Anyway, we heard some interesting news articles on NPR, and one of them was particularly interesting. It involves an app that was developed to help with navigation and deliveries in places like Mongolia where the people are nomadic and there is a lack of streets. It divides the entire earth up into three meter squares, and assigns each section a three word combination. Then, people can look up the three words you give them and locate you. We had some fun with this and looked up our home location. Since we have three and a half acres, we have many combinations to choose from. Some of our favorites were indulgence.siesta.stars.  and helper.imbalances.kitten.

Cannot wait to hear where you all live!

Another way to pass the time on the road is to read billboards and signs for businesses. Here are some favorites from this trip. One advertised "24 hour toe service".  Not sure if they would give us pedicures or what. We could go to the zoo to see "Very naughty, naughty monkeys". We could have visited a metal sculpture garden to view the "World's Largest Bull's Head". But there were some even more intriguing ones.

We thought about dressing in our biker spandex and going to visit a huge biker bar near Sturgis called "Full Throttle", but better judgement prevailed. Probably because we missed the exit information for the winery that was advertising "Redass Rhubarb Wine" (Complete with a picture of a red ass...of the donkey variety). We did try some rhubarb wine in South Dakota and decided it was pretty ok.

Even without any wine, Terry thought she might be losing it when she saw cows that looked like skunks. We had seen belted Galloways plenty of times, "Oreo cows", but this time the white stripe went in the direction of the spine. Being an information queen, she looked them up. Gloucester Cattle.   We learn something new everyday, right?

Glen needs to work on his hearing a bit. Not sure if he was just trying to tune out the beeps or what. But when Terry jokingly asked if he wanted to visit the corn palace, he heard porn palace and was somewhat shocked at her suggestion!  Maybe it was because we just finished listening to the audio book called "House of the Rising Sun".  For those that know not of what we speak, the corn palace....not the porn palace....Mitchell South Dakota has a famous building called the Corn Palace . We visited before with our boys when the theme was celebrating Lewis and Clark.

We rested that night at the Kennebec KOA. Interestingly enough, the owners there had tried to purchase the Panguitch KOA where we worked in Utah, before deciding that without a home on the campground it would not make sense for them. We had a nice discussion about that campground in Utah while they grilled us some burgers for dinner.  Then we were on our way through Wyoming and into Montana. After stopping overnight in Billings to make our rv repair stop, and finding one of the best Italian restaurants we have ever experienced called Ciao Mambo we had one final push to get to St. Mary.

With a respite from the incessant beeping, we were enjoying the scenery and discussing living miles from anywhere when we started to pass these little roadside saloons. Our discussion turned to how that would be a rough way to make a living and who frequents such establishments in the middle of nowhere. We see a small, neat ranch for sale by owner. As we drive on, we then see a business we are unsure about. What nature of business is "Dirty Oscar's Annex"? It is MILES from any town. We speculate for awhile.  We decided we feel sorry for the people trying to sell a house next to that place!

And then we look it up. Turns out to be......a restaurant with a highly respected chef, menu, and unique cocktails. The original "Dirty Oscars" in Washington state has been featured on Guy Fiari's show on Food network. Who knew? And now buying that little ranch in the middle of nowhere but next to a great restaurant makes a bit more sense.

We finally rolled into St. Mary and are eagerly awaiting getting all settled in for the summer. The campground is renovating some sites and building some new ones, so our final site is not quite ready for us. We are spending a night or two in a temporary spot before moving to a brand new site. Will post our view when we are all settled in. Today is windy, cool, and cloudy. A perfect day for laundry, resting, saying hello to old friends, and meeting new faces that we are sure will be friends before the summer is out.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Oh, Canada!

(Acadian Flag image from Wikipedia)

How to begin.....?  How about some family history. As most of you know, my maiden name is Breau. A good French Acadian name that gives telemarketers fits. My dad and I have been playing with our family tree for a few years and had consistently run into a dead end at my great-grandfather, Germain (Jeremiah,).  When Dad found out that there was this thing called the "World Acadian Congress" that is held every five years and that the next one was planned for 2014 in northern Maine, New Brunswick and Quebec, he instantly invited me to go with him and see if we could meet some cousins to try to resolve this family mystery. And a trip was born.

We planned it all out, signed up for the Breau family luncheon and packed the rvs for a four day adventure. Now, if you have ever crossed the Canadian border you probably know that it isn't really complicated. You need a passport. There are items you can and cannot bring with you. There is a little quiz by the border guards about where you are going, how long you plan to stay, and maybe the really tricky ones like, "Where are you from?" If you have ever tried to cross in a camper, you might know that you have to be careful about what foods are in your cupboards and refrigerator and how much alcohol you have on board. 

So, that is the setup for part one of our adventure. We are about 6 miles outside of Van Buren where we have decided to cross when I remembered that we hadn't cleaned the camper out after our last trip and that I may have some wine leftover. So I unbuckle from the seat and wander back to check-"just in case".  I open the refrigerator and there is one bottle of wine. Well under the one gallon I can bring legally. I check under the dinette seat. No wine. Lots of Gatorade, some water, all is good. UNTIL.....I notice the 5 lb. bag of potatoes. Let us just say that potatoes are on the list of no nos. What to do? "Just put them back," says Glen. "They will never check." So I do. For about one minute. After Glen notices my stress levels, he suggests a sensible plan. "For heavens sake, if you are going to worry about it, throw them out."  Yes, you read that right. So after asking if there are any cars near us I proceed to throw them out the window of the camper. Not one at a time as Glen envisioned, but the whole 5 lbs at once. (I was afraid of the empty bag being found in the trash) Somewhere there were happy crows that evening.

Phew...crisis averted, right?  Well, kind of. We dig out the passports, and pull calmly up to the gate in the lane beside my parents' rv and proceed to begin the discussion with the Canadian border guard. After explaining that we were traveling with my parents to a family reunion in Edmundston and would be staying for four days to enjoy the Acadian Congress the guard explains that he has to take our passports inside but he had us park here to avoid a sharp corner. He will return shortly he says. 

In the meantime, another guard has been doing this same process with my parents and their fifth wheel. They decide to do a random search. (Or else my dad looked fishy) Now, here you need to know that my dad owns a handgun. He knew that he could not bring it to Canada so he locked it in my brother-in-law's gun safe all safe and sound. However, the holster was stored empty in the fifth wheel. Guess what the border guard found on his random search? Uh huh. And when questioned about where the gun was, my dad calmly told him that he had given it to his son-in-law for safe keeping. 

Now, Dad has three son-in-laws, but the border guards are of course unaware of this nifty fact and suddenly kick into energized mode. More guards appear from nowhere and are now on a full out hunt for this handgun that they are convinced is hidden in Dad's fifth wheel first......and then they take a new interest in the "son-in-law" that is driving the rv next to him. We are blissfully unaware of any problem, and when the guard brings the holster to Glen's window and asks him what this is, Glen has no clue. When it comes out that it is a holster (Glen thought it was a cupholder) he steadfastly declares it isn't his and that he does not own a gun. The guard is still wanting to know where the gun is that belongs in the holster, and assuming Glen is the culprit keeping the gun for safe-keeping. 

Next, we are informed that we are now subject to an inspection and would we please leave the rv. We do so. And now the cavalry comes out--in the form of a dog. A very beautiful black lab is sent to both rvs to sniff everything and make sure we have no gun. (Thank goodness we have no potatoes!) Cabinets are opened, the suspicious bag chairs and cast iron pots are removed from their cases and inspected. A very serious young guard asks once again if we are sure that they will not find a gun in the rv. And the line behind us begins to build. Sorry if you wanted to cross the border in Van Buren last Saturday! 

The good news is that we were confident they would not find anything. That at least gave us comfort as we stood there looking like suspicious characters. Another interesting part was trying not to respond as Mom was commenting (probably louder than she realized and not as loud as it sounded to me) that they "were not very smart if they didn't know there were lots of hiding places in those slideouts they were not opening." Ayuh. 

After Fido and his crew gave us the all clear, we were allowed to return to the rvs and continue on our journey. Yay!  And the funniest thing to me is how we were talking before the trip about how friendly and easy it is to cross into Canada and how we only have trouble trying to get back into the US.

The campground was a welcome sight. We stayed at a small campground on the Iroquois River in Edmundston, NB. It was very muddy when we arrived as it had been raining for quite a while. The campground was pretty full, and many of the campers were displaying the Acadian Flag. We set up, drove into town to check directions to the site of the reunion scheduled for Sunday, got some bread at a neighborhood store, and enjoyed some beef stew in the campground for dinner. Day one complete.

Day two: The Breau reunion. We entered the church basement and were given some Breaux cajun seasoning from Louisiana. Good start! There were about 100 Breaus there, and lots of French being spoken. I am insanely jealous of all my bilingual cousins.  I got about 1/3 of what you said in French, and the voice in my head even formed some responses, but my mouth just can't spit them out. I need someone bilingual and ready to laugh with (or maybe at) me to relearn that lost French conversation. 

Somehow I lost some of the photos from the actual reunion. But here is some Breau history to give you some idea of what we learned. 

This reunion was celebrating the Breau family lines that all originated with Vincent Breau. He was one of the earliest settlers in Nova Scotia in the 1650s. Vincent had 12 children. My branch of the family tree is descended from his son, Jean. This son and his family were the one branch that was not deported during the Acadian resettlement. They lived on the coast of New Brunswick near Neguac, and rumor says they hid with the Native peoples of the area. (Micmacs?)  I want to find more information about that part of our history! 

Our nametags were all color coded to match the son of Vincent that we were descended from. So, Dad had fun finding cousins with orange dots on the tags. He met five sisters that all still live near Neguac and exchanged contact information with them. Dad remembers visiting that area as a young boy and it was fun to see the family resemblances in many faces. 

We ate lunch, visited a bit with one of the organizers of the reunion who was from Louisiana, and heard two presentations about the history of the family and Acadians in general. We gathered in groups to show all the spellings of Breau that now exist since records were kept in many ways and were written by people that many times did not know French, and the people they were writing about were often illiterate. So we now have Breau, Bro, Brot, Braud, Breault, Breaux, Brow and Brough. But we are all descended from Vincent.The picture below is one group. I took more, but I think they ended up in cyberspace somewhere. Our spelling had the most representatives there.

I even won a door prize! I got this book about the history of Acadians. When I am done with it, I think I will donate it to our school library. It is really nice. 
I purchased copies of the Breau genealogy books (so cousins, you can borrow) and learned that I am a member of the 11th generation. We found a few errors in our branch and will send those corrections to the author for future editions. He also plans to launch a website with all the information there. That should help in answering questions about family trees! 

It was fun, and we are already thinking of attending the one in 2019. It will be held again in conjunction with the Acadian Congress, somewhere near Moncton or PEI. I would encourage anyone with Acadian roots to see if your family name is one of the 120 groups that planned reunions during the Congress.

We went out to dinner and Glen remembered that poutine is a great Acadian dish. French fries, gravy and cheese. What more could a guy want?

Day three is known as "Louisiana Day" in the brochure describing all the events of the Congress. We had been encouraged to attend by Dan Breaux the day before, and since we like Cajun music and food were really looking forward to it. 

These events were not happening in Edmundston, but in Grand Sault (Grand Falls) about 25 miles away. We hopped in the car and headed out after eating breakfast in a small cafe that has only been open two weeks. Good food, slow service. 

After arriving at the event site and waiting in a long line to pay admission, we realized we had missed the opening ceremony and the live music performance. So, we wandered about the expo to see what else we could find. Not much. It was a disappointment. If I had traveled from Louisiana to find my Acadian roots I would be really upset. The booths were more like information booths for tourists of the various areas. Maine, New Brunswick, Louisiana, Quebec, Nova Scotia.....trying to get you information on the area. One food vendor making jambalaya but selling it for $10 a bowl. You could take a helicopter ride, slide on a tiny zip line or play on an inflatable slide. We walked around a bit and then headed back to Edmundston for a livelier event.

On the way back we decided to find the waterfall and see if it was really grand. It was, but would have been even better without the dam just above it.
Next up....the most entertaining event of the weekend (other than the customs stop). Ployes!!!!!  

Ployes are a thin, buckwheat pancake. They are usually eaten with creton (pork spread), or butter and brown sugar, or with stew. One of the events of the festival was to create the world's largest ploye. We entered the park, enjoyed a ploye with brown sugar, and waited for the fun to begin. While the griddle was heating up over the coals, there were singers, stilt walkers, and a beer tent.

Glen tried the local brew.

Mom and Dad in line for ployes.

And now for the grand event......the giant ploye. The griddle was a piece of art in itself. It could move on rails over a huge bed of coals. It could be raised and lowered, and the workers were even measuring the heat coming off it with a heat gun. Add in five-gallon buckets of ploye mix, giant spatulas on poles, squeegees, fireproof pants, and a radio dj speaking rapid-fire French, and you have a fun party.

Here are a couple of views of a giant spatula and the griddle.

And the grand finale....a video of the world's largest ploye being created.

After this event we were wiped out. We picked up pork chops to grill in the campground and walked out of this beautiful park to relax on our final evening in Canada.
 If you have camped with us before , you may have been treated to a cobbler from the Dutch Oven. You may even know that they are huge, and we need help to eat them. This is how we make friends. After creating a chocolate raspberry cobbler, we invited a couple in the campground to join us. (First we invited a man tenting out alone, but he was diabetic and didn't come over) This couple was returning from Ontario to visit relatives in New Brunswick and in a funny coincidence, the man's sister married a women who was a Breau!!  As we were chatting with them, another couple comes in to set up a small teardrop camper in the site across from us so we add them to the mix. They are returning to Ontario after a camping trip to PEI and the man had one of the coolest jobs we had ever heard of. He makes and repairs mining equipment for the big salt and diamond mines in Canada. They actually build trucks, take them apart, send the parts down an elevator, and rebuild them underground. He said they have tunnels for miles under  the ground that can have two large trucks pass side by side. It was a relaxing evening, and we had no leftovers!

Day four was our travel day home. It was rather uneventful, and we were let back in to the USA with no troubles. (Dad threw the holster in the Canadian trash!) 

All in all, a wonderful trip. Four nice days with my parents, some great food, learned some family history, and explored new places. Now if I can turn off the French phrases that keep going through my head, and keep Glen from using his pretend French accent I will be all set for school to begin next week. 

Here's to unexpected adventures! :)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Two years of travels in one post....and a teaser

I guess we flunk in keeping up to date. So, here is the short version of what we have been up to. Because I really want to share our latest adventure with you.

We have traveled to a few road races in the last two years, including races in Maine, Virginia, Vermont, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Quebec. We will leave those out of the blog details but mention them here to let you know that the Wanderlust is still alive and well. Circumstances just haven't worked out to allow for those big "all-summer" trips.

In 2013 we traveled to Virginia with our buddies Gary and Nonnie to tour some wineries, camp, and visit their family during our April school vacation. We ate great food, met a few shady characters in campgrounds, and learned a lot about wines. We also did several camping trips in Maine and New Hampshire during the summer of 2013 with the Gonyars, the Erbs, and the Carters.

In 2014 we took Gary and Nonnie for a whirlwind tour of Utah during our April school break. We visited Moab, Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Zion National Park, and Bryce Canyon National Park. We climbed Angel's Landing as well as several other fun hikes that week. Our summer has once again been filled with camping trips and we even were able to have the Gonyars meet the Carters at the Burlington Marathon.

Now for the main reason for the post. I want to tell you about our trip to Canada this past week with my parents. It was an adventure for a few reasons.  I will work on that post in the next few days. I need to get the photos uploaded and find just the right words. For now, I will leave you with a teaser....."The Holyokes and Breaus meet 7 Canadian customs agents and a trained dog"
Details soon,

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Life is "Grand"!

 As you can imagine, Terry has been doing the heavy lifting in making sure that our adventures  have been documented in this blog.  After our latest chapter, hiking the Grand Canyon, she asked me to take a greater role in writing this entry.  Considering the fact that she finished the 28+ mile hike despite almost passing out twice, how could I say no? (*Terry says this is exaggerated)

What does this mean to the faithful followers of the blog?  This entry will probably be heavy on the hyperbole and light on the facts(what do you expect from me?), and I'm going to write it in first person from my perspective. 

We headed to  Grand Canyon National Park on Wednesday without permits to hike below the rim, so we hit the road at 6:00 in the morning in order to get a good place in line at the back country permit office.  A few first come, first serve permits are offered every day, and if we were able to score one, our plan was to hike 14 miles to the bottom of the canyon at Phantom Ranch (Bright Angel Campground)  on Thursday,  hike 7 miles back up to the Cottonwood Campground on Friday, then hike the remaining 7 miles back to the rim on Saturday.  To make a long story short, our early start earned us the permits that we wanted (were afraid?) to get. We were ready to tackle the North Kaibab Trail.

We went to the north rim, as it was closer to us and we liked the remote nature of it.  The south rim is very busy, more commercial, and a lot farther from us.  The first picture was taken during our Wednesday driving tour of the north rim.  We also visited some old Indian ruins on the north rim. These are the remains of some ancient pueblos used for summer homes.
We spent time on the front porch of the lodge at the north rim, and then enjoyed a great pasta dinner in the dining room. We packed up the gear we would need for the hike and went to bed early in our little cabin.

One LITTLE(?) glitch with that packing of gear? Count the hiking boots in the trunk. One, two, three....three. Hmmm. Perhaps someone would like to hop in and out of the canyon? (That someone would be Glen by the way)  Luckily we had put in our trail sneakers as well as most of the boots. Glen decided he would have to go with shoe choice number two. 

Thursday Morning -- up at 4:00 in the morning to get an early start in order to avoid the heat that we knew would be a factor at the bottom of the canyon.  The lower down you go, the hotter the canyon gets, with 100+ degree temperatures projected for Phantom Ranch, our day's destination.  I was able to take several pictures, even though I was working hard to keep up with Terry on the downslope.  She won't admit it, but I think she enjoys making me work on the downs.

It's time to throw in a few facts that will be meaningful to those of you who have done some hiking.  During our 14 mile hike down into the canyon, we lost over one mile of altitude -- 5700 feet .  Of course, since our route was an out and back one, we gained that altitude as well.  More details regarding the steepness of the trail later.  For each step of the 28 mile round-trip trek, we carried full packs; none of that wimpy day-pack stuff.  We didn't take the time to weigh them at the beginning of our hike, but when we weighed them at the end, we found that Terry had been carrying 30 pounds of pack and stuff, and I had been carrying 50 pounds.  I don't know who decided that we needed all of that stuff, but at times I wasn't impressed by their decision making.
We handled the first 7 miles of the hike in 3 hours and reached the Cottonwood Campground; the place that we would be camping on our second night of the journey.  At this point, things were going very well.  The fact that we had been traveling downhill meant that it had been a relatively easy hike to that point.  (If any hike is easy when you're carrying a bunch of extra weight on your backs, that is) 
Another mile into the hike, we actually hit a steep incline.  I noticed that Terry was slowing down a bit, so I called for a drink break.  At that point, I realized that her asthma had kicked in(she hadn't taken her inhaler because of the downward nature of the trail) and that she was actually close to passing out.  Why hadn't she called for a break, you might ask?  Apparently she was tougher than she was smart, which means that she was infringing on my usual territory. We took a break, Terry took a couple of puffs off of her inhaler, and  we were ready to continue on down the trail.

We traveled another few miles  down the trail, and even though it was still mid-morning, the temperature started to take its toll.  It's always a challenge to drink enough water and to keep the electrolyte levels up while hiking, and the downward nature and moderate temperatures early in the hike had lulled us into underestimating our fluid replacement needs.  To put it politely, Terry uses up a lot of fluid when she hikes, and while neither of us had had enough to drink, it hit her harder than it hit me.  On one of our rest breaks, I noticed that she wasn't sweating much any more. For her, not sweating much means that her body is dangerously close to the condition of heat exhaustion.  We used to use the saying, "No sweat man," to mean no worries, everything was fine.  In hiking,  this saying means that the body is in the process of shutting down in protest of the exercise and heat combination. 
We had passed beyond the point of no return, as we were closer to our destination than we were to the campground that we had passed through a few miles before.  All of a sudden, our recreational hike started to take on the flavor of an exercise in survival.  We decided to reduce some of the stress on Terry's system by having me leapfrog with her pack for the next section of the trail.  I carried my pack ahead while Terry rested and hydrated, and when I had traveled a ways down the trail, I dropped my pack and hiked back to Terry.  I then carried Terry's pack while she hiked along with me.  A mile or so of this procedure along with intense hydration had Terry sweating again, and reduced my elevated stress level back to normal.  Terry insisted on carrying her pack for the final stretch of the hike, and short of wrestling her for it, I knew that I couldn't keep her from carrying it. 
Phantom Ranch, with the accompanying Bright Angel Campground, was certainly a welcome sight.  We had spent 14 miles and 8+ hours on the trail, and the temperature at the end of our hike was over 100 degrees.   Without guilt, we purchased some souvenirs in the Phantom Ranch store -- you can only purchase those items at the bottom of the Grand Canyon -- and Terry had some of the "world's best tasting lemonade".  We spent the rest of the day hanging out in the stream that passes through the campground, which helped us recover from the stresses of the hike.

We had signed up for the vegetarian chili option for dinner at Phantom ranch. Dinner is served in scheduled time slots, and served family style. We sat at a table with a girl from Switzerland, some young men from the Netherlands, and two Japanese couples. The conversation was lively, and the topics ranged  from our hikes to cycling to lobster.  We learned that it had taken the Japanese couples over 12 hours to make the hike that we had done -- talk about a long day on the trail!

A young family from Mississippi had hiked in from the south rim, and we spent quite a bit of time chatting with them about their trip. It turns out that they had recently been in Glacier National Park, and had taken a raft trip there. The guide in their raft was none other than Maddy Brooke...the daughter of the owners of the St. Mary KOA where we worked in Montana! Small world.

While Friday's hike was "only" 7 miles, it had a solid 1500 foot elevation gain and we were still in recovery mode from the day before.  In order to avoid potential problems with heat, we hit the trail at 5:30.  After 4 hours on the trail we arrived at the Cottonwood Campground, and we quickly set up camp, found shade, and became slugs.  During the day we located a path that lead down to the stream, where people had obviously spent a lot of time and effort in making a nice pool below a small waterfall.  I had been given directions to the pool by another camper who said that I could find my own trail, but "watch out for rattlesnakes".  Needless to say, we used the common trail.

I had carried a backpack stove with some store bought meals with the intention of cooking a hot supper, but it almost didn't happen.  The stove fired up okay, but the flame was yellow and intermittent, and it wouldn't produce enough heat to boil the water.  I hadn't used the stove(other than making sure that it lit) for a couple of years, so I was at a loss to know what to do.  I was within seconds of throwing up my hands and declaring a Cliff Bar supper,  when I looked up and saw the forlorn expression on Terry's face.   I took one more look through the stove's gear and found a tool that I hadn't noticed before.  This was the magic tool, and after I used it to clean a fixture, the stove worked like a charm.  Spaghetti in a bag never tasted so good.

 Saturday's hike was going to present some challenges, so we hit the trail at 4:00 in the morning to take most of the heat out of the  equation.  Packing up via headlamp is always fun, and the little mouse that kept wanting to get in Glen's pack was cute, but not a welcome addition to the pack weight. We left him behind. The hike was 7 miles in length, with an elevation gain of 1000 feet in the first 2 miles.  During the final 5 miles we were climbing over 3000 feet, with an ending elevation of 8200 feet.  This means we were going to battle a combination of fatigue from multiple days on the trail, a serious elevation gain,  and the challenge of exercising at high altitude.  We would also have to hike where the mule rides share the trail. Smelly mule droppings, pee, and sandy trail carved up by hoofprints would add to the fun. For those of you who have encountered any of these challenges, you understand the difficulty of the combination that we were going to encounter.
In a way, Saturday's hike was a bit anti-climactic.  It was a physical and mental challenge,  but it passed without drama.  Yes, once the sun rose we were treated to some amazing scenery -- scenery that we had to earn, which always makes it sweeter.  Yes, we were tired and, at times, just wanted to finish the hike.  We tried to remember to enjoy the journey instead of focusing solely on reaching our destination.   Why do we do things like hike the Grand Canyon?  Maybe it's the sharing of adventure that makes such an experience so special, maybe it's being immersed in one of the world's natural wonders that makes such a journey worth taking, or maybe it's simply an attempt to answer the question "I wonder if  I can ...."

This last photo is for Ethan D.....we found one in the real size....and are really glad they don't come in the size of that statue Glen was standing beside. While he was not aggressive in any way, we liked him fine in the one foot range.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Moab~Adventure Begins Here

That nifty title is the slogan you see on the billboards approaching Moab, Utah for miles on miles. Moab is famous for biking, jeeping, and has lots of other outdoor activities such as rafting and hiking. It is full of college students working summer jobs as guides, waiters, etc. in hopes that on their off time they can play.(Kind of like teachers traveling to work part time in campgrounds.....) :)

We were excited to visit Moab again for several reasons. 1) We were going to meet up with friends we worked with in Montana     2) We remembered some local restaurants with fondness   3) Arches are just really interesting formations that we don't have in Maine

The drive from Panguitch to Moab was a bit over 4 hours. We just about melted. The drive is through desert, and we traveled it in the heat of the day. Over 100 degrees heat. Terry is pretty whiney about the fact that our tow car (purchased used and as cheap a model as we could find) has no air conditioning.  While this is ok for driving around Maine, and worked ok in Montana, it isn't so ok for Utah in the summer-- according to her.  Glen considered the hot drive conditioning for Moab itself, as the temperatures were scheduled to be above 100 for several days.  If you can't drive in the heat, how can you expect to hike in the heat?   Thank goodness we had the cooler with us stocked with ice and drinks. Maybe that is the secret to living through it. 

As we arrived in Moab, we first made efforts to hook up with our friends--James and Zoe, Kim and Lisa. We had a nice chat in the campground with James and Zoe while waiting for Kim to finish up work.  Then we all went out to dinner at the Moab Brewery. That was one of the fondly remembered restaurants. It was a great evening of catching up, sharing new happenings, and reminiscing about our experiences in Montana.   This brewery has FANTASTIC beers on tap, but they don't bottle any of them.  Glen's plans to bring some back to Maine to share with the guys at a fall campfire quickly fizzled out, but he did, however, sample several different beers so that he could make a complete report when he returns home. 

A bit off the subject of what we are doing....James is an author, and we just finished reading one of his books,Heckel Casey  It is an interesting read with a classic battle of good vs. evil.  He also has some horror stories if that is more your thing....  look up James Hoch.

The next day was one of fun activities that allowed us to avoid the heat. We started with the highlight of the trip--an airplane flight over Canyonlands and Arches National Parks.  Our friend Kim is a pilot who flies rafters back from trips on the Colorado River, as well as tourists looking to see the national parks from the air. He also has his own plane and had some spare time that day. We had our own private tour of the parks from the air. It was amazing! Glen decided that looking down from 7000 feet while seated in an airplane isn't as scary as a 1000 foot drop on a hiking trail.   Here are some photos from that tour.

After the great flight, we decided to head up Castle Creek Canyon to a local winery. Wine is hard to find in Utah. You can't get it in the grocery store. This particular winery was also located at a resort called Red Cliffs Lodge. Here you could ride horses, raft, and do other outdoor activities from a base right on the Colorado River. Because of the location with beautiful red cliffs all around and the river flowing by, many movies have been filmed in the area. There was a small museum dedicated to the films located there and we had fun exploring it.

The dummy of "Thelma" from Thelma and Louise was in the museum along with a lot of old west artifacts, movie posters and photos, costumes, and other memorabilia. Lots of the John Wayne westerns, Indiana Jones, and other movies were filmed in the Moab area. They say one or two movies shoot here every year.  A new movie with Will Smith called After Earth recently finished filming here. And....we got to see lots of the props and sets for the current movie being made there.  There were cool old trains and train cars loaded with ore all loaded on flatbed trucks. We were hoping some director would "discover" us and we would be cast as extras....but alas, it wasn't meant to be. Terry would have made a fine barmaid, and Glen the shopkeeper that gets killed or some other equally impressive roles. We would have had to call up Rich for some pointers on acting. Oh, well. Some other time perhaps. If only we got to see the stars, at least...  The latest spiderman actor, Andrew Garfield, and Johnny Depp are making a movie version of The Lone Ranger. No luck in that department either. I think that seeing Johnny Depp act as Tonto will be really interesting!  Anyway, the winery and film museum were interesting, and we picked up two bottles of a nice white wine. Then we headed back to town to reserve a spot on an evening boat tour.

The evening boat tour was a combination dinner/tour. The dinner was billed as a cowboy Dutch oven dinner, so Glen was looking forward to seeing what kinds of things they would cook up. There were several kinds of BBQ'd meats, a potato/veggie/cheese sidedish, baked beans, corn, rolls, salad, and apple crisp for dessert. At this meal Glen decided a third Dutch oven may be on his wish list so he can cook a main dish, a side dish, and a dessert. Santa??  He also determined that although the food was good, it didn't hold a candle to his own dutch oven meatloaf or stew recipes. 

We had a nice chat with the people at our table for dinner. It turned out that the gentleman across from us was a scout leader, and the people next to him were also big into scouting. So our dinner conversation consisted of talk about Dutch oven dinners, Boy Scouts and their shenanigans, and camping in general.

The boat ride was after sunset, and they had a light truck that would drive near the river and light up the canyon walls as a narration was playing. It included some geology, some western history, and some music. Because the river was extremely low....the safety tour included the instructions to just hold the PFD over your head and walk to shore as the water was only waist deep at the deepest parts....we could not go as close to some of the areas that were lighted as we normally could have. That made it a bit less dramatic than it may have been. But it was a nice gentle, cool, evening cruise on the Colorado River.

Friday was hiking day!  We rolled out of bed early to beat the desert heat as much as possible. Our planned hike was to Delicate Arch. That is the arch you see on all the Utah T-shirts! (and the license plate) Delicate Arch Hike  We had hiked this before when we visited Arches, and looked forward to a repeat experience. With lots of water and a snack, we set off to have fun. That goal was accomplished, and even though Terry got sand in her shoe and had to stop to apply a band-aid on the hole it carved in her toe....we did it.  Even Glen admitted that the heat really made an easy hike difficult, and we both shook our heads at the people starting the hike at noon with no water bottles in sight.

We then drove to another part of the park to see Double Arch. It is a beautiful sight, and hard to appreciate just how BIG it is until you put people in the photos. Glen once again climbed up into the arch to see over the other side, and Terry once again decided she was not a mountain goat. While going up would be okay, coming down would not be pretty.

The visitor center on the way out was our next stop. We hadn't stopped on the way in because we were trying to beat the heat. It wasn't built when we were here in 2006, so we had fun exploring the gift store and watching the interpretive film.  If you visit a park, we highly recommend seeing the film that they have. It is always a learning experience. (and sometimes the only air conditioning around!)

Next we took a side road out of Moab toward Potash to see some ancient Indian writings and some dinosaur footprints (allosaurus) that are within easy walks of the road. They were both really fun to find and the drive along the Colorado River was nice as well. It was downstream from where we had taken the boat tour, so all new scenery for us.

We decided we know why some countries adopted the practice of afternoon siestas. Two of the three days we were there, we would go swimming in the pool in the early afternoon, then retreat to the cabin for a nap, and then get up in time to enjoy the cooler evening and dinner. It really did help us cope with the heat.

Lastly, we went out to dinner one more time with Kim and Lisa to try to say thanks for the airplane tour. It was another evening of laughter and a perfect way to end our time in Moab.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

From Smoke-Filled Skies To Death By Chocolate

Smoke filled the air around our campground recently, as just over 8,000 acres of the Dixie National Forest burned. Ashes dropped all over the campground, and the air was hard to breathe. The fire was called the Shingle Fire, and was about 28 miles south of where we are camped. Only one building was burned, and one fireman was slightly injured, so it could have been a lot worse.  It gave us a reason to watch the local news every morning, and Terry figured that if our area was evacuated we could be on the road in less than 10 minutes.  True to form, Glen wasn't worried at all.  Ignorance really is bliss.

 It is just one of many fires in the west this summer as everything is incredibly dry. The local fireworks for the 4th were cancelled. The fire fighters are working hard, and if we are lucky we may get a bit of rain this week. At the moment, the fire is 90% contained. We didn't take this photo, but it is the fire and a plane dropping fire retardant on it.

Our work and off days were a bit different this week, so we didn't go far afield. We took several day trips. First, we went to revisit Capital Reef National Park  We were hoping to hike a narrow trail that was a wagon trail in the days of the wild west, with a "Pioneer Register". As the wagons came through, many pioneers carved their names on the cliff walls.This trail also has some of the petroglyphs that are found in the park. We had done the trail once before, but wanted to get some photos to share with you. Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other plans. The looming thunderclouds had us rethink the hike as the raindrops started splattering us as we hit the trailhead. Since it is a narrow canyon, and prone to flash flooding, we did the "safe" thing, and just drove out.  This is the "responsible hiker" version of why we bailed on the hike, but the main reason is that Glen was afraid the camera wouldn't handle rain very well.  The drive out of the canyon is videotaped and posted to Terry's Facebook page. It is rough...taken on the phone camera, and with no narration. Below are some photos from the park.


The brilliant colors of the rock were muted on this cloudy day, but it was still fun.

We visited the little town of Torrey, just outside the park for lunch. The cafe was attached to a motel and gift shop. We loved the little garden entrance, and we actually had the whole restaurant to ourselves.  While that COULD mean the food was didn't.  The food was wonderful, and we felt like we had our own private chef. We explored the gift shop, and found a treasure for the library.....

 When we put this guy on the library counter with a magnifying glass, he will be a big hit.

To travel to Capital Reef from Panguitch, we took one of Utah's scenic highways--Highway 12. There are many twists and turns on this road as it winds over mountains and plateaus. Glen decided that while the drive was manageable, it wasn't one that he wanted to drive on a frequent basis.

We traveled through many small towns, national forest lands, and parts of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Glen even found a new friend at the visitor center in Escalante.

The next day we went for a bike ride in Red Canyon. We'll fill you in more on that local park another time, when we get some photos. It is really pretty and has a great bike trail.

We have made a bit of a Saturday night tradition with the Dutch Oven get-togethers.  This past Saturday, we tackled a bit of a project that the campground owner, Kathy, requested.  She had a cookbook in her store with a recipe called "Aunt Nellie's Death By Chocolate".   It just begged to be tried. So....we agreed to cook it and Glen's famous stew. (This was the first time this summer that he was allowed to use one of his "usual" recipes.) We invited the regulars and another family, the Sondermeyers,  staying at the campground longer than they expected due to vehicle trouble.

Some of you have asked about the Dutch ovens, so we took photos this time.

The photo above shows Glen's Dutch Oven table with two ovens in the process of making chocolate cake layers. There are charcoal briquettes both below the ovens and on top in order to make the cake bake. For something like a stew, you don't put the charcoal on the top.
The cakes are out and cooling. They had parchment paper liners placed in the ovens so they would not stick, and to make clean up a bit easier.

Transferring to our makeshift cake board, and ready to put the chocolate mousse filling between the layers.

With the chocolate mousse....

And with the frosting. 

We kept it in the cooler until after dinner. Then, we added homemade whipped cream and chocolate chips on individual plates as it was served.  It was a really big hit. Thanks, Aunt Nellie!
We had lots of sugary energy to play a few rounds of Uno Spin with the kids from the Sondermeyer family. It was lots of fun.

One of the local attractions in town is a restored movie theater.  It also has a local ice cream shop with homemade ice cream, waffle cones, etc. We visited it yesterday and sampled the goods.  We WILL be back!  We took some photos because it was just a cute, vintage place. And the popcorn smell was heavenly!

Tomorrow, we are on our way to Moab. We hope to hook up with two couples that we worked with in Montana, get a ride on the Colorado River in a boat, see some arches, and eat (or drink) in some local microbreweries. We may even find one of the local vineyards and see if we can find a wine we like. We will check in again after our Moab adventures. 
Glen and Terry