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Riding Moab With Locals

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The local meet-up language described the mountain bike ride as “advanced”.

Departing the parking lot, I asked for details about the trail, upon which I was told that a few “flowy” single black diamond downhills would be mixed in.

It’ll be fun I was told.

I’m not going to lie – I strongly considered turning around then, trusting my instincts that when locals specifically call out a ride as being advanced, they mean it.

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Four hours and only 20 miles later, this was without a doubt the most sustained technical ride I’ve ever completed. A day of double diamond trails has a way of tempering speed.

I held my own on the flats and uphills, but had my ass thoroughly handed to me on all the downhills.

More humbling … I had a hard time walking certain sections these guys were bombing down with grace and style British royals would appreciate.

I only crashed once.

Nevertheless, I had a great day on the trails.  And, while the accompanying 3,000 feet of climbing may have me limping for days, there certainly were no shortage amazing views.

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The Next Chapter

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Perhaps wisely, perhaps recklessly, Kelly and I both quit our jobs Friday.

For years we’ve aggressively saved our pennies in hopes of taking an extended break, but could not agree on the right timing.

Last fall – as we continually found ourselves too often working late into evenings and too often flying on business trips to and from, it was clear something had to give.  We decided then – that very evening the timing was right and shortly thereafter we both communicated to our employers our intent to resign, effective March 30.

The next day, Kelly affixed this picture to our refrigerator and since, it has served as a constant reminder that together, Kelly and I embark on this next chapter in our lives together.

With a myriad of emotions, and nearly six months after deciding to walk away from Corporate America, we will awake tomorrow not sure what the next few years will bring us, but I know that we will be slowing down the pace of our lives and traveling to places both familiar and new, domestic and abroad.

As in this picture, we will not know for certain where we will land. Hand in hand, Kelly and I take this scary, but also exhilarating leap together.

Let the journey begin.

Mount Rushmore

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Three million visitors annually position Mount Rushmore as South Dakota’s top tourist attraction … it’s kinda a big deal around here, even if designated only as a National Memorial.

After paying the $10 parking “donation”, Kelly and filed onto the grounds Saturday night with thousands of others, all of us intent on catching the fading daylight hours and subsequent 9:30pm lighting ceremony.

We arrived about 90 minutes early, which allowed us plenty of time to explore.  Similar to nearly every national park, monument, or memorial we’ve visited before, the areas adjacent to the visitor center and gift shop were jam-packed with people.   But for those few of us venturing just a few minutes away from that madness, we quickly found ourselves mostly alone, quietly walking the broader memorial grounds.

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It’s a shame to come to this place of Americana nationalism and not escape the crowd madness, for the surrounding national forest really is quite nice.  There is a path rewarding those who take the time to sneak away multiple, up-close views of Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt, and Lincoln.

Eventually the sun faded and we were all kept in suspension for the presentation.  Predictably,  the lighting itself was unnecessarily hokey and a bit underwhelming.  As to be expected I suppose. 

My bigger compliant dealt with the ice cream shop frustratingly closing well in advance of the lighting ceremony – literally with armed park rangers stopping anyone from attempting to secure a tasty (and I’m guessing overpriced) double scoop waffle cone one minute past the 9pm closing.  By contrast, the gift shop remained open until 11pm, providing those who found themselves waiting for the parking structure exiting chaos to diminish, ample shopping opportunity to purchase just about anything nobody actually needs.

The American consumerism culture on full display.  I cannot imagine this national memorial would have it any other way.

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Big Storm, Minor Damage

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Summer rain and hail storms here in the Midwest can be something fierce.

This week an afternoon a storm cell quickly snuck-up on me, bringing heavy rains and ferocious winds.  Despite my best efforts to hastily retract the (Zip Dee) patio awning, I found myself wrestling with what was effectively a 20 foot sail.  While I eventually managed to retract, I did not do so without escaping damage … specifically the ‘claw hook’, which is a piece of connecting support bracket hardware.

Fortunately, the claw hook is seemingly designed to fail under certain circumstances; I suspect this design helps avoid even more significant damage .

A quick internet search pointed me to a parts dealer and within a few minutes I had a replacement part on its way.   The part was easy to replace and cost only $21.

Unfortunately, 2-day shipping from Utah set me back $20 dollars.

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Pine Creek Campground

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Forty-eight hours post arrival, there is not much to report from our campsite in Pine Creek Campground.  We arrived Sunday afternoon to temperatures flirting with upper 80’s levels, which for us is akin to an inferno.  Since then, Mother Nature has been behaving in a schizophrenic manner, seemingly incapable of choosing between thundering rain storms or blue skies.

At least the temperatures are now hoovering at pleasant levels, which I suppose is about all one can ask for.

As for Kelly and me, we’ve had our noses pointed mostly at our laptop screens.  In other words – routine days with nothing especially significant or interesting to report.

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Good Friends In Good Places

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Eighteen months ago Kelly and I met the Bennetts – a part-time traveling family (also in an Airstream) who maintain a home just outside of Bozeman, Montana which serves as their permanent base while they balance a part-time traveling lifestyle.  We spent a few weeks with them again in March wherein they invited us to stay on their property if/when we find ourselves passing through their neck of woods.

Continuing our push east, Friday we crossed into Montana, ending a surprisingly pleasant two months tour of Idaho.  We pulled into the Bennett’s driveway Friday evening, having put 200 miles in our rear-view mirror and in the process, excited to cash-in on the Bennett’s offer to crash on their property for a few days.

Unfortunately, staying with the Bennett’s brings a double-edged sword.  On the one hand there is no shortage of wonderful kinship and postcard worthy rolling mountains hills in all directions.  On the other hand, those same rolling hills do a fantastic job at killing cellular tower line of sight … and all work-worthy connections Kelly and I require to effectively do our jobs.

Nevertheless, our stay was such a welcomed experience.  Spending a weekend in an internet free zone allowed Kelly and me to really slow down for a few days, maximizing conversation and laughter with our hosts.

Before we knew it, Sunday afternoon rolled around and it was time to relocate 30 minutes down the road to a national forest campground where mobile phone and internet data connectivity is sufficient for our working needs.

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Closing The Mileage Gap

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As mentioned in my last post, we left Ketchum, ID on Sunday afternoon knowing we had to close 825 miles by the July 4th weekend.  Accordingly, we set our sites on Stoddard Creek Campground, 180 miles down the road.

About three hours later, having covered a mix of highways, gravel roads, and interstates, we arrived to this fairly small National Forest Campground, which will be our home through the work week.  We now find ourselves nestled under a thick canopy of evergreen trees, which, while problematic for our rooftop solar panels, does provide plenty of anchor points for our hammock.

It’s been a few months – far too long really, since we’ve had an opportunity to enjoy the hammock, so the trade-off for quality sunshine seems like a good one.  And, we have portable panels to keep our batteries from draining, so there isn’t any significant downside.  Anyway, not one to waste time … with a book in hand, last night after dinner Kelly made sure to begin catching up on #hammocktime.