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Fits Like A Glove

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You know the feeling – how slipping into you favorite pair of jeans feels so right, natural.

We rolled into Ketchum (Idaho) this afternoon and let me tell you, doing so was easy.

Arriving felt good.  Familiar and comfortable.

Another mountain town Spring season is underway around these parts and it’s simply a glorious time to be here.

A full slate of hiking and trail riding, followed by visits to our favorite breweries and restaurants lies ahead.

Definitely one of our happy places, we are thrilled to be back, even if only for a few days.

Big Ride, Big Mishaps, Big Fun

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Naïveté: (noun) lack of experience, wisdom, or judgment.

I generally do not think of myself as being naive, but today proved differently.

Having spent the past few days riding trails here in Flagstaff (Arizona), I was keen to complete the “Round the Peaks” loop – an approximately 50 mile loop (+/- depending upon where one starts) circumnavigating the base of Humphrey’s Peak (12,633 ft).  Locals I spoke to – in some form or another – consistently described this loop as being “quintessential Flag”.

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Capturing a variety of terrain, offering stunning views, and presenting challenging climbs and technical downhills, I was told to find time for this ride before departing the area.

I was giddy.

Along a route beginning at 7,174ft elevation and peaking at 9,329ft, originally my thinking was to bike camp the ride, overnighting on the mountain, and in the process, splitting the distance into two reasonable day efforts.

However, because I continue to change my ‘perfect’ bike camp set-up and haven’t actually yet bought any gear, I find myself in a situation pretty much devoid of most necessary bike camping essentials.

No worries, I’ll do long day ride. On the trail early, home by mid-afternoon.

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In hindsight, I can now see that my actions this morning were pretty much naive from the start: 1) allotting only 6 hours for the ride, 2) assuming 2.5 liters of water would suffice, and 3) underestimating the toll 5,100ft of climbing would have on my legs.

I missed the 6 hours by 90 minutes, ran out of water 45 minutes from finishing, and hopelessly suffered from legs that turned into jelly.

And, I broke a spoke.

Despite a day littered with mishaps, I nevertheless had a great (and very long) ride.

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Durango To The Rescue

 

It was a good run.

But, as the saying goes – all good things must come to an end.  And so it was that our month long tour of Utah’s five national parks concluded this weekend.

With temperatures beginning to flirt with mid/upper 80’s (Fahrenheit), it was time to find higher ground and the accompanying cooler temperatures.

Scanning our options, it quickly became apparent that Durango (Colorado) would serve as the perfect location to sit tight for the next two weeks: the drive from Moab would be easy, organic/natural grocers are plentiful – as are craft brewers and mountain bike trails.  Finally, settling into a picturesque mountainside site would be simple enough.

Today I was able to confirm that the local network of mountain bike trails will keep me occupied for days.

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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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