Sunday, August 19, 2007

One week later...

Not on vacation anymore but we're making do. Laurel ran last Sunday, Dan joined her for some running on Monday, Friday, and Saturday mornings. Rode bikes and got ice cream on Saturday morning too.

On Saturday Donna and JJ got married!! Happy day.


On Sunday we hiked Mt. Greylock, the highest peak in MA (3491'). We got a late start in the morning, so we intended to go straight to the Cheshire Harbor trailhead but got a little lost and ended up at the visitors' center instead. So finally at 3:40 we started our hike... we were a little concerned about daylight but luckily it only took an hour and a half to reach the summit. We checked out the lighthouse and looked out at neighboring mountains and New England states before starting the hour long hike back. It was a fun hike.

Still not sure why there is a lighthouse on the top of a mountain that is 100s of miles from the ocean.

This Thoreau quote carved in rock is quite apropos to our previous months' adventures:

It were as well to be educated in the shadow of a mountain as in more classic shade.  Some will remember, no doubt, not only that they went to college, but that they went to the mountain.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Map of Return Trip

For those of you who are interested, here is a map of our return trip. We left Salt Lake City for Moab, UT; then Gunnison, CO; Leadville, CO; Colorado Springs, CO. Then is was off to Hayes, KS; Oklahoma City, OK; Little Rock, AR; Memphis, TN; St. Louis, MO; Indianapolis, IN; Columbus, OH; Washington, D.C.; New Jersey; and then home.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Day 44, walstib

This is Really The End, because tomorrow Dan goes back to work. Weird.

Dan's parents came up today to say happy birthday. Dan and his dad fixed the leaky toilet, Laurel and his mom picked blueberries and made a delicious dinner.

We finally got to see the Simpson's movie and got some ice cream afterward.

Here's a short trip tally (yes, I'm ripping off Brian's idea):
  • Miles driven: 8677
  • Gallons of gas guzzled: 420
  • Average MPG: 20.6
  • States visited: 28 (+ DC and Ontario)
  • License plates seen: all 50 states, DC, 5 Indian nations, 7 Canadian provinces, 1 Mexican, 1 European, Diplomat, US Gov
  • Devil's things found: Overlook, Lake, Tower, Garden, Kitchen, Thumb
  • Photos taken: 2900+
  • Photos put up on photo album: 650+
  • Escape top speed: 100 MPH (on a big downhill in UT)
  • Escape top elevation: 13185'
  • Big Wall Nuts top elevation: 14433'
  • Gear left/lost on the rock: 2 nuts, 1 quickdraw, 1 quicklink

Thanks for tuning in and commenting, it made the trip even more fun. Probably won't be posting anymore, but maybe when we do some local climbing.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Day 43, The End.

Had a great pancake breakfast and then headed out to see Laurel's grandmother in NJ. We had a nice visit and lunch and then took off for home.

We've "lived" out west for long enough now that when we saw the "Welcome to Massachusetts" sign we felt homesick for Colorado.

Finally got home and checked out the water damage. It's a little confusing... the spot is nowhere near the supply or drain lines in the bathroom upstairs. My best guess is that the flashing around the chimney leaked, but that doesn't explain how water got into the bathroom or why there's no evidence of water damage in the bathroom.

Here's the problem:

Friday, August 10, 2007

Day 42, This Old House

Went out to breakfast with Ben, then headed over to his house. It's like a This Old House jobsite. The whole house is torn down to the studs -- no walls or ceilings and there are places were the floors have been torn up too. Ben's got a ton of work to do and the ambition to match. We checked it out for about an hour then drove up to Jersey.

Laurel's cousin Christy just had a baby girl! We spent some time with them then headed further up 295 to Laurel's aunt and uncle's house. Had a good dinner and wine with Janice and Butch and talked to Butch for a while about his adventures.

Heard from a neighbor that our upstairs bathroom leaked and our dining room ceiling is slightly water damaged, so looks like we'll be heading home. Nice that it happened at the end of our trip instead of the beginning.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Day 41, Nuke-ular mushrooms


Yellowcake mushrooms?

Saw a really funny sign today: "George Bush Center for Intelligence". At first I thought, wow, that explains a lot... but then Laurel pointed out there was no "W" so it must mean "HW". She was right.

Once again, Renee's ideas for something fun to do were right on. We roundtripped the Appalachian Trail through WV, and checked out Harpers Ferry and Shepherdstown. Just a little rain to sidetrack us but it worked out OK.

Some critters we saw on the AT:

Those are the same millipedes that are all over the place at the Gunks in NY.

Met up with Ben at Stardust in Alexandria for dinner and drinks. Fantastic place (Renee and Liam, you gotta try it). Jen joined us after her pottery class was over. It was a fun night.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Day 40, Washington DC, day 1


What does this sign mean?

Lotta driving today... we drove through parts of OH, WV, PA, MD, to get to DC. Very hilly highway through WV, like 1000' hills. Just can't call that "mountainous".

We met up with Renee and Liam for dinner. Had delicious sushi in Metro Center at Sushi Aoi, then headed to Glover Park for Max's Best Ice Cream. It was fun catching up with them, hard to believe it's been 3 years since we last got together. They suggested some interesting historic civil war battlegrounds that we may check out tomorrow -- Shepherdstown, WV and Harpers Ferry. We may also hike some of the AT. And one of these days we gotta see the Simpson's movie! In the evening we'll meet up with Ben.

Day 40, boring morning news...

Finally found some free Wifi... stopped at OSU and got directed to the local Panera Bread. Time for more driving, gotta make it to DC today...

Oh yeah, and yesterday, we saw a car with Hawaii plates on a car carrier. We restarted the game when we left Salt Lake City, and we're down to just DC, NH, VT, and WV, which we will surely see. Also seen on the trip back east: Quebec, Alberta, Ontario, US Gov, Chihuahua, Seneca Chayuga, Pawnee Nation, Cherokee, Osage, Manitoba, British Columbia.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Day 39, Indiana and Ohio


Started the day with a trail run. Two miles through Illinois woods. Still hot and humid. Hit the road for Indianapolis after nice showers and breakfast at the local IGA.

First stop was the Indianapolis Speedway. We drove under the racetrack to the parking lot of the speedway museum. Neither Laurel nor Dan had any interest in learning about racing or taking the raceway bus tour (funny how that works, we'll pay $40 for Elvis but not $6 for Nascar), we took some pictures and headed to the Lambda Chi Alpha Headquarters. A nice kid gave us a tour of the building. Dan also got to see some secret stuff.

We decided to head downtown to see the Capitol and government buildings. They were air conditioned. The Capitol had a huge ear of corn advertising the upcoming state fair. Very tacky. We walked a couple of blocks to the market place. It must be more of a breakfast/lunch place because by 3:00 just about everything was shut down. We did get some Amish peanut butter, though. It's very sweet.

Started driving east again. Next stop was John Bryan State Park in Ohio, a park with rocks! Yes, climbable, legal rocks. We toproped a couple of climbs which were hard and dirty. The rounded limestone covered with a nice layer of dirt didn't make for the best climbing.

Now we're camping west of Columbus in Buck Creek State Park; tomorrow we will journey into Columbus for a bit, then on to DC to visit with Renee and Liam.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Day 38, St Louis


Ran again this morning. Very hot and humid, showers were nice after the ups and downs of the hilly bike trail. Hit the road for St. Loius.

Walking along the Mississippi offered a bit of a breeze. We started the morning with a riverboat cruise on a steamboat style old fashioned riverboat. We learned about the commerce of the river and some St. Loius history. There were some neat operations on the Missouri side where barges were being loaded or unloaded. Dirt, grain, salt, who knows what.

We walked to the arch and went to the top. Despite what someone told us, it was very cool.

The "elevator" is a train of 8 tiny space capsules, each with barely enough room for 5 people to sit.

One capsule took us to the top -- 630 feet up (a week or two ago they lost power and some unlucky tourists were stuck in their time capsules for 2 hours. Yikes.). This is what we looked like after 3 minutes in one!

The observation deck was cool. It was arch shaped (floor and ceiling) and you could rap your knuckles on the outer shell of stainless steel on the top. I think you can see the curvature of the earth from that height (or is it a camera trick?).

We walked 16 blocks to Union Station, an old railroad hub renovated into a mall/hotel. Got some frozen custard and popcorn and headed back.

On the road towards Indianapolis, we stopped in Collinsville, IL. This is a 3 star city -- one star each for the excellent BBQ place (Bandana's), the Waffle House, and the frozen custard place (Culver's). We stopped at each for an early dinner(s). Then back on the road.

Tonight we're staying in Illinois's Lincoln Trail State Park, 15 miles from Indiana. Laurel is having aggressive feelings towards IN, home of the Colts. Watch out Peyton!

We went rollerblading along the 5 mile loop around the lake. Lots of huge hills. It's so humid, you drip sweat just standing still. It must be like 4000% humidity and there's no breeze.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Day 37, Missouri has nice state parks


Woke up early and went for a 2.5 mile run. Packed up, cleaned up, and went to Graceland. There are a lot of people who are crazy about Elvis. We are not, but it was still interesting. I never knew he was drafted into the army or was such a philanthropist or that his parents lived in Graceland too.

The house was left as last decorated in fabulous 70's style -- lots of mirrors; shag carpet on the floor, walls, ceiling; velvet; gaudy figurines. There was lots of memorabilia and gold/platinum records on display. Elvis had a racquetball court built behind his Graceland mansion, now it's full of records.

Left Tennessee, drove into Mississippi for a few minutes, then back into Arkansas so we could get to Missouri. Our first stop was Trail of Tears State Park situated alongside the Mississippi River. The park commemorated the Cherokee march through the area.

We hiked the Sheppard Point Trail which was strenuous for about 2 miles. There were bluffs overlooking the river -- much wider here than in Minneapolis.

Back on the road and headed to Pevely to scope out some potential sport climbing. There were not any "No Trespassing" signs explicitly posted on the trail we took... the limestone quarry we found looked like something out of an Indiana Jones movie (Limestone Quarry of DOOM!), or perhaps the Mines of Moria. Just a little scary! There were bolts leading up one of the columns, so we were in the right place. This cave was huge -- the ceiling was 30-50 feet up, supported by 20' square columns that hadn't been blasted away. This went back for 400 feet. The Rock and Road atlas suggested you could drag race 18-wheelers in there -- quite accurate! (That little blip in the photo below the middle "garage door bay" is Laurel.)

The access seemed questionable so we took off for Babler State Park to set up camp. So far we have a great impression of MO state parks. Tomorrow we'll check out St. Loius.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Day 36, can't climb in Arkansas


Packed up camp, hit the road east, trying to get out of OK as fast as possible. The drive was so boring, we played "church poker". Similar to Tom's game of "cow poker", you get a point for passing a church on your side of the road, double your points for passing an LDS church, and lose all your points for passing an adult bookstore.

Dan got some funny looks at a gas station in Oklahoma, probably looked out of place not wearing any camouflage.

We're in Waffle House country. That's one good thing about this area. It's obvious we're in the South after talking with a few locals.

Into Arkansas. The roads are hilly and treeful, which is a change from sunflowers, corn, wheat, and cows.

Heading to Petit Jean State Park for some hiking and hopefully climbing too.

OK, no luck on the climbing. The people at the visitor center seemed like they had never heard the words "rock climbing". There were signs at the trailheads though that said no climbing or rappelling allowed.

It's hot and humid. We hiked some short trails and saw cliffs, caves, a waterfall, and turtle rocks. Did I mention it's humid? The dry heat of the west was much more tolerable. Now we're driving through backwoods Arkansas to get a different view on the way back to the highway.

Tried another place to climb but we were discouraged by the park staff who said it would be too hot, warned us that our dog would die, and needed us to fill out a form explicitly stating which trails/routes we would be hiking/climbing. Said "screw this" and went to Bill Clinton's library / gift palace in Little Rock. It was an interesting place and an excuse to see some of the capital city.

Once again hit the road, this time for Memphis. Checked into an RV park, set up camp, and headed out to Beale St. to B.B. King's Blues Cafe. Very touristy but it was fun. Listened to some good music, had some good BBQ. Saw W.C. Handy's historic house nearby (father of the blues).

Tomorrow we go see Elvis, who lives right next door. That's right, we're camping 100 feet from Graceland. Does it get much better?

(8/5: holy crap, it'll cost us $50 just to get into Graceland! maybe we'll skip it.)

Friday, August 3, 2007

Day 35, Dinosaurs!


We woke up in Hays Kansas, home of the Sternberg Natural History Museum. Saw their collection of Cretaceous fossils including the famous fish-in-a-fish fossil. The top floor of the domed building housed a diorama which included a life-sized T-Rex and other dinosaurs. A sign warned us not to feed them -- unfortunately, they were not animated as the AAA book indicated, just sound effects. It was still a very interesting and worthwhile museum.

The museum also had Native American artifacts, historical items, and a wide collection of taxidermied animals.

From Hays we hit the long flat road to Wichita. It was disappointing. We walked around an area that was supposed to have 100 shops located in converted warehouses. There were lots of restaurants and a movie theater but not much for us to see or do.

So we headed to Oklahoma. Oklahoma is barely OK. The most interesting sights were an oil rig in the middle of a grocery store parking lot and a dead armadillo on the side of the road. I guess I should say something nice about Oklahoma here... they have cheap gas -- $2.61 for a gallon of 87 at one place.

The people we ran into at a Ski shop, a B&N, and in a parking lot were very nice and helpful. Unfortunately, the 3 outdoor stores and the B&N we checked didn't have the "Oklahoma's Climbers' Guidebook" that we were looking for, and we didn't feel like driving a few hours out of our way to Lawton looking for 100' cliffs without knowing what to expect when we got there.

So we drove through Oklahoma City (OKC), passing by the capitol building and the outskirts of the OU campus. We set up camp at Lake Thunderbird State Park near Norman. The site was very picturesque on the water, so things were looking up. However, the other campers, fishermen (late night and early morning of course), and boaters were obnoxiously loud all night and left an even worse impression of the state.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Day 34, Kansas is boring


Leaving Colorado...

This morning we met up with Melanie and Ryan in Colorado Springs. Melanie took us for a walk around Red Rock Canyon. Looked like a fun place to climb, but today's a rest day for us. We had a tasty lunch (and dessert) at Marigold's Cafe and said goodbye. It was exciting to hear about Melanie and Ryan's adventures (canyoneering, slickrock riding, ice climbing, backcountry skiing, etc.). She's doing a triathlon this weekend, which has piqued Laurel's interest.

It's sad leaving Colorado. Everything we've done out west has been so rewarding and inspiring. Hopefully we can keep up our level of fitness once we're back east.

Entering Kansas...

We're determined to do something fun in Kansas. Laurel drove as I read through the AAA book. There was supposed to be some 80' Van Gogh sunflower painting on the side of the highway but we didn't see it. Nothing jumped out that sounded fun. The most interesting thing that's more or less on the way is an animated dinosaur exhibit in Hays. Maybe we'll walk around Wichita tomorrow too.

Texted Brian Doki:
Any ideas for something to do in Kansas between Hays and Wichita? We are stumped.

Brian replies:
Sure! leave as fast as you can.

Probably good advice.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Day 33, Oh My.


Teeth chattering, fingers numb, I can see my breath. It's 5:30 AM. We camped at 10,000 feet last night. It can't be more than 40 degrees this morning, if that. Off to hike a mountain...

We planned on making oatmeal to warm us up, but decided against it so we could get an earlier start on Elbert. (In the photo above, Elbert is above the outhouse.)

We arrived at the Mt. Elbert trailhead and were surprised to see 12 cars already there. At 6:30 we headed up the mountain at a steady pace. With the elevation and steepness of the hike we were going fairly slow, but we did pass a few parties on the way.

At around 13 or 14 thousand feet elevation we really started to notice the lack of O2. There were a few false summits and finally we made it to the top where a bunch of people were hanging out. The view was great and we felt a strong sense of accomplishment having made it. Our training paid off!

The entire ascent took 3h40, we spent half an hour at the top. For most of the hike the sky was 100% blue, but once up top we saw that nasty clouds were beginning to form. Time to go. The way down seemed to take forever. We made it below the treeline before the rain (and mini-hail) began. The whole way down took 2h20. Round trip was 8.5 miles, elevation gain of 4373 feet.

Our next stop was Colo Springs. There seemed to be no good way to get there -- the roads went at least 50 miles out of the way in either direction. Except there was this one road that went right through -- looked promising! Our AAA map marked it as an 'unpaved' road (with no route number) and it looked about 7 miles long. Shortcut!

At a gas station they didn't know what the unnumbered road was, but told us how to get to a road that goes to Mosquito Pass. We figured it must be the same road, how many roads could there be going between two 14,000 foot mountains?

The road started out decent but that didn't last long. Laurel handed the wheel over to Dan for some rough driving. We were already two miles in and didn't anticipate this road turning into the "worst road in Colorado", or the "highest off-roading road in the country" as it was described to us by a few people we passed.

It was rough alright. Rutty, rocky, narrow, exposed, downright scary. Big rocks too. Laurel's knuckles were white gripping the "Oh My" handle. With a few lucky guesses about which way to turn, we made it to the top, which was marked Mosquito Pass, elevation 13,185 feet. And it said we were going the right way, towards Fairplay!

Downhill was interesting. 1st gear wasn't slow enough, had to use the brakes almost the whole way down. At one point the road turned into a stream. We passed a few decrepit abandoned mines. On the whole 13 mile road we only saw one mile marker (#3). It had blue and yellow ribbon tied on. Earlier we noticed a crummy weed tied with the same ribbon, and later we saw a bush tied with ribbon, so I guess those were mile markers too.

Towards the very end a stream crossed the road. It was about 2' deep and 10' across -- no problem for the Escape!

Easy highway driving the rest of the way to Manitou Springs where we're staying at a nice campground with showers, wifi, and laundry.