Road Warriors

Be Bright.  Be Brief.  Be Gone.  (These are presentation tips from an old friend.  I’m going to endeavor to follow them for this post.)

Two Days.  1319 Miles.  Rain.  Sleet.  Snow.  30-40mph winds.

Objective:  Somehow, someway….get to Vegas for Christmas!  First time my family has all been together for Christmas, ever.

Day 1.  We (finally) depart Grand Rapids at 7:30am.  Dark when we (finally) arrive at destination at night after 11 hours on the road.  We’re sharing the driving, although John got spooked when I drove at the last leg in driving rain.  Old, worn road markings made it difficult to see the pavement markings. Not only did I have a death grip on the steering wheel, but I was hunched over it like Quasimodo due to severe back pain.  Give up my turn at the wheel?  No!!!  Perhaps not my finest moment.   The good thing? Comfort Suites in Council Bluff, NE is wonderful.  Comfy and clean.  We slept like babies.  Saw low gas price of $1.889 in South Haven, MI.  Paid a high of $2.599 somewhere in IA.

Day 2.  On the road at 6:30am. In an all-time low point, we made SIX stops for gas today – headwinds of 30-40mph for hundreds of mile severely cramped our fuel economy.  It was unbelievable!!!  In spite of this, we forged on and covered lots of miles, owing to the fact that we gassed up, took Jezzy out for very brief pee stops, hopped back in the truck and kept on driving.  For 13 hours.  696 miles!  But, the wonderful part of this odyssy?  The stretch of I-70 West of Denver.  As we headed into the mountains, the wind lessened, and darkness fell quickly.  The snow-covered mountains were magical.  Passing thru Vail was unforgettable – the fir trees decorated with lights were enough to make this vocal cynic silent with amazement –  many of the trees must have had a couple thousand lights each on their boughs.  So, picture this…..narrow, twisty, mountain road, with just a bit of twilight left.  Enormous fingernail moon, shrouded in snowy mist.  Dozens (maybe a couple hundred) enormous trees with white lights or dazzling multicolored lights, and huge clumps with electric blue tops, a white mid-section, and red bases.  Hundreds of thousands of lights against the tree and snow-covered mountains.  It was a spectacular sight.  Our tired eyes snapped to attention, and we powered through the last 50 miles through swirling snow and 10degree temps to get to our Glenwood Springs, CO destination.  An unbelievable finish to a tough day.

To help us get more miles out of each day, we decided not to camp in the Fireball, but to hotel it for our nights on the road.  We hit the jackpot with Comfort Suites in Council Bluff, and Quality Inn in Glenwood Springs.  Huge rooms, luxury linens, and perfect locations.  Breakfast! 

No photos to document this mileage extravaganza.  Christmas Eve, we’ll be sleeping in the Fireball, securely parked in the driveway of my sister’s home in Las Vegas.  This will be the 172nd night of 2014 that we’ve slept in the Fireball.  For the year, it will (probably) total 179 nights!

It’s been a good year for the Campshaws.  Hope you all can look back at your year and say the same.  Seasons Greetings.  Happy New Year!

Sorry, no photos.  Next time, ok?

Gawking

20140308_134336After a few days of hanging around the house with Gail and Dan in Vegas, we’re ready to head into town to check out new additions since our last visit.  Specifically, I want to go to Slotzilla – a gigantic zip line that runs under the canopy that covers Fremont street in downtown LasVegas.  Although its opening has been scheduled for months now, we found that it’s not open yet.  Next year, for sure.

It’s crowded downtown, and the canopy holds in all the smoke of the hundreds of smokers.  Even though it’s huge, there’s a definite feel of being in a smoky bar.

So, off to the Strip we go, electing to leave the Firetruck parked downtown, and riding the bus instead.  At the RTC (Regional Transportation Center), we viewed the bike hub.  Indoor, super-secure bike storage – FREE – for up to 75 bikes. 20140308_13595420140308_135927 With a $60 annual pass, you can also get a locker, shower, and unlimited bike repairs.  They also have lots of free clinics and rentals.  Impressive, and appears to be fairly well used.  Sure wish we had something like that going on in Grand Rapids.

Wandering around the Strip, we rubbed elbows with thousands of folks.  The sidewalks were jammed with all sorts of folks – some in town for the NASCAR race this weekend, some around for the boxing match, some for the huge heavy equipment show at the convention center.  We even ran into Darth Vader, Chewbacca, and a Star Trooper.  20140308_150612

Not sure what these folks were up to, but it’s Vegas, baby.  You just gotta roll with it.20140308_134051

20140308_150113The Fireball is rolling today – headed to Valley of Fire State Park.  Hard to say goodbye, knowing that we won’t see Gail and Dan for another year.  But…..family – like fish – begins to stink after a few days, so it’s time to head out.  Back to the dirt!

Arizon-aaahh

We love camping in the Fireball.  But, after five weeks, including some pretty iffy weather, and 8 straight days of dry camping, we were more than ready to stretch out into our rented house in Green Valley, AZ for the month.  We rented this place sight unseen last winter after we sold our old 5th wheel, which had been our Arizona Home.  And, boy, did we hit a home run!  The main selling feature of our new home?  wpid-20140201_133537.jpgPatio, with a spectacular view of Mt. Hopkins and Mt. Wrightson. (hard to get Jezzy to stand still sometimes)wpid-20140201_175734.jpgwpid-20140202_152514.jpg

For the first time, we unloaded our road bikes and hit the road to Tubac, a 46 mile round trip.  Legs good!  Back and neck need a bit of work to be comfortable.  But, it felt crazy good to be flying (it’s all relative) down the road on a light bike.  Every year I swear that I won’t let myself get so out of shape, only to be horribly surprised on my first ride.  But, it’s truly glorious to be on my Cannondale 613 again.  I LOVE this bike, and love riding with the gang.  A bit of headwind, some tailwind, paceline.  Yippee!  Only our mountain/cross bikes have been out of the truck, and we are so happy to be in real cycling mode.

Before that, we had to hit the trail on one of our favorite hikes.  In Madera Canyon (near Green Valley), we hit the Super Trail, and hiked with 7 others to Rogers Rock.wpid-20140203_112754.jpg A steady uphill climb ends in a rocky outcropping, which is a natural spot for a lunch break.wpid-20140203_112929.jpg It was a chance to reconnect with friends from Oregon, Nova Scotia, and New York.  Not only are these hiking buddies, most of the are cycling friends as well.  We share many interests as well as our gray hair (why don’t they call this place Gray Valley?) Being on the trail again is great.wpid-20140203_093625.jpg

Both of my sisters, Lynn and Gail, and their spouses Jerry and Dan are here. Best friends Caroline and Greg are here also.

Geezer heaven.   This is life by the tail.

Vegas Style

At last, our long-awaited chance to test out Dan & Gail’s spectacular new outdoor kitchen has arrived.  Rotisserie, flattop, dual burners, sink, refrigeration…all here.

outdoor eating at its finest.

outdoor eating at its finest.

Vegas, baby

Vegas, baby

What to make for such a momentous occasion?  What goes better with charcoal than pork? Nothing, in John’s estimation.  So, Gail ordered a seven-pound bone-in pork shoulder from her local butcher.  Anticipation whets our appetites.

John cruised the cupboards for ingredients necessary for John’s No-Joke BBQ rub.  Check!  A double batch is prepared (never know when we’ll need some on the road)

Trim, tie, rub, and insert onto rotisserie…ready to hit the fire.

After endless hours of watching and waiting, we’re finally ready.  We added a quinoa/spinach salad, and a fresh green salad to the table.  A couple of bottles of wine, and the porkfest is on.  It’s beautiful….

ready to go...

ready to eat…

add a bit of Sweet Baby John's, and a dipping sauce featuring Young's Double Chocolate Stout...

Add a bit of Sweet Baby John’s, and a dipping sauce featuring Young’s Double Chocolate Stout…

Vegas isn’t all about Elvis, Wayne Newton,  and gambling….we’re rolling out tomorrow with big smiles on our faces, and big bellies.  In just a few days, we’ll be in Yosemite.

Vegas, baby!

Finally!  Fema is emptied out, cleaned up, and ready for her new owner.  We’ve taken waaaay too much stuff out of her and jammed it into the Fireball, which is now groaning under the additional load.  Every cranny has something shoved in there – we’re going to need a major sorting out of stuff when we get to Vegas.  But, after spending just so much time sorting and cleaning, we’re antsy to hit the road, so we just stuffed it .  There’s always tomorrow for fixing it, right?

We had decided to split the 430 miles to Vegas into two days.  For Day 1, we decided to aim for Burro Creek Campground in Wikieup, AZ.  One of the first amazing things on the trip were a couple of dust devils, kind of like a ground tornado of dirt. We could see these from a couple of miles away, and I tried to snap a photo (unsuccessfully) from the truck window as we passed.  But, for those who have never seen one, I borrowed a photo.

dust devil

dust devil

They’re crazy to see, and the two out in the desert today were enormous and moving pretty quickly.  Reminded me of the time two years ago when Caroline and I were cycling in Green Valley, and we saw a smallish one approaching the road, traveling at a speed that would intersect our path.  We wisely decided to stop and let it cross ahead of us.  When it hit the wide paved area, it quickly dissipated.  The desert is a strange place.

Phoenix was a mess to get thru, and we were very ready to arrive at our campground when we finally pulled in around 4pm.  This is the first time we’ve camped in a BLM (Bureau of Land Management) campground – federal land.  IMG_2894What a great spot!  We were down in a canyon with actual water in Burro Creek.  Shouldn’t be so unusual, but it is.  With our National Parks pass, the cost for a night of camping is $7.  No electric or water hookups, and no showers, but reasonably clean bathrooms and awesome vistas.  We even had our own saguaro on site.

Nice campsite with a covered picnic table.

Nice campsite with a covered picnic table.

Here are a few more photos.  Click to enlarge.

After exploring on Monday morning, we packed up – Vegas, here we come.  We’re parked at my sister’s house for a few days of hanging out and cooking in their ridiculously cool new outdoor kitchen.  As I write this, we’ve got an enormous pork shoulder brinning – John’s plan is to cook it on the rotisserie with his signature rub.  We’ve been waiting for this opportunity for months. More about cooking and eating in the next post.

Best thing of the day?  A shower!!  Sounds weird, but this is the first shower I’ve had in nearly three months in a bathroom where I actually know the person who used the shower before me.  As much as I love camping, I do miss a real bathroom.  And, that’s probably enough about that subject.

Second best thing?  John trying to teach Jezzy how to drink from the pool.

"See Jezzy? Just stick your head down here and drink."

“See Jezzy? Just stick your head down here and drink.”