From The Life of a Simple Man, by Emile Guillaumin: "A great weariness, physical and mental, overcame me. At every age there are periods of vexation when everyday miseries seem more intense, when everything conspires to sadden you, when you're weary of the life you lead. But in our declining years these impressions are more bitter and more painful. I was approaching my fifty-fifth year and my face was losing its last color; the white hairs multiplied in my beard and it had snowed heavily on my temples. I could no longer work so hard. ...It's not good to think too much about your fate: it doesn't change anything and it makes you more unhappy."
That's right, we had a recent ORGEE in Southwest Utah, and we're going to have another one…uh…somewhere, sometime (alas and be damned hernia:((). No, I'm not talking about senior sexcapades, silly goofs. I'm talking about the "Outdoor RV Gang for Exercise and Exploration."
Today's thoughts come from Lovely Ouray, Colorado. It is home…a seasonally appropriate and quiet place to land for the holidays and shake off the dust of travel. There is a befitting fall of snow beyond window panes, now framed with Christmas lights of blue, green, red and gold. I had to out muscle the Grinch in me to get them up this year; more about that in a minute...
Saturday, post Black Friday in NYC and early, and by "early" I mean way dark wee hours. It seemed as though I had just closed my eyes when an obnoxious alarm clock invaded peaceful slumber. Time to get back behind the wheel of our "Budget" Ford Focus rent-a-wreck, blurry eyed and mushy tailed, and head for Philly International. There are two reasonable explanations for this insanity. First, Son Caleb had a "Breakfast" flight to catch home. Second, we needed to catch up to Bobbie's clan in Richmond, Virginny, for a post-Thanksgiving reunion. Six hours, four freeways, three coffees, two Diet Cokes, and a pee stop later, we rolled into nephew/niece Matt and Shauna's driveway. We were greeted with warm hugs in an aromatic kitchen, where pots of soup were always on the simmer, and meals cascaded like Dominos, one to another. Upon our arrival, Shauna's mom, Lonnie, was just departing the revolving door; "Hello/Goodbye." I see where Shauna get's her good looks :))
In retrospect, I laughed at the naivety of my last post—attempting to convey New York City's soul, spirit, and substance after a one day surface scratch. It was like trying to convey the Grand Canyon after a drive-by look through the window of a tour bus. The Big Apple doesn't lend itself to encapsulation any more than the Bible or War and Peace lends itself to Cliffs Notes. Even my far view photos are inadequate, for they overshoot the lives of men, women, and children. The story of any city, region, or country, is told on the streets in the faces of its people. The photographer in me knew that, but it takes a little pluck to invade dignity and personal space with a lens. My eyes framed the faces of a thousand New Yorkers that day—so unlike me on the surface. But if one scratches deep enough, we're really not so different after all.
Where there are mountains, there are canyons—enchanting, seductive landscapes that both beguile and unnerve. New York City is mountainous—dazzling man made monoliths topped with radio steeples that cast long winter shadows across deep canyons, canyons every bit as deep as those found in Colorado. I was born a curious child and remain a curious man—a prerequisite for being a wanderer—and while I'm not drawn to the clamor and glitter of over-peopled cities, there is that one that begs exception. I am intrigued by oppositional landscapes and lifestyles, and who better to play the role of antagonist than the city of all cities, New York, with her determined, and oft misunderstood inhabitants.
Ok, I'm uncomfortably wedged into a child sized seat on a big ol' jet airliner—a full waist size larger and ten pounds heavier—zipping along at 35,000 feet, 450 mph, and inhaling the collective exhale of three hundred strangers. This is not a metaphor, we are sardines...elbow to elbow; shoulder to shoulder; fin to fin; nuts to butts. Not if, but when, the next plague purges our planetary petri dish of humankind's overpopulation to something more realistic and sustainable, it's mechanism will most assuredly be airplanes (cough).
This RV/Travel/Adventure Geezer type is getting tired of trying to tiptoe around the topic of terrible temps with temper-ate tantrums regarding tumultuous torrents and tempests on his Teapot. Thus, I'm inspired by Frost (Jack, not Robert) to pen you a silly post.
It's seven AM and still pitch black out Goldie's windows. Her furnace runs continuously, causing panes to sweat like Mike Tyson in the 14th round—39 degrees on one side 80 on the other. It's been raining for a while now, not a deluge, not a pitter patter, just enough to turn your Lazy Daze RV in to a prison cell. You see, dampness lowers chill factors, thus it's been cold enough that any sane person would have traded shorts for long pants days ago. But I resist, persist, and insist, like a child refusing vegetables. We're in the desert for crying out loud, but it's beginning to look and feel a lot like Christmas!
It was bound to happen, two things, really. One: that our weather would go from perfect, as in mid 60's and sunny, to a fine light drizzle and mid 50's. I can't complain about a little fine drizzle and cooler weather after six weeks of autumnal bliss. Desert Rain soothes my mood like well hopped beer, and quenches my skin like aloe vera lotion. Two: that someone in our group would pull up stakes at first sprinkle and make a run for the border, chasing warmer temps and sun instead of putting on a light jacket. Boohoo. Though we didn't realize it in the moment, Guacamole would be our last ride as a complete group. Bye bye Boonster, see you in March down Ajo way...
Mesa: "An isolated flat-topped hill with steep sides, found in landscapes with horizontal strata." Gazing across southwest Utah's land formations from high ground—and by "high ground" I mean a hard fought pedal up the Flying Monkey, a battle of a ride just short of war against the evils of age, gravity, and arthritis—I shudder at the view, shivering from the sweat induced chill of accomplishment. Mesas...interspersed with the craggy peaks and smooth domes of Zion...fade into the haze of filth that blows in from a highly misplaced Las Vegas. So many disconnected plains of mesas, separated by hundreds of millions of years of erosion—cubic miles of soil and rock that fills the basement of the Sea of Cortez, inch by inch. If the southwest doesn't run out of soil, and water to carry the slurry, Baja will one day be a swampy delta that connects to mainland Meh-hee-co. It's our soil; maybe we could claim it as a new state, "Tortilla Flats."
Note Curious Jim in the above photo...leaning into the abyss to better see the bottom. Sometimes he makes his wife Gayle (and the rest of us) squirm. Jim's me times two, in that he wants, make that needs, to know what's around the next bend in the trail and what's way down at the bottom of a dry waterfall, and if he might be able to ride a series of ledgy, loose drop offs without crashing and burning. And I thought I was the daredevil in the group. Ha!
Well, you probably thought I fell off a cliff or crashed on my Gary Fisher 29'er, trying to act 40 years younger than my age. Trust me...we're all good, so far, it's just that we've been too busy having fun. I'll try and catch you up on some of our trips so you can put them on your Bucket Lists; just give me some time.
Sometimes the logistics of group hikes and bike rides can be daunting. But efforts in that regard can often be remunerated with dividends greater than going it alone. Oh sure, there are times and places that call for solo's; we all need a day here and there to collect our thoughts—maybe wander off into wilderness all by ourselves and just listen to our heart beat—expunge the exhaust fumes of cars and yackety-yaks while sauntering along a trail without a dictated pace or destination.
I commented to Bobbie the other day that we've been camped on the outskirts of Zion National Park for over two weeks and have yet to make it through the entrance. My comment speaks volumes about all the "distractions" in outlying Virgin, Utah. There are inexhaustible ways to spend one's days, lost in maze upon maze of canyons...trying to cross off a bucket list of recreational choices. Whether you are a dog walker, hiker, mountain biker, sightseer, or a boondocker looking for fewer people and rules, there is someting here for everyone...a variety pack kind of destination. Our gang this year includes one of the most finicky and discriminating fulltime RVer's ever, and even helikes it.
Well, there I am, Spandex biking tights, riding jersey, and all—taking in the far views of Zion Country after peddling up "Flying Monkey Mesa." Lordy, I've become one of those guys I used to ridicule—with their fancy sh-mancy bike garb-auge—and this after a lifetime of getting along just fine wearing cutoffs, tee shirts, and a 30 pound backpack. I can hear Maikel snickering now...
Bobbie cranks up a moderate ascent—only a five minute bike ride or a ten minute walk south of the Zion River RV Resort near Virgin, Utah. There are so many options for lonely BLM backroads and single-tracks here, they loop and sweep every which way. If one comes here, or anywhere in Utah for that matter, without mountain bikes, they are missing out on some of the most fun that can be had since all those backseat hours spent in 55 Chevys "parking." Just like those secret parking spots of old, the roads around here are rarely traveled, views of Zion National Park's monuments and "temples" line the horizon as we peddle red packed soil through scented sage and cedar hills...mile after mile after mile, up and down, up and down. Of course you could walk it, which we often do, but there is nothing like the feeling of swooping back down well earned ascents.
Ok, so even if it was a little bit further and more difficult than I remembered (sue me!) and outside the norm ofone of Life's Little Adventures... I think Jim and Gayle will have to admit (as soon as legs recover) that it was a glorious day of hiking in Zion's Wilderness and worthwhile.
It should be called "smooth rock;" there is nothing "slick" about it. If one's achilles tendon would stretch enough to allow toes to touch shinbone, I seriously believe they could walk up a near vertical slope. The stuff has the grip of sandpaper, somewhere between 80 and 150 grit. If you haven't yet had the pleasure of riding a mountain bike on Utah's sandstone, well, your missing out on one of life's greatest simple pleasures.
I looked it up; population 39 in the 2010 census. I only counted two, though. Most would agree that Thompson Springs, Utah, has seen better days, and a few wouldn't stop no matter how bad they had to pee. A once thriving supply town with stores, cafes, and a railroad depot, now lies in the grip of terminal disease—disintegration, dilapidation, decay, decline—pick your adjective. Maybe it's my "trailer trash" roots, my affinity for rusted and busted over brand new...my respect for hard times pioneers who toiled at the turn of the previous century; we have it easy now, living our Lazy Daze, techno-wizard lifestyles during modern times. Places like Thompson get to me, and likely explains why I entertained unspoken wonderings, "What would it be like to live there today? Who chooses to live there now? and Why in God's Name am I drawn to a place so in opposition to Lovely Ouray and comfort? Am I daft? Do I harbor some subconscious yearning to be single again?"
On the heels (or should I say "wheels") of the previous day's long ass pedal through beautiful BLM lands surrounding Virgin Town, a knock came on Goldie's door just after sunrise. The Boonster was ready to remount and ride again. Giddyup! You are going to love the Hurricane Rim Singletrack—Almighty Zion's pillars to the east, Pine Mountain's red blaze of canyons to the west, and the Virgin River Gorge off the fringe of our singletrack trail—sometimes a little too close. Have I mentioned lately how good it feels to be alive? To turn back the clock and do things that brought pure and simple joy to my youth? To escape city madness and break a cleansing sweat, and "feel the burn" in lungs, legs, and soul? Well, I'm telling you NOW!
"The strange is not always to be found in a strange land; one could make vast discoveries at home; one would obtain unusual results if one learned to look on the familiar scene with unfamiliar eyes..."
Our stopover at the Red Cliffs BuRec Campground ended up being an overnight Port in a Storm—a vibrant Utah hued cove in which to drop anchor—only fifteen bucks when I would have paid a hundred to release my death grip on Goldie's rudder.
The San Rafael Swell sure is swell...a 60 million year old layered uplift of sandstone, shale, and limestone that juts sharply out of the ground east of Green River, Utah. I get goose bumps and trigger happy every time we drive through, over, or around it. To me, the swell resembles a Backbone with skin peeled away, exposed to the elements. You can find more "backbones" in Utah, one above Boulder named Hell's Backbone where you can drive the "vertebra," if you dare. Capital Reef forms another backbone, as did every Mormon pioneer who managed to carve a life and living out of this spectacular, but unforgiving land.
If you live in the western United States of America you are probably aware of the impending storm blowing its way south today; wind gusts to 60 mph and rain/snow/cold spreading into our neck of the desert here in Utah. There's no place to run, no place to hide...I've checked. One would have to be an ass to complain after nearly three weeks of meteorlogical ne plus ultra.
There are probably more than a few newbies and wannabees out there...tiring of all the S. O. S. of mountain biking from what has become a semi-permanent boondock. Their vicarious "hitch" has been itching...ready to suck in the slides and fire up the diesel. Trust me, we are winding down; try to be patient while we milk our Red Dragon Hills and weather gods...both of whom seemed to have taken a liking to us.
Above, Bobbie cruises down one of hundreds of slickrock "loaves of bread." That's what they look like so that's what we call them. And Geeze Louise, we are falling in love with the recreational offerings around Camp Boonster II...a quieter, more private site, though not as in your face red as Camp I.
The Boonster—above, in AM Sundial mode—he's an early exerciser. Probably has something to do with Coffee, as in Coffee Girl, wanting to get the day's adventure started. Can you blame her? She's off-leash, free to chase down every scent, rodent, rabbit, or insect...and so are we. What a way to live—unbounded freedom, unlimited options—plan-less as hobos, at least until Old Man Winter pushes us south.
Nowadays we share Utah's Sickrock Bike/Jeep/ATV/horse/hiking trails; "Multiple Use," you know, everybody gets a slice of the Recreational Land pie. Even the big oil and gas companies get to "recreate," but they are allowed to put up a fence and Keep Out signs. One by one, all our favorite boondocking spots are being "improved" with a big oil bulldozer...flatted into football sized field with a twenty foot wide access road that will forever scar the landscape.
Yesterday, after a sun-splashed and windless mountain bike excursion through hill and dale country (arroyo and mesa in eastern Utah), we returned to Camp Boonster and gathered at the steps of Goldie's Bar and Grill in order to further overdose on natural vitamin D. It was one of those Indian Summer kind of days where only fools retreat indoors to play with devices and check on the lack of progress in the hallowed halls of D C.
Take a billion or so cubic yards of ice cream, let it soften into smooth mounds under the Utah sun, then swirl in a dazzling array of syrups—strawberry, chocolate, black cherry—and refreeze it. That's what slickrock looks like, and this is how it looks to ride your mountain bike on it. And now, I'll tell you what it feels like to be a kid again.
Greetings from Camp Boondock, Utah, on the edge of Postcard Country. In less than an hour Bobbie and I will be taking a Mountain Bike ride with the hater of all things "scenic," the lovey Romantics versus the austere Intellectual. Let the Games begin.
What ain't done don't need doin', what ain't packed don't need takin, and what goodbyes ain't said don't need sayin'. All what needs ta happin now is ta just get goin'. Bon Voyage, my friends, and I'm not foolin'.
United States Mountain, framed in fall splendor and capped with winter snow. Tis a Lovely representation of feelings that I can't seem to find words for, that this is the view on my thrice weekly walk up Camp Bird Road, that somehow, someway, I managed to make good on a bold wet-behind-the-ears prophecy to my daddy whilst sitting around a campfire in the Amphitheater above Lovely Ouray: "Someday," I said softly, "I will live here. Mark my words." It was the last time I saw him, for he would die a little over a month later.
One column deadline met, one more to go; then it starts all over again next month. I think it's the finality of the name "deadline" more than anything that makes me anxious. Makes me wonder about its origin...did they use to kill writers if their work was a tad late?
Some people look down long noses at blogs like the BCB as being uninspiring and/or intellectually trivial. It use to get under my skin to the point that I'd rail against such people in comments boxes, trying to explain the inexplicable, only to be told that I was "missing the point" of the post. I guess I'm just too dumb. I don't get why some find it necessary to criticize lesser Blogs. Why does it bother them that people are different? Honestly, I can't see the harm in showing the world one of my chosen art forms, one that allows readers a glimpse of what it's like to hike, bike, photograph, live, or simple RV through glossy magazine-like places, most of which are off the beaten path. If that makes me simple, so be it. If photos and trail experience descriptions of some of the best hiking and biking opportunities in the Four Corner states (and occasionally beyond) bothers them then they shouldn't look in on the BCB, because that, along with a few stories, is what will be found. And another thing...why would Google Ads and/or "friends and followers" threaten or bother them? Does it somehow cheapen or lower the value of the content to try and make a living on the road? I have found that criticism is often the tool of choice for the insecure. So go ahead and blast away at different RV Lifestyles. Hell, why stop there...
As the Box Canyon Couple tries to squeeze the last strokes of Glory from Ms Autumn's palette, now dusted with snow, the world marches on...except for Govie, that is. There seems to be two types of people in this world, the Talkers, and the Doers. I'm beginning to believe Congress falls in the former group, thinking if they talk to us enough they won't ever have to DO anything. I wish they would talk to each other, make up their minds, and act like adults instead of high schoolers. But enough politics. There is plenty of land to boondock on and explore outside the "pretties;" they can't close the whole west.
"In so far as the west was a civilization at all between Lewis and Clark...and 1870, it was largely a civilization in motion, driven by dreams. The people...were...credulous, hopeful, hardy, largely uninformed. The dreams are not dead even today...the habit of mobility has only been reinforced by time. With a continent to take over and Manifest Destiny to goad us, we could not have avoided being footloose. The initial act of emigration from Europe, an act of extreme, deliberate disaffiliation, was the beginning of a national habit." From Wallace Stegner, "Marking The Sparrow's Fall...The Making Of The American West."
The gale blew itself out overnight. In its wake comes the gentle pitter pat of raindrops on rooftops; it settles the dust and scrubs Lovely Ouray clean like a fresh coat of paint. Out the Imax, clouds swing low in veils, masking, except for a few teasing apertures, our steep surround of mountains. Steam rises vertically from the Hot Springs Pool. Golden leaves glisten with moisture and are still for the first time in days. Bobbie steps out onto the deck to gauge temperature—arms wrapped protectively against her chest, breath floating off to join the clouds. "Forty something," she guesses.Yesterday's demons have been purged, and all is well in The Crevice once again.
There has been a seasonal shift, finally. Mountains surrounding our Lovely Crevice are capped with snow, the air slaps cheeks red with crispness, and summer's green leafs yields to autumnal gold coins fluttering in the breeze. A "Postcard" social hike is on today's agenda. "To Simplify" Glenn lurks somewhere in town wanting to test his newfound hiking legs, Marathon Man is itching to ditch his clothes and jump into some ice-watered lake, and friends Martha and Tim are scheduled to join the above motley crew, thereby submitting to Mark and Bobbie's alter call—a soul salving, eye filling, spiritual awakening guaranteed to shake the fence-straddling legs of the most devout of agnostics.
I am proud of my childhood "trailer trash" roots, all twelve years of them. Everything from a 16 foot Shasta that served as our "home" for about a year in the late 50's, to a 14 by 65 foot brand new Magnolia in the 60's that seemed like a millionaire's mansion to me, and probably Mom, too, given what she'd been living in up till then. If someone would have told her that she'd be leaving her "mansion" to move back into an 8 by 40 foot piece of crap—that the Lord's Will was going to call our family out of the Arizona desert we had grown to love, all the way to Missouri's insufferable humidity, and that Dad was going to tow—not a "travel" trailer, mind you, but a swamp cooled cracker box with axles and wheels that were designed to come off once you plopped it down on permanent dirt—behind a well used 57 Cadillac...such that we looked like the Beverly Hillbillys movin' to Cal-i-forn-i-aay, hitch draggin' on the ground and shootin' sparks with every bump in the road...it would have killed her right then and there. Thus were the roller coaster days of Feast to Famine, and the ever crazier forage for God's purpose in our lives.
An email tipped us off that Joe and Tracey were headed cross country, all the way from Maryland, and planned to light in Lovely Ouray for a few days. Of course we planned a get together, one, because we enjoy meeting up with BCB readers and RV'ers, and two, because Joe was bringing along the new Yamaha Keyboard I've been coveting for over a year. So I went to the RV park to pick them up, toured their Lazy Daze...same exact model and color as ours, only a 2003...loaded his keyboard, guitar, and lovely wife...stopped for a couple of take out pizzas, and put all of a mile and a quarter on the Sue Bee. Ya gotta love the logistics of small towns :)
"Summers and winters scattered like splinters...and four or five years slipped away." Jimmy Buffet has a way with lyrics, of putting Life in nutshells that even I can understand. When I stop and think about it, time is our most precious asset...if fact, it's all we have. You can run out of money, run out of love, run out of luck—even try to run away—but when one runs out of time, nothing else really matters.