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Southwest Tour 2012

Posted by admin on 12/12/12  ~  Posted in: Galleries, Galleries, Utah

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During the spring we spent another few months in the southwest.  I say "another" because between Shannon and I, I've lost track of how many times we've been through the southwest.  The fact is, one could spend a lifetime exploring southern Utah, Arizona and the surrounding areas.  There's just so much to see and do.  This trip was a bit of a whirlwind because we were meeting Chuck and Nikki before they headed to Uganda, and we were eager to show them some good spots.  We didn't take a lot of pictures (we're still backlogged about 15,000 photos from our LAST southwest trip that still need to be edited so I wasn't eager to add to the pile).  That said, here are some quick shots of the trip:

We made camp just outside Zion Canyon - a beatiful stop with a great view!

The desert flowers were beautiful!
We stopped at a cool rock shop that had countless cool natural wonders, it was hard to peel away to get into the canyon!
Driving through Zion - a beautiful place!
In Escalante we went to this restaurant that made a claim about having the biggest pancakes.  Nikki wanted to see for herself.  In the end, the pancake won.
We headed out to Peekaboo Canyon for some cool slot trekking after making a quick stop at The Devils Rockgarden (at least I think that's what it's called - it seems like half the monuments in Utah have the word Devil or Hell in them... I wonder if it has to do with the Mormons...)
Yellow Rock is an amazing place.  A short hike from the road puts you on an incredible land formation.  Definitely worth checking out, this was my 3rd or 4th time here.
Some shots from the road...
We made another camp in the Valley of the Gods, just north of Monument Valley.  I quickly got to work making a ridiculously elaborate fireplace.
With the sun going down in a beautiful place, what better way to spend the evening than with some whisky, my brother and Super Mario Bros. - that's right Super Mario Bros. in the middle of the desert, what of it?
Nice sunsets here
The pets certainly enjoy the van life more than urban life, that's for sure!
Some views from Mulee Point, looking south at Monument Valley.  This was a cool place to start experimenting with timelapses.
Our Westy in the wild and the pets diggin' the view
Monument Valley pano
We stopped at Newspaper Rock, then made camp to the south in the hills above Canyonlands National Park.
Van life is pretty good indeed.
...at least until you start spraying coolant out of a cracked coolant junction in the middle of the desert.  Luckily Trevor in Fort Bragg had pointed this piece out to me months before and warned of it's impending cracking so I had spent our last 40 bucks in Santa Cruz at the Van Cafe buying a replacement.  Certainly glad I did, and glad for all of Todd's help getting me comfortable maintaining this thing.  It ended up being a quick fix instead of a thousand dollar tow job from the middle of nowhere.
We got some cool weather near Moab, although having lightning striking all around us can be a litle scary.
Well, we were in Moab so we had to at least get a little mountain biking in.  After numerous spills in the orange/red dirt, we started to look like Oompa Loompas
Nothing a dip in the Colorado River wouldn't fix.  Sam got his dip too.
Well, there you have it.  I've left quite a bit out, like our awesome trip to Colorado and Mesa Verde, but hopefully I'll get to that soon.

Big Sur

Posted by admin on 03/01/12  ~  Posted in: Galleries, Galleries, Galleries, Big Sur

We ended up staying in the Big Sur area for a couple weeks, hanging out high in the hills above the ocean. We left Los Gatos just as a nasty stomach bug was taking hold, first in Shannon, then in me. As miserable as being sick was, at least we were in the wilderness, the calm. We spent many days just laying out in the sun, reading, doing yoga, watching the clouds come in below us and the sun dip below them. It was a wonderful, rejuvinating time and it was a spiritual recharge to be back out in the wilderness. We avoid campgrounds as much as possible and Big Sur was no different - I'm glad we were able to find some nice sites away from traffic and people. Just the sounds of the birds and the wind. Here's some shots from our stay:


Back to San Francisco

Posted by admin on 02/20/12  ~  Posted in: Galleries, San Francisco, Galleries  ~  Send feedback »

Well, as you might have read, our first trip to San Francisco was not super pleasant. Not wanting to let us have left San Fran with a bad taste in our mouths, our new friend Maria offered to take us back to the city and give us a proper tour. As it turned out, we had an awesome time. Maria took us to Coit Tower, North Beach, Chinatown, and a few other great spots. It was sure a treat to have a chauffered guide around the city. Here are some pics from the experience:

Through the windows of Coit Tower -

Some shots around Chinatown -
Some other shots around town-
...and this amazing staircase -

A very busy week

Posted by admin on 12/17/11  ~  Posted in: Galleries, Ethan's Thoughts, 199, Ashland

Well a lot has happened over the last week.  An epic mountain bike ride with some hardcore ?old? guys.  A wonderful Thanksgiving with 20 great folks and a massive feast.  A fuel line and fuel pump replacement project on the van.  A trip to the vet for a busted cat.  I?ll back up a bit?

Prior to coming up the 199 we had been parked at Smith River, just outside Crescent City, CA.  This was a great day gone bad.  Basically I made a critical mistake and it?s probably going to end up costing us a few hundred bucks and a bit of me feeling stupid.  Coming down through Oregon we had looked into fishing licenses and found that they were around $110 for a non-resident license.  Considering we were just going to be passing through Oregon and wouldn?t be staying long enough to make it worth our while, we decided to pass on this outrageous tax.  Instead, we called a sporting goods store and Shannon had the gall to ask what the price of a fishing-without-a-license ticket was.  Something like $30.  Well heck, I thought, at thirty bucks, we could just take a ticket if we got caught and we?d still be coming out way ahead of the license fee.  Total fish caught: one trout.  When we dropped down into California from Oregon at the coast we immediately started back up toward the Oregon border on the 199.  We stopped for the night at the Smith River, still just inside California.  Not thinking about it the next day, I cast my line in the river a few times.  As luck would have it, I hadn?t been fishing much longer than a half hour when a fish and game warden came out of nowhere and slapped me with a ticket.  He couldn?t even tell me what the price of the ticket was, just that I?d receive something in the mail.  After he left I looked up the consequences online and found that I was into it for a minimum of $250 and some had received fines of over $1,000.

Now I?m going to digress here for a bit of a rant.  THIS IS F*CKING OBSURD!  $1,000 for casting a fishing line into OUR rivers!  Ok, ok ? I can understand the need for proper management and protection from abuse, but I?m not gillnetting for the local Safeway ? I?m trying to catch dinner!  This is America for God?s sake!  The land of the free!  Well, apparently not that free.  Not even reasonable.  More like the land of overpriced taxation on just about everything!  And now that I think about it, they just repealed the tax on corn-syrup-based soda in California!  So that?s right folks, you can get your Pepsi and Mtn. Dew tax-free in the good ol? state of California but you?re gonna pay a minimum $110 tax for a possible fish dinner that you?ve got to catch first.  Anything seem a little crazy about this?  Anyway, my mistake.  Shouldn?t have fished.  Lesson learned.  Seriously though, a nation-wide fishing license seems like it would make sense.  I?m sure not going to pay the $5,000 it would cost to fish in every state, that?s for sure!

Back to the story here.  So up the 199 we headed, spent a horribly loud night next to the highway, then beat it to the Applegate Valley, just west of Ashland.  That night, we discovered that Taio was having some sort of very serious problem.  He was making all sorts of terrible moaning sounds and we soon discovered that he appeared to have an abscess on his back flank.  A late night of research in the animal medicine book in our van in the dark, rainy forest.  Not so much fun.

The next day, to the vet.  $290 later, abscess drained, cone on head, drain in leg, up to our friends Barb and Rich?s house to settle down.  That was Tuesday.  Wednesday involved a deep clean of the van, finding a way to semi-permanently attach Taio to the now ?Taio-Blanket? layered front seat for wound draining, spraying the roof with bleach, and preparing for Thursday?s Thanksgiving feast with Barb, Rich, and sixteen others!

Thursday started with a great yoga class with Barb and friends.  Then back to the house for meal and house prep.  A great walk in the hills with Rich and the dogs.  Dinner involved lots of eating, drinking, and great company.  Probably too much of the first two.  A Thanksgiving to be remembered forever.

Friday started with me ripping apart the van to replace all the fuel lines and fuel pump.  This was a long hard day of getting gas all over myself, stretching around manifolds and hoses, cutting my fingers to bits, getting gas in the cuts, and quite a bit of actual progress.  I stopped at dusk and prepared to go out with our friends to a bar in Talent for some good tunes and dancing.  We definitely got both.  The band was called Left and they rocked and rolled!  A great evening of dancing, hot wings, and fun.

Saturday was more van work.  More gas spilling, more finger grinding, and finally, completion.  New fuel lines all the way around and a new Bosch fuel pump.  Several hours later, fire extinguishers in hand, the van started up without blowing up and all seems good so far.  Visual inspections will continue for some time, as I don?t have a fuel pressure gauge to verify my work more thoroughly.  In the evening we went to see our great friend, and equally great jazz guitarist, Ed Dunsavich play at a winery.  The wine was good, Ed was great.

I had been talking to our friend Dan about going for a bike ride with him and a couple buddies on Sunday so, after making a huge vegetable scramble for breakfast, saying goodbye to Max and Heidi, Sierra, Josh, and Reese, I met Dan and we headed up into the hills.  I hadn?t really givin the ride much thought, Dan is in his middle age and some of his buddies older.  CamelBack half full, no snacks with me, we began our ascent? for NINE MILES UPHILL WITH NO RESTS!  These guys were INSANE.  I think we climbed between 2,000 and 2,500 hundred feet in something like an hour and a half.  Up, up, up.  They chatted the whole way up while I struggled to breathe and hold my breakfast down.  These old guys kicked my ass.  The good news was, we got some great views of the valley, ran into more friends on the trails, and got a seven mile ride back down.  Wow!  What a day.  Back in the van I began stretching, took a couple Ibuprofins, ate a ton of food, showered and passed out for an hour.

When I woke, Shannon had done most of the work, including running to the store, to prepare to host Barb and Rich for a dinner in the van.  We did oysters and crackers and Shannon made a delicious Indian curry with quinoa, and a great tomato and cucumber salad.  A great time was had by all as we chatted the night away, which ended with all of us pouring over maps of the area and the continent.  We said our goodbyes, as they would be off to work in the morning and we would be on the road before they returned.

On Monday we got up, spent the several hours required for departure, took Taio back to the vet for a follow-up visit, grabbed some Mexican grub at a local restaurant and headed into the hills to find a place to go to sleep.  Today is Tuesday and we?re finally unwinding for the first time in a week.  The fog just lifted and Shan and Sam are outside in the sun.  What am I doing in here?!  Gotta go!