Rainy days

Phoenicians don’t have any right to whine about the two inches of rain we receive each year.  In fact, we usually embrace it.  The rain cleanses the air, bringing relief from the smell of dirt that usually permeates our desert life.   It clears the skies, letting us enjoy the view further into the distance than these hazy skies allow.

But the 300+ days of blue skies leaves us outdoorsy-sorts pretty spoiled as we expect to be able to do activity any time we want without having to take into account the weather.  So the “frequent” rains we’ve had this year have left Josh and I just a little whiny.  It’s not so much that it rains as much as when it rains.  Like every time we both have more than one day in row free.

Take the third week of January.  One full week of freedom, during which neither of us had any commitments requiring we stay close to home. It was the week before Josh started teaching spring- semester classes and Aminda’s college-planning meetings started.  And it rained – or at least threatened to rain – every day.  Since then, we’ve enjoyed plenty of great day-trips, climbing and biking close to home.  But the itch to travel further, to spend a night under the stars, is always there.  And we finally got another chance this past weekend…when it rained again.  Since neither of us had planned any work over the weekend, we enjoyed an unusually lazy couple days that included a lot of reading and watching movies.

Oh, and I tried out this unusual recipe for flourless peanut butter cookies.  I was pretty intrigued to find cookies made with only three ingredients but doubted that anything edible could come of it.  So, I compromised by adding three optional ingredients.  Here’s the original recipe:

Mix one cup sugar, one cup peanut butter and one egg. Bake for 10-15 minutes at 350.

To which I added: 1 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp vanilla and  ¾ cup chocolate chips

The result was quite enjoyable – basically a meringue, which I should have predicted.

Sunday afternoon we finally got completely stir crazy and made a run for the trail as soon as it looked like there might be a break in the showers.  We needed to burn off all those cookies, after all.  At first it looked like it might be a lost cause.  As soon as we hit the dirt, the sprinkles started and the black clouds piled up on the horizon.  But it was over as soon as it started and we enjoyed a wonderfully cool, refreshing ride.  Because that is the beauty of rain.

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The sun sets on Colorado

This week we continue to make our way southward towards Arizona.  First stop, the idyllic high mountain town of Telluride.  Here we enjoyed camping and mountain biking in the crisp, piney air.  We finally treated ourselves to some downhill riding at the ski resort, since the gondolas operate for FREE.  Given this major bargain when compared to the $20/person price in Jackson and other destinations, we had to resist the urge to ride up and down all day, enjoying the picturesque views of the valley.

Rocky Mountain Sunset
Rocky Mountain Sunset

Unfortunately our stay in Telluride was short as cold, wet weather drove us to lower ground and we bid a sad farewell to the Rockies.  We’ve spent the rest of the week in Durango where we’ve sampled the local climbing and singletrack.   The trails (including classic Hermosa Creek) are worth a visit, and while crags do not make this area a destination there is a unique variety of rock including sandstone, limestone and granite cliffs.  We snagged a national forest campsite located, amusingly, midway two paid campgrounds.  The hostess, who oversaw them both, was consistent in giving us the stink eye as she drove past on her morning and evening rounds.

Given the summer storms are still threatening, we’ve also spent a good chunk of time in the public library bumming an electric outlet for the laptop.  Modern, comfortable and spacious, we’ve found it to be one of the best of the many we’ve visited though lacking the crusty local character of libraries such as Jackson.  Yes we’ve become quite the connoisseurs of many things:  libraries, campgrounds, Super WalMarts, Laundromats…  ahhh, life on the road!

Josh Writes the Blog

There’s something special and slightly odd about driving a 1985 Toyota Truck, especially when I have a much newer one in Phoenix just sitting and soaking up the hot sun.  While driving this dependable yet slow truck around the western US, one has much time to ponder the many delicate intricacies of our summer trip.  On one particularly long drive, with my muscles cramping and my non-existent air conditioning blowing, I had a sudden and wild idea: I’ll write the blog.

To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure where that idea came from?  Was it too much orange Gatorade?  Or possibly a malfunction of part of my brain due to the result of eating way too many peanut butter sandwiches.

After I spoke, I new that I had made a mistake when Aminda gladly accepted my kind gesture to write the blog without any hesitation.  I realized, at that moment, that I had made a terrible mistake.  I was now fully committed to doing homework on my vacation!

I spent some calculated time throughout the next few days attempting to schmooze my way out of writing the blog to no avail.  I now had the responsibility of accurately, and with a sense of humor, telling our audience of our week’s activities.  So here goes:

We arrived in Fort Collins, Colorado on a wet Monday afternoon.  The following day was spent mtn biking in the nearby Horse Tooth Reservoir area.  The trails were steep and technical which made me feel like it was my first time ever riding a mtn bike.  After a couple hours of hard work, we were able to ask a local to help us find some better trails, which made for a pleasant remainder of the ride.

We decided after that ride, it was time to take a break and head to Denver for a visit with my younger sister.  (Big thanks to both her and her roommate Jeremy for hosting us!) We spent Wednesday at the local shooting range in Cherry Creek State Park and enjoyed staying dry from the ever present rain.  After a great evening of hanging out at Chelsy’s apartment and watching the best movie ever, Nacho Libre, we woke up to more rain. (since we were lazy taking pictures this week, we’ll give you this movie clip instead.  enjoy!)

We decided to go mtn biking anyway and after two hours of driving around we finally found a somewhat dry place to ride.  A couple hours later covered in mud and grinning from ear to ear we were off to attend my sister’s awesome presentation on college planning (we got rid of the mud first).

Thursday was another rainy day, so we traveled to the REI flagship store.  Chelsy was in the market for a mtn bike and we were happy to help her find one.  Several test rides later had us bonked and ready for BD’s Mongolian barbeque in downtown Denver.

If any of you know my obsession with getting as much food for as little money as possible, then you know that I am up to the challenge of the Mongolian barbecue.  This challenge, for those of you that have never been (shame on you), is to stuff as much food into one bowl as possible.  You only get one chance so every square inch counts, there are no second rounds and no do-over’s if you don’t get enough food.  With the pressure on, I carefully stacked layer upon layer of food on my bowl until it was the Leaning Tower of Pisa.  As I handed over my bowl to the cook he complimented me on how much food I mashed into my bowl!  Ah the sweet smell of success!

Saturday and Sunday turned out to be pretty good days and I was happy to get out climbing in Boulder canyon, about an hour from Denver.  There were many other climbers out as well which made for a crowded experience.  Lots of unleashed dogs, beer coolers and large piles of poop on the trails had me missing the less crowded crags.  Nevertheless, we were happy to be out climbing and excited to now be off to Rocky Mountain National Park for some high alpine climbing.

This week has also marked the end of the second month of our trip.  It’s been pretty luxurious in comparison to the first, given we’ve spent half our time enjoying beds and running water generously provided by our families.

We’re looking forward to making the most of our last month.  We’re also starting to think about our return to Phoenix – without a home and Aminda without a job, we have a lot to figure out in the next 30 days!

I heart Idaho

More wildflowers! more creek crossings! More aspen groves! more vistas! More sublime singletrack!  Welcome to IDAHO!!!  This past week in the Sun Valley/Sawtooth area we’re feeling rather gluttonous as we continue to devour some of the tastiest trails in the West, including this one which was documented by a friend of Josh’s.

Josh and I haven’t done much mountain biking together prior to this trip, so it’s been a treat for us. This is partly because Josh all but refuses to ride the local Phoenix area trails.  And now I understand why.  I too am going to have a hard time finding motivation to ride yawn-inducing, urban desert trails.

Our opposite riding strengths provide Josh and I plenty of time to savor the views and fresh air on our rides.  If we both started at the same place and rode at our own pace we’d probably finish within a couple minutes of each other but on unfamiliar trails we like to stay together.  So I hammer up the climbs and wait at the top while Josh follows with an easy spin.  Then he takes the lead, gliding down the descents and waits for me to follow more slowly and hesitantly.

Our system was thrown off slightly on one Sawtooth area ride when we made the mistake of getting behind a group of about 20.  It wasn’t too long before we ended up more in the middle, inadvertently embarking on our own Tour de Fisher trail, struggling to keep the peloton from passing us just as soon as we were able to get around the pack.

Yes, the trails here are well used, but long loops spread out the traffic and the locals are the friendliest you’ll find.  (see below for our favs)  No snooty mountain town attitude here though wouldn’t expect it given the upscale shops and over the top architecture.

Le chateau
Le chateau
Big red barn
Big red barn
Grounded viking ship
Grounded viking ship
Displaced Sedona Vortex channeler
Displaced Sedona Vortex channeler

We feel right at home in this laid-back, conservative state with abundant and accessible free camping. And did we mention that there are hotsprings everywhere?  Can’t think of a much better way to spend a rest day. (sorry, no swim suit photos will be posted on-line).

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The five coolest Idahoans we’ve met

 1. Zen master.  This friendly, bearded outdoorsman showed us how to maximize out hot-spring experience as demonstrated perfect form, floating completely still on his back looking totally relaxed.  He coached a hesitant Josh saying ”you can’t worry about the heat, man, you just have to submerge yourself.

 2. Natural high guy.  OK, so we don’t know for sure that he’s from Idaho, but we’ll include him in anyway.  About a mile into our first ride we knew we had made a good choice when we crossed paths with this guy rippin’ downhill the opposite direction.  Grinning from ear to ear he hollered at us to “have fun, it’s great!” as he passed and we continued to hear his “whoops” of joy for the next few minutes as he sailed down.

 3. Paul & Dave.  We actually met these two in California when we shared a Camp 4 site with them for a few nights.  But they’re from Boise, and about the coolest people we’ve met so far on our trip.  With some 40+ years combined climbing experience, these two have “been there, done that” and had endless entertaining stories to share of their adventures.  They sent us off well supplied with route and camping recommendations.  Not only that, but they were always quick to share with the Camp 4 park bums.

4. The Primetimers.  The over 50 contingent is riding strong in the Ketchum/Sun Valley area.  Our favorite was a gentleman who passed us while we were taking a break at mile five of a ride. He had just finished mile 26.  Turns out he’s training to be the oldest finisher of this year’s Leadville 50.  (a fifty mile mountain bike ride in Colorado that reaches 12,000 feet four times) At 72 years old, he’s been riding and racing since his 40’s.

 5. All in the family.  Aminda’s cousin is an experienced climber and mountaineer. I recall at a long ago family Christmas (I would have been about middle school age) being intrigued by his new climbing gear.  Until the cost of it all was revealed and I though “well, there’s one sport I’ll never get into.”  He and his super upbeat wife have a son who’s the cutest first grader in the state.