Posted on September 26, 2015
After we made it through Misery in Missouri, the trip seemed to go a little better. We had been driving for about six hours when we reached the Arkansas border. Our destination, the town of Jasper, was only two hours away.
Caleb and I both agreed that the rolling hills and winding switchbacks seemed harder to navigate than the steep mountains of Colorado. Caleb did a great job of keeping Beast and Thistle on the road, despite many hairpin turns on two-lane country roads.
Somewhere about 10 miles outside of Jasper, I heard a faint grinding sound coming from Thistle. I only seemed to hear it when we made a sharp turn and assumed it was the sway bars or something. Looking back, I should have mentioned this to Caleb.
Meanwhile a car was following us very close behind and we assumed he was probably annoyed that we were going so slow. Caleb took the first opportunity he saw to pull off the road and let the car pass us. The car stayed behind us, so we just kept moving.
I kept hearing the noise and it was getting louder, so I mentioned it to Caleb. We both listened intently and Caleb checked his mirrors. Sure enough, sparks were coming from the rear drivers side of the RV. Crap.
We had to keep driving for a while since the roads are so narrow and steep. We finally pulled off in an area called Dead Man’s Curve. Of course, this sounds like the perfect place to breakdown, then get murdered. Thankfully the man in the car behind us also stopped and lent us a hand. He said he had been following us for about ten miles trying to get our attention.
The man promptly called a friend in town with a tow truck who came right away. The mechanic changed our tire, which took about an hour and a half because the rim was bent all out of shape. However, we discovered that our biggest problem was not the tire but the damage the tire created. As the rubber part flapped down the road it whacked off the pipes and valves for both our gray and black tanks.
Thankfully we were able to get to our campground before night fall, but not before the total embarrassment of having all of our bank cards be denied when the mechanic ran them. I tried to explain that we had trouble with the banks freezing our accounts, but the mechanic just looked at me like I was the biggest liar he’d ever seen. We had no way to pay him and were totally humiliated. Thankfully, the mechanic’s wife took pity on us and suggested we come by and pay in the morning. Glory Hallelujah!
We were able to get everything sorted out and the mechanic paid the next day. It was an exhausting and humbling experience to say the least. We are so thankful that the damage wasn’t worse and that we were not injured (anymore than our pride, at least). We have insurance on Thistle and we hope to have our tank valves fixed soon. In the meantime, the campground we are in has a bathroom and shower that we can use.
This whole debacle really made me think about giving people the benefit of doubt. So often we judge people only by what we can see. I hope to be more like the sweet mechanic’s wife, who trusted beyond what her eyes could see. She had mercy on us and I will never forget that.
Posted on September 16, 2015
I love what Leadville 100 founder Ken Chlouber says:
“You are better than you think you are, and you can do more than you think you can.”
The race itself was only a small part of the journey to 100 miles. The journey began over three years ago when I ran a small section of the trail and was completely blown away by the beauty of the Wasatch Range. The thought entered my mind that if I ever ran a 100-mile race, it would be the Wasatch 100.
Fast forward two years latter my friend John Ryan told me he was planning on running the Leadville 100, and he had never run over 8 miles in the past two years. My gears immediately began to churn. My first thought was, I would love to pace you during the race! I still wasn’t thinking about actually running a 100 myself, but after some discussion with my wife she actually encouraged me to go ahead and run Wasatch, so that December I put my name in the hat and was one of the lucky 300 runners to get to participate in this historic Ultra Marathon.
Lots of people think I’m crazy for running 100 miles, but lots of people also thought I was crazy for starting my own energy bar company. The reality of this is, if you set your mind to something, you CAN do it. Anybody can run 100 miles that really wants to, it’s just a matter of putting in the hard work and training. It’s just like a good marriage. You have to put in the time and effort to make it that way.
I’ve discovered through this journey that I’m capable of great things. But great things don’t come without difficulty and pain. Throughout the race there were several times I doubted weather or not I was going to finish in time. I started off the race really strong, but Mother Nature decided to throw some heat our way, and since I hadn’t trained in heat all summer, I really felt it. Up until about mile 18 I was still on track to finish in around 30 hours.
As I got further and further into the race my projected 30 hour finish fell further and further behind, to the point I was barely going to finish in the allotted 36 hours. I could have given up at any point in time, convincing myself I didn’t have what it takes to go on, but I never let that sink in and get me down.
I think the same can be said for lots of things in life, weather it’s starting a business, trying a new hobby, or working to save a marriage. What seems difficult is ultimately worth it. I love the Theodore Roosevelt quote:
“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”
Training for this 100 miler (and starting my own business) has come with lots of pain and difficulty. My family has sacrificed a lot of time for me to train, my body has sacrificed comfort for pain, and I could have certainly been spending my time doing other things, easy things such as sleeping in, sitting on the couch with a book, or even spending it with family. But the sacrifice has allowed me to do something that very few people will even consider. It has even showed me just how capable I am of achieving a goal. It even has me thinking a lot about other fears I have I life, such as scary things I have been avoiding to take my business to the next level.
The race itself was the most challenging thing I have ever done. My quads began to hurt before I even reached mile 18, which scared me because I had completed 35-mile runs with little to no lasting pain. The climbs in Wasatch were brutal though, and the descents were equally as difficult.
I made the decision pretty early in the race to not try for a particular time goal, but just finish. The heat of the day was affecting me, and causing me some nausea, which led to difficulty eating. So I decided it was best to just keep moving and not worry about speed. It was this decision that allowed me to conserve enough energy to finish the last 25 miles strong.
Most of my day was filled with ups and downs. One moment I would be feeling great, the next moment I would want to vomit. The biggest thing that kept me moving was thinking about the sacrifice my family had made to let me train. I kept thinking if I just keep moving I will see them at the Big Mountain aid station (mile 39) and then just 13 miles after that I would meet up with my first pacer, John Ryan.
Coming into the Big Mountain aid station really was the boost I needed. Descending into the aid station I could here the commotion, and then heard, “RUNNER” followed by the blowing of horns and ringing of cowbells. The ascent down seemed like nothing, and I was greeted by my daughter running to me before I even entered the aid station. It was a huge boost!
After a kiss from my wife and kids I was back on the trail and headed to the Lambs Canyon aid station to meet my pacer. Most of the next section was in the dark, which gave things a more lonely feeling. But I was motivated to get to Lambs and pick up my pacer. Those 13 miles seemed like eternity, especially when I started getting pains in my knee and thought for a moment it was going to put me out of the race, but looking back on it I think it was just my body trying to trick me into quitting, but I never let that thought set in an endured on.
After arriving at Lambs I was in for an unpleasant surprise. My pacer and his wife, Bethany, were nowhere to be found. I frantically went around the aid station calling his name, but never found him. So I did what I had to do and got myself ready to go back out into the dark alone. I was scared, but knew I had to just keep going. Just as I was about to get up and head back onto the trail, JR and his wife came running around the corner! I was SO relived. The timing crew had made a mistake updating the website, and it hadn’t shown I had crossed through the previous aid station, but the update came through just in the nick of time for them to find me.
After being doused in essential oils to help my aching muscles. JR and I set out to conquer the night portion of the race. We had A LOT of climbing to do in this section of the race. I’m not 100% sure but I’m pretty sure those 22 miles had the most cumulative elevation gain. JR did a fantastic job at keeping me motivated, encouraged, and most importantly MOVING.
The night went by fast! JR is a great conversationalist, so there was never a dull moment, which helped me stay awake when I felt like sleeping on my feet. I remember crossing the Desolation Lake aid station during the night and seeing runners gathered around a roaring fire. We nick named it the DNF (Did Not Finish) fire. When we left the aid station he said he was glad I never went over to the fire. I knew in my own mind too that if I gave in to that temptation I might never leave. I see another life analogy there too. There are often distractions that keep us from achieving great things. I love the Jon Gordon quote, “distractions are the enemy of greatness.” And that night I’m sure that fire kept some people from finishing.
The last few miles of our run together where by far the best. We had some descending trails/roads to work with and the sunrise gave new energy, and awe of being out in God’s creation: it was an amazing sunrise, full of oranges and blues. Upon leaving the woods that led to a road that descended to the Brighton aid station we joined up with the Big Cottonwood Marathon. They had just begun their run and were about two miles in. The marathoners gave all sorts of encouragement throughout those two miles. It was a huge boost! Many of them were asking what mile we were on, and all were amazed when we told them 75! I even saw a fellow Austin runner, Jeannete Spears. She was actually the first person I saw when we popped out onto the road.
Upon arriving at the Brighton Aid station, JR’s wife Bethany was waiting with more essential oils and my drop bag. Next, Mike Place, who was my second and final pacer for the day, greeted me. He prodded my crew along to get me out fast, and was happy to see I was there 15 minutes ahead of what he thought I would be.
The whole stop at Brighton was probably about 10 minutes long, and about 5 minutes longer than I would have liked, but Mike was an experienced Wasatch runner and knew what we had to do to finish. As we were leaving he told me we could be friends when we finish, but for the next 25 miles I might not like him very much. I was fine with that though, I just wanted to get it done.
Upon leaving the aid station I immediately began to climb to the highpoint of the course, Catherine Pass: 10,222 ft. that ascended from 8,765 feet in about 3 miles. At the top of the pass is a “right of passage” in Wasatch… kissing the Great Western Trail sign. Mike had just finished pushing me hard up the climb so gave me a quick moment to kiss the sign and then enjoy the view. But we had lots of time to make up so we began what was the toughest rugged descent of the whole course, down to Ant Knolls aid station, then immediately began a tough ½ mile climb. Mike pushed me out of the aid station fast and took care of my water and nutrition needs while I kept moving, he then caught up to me at the top of the hill. This became our method for moving through the aid stations the rest of the day.
The rest of the run was pretty much a blur, but Mike really got me through and made sure I stayed on pace. At times I felt like I had all new quads and was pushing sub 12-minute paces on the downhill sections. If Mike told me to go faster, I went faster, if he told me to hike harder, I did. There was no argument on my part. He later told me how impressed he was with that, saying that most runners would have given some push back.
Once we got to mile 90 I knew the race was in the bag. Only 10 more miles, of what I thought was mostly downhill. Those last 10 miles didn’t go by nearly as fast as I wanted them to, and the sun was full-on baking again, so that only made things more difficult and slow. Even though it was mostly descent there were a lot of rollers sending you uphill. But even with that and the blazing heat I stayed focused and kept moving.
After leaving the last aid station there was only 6 miles left. Mike had looked over at me at one point and said can tell you just want to get this done and see your family. I did indeed, and we did our best to lay down sub 15-minute paces the rest of the way in, which proved to be far more difficult than I thought. Though the overall elevation was descending, there were still a lot of rollers thrown in there. Every part of me wanted to just RUN in those last 6 miles, but my body just wouldn’t let me. I eventually settled down though and became content with the pace we were on because as long as we kept it up I would finish with time to spare.
With about ½ a mile left in the race Mike set me off on my own to cross the finish line with my family. When I got to around .25 miles I thought I saw my family in the distance and began running again, but even as excited as I was I couldn’t keep up the pace. So once gain I slowed down a bit, and when I came around the corner to the finish line, there was my wife, and two kids waiting for me. With great excitement we all crossed the finish line together.
I finished in the time of 35:19…. 40 minutes to spare. My wife thought of everything too. At the finish she had a chair for me to sit in, had water, and even a couple beers. She took my shoes off for me, gave me a bit of a massage and picked up some food for me at the finish line aid station. I just sat there enjoying the hard earned victory, and listening to the crowd cheer on the final runners. It was beautiful to see a huge crowd of people cheering in the last runner, who came in with 5 minutes to spare.
What allowed me to finish this ultra endurance event was not so much my fitness level as it was the mental strength to keep pushing on. I recently heard a statistic about how 66% of small businesses fail, but it’s not usually because of cash flow problems, or lack of income, it’s usually emotional issues. People give up to early. They simply decide in their mind that they are done. If you choose to endure, you can do anything! Trust me!
Posted on September 15, 2015
The first thing wrong about today was the weather. It was overcast and cool. Not TOO cold for a day at the beach, but definitely not ideal. No sun could be seen through the clouds.
On recommendation by a fellow camper, we drove to the state park marina access of the lake. It cost three dollars per car, but there are outdoor showers and a pavilion for picnicing. When we arrived there were only a few other patrons admiring the beach from afar. We were the only ones in swimwear… that should have tipped us off.
So we started walking down toward the beach and the first major stumbling block to our fun day arrives: Abby really doesn’t like for her feet to get dirty. This is nothing new and is usually mitigated easily with proper footwear. However, the terrain on this beach is quite odd: It starts off rocky, then turns to soft, charcoal sand, then into mud with a thin layer of crunchy salt crystals on top, back into soft sand and lastly into a barrier of dead brine shrimp bodies and sea gull poop before you reach the water. Obviously, as soon as Abby reached the salt-covered mud pits she freaked out.
Caleb had to carry her, crying and flailing about, all the way past the shrimp-poop barrier and into the water. I had Josh, who was content to walk ever so slowly through the sand/mud/dead stuff so he could mine for treasures. He found a partially decomposed sea gull and an old marshmallow right off the bat. Gross.
Once we get to the water, the fun does not begin. The air stinks like old dead shrimp. Abby refuses to get wet, yet refuses to stand in the “yucky sand.” So basically she is intermittently shrieking and clawing up our legs like a cat. Josh doesn’t like the water too much either. Caleb and I look at each other, not really knowing what to do while the fully-clothed onlookers pity us from afar.
We decided to cut our losses and leave the beach, but not before Caleb got one good soak in the lake. After all, the famed minerals of the lake were the main reason we were there. Side note: Did you know you can float in the Great Salt Lake? It has around 12% salt content, which is like four times that of the ocean. Pretty cool! My kids didn’t think so.
So, yeah, my beach day was pretty much a bust. I was looking forward to sitting in the sun, watching my kids frolick. Not so much.
As I was putting the kids to bed tonight, I leaned down and kissed Abby’s head. Somehow she still smells like old, dead shrimp. The memories of today came flooding over me and I just couldn’t stop howling with laughter. At least I still have my sense of humor.
Posted on September 9, 2015
I’m a mountain man at heart, so it might come as no surprise that I loved our stay in Leadville. The whole reason we came here though wasn’t just for the mountains and crisp cool (and dry) air. The cool nights, and starry skies, and post card mountain views have been a real joy, but the real reason for our stay here has come from months of preparation.
My friend John Ryan signed up to run the Leadville 100, and I was scheduled to pace him for 37 miles of the race. Pacing entails running a portion of the race (after the 50 mile mark) and helping them with things like staying hydrated, ensuring they are eating enough food, general motivation, and just having somebody to talk to in the wee hours of the night when the race pack thins out: it would get very lonely without somebody to run with.
The energy around the town the week of the race was through the roof and continued to increase as race day approached. Just while sitting in the local coffee shop doing work you could overhear racers telling tales of previous races, even previous Leadville 100 races.
Throughout the week I was able to get a few training runs in for my own 100 mile race coming up in September: The Wasatch 100. I even ran/hiked up a Mt. Sherman (14,036ft) with one of Bearded Brothers brand ambassadors, Patrick Sweeney. Later in the week I was even able to meet two more brand ambassadors, Joe & Tim Kelley. It’s really neat to see how a trail race like this pulls together runners from all over the globe.
They day before the race was actually probably the calmest day all week, even the pre-race meeting seemed a bit on the low energy side. It was obvious that everybody wanted to rest, eat well, and remain hydrated. Aside from attending the pre-race meeting and expo we at lunch with John Ryan and his wife, and later went into town for pizza at High Mountain Pies. Soon after getting back to the RV we were in bed drifting off to dream land (aside from some pre bed-time discipline issues with our daughter).
On race day the gun went off at 4 a.m. and the runners began the gradual descent out of town (which quickly turns into a huge ascent). Even before the gun went off I could hear our neighbors in the RV park preparing to leave for the starting line. I’m sure most of them were up at 3 a.m. Kristy and I woke up around 4:15 a.m. and walked out to the street next to the RV park to watch the runners come by. We hadn’t been standing there more than 2 minutes before the first runner went by. We stood there cheering and clapping for the runners, and bidding them good morning for a solid 30 minutes as the 650+ runners went by.
I spent nearly the next 30 hours crewing and pacing for John Ryan during the race. The job of the crew is to meet the runner at certain aid stations along the course and him runner with any issues he might be facing: you help them refuel their water bottles, re-stock on food from the aid station, and bandage any wounds or blisters they might have incurred during the run up until that point. The crew is also there to encourage and motivate the runner.
I was crewing alongside JR’s wife Bethany, his dad John, and his best friend Tristan. Bethany attended JR at the first aid station solo, and meet up with us around 9:30am. At the point we headed out to Twin Lakes (the aid station around the 40 mile mark). JR was looking strong and was in and out of the aid station pretty fast.
At this point JR was going to have to cross over Hope Pass (12,500ft) twice, but we were to meet him at the 50-mile mark where I was going to begin pacing him and help to push him over the pass for the second time and stay on his time goal.
Well, what happened next I can’t disclose here. You see, JR was also filming a documentary on the race and some pretty epic things went down. All I can really tell you is that I ended up only pacing for 27 miles. To disclose anything more would ruin the story later down the road when the film is released.
I did begin my pacing duties with JR from the second Twin Lakes aid station. At this point of the race it was dark, and running required headlamps. Through my 27 miles of the course my main purpose was to keep him on pace to finish the race. My secondary duties were to make sure he was getting enough nutrition, drinking plenty of fluids, and just keeping a positive mindset.
I have paced in a 100 miler before, but it was nowhere near as demanding as this. The cutoff for Leadville is a mere 30 hours. Most mountain races I know of have a cut off time of 36 hours, thus making this race extremely legit. This meant my duties as a pacer were VERY serious. I had to make sure JR stayed on pace to meet his time goal.
I found that while running with JR, the best form of motivation was telling him what time we could finish the race in if we kept up a certain pace. Talking to him, and making sure he kept moving as crucial to his success. At one point JR actually had to call me out…I wasn’t being hard enough on him. He told me he wasn’t doing well and that I needed to step up my game as a pacer (my own words).
That was during the toughest climb of my pacing duties, Powerline. So after having full permission from JR himself, I began to lay into him a bit more and be completely real with him… letting him know that if he even wanted to finish in the 30 hour time limit he was going to have to get his butt moving.
JR and I had done many training runs together and at the start I treated it much like those runs, making small talk, and some serious talk, but I had yet to be completely real with how important it was that he kept moving at a good pace.
When we had first begun our run JR said he wanted me to run behind him, but I quickly realized that I was going to have to take the lead. At some parts of the run, on wider trail, we ran side by side, which was very motivational for JR.
We made great time during the section I paced. We averaged just over a 17-minute mile, which is not bad considering how late in the race it was. I will be more than happy if I can maintain a 17-minute pace during Wasatch after the 50-mile mark. I was very optimistic about bringing him to the May Queen aid station well ahead of his time goal.
From the May Queen aid station my pacing duties were over, and JR’s best friend since 7th grade, Tristan, took over pacing for the final 13.5 miles. I handed Tristan my GPS watch and told him what pace he had to keep him at to finish under the 30 hour cut off. Tristan was prepared to entertain through this final stretch, with a custom playlist on his iPhone just to get JR to the finish line.
Around the 29:18 mark John Ryan crossed the finish line. Months of training had paid off, and the coolest part was his son, wife, father, and entire family got to cross the finish line with him. My duty as the pacer was pretty easy compared to what JR went through, but the experience was amazing, and I learned a lot that will help me complete my first 100 miler in less than two weeks, and I also get the wonderful privilege of having JR as one of my pacers.
As far as running Leadville 100 myself….we will have to see. The course was a lot tougher than I gave it credit, and my wife might have a heart attack if we ever come back here. So, we might have to wait a while before adding this race to my schedule. But, I must say, I really love Leadville, and I hope to be back again.
Even if I never run Leadville, I will be okay with that. I have my own adventure ahead of me. This weekend I will run the Wasatch 100, and JR will return the favor by pacing me through night section of my run. I will have one other pacer helping me through the run. So, be looking for my race report on how that went.
To read about Kristy’s experience, check out her post entitled, Leadville Poisoning.
Posted on September 8, 2015
You probably already know that the air inside an RV can be pretty noxious, especially if it’s new. There are several chemicals that are used in the manufacturing process that can be hazardous to your health, most notably formaldehyde. One of the best things you can do for the health of your family is to make sure the air quality in your RV is good. Aside from airing our your RV, there is another cheap and easy way to get cleaner air inside: house plants!
I recently read a post on the Healthy Home Economist blog that talked about the air cleansing benefits of house plants. I love having plants inside my RV and was excited to hear that certain house plants can remove up to 87% of harmful toxins from your air in 24 hours – including formaldehyde! NASA did a study of the air-cleansing effects of house plants and came up with a list of the top 10 with the most cleaning power. They also found that for maximum benefit, you need one plant for every hundred square feet of space in your home. Easy-peasy for RVers like me! That’s like 3 plants!
The best part is that while these little plants are cleaning your air, they are also creating oxygen and looking pretty. So toss out those dust-collecting fake plants and arm your RV with some real air-scrubbing power plants! Check out the Heathy Home Economist for a list of the top 10 air-cleansing house plants, then head to your local garden center and stock up.
I’m breathing easier already!
Posted on September 5, 2015
We recently spent the night in Grand Junction, Colorado on our way to Utah. We arrived early enough to get in a little family adventure at the Colorado National Monument. This part of Colorado is so beautiful, and completely different than the Rocky Mountains, where we have spent most of our time. The best way I can describe this national park is that it’s like pictures I’ve seen of the Grand Canyon.
We drove up to the visitors center and decided to do a short hike on the Canyon Rim Trail. The whole hike would end up being about 1.6 miles. The hike starts with a beautiful overlook area that is fenced, thankfully, so you don’t accidentally fall 400 feet to your death at the canyon floor. As we walk up to it I talk to the kids about not climbing the fence and not falling to their deaths. Everyone agrees to stay alive.
There we are, staring off into this gorgeous expanse of red rock, but I can’t really be taken by this moment because my two little earthly treasures are leaning on the chain link fence that separates them from sudden demise. I just can’t relax under these circumstances! I look down just in time to see Josh put his little moccasin-covered foot through the chain link. It’s like he just WANTS to step off the cliff.
As soon as I ask him to remove his foot, he does… then, quick as lightening, the moccasin slips off his little foot and tumbles down, down, down the cliff. Great. We haven’t even started the hike yet and Josh has already lost a shoe. It totally reminds me of the time he hiked the alpine tundra with only one sock on.
Of course, watching the shoe tumble down the canyon only further freaks me out about my children dying. I am trying to remain calm. I don’t want to be scare-dee-mom. So we start hiking down the trail, everyone is walking, but Josh seems intent to roam. At some places the trail is just 10 feet from the canyon edge and at this point I am on full momma-bear-adrenaline edge. I tell Caleb that we have to put Josh in the pack because I’m about to lose my mind.
Once we secure Josh, the hike becomes so much more enjoyable. Caleb taught Abby how to recognize cairns and other markers along the trail and she began leading the way. We saw tons of lizards, a few hawks and one giant hare. The hike was really easy, other than watching out for the cliff edge, and the views were amazing.
Abby hiked the whole way by herself, over a mile-and-half, which is a record for her. Toward the end she was getting tired and we talked about pushing through, like Daddy does in his races. As we neared the trailhead I told her to finish strong, we were near the finish line. She got excited and started running. We took this picture of her victory. I’m so proud of this little girl!
Posted on September 2, 2015
Sugar Loafin’ is a rustic little campground nestled in a meadow high in the mountains of Leadville. Interestingly, Caleb’s family stayed there on a family vacation 25 years ago. The log cabin style facilities definitely look at least that old, but what this campground lacks in amenities it makes up for in the breathtaking mountain views.
– Proximity. Sugar Loafin’ is three-and-a-half miles from downtown Leadville and one mile from Turqoise Lake, which boasts a 14 mile trail and sandy beaches. It’s also just a few miles from the two tallest mountains in Colorado, Mt. Elbert and Mt. Massive. Plus, the route for the Leadville 100 goes right past the campground, which is a major bonus for those cheering on the runners.
– Feels remote. This campground feels more remote than it really is. You can walk out to the meadow, spin around, and see nothing but mountains. No corner stores, no highways. At night the stars are amazing.
– Pioneer playground. So this playground was a hit with my kids. It looks like it was built 50 years ago, mostly out of logs. There is a fort, log cabin and tree house, as well as a jungle gym and swing set.
– Campfire! This is one of the only RV parks we’ve stayed at that had a fire ring at every site and actually encouraged campfires. We love fire, so obviously we took advantage of the opportunity to light up.
– Dry and cool. If you like to wake up to freezing temperatures in August, this is the place for you. While we were there temperatures reached the mid 70’s during the heat of the day. The climate is very dry and it’s sunny 340 days a year.
– Altitude. Leadville is one of the highest towns in Colorado, at over 10,000 feet above sea level. If you are not drinking copious amounts of water, you may succumb to altitude sickness as I did. My best advice is to chug water like a maniac because, let’s face it, Leadville is basically the desert.
– Not walkable. Because Sugar Loafin’ is so remote-feeling, there isn’t really much within walking distance.
– Older campground. So part of the charm of Sugar Loafin’ is the fact that it’s old, but some might see this as a con. For instance, the bathrooms are quite dated (but clean), the sites are not concrete and can be uneven, and there are no screw caps for the sewer connection, so you have to rig it with rocks (which is how we picked up a bug-hitch-hiker… Yuck!)
For the mountain beauty and the price, Sugar Loafin’ is a great campground. It might take some convincing to bring me back, only because the chilly weather and high altitude are not my cup of tea.
Posted on September 1, 2015
This morning we left Golden for Grand Junction, our half-way point on the way to Salt Lake City, Utah. It’s our last day in Colorado, and we are going out with a bang. The drive out west on I-70 to Grand Junction is incredible. The mountains begin turning red, then crumbling into towering mesas. The forest gives way to tree speckled desert. The stories that happened today are almost as unbelievable as the landscape.
“Good, you could probably run up there and back in six miles.”
“No, I will run 66 miles!”
Caleb smiles a huge, proud grin. “YES!”
A few hours later we are about an hour from Grand Junction and everyone is hungry. We decided to stop at a rest stop and grab a block of cheese from the fridge and some crackers. We needed to get to Grand Junction before nap time, so we opted to eat in the truck. No sooner do I start sawing at the block of cheese with a paring knife (no cutting board, of course I’m using the truck’s console instead), then the road turns into a minefield of potholes and bumps. The truck is rocking like a bucking bronco and here I am, wheilding a knife. This goes on for about 15 minutes and I decide to power through because the kids are shrieking for the cheese they know I possess. Don’t worry, I managed to come through with all my appendages.
We finally made it to Junction West RV Park in Grand Junction, CO. Caleb checks in and finds out which spot is ours. The attendant had drawn a route for us to go around the park and pull through. We are driving slowly through the park, noticing the amenities, talking about what we will do with our afternoon when, SSSCREEEEEECH! Our left hand side of the RV scrapes past the dumpster as we are turning. We get out to find a three-foot, red scrape down the side, one foot of which punctured through to the insulation.
People said this would be hard on our marriage, and now I see why. Fighting about how to get backed into an RV spot should probably usurp finances as the top reason marriages fail. Don’t worry, we are still married.
As Caleb curses under his breath I walk the kids over to the playground. The brochure offered to us by the attendant says there is a splash pad. Perfect! I strip the kids down and walk over to turn it on. Another older camper walks by and says something about it being broken. Just then the water comes alive and is spraying us in the most delightful way. Kids are happy. Momma is happy. I breathe a sigh of relief, only to notice a terrible stench in the air. I look over to see if Caleb has the black tank open. Nope. I smell my clothes. Yep, it’s the water we are all dancing in. It smells like rotten eggs festering in a dirty diaper… And we are covered in it. Delicious.
Well, Colorado, you get the last laugh.
Posted on August 30, 2015
Just about the only downside to travelling a lot in our RV is the time spent packing up when we leave a place and setting up when we arrive someplace new. Before we embarked on our RV lifestyle, we had no idea how much time and effort this would involve. Here’s a few tips we’ve learned along the way.
1- Take your time. It’s easy to feel rushed when you are trying to hit the road. You are excited about getting the adventure started and eager to get going. But trust me, the best thing you can do is take your time. When you rush it’s easy to miss little things, like securing a cabinet or closing a skylight, which can end up meaning costly repairs. For us, a relaxed pack-up takes about two hours (we are also wrangling toddlers).
2- Divide and conquer. Everybody in the family has a job during pack up. Joshua’s job is to sleep (we love leaving just after his morning nap). Abigail’s job is to pack her books into boxes and help Mom. I pack up and secure the inside of the RV while Caleb takes care of everything outside. Doing the same tasks every time will help you to be more thorough and faster.
3- Check your list. It’s nice to use a list the first few times you pack up to move your rig. It’s just so easy to get flustered and forget things. I recommend this RV Departure Checklist from ChanginGears.com. But I encourage you to tweak it to your own needs and add the things specific to your home on wheels.
4- Quickly inspect. It’s a good idea to do a walk-around once you get ready to drive away to make sure everything has been done. This is a good time to lock your RV door and bins as well as test your brake lights and turn signals. I also like to check that the awning is secure and that all windows and vents are closed.
Again, my best advice is to go slow. After you’ve done it a few times, pack-up will start to get easier and faster. Caleb and I are already starting to become more efficient and we have only packed-up and moved about a dozen times. Tomorrow we will be hitting the road again! Good thing we love to practice the art of packing up our rig.
Posted on August 26, 2015
My love of Couchsurfing started about seven years ago when I lived with my sister, Kaye, and her husband, Chris: before Caleb and I married. Chris and Kaye introduced me to this wonderful practice of hosting strangers and I’ve been hooked ever since. Caleb and I have gone through seasons of open and closed couches (mainly due to children being born), but now I am happy to announce that our couch is open again!
Now, if you are unfamiliar with the concept of Couchsurfing you may find this practice odd. Let me tell you a little more about how it works and why we love it. The Couchsurfing website works like Facebook in that everyone has a profile. Folks who need a place to stay can search profiles of open couches and message hosts they are interested in. Hosts can then read the profiles of potential surfers and either accept or decline their request to stay. Profiles of both hosts and surfers usually have reviews, which is a great way to see a track record of the person’s hospitality.
We feel like the system is very safe and have never had a bad experience in the seven years we have been a part of it. In fact, we absolutely love hosting! We have met dozens of amazing people from different walks of life. We enjoy listening to their stories and also sharing ours, often over meals together.
You might be thinking, “Where are you going to put guests in your tiny home?” Well, we have a couch and dining table that fold out into two small beds. Additionally, some RV parks will allow an extra tent set up outside, so that might be an option for some surfers. We know our home is snug, but we never want it’s size to keep us from showing hospitality.
Having people stay as guests in our home is one of the best ways we have found to build relationships with people who are different than us, learn from them, and share with them our hope in Jesus. We are looking forward to sharing this adventure with our kids too, as an opportunity for them to learn and grow as they meet new people.
We are heading to Utah next week, staying for three weeks. We are really hopeful that we will host our first couch surfer while we are there. Now that you’ve read this, don’t be shy. Come on over and stay with us!
Our profile on CouchSurfing.com is Team Simpson!