Archive for February, 2004

A word about lemonade

16 February 2004 at 2:28 pm
by Jonah

Somewhere in Texas, Berck and I realized we were both staying pretty chronically dehydrated. We always made sure we had two big bottles of water with us, but the desert water doesn’t taste good. And since we’re not hot, we forget to drink. We needed to do something about the problem.

So we bought a container of Country Time Lemonade powder and mixed it with in one of the water bottles. Does the sugar content of the lemonade outweigh whatever benefit we gain from drinking more fluid? We don’t know, but we’ve now been drinking a lot more and feel much better.

On our last grocery run, we thought we’d try some variety and get Tang instead. I have a soft spot in my heart for Tang; it saved my life when I got King Tut’s revenge on a trip to Egypt. Plus, it’s what the astronauts drink. We saw some pre-made cartons of Tang in the store. Tell me, what’s the point of that?

We’ve gotten in the habit of emptying our water bottles at night. Otherwise, they freeze, and we can’t refill them, just wait till they thaw. We kept one half-empty bottle in the tent with us last night. It didn’t freeze. I really wanted something to drink in the morning, so I measured the correct amount of Tang for how much water was in our two-and-a-half liter bottle. Then I shook it up good. I tasted it, and it felt chunky. I know Tang always has that bit of gritty taste to it, and maybe I put too much in for the sugar to dissolve? No, the water was just in the process of freezing, so the Tang was full of ice crystals.

Recipe for Road Lemonade:

Fill a well-battered Ozarka water bottle from any available potable water source, be it park pump, water fountain, or service station washroom sink. Measure lemonade powder halfway between one quart and two quart lines. Take a page from a useless brochure you picked up somewhere along the way and roll it up to make a paper funnel. Carefully pour powder into funnel; be patient … if your funnel is narrow, it will take a minute to all fall through. Screw on top. Shake like mad. Drink.

Arches

16 February 2004 at 1:34 pm
by Jonah

Arches National Park, UT–Grand Junction, CO

We spent last night at Arches National Park. We got to Moab in time to buy some supplies from an overpriced yuppie “market” that specialized in organic trail mixes. They also had a nice selection of local beers. Brands included Squatters, who makes Provo Girl (with a picture of a beer maiden on the label) and Full Suspension (a bicycle). We got a good laugh out of those until we saw another local brand, who makes Polygamy Porter (“Why have just one”).

We ended up with two large bottles, one a rather stout stout and the other a brown ale, which Berck has wrapped in my towel to keep it from rattling. Rattling and other car noises are the reason why I’m sitting at a garage in Grand Junction, CO. But I’ll get to that later.

The campground in Arches is all the way at the end of the park … and at its highest elevation. So while most of the park was snow free, the campground was covered in snow. We picked our site, not because of its secluded location or distance from other campers, but because there was a small square of ground not covered by snow and just big enough for our tent. (We’ve tried camping ON snow before … “It’ll be soft!”) We paid for our spot and set up our tent. Then Berck tried to insert the tent pegs. The frozen solid ground wouldn’t budge. He bent two stakes (they’re titanium) and split the rock he was using as a hammer. The best we could manage was twisting one stake in where the ground was a little softer at one corner. Another stake got in about halfway. Since this tent’s rain fly is dependent on staking, we were in a tight spot. Moisture wouldn’t be able to escape, and the rain fly would act like a parachute if the wind picked up. We were at the highest point of the campsite, with a beautiful view, but the worst place for wind.

Fortunately, it never got windy. It did get cold. My feet were cold. I wonder what I can do to keep my feet warm in my sleeping bag when the rest of me is fine. Berck kept violently elbowing me through his sleeping bag because he said I was making snoring noises. Hey, I could only breathe out of one nostril! Berck got me up with the sunrise, when the sun’s rays began melting the frost on the inside of the tent and dripping water down on everything below. We’re going to have to let the tent air out for sure.

We packed everything up and drove back through the park. Arches is a pretty amazing place. It’s like Garden of the Gods times one thousand. It’s named for the 2,000 arches in its borders, but what’s most striking is the myriad of “fins” of red sandstone that slice through the park. We got to see Delicate Arch from afar (it’s the one textbooks always use to illustrate this odd geographic feature). It’s definitely a place I’d love to come back to in the spring and explore sometime. Today it was too cold, and Berck has blisters on his heels from our six miles in one day of hiking in Zion.

Then it was on to Grand Junction. We drove a windy road through a deep brick red and black rock canyon until we got to I-70.

Now we’re in Grand Junction at Flyin’ Miata’s headquarters, whose aim is to build a Miata that can go 200 mph. They also put turbo chargers in Miatas and sell all sorts of other parts. They knew more about Miatas than anyone else, so when ANOTHER noise presented itself, Berck thought we should stop by. Grand Junction is only an hour away from Moab, UT. Berck’s been having a fabulous time talking to the mechanics and stuff.

Well, the Miata people have decided that the noise is “valve noise” and it does NOT imply imminent destruction. They’ve also rotated the tires, changed the oil, and replaced all sorts of little parts that Berck had broken or lost. We may buy a battery as well. Berck got to ride in one of their turbo charged cars. He’s like a kid in a candy shop.

Turns out the mechanic here is also a pilot who learned to fly at the flight school in Norman. I guess that means Berck could always get a job as a Miata mechanic?

The plan is to drive in one long shot to Lake Arrowhead tonight, but I’m feeling very much like a nap. We’ll see.

We’ve zig-zagged across the southwest. Now we’ll travel up through California. We still haven’t decided on a homeward bound route yet.

Southeast Utah

15 February 2004 at 3:48 pm
by Jonah

Bryce Canyon, UT–Southeast Utah

It’s Sunday morning and all the Mormons are in church.

Yesterday we did Bryce Canyon, then camped in the Kodachrome Basin State Park, only a few miles away but two to three thousand feet lower in elevation. Which is good, because Bryce Canyon National Park was covered in a couple feet of snow.

Bryce Canyon is known for its brightly colored, dramatic spires of rock that point into the sky in row after row. They’re called hoodoos, and they’re caused when the bottom layer of sandstone is softer than the top layer of rock.

Our campsite was virtually free of snow. It was in a basin of brown dust filled with chimney spires of rock. It cost $14, but included “hot” showers. Berck and I used the men’s room this morning because we have to share a towel. And we were the only people camping. It was pretty cold. Ice crystals formed in my wet hair, making attempting to brush it fairly futile.

Well, we weren’t completely alone in the campground. It was full of cottontails, jackrabbits, western bluebirds, Steller’s jays, and these weird little birds which are apparently only indigenous to the area. They look like a cross between quail and puffins, and they make quite a racket, at times like high-pitched chickens, other times crows.

Firewood gathering was prohibited, but there was a whole bunch of sawed 1x6s for treefiddy an armful. So I loaded Berck up with a tall stack of lumber. He made it as far as a picnic table before it started becoming unbalanced. Then I carried it to the edge of our campsite before letting it drop. But we had quite a fire!

It made up for the night before. Zion prohibits gathering wood too (but there’s a ton of dead wood lying all over the place). So to heat up our supper, Berck took eight charcoal briquettes, doused them with lighter fluid, turned them over and doused them again, then lit them, and placed two cans of soup resting on four pieces of charcoal each. It’s not much of a fire, but having a warm supper is nice.

Today we drove over snow covered mountains, white aspens sticking out of them. Then we went along a road that traveled along the spine of a ridge with, literally, enough space on top for the road. It was called Hell’s Backbone. Then we descended to drive through Capital Reef National Park. It’s a pretty impressive wall of bright red rock that rises out of the ground. On the other side of it is canyons of rock and badlands, a desert quite in contrast to the picturesque mountains we’d passed through earlier. Now we’re heading down into the southeast corner of Utah where, apparently, there are no gas stations. Berck is driving slowly, worried that we’re not going to make it to the next town, 50 miles away. We’re having to bypass Natural Bridges National Monument to even hope to make it. The way seems to be mostly downhill. We stopped at a lodge that had gas pumps, but they were closed for the season.

There may not be any gas, but southern Utah has amazing landscapes. The landscape is chiseled out of rock and sand. It’s mostly desert, and even in the winter, the sun beating through my window makes me hot. I’m glad we came in the February.

Well, we made it to a gas station and put 10.6 gallons in the tank. Berck has put 11 gallons in it before. It holds 11.9, but he doesn’t know if all that is usable. It turned out to the be the cheapest gas in town. It was also only one of three things open. I wonder if we’ll be able to buy soup for tonight’s meal anywhere. It’s a Sunday in Utah.

Hiking in Zion

13 February 2004 at 5:27 pm
by Berck

I’m sipping “Frambozen”, a Raspberry Brown Ale produced by the New Belgium Brewing Co. in Fort Collins, CO. They’re best known for Fat Tire, a long time favourite of mine. Normally we haven’t been buying things like beer, trying to live off as little money as possible, but we decided to splurge after viewing the extensive beer selection at the Bashas’ grocery in Page, AZ. This beer is quite good, I’ve not had anything like it. For those of you who have had Lindeman’s Frambose Lambic, a sweet raspberry beer, this is not anywhere near as sweet but just as raspberry. It tastes very much like beer with a strong, fruity, raspberry flavor. Joanna and I both like it.

We spent a long time dawdling yesterday, it seems. We slept in a bit, showered, and ended up getting out of the RV park around 10am. Then we drove backwards 10 miles to Page and stopped at the Walmart where we purchased film and some flannel pants for me to sleep in. We looked for some snow chains, but they didn’t have any. We then went to the grocery store and got supplies. We’ve been eating Cambell’s Select soups when we can build a fire, and cheese, crackers, summer sausage or salami when we can’t. We’ve also got some bread and peanut butter to add variety. (Either peanut butter crackers or salami sandwiches.) Fitting any amount of food in this car with the gear we’ve already got is difficult, but we’ve been managing so far.

We left Page and got to Zion NP in Utah a few hours later. After setting up the tent, we set off to go hike a trail that started near the campground and pay for the campsite. It turns out that it costs $16/night to camp here, which is stupid expensive for a campsite. Campsites are usually around $5/night, $10 in expensive national parks. Zion is expensive– the entrance fee is $20. Fortunately for us it was free, since the Kaspryzak family gave us a National Park Pass. (At $50, it’s paid for itself by now…) I think that part of the reason it’s so expensive is because of the shuttle system here. In the summer, there are only about 450 parking spaces for about 5,000 per day. As a solution they’ve set up a shuttle system. It costs nothing to ride and stops at all the trails and apparently runs often. I suspect that this is an expensive system. It sounds like it works well, but it only runs from April-October. In the winter, the park is relatively quiet. Even so, there have been more people here than anywhere we’ve been so far, except perhaps Big Bend in the middle of the weekend.

After deciding to go ahead and pay for two nights, we set off for the Watchman Trail. It was 2.7 miles round trip and climbed about 400 feet. It was a nice little trail, and we were back around sunset.

The weather forecast in the visitor center indicated that the lows last night would be in the low 20s, and boy was it cold. We had the presence of mind to put the remaining beers inside the tent so they wouldn’t freeze. Last night was the first night I was at all cold, mostly because I wasn’t wearing any socks, and a t-shirt instead of a long sleeve shirt. I wasn’t very cold, just a little bit, and only near morning. Joanna says she wasn’t cold at all, which is good, but then she sleeps in long underwear, pants, three shirts and a sweatshirt.

But, it was quite cold. If we encounter weather much colder, I don’t think we’ll be happy. Our bottle of water froze quite solidly, and there was a fair amount of frost inside the tent even though the moisture vent was open.

This morning, we drove down to the end of the canyon and followed the 2 mile path by the river into the narrower part of the canyon. If it’s warm, or you’ve got the right gear, you can hike much farther provided you don’t mind walking in up to 4 feet of water. Since Joanna picked that trail, I got to pick the next one. There are quite a few trails, and after reading the description of all of them, I decided on one that was listed as “Strenuous,” and “Not for people afraid of heights,” and so on. It’s supposedly 5 miles round trip but climbs 1500ft.

It was beautiful and exhausting. My feet and ankles are especially tender. The first mile or so was easy, but the further we went, the steeper the climb. The trail is a fairly impressive bit of engineering itself, since it appears to have been carved into a relatively unyielding rock face. It’s roughly paved which made footing easy. As we got higher, though, we worked our way around to the shaded side of the mountain and encountered what had been snow but was now hard packed ice. The first little bit was easy enough, there were clean rocks to climb on or snow that wasn’t yet fully packed. As we got further though, it started looking like a bad idea. When a slip in the wrong place could mean literally falling off the mountain, I told Joanna I thought we ought to go back. She didn’t want to and eventually convinced me to go on ahead. The climb up involved carefully planting each foot, testing it and applying weight slowly. I fell twice, fortunately not badly. Some areas were okay, others seemed entirely devoid of appropriate footing. After finally reaching what looked like the top, we realized that the trail we were on continued another half mile up a trail only recognizable by the fact that there was a chain installed. The trail looked as though it would be extremely difficult in the summer and impossible in the winter. No one else appeared crazy enough, either. We sat at the edge of a thousand foot cliff and ate lunch, then started back down. Getting down the iced sections was more difficult. In some places, the only way we managed was to slide on our butts. While actually rather fun to go sliding down the switchbacks, our bottoms got rather cold and and wet.

On the way down, we passed all sorts of people who appeared far more adept at such things than us. An older man, who looked to be well over 60, wearing spandex passed us going up as we were heading down. Shortly thereafter, he passed us going down, apparently turning around where the ice got bad. Not too long after that, he passed us AGAIN, this time headed back up the hill. He said he was doing some sort of fitness training. I think he was crazy. And he wasn’t the only one. We spotted another guy heading back up the hill who had passed us coming down on our way up. Hiking is fun and all, but this masochistic yo-yo routine is beyond me.

We probably had enough time to hike another trail, but there was no way we could manage. We also could have packed up the tent and gone to the next park, but since we already paid for 2 nights, the obvious choice of sitting and doing nothing has been a much needed change.

A name to cry over

11 February 2004 at 8:04 pm
by Berck

We’re at the Wahweap Marina, Glenn Canyon National Recreation Area on Lake Powell. It seems to have many names. The campground overlooks Lake Powell with a very nice view. Unfortunately, we’re not staying at the campground but at the RV park which has a nice view of the laundry facilities. It seems that the campground is closed for the winter, though a sign promised, “Same rates available in the RV Park.” Unfortunately, we used up just about all of the time available for driving such that there would still be enough light left to pitch the tent, which meant that we didn’t have enough time to go anywhere else. Or at least, if we went somewhere else, we’d have to do it in the dark. Fortunately, we have no immediate neighbors and aside from quite a few cars driving in and out, it seems to be a quiet RV park. The nice side is that for the $15 we had to pay to stay here, we get showers! Since we left Dave’s place in Austin, we’ve only taken one shower. We stink. Since it seems that we can take as many showers as we want, we were considering showering both tonight and tomorrow morning, but we seem to have decided against it. The other perk is the laundry facility. They’re coin operated machines, but they’re here, which means we don’t have to stop somewhere else. I’m thinking we can delay future laundering until we reach California. A side effect of the laundry facility is that I’m journaling, since it’s warm in here and there’s power and a chair available. And we have to do something while the clothes dry. Two chairs, actually. Joanna had been simply watching me journal, but she just realized that now would be a good time to write some postcards.

Our original idea for tonight was to camp at the Grand Canyon. But we realized we could get farther than that if we just skipped it. Both of us have been there, and neither of us much felt like going back. Joanna was initially excited at the opportunity to see the north rim, but then discovered it’s closed for winter. We also talked about hiking to the bottom, but it’s probably way too icy for that.

I’m beginning to think that maybe Joanna’s right about journeying through the snow in a miata and tent camping. Last night pointed out a few things. First, the tires on the miata have zero traction on snow. They’re summer tires, not even all-seasons, but I’m surprised at just how badly they behave. We managed to get briefly stuck on a few inches of snow. Second, it was cold. I’m guessing no warmer than 20F. Our bottle of lemonade froze solid. Joanna wanted to close the moisture vent on the tent last night. After waking up to a thick layer of frost INSIDE the tent, she now knows why I insist upon keeping it open. With it open, there is no moisture inside the tent at all, yet heat is maintained quite well. Some heat escapes, but it’s a small price to pay for being dry. This is the first small tent I’ve ever been in that manages to avoid condensation inside the tent all together. Instead, the moisture is vented onto the rain fly where it all condenses and runs down the underside onto the ground.

In spite of all this, we weren’t cold inside our sleeping bags. Packing up the tent proved to be a very chilling experience. We talked briefly this morning of just driving straight to California, but we’ve elected to try to stick it out for a few more parks until we get to the Arches NP in Moab, UT. We’re on the Utah border right now, so I’m not sure how much longer that will take. If we spend a day in each park, 3-4. After Moab, I’m hoping to be able to swing by Flyin’ Miata in Grand Junction, CO and have them look at the Miata. It’s making yet another noise that sounds possibly bad and that I can’t identify. I thought it was detonation, but retarding the timing didn’t help. It only does it under load between 2,500-3,000rpm. Since it turned 183,000 miles today, and it wouldn’t hurt to have an expert look it over…

After our very cold morning, we were driving through St. John’s, AZ when I announced to Joanna, “All-You-Can-Eat pancakes for 2.99.”

“Sounds good to me,” she said.

“Really, you want to?” I asked, since she never wants to eat at restaurants. But she’s got a soft spot for breakfast, so she went for it.

An older guy accosted us as we got out of our car. “Where in Texas are you from?”

“Dallas,” replied Joanna. Which is hardly true on any number of counts, but is a good enough answer.

“Dallas, that’s a little town just the other side of Fort Worth, isn’t it…” He continued, “I’ve got family there.. In fact I’ve got family in San Antonio, Abilene, Fort Stockton. . .” he went on listing cities in Texas for quite some time. He spent the next minute or two telling us about his family. We managed to get away and sat down and a friendly waiter asked us what we wanted to drink while we read over the menu.

“So, are we doing pancakes?” Joanna asked.

“No,” I told her.

“What?? That’s bait and switch!”

“No it’s not, I never told you I wanted pancakes.”

See, it’s not that I didn’t want pancakes, but pancakes all alone are pretty boring. And I was really hungry. Joanna is convinced I’m eternally trying to get us to spend money, which isn’t really true, although she is quite a bit more thrifty than I am. I think she’s quite a bit more thrifty than most anyone. We spent the next ten minutes debating, and eventually settled on the pancakes for both of us, plus an order of hash browns, and a biscuit with gravy. Actually, I’m not entirely sure if we were settled or not. We were agreed on everything but the hash browns when the waitress came over, but Joanna wouldn’t say yes or no.

The clothes are dry.

The postcards are not.

(Any smeared post cards are my fault.)