Sunday, August 31, 2008

Outdoor adventures, part one.

I'm sorry it has been so long--this is the first time we have been in a place with any internet service since the last time we posted! We have done so much in that time, I don't know where to start. So I'm going to do this in several parts, hopefully make the task slightly less daunting.

When we last left you, we were in Flagstaff, Arizona, wondering what to do next. We wanted to stay in several national parks, including the Grand Canyon, Zion, a few days on Lake Powell, but we weren't sure the order in which we should do them, and most importantly, what we would do with Chaco. We still hadn't really decided by the time we left, so we just picked a place (Lake Powell it turned out), and took the dog with us!

Lake Powell straddles Utah and Arizona (they are in two different time zones right now, which is incredibly confusing) and is the 2nd largest man-made reservoir in the US. John Wesley Powell originally discovered the area, which was then a series of impressive canyons, and fought hard against the prospect of damming the Colorado to make it a lake. In fact, he was one of the earliest environmentalists in the country. In 1956, construction began to dam the river anyway and somebody thought it would be funny to name the lake after the man who didn't want it there.

Anyway, it is absolutely beautiful and we wanted to kayak on it. So we got to Page, Arizona in the afternoon on Saturday and tried to rent a second kayak (John bought a single 17' expedition kayak before we left Richmond, so we only needed one...). Our restrictions were a bit tough- we wanted something long so I could keep up with john, but it needed to be a sit-on-top and somewhat wide so Chaco could ride on it too. It took the whole afternoon to find one, and the one we found wasn't great, but it would float. The next step was seeing how Chaco would do. So we put his PFD on him, and got him in the back of the kayak....for about 3 minutes. Then he decided he didn't want to be there anymore, so he jumped out, thus flipping the kayak and sending me diving.

Skipping ahead a day, a dozen more tries, and many more frustrations....we are gracefully gliding through a canyon, Chaco sleeping peacefully between john's legs on the sit-on-top, while I am trying to read a map that bears no resemblance to the topography around us. The drought over the past decade has lowered the level of the lake by 30+ feet and drastically changed the shape of the shoreline. We never found the canyon we were actually looking for, and it seemed we were always paddling against the wind, but it was awesome. Bringing together a dessert landscape and a lake really creates a breathtaking view. Picture 500ft tall shear walls and spires colored every shade of red coming together with the lake's crystal clear water. What looks like the reflection of the cliffs above in reality is the rock receding beneath the lakes surface where it connects with the canyon floor some 400 ft below. There could not be a more unique beauty on the planet.

We spent three days on the lake. When we were by somewhat flat ground, Chaco would hop out and swim/run after us for a while, then get tired, and happily climb back into the boat. On the second day, a small storm left us stranded, unable to paddle against the whitecaps, until a pontoon full of Italians picked us up and towed us to a nearby marina. That allowed us to get back to our put-in the next day, just in time to take the rented kayak back and hit the road.

So that's part one. It was certainly the most eventful part, in fact at times it felt everything was working against us, but it was beautiful and exciting and a great arm workout. Stay tuned for the next round of outdoor adventures.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A little eye candy -pt one

Landscape Arch in Arches Nat Park

Here are a few pics for your viewing pleasure, more to come later as they are taken.

Chaco the Dog

The other arch

In the middle of Kansas, who'd have known.

One of the many vistas along the route

Balance Rock in Arches Nat Park (and the moon)

Giraffe at the St. Louis Zoo


One very old hairless Chimp

Polar bear

Sunset at Wilson Lake State Park in Kansas


Fishes swimming in the hippo tank


These dont all need a label do they???

Just checkin in

From the mountains to the desert (and back again?)

We woke up one morning at our campsite near Moab, and decided it was time to head to Arizona. So we called our friends, Liz and Mike, who live in flagstaff, and gave them less than 12 hours' warning of our arrival. Then we packed up, hopped in the truck, and headed on.

For the next six hours, we drive through desert- flat, hot, sandy, prickly desert- and then all of a sudden we start climbing, and it cools down, and trees get bigger, and it rains...Welcome to Flagstaff. The town is located near 7,000 feet; a beautiful oasis in the middle of the Arizona desert.

That was last Sunday. Monday, we got our bearings in Flagstaff-a morning bike ride into and around town; an afternoon hike in the nearby mountains. And all day, we were thoroughly impressed; this is a cool town. Tuesday morning we woke up, and decided to change scenery again, so we headed south to Phoenix (though we were distraught to be descending out of the cool air and back into the desert). Tuesday night we spent visiting with Chris and Megan (long-time roommates in Richmond, who left the same day we did three weeks ago). It was great to see them, if only briefly, and a bit strange to see the same furniture I've lived on for the last 2 1/2 years in a strange condo in Arizona!

When the weather report this morning casually mentioned it would be 107 degrees by 11:00, we quickly decided it was time to head back to the mountains (sorry Chris and Megan!). A quick stop in Sedona to check out the alleged 'vortex' (check out or look it up on wikipedia) and we were back to the cool air.

And the answer to everyone's big question: "what's the next step?" ---- we still don't know. Next on the list is the grand canyon, lake powell, and zion NP--we don't know when or in what order, but we'll certainly keep you posted.

Coming Soon: John is presently assembling a "picture post" to quench the thirst of those starving for visual support, so keep an eye out for that.

Friday, August 15, 2008


Caption: Becca and I at the turn off to our camp in Moab, Utah

Greetings from Moab Utah, sorry for the lapse between posts this past week, since we last spoke Becca and I have traversed four states (Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, and Utah) driven one thousand one hundred and ninety eight miles (@ between $3.49 and $4.35 per gal.), and have 147 mosquito bites between the two of us.

I will go ahead and skip to reporting our adventures in Colorado and Utah because there just wasnt much happening in either Missouri or Kansas. We cruised straight through MO and KS in two grueling days and arrived in Denver ready for a good meal and a place to sleep that was mosquito proof. My friends Amber and Joel made it all come true. The next four days were spent either biking around Denver or rock climbing up Boulder Canyon near the city of Boulder, CO. A huge thanks to the two of them for showing us such a great time.

Caption: One of the many views from the road between Denver and Utah.

Then it was off to Utah, where we are currently calling home. It took a solid 9 hours of driving up and down 12,000 ft mountain passes to get us to Moab (thanks for the new brakes Scott!). We spent all day today visiting Arches National Park. We took a short back country tour through some of the park's more remote locations- absolutely breathtaking! Arches was formed millions and millions of years ago by a sea that would flood and leave salt deposits, over the years those deposits were mixed with sediment and hardened to form the thousand ft plus cliff bands present now. Then after the sea receded rainwater dissolved the salt deposits and created the cavities and holes that form the arches that have made the area so famous.

Caption: Balancing Rock in Arches Nat. Park (just to wet your whistle, more pics to come from Arches)

Caption: One of the three MAJOR mtn passes we had to drive on the way to Utah from Denver (this was at 9,000 ft)

Caption: Chaco's idea of a workout session

Sunday, August 10, 2008

St. Louis City Museum

When we started planning this adventure, a friend told us about "this museum you HAVE to see". He did his best to explain it to us, and it sounded worth it. So we revolved the rest of the trip around going to St. Louis to visit this crazy place. As we got close, we worried that our expectations had been built up too much, and the museum would be a disappointment.

We could not have been more wrong. This museum is like nothing I've ever seen. We recognized it a few blocks away for the bus hanging off the edge of the roof.

As we got closer we stared, wide-eyed, at the incredible expanse of mesh tubes, wire cages, and strange-looking spiral stairs leading up to a number of airplanes and platforms 100 feet in the air.

We walked in, paid our $12 dollars, and started to wander. (notice, we did not sign any kind of waiver or release form or death plea). We quickly found ourselves twisted into abnormal positions trying to climb through a wire tunnel apparently made for 6 year olds.

For the next 4 hours or so, we climbed and slid and jumped and laughed our way through an entire warehouse of ingenious creations.

And that's all I'll say about it; words for things like that don't come very easily. All I can do is advise you to find out for yourself! (start by going to the website for city museum in St Louis, Mo)

Monday, August 4, 2008


Before I start, here is our new home (in front of our old one, of course):

We spent a wonderful weekend in Botetourt (near Roanoke) visiting with some of John’s family; then got on the road again Sunday afternoon. The original idea was to go to West Va from there, but we decided to take a detour, which turned into an entire re-route. We ended up in Knoxville, Tn. on Sunday night with some old friends from the climbing gym, Andrea and Joey.

On Monday, Joey took us to the nearby climbing spot, which evidently he had not seen before. The climbing was great

and the scenery was beautiful,

but the approach was a bit….narrow.

We had a good climb though, and hit the road again Monday afternoon, headed to Chattanooga, to stay with another long-term friend, Matt Fields-Johnson. Tuesday morning we headed out to an awesome bouldering spot right by a golf course and spent the morning clamoring up big rocks.

And then spent the afternoon on even bigger rocks, with long ropes and fun gear!

Chattanooga is a pretty fun town-it's been rated among the top climbing towns in the nation, and we agree! Next--we think camping somewhere between here and Missouri.

Friday, August 1, 2008

On the road at last

We promised a blog, and here it is. We feel the name is fitting, because that is our attitude about this trip. We don't have solid plans, or timelines, or a set route. We have a truck, a dog, and a tight budget. So we're just going to take the trip One Tank At A Time.

For the last few days, we have been hectic trying to get everything packed and cleaned up. Yesterday was the longest day, 14 hours of moving heavy things, but was concluded by an incredible dinner by Master Chef Katie.

This morning, we finally closed up the house and hit the road at about 1:30 (after a generous lunch by the parents). But don't worry, we haven't left Virginia yet. We are visiting John's family near Roanoke for a few days, before we really head on our way.

Yesterday I would have told you that our next stop was the New River Gorge in West Virginia, but now we're thinking it might be more along the lines of Chatanooga, Tennessee. As we said, we just take it one tank at a time.

So here it is. Enjoy reading along.
-John and Becca