6/9/15

Vacation Week 1 Recap...

Vacation 2015 photo dump of week #1!

Not exactly a sea to shining sea adventure, but at least one sea is included in this adventure trip. Tara had planned out our excursion which involved mountain biking, road biking, a wedding, visiting family, and an earnest attempt at seeing some of America that we have never seen before. We live in a vast country that has much to offer, so the decision to dive in and uncover some things we have not seen before was part of the goal. We would also be seeing plenty of things we have seen before, but a lot of new things for us on this journey were planned. We have never driven out to California and back over the past 25 years for vacation as we always fly. This year, we decided to give it a go and drive. We did drive from Houston to Walnut Creek when we moved there in 1989. And I have driven from Walnut Creek to New Jersey (way back in the early 90's), but outside of that - it's always been a jet plane for transportation to and from the fair state of California for us.

We pulled out of the driveway for our vacation last Monday morning with our first overnight destination being Golden, Colorado. Thankfully, the posted speed limit in Nebraska is 75 mph which certainly helps while away the 10+ hours of prairie miles one must cross to get to the Rocky Mountains. The weather patterns were in our favor with regard to the wind and we enjoyed our best mileage of the trip to date due to a slight tailwind/crosswind pushing the red box over 25 mpg. Not bad for a non-aerodynamic 4 cylinder box on wheels buzzing along at 75-77 mph.

Golden, CO beckoned us for a stop at one of the nearby Triple D's suggested eateries via Tocabe. It's an American Indian Eatery featuring bison meat and was featured on Guy Fieri's show. We stopped for a photo outside of the restaurant before diving in and eating the treats to be had...

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The eats were pretty good - especially the bison meat. Just down the street was a city park that allowed us to walk a couple of laps around a lake for a 45 minute shakedown before going to bed as the sun was setting...

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Tuesday called for another long day behind the wheel featuring plenty of eye candy as we drove the glorious I-70 through Colorado and Utah before catching some 2 lane roads into Arizona via the hub of Bryce Canyon/Grand Canyon/Zion National Park - Kanab. Our goal was to stop in Vail for breakfast, Grand Junction to drop off some rims at LaceMine29.com for Mike Curiak to build up for me, than head on out and arrive at our lodge on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon for dinner. Big day of driving indeed, but off we went with full intent on making our goal.

The Vail breakfast was interesting as I had a turkey dinner on eggs benedict...

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Was it good?

YES!

Driving along the Colorado River and enjoying the eye candy through the Rocky Mountains, we noticed a nice paved trail along the river and highway going into Glenwood Springs. A stop at a rest area confirmed that one could indeed ride along the river for about a 20+ mile trip. Being that it is near a turnoff for a point later in our vacation in two weeks, we are seriously considering doing that ride when we get back.

After a little chit chat with Mike Curiak in Grand Junction, he said we had about 7 hours of driving yet to go to get to the North Rim - so we made our way out the door, filled up with gas and took off for Utah...

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Life is elevated indeed in Utah! Again, miles and miles of eye candy with all of the rock formations, mountains, soil/sediment layers. One is allowed to drive 80 mph in Utah, so you can really make some ground on the Interstate as you buzz through in spite of that speed destroying one's fuel economy. The 4 cylinder Element screamed to keep up with traffic, but did just fine. You just cannot stop gawking on this ride as far as the eye can see. We stopped about 30 miles north of Moab for a rest stop, and you can see the mountains in the background...

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Buzzing on through miles of eye candy...

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Eventually, we pulled into our lodge at the border of the Kaibab National Forest and the Grand Canyon National Park. Tara had helped with the driving about 2 hours each day even though our plans were to switch off more frequently, I ended up driving the lion's share of the first two days. We had a nice dinner and fell fast asleep in our cabin at the lodge after the 11 hour drive.

Wednesday was our first scheduled riding day, and after a hearty breakfast we drove the hour or so of gravel roads to the start of the Rainbow Rim Trail. This is an out and back trail that totals 36 miles. You can start in one of 5 spots that have a parking lot. We decided to start on the one end called Parissawampitts. Paris Swamp Pits? We parked the car and got ourselves ready for this moderate singletrack trail that promised to provide stunning views along the Grand Canyon...

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CamelBaks full of water on our backs, Clif Bars in our pockets, GU's stuffed in the frame pack, a sack of mixed nuts and fruit in the frame pack - and off we went for day one. Standard trailhead required shot...

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And the first stunning view of the canyon...

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Being at 9000 feet, temperatures were reigned in around the 60's and 70's. Our jackets were good for about 10 minutes before we had to shed that layer and stuff them in my frame pack for the remainder of the day.

Most of the trail is set in the Ponderosa Pines of the Kaibab National Forest and it reminds me of riding in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Similar soil. Similar rocks. Similar smells and trees. Tara had gears and I didn't, so in the flowing singletrack she was moving out...

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A stop for a snack and view of the canyon...

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All smiles (be they fake or real)...

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You are really only along the canyon in about 5 major spots on the trail, so when you do get to one of those overlooks you linger, take some photos and soak in the view...

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We didn't see more than about a dozen or so other riders during day one out on the trail. There were some 9-11% grades in there which had me working the one gear I did have on the Karate Monkey with some out of saddle grunt climbs.

Well earned rest stops to fuel up, drink more water, and soak in the views kept us happy on this well built trail.

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It was dry and fast, but some riders (like about 40 or so it seemed from the tracks) had ridden recently while it was muddy and left a lot of ruts that required attention on many corners and other sections. That was too bad, but being out in the middle of nowhere I assume it is hard to regulate - especially on a trail that is 18 miles long in one direction. Tara is not quite an experienced singletrack rider, so we took a pace she could handle and if anything loomed that she felt safer walking, she did.

Suffice it to say, day one left us hungry and tired. We refueled with a nice dinner of a wonderful soup featuring lots of cumin, chicken, and potatoes along with some bread, salad and a bottle of wine. Day two of riding the North Rim Trail was equally fun, but a lot more people were out riding including a couple of large groups that were camping at the midpoint of the trail known as Locust Point.

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Locust Point is a popular spot where people camp, park their cars and you can ride in either direction for an out and back to take on 1/2 the trail a day at a time - or do the full trail with two out and backs. We rode along with one of the groups on their last day of a tour that were stationed at Locust Point. Well, we didn't ride along with them, but we were headed in the same direction and seemed to stop at all of the same views which allowed us to chat it up from time to time. Their tour guide was also on a SS Karate Monkey (1st Generation that he had painted with a custom paint job), so we talked a bit about the Karate Monkey love affair.

The views continued to impress...

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and impress...

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Tara went down on a steep section and took a nice scar above the ankle. A few minutes of frustration and self-doubt transpired, then we continued on and she was fine the rest of the day. Here she is rolling into the parking lot all smiles with her accomplishment of having knocked out the Rainbow Rim Trail 2 days in a row!!!

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After an hour's bumpy ride to get back to our lodge, I can only attest that if you ever visit the North Rim - make sure you're driving a rig that can handle these forest roads (high clearance, good traction). The Element was stretched at times to fight the near off-roading experience of some of the back roads, but on the State Forest Road 22 it did much better. They don't grade it very often and the results of rain the prior week had left things quite rough.

We wrapped up our stay with a nice visit to the Grand Canyon Lodge for drinks and dinner. This guy hung out with us on the Veranda while we waited for our dinner reservation time slot...

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I had a great Bison Steak for dinner and Tara had salmon. Temperatures were cold with the wind howling, but we got a few shots before and after dinner...

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We decided this is a must visit again vacation spot and next time we would plan more time to include some hiking down into the canyon.

Friday had us out the door by 5:45 for the long drive to Santa Cruz, California. We were on a schedule and had a wedding to attend on Saturday in Santa Cruz, otherwise we would have spent more time in the area. There is great mountain biking in the St. George, Hurricane, Zion area that features things like Gooseberry Mesa and Hurricane. We MUST come back for that in the future! According to the map, it looked like we could spend a little time driving through Zion National Park...

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The eye candy continued in a big way as Zion National Park is a famous hiker's paradise, and a photographer's paradise as well. Lots of nice switchbacks to drive through, views to take in, and plans were made for a future visit.

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On we went with a promise to return to this area to spend more time and do more. A quick stop in Vegas for a sandwich and gas was all we had time for as it appeared our day's drive was going to be more like 15 hours instead of what we thought would only be 11 hours...

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Tara did the lionesses' share of the driving today as I only put in about 3 hours in total recovering from the other days that I drove. Vegas to Barstow to Bakersfield and finally to Santa Cruz where we got in around 9 PM. A nice meal at a true authentic Italian restaurant close to our cottage, and off to bed we went after that long day in the car.

We've spent a lot of time in Santa Cruz over the last 5 or 6 years as we seem to visit every time we come out as our niece went to school there and lives/works in Santa Cruz. Regardless, there are plenty of new things to discover while there. We had our own little private beach near our cottage which we ventured out to see on Saturday morning...

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The cottage/inn where we were staying...

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Saturday involved hitting up the Wilder Ranch State Park for their miles and miles of singletrack and doubletrack trails that are well known Santa Cruz digs for mountain bikers.

The Enchanted Loop goes through the Redwoods and is totally different than the other sections of the park...

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A huge bombing descent took us down to the shoreline trail where we had to put the jackets on for the cooler temperatures and wind...

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Two hours later, we hit up a place aptly called Burger for lunch and beer. Then we headed back to the cottage to nap, shower, and get dressed for the wedding. Tara's cousin was getting married, and most everyone from that side of the family was there. We arrived for the pre-wedding cocktail hour, had a glass of champagne and then sat down for the ceremony. It was a lovely ceremony on the terrace of a spa/club that overlooks Santa Cruz. Following the ceremony, we had a sit down dinner complete with the traditional toasts and dancing until Midnight before heading back to the cottage to sleep it all off. All in all - a great Saturday.

Sunday, we hooked up with Tara's boss from a former job and her boyfriend for a road bike ride. They took us by the HQ of Santa Cruz Bicycles to take a short tour. Every bike I liked seemed to cost more than $9K!!! After that, we headed up the coast for our ride. It was one of Barb and Mark's first road rides of the year, so we kept the distance tame and rode for about 90 minutes on beautiful country roads from Pescadero north and back. Then we settled down at the famous Duarte's for artichoke and green chili soup, bread and beverages.

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We drove back to their place in Santa Cruz to watch the NBA Finals game, and enjoy their fresh caught Abalone. Yum - was that ever good! We finally said our good-byes after the initial planning stages of a trip with them in 2016. We enjoyed our final evening in the cottage/inn, and packed up to leave Monday morning with stops along the way of Pescadero and Half Moon Bay.

Pescadero for a lovely cup of French pressed café...

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A walk along the beach in Half Moon Bay before grabbing a sandwich at a deli downtown...

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Lots of horse groups were out on the beach...

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The fountain in the garden of the deli where we sat outside and chowed down our sandwiches...

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Then a fun drive inland where temperatures roared up from the 70's on the coast to the triple digits as we drove into Walnut Creek around 101 degrees! Oy! It was the hottest day of the year in Walnut Creek, so I guess we timed that one just right. ;-) Needless to say, Monday was a well earned day off the bikes after all the hours we put in during week one.

Over and Out for Week #1 on our out in the Wild West non-stop eye candy road trip vacation.

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