Desert Dog

Once Robin and I decided to stop in Sedona for a short stay, we had immediately agreed on three nights stay at the Red Agave. The price was super affordable (August is low season in Sedona) and the two full days bookended by half days would give us ample opportunity to ride some of the red rock trails, do some early morning (pre-desert heat) hikes with Bruno and, most of all, get all of our laundry done. We were also excited about what suddenly seemed like a luxury item: air conditioning!    
We accomplished all of our planned tasks. We did a few rides, some hikes with Bruno, including an awesome morning hike of Boynton Canyon. 

  The weather was cooler than our day of arrival, with highs (only) around 30C. For those of us accustomed to Souther Ontario humidity can seem muggy and uncomfortable, but trust me, the whole “but it’s a dry heat” thing is for real. Just remember, the radiation from the sun will melt you, so seek shade!    
Since the Red Agave is located in the Village of Oak Creek, we drove down to the water one late afternoon for Bruno to do some fetching in the water. He had become quite good and careful on our trail hikes in the desert, avoiding the various prickly vegetation, but we had completely avoided any fetching and free roaming in fear of a USD 500 vet visit to remove cactus thorns from his muzzle.     
Robin and I both enjoyed the luxury of a couple of days in air conditioning, a second tap from which comes warm (yes, who knew!!) water, and a television. Yet, we both felt somehow not completely relaxed I’m the evenings the way we do when we settle in for a quiet evening in Clifford, Robin reading her book, me staring at maps and Bruno napping away beside Robin on the bed.  
On the morning of our departure from Sedona, it was clear that the three of us had, in some strange way, missed our life in Clifford while he was parked at the hotel parking lot. Bruno immediately claimed his spot on the rear seat as we drove away from Sedona, back toward Flagstaff and once again across the desolate and harsh landscape that is northern Arizona and now onto Utah.   
We had planned our route to take us north from Flagstaff, through Monument Valley to some place with sufficient elevation to allow us to sleep in reasonable temperatures. Monument Valley was everything I had hoped, my expectation having been set high by John Ford directed westerns.  

  

 The drive across southern Utah was more than just Monument Valley, for it seemed that after each climb (usually ending in second gear, Clifford being Clifford), the following descent offered yet another variation on desert landscapes. I would highly recommend everyone visit this area once. The second time, probably not necessary.   
Robin had found a National Forest area just outside the town of Monticello for us to seek refuge for the night. Monticello was already at enough elevation that the temperatures seemed almost bearable, and once we climbed to our planned campsite at elevation 8,400 feet, not only were we out of the desert and there were plentiful trees and green vegetation, but the air once again seemed crisp and cool. We were suddenly confident that the we were not going to perish in the desert.     
Of the many USFS campsite we have visited, this one was again on the less populated side. The only campers at this campsite were us, the campsite host, and one other trailer, populated by some local type peeps who were out for a few days of bow hunting. Yeah, it is bow hunting season in Utah. We didn’t ask what they were hunting, but decided to lay low and stay close to our campground. We did attempt to look for a hiking trail close the campground, but had very little luck and the open range cattle had us a little bewildered at times. Thus, we returned to our campsite and proceeded to throw Bruno’s frisbee for a few hours in the safety of our campsite.  

   
We left our campsite outside of Monticello after just one night and headed north, hoping for a more hospitable environment in some other part of Utah. We drove through Moab without either of us desiring to stay for a day or two to ride the trails, for we had had enough of the desert for now. During our drive through Moab, we didn’t really see anything that would pique our interest to come back one day. It seemed like just another town in the desert with a selection mediocre-to-bad lodging and food. Maybe there is some other magic side of Moab that is far away from the main road and someone will convince us otherwise.  


We continued north, until hwy 191 met up with my least favourite interstate, I-90, and turned west on I-90. Thankfully for this short section, we had the pleasure of a gentle downhill. Clifford settled in at a comfortable 65mph and we watched traffic go by us at 80+mph. Soon we headed off the interstate, back on 191. Eventually the road became smaller and very quiet, as it climbed through some steep switchbacks (yeah, sub 20mph speeds for Clifford) and the road took a us through a long mountain canyon, first up and then down. A beautiful and quiet drive. We did pull off the road at some point during the climb to give way to a school bus full of children, thinking the kids likely wanted get home and 55mph would get them there sooner than our 20-25mph.   
We aimed for the Uinta Mountains, with a plan to stay a couple of nights and get some decent mountain air hikes in to us and Bruno. Mirror Lake Road climbs out of Heber City into the Uinta Wasatch-Cache National Forest. We climbed (yes, slowly) up to past 10,000feet of elevation once again and found a nice spot at the Trial Lake Campground. We were somewhat concerned about availability of space as it was a Friday and we had no reservation, but luckily found one of the few remaining spots to be good for us.   
  We set up quickly, once again enjoying thin mountain air and settled for a relaxing couple of days. 

Next time: More mountain hikes and is there a male version of honey boo-boo?

Advertisements

To the desert!

After a few days of dispersed camping at the ghost town of Alta, we packed up our campsite and pointed Clifford down the mountain, towards Telluride.  The descent on the forestry road was a certainly lot easier on Clifford than the climb had been a few days earlier.  Once we had descended the four miles or so to the paved road, the town of Telluride was only about ten minutes drive away. 

 Our plan for the day was to use the free Telluride gondolas to get us to the start of our hike and take a combination of gondolas to get us back to our starting point after our hike.  This free public transportation system seemed almost too good to be true, connecting the town of Telluride with Mountain Village on the other side of the mountain.  The passengers seemed to be about on even mix of hikers and mountain bikers with their bikes.  In the winter, the gondola bike racks are replaced by ski and snowboard racks. 

 Bruno was a little bewildered by his first gondola ride, but settled down to watch the scenery change as we ascended the mountain.  Once at the top, he enjoyed a drink from the complimentary water bowl (Telluride seemed super dog friendly!) and we were ready for our little hike.   

  

  

 This hike was shorter and easier than our long hike in Crested Butte, but offered some beautiful vistas of the surrounding area.

Telluride Hike

After our hike, Bruno enjoyed a little dip in the stream at the base of the mountain.  He may have enjoyed the dip more than the hike! 

 From Telluride, we headed south, towards the Four Corners area, where the borders of Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona meet at a common point.  As the day was hot and we were getting a little tired of sitting in the heat (at least Bruno was), we did a little on the fly research and chose the McPhee Recreation Area (on the McPhee Reservoir) in Dolores, CO as our stopover for the night.  The campground was quiet and although not exactly dispersed camping, we couldn’t see a single other camper from our campground.  

  Typical of the National Forest sites, it was clean and well maintained.  Once settled, we were anxious to get down to the reservoir for a swim.

As we had done our planning on the fly, we didn’t realize that the trek from the campground to the reservoir was about 2km long through a nice enough trail through the almost desert like terrain.  This hike introduced Bruno to cacti and other desert vegetation.  We had to keep him on the short leash to ensure that we wouldn’t need to visit the local vet any time soon.  After the rocky descent to the lake, to our disappointment, we discovered that everything was built and geared towards boaters – no beach, no real good place for even Bruno to fetch his frisbee from the water.  We scrambled a couple of hundred metres along the rocky shore to get us to a spot where Bruno could at least get a little swimming done and then headed back up to the campsite, disappointed and still hot.  No pictures of this event exist, for it may be the best way to forget the “swimming” attempt.

Back at our campsite, we relaxed for a bit and as the sun set, the temperatures finally started dropping to a more comfortable range. We kept Bruno on his long lead all night as there was continuous traffic of wildlife, mostly deer and rabbits, through the vicinity.  Once darkness set in, I tested our new Nemo Helio camp shower, washing away the dust and sweat of the first really hot day of our journey.  If I had paws, I’d give the Nemo Helio two paws up! 

 The next morning, we did our best impression of a quick start as we knew that the temperatures would go from hot to hotter as we drove south, into the desert.  Our plan was to drive to Four Corners and from there a short drive in Arizona to visit Monument Valley before heading north to Utah, in search of some elevation and cool(er?) nights.  During the heat of the day, Bruno made good use of his Ruffwear Swamp Cooler jacket.  The evaporative cooling really works in the dry heat!

   

  

 As we crossed state lines and arrived in Arizona, a voice in my head kept saying – “you’re close to Sedona, go ride the rails in Sedona!”, and we made yet another impromptu change in our plans.  We chose to make the hot hot hot drive across the desert and ascend into Flagstaff for the night, where the arid desert of northern Arizona is replaced by beautiful Ponderosa Pine forests and mountain air.  We choose to camp in the National Forest outside of Mormon Lake, at yet another nearly deserted NFS campsite.  The lake, ironically, is currently completely devoid of water. Thankfully, Bruno accepted dry land frisbee action once again. 

  

 Only two of the approximately 30 sites were occupied, including us.  The $18 fee gave us toilets and fresh water fill up for Clifford, where as dispersed camping within the forest would have been free.  We felt the $18 was a small price for the few conveniences, especially since again, we could not see the other campers from our campsite and Bruno had free reign with his four frisbees and two balls for the entire stay.  A definite two paws up from Bruno! 

 In the morning, we aimed Clifford toward Sedona and started searching for camping or other accommodations.  The cost of house rentals in the area did not really fit our current travel budget, yet we were keen to find som accommodations that would offer all three of us air conditioning.  In the village of Oak Creek (kind of like Sedona suburbia), we stopped in at everyone’s favourite bike shop, the Bike and Bean, to pick up a couple of small necessities and to enjoy a nice ice coffee. 

We mentioned our desire for non-Clifford accommodations due to the heat and they mentioned that they co-own Red Agave, an old resort that is almost adjacent to the bike shop as well as the trailhead.  We decided to check it out.

Success! The studio rooms provided sufficient space for us, there was WiFi, A/C, a pool and a pet friendly atmosphere.  As August is the hottest month of the year in Sedona, the rates are at their lowest, and on a whim we booked ourselves in for three nights!  This would give Robin and I a chance to get a few rides in and maybe even get Bruno accustomed to desert walks.   

 The latter may be trickier, for the desert just doesn’t seem dog friendly. The view from our room was alone worth the price of admission.  

 After checking in, we unpacked Clifford, Bruno and I settled into the comfort of air conditioning and Robin headed out for a little ride to the adjacent network of trails. 

   
Next time – it’s a dry heat!

Hikes and more hikes!

The area north of Crested Butte is famous for its beautiful vistas, wildflowers and amazing trails. After a stormy arrival on Monday night, we arrived to a beautiful sunrise (Bruno provides us with a complimentary sunrise alarm clock) and some cold weather. The frost was evident everywhere, so we bundled up, enjoyed our morning coffee and waited for the sun to start warming things up before venturing too far outdoors.  

 
Our site provided Bruno with ample play space, and we took advantage of this as we prepared for the hike that Robin had planned for us. This hike took us down (up, then down, actually) Rustler’s Gulch Trail toward an old abandoned mining site and some waterfalls.  

   

  

 After this five hour adventure, we enjoyed  some relax time, although Bruno still wanted to play more, as usual. 
The second evening was much nicer than the first and we had a chance to sit outside and enjoy the diminishing daylight before moving into Clifford for the night.   
We had decided to head out toward Telluride on Wednesday, but before packing up and saying goodbye to Crested Butte, Robin went and rode the famous 401 trail while I had a nice relaxing morning playing with Bruno and getting Clifford ready for another move.   
We stopped in the town of Crested Butte for a little tourist walk, searched for food for Bruno and even had lunch at a restaurant. How civilized!  
Our tourist stop had take a bit of time, so by the time we headed out from Crested Butte toward Gunnison we realized that the drive to Telluride would mean an arrival time much later than we prefer. This, we quickly searched out a quick and easy one night stay outside of Ouray at the local KOA. Not our thing, but an easy in and out, not to mention hot showers are nice…
After dispersed camping where you really have no boundaries and very few rules, being at the KOA felt restrictive.  

  

  

 Bruno was not super excited about spending time on his leash, nor was he happy to have no free roam exploration rights. However, once nighttime set and we all got indoors in the cozy comfort of Clifford, it all felt right again. 
In the morning, we packed up quickly and headed to Telluride. Another beautiful drive and some sub 20mph climbing, we arrived in Telluride. The view through the town was postcard picturesque and we spent a little time walking in town to stretch out legs and play tourist.   
Our camping destination was the area of Alta Lakes, only a short drive from Telluride, Robin and done some research and the site looked promising. Remote, high altitude lakes, a ghost town and lots of camping opportunities. 
The last part of the drive was a 4 mile climb on a steep switchback littered forestry road. Clifford chose to do most of the climb in first gear, until the last section where first gear wasn’t low enough (or Clifford’s power wasn’t quite sufficient) and we had to retreat very slowly backwards to the previous plateau and rethink our strategy. We ended up not attempting this last bit of the climb again and chose to camp about 500m away from the lakes in the midst of the ghost town of Alta.     
Alta is historically significant as this is where George Westinghouse and Nikola Tesla first experimented with the use of alternating current in a commercial operation.       
More trails and beautiful scenery, albeit very different from the open vistas of Crested Butte. Bruno gave the lakes two paws up! We explored around the ghost town, but stayed clear of going indoors to the few buildings that are still standing fully intact.

   
   
Next time – Telluride hiking and more!

The award ceremonies for the LT100 are on the Sunday morning after the race, starting at 7:30am. We set our alarm for 6am to have a chance for breakfast and start re-packing Clifford. 

We joined our teammates and our most wonderful crew members at the award ceremony and after receiving our buckles we had one more chance to record a team moment before everyone headed off in their various directions. 
Our plan for the day was to pick up Bruno from Breckenridge adventure camp and then head over Hoosier Pass one more time to camp in the Salida area on Sunday night. 
Picking up Bruno was exciting for us, spending three days away from him had seemed like an eternity!
We arrived in Salida area and found a wonderful quiet camping spot on the Arkansas River at Brown’s Canyon. The landscape in this area was very different from the Leadville or Breckenridge area, almost desert like. 

 
   In fact, we found our first cacti of the trip here.  

  It was a beautiful sunny day, in fact it was scorching hot. If our vehicle was modern, I could tell you what the temperature was, but the only digital numerical display Clifford has is his clock. Let’s just say it seems desert scorching hot. At least until the late afternoon thunderstorms brought hail and rain upon us. 
The next morning we drove into Salida, a quaint town that appeared to have lots of character without the touristyness of many Colorado towns. Here we found Bruno a Ruffwear Front Range Harness, our current last hope of reducing his tendency to pull when on leash without resorting to a halti harness. Bruno was possibly less excited than we were about our purchase, but Robin and I were both optimistic within minutes of putting it into use.

 
After our stop in Salida, we pointed Clifford toward Gunnison, Crested Butte and Gothic Road. We had high hopes of the scenery and the trails our next destination would provide. Again, the drive provided scenery that ranged from beautiful to really stunning. The high plains around Gunnison had me looking for John Wayne and his men, riding their horses in search of the villains.  
Crested Butte looked nice, but we pressed through toward our destination. The road climbed into Crested Butte Mountain, the resort centre built just north of the old town. Once we had passed the resorts, the perfectly smooth paved road turned to gravel. Clifford seems more in his element on the gravel back road than the four star resort road. 
As we got further and further on Gothic Rod, the surface became more and more challenging. The potholes and general unevenness meant that we crawled along in first gear, for the tall load on Clifford require for us to be extra careful. Here we also encountered our first climb that required a second effort before we made it to the top. 

 
Once we arrived in our planned camping area, we found the four official camp sites occupied. This was not a crisis, for dispersed camping with Clifford can be quite pleasant. We drive a short distance from the “campsite” down the rod and pulled in at a trailhead parking area, assessed it quickly and decided to make it our home for the next couple of days. 
The beautiful warm sunny weather had followed us all day, but as we were setting up, the weather once again turned nasty. This thunderstorm was more intense than any we had experienced previously. The lighting and the thunder were intense enough that even Clifford was trembling. Once again, we encountered hail, this time in conjunction with high winds. 

We bundled up inside Clifford and waited it out as evening turned into night the next morning would likely bring blue skies and sunshine. It is Colorado, after all.  

LT100 – a race to return to relaxing

Yeah, we raced our bikes last weekend at the LT100, and I’m just now getting around to writing about it. It’s one of those things where you leave everything out there and once the next day rolls around you don’t really want to relive all the moments over again.
After camping at Turquoise Lake for four days, we had rented a house in Leadville for three nights for the race to provide us with some good sleep, washing and laundry facilities. We had set up a play camp for Bruno in Breckenridge for the time we had the house, so we dropped him off after we departed Turquoise Lake and before going to the Leadville house. What’s a few more mountain passes for Clifford anyhow, he’s quickly becoming a veteran of the mountains.

We set up at the house on Thursday afternoon rather painlessly, for it was the same house as we had rented two years ago in our first Leadville Trail 100 adventure. After we had unpacked the necessities from Clifford to the non-mobile house, we settled down for some television. After nearly two weeks without any TV, it didn’t seem like it was any better than I remembered.

On Friday, the LT100 riders meeting took a couple of hours of time in the morning, including some classic Ken Chlouber moments (I always seem to shed a few tears during these, even when I know what is about to be said). After the meeting, Robin and I headed to the house to prepare our bikes. It seemed somehow unlike us to not have had the bikes cleaned, lubed and ready to go much earlier – almost like the race wasn’t the first priority on this iteration of the event. It was almost sad to empty stuff out of Clifford to live in the house for a few days. Not that I minded warm showers and clean laundry…

Friday afternoons afternoons we delivered the box with our bottles and other nutrition to our support crew who were staying at Sugarloafing campground. I recall there were ten bottles of Roctane and close to twenty Roctane gel packs in the box. Our most wonderful crew members were going to be there for us at the Twin Lakes area on our way towards Columbine Mine and again on our return from Columbine Mine towards the return to Leadville.

The evening before the race was pretty relaxed, Robin prepared some chicken, rice and some veggies for us to fill our bellies, we also shared a bottle of red wine. Why change habits that have worked for you?

Race day, Saturday, alarm went off at 4:30am. We had some scrambled eggs, rice and salsa for breakfast. I had a lot of breakfast. This is my thing before long races and that works for me.

After eating, we packed up our bikes, got dressed up in our chosen kits for the days and headed out. Two years ago, we had ridden to the start from the house, but it was dark and cold. It also took twenty minutes. This year, we had chosen to drive downtown, park (one of our team mates had offered us parking at his rental house) and ride two minutes to the start corral. Fantastic. Except…half way to downtown, Robin realized we had forgotten our start bottles at home! We turn Clifford around, go get the bottles and get to the start area a little later than we had envisioned.

Robin and I scrambled a bit to get to our respective start corrals and settled in, waiting for the shot gun that would set us off on the course.

The gun went off. We raced. We finished.

bazu-6770139 bazu-6780782

It was a tough day as expected, and even tougher for Robin as she suffered some completely unusual challenges with nutrition. Her finish time certainly did not reflect the “dig deep” effort she put forth, for I think most of us would have called it quits after visiting the medical tent midway through the race.

For me, looking back, had I trained as I planned since the Dirty Kanza, the time result may have been different. However, I left every bit of energy on the course and finished in 9h39 and something. A long way from my sub nine hour goal that I had set for myself last year. But somehow, after DK200, training and the LT100 race itself seems somewhat anticlimactic and the result shows it.

bazu-6772854

bazu-6774006

After the race, we had very little to no energy left for any post race celebrations. It was off to bed early after a little food and one beer.

Now we are going to enjoy a little non cycling holiday. Our plan is to head towards Crested Butte for a few days of hiking and relaxing. We’ll see how that goes next time….

 

Leadville

After enjoying the Buena Vista area for a few days, we headed to Leadville on Sunday. Our plan was to camp for four nights at Turquoise Lake and follow that with a three day house rental in Leadville. Luxurious, yes, but with a big mountain bike race on Saturday, it seemed like the right choice. Get a week and a half worth of laundry done, prepare our bikes for the race and get a few good nights of sleep.  
We set up camp at the Molly Brown campground Turquoise Lake Recreational Area. Once again, the campground did not disappoint. In fact, it was most awesome. Large sites, quiet and a lake with beautiful vistas all around. Most importantly, Bruno gave it a solid two paws up.
 After setting up, we headed to the lake for some frisbee action with Bruno. After another warm day, he enjoyed the refreshing lake.

The campground was rather full, partly due to Leadville’s Boom Days taking place that weekend and partly with the Leadville Trail 100 racers starting to arrive for the race, now only six days away.

We spent most of Monday relaxing, with some hike/swim/play time for Bruno. Robin and I both got out for short loops on our bikes, just enough to remind the body why we were her at elevation of 10,000+ feet.

One of the main catalysts for our adventure has been the Leadville Trail 100 mounting bike race. Robin and I competed at this event in 2013 and a few days after finishing that event (body forgets pain quite quickly) we had decided to come back for a second time in two years time. In the meanwhile, a large group of our Toronto-based Lapdogs Cycling team members had qualified or otherwise gained entry to this event. As a result, we have six representatives of our team (plus quite a contingent of family members) here for the LT100.

 On Tuesday morning we me up with our teammates for a pre-ride of the Columbine Mine climb (and descent), one of the more famous sections of the 100 mile long event. This climb is approximately 1200 metres in vertical elevation and takes us mere mortals close to two hours to climb. This climb takes you up a typical Colorado fire road with the scenery changing as you gain elevation. The first half of the climb is a steady climb through beautiful aspen forest and as you gain elevation, the aspens give way to coniferous trees of various sizes and shapes. Finally, once you reach around 2/3 time point, you reach the tree line and enter the high alpine meadows.

  

We all enjoyed the climb at our own pace, gathered at the top for a team picture, and commenced a descent back down the same way as we had climbed. The LT100 is an out-and-back race, and the turnaround point is at the top of the Columbine Mine climb. This particular climb and return descent represents 20-25% of the total time we will spend on the race course this coming Saturday, hence a pre-ride makes sense, as long as you don’t leave it to the days immediately preceding the race.

 While the racer type people were racing, the supporting LapDogs family members were surveying the sites for race day support and also, more importantly, taking care of Bruno. He seems to be very good at adapting to new situations and from all reports it sounds like a he he had a great time while Robin and I were riding.

After the ride, we all went out for a group meal at the Tennessee Pass Cafe (epic hamburger), enjoyed a few laughs and some good stories as a group. After the meal, Robin, Bruno and I headed to the grocery store for some staples and then back to camp, now all of us quite tired. We spent a few hours relaxing and by 9:30pm, everyone was ready for bed. Actually, Bruno had been ready for a while…

 Next time – preparing for ten hours of racing

San Isabel National Forest

After restocking on groceries and beer, we departed Frisco for our next stop – Collegiate Campground in San Isabel National Forest, just outside of Buena Vista. Our route took us through Breckenridge and Alma up over Hoosier Pass (elev. 11,539 feet). The climb up to the top was steep and littered with a few switchbacks. This was the first the climb Clifford needed to revert to 1st gear at times. Needless to say, the four way flashers were busy.  

 Once we arrived in Buena Vista, we chose to pass through town and head for our campsite in order to get Bruno and us some quality hiking time.  

 Once set up, we headed out for some hiking, swimming and frisbee throwing.  

 During our stay at Collegiate Peaks, the weather was mostly fantastic, but a short but intense rain storm forced us indoors for one meal.  

 This was also the first time during our trip that Robin and I had a chance to ride our bikes. This is apparently significant as there is some sort of a race coming up soon.  

 The two days’ stay went quickly, and in addition to hiking, playing and a little riding, we all enjoyed some good relax time.  The days were warm, but the nights were cold, with morning temperatures just above freezing. It was apparent Bruno was getting cool by morning, as he wanted to climb into bed with Robon and me. Sadly, Clifford’s downstairs bed is barely big enough to accommodate two people, let alone two people and a dog. Thus, it was democratically decided that I should sleep upstairs to allow Bruno access to the warm bed downstairs.    

 On Sunday, it was time to pack up camp and point Clifford towards Leadville. Before making that short but scenic drive, we stopped in Buena Vista to pick up some food for Bruno and a sleeping bag for me.  

  Next time – Leadville!

 

In to the mountains

We last left off somewhere in Fort Collins, Clifford with his newly refreshed propane system thanks to the good folks at Rocky Mountain Westy. 

  By the time we departed RMW and had the propane tank filled, it was close to 6pm. We had planned to be at our campsite at Collegiate Peaks for this night, but with the unscheduled activities of the day, that wasn’t going to happen. Thus, we aimed for Frisco, where we hoped to camp in the shore of Lake Dillon. 

It was a warm day. In fact, well over 30C warm. By now, Robin, Bruno and I had all somewhat accepted the non-AC environment of Clifford, so most of the concern was for Clifford and how he would do in the busy stop and go traffic through the greater Denver area and then on the long climb on Interstate I70 toward Frisco. Needless to say, I spent these hours repeatedly glancing at Clifford’s coolant gauge, hoping to see nothing out of the ordinary. 

The stop and go in the heat was worrisome, but the radiator fan seems to keep the temperatures in line. Once traffic thinned out and started flowing somewhat regularly, it was time to commence the climbing. 

The long climb toward Loveland pass (over 11,000 feet altitude) was a mix of third and second gear efforts, where in the steepest parts we were moving at barely over 20mph (32.6km/h). At the slower speeds, the radiator fan would be on much of the time, for the speeds were not high enough for sufficient cooling flow. 

It was a slow crawl, but we succeeded. We actually even passed some slower vehicles, as cray as that sounds. The only part of Clifford that had true challenges on the ascent, was his flasher relay. The long continuos periods of four way flashing as we crawled up the slow lane if the interstate seemed to ever hear the relay and force us to turn it off for a minute or so before it word work again.   

  We arrived in Frisco as he sun set, and we’re happy to find a camping spot for the night. We set up camp relatively quickly (we seem to be getting more used to the routine) and had a quick bite of dinner and maybe even a beer before heading to bed. Next morning, we woke up to beautiful Colorado sunrise. A cold sunrise, but easily better than the scorching heat of the previous day. We did a little morning hike with Bruno on the shores of the lake before packing up and aiming Clifford towards Buena Vista and Collegiate Peaks campground. On our morning hike, we saw another Westfalia across one of the lake inlets and instantly recognized it as Babe. Our friends’ Peter and Andrea and their Westy Babe had also arrived in Frisco on the previous day and we were happy to see them.   

  We left Frisco and headed for Hoosier Pass on route to Buena Vista. By now, Clifford was a veteran of the mountain passes, so we had confidence for our journey to the top. Our success was never in doubt, but it took a number of first gear efforts to get up steep inclines and hairpin turns. It was all worth it.

  Next time, camping at Collegiate Peaks.  

go Clifford go!

The third day of our journey had us travelling into Nebraska. This is a state we have traveled through many a time, but as it is so close to Colorado, we had never really taken the time to do a any discovery. This time was going to be different – when you travel in Clifford, every day is full of discovery…  
After spending much of our time on interstates, ducking vehicles traveling 20+ miles per hour faster than us, we decided to hop on to the historic highway 30, which runs parallel to I80, beside the Union Pacific Railroad. This highway, called the Lincoln Highway, is historically significant due to it being the first transcontinental highway to be built. Through Nebraska it was scenic and oozed history. 

  
We stopped in Gothenburg (not Sweden) to visit an original Pony Express station from 1854. I’m always amazed by how recent white man’s “history” really is in parts on North America. But I won’t digress…

  
We spent our third night of this journey at Lake Ogalalla Recreation area, where we had an absolutely beautiful campsite by the lake, allowing Bruno ample swim time before it was time to settle in for some rest. 

  
The morning departure of our fourth “travel” day was fairly smooth, and we rolled out towards Colorado at 9am. 

  
Clifford had developed a slight leak in his propane system, and we wanted someone to have a look at it. We thus decided to detour by the good folks at Rocky Mountain Westy in Fort Collins for a diagnosis.  

  
To get to Fort Collins, our Garmin recommended we continue on I80 all the way to Cheyenne, Wyoming and then south to Fort Collins. Without putting much more thought into the route, we pointed our nose towards Cheyenne. 

  
We discovered something interesting about our chosen route as we pressed west. The last bit of I80W through Nebraska climbs. And climbs. To add to the joy, much road construction means single lanes, but with reduced speed limits of 65mph. Wait, we can go 65mph on a flat road at sea level quite comfortably, but at 5000 feet of elevation, headwind and climbing, out speed was reduced to as low as 35mph at times. With a single lane on the interstate, this quickly formed some looking queues behind us. 

We made a quick decision to get the heck off I80 and take some back roads to Fort Collins. Awesome grassland prairie views, rolling gravel roads and not another vehicle to be seen anywhere. Absolutely epic. 
  
We finally arrived at Rocky Mountain Westy around 2pm, hot and a little beaten up from the nasty washboard gravel we had endured for the last 45 minutes or so of our gravel journey. Clifford headed into the shop for his spa treatment, comfortable amongst his cousins while Robin, Bruno and I relaxed in the customer waiting area, comforted by air conditioning and free wifi. 

  
The journey continues!

West of the Mississippi!

Our second “travel” day towards Colorado continued along the interstates, much like day one. We had by now become accustomed to focusing mostly on the flow of traffic on the right lane and less so on the speed limits. After all, our trusty GPS has indicated a max speed of 70mph to this point, and our usual travel speeds around 60-65 mph. As much as we both love driving, we are by now quite looking forward to spending time off the interstates once we get to Colorado. 
Crossing the Mississippi has become a a bit of a landmark on on our western road trips, sort of a sign of our arrival in the Midwest.  This time, it was Robin’s turn to be at the wheel for the celebratory crossing.  Clifford’s trusty 2.1L waterboxer is having to use most of its 90 or so horsepower to move us along at these crazy speeds. As a result, our average fuel economy is somewhere in the range of 15L/100km. Combine that with the approximately 55L tank, and fuel breaks every 300-320km are a rather frequent occurrence. This is somehow strange, for we are so used to driving our Touareg for about a 1000km before it requires to be refuelled.    Bruno has settled nicely in his domain. The rear cabin is really his space while we are on the road and he spends most of his time napping.   As a reward for his outstanding behaviour, we seek out mid drive dog parks for all of us to stretch our legs. Today’s dog park was in Iowa City, and it was 100% awesome. Acres of space, water stations and many other dogs to interact with. Bruno being Bruno, his interaction is usually limited to a quick greeting and an even quicker return to the frisbee retrieval game.   We finished the day’s drive just west of Des Moines, Iowa with a grand total of 728km of driving. A fantastic day of driving a nearly 30 year old van with no air conditioning. This being another quick overnight only camp spot, Robin had selected another KOA. The Des Moines KOA was spotlessly clean and our electric only campsite was far from motor home central and provided us with ample space, silence (except for birds, cicadas and thunder).   Speaking of thunder, the outdoor evening relaxation ended with us getting a very sleepy Bruno inside from the rain. Once inside, he quickly claimed his space.   Next, Nebraska!