2 Months Travelling the West and Trying to Satisfy my Wanderlust; Part I

What follows is the culmination of my travels during the spring of 2011. I put it together as I was travelling along the way.

After looking forward to this trip most of the winter while traveling for work, I am just a few days out now from rolling out on two months of traveling. I don’t have any real set itinerary other than some work related stops in Colorado and California. The plan load is to load up the Disco with camping, ski, mountain bike, climbing, and backpacking gear and enjoying a good mix of activities and seasons for that matter.:sombrero: first stop will be in Colorado for US National Alpine Championships in Winter Park followed by some ski bumming before heading west to Utah to enjoy some fat tire activities in red rock country. I will then work south and visit the north rim then, southern AZ, cross into Mexico and spend some time in Baja then back north to Cali, up the coast then crossing back through the north and ending back up in Marquette along the way.

I am a big lover of having a trip unfold a bit and evolve along the way and look forward to any suggestions folks might have and meeting up with fellow ExPo’ers along the way. I will use this thread as a way to blog about the adventures as the trip unfolds. It’s not necessarily going to be an extreme expedition by any means but it is going to be a blast and as usual, I will be sharing a lot of photo content along the way. I had about 310 days away from home last year traveling for work and play and am looking to out do that again this year!:victory: Ironically I am writing this from the airport on the way home from another month long work trip and am already counting the days to hit the road again, I know, I have a problem! Stay tuned….

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Well, got the truck up on the rack to investigate a new leak today. Seems the front seal has a slight leak but nothing major. Changed the oil, lubed it up, and also had TJ help fab me up a mounting adapter so I can do my fork mount for my mountain bike off of the back of the roof basket and hang the bike vertically. I am considering what I should bring for spares right now, visited Scott’s critical spares list for the D1. I have spare belts and a decent tool kit I travel with. Considering picking up a fuel pump along the way possibly. Truck is running great. Thanks to TJ at [url=”http://www.upautotech.com/”%5DUP Auto Tech[/url] for the help! His shop rocks and he does just about everything there includig slider and bumper fabbing. They are our official service provider for UP Overland and help out on the trips too. Can’t say enough good stuff about TJ and crew.

Next up is tuning up the mountain bike and starting the process of packing.

Another cold day! I tell you, mother nature isn’t giving me any motivation to stick around longer, sheesh. After working outside on some last minute preparations today for a couple of hours I was frozen to the bone. This is coming from a guy who stands on mountains all day for a living too. Ha ha

Well, I tuned up the mountain bike and gave it some needed loving. Managed to true the rear wheel up decently but that wheel has been nearing the end for some time now and I keep milking it a bit longer.

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Trusty but a bit crusty the Epic is dialed in after collecting dust since October. We have a finite riding season here that’s for sure. Some hardcore Pugsly riders brave the winters and ride some of the coastlines where there is less snow but most sane people strap on skis and snow shoes.

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I tried out the new bike mount setup, seems to work well, has a bit of play from the rail flexing but it is about as good as I can get it it.

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I also threw my genuine Land Rover waterproof seat covers on the front seats to save them from the inevitable wear and tear from the dust, sand, and grime on the road.

Most of the gear is sorted, just trying to make it all fit which will be a decent challenge still. Hoping to get on the road tomorrow and blast straight across to CO, 1,200 miles.

March 26th

Hitting the road! Saying adios to the frozen shores of Lake Superior….

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Its been a low key couple of days. Due to snowfall the races in Breckenridge were cancelled and since my skis aren’t here yet (on there way down from Whistler) I decided to hang out and visit friends in Lafayette enjoying the mild weather. It also gave me time to investigate some issues with the Rover, primarily a front main seal oil leak which seemed to have gotten worse on the drive out. The motor doesn’t burn any oil but I lost a half quart from the leak over the course of the drive. Not ideal. Other than that the truck is running great. Despite the admittenly large load of stuff I have with me it sat pretty level and rode well on the highway, thanks mostly to the OME heavy springs.

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Saw this cool old R71 with sidecar yesterday and had to share. Ultimate minimalist overland rig?? Regardless it oozed with coolness.

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I got out yesterday on the ‘ol nobbies to stretch the legs. First mountain bike ride of the season and it was perfect. I rode Hall Ranch near Lyons. Only saw a few other folks out there and it was a beautiful evening.

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Its a great mix of single track with some more technical sections of rocks mostly on the climb from the main trail head. Felt great to blow the cobwebs out a bit!

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Shameless self portrait.

Off to Winter Park today for national championships. Should be a fun few days and I’ll be snapping some shots to share. Back to the white stuff!

Its been a busy 4 days with the 2011 Alpine National Championships in Winter Park. The event was great as usual with good weather for the first few days then turning bad Sunday with heavy snows and high winds.

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Sunset Friday evening.

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I traded in my Rover for a Q7 for the event. It always amazes me how well these cars drive despite their size and weight. I don’t know how well it handle the rigors of my style of use though so I gave it back on Sunday.:smiley_drive:

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Julia Mancuso out of the start for the giant slalom on her way to victory. Most of the team was here for the event with the exceptions of Lindsey Vonn and Bode Miller.

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Ales putting some final touches on Laurenne’s skis at the start, our phyio, Brie watching.

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Couldn’t get enough of the cool sunsets.

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The view from the start of the giant slalom Friday.

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Yours truly putting some special sauce on Julia’s skis.

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With my three girls that I travelled with all season, Kiley, Brooke, and Julia. This marks the end of road for us till the madness starts all over again in May.

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Kiley getting ready before the start of the super g.

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Sarah Schlepper out of the start in yesterday’s slalom. She ended up taking second.

I am back down in Lafayette, CO for a couple of days now, planning on doing some work on the Rover, mountain biking the Golden and Boulder trails, and repacking a bit. I just got an invitation to a celebrity ski race fund raiser in Mammoth, CA that I am flying out for on Thursday for 4 days, then will return to Denver and resume my trip. The next stop will be Fruita, CO to ride for a few days then heading towards Moab. I am really looking forward to the next 4 weeks of travel. Can’t wait to get the Rover dirty and spend some time in the red rock country. :victory:

A little update while killing a long layover in San Fransisco. Took the Disco to my buddy Rob’s shop up in Evergreen, MIT Automotive http://http://www.mitautomotive.com/ and he confirmed my suspicions of some failed bushings. Mainly the driver side control arm. He also suggested switching from 5w-30 to a valvoline blend in a 10w-40 to help curb some of my oil leaking from the front main seal. He thought it may even cure it. So, upon return from CA Tuesday I will have him press in some new bushings and be on my way west. I learned that the driver side control arm bushings tend to wear more than the passenger side due to the way the motor torques. Interesting. This also explains the slight pull I was feeling upon hard braking. Looking forward to getting the suspension back and buttoned up again before the heavy offroad useage it will be seeing the next two months.

Till then I will be sampling some of the white goodness at Mammoth and partaking in a head to head giant slalom as well as a biathlon this weekend. Should be entertaining. Haha I will share some pics from the event.

Its been a great past couple of weeks. It is quickly becoming evident that this trip has evolved more from being a mission for hedonistic adventures to that of one of a more social theme. Connecting with old friends, meeting new ones and getting out of my comfort zone. This trip itself has really been planned as a release for me to get out and reset my guages a bit after a really tough past year going through a divorce and a really dramatic couple of ups and downs. Call it sould searching, call it random wanderings, whatever it is, it feels good.

After wrapping up my competition season at the national championships I spent a couple of days mountain biking the trails around Golden before hopping a plane for Mammoth Mountain, CA for a three day fund raising ski event to which I was invited along with some other staff and athletes from the US Ski Team. Let me just say, it was an AMAZING time. I don’t normally get to hang with the high rollers like that and the food, the entertainment, and just the general fun nature of the events was epic.

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killing time on a layover in San Fran

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One of the events of the weekend was a biathlon, I was cheering/trash talking one of my athletes Kiley in her heat. Despite some wicked weather blowing in, it was a blast and despite my lack of nordic skiing skills managed to win my heat.

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Our first two days in Mammoth were great pow pow days. Temps in the low teens made for CO-like dry champaign powder which was a nice suprise for the Sierras. Looking back up chair 21.

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Few things in the world compare to tracking up some fresh with friends.

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View of the Minarets

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We were assigned to 4 person teams in which we competed. This is Stacey Cook’s team taking advantage of the new snow to play a bit.

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Some of the US Ski Team girls at the banquet.

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To give you a feel of how much snow Mammoth has, this building at the base had a snow cat clear the snow out from the front, if you see the snow level in the background it practically touches the second floor roof! And this is on the slope where the snow cats pack it down too. Yeah, lots of snow.

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Shot of the ski team guys and gals with the kids.

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It was a great time, met some amazing folks, got an invite to ski with Arnold Schwarzenegger later in the month and came away with some great memories. Back to Denver and my home on wheels!

Ok, so the past two weeks have been a wirlwind! I am just trying to get caught up on this so here it goes…

So, after a late flight back to Denver I got up bright and early to repack the rig and head up to Evergreen to get the driver side front control arm bushings replaced by Rob at MIT. He made short work of it, maybe 20 minutes and had my rolling home ready to go. He knew I was anxious to get on the road and head to Fruita.

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Rob’s shop, always with a bunch of cool stuff parked around. That’s one of No Limit’s Defenders in the background. So, I hit the freeway and blasted across the mountains to leave the snow behind. After living on snow since October I was ready to embrace the warm weather for a bit.

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I connected with a friend for a bit that evening in Grand Junction and by the time I rolled out into the BLM land north of Fruita it was late. I crawled into the back and slept, to tired to setup the RTT.

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This morning was symbolic of a new dawn for my trip. I am now living out of my rig and travelling till a short work stint in California that starts on May 5th.

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Anxious to get back on my bike, the first order of business was the trails off of 18 road. Pictured here is Zippity Do Dah. If you don’t have an ear to ear grin ripping down this thing, then you seriously need to reevaluate your life. Perfect weather, perfect trails, it was one of those days that made it hard NOT to scream and hoot at the top of your lungs.

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Late evening light from camp made for some great picture taking. The great thing about the north Fruita trail complex is that there is a nice free camp ground that stretches along the center of the trail system. Normally I am one to basecamp out in dispersed areas and I tend to avoid campgrounds like the plague. But with the great location of this, the fact that it was free, and also that there were just a bunch of cool, like minded bike folks there, it was a cool environment to setup in. I ended up setting the rig up for 4 days there and never moved. Awesome.

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Last light over the casa.

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Did I mention how great the basecamping at the 18 Road trails is??

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A freind/former athlete Chelsea met up to ride for a few days, also did a bunch of riding with Paul from Boulder who was camped next to me.

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The flowers were really coming on strong

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Chelsea and I off of trails along the Kokopelli Trail complex with the Colorado River in the background. More amazing singletrack to be sampled!

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Along a section of Mary’s Loop, weather doesn’t get much more perfect.

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Taking a break

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Exploring a little slot canyon

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I feel like the top tube really says it all…..

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The great thing about having a month with no agenda, plans or places to be….. makes you feel like a kid again.

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Last supper in Fruita, great spread.

After a last morning ride, a bit of a siesta and saying so long, I packed up camp and headed for Moab. It was getting late in the day already due to a quick pizza stop at the Flaming Tomato in Fruita on the way out.

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For me, the drive into Moab from the East is always a welcoming sight, winding along the Colorado River and letting the eyes devour the candy that is canyon country. The full moon rise over the buttes and mesas was just icing on the cake… unfortunately the iphone has its limits and low light, captures of the moon are one of them….

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Keeping my intense week of mountain biking alive, the first order of business in the AM was riding Porcupine Rim, a Moab classic by any measure. Felt good seeing my favorite view of Castle Valley. 6 days of riding, mostly double sessions was taking its toll though, specially the ‘ol arse!

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Timing worked out perfect as my coworker Trevor was in town for a couple of days to ride.

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View from the top of the overlook where we started the Kokopelli Trail down to Porcupine Rim, also one of my favorite camp spots in the area.

I met up with my friends from AEV who had just arrived in town and so began a fun week of riding in some of AEV’s rigs and catching up with friends…. Pics to follow.

Ok, time now to shift gears a bit. The plan for the next four days was to connect with my friends from AEV and spend some time in and around the rigs as well as touring some of my favorite backcountry. I should state from the beginning that I am not brand loyal to anything specifically but tend to love a variety of offerings from a variety of companies. I have been a Cruiser guy for a long time and love them, recently have gotten annointed with the Rover scene and love, but there is no arguing just how good the latest Wrangler offerings have come and especially now with the 5 door Rubicon. The only reason I am not running an AEV kitted JK is purely funding. :sombrero: Having four days to ride along in and see these things in action was great. On top of that, the AEV guys are about as good of folks as you will find in the industry and I always have a blast just hanging out with them.

The first night at the AEV compound was a BBQ for the AEV, Mopar, and Jeep staff who all attended. We also had some journalists in attendance, representing Autoweek, Robb Report, Four Wheel Drive, and Scott of course with OJ. It was pretty cool having a bunch of the one-off show Jeeps show up in the driveway…

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Pictured here is the Lower Forty, behind it Pork Chop.

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I have yet to find anyone who doesn’t love the Nukizer in some way shape or form. VM diesel powered and something that really shows the public’s interest in a pickup offering from Jeep.

We had a great meal thanks to Dave Harriton’s partner in AEV Chet who whipped up some great BBQ, and my other good friend from MI Cammie, who is an amazing chef in her own right who assisted with some offerings. The following morning was the AEV trail ride with AEV staff and customers’ rigs on Steel Bender. It was a long day with pretty slow travel since we had 17 rigs on the trail. I rode along with Kent from AEV in his brand spanking new white JK which two days prior had been finished off with the full gamut of AEV kit. For those who haven’t ridden in a 2011 Wrangler with the new interior, let me just say.. WOW, what an improvement in fit and finish and vault like ride that made me appreciate just how far the Wrangler platform has come.

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Dave Harriton piloting the VM diesel powered two door that was getting so much attention there that week. What a sweet rig.

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Who doesn’t love the Brute?? This is the rig from the Dangerous Drives episode.

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Nemo’s JK rocking the Habitat prototype number 2 was in attendance. Great finally getting to meet Mario!

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During the lunch break on the trail Mario popped open the Habitat and let us all crawl around in it and check it out. It really is a slick setup, able to sleep four people. WOW. Let’s just go ahead and add it onto the list of things I need with my new AEV Jeep (……someday).

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Dave Yeagi making everything look simple in the Savegre.

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Kent’s new rig getting a proper break in on the trail. Not even as much as a squeak or rattle after a long day on the trail.

I knew the technical abilities and performance of the AEV rigs would be impressive but what I dug the most was the balance of performance, comfort, and ride quality they displayed on and offroad. Practically anyone can slap together a pretty capable rig these days for off pavement duties but at the cost of marginal to lousy onroad ride and performance. For overlanding duty I am finding more and more an aversion to onroad comfort and drivability compromises. These rigs handle so well, and are so well engineered and tested that they actually make for comfortable daily drivers or better yet, a rig to travel with. After all, what’s the point of an uber capable rig that can tackle any obstacle…… except driving on the interstate? Seems ironic no? Well, hats off to Dave and crew for making the effort for this stuff to work so well for everything.

The plan for the next day was to show Cammie around Canyonlands a bit. We borrowed one of AEV’s Cummins Dodges and cruised out on the Potash Rd into Canyonlands. Another gorgeous day that lent to some more great photo opps…

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What a blast.

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We drove out onto the White Rim Trail to Mussleman’s Arch

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Then up Schafer Trail to Island in the Sky. Always an incredible drive.

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Categories: Bike touring, camping, Discovery, Land Rover, Mountain Biking, Overlanding, Skiing, US Ski Team | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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