2016  HIKING, CYCLING,

& RV TRAVEL ADVENTURES

Thunder Mountain Trail, Red Canyon, UT

 

   
 
Runtrails' Web Journal
 
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   INTRODUCTION TO OUR WEBSITE
 & TENTATIVE 2016 RV TRAVEL PLANS

FRIDAY, JANUARY 1

 
"To people who live in one place and seldom travel, the view out their window is much the  
same every day. Seasons change, the weather changes, but the scene remains mostly constant.
 
RVers and other travelers who move often from place to place thrive on the change 
in scenery, waking up one day in one place and then the next day in another. For avid  
travelers, a change of view is necessary and addictive. For many RVers, 'today' may 
not be as important as the anticipation of 'tomorrow' and the surprises it brings."
 
~ Cbuck Woodbury, editor of the online RV Travel Newsletter, 11-14-15
 
 
Ever since Jim retired twelve years ago we have been RV nomads, wandering all over North America in a comfortable 5th-wheel coach pulled by an aging diesel pick-up truck.

We have a serious case of wanderlust. There are so many fabulous places to see in the U.S. and Canada and, now in our mid-60s, we aren't getting any younger. We want to see and do as much as we can before we can no longer enjoy this lifestyle.


It's a moderately difficult 3-mile hike to iconic Delicate Arch in Arches NP but
definitely worth the effort! This is the arch depicted on Utah's license tags. (4-18-16)

When we started our new life of freedom from work schedules we didn't know that more than a million people live and travel in their RVs full-time, with no sticks-n-bricks abode somewhere.

Ironically, we sold our house in Montana in the middle of the winter and lived in a 32-foot HitchHiker fifth-wheel trailer for several months and didn't even know we were full-time RVing. We knew we wanted to travel a lot but our focus -- and mistake -- was on finding a new, warmer home base from which to make forays across the continent.

We thought we found the best of both worlds in 2004 for our dream retirement -- a spacious house on twelve acres of forested land in the scenic Roanoke, VA area + the freedom to travel as much as we wanted.


Big house, little house

What we underestimated was how much wanderlust we had. In retrospect, we never should have bought the place.

We were gone two, three, then four and sometimes five months at a time, usually out West, returning to Virginia in the spring and fall to take care of business there. Our dream retirement property became a burden -- more work, worry, and $$$ than retreat.

By the time we realized how many people live and travel full time in their RVs the housing market crashed and we didn't think it was cost-effective to sell our property. During our lives houses had always been an investment, not a liability like they became during the Great Recession. We waited it out and finally sold our house (at a loss, all told) in mid-2014.

We have been full-time RVers since then and we love the freedom. We aren't "homeless." We are simply "house-free." Home is wherever our camper is parked.


Winding Roads cartoon by Joe Schmidt (7-5-14)

In the next entry I'll explain how our RV lifestyle has morphed over the last twelve years.

Right now I'll focus on the development and content of this website -- the activities we enjoy, the types of articles and photos you can expect -- and our tentative travel plans for 2016. 

TWELVE YEARS AND COUNTING . . .

I can't believe this is the twelfth year we've been publishing our website!

We started it in 2005 when we did the Appalachian Trail Adventure Run-Hike. Keeping the web journal was so much fun, and we had such a great response, that we just kept it going each year.

 
Celebrating the finish at Mt. Katahdin in Maine  (9-24-05)

I (Sue) do almost all the writing and photography. Jim is the computer guru who set up the website and maintains the bones of it. Occasionally I can get him to take a few photos or post an entry about camper modifications he's done, a race he rode, or some other type of entry like the humorous piece recently about Casey, but it's mostly my hobby.

And since it's just a hobby, not a job, and we stay busy exploring our fascinating world, I often get behind on uploading new entries -- seriously behind. Right now, spring of 2016, I'm still working on entries from July to December of last year.

I date entries in chronological order on the topics pages but they are often uploaded to the internet months later. For example, I'm writing this introduction in late April on an unusual rainy day in Moab, UT, the first real rain Jim and I have seen in several months. That's why there are some photos from the first part of 2016 in this entry.


Sue at the Fire Wave rock formation, Valley of Fire SP in Nevada  (4-6-16)

I get behind primarily because I take too many pictures; they literally take more time to edit than shoot. I'm still using PhotoShop 2 (yes, TWO) to edit photos on my laptop computer. One day it's gonna crash and I'll have to learn a new program, which will put me even more behind on the website.

Most of the photos on this website during 2015-16 were taken with a 20.4-megapixel Sony Cybershot DSC-HX400 digital "bridge" camera with a fixed lens, 50x optical zoom, and 50x digital zoom. I most often use automatic settings when taking pictures (part of trying to keep my life more simple) and do any necessary editing on my laptop -- cropping, lightening, resizing, etc.

We also occasionally take photos with an older compact 16-megapixel Sony digital camera or our new 16-megapixel Samsung Galaxy Note 4 smart phones. (We had simple little flip phones until November, 2015).


Our new phones take wide-angle photos like this one from the S. Laguna Conservation Area
along the Colorado River in far southwestern Arizona.  Castle Dome is in the distance.  (12-21-15)

I do maintain a daily journal on my computer so I can go back and use parts of it in website entries. My memory isn't good enough to start from scratch on the text every time.

The best way to keep up with our location and activities is to look at the current year's journal topics page. Even though there may be no links to click, at least you can see where we are. I'll get to the actual entries if and when I have time . . .

 
Young male bighorn sheep perched precariously above me on the
awesome Observation Point Trail at Zion National Park  (4-14-16)

As mentioned, we began the website to chronicle our A.T. Adventure Run-Hike. Subsequent years focused on our ultra-distance running races, trail runs, and RV travels. You can read all about it, or just look at the pictures, in the previous eleven web journals.

For the last few years neither of us has been able to run because of knee problems and we no longer attend foot races. We still keep in contact with some of our running friends and I read the ultra running internet forum regularly.

We miss running after 30+ great years of training and competing but we have adapted with new sports interests so we can stay fit and happy. We will continue to be endurance athletes as long as we can.


Jim at the end of the grueling Leadville Trail 100-mile bike race at high altitude
in Colorado, where he took a nasty fall at about 90 miles but kept on going. (8-10-13)

Jim has morphed into endurance cycling on his Specialized Stump Jumper 29er mountain bike. He enjoys doing long rides on his own, like the 108-mile Michelson Trail in South Dakota, and participating in occasional gravel grinders, road races, and long trail events like the popular high altitude Leadville Trail 100-miler in the Colorado Rockies and the Fireweed 400 in Alaska.

He also does some hiking but cycling is kinder to the knee he hurt in a bike accident several years ago. Surgery didn't help much.

Despite severe osteoarthritis in both knees I can still hike all day -- it just takes longer to cover the miles than when I could run. My favorite trails are in mountains where I can climb above treeline and get panoramic views of the scenery in all directions:


The incredible views from Mt. Ripinsky above Haines, Alaska made the
gnarly climb to the summit well worth the effort to me.  (June, 2015)

I also do some cycling on my Specialized Tri-Cross, a cyclocross bike that can negotiate a variety of terrain. I left my Terry road bike in storage when we sold the house. Jim would like a road bike, too, but it's all we can manage to haul two bikes with us around the country, not three or four of them.

[Sad addendum:  My bike was stolen out of our minivan on April 2 while I was hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in southern California. I was parked at the trailhead at Walker Pass west of Ridgecrest. The thieves smashed the window in the passenger sliding door to get to the bike, which was inside the car. They took a few other items that can be replaced easier than that bike. Although it was seven years old, it was still in good shape. The Tricross models are no longer made; the Specialized CruX series is the closest replacement. I'm happy with the new CruX I got because it's lighter and has hydraulic brakes. We are pleased that our renters' insurance mostly covered the value of the items stolen, as well as the window replacement.]


This is how I found my car at the trailhead when thieves smashed
the window on the sliding door and stole my bike.  (4-2-16)

Other than deteriorating rotator cuffs in our shoulders and osteo-arthritis in most of our joints, we're in good health for our age. We thank genetics, an active lifestyle, and good choices for that.

We joke that between the two of us we have only one good knee. We're probably looking at three knee replacements eventually, when a combination of cortisone and Orthovisc or similar gel-type injections no longer provide the cushioning and pain relief we need to function the way we want.

OUR ATHLETIC FUR-KIDS

We share our lives with two Labrador retrievers that love this lifestyle as much as we do. They are always eager to head out the door for a ride, run, hike, swim, or other adventure. They have adapted well to day-long drives to new campgrounds and living in a tiny house.

They are happy to be with us, no matter where we are or what we're doing. No wonder Labs have been the number one dog breed in the U.S. for the last 25 years!


Cody and Casey can snooze for hours on the back seat of the truck or in the van 
when we're driving; the vibration lulls them to sleep.  (June, 2015)

Cody, our shiny black Lab, was 13 in March. He's been with us since before we began this website. Although he's aging he has the same sense of adventure that he's had all his life -- just like Jim and me!

All three of us have had to modify our activities as we've gotten older, but we still love an active life. Cody's still able to hike for a couple hours at a time with me.

At three years of age, Casey, a cuddly little yellow Lab, still has a puppy brain. She's an exuberant little girl who's full of life, love, and energy. Almost everyone who sees her comments on how "happy" she is -- her tail wags her whole body when she sees another dog or person and she thinks everyone wants to be licked.


The essence of happiness:  Jim runs Casey on his bike.  (July, 2015)

It's hard for me to wear Casey out just hiking, even for several hours, so Jim plays ball with her at least once a day with a Super Chuck-It to launch tennis balls for her to chase -- seemingly endlessly. She's very fast and cunning and usually beats other dogs at dog parks to the ball.

Jim also runs her slowly on his bike about five miles a day with a handy gadget called a "Walky Dog," shown in the picture above.  

CURRENT FOCUS OF OUR WEBSITE

What kinds of journal topics can you expect on the website this year?

  • Our outdoor activities -- mostly hiking and cycling, plus occasional kayaking and whatever new sports we might try
  • Lots of scenic pictures of places where we travel
  • Points of interest like historical sites and various types of museums

 
Jim examines Native American petroglyphs at Valley of Fire SP, Nevada  (4-9-16)

  • Nature photos -- geology, flora, and fauna, including wild critters (from birds and butterflies to moose and bears)
  • RV-related topics like travel routes, campground reviews, modifications Jim has made to our Cameo, full-timer RV issues, etc.

We prefer wilderness to cities, peace and quiet to a lot of people or activity around us. We usually shun large events.


Flowering yucca and rounded rocks at Joshua Tree NP   (3-22-16)


Iconic multi-armed Joshua trees along a trail at Joshua Tree NP  (3-25-16)

We don't eat out much but when we find a bakery or restaurant we like, I'll mention it. We don't enjoy browsing in shops along the way. When you live full-time in an RV, you simply don't have room for extraneous "stuff." We have learned to live very simply, without all the "stuff" we used to think we needed.

I try to avoid controversial topics on this website. We have our well-considered opinions and standards, of course, but I don't want to alienate readers with personal views. Sometimes I slip up, however, and you may be able to guess our political or other opinions.

 
View of Denali from a fireweed-strewn trail across from the Eielson Visitor Center in 
Denali NP, Alaska; many visitors never get to see the mountain because of clouds. (7-21-15)


This is my favorite photo of Denali; I took it in August, 2012, after the taiga began turning red.

I don't write about all of our activities and I rarely mention other people, including our relatives, in my journal entries because I respect their privacy. There is so little of that on the internet these days.

We do not use any type of social media besides this website, e-mail, and internet forums. We aren't on Facebook, e.g., and we rarely read the postings of friends or family members there or on Twitter. We just don't have the time or internet capacity.

I do occasionally mention the first names of running, hiking, cycling, or RV friends when relevant and I sometimes include links to personal websites I like.

TENTATIVE 2016 TRAVEL PLANS

We arrived at Yuma Proving Ground (YPG), where the U.S. Army has tons of space to test its equipment, arsenal, and troops, on October 25 and stayed until March 20, the longest we've camped in any one spot.

The price was right and the location in far southwestern Arizona proved ideal this winter for some of the best weather in the country.


Rabbitbrush provided bright color in the low desert at the S. Laguna
Conservation Area near YPG from fall to spring. (2-19-16)

Before inertia set in and the temperatures rose too high, we moved to three other military installations in southern California and Nevada for a week each to explore some new territory:

  • Twilight Dunes RV Park at 29 Palms, CA, a large Marine base near Joshua Tree National Park
  • Sierra Vista RV Park at China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station, with access to Death Valley National Park and the Pacific Crest Trail
  • Desert Eagle RV Park at Nellis AFB in north Las Vegas, NV near Red Rock Canyon, Valley of Fire State Park, and Lake Mead


The Watchman watches over Zion Canyon RV Park in Springdale, UT; that's
our camper in the foreground, surrounded by several flowering trees. (4-16-16)

We spent an enjoyable week in a private campground just outside Zion National Park, then moved to the Moab area farther east in Utah so we could visit Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. This was our first time in Moab -- we soon discovered why it's such a popular vacation spot for active outdoors folks and adventure-seekers!

After three nights in a nice but pricey campground in town we found a spacious, inexpensive BLM campground high on the mesa near Canyonlands and moved up there for eleven days. We had fun exploring numerous trails and roads on thousands of acres of public land.


Jim rode his bike down the perilous Shafer Trail, above, a 4WD road in Canyonlands NP
that switchbacks over 1,600 ft. to the White Rim Mesa above the Colorado River, then another
1,500-foot drop through more canyons on rough Potash Rd. (below).  He loved it!  (4-22-16)

Meanwhile, we cancelled reservations for late April and May at Monticello, UT and Dolores River, CO when we decided to stay longer in the Moab area and spend the month of May in Red Canyon, UT instead of Colorado.

We'll be going "backwards" to get to Red Canyon but we had such a good time there last fall that we wanted to return. We can explore more of southeastern UT and southwestern CO in the fall or another year.

We'll probably spend most of the summer in Colorado Springs and Leadville, CO but our plans could change at any time for any reason! We have medical considerations (possible surgery on one of Jim's hands, more knee injections in August), as well as hiking and cycling adventures.


One of my favorite hikes in the Leadville, CO area is to Timberline Lake.  (6-26-13)

Current plans are to spend next fall and winter out West again. I'd like to return to Kings Bay Sub Base in southeastern Georgia but the entire southeastern part of the country has had such volatile weather in recent months that we hesitate to go back. We had much better weather when we were there the three previous winters. 

What will next year be like, we wonder? High winds, tornadoes, and flooding aren't any fun in a stick-built house. They can be downright deadly in an RV.

So Plan A is to spend autumn in Colorado and Utah, then head back to Yuma Proving Ground again. Even though we got tired of mostly-brown desert down there -- not nearly as interesting as high desert areas -- last winter's warm, dry weather can't be beat.

Plan B is to return to the Southeast for the winter. Our tentative plans often change, so check back periodically on the 2016 topics page to see where we are at any given time.

LIVING THE LIFE OF RILEY?

Not exactly, although we have many blissful days.

This lifestyle is not without its own set of stresses --constant trip planning, traffic en route from place to place, weather issues, vehicle problems, etc. -- but it's so much better not having to worry about our house and property any more.


Following the Cameo from China Lake, CA to Nellis AFB, NV on I-15; pronounce that road! 

Living in a rolling residence AKA "tiny house" with so much less stuff is incredibly liberating, not to mention 'way less expensive than maintaining a house, condo, or apartment somewhere while we're satisfying our craving for wanderlust.

How much longer will we live and travel like rolling stones?

Who knows? Something like a serious medical problem or complicated surgery (new knees!) might force us off the road for a while, or even permanently. Or we might simply get tired of it. People who know us know that we frequently change our minds about our travel and other plans.


Canyonlands NP:  almost as spectacular as the Grand Canyon but without the crowds.
We liked the Moab, UT area so much we decided to stay a week longer.  (4-19-16)

That's why readers need to take the section about our tentative 2016 travel plans with a grain of salt. We're as likely to change our long-term plans as our short-term ones. We aren't so much fickle as flexible. That's one of the benefits of full-time RVing.

Or, as my brother jokes when he calls and discovers we're somewhere different than he thought, "You can do that!"

Next entrythe evolution of our RV lifestyle -- how and why it's morphed over the years and the type of camping ("glamping?") we prefer now

Happy trails,

Sue
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody the ultra Lab, and Casey-pup

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2016 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil

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