2019  HIKING, ULTRA-WALKING,

& RV TRAVEL ADVENTURES

Superstition Mountains at sunset, from Lost Dutchman State Park in Arizona

 

   
 
Runtrails' Web Journal
 
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   INTRODUCTION TO OUR WEBSITE  
 & OUR LITTLE FAMILY OF FOUR

TUESDAY, JANUARY 1

 
"Don't live the same year 75 times and call it a life."  
~ Kat, AKA The Wandering Bird
 
 
Wow! This is the fifteenth year I've been writing this web journal to chronicle our ultra running, hiking, cycling, and RV travel adventures.

As you'll soon see -- if this is the first time you've ever read any of this website -- no one can accuse us of living the same year twice, let alone 15 or 75 times. We call it being adventurous and flexible.

Before I explain what I mean, let me tell you why I chose the Superstition Mountains as this year's theme photo at the top of every page. That was the impressive view for a whole week from our el primo campsite in the shadow of the mountain range at Lost Dutchman State Park near Apache Junction, Arizona in mid-December:

It wasn't quite as mesmerizing as camping in the shadow of Mt. Massive in Leadville, CO or Pike's Peak in Colorado Springs, but this was our first time at Lost Dutchman and we really enjoyed it. We like to combine destinations that are both familiar and new to us on our RV trips.

OK, back to this website. Half or more of our annual journals are complete but some are not. Since we aren't traveling around as much now, it is my goal to fill in the gaps that go back to 2009. The photos and most of my journal notes are on my computer. I just need to edit what's missing and upload it to the internet.

"Just." Ha! It often takes me longer to finish an entry about a long hike or -- years ago -- a 100-mile trail race than it took to actually do the hike or run! That's mostly because I write too much and take too many pictures.

Hey, it's a hobby and I enjoy doing it at my own pace. If you don't want to read so much, just scroll through the pictures.

OUR MORPHING LIFESTYLE IN RETIREMENT

The original impetus for starting this online journal was our pending 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail Adventure Run/Hike from Georgia to Maine back in 2005. We had already begun extensive RV travel after Jim retired in early 2004 but I've never gone back to create a web journal for that year.


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

We got so much positive feedback from readers around the world who enjoyed the AT adventure, information, and photos that I just continued presenting an online journal each year since then.

For the next few years I focused primarily on writing about the ultra-distance foot races we both ran, our training runs in beautiful places, and our RV travels all over the U.S. and Canada. We were often gone from our house in Virginia for several months in the spring-summer-early fall to cooler places, then back out again in the winter to warmer places.

We tried to time our destinations so temperatures would be moderate -- not too hot and not too cold -- or what I dubbed the "Dandelion Time Warp" because it seemed like dandelions were often in bloom wherever we went.


View of Denali from the park road in Denali National Park (August, 2012)

After neither of us could run any more due to knee issues, we mostly stopped attending ultra-distance running events in 2011. This website adapted to our new reality, with a focus more on our extended RV travels, hiking, and cycling -- still in beautiful places all over North America.

We enjoyed traveling so much that we sold our house in Virginia in 2014 and lived/traveled full time in our spacious RV. We weren't homeless, just house-free.

The next three years we lived and traveled full-time in our comfortable 36-foot 5th-wheel coach, a 2010 Carriage Cameo, pulled by our 2008 Dodge Ram 2500 diesel pick-up truck and accompanied by our 2002 Honda Odyssey minivan. We left the Odyssey in the Lower 48, however, when we went to the Canadian Maritimes and for our second summer in Alaska.


A scene from colorful Lunenberg, Nova Scotia  (Aug. 20, 2014)


Cody (L) and Casey sit with Jim high above the ocean
on a trail in Nova Scotia (August, 2014)


Riding our bikes in Haines, Alaska, while Jim was training
for the Fireweed 100-mile bike race in June, 2015.


Spectacular Harding Icefield high up a trail along Exit Glacier 
in Kenai Fjords National Park near Seward, Alaska.  (August, 2015)

After 16 years, we finally replaced the Odyssey in 2018 with a Toyota Highlander SUV. I like its new safety features but miss the space and versatility of the minivan, which served us very well for so long.

Even though we had to drive separately while moving from one place to another during the three years we were full-time RVing -- and seek campsites large enough for all three vehicles -- it made more sense than storing the Odyssey for so long and it came in very handy at our destinations.

You can see all three vehicles in the next photo:

  
We enjoyed this large, inexpensive site at the Horsethief BLM campground high
on a mesa above Moab, UT near Canyonlands National Park in April, 2016.

During this period of time we visited some new places and began staying longer in our favorite areas so we didn't have to drive as much.

We also chose more campgrounds and RV parks with partial or full hookups and did less and less dry camping AKA boondocking as we got older.

Although we enjoyed being house-free for most of that time, our lifestyle morphed yet again with our decision in 2017 to buy another house, this time in Peachtree City, Georgia, and suspend our RV travel for an unknown period of time.


Our last extended RV site was this beautiful one on Lake D at
Kings Bay Sub Base near St. Marys, GA during the winter of 2016-7.  

I explained most of the reasons in this entry. It wasn't so much a matter of been there, done that. Although we were repeating some of our favorite destinations, we always added some new ones each year to keep things interesting.

The main problem was that after the U.S. economy recovered sufficiently from the Great Recession, so many other people were buying RVs and doing the same thing that it became too much of a hassle to find decent, uncrowded campsites when and where we wanted to go.

The thrill was gone when we no longer had the spontaneity we enjoyed in our first decade of extended travel. We entered a new era of being home-bodies again and became more involved in our new community.

 
Cody in front of our current house  (8-14-18)

Iconic Lake Peachtree (above) is full again, after being drained for over a year 
to build a modern piano-key spillway (below) at the lower end of the lake.  


The Cameo stayed in "dry dock" at Fort Benning in south Georgia for about 19 months before we took it out again for a few days to a foot race in Alabama last October. That served as a good shake down for our current two-month winter trip to the desert Southwest.

The 2018 journal chronicled the first month of that trip and several fixed-time ultra-distance races Jim walked, the first competitive running events he had done in seven years. He was able to complete 100 miles or more -- just walking -- in the three 48- to 70-hour events:


Jim walked 106 miles at A Race for the Ages (ARFTA) in TN early September, 2018.


Jim looks happy on Day 1 at The Endless Mile event in AL; he walked 100 miles in 46+ hours.

Above and below:  Jim walked 100 miles at Across the Years (ATY) in just 43+ hours!

That was a great way to celebrate his turning 70 in 2018!

I know he'll soon be planning more 100-milers for 2019, although right now he's too tired to even think about it -- his most recent 100-miler was at the Across the Years (ATY) 48-hour event in Phoenix this past weekend. He'll probably resume riding his mountain bike more, too.

Jim thinks I should consider ATY and/or other 24-hour events in 2019 after I turn 70 in a few months but I'm just not interested any more. I spent thirty years training for races from age 30 to 60. For the past nine years I've really enjoyed more leisurely hikes and walks, long enough to keep me fit and transport myself to quiet or scenic places.


One of my favorite hikes anywhere is up to Eielson Ridge in Denali National Park, Alaska, 
with majestic Denali Peak, North America's highest mountain, in the background. (July, 2015)

I also enjoy riding my cyclo-cross bike. I don't want to race with it, either. We'll see. Maybe someday I'll get competitive again.

DOG TALES

Our Labrador retrievers are an important part of our lives. We're pretty much inseparable from them and have taken them with us on all of our RV trips.

From the beginning of our website in 2005 until late November, 2018, Cody was often pictured in these journal entries. He was an athletic black Lab who accompanied us while we ran and hiked thousands of miles of trails. We got him two years before our AT Adventure Run so he could run and hike with me on the Trail as much as possible.

Over the years that dog traveled to more states and provinces than most people do in their lifetimes, from Florida to Alaska and from Nova Scotia to California.


Cody with me at the top of 14,440-foot Mt. Elbert in August, 2010;
Mt. Massive, another 14er, is in the background, right.

Unfortunately, a few months before he turned 16 Cody died. That's ancient in people years for a larger dog. We still think of him fondly and often. He was literally "the best dog I've ever had" in almost 70 years of living with dogs.

Cody got to be a role model for two little sisters in his later years. He was nine when we got Casey, our lovable yellow female who was born in 2012. Despite his advancing age, Cody was very gentle and tolerant of the little squirt as she grew from an exuberant puppy to . . . an exuberant adult dog!


Casey-pup liked to climb all over Cody. He did the same thing 
with his older sister, Tater, when he was this age, too.


Cody and Casey chasing and sharing sticks after a cold swim in Turquoise Lake near Leadville, CO

After we bought our house in Peachtree City and knew we wouldn't be traveling for a while, we decided it would be a good time to get Casey a puppy to play with before she got too old (she was almost five already). That's when another little yellow female Lab joined the family -- Holly.

The next 15 months was the first time either Jim or I had ever had three dogs at one time.

Whew! Our lives were rather chaotic for more than a year with a young puppy to train, a still-exuberant girl who needed lots of exercise, and a senior boy with doggie dementia and loss of some nerve function in his hind quarters.


Cody, Casey, and Holly in late July, 2017

Now that Holly is 19 months old and Casey is six years of age, things have calmed down quite a bit. Holly has responded well to her training and Casey has significantly matured. People always comment on how "happy" they are. Both girls enjoy playing with other dogs and both love all people.

My plan is to get one or both girls certified as therapy dogs this year or next so we can take them to schools, libraries, nursing homes, etc.

Meanwhile, they are great therapy for us! I saw a poster recently that summed it up quite nicely: All dogs are therapy dogs. The majority are just freelancing.

Like Cody, both Casey and Holly love to travel and explore new territory. They even enjoy going to the vet. They like the attention and simply getting to go somewhere, anywhere, with us.


Holly (L) and Casey wait eagerly for Jim to throw the ball for them to chase.  (Nov., 2018)

Both girls require a lot of exercise, but Jim and I are good with that -- we need lots of exercise, too!

We take them for a couple walks every day, throw balls for them to chase (Holly is as manic about that as Casey was when she was younger), do continued training to teach them new things and reinforce previous commands, take them on golf cart rides on the 100-mile network of paths in Peachtree City, let them play with other friendly dogs in doggie day care and at friends' houses, and shop with them at Home Depot and other local stores that allow dogs inside.

We used to run with our four Labs who are no longer alive but since we can't run anymore, Jim rides his bike with Casey so she can run:

Unfortunately, we didn't bring either bike with us on this trip. When we get back home Holly will be developed physically enough for Jim to teach her to run slowly alongside the bike with the Walky Dog attachment, too. She loves to run.

This year's and subsequent journals will continue to reflect the changes in our lives. They will still include travel information; hiking, cycling, ultra-distance race events, and our other recreational activities; more dog tales; gardening and house projects; lots of photos; and whatever else I decide to share with the world.

Next entry:  summary of our 2018-19 winter trip so far

Happy trails,

Sue
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Casey-Girl, and Holly-Pup

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2019 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil

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