Colorado wedding

We’ve been invited to Liz and Ted’s wedding in Colorado’s Roaring Fork Valley, so we’re off on our road trip, stopping after 6 hours in Bluff, Utah to break up the trip. Good time to be heading north as Phoenix temperatures continued to rise, canceling flights at Sky Harbor

As you head toward the Four Corners region in the Notheast part of Arizona, you enter Navajo and Hopi lands.  The highway engineers didn’t need much imagination here near Kayanta… we’re atop a ten mile wide mesa, absolutely flat.

Yet, there are odd formations sticking out of the landscape…

like Elephants feet.

If you’re a Tony Hillerman fan and read his series of murder mysteries tackled by tribal police, we’re in his back yard… Mexican Hat, Shiprock, Chinle.

Bluff is a tiny town just across the San Juan river, where we spied a nice-looking place last summer on our way to Michigan.  What a find! It’s always a bit of an adventure trying new places, especially when the next closest is a converted saloon 40 miles away.  Here’s the view from our room and a few more of the grounds

October – Mexico

Bruce, Susan, Patti and I traveled down to Puerto Penasco and stopped for an early dinner at Chicken Shack before reaching Casa Caracol. The weather is beautiful, and we’ll definitely be in the water, no wet suits this trip!

The next day, after a day on the beach, snorkling with the fish, and walking the shore, we met Julie and Larry to celebrate in town at their suggested Tekila Bar.  

We arrived just before Halloween, and given their Dia de los Muertos tradtions, the Mexicans have the face painting down pat – lots of walking skeletons. It was a night of tacos, beer, great conversation and a good local band, followed by a mandatory trip to the Thrifty Ice Cream store for a treat.

After watching some Saturday football we decided a snorkeling trip was in order, so Patti and I took out the two man kayak at high tide to see what we’d find. First order of business was to check out a dolphin swimming lazily in shallow water, about three houses down the beach.

As we approached, it didn’t look right… dolphins don’t make that sort of wave, and it was too slow.  As we circled about 5 yards away I thought some creature was caught in a net, something with a wide undefined front, like a manta ray… a little bow wave rippling out as it moved along.  Patti, sitting in front, was more definite… with better eyesight she knew it was something altogether different… a shark?… SOMETHING.  NO need to get closer, and no WAY were we snorkeling.  Time for shore!

Back in to get Bruce, then he and I paddled back out for a closer look… huge horizontal mouth, skimming the water surface, bigger than the boat, definitely not a dolphin, and no net entanglement… simply swimming lazily, making slow turns and combing through the water.  Up close, a shark for sure, with a softly rounded dorsal and triangular tail tip, the whole of it covered with spectacular white circles on its topside.

A panga came alongside with two men who had travelled the shoreline looking for banana boat customers, and confirmed it was a shark… a tiburon ballena…. Whale Shark.

credit: Maldives Learning Center

Massive head, flat and broad… no snout whatsoever.  As it sucked in water, its mouth looked like a vacuum cleaner, as wide as our kayak.  All told, we spent over an hour watching it feed, back paddling out of its path, having it pass under the boat, and touching the tip of its tail on our bow.  Big enough and powerful enough to flip us, the shark took mild interest in the bright yellow kayak, turning several times to head straight for us, moving no faster than a casual canoe.

We had no cameras with us (next time!), and had to wait for shore to call CEDO, the oceanographic station in the Gulf, and spend some time on Google.  What a delight to see this fish in its native habitat, feeding in warm shallow water, undisturbed by us.

The view of this creature surfacing and approaching the kayak with slurping sounds and soft turns, is a memory that will stick with me.  What grace in the water, and a treat to have encountered today.

All is right in the world… Michigan won their football game, we encounter a Whale Shark, watch a great sunset and dine at Casa del Capitan!

Oh… yeah… ouch… the Cubs go down tonight, the series dropping to 1-3.  Come on Cubs, we’re rooting for you!

Oregon’s Air and Space Museum

Today finds us in Hillsboro on a long weekend visit to Ed & Christine and their three girls.

Leaves are changing here and the Pacific Northwest rainforest is keeping everything else wet and green.

We’re on our way to the Evergreen Air and Space Museum, about an hour’s drive out of Portland through little farming communities dotted with wineries, farm-to-table restaurants and coffee shops.

McMinnville was home to Evergreen International Aviation, a worldwide freight and shipping firm founded by Del Smith in the 1960s.  Over the decades they flew all shapes and sizes of cargo jets, including 747s, and their love of all things aviation shows through in the air and space collection they have assembled here in the Oregon countryside.

Yes, that’s a real 747 they popped onto the top of one of the four buildings on their campus.  This one they converted into a giant water slide, so you can bring your swimsuits to this museum and spend rhe afternoon in their Waterpark.

Four huge buildings house the best range of aircraft and space technology I’ve ever seen.  

WWI, WWII, early jets, modern fighters, a Titan II ICBM, lunar lander, and the world’s only Spruce Goose… the gigantic eight-engined amphibious plane designed by Howard Hughes for a WWII government contract.  This plane used to be hangered in California, but lost its lease and local support, so the Evergreen team built a custom hanger and brought the plane piecemeal to Oregon and reassembled it as part of the permanent collection.  It’s hard to get a photo… the plane is huge, with at least twenty other aircraft on display under its wings.

How about a Titan II ICBM from the Cold War?  They’ve got one, complete with the control room and the maintance carts to service this rocket.  It all looks so 1950s, in that unique military green,  but the rocket looks sinister.  Thankfully, they’ve been decomissioned, some were used to launch satellites, the rest dismantled,  save for the historical silo in Tucson.

It was a great day trip, and we’ll be visiting again.

We’d been watching the weather as a typhoon has reached rhe Oregon coast less than 60 miles to the west.  The winds reached gale force there, and started whipping through Hillsboro late Saturday and into Sunday, so we were happy to find our flight remained on time.  A quick coffee at the airport and we find ourselves homeward bound after a great weekend.


Biking the GapC&O, Trip Summary

Over our celebration beer at the Pittsburgh Airport we tallied up our week… 372 miles!  Woo-hoo!

What a fun and active trip! I already miss the trains with their rumble and engines and screeching wheels and long whistle blasts; the river with her laughter and burble in the rocks, and the crunch of tires as we rode tree-lined corridors through the woods.  The leaves were just starting to turn and drop onto the trail… in a few weeks Fall will be in full color.

Memories of places stick with us, and perhaps best are the little surprises we didn’t anticipate.  One of my expectations was a week of mostly gas station food and trail mix – not exactly the Mediterranean diet I was just encouraged to take up.  Yet everywhere we visited served amazing meals and hospitality…

… sherry on the balcony reading Civil War history in Shepherdstown…

..actually enjoying roasted Brussels sprouts and wishing there were a few more…

…farm-to-table meals, fresh arugula and beet salads, local produce.  Even at the airport.  Look out Portland…

… homemade chicken pot pie, and a great breakfast to follow in a town whose only businesses were a Dollar General, a gas station and an ice cream store (I know, chicken pot pie is not Mediterranean. Tough! We burned thousands of calories every day).

Part of the fun when staying in B&Bs is getting to know folks, and we enjoyed each of the innkeepers.  Some met us with warm cookies, some met us with a garden hose ready to blast off the trail mud… all were friendly and bike-friendly.  

It was the kind of trip I truly enjoy… something new to see everyday, a built-in challenge that stretches your skills, great company, and time to think and reflect while pedaling along, looking at the scenery.  Nature, in all her inherent beauty, the way it has always been, long before we got ourselves wrapped around the axle with cell phones, high pressure jobs, TV and all the other fixations that pull us into the cocoon rather than Out, out into a world of falling leaves and Mason-Dixon lines and towpaths that were envisioned by George Washington.

I know my European friends might scoff at my interest in such recent history, but I’m calibrated to the American timeline and crossing the path of Founding Father events are rare.  There were many on this trip.

You also learn that some innkeepers like scented things.  Rose and lavender potpourri is a common cliché, but we didn’t find any of that this trip… instead this week I learned the existance of thai dragon fruit dish soap,  peach bodywash, olive oil hand soap, awapuhi (??, sounds like a Hawaiian fish, or a giant sneeze…) ginger shampoo, himilayan pink salt and water lily soap.  Who knew of this world beyond Dial?

Thank you Bruce, for inviting me along.  You did all the research for this trip – scheming out the distances we could travel without collapsing, making the bulk of the arrangements, figuring out historical and cultural excursions, and tolerating the frequent interruptions as I played tourist snapping photos or just general dallying around (a weakly disguised ploy to return circulation).

And thanks especially to our wives Patti and Susan for supporting us and holding down the homestead and all those duties while we’ve been out wandering around.  We hope you shared a bottle of wine and enjoyed not having us underfoot for a bit.

Stats for the trip: 372 trail miles in eight days,  average 46 miles/day, longest day 59.9 miles, followed by three 47+ mile days.  Close to 40 hours on the bike, 2,280 foot vertical rise to cross the Eastern Continental Divide,  and 16,000 calories burned (according to Strava, who I hope is on the low side).

Here are a few last photos looking back along the trail:

Let’s do it again!

Biking the GapC&O, Eureka, Pittsburgh!

We were happy to see the sun peeking over the ridge this morning… hopes  of a dry shoe day!  I needed to deal with a leaky tire first thing, and even a new tube didn’t fix it.  Bruce had checked the local bike shop already so they were ready for me when I rolled in.  Twenty minutes later we rolled out of town, all fixed for our last day on the trail.

It’s bittersweet this morning, even at 30+ miles we know we’re on the home stretch.

We caught up  (again) with Mike. We’ve crossed his path every day since Paw Paw.  He’s the cleanup man of a fivesome – the others blast ahead with the tent, and he brings everything else on a trailer he’s pulling.  They camped just a mile short of West Newton, under lean-to shelters, had a big bonfire, slept dry and comfortable.

As we get closer to Pittsburgh the trail narrows and we get much closer to our friends at CSX.

We’re still a good hour ride from the end, but we needed to stop for lunch… and early celebration.


Starting into Pittsburgh

Hot Metal Bridge 

We’re back – here’s where the trip started for me 8 days ago at the bike shop.

Yet we’re not quite done.  The weather is threating us with a soaking but we’re only a mile from the literal end of the trail

The GAP ends right at the tip of Pittsburgh’s waterfront park

Right past that fountain to the water’s edge is the trail marker

Yeah! What a fun trip!


Mike, the guy we passed this morning, who just had finally pulled into lunch when we pulled out… just passed us at the bike shop as we turned in our gear, on his way to the seal in the park.

Today’s Stats: 37.7 trail miles. 1 continuing flat, finally fixed. No animals, lots of people.

Biking the GapC&O, Friday, to West Newton, PA

We’re up, packed and on our way by 8am. The Antique Store proved to be a nice arrangement for us.

A quick hour’s riding this morning, followed by a short bus ride up a dangerous hill brought Bruce and I to the Kaufmann’s “summer cabin” Falling Water, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

The home is all cantilevers, creating the floating sensation and extension-of-the-rocky-outcrop look.  This next picture is an example of Compression, with the narrow main entrance just to the left of the folks in the foreground. That narrow entrance leads into Expansion… a large open livingroom/dining room with a panoramic view and porch thst draws you in and out into the woods and down the stream.  Patty H., I think you’d like this tour.  Everything is horizontal lines, and sourced right from the hillside

Here’s the iconic picture we’ve all seen, taken just downstream from the residence (from the spot the Kaufmann’s suggested as the building site.  Wright said no, we’re going to build it in the stream, on top of the waterfall).

Now I’d like to tour Kentuck Knob.  Ok, back to the trail. We packed our lunch to have a few miles – tasty sandwiches on fresh-made bread from the Ohiopyle Bakery.  It’s a pretty area in here with the river below and large rock and coal deposits beside us.  Some of the coal seams are almost jet black.

At Connellsville I had a slow leak, but had just riden past a bike shop, so we spun around to have them fix it.  We were back on our way in an hour.

Here’s a sight I’ve been waiting to see for several days

Woo-hoo! We’re now well over 300 trail miles.

That hour for the air leak proved almost too much for us… we’d already been in and out of sprinkles all afternoon, but right after the photo above the sky just opened up and we were drenched in a downpour – soggy in 30 seconds.  The trail, although well-drained, turned into a grit, mud and puddle fest.  We still had 13 miles to go, so when we arrived at the B&B we were soaked through except where high tech jackets kept us dry. Bruce has mud in his hair

Hot showers can fix anything, that and a quick load of laundry while we fixed out spirits with two beers and the Trail Burger (big burger, fried egg, ham slice, tomato, lettuce) at the locally famous Trailside Pub and beer locker

It was DJ night and KOOL DJ Dave was blasting out country westerns with acvompanying videos in the flat screens.


Worst food idea I’ve seen yet on the trail

Best meal of the day: toss-up between mulitgrain ham sandwich or the over-the-top beef/egg/ham whamo-burger I just had for dinner

Stats: 56 trail miles, 2 flat tires (I shared about my first one.  I didn’t mention that the same tire was going flat a few mile from a warm shower – ughh, wait till tomorrow to deal with that).  1 woodchuck.