R.I.P. sweet Pugsly. April 3, 2017

It’s raining right now. Fitting for how I’m feeling.
The heavens cry along with me with the loss of my wonderful companion, Pugsly.

I have few words now. I didn’t know it was possible to love a wee creature so much.
Four years ago, she walked lost down my street and found me.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tIdIqbv7SPo

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Overland Expo 2016

There is something to adventure traveling that brings people who normally seek solitude to a large group gathering such as the Overland Expo at Mormon Lake, Arizona. We share stories, validate our experiences, learn new tricks and tips. It is a recharging, of sorts, and it’s just plain fun to see the crazy overlanding vehicles that attend the Overland Expo.

Pugsly and I left early Thursday morning to drive the couple of hours up to Mormon Lake, Az. She wasn’t too excited about this.

When we arrived, the volunteer camping area was across the road from the main event areas. It was a beautiful spot up in the woodsy area. Not great for my solar collecting, but listening to the wind in the trees after dark while lying in bed was worth conserving my power usage.

The Expo was spread out over what looks like a large area, but was very walk-able. That said, next year I’m definitely bringing my little dual-sport motorcycle or a bicycle. Or both. It was a bit of a hike to get to the entrance, then a lot of walking within the event itself. Do-able, but my feet were not happy, especially after four hours standing up checking people in at HQ each morning. When I was here a few years ago, I had my motorcycle (DR350) so the foot-ow was a non-issue. Oops.

This year, I volunteered to help out. The benefit was that I got to “audit” the presentations, movies, and hands-on part of the event (except that I didn’t do any of that) and camp for free. I volunteered to be part of the First Aid tent. With my EMT training, and continued CPR/First Aid certifications, I qualified. However, at the last-minute, I was moved to “HQ” to check people in to the event.
That was barely managed chaos. Which, luckily, I thrive working in.

Expo badge

One of the big highlights of my trip was getting to meet and visit with Tom Hanagan – the owner of Four Wheel Campers (FWC). Out of all the amazing adventurers I met, and sights I saw, it might seem odd that meeting the guy who runs a company of the camper I own was a highlight. But this little camper is my part-time home, it is what helps to keep me sane in this fucked up world, it enables me to escape the day-to-day doldrums. This soft-spoken man is inventive, innovative, and has created a family-like community around these truck campers.

I was lucky to have spent some quality time with Tom. We talked business, campers, and aesthetic philosophies. We discussed getting older and meditated on idea of ‘time’. He and his generous crew fed the lot of us – and there were a lot of us! FWC invited their customers to camp with them. I don’t have a photo of their spot, but at the FWC booth was the display models, a large tent / gathering area, and many FWC campers set up. We all spent a fair amount of time lounging and swapping stories in camp chairs in-between the truck campers. I got to tour some of the other same-model campers and see what all folks have modified or changed.

It’s always difficult to do everything you want at this kind of event. I was lucky to be able to spend time with my friend, and Guinness Book of World Record holder, Danell Lynn.

13178639_1298016493546359_433555567236403502_n (I didn’t take this pic)

I love touting friends’ accomplishments!

She is about to embark upon another incredible adventure with a couple of other adventurers. The trip is called “Expedition Electric” and they are riding electric motorcycles from northernmost Alaska to the tippy tip of South America! WHOA!

Danell and I went to check out the team’s digs. After having ridden 50+ thousand miles around the U.S. alone on her motorcycle, she was child-like excited to have a kitchen that will be traveling with them.

Pugsly wasn’t too happy that I left her in the camper for so many hours alone while I was off gallivanting around doing volunteering and visiting with friends, but she and I got some lovely time together in the woods. It was very cool (chilly, even) this weekend and breezy to the point of knocking over large group tents!

(this is quite possibly my favorite photo from the weekend)

The sun felt so good during that chilly weekend, that we (I) took a little nap on the forest floor.
Pugsly only sneezed on my face a few times.

I had the intention of buying at least a couple of things I wanted for my camper and truck. I ended up only buying three things while I was there: a delicious falafel from one of the food trucks, an Overland Expo hat (windy!) and some traction aids. I’d been eyeballing MaxTraxx, which seem to be the adventurer’s choice of ‘get out of muck’ tools. But they cost $300+.

I found this small company’s tent and stopped to chat with the nice couple hosting. Turned out, the young man’s father invented “Go Treads” and he was carrying on the family business. I sent this photo and a text to a friend of mine who off-roads often and he replied that they looked great, get good reviews, and look like a solid product. $80 got me two sets.

They are light-weight and fold up small and model for blurry photos.
I now feel much more confident about off-roading in muddy, sandy, or snowy areas!

After a bit too much partying on Saturday night at a couple of campsite parties, post-my last volunteer shift, and fighting a pervasive headache… Pugsly and I headed out early Sunday afternoon to go back home.

Adventures in Abbeyland

After plans fell through for a long weekend in California campering, I decided to head up to my beloved Southern Utah and visit Abbeyland with the dogs.

Pugsly was an excellent navigator.

As we headed toward Thursday nights camping spot outside of Mormon Lake, Az, a downed tree blocked our way! Oh no!

I summoned my super-powers and moved the tree out of the way with brute strength! (Pugsly might have helped a little)

We found a nice spot to overnight and settled in.

Friday travels took us through John Wayne country: Monument Valley.

It’s pretty amazing area.

Fridays plan was to go up Moki Dugway (it was constructed in 1958 by Texas Zinc, a mining company, to transport uranium ore from the “Happy Jack” mine in Fry Canyon to the processing mill in Mexican Hat.) Instead, I decided to explore a bit. There is a road at the base of the climb up Moki Dugway called “Valley of the Gods Road”. How could I resist checking that out? The dirt road wound around and parallelish to a pretty major wash. Of course, I wouldn’t know about that until after I’d found a beautiful campsite.

It’s wonderfully isolated. This was a dirt road off of the dirt Valley of the Gods road.

I checked in with my mom, who mapped my location. She noticed a wash not far. I took Argos for a walk, and found it 100 feet away. After some consultation, and sky-watching, I decided to move camp lest I get washed away in a flash flood. Mom recommended I camp up top of Moki Dugway. That sounded pretty fantastic, so up the crazy, scary switch-backs I drove.

We took a pit-stop on the twisty-turny hair-piny road and Argos took survey of the land below.

Unfortunately, as I drove up the Moki Dugway (SR261), a storm was approaching. My mom who has been there before was helping me navigate via phone. She instructed me to turn left down the dirt road off the SR261 and drive on it for three miles, where it would open up to an amazing view.

The road did indeed open up to an amazing, and vertigo inducing, view. However, right after I got parked and camper set up, it started to rain. Then pour. The storm finally cleared, with enough daylight for me to enjoy the beautiful vista.

Set up for the night on top of Moki Dugway

That night, the wind blew something fierce, and I had imaginings of being blown right off of the cliff. It caused some pretty good anxiety. Luckily for me (not so much for my dear friend who was on the receiving end) I had cell service. We texted back and forth for a while and she sent me articles about how rare it was for a camper to actually blow over. And it would take some gale-force winds. Of course, in my mind, this was close to hurricane level, so I was only somewhat comforted. Finally, not long after midnight, the wind blew itself out and I was able to get to sleep. 

I woke up to a beautiful morning. After breakfast and walking the dogs, I left to head north to meet a friend of mine outside of Moab. Unfortunately, while I was getting camp broken down, a dense fog rolled in.

This weekend I had one job for this adventure up to southern Utah. It was to trek up one of the most dangerous roads in the U.S. and get a photo of the sign to Muley Point.

I left into the fog and kept watch for a sign for Mulay Point, but didn’t see any signs.

I had one job. One stinking job….

Saturday morning meant visiting with my friend Melissa! When my plans changed suddenly last week, I scrambled to make new plans. Melissa lives up in Logan, Utah, and I thought she might be crazy enough to drop everything and meet me halfway-ish, so I sent her a note on Wednesday (I planned to leave my cottage Thursday after work). She was up for the adventure! However, because of work, she couldn’t leave until Saturday. We arranged to meet at a rest stop about 30 miles south of Moab around 11am. That’s as far as our planning went.

I left the Moki Dugway and had a very uneventful drive down the backside – still SR261 and drove North, East, then North again back on 191 towards Monticello, past turn offs for Canyonlands. It was difficult to drive by, but Canyonalands was for another day.

Our meeting location was right next to Hole n” the Rock. Which isn’t near as interesting as I thought it would be. Well, it is pretty neat, but I thought there would be a hole. in a rock. Turns out, it was a home carved into the rock, and a tourist trap.

Fortuitously, I had actually missed the turn for our meetup rest area and had to drive an extra 2.3 miles before I found a turn-around spot. I turned right into what looked like a trailhead for horse riders. I did a u-turn in the parking area, and was getting ready to pull back on the highway when I saw a car with a camper trailer pulling out from a dirt road across the way. Curious….

It was early afternoon by the time Melissa arrived at the rest stop next to Hole N” The Rock. I made some lunch and we took a walk through the sagebrush to see what this rock hole was. When we got back to our vehicles, it was later afternoon and we talked about where to camp. I mentioned the dirt road and so we left her car at the rest stop, and piled into my truck for a scouting mission.

The dirt road was BLM land and appeared to be a popular OHV area. Kane Creek Canyon Rim. Past that “2 miles” of no camping, there were some nice camping areas!

We saw a number of four-wheelers and dirt bikes riding around. We also found a perfect camping spot with a gorgeous view of snow-capped mountains. Mount Peale?

We had to retrieve Melissa’s car. What happens when you put two Chicagoans in the woods? They save their camping spot with a chair, of course!

We got her car, and set up camp. I wish I had a picture that could capture how beautiful this spot was, but this is the best I got.

I’ve gotten to where when I pull the truck up, I can tell if it’s level – or close to it. This time, I was spot on!

There was enough daylight left for us to explore the area some. Argos and Pugsly enjoyed getting out of the truck!

After nightfall, it drizzled some, so we hung out in the camper, played cards, and enjoyed some single-malt scotch. We headed to our respective beds and slept soundly.

Today, Sunday, was a driving day. After a freakishly good breakfast at Eklecticafe in Moab, UT (seriously, if you go to Moab, eat at this place. Enormous, delicious portions and super nice staff even with a line going out the door) we said our good-byes and headed in opposite directions.

I didn’t make it to Arches, or to Canyonlands, but it’s foolish to try to jam that much into one long weekend. This was a fantastic trip, even with the night of insomnia due to fear of being thrown off a cliff by Mother Nature. There are so many places to boondock in these beautiful areas, I could easily spend weeks (or much more) exploring. One day….