Author Archives: paulnjulie

Death Valley

Paul has had an intimate experience with Death Valley in the past cycling 200 miles in the desert for fun. This would be my first trip to the place he spoke so fondly of and I was a bit nervous that it would not hold up to all the admiration.

We arrived at Furnace Creek on a windy Tuesday and I actually sat outside the van reading for the first time in a long while. The stars looked amazing but the wind decided to pick up and shook the van all night long.

The next day we decided to run Dante’s View towards Mt. Perry. It was a bit chilly but the scenery was spectacular. 5400′ above the Badwater basin and an incredible single track (sometimes precarious) trail out and back.

sometimes you just want to go for a jog in the woods …

By Thursday the wind had died down and we rode our bikes to Badwater Basin. On the way back we took the long way on Artist’s Drive to view the colorful patterns in the rocks. Artist’s Palette was really a treat and I was so perplexed that there was blue, purple and pink in the rocks. When we arrived back at the van we could have dinner outside, so lovely.

Paul enjoyed some more cycling while I explored Mosaic Canyon. Hot run up to canyon but worth seeing the rocks mosaiced into the canyon walls. Stovepipe Wells camping area had a pool and shower we could use that was handy. We both also ran all of the Fall Canyon trail and part of Titus Canyon road that was closed to vehicles because of flooding.

Paul wanted to cycle the one exit from Death Valley he hasn’t completed. He rode from Stovepipe Wells to Panamint Springs. I was a bit worried after driving ahead in the van and kept looking through binoculars to see if he was coming. It was definitely challenging but he had an enjoyable (possibly epic) ride.

Tuttle Creek outside of Lone Pine was our next camping experience. It couldn’t have knocked our socks off any more than it did. Wow! You are on the base of the Whitney Portal and have views of Owen’s lake ( a dry salt lake) in the basin. The next morning I ran part of the famous Movie Road in Alabama Hills. Over 400 movies were filmed in this area including Gunga Din, Rawhide, Gladiator, Django Unchained, Ironman, Tremors and many more.

Springtime in Death Valley is certainly a treat and well worth visiting and exploring.

Flagstaff, Sedona, Hoover Dam, Vegas

After our amazing time at the grand canyon we headed to Flagstaff to visit with friends Shari and Paul. They made a big move from the east coast to a property in Flagstaff near the National forest. Their home is warm and cozy so we skipped sleeping in the van for a few days. I was a bit jealous of all the amazing running opportunities they have right outside their door.

Shari and Paul also love to hike so they took us to Sedona to get a closer look at the red rocks. There are a multitude of trails in the area and I believe you can’t go wrong in choosing. Everywhere we looked was full of gorgeousness. We enjoyed tasty woodfired pizza at Pisa Lisa. Just warm enough to sit outside.

You can’t drive over the Hoover Dam without getting a closer look. It is a spectacular construction that took 5 years to build and many lives lost (96). You are allowed to drive over it after your vehicle goes through a security checkpoint.

Vegas! Sin City and the home of Most Reverend Bishop Pepe, cousin Joe. We didn’t give Joe enough notice so we just took in Monday night mass and said a quick hello. Nice dinner at Hedary’s Mediterranean and then to walk around old town, Fremont Street. Cool art happenings, weird outdoor/indoor mall space where people fly over your head zip lining. Light show on the dome ceiling, music, drinking etc…all a bit overwhelming.

We parked the van on 9th street and it was very quiet overnight. In the morning we had a delicious breakfast, almost too large, at Publicus. Very nice ambiance. Seems like a popular meet up space where people gather, drink coffee and enjoy fantastic food.

Grandest of Canyons

Who really wants to admit they have a bucket list, but I do. Being able to hike in the Grand Canyon has always been on the top of my list. Growing up in rural Wisconsin one can only dream of a landscape that feels like something out of a western movie. Desert winds, shadow canyons, mules, and ravens who speak to you.

Paul and I called the Bright Angel Lodge in high hopes of a cancellation. We lucked out and were told to arrive by the next morning (7 am) for the waiting list. We drove from Santa Fe as fast as we could and got to the Grand Canyon on time. We could stay at Phantom Ranch in a cabin!

We parked the van at the Mather campground and packed our bags to hike down. It was a 3.3 mile hike just to get to Kaibab Trail Head. There we put on our micro spikes because of snow and ice on the steep top part of the trail. We had shorts on but it got warm soon enough down the trail and we were thankful. We enjoyed dropping lower into the depths and feeling more and more like we were becoming enveloped in the landscape. It took us 3 1/2 hours to get down (7 miles) but we ooohed and aaahed the whole way.

Crossing the Colorado River and heading up to Phantom Ranch, we both knew how lucky we were to be in this special place. The weather was now about 70 degrees and we could sit outside with feet in the creek.

Our cabin was rustic but almost an extravagance when you think of how much effort it took to build one here.

(thank you Mary Colter) The food was family style, hearty, and delicious. You could order wine or beer(which we did) and play games or cards until the wee hours (defined here as 10pm).

Paul and I both woke with sore legs but I was able to shake out a short run. Up the rushing bright angel creek starting in the dark and watching the sky lighten the canyon walls. I got back in time for a communal breakfast with plenty of coffee, eggs, pancakes, fruit, bacon etc.. to motivate you or move you to nap. We left around 8 am to hike up Bright Angel Trail (9.8 miles) thinking it would take us more time than the descent.

This trail was a surprise in that it was mostly accompanied by water, first the Colorado River and then heading upward we zigzagged across Garden creek and Pipe creek to the Indian Garden Campground. This was the only water stop along the way at this time of year.

From there it is switchbacks up, up , and up getting cooler as you go. By the time we reached the top (4 hours) it was windy and cold. A shuttle bus gladly took us back to the campground.

The next day we rode our bikes to Hermit’s Rest. More views from the top with vista points that left me feeling overwhelmed. I was still awe struck and loved watching colors on canyon walls change with the sun and cloud shadows.

The intimacy was gone though. It was nothing liked being deep in the heart of the grandest canyon.

Moab, Canyonlands and Arches

Ninja Paul

Before we even sold our home and decided to head west, our friend Gene Dykes told us about an ultra race in Moab that he would be doing. It seemed the perfect opportunity to get intimate with the National Parks surrounding the town. We headed out of Santa Fe in the afternoon and ended up sleeping in Pagosa Springs where the temperature dipped to -9 degrees F. The town was super quiet so we parked right in the middle of it and woke to sunshine and steam coming from the hot springs.

Pagosa Hot Springs

Too bad the hot springs didn’t warm the place up. We left early and headed to Durango for breakfast. Smiley Cafe is set in an old school building that now houses Smiley, offices, a Montessori school and more. Wonderful artwork on the walls, tasty food and coffee. Next visit I would like to expand our exploration. Very sweet mountain town with artsy feel plus, the Greenery. (say no more)

Moab is breathtaking and I feel that winter could be the best time to visit. Small crowds, plenty of places to camp, and the National Parks are quiet and peaceful. I love the dusting of snow on the red earth. Not enough to hinder travel but enough to make things sparkle. We meet with Gene for dinner and fuel up for the Arches Ultra event. BLM land is free to park on over night near the race start. Wake early and connect with Gene and Richard for a 6:30 am start. The race is difficult and muddy in many parts. Paul may have been smart to do the 50K instead of the 50 miler. Gene and I enjoy the race but it does take more time and effort than he thought it would. We are the last finishers but happy to have completed it in 12:44.

Breakfast at Eklecticafe

Time to relax and camp in Canyonlands. No entrance or camping fees due to government shut down. We bought a parks pass before our trip so I feel a little less guilty. There are a few campers out there but we are pretty much alone with the stars.

Canyonlands in the afternoon

In the morning we go for a very short trail run then head to Arches NP. We drive through the park and do a few short hikes including one to Delicate Arch.

Delicate Arch and a small mini me

Rock formations in Arches NP
Smaller arches to find on hikes

While in Moab we recommend, dinner at Arches Thai , the Moonflower Coop, Sand Flats Recreation Area (camping), and coffee at Wicked Brew.

Paul and I are in search of a new home so we looked at a property outside Santa Fe. This special place had spoken to both of us before we left for Moab so we decided to head back and be clear about our feelings. On the way we took a different route stopping at Four Corners, the only place you can be in 4 states at one time.

We also stopped in Blanding, Utah (nice free museum there), Farmington, NM to run on a river trail, and slept in a rest area outside of Taos.

Rio Grande Gorge Bridge

Morning walk around Taos plaza, coffee and hot chocolate at Elevation Coffee, we then make our way back to Santa Fe to contemplate the future.

Sunshine Santa Fe

Paul and I decided to beat a winter storm and head as fast as we could from Wisconsin to Santa Fe, New Mexico. It took us a day and a half with one stop to run in Kinsley, Kansas. We were excited to wear shorts even if it was a bit chilly. We ran down dirt farm roads and through town. Not much going on.

In the middle of USA

We arrived in Santa Fe on a Saturday and we were hungry so the Farmer’s market seemed like the best place to go. There we found many vendors selling winter greens, squash, cheese, and amazing purple lavender donuts.

Lavendar Blue Corn Donuts

I had to try those. We enjoyed some breakfast burritos and walked around the hip railyard area. We headed into town and happened upon the Women’s Wave a march happening toward the center plaza. I jumped in and Paul joined me to listen to motivational speakers. Happy to see a good crowd and positive energy for the future of New Mexico.

Beginning of Women’s Wave March

We decided to park at Los Suenos RV park for showers. Not particularly lovely but it backs up to the Arroyo de los Chamisos where we could do relatively easy, scenic runs. For a delicious lunch, on a tip from a friend , we checked out Modern General. Yummy food in basically a high end store. Everything for sale.

Modern General Breakfast

Driving up to the ski basin made me feel a bit woozy. Very twisty, turny roads and the altitude makes your ears pop. We thought of camping overnight but the National Forest lands were closed (snow and the government shutdown) and the State park didn’t seem appealing. Great views form the mountain top looking back at Santa Fe.

Meow Wolf is an amazing, almost indescribable interactive “art exhibit”. We poked our heads in and found that it would be closing for renovations and today was the last day open for a while. We took a suggestion to go in an hour before closing for a half price discount rate. We only had an hour to explore but it wasn’t too crowded. There were spaces you could really end up hanging out in but we breezed through and found all the portholes and secret passage ways. There is a story that goes behind the exhibit and it will most likely change next reopening. (something to do with a lost hamster and/or son)

Paul playing music on bones
Porthole down a dryer
Lots of creative, expressive art everywhere

Very tired from a long day we parked right outside of Meow Wolf on the street and surprisingly slept well. Not too much noise at all.

Goodbye Aberdale Road

Paul and I found our home on Aberdale Road in January of 2002. I first saw the home in the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper classified ad, for sale by owner. We took one walk through and knew it would be a perfect place to raise our combined family of 5. I sat outside and wept. Our decision to live on Aberdale couldn’t have been better. We immediately became involved with the neighbors sharing block parties, food, music, and in 2004 getting married on our side street, Hazel Lane. Our children thrived and grew, we all made many friends. Time has passed and our children left home. We enjoyed 7 years of hosting airbnb guests and more recently boondockers staying in our home and on our street. A six bedroom house became large for two people and we knew it was time to go and let a young family enjoy the home. We will miss Aberdale tremendously but have gained lifelong friends.

Back on the road in our van, we headed to Wisconsin for some time to visit the parents and family. We stopped once en route to run in the Toledo Metro Park Wildwood Preserve. Great place to run if you get a chance.

Paul and I signed up for a Slowtwitch challenge, 100 in 100, running every day for 100 days starting December 15th. It became a bit harder when we got to Wisconsin and the colder temperatures but we endured and had some fabulous runs in Madison and on the Ice Age Trail near Holy Hill. I loved spending non rushed time with my parents, and visited neighbors with my mom. Fred Cook is a welder and makes amazing sculpture. We chatted for a bit at his studio and took some photos.

Partially Frozen Lake Monona
Fred Cook welding a bumblebee

We delayed our departure from Wisconsin to attend a funeral of a dear family friend, Joanne Henderson (Graham). She was such a delight to know and as a young child I often slept over night at her place playing in the barn, nearby woods and trails with her daughter Karreen. Joanne was excellent on the piano and we would inevitably all end up singing songs. My dad played guitar and performed with her on many occasions. Joanne also helped out with our local 4H group. I will not forget her deep voice, laughter and sexy Elvira ways. She had many black wigs and let me take one when I left Wisconsin. I have worn it to be Captain Hook, a witch and various other characters. She joins Mr. & Mrs. Bliss in the graveyard by St. Olaf’s, but really she’s riding down some country road in the sky.

Milton lived to 100 years!

New Paltz , SOS Triathlon and Storm King Art Center

Paul and I headed up to New Paltz New York on September 7th, 2018. I was racing SOS so we decided to take the van and camp out for the weekend. We stayed at Round Out Valley Campground but it was definitely not as nice as described on-line. Really more of an RV park for big rigs. There was a spot in the woods with no hooks ups so we took that. The pool was not operating or the mini golf and the place needs some TLC. Saturday we headed into New Paltz and walked around a bit, looked at some public artwork and ate delicious burritos at Mexicali Blue. The prerace meeting was on the campus of SUNY  so we ended up going to the Samuel Dorsky Museum of art and saw this,

Timothy Greenfield-Sanders: The Trans List  August 29 – December 9, 2018

SOS triathlon is an epic event set in the Mohonk preserve and limited to 200 participants. here is a description:

The race is 50.5 miles long, beginning at Ulster County Fairgrounds. Participants begin by bicycling thirty miles. This is followed by a total of seven transitions: a 4.2 mile run to Lake Awosting, 1.1 mile swim across the lake, a 5.5 mile run to Lake Minnewaska, a 0.5 mile swim along that lake’s eastern shore, an 8-mile run to Lake Mohonk, a 0.5 mile swim along the east shore of Mohonk Lake, and a 0.7-mile uphill run to the Skytop Tower on Shawangunk Ridge. The course gains and loses several thousands of feet of altitude and provides a number of stunning views for participants, and the finish line is visible from a number of points along the course.

Paul had done the race 12 years prior (that’s him in an old photo) and it was always on my bucket list to do. So 2018 was the year and I came in 5th female overall. Cold weather was somewhat of a challenge but probably better than doing it in a hot year.

We ate lots of food at the awards ceremony to celebrate and then even stopped off at for cider and pizza at West Wind Orchards because I was still hungry.

I like to fill my time away from home doing active stuff and seeing art. Thankfully Paul is happy to do the same, especially when there is an Andy Goldworthy stonewall on site. Storm King art center does not disappoint and we found it a treat to walk among many great pieces of art. I loved Maya Lin’s Wave Pool and Zhang Huan’s big Buddha.  https://stormking.org/sculpture-guide/

Chattanooga

It’s been almost 9 months since our last van travels. The sprinter has been through a hard Philly winter. Freezing water has damaged some tubing in our water supply and we have leaks. It can’t be fixed for this trip but Paul is on it. Packed up and ready to go, the van does not start and the battery will not hold a charge. Off to buy a new battery, 2 hour delay but we are on our way.

Curious about Chattanooga I decided to sign up for a race event there. Paul and I are scoping out possible places to live after we sell our big ass house in Bala Cynwyd. We camp in our van just north of the city at Harrison Bay State Park. Pretty place with trails to hike or run, fishing, boating, marina, swimming etc.. We set up camp and head into town.

The city of Chattanooga is way smaller than Philadelphia but offers a vibrant art scene. We explored the art district which is grounded by the Hunter Museum of American Art.  There are galleries, small cafes, and terrific views of the city, river and its many bridges.

Sunday is race day, IM 70.3 Chattanooga. I am up before the sun and get everything ready in transition. I forgot my water bottles and Paul does a sprint back to the van to get them for me. Much needed as the day turned out to be extremely hot and humid. The river swim was super fast and the bike portion was spectacular. Rolling hills that are not too difficult so you can stay aero the whole way if you want. I end up suffering at the end of the run and walk most of mile 11. Still I come in 5th in my age group and a time of 5:16:15

After a day of racing I was spent so we went back to camp ground, napped and then headed to the city for dinner in a section called Northshore. Fancy newish area with a Whole Foods, nice stores, and restaurants. We had dinner at Food Works which was located in the old historic Signal Knitting mill. Southern food was good. We could have done without the televisions and music.

On our last day we decide to go all out tourists. I am super hungry so a breakfast stop at Frothy Monkey on the Southside was in order. Perfect coffee, food and ambiance. Loved the place set in an old train station (the actual Chattanooga Choo Choo) which is now a hotel.

Next we head to the Incline railway which goes up lookout mountain. It’s the world’s steepest passenger railway. (72.7% near the top) It is about a mile long and feels pretty crazy. Paul did well but going up felt easier than going down for him.

Ruby Falls is inside of Lookout mountain. America’s tallest (145 ft) and deepest (1160ft from the top of the mountain) underground waterfall. Good tour and history of exploration by Leo Lambert.

I am hungry again so we head back to the Northshore area to Taco Mamacita.  Paul and I both thought that these were some of the best tacos we have ever had. Good service, magaritas and decor.

Fed well by the food, the friendly people of the town, nature, history, art, high speed internet, new architecture, great race venue, rivers and lakes, state park, mountains, and more. We will be sure to visit again and possibly stay?? Chattanooga  hmmmmm……

 

Exploring PA State Parks- Rickett’s Glen and Tuscarora

After living in our van for over 9 months arriving home was bittersweet. On the one hand, we missed our neighbors, friends, and family and felt their warm welcome back. There was also another feeling that little had changed and that maybe we could now travel more. Our roots felt less stable because our van has been our new home.

For my birthday this year I decided that I wanted to spend a little time exploring some PA State Parks. Being in nature is one of my favorite things even though I do like NYC too. I choose Rickett’s Glen State Park to camp in because of the waterfalls and hikes. Mid week it is pretty quiet.

The park is really beautiful and the hikes are easy enough for families. 21 waterfalls on the hike!

They have a large sandy beach area where you can swim laps or just play around. It was pretty cold so I only lasted 20 minutes. The hot shower in the bathroom was sweet. End of August so again, not a lot of people.

The next day we decided to drive to Tuscarora and do another hike. The visitor’s center was not very helpful when we asked about trails. “I’ve never done any hiking but I think you can go all the way around, not sure.” We decided to try and do it anyways.

The trails were easy to find at first but a little tricky near the turn around on a road. We had to go over a guard rail and back on the other side.

Parts of the trail are along Tuscarora lake, over a dam, and then following Locust Creek.

I went for an even shorter swim in the lake. Really? Its the end of August. Brrrr….Both Paul and I were pleased to have a few days away for my birthday and hope to be exploring more of PA in the future.

Two of our favorite towns

Paul and I have some favorite places to visit and Ithaca, New York is one of them. It is not only because the place is so beautiful but the people draw you in with their affection and community involvement. I have many friends who have relocated there and from visiting over the years it feels a lot like home. I decided once again to enter the Cayuga Trail 50 mile race on June 3rd. It is a national championship race and I was hoping some of my trail running abroad would benefit me. The race seemed way harder than the last time I did it, some due to a change of course and warmer weather. I was glad to have my friend Gene run the first 25 miles with me before I slowed down.

We enjoyed the Ithaca Farmer’s Market the next morning. I love the breakfast burrito and was in line early for that. Afterwards we headed west towards Wisconsin stopping in Chicago to drop off some of Hannah’s things. She has a new job and will be living there for awhile. Chicago traffic was not fun and we arrived late at Mom and Dad’s.

They own a nice property in the country near Hartford. It is normally pretty quiet but because of the US Open down the road this year, more shuttle buses passed by during the day. The picture above is of mom’s crazy gnome garden.

We were happy to be in the area for Luna’s graduation from Shabazz City High School. A unique small school and a lovely ceremony where each student got to speak.

Anne and Pat held an outdoor party for Luna at their Madison home and many family members attended. Paul was relaxing in his chair before guests arrived. We parked our van in their driveway for the whole weekend. Madison is another town that we love. Two of my sisters, Anne and Carrie, live there and we visit quite often. The Marquette Waterfront festival was in full swing. Anne and I decided to participate in the boat parade “fool’s flotilla” on Sunday morning.

Pat dropped us up at the top of the canal. We tried to hang near the pontoon boat with a full piece band. We enjoyed singing along with all the revelers.

One more stop at Mom and Dad’s to help out in the garden and visit. Paul and I took mom to a nice Indian dinner at Mantra in Oconomowoc. A lot has changed in my home town but it is still a beautiful city of lakes.

Love you mom!