Thursday, July 30, 2009

It's still how far?

After eating the standard hotel breakfast we headed back to I-90. I had it in my mind we were closer than we really were to Yellowstone. Luckily we only had a short stretch of interstate before we turned off onto US Hwy 14 towards Cody,WY.

Once off I-90 the climb into the Bighorn Mountains began. The climb was steep with switchbacks, finally scenery and I can't look without driving off a cliff. We passed through some road work that seemed to be widening and straightening the highway then back to lots of forest. Somewhere along the descent we came to Shell Falls, a visitor center and walkways overlooking the falls. Once the boys had their purchases made I had to ask the rangers staffing the center how the commute to work was, we seemed to be in the middle of nowhere. It turned out they were husband and wife. They told us that they camp at the ranger station and had worked there for 19 seasons.
Leaving the Bighorn National Forest, the landscape started to become flat again. This red rock formation in the picture was the last highlight for some time.

Unfortunately I was right, we were in the middle of nowhere and about to find out what a pilot car was. We got stopped in Shell,WY for road construction, I have to say the three times we got stopped on the trip the crews were friendly. After a 5-10 minute wait we followed the pilot car 10 miles through no visible construction, the shoulder looked as if they had oiled it but that was it. There were guys stationed at roads that couldn't have a handful of cars ( I should say 1ton pickups) on them all day.

On to Cody for the Sierra Trading Post outlet store. Kevin took particular interest in the bear spray rack, they could do without the picture of the guy bleeding. We had purchased a canister at REI at home but Kevin was comparing canister size and reach. I think he got the fear of bears from me, I got it from too many bear attack issues of Outdoor Life magazine as a kid. I'm happy to report our spray went unused. Following the shopping was a snack lunch in the car.

The road from Cody to Yellowstone is very nice. President Teddy Roosevelt called it the 52 most scenic miles in the nation.

Up next 22 hours in Yellowstone

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The long drive west

The Jeep got rolling just before midnight, the driving would end for the day in Sheridan, WY late the next afternoon.

Since I was just home from work and not tired I took the first shift of two hours at the wheel. As we crossed into Minnesota Jen decided she wanted to drive, a quick stop to switch seats and get the boys settled for sleeping and back on the road. Yes the boys were still awake at 2am watching movies. Jen and I swapped driving duties every two hours or so until Mitchell, SD where I got the wheel for the remainder of the day. ( I've driven tractor-trailer for 14 years and don't like being a passenger so Jenny lets me drive unless I ask for a break.)

The boys were still sleeping when we stopped for gas in Mitchell, SD so no detour to the Corn Palace. By 9am Jen and I were ready to eat, the billboards for Al's Oasis sounded alright so we woke the boys and pulled off to eat. Decent food and coffee for a reasonable price. The place had the look of a tourist trap so it was a shock to have good service from a friendly waitress. We got back to the Jeep without stopping in gift shop, might be the only one Zack struck out at.

Next stop was the Badlands National Park. If you drive through South Dakota on I-90 and don't take the loop through the park you are in too big of a hurry.

I forgot to pack spare camera batteries so the boys took photos with their Nintendo DSi systems. Here are the boys photo albums :

The only bad thing about the Badland loop is that it ends at Wall,SD if you are headed west. The boys were not interested in stopping at Wall Drug, and as we drove past it looked busy and the streets were packed. We stopped for lunch and gas before the final push to Sheridan,WY.

What to say about the 4 hour drive from Wall to Sheridan? Boring but hilly. I spent most of the last hour and a half second guessing the estimated miles to empty readout on the Jeep. Wyoming is not a place I'd want to run out of gas.

We finally got to Sheridan. After filling the Jeep we needed a hotel. Sheridan at first didn't look promising but after a full loop we found a newly opened Hampton Inn. Dinner at Wyoming's Rib & Chop House was recommended by the front desk clerk. Dinner was very good and the town looked much nicer after a good meal. A quick stop for batteries, a dip in the pool and off to bed.

Next up Cody and on to Yellowstone.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

And we're back...

From our vacation in Wyoming that is, six days split between Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. We camped for three nights and stayed in hotels for three nights. We will have posts up covering our trip shortly, we are still recovering from the 24 hour drive home. We split the drive out but decided to not stop on the way back, vacations are great but once it is over I just want to get home.

I'm sure we will add a lot of photos in upcoming posts but here is one of a storm coming over the Teton range. We were on a four wheel drive road in the park when the clouds rolled in, camp was set up and we were concerned it might not be there when we got back. The storm had winds of at least 30mph and we returned to a dry tent that had been lifted by the wind enough to remove 4 of the 6 tent stakes. The stakes, each 9 inches long had been driven in with a mallet. Upon return I reset the stakes and added 6 extra just to be sure.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

New Bugs

The boys have decided on the next round of travel bugs to leave out west on our next vacation. Kevin has been wanting to do a bug bug, and he found one in a prank kit that he had in his closet. Looks like a cockroach, about the right size for a big one. He has named his The Travel Bug.

Zack picked a bounce ball for his next bug. Of course Kevin's first travel bug was a bounce ball and Zack usually follows in his footsteps. Zack's will be named Bouncy.

Look for them on your geocaching travels.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Water bottles

So, what's the deal with water bottles?

Do they multiply, like rabbits? Why are there always so many? Which ones get used?

I was cleaning the laundry sink and noticed a bottle that I don't remember anyone using recently and that got me wondering, why do we have so many but use so few? I even sold some unused bottles at our garage sale this spring. And then there was that whole pile of them that the kids got from giveaways and contests that I put in the garage last fall hoping they would use them as water squirters in the yard. So I took pictures of all of our bottles currently inside the house, so I could try to make sense of it all.

Here are the bottles that Chad and I use each time we go out riding. Chad uses the clear bottles from Atkins Bicycle Shoppe, and I use the blue bottles from the Urban Assault Race in 2007 in Madison.(Have we ever mentioned that Chad and I were first place Coed Team in last year's race in Madison) Zack lays claim to one of the Atkins bottles when he comes with us, and since the distances we go are shorter with the kids, I can usually get Kevin to use one of the blue ones. So these four are the bottles that are actually used. This category would be called, The Old Standbys.

The other side of the sink is a hard sided bottle from REI. I don't remember when we got it, who it "belongs" to, or who uses it. For that matter I don't know why it is out by the sink and not stashed away in a cabinet like the other unused bottles. It is next to a small thermos that Chad does not use anymore, so maybe this is the I Used To Use It Pile Of Stuff. Maybe it is the small bottle for Kevin's old bike which had a size restricted area with a side load cage. So maybe it is left out from last year. This might speak to poor cleanliness, but as I mentioned above, I was cleaning when I thought about this whole bottle thing, so that must not be it. Let's call this category, The Unknown??? All I know is it is probably the ugliest bottle we have, quite plain, and the material is such that under heavy use it will get all scratched up. But yet, I picked up the bottle and cleaned under it, then put it right back down. Can't get rid of it, it may be important, for something...

Next is the cabinet in the laundry room. This is where the "extra bottles" are supposed to be stored. They are packed on the side because the shelves are not tall enough for them to be upright. Some of these are Used To Be Used bottles, ones that are old favorites but not worn out so we can't get rid of them. Also in this category are bottles that the kids used that are smaller in size but now they feel the need to use a grown-up size bottle. I catch a glimpse of my neon yellow Giro bottle from the early 90s. This would bring up the discussion of how do you choose a bottle; for function, or for looks. This yellow bottle was purchased because it matched a Girven flex-stem on my Cannondale mountain bike and I needed a bottle to match so the stem didn't stand out. There are other bottles in the cabinet that have never been used but were must haves, mostly for looks. Let's call this category The Designer Series. In my mind they will still be used, but after the current bottles are worn out. Come to think of it, I have never worn out a bottle so I don't know what the lifespan is. Maybe we have enough bottles for 50 years. This cabinet did lose some bottles to the garage sale this year because there was no more room and bottles fell out when the doors were opened.

Looking further there were more bottles in the kitchen in the corner cabinet because the shelves are tall enough for bottles. These bottles are mostly in the category of Bottle That Came With a Bike, and were popular for several weeks after having the new bike before reverting to the The Old Standbys. Most of these bottles are Kevin's bottles and are good bottles, so no reason to throw them out. This cabinet lost many bottles last fall to a crate in the garage because we ran out of room for other sport bottles like our large bottles we take water in while kayaking.

Does every biking family have the same issues with bottles? We can't be alone. You walk into a bike store and see the wonderful wall full of colorful bottles, you need to have one. Sign up for an event and bound to get a bottle or two in the swag bag. How long does a bottle last? When do you throw a bottle out? If it's just too old? If it leaks? Will it ever end?

Jen's injury update

Well, I had my final PT appointment this week. I guess that means I graduated, but I have the opportunity to go back if I need to relearn the exercises or if I experience more pain. I didn't feel much different this month except that the pain I had last time had diminished to my prior pain level. I have felt stronger the last three weeks and was up to 1 minute walk and 4 minutes jogging for a total of 15 minutes which felt great.

Just because I don't go back doesn't mean I'm healed. I have exercises to continue with and was taught ways to advance those exercises as I need to push myself. I have a side to side walk with exercise bands, a squat, one leg balance, and a step down exercise. My leg was checked over comparing to the right leg, and the muscles and ligaments are looser on the left which means that they will be at risk for future injuries. The damage is to the medial collateral ligament, the meniscus tear and a bone bruise. The bone bruising will take up to a year to heal. The next ligament in line from the medial is the ACL, in the center of the knee, which is a bigger deal kind of injury and more likely to be injured if I have another crash. The looseness will remain for life most likely and since this was my last scheduled PT appointment I decided to get any remaining questions out of the way. I asked about snowboarding, and got kind of a blank non-committal stare. Figuring I wasn't going to get a "sure, keep at it, go for it", I asked what precautions I needed to take when I go again, specifically a brace or stabilizer. Yes, was the answer and one was recommended. And turns out I have to use it forever. It will protect my knee from bad turns and slow falls like the injury cause, but obviously isn't going to save me from huge crashes. Not that I plan on having any of those. And if I do have an injury to that leg again when I am wearing the brace there is more likelihood of an injury to the ankle or hip which are harder to heal than a knee injury. So a brace is ordered and once I get one the right size I will be all set to go this winter. I'm just going to say right here, that I hate chairlifts and I think they hate me too. Maybe the two of us can come to terms this winter.

I became an expert at my balancing exercise and have more advanced steps for that now. I balance on my injured left leg on an unstable surface such as a pillow, foam padding, etc. Knee is bent and arms are drawn in and crossed over my chest, and eyes are closed. I keep that up for 2 minutes. And to mix it up I can set up an obstacle course of unstable items to step back and forth on and hold balance on each one for 5 seconds or so. My therapist said the kids can do this with me to get them involved in my exercises, it's like playing games. Makes me think that maybe our new item we have on order may help as well. We are getting a slackline for the backyard. Here is an example, it's webbing strung between trees or posts to balance on and walk across.

Chad ordered a set up and it should come in next week. Check out the video of tricks from Slackline Express. In no time these will be the stunts being performed in our very own backyard. I'm sure.


I just hope no one gets hurt.

Seriously hurt.

I'm sure there will be bumps, bruises, scrapes, crying.

Whatever, it will be fun.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Rig

Take one Jeep Commander, three kayaks, three single bikes, a tandem and a trail-a-bike, some custom welded hitch and bike rack parts and we are ready to hit the road.

This was our first year with the tandem on the rear rack, last year it was loaded between the lower level of kayaks. That kept the width down but made it impossible to haul it without the trailer. A call to my friend whose garage looks like a metal fabrication shop and in a hours time I was loading the tandem on our Swagman XTC4 rack.

After putting it all together clearance between the bike on the trailer tongue and the bike rack was tight but final adjustment and removing my bar-ends solved that and gave room to not worry about damaging anything.

Everything is back in the garage now and we are working on a box mounted to our hitch rack to haul camping gear out west. The remainder of the year the box will see life jackets and kayak gear or snowboard gear depending on the season. The Jeep has plenty of room until you want to use the third row of seats, then don't plan on bringing much gear. The next gear hauling need is a roof rack for the snowboards, I'm hoping garage door clearance won't be an issue.