Cowboys and Horses

IMG_20150405_171905011Moab, Utah is known for its many trails, whether motorized, bicycled or hiked. The views are spectacular, red rocks as far as the eye can see. Two National Parks are designated there, Arches and Canyons, both offer extraordinary scenery.

One of the places we’ve never taken in is Dead Horse Point, we took a drive up there on Easter Sunday to see the views it has to offer. Dead Horse Point is a Utah State Park, entry fee is $10 without a State Park pass. It is high on the mountain overlooking the curve of the Colorado River. The views are expansive.

There are many trails, including a paved walking path that gives you 270 degree views of the area off the Point. The vantage points you can gain from this view are tremendous.

The park is named Dead Horse Point for a legend that exists from the Old West. It is rumored that during a roundup of wild horses, the horses were corralled at the end of the peninsula, and then the land bridge was blocked off. Since the only escape was a 2000 foot drop over the embankment, when the cowboys didn’t return to claim their horses after the roundup, the horses starved to death. No one knows why the cowboys didn’t return.
Dead Horse Point State Park should be added to your list of Moab destinations.

If you just need an easy getaway, without the stress of trail riding, and without the crowds, it is worth the trek up the mountain to the park. Bring your walking shoes and your camera to get the most out of your visit.

On the Road Series: Pike’s Peak, Colorado

Looming over the top of Colorado Springs is Pikes Peak – one of Colorado’s famed Fourteeners, it is paved to the top.  A bit commercial, there is a railroad, famous donuts that aren’t supposed to be able to be made at that elevation and a race.  What you won’t find is ….me.  Elevations like that kick my ass.

Josh and Big made the trek up the mountain, not a surprise, they love anything to do with racecars.  Many of our friends and acquaintances race Pikes Peak, up the twisties to the top – it’s all paved now, but that is a recent development.

The record to the top is 8 minutes and 13 seconds.  From mm 1 to mm12, the elevation climb is 4720 feet.  The cars have to reach over 100 on some of the short straightaways to do that.  Big said he drove it in low gear, somewhere around 15 mph mostly.

Video is by my buddy, Devon AfroThunder

On the way down, the National Forest Service rangers stop you at one point to review the temperature of your brakes – too hot and you get to sit awhile.  Makes sense to me, so many don’t know how to drive mountain roads.

Pikes Peak is named for the famous Zebulon Pike, explorer of many lands.  I would have loved to have gone on the trek up the mountain, but this is one limitation I have finally come to grips with.  Anything over 10,000 feet makes me feel icky – I start to feel it between 8,000 and 9,000 feet, but only if I exert myself, by 10, I only have to try to breathe to know I’m out of my element, sometimes it’s just best to stay home.


Temecula, CA…where good people meet

It’s Sunday, we are hunting for a place to watch the NFC championship game in Temecula.  Everything suggested to us is a chain, and I’m just not in to chains, now mind you, they have their place…but I am more in to supporting the local entrepreneur.  Driving around, we notice a brewery in old town.  The Crush and Brew, now that’s a clever little name.  They have a wine side and a beer side and only serve cold foods, it sounds interesting and for a Sunday at noon, it’s perfect for us.  We opt for the beer side, over 22 beers on tap, some as high as 12%.  Rich is an IPA drinker, so he chooses a sample platter of those, I go for a wheat beer, like usual.

At halftime, we are lamenting the slow start of the forty-niner’s, but have placed our order for the Block and Barrel, it’s an extra large cutting board full of meats and cheese, bread and various condiments.  Included is salami and deli meats, sauerkraut and olives.  Perfect for two.  They also serve a cheese platter, a bread board and lots of beautiful salads.  Add a great selection of wine and beer and you have yourselves a winner.  But that wasn’t the only thing that made the afternoon great.

We met Carol and Ernie and their daughter and son-in-law.  They are out touring the area, from Riverside, they like to spend their weekends looking for breweries and good food.  Temecula was their stop today with the help of Yelp.  I overheard a conversation about brew festivals coming up and asked them what they found.  This translated in to thirty minutes of animated conversation with some terrific people.  On top of that, they paid for our first round before they moved on to their next stop and came by for hugs to thank us for the conversation.  Wow, some people are just so nice.  So raise your glasses everyone to Carol and Ernie and all the kind people out in the world like them.  Perfect strangers can become perfect friends.

Hoodoo, Hoodoo you think you’re fooling?

I have had Love Me Like a Rock stuck in my head for days.  I know the song is really Who Do? not Hoodoo, but ever since I heard about hoodoos, it’s been on my mind.  Hoodoos aren’t found very many places, but there is a huge cache of them at Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah.

Hoodoos – Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon is made almost entirely of limestone, it has the same colors of many of the other red rock canyons that are typically sandstone or granite, but the rocks are limestone here.  There are thousands of spires on the canyon floor that rise straight up and usually have a knob on the top.  These are called hoodoos.  No where are they more prevalent than in Bryce.

Our National Parks are a great resource for all of us to enjoy.  I find the easiest and least expensive way to enjoy them is with an Annual Pass.  For the price of $80, you can enjoy admission in to any National Park for free.  We’ve certainly gotten our monies worth, just going to Glacier, Yellowstone, Bryce Canyon and Zion covered that cost.  When you add in the Petrified Forest, Arches, and Canyonlands, we’ve come out way ahead. And, if you don’t already have a pass, plan a visit over Veteran’s Day weekend where the entrance fee at all parks is FREE.

Some of the National Parks are free, but they get you with “concessions.”  Like, Mount Rushmore, you can go to the Mountain for free, but you have to pay for parking; or the St. Louis Arch, admission in to the bottom of the arch and the museum is free, to get to the top costs you.  Your annual pass won’t take care of either of those costs.  But still, well worth the money spent.

I think it’s much easier for those of us in the mountainous west to enjoy the parks system, we have so many great parks available within a days’ drive of most anywhere.  If you get the chance this year, now is the time to go, the crowds are down, the weather still good and the sights are gorgeous.  I love National Parks.

Mecca for Wheelers

I feel like I am constantly talking about Moab, but there’s a reason for that.
Moab, Utah is Mecca for Wheelers.  Whether you are on two wheels or four doesn’t seem to matter here.  Early in April, we got to attend Easter Jeep Safari.  EJS is sponsored by the Red Rock 4Wheelers and they host trail rides on over 25 different trails throughout the area.  Add to that beautiful National Parks, what is not to love about Moab.

We had two weeks to spend there this year, so I got a job while I was there.  I love business, any and all kinds, and was fortunate to get a few days to spend at the T-Shirt Shop.  Dottie Byrd has a place that has thousands of designs and you get to put together your own shirts.  I spent my time stocking shelves and organizing designs.  The number one thing I learned about the business is that organization is key, if you can’t find it, you can’t sell it.  The T-Shirt Shop is one of those places that runs on the sheer energy and determination of it’s owner.  It was a pleasure to meet someone so enthusiastic about a business she has already been in for 30 years.

We had to make a quick run to Moab this week and took the time to go up to the Sunset Grill for dinner.  It was our first date night in awhile.  The Sunset Grill is perched on the top of a ridge overlooking all of Moab and the Red Rocks to the West.  I assumed since the view was awesome the food would be mediocre.  I was wrong, in a big way.  The food was as delicious as the view.  Wild mushroom appetizer, crabmeat and shrimp linguine, creme brulee for dessert – not one of them was disappointing.  Make the trek up the sidehill for the meal, even if you miss the sunset, it is worth it!


Tierra Del Sol Jeep Safari hosts an event the first weekend in March every year.  2012 marked the 50th anniversary of an incredible event.  $175,000 worth of raffle prizes being given out to 3000 registered participants.  Each registration gives you one entry to the raffle.  The amount of work put in by the volunteers of the TDS 4×4 club is to be acknowledged, what a great job a handful of people do.  On top of being part of the raffle, there is an opportunity to ride the trails of the Ocotilla Wells State Recreational Area.  Big spent a month out here a year ago building a rock-crawling course for the California State Parks system.

I like TDS and Ocotilla Wells because the ground is sand and I can pretend I’m at the beach when I dig my toes in.  We are a bit too far from the ocean to get the salty smell,, but at least the sun is shining.  It’s nice down here near Palm Springs at this time of year.  If we only count the weekend, the weather was awesome.

There are lots of things to do out here, our favorite vendors are set up – Maxxis Tires, Raceline Wheels, Clayton Offroad is across from us, we are here to hang out, sell some T’s.  There are many more, selling everything from flags to water bottles. I love a captive audience.  Friends from the off-road industry are all over, and Friday night we fed tacos compliments of Raceline Wheels and Falken Tires to over 300 of our favorite friends, add a band and it felt like a party.

TDS is a jeep event, just like Easter Jeep Safari inMoab– that’s next month, come see us if you are in the area, we’ll be there doing a Dirt Riot race and hanging out with a lot of the same people.

Life is a highway..

I love the energy of the Santa Monica pier.  It is about as touristy they come, but the energy and fun added to the beautiful beach setting always makes me smile.  We visited on a cool, windy night and we were able to enjoy the setting as much as any time we have visited.

The pier sits well out in to the ocean, it is filled with restaurants and an amusement park, street vendors and fisherman, tourists and circus goers cover the boardwalk.  Cirque d’soliel is currently set up on the beach in their big tents and streams of people come down to watch the show.

I love walking the boardwalk and watching the people, but the night lights are definitely my favorite.  The bright lights of the ferris wheel are so vibrant right there on the ocean.  The Pacific Park brings so many things to life.

Add in the great restaurants, everything from funnel cakes to burgers, the restaurant at the end of the boardwalk is a little more upscale, but if you are looking for fun, Bubba Gump’s is the place to be.  If you haven’t seen the movie, Forrest Gump lately, refresh your memory and watch it.  Not only is it an American classic, but your wait staff is likely to test you on your knowledge.  Haley and I got a 100% until we were asked the real name of one of the main character’s, neither of us knew that.  So for reference, keep Benjamin Buford Blue at the top of your list.  You will blow away the staff if you know that one!

Santa Monica is also the end of Route 66.  So after traveling 2,448 miles down a long dusty road, you can finish the trip with a gorgeous ocean view.


Long Hail the Queen!

The Queen Mary launched for the first time in 1936, a gem of the Cunard Line, a premium luxury ocean liner designed to carry passengers between New York and Southhampton, England. Between 1936 and 1967, 1001 transcontinental round trips carried hundreds of thousands of passengers.

For years, the Queen Mary transported luxury passengers, celebrities and the like until the war broke out, then it was converted to a troop transport ship. It hauled troops from England, America and Australia between the continents. There was a concern that German submarines would target the luxury liner, so it was dry docked for a time in New York to keep it safe.

The history of the ship is well-documented at the museum that bears its’ name. The Queen Mary floats alongside the Long Beach Harbor as a testament to the dreams of men. It was engineered at a time when computers weren’t available. Over 20 models were built of the master ship prior to the final building of the ship.

In 1967, the ship was decommissioned and purchased by the City of Long Beach as a tourist attraction. Set afloat in the harbor to preserve it’s history and provide a place for events. Twenty years ago, I visited as part of an event. This week I got to go back and look at the boat with a fresh pair of eyes. In a time when I appreciate the craftsmanship and brilliance of engineers who started to develop magnificent machines over a century ago.

The Queen Mary is a beautiful example of that ingenuity, and it has been so well preserved by the curators of this great ship. The wood work is immaculate, the engine room is polished and clean, the room samples are done in their final take of 1960’s blah. My favorite is the wood, the salons are done in beautiful teak, strolling the promenade deck gives you a sense of what it would be like to travel the Atlantic in past times.

One of the cool things they have done is to record people’s stories of their voyage on the Queen Mary. So many talked about the food and the music, it doesn’t take much to transport yourself back to that time.

There are so many things to do in Southern California, a visit to the Queen Mary should make that list, if only to re-discover your sense of history

Meal time

So much of our lives revolve around food.  We celebrate with it; we drown our sorrows in it; we schedule all the best times in our family around food.  Any time we get together, the first conversation is about where we are going for dinner.

When we are home in Idaho, we always have to make it to our favorite local spots.  First to Tommy Vaughn’s and Rupe’s – next stops, the best Mexican restaurants in town, El Vaquerro and Melina’s.  At every one of those places the owners can predict what we’re eating, if not drinking too.

Rupe’s has been a favorite for as long as I can remember, we even order stuff not on the menu. When I was there last, I ordered a Leo Burrito with extra veggies.  It got delivered perfectly and then I looked up to see Leo standing there – he smiled and said “I knew that you were here somewhere.”  I love being recognized.

This trip to California is a short one to spend with Haley, but our day was surrounded by where we were eating.  Always trying to look for local spots, instead of chains, we are usually really successful.  Today we stopped at Polly’s, which is a SoCal place, 15 restaurants around the area and every one with some great homemade food.

Our final stop was one of the chains, but this one is one we have loved for years, it is always a happy place with great food.  We’ve been in San Francisco and Chicago and tonight it was the Santa Monica Pier.  Bubba Gump’s never fails to please my palate.  The food was good and the service was awesome.

Toward the end of the evening, Red stopped by our table after we commented to our waitress about the young man who “projected” during the Happy Birthday number.  He pulled up a chair and sat down, you see, he is an actor.  We talked a little about whether he was an “aspiring” actor or the real thing.  He’s making films and reminded Haley that 99 people will tell you no, you just have to hold out for the one who says yes.  When he left, he gave her a high five and told her to keep up the good fight.

I think our family focuses on food and meals so much because that is where the people are, the ones who drop in to your life to make an impact.  Thanks, Red – good luck to you.

Save Johnson Valley

Food and Big naturally go hand in hand.  Make that tacos and you definitely have a winner.  While we were out inJohnson Valley,Californiaat the King of the Hammers 2012 event, Raceline Wheels and our friend Greg Mulkey put up a challenge.  He invited four of the biggest guys in off-road racing, Dave Cole (president of Ultra4 Racing), his brother, Chris Cole; Shaun Bootsma, volunteer cooridinator of KOH; and Big (president of WE Rock/Dirt Riot) to participate in a Taco eating contest.

All agreed, some reluctantly, but the cause was a good one. Johnson Valley is a huge area lying between two mountain ranges.  It is used for off-roading of every variety.  Over 160,000 acres of trails and open land on the Means Dry Lake Bed that is filled up and emptied out of people on a regular basis.  This is a BLM run OHV park, one of the largest public use areas in California.  There is recreating in the area every single day.  In addition, there is a Marine Base that runs south and east of the Valley and there is a current plan in place to expand the Marine Base to the west.  This would encompass almost all of Johnson Valley and thereby eliminate the recreational use of the area.

Now, I am in favor of the Marines expanding as they need to, they serve our country every day, but my preference and that of my fellow off-roaders is that they expand to the east.  There is as much land on that side of the marine base that is currently not being used as there is on the west.  So the battle cry is taken up by many, “Go East Marines!”, and the fundraiser Big ate tacos for was to Save Johnson Valley.

The goal for the week was to raise $100,000 on the lake bed to help to lobby and influence our lawmakers that have a say in what happens to the Marine expansion.  In addition, March 14 and 15 have been set aside to talk to our local congressman and senators to let them know that even if we don’t live in California, we have a stake in what happens in Johnson Valley.  Join up, join the men and women in the off-road community and the thousands of dollars raised in saving our recreational spaces.  Go to Save the to find out ways you can help.

And in case you’re wondering, Big won the taco eating contest  🙂