Darlene and I joined Geof and Jennifer last week in Vail, Colorado for four days of skiing.
We’re off to a strong snow season in the Sierra this year with over 200% of average already and some big 24-hour dumps like 35 inches just over New Year’s Eve! (That storm we actually missed as we went home to Santa Cruz for the weekend.) Darlene and I spent a few weeks in Tahoe starting in mid-December and then I came back for more through early January as she went to visit her family. We hit up Palisades, Northstar, Heavenly and Homewood and were joined at times by Resi, Troy and Aiden over the past month.
The free turkey delivery is convenient, but how to choose?
Maybe let’s think bigger… behold Turkulon – “The Feathered Avenger of Death” from New World:
Pictures and video from walking around Mike and Nanci’s neighborhood on Halloween night:
Lots more board gaming with friends from May through October of this year, including at SHUX 2022 in Vancouver, Canada – the annual gaming convention organized by the gang at Shut Up and Sit Down. This was our third SHUX attendance and this time Darlene and I were joined by Richard, Adriana and Nacho.
Oath, Rocketmen, Streets, Chrono Corsairs, Wyatt Earp, Ark Nova, In Front of the Elevators, Modern Art, Canvas, Sleeping Gods, Camel Up, Gloom, Obsession, Switch & Signal, Anno 1800, SHASN, Trickerion: Legends of Illusion, Twilight Imperium (4th edition), Tiny Epic Zombies, Atelier, Aquatica, Who Goes There?, Dive, PitchCar, Brian Boru: High King of Ireland, Dungeon Lords, Last Will, Mind Mgmt, Polynesia, Super Motherload, Root, Tumblin’ Dice, CuBirds, Chinatown, 3000 Scoundrels, Villagers, Pipeline, Sorcerer’s Stone, Picture Perfect, So Clover!, Don’t Get Got!, ScandalOh!, Diamant, Conspiracy: The Solomon Gambit, Nemesis, Forgotten Waters, The Night Cage
Plus a Halloween costume gaming day at the end of October w/Nacho, Luno, Adriana, Troy, Darlene, Laurie and Richard:
Darlene and a great enchanter (there are some that call him “Tim”) met up with Greg, Erin, Merritt, Resi and Aiden at the NorCal Renaissance Faire on Saturday, Oct. 22nd:
We had the van loaded up and we had just headed out on our next extended road trip, this time up to Alberta and British Columbia for a few weeks – but we didn’t even make it out of town before this happened:
We were off to a very late start and had numerous unhelpful things come up that morning – and Darlene was just realizing she had forgotten her phone (you can hear her calling it to locate it) – and then… the impact. It was immediately clear that we weren’t going anywhere now and there would be who knows how much hassle ahead to deal with whatever had just happened.
We were fine and the cats were fine. The kids who slammed into us didn’t have their seat belts on though. One ended up slamming his teeth into steering wheel, the other had his head smashed into the windshield, bits of glass in his forehead and he was bleeding at the scene. We encouraged them to go to the hospital.
So yeah, a very abrupt end to our road trip. Can’t open the cargo doors any more but we managed to squeeze the bikes and all of our gear out through the front opening under the bed to unload everything. The van is now back up in Vancouver, WA at Van Haus Conversions where the original custom build was done. All of the interior installation (cabinets, walls, insulation, wiring, plumbing, etc) needs to be removed before a body shop can tackle the exterior damage. Then it will all need to be rebuilt again after the body work is completed. Plus the flooring will need to be replaced as it was buckled from intrusion by the cargo doors being crushed.
Very bummed. I can’t help but think that if we’d left a minute earlier or later we would have missed this whole mess. But then perhaps that young driver who somehow didn’t see this big white van slow down in front of them would’ve run over that woman and her dog. We’ll never know. But what’s with that Volvo sitting at the green light the whole time, eh?
Update (end of March 2023): Six months later and the van is still at the body shop. It’s been a long series of setbacks, delays and excuses (mostly from the body shop) and it’s still doesn’t even look close to ready to go back to my van builder, Van Haus, so that they can rebuild the interior. Maybe I’ll document all of that mess at some point, but in the meantime I’ve added a bunch of the blurry photos the body shop has sent me over the past few months to the gallery:
Update (early May 2023): The body shop finally finished and now the van goes off to Van Haus to have the interior rebuilt.
Update (mid-August 2023): The van rebuild is finally complete! Almost an entire year lost – and we’ve only had it three years since it was originally completed in August of 2020.
Darlene and I were able to extend our stay in Costa Rica following Nacho and Adriana’s “not-a-wedding” and we both got to enjoy some new areas of the country – this time during their very wet and rainy “green season”. (All of our arrangements were made through Costa Rica Rios.)
We started off with a few days in and around the very popular and very busy Manuel Antonio National Park to see the wildlife – three-toed sloths, white-face monkeys, caiman, basilisks, spiders and snakes (on my!) – and enjoy the beaches. We stayed at the Gaia Hotel and Nature Preserve.
After Manuel Antonio, we were transferred further south and a little bit inland on a rough road to the remote Rafiki Safari Lodge for four nights. From the lodge we managed to get wet in numerous ways: smashing waves on a raft on the Rio Savegre, walking through a heavy waterfall, careening down a water slide, wading into a roaring whirpool beneath another waterfall, soaking in the lodge’s hot tub and of course hiking in the rainforest – in the rain. We were also treated to our guide Kenneth’s extensive knowledge of the jungle and life growing up in the nearby very small and remote villages.
Our next adventure was a steep hike up to and an overnight stay in The Cave, behind the Diamante waterfall near Los Tumbas. We also explored some additional trails and came upon another even more insane waterfall as well as an unexpectedly long climb/hike to a not-so-nearby swimming hole. The next morning, Darlene opted to do the optional rappel down between the twin falls near the cave:
From there we were transported south to Osa Peninsula and had a boat transfer through the mangrove waterways out to Drake Bay and La Paloma Lodge. Over the following four days, we had a scuba dive trip out to Caño Island, a guided tour with Tico to see lots more wildlife in a bit of Corcovado National Park, a very entertaining and somewhat eventful kayak outing (ask Darlene) in a river channel as the tide came in and a long day’s hike along the coast and the edge of the rainforest to see some (ahem) non-existent baby sea turtles. (Again, ask Darlene. ;-)
Darlene and I were able to join Nacho and Adriana in Costa Rica, near the town of Grecia, to celebrate their “not-a-wedding” with their friends and families.
Darlene relented to dipping into cold water again and joined me for a dive at Breakwater Cove in Monterey to refresh our scuba skills ahead of our upcoming trip. 54 degrees at the bottom of the dive – warm for Monterey!
Exploring southeastern Oregon, Darlene and I made our way up to Alvord Desert, below the eastern front of Steens Mountain. We zipped around the playa mid-day for a little while and then continued north along the steep eastern front of the mountain. As it turns out, all the roads up into the mountain from this side feature private property signs and require special permission to access, so we ended up continuing on to other southeastern Oregon destinations before eventually circling back several days later.
On our way back we passed through the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and headed to the highlands in hopes of seeing the Kiger Mustangs. These are wild horses which were only fairly recently discovered to be direct descendents of Iberian horses brought over by Spanish conquistadors some 400 years ago. We did come across a large herd near the road that we could watch for a long while before sunset, even while we cooked and ate dinner.
The next day we took up the Steens Mountain loop from the north, going clockwise and checking out Kiger Gorge before finding a pullout along the road to spend the night. (Too many mosquitos in the actual campground back down amongst the creek and aspens.) Over the next couple of days, we checked out many stupendous viewpoints and got in a few hikes (including off-trail from the peak). We camped at another pullout near the top one night so we could more easily catch sunrise and we ran into another herd of wild horses at lower elevations.
After Steens Mountain, we headed home west (choosing to skip a follow-up visit to Alvord Desert) and stayed overnight in Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge where we enjoyed a soak in a hot spring pool and did spot a herd of antelope.
On our southeastern Oregon tour, Darlene and I made our way over to the Owyhee Canyonlands near the Idaho border. It was July and it was hot, so hardly anyone else was around. We had to get up with the sunrise to get in hiking and exploration before the afternoon heat but it was gorgeous! The rock formations around Leslie Gulch are fantastic as well as the Succor Creek Natural Area. We would have enjoyed spending more days exploring but there was an incoming heat wave promising well over 100 degree weather for the coming days so we decided to skedaddle and find some cooler weather in the higher altitudes of the central Oregon mountains.
On our way through Nevada to southeastern Oregon, Darlene and I spent a couple of days exploring the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge and the Thousand Creek Gorge in particular. Only spotted a single lone antelope but got in a bit of biking and hiking and a soak in the hot spring pool at the Virgin Valley campground. Didn’t stay at the campground but found a spot in some nearby BLM land outside the wildlife refuge. We also overnighted at Bog Hot Springs off of highway 140.
Somewhere along the way, on some rough and rocky side roads in the refuge, we managed to bust off our gray tank’s drain valve. Didn’t even notice for a couple of days. Oops! Eventually we found enough parts to repair it about a week later.
It was also our first run using the Starlink system for internet access – working really well!
Darlene and I spent a couple weeks in late June and early July at the Tahoe house taking care of a bunch of house maintenance, including roof repair, clearing newly fallen branches and pine needles, moving the bear box to accommodate a widening of the driveway, etc. We took some time off from all that to go climb to the top of a very windy Mt. Rose (elev. 10,785 ft.), do some mountain biking and hike up the Five Lakes trail near Palisades/Alpine Meadows.
We also had another bear visitor while up working on the roof:
Darlene and I loaded up the van and the cats and headed out this past week for a short adventure. First stop was to overnight under some dark skies in the San Benito mountains for a potential meteor storm from Tau Herculids. (There was a decent meteor shower, but no full-on storm.) We then spent the next five days in and around Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park, hiking among the magnificent giant sequoia trees, checking out Kings Canyon and exploring the Sequoia National Forest between the two national parks. We also attempted an extended mountain bike ride from Buck Rock to Lookout Peak but had to abort due to a failure / total destruction of my rear hub – resulting in a long bike walk back.
After a week in Mt. Bachelor, and with Darlene still visiting her mom, my intention had been to explore southeastern Oregon, but a series of forecasted storms would make many of those dirt roads impassable so I headed back south and ended up on a trip through central Nevada with the ultimate goal of visiting Great Basin National Park near the Utah border. (Separate post and gallery here.)
This trip involved traveling lots of remote routes, both paved and unpaved, and finding interesting places to camp. Along the way, I spent some time trying out the mountain bike trails near Ely at Ward Mountain, visited the Lunar Crater National Landmark and explored the amazing clay formations at Cathedral Gorge State Park. No alien encounters (although I was buzzed by what might have been an F-22 Raptor) and unfortunately the ghost town / fossil site Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park is currently closed for road repairs.