Rafting the Green River through Desolation Canyon

After rafting the Yampa in June, we knew we'd experienced a once-in-a-lifetime kinda trip. We never expected to have two in one summer. When we got an invite to raft Desolation Canyon over Labor Day weekend, we jumped at the opportunity.

The trip started on Jack's birthday: Thursday, August 28th. We drove from Denver to Green River, Utah the night before, and had some adventures along the way. As we were heading down Vail Pass, our trailer started to swing from side to side, almost whiplashing us off the road. We quickly slowed down and didn't go over 65 MPH for the rest of the trip. I figured this was caused by the rear spring spacers we added to the Syncro. The heightened rear caused the raft trailer to be out of balance, and we needed a new hitch to drop it down.

We arrived around 1:30am, popped the top on our camper and went to sleep. The next morning, we woke up and met some of our fellow floaters for the first time. An hour later, were were getting ready to leave and I was inspecting our trailer. That's when I noticed one of the wheels was about to fall off. The bearings were shot and the wheel was barely hanging on.

Luckily, one of the guys we just met had replaced all his trailer's bearings the week before and was on it. He knew exactly what to do and went to work. There was a Napa Auto Parts store a mile away. Two hours and several trips to Napa later, we were back in business and on the road.

We celebrated Jack's 10th birthday while driving to the put in, opening presents and having a good ol' time. We also had some cupcakes to celebrate with everyone once we arrived. Jack was especially pumped for the huckleberries my Mom overnighted.

Happy 10th Bithday Jack! YAY Huckleberries from Mimi and Baba in Montana

We launched with five families total, 10 adults and 10 kids. We had five rafts, a duckey, an inner tube and two motors to get us through the flat water. We didn't get on the river until 6pm that first day, and only made it seven miles before dark.

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Posted in General at Sep 20 2014, 05:11:17 PM MDT 2 Comments

The Scenic Way to Santa Fe

After having a successful run at ski season with our VW Syncro, Trish and I figured we'd see how it performed in the summer. We took it 4x4ing in Moab, rafting in Dinosaur National Monument and camping for Father's Day Weekend. It was a trusty steed for our kids, dogs, skis and raft. Earlier this month, we planned a week-long road trip to Santa Fe to see one of my old college roommates. Because of the holiday weekend, it turned into a 10-day road trip. We left Denver in style on the morning of the 4th.

Happy 4th from our Red, White and Blues!

The motorcycle on the back didn't seem to slow us down much. We drove from Denver to Winter Park, taking the long way over Squaw Pass to avoid traffic.

The Scenic Route over Squaw Pass Colorado High Country

When we arrived at our Ski Shack, the engine was making a loud knocking sound. We dismissed it as a random occurrence. When I drove to the gas station 45 minutes later, the knocking was loud enough that heads turned when I drove past. After fueling up, I started the van and began driving back to our condo. The engine sputtered, the tires screeched and then the engine died. I pulled to the side, conveniently still in the gas station's parking lot. The engine would no longer turn over.

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Posted in General at Jul 27 2014, 11:56:52 AM MDT 2 Comments

Rafting the Yampa through Dinosaur National Monument

In January, my friend Brice sent out an email to a bunch of folks asking us to apply for a river permit lottery. He sent us links to lotteries for Dinosaur National Monument - Yampa River and Desolation Gray - Green River. There were 10 of us on the email and we all applied for both permits. In mid-February, I found out I won the Yampa permit and the trip planning began. This was a huge deal for some since they'd been trying to get this permit for 10 years.

When we got all the details worked out, we were scheduled to launch on Saturday, May 31 and take out on Wednesday, June 4. Our put-in was Deerlodge Park and take-out, Split Mountain. If you're interested, you can see a map.

Over the next four months, many emails flew between us (33 pages if printed out) and much planning ensued. We had a planning BBQ, endured a permit-award-never-sent-fiasco and I tried to back out for Abbie's 5th grade continuation ceremony. Since I was the permit holder (and had to go), the crew convinced me it was a trip of a lifetime. We left Abbie in Denver for her ceremony and took Jack with us. When we launched on May 31, we had 21 people, 8 rafts and one inflatable kayak. Of the crew, 6 were children (aged 6 - 11).

Eddy... Set... Go!

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Posted in General at Jun 11 2014, 10:30:23 PM MDT 1 Comment

Syncro Solstice 2014

Our Camping Crew I like to think I've been part of the VW Community for many years. In reality, I've been sitting on the sidelines, waiting for the restoration of my '66 to finish. When we bought our Syncro last year, I became an active participant again. Last Thursday, we took full advantage of this wonderful community - joining a bunch of folks in Moab for Syncro Solstice.

The Syncro Solstice is an annual Volkswagen Transporter Jamboree produced by enthusiasts in the Intermountain area. The event hosts both 2WD and 4WD vehicles in an off-road desert-style family-camp-and-expedition Jamboree, held late spring in Moab, Utah. Our Eurovan, Bus, Doka and Microbus friends are a hit and also very welcome.

My parents joined us for this camping extravaganza, as did our "we love to go camping" border collies. The people were great, the vans were inspiring and the views, mesmerizing. We love Moab and the weather was gorgeous the entire time.

VW Sunset

Syncro Camp B Sunset

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Posted in The Bus at May 21 2014, 10:21:11 AM MDT Add a Comment

Farewell to the 2013-2014 Ski Season

We took things up a notch for this year's ski season: we bought a ski bus (a.k.a. The Syncro) and rented our ski shack out for the season. Our goal was to ski all over Colorado since Abbie had free days at every resort. Personally, I racked up 28 days of skiing, Trish had similar numbers and, Abbie and Jack got between 15 and 20.

Let the VW adventures begin! We picked up the ski bus with a road trip from Sun Valley, ID to Denver. We were hoping to ski at Jackson Hole on the way home. The sub-zero temperatures quickly changed our minds and we learned about its sub-par wind resistance driving through Wyoming.

The kids and I started the season with a trip to A-Basin, followed by a day at Keystone. Then Trish and I hit Mary Jane before heading to Montana for Christmas.

Keystone Kids at Keystone Ski Bus next to a Sportmobile

Around this same time, Trish sold her Xterra and we became a one-vehicle family. The Syncro had its first (and only!) breakdown on the way to my parent's on Christmas Eve. We raced Santa Claus to The Cabin, packed in a rented sedan with two kids, two dogs and two cats. We realized afterward the car had bald tires and a broken windshield-washing system. Thank goodness the roads were dry.

The Syncro remained in Bozeman for a week while getting repairs done at Straightaway Motors. We enjoyed the beauty of Montana without it, sledding, skiing at Big Mountain and celebrating New Years with good friends in West Glacier. Taking Trish and the kids skiing in Montana was a ski-life highlight for me. As a teenager, I learned how to downhill ski at Big Mountain and it was really cool to show my family its awesomeness.

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Posted in General at May 10 2014, 12:30:54 PM MDT 1 Comment

Spring Break in Florida: Golf, Beaches and Boats!

Florida is a beautiful state, with sandy beaches, excellent fishing, fun people and a great enthusiasm for golf. When I dreamed up Trish, I knew she'd have an awesome family, but I never expected her parents to have a house on a golf course. Trish's grandma, Claire Stanley, is a legend in her own right. I've never met her, but I knew I loved her when Trish's dad first told me about her "layered shots". When I saw Claire's name listed several times on the walls of the The Country Club of Naples, a deep respect came over me. Claire picked out her house on the 17th hole (Trish's favorite number) of the Country Club in 1966, when the establishment was founded. My bus was born in 1966.

Today, Trish's parents have turned it into a golf and relaxation oasis, complete with beautiful orchid gardens, a sweet pool and Japanese decorations from the country where they first met.

As a golf enthusiast, I'm embarrassed that we've only visited her parents in Naples once before. We bought Abbie and Jack golf clubs last year for Jack's birthday, and they both like to play the game. To make up for our lack of visiting family in Florida, we took our kids on a golf vacation for this year's Spring Break.

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Posted in General at Apr 14 2014, 08:34:59 PM MDT 1 Comment

Heli Skiing in British Columbia with CMH Gothics

I first learned how to downhill ski in Montana while I was in grade school. A couple times a year, the whole school would go on a field trip to Big Mountain (now Whitefish Mountain). I didn't ski a whole lot in high school, nor in college (at the University of Denver). However, several friends went to DU for the skiing. They'd schedule their classes so they had a couple days off per week, and they'd head for the hills. Two friends in particular, Chris and Chris, were some of the best skiers I'd ever seen. They'd fly through the moguls with legs like rubber bands, upper-body barely moving, legs absorbing the world famous bumps at Mary Jane.

I used to talk about Chris and Chris, long after college, as the amazing skiers with the rubber band legs. I didn't start skiing a lot until I worked for a .com in the late 90s. The VP of Development (whom we now call "The Professor") told us that one of the perks was a "9-inch Rule". The rule was that if it snowed 9", you could take the day off and go skiing, as long as you went to the resort that had the fresh powder. It was crazy how few people took advantage of this, but he and I never missed a day that year. That was likely the first year I'd skied more than 10 days in my life, and I'll bet I skied 20 with him.

I continued to ski a fair bit with my practice wife, then took a couple years off when the kids were born. We got them on skis when they were two years old, and they've been skiing ever since. The funny thing is, I never got really good at skiing until I started taking tips from The Professor. The year was 2010, and I got good enough to be able to ski top-to-bottom bump runs without stopping. Skiing had become a passion for me.

When I met Trish a few months later, I asked her if she skied (hoping to God she did). Her response blew my mind.

"No, I tele."

She went on to explain how she'd started with Alpine, moved to snowboarding for six years and was now addicted to free heeling. I just gazed with a dumb stare and my mouth open.

Last year, Chris M. decided it was high time we did a helicopter ski trip.

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Posted in General at Feb 11 2014, 11:18:39 AM MST 1 Comment

Around The World Honeymoon: Last Stop, Fiji

In August, Trish and I journeyed on a 'round the world honeymoon, to Ireland, Italy, Thailand and Fiji. Trish had a Fiji poster on her wall when she was a little kid and has always dreamed of visiting its islands. Our first view of Fiji from the plane was stunning.

Fiji Land Ho!

We left Thailand on Saturday, August 17. Yes, our flight from Thailand to Fiji was long. It was only a few hours from Koh Samui to Hong Kong, but Hong Kong to Nadi, Fiji was 10 hours. Our layover in Nadi lasted a few hours on Sunday morning. When we boarded the "Island Hopper" for Taveuni, Trish turned into a kid in a candy store. Trish earned her pilots license a few years before I met her and something about a 1960s-era plane excited her greatly.

It took about an hour to fly from Nadi to Taveuni. After we landed, a driver from our hotel greeted us and and drove us to our water taxi. The resort Phil booked for us was Qamea Resort and Spa, which we later found out was on an island with no roads.

As we were arrived at Qamea, we immediately noticed the Padi 5-star Diving Resort sign. We'd both been scuba diving certified in the past, but we hadn't planned on diving in Fiji. When we saw it was 5-star diving, we both looked at each other, smiled, and thought "why not?"

Qamea is a 5 star Padi resort!

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Posted in General at Nov 04 2013, 07:10:31 AM MST Add a Comment

Around The World Honeymoon: 3rd Stop, Thailand

In August, Trish and I journeyed on a 'round the world honeymoon, to Ireland, Italy, Thailand and Fiji. Thailand is somewhere I've always wanted to go, and we were looking forward to some beach time as we boarded our flight from Turin to Istanbul.

Flying over Istanbul Turkey We had high hopes for leaving the airport in Istanbul and grabbing dinner. With a six hour layover, we figured it wouldn't be too difficult. After waiting an hour in line to get out, the security guard told us we'd need a visa, which were available for $20 and another hour wait in line. We gave up and headed for the a lounge to relax and do a bit of writing. In fact, that's where I started writing the blog post about our wedding month. The flight to Bangkok started around midnight and arrived in the early afternoon on Monday, August 12. The Bangkok airport was massive and impressive, and we grabbed a bit to eat before boarding for Koh Samui.

Our hotel was the W Retreat Koh Samui and it was spectacular. Upon arrival, we were greeted by the General Manager (Brian Segrave) as we marveled at the view. Shortly after, a driver whisked us up to our bungalow in a "buggie" (golf cart). Our accommodations were exquisite, with a rose petal-filled bathtub, fondu, an outdoor shower and our own private pool. Basically, everything you'd want in a Honeymoon Getaway Suite.

After 2 days of traveling we make it to our room at the W in Thailand, whew!

And rose petals in our tub..I'm in heaven. They had fondue waiting for us in our room - sweet! Outdoor shower in our room!

No way!  We have our own little pool and veranda!

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Posted in General at Oct 31 2013, 06:49:39 PM MDT 1 Comment

Around The World Honeymoon: 2nd Stop, Italy

In August, Trish and I journeyed on a 'round the world honeymoon, starting in Ireland and taking a train to Italy. The train ride from Paris to Turin, Italy was amazing. After a few hours, we passed through the Alps, where scenery was steep and plentiful. We drank wine and gazed out the window as we flew through the countryside. We arrived in Turin just before dark and our first official honeymoon tiff began.

Upon exiting the train station, I realized I didn't have any cash, having spent it in transit on vino. Phil had mentioned the hotel was "a short walk" from the station, so I figured we could walk a few blocks and stumble upon it. This only worked for a few blocks before Trish asked me if I had the address. I admitted that I did not, though it was on TripIt and I'd left the printout on the printer at home. Of course, with no phones or internet, TripIt did us no good. We stopped in at a bar to get the address from someone with a cell phone, then proceeded to walk for several blocks in the wrong direction. Then things got a lot better. We found an ATM, caught a cab and landed at our hotel (the NH Santo Stefano) 10 minutes later.

The next day, Tuesday August 6, we slept too late to feast on the hotel's breakfast. Just before noon, we strolled through the heat to Piazza San Carlo. A shaded cafe presented itself as appetizing and we sat down for a bite to eat.

San Carlo Royal Square Turin Italy

Trish at Piazza San Carlo First meal in Italy!

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Posted in General at Oct 24 2013, 02:33:36 PM MDT 3 Comments