Mountain Biking in Moab

MOAB Brands Mountain Biking Area - home of some choice mountain biking!The MOAB Brands TrailsWhat a day we had on our bikes – not one day, but two days actually!  While the one-road town of Moab (pop: 5,000) is definitely a tourist town because of its proximity to two national parks [although I believe the marketing materials for Moab refer to it as a resort town], it also draws visitors into the area because of the unique terrain through which miles and miles of world-class trails have been created for outdoor adventure activities such as four-wheeling and mountain biking.

We were amazed at just how many different biking areas have been developed here – from easier, more scenic trails suitable for most people who own a bike, to world-famous, highly technical crazy stuff.  We were directed to a couple of trail systems and found one, in particular, to our liking.  In a word, it was spectacular MOAB Brands features 30+ miles of biking trails adjacent to Arches National Park, and in fact, when biking on some of the backside trails, the arches of Arches can be seen in the distance!

Here we are, all ready to ride:Ready to hit the trails Fred taking the lead on the Rusty Spur Trail.  This trail took us nearly two miles out on red dirt singletrack with some occasional rocks thrown on the trail for good bumping.  The scrub desert landscape with the rusty-colored mesas in the background was beautiful! Fred riding the Rusty Spur TrailThis is a section of another fun trail, the Bar M Loop.  The snow-capped mountains in the background made for an interesting backdrop, especially as we were biking in the high 70s! Riding on the Bar M Loop Trail I'm a gamer!  This is the very first bike I purchased back in 1991.  It's a classic; a steel-frame Trek 950.  I had it entirely re-built a few years ago, and while it has no shocks like the newer bikes do, and a front shock would have really helped on these rocky trails(!!), that's okay, it's an awesome bike that would now be considered vintage, and I love it!  But I now know a profession I would NOT like to try ~ that of a jackhammer operator!! :)That's Arches National Park in the background! Some trails in the trail system had us riding over slickrock.  Unlike the name, it is not slick, but bumpy… again, jackhammer bumpy!  But it was sure fun!!Part of the trail - this slickrock just invites fun, doesn't it? There's Fred up the trail a bit – blending into the background with his bright rust-colored shirt.  We were both having a blast out here on these fabulous trails!Fred up ahead on Bar M Loop Trail That's Arches National Park in the background:Circle O Trail leading out to Arches NP We would definitely categorize ourselves as road cyclists, not mountain bikers, although we brought our mountain bikes with us on our Out There journey knowing we would have more opportunities to mountain bike than to cycle on smooth roads.  After 11+ miles of biking on each of the two days we came out here, we knew our ol' bodies would be feelin' it later, but we sure had a lot of fun while on these trails!  The public lands in Utah are a treasure, and we have already booked a stay here at this same time next year to come back for some more outdoor recreation and adventures!

Staying warm in Florida, and staying a little while longer….

Tamiami Village - our Florida digs for a couple of weeks
Tamiami Village – Charley’s digs (he’s the one straight ahead) for nearly a month here in Florida

We’ve been hanging out here in Florida for a while now – in fact, it was a month ago that we pulled into this state.  At the suggestion of someone we met way back in August up in Pennsylvania, we chose to stay in the Tamiami Village RV Park in Ft. Myers for a few days over Christmas.  We then left Charley in their back storage lot for a couple of weeks while we met up with the Jolly family in Ft. Myers Beach for the big wedding and then gallivanted around the ocean side of Florida and in St. John before coming back to Tamiami for another week.

Active shuffleboard league
Like a scene out of Cocoon, shuffleboard!
The schedule at Tamiami Village RV Park
This is an active group!

Tamiami is a large RV park with trailer homes in one section and snowbirds in RVs / motor homes in the other.  There is an active, very friendly group of folks that seemingly come back year after year to this place, and we can see why.  We were greeted almost immediately by our ‘neighbors,’ Bob & Nancy, who couldn’t have been nicer.  They helped us all week long with tips and suggestions on what to do while in the area if participating in Tamiami’s weekly Euchre, Texas Hold-em, and other card games, or shuffleboard, the spaghetti dinner or ice cream social wasn’t enough activity for us.

Cycling out on Sanibel Island
Cycling out on Sanibel Island

One of their suggestions for us was to take our bikes out to Sanibel island.  We biked some 20 miles all over the well-laid-out bike paths, visited the “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, had a delicious lunch – we can’t have too much seafood while we’re down here! – and finished our afternoon with a visit to the beautiful old Sanibel Lighthouse, then a dip of Sanibel’s famed Pinocchio’s homemade Italian ice cream topped off with an animal cracker – yummy!

11-mile bike ride to Mel's Diner for breakfast
Mel’s Diner – we earned our big breakfast after cycling 11 miles to get here

Another great suggestion from Bob & Nancy was to bike over to Mel’s Diner.  While this one was a lot fancier than Alice & Flo’s Mel’s Diner, the breakfast we had after biking some 11 miles to get there was delicious – another great activity while in the area.  Throughout the week we also took in a couple of movies which we have only done one other time in these last eight months, enjoyed another visit and delicious dinner with Aunt Carolyn & Uncle Bob, and generally just relaxed and enjoyed our stay at Tamiami Village.

We are sure enjoying the weather down here at this time of year – but then again, who wouldn’t?!  When we do bother to look at a weather map, we often see that we’re nearly 70 degrees warmer than back up in Chicago – not a bad place to hang out for a little while longer….

I’m back! – Acadia National Park, Part 1

Acadia National Park
Biking on the timeless Carriage Roads – there are 57 miles of them – in Acadia National Park

It’s a little hard to keep up with blog posts when you don’t have internet connection!  Much to my surprise – but should I really have been surprised? – the first of our three campgrounds in and/or near Acadia National Park was off Verizon’s coverage grid.  We knew our site didn’t have water or electric hookups as we’ve found that often state parks and national parks don’t offer water/power in their campgrounds, but I guess I was hopeful on the cell/internet connectivity.  Oh well, we’ve moved campgrounds now for a couple of days so we can re-charge Charley’s batteries (his lights and water pump were on fumes as we were sans power for four days/nights – our longest stretch so far), dump gray water and fill up with fresh water, and hurray!, we have cell / internet connection here, so I’m baaaaack!!!  :)

We’re having a wonderful time here at the Maine coastline and in Acadia N.P.  While Acadia is one of the smaller of the national parks, it is one of the most visited – nearly 2.5 million people trek here each year.  As the smart CLO [Chief Logistics Officer – that’s me!] planned it, we’re here after peak tourist season.  I was also trying to time it so we’d see peak fall color, and while I may have been a bit premature for peak color, we’re seeing color change nonetheless, and we are thoroughly enjoying all that we’re doing and seeing here.  Our list of activities thus far includes:

  • hiking – we’ve tackled a few trails and climbed a steep one up to Dorr Mountain (1,270′), with more to come in the four more days we have here
  • biking – we couldn’t pass up some of the 57 miles of Carriage Roads here in the Park – more on them, below
  • eating – as my quick post from the day we got here shows, we’ve embraced all things lobster including eating them steamed, baked with other seafood, in mac-n-cheese, and in a roll so far… we have lots more ways to eat it and I’ll surely be posting more about this delectable edible
  • enjoying – the scenery is really stunning here, and we are taking it all in – from the rugged, rocky shorelines to the granite-composed tree-covered mountains… from the lovely seaside town of Bar Harbor to the woods, ponds, streams and wildlife that is typical of a protected place such as this… from lobster boats bobbing in quiet little coves to the open vastness of the Atlantic Ocean
Acadia National Park
Hard granite rocks meets lush green trees meets the Atlantic Ocean in Acadia N.P.

A bit more on Acadia — established in 1916, it was the first national park east of the Mississippi river.  The park is primarily on Mount Desert Island, with other bits scattered on some smaller surrounding islands and the Schoodic Peninsula.  Whereas most national parks are vast stretches of land that have been set aside by the U.S. government, Acadia was donated in pieces, which explains the patchwork nature of the park.

In the mid-1800s, wealthy folks with surnames such as Vanderbilt, Astor, Carnegie, Morgan, and Ford built “cottages” here on the island, but continued development of the land soon threatened the very serenity and tranquility they were seeking.  Fortunately, some of these summer residents sought protection for this special place and lobbied for national park status. Through gifts of these wealthy philanthropists, most significantly John D. Rockefeller, Jr. who gave some 11,000 acres including most of his carriage roads, this land was declared a national monument and named Layfette National Park.  [It was renamed Acadia N.P. in 1929.]

There is a lot more to do here, and we will be doing more in the next few days, so stay tuned for Part 2 of our visit to Acadia.  Meanwhile, have a look at some of my photos.

Hover your cursor over the photo and click on the arrows to scroll through some of our first Acadia photos:

Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Brandywine Falls
Brandywine Falls

August 1-4 — Most people are surprised to learn that there is a national park in northeast Ohio.  Well, there is, and we very much enjoyed the four days and nights we spent visiting it.

At the heart of the park, the Cuyahoga River (Native American word meaning “crooked”) twists and turns for 22 miles through this area that extends from Cleveland to Akron.  While it may not be what most people think of when picturing a national park, it has many features that are enjoyed by the urban and suburban folks all around the area.  There are secluded trails through rugged gorges, and we hiked some of these trails.  There are marshes where beavers, heron, and many species of ducks and other wildlife thrive, and we saw and photographed this beautiful part of the park. There’s a towpath all along the river that makes for wonderful cycling, jogging or just walking through nature here – we enjoyed a nice 15-mile bike ride Monday morning.  But then roads and freeways criss-cross all throughout the park and an active railroad line runs through it.  There’s a big music center [Blossom Music Center] where many come to attend music concerts of all types.  [Side note: we were going to take a picnic dinner and go hear the Cleveland Orchestra playing Rachmaninoff on Saturday night, but afternoon/evening rains literally washed out those plans! :( ]  There’s a ski hill within the park, a lovely waterfall, and a golf course, too.  All in all, it’s many things to many people, and as a testament that this is a very popular park, it boasts one of the largest volunteer groups in all of the national parks.

One of the old locks on the trail
One of the old locks on the towpath trail

The park’s history is as unique as the potpourri of what makes up this park.  During the 1820s, a canal constructed parallel to the river opened up boat traffic between Lake Erie and the Ohio River.  While important to economic growth for this area and the entire nation during that time in history, railroads ultimately made this form of transportation obsolete, but remnants of the old locks along the towpath can still be seen and enjoyed along the 20-mile Towpath Trail.

Once notorious for it’s level of pollution and actually catching fire more than a dozen times beginning in the late 1960s, the Cuyahoga River is now much cleaner, although it’s still not advised to swim or boat here.  It was these fires and other events that lead local citizens to become concerned about the commercial and residential development that was threatening the scenic Cuyahoga River Valley.  In 1974, Congress deemed Cuyahoga Valley a National Recreation Area.  Whereas most of the older national parks were designated by drawing lines around vast, wild areas, this park was established as local groups began acquiring private land to protect.  It was given National Park status in 2000, making it one of the newest national parks.

In many ways, we have this not-oft-thought-of national park to thank for helping to spur the environmental movement.  This definitely dates me, but remember the Keep America Beautiful ad with the American Indian paddling his canoe along a polluted river with a tear in his eye?  [Click here to see it on YouTube]   All of the activity here in the 60s & 70s ultimately lead to an avalanche of water pollution activities including the Clean Water Act, the creation of the federal Environmental Protection Agency [EPA], and the celebration of Earth Day.  So next time you’re in Ohio, check out this national park – there are so many ways to enjoy it!  And one more PSA, in the words of Woodsy the Owl, “give a hoot – don’t pollute!”

Hover your cursor over the below photo and click on the arrows to scroll through photos from our time at Cuyahoga Valley National Park:

“Glamping” with Elizabeth & Natalie

Peninsula State Park - site of our "glamping" trip
Peninsula State Park – site of our “glamping” trip

July 8-11 — Per my sister Kirsten we were not allowed to call this a “camping” trip for fear of setting the bar of the girls’ future camping trips too high, so instead we referred to this as our “glamping” trip ~ glamorous camping.  We spent three fantastic days with our nieces Elizabeth & Natalie in Peninsula State Park in Door County doing all the things you do when you’re camping — hiking, biking, relaxing, sitting out by a campfire, making S’mores, enjoying camp meals, and making memories….

Mommy, Daddy & Grandma came to pick the girls up on the final morning and we all enjoyed camp breakfast together before we said our goodbyes.  We are continuing our journey north — next stop, the U.P.

Hover your cursor over the photo, then click on the arrows to scroll through pictures from our “glamping” trip in Peninsula State Park

Lake Kegonsa

Laura & Lisa ready for our ride - it was supposed to be a 15-mile ride but it ended up at 22 miles!
Ready for our ride

As we always do, we really enjoyed our time up in the Stoughton area.  We started our morning at our Lake Kegonsa State Park campsite.  Bill & Lisa came by to see how we’re living now in our 220 ft² apartment on wheels, then we took off.  What was to be a 15 mile ride (gratefully, for Fred & I rode 20 hilly miles the day before and were happy to take a shorter route today) turned out to be 26 miles!  And somehow, we were always climbing hills into the wind.  Oh well, it was good exercise and the shower at their house afterwards was heavenly!


Friday night fish fry @ Springers
Friday night fish fry @ Springers on Lake Kegonsa

We spent later afternoon on the boat – always an enjoyable activity.  Captain Bill did a yeoman’s job docking the boat with a really strong side wind, and we put Timmy’s wrestling muscles to good use helping pull the boat onto the lift.  Kelsey & Timmy enjoyed a dip in the lake, then we all walked up to Springers for Friday Night Fish Fry.



Hover your pointer over the photo, then click on the arrows to scroll through photos from our afternoon on Lake Kegonsa

Everglades NP / Big Cypress National Preserve

Alligator in EvergladesJanuary 29 – February 25, 2013 — We’re on a month-long trip we’re calling our “Southern States Road Trip” with the purpose of trying to avoid some of the cold & just plain yukky Chicago winter.  We’re doing this “because we can” now that we’re retirees.  Yes, we know we’re very fortunate and very blessed to take a trip like this, and we’re also the envy of our friends and family members back in Illinois and Wisconsin as they continue to report snow and cold and ice while we enjoy temps in the 70’s, but hey, we’ve got a good gig and we know it and are grateful for it, so on we go….

A second purpose for this trip is to spend time in all three of Florida’s National Parks:  Everglades NP, Biscayne NP, and Dry Tortugas NP.  First up: Everglades.

On February 5th we drove across the Tamiami Highway, taking our time and stopping at each stopping point, Visitor Center, and potential point of interest such as the nation’s smallest post office in Ochopee.  Traveling from west to east as we were doing across the southern tip of Florida, the Tamiami Trail goes through the Big Cypress National Preserve, continues along the north perimeter of Everglades NP, and then wraps around the eastern edge of the park.

Everglades NP is like no other in that it is made up of some two-million acres of wetland with an elevation just a few feet above sea level.  It encompasses nine separate ecosystems and is home to more than 700 species of plants, more than 360 species of birds, nearly 300 species of fish, more than 40 species of mammals, and more than 50 species of reptiles.  [Facts courtesy of our National Geographic Complete National Parks book.]  Big Cypress National Preserve is a vast tract of land that is a continuation of the same habitats found in Everglades NP.  Fortunately, these two sanctuaries have been set aside and protected here in south Florida, not only for our enjoyment, but also to protect the incredible flora and fauna species found here.

Because Big Cypress is not part of Everglades NP, some activities are allowed here that would be prohibited in an NP, including hunting and cattle grazing.  We were hoping to see a Florida panther as they do roam these parts, but they mainly come out at night so we missed seeing one.

We are happy to report many alligator citings in this, the “river of grass” – anything less would have been a big disappointment, but not to worry, there were plenty!  We got out of our car several times for short hikes or just ‘gator observations.  Suggested by a very helpful NP ranger, we drove off road (really off-road down a washboard road for about five miles) to a place officially called Sweetwater Strand; I think the ranger referred to it as “The Garden of Eden” – and it certainly was!  This little area was so undisturbed; a little water source where we found herons, egrets, ibis, alligators, turtles, ducks and many other marine animals and birds totally in their element – the area was gorgeous and we stayed for nearly an hour just observing nature in all her glory.

Hover your pointer over the photo, below, then click on the arrows to scroll through our photos from Big Cypress.

We enjoyed a picnic lunch at the Oasis Visitor Center – one of eight visitor centers in Everglades and Big Cypress.  Of course, I had to get my National Passport stamps at each of these points, and I was very pleasantly surprised that each center had fun animal stamps in addition to the official date stamp.  With my obsession of my stamps, you’d think I was eight years old!  Oh well, I’m having fun collecting them at every National Park area we visit.

Our final activity of our second day in Everglades was to rent bicycles and bike the 15-mile loop in Shark Valley.  Here in the Shark River Slough there were no sharks, but plenty more alligators (including lots of babies) and the endangered, less-than-beautiful-with-its-odd,-naked-head wood stork.  We thoroughly enjoyed the day, especially the bike ride and all the wildlife we saw on it, and want to do it again at some point.

Hover your pointer over the photo, below, then click on the arrows to scroll through our photos from our bike ride through Shark Valley in Everglades.

On February 6th, our third day in Everglades, we approached it from the east side, near Homestead, FL.  As always, we checked in at the [Ernest Coe] Visitor Center to map out our day trip, got Passport stamps, and then set out to visit each of the stopping points en route to the Flamingo Visitor Center at the southern tip of the state of Florida.  We had nice walks on the boardwalks at Pa-hay-okee Overlook and Mahogany Hammock where we enjoyed learning more about this special place.  We saw bromeliads (air plants) in trees, Cypress bogs, rivers of sawgrass, and lots more egrets, ibis, herons, wood storks, and of course, alligators.  We enjoyed our picnic lunch at Flamingo, then drove back up to Royal Palm where we enjoyed the nature and wildlife along the Gumbo Limbo and Anhinga Trails.

Hover your pointer over the photo, below, then click on the arrows to scroll through our photos from our third day in Everglades.


[Trivia for Mom: the difference between a crocodile and an alligator is this:  an alligator has a broad snout and a black hide; a crocodile has a long, pointy snout and is more green-gray.]