After 2.5 months of constant travel that found me home for no period longer the 5 days straight, my return from Italy marked family time. What has now become a tradition, Sara and I busied ourselves in prepping camping gear, the car and lastly bikes for an extended trip to the four-corners region of the southwest.
A few things were different this go around, one being we had the Sprinter Van, recently bestowed the name Sprite by Sara. The other was that my parents would be joining us for their first ever visit to Southern Utah.
As we set sail southern Montana graciously bid us adieu, with zero visibility and icy roads as we crossed into Idaho.
With my parents in the follow vehicle, I kept the speed a touch under the speed limit and checked my marathon driving ways by stopping off for the night in Brigham City. With the reassurance of my Dad, I was not about to give up my stingy ways when it comes to lodging choices so we checked into a charming Howard’s Inn. The beyond-reasonable rate was enough to celebrate, but the welcome we received upon opening the door to our room—having the entire floor scurry to greet us—was over the top… Plus one for Sam!
With the events of day one out of the way, we motored our way to Moab, slowly letting the relaxation of vacation sink in as the mercury rose. Upon our arrival to Moab and our campsite in Sand Flats Rec., we were tickled to see the thermometer read 64-deg… .ahh. A quick change to shorts and sandals and the stage was set.
Over the next 5 days we disappeared into a summer bliss of sorts, relearning the lesson of proper sun screen application, hiking, and general outdoor living. Each morning would start with a stiff camp coffee and each night would finish with cold beverages and s’mores around the fire. Amelia was truly delightful exploring the sand, rocks, and plants as only a kid can: by touching, then tasting. She managed to log a couple of tumbles resulting in her first real bumps, bruises and scraps but through it all she carried a smile, thus making this outdoor dad’s heart content. Time not spent relaxing around camp was burned exploring the wonders of Moab’s Slickrock by bike with best friends, and the geological marvels that is Arches National Park. Throw in afternoon strolls for ice-cream and things were darn near perfect.
At the end of 5 days in Moab my parents were forced to begin the journey back to the still frozen North while we proceeded south in search of new adventures on and off the bike. Sara and I have always wanted to take in the sites and history that surrounds the Mesa Verde region of Colorado; fortunately the area is also home to some of the finest mountain biking in the country. Heading south though, things began to unwind in a not-so-pleasant manor.
Sprite the Sprinter Van started to show some symptoms of sickness; it started with an unusually long pause at start up from the battery charging warning light …miles down the road it was a more consistent off and on flicker. Emboldened with the fact my two best friend Josh and Dallas were tightly drafting us from behind in follow cars, we pushed on to Durango for a diagnosis. As only cars can do, everything had fixed itself by the time I pulled up to the diesel mechanic to get my $50 clean bill of health. With the stress starting to creep back into our now idyllic life, Sara and I opted to stay close to Durango so that we could explore the town and I could log some quality time on the bike for a few days.
I must say Durango has it going on; you can ski, paddle, and bike all in the same day, as can you in Bozeman. The difference between Durango and Bozeman though is in Durango the climate invites you do all the things year round. The cherry on top of it all was Phil’s World. Within minutes of hitting the trailhead, Dallas, Josh, and I all agreed we were in for a real treat. Three hours later we rolled into the parking lot grins ear to ear with a local welcoming committee greeting us with a tapped keg from the local Ska Brewery, brats and brownies…told you Durango has it going on.
With two days passed in Durango, it was time for Josh and Dallas to head back to their respective homes. As for Sara and I, we were just getting to the part of the trip we were most looking forward to…family time. First stop was Mesa Verde for a trip through the park and visits to major cliff dwelling sites. It was very wild to take the step back in time and imagine the culture and life experiences that had led these native people to live and construct such unique communities. Unfortunately for us, the weather was changing for the worse. Amelia was less than impressed with the cold wind so our stay in Mesa Verde was cut short. We will be back.
Back on the road en route to Monument Valley, it was only a matter of getting to the middle of nowhere, before Sprite’s symptoms began to flair up. With no follow vehicles on this leg of the trip and cell coverage in and out, stress level and frustration went from zero to 11 in short order. Plus 2 for Sam.
Suddenly, our dreamy trip was in jeopardy because of a motor vehicle. How many family vacations have been the victim of ill vehicles over the years? The real question was, could I recover and still salvage the 100’s of miles that lay in front of us…you shall see.