12/19… Ten Thousand Miles

It’s been a while, certainly, so this post is going to once again kind of mess up the timeline as I will  be going back to fill in many blanks, but we just passed ten thousand miles on the odometer for the trip and the condensed story of the great adventure to date is as follows:

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Ten thousand miles later, and both my lovely ladies look better for it

We made it, despite the best efforts of a horrific cold front, to Tucson and joined two grandmas and two grandpas for Thanksgiving at a lovely house we had rented for a week in the foothills north of the city.

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My folks and the girls, and you’ll note Dad has his hand across Leonie’s chest in the international sign for “are you really taking the kids to Mexico?”

The girls basically spent the entire week convalescing in the pool and hot tub, Val and I took showers, and my father in law showed up one morning with an electric trimmer in what I believe was a lightly veiled suggestion that my manic beard may have gone a step too far.  He’s right, of course, but I still have yet to brave a mirror and an outlet and clip the thing off.

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Would you share a tent with this beard?

There were a host of big changes as we used the week to not only upgrade ourselves (showers! nail clippers!) but the truck, as we kept our eye on being properly prepared for the trip across the border and into Baja California.

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That’s right, sweetie. I am “fixing” the truck with a knife. Totally normal procedure, just don’t tell Mom.

I will have detailed posts for those curious, but I repaired one of the rally lights that a trail at Big Bend nearly destroyed, installed an Air Ride suspension on the truck to better manage the weight in the back, put on a new FrontRunner Slimline II roof rack (which is an absolute masterpiece of engineering), and we got a new tent, an OZ Tent RV 5.

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My father in law, street named “The C-Clamp”, seen here aiding and abetting The Makita Kid in a late night driveway equipment install

The new tent is a big deal – this is, after all, the equivalent of moving into a new home for us, and little did we realize how thoroughly we would be testing the OZ Tent’s four season capabilities.

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Val, her Mom, The C-Clamp and my Mom participate in the OZ Tent’s inaugural driveway set-up. It really did only take 30 seconds.

While we planned on exploring up toward Flagstaff the weather had different plans for us, and in order not to freeze we stayed south, spending several nights at Organ Pipe National Monument in the heart of the Sonoran Desert which was absolutely spectacular.  While it was unseasonably cold, we were surrounded by saguaros and chollas, presided over by ravens and hawks and red rocks and blue skies, and we had a tough time feeling sorry for ourselves.

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The view from our kitchen. If you’re a Park Ranger, I swear that isn’t a Guinness floating, like a dream, in a mason jar.

And, in keeping with the general unpredictable and absurd nature of our relationship with my very close friend, The Hippo, one afternoon in the Sonora he simply showed up at our campsite, a solid 4000 kilometers from home, where he was mobbed by the girls who were overcome with delight at his arrival, and immediately appended himself to our voyage.

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Val and The Hippo, sharing a blanket and watching the sun rise with a warm cup of coffee.

So, we then became a convoy, which was helpful because I took a little 20 mile run in the desert when it was windy and 35 degrees outside and more or less was nearly overcome with exposure (just kidding, Mom, hyperbole!) and The Hippo found himself in charge of holding me up as I had a little difficulty standing toward the end.

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Anyone game for running an unsupported marathon through the Sonora Desert when it’s 35 degrees outside? Show of hands? Only one, eh?

From the Sonora we headed west to Joshua Tree National Park, which was beautiful, but once again the words “unseasonably cold” were dancing off the lips of all the Rangers and other park staff.

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Leonie bouldering, frankly extraordinary to watch. She’s a spider on granite.

That said, we had several beautiful days of hiking and climbing, and we also enjoyed packing up on our final morning in a hail storm.

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“Hey, Jamie, you ever see clouds like that before?”

Yes, a hail storm, in the Mojave Desert.

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Those would be hailstones, coating the back of the truck. And all of me.

Side note: the OZ Tent is, as it turns out, mercifully hail proof.

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Did not expect to have to solve the problem of “Ice accumulation on tent fly in Mojave” but there you go…

From the hail-littered mountain passes of Joshua Tree we moved west again, across I-10 to circumnavigate LA and head north through the mountains and down into the Central Valley.  We drove past Bakersfield and into Sequoia National Forest where we planned on meeting good friends from Brooklyn who had migrated westward themselves, and now resided in San Jose.

Our first night the temperature plunged to 14 degrees, something that I regret to say I am not making up.

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Worth a thousand words, or so I am told, but this is the temperature our first morning at Sandy Flats (which is to say, it has been warming up for several hours at this point).

Now, we’re crazy but we’re not stupid, so we had picked this campsite based on its proximity to a hot spring right on the Kern River which we subsequently spent the next five days cramming ourselves into.  The weather steadily warmed, too, and the cold snap that we had endured for a couple of days moderated somewhat and by the last night the temperatures were only dropping to a paltry 25 degrees.  Child’s play.

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The ladies enjoy a long, well-deserved soak in the Miracle Hot Springs

The girls, reunited with their friends Lilligoose and the O-Dog, played nonstop while myself, The Hippo, Val, Clarissa and Christian either huddled in the hot springs, or huddled around a roaring campfire, or huddled around a bottle of brown water.

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The Silverfish and Oliver contemplate their next move

It was terrific, and restorative, and great to see our friends doing so well in their new home.

And now, Mexico!

We packed up just yesterday and I am tapping this out from a public library in Thousand Oaks before heading off to run some resupply errands (FrontRunner, here we come) and to set up camp at my college roommates’ house for the night.

So, many more notes, pictures, galleries, etc. to follow as I go back and fill in specific events in detail, but the takeaway is that we’re alive, and happy and healthy, and pretty excited to finally cross the border into Mexico.

Oh, and Merry Almost Christmas to all…

R

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