probably not what you were expecting

One week ago I sat in church with tears dripping into my Communion cup feeling frustrated and directionless. I prayed for direction. The next day I received a phone call from the manager of the Visitor Center at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. We had a lovely chat and I could hear the excitement in my voice as we discussed the opportunity. My recent conversations with owners of accounting firms had not been as joyful. I believe it’s important to listen to this internal feedback. So the next morning I called a Dodge dealership in Phoenix and told them what I needed. If I could find the right truck and close the deal before the end of the week I would officially accept the position with the Grand Canyon Association. Believing it would all work out, I also began pulling cold weather clothes out of suitcases and making packing lists.

So today I sat in church feeling a little numb and intimidated by this adventure I’ve signed up for. Of course I’m excited for all the trails and scenery and to be full time RV-ing again. But it’s quite remote and therefore unplugged and probably lonely. I think I’m actually a little scared of being with myself that much. Scared of having to do the work to return a better person. The last six months in Tucson have been great in several ways but also not so great in others. My training was fantastic and I traveled to two incredible bucket list triathlons. I made some great new girlfriends. I’ve dated, ugh. I’ve bounced around crashing in friends’ condos while the Airstream sat lonely and unhooked on a ranch an hour away. I landed a job that seemed so perfect but just as I was getting my footing we lost the contract. I ran off to Germany for three weeks and put off trying to figure out what’s next.

I tried to buy myself some time by hanging in Cincinnati to help out with my niece and nephews but my mother and I can only live under the same roof for so long. Faced with the option to dump the trailer for more permanent accommodations and another unfulfilling desk job, I did just the opposite and went all in with a new (pre-owned) truck and workamper position. I’m just not sold on Tucson as a long term home and there was no other obvious destination. My hope is that 2 months living at 8000’ on the edge of a 277 mile long hole in the earth will provide some much needed introspection and enlightenment.

Can’t promise how often I’ll be updating anyone about anything, but I do hope to do a lot of reading and writing along with the hiking and trail running. I’m sure I’ll accumulate a lot of great photos too.

The adventure continues!

New Mexico = my new love

I intentionally chose the middle spot on the row that had no other reservations around it when I booked online at Elephant Butte State Park. Wouldn’t you say I pretty much nailed that back in parking job? Did I mention it was pitch dark when I arrived? I missed the teeny tiny street sign and had to make a 10 point turn on the beach to backtrack. My luck ran out when I opened the trailer door to discover that a bunch of stuff had escaped the pantry, broken, spilled, and covered the floor as I drove around on that beach… so I spent most of the evening mopping up red wine and strawberry preserves and will be finding shards of glass for days to come I’m sure.

That being said, I did not get up at 6:30 to go swim at the municipal pool whose lap swim hours were only 7-9am (a 30 minute drive away to boot). I wasn’t too disappointed, it was a short workout anyways, and there were hiking trails to explore. The park ranger struggled to find a map for me and went on and on forever about which trailhead to start from. Despite his diatribe I still made a wrong turn and ended up driving around on yet another beach – it seems pretty commonplace here. I got to the right place eventually and the trail is pretty clearly marked as you can see.

it was either up…

Who doesn’t love running up steep hills on loose gravel at 4500′ of elevation?

or it was down…

 

a lot of brown, and then there’s me

At least the rangers won’t have a hard time finding me if there’s a flash flood or rattlesnake encounter. (Important to note: the only wildlife I saw was the backside of a jackrabbit).

strategically located picnic spots

After the run I stopped at the visitor center to buy a second night and the gal started chatting me up about helping with her taxes. No thank you! Time for the hot springs baby! I hooked the now unfrozen hose back up for a quick shower (micro-managing my gray water accumulation this week) and headed into town.: Truth or Consequences. I’ve been dying to check out this town. (As though Elephant Butte wasn’t interesting enough.) TripAdvisor said Riverbend Hot Springs was the #1 thing to do so by all means…

The office was tiny and chaotic as 4 employees tried to manage checking in 4 sets of guests at once. I don’t think any of us had reservations to soak which didn’t help, but still. I opted for a private soak for only $3 more than the communal variety. It was heaven. 50 minutes in a 103* personal hot spring with a waterfall and mountain views. My phone conveniently died the moment after I took the pic so I just luxuriated in the solitude.

I still had a decent amount of daylight after my soak and shower so I headed out towards the big dam. They don’t allow pedestrians on it anymore but there are a couple pullouts with historical markers.

The views were fantastic. Mountains all around, and the lake is just so interesting.

Seems a bit chilly for houseboats but I know nothing about them. There were signs for another EB rec area so I drove on down and saw signs for another RV campground. It was a super sketchy curvy narrow road with cliff edges and deer jumping out at me (one waaaay too close call) – I would never try to take the Airstream down there. But sure enough there were some big fifth wheels back in there. Talk about remote.

I wanted to explore the rest of the park where I was camped before the sun set – I’d seen some Airstreams glistening across the way, and trucks down on the rocky beaches. What’s the point of having a giant truck and 4 wheel drive if you don’t try and get in some tricky situations right? I should really be getting paid by Dodge and Airstream for some of these shots…

My nosy adventure in the truck confirmed that I needed to run around some more in the morning. I knew I had a long day planned so I tried to get to sleep early but let’s be honest, I’m a night owl. My fun-filled Friday night consisted of a trip to Wal-mart after watching the sun set, and working on this blog. Yep, I’m a party animal.

sunset from my campground

Even though I didn’t get up very early, I still went for the run. Actually, as I was brushing my teeth, the camp host Judy stopped by to make sure I’d paid a second night (because I didn’t display the appropriate car tag) and we killed some time chatting (still in my pajamas). We remarked how the wind had really died down, so I must go for a run. I left from the campground and ran down one of the sand roads to the beach. You can really just wander around wherever you want here apparently. But getting off the “road” meant super soft sinking sand and quite a workout. Ouch.

I was super reluctant to leave and hope there will be a time to return – maybe when it’s warm enough to swim in the lake?! I know the pictures don’t do the scenery justice, the scale is off somehow. The landscape is just fascinating. Definitely have to bring a fat tire bike for that sand though!

sleeping by sinkholes sounds safe

It was a long day driving across west Texas on some two lane state highways with zero rest stops. I was good on gas and such, but I mean, at some point a girl has go to go ya know? I do have my own personal lavatory in my mobile home but I couldn’t even find a place to pull off the highway to use it! Nothing but ranch land, oil derreks, and cotton fields for hours. The only turn offs were one lane dirt roads that I’d never be able to turn around on. Finally I pulled off and blocked this “driveway” when I couldn’t stand it anymore! Glamorous isn’t it?

Eventually I crossed the state line into New Mexico. I knew this not because of some big visitor center or welcome signs, but rather a subtle change in the color and condition of the road. Now New Mexico does have some little rest stops that were quite cute- picnic areas with metal shades and all the quaint metalworking horses and cowboys and what not. I drove through the town that makes a LOT of them (maybe all!?) and it actually made me wish that I had a ranch just so I could custom design a grand entryway with cowgirls and bicycles marking my territory.

I was thoroughly enjoying the landscape all the way to Bottomless Lakes State Park where I had a reservation, just for the night, and was delighted to discover I’d gained an hour and would have plenty of time to ride my bike around the park. After driving the wrong way into the campground I completed a long slow loop to get situated the right way to pull into my waterfront spot. The wind was atrocious however (and smelled like poop). Eddy the camp host discouraged riding the loop and suggested I hit the mountain bike trail on the north side instead. Well that would be great if ya know, I had a mountain bike. So I resigned to running the trail instead.

It was a good run, just windy as hell. I could hardly enjoy the scenery for trying to not trip on the rocks. I did have some fun playing with the GoPro though in some of the easier sections where I could set up the tripod without getting stuck by a cactus.

 Eddy had also mentioned that sunset was nice from the bluff above the campground. He wasn’t wrong. From up there I could also get a better idea of the whole lake area including the beach that I’m sure must be busy in the warmer months. Gobs of picnic areas for the day users. Later I would wander around with a headlamp to stargaze but it got a little eery in the pitch dark.

I moseyed into Roswell for dinner and drove around for a while before picking a place off Yelp. I didn’t really have any interest in the alien stuff and reviews of the #1 attraction (the UFO museum) weren’t that good so yeah, I passed. Big D’s Downtown Dive sounded like a promising spot for a bite and I was a little disappointed to discover it was like an order at the counter type place. No atmosphere or bar to hang out and chat with locals. The food was really good though so the reviews were right in that regard. My lazy eyed order taker spent a lot of (perhaps too much) time chatting with me about the level of heat in the sauce on my Angry Hippie sandwich but totally failed to mention that the garlic fries I added were freakishly peppered and basically inedible.

After dinner I wanted to star gaze but it was cooooold. So I went for a stroll around the lake to try and stay warm while watching for shooting stars. Then I got creeped out by weird noises in the dark so I set up a chair on the beach in front of my site. No shooting stars. Much sadness. New Mexico state parks have really really good free wifi so I watched some Netflix and tossed and turned. I had woken up pretty early, had a long day of driving, a hard run, and some wine. Sleep should have come, but it did not. There’s something in the atmosphere in the area and I was up til at least 3am jumping at every weird noise. In my state, I completely forgot to unhook the water hose and the line definitely froze. I used my tank store til it thawed out enough to push some water through but I had to shake a bunch of icicles out of it before unhooking for the drive. Thankfully Airstream has anti-freeze tanks so it was just a hose issue and the sun thawed it out pretty quickly. So many details to trailer life. In light of the refrigerator debacle the day before, I stopped at an RV park near town to refill my empty propane tank before heading to White Sands. With another few nights booked at a state park and overnight temps below freezing I didn’t want to risk running out! I feel like I’m getting the hang of this thing but it never goes perfectly.

backtracking to Alabama (figuratively)

As you may have realized, there was a big gap between Thanksgiving when we arrived in Memphis, and when we left mid-January. No we weren’t there the whole time (egads!) but there was a lot of family and friends time and not much adventuring. So I’m trying to fill in a few of the holes with some short stops of interest. Completely out of order then, Oak Mountain state park, just south of Birmingham, Alabama, the day before the day before Christmas Eve.

A running buddy of mine in Charlotte is from the area so when I saw him at the Fillnow holiday kickball barbecue I asked for suggestions on where to camp. [I had originally wanted to camp near Talladega, just because, but turns out most of the camps near there are only open for race weeks. Not being super familiar with Nascar, I guess most people just camp at the race track so they don’t need a lot of overflow space.] So anywho, Chad suggested Oak Mountain and he nailed it. I just wish we had more time. It was a long day of driving from Concord (north of Charlotte) where we had left the Airstream to get the new toilet installed, all the way through Atlanta, to Birmingham. Even gaining an hour with the time change didn’t help.

just in case you need cash for your park entrance fees…

The attendant at the park entrance was very enthusiastic (new I think) and chatted with us forEVER and I just wanted to get out of the truck! The overly detailed directions did help though because it was pitch dark and the signs were rather tiny. It was a parallel parking spot that I did a decent job with and finally we could stretch out.

We were supposed to do a trail run that day at Crowder’s Mountain or somewhere on the way but it didn’t happen. So we got up and ran separately in the morning – exploring some of the many park hiking trails. They were rather tough but it was a nice sunny day and I was procrastinating getting back on the road so had fun playing in the woods – sometimes having to walk up the steepness… the strava elevation profile speaks for itself. I’d love to have ridden bikes through the park on the nice curvy roads and was super jealous as we saw some folks cruising by as we made our exit. Plus there were many more miles of hiking trails to run. Maybe we’ll be back some time.

the 3rd best U.S. city to live in, really?

or how I survived, then escaped Fayetteville, Arkansas.

In my last post I was trying to make the best of a waiting game. I pretty much failed miserably. So after a full week in a very remote and uninteresting RV park 30 minutes from anywhere (including downtown Fayetteville where the “action” is), I cut my losses. The house sitting gig was postponed at least a month and I was already bored out of my mind and going stir-crazy in the trailer, cooped up because of the nasty weather. I tried to see what was out there – spent an afternoon exploring the cute old downtown

tandem tacos

area with its quirky shops and plethora of food/drink establishments. I even popped in the art center and perused the free gallery. I drug Tom to the Crystal Bridges museum up in Bentonville, which is very well done (and free!) but the outdoor spaces were hard to enjoy in the constant gray drizzle. Aside from checking out a local bakery for lunch after a bike ride my last day, we ate at home, so that’s boring. I ran around the golf course where we were staying 3 times and the neighborhood across the shoulder-less street once. We used our free 3 (or if you’re lucky 4) day pass at the Fayetteville Athletic Club then ventured to the rather strange Jones Center in Springdale. The sun finally came out so I rode the famed Razorback Greenway which was fine but is probably better the opposite direction.

But by the time I even rode the greenway and found the great bakery, I was leaving. I’d paid for my last night at the RV park and Tom had moved all his stuff out of the Airstream. He wanted to stay, had a little part time job lined up even. Not I. I’d spent the week emailing people about house sits, looking for camp hosting gigs, and checking out campgrounds on the Texas Gulf coast for a temporary distraction. In the end I decided to head back to Tucson and interview for the CPA job and see what happened. Of course I wanted to take my time along the way, no 9 hour drive days, no creepy parks by the interstate. Naturally that means a slightly more circuitous route.

First stop: Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, a whopping 100 mile drive for day 1. An old marathon maniac friend of mine promised plenty of curb space and a spare bedroom. She even agreed to go for a bike ride with me and color my hair! Full on girls weekend complete with lazy wine filled movie nights and puppy snuggles on the sofa. I did go for a run around a park in Tulsa and managed to swing a free lap swim at a super nice new YMCA. The plan was to run at Turkey Mountain on my way out of town but a nasty cold windy rainstorm called for Plan B. My friend scouted a trail at Lake Texoma (obviously on the state border) while I headed south towards Dallas.

It was a SUPER windy waterfront locale but at least the woods offered some shelter. I was scared just to leave the truck/trailer in the parking lot (at the boat ramp) while I ran and envisioned returning to find it twisted on its side.

Thankfully it survived. My run did not go as well. Maybe it was being cooped up in the car or just not used to steep rocky trails, but I struggled and when I ran into a huge brush pile blocking the trail I wasn’t too disappointed to turn around early.

I finally made it to the house of another old running friend (and coworker) who relocated to a suburb of Dallas 5 years ago from Charlotte. She and her husband were enthusiastic to host an Airstream and I just baaaarely fit between their driveway and the neighbor’s, fully blocking the mailbox. We had a girls’ catch up dinner out and she set me up in the office/makeshift guest room – girl has 3 kids, so full house! I would have slept in the trailer but it probably would have required blocks so I just went with the air mattress and central heat.

The Base Performance guys were in town for a conference and suggested meeting up the next day which meant I definitely would not make the 300 mile drive west to Big Spring. My friend graciously offered to let me crash a second night and I promised to get out of their hair for family activities after school. She did my strength workout with me, then I ran in the glorious sunshine. Afterwards I set up my trainer in the driveway so her 19 month old got the bike ride bug and they all went for a family cruiser ride. So happy to inspire people to be active – she confessed she hadn’t found a group to train with and hadn’t run in years.

I reluctantly unhitched the trailer and drove into the city to meet the guys at the triathlon conference. I crashed the session Matt was speaking at then we all crashed the cocktail party and dinner. It was quite an entertaining evening – from the feisty table mates arguing the merits of retail stores, to the humorous awards, to my new friend who educated me about commercial bee farming. I tried not to be offended when the Active representative informed me my upcoming “ironman” is not an Ironman and I should not refer to it as such. Hashtag no M dot tattoo for me. Bozo.

It was a fun night, however late (mostly due to a zealous Canadian guy trying to teach me how to swim, at the bar in the Fairmont lobby), but I was up and on the road by 8:15 when the family left for work and school. LA Fitness Arlington didn’t know what was in store for them. In order to swim, I needed a pool, obviously, so I parked in like an entire row, which seemed like no big deal at 9am. Of course there was a blue hair water aerobics class til 10am though so I did an hour of HIIT first and didn’t end up leaving til noon by the time it was all said and done (ie. shower and smoothie). The parking lot had filled up a bit but I managed to get out okay, phew! Off to West Texas, finally.

Nothing very interesting about driving I-20 west for a couple hundred miles. I got creative at a very busy Love’s truck stop and even bought my first box of DEF. The West Texas Friendly RV Park I had picked, based on reviews, was pretty far south of Big Spring and nothing remarkable about it. No reservation, no problem. Sweet host couple got me situated and I headed into town for a grocery – praying for better than a Wal-mart, since I’d lost almost all my food due to the fridge not staying cool by using propane like I was told it was set to do… Google Maps directed me through some very dodgy neighborhoods to an amazing new store called Porter’s where I found all kinds of organic and vegan (and overpriced) goodies. A young man even walked my 2 bags of groceries to my car and called me ma’am. Oh my.

The evening passed watching cable and booking campgrounds in New Mexico (and airing out the trailer from the stinky food situation). So much to see, so little time. But why rush it? Maybe I won’t rush it. We’ll see. At $14/night the state campgrounds with hookups are pretty appealing.

Before leaving town I towed the trailer through Big Spring State Park to check out the view. The drive was a bit sketchy – rocky cliffs to one side, boulders and cacti to the other… wind was still pretty insane with no plans to let up. The day would entail long stretches on state highways with nothing to see but cotton fields and oil derricks. It was beautiful.

Then I arrived in the desert.