CO-AK II: Avon-Somewhere in ID: Back to Da Flo

Letting the good feels start to sink in, I hit the road for reals.

Thursday, March 8th I filed the last of my oh-so-strategically assorted life into Jezebel to set out North towards Alaska. Jezebel is the main moniker for my beloved vehicle. She’s the previously (blog) mentioned ’02 Toyota Rav4 that I converted into my road living space some years back. We’ve had many a fantastic memories and miles between the two of us and I value her dearly. Here’s a couple of her Glamour Shots.

I could speak of her extensively but, I’m going to try to save that for a later post hopefully. Anyway, yeah, life into her, me into her (yes, tis sexy), and us onto the road. Before I actually got after it I had to have a delicious breakfast and well drawn out goodbye with a good friend of mine. I had met him out in Colorado the previous Winter season and we hit it off. A good dad indeed. We had breakfast at a lovely and tasty place called Westside Cafe in Vail, Co. My server was an interesting dude from Idaho who was moving back home next year to start a farm with his lady friend. He had a tattoo on his left forearm in large simple black text stating he was an “EARTHLING”. A rad dad for sure who, after hearing of my journey, insisted that I had more coffee and offered me a place to crash along my path through ID. I politely declined but, thanked him graciously. I soon put a breakfast burrito inside of me that, in conjunction with the coffee, guaranteed a very solid bowel movement was in my near future. Which one knows is paramount to beginning a road trip. Also, if one doesn’t know, and one is at work when said bowel-happening takes place, it’s know as a “paid movement”. We finished breky and I was bid farewells from my newly acquainted Idahoan friend. My buddy and I then hugged it out and I quickly slipped into the restaurant-conjoined hotel lobby (bathroom) to pass it. When I returned to Ol’ Jezzy outside, I found that someone had placed a bag of confectionous treats from the bakery next store upon her windshield wiper. I assumed it was from my recently apparted compadre, although never confirmed. The contents were a red velvet glazed, cake doughnut and a large cronut. If you didn’t know, a Cronut is a mix between a croissant and a doughnut and it’s damn delicious. This particular cronut is of the bakery’s own accord being of original croissant form, just lightly fried and then glazed. Letting the good feels start to sink in, I hit the road for reals.

The next seven hours of driving were largely uneventful. I usually drive through some of the most scenic areas of the nation but, stints of bland landscape are bound to happen on the in-betweens. This, I believe, was some of that bland. I believe it was because thinking back on it now I’m having a hard time recounting much of what I saw or drove by. This happens and one gets used to it. However, it seemed like no time at all before I arrived at Snake River Brewing in Jackson, WY. When I’m traveling I definitely seek out independent establishments over commercial. I also thoroughly enjoy quality small-batch beer and delicious in-house prepared foods. It just so happens that many independent breweries out there meet a lot of my qualifiers for a well-deserved evening rendezvous. The environment was one which I surely approve of. A multi-level tap-room was filled and busy with many role-filling aficionados of all the sorts. Individuals still clad in their beanie caps, carhartts, and puffy jackets were shoulder to shoulder sharing stories of snow and sport. A spot at the bar suited me with views of large steel fermenters and the inter workings of an apparent sci-fi laboratory. Upon quick inspection of the taps and menu I decided on a seasonal Pale Ale aptly name “Snow King“. T’was quite satisfying and after leaving my wing(daddy) decision up to the bartender, paired quite nicely with my hickory-smoked lil’ chicky legs.

Whilst sitting at the bar I conversed with a gentleman who was basically a twilight zone version of myself. He was 20 years older than I, had dark hair to his shoulders, was wearing bib suspenders, and had the overgrown facial hair of someone who tries maybe once a week. We began by chatting of my trip and routes north. Soon we’re sharing stories of travel and life lessons learned. Turns out he worked hard traveling and repairing wind turbines for 12 years before quitting that life and began blowing his built up savings on shit that made him happy. We talked of how hard relationships are with that sort of work and living with the ambitions of constantly moving around. A very relatable subject indeed. He had recently finished a four-week stint traveling and backpacking through Peru and Chile which had left him “on the rocks” with his current girlfriend. The conversation was very reflective for me and really aided in the bone-sinking tone of my experience and current endeavor north.

The sight was one that was completely unique to me and serene beyond measure.

Soon, we parted ways and I decided to head out of town on 191 N towards Grand Teton and Yellowstone National parks per his recommendation. I wasn’t certain on where I was sleeping this eve or if I was going to visit these parks in any form the following day but, I always am ready and often prepared for evolving adventures. The overcasting lull of the evening was very pleasant visually heading out of Jackson. I passed town square which was littered with archways compiled of thousands of antlers. Quite aesthetically rad for sure. Right outside of town my eyes caught sight of some animals out in plain off the right side of the highway. It wasn’t just a few animals it was literally thousands of elk that just meandering around. My initial reaction was something along the wide-eyed results of “holy shit!” For I had never seen so many elk in one spot and within such a short range. The sight was one that was completely unique to me and serene beyond measure. So many beautiful creatures back-dropped against a carpet of white plain and snow-tipped peaks. After the initial reaction passed I realized a tall fence and then a sign stating “National Elk Refuge“. Ohhhh…that makes sense. A little bit of the awe wore off but, didn’t actually take away from the experience in the least. Just a slight change in the mentality of “free range” that was a part of my initial interpretation. Still very awesome.

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Wikimedia Commons photo. Actual refuge shot.

Further down the road there were two mature moose next to the highway which was not as equally awesome but, very rad indeed being the first moose of the journey and in Wyoming. Continuing into the evening I started encountering adverse road conditions and individuals who were way more confident or negligent than I was in the travel. When I came upon my turn onto another highway for my current route I was disappointed, although not completely surprised, to find the path closed. This caused me to backtrack back through Jackson and added two hours into my drive time that day. A little unnecessary but, not completely unwarranted else-wise I wouldn’t have had the Elkgasm. Another hour and a half later I found myself tiredly searching for a sleep spot. An occurrence that’s also not uncommon for me. The scene that unfolded into that circumstance was also a unique one and also quite eerie. The Idahoan back country roads I ventured down had massive plow walls of snow over four feet and were covered in ice. It was pitch dark out and I of course had no idea where I was headed. I came upon a couple of National Forest trail head parking spots that had been plowed out and was happily satisfied parking there for the night. There were no lights within a mile, it was freezing out, and the plow walls for the spot were over the top of Ol’ Jezzy. One of the most quiet and relaxing spots I’ve ever parked to sleep.

I slept like a log and hit the road with the sunrise. One of my favorite things in life is waking in an environment and being completely surprised by it. Entering a location in the dark for the evening leaves a morning of unknown sights to behold. The sunrise coming over some Idahoan hills transformed the previously eerie back-road drive into one of morning beauty only the crispness of a snow-coated winter can provide.

Stay tuned for Part III: Somewhere Idaho-Whitefish as I pass through Caribou-Targhee and Flathead National Parks. At the end of the next day I find an interesting ski town nestled between a Big Mountain and West Glacier National park. I find an abandoned winter-frosted picnic zone and a random adventure-fueling poker game and perhaps more…

CO-AK I: Snow Chains: Preview Of Another Journey North to Alaska

3500 Miles+-10 degrees=awesome?

My summers for the past few years have been filled with the unsurpassed views of the “last frontier”; Alaska. I’ve headed north on my ever-changing adventure for the last two summers to drive motorcoaches full of sometimes-interested tourists on tours throughout the interior. A mostly fulfilling and enjoyable occupation that provides me with many a fantastical sights and interactions. My first year up I flew to and fro. Last year I drove to and fro. Something that you must know about me is that I LOVE to drive. To drive means to travel and I’m here to see everything I can before I die. Therefore, I drive for work as well as pleasure. I love being on the road, seeing and absorbing as much as possible. In between seasons of work I mostly live out of my car on the road. There’s currently nothing more fulfilling to me than covering hundreds of miles of scenery with stop-offs and shenanigans along the way. Not only am I encountering beautiful sights and locations but, I’m also engaging in random social interactions with the interesting people therein. It’s the boobs. Anyhoo, I’m driving up again for this summer. The route I’m taking out of the U.S. is a new one to myself (which is exciting) but, the Canadian territory will be mostly the same. Which is great because now I know where to stop and soak up the space along the way based on my last trip up. Overall the journey distance-wise is quite a bit less than my previous trips up and back. The last two I took an extended route for additional experience. And, in these bigger jaunts, is how I prefer to do long trips like this. I can’t just power haul through such an endeavor. It’s not my style and I need the extras along the way. The current route this time should be around 33-3500 miles and 60-80 hrs depending on weather. I bet you’re all like “holy shit” and stuff, right? Sure, but my last drives up and down for over 7K each. Keep in mind though, I did a lot of playing and visiting along those routes. They were nowhere close to concise and contained a lot of fun detours. Being the veteran I am by now with this process I’ve learned how to plan my route accordingly. By accordingly I mean it follows a few guidelines: hot springs, points of interest, and breweries. A recipe for Canadian greatness Ladies and Gents. Below is the current route via the Googles (maps). Thanks Googs for making life super easy and whatnot.

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Now, this particular drive up has the potential to be quite different from the others. In the others, my stints through The North happened at the end of September and the very end of April. This time up I’ll be headed up through the beginning of March. The averages of temperatures and snowfall during this time are quite different. I’ll be headed through areas with March averages of -7 Celsius and recorded temps of -40 (those record lows are not really possible for me so don’t freak out however, it’s gonna be “cold as ice”). Snowstorms are also possible; dumping several inches within an hour. These factors can make road conditions quite adventurous (treacherous). Because of these possibilities I’ve been preparing my outfit and mentality for the expedition as much as I think I can. Such preparations include buying tire chains, the routine oil change (w/cold temp thoughts), and small bottles of assorted alcohols. I also beforehandedly upgraded my sleeping sitch to include a -32C/-25F bag. This is not one of those super nice future tech bags. I’m cheap where I can be y’all. This big bad girl of a bag is double duty for a daring dad! She’s voluptuous, flannel lined, and packs up like a hay bale. Wouldn’t have her any other way in my setup. All things considered, I’ve been saying that I’m outfitted for -20F. I’ve never encountered those temps and I hope I never do but if so, I guess I’m prepared? On the whole, I’m honestly super psyched for it all.

The day before heading out obviously calls for a last hoo-rah of sorts with the Colorado fam. I planned a day of riding the mountain early and an evening of German brats and Bier. It couldn’t have gone more successfully. I rode almost 32K vertical feet and shared a few beverages with an assortment of friends throughout the day. That evening another set of friends (and some carry-over) and myself indulged in the Deutschness of delicious brewhas, good convo, and several rounds of hammerschlagen! Needless to say I woke up well-rested and ready to start my journey.

Who knows what the future journey shall bring. I know I’m super stoked and ready to get after it. Ready to cover that open ground and carry an open heart and mind for all choice encounters. Ready to end up back in Alaska and start another quest of a summer. Here’s to that and all that it shall be!

Look forward to part II and my first day or two of the journey. Maybe I’ll have a random encounter or happening?

Heated Driveway Weather

The average cost of heating a 800 sq.ft. driveway per month is 2,500$* Most driveways within the neighborhoods of where are three to four times that size. Also, most of the residences are vacation homes, meaning that they are only occupied for a portion of the year and/or season.

That means that the owners are paying between 7,500-10,000$ a month (for five months) to HEAT A DRIVEWAY that may hardly even get used. Some are not driven on at all during some seasons.

 

Also, it’s worth mentioning that the entirety of Beaver Creek Village is also heated which is probably upwards of two football fields worth of cobblestone and pavement. The scaling is quite different for the village though, being as it’s fueled by the infinitely deep pockets of Vail Resorts. I will say that there is something quite special about driving up the hill in the early morning and onto large heated driveway circle. The blue sky letting the sun shine down through heavy snow-laced trees. Steam forcefully rising and swirling up from the pavement. A beautiful scene that is rarely reproduced and cosmic in it’s own right.

These are thoughts that fill my head as I drive around during my normal work day. My job out here in Avon, Co. consists of driving a mostly certain clientele around a couple snowy mountain ski areas. The terrain creates steep winding roads that are often caked in ice/snow and framed in with large boulders and wooden railings. The transportation services are complementary and offered to anyone within a specific range of the resort’s area. Most of the guests are on skiing vacations, spending large amounts of money to stay at lavish rentals, condos, and hotels. A lot of guests are also visiting from around Colorado. They park in paid lots for the day and ride the complementary buses up to the slopes (I drive these sometimes). There is however a numerous amount of private residences spotted throughout the hills and National Forest land that we also cater to with a special “on-demand” point-to-point service. Driving these shifts is some of the most entertaining and often challenging work within our department. I enjoy them the most.cropped-20161124_092847.jpg

The challenging situations involve determining whether or not the driver can personally maneuver their vehicle safely in and out of tight, obstacle-lined, often icy driveways. Then, they must successfully accomplish that task. If it’s a heated driveway the task is exponentially easier.

The entertainment comes from hardy, libation-lit souls that want the 80’s rock turned up to eleven. Great conversations blossom from these individuals who come from all over the country and sometimes the globe. There’s something to be said about a family bus full chanting your name after the safe delivery to their destination down a treacherous hill. Special moments, like singing John Denver’s “Country Roads” a capella with a group of elderly women or being tipped in pizza and beer. It’s these moments that aid in making my work more than tolerable but, indeed, very enjoyable.

Beauty is found where you let it be found

Of course there are other major factors contributing to the smiles that adorn face while I’m working. One such factor is the scenery. And yes, there are massive structures worth millions of dollars perpetuating the capitalist flows of tourism marring the hillsides. But, these eyesores are easily transparent and often accented by the surroundings. And I’ve briefly mentioned the weather before but, mostly in it’s perils. The weather out here can be equally gorgeous as hazardous. And, in combination with the terrain, can be down right breathtaking. Sights such as freshly snow-coated mountains on a crispy bluebird day or slinking down into a dense patch of conifers seeking solace. It’s in these comparable moments that one can realize that there is majesty in all things and places. That beauty is found where you let it be found. Whether on a sunny ocean-crested beach or snow-drenched mountain top, one can absorb the happiness emitted by their surroundings.

This is part of why I travel. Why I seek happiness in my surroundings.

It’s easy to see if one starts looking simply.

Soon I will be leaving again. My life is one big coming and going episode. My fuel more than just gasoline. I’ll be heading north out of Colorado, up over 3,000 miles through Canada and into Alaska. Look for my next post regarding that journey and it’s glory.