Moving to Colorado

Maverick:  Rooster has been saying for a while now he’d like to spend just one season as a “ski bum”, working at or near a ski resort and living on the cheap. And being in Kernville all summer at MRA had just whet our appetite for this nomadic/seasonal lifestyle. So we began looking at ski resort jobs: snow grooming, lift operation, making snow. While all sounded interesting in their own way, we started looking seriously at shuttle driving positions throughout the western states, leveraging our CDL’s to make a bit more money.

We honed in on Breckenridge, Colorado (at 9600 ft in elevation), which is a mecca for outdoor adventurers of every type. It has a beautiful downtown filled with shops, amazing food, and breweries. Whether you’re into summer sports (hiking, biking) or winter (ski, snowboard, etc), the options are limitless.

The mountain view from the bus depot

We interviewed for several driving positions, and landed jobs with the town for Breck FreeRide, a free transit service for locals and tourists. Furnished housing was available at a huge discount, the money was right, and…you know…BRECKENRIDGE!! Easy decision.

View from our balcony

When we left bike mechanic school in Ashland, we did some mountain biking in Bend and Moab, then headed home to Wisconsin for a brief visit with family and friends. We arrived on October 4th. We rolled in at the perfect time, too…the aspens were golden and daily temps were still in the 70’s. By the end of the day, we were fully moved in, and started work the next morning. Our new team is fantastic, and we’ve been in training all week. Driving a bus isn’t all that dissimilar to the big rig we were used to, and we have both caught on quickly. We’ll likely be set loose on our own routes this coming week.

Cozy socks

It’s shoulder season here, so the streets aren’t too busy…yet. We’ve heard that once the snow flies and the resort opens, this place gets absolutely crazy. A gondola up to the slopes leaves right out of town, so we’ve got easy access up the mountain. Which, with our freshly minted Epic Pass, we plan to use to the fullest extent possible!

Your Ariens has nothing on this snowblower

Rooster’s already a snowboarder; I’ve tried skiing in the past, and never fell in love with it. So, I’m strapping on a snowboard and learning at the grand ol’ age of 47…and I am SO excited!! Our to do list this week has been to hit up all of the pre-season sales to get some great deals on gear, and as I write this today, we’re fully set up to hit the slopes when the snow flies. We had a light dusting last night, so after getting the bindings installed on my board this morning, we were out in the frosty grass outside our apartment doing some skills and drills.


While the elevation change has been a big adjustment (our first day walking briskly to work had us pretty breathless), neither of us really experienced elevation sickness, which we’re grateful for. Walking or biking or hopping on the bus to do errands and explore town has been a welcome change from needing a vehicle to go everywhere. We’ll be excited to share more pics and videos once we’re both hitting the slopes, with plenty of me falling down, no doubt. For now, enjoy the scenery we’ve witnessed this past week, and stay tuned!

Tequila bar with yummy tacos
The Troll, a local hot spot – made completely out of recycled pallets

Siretta Peak

Life has been a happy blur since we arrived in Cali. It’s busy season at MRA, so there’s been no end to the projects and daily tasks that need accomplished. We’ve been spending time in the bustling office/store, driving shuttle buses/vans full of excited rafters, and turning wrenches on mountain bikes. We are SO loving it. But it’s been HOT. Oppressively hot. As you probably know, the west/southwest is experiencing unprecedented highs in temperature, and this area is no exception. Even when there’s wind, it’s like an oven blowing in your face. So, when we both had the same two days off, we ran to the mountains for an off-grid trip that would allow us to cool off and be rejuvenated. 

Tim had spent an overnight in Big Meadow while I was in Washington, and just fell in love with the area and how secluded it was. And so, after a stop at McNally’s for a [locally] famous burger and milkshake, we drove the 90 minutes around winding roads, deeper into the Sequoia National Forest so I could experience what he’d found. It was beautiful, and not a soul in sight.

Our first afternoon, we lazed around in the hammock, played cards, and watched the meadow for animals (Tim had seen a bear the last time there). It was cold enough to need our sleeping bags that night in the van, versus the single sheet we’d been sleeping on since we arrived in the desert.

The next morning, we relaxed with coffee and a view, then packed up for the day’s adventure. We rode our mountain bikes two miles toward Siretta Peak (elev 9977’), our goal for the day, on loose, sandy roads. After locking them off-trail, we threw on our packs and started up the even sandier hiking trail. It was warm but gorgeous out. The trail was steep, gaining 2,000 feet in just over 2 miles. Near the top, the well-tread trail fell away, and we followed cairns to the pile of boulders we scrambled up to reach the summit. What an incredible view in all directions. After signing the register, we sat in the sun with a breeze and ate lunch, then headed back down to camp. The entire trek was only around 9 miles, but we’re still acclimating to being active at elevation, and spent the evening in rest/recovery mode. We’ve just scratched the surface of the playgrounds at our fingertips here, and are so excited to continue exploring!


Skoolie Life?

What does that even mean? A “skoolie” is vanlife’s bigger cousin: a school bus that has been converted into a recreational vehicle. What they lose in mobility and fuel mileage, they make up for in space. We see lots of them around, and it’s really taking off in areas where rent has become incredibly expensive.

With that in mind, the owners here at Mountain River Adventures had a couple buses to sell. They both fell victim to California’s more restrictive regulations for older commercial vehicles. So I thought they would make a good skoolie candidates.

I put ads up in the usual places (FB and craigslist), but also on a site called skoolielivin.com. One bus eventually did sell to a production crew in Hollywood. Apparently ESPN is going to convert it into a “fan bus”. So keep an eye out for commercials with an old International bus, probably with LA Chargers colors.

But the other one is the subject of this post. Last night Maverick and I (we’ve reverted to our trail names here!) had the pleasure of handing the keys over to our new friend Deanna. She is a Los Angeles resident that has been searching for the right bus for quite a while. When she saw the ad for “Walkin’ Tall”, she knew she had to make the trip inland to see it.

And she fell in love with it! We’re so excited to see her enthusiasm and passion to start this new chapter in her life. She even kept the bus’ name! Feel free to follow her Instagram at walkintallsjourney_72521


Alpaca Farm!! (LOTS of pics!)

(Charisse) Our getaways usually revolve around an outdoor activity: mountain biking, kayaking, snow sports, backpacking, etc. But sometimes, what you really need is to take a couple days to rest, breathe, and completely unplug. And, we hadn’t planned much to celebrate Tim’s birthday or our anniversary, so off to the Airbnb app we went to find the perfect mini vacay. We hit the jackpot with this one.

Tucked away in the hills of southwestern Wisconsin, is Griff Run, a tiny cottage on an alpaca farm.

Chips and Salsa

Have I mentioned I’m obsessed with alpacas?

Though everything was still brown from winter, this adorable farm couldn’t have been a happier, more peaceful, more colorful place to hang out for a couple of days. With four alpacas, three friendly dogs (2 huge Pyradors and a Goldendoodle), a big, sweet tomcat, and chickens, we got our animal fix like nobody’s business.

Marco the Pyrador
Polo the Pyrador (Marco’s brother)

Shawna and Matt were so welcoming and toured us around their property, telling us of the plans they have to expand on the Airbnb circuit. Thoughtful touches like fresh eggs in our fridge, locally-roasted coffee beans, and alpaca treats made us feel right at home. We read, played cards, drank wine, slept in, enjoyed a leisurely coffee and breakfast, played with the dogs, and giggled (mostly me) while we hung out with the chickens and alpacas.

We spent both nights doing this after dinner.

And we got to check out their cool old root cellar.

We did end up taking a hike the next day around the Kickapoo Valley Reserve, with a picnic at the end near an artesian well and THIS…

Thousands of chirping frogs

And now, please enjoy the ridiculous number of pics and videos below of my favorite animal on the planet. Maybe you’ll be obsessed with them, too.


Sun Rain Snow

The last few months of 2020 proved to be even more stressful for us than the months prior (as I’m sure it’s been for a lot of folks). So, for the past several weeks, we’ve been intentional about getting outside more, regardless of weather…the one place that grounds and calms us, and forces us to breathe deeply and restoratively.

On our last trip to Cali, we built in a little time to hike up a short (but steep!) hill at our favorite rest stop in Utah on a sunny and crisp day for some epic views.

We caught some pretty, snow-dusted mountains at a truck stop.

On a run out to Tacoma, WA, we had a great visit with my Mom and stepdad (Gary) at a truck stop in North Bend (forgot to take pics!). We had fun exchanging a few things…Tim had picked up a selfie stick and tripod to make Face-timing easier for my folks (holding the phone for an hour is no fun). They gave us some albums from my Mom’s collection to give to Landon, who is building up his own collection (Bee Gees, Grease, Beatles). And funnest of all…Gary gifted Tim a full stereo system he had bought nearly 50 years ago that was in phenomenal shape. Complete with a turntable, reel-to-reel cassette, receiver, and speakers. I’ll let Tim expand on his journey to restore and set up this awesome system in another post, but we’re gonna have lots of fun hunting down some of our fave vinyl to play whenever we’re home.

Snoqualmie Pass had kicked up a snow storm that was going to dump 3-4 feet on the route to our pickup, so we had to head south through Portland and the Columbia River gorge to get there. Not upset about this diversion at all. The route along the Columbia River is breathtaking, AND takes us through Cascade Locks, where the PCT crosses over the Bridge of the Gods from Oregon to Washington. Beautiful, completely accessible little town for big rigs. We parked the truck, donned our cold weather/rain gear, and ventured out into the chilly, wet day. After grabbing a mocha at a coffee shop, we wandered around town, down by the river, along a bike path, and then onto the PCT for a bit.

Even Peter Dude had fun being on the PCT again.

Our pickup the next day was taking us near Kennewick, where one of my favorite cousins, Melanie, lives with her family. When I thought hard about it, I realized we hadn’t seen each other in over 15 years. So as we headed away from Cascade Locks, we hatched a plan to meet up that afternoon. She and her three kids picked us up from the truck, got a tour of our rig, and invited us into their home for a shower and to hang with their beautiful family for a bit. When her husband Jim got home from work, the four adults went to a nearby restaurant for some martinis and amazing food. So fun to catch up with them! Wish I’d taken more pics (I always get so wrapped up in conversation), but I managed to snag a couple.

The next day took us through beautiful, freshly-snowed-on mountain passes in Idaho and Montana. While we briefly considered jumping out of the truck to make snow angels at this rest stop, we decided to enjoy the view and stay cozy in our 7×10’ “mobile home”. ☺️❄️


Fun & Funky RV’s

(Charisse) Life on the road is anything but ordinary. So when you have a bit of extra time before your delivery and get a chance to do/see something out of the ordinary, it feels rather fitting.

We’ve driven by this place many times on I-80 on our way out east, and decided today was the day we’d stop and check it out. The RV/Motorhome Hall of Fame and Museum is a collection of some of the funnest and funkiest RV’s you’ll ever see. Even a few with some real historical significance, like one that was custom-built for Charles Lindbergh in 1939. And Mae West’s 1931 Housecar that Paramount Studios had made to entice her to come make movies for them. The earliest one was built in 1919. It’s hard to believe they go back that far! Here are some of the highlights from this cool place. If you’re ever in Elkhart, IN (RV capitol of the world), check it out!

This one was built on a Cadillac chassis
Mae West’s Housecar
Everything was tiny in this one. It looked custom-built for kids.
This sunken floor allowed people to cook without being hunched over.
There are no words…
Clearly, toilets and sinks have come a long way
A REALLY old toaster
And this gem of a picture…what is happening here?

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore – Upper Peninsula, MI

(Maverick) If you had asked me ten years ago if I would ever venture into the woods by myself for a few days, the answer would have been a definitive “no”. I’ve now taken my third solo backpacking trip and find I absolutely crave the solitude and peace that comes from being alone in nature.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, while just a few hours from home, feels like another world away. With sand dunes, rock cliffs streaked with minerals, and crystal clear Lake Superior waters, this area is a backpacker’s paradise. I spent 2 1/2 days on the North Country Scenic Trail, covering 25 of the 42 miles along the lakeshore.

A shuttle company in the area will take you from where you park your car to your starting point for just $25. I parked at a little country store in Melstrand and caught the shuttle to Log Slide, not far from the Au Sable lighthouse. It was a sunny and easy 2.5 mile hike to my campsite for the night, which turned out to be close enough to the shore to hear waves rolling in while I drifted off to sleep. I ate my dinner down by the water, chatted with a few people setting up their tents, and turned in early.

I was sitting on a log organizing my food and caught movement out of the corner of my eye. These termites were busy making short work of what was left of this tree.

I played in the sand, too, because playing in the sand is fun. And SO cathartic. Why do we not do this more as adults?

I’m not sure what this is supposed to be…an ogre, maybe?

It was pretty clear the chipmunks were used to people feeding them. They fearlessly and relentlessly tried to get near my bag while I set up my tent. They’re darn cute, though, so…hard to get too upset about it.

The next day was cooler and breezy. I lazily drank coffee and read my book for a bit before I got moving, then packed up and headed west on the trail. For most of the 13.5 miles, I had a view of the water, periodically moving away from it to walk deeper into the woods. I spent every break down by the water or on an overlook above it.

Backcountry charcuterie
THIS is the face of one happy girl
Don’t these mushrooms look like a dessert???
Most of the trail was this close to the water

Can anyone tell me what bird makes this noise?

My views all day…

My campsite for the night was spacious and just up a steep, sandy hill from the water. I hauled warm clothes, my book, food, and stove down the hill to the beach and spent a couple of hours propped up against some driftwood watching gulls, drinking cocoa, and listening to the waves.

It rained a bit overnight, but had stopped by morning. Again, I was in no particular hurry, and enjoyed a leisurely morning coffee with only 9 miles left to hike. I chatted with a few hikers along the way, and again had awesome views of the water for most of the day. This part of the trail had a lot more steep inclines and deep sand to walk through, but was relatively easy terrain otherwise. My hike ended at Chapel Rock, which is amazing. A nice photographer who had his tripod set up there offered to take my one and only non-selfie from the trip.

The hike out went by the beautiful Chapel Falls, and this trail was very busy with people going to see Chapel Rock. I knew I would want a ride from the parking lot/trailhead back to my car, as it was a 5-6 mile walk on a boring gravel road. I chatted up (or as Tim called it, “groomed”) a nice family on the trail who were on their way back to their car, and as they drove by me on the road, offered me a lift. A successful hitch.

When I arrived back at the country store, I treated myself to a dark chocolate ice cream cone and started out to Marquette to meet up with Tim and Brandon. More to come on that!


Pictured Rocks Prep

(Charisse) Next week, Tim’s best friend is flying in from Texas. The two of them are going to spend 4 days in Marquette, MI mountain biking, taking a kayak tour of Pictured Rocks, and soaking up the food and brew culture in this adventure-loving college town.

That leaves me to venture out on my own with a 2-1/2 day backpacking trip along the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in the Upper Peninsula (UP) of Michigan. Tim and I hiked all 42 miles of the North Country National Scenic Trail back in 2017 and were blown away by this beautiful area just hours from our front door. Here’s a few pics from our trip.

I’ll be doing about 25 miles of the trail this time, then joining Tim and Brandon at the end for some mountain biking and brewery-hopping in Marquette.

My Type-A, organizational-loving self gets pretty excited about trip prep…and prepping for backpacking is even more fun because your goal is to keep overall pack weight down. I love a good challenge. I’ve still got a bit of trimming to do on my gear, but here’s the nerdy laying out of all my stuff.

Because I’ll be on the shore of Lake Superior, I have to plan for ANY kind of weather, even though the forecast shows fair skies and moderate temps. This huge lake creates its own weather system, and can be pretty temperamental, whipping up storms without much warning. So, rain and cold weather clothes, while adding quite a bit of weight, are crucial.

It’s more likely to be warm and sunny, though, so I have to plan for that, too. And bugs…there could be LOTS of bugs.

Every pack needs a good repair/emergency and First Aid kit. Why do you need Dramamine and sea bands for a hiking trip, Charisse? Because the last time there, the shuttle driver who took us from our car to our starting point took the winding road like it was a Friday afternoon and his friends were waiting for him at the bar. And I get a bit of motion sickness. 🤢

Last year when we hiked the PCT, our food was very carb-heavy, and we were hungry all the time because we’d burn through those foods so quickly. Since then, we’ve mostly been eating fairly low-carb, with a lot of healthy fats. I’m going to experiment with this on the trail, and see if I need food less often. I’ll add some avocados, carrots, and a couple of apples the day before I go.

No pack is complete without a well-stocked bathroom bag. Most backcountry campsites have a pit toilet, but…during the day I’ll need other options.

I’m sure both of us will be posting lots of pics from our UP shenanigans in the next couple of weeks. Stay tuned!!


Little Cedar Mountain Trail – Tennessee

(Charisse) Serendipity. Sometimes timing is just perfect on a chance happening. I had just read a blog post by our good friend Robin (you know, the one who inspired our PCT trek AND truck driving AND trained me to be an awesome trucker…just sayin’), where she announced she had created a YouTube channel. She’ll be doing videos from all over the country, showing where truckers can park their truck, take a short jaunt, and reach a walking/running trail to stay active. Super cool. Her first one highlighted a trail in Jasper, TN off of I-24. And wouldn’t you know it…we were going to be passing by it the next day. We’d been spending a lot of our home time working on the van, and were overdue for some nature-ing. So we took an hour, parked the rig, and went out to enjoy a bit of this trail in the sweltering September southern heat.

I just love adorable little fungi
A ginormous grasshopper

Home, PCT

Hiker Trash: We meet again

(Maverick) Nearly every time we’ve run to CA, we go over Donner Pass, and at the top of Donner Pass is an entrance to the PCT. Most times when rolling through this area, it’s dark or one of us is sleeping, and we had yet to catch a time we were both awake and could hop on the trail together. We made it happen this trip.

As we got ready to hit the trail for a few hours, we met a hiker who’s actively on the trail this year. Typically, 2,000-3,000 people can be found on trail any given year, but this year, with the virus and shutdowns, he estimated only a few hundred were on the trail this season. His trail name is Too Clean (apparently, he shaves regularly, and doesn’t sweat much). He asked our trail names, which we haven’t had a good reason to use in months. So fun to say them again! We walked and chatted with him to the trail, grabbed a pic, and wished him an awesome journey. He talked about how he’d hiked the Appalachian Trail a few years back, and after he finishes the PCT this year, plans to hike the CDT (Continental Divide Trail) next year. Hikers who’ve completed all three trails have done what’s known as the “Triple Crown” (a combined total of 7,900 miles), a pretty amazing feat.

Rooster, Maverick, and Too Clean

After parting ways, we jumped on the trail. Wildflowers were scattered across the landscape, big rocks loomed on each side, and we passed by several crystal clear lakes. Wanting to get away from the interstate buzz and the chatter of day hikers, we pushed further and further until we really weren’t on a discernible trail anymore. Clambering over rocks and forging through brambles, we found some peace with a view. We laid on the warm rock and soaked it all up.

It was hard not to just keep walking, but we turned back in time to enjoy a relaxing dinner at the rest stop before pushing on. Next time, we’ll head the other direction from this spot on the trail and see what we can see. ☺️


August Acres Family Farm

(Charisse) My cousin, Alyssa, and her husband, Rick, own a sustainable farm in the small town of Tipton, IA, where they raise and sell pastured chicken and eggs. https://www.augustacres.com/ Their acreage is just beautiful, with a stream running through it, and several old barns and outbuildings. We got a tour of their pastures, orchards, and garden. We got to see their home, which is a modest size, but extremely well organized and comfortable. And then, there were all the animals and their adorable gaggle of kids. We saw ducks, chickens/baby chicks, peacocks, cats/kittens, dogs, goats, sheep, cows/bulls, and a pony. I literally couldn’t help myself, and was as giddy as a little girl around so many critters.

But what really tickled our funny bone was their awkward adolescent goose, Lucky. The kids found his unhatched egg in the mouth of one of their dogs, rescued it from an untimely death (hence the name), and incubated the egg until it hatched. Apparently, wild birds do a thing called “imprinting”, and if their first exposure is to humans, they will identify/bond with humans for life, rather than their own species. Lucky is no exception. He follows Rick, Alyssa, and the kids around the farm as if he’s one of them, and even clumsily waddle-runs next to the Kubota as they drive around to do their chores. Here he is in all his awkward glory.

Lucky trying to eat my shoes

We’ll definitely be back soon to see how their farm and family are growing!!