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Bridge of the Gods

(Charisse) Two weeks ago, we were on a run to Tacoma, WA, and had to route through Oregon due to an impassable, snowy Snoqualmie Pass in the Cascades. And boy, did we ever win the jackpot with some awesome views along the Columbia River on our way to Portland. Best part? We stopped in Cascade Locks and got to see the Bridge of the Gods, which spans the Columbia and connects Oregon to Washington. If you’ve seen the movie Wild, it’s the bridge where Cheryl Strayed (Reese Witherspoon) ended her hike on the PCT.

Emotions bubble up for me anytime we’re anywhere near the PCT or a town we went through while hiking it. Though we hadn’t made it this far in our hike, the trail goes right over this bridge…I couldn’t help but smile thinking of all the thru hikers who had crossed through this gateway to the last state on their journey. 🙂

PS – Today marks one year from the day we started walking from the southern terminus on the US/Mexico border. It feels like yesterday/forever ago…

4/14/19

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Find some peace amidst the chaos

(Charisse) What a strange few weeks it has been for us all. Our thoughts go out to family and friends who have been impacted so far…financially, emotionally, and otherwise. You may be out of a job. Your hours may have increased depending on the industry you’re in. Your small business may already be struggling. You may be working from home amongst littles and teens (if we were nearby, we’d drop wine on your front porch). Social distancing may be taking its’ toll on your sanity. These are stressful times. Hugs to you all.

For those of you hunkering down at home, I hope you’re able to take time to enjoy the little everyday pleasures that are so easy to miss when we’re running with our hair on fire. Read a book. Do a puzzle. Start a garden with the kids. Get some sunshine and fresh air, even if it’s just in your backyard. Enjoy some new music or that hobby you love and never seem to have time for. Bake or cook something. Take a bath. Connect with people in creative ways. Snuggle with the dog. Snuggle with the kids. Snuggle with your main squeeze. Be kind to yourself during these weeks/months because stress is harmful. Find some peace every day by turning off the news and social media for a while. And don’t forget the wine.

As for us, we’re doing all of the above as often as we can. And we’re pretty darn good at social distancing, rolling down the road 22 hrs. a day. We’re working to stay positive, healthy, and prepared; controlling what we can and not worrying about the rest.

Sending lots of love and good vibes to you all from out here in Cali! Stay safe, stay healthy, stay in good spirits. And remember…

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Our home away from home

Take a little tour around our mobile work/home space! This is our 2019 Volvo VNL 860. We LOVE it!!

Maximus
*Note – I mention in the video it’s not safe or legal to sleep on the top bunk, but for clarification…that’s only the case if you drive as a team. No one can sleep on the top bunk while the truck is moving. Solo drivers can sleep on the top bunk with no problem. 😁*
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2/10/20 Arches National Park

Sometimes trucking is all about making lemonade out of lemons. As we were heading home from California last week, we learned that a storm had whipped up in the Colorado Rockies. We were already in Colorado, and turning around wasn’t really an option, so we would have to shut down. We were a little bummed because we had plans at home that weekend.

But, through the magic of Uber and Enterprise, mobility is just an app away! We headed into Utah, and spent two days exploring Arches National Park. We stayed in nearby Moab, and were blown away by how beautiful everything was. Enjoy the pics!

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Staying healthy on the road

How will we stay healthy and active as truck drivers?  We get this question a lot, and it’s a great one, because…let’s be honest. Truck drivers make up one of the least healthy populations in the country.  And it’s no surprise, really.  Long hours of sitting, punctuated by breaks at truck stops where a cornucopia of junky snacks, energy drinks, and McBellKingArby’s are at your fingertips.  It seems inevitable…but it doesn’t have to be.  So, we’re working a three-step plan to avoid becoming a statistic. 

First up? 

Food (and water)

Truck driving is far from the free-for-all food orgy that thru-hiking was (sad face), where our bodies metabolized anything and everything we ate. When you sit on your hinder 24/7, it’s important to make smart food choices. This job is hard on your body in lots of ways, but the biggest issue we’ve noticed is a serious lack of nutritious food available on the road. Our solution? We shop and do most of our food prep at home to stock the truck with healthy options so (most of the time, anyway) we don’t succumb to truck stop temptation. As we go out for longer periods of time, we’ll need to also shop on the road and cook in the truck, so we have a plan in place for that, too. Luckily, our company provided us with a nice, big fridge to keep all our fresh food in (it’s nearly empty now because we’re heading home today).

We’ve been trying on a low-carb, high-fat way of eating, and it really seems to be working for us in terms of keeping us full for longer and having far less cravings.  Plus, most of what we’re eating is easily cut into snackable portions. Here’s what some of our daily foods look like. 

Add to that, lots of water throughout the day (plus a cup or two of coffee), a light dinner of chicken, broccoli, and raw sauerkraut and/or avocado, and that’s pretty much our routine for now.  Shout out to Robin TootsMagoots Grapa for educating me on this way of eating.  She has been an inspiration to us in so many ways, and is truly an amazing gal.  Read more about her and her bad-assery here.

Don’t get me wrong…we REALLY enjoy food…a lot.  Which is why nothing is truly off limits.  My philosophy has always been 90/10.  If 90% of the time, you’re putting clean, nutritious food in your body, the other 10% of the time, eat what you want.  Food is meant to sustain you, but is also a source of immense enjoyment.  Life is short…eat that Double-Double Animal-Style In-N-Out burger!

Sometimes you eat eggs and veggies and do jumping jacks at the fuel island. 

Other times, you watch Netflix and eat kettle chips and ice cream.

It’s called balance.  😉

More on our second step (sleep) and third step (fitness) in upcoming blogs. Plus, we’ll give you an inside tour of our new truck, Maximus the Road Warrior.

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Rollin’ through SoCal

Our view from the shipper this morning. 😌 Driving through SoCal and seeing the Sierras and Joshua trees has us all PCT-sick today. *Sigh*

We’re having lunch with our favorite trail angel, Leslie, who let us stay with her in Wrightwood, CA when we were on the trail. She’s about an hour from the truck stop we’re at in Hesperia right now. She was so much fun, will be great to see her!

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11/29/19. Time to roll

Tim: Well, formal training is over. Eight weeks of school and four more weeks with our trainers. Earlier this week, our dream of becoming team OTR drivers was realized when our company, Midwest Carriers, tossed us the keys to our new whip. It was surreal, prepping for our first run, realizing that it was finally happening. We were a little nervous, especially since this would be the first time we’d been in a truck together.

Our first run went fairly smoothly: out to New York with a load of cheese (of course), then down to Jersey to bring a load of coffee beans back to Wisconsin. It was fun and challenging ironing out the kinks of when to drive, when to fuel, what to eat, etc. There’s always so much to think about, and it was rewarding when we got it right.

So this Thanksgiving, we are thankful that we found a great company that has been very welcoming and supportive. We are so thankful to our trainers, Robin and Darrell, for putting in the hard work with us rookies to ensure we were ready for this life. And we are especially thankful to our kids, friends, and family for all the love and well wishes.

And with that, it’s time to roll. We’ll see ya down the road…

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11/3/19. Training

Tim: Its been awhile since I’ve updated, so here we go!

Charisse and I are currently training with our new trucking company, Midwest Carriers, out of Kaukauna WI. We’ll be with our driver trainers for about 4 weeks before we get our own truck, and are turned loose on the world.

I’m training with Darrell (his is the truck on the left, 2017 Volvo). He’s been in the industry for about 30 years, and his wealth of knowledge has been incredibly helpful. He started out driving team with his Dad, and you can really tell that trucking is in his blood.

Charisse has been training with our friend Robin (2019 Volvo on the right). She was the one who was a lot of the inspiration for our decision to go trucking, AND to hike the PCT (she hiked it in 2013).

Both of us have been fortunate to land at such a high quality company, and we’ve been meeting so many great people. Plus, we’ve already driven 3-4000 miles each in the last week or so. Our runs have taken us to Minnesota, South Dakota, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, and Virginia.

Its already shaping up to be a great adventure, and we’ll keep everyone posted with where this takes us.

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10/18/2019: Last day of trucking school.

Tim: It’s hard to believe that we are graduating, and have our CDL’s. Eight weeks ago, we could barely shift a truck, and now we’re ready to hit the road. It’s been challenging but fun as we’ve moved quickly through the program.

A few days ago, we did some night driving, starting at 3am and driving to Wausau and back. Yesterday was our day on the skidpad (see videos below). We were out on the wet tarmac getting trucks and cars sideways to learn how vehicles behave in low traction situations.

We really want to thank all the instructors at Fox Valley Technical College for all of their support and advice. It’s a top notch program, and we couldn’t have done it without them.

And……, we already have a job! We start next week with V&S Midwest, out of Kaukauna. There were several great companies out there but this one seemed to fit us best. Plus our friend Robin (who helped inspire this madness!) drives for them, so it’s nice to know a friendly face.

Our first 4-6 weeks will be orientation, and going over the road (OTR) individually with our trainers. Once that’s done, we get our truck, and we’re turned loose on the world as a team! I’ll try to keep the blog updated as we go through training. Plus, feel free to ask questions about this new lifestyle we’re about to enter.

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9/10: No longer homeless, soon to be employed

Tim: It feels very strange to use my normal name now. I had grown so fond of people calling me “Rooster”. I miss it and we miss the trail.

But, we’re moving forward with our new chapter. It’s been a busy couple weeks, as Maverick Charisse and I moved into a nice duplex in Neenah. Nice and small, the way we like it.

We’ve also started truck driving school! This was our plan from the beginning; to hike the trail, then start a new career as an over-the-road truck driving team. We’re already doing some driving on the school’s test track, and we’ve also started practicing on the road. It’s been an awesome experience, and we can’t wait to see what the future holds.

First day of school pic!

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8/17: Our trail family (kinda wordy and feely, lots of pics)

Reunion in Dunsmuir

Rooster: We’ve been off trail for a couple weeks now, and real life is starting to creep back in. As much as we miss the challenge and beauty of the actual hiking, we’re realizing something else as well: We miss our trail family.

Your trail family are the hikers that probably started in Campo at roughly the same time as you, and are hiking at roughly the same rate as you. You tend to hike together, pull into town for resupply and off-trail time, share hotel rooms, and you camp in some of the same campsites. Some groups are pre-planned, and some just kinda happen. Some gather together for companionship, safety, or just to meet like minded people. Trail names are bestowed based on some silly, stupid, or profound thing you’ve done or said. You start to form bonds of friendship and camaraderie around your shared experiences.

For me, this was the most surprising element of the trip. Before the trail, I had become very cynical about humanity in general, and don’t tend to make friends that easily anymore. That changed on the trail. My heart warmed to my fellow travelers in a way I didn’t know I was capable of. Maverick, by far the more social of us, felt it too.

When we stopped for six weeks in Kernville, we knew many of the bonds we had formed would be broken. Our friends either pushed through the snow, flipped forward, or got off the trail. By the time we returned to the trail, the main “bubble” of hikers was long gone. We were actually pretty lonely! In our final week on the trail, we got lucky and ran into some of our earlier trail family (Pirate, Bluebird, Poppins, and Sherpa). We were so happy to catch up. But then that was over too.

After Mav injured her back, we got a shuttle back to civilization. We rented a car in Fresno, and started the long drive up I-5 back to Seattle. We were feeling pretty melancholy. Our trip was over. In Northern California we decided to stop for dinner in a town named Dunsmuir. Ironically, it’s one of the few places where the PCT is near the freeway, and we remembered it as one of our potential resupply points. We ordered pizza, and sat down. Suddenly, Mav exclaims “No WAY!!”, and then runs out the door and into the street. She had spotted some of our favorite trail peeps! Legs, Mack, Penguin, Tall Boy, Low ‘n Slow, and Backsplash were all at the brewery up the street. We caught up over some beers and really had a great time. In a most fortuitous coincidence, it turned out that Tall Boy had been considering going back home for a couple days to see his girlfriend and catch a concert. And that home was in Seattle! So after a long, heartfelt goodbye to the others, we were able to bestow a little trail magic of our own by giving him a lift. It was the most poignant way I can think of to come off the trail.

To all of the hikers we met, we wish you a safe journey, however long that may be. We love you guys!

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8/12. Passes that kicked our asses

Rooster: The Sierras were awesome, but extremely challenging. Despite waiting 6 weeks, there was still a significant amount of snow at the higher elevations. In the early morning, it would be firm, and our microspikes gave us a lot of traction. By mid morning, it would be getting soft and slushy.

Adding to this were the rivers and streams that needed to be crossed. Sometimes we made an effort to keep our feet dry, but most of time we just plowed through. We had everything from ankle deep to waist deep. And the current ranged from mild to a serious push. And it was always painfully cold.

But the hardest part of this section was the passes. A pass is basically a low point in a ridge line or group of mountains. And by “low” I mean around 11,000 to 12,000 feet in elevation. Usually we’d attempt to get to the top before the snow softened up, and then rush down to get close to the next pass by nightfall. And they were difficult. 3-5 miles and a couple thousand feet of elevation gain. The trail was generally covered, so you’d either be route finding through patchy snow or scrambling over boulders. And then the descent was more of the same. It was slow and exhausting. The passes included Forester, Kearsarge, Pinchot, Mather, Selden; it seemed like we had to go over one every single day.

But by far the most difficult was Muir. We had heard that both the approach and descent had a solid two miles of snow on each side. Plus several crossings. We got a very early start, and still struggled to make it to the top by lunchtime. There, it was starting to rain, so we hunkered down in the stone hut. Over the next hour, the storm intensified, with some lightning and a little hail. We waited it out till we thought we had a decent break in the weather, and started down at around 2pm.

And then the storm returned. We were stuck in this shallow valley with lighting all around us, racing through the slushy snow and rocks. It alternated between rain and hail, completely obscuring what little we could see of the trail. Between the snowmelt and the rain, the crossings were getting sketchier by the minute. And we were carrying aluminum/carbon trekking poles: nice lightning rods, especially when you’re standing in water. Our rain gear put up a good fight, but it was wet through after about two hours of this madness. Hypothermia was a very real threat at this point, so our only choice was to continue rushing down valley.

After nearly four of the most harrowing hours of our lives, we were finally below the snow line, and the storm was subsiding. We camped near a lake, beyond exhausted, both physically and mentally. It was another lesson to never underestimate Mother Nature.