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The entire week after Christmas was spent skiing with my little guy and his mom.  They have been best ski buddies for for well over 70 days in the past year.  I skied with him Thanksgiving 2015 and he was just learning.  I was prepared to step up my game, but I wasn’t sure how much.  It was much greater than I anticipated.  He’s a fast and slightly reckless little dude.  His mom was right there with him and even blasting tree pow and gnarly rock outcroppings on her ridiculously fat Big Joy Head skis.  If they weren’t ripping down the blues, they were dicing their way through manked out trees searching for powder.  My new skis were perfect for all that, but my skills lacked.  By Thursday I was keeping up….for the most part (I’m wary around lots of people).  My knees didn’t hurt and I was able to do some good yoga at my old roommate’s house as they were out of town and I did a bit of dog sitting in exchange for an electrical outlet to keep the van the perfect sleeping temp.  His driveway was immaculately groomed.20161225_182309

I’m sure it’s much different at the time of this writing considering they’ve had more snow,  rain, ice, and as much weather well above freezing as they’ve had below in the past couple weeks.

On my last day in Utah, I finally tried skate skiing.  Connor and Jen have XC gear, so we went to Solitude Nordic Center.  REI had skate gear that fit me like a glove.  I fell a few times leaving what I called a butt hole in the track.  I think I left 3 butt holes in the track.  What a great workout and a fun way to get away from the crowds….though the Big Cottonwood traffic snake loomed just above us for about an hour.

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Connor taking a break coming up the hill. Lots of breaks get taken when skiing with groms.

That Friday afternoon I headed out of the Salt Lake valley’s fog and pollution to Wells, NV to bum an electrical outlet from Adriana W. (former Franklin Mountains State Park ranger) and her boyfriend Jeremy.  It was in the single digits out there and the campground they’re in was like a gnarly ice rink with tire tracks making it ridiculously hard to navigate.

I’d never spent time with Jeremy, and it ends up we’re like brothers from different mothers…..and he’s hella shorter.  I’m glad I stopped by and glad they were there.  I was tired of driving and needed a warm place to sleep.jeremy

Breakfast was consumed and I hauled it across Nevada to Reno to catch up with the Yackle Bros, shop at the REI garage sale (big gear scores there), then head to Truckee were I was to rendezvous with my friend Hayley….yeah….the one that was taking care of my dog.  The dog got passed to another friend.  Her parents live in Truckee so I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to have a place to park and ski a resort I’ve never skied.

My only “creepy” incident of the trip happened on my drive to Reno.  Some old guy in an older pickup stayed next to me for several miles on the interstate.  I did my best to ignore him.  He kept placing his Veteran’s hat (this guy claimed 3 wars….WW2, Korea, and Vietnam) in the window so I’d have no choice but to see it.  The only other guy I’ve seen with a hat like that was at the VA hospital in El Paso and that guy looked eons older than this creepy dude so I’m in doubt that he was a 3 war vet. I have a neighbor who served in Vietnam only and he looks eons older than this creep. I wasn’t sure what kind of point he was trying to make and why.  I did have to accelerate around him before entering the freeway because I was in the wrong lane, but I definitely did not cut him off.  I turned off my cruise control and made sure he stayed in front of me.  I drove much slower than I ever wanted to drive on this trip just to keep this creep in front of me.  He finally pulled away and eventually I went back to driving 75 mph and never caught up to him.

 

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After my divorce, I downsized from a huge truck and slide-on camper to a van.  I got a decent trade in and picked up a brand new Ford Transit 260 medium height medium length with the Ecoboost twin turbo (trouble in the making).  2 years later I have a rig that I can pretty much live in.  I still want to do a few more things to it, but for now, it’s pretty stellar.  Two of the things it lacks is a heater (I do have a propane “little buddy” heater but it consumes A LOT of propane) and a shower.  People asked how I’d cope and my response has always been,  “I have lots of friends.”   Many of those friendships have been neglected.  When I joined the army in 2000, I cut myself off from way too many friends.  That was a huge mistake and over the past few years, I’ve decided to reconnect with as many friends as I can.

For winter break 16/17, I decided to road trip to ski country.  My son and his mom only had a 9-day break.  With two weeks on tap for me, I figured I could get in plenty of skiing in Utah with the little ripper, meet up with some old friends, and maybe do some riding.  I’d have more than a couple of driveways with nearby electrical hookups and showers at my disposal.   My brother recently moved into a place in California not too far from ski country.  So plans came together after Thanksgiving to do a 3,000 mile loop….Utah, across Nevada, California, back down through Nevada, Arizona, and back home.

That month before the trip would include recovering from a week in Moab at Thanksgiving, riding as much as I could (but I ended up with a pretty severe respiratory illness which knocked me on my ass), getting my classes ready for final exams, finishing a van project so I could have some more storage space and actually be able to get into my bed without killing myself, doing as much yoga and dry land ski training as possible, and making all the bags that had been ordered.  Unbelievably, I was able to do everything I needed to do.

The van came together exactly like I wanted.  (Pics)

Shanti Yoga near the airport offered 4 classes a week free to dudes during December.  I think I went to 11 classes.  They were either hot Vinyasa or hot 26.  The Vinyasa classes helped a whole bunch since my dry land ski training consisted of doing hundreds of downhill lunges with a 30 pound backpack, running up and down steep and rocky hills, and a few thousand heel raises.  I was sore from day one and never took a break until I got in the van on December 23rd to head north.

And……. I made a bunch of great bags for customers.  Thank you customers.

On the 22nd, I got this message from Jen.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-elXN-2vqK0

Crap.  That meant no riding in Moab, but that was a mute point as a thin layer of snow and ice blanketed the trails.  I would be hustling to get through that storm before it got too bad.  I had contemplated purchasing snow tires….at least on the rear…but nobody would sell me non-commercial rated tires.  The current tires are perfect for dry street, but they are E load rated commercial vehicle tires and they ride rough as crap as my van sits at about 6,200 lbs curb weight.  They are through about 2/3rds of their life, so I decided to go forth on those and hope that I’d be fine with the cable chains I bought a year earlier.

I also had Jen (yeah….I have my ex doing errands.  Baller!)  grab these at 2nd Tracks in Salt Lake.

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Surface Walk Free 186 skis….Made in Utah

I have old but reliable tele gear –  T1 boots with Rainey bindings mounted on Rotefella releases.  Using that stuff would be like running a 3×9 drive-train on a 27+ bike.  Apparently those skis aren’t cheap, but I scored them on a sick sale price of $240 with tax.

After dropping off my dog with my friend Hayley, I was on the road by 3 pm on Friday the 23rd and made it all the way to Farmington, NM where I stealth camped in the Walmart parking lot.  The next morning I continued my cannonball trajectory through Cortez and across snow covered farmland and desert all the way to Moab…..which was cold and snowy.  So onward to Salt Lake I drove.  Just above Price, I blew through a jam packed chain-up area and spun tires up through about 15 miles of snow covered roads.

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I don’t need no stinking chains!

Soon the road became 4 lanes again before Soldier Summit and there was no falling snow and the roads were clear!  Yay yay yay!!!!  I made it through the first small part of this HUGE incoming storm without having to chain up and only fish-tailing about 5 times.

After arriving in Salt Lake, it started to snow.  BIG TIME.  On Christmas day, Connor and Jen XC skied to church.  I borrowed Jen’s truck and tried to go to Brighton….at lunch time.

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Wasatch Dr and Big Cottonwood Canyon.

I sat in that same spot for 7 light changes before I bailed and went to my friend Ann’s place just west of there.

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Ann’s porch..that’s well over a foot in less than 24 hours.

After catching up, I finally got up to Brighton to try out my new skis….which were awesome.  If I had a Santa suit, I would have skied for free.  Mental note for next year….bring Santa suit.   It was an excellent way to spend Christmas day.