Out of the frying pan…

We left New Mexico and headed straight into Arizona – hot! Our first stop was Willcox for another chance to spend time with family. Ayrril’s sister Kerry lives there on a farm full of horses, dogs, boys, and other animals. It was a blast! The boys caught snakes, rode horses, slept outside, and hunted mice. We even got Al to take us on a tour of the Border Patrol station where he works.

While we were there, we found out that our friends Adam and Jennifer (the ones we met for breakfast way back in Gentry, Arkansas!) were driving through Arizona from the west coast on their own epic RV road trip. Our paths intersected in Phoenix where we met for breakfast again, this time for amazing Mexican food at Dick’s Hideaway. Awesome restaurant, awesome friends.

Next stop – Kingman, a great place to relax by the pool. The boys got to hang out with their cousins, we got all the sun we could handle, and we all enjoyed a little bit of time off the road with family. Kingman has a surprisingly cool downtown area with a great wine bar, coffee shop, and a soon-to-be-opened microbrewery. We even got some much needed Rock Band time with Ammie. Billie Joe and the Sister Wives still rocks the house!

As an added treat, when we finally got our act together enough to go hit the Grand Canyon (something we skipped on the front end), Codi, Morgan, and Sarah got to join us on the adventure! We drove over on Route 66 and actually stayed in the National Park Service lodging near the south rim. There were elk and mule deer wandering through the trees, the sunset and sunrise were amazing, and the views were stunning.  We got up early, caught the 5:30 bus to the South Kaibab trailhead, and hiked down to the appropriately named Ooh Aah Point. Looking over a mile down into the canyon was incredible but the best part was watching daylight spread over the cliffs. Seriously, Mother Nature, now you’re just showing off! On the way back up we saw the US Forest Service mule train heading down to Phantom Ranch on the valley floor. Next time we’re going all the way to the bottom. 🙂

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

New Mexico redux

Long time readers of this blog might remember our New Mexico adventures from last summer – racing ducks in Deming, eating green chile in Hatch, seeing a big rattlesnake at Tent Rocks National Monument, the fest-which-shall-not-be-named in Santa Fe, and lots of family time. Even though we seem to have poor timing with regards to weather (Chicago in January?! New Mexico in August?!), we were all thrilled to head back into New Mexico. At the first Blake’s sighting, Carson said, “Hello, New Mexico!”

After driving through Carson National Forest, we stopped for the day in Taos, where we saw the Kit Carson home and toured the Taos Pueblo. Since we were so close (a super short six hour drive!), we took a nice detour up to Colorado Springs for some more time with good friends. It was a short visit since we had to get back down to Albuquerque where we left the bus for our flight back to Ohio.

When we got back from the family reunion (glad we didn’t try to make that trek in the bus!), we decided that it was time for a little reality check. Government cover ups? Unexplained phenomenon? The truth is out there and we were determined to dig a little deeper, so we set our sites on Roswell. What did we find? Aliens, of course!

The skies clearly aren’t safe, so we headed the other direction – underground! Carlsbad Cavern is one of the largest cave systems in the world but what really distinguishes it from any other cavern is the remarkable formations inside. Oh, and the fact that the cave is home to a population of bats that ranges from several thousand to several hundred thousand. It was amazing.

Leaving Carlsbad, we had a mercifully short drive through west Texas and into El Paso, where we parked the bus, dropped the Jeep, and headed south of the border. Touring the states has given us a really broad view of American standards of living; we wanted to take the opportunity to show the boys another perspective. Juarez used to be one of the most dangerous cities in the world. It’s gotten better in recent years but we still did our research before driving down for a quick driving tour and some authentic Mexican food.

Back in the US, we headed to Las Cruces and Silver City for some down time with family. We toured the White Sands Missile Range museum, went bowling, hit the movies, and generally kicked back for a few days. The boys soaked up some grandparent time. We really love this family and we really love this state!

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Family and fireworks

The farm in Ohio has been in the Boggess family for decades now and has been the scene of many holiday gatherings over the years. For the 4th of July, my parents revived that tradition with an invitation to all of my aunts, uncles, and cousins. My family calls it “the lake house” and after we all spent Christmas there it feels like a second home. I think we were all eager to share it with the rest of the family, so we parked the bus in Albuquerque and flew back for the occasion.

It was fantastic! All of my aunts, uncles, and cousins on the Boggess side were able to make it – close to 70 of us! It’s been years since we had that many Boggesses in one place. We took full advantage of our time, catching up with everyone and trying to keep up with the kids. Well, mostly the kids just had the run of the place. Imagine a small pack of Indians with a strong sense of adventure, insatiable appetites, and volume that goes to 11 coupled with a lake, rowboats, Nerf guns, bean bag toss, and a zip line into the lake and you’ll get the picture.

Did I say zip line? Yes, I did. We’d been talking about it for a couple of years but just never made it happen. On Friday morning, my brother and I were standing at the top of the hill with my cousin Rich, looking at the lake, and someone said, “Wouldn’t it be great to have a zip line into the lake?” “Yeah, but where would you anchor the cable?” Aaaand, next thing you know we’re at the hardware store and the weekend was well on the way to reaching epic status!

We capped the family festivities with an awesome fireworks display on the lake Saturday night. Afterwards, we lit sparklers and let the kids (yeah, the kids…) throw firecrackers into the campfire. It was really an excellent weekend!

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Mountain towns

After a great time in Moab, we were ready to head back to higher altitudes and lower temperatures for a while. Naturally, that plan had us heading for Colorado, a place with both mountain peaks and great friends that we haven’t seen in decades! Funny how a statement like that can make you feel both old and young at the same time. We drove up to Gunnison to show the boys where we lived when we got married a lifetime ago and stopped in Delta to see Stacie, a lifelong friend (maid-of-honor at our wedding!). Ah, good times! We spent a couple of days with Stacie and Chus and their kids and had a wonderful time. Long evenings of friends and wine are a vacation from our vacation. They made us feel right at home and we nearly convinced them to hit the road with us, especially when we told them we were headed for Durango, one of their favorite towns.

Durango, Colorado was one of the places that we considered, sight unseen, as a place to settle down. On paper, it’s everything we want – college town (Fort Lewis College), running water (Animas River), outdoor activities (hello, Rocky Mountains!), and a dynamic downtown area. Plus there’s skiing in Purgatory  just up the valley. Perfect! Oh, and it’s not so smokin’ hot there, which is nice.

We hit the San Juan National Forest ready for hiking, exploring, and relaxing. Having put our Jeep driving skills to the test down in the desert, we were excited about testing it out in the high country, too. Kendall Peak towers over the tiny mining town of Silverton, about 50 miles north of Durango, with spectacular views of the Uncompaghre Range. We Jeep-ed our way through rocky switchbacks from 9318 feet elevation in town to over 12,000 feet at the trailhead, then hiked the rest of the way to the summit at 13,066 feet, our first thirteener! It’s amazing how thin the air is up there; even Sam was winded. Up and down, it was a gorgeous trip. How do you top that? With a soak in the Ouray hot springs pool, of course. Three pools of natural mineral water at varying degrees of warmth, a “Wipeout”-style inflatable obstacle course, water slides, sunshine and rocky cliffs all around – what’s not to love?

There was no shortage of things to do. One afternoon found us zipping down the alpine slide at Purgatory, I took a morning flyfishing workshop on the Florida River with the Durango Nature Center, and another day we joined the locals for an inner tube float down the Animas River. The water was refreshingly cold, the rapids were just fast and rough enough to be a blast, and the sun kept us toasty warm for most of the ride. So far on our trip, that brings our watercraft list to: kayak, canoe, speedboat, parasail, seaplane, paddle board, airboat, inflatable raft, and  inner tube. It was awesome.

Our last hurrah was a long hike up the Ice Lakes Trail, to what must be one of the most beautiful basins in Colorado. The trail has two destinations, the lower and the upper Ice Lake Basins. The lower basin is filled with wildflowers and surrounded by cascading waterfalls. It’s separated from the Upper Basin by a massive granite wall. Hike up and over the wall and you’re greeted with miles of alpine tundra, a crystal clear lake that’s so blue it doesn’t seem real, and breathtaking views of the jagged peaks all around. We started at 9850 feet and topped out just above 12,600 feet. The entire 7.2 mile round trip took nearly 8 hours! Was it worth it? Totally! Next time we’ll pack in and camp in the lower basin. We’ve already got a site picked out!

On the way back down, we could see the thick column of smoke rising steadily from the West Fork Fire, which has burned roughly 100,000 acres to date and was burning completely unchecked at the time. Come on, summer rains! Speaking of parched, Durango boasts four excellent craft breweries and has a city tour called The City of Brewery Love. 🙂 We didn’t take the official tour but we did make the rounds and have to agree that they set the “bar” pretty high. I don’t know if it’s something in the water or something in the air, but they sure do make good beer! From Durango all the way to Ouray, there is a wealth of great stuff to see, do, eat, and drink. We barely scratched the surface but it was enough to let us know we love it there!

Categories: Uncategorized | 2 Comments


What to say about Moab…  Nestled between Canyonlands and Arches National Parks and seated at the edge of the Colorado River, Moab has whitewater rafting, rock climbing, hiking, mountain biking, and miles of Jeep trails. This is a great outdoor activity mecca with a laid back vibe, just like our favorite mountain towns. One big difference, Moab’s not mountain. It’s desert – and it’s hot!

We’ve been looking forward to visiting Moab for years, really, and were excited to spend nearly a week exploring the area. As usual, we ran out of days long before we could have exhausted all the adventure possibilities. We spent one day paddling Class II and III rapids on the Colorado, another day driving through serious 4×4 terrain in Arches National Park, and even worked in some amazing rock climbing and canyoneering. There are plenty of slot canyons to hike through and boulders to scramble over, but technically, it’s not canyoneering unless you have to use ropes. We started our canyon adventure with two long rappels, the first about 90 feet and the second an incredible 110 feet of mostly free-hanging descent right next to Morning Glory Arch.

The area around Moab is otherworldly, with red rock towers and winding rivers. The formations and exposed rock we saw in Arches were 65 million years in the making! We had to remind ourselves that the same forces that created those amazing arches is still working – eventually they’ll all collapse. It was incredible to be in an ever changing landscape that so clearly shows geological forces at work, both long term erosion and violent upheaval on a grand scale. Along with the Mother Nature, Moab’s inhabitants have left their mark as well. There are dozens of excellent pictograph and petroglyph sites within 30 minutes of town and even a remarkable rock covered with fossilized dinosaur tracks. This place has been occupied for a while now!

One thing that we really had reinforced in Moab? Water is critical! We always had two Camelbaks loaded with water and ice, plus a couple of bottles in a cooler stashed back in the Jeep for post-hike refreshment. Just breathing in the hot, dry air has a dehydrating effect and we learned to really appreciate the shaded streams along the canyon floors. We got a great tip from a local and on our last day and found our way to a secluded swimming hole right on the edge of town. The cool water cascades over small rocky ledges and collects beneath giant boulders in big, sandy-bottomed swimming holes. It was a great way to cool down and wrap up our visit.

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

To the mountains…

We broke camp from the Fishing Bridge campground, following the shore of Yellowstone Lake south before winding down out of the mountains along the Snake River toward Grand Teton National Park. Well, I say “out of the mountains” only because we dropped down through some gorgeous peaks and came out in a broad valley beneath the towering Grand Tetons. Even on the shore of Jackson Lake, though, we were still at over 6700 feet elevation. When John Muir wrote, “The mountains are calling and I must go,” I think he had a place like this in mind.

Beneath the peaks of Mount Moran and company, just inside the northern edge of Grand Teton National Park, lies Colter Bay Campground and Marina. After a short, beautiful walk along Lake Jackson, we decided to make this our base camp for exploring the park. Over the next few days we rented a boat, fished for cutthroat and rainbow trout, drove the Jenny Lake Scenic Loop with spectacular views of the mountains, and finally got to have a fire in camp.

On our last night, we backpacked several miles from the String Lake trailhead to a spectacular campsite on Leigh Lake. We pitched our tents, then hiked another mile or so further with our fishing poles to Bearpaw Lake. Just off the trail near the lake, we discovered a pine tree shredded by what must have been a massive bear paw – close to 12 inches from one edge of the claw marks to the other! On the way back to camp, we were extra diligent with the hikers’ bear chant, “Heeey, bear! Comin’ through, bear!” The mosquitos swarmed us briefly at dusk but a good roaring fire and cool night air eventually combined to give us some relief. We ate rehydrated camp meals, finished the evening with s’mores (of course!), and stargazed by the lakeshore.

The next morning we woke to truly amazing views of Mount Moran, Grand Teton, and a whole series of mountain peaks extending north toward Yellowstone reflected in the mirror surface of the lake just steps from our tents. Bridger says that there’s no better way to wake up than to a campfire and hot chocolate but that scenery comes close! After breakfast we hooked packs back down from the bear pole, pulled our food out of the bear box, rolled up tents, and headed back to the trailhead where we loaded up and drove down into Jackson, Wyoming. What a cool mountain town! At the Snake River Brewery, we found real craftsmanship – a metalwork wall piece inspired by a Van Gogh painting (we recognized it from seeing the original in Chicago) and Zonker – their delicious, award-winning stout. The next morning we left it all behind, following the Snake River down along Bridger National Forest, trading bison herds for cattle ranches on the wide valley floor. Next stop – Utah!

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment


The Rocky Mountains are simply amazing. We only skirted them last fall as we were making tracks for Minnesota and the Boundary Waters but we always planned to come back for a proper visit. Yellowstone National Park in northwest Wyoming is one of the most spectacular natural wonders in the world, combining towering mountains with boiling hot springs and geysers, all covered in lush meadows, forests, streams, lakes, and wildlife. It was like a tremendous drive-through wildlife safari, the American equivalent of the African Serengeti Plains. We saw bison, elk, deer, pronghorn antelope, foxes, coyotes, marmots, big horn sheep, mountain goats, and a lot of birds. Oh, and did I mention bears? Yes, we saw three grizzly bears, including a young bear about 30 feet away that I surprised as I walked around the front of our bus one morning.

Of course, we saw Old Faithful erupt a couple of times (cool) but we also had perfect timing to catch the irregular and somewhat unpredictable eruptions of the Beehive Geyser and the Grand Geyser (very cool!) as we walked around Geyser Basin. We also got off the beaten path every single day to hike the beautiful trails in the park. We hiked the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, with its beautiful upper and lower falls, wound our way through sagebrush and a Douglas fir forest to Hellroaring Creek, and made the short, steep hike up to Trout Lake in the Lamar Valley. We loved it and were glad to have gotten in before the annual crush of visitors in July and August. We saw all of the major attractions, wildlife at every turn, and still didn’t come close to seeing everything Yellowstone has to offer. We can’t wait to come back!

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Looking back…

If we haven’t said this before, our favorite thing by far about this road trip has been reconnecting with family and friends all across the country. Not everyone wants their picture on our blog, but looking back, we wish we had a picture of every wonderful meal we’ve shared with people we love on this trip. Unfortunately, we have found that we take fewer pictures when we’re hanging out with our favorite people than we do seeing the sights.

Speaking of friends and family, we were lucky when our schedule opened up and our route took us to the mid-west. Our first stop was Gentry, Arkansas to visit family. Even though the kitchen is in the middle of renovations, Aunt Jerrie kept us well-fed and made us feel right at home.  Sam had lots of room to run with a new friend, and Uncle Gary brought out paintball equipment for the boys the first night we were there. Ouch! Uncle Gary gave us a behind the scenes VIP tour of the McKee Baking Company factory, where he has worked for over 30 years.  We got to watch Oatmeal Creme Pies from start to finish— mixing, baking, cooling, frosting, wrapping, boxing.  It was fascinating. At the end of the tour we completed the cycle with two final steps – unwrapping and eating! Back at the house we waited out tornado warnings, threw frisbees for the dogs and played dominoes ’til midnight. There’s really nothing like family.

Also in Gentry we visited the high school where Ayrril and I met and started dating (much to the amusement of the boys).  Callie and Jeff met us at Crystal Bridges, a world class American art museum, just up the road in Bentonville. The Norman Rockwell exhibit was excellent and our company for the evening was even better. On our last day we met Adam and Jennifer and their kids for breakfast. It was so great to have the chance to catch up with more friends that we haven’t seen in a decade.

Our next stop was Leavenworth, Kansas, a place that most SF guys have managed to narrowly avoid throughout their careers. Jeff and Kim made it impossible to miss, however, and we had a couple of very relaxing days hanging out with them. It was like being on vacation – staying up late, sleeping in, great food and cold sangria. Much as we would have loved to stay longer, the mountains were calling, the homeowners association was beginning to look askance at the big bus parked in the neighborhood, and we had to move on.

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Out of the woods…

So, we’re a long way from Memphis! Since the last post we’ve made our way into the Great Plains, visited family and friends in both Kansas and Arkansas, and hit the Rocky Mountains. One of the unfortunate (or fortunate?) side effects of being in the back country of western Wyoming is a nearly complete lack of connectivity – cell phone, wifi, or otherwise. We’ll be catching you up over the next few days with plenty of pictures from Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons. Stay tuned!




Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Elvis, B-B-Q, and B.B. King

John Lennon said, “Before Elvis there was nothing.” We rolled into Memphis on Elvis Presley Boulevard, took a right on Lonely Street, and parked the bus behind the Heartbreak Hotel at the Graceland RV Park and Campground. Seriously, all true. You can’t come to Memphis, birthplace of rock n roll and the blues, without visiting the place Elvis called home. Well, I guess you could but why would you? Although it is often referred to as his “mansion,” it’s actually quite modest by today’s standards. Yes, he had room for horses and built a racquetball court out back, but it really felt like a warm, inviting home. On the tour, we were struck by how much Elvis loved his friends and family, and how much they all loved him in return. Bridger said, “Elvis just seems like he would have been fun to hang out with.”

We asked the park manager for a barbecue joint recommendation; he told us, “There’s a layer of smoke over Memphis this weekend from the International Barbecue Contest being held down by the Mississippi River, but you can’t go wrong anywhere in the city!” At the fest, which was unfortunately geared more toward the contest than to hungry tourists, we had delicious ribs and pulled pork sandwiches from Central BBQ. The next day, we made a trek out to the edge of the city for A&R BBQ, which was well worth the drive. We’ve decided BBQ is the American food, and we love it.

In New Orleans, Bridger pointed out that we had not been to a zoo yet on our trip. A quick Google search for “best zoos in the US” turned up the Memphis Zoo on almost every top ten list, so we put it on the list. Good call! The Egyptian motif throughout the zoo seemed odd until we remembered that Memphis was named for the ancient Egyptian capital city on the Nile River. We saw feeding time for polar bears, grizzly bears, and gorillas. Memphis is also one of only four locations in America to have giant panda bears! The sea lion show was also remarkably well done – funny, informative, and clever. We know that in many ways the Stuttgart zoo has spoiled us, but this one was excellent.

Ayrril and I took advantage of our evenings, heading down to Beale Street just a few blocks off of the Mississippi. It was a lot like Bourbon Street in New Orleans or Duval Street in Key West (i.e. packed with people, a lot of them tourists) but seemed to have a lot more locals and a lot more music. We looked into a few places, had a drink at one or two, but ultimately just enjoyed spending time in B.B. King’s Blues Club. The house band, The B.B. King All-Stars, played a soul and funk mix that was so fun we came back the next night. Music is clearly such a part of Beale Street, there was a live band behind almost every door.  It’s easy to see how the soul of Memphis music was such a tremendous influence on Elvis and everyone who came after him!

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Blog at WordPress.com.