Friday, June 30, 2017

Skagway, Alaska

Day 4-Skagway
On the morning of day 4 we found ourselves up bright and early to meet in the auditorium of the ship to get instructions on our excursion. We were about to take a bus through Skagway, Alaska to a little place called Liarsville. After that we were to be taken to the railroad station to board the White Pass Railroad back to Skagway. Lucky for us they opened up the breakfast buffet an hour early so that we could make our 7:10 departure.

Looking back I think it was a little early for our bus load of cruisers for the Liarsville camp. Actors started us off with a little show that explained a little history of the area through a bit of song and poetry. It was cute enough for the kiddos and had a few adult jokes that should go over most kids’ heads but I thought were a little edgy for the environment we were in. I think it was a little early for our group because there were only 24 of us and it seemed like most of them were still asleep. These kind of cheese ball shows need good audience participation to work and it just wasn’t happening. Despite my best effort to laugh at all the right moments I couldn’t help them save it. My light hearted chuckles sounded forced and full of pity amongst the somber group of twenty five. Heck, even our bus driver was laughing a little extra loud to try to wake these people up. Sorry, bro. These geezers hadn’t had their coffee yet.

What did wake them up was the chance to do a little gold panning after the show. Each person got to take a pan with a “salted” load of dirt over to the panning station to try their hand at this lost art. “Salted” meaning that there were four or five flakes of gold placed in the pan to ensure everyone found something. The stations are long wooden troughs that stand about counter top height from the ground. The troughs are filled with water and after some instruction you can easily remove the dirt out of the pan revealing the gold flakes caught in the lip of the pan. Some in our group were old pros at this and were able to get this done pretty quickly while others from our group had a bit more of a challenge. Anyway if you did it right you should have walked away with 4 or 5 flakes of good old fashion gold to take home as a souvenir.

 Due to tight scheduling we shuffled back onto the bus and left our friendly “liars” behind us. We had a train to catch. Our bus growled its way up in elevation toward the Canadian border where we would have to clear customs prior to boarding the White Pass Railway for a ride back to Skagway. This winding canyon is the same canyon that thousands of prospectors traversed to reach the gold fields to strike it rich and to change their lives. Today all there is to see is beautiful vistas, rock formations and small lakes. It hasn’t changed much since those days. It’s actually amazing that in this day and age there is still so much untouched land. Well almost. The bus stopped at a small shack in the middle of the road. We were entering Canada. A gruff, quiet gentleman boarded the bus to inspect everyone’s passports. You could tell that he took his job serious by the look on his face and he seemed to enjoy having the power to ruin your vacation if you had mistakenly left your passport on the bus. Typical cop (just kidding, I love you guys.) Although he may be angry because he was stuck working in the middle of nowhere in freezing temperatures checking passports all day. I’m not sure. Without much of a word from him we were cleared and he stepped off the bus. We then made a U-turn around the shack and pulled into the parking lot next to our waiting train.

The old train was like any other vintage train I had been on before, narrow, rickety and stale smelling. But we were free to take as much bottled water as we wanted which was nice. In the back of the car sat a heater in which I’m fairly certain everyone aboard was thankful for. To this point I had only been wearing my favorite hoodie and I had decided to spend as much time outside of the train as possible. There was two problems with this, however. First, we were allowed to step out onto the front or rear platform of the railroad car. Each of the platforms topped out at around twenty four square feet or roughly the size of a small closet. You could not pass between cars though. That would get you into trouble although I’m not exactly sure what they would do if they caught you. Most people decided to stay in their seats and enjoy the canyon views from the large windows. The four or five of us crazy folk stayed out on the platform to take pictures and video. Why so few people? It was too cold to spend much time out there. It put my hoodie and my resolve to the test. I’m used to working outdoors during the winter but I think my twelve months in California has weakened me. It had been a long time since I’d felt it that cold. But I toughed it out and got the photo documentation that I crave.
Back in Skagway the train dropped us off a few hundred yards from Main Street so we walked the shops in town. We weren’t swayed into buying jewelry or Ulu knives at this port of call. No we chose to find ourselves some waterproof, insulated jackets that would get us through the week, embroidered with an Alaskan logo of course. Hey, when the forecast calls for rain all over Alaska for the next few days and the price tag is below twenty bucks you jump on it.
I think I like Skagway the best. It has history and the town embraces it. Historic buildings and trains are scattered around town and its small size makes me feel at home. It would be hard to make a life there full time though. During the winter only 800 residents stick around. The grocery stores take turns being open as some type of fair trade deal that could only be brokered in a town like this. But again, it’s part of the charm.

Well tomorrow we go to Icy Strait Point where we will jump onto a smaller boat and go in search of the illusive humpback whale. Well, maybe not illusive, they guarantee we’ll see one. Sounds a bit arrogant doesn’t it? We’ll see about that.

Brandan 

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Alaskan Salmon Bake and Mendenhall Glacier

This week the post may look a bit different as I try something new. For this post I'm directly putting my daily log of our trip straight to the blog. I feel like this will convey exactly what I was feeling while we were on the ship because I wrote Day 3 and Day 4 at night before bed. It let's you into my head a little more than just me telling a story so we'll give it a try for this week and see how it goes. Enjoy!
Day 3- Juneau
Getting a good night sleep seemed to evade me last night. I planned to hit the pillow shortly after dinner but it turned out that I had different plans. Early on day 2 my daughter had heard from one of the crewmen that there might be a chance to see the aurora bori alias sometime after midnight. Chance being the key word. Faith really wanted to see this and she made me promise to wake her up at midnight to see what we could see. Being a good dad, I agreed to do so. Funny thing about the northern lights and Alaska, you are at the mercy of nature and whether or not she wants you to witness them. The other is weather. There’s one thing about Alaska that everyone should know about traveling to Alaska. You are very likely to get rained on. It has been cloudy since we landed in Anchorage and after checking the weather I’m confident that we are not going to see the sun until we return to California. However, being the good dad, I stayed up until the magical hour of midnight and snuck out onto the deck to see what the sky had to offer us. Turned out that the clouds were too thick and nature had no interest in showing off.
Juneau, Alaska
I returned to our state room and woke Faith up to break the news. She opened her eyes and stared at me as I recited my well rehearsed speech. I had to let her down easy so I chose my words carefully. After delivering the message her eyes closed and her head collapsed back into the pillow without a whimper. That was easy. Part of me hoped there was going to be a little more drama. After all, I had stayed up late to keep my promise and I was every bit as disappointed as she was supposed to be about not getting to see the shimmering sky and after I told her the bad news she acted like it was no biggie. Oh well. Good dad needed to sleep and I agreed it really was not a big deal.
Thirty minutes before the alarm was set to sound I woke up. Hello 5:30 am. I like to hit the buffet right as it opens because most of these folks feel that being on vacation means sleeping in and relaxing. Good for them. I say, early bird gets the worm and eats his meal without crowds, commotion and snot nosed kids so at 7:00 am I’m there waiting for the doors to open. Well after showering I woke the kids and soon my grumbling daughter was upset with me. The good dad. What the hell? It took her a few minutes to come out with it but when she did it turned out that she was mad at me for not waking her up last night to see the northern lights. Of course, she didn’t believe me when I told her the story about waking her up. Lucky for me, Misty had woken up and witnessed the incident and confirmed my story. Yes. Still a good dad.
Canoe near Mendenhall Glacier, Juneau, Alaska
At 10:00 am we left the port on a bus headed 12 miles out of Juneau to see the Mendenhall Glacier. This glacier is one of 38 that originate from the Juneau Ice Field. Because of it’s convenient proximity to town it is one of the most popular sites to visit in Juneau. You can access it by land and visit the tiny visitor center that will tell you all about glaciers and the wildlife that live near it or if you are a little more adventurous you can take a kayak or canoe and get even closer to the glacier.
Mendenhall, while not as tall at the (point of contact with the sea) as Hubbard, actually looks more ominous to me. Hubbard spread out at a more even elevation before climbing into the mountains. Mendenhall looked more like a stepped waterfall cascading down a tall mountain that had frozen over. You had a sense of the mass of ice that could crush every little thing that happened to be in it’s patch if it were possible for it to all let go at once.
Now I know I said that the clouds were bad for northern lights and that is true but it turns out that it is good for glaciers. Or at least glacier photography. We were there on the perfect day to see the deep blues of the older, denser ice because there wasn’t as many sun rays that the ice would have to reflect.
Mendenhall is a receding glacier meaning that it is shrinking. There is both good and bad about receding glaciers but I’m not getting into that. One of the neat things about it though is what it has left behind. The rocks surrounding the visitor center show evidence of the violent punishment the movement of the ice causes to the rock face. The rocks are smooth but have defined lines running in one direction similar to what it looks like when you drag a yard rake across your garden bed. I thought of it as a kind of natural artwork. It was cool.

After the glacier we got back on our bus and proceeded to a salmon bake. Yup we were dropped off into a small, wooded area full of wooden tables and benches covered with canopies to keep any inclement weather from ruining your experience. Live music, outdoor cooking and a campfire are all you need for this experience. You could choose from salmon or chicken to go with your thick corn bread, ceasar salad, baked beans and rice. Despite not being a fan of salmon I chose to try it and wasn’t exactly disappointed. It had a sweet glaze that almost…almost hid the fact that I was eating fish. The entire meal was good and the blueberry cake that was dessert satisfied my sweet tooth.
After lunch Misty found out that there was a little waterfall located at the back of the property where a stack of gold pans were waiting for her to try her hand at an old trade. She had always wanted to gold pan in Alaska and this was literally the real deal. Grab your pan and shovel some dirt into it and go to town. She enjoyed herself while the rest of us took photos of the waterfall and watched her in anticipation. Unfortunately it appears that that claim is all used up and we pulled Misty out of the river to head back to Juneau albeit empty handed. Maybe she’ll have better luck at the casino on the ship later.
We explored the shops in downtown Juneau as you do on a cruise. Jewelry, T-shirts and local foods line the streets as they do in any other port city but other than a few squares of fudge we didn’t find anything we just had to have. Instead we headed back to the ship where Misty and her mom went to the spa and the rest of us relaxed and waited for dinner.
We chose to do dinner in the buffet rather than the main dining room because the comedy show happened to be at the same time our dinner was. There are two dinner times for guests aboard a cruise ship. Typically these times are 5:00 pm and 8:00 pm. You get to choose what time you prefer until the time slots are full. Guess what? The 5 pm time slot was full when we booked and in case you were wondering, many of the activities on board the ship begin around 7:00 pm and go until about 11:00 pm. The food was okay and the comedians were funny. Well, how can two guys that juggle and unicycle on a moving ship not be funny?

We have an early excursion tomorrow so we need to get some rest. Tomorrow we’re in Skagway where we’ll visit Liarsville and take a ride on board the White Pass Railroad from Canada back to Skagway. After we’ll hit the streets to explore town.   
Brandan  

Friday, June 23, 2017

Alaska: Days One and Two

  Everyone has their own idea of what the best vacation destination should be. For some it may be the warm, sun kissed beaches of California. For others it may carving the frosty slopes of the Swiss Alps. To each his own I say. Well, to some of us Alaska calls to us and for only the second time in my life, we answered.
  We chose Royal Caribbean to sail us away to five fun and beautiful locations that Alaska has to offer. So with our bags stuffed with long pants and sweatshirts we got a ride to the airport to whisk us away to our waiting ship. 
  This itinerary would have us setting sail from Seward followed by a day at sea before stopping in Juneau, Skagway, Icy Strait Point, and Ketchikan before dropping us off in Vancouver, Canada. But getting to Seward from Los Angeles is no easy task. Okay it's not really hard but it is a lengthy, tiring and frustrating at times. Our day started at 3:30 am as we did our final bag checks, which were ready to go, then an airport shuttle picked us up at 4:20. Once on a plane it was a two and half hour flight to Seattle, Washington for an hour layover. From Seattle we flew three hours to Anchorage, Alaska where we hopped aboard a bus that would take us to Seward. Two hours away.
  Aboard the bus we got our first glimpses of Alaska's beauty. At this point I'm not sure there is an ugly place in Alaska. Even the strange muddy field that would soon have sea water covering it once the tide returned was gorgeous. Literally mountains on one side of us and ocean on the other. It felt a little like driving along the Pacific Coast Highway only prettier (by my humble opinion.) Of course, the PCH doesn't have Bald Eagle's cruising along side of you either. They were everywhere. It was, SO cool. Soon our ship, The Radiance Of The Seas, came into view and the real adventure was about to begin.
  We boarded about ninety minutes before setting sail. We had enough time to find our cabins and clean up a bit before the mandatory safety meeting followed by our 8:00 dinner time. It felt rushed but we were all hungry so we headed to the dining room for our first hour and a half dinner experience of the week. The ship slipped from the dock as our appetizers arrived and we toasted to our latest adventure. A very long day one was in the books. Tomorrow there would be time to get to know the ship. It was a day at sea. My least favorite part of cruising. But this sea day wouldn't be bad. We actually had a stop to make. Hubbard Glacier was waiting for us to arrive and was ready to make a good impression.
 We were up early, let's face it, I'm up early every day and it's just habit now. We wouldn't reach Hubbard Glacier until almost 2:00 pm. So there happened to be a naturalist on board that was doing seminars on different topics throughout the week. Today's subject, glaciers, of course. She talked of how glaciers form, the impact they leave in their wake as they grind across the Earth's surface, and how most all of the world's glaciers are shrinking. Hubbard, however, is one of the few that is still growing. Her knowledge and great slide show taught us a lot and kept us entertained for an hour. She was definitely more entertaining to listen to than the shopping guru. Yeah, we sat through his spiel as a time killer too. I don't trust shopping guy. He's a salesman and he wants me to think I'm his friend rather than the dollar signs I know he sees me as. He may have the skinny on the best locations to shop in these port of calls but I know there's a contract signed behind the scenes somewhere. I'm on to you shopping guy.
 Finally we are approaching the glacier. We had grabbed a quick bite to eat at the buffet where I snarfed down a quick hot dog and left the family behind in order to get a good spot on deck for photos. Hey it's dog it dog up there. You gotta stake your claim. Unfortunately I would be "lost" for two hours as I stayed on deck during our approach and the majority of the hour we spent side by side with the glacier. Folks had filled in behind me to see first hand the 300 foot tall wall of ice we had skillfully been led to. Hey, it's no easy task to steer around icebergs just so some goofy tourist can take a picture. Good job Captain. We appreciate it.
 Awesome; possibly the only word that can describe Hubbard Glacier. The deep blues and bright white colors looked like some sort of huge birthday cake with sweet frosting daring you to sneak a taste. It made the cruise worth while right there, on the first day.
  Calving is part of the glaciers life. Large chunks of ice continuously fall into the frigid ocean to float off on their individual adventures as they slowly melt away. We got to see this calving in action and while we weren't there for any massive slides, there were a few sizable enough to entice the crowd to ooh and aah. I didn't. Maybe. In my head. Yeah it's pretty cool to see. Like I said, awesome. I suppose the ship will halve to navigate through some of those chunks of ice when it returns in a week. Interesting thought.

 A standard practice for a visit to a glacier is to pick up a chunk of ice to bring aboard for people to see. Sometimes they will carve it on deck to put on a show. This trip was no different. While we took in the beauty of Hubbard, the boys were down in their tiny boat looking for a chunk of ice that was just the right size. It took them awhile but they finally found one. It may have been bigger than they should have tackled because they battled bringing back to the ship. To get it aboard they wrapped it with what looked like a web of tow straps hooked to a small crane. Well, the strapping gave way as they lifted the massive ice cube and they ran out of time so a rescue operation was aborted. No ice sculptures for this trip.
  The hour was up and we had to leave Hubbard behind. We had to reach Juneau early the next morning. Looking back I would have to say that as far as boring old sea days go, this one was my favorite. Nature's beauty is on full display up there and this spot is a shimmering jewel. If you choose to go on a cruise to Alaska make sure Hubbard Glacier is on the itinerary.
 We aren't done with glaciers yet. Day three has another one for us to see in Juneau.

Brandan

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Beginning at the End: Vancouver, Canada

 Another week of adventure is upon us and I have to admit it's a little bitter sweet. Why, you ask? Because we just wrapped up a great family trip to Alaska and I'm still trying to come to grips with it being over. As I mentioned last week we will be covering our cruise adventure in detail in the coming weeks but I've decided to start at the end of our trip because, as is often the case in our adventures, things didn't exactly work out as planned. 
  Our cruise ended in Vancouver, Canada on a Friday morning and against many a protest from the rest of my family I convinced everyone to fly home on Saturday night to give us one day at home to settle back in to normal life. Call me crazy but it just seems to help me get ready for the harsh reality of the real world. There's nothing worse than coming home late on a Sunday and having to get up to go to work the next day. So the plan was to explore Vancouver Friday night and Saturday morning prior to heading to the airport to catch our flights back home. Yeah, that was the plan.
 We disembarked at 10:00 am and walked to our hotel room. Yep. Walked three blocks and dropped off our luggage. Our rooms wouldn't be ready until after 1:00 pm. After some advise from the gal at the desk we booked tickets on the Hop On Hop Off bus that would take us to 24 stops across the city and we could jump on or off the bus all day. This allows visitors to see the city at their leisure without the stress of driving around a strange city. This is especially helpful in Vancouver because they have no freeway system. This shocked me when I heard that. Imagine a city of almost two and a half million people with no freeways to get you out of town. Not fun. It felt a lot like trying to escape Los Angeles actually. However, after about thirty minutes we hopped off the bus in Stanley Park where we found a lot of geese, loads of people, and totem poles. The 1,001 acre park is almost entirely surrounded by Vancouver Harbor and offers many beautiful views of the city. 
  As crazy as it sounds we were a little worn out. Half the group seemed to be coming down with a cold and we only ended up getting off the bus once. Not that it was a bad thing. The bus actually had an audio tour that played during the route and the bus driver added other facts as we traveled through the city. Since everyone seemed to need some rest we chose to grab dinner and call it an early evening. We planned to walk the Gastown and China Town areas in the morning before heading to the airport so everything was working fine. Until...
  We were rested and looking for a bite to eat when we learned that Misty's parents had missed their flight. The flight was supposed to take off at 6:45 pm but when they went to check in online it showed that they had missed the flight and their connecting flight was leaving in twenty minutes. This didn't make sense since there was a paper trail proving they had booked the evening flight. We tried to contact the airline and a recording told us they would call us back...in two hours. After an hour of frustration they left us to go to the airport to find a new flight. Disappointed, the rest of us went back to deciding where we were going to eat and how we were going to spend the rest of the day before catching our flight back to Los Angeles. During casual conversation we discovered that we disagreed on what time we were landing in L.A. which led us to checking our own tickets. Guess what? They had separated Misty and I from the rest of our group and we were flying out on a different flight about two hours after the rest of our group which included our kids. Not cool. The details of what happened are a little fuzzy. We all had spent a lot of time choosing these flights three months ago to ensure we could see Vancouver as planned. We received no notifications that they had changed our flights or when. To their credit the airline fixed the problem by finding us all new flights, both direct rather than having layovers and both flights took off earlier than our prior flights. The down side was that we had to leave Vancouver early as well. We were 45 minutes behind Misty's parents and none of us had breakfast until we were sitting in the airport.
 Despite the issues I'm glad to have gotten to spend a little time in Vancouver. The bus ride actually covered a lot of history and shared a lot of facts that we otherwise wouldn't have learned. Had I known how things were going to go we would have taken an extra two hours the night before to explore Gastown for sure. Vancouver grew out of Gastown and it's historic story would have been a great end to our trip. Oh, well. Dem's da breaks. The good news was that we got home a little earlier than we would have had we gotten on our original flights. It's the little things that make life enjoyable, right?
  Please come back as we take you to Alaska over the next couple of weeks as we share our experiences of glaciers, wildlife, train rides and buffets aboard Royal Caribbean's Radiance Of The Seas
See you then.

Brandan  

Friday, June 16, 2017

Packing For The Cruise

  The other day I mentioned that we are headed to Alaska on a cruise. Of course, we are really excited about getting away from home and visiting one of the most beautiful places on the planet. With all the good with travel comes one glaring problem. Packing. 
  We have been sifting through the closets and dressers to gather all the clothes we need for a week long trip. Considering that we've been clearing out all of our old clothes since our move to California you would think that this would be an easy task. But no. It appears it isn't. It also turns out that packing our clothes is the easiest part of packing.
  Since starting this blog I may have gone a little bit...how would you say...camera crazy. Okay, I've been camera crazy for a few years but now I have an excuse. Hey, I gotta get the best shots. Normally our travel has kept us safely on the ground and I have been able to pack all of our gear with ease. This trip, however, is a little more tricky. Not only do we have to fly to Alaska, we have to take a 2 hour bus trip to get to the ship and once on board we have to live in a tiny cabin for a week. So we've been discussing what camera gear is a need and which gear is a must. The good news is that we are currently down to two bags from four. The bad news is we still disagree on the little things. How many GoPro's do we really need? Do we really need to take that many lenses? Ahh! I'm pretty sure that we won't come to our final decisions until right before we walk out the door. It's silly, I know, but that's what happens when there is more than one person that likes to take photos and it's because of that that I don't mind helping to make those tough choices.
  My mother-in-law likes to try and out do me when it comes to photography and while she's never really beat me in our little heads up contest, it is fun to watch her try. This trip will be no different. I can't in good conscience bring all these lenses and expensive gear just to let her beat me. If for some crazy reason she takes the best photo of the trip I guess I would be forced to have to share that here with you. But Teressa, it isn't happening.
 In just a few days we'll be aboard our ship and living adventure. We're excited to share with you our trip reports from each stop along our itinerary and of course the photos and videos that come back with us. We'll see you when we return. Thanks for stopping by and don't forget to get out there and find your own adventure.

Brandan 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Preview Of Adventure

When it comes to travel I like to get the most out of each day that I'm away from day to day life. If I took the time off from work then I'm not going to squander my time. To be honest I find relaxation a bit boring. I mean, why would I take a vacation to sit around when I can do that from my recliner? It just doesn't compute in my tiny brain. But just like you I have limited vacation time and what I do have, my job makes it difficult to leave for a decent amount of time. So how do you see a lot of the world in such limited time? Well as much as it may pain me to admit to the world, a cruise ship may just be the best option.
  I've mentioned how I feel about cruises in previous blog posts but for those of you that may be new here, I'm not the biggest fan. I like to explore a location a little more in depth than what you're able to do during a cruise. The ships are only in port for so long and you must choose the best highlights of these stops that appeal to you before hopping back on board. It feels rushed and incomplete to me but that doesn't mean it's a bad way to travel. So having said that, we have chosen to return to Alaska by way of Royal Caribbean's Radiance Of The Seas. We cruised to Alaska in 2007 when our daughter was only two years old. She has vague memories of the trip and asked us if we could go back and because I'm a sucker I agreed.
  We will be experiencing Alaska's culture through a back country train ride in Skagway, a salmon bake in Juneau, and a visit to a totem village in Ketchikan. While I won't get to spend as much time in each port city as I would like I do feel that you can immerse yourself pretty deep on this cruise. The deep culture, history, and the pure, untamed nature of Alaska appeal to me on multiple levels. I love it up there. Heck, if I were to become a hermit out on my own you might find me to be a permanent resident up there.
  This will be my third cruise and my third cruise line. We sailed with Norwegian Cruise Lines in 2007 to Alaska and in 2014 we cruised with Disney to the Caribbean. Both of those cruise lines had positives and negatives to their ships and it will be interesting to me to compare Royal to them.  So far they've all had good food and entertainment although I think it will be hard for anyone to beat Disney's shows. They seem to have an uncanny knack for producing "magic." We'll get into that after we return in a few weeks.
  When we do return from the trip we will bring you a full report of what we thought about our experience aboard the ship, what it has to offer for you and of course we'll go in depth on each of our ports of call. We may even have some sneak peaks on our social media pages to grab your attention. Stay tuned. Well I need to go. Those suitcases aren't going to pack themselves.

Brandan

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Trail Blazing, Our ATV/UTV Relationship

Polaris Life
 At three years old I was first placed aboard a Honda 70 ATC; a small, three wheeled OHV popular back in the early 1980's. I would dare to say that many people of my age may have had a similar experience and most of them probably own some form of ATV now in adulthood. Why wouldn't we? They are fun, fast and take us away from the mundane world. Not unlike street bikes, ATV's signal a type of freedom that radiates through us as we ride. Alone in our thoughts but surrounded by family and friends we explore the narrower nooks and crannies of the world that we wouldn't be able to visit without long and strenuous hikes. ATV's are light, agile and even utilitarian around the farm and they have been apart of my life for over 35 years. We have had many brands and styles of motorcycles and ATV's throughout the years and we've even had a few snowmobiles sprinkled in there, although not currently. We may have to do something about that.
  In 2009 my dad purchased the first sport UTV, a Polaris RZR. Side by side OHV's were not new when the RZR was introduced in 2007 but this was the first sport model. I wasn't sold. In fact, I had no use for them. I was still blinded by love when it came to my standard 4 wheeler or "quad." I couldn't imagine why anyone would want to buy a larger, less agile machine. I'm pretty sure I drove his RZR up and down the street in front of his house and promptly got out and said something like, "Garbage. You can have it."
  Yep I was content with having my own ride. We had a way of doing things that didn't involve having passengers. We did fine taking turns riding while the others watched the kids. Not everyone wanted to ride at the same time anyway. At least that's what I thought (and I'm a guy and a slow learner.)
  2014 came along and so did another RZR. This time it had 4 seats. Great. Now the wife and kids could come along on rides and our groups got larger. What the heck just happened? This was change and I still wasn't having it. I refused to drive or ride in this new abomination. I recall defiantly pleading my case to the masses. "That thing is almost as big as the Jeep. If you want to go out for a Jeep ride then let's go hop in the Jeeps." It made no sense to me. Don't get me wrong. I was happy that all of the family could ride at once but I just couldn't agree with the thought of these side by sides and it sickened me that they were getting so popular. Standing by my principals I continued to ride my Yamaha Grizzly while Misty and the kids tagged along in the four seat RZR and my parents trailed behind in the two seater and my in laws had their quads. Everyone was happy.
  Life has a funny way of bringing humility to a man. A day comes when you have a thought, an idea that you can't seem to shake. The circumstances surrounding the idea change the dynamics of your life and eventually your stances on issues have to evolve. Yep this is the proverbial act of "eating crow." I decided to take my writing and photography more serious. I wanted to create a website and a YouTube channel that would allow me to share my adventures with the world. It would be fun but it would mean that I would have to focus on using cameras more than driving. Sure I could do both but it would be difficult. The day came when we were taking the "bikes" out for a day and I was going to learn how to use my GoPro and take photos. With a little reluctance I left the Grizzly at home in the garage and spent the day as a passenger in the evil RZR 4. I spent so much time trying new camera angles and mounting locations I didn't even miss driving. In fact, I had a ball. I had spent years having to be "the driver" that I never entertained the thought that riding along would be just as fun.
The author after "caving in."
 We are now on our second RZR 4, known to us as Spidey to it's red and blue paint scheme. He's only got about twenty hours on him and we're still getting to know each other despite us purchasing it last year (this California thing is really a pain in the...) The sad thing is that I haven't even registered, let alone rode my Grizzly for two years now.  That will all change once I get back to Utah, however. I've got a plan to integrate it back into our storytelling. Which makes me happy because I really do like to ride it.
  When you feel the need to see the back country a little faster or you just have to see what's over that next sand dune a side by side can get you there. I never thought they would become as popular as they are but now that we've had them I get it. In the end what I like about them best is the fact that my little family of four can all ride together. Yep, the one thing that a youthful, selfish me didn't want to see happen is the very reason that machines like the Polaris RZR exists. They have brought family's together in the outdoors and to me that's the way it should be. Thank you to those manufacturers out there that continue to innovate and give us opportunities to be together.
 By the way, we aren't sponsored by any of the manufacturers mentioned in this article. I speak from the experiences I've had from the machines that we've purchased privately and I am familiar with. See you on the trails.

Brandan
 


Friday, June 2, 2017

Mistakes Made, Fun To Be Had

  Maybe you happened to misplace your keys or send your wallet through the wash. You might have forgotten to feed your kids' gold fish resulting a very teary eyed funeral around the old porcelain pot to which your daughter will never let you live down. The point is; we make mistakes.
  The funny thing about mistakes is that we make them even when we're fully aware that we are making them. It's okay because we can justify them. Right? 
  I don't like to make mistakes. It usually means that I wasn't paying good enough attention to my task or that I didn't properly plan. It makes me feel silly and incompetent. Of course that doesn't stop me from making mistakes and I will probably always beat myself up about it but that's just life. When on an adventure even the smallest of mistakes can turn into catastrophes that can ruin a good time. During our recent trip to Fillmore, Utah we had a situation that could have turned into a real pain in the neck but as luck would have it all turned out just fine but it's just an example of what happens when you don't follow the 6 P's. What are the 6 P's? Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance.
  We headed south out of Fillmore with four Polaris RZR's and passed through the towns of Meadow and Kanosh before heading up into the mountains intending to make a 70 mile loop back to the town of Fillmore well within the fuel ranges of our vehicles. We filled up the UTV's at the gas station on the way out of town. At the beginning of the weekend we had two five gallon gas cans and one four gallon that are typically mounted to the RZR's for those just in case moments. However one of the five gallon tanks was leaking and was removed from the bike while the other had been used earlier to avoid a gas station trip for a shorter ride the day before. We didn't bother filling them up again. This left us with the four gallon tank.
  The day was sunny and beautiful and the trail was a little dusty but everybody was having a good time. During our lunch stop we discussed the fact that we were only 7 miles from the town of Richfield. We were closer to a gas station than we would be the rest of the day. 3 of the 4 of us had 9 gallon gas tanks while the other, older RZR, only had a 5 gallon tank. We felt that Fillmore was well within our reach and pressed on into the mountains for the last 20 miles of our trip. As we climbed we could started seeing snow hiding in the shadows. This was expected. It's the end of May after all and Utah had a pretty good winter. It didn't take long before a passing vehicle warned us about the road being snowed over and that she had just been pulled out of the drift. Undeterred, we pressed on.
  Fifty feet long and about three and a half feet deep the snow drift stopped us in our tracks. We walked around it and surveyed the drift to decide if we could get over it. There was a chance that if we got over this obstacle we would be home free. Of course there was a chance that it wouldn't be the last drift blocking the road. After weighing our options we decided that it was too late in the day and not worth the chance to continue. We chose to turn around.
  We dumped the four gallons of extra gas into the older RZR and turned back. It wasn't long before we passed the intersection that would take us to Richfield. We didn't bother slowing down. After a few miles I looked down at my own fuel gauge and discovered that I only had a quarter of a tank of gas left. Humbug!
  We had been checking with one another as we had been driving along. We were staying pretty close on fuel levels despite my RZR being a larger four seater with four occupants. It's a newer machine that we had only had out once before so we haven't gotten to know each other yet. Well we were getting our dirty laundry out now. 
  The good news is that we had one more town that we could drop down into. The bad news is that it added miles and wasted time. Part of me wanted to roll the dice and try for Kanosh on the other side of the mountain. I thought better of it and we dropped into Elsinore for gas. Had we had our extra fuel tanks we wouldn't have had a problem. Of course if there hadn't have been a snow drift up at 6500 ft we would have been fine too. Dem's da breaks!
  The boring end of the story is that we made it back to camp at 8:45 pm with what might have been five pounds of dust in some of our lungs and we all had smiles on our faces. We were happy to be done with the ride and ready for dinner but at the same time I was a little disappointed that it was still light. I had some new drive lights that I was hoping to try out. What started out to be about a 70 mile trip clocked in at 126 miles. Not a bad ride for one day.
  Even though everything worked out just fine and in reality this wasn't really more than just an inconvenience I still consider it a mistake. Like all mistakes we will learn from this and I will soon have a new gas can mounted in the RZR before our next trip. After all, I'll probably need the gas to ensure I'm out long enough to try out those drive lights.

See you next week.

Brandan