Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The Utah Olympic Oval

Sometimes life is lived in a mad rush.  We get stressed and we get exhausted.  If you asked me if that is the life I dreamed of then I would tell you no, but it is the life I got and I absolutely love it.  We cram a lot of memories in the time we have.  I hope so much that my kids will look back on this time in their life and be so glad that it happened.  Right now they think a lot about all the time we spend in the car.  They think about the schooling we get as we drive in the middle of nowhere, thank you cell phones with internet.  They think about how well we know gas stations along the path.  (If you are traveling from Utah south on I-15 Choose Maverik gas stations when ever possible.  Cleanest bathrooms, best gas prices and best food options by far! Last one we found is in Mesquite, Nevada).  I'm not even sure they know the amazing life they are living.  We never know how great we have it until we look back on it right?

Wednesday morning we were in bed in our home in California.  Wednesday night we were at the Utah Olympic Oval with a youth group from our Utah LDS ward.  It was 10 hours of driving with a few stops to reach an amazing opportunity.  We love to stand where history happened and we were super excited to stand where Olympic history happened while the Olympics were raging on.  We arrived and checked in with Guest Services and went right in to get our skates.  Prices are $5.50 for adults, $4 for kids, $6.50 for cosmic (cool lighting), and $3 for skate rental.  

So it turns out that ice skating is tough.  I remembered that as I walked in but I didn't tell my kids.  Life is full of tough things and I want them to try everything they run up against.  That includes standing on really fast ice with shoes that are on two tiny metal blades.  There was a pretty good line most of the night at the rental booth so they were moving fast.  You would walk up and they would ask "Hockey or Figure".  What?!?! We don't know this stuff.  We said what ever and got one of each. Neither made it easy but both were fun.

When they got us the skates they took our shoes so we didn't need to worry about keeping track of them.  That was awesome.  The kids put on skates, I stayed in shoes because I wimped out. Fun fact.  As you get your skates you pass a sign that says "No Skates Allowed on Stairs or in Elevator". Guess where the ice is?! Its above you, up the stairs or up the elevator.  We put skates on with the provided benches and in skates we went up the stairs.  I'm not really sure how to keep our socks dry and get to the ice while following the rules.  Sorry we were rule breakers.  We try hard to follow the rules.  Next time Ill ask how we were supposed to do this. 

The kids went for the ice.  I found a bench where I could watch.  By this time I lost everyone we came with but I had a blast just looking around.  in 2001 the Utah Olympic Oval was built for the Salt Lake 2002 Olympic Winter Games.  Fun fact-  Did you know that Brandan worked the 2002 Olympics?  He got paid to be there and watch things incase they needed immediate fixing during the day events.  He could tell you more than I could, just ask.  Sorry, wandered off there for a minute.  The Olympic Oval is located at 5662 S Cougar Lane in Kearns Utah.  This is 16 miles west of Salt Lake. 

In addition to the ice track the kids were on there is two international sized ice sheets where they were playing hockey that night.  It was amazing how well those hockey players were getting around on those skates.  It gave me the bug to go watch a hockey game soon.  I wonder which team we will go see? 

There is also a running track.  Genius!  The place stays a cool 65 degrees all year long.  This got chilly just sitting on that bench but for running that temperature is perfect.  Training on the 442 meter indoor track sounds perfect.  Its only $4 a day or $3 of you are with the police or fire department.  

I think we have already determined that I have a Diet Coke addiction.  Lucky for me they have a snack bar that serves Coke products.  I was able to get a cold soda.  After that I was freezing though.  If I timed it better I could have run down to the Speed Zone store to get a jacket.  We waited until almost closing and the store was locked up tight for the night.  This time spent in Cali has me craving a bit warmer temperatures.  Next time I'm picking up a jacket on the way in. 

The parking lot is massive so you can always find parking.  They even covered it all with solar panels so your car wont scorch in the heat of the summer.  The building has a pretty cool design too.  Overall I think we have found a new loved way to burn off some extra energy.  I'm planning on coming back this summer when we are looking for a place to hide from the heat.  I'm thinking Cosmic skating under the black light to music played by the live DJ.  Whos in?  We'd love to go with some friends.  Let us know and we will meet you there. 


Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Cleghorn Ridge

 For the last couple of weeks I have bored you with articles about all the aftermarket parts that I have been installing on the Jeep in preparation for the Easter Jeep Safari coming up in a few weeks. Well, as it stands, I still have a few items left to install but we are put together enough that we decided to go out and stretch our legs. We were looking for something as close to the house as possible for a couple of reasons. I tend to play it safe when I make major modifications until I'm confident in the parts. Since I just changed the tie rod, drag link and had an alignment, I wasn't looking to get stranded in the middle of nowhere because someone forgot to tighten a bolt. The other reason is we just wanted to get out into the desert and back to the house before the sun went down. After a week of research I decided to take us to the Cleghorn Ridge trail.
 The Cleghorn Ridge Trail, also known as OHV road 2N47, is located in the San Bernardino mountains. The trail head is super easy to access because to get to it you exit I-15 at the Cleghorn off ramp and turn east into the canyon. You're on the dirt in less than a quarter mile off of the freeway. Talk about convenient. This exit is just south of Cajon Pass for those familiar with that section of I-15. Once on the trail it is little more than fifteen miles before your tires will hit pavement again and for the most part is a basic two track road that most vehicles could traverse in dry conditions. 
 As we climbed we got some incredible valley views and despite being in the mountains you never really got the sense of being alone because you could see the traffic traveling the freeway for most of the day. 
 I thought we would run into more people out on the trail considering it was a holiday weekend but I think we only saw six or seven vehicles and four ATV/UTV's all day. For California, that's a ghost town. Everyone we talked to was very friendly, however, which is always nice to see.
 I didn't just want to drive all the way out to the desert without finding a little difficulty and I chose Cleghorn Ridge because there are a few off shoots that parallel the main route that are more challenging for those that choose to try them. These routes are meant for vehicles with more ground clearance and larger tires but are really only as difficult as you choose them to be depending on the lines you choose to take. They were challenging enough to be fun but not hard enough that we were concerned about breaking parts, which was exactly what I set out to find.
 The payoff at the end of this trail is the overlook of the Silverwood Lake just a mile or so south of the end of the trail. This is just off of highway 138 which would take us back to Santa Clarita. This route took us past The Devil's Punch Bowl and our favorite little road side attraction, Charlie Brown's Farm but we chose to pass by on this trip. Overall, I feel pretty good about the improvements that we've made on the Jeep and it was a great relief to get out and explore more of Southern California's desert and if you are looking for a nice day trip to get out of the big city, the Cleghorn Ridge trail is worth a look.


Friday, February 16, 2018

Happy Chinese New Years at Universal Studios Hollywood

 Sometimes I wonder what we are going to do with all our free time when we are not living in the land of the theme parks.  If there is one lesson I will take from our time here in Southern California it would be that ten hours in the car is no big deal if you have a destination.  Add that to the fact that sometimes the journey is the destination and there you have it.  This time next year I will be planning a garden.  I will be chasing chickens and shoveling snow.  I will also be jumping in the car for ten hour drives instead of one hour drives when these incredible theme parks are doing something magical.  Universal Studios Hollywood will be celebrating The Year of the Dog now through February 25th, 2018. 

Today is the beginning of the Chinese New Year.  This is the festival marking the start of the new year.  This begins on the second New Moon after the Winter Solstice.  This ends on the next Full Moon 15 days later.  This year it is the year of the Dog.  There is a 12 year cycle for the Chinese Zodiac.  Each year is represented by an animal and its attributes.  In Chinese tradition its told that the dog helped the monkey and rooster defeat evil spirits.  The dog stands for loyalty, the dog is a good friend who understands his master.  Turns out the Year of the Dog is a pretty good year to be in.  You can check it all out in the center of the park at the Universal Plaza. 

When we first entered and looked around we saw Mr. Pings Noodles.  In the movie Kung Fu Panda we meet Mr. Ping and his noodles as the father of the main character, Po. Mr. Ping is a lovable character in the movie and you can meet him and chat him up in person.  In addition to meeting the noodle master himself you can go around the corner and feast.  You can get Secret Ingredient Noodles in beef, chicken, tofu or shrimp varieties.  We tried the beef and chicken.  Faith's main complaint was that there mushrooms hidden through out the dish that were not optional.  You can also get BBQ pork rolls or pot stickers.  It was simple and yum.  

In the center of the Plaza you will see a bunch of Plum Blossom plants. Here you can write your wish for the new year on a red tag and clip it to the trees.  Good Luck!

While you are in the Plaza you can also learn to draw your favorite characters from the Kung Fu Panda movies.  I tried to draw Tigress.  They make it look so simple but really it isn't.  You can also learn a little Kung Fu.  On the stage Po and his friends pick a few friends from the audience to teach them a routine and bow.  Its a quick cute show worth waiting around for.  You can also meet a Mandarin speaking Megatron, Meet Minions dressed in Chinese Attire and get lots of photo opportunities.  

While I was there I learned that I was a goat.  The plaza is surrounded with Chinese Zodiac flags that tell you which sign you are under based on the year of your birth.  I also got a fortune cookie telling me that my most memorable dream will come true.  This worries me slightly.  When I was a kid I would dream that the entrance to my Grandmas house was a dungeon lined with suits of armor.  These suits of armor would randomly come alive and I would need to fight them to get through the room.  If I was successful at fighting all the haunted suits of armor I could pass through the door at the other end of the room and then I would get to spend time with my Grandma.  I think of all my dreams I've ever had this is my most memorable.  I had it over and over again.  I really like to spend time with my family.  I would be quite upset if I had to fight through a haunted dungeon to see any of them.  I'm choosing to think that it means that I will get what my heart dwells on most and if that is the case my family and I will be seeing every National Park we can drive to in the next year.  Cross your fingers for us.  National Parks are way better than haunted dungeons.  Time will tell, but I will keep you posted.  

Happy Trails, 

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Another Garage Weekend

 Do you ever have those times when you are so busy that you can't keep all of your thoughts straight? That's what it has been like around here and our adventures have been suffering. Lately it seems like we just can't find an escape which means we haven't had much fun to share with you guys lately. I didn't want you to think that we forgot about you, though, so I'm going to give you a quick update on what we have been working on.
 Simply put, we've been working on getting the Jeep ready for Moab. I've been crawling on both ends of Klondike for two weekends in a row. I finished the wiring of the dual batteries and found time to install a new tie rod and drag link to beef up the steering. 
 The batteries are now controlled by a system from National Luna. Haven't heard of them? Well their a little more well known in the overland community but they are a company from South Africa. This controller separates the batteries in a fashion that I don't have to use the same type of batteries if I don't want to. In this case I chose to use two Optima batteries because I like the look of the matching batteries. Yeah, I'm a little weird that way. Once the engine is started the system charges the main battery for five minutes. After the five minutes it kicks over to the second battery and charges it. They remain completely separate so they don't drain one another. Our new ARB fridge will be wired into the second battery so that it never drains our main battery, leaving us stranded or in need of a jump start. In fact, if the main battery tanks on me, I can jump myself off the secondary battery with a push of a button. Brilliant.
  We installed the Currie Enterprises Correctlync system to beef up our steering to help handle the bigger tires and possible impacts from crawling in the rocks. In truth, the ball joints went bad and I just figured that I might as well improve things while I'm working on the front end anyway. Today we got an alignment as the final step to the installation and while they were doing that they found that the front track bar bolts were loose. That was a little annoying to me because I've checked those bolts a few times. The good news is, the Jeep feels like a completely different Jeep. The steering is tighter and more responsive. Guess a tight track bar helps quite a bit, huh? 
 This week I've go to wire the plug for the ARB fridge and install the third brake light relocation kit that I've been waiting for. Hopefully I can get this done before the weekend so that I can go do a quick shake down out in the dirt. That would make a much better story than all this boring "work" stuff. 
  Well, there's my quick update on the last week. Life keeps passing by and we try to enjoy as much of it as we can but sometimes you've just got to stop and work. Don't work to hard out there. See you this weekend. 


Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Two Batteries Are Better Than One

 Part of any four wheeler's winter ritual is to take the down time to improve upon their ride of choice. For us it's just part of getting ready for the Easter Jeep Safari. This year I am excited to be switching from the traditional ice filled cooler to an ARB 10800472 Fridge Freezer- 50 Quart. If you don't know what that is, basically it's a cooler sized refrigerator that plugs into your cigarette lighter in your car. With this, there is no more icy mess to deal with and you get to utilize all the space in your cooler. Genius.
  Along with the fridge, we have additional lighting and the need to charge various devices which takes a lot of power. To aid in this power draw we are adding an additional battery to the Jeep. The second battery will charge just like the primary battery but it will allow the secondary devices to draw from it, rather than our primary battery.
 To do a dual battery system we needed to get a new battery tray. We chose the Rugged Ridge 11214.53 Dual Battery Tray to hold our two Optima batteries. Now for those that own a Jeep JK, you already know that there is barely enough room for a single battery, let alone two. To install dual batteries it requires some disassembly and some mild plastic modification. The factory's plastic battery tray actually extends from the firewall all the way to the front of the engine bay, ending just under the air cleaner box. So, all that has to come out in order to remove the old tray. Once the old tray is removed you have to cut it into two pieces. We reuse the portion that holds the air cleaner and the fuse box and the rest goes in the trash. Then the new battery tray bolts in using the old hardware and bolts which is very convenient and the batteries can then be nestled into place.
 As you can see in the photos, it's a very tight fit. I had to be very careful not to pinch or cut any of the existing wiring and hoses that run our lights and cooling system. All this took about two hours to do as I was being very careful as I was doing this install. I have one more dual battery system to setup before we go to Moab and I'm confident that I'll cut that time in half. It really was an easy install, at least until I came to wiring them up.
  The next step is going to be wiring the batteries so that they can work together in our system. To do that, we will be using a system from National Luna but I ran into a little problem with installing that part of the system. But, I'll get into that part of the story on another day. Stay tuned for that. 
  If you've ever thought about adding a dual battery system to your rig, I'd say go for it. It isn't a difficult installation and if you're going to run a lot of accessories such as, winches, fridges and lights, it's nice to have a little extra power in your corner. Now where did I put those crimpers? 


Friday, February 2, 2018

Super Blue Blood Moon on January 31st.

Every day there is something new and wonderful to explore.  This week it was a view of the Moon and it was in our own yard.  We haven't had the chance to see this since 1866 so we grabbed our gear and got outdoors.  

On January 31st, 2018 we had a rare occurrence.  It was a Super Blue Blood Moon. Sounds kind of weird.  Lets break it down.
Since the Moons orbit around the earth is not a perfect circle the distance varies through out its cycle.  Super Moons occur when the moon is on its closest approach to the earth.  When its a Full Moon its a Super Full Moon and when its a New Moon its a Super New Moon.  Simple enough.  These appear 12 to 14 percent bigger than when they are at their furthest.  Because they appear bigger they also appear 30 percent brighter.  Most days the center of the Moon is about 238,000 miles from the center of Earth. A Super Moon is less than 223,694 miles away.

January, 2018 had two Full Moons and they were both Super Moons.  The first was on January 1st and the second was on January 31st.  When we have two Full Moons in one month we call this a Blue Moon.  I know I use the term once in a Blue Moon often and this is where it comes from.

When a Lunar Eclipse occurs the Moon is covered in the shadow of the Earth.  When this happens the Moon has a red glow that gives it the name Blood Moon.  

On January 31st we got all three astronomical events to line up and give us a Super Blue Blood Moon.  It was a pretty cool event to see.  

If you love star gazing at all you should check out this link.  Bryce Canyon Astronomy and Night Sky Programs.   The light in all these cities around us make the night sky hard to see due to all the light pollution.  Bryce Canyon National Park gets so dark that you can see 7500 stars on a moonless night.  This is one of those trips we have on our bucket list we hope to check off in 2018.  Somewhere in our boxes is a telescope itching to get out.  

Did you get to see the Super Blue Blood Moon?  What is your favorite thing to see in the night sky?  What should we do next?

🎔 Misty