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Oct 01, 2006 (A)

This is Amy's version of events for the last few months. For Erik's version check the last entry.

Yoga Teacher Training Intensive, Session I:  (Salt Spring Island) July 1-July 13

  • The First Day jitters
    • So after a long day of driving from Seattle to Vancouver, complete with the border crossing and catching the Long Harbor Ferry, we camped for the night at the south end of Salt Spring Island, in British Columbia (Canada).  The next day, we drove north of the Island’s main city of Ganges to the Salt Spring Center of Yoga.  We showed up a little early to setup what was to be our camp for the next ten days.  I did some Yoga on the mound as I was waiting for the orientation, savoring the peace and holding off on socializing later, though more and more individuals were starting to show up and mill around.
      Ferry Going By Salt Spring Island
    • There was an orientation circle (or meeting) where we all the students introduced themselves and stated our goals for coming.  There were 39 of us there, not including the teachers, we filled the room with the circumference of our circle.  I still remember where I was sitting – on the carpeted area, near the door to the piano room.  I had stated my one goal for coming to this course – to come away with the skills, knowledge, poise, and grace to teach yoga, and to get in the business of doing so.
  • A Well Organized Curriculum
    • We all got into the rhythm of class pretty quickly as it was an intensive.  What that meant in terms of schedule was – up at 5:15 AM and finish at 9:30 PM or later.  The time was all well used.  So much to learn!  And we were all getting the best instruction.  After a number of days I could see a logical flow to the design of the curriculum, I was pleased to be in a good place to learn the art of Yoga. 
    • This particular center focused on classic Ashtanga Yoga, where Ashtanga meant eight limbs.  In particular, what I used to consider Yoga, as in the physical 1 ½ to 2 hour class of poses was only one of the eight limbs.  It was a discovery for me to learn that there was could be so much more to yoga, which in this case encompassed most of the aspects of living a holistic and healthy lifestyle.
  • Great Clinics – the Breakdown of the Pose
    • Every afternoon, we would all pile into a school bus and make our way into town to make use of the gymnasium at a local elementary school.  This was the only way that all 39 of us could be in a class at once and have access to the wall space that was an essential prop for learning how to teach the yoga poses.  We were learning a core set of poses that were thought to be the elemental poses that we could use to teach a beginner yoga class. 
    • I really took to the approach of learning poses.  There was great emphasis on alignment, modifications, prop use, trouble shooting a bad pose, and methods for getting into the pose.  Building from the fundamental elements of a pose really gave us the tools we needed to tackle more complex advance poses in the future.
  • Check-in Circles (Meetings)
    • So to add a personal touch to our experience, we broke up into smaller groups.  These were our check-in groups, which consisted of a handful of students and one instructor.  We gathered occasionally to touch base on how our personal and academic experience was progressing.  Very cool.  In my check-in group, we had:  Andrea, Josie, Julie, Dave, (and I know I’m forgetting someone…), and our advisor was Kulpina (Andrea). 
    • Oh yeah, all the instructors went by two names – their given names and their Sanskrit names which were given by their teacher Baba Hari Dass, of whom I will speak of later.
  • Great food, Students with a Drive to Learn
    • The food was 100% vegetarian.  In fact it was written in our contracts that we were not allowed to bring any meat onto the premises.  That was fine by me though, I didn’t miss it at all.  The food was so fresh and rich in fresh vegetables that I was in heaven!  It was great food.  And for the first time, I tasted a brand of tofu that was palatable.  It lacked that “beany” flavor that is present in most block tofu, I think it may have had to do with the fact that it was freshly made on the island.  I especially loved the salads!  I would pile my plate high with mostly salad and then have a serving of the warm main dish and I was full.  My plate was huge, I ate almost all of it, and I lost weight.  Who says that you can’t lose weight on great food?   (It just can’t be 1950’s Mac-n-Cheese-Betty-Crocker cooking, that’s all.)

Rally in the Valley:  (Telluride, Colorado) July 24-28

  • Day One
    • So we arrived a day early, at the campgrounds (outside of Silverton, Colorado) that was to be our home base for the next few days.  Our drive was not without excitement though, as we had just incurred significant windshield damage after a truck that was hauling some dirt-covered Jeeps flung a golf-ball sized rock right at the top of our windshield.  The resulting “smack” left a hole in the windshield, shards on the dash, and a crack all the way down the middle of the glass.
  • On the Young End of the Demographic
    • So needless to say, the RV life style is predominantly an old-peeps pursuit.  Our particular type of vehicle tends to draw a more active set, which meant more intrepid and like-minded people, which was nice.  Nevertheless, we found ourselves on the younger end of the spectrum.  In fact I think we were the second youngest couple there.
  • The Younger Couple & the Younger Set
    • The Youngest Couple Award would probably have to fall to Pat and Jen who have a sweet Dark-Green Ride with a Robotic Satellite Dish and all the trimmings.
    • Being of similar ages, us young’uns found ourselves hanging out together in a comfortable group.  There were the two of us in our van, Pat & Jen in the Dark Green, Brad & Oksana in the Yellow, Chad & Isabella in the Candy Apple Red, Laura & Geoff in a spiffy Tan Van.  Can you believe that we got the whole lot of us crammed into our van one evening, hanging out with chips and beer?  Good times!
    • We made so many memorable connections with so many really cool couples.  I can’t wait to visit again with everyone and go do Sportsmobilie stuff together!
  • Africa?
    • So Chad and Isabella will be taking their rig on a several-month-long trip to South America in October of this year.  And next summer, they plan to road-trip through Africa!  So we got to talking and dreaming.  And who knows?  Africa would be monumentally cool…
  • The Great Rides
    • The Rides were awesome.  The views were spectacular.  I love this area of Colorado.  What can I say?  I want more!
      Rally Ride
  • On the Area
    • There’s a reason why the Silverton-Telluride Area should be so expensive – it’s breath-taking.  There are mountains (and I’m not talking like the dinky hills of Appalachia, no sir!  Real sharp, pointy monster mountains) of truest green, and some mountains that look like a sculptor peeled the painted desert off of the ground and laid it over their jagged peaks.  I am definitely coming back here…

Yoga Teacher Training Intensive, Yoga Session II: Aug 9-19

  • Welcome back, Seeing old faces, and Hearing New News
    • We took the Milk-Run (as in long run) Ferry to Long Harbor and seeing as how we had some extra time before we were needed at the Centre, we decided to drop into town.  The main town of Salt Spring Island was Ganges which was a colorful little village filled with touristy and artsy shops.  I ran across some others in my class while hanging out in town.
    • It seemed that a lot of people had a pretty eventful 3 weeks of break.  Aunarai had her car catch fire on her drive from Peachland to Vancouver and lost most of her possessions in the process.  Christina found new love.  Julie caught up with an old flame.  And Janet (we missed her) had to make the difficult decision of not returning for the second session because of some pretty major shifts in her life.
  • Practica Jitters
    • So the main focus of the second session was on the two practica we each have to participate in.  And this had been the focus of all of my preparations and studying during the 3 week break.  Eeek!
    • There is the Pranayama Practicum, which focused on the teaching of Pranayama (also know as breath-control exercises) and meditation.  Me – teaching meditation!  I did believe I would have been more successful with teaching “medication” for attaining serenity, instead.  Seeing as how serenity would be the polar opposite of myself.
    • The second and by far more interesting practicum was the Asana Practicum (asana is also known as pose).  It is what most people normally associate with Yoga – the yoga class. 
  • A More Spiritual Leaning…
    • During our 3 week absence, the Centre held its annual family retreat.  The retreat was a chance for all of the folks who had associated with the Centre or its sister center (Mount Madonna) to congregate and meet with their spiritual leader, Baba Hari Dass.  There’s that name again, who is this person?   You might ask. 
    • Well according to most of the teachers he was the main reason why the two sister Yoga centers were built.  He was the inspiration and his followers, some who have been studying with him for over 20 years, built the centers to allow for the gathering of like-minded spiritual people.  
    • So a large part of the draw of the annual retreat, aside from daily pranayama and asana classes, and awesome vegetarian fare was a chance to be in the enlightened presence of Baba Hari Dass (or Babaji as he was lovingly called).
    • Babji stayed on, past the end of the retreat, guiding the building of rock-walls (as was his favorite past time).  So the students in my Yoga Intensive had a chance to meet the revered Babaji, of whom they had heard so much about.  As a result there was a much more spiritual taste to the session.
  • Pranayama Practicum
    • Kudos to my Pranayama Partner – Kathy you’re the greatest!  It was such a relief to finish!  Our practica groups consisted of ~10 students and 1 to 2 advisors.  They were the same groups for Pranayama and Asana Practica.  We were expected in the Pranayama Practicum to lead and teach a 1 hour class consisting of breath control practices and then meditation.  We got lots of good feedback and had a positive experience overall with teaching the class. 
  • Asana Practicum
    • My Asana Partners and I were also in the first Asana Practica on the schedule.  My partners for Asana were just as great.  ShantiPriya was so reassuring and confident and Georgette was just as nervous as I myself was.  So I felt that I was in good company.  It was a blast teaching for the first time.  I really concentrated on not saying “um” and speaking slowly and clearly.  I think that that concentration paid off.  The only thing I wish had gone different was that I wished that I had had a little more energy when I was teaching.   I felt a little tired, as did the class.  We were all getting a bit strung out on practica preparations, some of us still hadn’t done any of our practica yet, it was afternoon, and our classroom was sweltering.  Other than that, I really enjoyed being in front of the class, and knowing my stuff.  It was a great feeling.
  • Last Days of YTT Summer
    • It was a nice feeling to be one of the first to have both my practica done and over with.  Near the end of the session, there was of course a night of celebration.  And on the morning of the last day, we all received our certificates in a graduation ceremony.  We were all certified yoga instructors, class of Salt Spring Centre Yoga Teacher Training Intensive 2006!  Yay!  Thanks again to my great husband for washing dishes, chopping beets, and giving me hugs in support.
      Getting Certificate
  • Good Byes, Good Friends
    • It was time to say good bye and I knew that I had made some long lasting connections with a really great and diverse group of inspiring women (and men too, but we were mostly a group of women students and teachers).  Now I have all these Canadian friends that I have to (most of the students were from Canada) – Road trip!  Can’t wait for the reunions!
      Camping Spot

Lake Louise, and Jasper with Friends Aug 22-24

  • Left Salt Springs in a hurry to get to Lake Louise (south of Jasper B.C.) to go meet up with Pat and Rebecca and family.
  • We spent a fun number of days together, hiking to a tea house, hiking to beat potential inclement weather, driving across the ice field highway, and just enjoying the scenery. 
    Jasper NP
  • I really liked the Lake Louise tea house hike.  We hiked up to a tea house near Lake Louise and had tea and biscuits.  It was a short but sweet little hike and the food at the top was a nice bonus.  I would next time advise to bring napkins though, ‘cause none are provided!
    Hike to Tea House

Drive to Vermont: Aug 25-Sep 2

  • The Pot-Holely Toll-ways
    • Then it was a rush for us to drive over to Vermont to make it to Shane and Laurie’s wedding reception at Laurie’s parents’ home.  On the way, we bought $1K in diesel and paid 50 plus buckaroos in toll fees.  And let me tell you, the toll money was not, I repeat NOT going into road repair.  So far as I could tell, some of the shittiest limited-access roadways that I’ve seen have been toll-ways.  I was pretty sure that all our tolls are going towards some mobster’s next fancy new car, house, or mistress. 
  • The Inferno of Chicago
    • It was my first experience of Chicago.  Really, we just drove past it on the Freeway, but my first impression was Dante’s Inferno – tons of dirty, industrial style buildings, smoke stacks and the like.  Uck, no-thanks.  No-thanks.
  • The Souless “Service Stops”
    • Whereas Freeways have Rest Stops, toll-ways have “Service Stops”.  The essential thing about toll-ways is that there is no escape.  It’s very claustrophobia-breeding.  A Service Stop usually consists of a parking lot, no trees, just concrete crawling with lots of fat motorists, and an airport-style food court.  And you, the passing automobilist would be a captive audience.  There would be nowhere else to stop for food or provisions until you paid the toll and exited the Toll-way (or Turnpike). 
  • The Fat Curve peaks
    • One thing that we noticed as we made our way East – they get fatter.  The percentage of fat and obese in the population increase as one approaches the mid-west, peaks in the middle of the Midwest (like Toledo), and then comes back down again as one continues on to the New England region.  At one point, Erik and I went into a grocery store and noted that, aside from one cashier, all the shoppers and workers in the store were grossly overweight.  Remarkable.
  • Breakdown in Toledo
    • Erik will probably speak more to this, but around Toledo we had a part break.  It was a good thing that Erik noticed it in time, because if it had completely broken off, the breakage would mostly likely have had catastrophic consequences.  The part that broke held the front axle onto to the van.  Quite obviously losing a front axle at 60 plus mph would have been quite spectacular. 
    • After we discovered the breakage, we had limped our way (slowly and with a Safety-wire field repair) to a nearby RV park.  Then we spent the night waiting as Sportsmobile over-nighted us a replacement part, which Erik was able to install.
      Replacement Part
    • As it is we were still concerned with the design of the part and consider it a weak point in the design of the 4-wheel drive assembly.

Laurie & Shane’s Celebration & Thoughts on Vermont: Sep 3-5

  • Picturesque Rural Vermont-so-green
    • Vermont reminded me a lot of Duvall and Carnation.  All of our friends back in the Seattle area will appreciate what I’m talking about.  Vermont was a very pretty-rural (as opposed to red-neck-rural), all green and well combed and mowed.  It looked like there are a lot of small gentleman-farmer type of farms, picturesque with their classic style farm houses, each complete with their one-and-a-half silos. 
  • Getting Ready for the Party – So Much Fooood.
    • We arrived a day early to the Darcey’s house, so we got to help Candy with the preparations.  There was enough food to feed a small army!
      Small portion of the Food
  • Getting Ready for Africa – Among Other Things…
    • We got a chance to catch up a little with Shane and Laurie before it was time for them to take off for their honeymoon – in Kenya, and several other countries to boot.  It was exciting just listening to all of their plans and hearing Laurie describe their itinerary in detail.
  • Special thanks to Terry & Candy
    • After Shane and Laurie left to catch their flight, Erik and I stayed behind at Terry and Candy’s for a few more days, to pass the Labor Day weekend, which we expected would have had all the camping sites packed-to-the-gills with weekenders.  And bad traffic.  Thanks again for letting us stay and use the showers!  The leftovers were great.

Drive to Boston: Sep 7-12

  • Getting into Boston – Welcome to the Dig! 
    • Driving into Boston, we kind of got a little lost in the Big Dig, which was a series of double storied viaducts and tunnels.  We couldn’t find the exit that our mapping program was directing us toward and ended up in downtown Boston at the tail-end of rush hour. 
  • 8 ft Clearance??!!  Eeek, Omigod!
    • We also managed to get directed onto one of their “low clearance” roads.  Mind you, these “low clearance” roads didn’t mention how low the clearance was until you were essentially trapped in your choice of roads.  So soon we discovered that Boston’s idea of “low clearance” was not the typical freeway concept of 13 foot, 4 inches, but rather 8 feet.  So one could imagine how much fun we had when we discovered that we had no choice but to back-up out of the road, and drive over a median and sidewalks to escape our “low clearance” predicament. 
  • Seeing My Friend Again After So Long!
    • I hadn’t really had a good chance to catch up with my old college friend, face-to-face, for a good many years.  So I was thrilled to get to hang out with my dear friend Rebecca, and check out her digs.  
  • Getting Right to Cooking in the Crazy Kitchen
    • That evening when we arrived at Rebecca’s house it was a bit of a zoo because some of her roommates were hosting a meeting in their living room.  Rebecca hadn’t come home yet, so we just hung around for a while in the kitchen.  Then when Rebecca came home, we got right down to cooking dinner together, and again it just so happened that their were so many cooks in the kitchen!  Some of the other roommates had just started cooking their own dinners while others were cleaning up from theirs.  Nevertheless, as always I find that it’s so very nice to chat over cooking dinner – stir-fried cabbage with cashews and blended turnip-jalapeno soup.  Rebecca eats so very healthy!
  • Biking Boston
    • Good News Garage
      • On Saturday, Erik and I hopped onto our bikes and followed Rebecca as she took us on a biking tour of Boston.  Our first stop was to the Good News Garage, a garage run in part by Tom and Ray (also known as “Click and Clack the Tappet brothers”) from the Car Talk Show.  Unfortunately, the garage was closed, but we still got to see the outside!
    • Rebecca’s friend
      • Next, Rebecca introduced us to Pauline, her artist friend.  Pauline’s apartment had been turned into a live-in gallery and I loved how she had used the space.  It was neat getting a chance to talk to a fellow artist and yoga instructor – someone who had “made it” as an artist.  I also loved her painted works.
    • Body Worlds 2
      • Late in the afternoon the three of us went to the Science Museum.  I had expressed some interest in seeing the Body Worlds exhibit and Rebecca had an interest as well.  So the two of us went to see the special exhibit.  (Erik didn’t really care to see corpsey displays of the long-dead.)  The Body Worlds exhibit was definitely worth seeing once.  The Exhibit consisted of bodies that had been treated in a special preservation process that caused all of the flesh to become infused with and attain the consistency of plastic.  The resulting bodies are relatively scent-free and looked near-to-perfectly preserved and held their biological integrity down to the cellular level. 
      • This special plastinasation process is practiced by a German scientist.
      • Each of the bodies on display had been creatively posed and filleted to best display and explore the human physiology and anatomy.  No pictures were allowed.  There was one figure, called the Angel, her back muscles had been cut away and spread like wings to reveal the backside of the abdomen.  There was a man who had been sliced into many two-inch slices, vertically from head to toe, chest to back.  There were many other creative displays, including body parts with metastases and deformities.  There was even a woman in the 5th month of pregnancy.  It was all very humbling, fascinating, and made one consider one’s own mortality.
  • The Beach at Waldon’s Pond
    • Sunday, Erik and I and a few of Rebecca’s roommates all piled into a car and headed for the beach.  The weather was exceedingly nice and so the traffic in the parking lot was quite congested, but we managed to find a parking spot pretty quickly, considering.  Rebecca had been smart enough to bring a wetsuit, so she and Nicole got right to swimming, whereas Erik and I took a bit of a while to get acclimated to the water temperature.  But soon enough even the two of us were swimming.  What a great time we had!  I was practicing some strokes, trying out some new things, staying in the shallow area.  It was the first time in as-long-as-I-can-remember that I’ve gone swimming in a lake-type of environment (usually, I’ve been either in the warm ocean waters of Hawaii, or in chlorine).  It was soooo nice, a bit less predictable than a pool, and so thrilling because it!
    • In the evening we tested out a Carrot-Cashew Loaf recipe that had been given to me.  This dish had been, hands-down, the favorite of the students at the Yoga Centre.  The recipe turned out tasty, and though it came out a bit on the moist side, it was yummy!
  • Thai & Harvard Square & Coffee
    • Monday night the three of us went out to dinner at the Brown Sugar Café, which as promised, had great Thai food.  Mmmm, wish I could take that restaurant with me in the van!  Afterwards we spent a magical rest of the evening walking around Harvard Square, and ended the night at a local Starbucks (one which had a nice atmosphere) after which we walked a ways along the Charles River.

Drive to St. Louis: Sep 12-15

  • Rest Stop Squattn’ (Keeping a low profile)
    • We were again in a bit of a hurry to drive the distance.  We left Boston at mid-morning, on a Tuesday, pressing to arrive at St. Louis on the following Friday.  What this meant was that we ended up spending most of our road trip nights parked at rest stops.  And to remain less conspicuous, we kept the top down.
  • Effingham County – No Kidding, Really!
    • On our way to visit Ben and Brook in St. Louis, we passed through a county and city named Effingham.  I kid-you-not.  And they even had a Starbucks there, which we made sure to visit.

St. Louis with Ben and Brook: Sep 15-19

  • Friday Night, the Balloon Lighting
    • Erik and I arrived early in the evening at Ben and Brook’s house.  Brook came home first and we hung out and chatted. 
    • We had decided that we would go to see “the Balloon Lighting” and we were off, together, as soon as Ben returned home from work.  The four of us arrived at Forest Park in the dark and had a bit of a time finding parking.  
    • But when we got to the main balloon courtyard we knew right away that this was to be something really special.  It was unlike anything that Erik or I had ever been to.  The first thing that I remarked upon was just how big the “Bunny’s Butt” was.  It was huge.  And what I was referring to, of course was the larger-than-life-sized replica of the Energizer Bunny in all of its hot-air-balloon glory.  All around us were 30-40 balloons of wildly varying colors, and shapes, tons of people sitting, picnicking and milling about on the semi-lit courtyard.  The atmosphere was loud with the sound of chatter, and the intermittent roar of huge propane flames coming to life to feed their respective balloons.  And every five minutes, there would be a siren sounding to signal that lights would be turned on to highlight the balloons for all to see.  The balloon lighting preceded the next day’s balloon race, where all the balloons would seek to be the winner by landing the closest to the lead balloon – which of course, would be the big bunny!
  • Saturday, Chihuly at the Botanical Gardens, and How the City Museum Blew Me Away
    • Saturday morning, we went to visit the St. Louis Botanical Gardens.  While we were there, we decided to also view the Chihuly exhibit which was on display in their green house.  There some nice Chihuly installations and also some very interesting plant specimens.
      Chihuly floats
    • That evening Ben and Brook took us to the City Museum of St. Louis.  And let me just say, it was unlike any city museum I’ve ever been to!  It’s really hard to describe so I’ll try to keep it simple.  It was like a gigantic jungle-gym had been expanded to fill an entire factory and then some.  The creators had taken an old shoe factory and done amazing things with it in terms of art, works from recycled industrial parts, color, layout, and theme – just amazing.  There were tons of things to climb, many slides, a 5-story tall slide, two small airplanes for climbing up to and around in, no shortage of scary-heights, a small castle, an adult size ball-pool filled with Dodgeball sized bouncy balls, a couple of bars, an art section for younger kids…  I could go on!  Did I mention the nearly-life-sized whale sculpture?  Or the naked-lady sculptures?  It was awesome, and cheap, and a great way to invest in the youth and overall atmosphere of the city.
  • Sunday, Apple Picking, Apple Pie
    • Sunday mid-morning found us on the Eckert Orchards picking apples.  I’ve picked cherries before, but never apples.  So this was a first too.  And as it turned out, they were great pie apples.  This was a good thing, seeing as how we had baked about three pies out of them.
  • Monday, Carrot-Cashew Loaf
    • I told Brook about the really tasty Carrot-Cashew Loaf recipe and since she was game, we gave it a go.  (Second time for me!)  Again, it was well received.  I’ve been getting good mileage out of this recipe!

Oct 08, 2006 (E)

Amy is in Las Vegas at the moment, with her sister, while I am in Baker City, OR at my parents' house working on the van.

  • Installed new Weld 17x10" wheels with BFG MT 37x12.5 tires (Fender trimming, bumper trimming, flare flexing, etc)
  • Fixed front of penthouse roof mechanism (built & installed brackets, re-spaced tube, new bolts)
  • Switched stereo & dash 12v outlets to run off house battery (no more dead starting batteries from leaving radio on and using the computer too many days w/o sun)
  • Loosen and re-torque exhaust header & turbo bolts to try to aleviate drone we hear at about 1500-1800 RPM
  • Re-wire roof solar panels in a neater maner. Figure out why we don't get in as much charge as expected (one of the flexible solara panels seems to have a broken trace and doesn't put out anything). Fix panel.
  • Add turn signals to the motorcycle carrier
  • Motorcycle maintenance (replace broken turn signals, paint front fender flat black because of headlight glare at night)

A summary of the last couple weeks:

The last entry I wrote had us in Badlands National Park in South Dakota. Following the couple days we spent there we headed west into Rapid City. A stop for coffee & lunch and we headed down south towards Mt. Rushmore.

Being that we were in the area, Mt Rushmore seemed a natural stop on our way back West. Neither of us had ever been there before, and we did not have any sense for how large or small it would be. When it first came into view we did find it a bit small, though as we drove closer, and finally walked along the pathways below it the size became impressive. The faces are dwarfed by the mountain, but they are very huge in their own right.
Mt. Rushmore

After a few hours hiking the trails at Mt Rushmore and waiting for some mountin goats to cross the road, we continued South West through Custer toward Crazy Horse. This is another, less well-known, mountain carving that is currently in progress. About 16 miles from Mt. Rushmore, and privately financed, it has been in progress since the 40s. It is very ambitious, and is MUCH larger than Mt Rushmore. Only the face of the sculpture is finished to date, with much to go.

We found a nice forest service road for the night, and hiked around a bit before dinner. I had not realized how much I missed the smell of an evergreen forest till we were back in one. There are a few evergreens in New England, but most of the trees are leafy and it just doesn't smell the same.

After a night in the trees we begain heading South toward Laramie WY. We had been invited by a couple who were interested in seeing a Sportsmobile, and had run across this weblog. Since we were going through WY on the way to SLC it wouldn't be very far out of our way, and it is always nice to get pointers on where to go from locals.

Part of our route was through some very remote dirt roads in the area of the interface between SD and WY. We saw some very interesting box canyons that just dropped away, and some interesting red-rock formations.

Later that night we found a camping spot in a gully with a small pond and some trees. The rest of the land around was barren and flat. Great land for Prong Horn Sheep, but not so good for finding a camping spot.
Gully of Owls

The gully was a last-resort as it was getting late, but we ended up staying a couple nights because it was peaceful and out of the wind (gusts to 50 according to the weather radio). After we had stopped making a commotion we found that the main "owners" of the gully were a pair of large horned owls. At night we could hear them land on the bikes on the roof. I suppose it provided a good perch, without leaves in the way for spotting four-legged food. One time I felt the shudder in the penthouse roof as one took off, and a moment later the screaming of a critter interspersed with Whoooo ho hoooooo over and over. After a while the screaming finished and the Whoooing continued for a bit.

The next morning, for some reason, I was reminiscing about the penthouse roof failure almost a year ago, and realized that I had never checked the bolts at the front of the lifting mechanism when the rear ones had broken. I peeled back the upholstery and found that they were seriously bent on both sides, to no surprise, as the design had the bolts only supported at one end, about 3/4 of an inch from the load.
Bent Roof Bolts

We hit Laramie on a Thursday around 1pm and went exploring for a coffee shop to get some work done. As it hit 5 we went out in search of our hosts, Steve and Erica. They lived at a corner of town and we introduced ourselves. They were interested in seeing our van, and had lots of questions about the conversion, the van, and the work we had done to it.

Friday we went biking through town to explore while they worked, and in the afternoon we showed off the van some more in the daylight. Steve cooked a wonderful Indian meal, and then we hit the hay.

Steve is a well practiced rock climber, and had offered to take us up to the local climbing at Vedauwoo Rocks in exchange for a ride in the van. This was quickly agreed to as we had been wanting to see the rocks from descriptions in the Gazetteer which had piqued our interest. Also the opportunity to practice more outdoor climbing under the tutelage of someone competent was a great draw. We climbed a couple of routes, with Steve answering our many questions and demonstrating the usage of various pieces of gear, explaining the why, when, and whufer's.
Vedauwoo Rocks

The rocks themselves were fascinating, just jumbles of stones amid relatively flat ground with trees all about.
Vedauwoo Rocks

That evening we decided to stay as it was getting rather late when we returned to town, and then we could offer Erica a ride in the van to dinner at a quaint vegetarian restaraunt with good food and slow service.

The next morning we left our new friends and followed a suggested back-road route heading west through some mountains. First we encountered some stunning foliage changing in the bottom of gullies where there is enough water to support the trees.

Near the pass we found ourselves right at tree-line with small alpine lakes all around and a smattering of snow left over from the prior week. We headed back by one of the lakes for a hike and some lunch.
Snowy Range

That night we ended up camping above the town of Green River, WY with a view of the start of the Flaming Gorge. We were again visited by some large bird in the middle of the night that landed for a bit on the bicycles.
Flaming Gorge View from White Mountain

Monday we continued west, and ended up in SLC a bit after noon. We re-installed ourselves in Jessica's (Amy's sister) condo for a few days while I prepared to head on to Baker City for working on the van while Amy and Jessica prepared for their trip to Las Vegas. I left for Baker about noon on Wednesday, and spent the night at Nat and Tammy's place in Mountain Home, ID before heading on to Baker the next morning.

Once I hit Baker I stopped by the airport to see the hanger my Mom and Dad are building for their airplanes, and found them already there hard at work at about 9am. The hanger was looking nearly enclosed, with the door being the only exception. Since the planes cannot come out until the door is sheeted and the motor installed my father has great incentive to keep working on it day after day.
Badger Hanger

And this returns us to the present where I am working on the van.

My first priority was to fix the bent bolts at the front of the roof mechanism, as I had no faith in their ability to hold the roof up after seeing their state. I did some measuring and then cut a bracket for each side out of angle-iron to support the other end of the bolt (putting it in double-shear). I also tossed the plastic spacers and used thinner metal washers so the span between supports of the bolt would be much less.
Bent Bolt

The holes that had held the bolts previously were drilled to 3/8" while the bolts were only 1/4", causing a lot of slop. I alleviated this by pressing conical washers into the holes, centering the bolts and supporting them more securely. With all of this in place, and the brackets bolted to the roof rails, the roof raised almost an inch higher than before. This caused a new problem of the initial lifting arms telescoping all the way out of their sockets, and requiring attention when lowering the roof so they don't jack-knife. I suppose they were designed with lost roof height due to the bending of the bolts... We can't avoid the problem since lifting the roof to the limit switches is required to synchronize the left and right motors (left comes up slower for us).
New Roof Bracket

Fixed Roof

The next task was installation of the new wheels and tires. The tires on the van from Sportsmobile were 285/75R16 (about 32.5" diameter). The new tires are 37" in diameter. This should give us a bit more than 2" of extra ground clearance all around (taking differential clearance from 10" to 12", a 20% increase). Due to the size increase, a fair bit of fender and bumper trimming was called for though. Out came the saber-saw and the metal-cutting blades....
New Wheels

After spending a couple of days installing the new wheels I went to the back of my parents' property and tried them out, finding old mining ditches and dirt piles to flex the suspension and play with the steering looking for interference. I did find that I needed to knock an other 1/2" off the bumper's lower corners, and the driver's side flare can be rubbed a bit. A touch more trimming, and then re-forming the fender flares with a heat gun seemed to do the trick, and it cleaned up quite nicely.
New Wheels Testing

Following the test drive I went to rewire the solar-panels (it was a hack job I did last winter in the snow), and discovered that one of the Solara flexible panels on the roof box was not putting anything out. I tracked it down to a broken trace between the cells and soldered a jumper wire around the break, and then finished re-wiring.

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