#15: Our Snow Holiday (late 2011)


Big Talk

    For months there had been talk about a snow holiday in the Rockies--perhaps setting aside 2 months for learning cross country skiing and snow shoeing.  We’d look for a couple of non-glitzy, budget friendly, nordic ski areas where we could readily get our CV exercise under a bright winter sun. And we’d hope to find rental apartments at these venues so we could romp in the snow with little daily driving.

    We never found such places and it had been a miserable snow year where we were but even worse, we realized that there was a glitch in our plan: we wanted to play in the snow but we didn’t want to drive in it. Our rusty driving skills were even rustier when it came to snow and ice and the thought of putting chains on multiple times was positively repelling. Even going home for Christmas presented a high probability of encountering difficult winter driving conditions and neither of us had any stomach for it, let alone the additional hazards that would come with seeking snow.

Reno in early November: it was looking like a good snow year to us.

    The conflict between wanting to play in the snow without driving in it was irresolvable so we ignored the problem, sided with the fantasy, and reserved a slot for 9 nights at an RV park at 5,600’ that plowed 7 of their 40-some spots in the winter.

    Somehow we’d make it work. We’d manage the 20+ mile daily round trip commute to the Royal Gorge ski area near Lake Tahoe and trust that the short access roads to the RV park and ski area would be drivable. And we’d learn what we needed to do to keep the sewer and fresh water hoses to our camper from becoming freeze-damaged.

   Still squirming from the conflict, we headed towards the slopes after a week of electronic isolation in Death Valley only to learn on the news that first night on the road that there was essentially no snow in the mountains. Two recent, massive dives of the jet stream had brought reassuringly cold temperatures to much of the west but the atypical pattern was only dumping snow to the east and the south of the ski areas within our reach. Denver to our east and Albuquerque to the south were getting buried in snow but not the Tahoe area. Instead, Tahoe’s usual Thanksgiving opening day kept getting pushed closer to the first of the year, a week at a time.  Melting faster than a snowman in the sun, there went both the plans for our abbreviated snow holiday and our worries about driving in the snow.

More overnight snow a few days out of Reno.

    A hastily formed revised route would take us to non-snowy St George, Utah--an oasis of relative warmth in the mountains--to leave the Fox camper for the holidays. But by the time we got there, normally non-snowy St George was on snow watch because of another intense storm ravaging the SW. Once again however, the snow didn’t fly on schedule and we left St George under clear skies and on dry pavement.     The first morning on the road homeward bound without the Fox we awoke to a skiff of snow on our windshield and I realized that these great snow warriors didn’t even have an ice scraper--we had 2 pairs of tractions devices, vinyl suits to wear while attaching them, and 2 sleeping bags for an emergency--but no scraper. I made a note to buy one that day and headed outdoors to attack the snow with a new rubber spatula from our mobile kitchen. We were in luck however, this was dry, fluffy stuff that whisked away with a single pass of the wipers. Amazing: it was 11º and neither the wipers or door locks were frozen. At home where the snow is always wet and is usually accompanied by rain, both would have been frozen solid.

    We held our breath as we drove our new truck for its first minutes in the thin layer of snow in the motel parking lot but it was a breeze. At home it isn’t usually snow but snow/ice; here it was plain snow. Even better, the bright sun had already melted the access road and freeway dusting, so we could stick to our itinerary. Near sunset that day however Bill was driving and was about ready to turn around. The threatening sky and the lack of certainty about what was on the road bed in dim light was nerve wracking. We slowly learned that the de-icers in the region gave the asphalt a deceptively frosty look. Not only were we faced with reviving our winter driving skills but we also needed to learn to interpret and predict winter driving conditions in unfamiliar regions.

In Search of Snow

Happy to Find Any

   Finally, a mini-version of my snow holiday fantasy as compensation for our aborted 2011 European cyclo-touring season happened. Park City, Utah a little east of Salt Lake City had a few inches of snow instead of the hoped for few feet, but at least we could get our 1 hour beginners lesson behind us. And how ironic: we’d repeatedly altered our summer hiking plans in the Alps this year because of fluky storms dumping more snow than the US ski areas were now getting in December.

We hiked in deeper snow in July than we skied on in December.

    The scant snow meant that our cross country track was limited to the golf course route, but it was good enough for us as rank beginners. However, as the hours rolled by we were increasingly relieved that we had only prepaid for 4 nights at our hotel because 75% of the tracks at this small center were still closed. Doing laps on the golf course felt a little silly, but  the manicured greens helped the token bit of snow go a long way.

    Instead of the usual challenges of deeply grooved tracks with treacherously soft snow on the sides, we had to dodge patches of bare asphalt and grass as well as recently fallen twigs and cones. Instead of the rush of other more experienced skiers going every which way, we practically had the course to ourselves. And instead of bundling to fend off the chill of snow that should have been falling, we enjoyed the warming sun under brilliant blue skies.

    Over and over again we reveled in the unfamiliar skiing experience of being in dry air and on powdery snow. We both thought back to our days of downhill skiing in Oregon in which we were often under persistently heavy clouds and the threat of rain. And the memories of 3 of our 3 ski vacations as downhillers came flooding back: all were “skiing in the rain” events, including a week at Park City. But though it was thin, we were currently enjoying Park City’s typically dry snow, which meant that landing in it didn’t result in getting soggy--it brushed off. I shed my waterproof jacket, pants, and gloves in favor of causal pants and fleece for my shirt and gloves--amazing.

    Cross country, or Nordic, skiing lived up to my expectations by instantly delivering a high quality cardiovascular and leg-strength workout. Our repaired heart rate monitor was waiting for us at home but we knew we were both getting a significant aerobic workout without its opinion. It was hard to imagine any other sport in which a beginner could perform well enough in the first minutes to get such a good workout--quite a treat.

At least it was an attractive golf course for skiing.

    Our equally delighted, lone fellow classmate commented during our group lesson that cross country (xc) was like the winter version of cycling.  I’d been thinking that it was similar to running but she was right, it really is more like cycling. In both xc and cycling one has bursts of both high output effort and of low-output coasting.  And both are primarily leg-powdered, symmetrical sports.

Time to Go

    Our first venture into xc skiing had been a success. We managed to be on the skis for 3-4 hours each of the 3 days; to feel like we were better at the end of each morning and afternoon session than when we started; and we didn’t hurt ourselves. We pushed as close to our limits with the new sport as we dared, finding that zone where many muscles were telling us that they’d done enough without any of them stopping us in our tracks. And unlike many new adventures, at this venue it was easy to say “Thank you very much,” pack it up, and depart at the end of the scheduled third day of skiing.

“Yea-haa!” His first time on xc skis.

    There was nothing tugging at us to convince us to stay at Park City. The thin blanket of snow was revealing more grass and asphalt by the hour and there was no snow in the forecast. The nordic center managers had given up supporting us, the “classic” skiers in favor of the newer “skating” form that required a wider groomed swath though they were advised to use their rock skis (previously damaged skis). We took the hint and moved over to the segment of golf course that wasn’t groomed and consequently where the snow wasn’t disappearing as rapidly. There was a downside however to being on the unmanaged section of the nordic center grounds and that was the fresh poop--a hazard of xc skiing we hadn’t anticipated.     Apparently the light covering of snow on the usually sacred golf course was a signal to the locals that propriety could be abandoned. One equestrian was letting her 2 horses romp (and poop) on the the course--no doubt creating a groundskeeper’s nightmare with their thundering hooves on the fragile turf.  Several of the folks with lovely homes on the golf course were letting their big dogs run free, coyly not noticing the poop they left behind. So as each hour passed on the back course, we had a few more piles of poop to avoid cruising over or falling into.

    The disappearing snow, the increasing amounts of poop, the light but chilling wind that developed on the third afternoon, and the persistent silly feeling of skiing on a golf course made it easy to move on. Perhaps if some of the snow making machines creating a near constant rumble in the background on the downhill slopes had shared their spoils with the nordic course we might have been conflicted about leaving, but there was no prospect of augmented snow for us. So, by the beginning of the third morning Bill had his maps out and was crafting a plan for a more idyllic and scenic xc adventure in January--perhaps to Yellowstone National Park--and we were able to feel like we were leaving Park City at the perfect time.

What a Difference!

Not enough snow at Park City to dust the hills.

    I dabbled with cross country skiing in my early 20’s and cannot even remember if I went out once or several times but each hour on our new skis reminded me of more reasons why the sport didn’t ‘take’ with me then. It was in the early 1970’s and the waxless, ‘fish scale’ skis we were using at Park City were new on the market. My class however was stoically using the traditional waxed skis, which in the wet snow and mixed conditions of western Oregon, were a nightmare.

    Red, blue, green, and yellow wax are what I recall and each was used to either increase the tackiness of the ski bottom, which is needed when going uphill, or make the ski more slick for going downhill. Slowly I remembered that we applied the tacky wax under the foot area for clomping uphill and the ‘go fast’ wax in front and behind of the clomping area. The correct wax depended upon the moisture content of the snow, which could vary considerably over the course of a day or from one patch of snow to the next. The net effect was that one was always making a compromise and the wax selection wasn’t ever quite right.

    Back then we were on the perpetually wet, heavy snow of western Oregon which necessitated wearing waterproof outerwear and gloves to prevent getting soaked through all your layers with the first fall. But that was before breathable, waterproof fabrics and the modern wicking base layers so the aerobic effort of xc meant we were always wet--either from our own sweat or from falling in the snow.

    I wasn’t nearly as fit then as I am now and I remember struggling on a hill. I was clumsy and awkward as I tried to master the climbing technic with heavier equipment and the not-quite-right wax. I got overheated with the inefficiency of my effort in the heavy waterproof gear, which made me less effective. It was a nightmare trying to get up from the wet snow in bulky clothes when I fell. No doubt my goggles steamed up and I couldn’t see well. I was too hot when I was moving, too cold when I wasn’t.

Ready success with herringbone climbing on waxless skis at Mt Bachelor.

    Roll forward about 40 years and I’m using waxless skis that allow me to climb up a snowy hill or glide downhill without a second thought. I’m on dry, shallow, powder snow and quickly stash my breathable waterproof layer in my pack because I don’t get wet when I go down--the dry snow sheds rather than penetrates.

    The temperatures are much colder in the modern scenario--in the teens and 20’s--but the bright sun is warming on a windless day instead of being under the constant threat of rain decades ago. Instead of being on the challenging, uneven terrain of a forest, I’m currently on a meticulously graded golf course. And the new featherweight skis and poles are easy to handle and carry--even when we have to remove them several times a day to cross city streets. No wonder I thought xc was fun in Park City and moved on to other activities after trying it decades ago. Many people are still using waxed skis but we skipped the clinic on the art of waxing Thursday night in Park City and will happily stick to our ‘point & go’ waxless skis.

Pro’s & Con’s of Cross Country Skiing

    It didn’t take long on the new skis to have opinions about the good and the bad of xc skiing. A definite plus of the sport is the “low barrier to entry”--it is both relatively cheap and easy to get into it. Our start-up cost for equipment was $280 per person. We bought discounted new gear packages of skis, poles, and boots at REI though with more aggressive shopping or selecting used equipment one could drive the price lower. We bought no new clothing for the sport and instead used our winter cycling clothes, which are really a hodgepodge of generic sportswear. Groomed course fees usually run from $0 to $18 though can be over $30 per day per person, with the freebies being State and Federal Parks and other public grounds. We paid $35 per person our first day for a one hour lesson and a one day track fee. Other than that, it’s the cost of getting you to the snow.

    Cross country skiing is delightfully easy. Prior experience with downhill skiing, regardless of how many decades ago, is a huge help. Knowing how to stand on skis, how to snowplow, and how to shift your weight on a descent goes a long ways towards learning xc. And the more fit you are to begin with, the easier it is. Bill’s comment was that it was wildly easier for us because we weren’t at the limit of our strength. We’ve cultivated powerful leg and buttock muscles with cycling, some running, and hiking and those muscles are what propel you in xc. Any arm, ab, and core strength you bring to it makes it all the easier. And of course, part of why we selected xc was that it would help us maintain strength in just those muscles over the winter.

Skiing where we could at Park City.

    The relatively slow speeds of xc compared with downhill skiing mean one is less likely to get hurt, which is reassuring (16 mph is our maximum speed to date).  And I like the fact that xc is a very symmetrical sport, unlike tennis or golf, because I believe a key to injury prevention in my body is maintaining side to side balance in muscle strength and flexibility. Bill’s nagging injuries that make cycling and running problematic were non-issues with xc. He also discovered that xc demanded consistency of an upright posture to avoid triggering a pattern of muscle overuse (psoas) and subsequent back pain so the hours of better posture while doing the sport will be an added benefit for him.

    The downsides of xc are primarily the challenges of chasing the snow so as to find it at the right place at the right time and the tedium of the activity. I personally think all aerobic sports are tedious by the time you put in the 45 minutes or more needed for a good workout and xc is no exception. But like with cycling, hiking, and running, the best remedy we have found for the tedium is to get our aerobic workouts outdoors in the bright sun with dramatic scenery and varied terrain, which is our goal with xc. That snow chasing aspect is a never ending challenge that we hope to make easier by being travelers. Another downside of the sport was that we both found the technic our instructor recommended for righting oneself from a fall put an unwelcome amount of strain on one knee so we are both experimenting with other strategies to eliminate that drawback.


    Our search for snow sufficient to receive an hour’s instruction in cross country skiing had us swinging farther east than we had planned as well as making a south to north traverse of the length of Utah on our way home. Utah is one of those non-green SW states but I enjoyed the scenery nonetheless. The valleys are more narrow than in its southern neighbors giving the many hills and mountains the immediacy that I long for when on the road or on a trail. Grasslands instead of desert added color and texture to the flat lands and the many crags, gorges, and massive layers of red rock reminded us that at times we were close to the Grand Canyon.

    Billboards always provide an interesting slice of regional culture, whether in the States or in Europe, and Utah had some products and issues that were new to us. In Utah there were numerous signs for handcrafted cheese curds, which I assumed was some variant on cottage cheese though we didn’t take the bait and experience it ourselves. The lone billboard offering support to polygamists was an in-your-face reminder that we were in the Mormon heartland. “Erase your past: laser tattoo removal” turned our heads and made us wonder if it was related to the aggressive proselytizing done by Mormons. “Rediscover your roots” was promoted on billboards for one farm, presumably referencing the early Mormon settlers in the state. Even “Closed Sunday” showed up on a few freeway signs, reinforcing what we assumed was another reflection of the religious bent of the state.

    I liked the Utah highway department’s signs “Drowsy drivers exit at...” There often was nothing there to support a drowsy driver at that exit but being directive seemed like an effective strategy towards drivers whose judgement was flagging. And we, the pokey drivers holding 55-60 mph to maximize fuel efficiency in our monster truck, were startled by the unusually permissive 80 mph zones in Utah (topping even decadent Nevada).

    What surprised us the most as travelers in Utah was the aggressiveness of the in-town drivers. The drivers in St George, our first urban environment in Utah, quickly taught us to expect no mercy on merges or at turns. Running red lights was commonplace when turning and drivers behind us tended to speed up instead of slow down when we signaled our intention to merge.  Other than turning and merging, the urban driving style was unremarkable and I had to wonder if it was an acceptable place for a bit of rebellious behavior in a state with more strict moral doctrines.

    The sights and and signs pointing to recreational opportunities in Utah definitely piqued our interest and we hope to see more of the state on our return trip to fetch our Fox camper from storage.

No Buyers Remorse

    The trip home was all about driving and the increased hours per day spent in the truck had us reflecting upon our recent purchases of the the truck and camper. Spending buckets of money on something like a vehicle always has one looking for consensus validation--information, facts, or fiction that support your decision--and we were no exception.

    One of the choices we wrangled with while spec’ing our new truck was gas vs diesel. The dealers presume, if not insist, that a big truck must have a diesel engine but we didn’t want one. Diesels often smell bad and I was brought to my knees with asthma for an entire day after a poorly tuned diesel RV belched in my face. And though the newest diesels don’t have to be noisy, the deafening sounds of a herd of diesels warming up for 30 minutes in campgrounds had been a turn-off--as was the sight of engine block heaters plugged into outdoor outlets on cold mornings.

    Diesel engines have more torque than gas engines, which is a real asset when towing; they last longer; they have a better resale value; and they are more environmentally friendly but we still didn’t want one. Before we bought, Bill spent hours online researching the nuances of the arguments, especially looking for support for our bias. The consensus was that the environmental requirements imposed on new diesel engines had emasculated them and they weren’t as robust as they used to be. And all consulted in person or online concurred: a gas engine would have enough power for our application.

    Next we ran the numbers on the opportunity cost of spending an extra $6,000 for a diesel and convinced ourselves that gas was the right decision for us. And that was when the price of diesel was a little below a gallon of unleaded. A little over 2 months later while still on the road, the price of unleaded was 25% lower than diesel. “I’d have felt really ripped-off now if I’d bought a diesel” was Bill’s comment as we passed by another freeway sign quoting a dollar more for diesel than unleaded--a disparity no one expects to reverse. Consensus validation doesn’t get any better than that.

    And there’s been no buyer’s remorse about buying a camper over the other alternatives either. We’d hardly stashed the camper in the storage unit and we were both saying “I miss Fox.” Yes, staying indoors in motels is roomier and more gracious, but carrying one’s house with them has huge advantages.

   We missed the convenience of our refrigerator and freezer that would hold a week’s supply of our favorite cuisine. We missed the pleasure of relaxing lunches at our dinette instead of eating in the cab of the truck on the below-freezing days on our trip home. And we begrudged hauling our stuff into a motel room every night instead of plucking needed items from the bins and drawers in the camper.

    Thinking back about the places we’d been in the Fox underscored that a camper had indeed been the right choice for us. We’d taken our duo on roads and parked at trailheads where no towed trailer or standard-sized RV could have gone. The storage space constraints of the camper are always a consideration when buying equipment or reserves but we’d managed to squeeze our gear in much more comfortably than we’d expected.

    Even though we’d have preferred to have journeyed home in our camper, it was hard to miss how much more comfortable US freeway motels are than the budget accommodations we use in Europe. Big beds, usually big rooms, reliable plumbing, dependable heating, and often a microwave oven, refrigerator, and access to a fitness room were available for less than we paid in Europe for a basic room--even way back when there was parity between the dollar and the Euro.


Mt Bachelor Nordic Center, Bend, Oregon

The Grass is Greener....

    By the time we left the Park City, Utah nordic track on the golf course with its scant bit of snow, we were ready to be gone. The lack of snow and lack of wilderness ambiance colluded to convince us it was time to move on. Ironically, moments after hitting the track in the deep forest at Mt Bachelor, we were both longing to be back on the golf course (of course by now, it probably had no snow at all).

    We instantly missed the brightness of the Park City track. The golf course was on a rise at the base of a mountain so we had a grand vista for miles in several directions. There were few trees and most of those were deciduous, so there was little to separate us from the revitalizing winter sun. In contrast, at Mt Bachelor we were immediately engulfed in a dense coniferous forest. Even though it was a cloudless day with brilliant blue skies, it was as though we were under a sun parasol. Even at high noon, the stately trees cast long shadows from the low winter sun and only rarely could we glimpse at a distant snow-covered peak or feel the sun’s warmth.

    At Park City, the daily temperatures were in the mid-20’s but we weren’t cold at all--2 layers of regular weight clothes were perfect for me.  At Bachelor, the air temperature was at least 10 degrees higher but it felt icy cold. Higher humidity, less direct sun, and a penetrating wind kept us moving rather than inviting us to pause to admire the views as we had done in Park City.

These old lift seats will be rest stops when there is a normal snow pack.

    And darn it anyway, the snow at Bachelor was noisy. Who would have thought that that would be a consideration, but it was. The dry powder at Park City made for almost silent gliding on our skis and we could chatter or listen for birds while moving. At Bachelor, we both had to keep our skis and poles perfectly still in order to be heard because the whirring and crunching noises we made were so loud. A small thing really, but we both regretted the auditory intrusion, like the difference between riding a bike and a motor scooter.

    And those were the little things. Bigger yet was that the courses at Mt Bachelor were far harder than the single open track at Park City. There, we sought out every little rise on the golf course to get some practice with going up and downhill. At Bachelor, we skipped the ultra-short Beginner’s tracks expecting them to be flat (they weren’t) and headed for the Intermediate ones, which were intense.

    The beginning of Bachelor’s nordic course went down, down, and down, so we knew at the end of the day we’d be going up, up, and up. We gulped on the first really steep downhill track which was made more challenging by a sharp turn at the bottom and deep shadows that obscured surface variations of the harder snow pack.  At Bachelor, we constantly fretted about what was around the next turn and what challenges lie ahead. At Park City, we could see it all long before we got there.

It’s OK...

    But like reluctant children on the first day of school, we loved the tracks at Bachelor by the end of the day. The much more challenging course was within our reach and we both significantly improved our climbing and descending ability. There were a few more people on the track at Bachelor to watch and by observing one man we added a 4th climbing technic to our new repertoire.

    And just being at Bachelor was very validating: the tiny nordic center lodge customers were all TOB’s--tough ol’ birds. We decided some years ago that if we were stuck with getting old, we wanted to be tough ol’ birds--and there was a flock of them there. These gray-hairs were all lanky and lean; all muscle and gristle just like we hoped to be. They all looked spring-loaded too--ready to pounce. It was affirming to be around what we wanted to be and it reinforced we’d picked the right winter sport for our goals. (Some TOB did downhill in the morning for their fun and xc in the afternoon for their fitness.)

    But lunch in the basement of Bachelor’s nordic center again had us reminiscing about lunch in our Park City hotel room. In Utah, we literally walked across the street from one end of the golf course to our hotel. We loved sitting on the floor of our room filled with bright sun light while we ate our lunch and stretched our overused muscles. It was so nice to kick off the boots and the outer layer of clothes and deeply relax between our morning and afternoon sessions. In contrast, the 50 mile roundtrip drive between Bachelor’s ski resort and our Bend lodging was both a nuisance and committed us to eating lunch in a room heated to about 50º--very sporty but hardly relaxing.

    The comforts of skiing at Park City were sweet but the skiing itself wasn’t. So despite the cozy memories created while in Utah, we’ll return to ski at Bachelor and likely won’t bother with Park City’s nordic center again--even if they have more snow.

Third Time is the Charm

    The third of our 3 days of skiing at Bachelor was amazing. Not only were we much more capable on the tracks that were gradually becoming familiar, but it snowed the entire time we skied. Fortunately, it was a light snow. Instead of cruising on crispy snow, it was a little softer that day.

    The noisy snow of the previous 2 days was nicely muffled by the coating of powder and being surrounded by the freshly dusted trees had a magical look about it. As Bill had said, being at Bachelor had already felt like a more “complete” experience than being on Park City’s golf course and pleasure of the fresh powder further enhanced it. Plus, the fresh stuff added yet another set of conditions to our limited experience base.

Day 3: Looking more relaxed in the falling snow at Bachelor.

    We had noticed that the new snow was more forgiving and the lunch room chatter that day made us feel even better about our previous performance. We learned that even the season pass holder’s thought that the preceding 2 days had made the always-fast runs too fast. Some locals confessed that they had put off making their season’s debut on the tracks until this new snow had fallen and softened up the surface. They wanted slower snow and a softer landing should they fall. Listening to their conversations helped us recalibrate our skill level in our new sport.

    We left Mt Bachelor quite pleased with our modified mini snow holiday. With Bill’s careful planning, we’d taken in 6 days of cross country skiing in the last 10 days which was quite an accomplishment given how poorly the snow year was beginning. With those 6 outings, we were halfway to the break-even point on buying vs renting our xc gear, which felt good. We’d skied under a number of different conditions and were satisfied with our new equipment and with using our existing sportswear for the sport. We felt ready to move off of the fee-based nordic center tracks to the free or donation-requested public trails.

“Look at that Fox Box!”

    We were congratulating ourselves for a successful showing on the new snow at Bachelor while removing our boots in the cramped front seat of the truck when an Arctic Fox drove into the parking lot and then went out of view. Our heads turned as we compared the rigs with our own: “larger truck compartment but shorter truck bed; duallies instead of single rear wheels but smaller tires; no chains; a little bit older model camper;.....and look at that box!” Rather than a competition it was a comparison of what we thought was the right combo vs what someone else had decided to buy but better yet, they had out-foxed us with a dedicated ski box on the bumper.

    It was Bill’s turn to drive and I urged him to quickly find the rig which was surely boondocking in the ski area’s lot. It didn’t take long to discover where they had tucked themselves in for the night. Unfortunately, the Mr. wasn’t too interested in talking but we did get some good Fox-specific snow camping tips from him and learned that he had the metal ski box standing on his bumper custom made for his downhill skis and his barbecue.

    We had barely squeezed our cross country skis into the Fox and knew there was no place for 2 more pairs if we couldn’t resist taking up the even more vigorous skating form of cross country. Stashing the additional skis was too daunting to even think about. But his nifty box was perfect. It was handy on the back bumper; secure; could be attached without damaging the delicate camper; didn’t stick out or cover up a precious window; and wouldn’t make the rig too tail-heavy.

    The entire drive back to Bend was spent buzzing about the Fox box. We didn’t need a barbecue, so our box could be even shallower. Perhaps without the barbecue need, we could find a ready-made box rather than having a custom one built. A smaller box could be made out of even lighter weight materials than he had used. A box an inch or 2 narrower would allow the back door to open more fully than on his.  On and on we chattered and brain-stormed. Storage space was our #1 issue with the Fox and this was the first add-on unit that made good sense to us. We may never buy additional skis but it was a relief to not have our choice driven by the lack of stowage in the Fox.

A Case of Mistaken Paternity??

    In June we ordered a white 2012 truck and in September were presented with a 2011 truck in Blue Granite, or so we were told. Lacking inspiration for a good nickname for our truck after a nasty closing process with the dealer, we settled on calling the truck “Blue.”  We’d go with the Native American tradition of giving the youngster a starter name and change it when its personality emerged and guided us to a more appropriate handle.

    But we couldn’t help but notice that in most lights Blue didn’t look blue at all. “Gray, blue, green--what color is it?” Bill would say. When time came to buy some touch-up paint for Blue on our way home for the holidays, the VIN (vehicle identification number) told the tale. The Parts manager wisely asked for the VIN to ensure that he was selling us the correct color. Bill was informed that Blue was really “Stealth Gray Metallic,” seemingly yet another bit of deceit or at least an inaccuracy from our outrageously irritating salesman. But bulky Blue couldn’t be nicknamed Stealth, and neither Gray or Metallic gave us much to work with, so it will be Blue for at least a little while longer.

Trillium Lake, Oregon

    I had hoped to slip in a few more hours of cross country skiing before declaring ourselves as “home for the holidays” but it was not to be. Trillium Lake at the base of Mt Hood is the classic cross country venue for Portlanders but unfortunately the current snow was a little to classical: reading the online track report the night before we planned to drop-in recommended bringing your snowshoes instead of skis for the scant snow that was in best condition in the shade. I was reserving snowshoeing for a back-up activity when skiing didn’t work out and wasn’t quite ready to knowingly head for poor conditions. Instead, we graciously let our snow holiday close with memories of skiing on fresh snow at Mt Bachelor 2 days prior. And the little bit of roadside snow as we approached Portland the way we left it 2 months earlier, along the Columbia Gorge, reminded us that we’d escaped serious lessons about driving in snow and ice for 2011.


It’s a Wrap

    That’s it for our 2011 travel journals. We’ll be back on the road in early to mid January with fresh reports expected to be posted early in February. We’ll head back to St George, Utah to pick-up our Arctic Fox camper with an unknown number of days or weeks spent detouring for snow play on the way there.

    Bill is already busy learning the in’s and out’s of a new piece of software for this webpage and is cautiously optimistic that it will be an unusually smooth transition. I’ve had my Mac computer a year and am enjoying it but Apple is walking away from its webpage software program that we are using and hasn’t announced plans for a replacement product. Bill’s hoping that some of the compromises we’ve had to make in the look and function of our page will be dispatched by the new, non-Apple, software. This would be an excellent time to let us know of changes you’d like us to make in the content or format.

Happy Holidays and Have a Great New Year,

Barb & Bill