Ass kicked. Volume 2. I have been in Colorado long enough that I can’t use altitude as an excuse for feeling out of shape. There has been plenty of time to make extra red blood cells. Hiking up to the top of the highest sand dune at Great Sand Dunes National Park—and the highest sand dune in North America—was rigorous. I told myself: You’re doing OK. Keep going. You’re OK. Just don’t let the Chinese tourists pass you (again). For my exercise physiology friends . . . During my hike I wondered: What if I throw three PVCs in a row? Will I know what that feels like? There is no crash cart up here, but I am carrying a CPR mask. The peak was like a (youth, e.g.) hostel, people were coming and going and meeting one another. Below is a photo of Louise (dog) and me; Rob, a nun, and a sand board that looks like a tombstone (we all thought we were dying on the way up); and Brian Pirrip and me. Brian and his friend Sam are driving cross-country and promoting Major League Baseball via baseball cards. They are using America’s favorite pastime to re-connect Americans. Follow Brian & Sam’s journey on Instagram & Tik Tok: @brianpirrip
Also pictured is the inside of a Snap-On Tools Truck—the highlight of my trip. Ever since I was in high school auto shop, I have wanted to see the inside of a Snap-On Tools truck. It was Nirvana, the Holy Grail. I died and went to tool heaven.
This adrenaline junky definitely had her fix. It was VERY windy at Royal Gorge Bridge—America’s highest suspension bridge. I was in suspense, alright. I wasn’t sure if it were scarier to peer through the wide gaps in between the planks to the Arkansas River or look ahead to the bridge that was waving at me. I was bobbin’ and weavin’ trying to walk across. In Serial Good Samaritan form, I managed to stop and rescue a small, dead bird that was in between planks. I picked it up and threw it over the side and said, “Fly. Be Free.” The river seemed like a better burial ground. Visiting the bridge was inspired by Carole Breton whose autobiography, My Guardian Angel Wears Antiperspirant, serves as an adventure guide for me.
“Holy shit!” I said aloud many times as I drove through the San Juan Mountains from Cortez to Telluride and on to Montrose. I needed to wash my mouth out with soap. Good thing I had pica as a child; I’m used to eating soap. Gorgeous views! Looking through the town of Telluride to the mountains, I was reminded of the horrible movie “Dante’s Peak.” Snow on a trail! I know. More like ice. Three times I almost fell backwards. Good thing I’m used to gliding on one foot. I like feeling as though I’m skating, but not at a cliff’s edge. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park was so beautiful and surreal that it looked like a movie set backdrop. I can’t say I’m excited about those photos. You had to be there . . .
Welcome to getting my ass kicked. Oh, hiking at 8,000 feet took getting used to, and I was on easy trails. I train at sea level! Where is a blood doping station when I need one? I should have asked Lance Armstrong when I passed him on a trail. Come on erythropoiesis. Below are images from Mesa Verde National Park. The cliff dwellings and pit houses were fascinating. It’s difficult to imagine that the homes were constructed only about 1,000 years ago.
F – – – the airlines. I’m on another road trip, this time to Colorado to see three more national parks. There are hundreds of parks in the National Park Service, and only 63 are actual national parks. Check out nps.gov to plan your next trip. I have 13 left to see, scattered throughout the country, even though I have been to all of the states, already. Since my goal of seeing all of the parks came after my goal of visiting all of the states, I didn’t make a point to go to all of the national parks in certain states. Below are photos I took in Arizona on my way to Colorado. One man’s fine art is another man’s graffiti.
Happy Anniversary to me! Twenty-nine years ago today (February 7), I started BeanFit Health & Fitness Services. At the onset of my business, I offered personal fitness training, nutrition counseling, swimming lessons, roller skating lessons, and health education for children. Over the years, BeanFit evolved a lot, including becoming my brand of books. Now BeanFit is just my brand of books. Although I now identify as a storyteller and no longer offer health and fitness services, I perceive that every BeanFit service had an aspect of storytelling—and definitely comedy. Thanks for being along for the ride. Let me know how I can assist you in the future.
I power-toured Big Bend National Park, which I don’t recommend. It is a big park and is in the boonies. If you want to spend more than one day sight-seeing, then camp or stay at Chisos Mountains Lodge in the park. When I was done driving all over and the sun had set, I turned onto Old Maverick Road to exit the park. It was a dirt road with a big sign that stated “4-wheel drive only.” Crap. I didn’t want to turn around and drive all the way back to where I started. What’s 14 miles of dirt anyway? As I drove white-knuckled in pitch black, I reviewed the positives: 1) I have extensive off-roading experience, 2) This road is child’s play compared to what I’ve driven, 3) I know how to change a flat tire, and 4) I know where I am. It was difficult to block out the negatives: 1) I’m in a compact Hyundai (don’t tell the rental company), 2) I have extensive off-roading experience—in big trucks, 3) It’s about to rain and I’m screwed if it does, and 4) I’m driving in a wash so big that the wash has washes. After I made it to pavement, my hands felt like I had just worked a jack hammer.
I do quite well in traveling when not a lot of people are out and about. I love having a town or park all to myself. Sometimes where I am is eerily quiet. Carlsbad Caverns was the eeriest of places I seemingly had to myself. I entered the cavern by walking into the gigantic opening where the bats enter and exit like clockwork—except in January, when I was there. Darn. I walked down into the cavern an equivalent of 75 stories and then through to the Big Room. For the first half hour there was just the dark and me. I admit I was a little scared. Let’s just say in 30 minutes I walked a distance that normally takes an hour. At one point it was so dark that I could barely see the path and I couldn’t see what was on either side of me. Cave wall? Drop off into abyss? Lone bat? Scary man? The irony is that when I finally did come upon someone I scared her. Anyway, the city of Carlsbad, New Mexico, has an airport. I recommend flying in just to see the caverns. They were magical, mysterious, beautiful, peaceful, and a true wonder of the world.
I was tired by the time I reached the trailhead for Devil’s Hall. I didn’t realize that I was starting at 5,000 feet. I train at sea level! Plus, it was extremely windy and chilly. I had a blast (of wind?) on the four-mile-round-trip hike anyway. Half of the hike was in a dry wash that was filled with rocks, rather than sand; from pebbles to boulders, they were all very slippery. The most thrilling part of the hike was climbing a rock face that is a waterfall during the few days per year that the area gets rain.
I was excited to see the cliff dwellings until the park ranger told me that there is a beaver building a damn in the river at the base of the trail to the cliffs. Although I saw proof of the beaver’s work (first picture), I didn’t get to see the beaver in action. I so wanted to. Beaver is one of my favorite animals. Anyway, I was thrilled to walk through the cliff dwellings and get a sense of how the Indians lived there 700 years ago and their beautiful “picture window.”
This was the first time that I had flown since masks were required. This rule breaker and expert in health and fitness became grumpy after hearing repetitive announcements on the plane and in airports about wearing a mask. When I was driving from El Paso to White Sands, I stopped at a Border Patrol Checkpoint. After the officer asked if I were a citizen of the United States, I paused as though I had been asked a trick question and then I answered Yes! White Sands was absolutely glorious: clear blue sky, no wind, white sand dunes for miles, warm. There weren’t a lot of people there, but those who were there were happy. Everyone was happy: adults, kids, dogs. How can you not be happy at a huge playground? I went on a hike up and down sand dunes—for five miles, out in the middle of nowhere by myself for the first half and then I walked back with an older couple.