This week we’ve been camping at the Black Canyon Campground in Santa Fe National Forest. There is a bathroom right next to our campsite and just past that, a hiking trail. I wake up in the morning at 7:15, feed the dog and use the facilities. Go back to bed for another 20 minutes. Evan makes coffee, I let the dog out, and then head out on a hike with the family. It’s a lollipop trail that takes about 45 minutes and is pretty hilly, and by the time we are done, I have enough of an appetite for breakfast: almond buttered toast, protein shake, or maybe some fried polenta and vegan sausage if I have a big training ride ahead of me.
Long time readers may remember the unfortunate condition of my back. While I’ve always had back pains since my teen years, due to sports related injuries and childhood stupidity, it got worse during the start of this blog due to a few bad bike accidents. The worst crash was in 2011, when I smashed my tailbone and ultimately created a problem with my spinal column that makes it narrower than it should be. Having a lifelong practice of stretching and strengthening has helped me maintain my back health for the most part, and yoga is an integral part of that in my adult life. Acclimate weather, stress and sitting for too long (like in the car or at the computer) are all triggers for pain, and not just for those of us who’ve experienced back trauma.
When I posted my recent review of my new Osprey hydration pack, my hiker friend Wendy was excited. After our 10-day trek down the coast of Newfoundland on the East Coast Trail, her pack has stayed, well, packed. Her hydration bladder is now funky, stinky, and discolored, and she obviously doesn’t want to drink out of it. But that doesn’t mean you need a new bladder, woman! As long as there is no serious rip in the bladder or crack in the seal, the bladder is worth trying to save before spending mad money on a whole new hydration system. Before throwing away that bladder, try these steps:
The only hydration pack I remember really owning was a Camelbak Rocket that my dad bought me when I was 19 or so, at my first bike shop job. My parents were upset that I was staying in Santa Fe to work rather than returning to Massachusetts, and I interpreted this pack as a peace offering, a gesture of love and support even though I was driving them crazy and breaking their hearts. I used that hydration pack for almost 15 years, and finally retired it when we moved out of our house in Pittsburgh to begin our great road trip adventure.
After spending time in Joshua Tree, Orange County, Los Angeles, Death Valley, and Grand Canyon (stories coming, promise), we are finally back in Santa Fe for the summer. We were going to take longer to get back here, but some opportunities presented themselves for us to arrive earlier and help out a friend with house sitting. In the spirit of saying YES to things, this was a good choice. We were asked by other friends to house sit for a week and they will pay us for our efforts, plus we found more stable living for the summer and fall in the childhood home of an old friend of mine. Evan already found two jobs, and I have some stability to focus on writing, which has been obviously lacking for the past few weeks that were spent in California.
We spent our first night in California at Pilot Knob, a BLM site just over the border from Arizona, outside Yuma. It was a vacant, dusty field, and we just pulled in far enough that we could have some mild privacy without getting ourselves stuck in the sand that got more loose the deeper we drove into the abyss. There was some black mass to the east, a burned out camper, and a lone RV parked the north, tucked way in the back of the field. There was some other debris spread about, between the black mass and the singular RV. Time passed as it does, I took some photos and did some work while Evan disappeared to explore. After a while, I got worried when he didn’t answer my phone calls or shouts into the empty space. I put on hiking boots and grabbled my knife and headed out into the settling darkness. He was just on his way back from the black mass, and took me over to see it.
In the desert, my eyes are tricked in their search for familiar. I see creatures everywhere: the tall saguaro cacti are tall, thin men looming on hilltops, staring down at me; prickly pear fallen from the barrel cactus before ripe is a gila monster sleeping trailside, soaking in the hot sun of this record February; driftwood becomes pronghorn, javelina, or some other, otherworldly creature.
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Living in a camper is really living the dream. A dirty, filthy dream. We do have a shower—that is, when we have water, which isn’t all that often. The shower itself is basically a bucket with a hose. I’m being a bit dramatic here, because there isn’t a much better feeling than, after no way to bathe for a week or two besides baby wipes and dry shampoo, standing in a plastic basin with water spraying into your chest and rinsing it all away into a drain. It took until Arizona to fix our plumbing issues, and we now have both running water and a working shower, but the water is fairly limited, compared to a house shower, and the hot not cold water lasts for only three minutes.
Evan and I camped out in the parking lot of McDowell Mountain Cycles, a bike shop in Fountain Hills, Arizona that’s co-owned by one of our former coworkers from The Bike Shop That Shall Not Be Named, back in Pittsburgh.