Operation VANdal Summer Trip commenced July 2nd. It was our initial intention to blog consistently, but between all the fun we’ve been having and the lack of viable wifi across the country, we have, admittedly, been slackers in the blog department…
Last Wednesday, we hit the road after collecting a couple of boards from Bailey Rosen to be delivered to Candice Appleby and Quickblade in California (making a total of six boards on top of the van for the big trek). Luckily VANdal could easily accommodate all the gear we’d need for two months on the road with room to spare:
- Plenty of clothes & footwear, including cold weather gear for when we go up to the mountains of British Columbia.
- 2 Mountain Bikes
- Various equipment from paddles & wetsuits to foam rollers, yoga mats, bike tools, longboard, kiteboarding gear, etc.
- Our two race SUP boards, two SUP surf boards, and Bailey’s two boards
- Camp VANdal gear, including our portable table and stovetop, camp chairs, tools, etc.
Bethany provisioned the van with plenty of wild salmon, Key West shrimp, farm eggs, organic veggies, coffee, and other culinary necessities (including stashloads of extra Sami’s lavash flatbread (the BEST!), spices, and protein powder).
Our first stop was in Chattanooga where we hiked at Signal Point and had dinner with friends. For Fourth of July, Bethany got her shoulder worked on by Mell Igot at Alliance Physical Therapy, then we had a nice long training paddle at South Chickamauga Creek.
The goal for the drive cross-country: Get to Colorado Springs AS FAST AS POSSIBLE! Taking the I-64 & I-70 route through St. Louis and the windy straighaways of Kansas, we spent all of July 5th driving.
The many long miles of Kansas were eased with good food. VANdal’s kitchen remained open so Martin could enjoy consistent doses of home cooked meals and coffee throughout the drive.
One of our favorite easy van meals is pasta with shrimp. For snacks, Bethany toasts some Sami’s gluten free lavash and tops it with fresh bruschetta or we have hummus with veggies.
Fireworks illuminated the night sky throughout our drive on the open plains. From Clarksville to Paducah, we counted over two dozen large-scale displays that could be seen from afar.
At last, we made it to Palmer Park in Colorado Springs at around 0300. After only an hour’s sleep, we were startled awake…
Apparently no overnight parking there….
So we cruised into a neighborhood for a little “stealthier” stealth camping & to return to our much-needed slumber.
In the morning, we headed back to Palmer Park to enjoy coffee & our first views of Pike’s Peak & the surrounding landscape.
Colorado Springs, for us, was a playground of outdoor activity. And, in spite of the altitude and 93 degree heat, the low 20% humidity allowed us to be quite comfortable outdoors. Strikingly different from our near 100% humidity in Sarasota!
If you go, we highly recommend getting off the beaten path — the single track trails are a far greater experience and drastically less crowded than the paved paths of the center loop.
After a signature van lunch — An egg, black bean, & avocado burrito — we prepared to trek up the Manitou Incline, an old cog rail going straight up part of Pike’s Peak turned mega stair workout.
The tram was removed, but the rail ties remain, leaving behind an insanely steep climb of 2,090 feet of elevation in just 0.84 mile.
Our bodies only being used to an elevation of 30 feet above sea level, this hike quickly took us to 8,550 feet of elevation on our first day — a heart-pumping introduction to Colorado! Taking the Barr Trail, we then jogged downhill at lower, more meandering grades.
After a post-hike beer at Manitou Springs Brewery, we camped out on their historic downtown streetfront. Manitou Springs, while quaint and endearing, was packed with tourists.
In the morning, we caught up with Bethany’s old childhood friends from Wisconsin and hiked at North Cheyenne Canon Park.
We absolutely have to put in a good word for the lunch we enjoyed afterward at Quijotes – the good reviews on Yelp & Urbanspoon ring of truth. If you’re in the Colorado Springs area, it’s really worth a stop — and we wouldn’t steer you wrong. Dining out is just not something we do when we’re traveling because we’re usually pretty satisfied with what the VANdal kitchen dishes up. Quijotes delivered well on high quality Mexican food at reasonable prices, with huge portions, and great flavors. They also serve juices and smoothies — so it’s not your typical greasy, fat-laden Mexican fare.
We bid adieu to Colorado Springs that afternoon & cruised onward toward Buena Vista. More to follow soon!