Category Archive Mountain Bike Rides

The Paria and Grand Canyons – Memorial Day Adventures

Vermillion Cliffs Panorama

 

Some adventures have to be recorded and hiking Paria Canyon in Southern Utah is one of them.  It’s time to break out the ole blog again for this bucket list backpack trip.

We had been staying in Kanab through the week and after signing off to family and work, Tim and I drove off the bandwidth grid to Lees Ferry at the head of the Grand Canyon. Here we stayed up packing and getting ready for the 4 day hike ahead of us.

Wednesday morning, we were picked up at by Steve Dodson of Paria Outpost and Outfitters to shuttle 2 hours to the Whitehouse Trail Head for the hike.  Steve is a tour guide by trade as well as a restaurateur.  The Paria Outpost Restaurant is only open the first weekend of each month…otherwise we would have bellied up for some BBQ on the way.

Instead we listened as Steve told us great stories of John D Lee and lesser known spots in the Vermillion Cliffs Plateau as we drove up House Rock Valley Road, a treasure trove of amazing rock formations, dinosaur remains and Anasazi ruins.

We took a lot of notes.

Steve dropped us at the Whitehouse Trailhead at 11am – just as things were heating up.  Projected temperatures were in the 90’s for the week and our first 6 miles were in a sandy open wash. We got moving right away.

 

Trading out flip flops for hiking shoes

 

The Paria Canyon hike has 3 possible entrances, Wire Pass, Buckskin Gulch and White House Trailhead.  We chose White House for length, to get the full taste of the Paria and we’d already explored Wire Pass and the upper portion of Buckskin. We love the area so much we’re already dreaming about our next trip to hike Buckskin, the world’s longest slot canyon from top to bottom.

 

White House Trailhead

 

The hike began with 6 hot miles of trudging through sand (a great butt workout, I kept telling myself) in 95 degree heat with a headwind.  Not sure why in those circumstances, it’s always a headwind and never a tailwind…but that’s a discussion for another day.

 

Emptying out the sand from my shoe…again….

 

We were ecstatic when the Canyon walls began to narrow and there was some welcome shade. Here every turn through the Canyon brought new surprises – from giant arches to lush desert oases. You never knew what expect around the corner.

 

Headed into the crack

 

The Canyon walls start narrowing

 

Slide Rock Arch

 

Into Paria

 

Peeking up Buckskin Gulch

 

Resting in the shade in Buckskin Gulch

 

After 10 miles of hiking, we camped at the first Spring in Paria Canyon. The singing frogs kept us company as we dined on delicious Mountain House Chili Mac. You’d never eat it at home, but on the trail there is no better meal.

 

Going off the Rails…

 

Low Carb Diet

 

Camp 1

 

Day 2, we planned 10 miles of hiking. We hiked through the narrow Canyon until mile 17 when the Paria Narrows opened up. Our necks ached from our continuous gawking at the incredible splicing of rock.

In the Paria Narrows, the easily eroded Navajo sandstone was carved away by the flash floods and trickling Paria springs. Our river bed went from bone dry to ankle deep as we passes springs dripping from the canyon walls. Water is sweetest after a decade of filtering through layers of sandstone. We were respectful of each drop from rainstorms that may have fallen 20 years before.

 

The Hole – an ampitheater like side canyon

 

Once we passed through the Narrows, the Canyon gradually opened. Here we began to see large side canyons spurring from the main channel.

One of these hid Wrather Arch. Tucked a mile and a half up high in a canyon, Wrather Arch is one of the largest arches on the Colorado Plateau. We decided to camp at the base of Wrather Canyon in order to save the Wrather Arch as a sunrise treat for Day 3.

That afternoon, we splashed in a pool in the river, cooling off in the hot sun, washing shoes and socks and getting the dust out of the pockets. Then back to camp for naps, an early meal then bed. We couldn’t remembering having so much free time to relax.

 

Naptime

 

Camp 2 – Our front porch

 

After a bright moonlit night, we woke up early in order to hike up Wrather Canyon in time for sunrise. We bushwacked our way 1 and 1/2 miles up the sandy canyon. As we neared the head of the canyon, the Arch seems to materialize from the surrounding walls.

Though Wrather Arch is one of the largest arches in the region, some people report walking to the base without ever seeing it. To get the full effect, you need to scramble the canyon walls behind the arch to look out past the canyon.

 

Wrather Arch – for scale look for itty bitty Mary Lynn in the left corner

 

While we sat perched next to the arch, we heard a shriek echo through the canyon. A huge hawk swooped down on a flying sparrow and plucked it out of the air before our eyes. We couldn’t believe what we’d seen…incredible and very harsh, very fitting for our environment.

 

Early Morning at Wrather

 

We returned to camp after the hike and ate Canyon breakfast of hard boiled eggs, grits with jalapenos, bacon and cheddar, and steaming cups of coffee and tea. Day 3’s plan was to hike through the wider canyon. As the layers change from Navajo Sandstone to the darker green gray Kayenta formation, the canyon transforms itself once again.

 

The Layers of Paria

 

Shower Spring Marker

 

Lush Shower Spring

 

Taking the Stairs

 

Chillin’ out

 

Boulders sliced down the canyon walls into the river. The flash floods which flush the rocks from the narrow canyon above don’t occur in the wider lower section of canyon. Here the boulders create large pools in the river. It was hard to believe that this was the same bone dry riverbed we’d started hiking 2 days earlier.

 

Weeee – cooling down in the rock slide

 

We hiked 10 miles before lunch and then pulled over into a shady grove to eat. The temperature continued to climb into the 90’s so we set up the tent for an afternoon siesta.

While we were safe behind mesh, deer flies came hunting for us. When we woke up, they were waiting. We outran them down to the safety of the water to keep from getting stung. Here we cooked dinner, while standing in thigh deep pools to both stay cool and bug free.

 

Wrong side of the nap

 

As soon as the sun went down, we packed up and started hiking again. We had 10 miles left to go and we figured we’d walk until we were tired and finished the rest the next day.

 

Blooming Yucca

 

Yucca closeup – Propagation

 

This lower section of canyon became even more boulder choked, as if the Canyon were crumbling in on itself. We navigated two miles slowly before stopping on a high ledge to camp. Here we had views for miles down the canyon, framed by the distant Vermillion Cliffs. It was yet another personality change of Paria.

 

Vermillion Cliffs Camp

 

Our last day would be a hot one. The final canyon miles had very little shade so we got moving early.  Here the deer flies would catch you when you stopped so we were highly motivated to keep walking.  We now understood why long pants seemed to be popular for this hike. We hiked through the open desert, watching for lizards, flowers and ancient petroglyphs.

A Bow-tied Lizard – Dressed to the nines

 

Ancient Stories

 

Front Page News

 

Which way is up?

 

Desert Flowers

 

As we walked, the canyon continued to open until it was nearly 3 miles wide. This was one of my first backpacking adventures where we slowed down near the end, not wanting it to be over so soon.  Despite the call of ice cream and a cold beer in the van…we would have been happy to stay in the desert longer.

We knew we’d reached the end when we came upon Lonely Dell, John D Lee’s Ranch above the Ferry. We explored the old corral and Emma’s cabin before walking the final mile out the canyon.

 

Lonely Dell

 

When we arrived back to Lee’s Ferry parking, we watched two huge rafts drive towards the boat ramp.  Lee’s Ferry is the launch point for the 10 and 21 day Grand Canyon raft trips, and a large commercial outfitting trip was about to set sail.  We were curious so we grabbed some liquid refreshment and walked the 1/4 mile down to see the carnival.

 

Lees Ferry refreshments

 

While we walked, a giant motorcoach drove by to unload the passengers into the waiting rafts. This was luxury. The guests piled out of the bus and boarded the 30 foot rafts while the heavily laden gear barges followed behind. Tim and I both considered stowing away as passengers, but suspected our unshowered state might give us a way. Instead we returned to the van, pledging to double our efforts to get on a river trip soon.

We packed up and hit the road, checking our email in the occasional blips of cell service.  Satisfied that nothing significant had changed in the world during our four days of solitude, we turned off the highway onto a washboarded gravel road for part two of our remote weekend.

60 miles and an hour and a half later, we found a perfect camp spot on the Rainbow Rim. Here on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, we found some of the best camping in the United States. Our front porch opened onto the Canyon Rim and the backdoor opened towards 17 miles of single track which wove through the pine forest and opened out on 5 incredible Canyon rim viewpoints.

Next day, we let the feet rest and instead got the biking muscles back in shape exploring the Canyon rim.

We couldn’t have asked for a more amazing canyon adventure.

 

Grand Canyon – Our Rainbow Rim Front Porch

Camping with the Cabradillas

When Tim and I come back to Jackson, there is no better way to spend a weekend then camping in the Gros Ventres.   Devoid of tourists, it’s a peaceful getaway when the Town Square is shoulder to shoulder with summer visitors.

This year Tim, Betsy and Nico Cabradilla  joined us for a June weekend of relaxation, good food, fishing and NO cell service.  Now that’s heaven.

 

Fishing for the Impossible Trout

 

We drove into the hills Friday afternoon to meet up with Tim and Bets who’d gone in the morning.  I dropped Tim B. off about 10 miles from our meet up spot so that he could fit in a bike ride.  As I drove the van in, I ran into Tim C. about 6 miles in.  We decided to switch locations since the creeks weren’t clear where we’d originally planned to camp.

I followed Tim C. into the hidden camp spot to find Betsy and little Nico waiting for us on a beautiful site right on Crystal Creek.  As we drove by, we passed 100 feet from a black bear who was leisurely rambling by right next to the Cabradilla’s trailer.  In all the excitement, it took me a few minutes to get back to the road to post the sign telling biking Tim B. that we’d moved.

As fate would have it, he of course sailed right by in that 90 second window.   With no cell service to communicate, it was 25 miles of riding later before we finally found Tim, searching each and every campsite along the Gros Ventre road.  We herded everyone together and headed back to camp for Pressure Cooker BBQ chicken, Bacon Maple beer and more than a few laughs.

 

Rogue’s Voodoo Doughnut Ale – Bacon Maple deliciousness

 

Saturday it was time to fish.  We drove further into Crystal Creek where Tim C. and Tim B. both caught some nice cutties.  The girls were skunked but that in no way hindered our good moods.  We returned back to camp to stalk the Impossible Trout buried in the trees and have general silliness around camp.

 

Big Girl Little Bike

 

Nico shows us all how it’s done

 

Tim C. wowed us all with yet another gourmet camp creation for dinner – pork schnitzel.  Much discussion was had on our dream of publishing a book and video series, “The Two Burner Cookbook – Leave the Hot Dogs at Home” (Title suggestions are welcome!)

 

Camp Chef Gourmet!

 

Sunday we packed up and returned to cell service to prepare for the the work week.  While Tim and Betsy returned to Jackson, Tim B. and I decided to set up camp at Gros Ventre Campground to clean up the van and get some more water.

We spent Sunday afternoon on a sweaty bike ride up Shadow Mountain, sharing recovery beers under the Tetons on the deck at Dornans and pedaling back to camp.  Once in camp we discovered that the site tenants before us had built a large heart out of stones displaying their initials.  We had to follow the tradition!

 

M + T

 

Arizona April

Back to the blog! We’ve had some interest in our tales from the blue Caribbean but first we want to catch up on April. Sea stories will be coming in the next 2 days, we promise…

Combine blue skies, bike rides and a few rattlesnakes and you’ve got April in Arizona.

Tim and I dedicated our Arizona April to one primary goal, training for the Whiskey Offroad Mountain Bike Race. After an awesome visit with the Weisers, we headed back our favorite campspot in Black Rock Canyon just north of Phoenix and settled in for a month of biking, work and low key living. BJ and Lisa joined us as well for long warm days in the desert.

 

Black Canyon Trail

 

As the temperatures rose, so did the snake sightings. Lisa spotted one off the trail, while Tim was chased by a sidewinding rattler on a technical ride in the hills. After two weeks of close encounters, it was time to head north to Prescott for cooler temperatures and less snakey terrain.

 

Desert Ocotillo
On Snake Alert

 

Friday, April 20th, we arrived in Prescott with BJ and Lisa and met up with Gretchen and Brad, just down from a week in Moab. At dinner with Dad at the Raven, Tim says to Brad, “So I’m going to ride a 65 mile bike ride tomorrow morning if you’re interested.”

24 hours later, Brad and Tim, dribble back into camp. This was no ordinary 65 mile ride…

 

An Early Start
Brad Fixing a Flat

 

Starting at 7 am Saturday morning, a loosely organized group of 50 riders set out to ride every major trail in the Prescott biking system. With 7100 feet of climbing, it’s long, hot and incredibly challenging. That night as we ate bratwursts around the fire, we had to coax Tim and Brad to eat. Now that is saying something.

 

40 miles done, 25 to go

 

By next day, the guys were perking up. We settled in to camp life with BJ and Lisa, Gretchen and Brad. Working, biking, and horseshoes kept us entertained. 2 days later, Steph, Clay and Ellery joined us from Jackson, completing our JH Jamboree.

 

Camp Prescott

 

But while Tim felt a bit better from the ride, he wasn’t recovering. Each morning he was more tired and by Wednesday, it was time to see the doctor. Pneumonia was back.

With only 5 days before we boarded a plane to Barbados, he needed to feel better fast. We settled into Dad’s house to get Tim healed. 2 days of antibiotics and he already was beginning to come around and was ready for a dinner party feast of lamb with Dad and Lisa, Lisa and BJ and Brad and Gretchen.

Though Tim was out of the race, the Whiskey Offroad was still on for Brad, Gretchen, Lisa and I.

Friday night Tim and I volunteered for the race and then slept downtown to get ready.

Brad set out first for the 50 miler. Lisa, Gretchen and I started 2 hours later for the 25. It was a beautiful day for a bike ride and an awesome way to start a vacation!

 

Out Like a Lamb

As Tim and I drove west, the long days and damp weather in Austin took it’s toll.  Lisa and Carli both had a very nasty bug from Jackson earlier in the trip and by the time we’d driven over the TX / New Mexico border, it was obvious that Tim had gotten it too.

We hunkered down at City of Rocks State Park outside of Faywood, NM for some warm, dry weather and time to recover.   Here we were surrounded by Stonehedge style monoliths in the middle of a flat grassy plan.   There are only 5 similar rock formations in the world.

At night the show continues.  With no nearby towns, the night skies light up with stars.  The moon set early that week so we were treated with the full extent of the Milky Way.  I went to a “Star Party”, where City of Rock’s resident astronomer showed us Jupiter, star clusters and nebulae millions of light years away through some impressively high-powered scopes.

 

The Sentinels
The Sentinels

 

City of Rocks
Sun sets on City of Rocks

 

The Kissing Rock
The Kissing Rock

 

When Tim’s birthday arrived, he was still under the weather, but that didn’t stop us from both enjoying a homemade no-bake, chocolate genache pie.

 

Chocolate (No-Bake) Ganache for the Birthday
Chocolate (No-Bake) Ganache for the Birthday. Life in the wilderness was never so sweet.

 

By week’s end, Tim was starting to feel better and we continued west towards Tucson.  We called (brother) Brett and Peg to see what their plans were.  They were headed out camping, but Tim and I dropped in on kids Brittany and Timmy for movie night at the Hunger Games.  On Sunday when Brett and Peg got home, the four of us went to the Banff Film Festival.

The films are always awesome but Kadoma was the unanimous favorite.   This story about 3 kayakers who attempt to be the first to run the Lakuga River in the Republic of Congo shocks you with life’s capriciousness.   Another film which had played the night before is another of our favorites.  Here’s a short clip to give you some flavor (watch it in fullscreen if you can):

 

 

After seeing more movies in 48 hours than Tim and I have watched in 4 months, we headed out of town and up to Old Pueblo for some work and biking.  We spent the next week listening to the final games of the NCAA tourney, soaking up the 80 degree weather and shedding some of our extra Austin barbecue pounds.

By the weekend, we were driving north again and decided to stop for a bike ride on the Arizona Trail north of Oracle.   It was a warm 85 degree day, but we felt prepared for the 30 mile ride.

I rode all of 4 miles before I knew that my butt was completely kicked.  This remote stretch of the Arizona Trail is full of steep rocky switchbacks and sandy washes that sap speed and strength.  Humbled, I climbed back up to Frank and gladly gulped down some ice cold water.

Tim made it a mile further than I did before a flat tire and the hot rocky hillsides got to him too.    We were glad for showers that night.

 

The Arizona Trail
Gateway to No Man's Land

 

Ride Ready
Preparing to Ride

 

The Arizona Trail
The Arizona Trail

 

Poppys are In!
As Beautiful as it is Challenging

 

The next day we decided it was time to rest.  On our way to see Ann and Scott, we pulled over to Casa Grande National Monument for some sightseeing.  We stayed for a fascinating tour of the ruins and Tim took these amazing images.  It wasn’t until we posted them here that we noticed the many faces in the rocks…

 

Casa Grande Ruins
Casa Grande - protected from the elements by a 60 foot tall canopy

 

Casa Grande Ruins
Casa Grande Ruins

 

Casa Grande Ruins
Today, no one knows the purpose of the "Great House"

 

Casa Grande Ruins
The small window on the right aligns with the setting sun on the Summer Solstice

 

That night we caught up with Ann and Scott and went to a delicious dinner at the Carefree Station off of Ho Hum Road (Arizona road names crack me up.  Centered between Ho Hum Road, Lazy Lane, Rambling Road and Carefree Highway is Bloody Basin.   What went on there?!?)

The next day we were off to town for Frank shock repairs and making our way further north.   The Weiser Family was coming to Arizona for a Desert Vacation and we weren’t going to miss it.  We drove up to Sedona for the NCAA Final Game and met up with the Weisers,  BJ & Lisa and Sam & Mareike for burgers and beers.

Next day we were northward bound again on the way to Lake Powell.

 

Horseshoe Bend
Horseshoe Bend outside of Page Arizona

 

Horseshoe Bend
I'm NOT getting to close to that edge

 

While I worked the next day in Page, Tim, Mark, Casey, Brian and Brooke explored for the slot canyons in Wire Pass and watched California condors flying high above the Colorado River.  That night we gathered back at Lone Rock Beach on Lake Powell for hot dogs, s’mores, chocolate covered strawberries and illuminated bocci ball with Sam and Mareike.

 

Lone Rock Beach
Lone Rock Beach

 

Lone Rock Beach
Lone Rock Beach

 

Lone Rock Beach
In the summer, the beach is packed but in April we were all alone.

 

Lone Rock Beach
Lone Rock

 

After 2 nights on Lone Rock Beach, we drove back down to Flagstaff where the Weisers joined their friends, Brian and Patty.  After a final dinner at Oregano’s Pizza Bistro, Tim and I traveled south for warm weather and more biking.  April has arrived and with a 50 mile bike race at the end of the month, it’s time to get serious!

 

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Time to Bike

In Like a Lion

March, Tim’s favorite month, is always a welcome arrival.  With March comes Basketball Madness, SXSW, birthdays, friends and St. Patty’s day.  There may be no better 31 days.  We started March with a final ride at our favorite AZ campsite at Old Pueblo north of Tucson.

After a reward of Mi Tierra margaritas and showers at the quirky Wishing Well RV Park in Catalina, we began the long drive east across the Texas plains.

Mary Lynn on High Point
The last blue sky ride before heading east

 

We arrived in Austin after a 3 day drive with stops in Las Cruces and Balmorhea Springs just in time to pick up Dan from the airport.

Austin hosts SXSW, a 2 week conference which brings together Interactive (geeky tech guys = Us)  + Movies (Hollywood independents sprinkled with a few A listers for star spotting potential) + Music (hip hop, heavy medal, techno and jazz  mixing in a single venue – you never know what your going to get).

The transformation of the city as each wave of the conference rolls through is worth ticket in itself.   50,000 diverse attendees combine knowledge, talent and ideas.  And the other great thing about SXSW?  Well that’s obvious: jalapeno bacon.

 

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We wouldn't consider a trip to Austin without at least one purchase of the Jalapeno Bacon Value Pack.

 

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The second Austin must do? Breakfast tacos.

 

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and Torchy's are some of the best

 

But SXSW isn’t just about the music and food.   For the second year almost all of Alltrips comes to Texas in order to find out what’s going on in Tech trends.  This year may have been the most inspiring yet.

Highlights included :

  • Peter Diamandis who focuses on Abundance in today’s pessimistic world.  His results: The first privately funded space flight; a car that can go 180 miles to the gallon; a technique that can clean up oil spills 600% better than what was available at the beginning of the Gulf Oil Disaster.  His next goals: a handheld consumer device that can diagnose disease with the same accuracy as 12 board certified doctors, a water purifier the size of dorm room fridge that can purify sewage to the quality of medical grade H2O with minimal energy; air cleanup technology which can decrease carbon emissions by 80%.
  • Interactive mobile apps that will change how people do business by combining location, social and the world’s enormous database of all our preferences and desires.
  • Business development that focuses on not just today, but the next 100 years.
  • And of course, how to doodle!
After days of this kind of information flow, we met up each evening to share and brainstorm.  We started these meetups in town, but the awesome house that Carli had reserved turned into the ultimate place to unwind.
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The Alltrips crew decompressing after South By

 

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Don't Mess with Alltrips

 

After our 6 o’clock sessions, it was time to eat.  Barbeque Heaven never fails to disappoint with worldclass brisket and a mean Turkey Leg.   We also visited the famed Nuclear Taco stand, though for some of us, wisdom won over ego and many people didn’t partake.  I of course still needed to get a Nuclear Taco #3.

Some people never learn.

 

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BBQ Heaven - Nice Leg!

 

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Nuclear Taco Time

 

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There is never enough Barbecue

 

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The typical Austin plate - Art's Rib House

 

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Red checkered table clothes, great company, live music in the background. Yum.

 

This year’s SXSW was also the year of Costume.    I am not sure what this guy was exactly dressed as.  But we all got inspired.  It started small with mustaches and cupcakes to celebrate Tim and BJ’s March birthdays.  But then we escalated….

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Who is that guy anyway?

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Hey Hey Cupcake

 

Then after dinner comes the nightlife.   Once the Tech winds down, the music kicks up.  While Tim and I took one night off for March Madness at Bikinis, we all explored the town for amazing music.   Friends, Amy and Bracken, also came down from Boulder, making it an even better week.

 

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3000 venues still aren't enough. Bands play in the street.

 

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The Octopus Project blew Tim and Dan away

 

For BJ’s Birthday, we went big…and wigged.  It also happens to be St. Patty’s Day so all of Austin celebrated with us.  From noon on, it was a buffet of music, followed by Pete’s East Side Bar, more music, a late night cap of Hop Daddy and then music ’till 2am.

 

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Elvis Lives

 

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Wigged and Green

 

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Jack Sparrow arrives at Petes

 

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Even in wigs, we blended in just fine in Austin on St. Patty's Day.

 

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Happy Birthday BJ!

 

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Feeling like a Rock Star

 

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Captain Jack

 

Album Cover - Take 1

 

Album Cover - Take 2

 

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Cervezarita - Margarita but oh so much better

 

Sunday arrived too soon.  We all loaded up in the van and headed to the airport for dropoffs.   Then Tim and I began the drive back to Arizona.  With March Madness on the radio, we covered the miles quick.  There was still lots left to enjoy in March.

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