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Redbud Trail Ride

Every year in the spring, I like to go on a trail ride when the local Redbud Trees are starting to bloom. This year, the ride did not disappoint!!!

Beautiful view over the river
First stop along the river overlook
Second stop at another river overlook
My all-time favorite tree
Beautiful Redbud Tree in full bloom

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Tubeless tires are already paying off

This fall I purchased a new Trek MTN bike, which had tubeless ready tires. I had no experience riding tubeless, but after talking to a few other riders and watching some YouTube videos on how to convert them, I decided to give it a try and I can honestly say I am so happy that I made the switch.

Nasty thorn sticking out of my rear tire.

The trail near my house has lots of thorns and it seems like every other ride I have a flat or sometimes more than one. Today’s ride was a little different, I didn’t have to stop and fix a flat. After inspecting my tires after the ride, I noticed a huge 1/2 inch thorn stuck in my tire. The Orange Sealant had sealed the area around the thorn without me even noticing much loss of pressure during the ride. However, now that I was home I would need to remove the thorn and make sure the hole wasn’t too large. I needed to use a pliers to pull the thorn out and as you can see for the pic below the air and Orange Sealant started to bubble and fly everywhere.

Orange Seal doing it’s best

After spinning the wheel and giving the sealant time to fix the flat, I decided that the hole might be a little too big for the sealant, so I pulled out my plug repair kit. I used the bacon strip shown below to fill the hole and gave the tire a couple of spins to make sure the Orange Sealant had a chance to finish sealing the area around the plug.

Bacon strip

I re-inflated the tire and went for a quick spin to make sure everything was good to go for the next ride. Like I said earlier, I am glad I made the switch to tubeless.

Plug sticking out
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Hiking in a Winter Wonderland

Just over an inch of snow changed the whole look of the woods

After spending dozens of hours in my basement spinning in a virtual World on Zwift, I jumped at the chance to spend the day with some buddies hiking out in the fresh air of mother nature. I thought today’s hike would be kinda of a letdown since returning from my Grand Canyon hike, but it was such a serene day in the woods with friends.

Just one lone set of footprints nearly the whole hike
Pine tree forests are my favorite
A highlight of Oak Openings
Taking a moment to goon for the camera with Evergreen Lake frozen over in the background.
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Epic Grand Canyon Hike down South Kaibab Trail to Phanton Ranch and up Bright Angel Trail

For Christmas this year we had planned on visiting my parents in Arizona and doing some side trips to the Grand Canyon and other National Parks in California. However, as the vacation date neared and Covid cases continued to increase in California, we had to amend our travel plans and predominately stay in Arizona. My oldest daughter had agreed to do the 18 mile, one day Grand Canyon hike with me. I had done several weeks of running stairs and often will a full Camelbak, while my daughter had done some training She reminded me she was taking 18 hours this semester and was pretty busy. I’ll give her that, she was very busy at college.

Leaving Bright Angel Lodge early in the morning

We stayed at the Bright Angel Lodge on the rim of the Grand Canyon where the Bright Angel trail begins/ends right behind our cabin. That was nice knowing we wouldn’t have to manage any vehicles after a long day of hiking. The morning shuttle was what we had to manage in order to get to the South Kaibab Trailhead. I would say we woke at 5:30 am, but I am not sure how much I really actually slept since I was so excited for this epic hike. Anyway, we caught the first blue shuttle right outside the Bright Angel Lodge at 6:00 am. This shuttle goes through the rest of it’s route and dropped us off at the Visitor’s Center at 6:25 am, just in time to catch the orange shuttle at 6:30 am, which would take us to the South Kaibab Trailhead. As we rode the orange shuttle to the trailhead, the driver was very friendly and pointed out the headlamps of the earlier hikers that could be seen on the South Kaibab Trail switchbacks.

Ready for this awesome hike

As soon as we got off the shuttle, we hit the restroom, then began to look for the huge stone Kaibab Trailhead marker, like the one we had taken pictures with the night before at the Bright Angel Trailhead. After groping around in the darkness with only our headlamps for light, I couldn’t only find it so I took a quick pic of the signboard of the Kaibab Trailhead, which apparently is the only trailhead marker at the trailhead. At the time I was kind of disappointed that I couldn’t find the large stone one I had envisioned in my head.

The elusive South Kaibab Trailhead marker
A dark start to the hike

When we started down the trail the temperature was hovering right about 32 degrees with winds up to 25 mph on the rim. The dust was blowing everywhere and it looks like it was snowing when the dust blew in front of our headlamps. We didn’t want to be hanging out on the rim too long with all of this going on so we began our journey into the abyss of the canyon.

Headlamps on the trail
One of the first pictures we were able to take as the sun started to light things up in the Canyon
Our first glimpse of the beautiful Canyon walls as the sun started to rise
Watch your step

For the first 30 minutes of the hike we had the headlamps on and we definitely needed them since the canyon was pitch black and the trail footing was sketchy in spots, due to the mule trains rutting out the stairs. Making things worse was the fact that we were moving incomplete darkness and dust constantly blowing around and in our eyes. Once we could see pretty well without the headlamps, we took them off and began to enjoy the incredible views the canyon was offering us. We were going pretty slow down the trail, but didn’t want to miss out on a lot of the experience by going too fast.

Couldn’t beat these views to start our day in the canyon

The views on the South Kaibab Trail were absolutely the best part of the entire hike in my opinion, but part of that could have been the time of day when we were on the trail. The sunrise cast beautiful colors onto the canyon walls and we were just beginning our day, not 8 hours in and climbing switchback after switchback like at the end of the Bright Angel Trail climb out of the canyon.

Ooh Aah Point
Incredible sky and canyon views to begin the day near Cedar Ridge
Cedar Ridge was a bit windy

As the trail continued to descent down switchback after switchback, the views continued to change as we went through layer upon layer of different rock formations and changing colors.

O’Neill Butte in the center of this view
Cedar Ridge
We were having a lot of fun on this hike
Switchback after switchback
Enjoying using those trekking poles
Descending further into the canyon
A great day for a hike
Tip Off for a quick break

At Tip Off, the views were stunning in every direction, while there was a small shelter to take a break and grab something to drink.

Resting her legs at Tip Off and getting a snack
Tip off had some of the best views

After leaving Tip Off, you get to see the first glimpse of the mighty Colorado River and the Inner Canyon Gorge.

Cool view of the river
Nice views of the Colorado River
My favorite part of the Kaibab Trail
Beautiful section of Kaibab Trail
Someone has to help keep the boulders from rolling down into the canyon
Black bridge is coming into view
Tunnel leading to Black bridge
Looking upstream from the Black Bridge
Just after crossing the black bridge
After crossing over the black bridge to the north side of the canyon
Indian ruins at the base of the canyon
The shortcut trail down to Boat Beach
Might be the most remote beach we have ever visited

After crossing over the black bridge, we walked along the north side of the Colorado River past the Indian Ruins and found a shortcut trail down to Boat Beach. Once at the sandy beach area, we pulled our shoes and socks off and waded out into the river. The river water was cold, but not nearly as cold as Lake Superior in July. There was another hiker at the beach and he asked us to record him jumping into the icy water. I thought about it for a short second, then decided I didn’t want some serious chaffing on the hike out of the canyon. I was still gauging what kind of climb it was going to take to get both of us out of the canyon without pushing it too hard.

Just had to dip our feet in the Colorado River

After trying to get all the sand off our feet and putting on stinky socks and shoes back on, we started up the Bright Angel Canyon to Phantom Ranch for a midday lemonade.

Phantom Ranch cabins were decorated for Christmas

Phantom Ranch was incredibly beautiful and a welcome sight at the bottom of the canyon. The cottonwood trees still had yellow leaves on them, while the beautiful boulder filled Bright Angel Creek ran down the length of the Bright Angel Canyon. It seemed like the clock had been turned back to mid fall with all the leaves still so colorful.

Phantom Ranch was so pretty
Might be the toughest journey for a $5 lemonade

After the delicious $5 lemonade, we loaded our backpacks to our backs and started the ascent out of the canyon.

Silver bridge to take us back over the Colorado River and onto the Bright Angel Trail

The silver bridge rattles every time you would step on one of the 4 foot sections. It took some getting used to, but it was quite obvious that this bridge was very sturdy.

View of the mighty Colorado River
Look back after crossing the Silver Bridge
Pipe Creek on Bright Angel Trail

From the Colorado River the Bright Angel Trail pretty much follows Pipe Creek, where the trail crosses back and forth over it several times. There was a small amount of water coming down the creek, but a few times we had to use stepping stones to get across without getting our feet wet.

Mules headed down the Bright Angel trail to Phantom Ranch

The only mules we saw all day were when he had just about reached Indian Garden. We saw plenty of mule droppings on both the Kaibab and the Bright Angel trails however. Just after stepping aside for the mule train, we saw a small cave across Pipe Creek, so I went over it check it out. It was man-made and only went about 10 feet into the rock formation, but abruptly stopped for some reason.

Found this cool cave on the way up Bright Angel Trail
Indian Garden was a great place to get off our feet and grab a bite to eat

Indian Garden provided another much needed break, where we could grab something to eat and get off our feet for awhile. It was hard to believe the temperature was 90 degrees, especially when we were freezing at 6:00 am waiting for the bus in 25 mph winds.

The temperature hit 90 degrees according to this thermometer at Indian Garden
3 mile Rest House

A quick stop at 3 mile Rest House afforded us more breathtaking views looking back at the many switchbacks we had already climbed.

1.5 mile Rest House

We stopped at 1.5 mile Rest House, but as you can see from the picture, it had more steps to get into it. We climbed on in and took another break from the climb to enjoy more water and more BLOKS energy chews.

Yep it sure it good to get off your feet at this point
The climb out of the canyon on the Bright Angel Trail
Bright Angel switchbacks
Lower Tunnel on the Bright Angel Trail
Upper tunnel on Bright Angel Trail

This girl did a great job of tackling this monumental hike without much training, but she got her second wind once we hit the upper tunnel.

Post hike pic
Bright Angel Trailhead post hike

Once we reached the top of the canyon, we were greeted by our family and took the ending poses with the Bight Angel Trailhead marker. This epic hike was a phenomenal experience with unmatched beauty throughout the whole hike. We will definitely be doing this hike again and will be looking forward to the opportunity to return to the bottom of the canyon.

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Sedona Trip

We wanted to take advantage of our trip out west as much as we could, so we took the 3.5 hour drive east from Lake Havasu City to Sedona. As you near Sedona from Flagstaff, you drive scenic State Route 89A into the Sedona area. The views are absolutely stunning and your stomach may feel it too as the road switches back and forth on it’s route into Sedona.

The view from the Airport Mesa Lookout

Our first stop was the Airport Mesa, where we drove up to the top and paid the $3 parking to get some of the best views of the Sedona area. Once we parked the car, we started hiking the Sedona View Trail, but my mom and dad ended up returning to the car due to the large number of boulders and uneven walking surface. They had a wonderful view from the top of the mesa, so they didn’t mind taking in the beautiful view.

Sedona View Trail might have been the roughest trail we hiked while in Sedona
Beautiful views over Sedona on Christmas Day

The trail ran parallel to the Airport Road we took to get to the top of the mesa, but after about a half mile we came to the a pull-off parking spot we passed on the way up to the top. This Airport Mesa viewing area gave some beautiful views over the whole Sedona area.

Airport Mesa Trail heading down to pull off parking

To get tot he top of the Airport Mesa, you had to do a little bit of rock scrambling. They had guide wires to assist with the climb, but it was fairly easy.

View from the top of the Airport Mesa

Once on top, there were quite a few people practicing yoga and taking in the views. Apparently this area is one of the many parts of Sedona known for it vortex. You may be asking what is the deal with the vortexes in Sedona. Actually Sedona is quite popular for it’s vortexes. What is the definition of Vortex: A Vortex is a place in nature where the earth is exceptionally alive with energy.  The term Vortex in Sedona refers to a place where the earth energy swirls and draws to it’s center everything that surrounds it like a tornado. At these magical sites, trees often exhibit this swirling or twisting of their trunks due the powerful vortex energy at the core of a Sedona Vortex. So we actually visited 2 of the 4 main vortexes in the Sedona area. Not too bad for not know anything about vortexes prior to this trip.

Atop the Airport Mesa
Beautiful views over the whole valley
Trail heading back to get the car and my parents
Chapel of the Holy Cross

Our next stop was the Chapel of the Holy Cross. After navigating a very busy neighborhood, we were able to find a parking spot only to find out the church was closed. We walked a little way up the road to get some of these pictures, but quickly returned to our car. Hopefully the next time we visit Sedona will will be able to walk up the grounds and see the inside of the church.

Chapel of the Holy Cross

Our next two events while in Sedona were a climb up Baby Bell Rock to watch the sun set over Bell Rock and Courthouse Rock. Then early the next morning we went on a hike to Devil’s Bridge. You can read about either one of these hikes by clicking on the links below.

Trail ride with the boys

So today, the adults took the young teenagers out on the trail with us to see how they would do. We headed out to Oak Openings Metropark in Swanton, just west of Toledo. The metropark & volunteers have been building trails for quite a few years and have built almost 12 miles of trails to this point. They have also added an obstacle park for beginners to practice on too.

The youngsters leading the way
Tearing it up

The boys did well only a few spills, but that might have had something to do with their rides. I am sure their will be upgrades on the list for future rides.

These two are trailing the group
Leaves are falling fast
The fall colors are very pretty in the woods
Trail to Flying Squirrel loop
Showing off on the log bridge
Treehouse village that you can rent.
Almost lost it on the teeter totter
Post ride photo op.

Post ride meal at MailPouch Saloon in Swanton was a quick way to get those lost calories back into our systems.

Venice, Italy “City of Canals”


Day 4: Venice: Before we left the train station in Lausanne, we had to indulge ourselves in the delicious sweet pastries at the train station bakery. I had a couple of powdered sugar and jelly filled croissants while also purchasing some sandwiches and a baguette to munch on during the train ride to Venice.

First stop on the After Tour – Venice, Italy.

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Enjoying the fresh pastries at the train station prior to our departure for Venice.

Our train followed the north side of Lake Geneva with beautiful views of the vineyards, Alps and Lake Geneva. The view was awesome through the train windows, but as we continued further east, we began to go through more and more tunnels and our beautiful views of the Alps disappeared until we come out on the other side of the large mountains and into Italy, which had more rolling hills and lots of rural farmland dotted with olive groves and vineyards.

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The views of the Alps were beautiful from our train.

Once we arrived in Venice, we had a short walk to our Air BnB. This rental had a small balcony over one of the many small canals of Venice. Occasionally you would hear a small motor boat pass by the apartment. This took a bit of getting used to, but there was no traffic once the sun went down. I am not sure if that is a regulation or something, but we were never woken up by any boats outside our apartment at night. Again, there was no AC so we had the windows open and had to content with some mosquitoes at night.

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The view from our BnB bedroom.

After getting settled in we headed out to check out the Grand Canal. We explored the many side streets and smaller canals and stopped at the Rialto Bridge to take in the views and do some people watching. This was the busiest part of Venice during the time we were there.

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Rialto Bridge over the Grand Canal of Venice

My initial impression of Venice was that it is breathtakingly beautiful with the water and historical value, but it seems very commercialized. Most of the shops on the island were geared toward the many day tourists. It felt like a huge outdoor shopping mall, almost Disneyesque if you stayed near the main attraction areas. However, if you got off the beaten path you got to see the real Venice, where there were small courtyards and families enjoying their evening. This is the Venice we came to see and it took a little bit of searching to find it, but we did on our last night.

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St. Mark’s Square

We continued winding through the small alleyways and found our way to St. Mark’s Square were we found a nice restaurant for drinks and dinner. There was a band playing in the open air of the square and it had a very nice atmosphere. We could have sat there all night and watched people walk by.

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St. Mark’s Square in Venice for drinks and dinner.

St. Mark’s Square is one of the main hubs of tourism to the island. There is a lot of hustle and bustle, but a very pretty location to spend an evening while in Venice.

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Doge’s Palace near St. Mark’s Square
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Getting a snack not far from our Air BnB

Arcicchetti Bakaro was not far from our rental apartment, so we visited this square a few times for a meal and would just have a seat on the steps next to the canal and enjoy ourselves.

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Gondola ride out in the Grand Canal

Day 5: We knew we had to go on a gondola ride to truly appreciate Venice. Our gondola ride took us through the many side canals and out into the Grand Canal. It is truly amazing watching the gondolier maneuver the boat through the many narrow passageways, but also under the many foot bridges. Ours had us move to one side of the boat, while he leaned it to the side to slip it under a couple of low foot bridges. It was very impressive. I see why the gondoliers have a certain training and requirement in order to maneuver their crafts and island.

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One of the narrow canals on our gondola ride.

My recommendation while in Venice is to go on a gondola ride and get off the beaten path and enjoy some authentic Italian food away from the hustle and bustle of the main attraction of Venice. You will be glad you did. It’s a lot more relaxing too.

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Bridge of Sighs

The Bridge of Sighs is just off St. Mark’s Square and is another famous sight that draws a lot of tourists to this area of Venice.

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Venice gondoliers
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Church of San Giorgio Maggiore in background
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Busy Grand Canal
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St. Mark’s Basilica in background
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One of the many bell towers. Didn’t exactly get this right.

We explored Venice away from the main attractions and found out how truly beautiful Venice can be away from the crowds.

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So many bridges to climb over throughout Venice
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Orange marmalade Croissant – my fifth that last morning

Day 6: A Venice breakfast then catching the train to Florence, Italy. I fell in love with he orange marmalade filled croissants in Venice… so I had a few more before we departed.

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