Under the Hood…

With freedom comes responsibility… And I have the great responsibility of getting us all there and back again safely. Which is exactly what brought me to the Jeep dealership the other day.

We need to make sure our vehicle can withstand the grueling workout it is going to get. Our greatest concern is the extreme conditions of Death Valley in August where it can get as high as 130 degrees farenheit!

Our Jeep becomes more than  just a mode of transport out there. It becomes a critical tool for survival. So having it checked out by our mechanic is important. And it is also important that we be able to do some emergency service in case something breaks down out in the desert.

So that means, we’d better know how to change a flat tire, and it was also suggested by those more experienced with Jeeping in the desert, that we carry some spare hoses, fan belt and so forth… and following up on that, I found myself getting a tutorial in changing radiator hoses and replacing the fan belt!

It was interesting to learn about what is under the hood of my Jeep, even though I hope I will never have to use that knowledge in the field!!!! But somehow it just seemed appropriate to start the story of our road trip with the hood of the Jeep open…

posted by Blue Coyote in On the Road and have No Comments

First draft of the trip promo…

posted by Blue Coyote in America the Beautiful and have Comments (2)

Made the test-drive to Pennsylvania today…

Wanted to field-test the Jeep  and procure some supplies for the bon voyage Fourth of July program at the same time… So did the drive this morning to the Delaware Gap and it was smooth driving all the way.

Left base at 5 a.m. Traffic was already active on the Long Island Expressway, but still flowing smooth enough to at least go the speed limit. The Belt Parkway was about the same. Made it over the Verazanno Bridge and into New Jersey by around 7… and from there decided to take the New Jersey Turnpike to I-80, rather than the shorter route that seemed less well sign-posted…  Traffic was light the whole way to the Delaware Gap, and I arrived there by about 8:15…

So basically the drive to that point took 3 hours… (the return took about the same… amazingly little traffic headed east)…

The Jeep rode well and I didn’t notice any problems or things that felt like they needed to be checked out… though I will have them check the brakes, because when I started it up after 2 weeks of non-use the break pedal needed to be pumped a bit… not sure if that means anything (and i was driving another vehicle while in Ireland that had very sensitive brakes, so I might be reacting to the difference in vehicle feel rather than anything precise…)

Finally, the procurement run went off without a hitch and we have everything we need to make our pre-departure Fourth of July program a success!

posted by Blue Coyote in Planning and have No Comments

Sunny day brings warm thoughts…

Am actually in Paris, and the trip is far off (139 days to go), but today is the first day since winter snows and freezing cold weather began that i can even feel like we are getting closer to spring and then summer and departure day!

The sun has come out here and the Paris skies are blue, and it is just a little less cold. No need to wear my silly snow hat or a warm liner inside my jacket! The air is fresh (well as fresh as it can ever be here in a polluted city) and i am feeling a bit of energy…

It is like a great relief to be able to imagine spring! (This has been a very harsh winter, as the Big Weasel says over and over…)

Now i’d better get busy with next phases of logistical preparation for the trip. We have our route plan completed, and briefing books are done. Time to turn thoughts to the more quotidian aspects of determining what equipment or supplies we need to purchase before departure. And also need to devote some time to figuring out what will fit in the jeep, packing lists, checklists, and so on…

And a maintenance schedule/plan for the Jeep itself covering the run up to the trip, as well as during the trip itself.

posted by Blue Coyote in Other thoughts and have No Comments

The Mojave…and the ghost towns…

So moving forward with planning the Route 66 segment from Arizona to California, i think we definitely want to stopover in the Mojave National Preserve and spend a night roadside camping then spend some time on the desert trails. If we don’t linger too long at the Grand Canyon, as i suggested earlier, we should have time to do this. And we will probably be glad for the emptiness of the Mojave in contrast the the crowd at Grand Canyon.

Picture 6

The locations we are likely to choose for camping can be found on the map above (if you click on the map it opens up much bigger). Considering we will be coming from I-40 (at the bottom of the map), am thinking one of these locations might be good:

Granite Pass: 6.1 miles north of I-40 on Kelbaker Road, just north of Granite Pass, then west on one of several access roads. Campsites are located just north of the granite spires. High clearance vehicle recommended; no RVs.

Kelso Dunes Mine: 4 miles west of Kelbaker Road on the unpaved Kelso Dunes Road. One campsite is located south of the road, 1/4 mile past the marked trailhead. Several others are available 3/4 mile beyond, near a clump of trees. Except at these sites, roadside camping is prohibited along Kelso Dunes Road (including at the trailhead).

Black Canyon Road
About 4 miles south of Hole-in-the-Wall Information Center on the east side of Black Canyon Road, above the wash and near a hill with excellent views of the Providence Mountains. Another site is located about 4 miles futher south, also on the east side of Black Canyon Road, near rock piles.

Rainy Day Mine Site
15.2 miles southeast of Baker on Kelbaker Road, then 0.3 miles northeast on the unsigned and very sandy road to the Rainy Day Mine. Four-wheel drive recommended; no RVs.

THEN, while we are there we can do a JEEP TRAIL :-)

There are actually a number of cool 4×4 trails out there. Here is a list of some of them provided by the park service. The Lava Tube sounds fun… (and also “Caruthers Canyon” for possible camp site?)

Actually might also be really fun to try to get up early and catch sunrise at Kelso Dunes…

About 42 miles southeast of Baker (7 miles south of Kelso Depot), then 3 miles west on a graded dirt road, Kelso Dunes were created over the course of 25,000 years by winds carrying sand grains from the dried Soda Lake and Mojave River Sink. Nearly 700 feet high and covering a 45-square-mile area, they are among the tallest and most extensive dune fields in the United States.

The Kelso Dunes produce a “booming” or “singing” sound when sand with the right moisture content slides down the steep slopes. Try it for yourself—run down a dune slope (but don’t trample vegetation!) to initiate the sound.

Kelso Dunes Trailhead: 3 miles west of Kelbaker Road on the well-graded, but unpaved Kelso Dunes Road.
Hikers at sunrise and sunset are treated to both cooler temperatures and the rose-colored glow of the dunes. The roughly 3-mile round-trip hike might take several hours as you slog through the sand, then slide down the slopes. Moving sands sometimes create a “booming” sound—run downhill and get the sand moving to hear the sound.

we will likely to be able to do these activities ONLY if we don’t spend the extra day at Grand Canyon…

THE FOLLOWING DAY, we continue to Barstow. In Barstow area I think it would actually be fun to stay at the Calico Ghost town itself. It is definitely a hokey attraction, but will likely be the last one we do, as after LA the Route 66 segment of the trip is over and the return has more “adventure”-oriented activities. It seems like the town is a state park. Here is the official parks page . And here is the page for the Calico Ghost Town attraction. We have the option of actually reserving a “mini bunkhouse” here, and maybe we should consider that “luxury” now that we are headed back to “civilization.” (afterall we don’t want to show up in LA looking like savages!)

Through researching Route 66 sites, i think there might actually be a better “Old West Ghost Town” experience at OATMAN, AZ, which is before the Mojave (it is the last town on the Arizona side)… There they have wild burros in the streets, and an actual gold mine you can visit, and daily “gunfights” in the street (at 1:30 and 3:30pm). Might be more fun than Calico town? I can’t really tell, but it seems like it might be a tad less crowded… and comparing the two towns’ websites, i feel like Oatman is “less” disney-ified (though that doesn’t necessarily make it the better experience)…

In any case, we will pass through Oatman on the road, even if we don’t spend extra time there, and if we don’t like it, we can always still do Calico town on the way out (or just camp at Calico town)… Or if we have totally had our fill of  wild west recreations by then, we can just pass by Calico…

posted by Blue Coyote in Planning and have Comment (1)

Mules and so on…


Who knew mule reservations would be so hard to come by? It is January and we are planning for late July and we are too late!!!! I can’t believe it!

We wanted to do the overnight mule trek into the Grand Canyon and when i called for reservations it was completely booked for the entire month of July!!!! Still cannot believe we were too late…

Anyway, I took a reservation for a short half-day trip to “the abyss overlook” which was the only alternative (and i guess i was glad to get even that)!  I really hope it is at least interesting… (we don’t get to go down into the Canyon, just along the rim) … but i guess it is still better than a bus tour!

This will likely change our schedule a bit, and instead of spending two days at the Canyon, i think we should leave in the afternoon when we return from the mule trek. I say this because in researching opportunities around the Grand Canyon, I got the impression it is overrun with mass tourism! There are hotels on the Canyon rim! And huge parking lots! And busloads and trainloads of tourists who just fly-in to see the Canyon! And as we cannot really get into the Canyon on our own, i don’t know what else we would do there…

If it wasn’t one of the “wonders of the world” i think i would say just skip it (as we will be having plenty of up-close Canyon experiences elsewhere along the trail)… but we really can’t just drive past the Grand Canyon without at least having a look!

So, a short mule trek, a quick peek at the Canyon and then an early start to our next location where we can spend that extra day on the trail in the Mojave national preserve (here we have the right to do “roadside camping” in the backcountry along a jeep trail)!

Lesson Learned: we are not as early as we think we are! (and apparently more people like riding mules than you’d imagine!)

posted by Blue Coyote in Planning and have Comment (1)

The Santa Fe option…

So am continuing with the trip plans, and refining the itinerary a bit more, and realize we will definitely need to make a choice about which alignment we take in New Mexico, and that choice will effect more than just the parts of route 66 we will see. It will effect the itinerary for the following days all the way through to Arizona…


While we may not have to make that choice now (or even necessarily BEFORE departure… ), it would be a good idea to think about the options and how each would impact our experience.

The basic choice is whether we  go: Tucumcari > Santa Rosa > Santa Fe > Albuquerque

OR more directly: Tucumcari > Santa Rosa >  Albuquerque…

While at first glance we might want to say “take the shortest route,” on a trip like ours the whole point is the journey… rather than how quickly we can get to our destination… so the question is really more about which alignment would present the most interesting experience in the time we have…

Those who have done the drive recommend the Santa Fe loop “if we have the time”… particularly to see the Pecos National Historical site (which seems like it might be interesting)… and personally, the big attraction of the Santa Fe loop for me is a part of the drive on a dirt road thru La Bajada (explanation below is from Legends of America: Rte 66 site) :

…the Mother Road continued on a particularly nasty stretch down La Bajada Hill toward Albuquerque. One of the most challenging sections of Route 66, the 500 foot drop along narrow switch backs struck terror in the hearts of many early travelers, so much so that locals were often hired to drive vehicles down the steep slope.

You KNOW i want to drive that segment!!!!!  (there might also be the possibility of coming BACK via this segment on our way down from Utah after Moab if we skip Santa Fe loop on the way). Check out what these folks who did the trip in 2003 have to say about this section of the Route… And here is a good explanation of La Bajada possiblities… and HERE IS A JEEP TRAIL (and they rate it as an EASY trail, so i think it should be no problem for us!!!!!). The Jeep Trail actually takes us onto the Cochiti indian reservation, and ends at a ruin… Here is more about the Cochitis… and someone’s photo essay from a trip up La Bajada…

Once we are in Alburquerque, i think it would be great to visit/camp at the Chaco Culture National Historical park!!!!

This Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, hosting the densest and most exceptional concentration of pueblos in the American Southwest. It is located in a relatively inaccessible canyon cut by the Chaco Wash, and contains the most sweeping collection of ancient ruins north of Mexico. There is a primitive campground inside the park. Tucked amongst the fallen boulders and cliffs of Gallo Wash, the campground offers camping in a rugged environment, surrounded by petroglyphs, a cliff dwelling, inscriptions, and a high desert landscape. There is no shade. The campsites are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

As there are no reservations for campsites there we will need alternative plans in case it is full… the park itself has put together this list of alternative camping options in the area… BTW, the Chaco park has put together a “Before you Visit” introduction online, too…

Anyway, here are some thoughts on planning options…

OPTION1: spend day 10 getting to Santa Fe area, with a stop over at the Pecos national site, and camp somewhere in the Santa Fe National Forest… (which will put us in a perfect location to then do the La Bajada jeep trail the next morning!!!!). here is a good resource on the local campgrounds there. day 11 do the jeep trail, then drive to Chaco national park… (with an option of camping at one of the ranches nearby if the park campground is full)…

Picture 33

Day10 : DRIVE Amarillo / Tucumcari / Santa Rosa / Santa Fe = 350 miles, 8 hours, with a stopover for hike/visit at Pecos National Historical park.
CAMP at one of the Santa Fe National Forest campgrounds (no reservations)

Day 11: DRIVE Santa Fe / La Bajada / Chaco Culture National Historical park = 250 miles, 7 hours, with the La Bajada Jeep trail (4 hours)
CAMP at  Chaco Culture National Historical park Gallo campground OR one of the alternates.

Day 12: HIKE/VISIT Chaco Culture National Historical park
DRIVE: Chaco Culture National Historical park / Gallup = 100 miles, 2 hours
CAMP at campground or motel TBD (possible performance at Gallup Multi-cultural Center)

DAY 13: DRIVE Gallup / Holbrook / Winslow = 150 miles, 3 hours
HIKE/VISIT Painted Desert & Petrified Forest National park
CAMP either Wilderness Backpack camping in Petrified Forest OR primitive campground on Rock Art Canyon ranch

OPTION2: go direct to Albuquerque on day 10, overnight locally there, and then go to Chaco on day 11…

Picture 34

Day10 : DRIVE Amarillo / Tucumcari / Santa Rosa / Albuquerque = 350 miles, 7 hours.
CAMP at campground/motel TBD

Day 11: DRIVE Albuquerque / Chaco Culture National Historical park = 160 miles, 3.5 hours.
HIKE/VISIT Chaco Culture National Historical park
CAMP at Chaco Culture National Historical park Gallo campground OR one of the alternates.

Day 12: DRIVE: Chaco Culture National Historical park / Gallup = 100 miles, 2 hours
CAMP at campground or motel TBD (possible performance at Gallup Multi-cultural Center)

DAY 13: DRIVE Gallup / Holbrook / Winslow = 150 miles, 3 hours
HIKE/VISIT Painted Desert & Petrified Forest National park
CAMP either Wilderness Backpack camping in Petrified Forest OR primitive campground on Rock Art Canyon ranch

OPTION 3: cut out the Chaco Culture park visit…

Picture 35

Day10 : DRIVE Amarillo / Tucumcari / Santa Rosa / Albuquerque = 350 miles, 7 hours.
CAMP at campground/motel TBD

Day 11: FREE DAY

Day 12: DRIVE Albuquerque / Gallup / Holbrook / Winslow = 300 miles, 6 hours
HIKE/VISIT Painted Desert & Petrified Forest National park
CAMP either Wilderness Backpack camping in Petrified Forest OR primitive campground on Rock Art Canyon ranch

Day 13: FREE DAY

posted by Blue Coyote in Planning and have Comments (2)

The T-Shirt…


Have been busy on the planning front working out schedule and rough accommodations plan, so we can apply for those permits for the parks where we will be needing them….

And looking at the scope of the project, I am thinking we are going to need a logo and an “official” t-shirt, too…

posted by Blue Coyote in Anticipation and have No Comments

Changing tops…

Today Cactus Killer and I winterized the Jeep, putting on the hard top, and stowing the soft top until spring. While we were working on it I realized that the next time we change it, it will be in preparation for the grand depart!

There are so many little milestones along the way… and each little detail makes us think about how the trip is getting closer. Though, at the same time, it is still so far off!

posted by Blue Coyote in Anticipation and have No Comments

It starts with a jeep and a plan…


THE PROJECT: summer of 2010 we load up the jeep and hit the road. Route 66. And more…

So today we start planning.

Essentially we know that the trip itself will take about 6 weeks, back and forth (that is from New York to California and back to New York). And during that time the three of us will be living out of the Jeep!

Beyond that we have to figure it all out over these next few months… and i am hoping this blog space will serve as a workspace for that planning phase, as well as a place for us to gather and share our impressions during the journey.

posted by Blue Coyote in Planning and have No Comments

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