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

One month to go…

In a month we will be hitting the road… and I am finally starting to get a bit excited about the trip. I know that sounds strange, as we have been planning for months! But maybe because we HAVE been planning for months, “working on the trip plans” has become almost “routine,” and I haven’t allowed myself the luxury of getting really excited about it until now…

It is a good feeling, especially since we are pretty well prepared for departure and we’ve got a solid and detailed “roadmap.”

Actually we have lots and lots of road maps… one for almost every state we will be driving through… plus a detailed street atlas of the USA… plus the specific Route 66 mapset… plus topo maps of the deserts… plus two briefing books with turn by turn directions… and I am trying to decide if i should bring my GPS (though it is actually for aviation, and I would have to buy some kind of road map update I guess… so am really not sure it is worth taking… I mean how lost can we really get with all those maps!!!!!)

And in addition to all the maps, we have a program outline, a timeline (which I hesitate to call a “schedule” because that sounds like we are locked into it, and I have done my best to leave enough flexibility while still creating a plan that will get us there and back again in the alloted timeframe), and a resource list. We have all our backcountry permits, and things that needed to be reserved are almost all done (we still need to book hotels for LA and SF… and finish the plan for the last 6 days, which includes Cajun country and New Orleans… and firm up reservations for a couple of the en route activities that need advance reservations… so in that sense we still have a bit of work to do).

In terms of supplies and equipment, we have most of what we need. And we know what we still need to buy… (not much, apart from things we really need to get at the last minute, like food items, cleaning supplies, tapestock and other consumables). I have already set up a staging area here in NY (and Cactus Killer and Silly Squirrel have done the same in Paris)…

Now we just have to get thru the month, and we’ll be riding freedom’s road!

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

Counting down…

Now we begin the real countdown and put our preparations into overdrive as the trip is fast approaching…

In just 5 weeks Cactus Killer and Silly Squirrel will be in NY!

Everything needs to be ready for D-Day… 9 July!

Overall we are in good shape with the planning and trip prep. Luckily we started so far ahead it was not a mad dash of planning… However, we still have more to do to finalize plans and get everything into place.

posted by Blue Coyote in Planning and have No Comments

Walking the walk…

Have been continuing to work on building up my endurance so that i will be ready when we hit the trail. I think the biggest challenge will now be the Zion Narrows hike, as that will be two days of walking 6.5 hours per day thru a river. It doesn’t sound so hard on paper, but I am sure walking thru water isn’t as simple as a walk in the park… and so I have decided that I will make sure that I am ready by training on a longer walk…

So yesterday for my “walk in the park” i took the backpack too… and did 6.5 miles (the actual distance we will have to walk each of the days)… 3 hours (on normal trails… not thru water)…

I have decided to train up for an 8 hour walk on normal trails…because I do these walks without stopping… and I am sure that the 6.5 hour time that the rangers estimate includes some stops (as they say so on their trail map)…

Then I will try one day at least to go down to the beach and walk along the coast in the water (with shoes, clothes and backpack)… just to get an idea of the difference…

posted by Blue Coyote in Shaping up for the Trail and have No Comments

Checking out the Big Tent…


The tent, unrolled and on the tarp...

Today was a nice enough day outside to check out the big tent and do the seam sealing. I decided to time myself to see how long it would take to put it up for the very first time (figuring that as we learn how to do it, it will go much faster).

I started at 11:04am and had it up by 11:43am — all by myself! (I didn’t bother to put the fly on, though, as I was just doing the seam sealing, and that wouldn’t make sense, as i wouldn’t be able to reach the seams!)

It went up pretty easily! The only difficulty at all was getting the little metal pegs into the bottoms of the wall poles. That required a bit of strength to pull and push. But otherwise it was extremely easy. And I imagine that when we will be doing it as a team it will go up in about 20 minutes, max. We should have no problems getting it done quickly, even when we have been driving all day. And it seems like it will make a very pleasant shelter!


...with half the wall poles in...

It is really roomy! (I swear it is bigger than some studio apartments I have lived in! — especially in New York City!)

And the windows everywhere are GREAT! I also LOVE the skylight! It will let us see the stars at night without having to actually sleep outside! (we will have to figure out a way to cover it in the daylight so that the interior of the tent doesn’t get hot in the desert!!!)

It seems like a lot of thought went into the design, as it has a lot of good little details so you can open the windows in all kinds of different configurations, and it has a little thing so you can pull the floor down, and sweep stuff right out over the side!

Overall I think it will be a GREAT tent! (I will see how easily it comes down and can get packed up again, tonight once the seam sealer is dry).

photo-5While I had it out, I decided to put the cots in there to see how they fit. And even with the three cots we have a good amount of space and will not feel like we are “on top of each other.”

photo-4Overall I think we made a good choice with this tent! The windows and skylight make it very comfortable inside — and we can configure them in a lot of  different ways to maximize airflow while maintaining some cool shade.

The zippers seem to be pretty good quality, and the whole thing seems sturdy.  It looks like it will hold up throughout the duration of the trip, if we are somewhat gentle with it (and we will still have duct tape handy in case of emergencies)!

One detail I did think about though, was that we need some kind of floor mat (like a door mat) right inside the tent door — or just outside — to put the shoes so we don’t get the floor of the tent too dirty!

posted by Blue Coyote in Planning and have No Comments

100 days to go…

That’s a long time. And not that long anymore. The countdown clock moves to double digits… And our trip preparations become more concrete.

D-day is still pretty far off. A whole season away. But our planning is mostly done, and we now just have the administrative tasks, reservations and permits to do. We are ready (or i should say we WILL be ready when D-day arrives)!

posted by Blue Coyote in Anticipation and have No Comments

Started making some reservations…

Over the last couple of days we have started actually making reservations for some of the definite stops along the route (starting at the beginning of our trip, in Ohio, and working westward).

It feels good to be doing something as concrete as this — it is like becoming more of a reality as we are working through the details, down to the banal task of making the reservations and printing out confirmations (which i am storing in a folder dedicated to the trip so i don’t lose them somewhere in the pile of papers all over my desk).

The process is a bit interesting, because we have to strike a balance between making some reservations for places that are either “definite” way points or that risk being full if we just show up late in the afternoon, and between keeping a certain amount of flexibility within our plan so that we don’t get tied down to chasing a schedule along the way.

We want to keep as much room for maneuver as possible, while still keeping to enough of a schedule so that we are actually back in time for Cactus Killer and Silly Squirrel to make their flight (preferably with a few days to spend in NY before leaving)!

We have tried to set up a number of “checkpoints” where we have reservations that require us to arrive by a certain date. As long as we make our checkpoints on schedule, we will get there and back within our timeframe. And if we have to speed up in between to make up for something else, we can do it in reasonable chunks… kind of letting us “catch up” and get back on track, rather than having delays build up until at the end we find ourselves physically just too far behind the timeline…

posted by Blue Coyote in Planning and have No Comments

Our new tent…

So we went to the store to look at tents in person today, and Cactus Killer and I came back with our backcountry tent. A 3-man Quechua 2 second tent. (The base tent of the same brand was just not practical in the end, because it had a separate floor, and there was a huge gap where water could get in, if there was much rain/flooding….)

And when we got home, Silly Squirrel was anxious to try it out… and so we took it out of the bag and started setting it up in the middle of the living room, but then decided to take it out to the terrace, and truthfully the set up WAS quick and easy! The two of us went inside to check out the space and comfort, and it seems like a fine tent for the hike-in days! Cactus Killer was “practicing” for the hike-in by carrying the tent with us all over Paris as we did some other errands as well…

Anyway, getting the tent back down and in its bag was a bit more complicated, but i think with a little bit of practice we will be able to do it all pretty quickly…

So a toast to the new tent!!!!!

And after buying the tent we headed up to Barbes to look at fabric… We wanted to get some very light comfortable fabric to transform into camp bedding for those hot nights when the sleeping bags will be way too hot… And so we did a tour of the fabric shops, and spent a really nice afternoon looking at different options, both in terms of colors and fabric types. I had originally wanted some kind of camo pattern, but after looking at the fabrics in that pattern I switched to a lighter, more comfortable batik, and chose a psychedelic green/pink combo that looks fun and feels inviting… Cactus Killer choose some very light weight cottons in the blue purple shade for Silly Squirrel and a beautiful desert color combo African pattern for herself…

We left Barbes with smiles on our faces and packages in our arms… It was a really good day!

posted by Blue Coyote in Planning and have No Comments

The tent dilemma…

Things seem more concrete every day. A few days ago we receive our first shipment of camp-related equipment: the cots which we got on a very good sale, as well as other miscellaneous items from our list. However, the search for a solution to the tent dilemma continues…

The problem we are trying to resolve remains the same. We need a big roomy tent that is quick to assemble and disassemble, is sturdy, and quite waterproof. But we also want something light enough to carry for those hike-in days.

The two tents we are currently considering definitely meet our requirements for jeep camping, but on those days when we have to hike-in with our gear, they are really too heavy. So we are still looking for a more portable solution that is not going to be super expensive (the ideal would be for us each to have one of those personal back-pack tents, that weight next to nothing and roll up smaller than a sleeping bag. The problem with those is that they are expensive — the best price I saw was around $90 each — and as we need 3, and only for a few days of the journey, it seemed like it’s not really a viable option.)

By chance the other day I was talking to a friend about the trip, and she suggested Quechua tents, which you basically can just toss out on the ground and they pitch themselves. And they are very inexpensive! And so I followed her advice and checked them out at the Decathlon store in Paris, where they had this amazing Base 4.2 tent, and then online I saw this interesting Base seconds tent. But also this super practical “2 Second” tent. There is the “one-man” version, which is very light, or a larger “two-man” and “three-man” versions which become heavier (though still not that heavy), however, these tents fold into big round discs, which isn’t really practical in terms of carrying them on a hike, when you have other gear as well.

Wanted to find out a bit more from people who had actually used these tents in the field, and found this Gear Junkie review useful, also the comments from folks at ukcampsite were quite helpful, as they had used the bigger version of the tent.

Hopefully on Monday Cactus Killer will take a short trip to this store with me to look at them, and maybe we will make some decisions after seeing them.

posted by Blue Coyote in Planning and have No Comments

Narrowing down the tent choices

The all important tent question is still lingering on…

Today we ordered the cots and some other miscellaneous camp gear from Cabela’s (had to get them before the sale ends, and while the free shipping offer is still good), but am still hesitating on the tent. Looking around a bit more at tents, am wondering if there is a better choice in the same category (in fact by the same manufacturer)…

Here are the two tents under consideration and the issues with each of them as far as i can see:

The Eureka Copper Canyon – here is the description from the manufactuer’s site. We have already been looking at this tent and in fact had pretty much decided to purchase it here at the amazon site (which seems to have the best price). This tent has had excellent reviews. It will fit the 3 of us with the 3 cots:


tent = 10 ft x 10 ft
(tent weight is 26 lbs 8 oz. / center H is 7 ft)

cot = 25″ W x 75″ L x 16″ H  =  approx. 2.5 ft W x 7.5 ft L each
(cot weight is 15 lbs / it packs into carry case at 8″ W x 38″ L x 4″ H)

we can fit the 3 cots inside with about a foot of space between us.

The only “negative” or “concern” we had about this tent is related to its weight (if we decided to use it for the Hike-In sites) at almost 27 pounds it is relatively heavy (can be carried by one person, but that person couldn’t carry anything else, so we would have to split remaining gear between two of us).

The Eureka Tetragon 1210 – here is the description from the manufactuer’s site.  I started to look at it because it was on the same website where we bought the cots, and was well-recommended there. The reason I thought we should consider and compare it with the Copper Canyon is the weight. According to the site’s specs, this tent  is quite a bit lighter… It seems like it is a little cheaper (or about the same price as the Copper Canyon) here at the amazon site (which seems to have the best price). This tent has also had excellent reviews. It will also fit the 3 of us with the 3 cots:


tent = 12 ft x 10 ft
(tent weight is 17 lbs 11 oz. / center H is 6 ft 4 inches)

cot = 25″ W x 75″ L x 16″ H  =  approx. 2.5 ft W x 7.5 ft L each
(cot weight is 15 lbs / it packs into carry case at 8″ W x 38″ L x 4″ H)

we can fit the 3 cots inside with about a foot and a half of space between us.

This tent is lighter than the Copper Canyon… even though it is a tiny bit bigger…. Not sure what that means… One concern I had related to reviews. Seems some reviewers complained about leaks. Whereas the Copper Canyon reviews spoke about “no leaks”… not sure if it is just a difference in people’s experience or if there is some difference between the quality of the tents…

posted by Blue Coyote in Planning and have No Comments

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