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Old 06-08-2012, 11:49 PM   #31
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May, 09 (Day 12)


Date (day): May, 09 (Day 12)
Source: White Rim Trail (Labyrinth B)
Destination: Boulder Mountain Lodge, UT
Travel Miles: 214
Resources: Swing Arm City ORV Park; Boulder Mountain Lodge; Area Map

Deviation from plan: We left our great campsite and the amazing White Rim Trail early in the morning and headed toward our next destination in Boulder, UT. On the way, we stopped over in the town of Green River for lunch (Subway). We took our subs to a local city park that had an assortment of kid’s toys and let our daughter run wild. It was a beautiful day and we were the only ones there. After lunch, we decided to stop at the local laundry mat and do all of our laundry. We used almost every machine in the joint in order to spend as little time as possible. Again, we were the only ones there. Lastly we stopped off at the local hardware store to purchase a sealable plastic bin for our garbage (lesson learned from our nights stay at Murphy Hogback). I put the swaybar pins back in while in the laundry mat parking lot. We were fed, had clean clothes, had a good workout at the park, and now we were ready to continue on our way.


Moment(s): Today was a day riddled with moments because of the vastly changing geography we were traversing. Starting out with collapsing our campsite right alongside the Green River; to driving the very narrow shelf along the White Rim Trail as soon as we exited our campsite; to making yet another amazing climb out of the river bottom and up onto the plateau (via Mineral Bottom Road/Horsethief Trail); to driving through the barren badlands of Factory Butte near Capitol Reef National Park; to driving through the painted landscape of Capitol Reef National Park; and to climbing up and over Boulder Mountain (@ 9600 feet) in the Dixie National Forest with patches of snow visible before plunging down into the town of Boulder, UT. It was all absolutely incredible.


Takeaway(s): I want to come back and spend much more time on this section of our route. There was an ORV Park called Swing Arm City between Hanksville and Caineville that looked absolutely spectacular!!. This was just one sliver of the Factory Butte area that consists of approximately 200 miles of OHV trails. I know that I could spend a month in this area, alone. Then there were the incredible painted hills in and around Capitol Reef National Park (which would kill at least another week). Lastly there would be Hwy 12 (National Scenic Byway) and Boulder Mountain with emphasis on the aspens turning color in the fall. There goes two more weeks of photography, exploring, and maybe some fishing. How soon can I come back????


Sportsmobile Note(s): After three days of boondock camping along the White Rim Trail it was a real treat to end up at the Boulder Mountain Lodge. Our Sportsmobile allows us to manage compromises that make our travel interesting, likely, and palatable (for us). This vehicle is capable enough to allow us to camp off-grid and in amazing hard to reach places while being small enough to park at a hotel/lodge when we want to get cleaned up properly. For the type of diverse and relatively raw travel that we are most interested in off-set with a little indulgence and comfort every now and again… this package really is hard to beat.


Near our campsite (Labyrinth B) on the Green River.


Back on the White Rim Trail.






Mineral Bottom Road (Horsethief Trail).








Hwy 12, Boulder Mountain, Dixie National Forest, near 9000ft elevation.


Destination for the evening.



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Old 06-09-2012, 08:51 AM   #32
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Re: TWOLOST: May, 2012: UT + AZ trip report (report in progr


Date (day): May, 10 (Day 13)
Source: Boulder, UT
Destination: Bullfrog, UT
Travel Miles: 250
Resources: Capitol Reef Map; Glen Canyon Map; Wahweap Map; Glen Canyon Info; Burr Trail;


Deviation from plan: By the end of today, we would have encountered our second major deviation from our itinerary (first one being that I did not have the van ready on true day 1). This day would also present as close to a showstopper as we would encounter on the entire trip. Partial brake failure. After spending three days isolated on the rugged White Rim Trail, climbing up and over Boulder Mountain (@ 9600 feet), driving the Burr Trail all of the way down to the edge of Lake Powell, and then driving nearly 200 miles back to Moab in the dark) we feel pretty fortunate that we did not suffer a catastrophic brake failure on any one of these legs. That would have likely turned out really, really, badly.


Moment(s): Well, there were a couple notable moments today. One of those moments started right out of the gate in the morning. Perhaps I had not settled in yet, I was distracted, or I just had a moment… I drove away from our accommodations at the Boulder Mountain Lodge for the night and I muffed up the very next turn onto the Burr Trail. I made the mistake of pulling to the side of the road (half in, half out) rather than just continue driving until I could find a safe and clear place to correct my mistake. Well, during my ‘idiot’ moment a pickup truck with two lovelies aboard showed up behind me. Each dressed in tattered coveralls; they looked like they had been out cutting wood or feeding hogs, or both. Nothing wrong with either of these tasks... I am just describing the attire. The next little dance happened at less than 5 miles per hour. Once I noticed that the pickup truck was not just going to go around me (we were the only two on the road), I got back into my lane of travel and pulled over in a better location (me out of the road). The driver of the pickup truck was stark raving mad by this time. I must have just added to his already bad day and he was going to take it all out on me right then and there. He slowly passed me, yelling profanities, waving his fingers all around, etc. The much younger male passenger was just nervously smiling. Even though I was having a pretty good day and what I had done was unquestionably my own error… I did not think that the penalty really fit the crime. So, I looked right at the driver, signed the same hand signals back at him and yelled “bring it”. Wouldn’t you know it if crack head Bob almost stopped and took me up on my offer? I then proceed to pull into the restaurant parking lot only a few hundred feet away from the lodge that we had just exited. I think that it was called the Boulder Mesa Restaurant. Now what? Rather than have a vehicle to vehicle showdown, how about we go in for a very early lunch and see what happens next. Well, crack pipe Bob managed to drive by the restaurant a couple of times waving and yelling, but he never managed to stop in and settle the matter. Side note, the waitress at the restaurant was great. After lunch there was no further sign of cpB so we ventured back out to the van and proceeded to start all over again (mistake free this time) onto the Burr Trial.


The other major moment was when we were done for the day and parked at our campsite in Bullfrog, UT. I already had a cold beer in- hand when I discovered the inner brake pad on left rear rotor was gone (see pics below). The outer brake pad and outer surface of the same rotor was fine. Per our original schedule, we had intended to camp in Bullfrog, UT for the night. However, Bullfrog is not exactly a bustling automotive parts hub so I made a decision to try and limp our van the 180 miles back to Moab in the dark. I pulled the wheel off and removed all of the rotor frag from the caliper, buttoned it all back up and we set out for Moab. En-route, my wife was able to stay connected to a cell signal long enough to locate a Moab hotel room for us to stay in over the weekend (last room available). We arrived back in Moab well after 10:00pm.


Takeaway(s): By addressing the brake issue as soon as it was discovered, we missed out on navigating the Flint Trail (the “roughest routinely traveled road in Utah”). We had a permit in-hand to do the Flint Trail throughout the course of the next two days (with an overnight stay in Flint Seep). Looking back, I am sure glad that we did not attempt the Flint Trial in the condition the van was in. This is something I will just have to add back to the travel list for next time.

One additional takeaway (for future reference), was that our drive through Capitol Reef National Park was incredible. With the red rock, green vegetation, and lightly flowing stream… I bet one could spend a few days here walking around with a camera and come away with some nice images. The red rock then turns to white rock as you get closer to the Burr Trail Switchbacks. After the Burr Trail Switchbacks, you are then treated to multi-colored ‘painted’ patches of brown/red/grey/white sections of hill-side as you make your way to the shores of Lake Powell. Even though it was only May, 10… it was still very hot.


Sportsmobile Note(s): There was really never any clear indication that the brakes had a serious brake related issue until we were nearly done with the Burr Trail and descending down toward Lake Powell. Near the end of the day, there was an obvious metal crackling sound coming from the rear. Also toward the end of the day, I could see metal frag occasionally flying out of the left rear wheel well. Brake feel was still ok up until the time the caliper was bouncing off of the cooling fins of the rotor then the brakes start to pulsate badly. Even though I did have a Hella Tire Pressure Monitor that I paid pretty close attention to the left rear tire temperature never significantly got hotter than the other three tires. Max tire temp spiked to 148 degrees (F) as a high, but most of the time the rear tires would run somewhere in the 130’s.

Inside Capitol Reef National Park


Burr Trail Switchbacks






Burr Trail Road


Near entrance to North Bullfrog campsite (which was closed)




Edge of Lake Powell from South Bullfrog primitive campsite




Wahweap RV Park and Campground




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Old 06-09-2012, 09:04 AM   #33
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The Brakes


Left rear, inner brake pad and rotor. Gone.







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Old 06-09-2012, 10:08 AM   #34
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Re: TWOLOST: May, 2012: UT + AZ trip report (report in progr

Whoa, what happened to the brake etc ?
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Old 06-09-2012, 08:07 PM   #35
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May, 11 (Day 14)


Date (day): May, 11 (Day 14)
Source: Moab, UT
Destination: Moab, UT
Travel Miles: 0

Stranded in Moab.

Woke early and was standing at the Moab Ford service desk when they opened. "Hey, remember me? I have a new problem." MF Answer: "We are booked and wont be able to look at your van until Friday." Me: "Ummm... the Friday that is a full week away." MF: "Yes."

Yea... that was not going to work.

MF suggested an automotive shop that might be able to get me in before that. I ran over there immediately. Conversation was slightly different but the outcome was the same. I headed back to the hotel to regroup. I composed a message to Sportsmobile asking for help locating the parts needed to fit whatever brake setup I had on my Dynatrac full floating rear end. I followed my email with a phone call an hour later. Sportsmobile was on it. They were already talking with Dynatrac to verify parts. We traded a few phone calls. The bottom line was that the brake caliper, rotor, and pads were the same as OEM for my model year of van. However, the brake rotor had to be modified to fit on the Dynatrac rear end. The center of the rotor and wheel stud holes had to be bored out. The one shop in Moab that Dynatrac was familiar with that might be able to machine the rotor was a place called the 4x4 Outpost.

I called the 4x4 Outpost first and was standing in their doorway thirty minutes later. Everyone had just left for lunch. Fifty minutes later, I was able to speak with someone in-person. We reviewed the problem. The first possible road block was that the 4x4 Outpost did not have a lathe that they thought was large enough to turn out the center of the rotor. Nobody in town had anything any larger. No telling what would work until we had the rotor in hand. If 4x4 Outpost could not successfully turn the rotor, then I would have to get one from Dynatrac. Dynatrac did not have any of these on the shelf (and neither did Sportsmobile). Dynatrac would have to obtain a rotor from a parts supplier near them, modify it, and ship it to the 4x4 Outpost. As it was already late on Friday... best case was that it would be Tuesday or Wednesday of the following week before I would have the correct fitting rotor in hand. Yikes.

Fearing the worse but hoping for the best... I then made a parts run to NAPA to get all of the parts I could. NAPA did not have a brake caliper and would have to get one from their supplier in Salt Lake. It could be here first thing in the morning. Just do it. I brought the new rotor back to the 4x4 Outpost to see what could be done. In an amazing stroke of luck the lathe was just large enough to do the job. Additionally, the 4x4 Outpost could work on the van first thing in the morning (Saturday).

I could finally notch down from full on panic mode and settle into something slightly less. I took my daughter to get some ice cream and then to the city park for the rest of the day. We both really needed it.


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Old 06-09-2012, 08:08 PM   #36
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May, 12 (Day 15)


Date (day): May, 12 (Day 15)
Source: Moab, UT
Destination: Moab, UT
Travel Miles: 80
Resources: Sand Flats Info; Slickrock Bike Trail Info; Moab 4x4 Outpost; Moab NAPA;

Success.

I was at NAPA in the morning shortly after they opened. NAPA successfully acquired the correct brake caliper. I then brought the van + all necessary parts to address the brake problem to the 4x4 Outpost. The 4x4 Outpost staff were finishing up work on a Jeep that was already in the shop. About an hour later, they pulled my van into one of their bays. The work was completed in a couple of hours and I had keys in hand before their lunch break. The van was back on the road and we were green lighted to continue on with our vacation.

Huge thanks to:
  • Sportsmobile
    Dynatrac
    4x4 Outpost
    Moab NAPA

Your collective efforts saved the remainder of our vacation.

*Note: So, you may have noticed that I have yet to mention why this occurred (what was the 'root cause'?). That is because nobody involved really knows. The symptom was addressed (which got us back on the road). I religiously checked all of the brakes from that minute forward and did not encounter the same issue for the duration of our trip. Nothing obvious was found to nail what really happened. While the root cause remains unknown the facts are that seven of the eight braking surfaces were fine. Do to the severity of the terrain we had been driving over the past few days I failed to notice there was a problem until the face of effected rotor was totally gone and the caliper was bouncing off of the cooling fins. Looking at the aftermath and knowing where we had recently been… I am seriously glad that nothing more catastrophic happened anywhere along our journey.






Back on VACATION!!!

To test out the new rear brakes, we headed up the Sand Flats Road (famous for a few things... like Lions Back, the Slickrock bike trail, Porcupine trail, and the Whole Enchilada). I had planned to bring my bicycle along, specifically, to ride one or more of these trails but I failed to get my bike rack properly configured before I hurridly left the driveway - so no bikes this time. Not riding this time will be a great reason to come back. Also, I would have loved to get the van on some sandstone trails - but we did not have enough detailed information about these routes to know if we would have approach/departure issues or not. We chose not to risk it.

We drove to the end of Sand Flats Road and back with no issues. Next, we packed the van and turned in for the night. We would try to skip ahead and catch the latter half of our original itinerary in the morning.












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Old 06-10-2012, 12:01 AM   #37
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May, 13 (Day 16)


Date (day): May, 13 (Day 16)
Source: Moab, UT
Destination: Newspaper Rock, Beef Basin, Gooseberry, Sweet Alice, Elk Mtn, Natural Bridges National Monument
Travel Miles: 180
Resources: MVUM Manti-La Sal National Forest Map;


Deviation from plan: The original plan had us primitive camping at Stanton Creek a couple of days ago, then primitive camping somewhere along Lake Powell, then camping at the Natural Bridges National Monument. After losing two days in Moab working on the rear brakes, we would now attempt to drive south out of Moab and join back to our original schedule somewhere around Natural Bridges. This deviation allowed us to visit Newspaper Rock (something my wife was very interested in seeing).


Moment(s): This was another day of very diverse ecology and geography. After all of the amazing places we had encountered up to this point, heading away from Moab on a flat, straight, paved 191 did not seem all of that interesting. We then took an unassuming right turn on 211 and drove out in the direction of Newspaper Rock State Park. We made a quick stop to see Newspaper Rock and then moved on as RV after RV poured into the parking lot. Continuing on out of Newspaper Rock things started to get more interesting, and a little less busy. The surrounding mesas were getting taller and taller. Not too much further down 211, we turned left onto the unpaved Beef Basin Road. The road was clay, the rock was red, and there hillsides were populated with shrubs and bushes (no trees). We explored some sort of small dwelling carved into the rock that was next to what looked like mine shaft (that had been barred up). Continuing on further yielded more and more elevation. Now we were starting to see more trees. Ultimately, we entered into Manti-La Sal National Forest. The temp was becoming significantly cooler now. We then made our way to Gooseberry, Sweet Alice, Bears Ears, and Elk Mountain. Just as fast as we came into cool snow free birch and pine forests, we were now dropping back down in elevation to a harsh shrub covered landscape. We proceeded to pass out of the Manti-La Sal National Forest boundary and not long after we intersected with paved road 275. Once on 275, it was just a short few miles drive to Natural Bridges National Monument. We checked at NBNM the Visitors Center to see if there were any campsites for the evening, and there were none. As such, we paid an entry fee and just drove the loop that winds around the property (stopping every now and again to do some site seeing). NBNM definitely looked like a great place to go on long day hikes down in the valley. As the sun was starting to get pretty low in the sky and we did not have a place to stay for the evening, we just retraced some of our steps back up Elk Mountain Road (not quite into the National Forest boundary) and found a nice spot to boondock overnight - amongst what looked to be Bristlecone Pine trees.


Takeaway(s): I really enjoyed this section of our route and would make plans to do it again on any return visit.


Sportsmobile Note(s): Having no official place to stay overnight, being out in the middle of nowhere, and with the sun only an hour away from going down behind the horizon - we still had options. One of our options was to go back up and into the Bears Ears. We did notice some acceptable boondocking locations earlier in the day if we needed a backup plan. Another option was to find a new boondocking spot somewhere along Hwy 95. Turns out that we tried this option but there was a car full of young folks sitting just off of the side of the road and something about the ‘scene’ did not look right to either of us. We drove passed them, talked about our options and then decided to turn around and head back up into the hills. By having a vehicle that was capable of going places that most full sized, fully packed, slammed, sedans could not reach… we just put a little more piece of mind between us and a potential problem. We also had the option to drive for another 45 minutes into Blanding, UT - but it would have been long dark by then. This freedom and flexibility of choice on the fly is another great Sportsmobile attribute.







Sealed up mine shaft(?) just off of the Beef Basin Road.




Shallow/small dwelling next to mine shaft.


Opening and closing gates, manually.


Near Gooseberry.












Natural Bridges National Monument.


Boondock camping just outside of Manti-La Sal National Forest on Elk Mountain Road.



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Old 06-10-2012, 01:10 AM   #38
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May, 14 (Day 17)


Date (day): May, 14 (Day 17)
Source: Elk Mountain Road/Bears Ears Pass, UT
Destination: Butler Wash, Lower Butler Wash, Comb Wash, Snow Flat, Moki Dugway, Valley of the Gods, Goosenecks State Park, Bluff, UT
Travel Miles: 150
Resources: Desert Rose Inn


Deviation from plan: I had not budgeted to stay in an Inn tonight… but my marriage was far better off because I did. In fact, the Desert Rose Inn was a nice place to call home for the night. There were even a few other fully outfitted adventurers staying overnight (Toyota FJ40, Jeep, and a few KTMs).


Moment(s): This was another totally amazing day. Overall, we did a lot of crisscrossing on the map but we did not finish the day all that far from where we started. Still it was one of our best days. We left our boondocking site in the Bears Ears early in the morning; stopped by the Natural Bridges National Monument visitor center to get cleaned up and have our breakfast in the parking lot. Next we headed east on 95 until we flipped a right on the unpaved Black Mesa Road/Butler Wash Road then to Lower Butler Wash Road. This was an easily navigable smooth clay and sand road that just meanders among the shrubs. Next (after two miles of pavement) we jumped on Comb Wash Road then to Snow Flats Road. Comb wash had a couple short sections of deep sand that were best suited for 4x4. Next was Snow Flats Road. This section was long and full of exposed rock that made travel much slower going. There were also sections of steep grade + rock that were best suited for 4x4. At the end of Snow Flats, we intersected with HWY 261 and then headed due south to the Moki Dugway. After all that we had done earlier in the morning, the Moki was just not all that special. At the bottom of the Moki Dugway, we turned off onto the Valley of the Gods. This was a nice gravel road with no challenges. Scenery was good. We looked for places to boondock and did not find any with suitable amounts of shade (it was really hot outside – at least in relation to our home in the Pacific Northwest). Next we decided to drive down to the Goosenecks State Park. We considered boondocking there. We even drove a primitive road all of the way out to the far end of the park but decided against staying there. Next, we motored on paved roads back to the town of Bluff. Here we found a place called the Desert Rose Inn that fit our current mood (A/C and shower). We stayed the night in cool comfort at the Desert Rose and then did copious amounts of laundry in the morning.


Takeaway(s): My own recommendation would be to skip Moki Dugway (unless it was already part of your trip), possibly skip Valley of the Gods, and skip Goosenecks State Park. These are icons if you really want to see them but they don’t offer near the fun and/or experience of driving off-road as some of the other places we visited.


Sportsmobile Note(s): Ever since we left Moab a couple of days ago, we had been navigating mostly dirt roads. Today especially, we encountered lots of fine silt. As many Ford E-Series Sportsmobile owners can attest to, the rear of the van is not sealed in such a way as to keep dust/silt out. Visually, it is almost as if we were driving with the back doors open. The inside of the van was covered in light brown dust – and so were we. The dust plus the heat outside (in the mid 90’s (F)), helped me make the winning decision not to boondock tonight. Getting a proper shower, changing into some dust free clothes, and sleeping in an air conditioned room was just what the doctor ordered. While there are numerous write-ups on how to improve sealing an E-Series SMB from dust this was not something I had done up to this point. Sealing the van is something that I am going to add to the MUST DO list before I tackle these types of roads again.


The engine light in the dash also came on solid again today as we were crawling at very low speeds in an outside temperature that was in the nineties. According to the Edge Evolution CTS engine computer these were the same error codes as we had seen before (on the White Rim Trail). I stopped and let the van cool down for a while and then just cleared the codes using computer one more time. No more codes occurred for the duration of the day.


Lower Butler Wash.


Lower Butler Wash, exit onto HWY 163.


Comb Wash, wildlife.


Comb Wash.


Snow Flats Road.








Valley of the Gods.




Goosenecks State Park.



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Old 06-10-2012, 07:52 AM   #39
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Re: TWOLOST: May, 2012: UT + AZ trip report (report in progr

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Old 06-11-2012, 02:33 AM   #40
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May, 15 (Day 18)


Date (day): May, 15 (Day 18)
Source: Bluff, UT
Destination: Mather Campground, South Rim Grand Canyon, AZ
Travel Miles: 230
Resources: Watchtower Info; South Rim Camping;


Deviation from plan: The only real deviation on this simple, paved, get-to-the-next-destination leg was that we had to wait 40 minutes for road construction on Hwy 64. Sitting on the road with no shade and no breeze felt like we were sitting in a crock pot near the end of a cook cycle. Fortunately, our fridge had a sufficient buffer to keep up with producing cold bottled water as fast as we were going through it.


Moment(s): We were just hustling down the super slab on our way to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon today and we did not allow enough time to do any exploring in Monument Valley. Perhaps, next time. The memorable stuff happened after we arrived at our SRGC campsite in Mather Campground. After I stoked up a fire in our fire pit, my wife brought out the hotdogs and marshmallows (purchased especially for this occasion at the SRGC store). This was to be our daughters first time trying such food items. Well, our daughter was brave enough to take a bite out of a formerly sizzling hot dog - but that experienced stopped abruptly after the first bite. Apparently, the dog was just not up to her standards. Next came the marshmallows. I forget why, but our daughter was very eager to try marshmallows (even days before). My wife helped skewer and cook a few of these little unnatural flammable synthetic wonders. Our daughter was skeptical at first (after all, more than one of them had caught fire)… but mom seemed to think that it was ok to try one. Hmmmm… the texture was definitely weird and the white, brown, and black carcass stuck to everything like glue (face, hands, fingers, pants…). Why is dad laughing? Why is dad not eating any MMs momma? Part of my responsibility as a dad means that I am responsible for all food overflows (aka, I get to eat what the others chose not to). As such, I was tasked with cooking and eating the remaining hot dogs (fortunately for me my wife did not purchase a jumbo pack). I think that there were a grand total of three marshmallows consumed that night and with a stomach full of charred dogs, I was not going to attempt to finish the remaining forty seven. I just ended up pitching the newly opened bag of marshmallows in the garbage can (which is probably the common fate of most MM’s anyway).


The story I told my daughter was that eating MMs may have seemed like a good idea but the reality was that MMs are little synthetic sponges likely originally designed to be ‘scrubbers’ that pull pollutants out of active commercial smoke stacks. Putting these little sponges over a campfire may help keep the air around the campfire a little cleaner, but eating one afterward is roughly equivalent to consuming a hydrocarbon espresso. Someday she will understand.


Takeaway(s): We only started to use the SPOT satellite messenger that we brought along on this trip about a week ago when on the White Rim Trail. We turned it on in the morning and turned it off when we went to bed. The two Energizer AA lithium batteries lasted about a week before the unit would not stay powered on any longer. I read somewhere that battery life should be 14 days if tracking is on (sending messages every 10 minutes) and only last 7 days if in 911 mode (sending messages every 5 minutes). While I can verify that we were sending messages on 10 minute intervals… we only had 7 days of usage before we needed to replace the batteries out of the bunch that I had.


Sportsmobile Note(s): Our 3CF fridge does ok in cooler climates where the temperature of the non-chilled drink items is around 65 degrees (F). For example, we can start off the day, use up all of the cold drinks that had all night to cool down in the fridge and then keep rotating in room temperature drinks to keep all three of us happily consuming cold drinks without a second thought. However, when the outside temps are in the 80s, 90s, and 100 plus, then this fridge just cant keep up with our fluid intake over the long run. To help mitigate this, we purchased a medium sized cloth cooler that when full of ice can keep drinks cold for at least one day. This backup/reserve system really helped keep us happily and frequently drinking ice cold beverages regularly - even on the hottest days.


Desert View Watchtower.






The grand marshmallow experiment.


MM first bite.


MM initial reaction.


Mather Campground (SRGC)



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