Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The move to Colorado with camping

We have been packing non-stop for a week and today was THE day. We were going to pack up our vehicles and leave Illinois for good.

The plan for the move was a simple one:

Day 1 Drive 500 miles, camp for the night

Day 2 Drive 500 miles, arrive in Fort Collins

The reason for the camping was three fold. It was cheap, we would be close to our vehicles which contained all of our worldly possessions, and we liked to camp.

To make communication between the two vehicles easy along the 1000 miles, Mike picked up a set of two Motorola short wave radios. We had wanted to get those for a while for hiking and our dual-sport rides anyway. This way we didn’t have to use our cell phones just to say “I need to use the bathroom soon” or “I’ll need gas within the next hour”.

We were hoping to leave Chicagoland before noon, but things like packing always take longer then estimated. By 3PM we were on the road. My Acura hatchback had never had this much stuff in it. Every inch of space was being used, every crevice was utilized. I actually ran out of room and had to leave some things behind, but I was still amazed how much actually fit in this little car. Mikes 4Runner was also fully packed.

Leaving Chicagoland just before the worst of the rush hour traffic

We managed to get out of Dodge before the rush hour traffic got too congested. Mike had looked for camp sites on the internet at the half way point between Chicagoland to Fort Collins. We were going to spend the night around Lincoln, Nebraska tonight, there was a campground near the interstate.

This picture didn't really come out, the glare of the window doesn't allow you to see how packed my car really is

The small folding trailer that Mike had bought to tow his XR before we even met holds two bikes nicely

Mike couldn’t drive too fast with the trailer carrying his XR and my 954RR. I followed his truck making sure the bikes stayed put the whole way.

Heading in to the pretty sunset

Around 11PM we pulled off the interstate and went looking for the campground at the Eugene Mahoney State Park. The park was enormous. We thought that after hours we could just pick a spot at the campground and drop the money in to a self-registration box. This wasn’t the case here, the signs said that we needed to go to the visitor center/lodge which was open 24 hours and register there.

Amazing looking visitor center and lodge at the Eugene Mahoney State Park in Nebraska

The signage in the park wasn’t too clear on where this visitor center was located at and the park was huge and it was very dark. We drove in circles but finally found the visitor center, registered for a camp site, paid $20 and were on our way to locate the campground and set up the tent.

It only took a few minutes to set up camp since there was no unpacking necessary, everything was easily accessible. Since this was an electric site and it was chilly tonight, we plugged in our electric blanket. By midnight we were tucked in and waiting for the sleep fairy to sprinkle us the magic sleepy dust. I usually don’t sleep very well while camping, waking up a many times during the night. I was very amazed how well I slept tonight, I didn’t wake up at all until the alarm clock went off the next morning. The overnight temps stayed in the mid 40's.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Back home for our last week in Illinois

After driving 2,000 miles in the last 2+ days we were back home, arriving around 9PM. We were pooped.

A nasty wreck on I-80

We were so glad we were driving the other direction, the traffic was backed up for miles

Some fall colors already popping up along I-80

“Phase I” was complete. Three of the bikes made it to Fort Collins, plus all the motorcycle gear, our tools, camping equipment and lots of boxes with other stuff.

“Phase II” would take place next week. In Phase II we were going to try and move the rest of our stuff using our vehicles. Since we were still in the middle of packing, we didn’t really know what we were taking with us and how much room we would have in our vehicles.

The things we were not taking with us would go into storage in my mom’s basement until we could get it next year. The packing process was actually a bit complicated and time consuming. Go through all the stuff, throw away or give away stuff that is no longer needed. Pack the items I wanted to take with, pack the other stuff that was going in to storage. The stuff I was taking with was boxed up and left upstairs, the stuff going in to storage was left downstairs. This was I could visually see what was going and how much of it there was. Trying to predict what I would actually need in the next 9 months was the hardest part of packing.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Drive, Unload, Drive Some More

We got up with the sun and got going. We were hopping to get to the house that we were going to be renting to drop off our stuff before it got dark. We were already running behind schedule since we pulled over to sleep and because we were towing the heavy trailer and couldn’t drive very fast, we didn’t have any more time to waste today. If we continued without stopping too much, we could make it to Fort Collins before 6PM.

A new day starts at the rest stop

To make room in the truck for sleeping, we placed the top cases on the bikes

Then just a few miles past North Platte, Nebraska one of the trailer tires blew out. We pulled over on the side of the interstate and Mike started to remove the wheel with the blown tire so he could put the spare tire on. While trying to get the wheel off the trailer he realized the tire that blew out was the spare.

Apparently, who ever rented the trailer before had put the spare on the trailer but probably didn’t tell the rental place. The regular wheel which was supposed to be on the trailer, was sitting in the back of the trailer and it had a plug in it.

The spare was a bit smaller then the regular wheel, but it wasn’t something that was very noticeable. Mike had checked the tire pressure on the trailer before we left Chicagoland, he didn’t notice the tires on the trailer were different sizes. It wasn’t until he took the wheel out of the back of the trailer and placed it next to the tire that was on the trailer that you could see one tire was smaller then the other.

Mike getting all the stuff out to change the flat

We were lucky that we had of our tools with us, since we were actually moving the tool chest on this trip. The wheel with the blown tire didn’t want to come off easily. Once the nuts were loose, the shredded tread had to be untangled. It took about 45 minutes for Mike to get the wheel with the blown tire off and the good wheel mounted on to the trailer. But we couldn’t just continue to Fort Collins this way.

Blown trailer tire

We had no spare now and the tire on the trailer already had a plug in it. Before we went any further we needed to get a new spare tire. We turned around and headed back to North Platte, there was a tire place right off the interstate but unfortunately they didn’t have any tires that would fit our rim. Mike called the trailer rental company to make sure they would reimburse him for the tire he was about to purchase. They said they would. Since this place didn’t have the correct tire, they were nice enough to make some phone calls and found a tire place that had the proper tire in stock. This other place was located on the other side of town.

Waiting for the tire to be mounted

We made it over to the other tire place, then waited for the new tire to get mounted. The service was pretty fast and 45 minutes later we had a new spare tire mounted and we could hit the interstate again. Unfortunately, we lost some 3 hours and would be getting in to Fort Collins late now, maybe too late to unload the trailer. The owner of the house was expecting us there before noon and 6PM. We called the owner but no one was there. At this rate we might have to spend the night in Fort Collins and try to unload the trailer tomorrow morning.

We continued driving. The winds had picked up and the trailer was being blown around on the interstate. We were heading directly in to a big storm, there was lightening all around us. Then the rain started. There was a strong storm advisory near Cheyenne, Wyoming which slowed our progress even more.

We were going to try and stay around Fort Collins, that way we were near by and could drive to the house and unload the trailer within a 30 minute notice. As we were trying to figure out where we should spend the night, the owner of the house called us back and we were told we could still unload our trailer tonight. We arrived at the house at 9:50PM, by 11:15PM we were done unloading and we were heading back to the interstate. By 2AM we could not drive any longer and pulled over to take a nap off the interstate. We ended up sleeping in the truck again.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

A quick trip to Colorado and back

Yes, I said a “quick trip“ and I meant it. Quick as in drive a 1000 miles to Fort Collins, Colorado, unload the trailer, and turn around and drive the 1000 miles back to Illinois.

After looking around for the cheapest trailer that we could rent and transport 3 bikes with, we have found the winner. The cost was $35 per day. We really wanted to get this done in two days. Since the trailer rental was closed on Sunday, Mike picked the trailer up before the place closed on Saturday. We weren’t planning on leaving until Sunday late morning, since Saturday evening we already had plans with our friends - our going away party.

Mike loaded the three bikes in to the trailer Saturday afternoon before we the party. It took hours since pitting the third bike was a bit tricky, the trailer wasn’t actually made for 3 bikes, only 2. It had only two wheel chocks so the third bike had to be secured without a wheel chock. The trailer was big and my XT was small, after a few tries Mike got it in there behind the other two bikes.

The ST3, Tiger and XT ready to move to Colorado

Figuring the tough job was already done, getting the three bikes to fit on the trailer, we went to the party. Sunday morning we were going to fill the trailer and truck up with more stuff and head out to Colorado. We wanted to be back in Chicagoland on Tuesday before 6PM to return the trailer. The trailer rental place was not charging us for Sunday since they were closed on Sunday and we originally wanted to rent the trailer on Monday and return it on Wednesday. We were hoping to return the trailer on Tuesday afternoon and only pay to use it two days.

The going away party was a lot of fun and we got home way later then we thought we would, which means we got up way later on Sunday morning then we hoped for.

We started loading up the truck and trailer at 9AM, trying to fill the entire floor area of the trailer and the back of Mike's 4Runner. This took longer then we anticipated and we were finally done in the late afternoon. We left Chicagoland at 5PM in the middle of rush hour.

A stop for some food before jumping on the interstate, we were packing the trailer since morning and haven't stopped to eat all day

We originally thought that we could drive straight through, one of us would drive and one would sleep, but we were both tired by midnight so we decided to pull over at a rest stop, move the stuff out of the back of the truck to the front of the truck, and get some sleep.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Bye Bye Chicagoland

Mike’s boss was visiting Chicago with his girlfriend this past summer and he wanted to take Mike and I to dinner. The dinner took place on the 95th floor of the John Hancock Tower, in the Signature Room. The food was good, but the main attraction was the spectacular view of the city. We had a great table next to the window. Not only could we see Lake Michigan and Lake Shore Drive but we could also see the sun set in the distance over Chicago.

Daylight fades over Chicago

With me getting laid off from work just two weeks after this dinner took place and us departing on the 6 week motorcycle trip out West a week after that, the pictures I took at dinner ended up being forgotten until now. But since we are moving away from Chicagoland I thought these pictures would be prefect for this post.

Looking toward Wisconsin

Yes, you read that right - we are moving to Fort Collins, Colorado at the end of this month!

Our dream of living near the mountains will soon become reality. I’ve been searching for a place to rent in Fort Collins since our return from Colorado last month, but none of the places in the ads were what we were looking for.

The sun sets over the city

Then earlier this week on Craigslist I saw an ad for a house rental. The price of the rent was good, the location was great, the size of the house was good too - most importantly it had a two car garage and two full bathrooms.

The best view is from the ladies bathroom

This place was perfect. It was located on the far south side of Fort Collins, close to Loveland, which was ideal. This way I could look for employment in Fort Collins and in Loveland.

And this house was fully furnished, so we didn’t have to rent a moving truck to bring all of our belongings with us. Moving trucks are expensive and gas is expensive, also when you move all your stuff you commit yourself to the location. We were planning on living in Fort Collins for the next 9 months, the duration of this lease, and next summer when the lease is over we can move somewhere else or stay in Fort Collins for good and then move all our stuff there, once we're really sure that we're going to stay for a while.

So basically for the next 9 months we just needed our clothes, some of our stuff and our bikes. Now the most important question - how do we move 5 bikes a 1000 miles when we only have a trailer that can tow 2 bikes?

We didn’t want to spend a whole lot of money on the move so we started to shop around for the cheapest means of getting the bikes over there.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Manistee National Forest on Lake Michigan

We woke up to a beautiful clear day. After some breakfast we packed up camp, got our packs on and hiked out to the beach. There was hardly anyone here even though it was Labor Day.

Our camp site near Lake Michigan, the white bag in the tree is our garbage from last night's dinner, we hung it in the tree so the animals couln't get at it during the night

Down the dunes - up the dunes, to the beach we go

Pretty flowers growing in the sand

Hiking along the lake shore

It was getting warm already, the temp was supposed to get in to the 80’s today. We found spot on the beach and laid out our tent’s rain fly like a blanket to sit on. It was very relaxing to sit on this empty beach. Mike went for dip in the lake, and we had some lunch, then it was time to head back to the car.

Relaxing on the empty beach

Now in the middle of the day, with the sun pounding down on us, the hiking in the sand with a pack wasn’t as easy as it was yesterday. Up the dunes, down the dunes, through the forest in the sand we went. The plan was the drop off our packs at the car and then hike another trail, but by the time we got back to the parking lot we were pooped and I was getting sore all over. This was definitely a work out. We hiked 2.5 miles yesterday, and 2.5 miles today. So that's 5 miles total of hiking in sand for our very first backpacking trip, that's pretty good. Mountains here we come!

This was a great experience, great exercise and Nordhouse Dunes was a very special place. Too bad I didn’t now about it earlier.

Mike and I getting ready to hike out of the wilderness

Leaving the beach and heading in to the forest

Hiking in sand with a pack is a very good workout

Is this the world's smallest pine cone?

We hit the road by 2PM, stopped for an early dinner. Traffic was getting heavier and heavier the closer we got to the Illinois border. The last two hours of the drive was in stop and go traffic. We made it home just before 9PM.

The trail head for Nordhouse Dunes is located at the end of Nurnberg Road

Sitting in stop and go traffic on I-94 heading back home

The red square shows the location of Nordhouse Dunes

The red square is the end of Nurnberg Road, the parking lot and the trail head for Nordhouse Dunes is located here

Katadyn Hiker Pro Water Filter

I can’t even tell you how many times while on a motorcycle ride or a hike we needed drinking water and we were near a river, stream or a lake. The days of buying drinking water are officially over now that we have this Katadyn water filter. There is free water all around us, it just needs to be filtered. Not only is it cheaper to filter your drinking water but it also saves all those plastic bottles that bottled water comes in.

I’ve known that water filers existed for a while, and its something that has been on the list to get, but usually with us we get stuff when we absolutely need it. This was one of those instances.

We were backpacking in the Nordhouse Dunes, there was no drinking water available here but this was this huge lake near by. Instead of carrying enough water for the whole two days, which would have been very heavy, we decided it was time to get a water filer. Katadyn is the most popular of the brands and has very good reviews. It weighs 11oz. and comes with a carrying case, so all the components stay together. The price is $75.

Katadyn Hiker Pro Water Filtration kit

We used it today for the first time and we absolutely love it. It’s so easy. You drop one hose in the water, and you pump out clean drinking water throught the other hose. The clean water goes directly in to your water container - a bottle or in my case the Platypus. The process is quick. It was faster for the two of us to do it. Mike pumped the water and I was poured the filtered water in to our water containers. It didn’t take very long either and the water was delicious.

Our Katadyn in action at Lake Michigan