The idea of this adventure began in February as a chance to spend father son time with Boy. In the past we’d gone on a few little trips to skate parks but this was an opportunity to spend significant time together. At 14 years old, 11 days can be a life time on the road.
On this adventure together, we discovered Denny’s breakfasts are best, ordered anytime of day. We ran 4×4 trails together for the first time and Boy learned how to sleep in a bouncing rig. Boy skated parks he’d only seen in videos and magazines. We swam in pools, rivers and swimming holes that seemed to be put there just for us. We woke at 5:00 am and stayed up until the wee hour of night. We met new friends, caught up with old friends and picked up a new CB handle.
Together, we crossed state lines and timezones. We laughed together watching videos and telling jokes. We took pictures of things we saw and wrote about things we did. We posted events as they unfolded and read with great anticipation the comments of others.
Boy discovered his eyes were bigger than his appetite when it came to ice cream and hot wings but that both are a good breakfast items the next morning. I discovered I could drive through the night and that Boy dreams in colors. We both agree, Day 10 was the best.
Mostly we discovered how to live together day after day on the road and just how much a like were are. I know I learned more from Boy than I expected. I hope Boy learned a thing or two from me. Years from now when this adventure is one many, I hope Boy and I can still spend time together talking man to man and father to son.
After a night at Club Killelea, which comes with a gourmet breakfast, we rolled out for our last day on the road. Those of you following will recall back on day one we were on a mission to find Boy a new deck to skate. We found it at the Department of Skateboarding (DOS). I always find it interesting how circular our lives are as we found ourselves stopping at DOS for the last skate park on this adventure.
Boy had receive a free session pass when he purchased his board and now 10 days later he is taking advantage of it skating anything in the converted warehouse that will stand still long enough for him to put his wheels on. He continues to skate with the same gusto he did day one.
And as Boy shreds the park, I write trying to catch up on over due stories. This off road adventure was the opportunity for me to spend time with Boy. We drove the open road, we wheeled some 4×4 trails, skated parks across the west and even swam in the perfect swimming whole. The thing that makes an adventure great is not planning everything so we can enjoy what comes our way as only a father and son can.
Over the last 11 days I have tried to impart some of the wisdom I’ve learned. I know he will probably make many of the same mistakes I did and have to learn his lessons the hard way. Knowing this though I understand my job is not to protect him from every little thing or to insist he never stretch himself and make a mistake. My job is to be there, support him, pick him up when he falls without saying I told you so, and to watch as he grows into the man he is going to be. He will always be my son and I will always love Boy. I can only hope that in twenty years he will take me on an off road adventure just for the opportunity to spend time with me in order to thank me for helping him find his own road through life.
We travel to Portland at least every other month to visit family and friends. The normal routine is to leave Portland, stop for dinner in Centralia. Centralia has all the usual suspects: Burger King, McDonald’s, Denny’s… this time however still in Portland and inching up I-5 in afternoon traffic, we decided to jump out of our normal routine. Hooters was just off the next exit and Boy agrees they have the best hot wings. I like Hooters for my own reasons. Remember this is my mid-life crises your reading about.
We ate and we talked man to man . We talked of shoes and ships and sealing-wax of cabbages and kings. We talked of punk bands and all things skateboarding. As Evelyne, our Hooter’s girl, came over and chatted us up, the subject turned to our rig. Turns our her boyfriend has a sun fusion yellow FJ Cruiser. From there it was an easy request for a photo opp. Evelyne even grabbed a couple of the other girls who wanted to get in the shot.
We waved good bye to the girls and hustled our way up I-5. Making good time through Centralia, Olympia and Tacoma on through Bremerton and into Poulsbo. As we pulled into the driveway, I got a smile and “Thanks Dad” as he jumped out to see his new sweatshirt that had arrived while we were gone. While it maybe sometime before he goes on another adventure with me, he did say he would like to run down to Portland next time I swing into Metal Tech so he can skate the Newburge Park. Life is all about redefining success and claiming it where you can. This adventure, a huge success.
Kelsi: Stuck a picture in the mail. Thanks for taking the time for our quick photo opp.
In collage my friend Kevin was stationed in Mountain Home, ID. When I would visit we fished a beautiful little creek in the middle of farm fields filled with hungry trout that would take a fly and fight for their lives by spinning cartwheels through the air. When I saw the sign for Bliss, ID. 20 minutes into our drive, I thought I would show Boy one of the places I fished in my youth.
The great thing about getting older is you can hide your own Easter eggs and for the life of me I could not find the one little turn out in the road Kevin had shown me some 20 years ago. What we found instead; the University of Idaho’s research trout hatchery along with a swimming hole that only Mark Twain himself could have dreamed up.
The swimming hole was just the right size to not be called a pond or lake but a real life swimming hole. The water was gin clear and mountain stream cold. There were little water falls around the edge, trout darting around after brilliant blue damsel flies and an old hemp rope tied to a tree stretching out over the water. I think it is the rope swing that makes this an official swimming hole.
I don’t know whether Boy or I was more excited when we rounded the corner and gazed at our reflections in the water but we both knew for the next few hours this would be our own little oasis in the desert. The pictures give only a glimpse into the fun we had. Although I took the Boy’s rope swing dare I opted out of the roll in the mud portion of day’s festivities.
Sure we spent too long at the swimming hole but we could make it up… at least that is what I told the cow before we pulled into Boise and Boy saw the skate park. This is the park that Tony Hawk and a few others had used to film one of their videos. The rig’s wheels barely slowed down and Boy was out the door thrashing around another park.
Ok, it was now 6:00 p.m. and we had put a whopping 50 miles under us. Sure we’d had the time of our lives but we have to put some miles down. What gets worse gas mileage than a brick in a wind tunnel? How about our Toyota FJ Cruiser driving 75 mph, against the wind, up hill wearing big heavy tires. At this rate we made good time but paid a huge price at the gas pump.
The country stretching out in front of us was unbelievably beautiful and at sunset the hills glowed pink and orange with hints of yellow and brown. As the sunset rolled into darkness, we continued to drive through Baker, Pendelton, The Dalles and into Portland Oregon down to Wilsonville. My sister said she would be up late and just give her a call when we arrived. Standing out side at 2:30 a.m. with our stuff calling Club Killelea’s for the fifth time we started to wonder if the vacancy sign had been pulled in. Just as we were about to start waking the neighborhood, the door swung open and we ran inside before she changed her mind. Service with a smile. Even at this late hour, we were still welcome and found the guest beds turned down and pillows fluffed.
Girl, your daughter: You can edit the next adventure you and I go on… And a road trip to Nordstrom does not count.
Mark: Thanks for the great comment. We look forward to running another trail with you soon so you can show us how you tackle the really gnarly stuff.
Ripsnort: This trip has been a great time with my son. I find that duct tape helps keep us close. He can’t run away if you tape the feet together.
I don’t know whether it was the heat, the excitement of the past week or the hot wings at Hooters the night before but today we had trouble getting started and didn’t roll out of the hotel until the sun was high in the sky. This meant Boy’s morning skate session was going to be more of a noon session in the heat of the Denver day. Turns out everyone else in Denver slept in and the park in Aurora was empty when we showed up. Boy shredded the bowls, slid the rails and had fun goofing on the death box. I sat there taking in the vitamin D and watching Boy defy gravity.
As the sun burned hotter the park filled with skaters and BMXers. It is amazing how a good tattoo immediately gives you street cred. Hanging out on the side, it wasn’t long before a large crew of 2o something bikers came over to ask about the ink. They were on their own small road trip, hitting all the BMX / Skate parks around Denver and this was their third today. These guys made it look easy and were getting big air in the bowls. Leaving the BMX guys all waved us out and said what a cool rig we had.
The rest of the day; drive. Drive like you mean it. Drive like your life depends on it. We drove, stopped for gas and than drove some more. Boy decided the only place we should stop to eat was Denny’s. There are NO DENNY’S along I-80 in Wyoming. Our first meal since the leftover buffalo wings and cold pizza we pulled out of the frig for breakfast, 9:40 pm Denny’s somewhere in Utah. I have been training and building up reserves for just such an occasion. My wife would call it fat, I prefer reserve stores. Boy’s stomach on the other hand was growling loud enough to wake the dead and he broke down grabbing a couple of ice cream sandwiches (sandwich, that’s a good food group) when we gassed up. Some how he says that didn’t count and we still needed to wait for Denny’s to eat.
After stopping somewhere in Utah for a late night supper, Boy crashed hard and I was on my own to enjoy the silent night and the last 200 miles. Braking the still of the night ride was the occasional dream where I would hear Boy mutter something like “board slide” and than his feet would convulse and contort into a skateboard move. This kid really does eat, breath and sleep skateboarding.
Rolling into Twin Falls, we grabbed a room at the same place we stayed going out. They have 24 hour pool. Before nodding off Boy had made me promise to wake him so he could go for a midnight swim. I did my part… But he looked at me with his one good eye he had half open and said he’d swim tomorrow. Because tomorrow, is another day.
All good things must come to an end and today the was the conclusion of the 2008 FJ Summit. After a late night with the guys (see FJ Summit Day 7) we slept the morning away. This was the first organized event we have attended and it is significantly different than going out on an off-road adventure on our own. We met a number of great folks and made a few friends we hope to wheel with down the road. I also discovered that wheelers come in all sorts of sizes and shapes showing once again it is easy to celebrate diversity when you find a common ground. Here the common ground was our Toyota FJ Cruisers.
As we left the little town of Ouray , CO. we said good by to our new friends and wished them a safe journey home. We had wanted to introduce Boy to his uncle Benny but Steamboat is the opposite direction, he does not really have an address and our time was running short. Sorry Benny!
The road to Denver CO. is 333 miles long and winds over the mountains and high desert which looks like Idaho, Utah, and Eastern Oregon, lots of cattle ranches and well baked road kill. To pass the time Boy and I continued our discussion about all things punk. We debated the quality of Bremerton bands verses Seattle bands and the venues they play. This of course was in between his reading sessions (that was for his mom’s sake).
Rolling into Denver was a bit anticlimactic. We did not even know we had arrived until the GPS announce we were there. Turns out the skate park was only a few miles from where we landed and Boy grabbed his board and was wheels down before we parked. This is a big skate park with a truck load of kids shredding the concrete. Even in the crowd, Boy was easy to spot, he was the kid with the amazing moves and a helmet. I still don’t know how anyone can let their kid skate without a helmet. I get 16 year kids who blow off what there parents say but there were dozens of pre-teens out there.
Even though it was still 93 degrees boy skated for a couple of hours before calling it quits and asking about diner. Specifically he said, “I want buffalo wings”. This started this morning at Denny’s. We rolled in and the line was out the door but Boy loves his Denny’s. We walk past the crowd to sign in and got a number of mean looks when the hostess said we could have a table immediately. As we sat down and looked and menu Boy announced he would have is usual chicken fried steak hash browns, eggs over easy and pancakes with chocolate sauce now and the wings would have to wait until dinner time.
After more skating, a lot more, it was time to for diner. Like any good dad I wanted to fulfill his chicken wing wish so I punched in “Hooters” on the GPS and in no time we were sitting at the bar looking at the … menu. Turns out he had to think about what he wanted but settled on the wings… It was too easy so I’m not going with the obvious breast joke. We dug into the plate of 50 buffalo wings. Boy smiled and said “these are really good even better than Apple Bees. Its a guy thing. Like the blue bunny ice cream turns out his eyes were bigger than his stomach and the wings kick his ass, but we know what is for breakfast.
As my wife will tell you I have good parking Karma. Boy says I can add hotel room Karma to that list. I guess all that clean living and love for the road ensures I can get a room and the first hotel we see. That good Karma translated into a room with a all the things Boy wants, Internet, a pool and a bed with four pillows. As I finish this post Boy is settling into bed after brushing his teeth (that was for his mother) and trying to decide which skate park we will hit in the morning before we roll for Twin Fall, ID.
Another early run schedule for 6:30 am turned into a completely different run at 7:00 am. You ranchers in the crowd will appreciate that herds need to be moved from one pasture to another. Well, today from dawn (5:00 am) until noon the local rancher was going to be moving his sheep herds on the Ophir Pass. Sheep have priority over FJ Curisers when it comes to forest service land so we needed a new run. Luckily we slid into the Imogene Pass run.
Boy liked this off-road adventure, there were a number of water crossings and big splashes. The trail also had some interesting obstacles. Being in the back we were able to see others try the obstacle and see what worked and what did not. One obstacle was particularly challenging with even a few rigs backing down and taking the bypass. With the benefit of watching others we were able to walk up and over with ease. Yeah the testosterone level went up a little after that.
Starting early means the trail is pretty empty. Cresting a pass at 10:00 am means going down when everyone else is coming up. Just over the top on the Telluride side of the mountain we found rigs, motor cycles, hikers, snow boarders and a number of tour operators. Weaving in and out of the mess took about an hour to go 5 blocks. You really see people’s true colors when everyone is in a hurry and no one is going anywhere in a hurry and unfortunately some of those colors do not understand that everyone is allowed on public land and their particular usage of the land is not the most important one to everyone else. Tolerance of others extends to even heavily congested mountain trails.
After weaving through the maze we descended into Telluride for lunch. Boy picked out a pizza, taco, bagel, sandwich shop. We rolled with a pepperoni pie. We also hooked up with Bernd and his family as well as Vince and is father. After a little window gawking (notice not buying), Bernd’s, Vincent’s and our rig headed back to Ouray over Ophir Pass. Those of you paying attention will notice that is the trail we were bumped off of earlier.
We notice something was wrong after about 40 minutes. We had missed the turn off. 80 miles later we were on the trail and we were going to make up time. We boogied on this trail like it was the Baja 1000 race. Unlike the Baja, this was on the side of a mountain with edges and hair pin turns. Easy at 5 -10 mph. Not so much at 30 but we were still riding the testosterone buzz of the day. In the end this 80 mile detour earn Vince and Bernd a bunch of Last Great Road Trip tees.
Back at the hotel a quick shower and we were ready to roll again in time for dinner than back to the room and Boy crashed. I moseyed to a little whole in the wall bar with some new friends. It is always fun to hang out with the vendors when they are away from the event. You get the skinny on what is what. But since Boy was alone and child services could have seen, I headed back around midnight… If only I had my room card key.
Do you know how pissed a hotel manager can look when you wake them up to get a new room key. This was after banging on the door and window trying wake Boy. No one was waking him out of his sugar coma. After getting a new key I had to call it… knowing we could sleep in since there was not a run on Sunday… and we did not need a picture of our rig in the group photo. Not at 6:30 am.
Barbie: You can edit anything of mine you want… I usually finish it around 2:00 am and it is all I can do to see the key board. But from now on, I’ll email it to you, give you a call and let you press the publish button… you can have that done before morning right?
Joyce: The kids get their coloring from me… their good looks, brains and everything else came from their mom… And at least I hope their coloring came from me… If I remember the mailman was Hispanic too.
This was a long day on the trail with our off-road adventure exploring Alpine Loop. We started at 6:30 am and ended at 4:45 pm. We saw blue sky, rain, hail and snow… Had the time of our lives.
Those of you who have met Mark and LT from Metal Tech understand that they know cruisers and wheeling… But did you know what great guys they are? Our run today was lead by Tom who has spent years in these hills. Mark and LT were the tail gunners. The trails took us through unbelievable scenery and we drove up into the nose bleed seats on engineer pass and cinnamon around 13,000 feet above sea level. We were in the middle of no where when we found the ultimate mountain retreat. This was a 3 hour drive on rough trail… but I’m pretty sure I saw a helicopter pad next to the solar panels.
But what made the day great was seeing Boy crack up at the stories Mark told around the lunch table. Mark definitely has a way of putting people at ease and making them feel like an old friend no matter their age. What Boy is most proud of is the ribbing he took for his lunch; a quart of Blue Bunny ice cream and a Mountain Dew… hey before you start, get off my back its a road trip, he’s allowed. He started off strong enough, digging into the ice cream with the wild abandon only a teenager could have, but as the sugar buzz kicked in and fizz of the Mountain Dew settled, that quart of ice cream got the better of Boy and he had to call it quits before reaching the bottom.
It was at that point, Mark looked at me, looked at Boy, looked at my voodoo rig and looked back at me, then announced: “Everybody, Paul’s new CB handle is Blue Bunny”. Boy earned my rig a name and he was pretty proud of himself for that. Every time someone called out for Blue Bunny over the CB, Boy cracked a smile. There was a little chatter of adding a blue Nestle Quick bunny to my tattoo but I told everyone the Boy would be getting that one someday and telling the story of running the FJ Summit with his dad.
But Karma has her way and when Mark climbed up a little snow field to make a snow angle, the look on his face was priceless when he came sliding down 20 feet into the road. To show there were no hard feelings… Boy and I ran up the snow field and slide down, grinding snow and ice into place snow and ice was never meant to be, and laughing all the way.
My wife has been telling me to get rid of the box of tee shirts in our closet for 9 months now… Not that the rig was that dirty, but we could not pass up the chance to support a good cause. The Ouray High School Girls Volley Ball team came over to the FJ Summit to raise money with a truck wash. A quick chat with their coach and before you know it there were several team members in Last Great Road Trip tees washing our rig. When the All Pro rep, who sponsored and arranged for the truck wash, saw all the activity, he followed up by giving the girls All Pro shirt and had his own photo opp. The girls walked away with funds for their team and some nice vendor swag. They loved it. Boy did not mind it either.
The weather finally came around for Boy and we raced to the skate park. He still has not acclimated to the heat and altitude so there were a lot of breaks while he tried to catch his breath and hydrate. Despite the shortness of breath he had a great skate session and performed some amazing feats on a little piece of wood with wheels in a 10 foot deep bowl.
I don’t actually think the laws of gravity apply to Boy.
After Boy’s lunch of Blue Bunny, I thought we needed a nutritional dinner ( parenting in action) so we stopped at the mini-mart, grabbed a couple of polish dogs, chips and yes… ice cream (I didn’t say it was good parenting) before heading back to the room.
I don’t know if it was the double sugar buzz, staying up late and getting up early for the last five days, the great skate sessions or the altitude, but Boy is out like a rock. I swear when I look over at him asleep he is still smiling and mumbling blue bunny.
I’m facing down 1:30 a.m. still trying to post up today’s story and pictures. The TV blaring in the background and Boy snoring creates a level of white noise that allows me to consider the day’s events and I realize as long as fathers and sons can have off road adventures together, there will always be another Last Great Road Trip.
The off-road adventure started out at 5:30 a.m. getting ready to run California Gulch and Corkscrew Gulch lead by Chris Nelson of Dirt Toy School. Chris was a great trail leader with years of experience on trails. He made everyone feel comfortable with their skill level and pointed out a few of the sites along the way. All the rigs on this run were black or voodoo blue with a great bunch of drivers and passengers. This is the first time we’ve participated in anything this organized and well run, so it took a few moments to settle in and enjoy the fact that someone else did all the hard work for us. This is something I can get used too.
Boy hated it for the first hour… mostly because he was going on 3 hours of sleep and the rig was tossing him around as he tried to sleep as well as having the cliff edges on his side. Once his blood started flowing and we got above tree line, he cracked a smile and started saying things like “that is cool” and “I really like the bumps”. Everyone knows I have fun on these trips. I enjoy seeing the country side, meeting new folks, hearing other people’s stories, and getting out in the middle of no where.
While I enjoy the off-road adventures, what I really love is that Boy came with me. He is 14, he enjoys skating, going to punk shows (we’re hoping that’s a phase), hanging out with his friends, and being 14 on summer break. He gave it all up to to drive 5,000 miles, run off-road trails at the FJ Summit and hang out with me, his dad. He continues to tell me he is having fun and it sound believable. He is the best boy I have (only boy I have) and I love him for this (of course I’d love him no matter what but this helps). And, after investing 14 years of work into him it is a little late to start over.
The rain broke as we finished our trail run around noon so we made a bee line to the hotel where boy grabbed his board and helmet than off to the skate park. For 20 minutes Boy was in the zone. The little town of Ridgway’s skate park has the stuff he likes, bowls and abstract street (like I know what that is).
The rain came back and ended the skate session for the day but the clouds cleared up allowing for more swimming in the pool back at the hotel. Boy and I had the pool to ourselves while most of the other guest were out on the later runs. Yes I got wet. Since we were alone no one went into hysterical blindness when I pealed off my shirt. I swam in my fur coat so you wont be seeing any pictures… I’m sure everyone is thankful for that and we don’t want PETA to boycott the website.
Turns out Ouray has a great burger joint. Although the FJ Summit event puts on a dinner spread we decided to spend a little father son time over burgers and ice cream. Walking around town gave Boy the opportunity to repeat over and over and over his favorite quotes from the movie Dumb and Dumber. Now that is a treat you just can’t experience at home.
As we made the late night rounds through the vendor tables I stop at the ALL PRO table. As we chatted I looked down and saw John had a stack of posters that were the 4WD Toyota Owner magazine cover with his rock crawling rig and a picture of us from our Arctic Circle adventure. They let us have a bunch so I’m thinking of wall papering the office with them. I’m sure my wife, Boy’s mom, will know what color goes best with magazine cover glossy.
Joyce: Off-line others tell me that your comments make the stories. If only you could put together a guest writer piece for the website… Oooh that’s right!
Sorry to disappoint everyone looking for today’s post… Way to much fun into the late night… Boy really knows how to party. Look for the tales and picture later… really. Now here is more where there was less before.
Here is a little something something to hold you over.
Teenage boys can live on soda, candy and ice cream. Old men not so much. So imagine how excited Boy was when we walked through town and found a entire delivery truck soda just waiting for him.
My wife and daughter and Boy think I’ve gone a bit nuts with the off road adventures, truck mods, stickers, sponsors, website… you get the idea. Well I found a land where I’m not a standout. At the FJ Summit I have seen every FJ Cruiser mod every done here. Metal Tech 4×4 showed up and debuted their new tube doors. A number of rigs are sporting snorkels, there’s a super charger here, a rear facing back seat and just about any lift you’re thinking about. Just check out the stickers if you want to know the rig’s mod list. I’m thinking we might need those tube doors for the Baja. The stock FJs are hear too and Boy decided the sand storm (tan) is his favorite. He likes the the stock look and feel.
Ouray, Colorado is known for its mineral springs. Boy kept moving between the mineral springs hot tube and the plain old chlorinated pool. BTW: a little consumer alert. Back in January when we made the reservations, we were quoted $118 a night… Their charging us $145 a night. We are stuck since with close to 300 rigs here and the normal summer tourist, their is not a rooms to be had. But that is just a little bump in the road and Boy is having fun in the pool.
Did I mention that they have a skate park just outside Ouray. It is not much but Boy can skate. The little town 10 miles away, Ridgway has a great skate park although a mid-day summer down pour prevented him for skating it much today… We’ll give it another try tomorrow.
Boy and I both agree Denny’s rocks. Boy, because he has discovered the fat dripping, artery choking, do these pants make my hips look big breakfast special known as gravy covered chicken fried stake, eggs over-easy, hash browns hot cakes with syrup and chocolate sauce as well as a vanilla milk shake. Yeah he’s a growing boy.
I like Denny’s for the people. Seems like whatever Denny’s we stop at… and Boy wants to stop at them all… people want to chat, hear about our adventure and tell us their tales. I wont lie, I’m a sucker for their biscuits and gravy with hash browns. I’m just growing. That makes 64 miles on the treadmill when I get back.
Between Denny’s we drove, we hydrated and we drove some more. Apparently it is orange barrel season and we found all the places the orange barrels were gathering for the rut. We also pickup enough bugs on the windshield that their weight was causing us to get even worse gas mileage.
After spending all day in the rig we came to the Green River in Utah. This land mark capped off a debate Boy and I had for the better part of a hundred miles; Examine and explain the merits of swimming in, the Ocean, a lake, a river or a pool. Boy was all over the lake. My vote was for the hot tube, so when we pulled up to the the boat ramp, I let Boy know he was on his own. It was 6:30 p.m. and the thermometer read 94 degrees.
By the time we got back on the road, now 7:45 p.m. we were still 198 miles from our destination. To pass the time Boy played solitaire announcing at each new game “this is the one I’m going to win” along with a card by card play description. He played for hours. He won once. We also put Boys Mac to use. Boy convinced me to buy the movie Wild Hogs the other day so we put it into the laptop and watch four other guys’ mid-life crisis. Mine is going so much better.
But we made it to Ouray, sometime after 1:30 a.m. but we made it. The next several days will be filled with trail runs where the pace is easy and the scenery magnificent. But for now it is time to call it a morning, three in the morning to be exact. What I wont endure to get these stories out.
Joyce: There were plenty of other crazy spinster aunts to choose from… it was your patients, understanding and tolerance of others, we want you to pass on.
Barbie: There is a lot of country to love. Hot as hell, dry as a bone, flat and filled with sage brush. What is not to love.
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