Friday, June 26, 2015 – Rest Day

We woke up sore and stiff after the previous day’s adventure.  We planned to rest and relax for the day.  We parked in the Housekeeping Camp lot, planning to make breakfast (skillet heated left-over pizza!) before showering and doing laundry.  We were super excited to find in the camp store we were able to fill our coffee cups for $1!!!  

After, lazily enjoying the shade of the pine trees near our car, we finally made the move to shower.  The shower felt amazing!  Other than river baths, we hadn’t taken a real shower since the morning we left Wisconsin.  We also were excited to find that laundry was even cheaper to do than at home… $1.25/per washer and $0.25/10mins in the drier!  

After clean-up was complete, we commenced relaxing under the pines, and soon saw Gretchen and Jax making their way to the showers.  After they showered, we all headed over to Yosemite Village for well-deserved ice creams.  We parked ourselves at table inside the building for a few hours to continue relaxing and charging our electronic devices.  

After the four of us parted ways for the evening, we stopped in the Village store for some fruit and beverages before walking along a trail back to our car.  We stopped on a bridge with great views of Yosemite Falls and the surrounding Valley to take some pictures, and enjoy our store purchases.  

Thursday, June 25, 2015 – Snake Dike

The alarm went off at 3:30AM.  We quickly cleaned up the car, and made the hour drive the Trailhead Parking Lot where we planned on meeting Gretchen and Jax.  We were planning on meeting at 5:00, but at 5:20 they still and not yet shown up and we had no cell phone service, so we started to hike and hoped we would see them later in the day.   

We continued on our way towards Half Dome via the Mist Trail as we had the previous day, and found ourselves moving at a good pace, passing many other hikers as we went.  Soon we found ourselves making our way along the climber’s trail towards the south face of Half Dome.  Around 7:40AM we stopped on a large boulder to check the location of the start of the Snake Dike, and also check to see if we had cell phone service in order to try to get in touch with Gretchen and Jax.  We were excited to see they were on their way and shouldn’t be too far behind.  They had parked in the wrong lot this morning, and after we never showed up, started to hike.  They passed the lot we were supposed to be meeting in and saw our car. 

After a few back and forth texts, they made their way to our location, and as a group we started to navigate our way through slabs (with the occasional sections of bushwacking) towards the start of the climb on the southwest face.  Unfortunately, we looked at the start of the climb, decided it wasn’t the right spot, and after unsuccessful searching, we backtracked and decided it WAS the start.  

The climb starts on the ledge with the last tree above it.

After a quick snack at the base, we geared up to begin the 8 pitches of climbing that would take us to the summit of Half Dome.  The first 2-3 pitches were the most difficult, with the later wandering far out to the right before making its way back to end above the previous belay.  Despite the climb being runout, Dave found it to be a fantastic lead.  Gretchen and Jax did an awesome job sharing leads and testing their mental fortitude.  Jax had an intense lead with a mystery non-existent bolt and planned slide down the slab.  Gretchen got angry at a run out slab that had no gear to place until she was practically at the belay… so at that point said “screw it” and went straight to the belay.  Alex and Dave did a short section of simul-climbing on the dike in order to get Dave to a set of anchors.  He called down to Alex, “can you give me another 12 feet, because if not I need to down climb…. a lot.”  She happily obliged!  All in all everyone had some adventure laced fun on the climb.

We waited on at the start of pitch 8 for Gretchen and Jax, before making our way to the endless leg burning slabs for the summit. The four of us made our way, taking many breaks as we went.  Fortunately, Dave handled this well, even though he probably could have run up it in one go.

After finally seeing the summit, at about 4:00PM, we took pictures, had a snack, and chatted with another guy who had come up the cables, before making our descent down the cables route.  By this time of the day, most people who come up the cables route hike have come and gone, so we saw very few other people.   We found the section of cables to be steeper, slicker, and more intense than we were expecting for something so commonly done by non-climbing folk.

Tired, thirsty and hungry, we made our way down the cables to the trail.  We had 9 miles of hiking before we would be back at the trailhead.  We stopped after a few miles for some water, as we had depleted our supply. Dave had given the last few ounces to young man who looked tired and thirsty just after the cables, with many miles of hiking to go.  Dave asked him when he last had water… it had been a few hours. He needed it more than we did, and we had the ability to get more water once we reached the river… he however, did not. The intense sun and wind on the climb made plenty of water a must.  We found that many hikers we passed were unprepared for the long day, with not enough to eat or drink, and struggled because of it.  We actually ran into the young man’s father and brother near the trailhead, and let them know he was on his way, but was moving slowly.  His brother grabbed some water and made his way up the trail to meet him.

We finally made it back to the car around 8:30PM, and had celebratory beverages.  Hungrily, and stumbily we made our way to Degnan’s Pizza Loft with eyes that now seemed overly sensitive to the light after the intense sun and wind of the day.  Sadly, after waiting at the counter for 10 minutes we found out that they were closed.  We were told that Curry Pizza was open for another 20 minutes, so the four of us made a mad dash, running to our cars to get some much needed food.  We enjoyed gorging on pizzas before parting way for the night.  We drove sleepily back to our camping area, glad to be laying down and sleeping… particularly after a half asleep Alex stopped complaining about the dead (they were not dead) trees in camp.

Wednesday, June 24 – Fresno

After a delicious breakfast sandwich and coffee at Cool Beans in Oakhurst, we headed off to Fresno.  The day was long, waiting around for new brakes to get put on the car, even with an appointment.  One highlight however, was finding an awesome “$0.99 Only Store.”   This store had tons of cheap groceries, many name brand and organic items, that were within a month or two of their expiration date… perfect for us!  We loaded up a cart… an it only cost $59.16!

On our way back to our previous night’s camping spot, we stopped in Oakhurst again, this time a Sugar Pine Gourmet Pizza.  We would highly recommend this place!  The food and people were awesome!  We enjoyed talking with the owner while we waited for our food to be ready.  We enjoyed a delicious wrap while we waited for our pizza.  The wrap had homemade ranch dressing on it… Alex who doesn’t even like ranch went out on a limb to try it and loved it.  We got a huge veggie pizza which would serve as dinner as well as breakfast in the morning before climbing Snake Dike.  After dinner, we sorted and prepared gear so we would be ready to go in the morning.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015 – Snake Dike Hike and Glacier Point

We headed to Curry Village to make breakfast and get some coffee before doing the approach trail to Snake Dike, in preparation for climbing it with our friends Gretchen and Jax the following day.  We figured we save ourselves some time by making sure we knew exactly where the climber’s trail breaks away from the main trail… sometimes finding these can be tricky.  We began hiking from Happy Isles, following the Mist Trail past Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls.  The trail to Vernal Falls involves a lot of up hill, with a long section of steep stone stairs.  From Vernal Falls to Nevada Falls the terrain is a less steep due to the switch backs in the trail.   After reaching Nevada Falls we stopped to eat the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches we packed. 

After Nevada Falls, the trail mellows into a gravel/sandy path as it heads towards Little Yosemite Valley.  After a few minutes of hiking, we knew we had missed the climbers trail based on the geography, so we turned around and watched more carefully for the trail.  While checking what we thought could be our trail, Alex caught a shoelace on a branch across the trail and took a fall, dragging the branch with her.  As she caught herself with her hands, she heard the familiar rattle noise coming from off the trail to her left.  “Glad I didn’t fall over there!” she thought.  Sorry mom :o)

After retreating and finding the real trail, we continued along it until we got close to the boulder/slab areas near the base of Half Dome.  Happy with finding the approach, we turned around and began our descent to The Valley, this time, partly via the John Muir Trail. This trail though longer, was less steep, but was like a slanted, pokey cobblestone road… not the most pleasant to walk on.   It did, however, provide spectacular views of the falls below.

It was Dave’s turn to be the grumbly one, feeling drained and tired of being in the sun and heat.  WE spent a great deal of time talking about icy drinks when we got back to The Valley floor.  Despite Dave’s grumbles, he encouraged others who he said looked as grumbly and disheartened as he felt.  A small boy was walking up the trail with his parents, and we overheard him say in a tired and defeated voice: “I’m done, this is good enough, I just want to turn around now.”  Dave responded with, “You don’t want to do that!  You are SOOOOO close!   You have MAYBE 20 more minutes and you will be there!  The view is awesome and there is a pool of water I bet your parents will let you cool off in!“  Dave hoped his little pep talk would help.

In usual Dave style, towards the end of the trail, where it became more “touristy” he perked up a bit and began running towards the trailhead.  When Alex met him there he bought them frozen fruit juice bars from a concession stand while Alex dumped gravel from her shoes… remembering why she usually doesn’t like to hike in shorts.  The bars were a fantastic, cold treat that helped make the walk back to where they parked in Curry Village a bit better.   In Curry Village, Dave ran into the store to buy some Gatorades while Alex saved them a table.  Dave returned shortly with 3 bottles of Gatorade… one almost empty.  Alex began drinking one, and before long all 3 disappeared.

Next, we headed to Glacier Point to see the views of The Valley from high above, before continuing out the Wawona Entrance to the park to find a place to sleep for the night.  Tomorrow, we headed to Fresno to get new brakes on the car.  Thoughts of Fresno are always a bit bitter to us.  On our first trip out West, after an epic climbing/backpacking outing with the infamous Doug, all we wanted was a big juicy cheeseburger and fries.  Fresno let us down… it seemed sketchy and we could not find anywhere open to eat but a place that proved to have nothing but chillie and cheese… chillie cheese fries, chillie cheese burgers, chillie cheese dogs,  chillie cheese french fries in a wrap.  After a few bites, none of us could stomach it… and we drove away hungry.   Needless to say, we were not looking forward to returning to Fresno.

Monday, June 22, 2015 – Cosmos – La Escuela

Monday morning, we drove to the Cathedral Picnic area to make oatmeal and hot tea for breakfast, before heading to the El Cap parking area to prepare to climb La Esquela (C1 or 5.11b), which is the first pitch of Cosmos.

Though mostly uphill, the approach was on much more pleasant terrain compared to the approach up the Zodiac Talus yesterday.  We passed the start to the Nose and paused to watch various teams of climbers on the routes above.  We arrived at what we though was Cosmos, and watched another pair of climbers began what looked to be a very fun route.  It appeared much easier, however, than the 5.11b we were looking for… because this wasn’t it!  The climb turned out to be a 10a, so we planned to come back to free climb it another day.

Continuing up the trail, passed another rattlesnake and we found our climb. La Escuela was still in the shade!!!   Dave began aiding the pitch, while Alex tried to keep an eye out for him and rattlesnakes at the same time.  About 15-20 feet and 4 pieces of gear into the climb, Dave took his first real aid fall.   Dave was giddy with excitement, while Alex was just glad the gear held and Dave was ok!

After setting the anchor and rappelling down, we retreated to the shade for a snack and water before Alex ascended and cleaned the climb.  She was glad she had regained her confidence and was less bothered by the heat today.

When Alex returned to the ground, we cleaned up gear, and retreated to the car to drop our gear and take a dip in the Merced to cool off.  We spent the remainder of the evening in Yosemite Village, making hummus, tomato, avocado, and cheese sandwiches and finding some wi-fi to update the blog and download some climbing info to our phones.

Sunday June 21, 2015 – Cosmos…. errr…. Ocean Pacific Wall

After packing up the car, we made our 30 mile commute to the parking area near the base of The Nose to eat and prepare to climb.  Our plan was to climb the first pitch of Cosmos on aid as part of our “on site” preparation to climb The Nose at the end of summer.   This would be a good climb to do this morning since according to the guidebook it had shade until around noon, and we were experiencing a heat wave… yesterday the temps were around 100F.

The shaded, pine covered trail quickly turned to a rough as we head up to the base of El Cap via the Zodiac Talus field.  In the scorching sun, with overly heavy packs, this approach was heinous.   Dave, though not happy, kept it together, while Alex was visibly unhappy as she struggled to keep from toppling over as she stepped from boulder to boulder.  The approach was taking far longer that it should have and the route was in full sun.  When we reached the base of the supposed climb, we realized why.  The climb we just walked to was NOT the climb we meant to do today, it was Pacific Ocean, the climb we planned for Monday.   Alex had been questioning Dave when they started the approach about where they were going since this did not seem to be what she remembered from the previous evening’s planning session.  Regardless, they had something to climb, just not on the day they intended.  

Once geared up, Dave began aiding the first pitch (C1 or 11C).  Climbing in Yosemite for the first time and aid climbing somewhere he NEEDED to use aid gear was a bit nerve-racking for the belayer and the initial exposure of being on El Cap for the climber.  Alex breathed a sigh of relief when she finally heard, “OFF BELAY, ALEX!”  

When Dave returned to the ground, the pair retreated to the shade of a tree for a snack, water, and to make Father’s Day phone calls.  Cell service has been patchy at best while in the park, but up on the cliffs the service seemed best.  While Alex was on the phone, she heard Dave very calmly say “Alex, there is a snake, we should move.”  Alex very quickly realized it was a rattle snake and moving was a good idea.    Alex got off the phone, telling her mom “I’ll call you right back… nothing’s wrongs…. There’s just a snake….. ummm… it’s a rattlesnake… so, yeah, it is poisonous…. Call you right back!”   The snake slithered among our gear for awhile before finally making its retreat.   


Alex called her parents back, explaining the situation, and probably giving her mom one more thing to worry about all summer.  As the talked, she heard Dave say “Uhh… Alex…”  She knew from his tone that something was wrong, but she needed to stay calm.  OH CRAP! Rattlesnake right next to the rock she was sitting on.   She quickly scurried away while trying not to startle her mom on the other end of the phone.   This snake was persistent!  He once again slithered amongst our gear near the start of the route… the route which Alex still needed to ascend and clean.  Finally, our “friend” slithered far enough away that Alex could begin ascending while Dave kept an eye on his location. 

Cleaning this route was quickly turning into a very frustrating situation for Alex.  Normally she cleans gear like a champ, but today she was having a hard time getting the aid climb weighted gear to budge.  Banging a hex on her nut tool and rubbing knuckles against granite were wearing on her in the sweltering sun.  “This sucks! This is NOT fun anymore!  I just want to be down from here!”  were running through her mind.  Dave noticed how miserable and disheartened Alex looked each time she arrived at a new piece to remove, and yelled up “You don’t have to do this… you can rap down and I can clean the last few pieces, you look miserable and there is no need to be miserable!”  Alex accepted his offer, though reluctant at first because she didn’t want to be a pansy… but knew it was silly to be this unhappy doing something that was supposed to be fun. 

Ironically, by the time Alex rappelled and Dave ascended, the sun make a quick retreat and left the wall in shade.  Dave cleaned not only their remaining pieces of gear, but also freed a blue offset nut left by a previous party.  That plus the hook he found on the ground while Alex was ascending made today a +2 day for gear!

The pair loaded there packs and started their way down the “worst approach ever with heavy packs.”  You can guess who made that quote…. Apparently it was an overall rough day!

A clean-up and reorganization of gear was followed by a dip in the chilly water of the Merced River that flowed just across the road from their car.  After a hot, sweaty, tiring day, the river was a refreshing change of pace!  A drive to Yosemite Village to fill water containers, check out the grocery store, and make dinner was on our to-do list before heading out of the park to sleep.

OOPS! We forgot the can opener at home… but we had a big screwdriver!

Saturday, June 20th

Alex woke to a colorful sunrise on the Nevada mountains outside the car windows, and roused a sleepy Dave so that we could continue on to Yosemite!  The drive today was much more pleasant with pretty views and rolly hills that made Alex squeal as Dave drove over them.

Just inside California, we had to stop at an Agricultural Inspection Station.  We weren’t really sure what to expect, and we were the only ones there.  A uniformed lady asked us if we had any produce in the car.   “Ummm… some apples.”  She asked where they were from…. “Hmmm… we bought them… in  Utah…. Or hmm..…. OH yeah! In Laramie, WY!”   Her frown when we said Utah had us both prepared to eat the three remaining apples.   It turned out they were Washington apples, so we could keep them.  The apples didn’t make it more than a few minutes down the road anyways! :o)

Around 9:30/10:00 AM we arrived at the Mobile Station, just outside of the Tioga Pass entrance to Yosemite.  We had heard of this place before, it is a gas station and so much more!   They serve legit, freshly made food on REAL plates and have nice grassy areas to enjoy outside.  Rumor is they even have live music on some evenings.  Though we were right outside the park entrance, we took the time to eat a decent meal… delicious breakfast burritos and coffee.  We had lacked quality coffee since we left Wisconsin, so this was exciting!

 We drove into the park entrance, and drove you what seemed like forever.  Though the roads were beautiful, we were full of eagerness and anticipation to see The Valley.  We have been dreaming of seeing (and climbing) those granite walls for so long.  The road began to drop in elevation.  We are getting close!   OOOH!!! There’s Half Dome!  A quick sneak peak appeared around a bend in the road.  We were giddy like children on Christmas morning.

We drove through the Valley getting quick glances of El Cap through the trees as we strained our neck to see the tops of the walls surrounding us.  Eventually we found a place to park in the busy Valley floor.  We made a stop at the Visitor Center and Wilderness Center to buy some maps.

Next on our to do list was go touch El Cap and take some pictures in the meadow below it.  We moved our car to a lot shaded by sequoias, near a trail sign that read “0.3 miles to El Cap.”  As we eagerly scurried towards the granite face, we ran into another couple head the same way and struck up conversation. 

“Are you going to El Cap?”
“Yep! You?”
“Yep!…… Are you going to touch it?”
“Uh… YES!  You??”

We made our way to the base of the wall, and touched it of course!  Then not satisfied that we had not found the base of The Nose we scampered off to find it.  After a little searching we found the spot that looked right…. And we later confirmed with our guidebook that we had the right spot.  We took some pictures before heading back to the car to find our camping area for the night.

 The start of The Nose

We knew that dispersed camping was available outside the park, but it is one of those things that is little spoken of.  The key is knowing your camping and National Forest regulations.   After over two hours of searching and driving in and out of a few park entrances we found our spot!  We relaxed for a while, looking over guidebooks and making plans on where to climb the next morning, before settling in to sleep for the night.

Thursday, June 18 – Friday, June 19, 2015

We had our morning lattes with breakfast while finishing up packing.  After saying our goodbyes to AJ and Liz, we began to continue our westward drive.  Saying goodbye is always sad… but we would be seeing them again in two months on our way back home.  Our plan was to drive to Vedauwoo, Wyoming, spend the night in the camping area, wake up, do a quick climb,  get an oil change for the car in Laramie (have to keep her running well!), then continue on towards Yosemite.

We made one extra stop along the way.  We realized we needed a new National Parks pass BEFORE we made to Yosemite, since we would need it for our camping in Vedauwoo.  We stopped at the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Visitor Center in Omaha, Nebraska, to get the pass since it was right off I-80.  We continued driving with stops for gas and food along the way, and arrived in Vedauwoo around 9:30 PM Mountain Time.  We configured the car for sleeping mode, and settled in for the night, breathing in the crisp air as we drifted off to sleep.

Friday morning, after a cleaning up the car and having a quick breakfast, we headed to the parking area in Vedauwoo from which we would make a short hike to the base of Edward’s Crack (5.7).  We have stopped in Vedauwoo on several trips West, spending several days there on Western Extravaganza 2, so it has that very familiar, old friend feeling to it.  


Despite waking up and commenting that he was noticing the elevation change (Vedauwoo sits at over 8,000 feet above sea level), Dave cruised right up the crack, smoothly jamming hand over hand, foot over foot as he went.  Alex, who woke up feeling fine, quickly hit a wall on the climb and had to slow down her climbing pace.  Maybe it was the elevation, maybe it was dehydration, maybe it was being in the car for 24+ hours, more than likely it was a combination of all of these things.   Dave usually does well going from a long drive in a car to activity quite well, whereas this feeling was not new to Alex.  Food, water, and some stretching and moving is what she needed.  

We quickly found ourselves beginning to making our way back to the ground via three short rappels.  As Alex waited for Dave to make his way to the end of the first rappel she heard his grunt of discontent.  Uh-oh… what’s wrong?  Nothing serious from the tone of his grunt, but definitely discontentment… The answer came quickly; the rope had landed right in a big puddle.   Wet ropes are NOT something climbers like to deal with.

After making our way back to the car, giddy with excitement that we were outside, moving, and climbing again, we prepared to hit the road again.  Yes, we were surrounded by lots of rocks to climb… but Yosemite was calling!

We stopped in the next town, Laramie, to pick up some food supplies and get the oil changed in the car.  By the time we hit the road again it was nearly 11:30 AM.  We continued driving with no major stops along the way… Wyoming turned in Utah… Utah turned into Nevada.   Utah gave us salt flats to be intrigued by… and then bored by.   Nevada gave us 130 miles of roads with no gas stations.  Humboldt National Forest was a beautiful area and an enjoyable drive, despite all the large furry rabbits that kept darting in front of us and night began to fall.  Finally, around 9:30 PM we pulled into a rest area outside of Warm Springs, NV, to sleep for the night.   

 No… that’s not snow… It’s salt flats!

The only real excitement of the day’s drive occurred after stopping in the first town after miles of endless, barren, deserts, with 75 mph speeds.   We drove past a sheriff on the edge of town, and Dave immediately knew he was going a wee bit too fast…. And I do mean just a few miles per hour too fast.   Lights came on and we pulled over.  The sheriff was very friendly, and chatted with us briefly before calling in to run our info.  We had a giggly moment when he asked us “Do you have any farms with you?”  We were perplexed, and he noticed.  “Do you have any FIRE-arms in the car… like guns?”  OOOH! None of those!  After verifying that we were not convicted criminals on the run, he let us go with a warning to slow down and watch out for elk. 

Monday, June 15 – Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Note: If you are not interested in sleeping platforms for cars you may want to skip ahead a bit! :o)

We spent Monday morning making plans for the sleeping/storage platform we wanted to build for the Rav4.  We wanted something that would allow us to sleep comfortably in the car, provide extra storage space, as well as be able to fold away for when we had more than just the two of us in the car.   We scoured the internet, made use of friends’ designs (thanks Moser and Janet!), and applied our own ideas.  

We assessed what we needed the design to do:
  • We knew we needed the entire platform to provide 6 feet of length so Dave could lay comfortably
  • It needed to provide access to the storage “pit” in the trunk area
  • It needed to fold into the trunk area when the rear passenger seats were needed, while still maintaining storage below.
  • It needed to be strong enough to withstand the brutal forces of a Doug.
  • When it was just the two of us it needed to easily and quickly adjust to provide ample driving room (in order to provide requirement #1 the front seats needed to slide as far front as they went).

We sketched out a basic design based on interior car dimensions, and where we felt the most supports were needed.  Based off this, we gathered supplies.

Supplies List:
1 – ¾” sheet of sanded plywood (4’ x 8’)
9 – 2 x 4’s
1 – pound box of 2-1/2” wood screws
1 – pound box of 1-5/8” wood screws
1 – 100ct box #6 pan head wood screws
3 – 4’ piano hinges
20 – 1-1/2” L-brackets
10 – 2” hinges

Tuesday and Wednesday brought the actual construction of the platform.  We paid special attention to supporting the platform well where the core of our body would lie, without permanently obstructing access to the storage areas below.  We also wanted to make sure there were not pressure points created on weaker areas of the car interior such as the “storage pit” cover. Corners of the platform would need to be angled to allow ceiling clearance when folding.

We only ran into one major problem.  After assembling the basic framework and hinging together each of the 4 pieces of plywood that formed the sleeping surface, we were befuddled as to why it did not have enough room to fold in the car.  We had carefully measured and labeled each piece of plywood to avoid this issue.  Fortunately, when AJ got home from work and took a look, he noticed what we did wrong!  We switched the order of two of the pieces… OOPS!  At least it was a fairly easy fix, only 20ish tiny screws to undo and redo.

Otherwise the process went well, though we made some revision along the way that required us to disassemble and re-assemble a few portions in order to create a sturdier final product.  Advice to those thinking of creating something like this:
  • Make a plan and think it through well.
  • Measure, measure, and measure one more time before you cut.
  • Buy more supplies than you think you will need… return the extras later.
  • Use a level… and make sure you are parked on a fairly flat surface.

We finished up this project with a trip to buy a few storage containers to stash below… remember to take measurements so you know what size bins you can accommodate.

In the end we wound up with 2 storage areas measuring 36” x 20” X 12.5” accessible from the tailgate of the car, a 4’ x 16” x 8.5” storage area accessible from either rear passenger door, as well as another 4’ x 10” x varied height (due to the area where the rear seats fold) storage area accessible from either rear passenger door.   We purchased 2 storage bins measuring 24” x 18“ x 12” for the tailgate accessible areas.   We brought along a small cooler that fits PERFECTLY in the space left by one of the storage containers. 

Aside from working on the platform, we enjoyed cooking dinners and eating them on the screened porch, after we finished our days’ activities.  On Tuesday we visited AJ at work for lunch.  AJ works for Epic, and if you’ve read previous years’ blogs you know we love the food they serve as well as exploring the awesome campus.  

Since Tuesday was Liz’s birthday, Alex made her an angel food cake, which we enjoyed with strawberries and ice cream after taking a 24 mile bike ride with AJ and Liz when they were done working for the day.

Wednesday meant it was time to start preparing to leave, and it also meant AJ and Liz needed to prepare to make a trip home to Pennsylvania for a wedding (Congrats to Chuck and Brittany!).  After finishing the platform and making a trip to the store for bins and dinner supplies we began organizing the gear and loading the car.  Dave was excited that he received some early birthday presents, two new cams from AJ and Liz… one of which was a nice big #5.  He also received two “gear burritos” from Alex.  Alex was super excited about these as she had been secretly ordering these custom sized bags from Red X Bags, an awesome local operation, run by fellow Reading Rocks climber, Patrick.   Alex knew Dave would be stoked about this gift, but was still eager to see his reaction.

Since AJ and Liz had some “chores” to accomplish Thursday afternoon before they left for PA Friday, Alex and Dave volunteered to help out so they could all play that evening.  That meant that Alex did their laundry and Dave mowed the lawn.  Dave had to mow the lawn with their non-motorized push mower, which actually turned out kinda nice to use… other than when pesky sticks got in the way.   Fortunately for Alex the only manual part about the laundry was loading, unloading, and folding.

After tasty broccoli-zucchini-alfredo pasta, we headed out for a walk around the lake house neighborhood, enjoying the lovely weather and setting sun.  We returned to their house for some ice cream before settling in to sleep for the night.

June 12 – 14, 2015 Madison, Wisconsin

Thursday, while Dave had his last day of training for the school year, Alex finished up errands and packing.  We officially hit the road at 2:30 PM, heading towards Madison, WI.  A stop to sleep for a few hours provided us with the energy to finish out the 830 mile drive to AJ and Liz’s (Alex’s brother and sister-in-law) by 7:00 AM.

We missed our annual Wisconsin stop last year, since we flew to Alaska instead of driving cross country.   We were getting to visit AJ and Liz’s new place for the first time.  They are renting an awesome house with easy lake access and along a county bike route.

After napping and running errands, we patiently waited for AJ and Liz to get home from work.  We happened to arrive in Madison at the tail end of “Bike Week.”  Madison and its surrounding suburbs are SUPER bike friendly.  We planned a short 11-mile jaunt around Lake Monona to the Bike Week Celebration that evening.  Despite AJ breaking his bike chain and needing to repair it along the way, we made it to the celebration in time to enjoy free food, free beverages from New Belgium, and free bike tune-ups (which AJ now needed!).

Saturday was originally planned to be a 60-mile day of biking to “Breakfast on the Farm” and various microbreweries around Madison.  The weather, however, altered our plans and instead we drove to Breakfast on the Farm at Kick a Boo Farms.  

After breakfast, we headed to the REI garage sale, with no intentions of looking for anything in particular.  As usually happens at these things, we walked out carrying things.  The big item today was a bigger roof box… a deal we could not pass up!  It’s only issue was it was missing one key… easy thing to fix!

The remainder of the day was spent making pizzas, playing games on the sun porch, drawing on the chalk board tables (Alex), and running (literally) to the local ice cream shop.

Sunday’s weather allowed us to get out for a 40-mile bike ride before Liz had to get back to teach a yoga class.  We made a pit stop at a Brennan’s Market where we feasted on samples of an unbelievable variety of fruits, cheeses and dips.  We left the store with some fruit to snack on immediately, plus filling AJ’s bike panniers with goodies for later.   For the remainder of our ride, two large baguettes stuck out AJ’s panniers, much to our amusement and AJ’s chagrin.  

After returning home, we all showered and feasted once again, before deciding that while Liz was at yoga we would make a 30-mile out and back trip to Capital Brewery… so much for those showers we took! 

After all that biking, homemade burgers was the perfect ending to the night!