Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Bucket List - Ute Football Road Trip

Paul hates to fly.  It’s not the actual flying part that gets him; it’s the fact that you turn control of your life over to the commercial aviation system from the moment the automatic glass doors shut behind you.  They tell you what you can carry, what you can eat, what you can wear and when to take off your shoes.  We both agree that this is a small price to pay for the safety of the American skies.  Paul’s solution is – drive, don’t fly.

We’ve been tailgating at the University of Utah football games for several years, and our group goes to at least one road game a year.  Paul’s dislike of flying combined with my limited time off work had conspired in previous years to make it so we couldn’t go on the road trips.  Retired now – no more scheduling around work!  We purchased our tickets to the Arizona State game (September 22) in May.  We left for Phoenix on September 19, stayed two nights in Mesquite, Nevada and met our traveling Ute cheering section in Sedona, Arizona.  We drove into Phoenix on September 22 and arrived on campus in time for the Ute Tailgate Party.

We thought the tailgate party was great fun!  The food was good, the beer and wine were free, and the Ute marching band and cheerleaders ensured the school spirit was high.  Our more experienced friends said the tailgate parties were normally a lot more rowdy, but since this one was indoors it seemed a little more sedate to them.  An indoor tailgate party?  It was 105 degrees outside – we were grateful for the air conditioning!
Our heartfelt thanks go out to the Arizona State parking system.  We parked in the disabled lot closest to the stadium, where a golf cart was waiting to take us to the tailgate party.  After the party we hitched a ride on another cart that took us to the stadium, where we were able to catch yet another cart to take us to the nosebleed section where our seats were.  Paul was able to get in and out of the game with limited walking – yeah!  At 7:00 PM under dark skies it was still 101 degrees outside.

So we made it to the game – what happened to our football team?  It seemed like the Arizona State Sun Devils scored with every possession; the Utes couldn’t stop them.  Of course, every time ASU scored they set off fireworks.  Paul and I caught up on the fireworks displays we missed by being in the mountains on July 4.  A disappointing finish to a great road trip – but, oh, well.  There’s always next year.

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Bucket List - A Glider Flight

Well, OK, this was really on Paul’s brother Jon’s bucket list.  I had never even considered riding in an airplane without an engine, but, hey, why not?

It was a beautiful morning for the ride.  The air was cool and crisp, the sun was shining and the wind was still.  Our pilots explained that we would each ride alone, in the front of the glider, while the pilot controlled the aircraft from the rear seat.  Paul went first.  They strapped him into the cockpit and lowered the glass, then connected the tow strap from the tow plane, a single engine Piper, to the glider.  I watched as the tow plane pulled the glider into the air, then cut the line and let the glider sail.  It landed about 20 minutes later, and my exhilarated husband exited, all smiles.
Then it was my turn.  They had to add ballast to the front seat to ensure proper weight and balance, jokingly telling me that I had to sit on the “lead butt.”  It was true – they put about 40 lbs. of lead weight under the cushion of my seat.   The weights made a nice booster seat; it’s always good to be able to see over the control panel.  No more short jokes today, please.
Jon, Paul, and Pilot Tom
After attaching the five-point harness that strapped me in, my pilot, Tom, showed me all the controls and told me how they worked.  He then lowered the glass and I snapped it securely into place from the inside.  Thumbs up.   We hooked up to the tow plane and Tom announced our departure on runway 22.
The plane rose steadily to about 2000 feet above the airport before the pilot released the tow strap, and we were sailing through the air.  We soared across the mountains.  My hand was on the control stick and my feet were on the rudder pedals, so I could feel what the pilot was doing to control the aircraft.  The glider responded to Tom’s slightest touch, as the physics of flight played into his hands.  There was no wind noise.  There was no turbulence.  The peaceful floating sensation was interrupted only by Tom’s enthusiastic commentary about the flight and the area over which we flew.
All too soon it was time to land.  I was startled when Tom lifted the spoilers, which interrupt the flow of the air over the wings and help to bring it down.  Whoa – the "lead butt" landed with a slight bump - about a foot off the ground. I felt like I could reach down and touch the runway.  The glider rolled to a stop in the exact spot where I had boarded, and an exhilarated Cheri exited, all smiles.
Jon took the last ride.  Our introductory flight was a “teaser” designed to give first time “soarers” a taste of the thrill, and the peace, of gliders.  It worked.  I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Easy Being Green - Solar Power at Hoop Lake

On April 7 I posted Easy Being Green about our plans to install solar panels on the trailer.  We selected the Go Power 50 Watt Solar Power Kit, had it professionally installed, and invested in 2 six volt batteries.  Our plan was to minimize the need to run a gas generator to keep the batteries charged and power the inverter.

The number one lesson about solar panels is – they don’t work so well when the sun is not shining.  When we arrived at Hoop Lake to snow, we used a lot more generator than we would have liked.  Thankfully, there weren’t many campers to disturbed with the loud noise and noxious fumes. 
As the weather warmed up, we rarely had to run the generator – the solar panels generated enough battery power to keep us in electricity.  Our solar power ran the lights, my curling iron, and most important – the stereo system.  We were able listen to music pretty much all day.  I was nervous about using the inverter to power the laptop directly, but was successful using it to recharge the battery.

We never did get enough power in the morning to run the percolator, but we adapted and truly enjoyed our “camp coffee” cooked the old-fashioned way – on the stovetop.  The solar panels didn’t generate enough power to run the microwave or the vacuum.  I used the microwave for storage, and yes, we ran the generator once a week to vacuum.  It was a small compromise for cleanliness.

We learned that the 2 six-volt batteries didn’t work together as well as we thought they might.  We will likely invest in a single 12-volt battery for our next adventure.
Our cost for the solar panels, including installation, was just over $880.  Our company advised us that most campground hosts used five gallons of gas per week in their generators. We stayed 15 weeks at Hoop Lake.  If we assume we used two gallons per week the first two weeks and one gallon a week after that, and assume an average price of $3.50 per gallon, we saved $206.  While this means the financial payback will be achieved over four+ years, the knowledge that we did our part to keep gas fumes and noise out of our little corner of the National Forest has been, well, priceless.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Farewell to Hoop Lake

A hint of fall has been in the air for the past two weeks, and finally the true color of fall at Hoop Lake is in plain view.  We have only one color – the vivid yellow of the aspens that share our forest with the lodgepole pines. 

To every adventure there is a beginning, a middle, and an end.  Our Hoop Lake adventure ended on Labor Day.  Labor Day weekend was the busiest weekend we had all summer – with campers and with friends and family who took advantage of our final weekend to come visit us.  We welcomed our daughter Lisa and her boyfriend, Josh; longtime friends Dave and Chris; and Rob, Paul’s good friend, who was there for the third time.  Party!!!!
Our water was shut down on Labor Day, September 3 – our last day as campground hosts.  The campground will remain open for an extended season to accommodate the deer and elk hunters during September and October.  The hunters, of course, have no problem bringing their own water.  They are also happy to have bathrooms, even if they are cleaned only once a week by Forest Service personnel.

We pulled the trailer out on September 3 and brought it down the mountain.  It was somewhat a comedy of errors.  Parking the trailer the first time was challenging. The angle at which the trailer was parked required a very precise angle of the truck to get it hooked up again, which took about seven tries.  Thanks to Rob for his assistance (and his patience) in hooking up the trailer.  It was a very good thing that I was all the way across the campground cleaning out fire pits.
Our original plan was to move the trailer into another, more level site, once it was hooked up.  But after a couple of tries at backing it into the site, it was clear that our trailer was too large to fit.  Actually, Hoop Lake was built when the largest trailers built were 20 feet – nothing like the 32-foot behemoth we own.  There are only two sites in the campground that easily accommodate a trailer this large. Plan B – pull down the mountain and then spend the night at the KOA in Lyman, Wyoming.  Good plan.  We got the trailer all the way out of the campground and to the base of the lake when we realized we’d left the sewer hose hanging on the signboard.  Sigh.  Since I was wearing my hiking boots – not my running shoes – I walked up to get it.  Picture me hiking down the road with about 20 feet of sewer hose wrapped around myself like a feather boa.  Too bad nobody got a photo!

Thankfully, bringing the trailer home was uneventful. 
Our adventure at Hoop Lake has ended, but our retirement adventure is just beginning!