Summer Road Trip Part Two – Coyotes and Cacti

Just over three weeks after our departure, Casey and I are finally home in our apartment – and Petite Albert (the cat!) definitely approves.  Where the first half of our trip was marked by steep mountain roads and rocky outcroppings, our return took us along route 10 through some sandier and flatter landscapes – and also, dune sledding!  I’m proud to report that despite long nights that turned into early mornings before we laid down in our tent, we held on to our workout streak, ending the regimen only when it was time for the final leg home from Atlanta.  We weren’t perfect saints along the entire way – I certainly enjoyed some beers at the Porter Beer Bar on our last stop, for one, but I’m pleased to see that we proved, including to ourselves, that we can indeed remain dedicated to a healthy, fit lifestyle while traveling with very minimal equipment for an extended time.

Day Fifteen – Run Day, Merced:

Our final morning in Merced saw us heading out for another run around the creek path – this time I set a slower pace for us to start out, which we picked up once we felt loose.  Since we were more comfortable this time, we tacked some extra distance on the end.  I didn’t use the GPS so i can’t compare times, but we both felt like our endurance had at least marginally improved since the first run in Ocean City.  After the run it was time to pack up the car and head to San Rafael, where we had a great time spending the night with some long-time friends of Casey who showed us around the Bay.

Day Sixteen – Rest Day, California Coastline:

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Golden Gate Bridge + The Usual Climate

Another rest day; we headed out through San Francisco to begin our drive down Highway 1 for a view of the coastline.  The road was even more winding than we anticipated so it wasn’t a fast trip – but that’s good for things like Elephant-Seal watching! They’re not exactly adorable but they’re fascinating and majestic in their own way.  Their own pungent way, it turns out.  Pro-tip: stand upwind if at all possible.

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We drove all day long, finally ending our trip with a midnight entrance into Joshua Tree to camp for the night.  I wasn’t able to get the right exposure for a photo, which is a shame, because at nighttime the park was bright and beautifully eerie with huge smooth boulders and twisted, tuffeted Joshua trees – it looked like you might imagine a dark, moonlit alien planet.  Also, coyotes.  They came right up to the car and their calls echoed in the rocks all night so it sounded like they were everywhere – cool, but creepy!

Day Seventeen – Upper Body, Joshua Tree National Park, CA:

For our morning at Joshua Tree we had by far the most amazing “home gym” setup of the trip in a natural rocky alcove that was part of our campsite, including a view of a nearly perfect circular boulder on top of a “stack.”  This was a reassuring day for me on the circuit front, because I significantly increased my floor press and managed to up my weight on the overhead press for a few reps.  To recap, the workout was:

3 x 8 minute rounds, one minute continuous work per exercise, reduce weight or scale movement as necessary to continue for duration

minute 1: pushups

minute 2: “floor” (ground!) press

minute 3: double dumbbell rows

minute 4: shrugs

minute 5: dumbbell press

minute 6: tricep extension

minute 7: hammer curls

minute 8: rest

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We spent the day hiking through the park, which reminded me of a combination between the set of an old Western movie (particularly since we chose the “Lost Horse Mine” trail as our first) and Dr. Seuss, thanks to the Joshua Trees – a relative of the Yucca that I suspect also has pom-pom in its lineage.

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Day Eighteen – Lower Body, Apache Junction, AZ:

After our day in Joshua tree we headed to Arizona.  We had hoped to make it all the way to Tucson, so we could be right by the Saguaro Preserve in the morning, but we ran into complications finding a place to camp.  We stopped near Phoenix instead, and hoped that 96 degrees wouldn’t be too hard to sleep in compared to last year’s 106 at Lake Havasu.  I suppose everything is relative, but we weren’t exactly thrilled when it was time to workout in the morning and the 80s were a distant memory.  We were able to at least find a small patch of shade and it was time for the first lower body day of the trip home.  Again, to recap:

3 x 8 minute circuit, 1 minute per exercise; reduce weight or scale movement as necessary.

minute 1: plank

minute 2: goblet/dumbbell squat

minute 3: forward lunge

minute 4: rear lunge

minute 5: leg curls, alternate at :30

minute 6: calf raises

minute 7: flutter kicks

minute 8: rest

I stuck with my set of 35# dumbbells on the squat, and got a better strategy going for placing them on my shoulders comfortably, so again I called the day a win of sorts.  I wasn’t exactly crushed to let Casey use the 35#s for his lunges though, and “regress” to 25#s!

It was a short trip to the Cactus Preserve that morning, where we sampled some prickly pear candy and enjoyed a hike through a flat, sandy cactus forest and up a dried stream bed and waterfall (complete with remaining puddles of what we believed to be leeches!)  On the way back an enormous jackrabbit dashed across our path – it was easily the size of a large dog, but too fast to get a photograph.

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Day Nineteen – Run Day, Las Cruces, NM:

After Saguaro, our next planned stop was White Sands, NM.  We camped for the night in Las Cruces, and went for a fun but hilly run in the morning before driving about an hour north to the park.  It was our slowest run time yet I’m sure, due to the hills, but between that and some elevation we were both pleased with our effort.  We were even more pleased with our decision to get sleds and sled on the sand dunes, which are just as shockingly white in person as they are in pictures, instead of only walking them.  Interestingly, because the sand is gypsum and so white, it doesn’t retain heat the way beach sand does.  It was again in the 90’s and there certainly wasn’t any shade, but I could comfortably walk barefoot where at home I’d be desperate for some sandals up in the dunes during a typical summer day.

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Day Twenty – Rest, Abilene, TX:

And then, there was rain again.  We made it to Abilene that night, and although it was too dark to really take in the surroundings when we got there (technically during the next morning) we awoke to find that we were out of the desert, grass and trees were back… and so was pouring rain.

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Day Twenty-One – Upper Body, Toomsuba, MS:

Our final workout of the trip took place at the campground in Toomsuba, MS.  I’d almost forgotten what wet ground and humidity were like, and wondered why the dumbbells were slippery in my hands.  I held onto my floor press improvement, and Casey added weight in just about everything. All in all, a humid win.  It was almost a little bittersweet to pack the tent and dumbbells up for the last time.  After three weeks the apartment in Maryland was a foggy memory – but we did at least have a final fun stop ahead.

Day Twenty-Two – Rest & Recreation Time – Atlanta, GA:

The whole time I was living in Georgia Casey and I talked about making a trip to Atlanta to visit his favorite neighborhood there, Little Five Points.  Needless to say, we didn’t; it finally took a roundabout 6500 mile loop of the country to get it to finally happen.  Well worth the trip, and I’m hopeful we’ll be back, although I think you could go a lifetime without sampling every beer the Porter has to offer (or tiring of Vinegar popcorn!)

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Day Twenty-Three, Home!

And at last, it was time to put in another long day of driving, with a most excellent if tiny reward awaiting us at home:

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He says he forgives us, but only if we promise to never leave him behind for so long again!

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