A Year on the Road: By the Numbers

Lake at Oak Mountain State Park

Lake near our campsite at Oak Mountain State Park in Birmingham Alabama

Hours volunteered: 550 hours, an average of 10 hours per week

Shoes covered in Black Prairie Soil

Jay’s Shoes Covered in Black Prairie Soil at Community Garden

Organizations We Volunteered for: 

  1. Byrd Elementary School, Richmond, VA
  2. Plano Community Garden, Plano, TX
  3. Garden of Tomorrow, Phoenix, AZ
  4. The Wellness Community, Phoenix, AZ
  5. Flagstaff Cultural Partners, Flagstaff, AZ
  6. Grapevine Mesa Joshua Tree National Natural Landmark, Meadview, AZ
  7. National Association of Volunteer Programs in Local Government
  8. Sparked.com
  9. Scottsdale League for the Arts, Scottsdale, AZ
  10. Vilonia Fire Department, Vilonia, AR
  11. Disaster Response, Phil Campbell, AL
  12. Salvation Army, Guntersville, AL
  13. North Country Trails Association, Allegheny National Forest Chapter, PA
  14. Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation, Hungry Horse, MT
  15. Muskoka Foundation and Napi Friendship Association, Pincher Creek, AB
  16. Banff National Park, Banff, AB
  17. Materials for the Arts, Astoria, NY
  18. Meadowood Recreation Area, BLM, Fairfax, VA
  19. Ronald McDonald House, Falls Church, VA
  20. Prescott Mountain Bike Alliance, Prescott, AZ
  21. Grand Canyon National Park, employee bike sharing project, AZ
  22. Capitol Reef National Park, UT
  23. Grand Canyon Trust, Kane Ranch and Utah
  24. Muskoka Foundation & Chinle Junior High School, Chinle, AZ
  25. Wabi Sabi Thrift Store, Moab, UT
  26. SAME Cafe, Denver, CO
  27. Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs, CO
  28. COPMOBA – Fruita and Montrose, CO
  29. Grand Canyon National Park Vegetation Program, AZ
  30. Volunteers for Outdoor Arizona, Phoenix, AZ
  31. Phoenix Mountain Preserve, Phoenix, AZ
  32. Fresh Start Foundation, Phoenix, AZ
  33. Arizona Trail Association, Patagonia, AZ
  34. Trips for Kids, Tucson, AZ
  35. United Way, Valley of the Sun – Project Connect, Phoenix, AZ
  36. StartingBloc, Los Angeles, CA
sharon and jay at the red balloon picnic

Jay and Sharon at the Red Balloon Picnic volunteer project with Phoenix Philanthropists

States & Provinces: 3 Provinces and 32 States, and the District of Columbus (note, we traveled through New Jersey and Delaware, but didn’t stop.  Every other state we actually stayed in for at least one night).

administration building, Banff National Park

Administration building at Banff National Park where the event was held

In the order in which “they appeared”.

  1. Virginia
  2. North Carolina
  3. South Carolina
  4. Georgia
  5. Alabama
  6. Mississippi
  7. Louisiana
  8. Texas
  9. New Mexico
  10. Arizona
  11. California
  12. Nevada
  13. Oklahoma
  14. Arkansas
  15. Tennessee
  16. Maryland
  17. West Virginia
  18. Pennsylvania
  19. New York
  20. Ontario
  21. Michigan
  22. Wisconsin
  23. Minnesota
  24. North Dakota
  25. Montana
  26. British Columbia
  27. Alberta
  28. Washington
  29. Delaware
  30. New Jersey
  31. Washington, DC
  32. Washington
  33. Oregon
  34. Idaho
  35. Utah
  36. Colorado
view of Coke Ovens colorado national monument

view of Coke Ovens, Colorado National Monument

Miles on the car: approximately 20,000

flooded road in Arkansas

the view out the windshield of the flooded road we drove through

Top Posts (most views):

  1. The Accident: Service Driven is on Hold
  2. We are Alabama: Tornado Relief and Recovery
  3. Photo Review: Overland Expo 2011
  4. Photo Review: Dismals Canyon National Natural Landmark
  5. At Your Request: Our Engagement Story
  6. Photo Review: Wedding #1
  7. 25 Years of Life Saved – Celebrating My Sister’s Survival
  8. 18th Week in Review: The Big Announcement
  9. Wolverine Clarification
  10. 6 Questions That Can Make a Stranger Your New BFF
dismals canyon

Dismals Canyon, a National Natural Landmark near Phil Campbell

Top Posts (most comments):

Jay and I at his brother’s wedding last year

Budget: Well, this one is hard to figure.  We have money left in the account that we had set aside for this trip, but we also spent more than we expected to spend due to Jay’s accident (which came to about $6,000) and our car repairs ($2,000).  In the end we were able to make a little money along the road and were given gift cards which helped offset our costs.
crab cakes and bacon breakfast

crab cakes and bacon breakfast

We tried to track our spending along the way, but we weren’t consistent.  We generally stayed pretty close to our goal of spending less than $2,000 a month.
Of what we recorded, mostly things with receipts, it broke down to:
  • Food: 37%   –  >$6,500
  • Automotive (mostly gas and parts): 29%   –  >$5,200
  • Health care: 14%   –  > $2,500 (this is regular medical, doesn’t include all of Jay’s emergency expenses)
  • Household (mostly consumables): 7%    –  >$1,300
  • Personal (clothing, bike parts, etc): 6%   –  > $1,100
  • Entertainment (fees to parks and museums): 3%   –  > $600
  • Other: 4%   – > $700

We toasted this new milestone with tequila shots as the sun set

Nights under the stars: 113, most of those nights were spent in our 3 person Marmot Aeros tent in free campsites on federal land

Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area, Idaho

Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area, Idaho

National Parks & Monuments Visited: 

We also visited a lot of state, city, and regional parks and camped on Forest Service and BLM lands.

  1. Congaree National Park, Hopkins, SC
  2. White Sands National Monument, Alamogordo, NM
  3. Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument, Gran Quivira, NM
  4. Hot Springs National Park, Hot Springs, AR
  5. Theodore Roosevelt National Park, ND
  6. Bryce Canyon National Park, UT
  7. Natural Bridges National Monument, UT
  8. Arches National Park, UT
  9. Canyonlands National Park, UT
  10. Zion National Park, UT
  11. Capitol Reef National Park, UT
  12. Lake Mead National Recreation Area, AZ & NV
  13. Death Valley National Park, NV
  14. Great Basin National Park, NV
  15. Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, AZ
  16. Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, AZ
  17. Canyon De Chelly National Monument, AZ
  18. Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
  19. Juan Baptista de Anza National Historic Trail, AZ
  20. Saguaro National Park, AZ
  21. Joshua Tree National Park, CA
  22. Tumacacori National Historic Park, AZ
  23. Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument, ID
  24. Oregon National Historic Trail, OR & ID
  25. Colorado National Monument, CO
  26. Banff National Park, AB
  27. Jasper National Park, AB
  28. Waterton Lakes National Park, AB
  29. Yoho National Park, BC
  30. Glacier National Park, BC
  31. Mount Revelstoke National Park, BC
Jay looking at Island in the Sky, Canyonlands

Jay looking out on the Island in the Sky area of Canyonlands 

Breweries Visited: 60 different breweries in Alberta, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Michigan, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Ontario, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Washington

Jay at Brewery in Atlanta

Jay at Brewery in Atlanta, GA

A Challenge Completed

If you are on a reasonably fast connection change the youtube settings to 720 HD and full screen for best viewing.

A little while back I discovered that a hillside near our house has several challenging trails on it. I have been trying to clean this section for a while. By clean, I mean ride it all the way through without putting a foot down. A few days back, after I first managed to clean it, I decided it’s time to break out the go pro again.

This next clip is me trying to take the even more challenging high line up and around the boulder in the middle rather than around the bottom of it. I still have not quite managed to get it. With a little persistence I hope to get this tough new line.

Photography: Pattern

patterns web


In the last post I featured a photo that caught my eye based on the texture of the plant.  This plant was right next to it, also in a concrete wash next to Jay’s parents house, but in this case I was struck by the interesting pattern of the leaves and their shadows.

Photography: Texture

fuzzy plant close up web


My style of photography is one in which I focus on the basics of texture, color, contrast, and patterns in nature.  Rather than capturing a scene, I usually prefer to compose a close up image that highlights one of these characteristics, sometimes obscuring the actual subject.  In particular, I like to draw attention to something beautiful or unique in the day to day landscape.  For example, the plant pictured above is probably just a weed, which was growing out of the concrete wash next to Jay’s parents house.  The plant drew my attention with the great contrasting textures of the thin stiff green stems and the fluffy soft exploding seed pods.

The Attention Getting Hummingbird

hummingbird close up web

The exact opposite of the quail, the hummingbird is surprisingly easy to photograph.  Their high pitched call is very attention getting, and as soon as you learn it you will be able to spot hummingbirds darting around the desert.  Although most people think about hummingbirds as quick creatures in constant motion, they actually spend a lot of time just sitting on Ocotillo or Palo Verde, practically posing.  I wonder if the quail and the hummingbirds have worked out a deal, because it seems like when I am stalking quail for a picture, I get dive bombed by hummingbirds diverting my attention.  A high pitched squeal, a bright flash of color, and a small bird whizzing by your head is very successful at distracting you from the bumbling bird hiding in the bushes.  I wonder what the quail offers the hummingbird in return?

The Elusive Quail



As long time readers know, I enjoy bird watching and have spent much of the last year and a half learning how to photograph birds.  Throughout that time I have never been able to get a clear decent picture of a quail.  This photo from the Phoenix Mountain Preserve is the closest I have gotten.  Quail look goofy and walk around on the ground in a way that suggests that they would be easy to catch.  Not so.  For how unsophisticated they seem, they are actually masterful at hiding in the bushes and quickly darting from one safe cover to another, successfully avoiding predators as well as birdwatchers.

Happy Thanksgiving!


We enjoyed this first Thanksgiving a married couple with Jay’s family. As we toasted to family, our thoughts were also with our family members who have passed away. Hope this holiday found you well and surrounded by love.

Bacon Pecan Waffles


It all started when Sharon and I were at the Original Pancake House and I saw bacon waffles and pecan waffles on the menu. I immediately thought, “Why no bacon pecan waffles?”. I even tried to order one and they said it would not turn out right.  Jump ahead to now and Sharon and I have a Belgian waffle maker that was a wedding present from our friends Matt and Julie. I used the recipe for pecan waffles that came with the machine and just substituted some fresh cooked bits of applewood smoked bacon from Bashas for some of the pecans.


Trails that are very close to home

Living in Flagstaff has its perks.  A huge perk of our new house is just how close to trail we are now. How close is close?  Watch the video and see me go from our driveway to a short steep technical downhill in 40 seconds of riding on the road.

The video is three clips, the middle clip is a very nearby dirt jump at the bottom of the Shultz Pass/ Rocky Ridge area. The last clip shows another trail that is less than two minutes away from the house.

My career as bamboo

Today I visited my old office at Coconino Community Services. This was my first real job, in terms of being a full time employee. I loved it there and was pretty upset when the recession started in 2008 and I fell into the trap of last hired, first let go. Luckily my new job has me back in Flagstaff, working with my old office as a community partner. It feels like I am right where I should be and that the crazy route that got me here somehow makes sense. When I visited today, Sherri reminded me that when I left 4 years ago, I gave her my bamboo plant. Sherri has nurtured that plant and now it reaches above the window frame! It feels like a symbol of the growth that I have undergone in the last 4 years.

Zen and the Art of Dusting


AmeriCorps member Rachel dusting at Riordan Mansion


One of the great things about my current position as an AmeriCorps program coordinator is that I can more effectively do my job by being an active community member.  Last weekend I was able to see two AmeriCorps members in action when I volunteered at the Rug Auction.  This week I stopped by Riordan Mansion on Tuesday and helped with their cleaning day.  Our AmeriCorps member Rachel showed me the art of dusting and we teamed up to dust the west wing of the house.  Dusting is a lot like pulling invasive weeds.  At first it seems like a chore, but then you get into it and you are in this moment of zen, making the world a better place.  By the end you are just obsessed, not able to put down your tools until every last speck of dust has been cleared.  Also, like weeding, dusting allows you a chance to chat and catch up with other volunteers.  Now if it was only that interesting to dust my own house!