This was the real test of the new-to-us van with over 450k miles on it. We were headed to Durango…
Jarrod spends a lot of time finding us places to camp on our road trips. Our first night, we stopped at a campground at Penitente Canyon. It was a small campground with only 4 pull-in spots, but as it was Thursday, only one spot was occupied so we had choices! (Not usually something you have on a weekend in Colorado at a campground.)
The Iron Horse Expo didn’t load-in on Friday until the afternoon, so Jarrod enjoyed a bike ride in the morning before we made the rest of the journey to Durango. As per usual, I was working.
I never know what to expect at a new event (even when I actually do get load-in instructions in advance.) We showed up at the designated spot at Buckley Park and found our spot. We lucked out getting there early enough to snag a close spot and decided to carry-in from there rather than wait for the slightly closer designated load-in area.
Hauling into a park is never fun. The ground is uneven, the cart gets stuck in mud, and it’s usually a fairly long distance to get to the spot when you’re bringing in hundreds of pounds worth of set-up equipment and inventory. 500 yards adds up with 14+ trips. Buckley Park is small enough that the PITA factor was relatively small and load-in was smooth. We were ready to go just *slightly* after people started showing up for registration.
The first day was unexpected. We sold out of earrings in the first two hours. That’s never happened before.
The first day was a late day, so it was dark by the time we rolled out of Durango towards Silverton. The road was going to be closed for the morning of the actual ride, so we figured it was a good idea to start up the mountain the night before. We found some random field where some hunters were camping, so we parked in a corner and went to bed.
I rarely have to set an alarm as I get up around 5-530 every morning. Load-in was early that morning, and we still had to make it the rest of the way up the mountain, so the alarm was set. We left just after dawn.
On the way to Silverton, we were passed by every car and truck that was unfortunate enough to get stuck behind us. At one point, we pulled over to let traffic by, and two school buses blew past us. That amused me to no end, and the van was dubbed “The Turtle”.
We showed up and were directed to the load-in area, which was across a massive park field from the spot we were setting up. We were instructed to unload and move before we carried-in (a standard directive at most events, but they needed the parking for the vans bringing the cyclists’ gear).
As Jarrod was re-parking the van a few blocks away, I started to load up the cart and truck the gear and inventory to our spot. The first thing we put up is the tent, so that was the first thing I put on the cart. I made it about 30 ft before I realized that the cart was absolutely useless on the terrain, and it kept flipping over and dumping the tent. I reached a level of frustration that saw the cart thrown a few feet and cussed at. Everything had to be carried in by hand. That sucked.
We set up after an hour long load-in, and I realized I was not only underdressed, but my winter coat had been left at home in Denver. I went to the van to change into the warmest clothes I had. When I had finished changing and left the van, it had started snowing. Big heavy wet flakes were just dumping. My understanding is that this is traditional weather for the Iron Horse. Silly me, I had only been checking the weather in Durango. Silverton is beautiful, but cold. And changeable. I was constantly putting on a coat and taking it off all day.
Foot traffic was slow, but I was starting to see a pattern emerging of long rides equaling slow sales. It made sense; I’d be too tired to do anything but chill after 100 mile ride, too. I saw a few cycling celebrities, but I never approach celebrities, because I think it’s weird to tell people you don’t know how much you know about them. I overheard Ned Overend telling some little girls how important it was to ride their bikes if they wanted to win races. So cute.
Load-out wasn’t as much of a bear. A nice man let me borrow his heavy-duty hand truck, and I was able to load up and carry out in 1/3 the trips without wrecking my back.
The second day was an early day, so we headed back down to Durango hoping to get some mountain biking in before dark. It was Memorial Day weekend, so finding a camp spot was challenging. We finally found a tiny pull in campground with 2 spaces left. The first one wasn’t even close to level, so we pulled into the other. There was no pay box at the site, so we went looking for the host and couldn’t find them. I asked another campground patron, and he said that the host would come by for the fee. Given how late we got in and how early we left the next morning, we never did see the host…
Day three we were on the street, so we were actually able to drive in and unload. Yay! We try to get to the events as early as possible for things like that. As the street fills up with vendors, it becomes more difficult to drive in, so earlier is better.
Being back in Durango was nice. I was no longer freezing! And there were more people. There was an urban mountain bike race happening in town. They had built up the streets to make a slopestyle course. Pretty nifty.
The day wound down without much fanfare, and as usual, we were the last ones out. We headed back to Denver with no intention on making it back that night. It was Memorial Day the next day; there was no rush.
We liked the camp spot at Penitente so much that we decided to try our luck on the way back. It was dark when we got there, and every spot was taken. We were tired and ended up just parking at a trailhead. This was our first parking lot camping experience, and even though it was late when we got there, and there were no signs that said overnight parking, we expected a knock on the window at some point during the night. It never happened and shortly after we woke up, we started hearing voices from climbers and mountain bikers arriving at the trailhead.
Jarrod went for a bike ride, and I slept in. Not having cell reception forces me to take a break from work 🙂
It was the first road trip with The Turtle, and for a vehicle with over 450k miles on it, it was a champ. The shimmy in the front would have to be investigated, but overall, we couldn’t be happier with the van.