Cold wakes me. For a second I forget where I am until peeking through the screen and there it sits, The Pile, and all I can do is laugh. The Pile looks like a moving truck has thrown up into a heap on a blue tarp right next to us. My focus moves from The Pile to the compartments in the van and then back to The Pile. I’m not usually pessimistic but the outcome here is going to be interesting. The smartest decision is to not jump up and rush, because despite the work ahead my view is the Rocky mountains and I can’t complain about that.
We pulled into Boulder, CO late Friday night with enough time to grab dinner and sleep. The last few days of packing, moving, cleaning and then driving to get to our much anticipated westy left our emotions running from excited to exhausted. The only hope that she is in one piece and running is the ultimate trust we have in her mechanic, Lucas. The van has been the longest, most expensive and by far the most difficult part of the trip. The conversations and moments putting this together are running through my mind as we pull into the mechanic’s shop and see her shining out front (I swear she was smiling). Our mouths open with pure joy and all that comes out of my mouth “holy shit it’s tall” June has transformed from a nice little van into a completely outfitted, off-road, overland beast. We were in love! Our job now was to put miles on the new engine and test all the gadgets. Off to the mountains and to find a camping spot before sunset.
On her first mountain climb we accidentally got off course and found ourselves on a steep road where the word “steep” doesn’t justify this route. June clinked and clanked and roared and we swore. By the time she chugged to the top our sails were deflated, Colin yelling at my navigation skills and people waving as they passed by. The sun is quickly setting and every map I have is not telling me which way to go, but as a last ditch effort we took a chance, found a spot and went into work mode to unload everything in order to have room to sleep. We decided to leave reorganizing and regrouping for the morning. June had a rough first night.
What we learned is it takes time to work an engine in. Like new shoes you have to walk around a little. After the first night we were on the phone to Lucas (mechanic) telling him about every hum, vibration, rattle and of course the steep route. Keep going he says. That was the worst possible route you could take and she made it, he reminds us. So we kept going. To the Rocky National Park where she hiked up over 12,000 feet and never hesitated. We took her off-road, through muck, using 4×4 and loaded with supplies. By day five June was in the swing of things and we were getting there as well. That chilly morning looking over The Pile seemed hard to imagine now that everything has found a place–organized in a manner where the items we need can actually be found without a whole lot of effort (this took a few days and a lot of patience).
Our favorite spot was a suggestion from the nice folks with Forest Service, to head up to meadow creek reservoir which is about an hour south of Rocky Mt. national park. The road twisted and turned, heading higher and losing site of the small town below. As the road narrowed we were greeted by a secluded lake surrounded by tall skinny evergreens and mountains tracing the sky. We found a camp spot just off the lake snuggled in the trees. Colin decided it was the perfect time to cast a line. We hiked through a short trail to the lake and a few bites later he reeled in a rainbow trout. Let me get a picture I say, and with a quick pose the fish took the chance to get away…and succeeded. Another few casts and he hooked another one. Soon the fish was sizzling in the pan. That night we had a rainbow trout dinner, lights powered by the solar panel on top, used water freshly filtered, and watched the sun tuck away behind the mountains leaving a faint pink sky. Not bad.
Lucas suggested we test drive for a few days and then come back for final tweaks, an oil change and to go over in detail all the work that was done the last few months. We are back in Boulder hoping to head off to Wyoming in the morning.