"The bus came by, and I got on, that's when it all began" (The Grateful Dead)...

For a couple of months preceding our departure, we spent almost every weekend trying to get the bus ready. This included a number of refinishing projects inside the bus, and more importantly, a series of additions and modifications to the house systems. Most importantly, we completely insulated the water system, installed pipe heating wires, and a multi-point temperature monitoring system; all this so we could stop worrying about our pipes freezing at night in early winter and late fall.

We also had to move out of our apartment the first week of January. This was quite a chore... it is incredible what you can accumulate in a few years! Once out of the apartment, we started living full time in the bus while finishing the preparations on the parking lot of Hytec (the company where Eric used to work). The whole thing took a lot longer than we anticipated, and forced us to delay our departure by a few days. We finally left Los Alamos about noon on January 11, headed north to begin the trip with a few weeks of waterfall ice climbing.

We made it to Durango, Colorado that evening and spent the night at the local Wal-Mart (a recurrent theme) despite the "No Overnight Parking" signs that were posted all over the parking lot (we usually assume that such signs are posted at the request of the county, as it is Wal-Mart's policy to welcome overnighters).

The next morning, we spent some time in Durango buying last minute supplies to be ready for winter boondocking (ceramic heaters and drain extensions for the sinks so they could drain into buckets set under the countertops, keeping our water systems dry during the coldest months).

We left Durango early afternoon, direction Ouray. The drive along the very scenic (and curvy...) "Million Dollar Highway" involves three high mountain passes up to 11,000 ft (Coal Bank and Molas Passes to Silverton and Red Mountain Pass to Ouray). This being our first time with the bus on snowy mountain roads, we wanted to complete the trip before nightfall. The drive actually went very smoothly, thanks in part to perfect conditions (mostly dry road), and in part to Jake brakes... It took a while though, as we spent most of the time in second gear, driving 35 to 40 mph. This is really not due to a power limitation with the bus (it's got plenty of that), but a fact of life with a four gear transmission and a Diesel engine with limited usable RPM range.

Los Alamos, NM to Ouray, CO

January 2003
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Our friends threw us a party to celebrate our departure.
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The party cake.
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A few minutes before departure...
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First pit stop, Abiquiu valley, NM.
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Silverton, CO.
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Heading down the "Million Dollar Highway" to Ouray, CO.
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