Mountains or Coast? Whazoo's Funundrum
Dave Rogers, aka Whazoo, tackles a truck camping funundrum to the degree of ten to the hundredth power. Come see where such a funundrum can lead, and remember to bring your oxygen mask.
In my preparations to write the introduction to Dave Rogers' first authored article for Truck Camper Magazine, I went back and re-read our interview with him back in March, “Dave Rogers: Whazoo On Top of the World”. Darn it if Dave doesn’t make me laugh every time I read something he’s said or written, even when I’ve already read it a few times. The guy is just plain funny! Best of all, his incredible off-road truck camping adventures are equal parts breathtaking and inspiring. Let’s just say that if you’re determined to be no fun, or are taking a really long drink of coffee, I don’t recommend you read this article.
Please join me in welcoming Dave Rogers to Truck Camper Magazine. I am very excited about his first installment with us. Go, Dave, go.
Mountains of Coast? Whazoo's Funundrum
by Dave Rogers
Whazoo’s Funundrum should not to be confused with Whazoo’s Theorem. Whazoo’s Theorem, which postulates the real possibility of time travel, is based on my experiments with quantum non-locality. The Funundrum is more complicated – to the degree of 10 to the 100th power, which as everyone knows is the number googol; 1 followed by 100 zeros, often misspelled on the Internet as google.
The Funundrum equation is expressed as: W/F = M-C. It means that the Whazoos are divided by the Funundrum on whether to go to the mountains (M) or the Pacific coast (C). You see, we started out with twenty-two days of vacation, which had me doing cartwheels with heady delight. We would be able to do both the mountains and the coast. But, due to a miscommunication and change of schedule, we lost six days. The heady delight? Snuffed out like a match in a wind tunnel.
So the issue was resolved scientifically between Mr. and Mrs. Whazoo with the best of two out of three arm wrestling matches, and off to the Rocky Mountains it was. I won’t tell you who won, but just let me say that Mrs. Whazoo cheats every time. Regardless, the Funundrum was solved.
Speaking of the Mrs., she has wanted mountain bikes since we first bought our camper more than three years ago. So we now have two new off-road cycles as well as a very nice swing-away bike carrier by Thule. I also had Dave at DSC Welding in Scottsdale, Arizona, make a hitch extension that moves the whole shebang up high for ground clearance. The bikes not only swing away but pivot as well, and will end up along the side of the camper when parked. I think it looks real jiggy, too.
Driving en route, we passed the turn-off to the Four Corners area where people take those pictures of themselves in a crab position with two hands and two feet all in different states. That would be Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Oregon.
Just checking to see if you’re paying attention. Make that Colorado instead of Oregon.
As we drove past, we noticed that the gate was locked for re-construction due to a state of disrepair. That would be four states of disrepair. And what a shame it is to be closed to all the people from around the world who stand there in a... state of confusion, as they stare through that gate in a... state of disbelief. I am thinking that when the Four Corners opens back up those pictures will cost a pretty penny to take and people will be in a... state of shock. I remember when it was free.
I would also like to say that the pavement on this highway is so un-level that maintaining the speed limit in the truck and camper is not a possibility. I mean, Mrs. Tidwell’s third grade class could have done a better paving job. We felt as if we were crossing the Atlantic aboard the Santa Maria on a bad day.
The winds were also trying to separate us from the road as we drove along. This is why I brought no firewood on this trip: I’ve packed campfire fuel and brought it home so many times it may soon start writing trip reports of its own.
Near Durango, Colorado, I had found a lake named Vallecito on Whazoogle Earth. With my navigation system up and running, we headed that way.
My current navigation system has blond hair and blue eyes, and it tells me where to go and what to do when I get there. In a very nice way, of course. Sometimes I listen and sometimes I don’t. This time I reluctantly paid attention and, to my surprise, with signage being less than perfect, we found Lake Vallecito.
The dirt road led us to some nice fee campgrounds along the eastern side of the lake. We stayed at Graham Campground one night and enjoyed the use of clean restrooms and great lake views; not to mention the view of two fishermen coming in with several huge trout. I plan to be back at some point, with more time to fish.
After leaving Vallecito Lake, we drove back through Durango again. The traffic was terrible, so we switched into leapfrog mode and got the jump out of town. Before leaving town we stopped to buy — can you dig it? — some firewood. There was no wind the night before and we had wished for a fire. Isn’t that how it always works?
As we drove up Colorado Highway 550 to Silverton, we were relaxed, driving with the windows down, and happy to be in cooler temps. My eyes were greedily trying to download as much green scenery as possible for total recall when I need it the most. That will be the day after getting back to my desert home.
Then a dirt road reached out and grabbed us with a sign that read, “Paradise Found.” Okay, it really said, “Lime Creek” and some other things that went unnoticed as I focused on the word “creek”. We love to sleep with the sound of running water, so with high hopes we turned down that dirt road. Several miles down the road we hit creek level and some great camp spots. Paradise it was!
After we set up camp, we wanted to try the new bikes. Now I can’t tell you exactly how it feels to ride a mountain bike after not riding for a hundred years, but the initial sensation was goofy. I have a new helmet that makes me look like Herman Munster and my style is enough to make the forest critters laugh. Mrs. Whazoo took to hers like she just rode yesterday, with perfect balance and impeccable class.
Pedaling out of camp on the dirt road, we enjoyed the sights and sounds of the mountains. As the road dropped along with the creek, we were giddy with youthful joy. With the wind on our faces, we were laughing until we realized we were, we were... going downhill! No wonder this was so much fun. Miles had passed before we thought about the ride back up to camp.
This fellow was obviously unimpressed with our cycling abilities. He seemed to be waiting for the kind of crash that only a Whazoo can execute.
Later that evening, camp became a source of frustration. It’s been said that I’m a few merit badges short of Eagle Scout, but I’ve successfully started a campfire many times before. That night was an exception as I got mostly smoke. The gathered wood looked dry and broke like it was dry, but my eyes weren’t dry once they were assaulted by smoke.
The joke will be, “Come sit by the smoke Dear” or, “Let’s smoke some marshmallows Dear.” Even the small bits of flame I managed to coax out of the wood never made it to greatness; they just gave up and floated off as worthless wisps of frustration. Of course I didn’t actually take pictures of smoke; they were too smokey. So I present to you: a picture of my five minute fire.
Driving out of camp the next morning, our thoughts were trained on Engineer Pass above Silverton; a pass steeped in history and the site of an old ghost town named Animas Forks, founded in 1877 at 11,300 feet above sea level. Can we say that they had high hopes?
Here’s a little-known story about the founding of Animas Forks told only in closed circles: The town was named after Mr. Animas, an immigrant from the “old country”, his first name was Yun pronounced with a hard “u”. He came to America as a traveling salesman for silverware, hence “Animas Forks”.
He discovered the rich veins of precious metal that he used to make his unique silverware. In addition to founding father, he was also the first mayor. In the first election, every vote went to Yun. Every single one. When the town crier went from mine to mine to let the miners know who had won, he yelled, “It’s Yun, it’s Yun Animas, it’s Yun Animas!” And a new saying was born to the English language. Now you might be justified in asking if this is a true story. I might say... let’s vote on it.
“What do you think Dear, did the last tenants clean up enough to get their deposit back? Looks to like they missed a rats nest.”
The lighting in the “throne room” was surreal, as if it was occupied by a ghost. “Excuse me, you forgot to close the door.”
The largest abode in town was a two-story, and I just know it was Madam Orr’s Ore House, where folks could come to spoon at the Forks.
Leaving Animas Forks, we crossed an old bridge. “Weight a minute, will it hold me?”
The road up the mountain climbed and climbed and climbed until we were hanging by a thread of dirt given to us by the road builders of old. Afraid to look while driving, I had to stop to admire the view, my hands shaking just a wee bit. Must be the lack of oxygen.
With the dapples of snow looking like sugar on my Mother’s homemade apple cobbler, I found myself hungry for more of these views. “A little more please Ma’am.”
We finally made the grade as I pointedly asked, “Can you top this?”
Descending the eastern side of Engineer Pass, we looked for a place to camp. Another creek fell into place as a dirt road split off to the side, leading us to another nice campsite at the road’s end. Henson Creek was just across the cul-de-sac. Running rapidly, I knew it would be another good night’s sleep. We camped at 10,800 feet above sea level.
Still feeling yesterday’s joy of the bike ride, we got the bikes out to start the cycle all over, beginning with another downhill. I noticed quite a different breathing pattern as we tried to pedal uphill back to camp at almost 11,000 feet. I was a little punch drunk from the lock of axygen and felt the need to go lay down and take a nap. My sspeech was not quite right. Instead I tried to light a fire, which, after a promising start was quickly reduced to smoke, again. I wondered if there might be a smoke signal merit badge I can earn on this trip. At least I could still start the grill.
Our departure the next morning had us on the road high above the creek. Looking down, Mrs. Whazoo spotted a beaver pond that made her exclaim, “There’s a beaver pond!”. Now this was no ordinary beaver pond, but a textbook beaver pond complete with huge lodge and a massive dam that took more than a little dam engineering.
It’s always amazed me that these creatures can build dams that let just enough water flow out so as to not collapse the entire dam. And to block off such a large area of water is astounding.
Passing another old mining establishment, man’s efforts to tame nature were evident in a failed dam and crushed roof. These engineers didn’t learn a thing from the beavers. And whose idea was it to use wood shakes when all other metal roofs are still standing? Must have been a newbie.
Further down the road, we felt we were at least twenty-five miles east Jesus from nowhere. Rounding a corner, stuck into the hillside, was a very small general store. I’ll call it a corporal store. Like the mines of the area, it makes claims. It claims to have supplies, and we were very “supplysed” indeed.
We will keep winding our way to higher passes. I hope we don’t pass out from the fun.
Thanks for reading,