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Two and a Half Thousand Miles

by Brett & Susan | 17 March 2012 | North America
Colorado, United States

Glow Studio Photography | Love is Life
Shower in a bottle, soup by headlamp, complimentary backpacker showers, cliff hugging adventure driving, cheap tacky Vegas hotels, Mormon underwear, McDonalds Wi-Fi and luxury ensuite, 1kg bag of almonds, meeting Crested Butte ski patrol, freedom camping, park ranger outfits, suicidal deer, unforgettable sunsets, freezing sunrises, gaming geeks, cowboy churches, hike skating on ice, animal biscuits, photoshoot standing ovations, 27kms in a day, Durango, strangers into friends, flashy circuses, walking the strip, porn on the streets, mobile home below freezing, carrots and broccoli florets, morning sickness.

United States of America is composed of 50 states. With a population of 313,581,143, this country incorporates beauty, vastness, culture, boldness, patriotism, ambition and honour. Every state is like a country in itself; the diversity of accent, landscape, lifestyle and personality is astounding. After New York, Illinois, and Michigan, we decided it just wasn’t enough and felt the pull to explore and discover more of this expansive country. So we packed our essentials - Canon camera gear, food, clothing, and loaded our 4WD Van ready for an adventure.

Allow us to run you through our journal and itinerary for our two and a half thousand mile roadtrip around five mid-western states. Enjoy the coinciding photographs that display the adventures, as they unfold in this story.

With a vitality charged two hours worth of sleep to rejuvenate us for the journey ahead, we departed Summit County at 6am bound for Crested Butte. A beautiful historic mining town founded in 18..., it is surrounded by magnificent mountain peaks and an atmosphere that is only portrayed in American resort town based movies. It is magical.

Our good friends Zach & Mallory ventured with us on a very snowy day snowboarding at Mount Crested Butte. Before riding the steep slopes, cinnamon rolls and PBJ’s were always a treat in the Ostrander home.

After a tree hugging experience, Susan was shuttled down the mountain by ski patrol after a potential knee injury. Gratefully there was no serious damage, but with the prospect of a powder day the following day, this was traumatising.

After the expectation of waking to 20 inches of fresh powder, we woke up to the disappointment of two. Instead of riding the steeps, it was a fun day to butter up in the park instead.
Exploring Crested Butte was like walking through a dream. Old, rustic, vintage, historical, and character filled homes and shops, lined the snow covered streets. The icing sugar coated quiet little ski town will forever be a beautiful photographic memory.

On the flats of Colorado, we drove through a strange town called Montrose. There’s not much to describe. Our highlight passing through was the Montrose Mantique Shop. Its eclectic collection of antiques and cluttered shelves incorporated bear skins, 1950s trikes, pioneering skis, shotguns and swords, scary porcelain dolls, and an expanse collection of other items. The dear old man attending the shop talked out ears off until we edged our way to the door.

After a boot lunch (lunch in the trunk of our van), we were told to drive through Ouray where we were told to stay, but we thought no way hose’, because it was a much overrated hooray.

Driving through Red Mountain pass was a highlight, and a life threatening experience. Brett played kiss the cliff edge to make the extreme drive, just that more exciting (to our mothers: we are still alive, it’s ok). We are quite good at self portraits at the most random times. We stopped in the middle of the range, set up our Canon 5D Mark II, (thank you Canon NZ!), on the highway and made use of the snow reflected backlight on the mountain peaks behind us. We later found out that stopping on the Red Mountain pass is a no no, it has the highest avalanche danger in the country. Oops.

With no reception on our phone and no way of reaching our new friends Susan & Josh, we reluctantly sat down to a meal at Applebees – better than fast food, but not the bees knees. Susan is a friend of Mallory’s, so staying in their home that night, would be the first time we were meeting them also! She had left us a key somewhere (she was out of town for the day), and was going to text us the hiding place. But having no reception, we were clueless and homeless. Of course, we prayed. Amazingly, as we tried to text her from a stranger’s phone, Susan walked into the coffee shop that we were waiting in and came straight to us and asked, “Are you Brett & Susan”? It was the fastest answer we had to a text message – thank you Jesus! Josh & Susan were kind, generous, fun to hang out with and overly welcoming. They treated us to fresh bagels in the morning and local brews from Durango micro breweries. Thanks guys!

A speedy trip to Mese Verde National Park to see the Native Indian village provided us the opportunity to meet a real life American Park Ranger, funny hat and all. Her accent, and passion for the rock formations, was a real highlight.

We proceeded to drive through the Arizona desert, tiny hick towns and all (they exist and it is exactly like the movies). Sedona was our destination, red, big, epic, rocks. A favourite tourist town for elderly folk. At dusk, we settled along the river at Manzanita Campground, we paid for nothing. Our failed attempt to wake for sunrise meant we had time for a shower. Shower in a bottle. Brett would fill our drink bottle with cold tank water and pour it over himself. I, on the other hand had preferential treatment and my dear husband boiled water in a pot for me to have a warm pot shower. Ah the luxury.

Mental note: retired folk who work at tourist information centres will exaggerate the strenuousness of hikes.

Our supposedly two and a half our hike up Doe Mountain took one hour return, including a break at the top. This made way for an exciting early departure for the Grand Canyon. Epic epic epic, and oh grand it really is! The stunning sunset allowed us to shoot some photographs for our sponsors EARTH SEA SKY (we would have been FREEZING without their amazing outdoor clothing, their gear truly is quality – we could brag non-stop!), we had fun watching the colours in the sky change & evolve. Heart moving? Most definitely.

Unbeknown to us, we had an audience during our Grand sunset cliff photoshoot. We had a Canadian couple who gave us a standing ovation as we walked back to the main viewing area. They became our new friends and they invited us back to their hotel where we could steal their free Wi-Fi.

5am wake up to catch the sunrise over the Grand Canyon was a beautiful experience. Our photoshoot was freezing, but well worth the effort. With the challenge of completing the rim to rim hike, we took the bus to start of the South Kaibab Trail. We found out at a later date that people tend to do this 27km hike over two days. Brett thought we could do it in one, and so we took up the challenge. The 11km hike down to the river at the bottom of the Grand Canyon felt rather effortless to the point where we were running at times. We were fortunate to see a Condor flying over our heads at the beginning of our hike, a Condor is a black scavenger bird with a bald red head and beak, approximately the size of a bald eagle.

During our hike of the canyon floor, we witnessed three doe try to attempt suicide as they were swept down the river through large rapids and over rocks. Miraculously after ten minutes, we spotted them on the other side climbing the steep rock face seemingly unfazed.

The grueling 16km hike up to the Bright Angel rim of the canyon was enough to bring Susan to tears. Two inches of solid ice covered the last mile of the trail. Most hikers carried crampons or poles to assist them for the journey up; we however, had none. Two steps up, one step down. It was painful, literally.

After eight hours of nonstop hiking, still sweaty and smelly, we buckled up for a five hour drive to Vegas. Nothing was sweeter and of course more astounding, than the sight of the Las Vegas city lights. The movies do not exaggerate the intensity, godless, madness, mentalness (I know this is not a word but it describes Vegas), and brightness or this desert city. We were exhausted but knew we were in Vegas one night only, so there was no option but to deny sleep and explore.

Our favourite moment will have to be the two male cupids. One was bald and wore peach tights and g-string to show his buttocks, and his skinny drag queen partner wore six inch heels and had slicked back hair with wings dragging around a wheelie suitcase. They were “arrowing” everyone they could latch themselves to. Only in Vegas.

Cirque du Soleil Mystere was a real experience. Clowns really are quite funny. Especially fat, adult, hairy ones that dress up like a big baby; bonnet, dummy, complete with adult size diaper. Our plans were to drive four hours to Zion National Park straight after the show. However, the intrigue of Vegas caused us to walk the strip just that one more time to people watch. People can really go mad when all they live for is want want want, desire, and selfishness. It makes people go insane. We saw a lot of sadness in the hearts of people, coupled with porn flicking Mexicans (men and women), revealing car billboards, lights and performers of all kinds. It was a world without purpose, hope of true joy. It was intriguing but incredibly heart wrenching at the same time to see so many people lost and hurt. If only people knew the beautiful love of Jesus in that city, it would change everything.

Zion was one of our favourite national parks. Beautiful snow capped mountains, winding hilltop roads, and a sense of epic wilderness. This place was strikingly breathtaking and displayed the amazing creativity and beauty of our creator God. At the top of Canyon Overlook Trail, we just sat in awe and couldn’t help but praise God for his greatness and majesty.

We arrived in Salt Lake excited to see what this city was all about. Ben and Libby (friends of friends), welcomed us into their new home with open arms. It was a pleasure getting to know them and interesting to hear about the big Mormon influence in their city, and their underwear too. Search Mormon under Google images, it’s rather educational. Unbeknown to us, Utah was the home of Joseph Smitt, the mastermind behind this human created religion/business. The money that this religious cult generates is mind boggling. We toured through their 22,000 seat conference centre, complete with indoor fountains, memorial rooms, and rooftop gardens overlooking the cathedral, Mormon information centre, and high-rise office buildings all owned by the Mormon church.

Hiking and running Arches National Park was truly memorable. Arches Is famous for its natural sandstone eroded arches. The large orange rock formations are epic and make for beautiful frames for the outstanding landscape. The temperature was bitingly cold; we timed our visit perfectly for a hail storm and ran the hike uphill to Delicate Arch with sheer determination. It was well worth the effort. We spent the remainder of the day hiking many trails and getting hopelessly lost amongst the huge rock formations; we must have taken a wrong turn somewhere. We stayed there until sunset to enjoy the stunning colours and silhouettes of Arches.

We had our Forrest Gump moment. (Read sentence in American accent), “I’m kinda tired, I think I’m gonna go home now”.

Good thing our friend Josh’s van was a 4WD. As we drove home into the largest snow storm of the season, visibility was almost non-existent. Our hearts felt full knowing we were going home to fresh powder.


Our roadtrip taught us that McDonalds is a gift to travellers, their bathrooms and free Wi-Fi became a welcomed stop. Gas cookers are effective, but not necessarily a safe means of heating a freezing van. Backpackers in small towns (late at night), offer a free of charge shower (when unattended). Mixing creamed corn, tuna, tomato soup and broccoli may not be an appetising concoction but a simple, wholesome meal when you are ridiculously hungry. Freedom camping in a van becomes easier and more appealing the more you do it. A quiet residential area with a view is always more desirable.

Our two weeks on the road was captured with love on our Canon 5D Mark II and our Canon G12, America is home to some of the world’s most amazing landscapes and natural wonders. Without our cameras, we would be lost and unable to share the beauty with you.

Without the quality and performance of our ProLite pants, silk weight t-shirts, Vertical First Layer (Expedition weight) and our waterproof jackets "Synergy" and "Traverse" from New Zealand owned and operated adventure clothing company EARTH SEA SKY, our travels would have been frustratingly cold, and less enjoyable. We love it that they stand by their word; their performance was put to the test in our Grand Canyon experience with varying temperatures from -4 to 25 degrees Celsius as we hiked into the Canyon. We even hand washed the clothes in Vegas and it was dry the next day – we are now true followers!

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