BrandonoBrien.com

Brandon O'Brien

Travel and Adventure Journal

I wanted a place to journal all my travels and adventures around the world. I always enjoy going back and reflecting on my past travels and getting to relive them through my words and photos.

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Camping in the Jemez

Camping in the Jemez

Sunday, July 27, 2014 @ 1:00 PM in General Travel

Brandon and Erin asked if I wanted to join them on a camping trip this weekend out into the Jemez. The area they were planning on camping is somewhere I'd never been before. The road out there is awesome. It passes through some tunnels and follows a river for quite a while.

We found a campsite that was a little hike off the road. It took a while and a decent effort to carry all our stuff from the car down to the campsite. It was pretty steep getting down to the area where the camping was. We got everything set up and got a fire going and then started dinner. I made some green chile cheese burgers with some roasted corn on the cob for dinner Friday night.

On Saturday we had breakfast and waited for the sun to come up a little bit more then started hiking up and through the river while drinking some beers. I was pretty amazed at how well Canyon and Wicket (Brandon and Erin's dog) did in the water. I was expecting Canyon to avoid it like the plague but after a while she was pretty happy to splash through the water following us.

We stopped a couple times to have a drink and just after the 2nd stop, Brandon went to put Wicket on some rocks since he was getting pretty cold and tired from the water. There was a huge rattle snake chilling there and Brandon didn't see it until he had almost set Wicket on top of it. He flew himself and the dog backwards into the water, fortunately avoiding any kind of bite. Erin and I could hear it going crazy with its rattle after that. The crazy part was that Canyon had just ran through there which is why we assumed it would be fine.

After that little shake-up we decided to turn around and head back to camp. Once back at camp we made some sandwiches and snacked. Dark clouds were rolling in and it started raining so we just hunkered up under the canopy and played a dice game called Farkel while we waited out the rain.

The rain eventually stopped and we started collecting some firewood for the evening fire and dinner. For dinner tonight, Brandon made some lemon chicken, beans caesar salad and some sausage. We were all pretty tired from being in the sun most of the day so we were all passed out around 10pm.

It stormed a few times through the night but it wasn't anything too extreme. We got up, ate a quick breakfast with eggs and some of the leftover hamburger meat and started packing up the campground. The hard part was carrying everything back up to the cars. Even though we had drank most of the water and ate a lot of the food, the coolers were still heavy and awkward to carry back up.

On the way out we stopped at one of the cliff tunnels and took some photos before heading back to Albuquerque. Back at home, Canyon is passed out and is in desperate need of a good wash and grooming. I'll be looking for a place this week to take her to.

Teaser photos:

Canyon enjoying some river hiking
Canyon enjoying some river hiking
Happy Camper while hiking in the river
Happy Camper while hiking in the river
Chilling by the camp fire
Chilling by the camp fire
Highway 376 through some cliffs
Highway 376 through some cliffs

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Tags: jemez, camping, canyon, new mexico, river

Posted from: United States

Downhill Mountain Biking in Vail, Colorado

Downhill Mountain Biking in Vail, Colorado

Monday, July 7, 2014 @ 4:18 PM in General Travel

I'm writing this post a little late since I just uploaded all the photos from the trip. Scott called a few weeks ago to see if I was doing anything the weekend of June 28. I didn't have any plans yet so we decided we'd head up to Vail, Colorado and try some downhill mountain biking.

Scott booked a flight on Southwest to Denver which arrived on Saturday night. I drove up and picked him up from the airport and then we drove out to Vail. We didn't get into our hotel until around midnight since Scott's flight was delayed about an hour. One nice thing about driving that late was the complete lack of traffic on I-70 through the mountains.

We woke up pretty early on Sunday morning and headed into Vail to purchase our lift tickets and mountain bike rentals. We found out that we could buy a full day lift ticket that came with a half day mountain bike rental included for $73. The guys at the bike shop said they didn't really follow the half/full day rental schedule so as long as we returned the bikes before 6:00pm then we'd be fine.

We were given two Trek Fuel Ex 5 29ers to take up the mountain. The bikes are full suspension and seemingly ran over just about anything without a problem. We did a couple runs including some pretty steep blacks then went back to the car to make some sandwiches for lunch. Scott had a little trouble with his rear brake not working too well so he had to take it in a couple times to get it tightened up.

Our favorite run of the day was Radio Flyer. It had some really nice smooth curves, jumps and dips. It's basically what both of us were imagining when we booked the trip. Several of the other runs were a little too rocky or just plain too steep to feel comfortable on.

After a full day (9:30am-5:45pm) we decided to turn the bikes in and head back to the hotel to shower and find some food. All the riding really wore out my wrists... I think due to the vibration of flying down the hill. My right knee was a little banged up because it kept hitting the top bar of the bike and I think I smacked my left ankle on the pedal once. Other than that, it was an incident free experience!

For dinner we went to a place called Yellowbelly that did a modern take on soul food. I had some roasted chicken, citrus quinoa salad and "smashed potato fries". They also had some natural cane sugar sodas that were all pretty good. There wasn't much to do in town so we tried the hot tub and sauna but both seemed to be broken. The hot tub was cold and the sauna never started steaming. We were both pretty wiped out so we ended up just heading to bed.

I think both of us slept really well considering we didn't even wake up until our alarm went off around 8:30am. Our plan for the day was to check out of the hotel, head to Copper Mountain and take advantage of a lift ticket deal and do some hiking at the top of the ski area before dropping Scott back off at the airport.

We had a quick breakfast and then drove to Copper Mountain. The deal was if we showed up with a receipt that showed we spent $10 in the Copper village then we'd get a free lift ticket for the day. Rather than buying any unnecessary junk, we sorta scammed the system and each bought $10 worth of gas for my car. They didn't seem to have any issue with it so we got our free lift tickets and jumped on the lift.

We only had about an hour to spend up there before we needed to start our journey back to Denver. The hiking was nice and the air was thin. We were up over 11,000 feet and there was still plenty of snow around from the ski runs.

We hit a bunch of traffic on the way back to Denver since they're doing some major construction on one of the tunnels near Idaho Springs. It slowed us down by about a half hour but we still got Scott to the airport with plenty of time to catch his flight. After dropping him off I had the long 7 hour journey home. I stopped in Colorado Springs along the way to check out a liquor store called Coltrains. I always like to pick up some beers I can't find in New Mexico when I'm up in Colorado. Coltrains was right off I-25 which made it really convenient. I bought a bunch of stuff I'd never had and then drove home.

It was a lot of driving for such a short trip but I definitely want to do some more downhill mountain biking. Scott and I definitely made the most of our time on the bike but we both agreed that it would be nice to do a couple days and take our time and not ride all day. It was just too draining.

Teaser photos:

On the gondola up to the trails
On the gondola up to the trails
Vail ski runs in summer
Vail ski runs in summer
A black run at Vail
A black run at Vail
Hiking at Copper mountain
Hiking at Copper mountain

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Tags: vail, colorado, mountain biking, downhill, copper

Posted from: United States

Green Chile garden with shade box

Tuesday, June 10, 2014 @ 3:15 PM in Miscellaneous

The garden in my front yard has been hit or miss the last few years due to the amount of sun I get (hint: it's a lot). Rather than have another year of poor return from my garden I decided to build a sun shade out of 3/4" PVC pipe and some screen.

The cost of the materials was pretty cheap and it only took about a half hour to get it all put together. I also put some chicken wire around the garden to keep small animals out. This year rather than planting a big mix of vegetables I stuck with 6 Big Jim Green Chile plants. I'm really hoping that this fall I can roast a batch of my own green chile.

Teaser photos:

Shade box
Shade box
Garden
Garden

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Tags: garden, green chile

Posted from: United States

NMOHVA Sipapu Shindig

NMOHVA Sipapu Shindig

Saturday, May 31, 2014 @ 2:48 PM in General Travel

Callie text me on Wednesday and let me know that the New Mexico Off Highway Vehicle Alliance (NMOHVA) was doing their annual meetup in Sipapu this weekend. It's a huge group of adventure riders that get together and do various rides, time trials and races. I wasn't planning on participating in any of that but I thought it would be a good excuse to get out of town for the weekend and also get a nice motorcycle ride in.

Rather than participate in some of the group rides (since they were pretty much all extreme off-road stuff), I said I'd go up for Friday night to hang out and camp. Callie and I met in Pojoaque around 4:30pm and rode the High Road to Taos up to the Sipapu camping area. The views along the ride were amazing and fortunately the roads weren't too crowded.

We got to the campground and met up with a bunch of other people who were there for the event. I got my tent ready and ate some food that I had brought up. All of the other people had tons of food so I got to sample a bunch of theirs as well. After a few beers and sitting by the campfire for a couple hours I was tired and got ready for bed. It was extremely cold and took me a while to fall asleep.

I woke up, made some coffee and had some instant oatmeal while everyone was getting ready. Everyone hung out for a little while and gave me some advice about how I should get home. Rather than backtrack the way I came in yesterday they said to take NM Route 518 to Mora and then cut down to Las Vegas. From there, I'd take I-25 for about an hour before getting on some more back roads and cutting over to the Turquoise Trail. The idea sounded good so I packed up my tent and got my motorcycle ready before having a breakfast burrito and heading out.

The ride from Sipapu to Mora was amazing. It reminded me a lot of riding in southern Colorado with all the trees, streams, winding roads and amazing views. I lucked out again and avoided any real traffic so I was able to enjoy the ride a lot. I fueled up in Las Vegas, NM and then hit I-25 until I reached US 285 and took that down to NM Route 41 to Galliesto where I caught NM Route 42 to take me to the Turquoise Trail.

I stopped a few times for photos but wished I would have stopped earlier in the day between Sipapu and Mora since the views there were even better. I made pretty good time and got home around 1:30 this afternoon. That ride really made me want to get out and do more day trips around the state!

The entire route I took can be found here: https://goo.gl/maps/taf3f

Teaser photos:

A small group of motorcycles
A small group of motorcycles
My Triumph Tiger 800 on NM Route 42
My Triumph Tiger 800 on NM Route 42
My motorcycle on the Turquoise Trail
My motorcycle on the Turquoise Trail

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Tags: sipapu, nmohva, motorcycle, camping

Posted from: United States

Memorial Weekend in Portland Oregon

Memorial Weekend in Portland Oregon

Wednesday, May 28, 2014 @ 9:09 AM in General Travel

I spent Memorial Day weekend up in Portland, OR with Luiz, Bethany, Seth, Ashley and Marjorie. We all got on the same flight up there on Friday morning. Once we got to Portland we had a beer in the airport then met up with Mike who took us out to a really good breakfast place, Pine State, that's known for their biscuits. I had a chicken biscuit with cheese and bacon, a beer and a cold brew coffee.

After breakfast the weather cleared up and we started exploring the city. We hit up a few places for drinks and food and also checked out the rose garden. One of the cool places we checked out was the Portland City Grill that's located at the top of the largest building in Portland. We had some really good views of the city from up there. After a few more stops we went to a place called Hair of the Dog for some Chuck Norris duck wings. They were extremely spicy but tasted really good.

The next morning we got ready to head out to Mosier to camp. Along the way we stopped a few places along the Columbia River Gorge to take photos. We stopped at the Vista House, which I'd been to before with Ryan on our huge motorcycle trip in 2012, but it wasn't nearly as crowded this time. In Hood River we stopped at a pub to watch a soccer match and eat lunch before heading to meet with a bunch of people for the campout.

The place we camped in Mosier has some amazing views. There was a lot of beer, food and relaxing. It was nice being able to sleep in a tent without having to worry about it getting filled up with dust like you do here. The next morning we made some breakfast burritos for breakfast then went to check out a winery called Analemma. They had four different wines to sample, one of which was a really dry Gew├╝rztraminer that was great.

Back in Hood River we stopped for lunch and a drink at an up-and-coming local brewery called Pfriem. The food and beer were amazing and the brewery itself was very clean with a really nice location near the river. I think the general consensus was that it was one of the best stops on the trip.

We got back to Portland and set up for a big cookout at the place we were staying. We did some food shopping then had a little down time before everyone showed up. While we were out we wanted some coffee to wake us up so we stopped at a place called Coava. Whenever you order a coffee they grind your beans on-demand and heat the water up to a specific temp and individually brew your coffee. It was definitely one of the coolest places I've had coffee at. Before the party we did another wine sampling at a place right around the corner from where we were staying. The party was a lot of fun and there was more food/drink than we knew what to do with.

The next morning, Seth, Ashley and I got up early and walked down to Voodoo Donuts. The line wasn't too bad so we ordered some donuts then got some coffee and came back to the house. When we got back we found out we were heading to an early lunch at a Vietnamese place that only has two soups per day. After breakfast we went to the Mississippi neighborhood to meet up with some other people and have some more drinks. The area was really nice. There were more restaurants, bars and breweries in one place than I've seen in a long time. We spent several hours in that area before we split off to a soccer bar called 442 to watch the end of the game we started watching on Saturday in Hood River. The game went into overtime and we had to get to the campout so we weren't able to finish it then.

The soccer bar had some really good Bosnian food. I had some sort of meat sandwich and fresh cut fries along with my bloody mary. We walked around a little more before we all decided all the beer we'd been drinking over the last few days was way too filling. We stopped at a place called Coopers Hall for wine and had a great time there. We went through several bottles sampling various reds and roses. After that we we went for dinner at Nostrana, a really good Italian place a couple blocks from where we were staying. They had a late night happy hour with food marked down to really low prices. I had a margarita pizza and some of the other people split some other food. The restaurant was really nice inside with low lighting and wood everywhere.

It had been another long day so all of us came back to go to bed. In the morning we packed everything up, ate breakfast at a place called Zells and then got on our way to the airport. At the airport we lost track of time walking around and got on the plane after general boarding so we got some pretty bad seating, but I was so tired I slept pretty much the whole way to Las Vegas where we had a short layover before landing back in Albuquerque.

All of us had a great time, we had a lot of good food and drink and experienced some amazing weather. All-in-all, the trip was a great success!

Teaser photos:

Columbia River Gorge
Columbia River Gorge
Camping in Mosier, OR
Camping in Mosier, OR
Voodoo Donuts in Portland
Voodoo Donuts in Portland
Freshly brewed coffee at Coava in Portland
Freshly brewed coffee at Coava in Portland

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Tags: portland, coffee, green, camping, mosier

Posted from: United States

First La Luz hike of the year!

First La Luz hike of the year!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014 @ 4:07 PM in Miscellaneous

Erin and I had planned on doing the La Luz hike today. La Luz is a trail that goes up/down the Sandia mountain in Albuquerque. It's about 8 miles each way with about 5,500 feet of elevation gain from the bottom. Since I can't take Canyon on the tram and she loves the exercise, I told Erin I'd meet her at the top and hike down with her (since that was Erin's plan). I got to the La Luz trailhead around 8:30 this morning, paid my $3 parking fee and then started hiking up.

The hike up went fine. I only saw a few other people along the way and Canyon got to run around and even got to play in some snow that was in some shade near the top of the trail. As always, the mile and a half of scree fields was pretty monotonous but we made it through.

We got to the tram station a little before 11:30 and had lunch. I made some quesadillas in the morning and also brought some food for Canyon. The only people up there when I got there were some construction workers who seemed to be working on the new tram station. I text Erin and told her I was up there but it didn't seem like the trams were running. Apparently the tram is closed every Tuesday, which we didn't know about.

Without anyone to wait for now and the cold winds that were blowing really strong at the peak, Canyon and I started the hike back down. We made really good time on the way down, but by the time we were about 3 miles from the car it really warmed up. I kept giving Canyon water and pouring it on her to help cool her down.

My total moving time for the hike today (up and down) was 5 hours and 2 minutes. I think that's the fastest I've done it so far. I was hoping to finish in under 5 hours but didn't quite make it. I'm sure I'll be doing the hike several more times this summer so maybe one of those times I'll break the 5 hour mark.

Now that my legs are completely worn out and Canyon is passed out it's time to think about dinner and a shower.

Teaser photos:

La Luz trail
La Luz trail
La Luz trail
La Luz trail
Canyon at Sandia Peak
Canyon at Sandia Peak

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Tags: la luz, albuquerque, hike

Posted from: United States

My motorcycle is back in Albuquerque!

My motorcycle is back in Albuquerque!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014 @ 4:49 PM in General Travel

Last May I dropped my motorcycle off with Ryan up in Denver so he could keep it locked up safely in his storage unit while I was traveling around Europe. I thought I'd be moving up there right after I got back from my travels but due to the housing situation I wasn't able to get rid of my place, so I'm still here in Albuquerque.

That created a little dilemma when I wanted to ride since my bike was still up in the storage unit. Between my schedule and Ryan's schedule we were both pretty booked through early June so rather than wait until then I decided to do a mid-week one-way flight up there to get my motorcycle and ride it back.

The tires were in pretty bad shape so I had to order some of through a bike shop up there so they could install them before the ride back. I took care of the ordering last week and then on Monday I got on a flight to Denver. I actually found out I can take buses from my house all the way to the ABQ airport for $1. Much better than trying to park my car at the airport and then figure out how to get it back later.

I got up there on Monday night, rode my bike (for the first time in almost a year) from Ryan's storage unit to his house. On Tuesday morning I had an appointment to get the new tires installed so I had that done, then rode around Denver and up to Red Rocks to make sure there weren't any issues with the bike before a 7 hour ride back to Albuquerque on Wednesday morning.

Everything went fine even though it was extremely windy up in Denver. I was on my motorcycle by 7am on Wednesday morning, in the freezing cold, but I was on my way back home. It never really got warm for the duration of the ride back to Albuquerque. I hit a lot of wind, a lot of cloudy skies and even a little rain and snow north of Santa Fe.

The roads were basically empty since it was the middle of the week so I made pretty good time. I'm back in Albuquerque now and I'm just crossing my fingers this crazy wind stops soon here so I can get out and enjoy my motorcycle again!

Teaser photos:

My motorcycle at Red Rocks in Denver
My motorcycle at Red Rocks in Denver
My motorcycle at Red Rocks in Denver
My motorcycle at Red Rocks in Denver

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Tags: motorcycle, red rocks

Posted from: United States

Easter Weekend in OKC

Tuesday, April 22, 2014 @ 8:15 AM in General Travel

This past weekend a group of us piled into my Volvo and headed out to Oklahoma City to visit some friends and check out a city none of us had ever done anything but pass through before. It was me, Luiz, Bethany, Moses and Kevin that ended up going.

We left at 7 on Thursday night and stopped in Santa Rosa for dinner at Carls Jr. We stopped for the night in Amarillo, TX with some friends who were helpful enough to stay up until 12:45am when we finally rolled up. After showers and coffee we went for breakfast at a local Mexican place. I got some skirt steak with eggs and beans which ended up being really good.

It was a 4 hour drive from Amarillo to OKC. The drive was uneventful and we made it to OKC in pretty good time. The first thing we did was stopped at a bar called Skinny Slims in Edmond. We met the GM of the local Hash House Harriers group there and hung out for a while before dropping our stuff off.

Friday night we went bar hopping and tried several local beers or at least beers we couldn't get in Albuquerque. At the end of the night we stopped at a hole in the wall taqueria that had some great food. Even at around 1am it was still packed which shows how good it was.

We took it pretty easy the start of Saturday. Once we all got up and moving we went to find some coffee and ended up at a really new and fancy Whole Foods where they had cheap coffee. After that we went for a late lunch / early breakfast for some birria at a place called Birrieria Diaz.

Luiz wanted to meet with an old friend in the afternoon before the running/drinking event at 3 so we drove quite a ways outside of town so he could spend some time there. While they were catching up, some of us went to a local liquor store and picked up some local beers to bring back home.

The Hash House Harriers there were having their Easter run that afternoon so we went there and I checked in my 500th distinct beer on Untappd! The run was pretty short but it was a nice one. We ran through mountain bike trails searching for Darth Vader head shaped easter eggs that were either filled with candy or if empty, you'd get a tiny shot at the end of the run.

After the run they were having a big party at the GM's house so we went there with some wine and hung out for a while. We were all pretty tired since we had several nights of less sleep than normal so we headed off to sleep. In the morning we got up for breakfast at a local place that served good food and then hit the road.

The drive back went pretty smoothly. We hit a few rainy patches but other than that it was easy going. We stopped for lunch at the Big Texan in Amarillo. Unfortunately no one was doing the huge food challenge. I had a buffalo burger since all the steaks were really expensive and I didn't really want something that heavy.

We got back to Albuquerque just in time to meet up with some more friends and watch the latest episode of Game of Thrones. It was a fun weekend but I think all of us were glad to be back home and get a good night's sleep.

Tags: easter, oklahoma, big texan

Posted from: United States

A long weekend in Denver

Monday, March 31, 2014 @ 8:56 AM in General Travel

I went up to Denver last weekend for Colt's (Ryan's son) first birthday party. The wind has been ridiculously strong the last few times I've driven up and back and this time was no exception. The last few times the dust has been so bad near Pueblo you could hardly see the road in front of you. Luckily this time the dust was pretty thin and didn't cause any delays.

The party went well. They rented their neighborhood clubhouse for the night and had about 40 people show up. I was really hoping to get new tires put on my motorcycle while I was up there but the bike shop didn't have the ones I needed in stock so I'll have them order some and get it taken care of in a few weeks. I'm really getting eager to ride since the weather has been pretty nice here in Albuquerque. I'd be scared to ride back home on the existing tires since they're at the end of their life and had been sitting unused in Ryan's storage unit while I was in Europe.

On Saturday we went to the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge Park. The government used to do a bunch of weapons testing there back around WW2 but now it's converted into a giant wildlife park. Unfortunately we didn't see any animals aside from a few prairie dogs and some bison. It was still a little too dead there for there to be a bunch of animals around.

On the way back home yesterday I stopped and bought a bunch of beers in Denver that I can't find here in Albuquerque. They had four different kinds of Dogfish Head beer but I only got one four-pack since they cost around $17 each. Some friends and I are going to try all the beers this week or next.

Tags: beer, denver

Posted from: United States

Fixing my fence

Tuesday, March 25, 2014 @ 4:35 PM in Miscellaneous

The fence and gate that enclosed my backyard had been there since I moved into my condo back in June 2007. Constant exposure to the Albuquerque sun, wind and occasional rains really took their toll. The wood was warping, the knots were popping out, the discoloration was hideous and one of the pieces had snapped due to a big knot coming loose.

I decided it was time to replace it with something that looked nicer so I went to Lowes and bought some new wood and some stain/protectant. After several days of staining the wood, letting it dry and then staining again, it was finally looking good enough to put up.

Actually putting the new boards up wasn't really that hard. The gate part was really easy and I took the chance to upgrade the rope latch to a metal one. The rest of the fence was a little tougher since I had to contend with a giant rose bush full of thorns. I eventually got a tarp and put it over the bush so I could work without getting cut up.

Unfortunately I miscounted when I was figuring out how many boards I needed and was off by one. I had to use two of the original boards where it hits the wall since I didn't want to have to go get a board and spend another few days staining it.

All in all it looks much better. It's nice to finally be knocking projects off my list. Between that and getting my roof leak fixed it finally seems like there's an end in sight to the projects. Next up is fixing the damage to my kitchen ceiling caused by the aforementioned leaking roof.

Teaser photos:

Before - the original fence / gate
Before - the original fence / gate
During - the gate is complete
During - the gate is complete
After
After
From the inside
From the inside

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Tags: fence, backyard

Posted from: United States

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