Saturday, September 29, 2007

Happy Birthday Son

Day 29, Socorro NM Mile 3095

Alas, the time has come to move on. I have been here since early Tuesday afternoon and I’ve have had a good time with my son. He has helped me get some things done to Eggcarto, like wash the trailer at a local car wash, wax half the trailer, help me with a temporary screen door, and other little things. He took the week off and will get back to work at the VLBA on Monday.

Wednesday, we ran around town doing errands and me picking up stuff I needed to replenish my supplies.

We took Eggcarto to Albuquerque Thursday to get some repair work done on the trailer. While that was being done I got the oil changed on the truck, visited several RV campgrounds for the visit some of us are making next year to the Hot Air Balloon Fiesta that takes place in Albuquerque in early October every year, did a little shopping; and, of course went to Garduno’s for a Mexican lunch. Thursday, was also son Jim’s 41st birthday.

By the time we got home Thursday, I was too exhausted to fix him a special birthday dinner so we BBQ’d T-Bone steaks Friday evening. We grocery shopped and puttered around on Friday.

And of course, we had to eat at my two favorite places here - Socorro Springs and El Sombrero. I did email my daughter that I had lost 10 pounds on the trip so far, but I know I have gained it back in the last few days!

I head out to the Valley of Fire Recreation Area near Corrizozo NM for a week. There is a BLM campground there and it looks like from information I have been reading some interesting things to do in the area. There is Lincoln County - the heart of Billy the Kid country, Ruidoso, Carrizozo, Capitan, Tularosa; and of course White Sands and the Trinity Site. The Trinity Site is where the first atomic bomb was tested and since I have a connection, I wanted to see it. It is only open the first Saturday in October and April. I will be meeting a fellow Casita owner, Bruce from Texas, there. Sunday, I’ll head toward home taking a few days to do that. I may not be able to doing any updating until later in the week as there is no internet/WiFi at the campground.

Y’a all have a good week.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Southward Bound


Day 23, Abiquiu NM Mile 2425

A Casita friend suggested I check out the Riania Corp of Engineers Campground at Lake Abiquiu. I did and here I am in a really beautiful spot on a bluff overlooking the lake. I didn’t have to travel far from Chama, so took the time to do a little laundry and have a leisure breakfast.

We had a small rainstorm this morning and it was nice just to stay in bed and listen to the gentle rain coming down on Eggcarto. I didn’t even have to close my windows. My space is rather large and not close to others so I feel like I have a lot more privacy. I am boondocking again for at least 3 nights. My battery is holding up well and I am doing things to minimize use of it. I have the little solar panel out and it really does a good job of recharging the battery back up.

This is a very “artsie” area - in fact Georgia O’Keeffe made it famous starting back in the mid 1940’s. She bought a house in the Abiquiu plaza in 1945. She already owned a home at the Ghost Ranch (just about 7 miles north of here) and by 1949, she lived here year round. I am seeing the area through her eyes now.

The area, like so much of New Mexico, was first established by the Pueblo people, then the Spaniards in the 1730’s and 40s. Abiquiu residents were given full citizenship under the Spanish crown and were also given a 16,000 acre land grant for grazing and timber use. Abiquiu also became the trailhead for the Old Spanish Trail trade route that linked Santa Fe with Los Angeles.

The Abiquiu Lake Dam was completed in 1963 as a flood and sediment control dam, in 1986 the Corp entered into a water supply contract with Albuquerque. Okay, history lesson over.

Sun is coming out so off to Espanola and Los Alamos for visits.

LATER: I visited Los Alamos to see the changes. Our family lived there from 1944 to 1946. My dad was involved with the Manhattan Project at the time; my brother Fran was born there. Since I was between the ages of 2 and 4, I do not have a lot of memories. I remember a bad ear ache, I remember the doggie door to the back yard and sneaking over to the military tank artillery range and watching the tanks go through maneuvers. I remember my nursery school and learning about how fast rabbits multiply and rolling the tin hoops off of wooden barrels around the school yard. I remember my first puppet show and I kind of remember trips off of “The Hill” down to Santa Fe. I remember going up to mom’s hospital window to get the first glimpse of my baby brother. Those are all memories without the benefit of pictures reminding me. I remember trips to Bandolier and playing in the Rio Grande River and the houses we lived in and the dirt road up to “The Hill”. I remember Sunday dinners at Fuller Lodge (and by the way, it looks much smaller than I remember!)

I took a tour around Los Alamos with a Georgia Strickfaden, who operates Buffalo Tours. She has lived there almost all her life and it was a great treat to get a special tour of the area because I had lived there and there were some things I remembered. She took me to areas where dad probably worked and up on the hill behind Los Alamos where we probably had lots of picnic lunches, when dad was free. I went thru the Bradbury Science Museum and found a “badge” picture of my dad’s supervisor, but not him. It was a fun day remembering despite the showers and downpours we had.

I stopped in Espanola and got my hair cut and picked up a few items I needed and came home. Monday, Day 24, ended up being a day of “trailer cleaning”. After a little over 3 weeks on the road it was pretty dusty in the truck and Eggcarto. It was a beautiful, but windy, day so cleaning was just the right thing to do.


The next morning, Tuesday, I headed to Socorro to see son. I did have a little bit of trouble keeping the trailer plug plugged into the truck and had to make several stops. But, seeing him and getting a big, big hug from him made up for everything.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Two days

Day 20, Mile 2436 Chama NM

Oh Pine Trees! And thee smell so good, even in the rain. There are clouds covering the mountain tops, but you can see the moon coming thru. It’s chilly and will get chillier during the night. And, it’s hunting season.

Am here at an RV park for a couple of nights. Tomorrow I have a ticket to ride the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Narrow Gauge Railroad (3 ft wide). I take a bus up to Antonito CO in the morning, board the westbound train at 10 a.m.

The day driving went pretty fast. I came by the 4 Corners and wanted to go but their is a $3 entrance fee charged by the Navajo Tribe and I only had $2 cash, no credit cards used. Pretty commercialized around the Corners too. By the time I drove down to Teec Nos Pos AZ to use the ATM machine, I decided there would be another time to visit and kept going through Shiprock and Farmington NM. Big oil and gas areas since the 1950’s. I came along US64 entering the Carson National Forest and seeing pine trees! Too bad back in Kansas, the oil wells and storage tanks aren’t more environmental friendly like they are here. You hardly noticed them as the pumpers were those systems you just barely see or if they used the familiar pumpers they were painted to blend in with the background. Same with the storage tanks - painted green or sand or brown color. Ours are black, or dull red, or dull or faded blue - they stand out anyway. And the systems I saw here were clean around their areas. Okay off my soapbox. The Chama Valley is a beautiful mountain meadow area.

Day 21, Chama NM
The ride on the train was awesome. I have been wanting to ride on that particular train ride since the 70’s and I finally got to do it. I started at Antonito CO and rode all the way through to Chama. It’s a long day staring at 10 a.m. and finishing at around 4:30p.m. We took an hour for a wonderful lunch at Oiser CO so that broke it up. The train winds and turns and winds and turns upon itself as that is how the steam locomotives had to climb up to the 10,015’ summit at Cumbres. The east side of the mountains to the summit was created by volcanic activity and on the other side it was glaciers that carved out the valleys, leaving behind deposits of large boulders here and there. The west side is a 4% grade down into the Rio Chama Valley and the east side is less than half that, if I remember correctly. We saw some deer but ohhhhhhh the aspens. They haven’t reached their beautiful orange colors yet, but the yellows were starting. Many forests of aspen were still green, so in a few weeks it is going to be beautiful. I was glad I went, but glad I wasn’t around in the days when passengers rode the train!

Day of Lessons

Day 19, Mile 2181, Goosenecks of the San Juan River State Park

Mexican Hat, Utah. Didn’t go very far today but made my destination and here I’ll spend the night. Am out of the “John Wayne Monument Valley” but still in the Monument Valley area. The sand has been blowing since Goulding’s and my keyboard feels like it. I got recharged this morning with a good breakfast with Pam and Leo from Maine. Great couple. Hope I can get up their way sometime soon - they live near a cousin of mine.

Had something happen that will teach me. As I was just a couple miles from Gouldings, I glanced down at my brake controller and noticed that I didn’t have a “C” showing for connection. As soon as I could I stopped and sure enough my plug had come out and had been dragging on the road. Luckily, I caught it before much damage had been done. I readjusted a couple of the plugs, checked everything and was back on the road again. I had failed to do a walk-around before leaving Goulding’s.

The Goosenecks are just that. It takes the San Juan River 5 miles of goose necking to go 2 miles. I think the sign said that it has been doing this for about 100 million years - hey long before our time!

My plans from here will be to head toward Bluff UT, then head over to the 4 Corners, from there to Shiprock NM, thru Farmington NM and over to the Chama NM area. I have always wanted to take the Chama NM to Antonito CO narrow gauge railroad ride. It is like the Durango to Silverton train ride, one most people take, but this one is suppose to be more spectacular.

Until next time. Happy Trails to you. Did you come up with a bunch of John Wayne movies, and I should say John Ford, movies made out this way?

PS I didn’t spend the night at the Goosenecks. There was one other trailer person there and he went out onto a mesa walking around. I suspect he was looking for things. Then someone, I think a Navajo -maybe autority, couldn’t tell - went out to confront him and it became a standoff between the two. #1 one would not come in toward his trailer and #2 man just kept hanging around his vehicle blocking #1’s way back to his trailer. Once in a while I could hear voices but not what was being said. I have an idea what was going on, but decided not to stay - gut said leave. I went to Bluff UT for the night.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

What a Place to Get Sick!

Day 18, Mile 2149, Goulding’s Trading Post Campground, Monument Valley AZ

Well, didn’t make it very far today. And to be sick in such a beautiful place too. I had lunch at Mickey Dee’s in Kayenta and within 30 minutes I had to pull over quickly and get out of the truck and run for the ditch. Mind you it is dangerous to pull over out here - very fine sand, no shoulders, often unofficial pullouts are littered with glass and pieces of radial tires. After roughing it over a rather bumpy turn off, I checked the trailer to see if the cupboards had flown open, stuff spilled out of the refrigerator or what ever. Only thing I found was a popped rivet at the top of the cupboard where my microwave goes. Everything had stayed put! In fact, just a few minutes before I stopped I passed the two guys who had gotten their meals just before me and one of them looked like he had made a run too.

Since I didn’t really feel like going much further I came here. Unfortunately, the campground was filled but am parking across the street boondocking again. Sure glad I had that shower this morning.

Speaking of Casitas (I know no one was), one pulled in right after me with a 2005 model. They are Leo and Pam from Brunswick ME. He goes by the handle “Papa Louie” in the CasitaClub.com forum. At Cottonwood Campground, there were two Casitas - a couple from Florida and Gordon from Arizona. Also, at Cottonwood was one of those new teardrop trailers and a late 80’s Scamp.

As I mentioned above in the first paragraph, this is beautiful country, very red and unfortunately no really good pull off spots for taking pictures, going awwwww or gawking. I finally learned to look for the school bus stop ahead signs and used those for my viewing as they are nice long paved spots for the bus to pull over. US191 and US160 are like mild roller coaster rides. There is good road surface and then there is bouncy, bouncy.

Saw something interesting I wish I could have taken a picture of. Out in the middle of nowhere east of Kayenta on US160, there was a FedEx delivery truck parked on one side of the road and a UPS van parked on the other side of the road and the two drivers were talking to each other. Now, to not get either one in trouble, one might have been broke down.

Just reread the end of my last post and see I am a day off along with time changes - AZ not on daylight, Navajo’s are, Hopi’s aren’t, I have no idea what time it is here - my time. You see hogans still being built out here. The best one I saw had skylights in the roof, an AC unit to one side, TV satellite dish, and house siding on it! But, true to tradition for the Navajos, the door faced the East. In fact, all housing, new or old, trailer or hogan has the door facing East. Oh, besides dogs and horses on the highway, add goats. I experienced my first gas spill ever at a gas station yesterday. I still smell the gas. I was refilling my little 2 gallon gas container and the dang pump wouldn’t shut off. There was gas all over the place. The guy filling up next to me came to my rescue and he said this pump does that often. No body moved, no body drove away until the guy came out and thru some cat litter on the spill. Then everybody left! What is really cool out here is you are driving on sand dunes that have been frozen in time and on top of them are semi-permanent sand dues due to the vegetation holding them. These in time may become like the ones underneath. The “frozen” sand dunes are so pretty with the mounds, swirls.

Well will be up and ready to go to Mexican Hat or where ever. Am having breakfast with the couple from Maine in the morning before I leave. They are really a great pair. Oh, this is the land of John Wayne. Remember his movies made out here? How many can you guess?

Well, anyway here is the news and the pictures will be when I can get them on shortly.

Wow, freebies & my new battery worked!

Day 18, Mile 2017,Cottonwood Campground Canyon de Chelly

Today I visited were our family spread my dad’s ashes, per his request, around 9-10 years ago. I went to Spider Rock here at Canyon de Chelly. That was the only reason why I came here. It is beautiful; and, as you can see, in a couple of the pictures I took, rain squalls in the distance. I soon had a squall upon me at Spider Rock and as I shed some tears they became mixed with the rain coming down on me. I didn’t really care how wet I got at that moment.

I stopped at the Junction Overlook on the way back to camp and there was an elderly Navajo (probably not much older than me but it sounds better) there selling his wares. He asked me why I was so wet, did I get caught in a rain? I explained to him where I was and why. And, he chanted something short in Navajo and didn’t tell me what, but whatever I felt better but drenched and he got his $5. It started to rain again so I got in the truck and just watched the rain blow down into the Canyon.

Okay, I’ve now been blessed or a prayer said over me and I feel good but I am soaked. It was dry here at camp so I discreetly hung my clothes around to dry. As I am sitting outside reading a book, this old mutt comes to my camp begging for any handout I know. I try to ignore him and he patiently waits. He is so smart by being coy about the whole thing (and he is so cute). I was good and didn’t give him anything and he finally wandered off. Because there are so many dogs around, the Park Service has had to raise the trash cans in a rack on stilts so the dogs won’t get into them. Don’t see dogs running packs, like I had heard, but in singles - maybe they figure a single dog won’t scare the humans and they are more apt to get something. Unlike the horses, in herds in Chinle, they roam around together, right out in front of you on the streets, etc. No wonder I noticed so many fences.

I arrived here early yesterday afternoon from Page AZ. Wasn’t a long drive. What I mostly saw was high desert terrain. I did take a few pictures just before getting to Tuba City AZ showing the different layers of color. I had been to Tuba City before but don’t remember it. I crossed the Hopi Reservation and was amazed at how modern the housing is - very neat and tidy and homes like you would find in a small town.

Chinle has really grown and is a hub city for the area - organized in a Navajo way. The Thunderbird Lodge is still here and I had breakfast where the trading post used to be (all that was saved is the safe for storing valuables, now a small art gallery). There is a new Visitor Center and new roads around.

I spent Sunday night in the Wal-Mart parking lot at Page AZ. I hadn’t planned on doing that. I had ordered some prescription refills on-line and would stop to pick them up; but, due to some technical difficulties it was mid-afternoon before they were ready. Hence, it was too late to go very far, so stayed. Glad I did because I ended up getting a new battery for the trailer as the old one just wasn’t holding a charge. I slept pretty good that night. I did stop and see the damn dam at Glen Canyon and listen to people say . . . . ”my look how low the water is.” That’s all my comments on that _ _ _ _ dam.
Thank heavens my calendar on this laptop keeps me straight on my days. I would be lost if I just had a regular calendar to look at and try and figure out what day it is. Tomorrow, Wednesday, I will head towards Mexican Hat and the Goosenecks of the San Juan River.

Battery is running down, so must quit and transfer this tomorrow morning before I leave while I have some WiFi capability.

Yuk, was going to fix some guacamole for sup tonight. I had this avocado for a couple of days, felt like it was ready like I am use to. Cut it open and it’s as hard as rock in side - where the heck is this avocado from I ask? Oh, Chile, nothing like a good ole California avocado.

Morning of 19th day, fortunately I got the tanks on the trailer dumped in time as they were shutting the dump stations and rest rooms down due to a problem in the sewer system because of all the storms we had yesterday. Well, am off up north.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Two Weeks Down

Day 14, Kanab Utah, Mile 1660 in trip

Two weeks tomorrow on the road. Wow and I am not ready to head back home yet. My pictures, as of yesterday’s activities, are updated through my trips to Coral Pink Sand Dunes (Utah) State Park and Pipe Springs National Monument. See my Flickr link to the right.

I leave tomorrow morning (Saturday) for Canyon de Chelly (pronounced sha-long A) National Monument near Chinle Arizona, where I will spend a night (or two) near the Visitor Center. Here I will test my skills I learned on this trip as there aren’t any hookups etc. From there I will travel up to Mexican Hat, Utah and stay in that area. I want to see the Goosenecks of the San Juan River. From there onto see the 4 Corners and wander over to somewhere in the mountains of northern New Mexico. It may be 4 or 5 days before I can post again, but I’ll keep a diary and post as soon as I can.

I have stayed here in Kanab, Utah for 3 nights. I am taking it easy today doing laundry, stocking up on things for the next few days, gassing up, etc. You have heard of Montezuma’s Revenge if you go to Mexico? Well, Utah’s “culinary” water has affected me the same way (it’s very good tasting by the way - beats the water at home by a long shot), so am back to Dasani water for drinking and cooking for awhile.

Today, I saw John and Ann at another RV park. They had apparently came down from Zion yesterday and didn’t see me in this park until they were out walking their dogs yesterday afternoon. I wasn’t at home at the time. They were to meet Don and Kathie this morning and go onto the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Don found me and he went looking for Ann and John but didn’t find them as they had left the park at 11 a.m. (check-out time) and were parked on a street next to the RV park waiting for him. Since Don didn’t find them, he and Kathie went on to the Rim. I got to talk with Kathie for a few minutes and she had a good time in Zion. Ann said she loved it. After Don and Kathie left, I went back to Ann and John and they were talking with Casita owner Sebastian, who lives here in Kanab. We visited for a few minutes and Ann and John then left to go back to west Texas. They decided since Don wasn’t exactly sure where he was going to be, it would be hard to find the camp among the many primitive campgrounds on the North Rim, so they would head back home. Besides, we learned tomorrow is the opening of bow hunting season there. I stayed and visited with Sebastian for awhile.

The experience with the others has been good, I did learn some things and was able to help others with things I had learned. As with any group, we did have our differences of opinion and conflicts but overall I am glad I was with them and learned what I did. Now that your are totally confused about this morning, I’ll move on.

Let’s see. Oh, yes . . . .Kathie and I took advantage of the free shuttle bus service through the Park at Bryce. You get off, spend as long as you want at each point then catch the next bus coming by. I am glad we did because there were so many vehicles at each point of interest - course that’s the purpose of the shuttle bus is to cut down on the traffic in the Park (Zion has it too). For a panoramic view and colors, it is Sunset Point. All the hoodoos and changing colors. We had lunch at the Bryce Canyon Lodge built by the UP railroad decades ago to bring tourists to Bryce, really good food but not good enough to put on “My Favorite Places” list. I found a Dutch Oven cookbook for Don and gave it to him that night when I went to say goodbye to everyone. I am sure glad that I have one of those America the Beautiful Senior Pass’s as it saved me the $25 entrance fee. I understand Zion has the same entrance fee. Those two National Parks are very popular.

Yesterday (Thursday), was a really enjoyable day. I first went to Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park , just a few miles northwest of here and spent between 2 and 3 hours traipsing around the sand dunes. It is a very fine sand and not easy to walk in. I followed the nature trail that had been laid out and read about the wildlife, plants and why the dunes are there. Check their website out for more information. I came back, had lunch and took a short nap.

In the afternoon, I went to Pipe Springs National Monument and met the most fantastic woman. Bro, she reminded me of Georgie Clark White. (I had taken some exciting and interesting river trips with her 47-48 years ago.) Her name is June and she is a volunteer with the National Parks/Monuments. I would say she is in her 70’s and has done things that a lot of us dream about. She knows the area and has lots of stories to tell about Pipe Springs. She has lots of stories about her life too. I really had fun there and came away with an armload of produce from the garden at the Monument (it’s a garden like the settlers would have had).

I like to indulge once in a while, while traveling, in local cuisine. Tonight I had a super dinner at The Rocking V Cafe. The owner is witty, colorful and amusing. Their website is just as interesting as the owner. I had the Desert Oasis salad then finished up my dinner with a very delicious bread pudding with whiskey sauce. This is going on my list of FAVORITES.

Well, the local football game is in it’s second half and I will be able to go to bed pretty soon. My neighbors and I are getting a play-by-play account of the game as the football stadium is just a few blocks away. It is homecoming for the Cowboys and they shoot off fireworks every time the locals get a touchdown. So far that has been four times. Opps, the opponent, the Eagles, are catching up.

Good night, and will post again when I can.
PS New pictures and new Favorite Place to Eat

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

It's 3:30 in the morning

And here I am posting. Our group is in the Bryce National Park area. I am in a public/commercial RV park and the other 3 are in Red Canyon Park about 10 miles west of here. The reason I am here, plugged into electricity and water, is that my trailer battery needed some long-term juice. That's my excuse. I wanted to be able to turn a light on and leave it on for a while! I knew I wasn't an avid boondocker but wanted to learn some basics for those times when I wanted to go somewhere to see something and there wasn't electricity/water available and for those nights I just couldn't find anything.

Ya, the campground is crowded and neighbors are in close proximity to each other, but I have already met Cathy and Rusty, Cathy's father-in-law and his cat Charlie, and Linda. We also happen to meet at the laundry mat. It's quiet, there are pine trees to smell and the temperature outside is hovering in the upper 30's right now. I just turned my little heater on and I am snug as a bug in a rug. This is our first really cold night.

Sunday morning we left Capital Reef and headed for Escalante State Park located in the northern part of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Park on UT 12. I stopped in Torrey to use a WIFI signal from a motel, to check emails as we are communicating with several Casita owners in the Kanab area and send out emails to family, send another blog out, get some ice and a few groceries. The others went on ahead of me. I enjoyed being by myself but did catch up with them later near Escalante.

I drove thru mountain country with pine trees and loaded with aspen. The aspen groves are just like in pictures you see - the white trunks, beautiful. The leaves are just starting to lose their green color and will be covering the sides of the mountains with their gorgeous golden color before long. I did encounter a Miata car club from the Salt Lake Valley and we played leap frog for quite a while. At a view point, before reaching the summit of Boulder Mountain at 9600 ft, we met each other again. Some of them wanted to see the inside of the trailer.

It is also open range and cattle are still in the mountains, and on the highway. I rounded one curve going up hill about 40 mph and met a calf crossing the highway with his mama. I managed to brake in time but still lightly bumped him. He is okay and was showing no sign of injury, nor any to the truck. But mama wasn't very happy. She came back up on the road and gave me a look that only mom's understand.

On the other side of Boulder Mountain the environment changed and became more high desert like. The colors were still there but the geography was changing. At one point, we traveled across what I would call a "goat trail". Again, the sides of the road dropped off down the sides for many, many feet (it seemed more like miles) and no guard rails. They probably wouldn't have done much good anyway. This was my first encounter driving with a trailer down 14% grades. Weeeeeeeeeeeee.

We arrived at Escalante SP around noon, set up, had lunch and discussed what to do that afternoon. Kathie and Don went exploring back up near Boulder UT and the 3 of us stayed in camp, took showers, I worked on the computer. On Monday morning we headed to Devil's Garden on a terrible washboard road. Ann was getting sick and so she and John turned back. The Devil's Garden area has a lot of interesting rock formations. Don told me to speed up on the washboard road and it wouldn't be so bad. Boy, did my springs get a true workout as I barreled down that road for camp. Think I scared a very slow moving car at the crest of a hill!

We left Escalante SP, after spending one night there and headed over to the Bryce area. It was a short drive but as you got closer to Bryce we were treated to "Bryce teasers" I call them. The beautiful pinks, creams, and salmon colors in the pillars and spires. Tomorrow (errrr, today) Kathie and I get together and take the shuttle bus around to the various view points in Bryce and then go over to Kodachrome Canyon, south of Canyonville on UT 12. Ann and John are tending to some household (er, trailerhold) chores and then do some touring themselves. Don is going to stay in camp and work on his notes for the May 2008 trip others will be taking.

I will be leaving the group here and heading for the Kanab UT area for a few days. Haven't decided what to do or see yet, but that's the fun of this trip. The others are suppose to come thru Kanab, from Zion National Park, on their way to the north rim of the Grand Canyon. So maybe I will see them. It's been fun being with them and have enjoyed the companionship, laughs, and getting acquainted with some fellow Casita owners. I learned some things too - I enjoyed traveling more by myself from point A to point B, when with a group, I really do like my comforts, I can cook a meal on the stove, it is a bit tiring to me to move every 1 or 2 days, I can master those 14% downhill grades and narrow roadways, and the pine trees still smell good.

Until next time.
PS. Will work on some more photos tomorrow night.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

One Week and still going!

Day 8, Mile 1250 Capital Reef National Park

I am going to start from today and work backwards. Hopefully, as we leave here Sunday morning I can find a place in Torrey UT to send this out to my blog site. After all we have been spending a few days in a area that is estimated to be over 2 billion years old; and as many of you know, when you reach a certain age it’s very hard to make, adapt, to or accept changes. We did find a couple of telephones down here, so if necessary we could call out! It’s very remote as far as communication with the outside world goes.

It is really and truly beautiful here. The daytime temps are in the 80’s and the nighttime are in the 60’s. There is usually a nice breeze throughout the area. There have been very few threatening clouds, though we did miss some flash flooding up in the Canyons a few days ago when Kathie and I were in Moab.

Today, Kathie, Don our leader (who came late and will explain that later) and myself went looking for desert bighorn sheep back up in some of the canyons. We were not successful but we did get into a pretty remote area of the Park known as the South Draw area. This area was a cattle gathering area years before Capital Reef even became a National Monument. Ranchers would herd their cattle to this area as winter was drawing near and take them down to the lowlands for winter. It was the first time I had ever had Big Red on a 4 wheel drive road (and I don’t have 4-wheel drive). It was fun.

Kathie and I arrived here on Day 6 of my trip, from Moab. It was a relatively blah drive over here and only several hours in length, so we didn’t hurry our departure from Moab. We got here around 1 p.m. and quickly found two other Casitas belonging to Marilyn from the Phoenix area and to Ann and John from west Texas. After a couple of hours we finally had ourselves set up and ready to join the group. I am parked on a steep incline and have had to extend the trailer jack a bit more than I am comfortable, so I told the group there will be no partying or dancing in my trailer! I did not want to roll down the incline into Kathie’s rig.

We leaned later, from a message left at the Visitor Center, that Don our leader had called and needed to talk with someone from our group. Uh oh, we thought something has happened and we are on our own! This is how we found one of the land lines as I said in my first paragraph, we are communication remote. Well, due to an issue Don had at home that would be taken care of Friday morning (9/7), he wouldn’t be joining our group until after we had gong to bed Friday night or early Saturday morning. So we were pretty much on our own to decide what to do for the day of Friday.

Early Thursday evening we spent the time getting acquainted with each other. Later that evening we attended the Park show, put on by a Ranger, at the amphitheater and learned about the geology side and man’s discovery of the area and about the settlements. Briefly, this area was used by mountain men, John Fremont explored the area looking for passages, and right here in the area of the campground was settled by Mormon families. Community activities were established and all kinds of fruit and nut trees were planted. The area is just perfect with plenty of water, climate for fruit trees, etc. In fact the fruit trees are still here and are loaded with pears and apples right now. You can pick them when the orchards are open and eat all you want while in the orchard, but you must pay for what you take out of the orchards.

President Roosevelt established the area as a national monument in and later it was declared a national park. Not only is the geographical condition of the area under preservation but the little town area of Fruita is too. We were told to be sure and go the Gifford Farm House at 9 a.m. and get some of the locally produced fruit pies from the locally grown fruit. I purchased an apple and a mixed berry pie plus some other goodies Friday morning before we started exploring the area. And they are really good.

On Day 7, Kathie, Marilyn and I decided we were going to explore the Grand Wash area. You drive a few miles on a paved road, then a dirt road, then hike 1.3 miles to The Narrows. The canyon walls become very narrow and one can imagine the rush of water coming down the canyons and gaining speed. Marilyn and I could stand with arms outstretched touching each other and touching the walls on each side, that’s how narrow it got. We had an enjoyable walk taking our time, resting here and there. That was pretty much the extent of our activities for the day. It is somewhere between 5,000 and 6000 feet elevation so we weren’t pushing ourselves.

The rest of the afternoon, we visited at one of the campsites, called to see where Don was, and he was on his way just leaving Salt Lake City. He estimated to be in sometime after 10:30 p.m. Marilyn, Kathie and I went into the little town of Torrey, tried to call out on our cell phones, gassed up Big Red and found a place to have supper. While there, I found a place to send an Emil to family to let them know I was okay as my phone call to Juno got cut off after I got a couple of words out of my mouth, as my battery went dead. We waited up until 10 p.m. for Don to show but he hadn’t yet and everyone else in the campground was turning in.

I was just climbing into bed at 11 p.m. and saw what looked like a Casita coming around the bend into the campground. It was Don and I went out (in my pjs) and met him and helped him get temporally set up for the night. Marilyn had told us earlier that, due to pressing matters at home, she really needed to be hitting the road for back to the Phoenix area Saturday morning and Don would use her space so he would be closer to the rest of us.

Oh, one cute incident. I walked over to the House where the pies are sold and on the way I stopped to take some pictures of deer in the pasture surrounding the house. As I turned around here were a dozen mule deer coming toward me to go to the pasture also. It was so interesting watching them and seeing their relationship with each other. There were 4 or 5 fawns and one buck. Bringing up the rear was a doe. A man and his little Scottie dog had just walked by where the group had been and this doe saw the Scottie dog and could not take her eyes off of it. She wanted to go up to that little dog but the man kept shooing the doe away. She kept watching that dog, would walk a few steps, stop and watch, take a few more steps, stop and watch. Meanwhile, the dog was totally oblivious to what was going on.

Need to take a break and fix supper. The two men joined forces and made a peach cobbler in Don’s Dutch Oven for our dessert tonight. Can even smell it. More later.

Day 5 Moab, Utah
This was a day of exploration. I got up early in the morning to get to the Island in the Sky district located about 30 miles up a mesa. Unfortunately, it was pretty hazy and was hard to get good pictures. You were up on top of this mesa that is connected to a larger piece of land with a “neck” that is the width of a shoulder less two-lane road. At some point in time it would be an “island”. The Green River runs on the west side of the mesa and the Colorado River on the east side of the mesa. What the Colorado River has done is much more spectacular. There are 4-wheel trips you can take that take you about mid-way down the mesa and all the way around. It is a two-day trip and you camp out on the lower level. The area was extensively mined for uranium years ago and you can still see the scars. Some of the roads are used by the tour companies. I took several hikes to overlooks not accessible by vehicle.

After returning to camp, taking a short nap, Kathie and I headed to Dead Horse State Park. This is another mesa with a very narrow neck that was used in days of long ago, when cowboys would herd mustangs onto this small mesa and put a brush fence behind the horses to keep them there. Then the cowboys would cut out the horses they wanted and normally would open the fence so the unpicked horses could make their way back to grass and water. But, for some reason the horses stayed this one time and starved to death. The cowboys claimed they opened the brush gate. The view towards the Colorado River is really great. It forms goosenecks thru the country; and, once again you could make out people in 4-wheel drive vehicles or ATV’s along the roads below. I have pictures from that day on my “flickr” page, but not labeled yet. There are several large lagoons of a blueish water and this is salt brine being brought up from way down below, dried in large lined lagoons and what is extracted is potash. We were told that this area has never felt an earthquake because of the salt layer way below that acts as a cushion. There have been earthquakes, they have never been felt - otherwise there would not be the spectacular arches, pillars and so on there are.

Kathie and I went into Moab for dinner and they took a wonderful boat ride up the Colorado River at dusk. By the time we got about 4 or 5 miles up the River, it was dark and a truck that has 40,000 watt lights on it displays the canyon walls. Along with a narration about the area, its history and good music you really get wrapped up in the whole thing. It was cool and felt good, no bugs because the bats were taking care of that as they swooped over your head and around the boat.

Day 4
This day I traveled to Moab. Not much to say except that a few short miles into Utah, I passed a sign on the highway that said “Eagles on road”. Never saw one, never saw another sign.

Day 3
Took a designated Colorado Scenic Route to Gateway, Naturita, Narrows, Ridgeway, Montrose, Delta and back to Grand Junction.

The trip to Gateway - WOW, WOW and WOW beautiful canyons

Gateway - AMAZING, FASCINATING, WANT TO RETURN. John Hendricks, the founder of the Discovery Channel grew up here and he loved it so much he and his family want to share the beauty. He has moved his fantastic Auto Museum here, built a gorgeous lodge, restaurant, general store and soon to be amphitheater next year. An campground is in the works too. Their web site is www.gatewaycanyons.com and for the auto museum it is www.gatewayautomuseum.com

Continued on south, more canyons, wooden flumes built on the side of cliffs in Dolores River Canyon during the gold mining days is astounding.

As you get closer to the area around Norwood, you are in high altitude meadows and it is ranching and some farming country. Very beautiful country. Several hours earlier there had been thunderstorms in the area. As I was going down “Norwood Hill” a 4-mile 7% downgrade the sign at the top of the hill said “Falling Rocks”. This is the first time I have ever encountered already falling rocks plus one falling hitting the tonneau cover on the back of the truck. No damage luckily.

The area west of Ridgeway is very beautiful, again high elevation, meadows, groves of aspens just starting to turn the dull green before they turn their beautiful colors.

I tried to keep this portion short as I got pretty windy on Day 2. And I’ll try not to go as long again. It gets hard to remember so I try and keep notes. See my pictures so far and they will explain my awe so far.

Well, my bed and bedding should be dry by morning. It’s amazing how big that 6 oz glass of water can grow when you spill it! And a note for my family and friends: Since I have come to the high elevation, I have only felt two incidents of heart flutter.
Good night. Off to Escalante National Park tomorrow.

PS For those following the road/highway routes I am taking, it has been west on I-70. Just past Green River Utah, I took UT 24 to Hanksville, west on UT 24 to the Fruita campground at Park Headquarters. When I took the CO Scenic Byway, it was CO 141 to Gateway, then to Naturita, then CO 145 to Norwood, CO 62 to Ridgeway, US 550 to Montrose, US 50 thru Delta and back to Grand Junction

Monday, September 3, 2007

Day 2, 563 Miles

Day 2, Mile 406 At the top of Vail Pass, 10,600 ft above sea level

Whew! The cyclists are unbelievable. They are in all shapes (not quite all shapes), sizes, ages, styles, etc. Opps, did see one hefty gentleman riding uphill near Eagle. Good for him.

It’s been a beautiful day so far. Thunder clouds are starting to form overhead over the mountain tops. There is no wind or even a breeze. I left this morning to a beautiful sun rise, no wind and little traffic on the Interstate. I think the area between Limon and Deer Trail (on I-70) is really beautiful, if you are into wide open spaces - one can see for miles and miles, cattle grazing, cottonwoods lining the banks of the East Bijou River, a cemetery on the hill with a lone tree standing over those interred there, located across from the little town of Agate. Ahh, the quietness of the open country - until a vehicle going 80 mph goes by you on the type of highway surface that makes your tires whine.

I chose to go straight thru Denver on I-70 and then up the Rockies. I did pretty good so far. At least I made it this far. I am hoping to get somewhere between Vail and Grand Junction for the night.

Day 2, Mile 563
GRAND JUNCTION CO. Am here at the RV Ranch at Grand Junction. A very nice park, lots of folks here with those big rigs all chatty and friendly. A lot of them seem to know each other and they just had a potluck supper over at the little “Patio Cafe” just two spaces down from me. They were quiet.

I didn’t have reservations so feel lucky I got a spot - a pull in and back out in the a.m. or a back in and pull out in the a.m. Unfortunately, the nice level concrete pad is not long enough to do either and stay hooked up! Either the back end of the trailer or the front end of the truck would stick out into the roadway. So I backed in at an angle (that was real hard to do mind you since I still haven’t mastered backing that well yet), unhooked the truck and was able to park it next to the trailer enough to get it out of the roadway and about 18” to open my door on Eggcarto. Course backing in put all the hookups on the wrong side, but alas I had planned for occasions like this (really)! The space isn’t quite wide enough to park alongside either.

I said “Oh the (fill in blank with your own descriptive word) I am tired, hot, grumpy and hungry”. I turned on the AC and crawled into bed and slept for 3 hours. I hadn’t really wanted to drive this far and the park I had wanted to stay at right along the Colorado River had RV’s with propane tanks out front of their units and the park wasn’t very well organized. My gut said forget it and drive on.

I just finished supper - a guacamole salad and now finishing off with one of my Rice Krispie treats I made at home.

I tried running my refrigerator on propane today for the first time while traveling to take the load off the batteries, as I had read on the CasitaClub.com website many travel with the refrig on propane. Well, that was a wasted effort. The wind shield for the flame is loose and hence the pilot light kept blowing out. Then my lighter wand thingy quit on me, so I did a lot of praying that my refrig would stay cold enough to get me to an electrical hookup to run it on. I think everything is okay. We’ll see in the morning how I feel or if I wake up even!

Back to the first part of this posting, if you ain’t into cycling (or skiing) in this State you got to be out of the element (sorry JE, stole your quote to me). There are cycling paths up and down both sides of the mountains, paved for the most part; and look out if you are standing in one of them taking pictures! And once you hit the Colorado River there are rafting trips, albeit calm compared to my experience thru the Grand Canyon, ohhhhhhhh a number of decades ago. Finding a parking spot at the rest areas along the Interstate are hard to come by too.

At Eagle, I pulled into the rest area there and lo and behold there was another Casita. It turned out to be Jane and Ron from Gainesville Florida. They had been vacationing out west and were headed back home to Florida. First Casita I have seen. Oh, did have some one honk at me and wave while I was going through Glenwood Canyon. Either had a Casita themselves or were from Kansas or saw the Pink Ribbon in a window in Eggcarto. I was too busy navigating the turns, watching my speed and trying to catch the sights at the same time to see where they were from.

The sights are beautiful and breathtaking and I did manage to get some pictures and tried to minimize the amount of people in the area. Wasn’t like this decades ago when I was last here. The change from the mountainous rock to the red soils to the almost painted desert effect as you proceed west. I can hear my brother now naming off the types of rock they are - ahhhhh brings back memories of traveling with the family when I was a youngster!

Guess I will be running the AC tonight, it’s hot. Last night at Limon I had to get a blanket out and cover me up it was so chilly. I’ll try and get some photos posted here in a few days. I haven’t really taken that many yet. Am recharging batteries for the camera and my phone is off as I need to recharge it tomorrow - I forgot the AC plug.

Good night.


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Saturday, September 1, 2007

Day 1, 253 Miles

LIMON CO, I managed to get away around 10 a.m. CDT and headed west on I-70. It was hard saying good by to Juno, but we parted after a bunch of hugs.

I decided to use the anti-sway bar, between the trailer and pickup, this trip and it didn’t take long to notice the difference - a big difference between the first trip where I didn’t use it and just 45 miles of driving in this trip. The first thing I noticed was the lack of “bucking” between the pickup and the trailer on rough road surfaces. About 45 miles down the road, the wind picked up considerably hitting the driver side of the vehicles. When the 18-wheelers passed there wasn’t any sway at all - it was as if tow vehicle and trailer were one. I didn’t experience much trouble on Trip #1 with sway problems but hated the “bucking” that went on between the truck and trailer. I am sold on using the anti-sway bar now. Hopefully, I don’t forget to back up with it on!

It was pretty uneventful today, only thing I wrestled with was being tired. The night before you leave on a trip, when you need a good night’s sleep, is not the time to have a glass of ice tea from the sun tea you had made earlier in the day - thinking the tea was decaffeinated! So I made it as far as here and am staying in a KOA campground.

I took a long, long nap. Fixed supper, took a shower and now ready for bed. We did have some light showers earlier and I can see lightening out my dinette window. It is pretty and also pretty far away. Maybe western Kansas is getting some rain.

Until next time. . . . .