Sunday, September 30, 2018
We’re moving to Memphis today. This is our longest trek in quite awhile, 282 miles, but all highway driving except for the short drive to and from the campgrounds and the highway. Our scenery is farmland on both sides of the highway for as far as you can see. Endless cotton fields, some ready to pick and others already harvested with brightly wrapped bales waiting to be picked up and taken to market. The once familiar drab greenish bales of hay we had been seeing are replaced with bales of white cotton wrapped with bright pink or yellow wrappers. There are a few cattle grazing in fields, but by and large, the cash crop is cotton. We are in the South!
We are staying at Tom Sawyer RV Park, which is actually across the Mississippi in West Memphis, Arkansas. The park is right on the Mississippi. We reserved a site under the hackberry trees to try and stay cool and beat the Memphis heat instead of being by the river in the sun. I do like this park; water, sewer and 50 amp with wide sites under the trees and the Mississippi breeze. The sites by the water are much smaller. We can sit and watch the tugs moving the barges up the river with that nice breeze blowing. And the bonus is it is a few minutes over the bridge into Memphis. I’m already planning a return trip in May for the Blues Festival.
The campground has many open green spaces, which, I’m sure, will one day be campsites On far side of the campground, they have already taken some of the green space and are putting in new sites that look to be ready in a month or so. These look to be smaller in size and don’t appear to have any trees, unless they will be added later. One downside to the campground is it is on the river, which can flood and alter your plans.
Saturday, September 29, 2018
We home today. Alex is doing some catch and release fishing.
Friday, September 28, 2018
The most notable feature of the Saint Louis skyline is the Gateway Arch. Formerly called the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, symbolizing Thomas Jefferson’s vision of a transcontinental United States, it is now the centerpiece of the Gateway Arch National Park, which stretches from the Old Courthouse, built in 1839, to the mighty Mississippi. In 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt designated the land for the memorial, and the city deeded the Courthouse to the National Park Service to be incorporated in the memorial park. A nationwide design competition was held in 1948, with architect Eero Saarinen’s design being the winner. Construction began in 1963 and was completed in 1965. The Arch cost $13 million to build in 1960, equivalent to $190 million in today’s value.
The Old Courthouse is most notably famous for two things; the Dred Scott lawsuit and where Saint Louis suffragette Virginia Minor sued for women’s right to vote in 1874, both unsuccessfully. In the 1830s, then slave Dred Scott was taken to Illinois and Wisconsin, free states, before being brought back to slave state Missouri. Under Missouri’s “once free, always free” doctrine, Scott sued for his freedom at the St. Louis Courthouse, now known as the Old Courthouse. In 1857, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against Scott and his wife Harriet, stating that African-Americans were not citizens and therefore had no right to sue in court. Known as the Dred Scott Decision, the ruling helped to speed the start of the U.S. Civil War four years later.
The Gateway Arch National Park stretches along the Mississippi, with beautiful green grass to lounge on and pathways to walk, jog or bike. You walk through the park to the river where the towering Arch stands.
When you look at the Arch, it presents an optical illusion. It appears taller than it is wide. In reality, it is 630 tall and 630 feet wide.
The entrance is a few hundred feet from the Arch itself back towards the street. You walk down to an underground area. Here you pay your entrance fee, go through airport like security and begin your journey through the museum. The museum is set up to tell the story of America’s westward expansion in several alcove type settings. A very interesting and informative exhibit.
When it’s time for your tram ride to the top of the Arch, you head down another hallway to a small holding area where a guide tells you the history of the Arch. You are also reminded that if you are claustrophobic, now is the time to rethink your decision to ride the tram. The tram car holds a maximum of five people and you are packed in like sardines in a tiny can. Headroom is only four feet.
We survive the tram ride up with another couple. We are 630 feet up in the Saint Louis sky. When you get off the tram, it’s difficult to get your balance and walk. The walkway is an incline, like you are walking up a hill, but in a fun house where you’re slightly off kilter. The windows are tiny, like rectangle portholes, and you have to lean over a carpeted wall to get close.
The views are spectacular. On a clear day, which it is, you can see for thirty miles. We are able to see all of the city including Busch Stadium, home of the St. Louis Cardinals. You can stay up here for as long as the park is open. Eventually, we take the tram down and this time we have the car to ourselves.
Thursday, September 27, 2018
Alex needs a break today, so we’re home finishing our jigsaw puzzle.
Wednesday, September 26, 2018
The Missouri Civil War Museum is located on the grounds of the Jefferson Barracks, an Army Base that has processed our military and been a launching point for all wars since its inception in 1826.
In 1946, after World War II, the Barracks ceased to function in that capacity. Most of the buildings were torn down and the property sold off. What’s left serves as a military cyberspace center, education and research facility and the museum. Across from the building that houses the museum is the parade field, which is where the first successful parachute jump from an airplane was made by Captain Albert Berry on March 1, 1912. He is one of two people credited as being the first person to make a successful jump from a powered airplane, in this case, a Benoist pusher biplane from 1,500 feet.
I can’t say enough about the Museum. It houses weapons, equipment, items, and uniforms of those who lived during the Civil War. The videos, storyboards and information available was incredible.
I learned so much more about the conditions that led up to the war than I ever learned in school. We all know about Jesse James and his hatred for the Feds. I learned of his outlaw, Robin Hood like tendencies in New Mexico, but I never really knew what actually brought him, and others like him, to become such a violent part of our history. One of the catalysts in the Great War, was the civil war between Kansas, a free state, and Missouri, a slave state. Something, if I was ever taught it, I don’t remember. Local Kansas militia and Federal troops frequently attacked western Missouri farms along the border, raping women, killing farmers, burning down the farms, and stealing the farmer’s stock and slaves. Missourians, like Jesse James and others, developed a hatred for the Feds and the people of Kansas who committed these acts. That sentiment still lingers, in part, today and their retaliation is the legends of the old west. These Missourians fought the Federal government at ever turn.
I was so moved by the Museum, that I bought several books, including Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which President Lincoln, stated was an instigator in moving the people to end slavery and ultimately the war. We spend the entire day there and I would do it again. One of the best museums I have been to.
Not far from the Museum is the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery. You can see the headstones from the Museum. The Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery was established in 1863, during the American Civil War and is the final resting place for 16,000 Union and the Confederate soldiers and their spouses. Soldiers continue to be interned there. The first person buried in the cemetery in 1827, before it became a National Cemetery, was Elizabeth Ann Lash, the infant child of an officer stationed at Jefferson Barracks. When you first drive through the gates of the cemetery, you are awestruck. Thousands of white headstones in precise rows sit on rolling green hills. Nothing compares to this, with the exception of Arlington National Cemetery. A beautiful, peaceful tribute to our fallen.
Again, lunch seems to have passed us by, so as we leave the Barracks and get to the highway, we find Cafe Telegraph Grill & Bar. They serve pizza. Not the worst, but not the best either. Oh, and, even though we ask the waiter to have the chef cut the pizza into eight slices, it comes out cut into squares.
Tuesday, September 25, 2018
We’re continuing on our brewery tours today with a trip to Anheuser-Busch for their tour. After parking in the free parking lot, we make our way to the entrance. Unlike Coors, Anheuser-Busch offers a free forty five minute guided tour and several other more informative, in depth tours where they charge an admission. This includes their brewmaster class. Alex had already taken the brewmaster class in San Diego some years back, so we opt for the free tour. The next tour doesn’t start until one, so we check out the gift shop and wait.
First stop is the Clydesdale horses. When we reached the barn and tack room, one of the horses was getting a bath. A treat. Each horse has its gear made specifically for them. The total gear can weigh two hundred pounds.
We move through and see the steps to the brewing process. When the brewery was built in the late 1800’s, it was designed to have architectural appeal. And it succeeded. The founding family lived on the grounds as well and wants the buildings to look nice. The buildings and interiors don’t look anything like a working business.
We have one stop, where we can sample a small cup of either Bud or Bud Light before moving on. At the end of the tour, at the gates of the Biergarten, you can sample a regular sized glass of Bud, Bud Light, Michelob Ultra or Stella Artois Cidre, it’s a cider. We enter the Biergarten looking for a place to sit and hopefully food. Our timing was off and we hadn’t had lunch, so now we were hungry. They do have a bar and serve a variety of food. Everything we eat is delicious. Beer included.
Monday, September 24, 2018
It’s a cloudy, dismal day. Thunderstorms are in the forecast. Just as well, Alex is not feeling great, so he can rest up today.
A trip to Walmart proves very unsuccessful. It has little more than a convenience store. The good thing was lunch at the White Castle across the street. Good old bronto burgers. A quick stop at the liquor store and then get my nails done.
It rains during the early evening while we’re re watching television, at times hard.
Sunday, September 23, 2018
Today we say goodbye to Branson and the trains. I won’t miss my midnight train to who knows where. We move to the Saint Louis area, more specifically Cahokia, Illinois.
This was one of our longer drives, 256 miles, first, back up US 65 to I-44 east to I-270 to Cahokia, southeast of Saint Louis. Interstate driving usually is pretty mundane, but as we drive I look at all the billboards. All this time on the road has had me group them into categories. For instance, Group A are the typical billboards you would expect to see on an interstate highway, things like gas, restaurants, truck wash, tires and vehicle maintenance. They make sense. They’re all things a motorist would need to get from point A to point B. Then there’s Group B, still things that are plausible. More like local things, like fudge, chocolate, nuts, fruit. Edible foods that call to one’s urges, but not meals. Group C are local merchants calling to your desires. These billboards advertise leather goods, pottery, quilting supplies. The last one had me scratching my head, but walking through the parking lot at the Jeff Foxworthy show, I saw an “I 💜 Quilting” sticker on an SUV, and I have since seen many quilting stores. I guess people in Missouri like their quilts. Anyhow, Group C is stuff merchants want you to buy. Group D hawks road side attraction, tallest rocking chair, gator farms, museums, automobile collections, things that again appeal to your interests and desires. Group E are public service messages, don’t drink and drive, bucket up, put your kid in a car seat. Group F are your religious billboards, Jesus saves, abortion kills, come to our church. From here they get a bit odd and I wonder just how much business do they get from advertising along an interstate highway. Group G is construction, heavy equipment, surveyors, roofers. Do you really drive down I-40 and think, “Hey, I think I’ll have my roof done by this guy on the billboard.” Group H is the oddest. This group has the lawyers, doctors and insurance companies. I can see that maybe you have a toothache and a dentist’s billboard may prompt you to stop, but are you really going to stop to get new teeth or have a joint replaced. I can’t imagine anyone driving from LA to New York seeing the joint replacement billboard and thinking, “You know I’ve been meaning to get my hip replaced, I think I’ll stop and have it done today.” Or stop for a personal injury lawyer or to buy home owners insurance? Do they get any business from this advertising? Could their advertising dollars be better spent? I’ll never know.
We arrive at Cahokia RV Parque in Cahokia, Illinois. Cahokia is on the east side of the Mississippi River, below West Saint Louis. You can see the Gateway Arch in Saint Louis at certain locations in and around the park. Technically, our site is a back in, someone else would back in from the other side and our backends would meet in the middle, but since there isn’t anyone there yet, we’re told to put through to the far end. The sites aren’t spacious by any means. The park has the usual bare amenities and has the Sawmill BBQ Restaurant on the premises. Once we’re settled in, we relax the rest of the day.
Saturday, September 22, 2018
We head out to see Jeff Foxworthy at the Mansion Theater. This is the large forum in Branson where the heavy hitters perform. All the shows here have great, talented performers, just not anyone famous. This is the place where the famous perform.
Foxworthy was his usual insightful, funny self. He prefaced his show by saying, no matter what a person’s troubles were, financial, emotional or anything else, for the next ninety minutes, we were going to put those troubles aside, and let laughter heal us. He did the job. I laughed till I cried.
Friday, September 21, 2018
Heavy rains and thunder rolling in this morning around seven. These storms are very reminiscent of Florida. We’re staying in and working on our jigsaw puzzle.
Thursday, September 20, 2018
We get heavy rain around two in the afternoon with strong winds. First rain we’ve had in Branson. The next five days have rain in the forecast. Good thing we’re leaving here on Sunday.
We are off to see a Bad Moon Risin’, a tribute to Credence Clearwater Revival at the Tribute Theater at eight. It’s a small place, set up with a low stage and theater seating. Reminiscent of club style concerts. They were good, playing all the hits from the band’s beginnings on through. But, my all time CCR song isn’t one Fogerty wrote, but a cover song from Gladys Knight and the Pips, I Head it Through the Grapevine. Of everything they play, and the songs did sound like CCR, this one song didn’t cut it.
Overall, it’s a great show and we have a good time.
Wednesday, September 19, 2018
We’re off to see the Beach Boys California Dreamin’, or Branson’s version of them, at Hamners’ Variety Theater. The show is at five o’clock. Odd seeing a musical performance at that hour, but here we are.
Somehow, we have front row seats. We aren’t sure what to expect. We thought it would be five guys on stage singing, but we were wrong. Instead, it was two men and two women, who take us through the sixties and the Beach Boys story. A blast from the past! We toss around a beach ball, listen to some great old songs and have a trivia contest. One of the guys in the show comes down to the audience, picks someone, sings a musical question, and the contestant has to finish the line of the song. If they answer correctly, the person gets a prize. I get picked for the grand prize, tickets to five different shows and an old time photo. I’m happy to say I didn’t embarrass myself, I got the answer.
Tuesday, September 18, 2018
Hanging out today doing what I call the business or paperwork side of life while Alex cleans the coach batteries, puts in the DEF and a few other necessities. We spend the afternoon finishing our Mesa Verde jigsaw puzzle.
Monday, September 17, 2018
We make a quick stop at Wallyworld for DEF and a few other things then try Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers for a great lunch. When I picked up our tickets at the Visitor Center the other day, they gave me a discount card and a booklet that listed what everyone had to offer. At Freddy’s, we get free ice cream. When we ate at Garfield’s the other night, we got 10% off. This little discount card isn’t bad!
Branson loves Veterans. While we were at Freddy’s eating, an elderly woman, more elderly than us, came over and gave Alex a crocheted handmade little box with patriotic and religious things inside. She said she makes them and gives them to Veterans wherever she goes.
After lunch, we head over to Branson IMAX Theater to see the new Predator movie. We get VIP seats for $19.95 and a big tub of popcorn and a big Dr. Pepper. The Branson Visitor card could have gotten us a free medium popcorn, but this movie is going to need the big size. We’re really going to hell with ourselves and the good eating diet today. VIP seating gives us great recliner seating at the perfect eye level. I even managed to snag the dead center seats in the perfect row. The movie was excellent. Lots of action and good buddy comedy to boot. I am looking forward to the next installment in the franchise.
Sunday, September 16, 2018
NASCAR day today. Alex watches, I read.
Saturday, September 15, 2018
A train rolled through at 12:32 this morning. Fortunately, it was a short train, so it wasn’t too bad. If there were others, I was comatose.
Blues, Brews & Barbecue at the center of Branson Landing today to benefit the Boys & Girls Club. The trolley stops running at six and the main reason for going, is to see Branson Legends Blues Brothers, who come on at 5:40. Surprisingly, Alex suggests we walk instead of driving and having the hassle of finding a parking spot.
We walk along the path by the lake and get to the center area in no time, where we find the bandstand, food tents, the Budweiser truck and a bouncy castle and face painting for the kiddies. First order of business is to get a beer. There is a booth where you buy tickets, a dollar apiece. You trade the tickets in for beer, margaritas, food, soda or water.
It’s five tickets per beer. After we get our beers, we look for a shady spot to watch the bands. The sun and humidity are getting us re-acclimated to Florida weather. It’s in the high eighties and fifty percent humidity. At 5:40 exactly, Branson Legends Blues Brothers come on stage and do a set of three songs. Having worshipped at the SNL alter every Saturday night since they first hit channel four in NYC back in 1975, this was a treat!
We had thought of eating at the festival, but the barbecue they were selling wasn’t ribs or chicken or brisket. It was tacos, granted they claimed to be brisket tacos, but not exactly the barbecue we had in mind. Every food stand had the same tacos. So, after the Blues Brothers set, we walk through the Landing back towards home and decide to give Garfield’s Restaurant & Pub a shot. We weren’t disappointed. My sirloin and garlic herb shrimp was delicious! And Alex’s bourbon chicken was the same. We both said we could come back for the same meals.
Friday, September 14, 2018
At 3:54 in the bloody morning, I am awakened, no more like shocked, out of a sound sleep, by a train a few feet away. The track in the park is a bend, so the sound you hear is the metal wheels squeaking, squawking and scrapping on the metal tracks. I thought the train was derailing from the sound and intensity. This train was long. It finished passing by at 3:57. I love trains, but this is getting ridiculous!
After breakfast, while Alex fishes in Lake Taneycomo, I go to the Branson Tourism Center to pick up our tickets for the Mystery Dinner Theater tonight and the other shows we will be seeing later in our stay. Then I’m off to Wallyworld to pick up our medicine and a few things. Dinner is early tonight, four o’clock. The show starts at five.
We drive to the Majestic Theatre, north of “the Strip”. We’re seated at long tables in the very back of a large room that serves as the dining hall and theater and given toy six shooters.
We are instructed to shoot the guns and hoot and holler when our town name is said or “when the train’s acommin’”. Even table numbers cheer for Lucia, odd table numbers cheer for Branson. We were Lucia, the losing name, obviously. There are only two other couples sitting on either side of us with empty seats between us. Later, two women join the table where the couple to my right are sitting. Dinner is a buffet of fried chicken breasts, meat loaf, green beans, mac and cheese, baked beans, mashed potatoes, salad, rolls and an apple cobbler for dessert. Water, iced tea or lemonade are the choices for your beverage. There is a bar for something stronger. They have a buffet setup on each side of the room, so it doesn’t take long before everyone is eating. The stage is in the center of the room along one wall, which is on our right. The show starts at five and is loosely based, in part, on Branson history and the naming of the town.
About a dozen audience members are recruited as actors. The actors have catchy names like Isabella Ringing or Chris P. Bacon. The larger than life sheriff, really, he is seven feet tall, was called Uncle Ben. There is a murder, some corny fun, and at the end, we have to pick the killer. Alex and I both got the killer. It was good belly laughing fun! Dinner and the show was $45.25.
Thursday, September 13, 2018
Today we’re taking the trolley on a complete round trip to see the area and get the lay of the land.
We walk to the trolley stop in the park and wait. The trolley comes ever twenty to thirty minutes. There is another couple waiting, so we chat. The trolley is packed, standing room only. The first stop is Bass Pro at one end of Branson Landing. We go to the Convention Center, then Price Street. The next stop is Main Street, where shops, restaurants, flea markets and other attractions are located. We get off here, wander around and have lunch a the Branson Cafe. When we’re done, we get on another trolley to finish the tour of the Historic Downtown District. The trolley goes back to Branson Landing, this time to the parking lot on the opposite end of the shopping mall, by Belk Department store and Parakeet Pete’s Steampunk Balloon Ride, then five other stops on various streets and then we’re back for a stop on Main Street before we go to our campground.
We walk back to our site and get Sergio for a drive to Branson Landing, where Alex gets his fishing license and a lure at Bass Pro. Every hour, on the hour, there is a water and fire show. We come upon it in progress. Nothing on the scale like the Bellagio or Treasure Island, but it was nice and the rainbow made it oh so worthwhile.
Parakeet Pete’s has a chair zip line across the water, to a landing where you can take in the view or get a drink, and entertainment at certain times.
There are restaurants, shops, an arcade, jet boat rides, a fudgery and even Smith Creek Moonshine to explore and enjoy.
You can take a walk along the water on the paved path. We stroll from one end of the center to the other before going to Famous Dave’s Barbecue for a dinner of his famous rack of ribs.
Wednesday, September 12, 2018
I can’t say I’m sad to leave this campground. The constant train traffic makes me feel like I’m living in a train yard. Hopefully, the next campground is better!
We’re moving to Lakeside RV Park in Branson, Missouri, a city owned and run park on Lake Taneycomo in the Ozark Mountains. For the drive, we decide to stay on interstate highways instead of taking state roads, a little longer, but an easier trip. So, we take I-435 to I-49 south, then go east on I-44 until Springfield, where we have no choice but to get on MO 360, which turns into US 60. The last leg of the trip is south on US 65. All in all, not a bad journey. It’s after three when we get to the park.
Lakeside RV Park is right on the lake. They have Premium pull through sites on the water, Super sites, which are buddy sites up to 90’ in length with concrete pads, regular back in and pull through sites up to 65’. The sites are tights, not much room between rigs. They are full hookup with 50 amp service, plus wi-fi and 124 channels of cable television. Laundry, restrooms, showers, clubhouse, picnic pavilion, trash pickup at your site, dog park, and a marina with docks for fishing and a boat ramp are all part of the amenities they offer. You do need a fishing license, which you can get at Bass Pro, the #2 stop on the free trolley. The park is stop #1 on the free trolley that makes thirteen stops in the Historic Downtown District, which includes Main Street and Branson Landing, with all the shops and local activities. And, oh yeah, there’s a train track next to the park!
Tuesday, September 11, 2018
Home washing Claudia and Sergio. Scrubbing bugs and dirt off our two babies.
Monday, September 10, 2018
The sixth train, since four thirty this morning, has just passed by. It’s only eight thirty. When the trains aren’t running, this is a quiet place. But, the trains are always running.
We take a ride into Kansas City to see the sites and go on a scouting mission to IKEA. As we drive, we notice the area is old and tired looking. The buildings have been around a long time and have not been well maintained. Businesses have been shuttered. Even the people have the same tired look. The area where we’re staying is a senior community. An ambulance raced down the road this morning to the assisted living apartments. As you drive, you see senior this and healthcare that. There are no young faces on the street. As you leave the city area, you begin to see new development, houses, businesses, big box stores.
We arrive at IKEA. Being in an urban area, the parking lot is under the building. The parking lot has few cars in it. Granted, it’s a Monday and people are working, but back east, even on a Monday you wouldn’t find a parking spot three spots from the entrance. After wandering the store and collecting our information, we have lunch in their cafeteria style restaurant, before heading to the Market Place downstairs. We pick up a few things, including a small backpack, before heading home.
Sunday, September 9, 2018
Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore! I just had to say that.
We continue east, but I-70 is to become a toll road. If you hate paying tolls in your car, then you can understand that big rigs and tolls equal high fees, so we head east on US 40, to KS 10 east, to I-435 east. We exit on to US 78, locally known as 23rd Street. It’s a four lane highway we the usual fast food restaurants, shopping centers and local businesses. It’s when we turn down Cottage Street that the fun starts. It’s a narrow local road with a huge hump of railroad tracks at the end. We make it over the hump, scrapping and scratching as we make the right. As we drive down the street, the train tracks are next to us on our right. You can hand the Grey Poupon to the train engineer as he goes by. The park is down a bit on the left. The driveway into the park doesn’t allow for a rig of our size to make the sharp left U turn, so Alex drives down past the intersection where there is a paved area over the tracks and makes a spectacular U/K turn. Now we can shoot straight into the driveway.
Campus RV Park is a small park in the middle of Independence, Missouri, east of Kansas City. This is the kind of park you don’t pick because you’re driving down the highway and see it. You have to look for it. The sites are concrete with concrete patios and picnic tables. All of the sites are back in except three. We have one of those pull through sites at the entrance to the park next to the road. And the train tracks. Restrooms, laundry, water, electric and sewer round out the package.
Not long after we setup, we are graced with our first train, tooting and rumbling along on the other side of the trees. Those train tracks we drove next to are very much active. They continue throughout the day, and night.
Saturday, September 8, 2018
Continuing our eastbound journey through Kansas on our way to Kansas City. More flat land, ominous thunder clouds, rain, cattle and corn fields. Somewhere around mile marker 220, we get hills, and trees, even evergreen trees. We stop at a Flying J in Salina for go-go juice for Claudia and us. Our go-go juice place is a Huddle House. I never heard of this place before our hacker used Alex’s ATM card at one of these restaurants a month ago, and now the dam thing is in my face. I feel ever so creeped out walking into the restaurant, but it’s the only game in town and my belly is hungry.
We pull in to a rest area in Paxico around four. We find a good spot, the first parking spot as soon as you pull in, and it gives us the ability to open our big slide. The sun is out and a breeze is blowing. We open the windows on the slide side and enjoy the rest of the day. I love that Kansas allows overnight camping in their rest areas.
Friday, September 7, 2018
Traveling east on I-70 through Colorado and into Kansas. This part of our journey is nothing but flat land, ominous thunder clouds, rain, cattle and corn fields. If I were asked to describe Kansas, I would draw a straight line. The horizon is a straight flat line. The top of the corn field is a flat line. Add in all the gray clouds and that sums it up. We’re spending the night in a rest area in Colby, Kansas at mile marker 48.
Thursday, September 6, 2018
It turns out, Skip is back in today for two more stents. Alaska doesn’t seem to want him to go.
A quick trip to Bennet to King Sooper grocery store, which turns out to be a member of the Kroger family.
Wednesday, September 5, 2018
It’s nine o’clock in the morning and we have had three trains tooting and rumbling by us starting at 5:30 this morning. An unexpected shower passed through in between the trains. Adding to the bad night sleep, Vino, aka “Mouth of the South”, was doing his howling thing.
Our friend, Skip, from Alaska, is having a stent put in at ten o’clock his time, so we’re a bit anxious. He had made his way to Anchorage in his great escape, when his doctor told him of the blockage and his need for the procedure. So, he has one more obstacle in his path before the great state of Alaska will let him leave.
Tuesday, September 4, 2018
We move sites and now we have construction and we’re closer to the train and the highway. We can’t win!
We need to do some shopping today and the closest shopping area is in Aurora, twenty miles away. Our first stop is PetSmart for litter. On our way to Walmart, we remember that you can’t buy alcohol in grocery stores. It’s lunchtime, so in the same huge shopping center as Walmart, we find an Olive Garden. Unlimited soup, salad and breadsticks for me, salad and the new meatball pizza bowl for Alex. I don’t think we’ve been to an Olive Garden since we left Florida. I forgot how much I liked this lunch. A quick stop at Sam’s liquor store for beer and wine, then we go next door to Walmart for some supplies. It’s after three when we get home.
Monday, September 3, 2018
Alex is not feeling well with his kidney stones. A day to stay home. We start a new jigsaw puzzle, one of Mesa Verde’s Cliff Palace.
Our free roaming neighbor dog gets into an altercation with two dogs walking down the street on leashes with their parents. Our neighbor grabs the dog by the scruff of the neck, carries him to their site and throws him down. That is the last of our being a good neighbor thing. Alex goes to the office and tells them what happened. He also tells them we want to move before I go out and do something to these cruel people and there are other problems. The owner comes and confronts our neighbor. He admits what happened. We’re scheduled to move tomorrow. Not liking this place or the people staying here.
Sunday, September 2, 2018
Alex is working on another kidney stone, so we’re taking it easy at home today.
Saturday, September 1, 2018
Home just chilling today. We’re both tired and just want to rest.
Friday, August 31, 2018
We’re moving to Strasburg, Colorado, east of Denver today. We start our decent down the mountain on US 36 and switch east on to CO 66 at Lyons, then south on I-25 to I-70. We’re staying at a KOA, not my favorite anymore, a last resort. This one proves no different. There was so little room on the road at our site, that Alex almost hit the fifth wheel in the site on the other side of the road while backing in to ours. Getting poor little Sergio into what space is left is a challenge. Other people were parked into the street area. We can’t back up Claudia very far because there is a utility ditch. The ground is soft and jacks sink a half a foot or more. Your utilities and your neighbor’s outside area share the same space. Their cable is fuzzy or pixelated and some channels have no sound. We have I-70 a few feet behind the coach and the train a few feet to our left. And all this for the low, low price of $57.39 a night before our KOA discount.
After we setup, we notice our next door neighbor, a small trailer that looks like they live there, five bikes, multiple coolers, dog pen, barbecue and various other stuff all around. Remember there isn’t much room outside. All parks have a rule that dogs must be kept on a leash at all times and not left unattended. Our next door neighbor doesn’t believe in this rule, so their large dog runs around free. Across the road is a poor pit bull/boxer mix that they keep chained up outside 24/7. She finds shelter under the coach. Whenever someone comes by she runs to them, rolls over to show her belly and looks for attention. She breaks my heart. I visit her, sneak her Puperonni and give her belly rubs. My hands are filthy when I leave her.
Thursday, August 30, 2018
We’re home today finishing our Star Wars jigsaw puzzle. When I turn on the tap, there is no water. Here we go again. Another park and another day without water. No water for two hours. Grrr!
Wednesday, August 29, 2018
Established in 1915, Rocky Mountain National Park preserves 416 square miles of rocky wilderness. Longs Peak, at 14,259 feet, is the highest peak in the park. Scenic Trail Ridge Road, stretches fifty miles from Estes Park in the east to Grand Lake in the west. It crosses the Continental Divide and is the highest continuous paved highway in the United States, offering pullouts with spectacular views of the Rocky Mountains.
When we get to the park entrance the temperature is eighty one at an elevation of 8,200 feet. We’re taking the Trail Ridge Road to the Alpine Visitor Center at 11,976 feet. The Ranger says the drive up will take between an hour to an hour and a half, depending on the stops you make along the way. That will be our destination. To do the entire fifty miles will take about four hours. We would have to come back the same way. You can continue on, but to get back to Estes Park from there, you would have to connect with US 40, then east on I-70, north on I-25, then west on CO 66 to get back to US 36 and Estes Park and our campground. All together, about a ten hour drive. Through mountains. Really high mountains. And switchbacks. Not something we want to do, so we’re stopping at the top. Next time, I want to come in from the west side where there is Lake Granby, Shadow Mountain Lake and Grand Lake. The east doesn’t have much water other than Bear Lake, which is a popular spot and the start of some of the 350 miles of trails in the park. Most of the lakes are small and only accessible by trails into high elevations.
When we get to the Alpine Visitor Center, the first thing we notice is the temperature, fifty one degrees. Cold and windy.
The second thing is the altitude, 11,796 feet, not as high as Pikes Peak, but the effects are just as bad. Dizzy, light headed, headache, Gumpy arms and legs, and thirsty. We visit the Center and the two gift shops and wander around to take in the views.
The off-balance way attitude sickness makes us feel doesn’t allow for us to hike up a hill for an even higher view.
Back on lower ground, we stop at Estes Park Brewery for lunner.
Their menu consists mostly of burgers, which can be substituted for chicken breasts. Alex enjoys one of their local brews with his meal. When we finish eating, we drive into Historic Downtown Estes Park, and wander in the shops on this beautiful afternoon.
Tuesday, August 28, 2018
Rain is in the forecast for this afternoon so we’re staying in. I’m making beef soup in the crockpot while we do a few things around the coach and work on our jigsaw puzzle.
Monday, August 27, 2018
Today is a Golden day, Golden, Colorado that is, home to Coors Brewing Company. We’re driving fifty miles south on a combination of US 36, CO 7 and finally CO 93, to the city of Golden to take the Coors Brewery Tour. We park in the free parking lot at Ford and 13th Streets and walk across the street to Bob’s Atomic Burger for lunch before the tour.
Bob’s, like so many other burger joints here, let you pick a burger and substitute a chicken breast, which we did. It was one of the best, if not the best, chicken sandwiches I have ever had. When we finish eating, we walk back across the street and get in line to wait for a tour bus to take us into the brewery. The line winds under a roofed enclosure with misters, so we’re not bothered by the heat of the sun. About an hour later, we’re on a bus going to the brewery.
We have to show proof of legal drinking age to get a wristband, which will allow each of us three beers. Then we’re given an audio device much like a phone to start our self guided walking tour of the facility. You press the number on the device corresponding with the number of the location where you are standing.
In 1868, at 21 years of age, Adolph Coors came to this country, penniless, unable to speak the language. The only thing he had was his knowledge of brewing beer, that he learned in Dortmund, Germany. He made his way west working as a laborer, then a brewery foreman. In Denver, he bought a bottling company. But, bottling was not his love, brewing beer was. So, in 1873, while in Golden, Colorado, he found the perfect water for his beer in the Rocky Mountain springs of Clear Creek and America’s third largest brewery was born.
In 1916, Colorado banned alcohol and four years later Prohibition came along. The brewery survived by making malt milk for soda fountains and candy factories, and by making near beers like Mannah and Coors Golden Quality Brew. Its porcelain business produced dinnerware, cookware and chemical porcelain. Adolph Coors didn’t live long enough to see Prohibition repealed in 1933, but the first year after beer was legal again, Coors, under Adolph Junior’s leadership, produced 136,00 barrels. Coors is now on its fifth generation of family leadership. Family members still regularly sample the beers that bear the family name.
In 1959, Coors helped launch the recycling revolution when it pioneered the aluminum can and sparked a recycling movement, offering a penny for each can. They have reduced water usage by more than 25 percent and energy use more than 50 percent since 2010. They achieved Zero Waste to Landfill status in 2013, using their waste byproducts to fed farm animals.
As we tour, we learn about the hops, grains and water that go into making the beer. We see the machinery and equipment needed for the process.
We see the quality control area that is a twenty four hour operation, a job I think Alex would like to have. We watch as Coors Banquet marches down the assembly line to get boxed.
And finally, we arrive at the Coors Lounge for taste testing. We line up for our first beer. The place is packed and we can only find a bistro table with no chairs. As we drink our beer, we keep an eye open for a table that has seating. Finally, Alex spots one in the corner and we rush over to get it. We were only sitting a minute, when a young, younger than us, couple asked if they could share the table.
We said yes and ended up having a delightful chat over our beers. They were visiting from Ottawa, Canada. We make a stop in their gift shop before heading back to wait fo the bus.
On the bus, we’re told we can leave our cars in the parking lot and wander the city. We’re each given a Golden Ticket, a scratch off, that reveals a percentage or a $500 win. When you shop or dine, you hand the ticket to the merchant and they scratch and reveal what you’ve won, anywhere from five to twenty five percent, or the $500. You can’t scratch without the merchant present.
The Historic section of town is two blocks over, so we drive to Washington Avenue and park. We wander both sides of the street and finally stop for pizza at Woody’s Woodfired Pizza & Water Hole, where one of our Golden Tickets nets us a 15% discount.
Good flavor for the pizza, but the crust was a bit too doughy and pieced together. We start our hour long journey home.
Sunday, August 26, 2018
Estes Park sits at 7,522 feet in the Colorado Rockies. That’s our destination for today. Our campground is Jellystone Park of Estes. To avoid as much of city traffic as possible, we head north on I-25, past Longmont to CO 66, which connects with US 36 near Lyons. The ride to this point was nice, straight and flat. The next nineteen miles up the mountain were not. Steep grades and switchbacks. The campground is on a hill. Getting to the site and backing in on the slopes was interesting. Once we setup, we fine we are off the grid, no internet, no email, no texts, no television and even no phone service. We should have realized that when we were told there is a landline phone we could use for free for local and long distance calls.
Saturday, August 25, 2018
Since we don’t have a campground for the night, we’re spending the night in a Pilot in Monument, Colorado. It’s actually not bad. We find a spot along the side of the parking lot so we can open the passenger side of the coach and put our bed down. Not as roomy as normal, but we can survive the night. At least we have good antenna television.
Friday, August 24, 2018
We start the day off trying, once again to find a campground for tomorrow night. We weren’t able to stay at our current park an extra night, and we can’t get in a day earlier at our next. And we’re striking out with any others we call. We finally decide to spend the night in a Pilot on I-25.
With that decided, we start to figure where we want to go for the day before we go to a dinner theater tonight that we have reservations. I decide to check our bank online, and low and behold, there is a $229.98 charge made today for a Super 8 in Kentucky, that we didn’t make. I thought we had this taken care of two weeks ago. I spend the next three hours and forty nine seconds on the phone with the bank. The day is almost over. It’s after three. We get dressed and head out.
We drive over to Gardens of the Gods Trading Post, Colorado’s largest and oldest gift shop and art gallery. There are over 25,000 square feet and nearly 90,000 different items in the store and a cafe. After wandering through the store, we check the time. It’s getting close to our 6:30 dinner reservation at the Iron Springs Chateau, where we are seeing Disturbance at the Delta … or … Here Fishy, Fishy, Fishy, where audience participation is required. We pre-ordered our dinners, Alex had salmon and I had pot roast, both very good. Salad, desert and a soft drink are included in the price.
After dinner, we go upstairs to the theater where we’re instructed in our part. We have to cheer the hero, Ken Katchem, boo the villain, Led Robster, ah the heroine, Clair Voyant, and hubba, hubba the vamp, Helena Handbasket. It’s all good, corny fun as the character names suggest.
Then we have an old fashioned sing along, with songs like Beer Barrel Polka, Harvest Moon and Those Were the Days. The last part of the show is a vaudeville style Flower Power Olio, where we taking a musical, sing along of ‘60’s songs. The entire night, dinner and the show, were only $31. A great time and a great value. We had a blast!
Thursday, August 23, 2018
After we have breakfast, a trip to the bathroom reveals we have no water. Showers are now out of the question. The park is working on the problem. Fortunately, we still have two gallons of bottled water left from our stay at Haggard’s RV, our last stop. I guess I need to always keep a gallon on hand so we can at least brush our teeth.
We head to Pikes Peak Highway, the road to the entrance of Pikes Peak, “America’s Mountain”, to climb the 14,115 feet to the summit. On the road to the entrance sits the North Pole Santa’s Colorado Workshop, an amusement park that opened on June 16, 1956 in Cascade, Colorado. We pass by and continue to the mountain. At the highway entrance, the digital sign is telling us the summit is closed because of high winds. We can only go up sixteen of the nineteen miles. One of the workers said the wind may die down later, so we decide to drive thirty miles south down CO 67 to the Mollie Kathleen Gold Mine, in Cripple Creek, for a ride 1,000 feet down into an old gold mine.
After paying our fee and donning our hard hats, we take the two minute ride down the mine shaft.
Every one hundred feet there is a light, except at four hundred feet, where there is a red light, equal to the elevation in the town’s red light district in the day’s of old. The tour takes about an hour and we learn, from our guide, Randall, a real live miner, the evolution of underground mining.
He shows us gold veins in their natural state. We experience the sights and sounds of mining equipment.
We get to ride an underground tram air locomotive and are given a sample gold ore as a souvenir. We come away with a deeper appreciation of the metals in our lives and what it takes to acquire them.
We head towards home to have lunch at one of the breweries in Woodland Park. We pick Ute Pass Brewing Company. The menu is limited to munchies and burgers with various toppings that you can switch up for chicken. While we’re eating, with check the weather for Pike Peak. No wind. The summit is open, so since it’s early, we go back to Pikes Peak Highway and start our nineteen mile trek up the mountain. The views are spectacular.
As we climb, we can see the smoke from all the fires, making the view hazy. The road up is steep, slow going, with lots of switchbacks. We make the 14,115 foot journey to the top, where there’s a gift shop and cafe. When we get out of the car, we are both overcome with attitude sickness, wobbly legs, headache, dizzy, heart pounding. It’s very hard to breathe. After admiring the view, we start the journey down. It’s much quicker down than it was up!
Wednesday, August 22, 2018
We’re off to Rocky Top Motel & Campground in Green Mountain Falls. An easy trip east on US 50 to I-25 north. The fun starts when we head west up the twisty mountain road on US 24. When we get to the campground, we find the place is under construction and there’s a giant pile of dirt in our site that they need to move. While they’re getting our site ready, we ask if we can stay an extra day and are told there are no open sites, but we can back into a dirt area next to the motel that just has electric. We check out the area but feel it is too small for us to fit. The hill would be up against Claudia’s back end. Plus, rain is in the forecast for the night and we would be in this canyon. The motel has blue tarps on the roof, flashbacks to Hurricane Charley. Not feeling good about this makeshift site, we pass.
Our site is parallel to the road, up on one of the terraced hills. They’re putting in a retaining wall at this spot because the recent rains have washed the hill down to the next level. We unhook Sergio before making the trip up to our site. Alex gets Claudia into the site easily, going between the dirt pile and the coach behind us and the fifth wheel in front of us. We setup as the construction goes on around us.
It’s a beautiful day, so we open the windows, but that doesn’t last. The diesel fumes are overtaking the coach. We close the windows and turn on the air conditioning. All day the trucks are coming and going. I didn’t know we would be in a construction zone. We make a quick trip into Woodland Park to Walmart for supplies.
Tuesday, August 21, 2018
It’s a gray day and the perfect opportunity to clean this very dirty coach. With no sewer last week, keeping things clean and doing laundry was an impossible task. So dusty and dirty took over. Now it’s time to fight back.
Monday, August 20, 2018
Royal Gorge Route Railroad travels three times a day along the Arkansas River from the Santa Fe Depot in Cañon City to Parkdale and back again. It was built by two competing companies, the D&RG and Santa Fe from 1878-1879, in a race west for silver. One started in the east, one in the west. When they met, a legal battle broke out that was settled by the federal courts, granting the rail line to D&RG. D&RG had to pay $1.8 million to Santa Fe for the rail they had put in.
As you take your two hour journey, you can enjoy breakfast, lunch or dinner, depending on which time of the day you choose. Meals are optional and cost extra. They have a full bar on board as well. They offer three classes of service, Coach, Club Class and Vista Dome. Coach has classical rail cars, while Club provides table seating with a large window. Vista Dome has table seating with a glass dome roof for viewing the 1,000 foot granite cliffs that tower above the train. Purchasing any of the three classes of service allows you to walk out to the open air cars for a truly spectacular view. If you are a true train buff, you can take a cab ride with the engineer in the locomotive for $150. They do special event rides like the Santa Express, Murder Mystery, Valentines Day, Mother’s Day, a local Ales (Colorado beers and appetizers) on Rails and Oktoberfest, to name a few.
We choose a lunchtime trip and enjoy a delicious basil chicken panini while enjoying the ride to Parkdale. A few glasses of wine and beer make lunch and the journey even better. We learn the difference between a canyon and a gorge. A canyon is wider than it is deep. A gorge is deeper than it is wide. Since we are at the bottom, and our width is the river plus the train tracks, and the high of the cliffs is 1,000 feet, this is definitely a gorge! We stop under the Royal Gorge Bridge, where we see this incredible expansion bridge built in 1929 on a bet of one dollar. One man bet another he couldn’t build a bridge across the gorge. Looking up at the bridge, I’d say he lost the bet. Now there is an amusement park surrounding the bridge. You can take a gondola ride across, swing out over the gorge on a giant swing, zip line across the gorge, or bungy jump. There is the price of admission to the park, plus a price for any individual activity, including walking over the bridge, or bundled pricing for multiple activities.
We sit most of the ride at our table watching the river and the remains of the old water pipeline built in 1909 by convicts. At one time there were twelve suspended footbridges for workers to access the pipeline. The pipeline was used into the 1970’s when the wear and tear of the elements made it too costly to repair.
There had been a severe storm that passed through the area recently. Even with that, the water level of the river is low. We watch the rafters struggle through the water that looks like liquid chocolate. When we get to the bridge, we walk out to the open car to have a better look. It is impressive and quite a marvel. Before we know it, we’re back at the station.
Sunday, August 19, 2018
We’re moving to Pueblo West today and Haggard’s RV Park. We drive up 17 to 285 to 50. A fairy easy drive except for some crazy turns in the mountains. We reach the Poncha Pass summit at 9010 feet, but by the time we get to the campground we’re down to 4,960. A much better altitude for breathing.
We weren’t sure what to expect at this campground. Their website said to bring a water filter and bottled water since they were on a well. Turns out you can use the water for anything but drinking. The well isn’t tested for consumption so they have to make the disclaimer. Other than the water, the park in nice. Wide gravel sites with a picnic table, wide enough to park your car next to your rig and not in front or behind. The owners were very friendly. There’s a pool, but not heated, and, as the owner said in our tour of the place, it’s a motivational pool, it motivates you to get out. Too cold for him as well. They have a laundry and bathroom/showers. Overall, it is a nice, quite park.
After we setup, we drive into Pueblo to the Pueblo Riverwalk. It’s more of a park along the Arkansas River than a Riverwalk like in San Antonio.
There are a few restaurants on the main street that have access below on the Riverwalk. After walking around, we go to Angelo’s Pizza for dinner. Still looking forward to east coast pizza.
Saturday, August 18, 2018
There isn’t much to do in the area, so we take the opportunity to plan and reserve our last stops on the road to our winter destination in Florida.
Friday, August 17, 2018
We are taking a ride to Alamosa to check out the main part of town, have some lunch and get supplies at Walmart. There are a lot of shuttered shops along the main street. What’s left are a couple of restaurants, a mattress store and a few professional businesses. Sad to see the downtown area of a town left barren when a mile down the road the big box stores are doing just fine.
When we get home, I try a recipe for homemade ice cream that is quick, easy and doesn’t require a machine. Besides the ingredients, all you need are to ziplock plastic bags and fifteen minutes. We are both pleasantly surprised we the results.
Thursday, August 16, 2018
Another day at home finishing our Vegas jigsaw puzzle. Cloudy and raining. They close the pool and hot tub down for cleaning. That means they drain the pool, clean it and then refill it. This place sits on a spring, so water isn’t an issue. It also means the campground gets a river running through it.
Wednesday, August 15, 2018
It’s a home day today working on our Grand Teton jigsaw puzzle. We finished it and we found we were missing a lot of pieces, just as we thought when we first opened it up. I plan on sending the company a letter of complaint.
Tuesday, August 14, 2018
The only attraction in the area is the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. You can see the Dunes at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains from our campground and US 17. These are the largest dunes in North America, measuring 750 high and encompassing thirty square miles. Most of the sand comes from the San Juan Mountains more than sixty five miles to the west, carried on the prevailing southwest winds. The larger, rougher grains and pebbles come from the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to the east. All this sediment washed into a huge lake that once covered the valley floor. As the lake diminished in size, the prevailing southwest winds piled the sand up beneath the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Northeasterly storm winds blasted through the mountain passes and piled the sand back on itself, creating these ever changing sand dune shapes. If climbing dunes isn’t your thing, you can climb to alpine tundra peaks of up to 13,000 feet in the Great Sand Dunes National Preserve, a 41,686 acre pinyon-juniper forest within the Park and part of the Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range.
The drive to the road that leads to the park is about ten miles south of our campground on US 17. Once you turn off, it is another nineteen miles before you reach the park entrance.
It is, however, the shortest road we have ever been on in a National Park. There’s a Visitor Center, the Dunes Parking Lost, and the Pinyin Flats Campground. That’s the extend of the road. From one end to the other, it’s no more than ten minutes at park speed. There is one four wheel drive, high clearance vehicle only road. Sergio, not being either of those two things, is not making that trek.
After we drive the park from end to end, we park at the dunes parking lot and walk to the beginning of the sand. From here, I t is quite a hike to get to the start of the dunes. The sun is out as I start my journey. I am disturbing the indigenous grasshoppers as a make my way to the dunes. There are people skiing and sledding down the dunes on anything and everything you would use in snow. This is a big attraction of the park. I climb up a few dunes to marvel at this masterpiece. I can see the afternoon storm clouds building.
As I make my way back, the winds have picked up and I am being pelted with sand. The rains will be coming soon. We make it home just in time.
Monday, August 13, 2018
We’re heading thirty miles south to Alamosa for lunch and a trip to Wallyworld, aka Walmart. Before we head south, we’re taking a detour a few feet north from our campground on US 17 to the UFO Watchtower. The Watchtower is an observation platform built around a dome shaped building and sits about eight to ten feet off the ground. It has a 360-degree view of the San Luis Valley and was created by Judy Messoline in May 2000 to capitalize on the existing use of the property by UFO observers. Supposedly, this area has many UFO sittings and has been mentioned in movies and television shows like the X Files. They have a dry campground for ten dollars and a gift shop. The price of admission is two dollars a person or five dollars a carload.
We pull into the parking lot, look at each other, take a few pictures from the car and head on down to Alamosa. Clever idea, but not worth the time or two dollars for that matter.
When we get to Alamosa, we park and walk to the corner of Main Street and San Juan Avenue to San Luis Valley Brewing Company for lunch.
FYI, they make a good French Onion soup and Alex thought their locally made bratwurst was excellent. Sufficiently sated, we head to Walmart for some supplies.
We’re watching dark skies on the journey home. Not long after we get in the door, the heavy rains and wind start, again with pea sized hail. This seems to be the norm for this area.
Sunday, August 12, 2018
We’re moving to Sand Dunes Recreation in Hooper, Colorado, the middle of nowhere. I don’t know the elevation we reached while we drive there, but we get down to 8,180 at South Fork. This park is going to be roughing it. No sewer, only 30 amp electric service and five television stations that don’t hold a signal long and pixelate like mad. There is one 50 amp site, but we’re told it’s booked up. The entire park is dirt, roads and dirt sites. The attraction is the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, a few miles down the road off US 17.
It’s after two when we get to the park. This is a local attraction in itself. There is a pool, hot tub, an adult beverage bar and grill. You have to pay for pool or hot tub usage. They do give you a discount for staying at the park. The facilities are nice, but very crowded, not my idea of a nice relaxing soak in the hot tub.
We setup and heavy rains roll in late in the afternoon with pea sized hail. North of us, in Pueblo, where we’re heading next, they get softball sized hail that caused plenty of damage. The photos on the news showed car windshields smashed through and rooves with holes in them. Nasty weather.
Saturday, August 11, 2018
Silverton, Colorado sits at 9,318 feet in the San Juan Mountains in an ancient Caldera bowl. You might remember the word caldera from previous posts. It is a large volcanic crater, formed by a major eruption that led to the collapse of the mouth of the volcano. In 1860, Charles Baker and other prospectors came to the area seeking wealth. They found gold and silver in the Animas River. Silverton was established in 1874 and incorporated in 1885. It is the last mining camp in San Juan county. In the 1800’s, Silverton and other mining camps were connected by a narrow gauge steam railroad. Today, Silverton is connected to Durango by the same railroad, the D&SNGRR, the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge RailRoad. We’re taking a journey up and back on the train.
The entire southwest has been under a severe drought. The ground is bone dry. When there is rain, it causes floods and mudslides. I have seen pictures of mudslide areas on the news, but nothing prepares you for the real thing. A severe thunderstorm swept through the Four Corners area on Tuesday, July 24 causing major track damage between Hermosa and Rockwood. As a result, we cannot leave from the Durango station. We are bussed up to Rockwood on US 550. The road runs parallel to the railroad tracks. As we drive, we see the damage the mud caused. The road still has telltale signs, but the piles that were bulldozed off the road are all along the shoulder. You can see the scars to the hillside that the rivers of water caused. A scary site!
When we get to Rockwood, we board our gondola car. We could have sat in a closed car in bench type seats, but we paid to be in an open air car, with a roof, to see and experience the sights. The ride to Silverton takes about two and a half hours through the San Juan National Forest. Evidence of the recent wildfire can be seen as the train moves north. This deforestation was a contributing factor to the mudslides. This vicious cycle of drought, wildfire, flood and mudslide is happening all over the southwest. Wildfire aside, the ride gives us beautiful views of gorges, rivers and cliffs.
Around 11:30, the train pulls into Silverton. Under normal circumstances, you could book a one way train trip up to Silverton and take the bus back to Durango, giving you more time in the town. With the track damage, that option is not offered. It’s train up, train back, and we have to be on the train for the return trip at 1:30, not giving us much time. We’re hungry, so we head over to The Shady Lady Saloon and Grill for the daily special of hot open faced roast beef or turkey sandwiches with mashed potatoes.
The Shady Lady was a brothel that opened in 1888 and was the last to close by its last madam Jew Fanny in 1947. The building, built in 1880, sits in the red light district of old, and was operated by several notorious madams including Denver Kate. Its purpose has calmed down a bit since.
After lunch, we walk down Silverton’s streets checking out the shops and restaurants.
There are places offering Jeep tours and other off road experiences. Before we know it, it’s time to get back to the train station. We get ice cream and board the train for the ride back where we spend the return ride chatting with a young couple from Luxembourg.
Friday, August 10, 2018
I have a nail appointment at 11:30 this morning at the casino spa. As it turns out, it is the worst I have ever had. Alex is playing the slots to earn ten points so he can get four dollars off the steak and shrimp meal they offer today in one of the restaurants. The original price is $10.99, the points price is $6.99. The points have to be earned by 2:30. When I’m done with my nails, I join him. Not seeing the attraction of slot machines makes me unenthusiastic to this exercise. I put $10 in the penny slot machine and in a minute or so have my ten points. Alex has his points right after me. When we cash out, we find we spent a combined $12.35 to save eight dollars on our meal. The house wins $4.35, plus the eight dollars.
We walk over to the restaurant that serves up this offer to get some lunch. It’s somewhere around 2:30. The game plan was to get a light lunch, then come back for our steak and shrimp dinner. What we discover, is the offer is until three. So, now we’re having our steak and shrimp dinner as lunch! Then we’re back in the hot tub.
Thursday, August 9, 2018
While we were having a lazy breakfast, I get a text from our bank asking if we were making an $11.65 purchase at a Huddle House, I don’t even know what that is, with a card ending in a number I don’t even recognize. A few seconds later, Alex gets the same text message. We check cards and sure enough, it is an ATM card of Alex’s that he has never used. But somehow it has been hacked. So, the morning is spent stopping the card, getting a new one issued and stopping all the debits on the card. Fortunately, there were only three others to a fitness center for ten cents each. Guess they were testing the waters before going hog crazy. After the ordeal, we spend the afternoon in the casino pool and hot tub. A well deserved treat.
Wednesday, August 8, 2018
Alex is having another kidney stone attack. Perfect timing! We’re moving to Ignacio and Sky Ute Casino. We like casino RV parks. They’re usually not outrageously priced and they have nice amenities and good food. This one does not disappoint. All paved, water, 50 amp electric, sewer, laundry, pool, hot tub, bowling alley and great restaurants, what more could you ask for.
We have less than seventy miles between campgrounds, and the road was fairly easy. We get to the casino a little before one. The camp host checks us in and then takes Alex over to the casino to pay and do the paperwork while I set up inside. When he comes back, he tells me that this is a a Passport America site. They tell him, if we join we save 50% on our stay. So instead of $39 a night, we are paying $19.50 a night. Once upon a time we were members, but that was long before we were full time. We didn’t use it then, so we let it expire. Now it makes sense. I quickly joined online. Our permanent cards would come in the mail as soon as we were approved, in the meantime, we would get a temporary card we could print. Next up, payers cards for the casino and lunch at Shining Mountain Cafe.
Tuesday, August 7, 2018
Home day working on our future stops. Alex is feeling another kidney stone bout coming on.
Monday, August 6, 2018
Telluride is an old Victorian mining town in the San Juan Mountains. Now it boasts one of the premier ski resorts in winter, sitting at 8,750 feet, and a hiking and mountain biking community it warmer weather. The town’s old fashioned charm still remains. It is a haven for foodies and has music, jazz and blues, film and other festivals.
It is a seventy five mile drive north on CO 145, San Juan Parkway, through the tiny towns of Delores and Rico, and the San Juan National Forest. When we get to Telluride, we are lucky enough to get a parking spot on the main street. Be aware, you have to find a parking station and pay for parking. We didn’t see any of the few and very discreetly placed signs and were lucky enough to get a warning and not a ticket.
We start walking down the street and it isn’t long before we find High Pie Pizzeria & Taproom where we had pizza, beer and wine for lunch.
We learn, from our waiter, there is a free tram to the top of the mountain and Mountain Village, the ski resort. After eating, we continue walking both sides of the main street and all the shops and restaurants. When we go back to the car, that’s when we find the warning notice. We drive over to where the tram station is located, and after two tries, we find a parking spot a few blocks away. This time we pay for parking.
The tram ride provides great views of Telluride and the surrounding area. The cars are equipped with racks that hold bikes.
We get off at the first stop to walk around, but this is a hiking, biking stop with different levels of trails. Not doing either of these activities today, we get back on a tram car and head to Mountain Village. This is the premier ski resort, built to look like something out of the Alps. Hotels, restaurants and shops have an Alpine look and make up the resort with ski lifts a few feet away.
We wander around taking in the sites and get ice cream. Here the temperature is only seventy six degrees. Much cooler than back in Cortez. Late in the afternoon, we take the tram down to Sergio and starts the long journey home.
Sunday, August 5, 2018
We’re working on picking our next stop after Hooper. Later, while Alex watches NASCAR, I chat with family and friends.
Saturday, August 4, 2018
The half mile hike, or should I say climb to and from Cliff Palace, has kicked Alex’s butt. The “no hiking using the fractured wrist” rule went out the window and he’s feeling it in his wrist and all the muscles he had to use to do the climb. We’re staying in, giving him time to recoup.
We finished the Human Body jigsaw puzzle and started the Grand Teton jigsaw puzzle. We both believe we are missing pieces. There’s only one corner, the right side border is non-existent and pieces that have lettering are no where to be found. Oddly, when we opened the package, there were large sections still together, mostly the border. We will have to see what happens with this 550 piece puzzle we thought would be easy.
Friday, August 3, 2018
We drive to the Four Corners Monument on the Navajo Nation in New Mexico, forty miles south on US 160. This is the only location in the United States where four states, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado, intersect at a single point. You wait in line to get to the marker and are allowed three photos. You can get back in line to take more, but the three photo rule allows everyone to get a chance without waiting forever.
There are vendor booths that surround the monument making a squared enclosure. Here you can find pottery, jewelry, tee shirts and just about anything else.
In the background, are the barren hills of the desert. The only thing we saw driving here were horses.
Afterwards, we take a drive to Shiprock, New Mexico, out of curiosity. My cousin was a parish priest on the Navajo land many years ago and I wanted to see what he had described. We tried to get close to the scared Shiprock rock of the Navajo that they call Tsé Bitʼaʼí or “rock with wings”, that stands nearly 1,583 feet, but couldn’t. The haze from the many fires in the southwest made getting a good shot impossible.
On our drive home we stop at Ute Mountain Casino for all you can eat seafood and prime rib buffet for $19.99. This is a Friday thing. Got to love casino food deals. All day that was all I could think of. Probably, the best seafood buffet we have been to. They we’re giving you a huge pile of snow crab claws and you could get more. Fried shrimp, cocktail shrimp, oysters, fried clams, swordfish, salmon, and of course, delicious prime rib. Being all you can eat, I had two helpings of prime rib. Oh yeah, they had veggies and rice and salad, but I needed the room for all the good stuff, so I will just have to eat more veggies tomorrow to make up for tonight. I don’t think they made money on us!
Thursday, August 2, 2018
The main reason for coming to this area is Mesa Verde National Park. The park entrance is seven miles east of our campground on US 160. Mesa Verde National Park was created in 1906 to preserve the archeological heritage of the Ancestral Pueblo people. The park has over 4,500 archeological sites, of which 600 are cliff dwellings, the most famous being Cliff Palace.
Once you enter the park, there are several pullout overlooks you can stop and view the canyons. It will take thirty minutes to climb the switchback road up the mountain to get to the Far View area, where there is the lodge, restaurant, coffee and gift shops. All the archeological sites are past this point. You can drive to the overlooks to view the sites from a distance, but to get close, you must pay for a ranger guided tour. They don’t want people climbing over these precious ancient sites. There are a few self guided sites you can visit. These are enclosed so people can’t climb in and do damage. We book the 700 Year Tour. Our tour bus picks us up at Far View Terrace, where we had lunch,
to begin our four hour tour through Pueblo history. We makes stop along the Mesa Top Loop where we see the ruins of pit houses and villages, kivas, believed to be communal buildings of ceremony, and the Sun Temple.
The crowning jewel of the tour was Cliff Palace, the most famous of all cliff dwellings.
Getting to and from Cliff Palace is a bit of a challenge, to say the least. You first descend down some very nice metal stairs. So far, so good. Then you descend down some very narrow, maybe twelve inches wide at best, very uneven in height, rocky stone steps dug into the cliff. Next walk along a path with the cliff to your left and nothing to your right. Finally, climb a wooden ladder to get you to the path that brings you to the cliff dwelling. Oh, but it is so worth it!
We learn about the very hard life these people had just to survive. They farmed on the top of the cliff or mesa. They gathered water that dripped down through the rock or hauled it up hundreds of feet from below. They spend all day grinding corn into meal. They hunted whatever animals would be in the area, and went to the bathroom just about everywhere. They died by the age of forty. They lived here hundreds of years, but eventually migrated due to severe drought and the famine it brings.
When our time is up, we start the even crazier journey to the top. Initially, the path is wide stone steps. A few feet later, there is a sign pointing to the left that reads exit. But, there’s a stone wall! I turn slightly to my left, almost making a hairpin turn and I see a tiny cutout in the cliff with wildly uneven stone steps that twist and turn. Up I go with Alex and others following behind, sometimes having to use my hands to pull myself through because the steps are spaced so far apart and my legs can’t get my body boosted up that high. After maneuvering the stone tomb, not the place to be if you’re claustrophobic, there are three steep wooden ladders to climb before you reach a landing with a path to the top and the parking lot. At this point my lungs are on fire. Thank goodness for rescue inhalers. Just as we got to the landing, it begins to thunder. There is a severe drought here and any rain is welcome. It might even help with the wildfires and help clean the air. We’re back on the bus as it begins to drizzle. Then it’s home for some much needed rest.
Wednesday, August 1, 2018
We got a couple of interesting neighbors yesterday. The coach next to us was for Favorite Fishing gear.
The other was even more interesting. It was an old converted school bus with no less than ten people, kids included, living in it. Sheets served as window coverings and mattresses could be seen being climbed over by the inhabitants. It reminded me of hippie days.
We pack up and start out for Cortez, Colorado and Sundance RV Park on Main Street or US 160. It is only a little more than one hundred miles.
The campground is right in the middle of town, though you wouldn’t guess it, convenient to stores, parks and attractions. It’s quiet with blacktop roads, nice gravel sites and trees. Water, sewer, 50 amp electric, wi-if, 48 channel cable, showers, restrooms, laundry, a dog walk and picnic tables complete the package. We have a nice private end site at the back of the park. Our weekly rate breaks down to less than thirty four dollars a night. A good price for these parts, where forty, fifty and more are quite common.
Tuesday, July 31, 2018
We called yesterday to get Alex an appointment with the orthopedist for today, when the doctor would be in. We have a three thirty appointment. We are having a relaxing breakfast when the phone rings. You guessed it, it’s the doctor’s office with a ten thirty cancellation. Can we come in? We have forty minutes to get our act together and get to the doctor’s office.
The doctor confirms the fracture to Alex’s radius and opts for a soft cast, to our relief. He gives Alex his dos and don’ts instructions, the biggest being, don’t put pressure on it, no hiking involving using his hand, ice it and take it easy. That being said, we head home. While Alex ices his wrist and rests, I head out to do a few errands before we leave tomorrow.
Monday, July 30, 2018
The pain has subsided in Alex’s wrist, so we’re going to Moab Giants, a park that has life-sized dinosaurs, a 5D prehistoric aquarium, 3D theatre, cafe, museum, playground and gift shop.
It’s a few miles north at the intersection of US 191 and UT 313. But first, we stop for lunch at Peace Tree Juice Cafe.
It’s hot, triple digits hot, so we plan our park visit alternating between outdoor activities and indoor, air conditioned ones. The theater and aquarium are scheduled events, showing every thirty minutes. We have a few minutes until the movie starts in the theater, so we tour the main grounds complete with playground and activities for the kids. We head to the theater, and air conditioning, for the 3D movie, which takes you from the birth of the universe through earth’s many stages to the present. Sufficiently cooled, we start the half mile trail through the desert to get up close and personal with the life-size dinosaurs. If you’re a Dino fan, or even if you’re not, this is as good as it gets. This is the closest you can get to a dinosaur without being eaten. It’s like Jurassic Park, without the animals running amuck.