28 October 2010 The afternoon when we were having our windshield replaced, we received a special guest… Bob Rea stopped by. We first met Bob and Marlene about 3 years ago at the Western Horizon campground in Benson, Arizona. A year later they decided to buy a house here in Casa Grande. A little while after they moved in and a couple of days of our arriving in Casa Grande, we were invited over to enjoy a great dinner in their new dining room. Well here comes Bob again with a big smile and another invitation to join him and Marlene for dinner once again. For the second time, Louise and I found ourselves thoroughly enjoying a wonderful couple and another great dinner…Thanks again and we looking forward to getting back to Casa Grande real soon.
26 October 2010
4 days ago we arrived here in Casa Grande, Arizona after spending a night in the parking lot of a casino just outside of Casa Verde. Fortunately Louise was able to come back to the coach with more money in her pocket than when she went in. About 10:30am we pulled into Casa Grande and the first thing we did was to pull up to the fuel pump at Fry’s and “filler-up” please… we found diesel being sold for $2.91 and $2.51 for regular. The funny thing about this is that we could save another $.10 a gallon if we had spent $100 for groceries. Unfortunately we didn’t notice the discount until after I had already put 20 gallons of diesel in the tank. I doubt we’ll be able to use this discount by the time we come back out of Mexico next April/May…nuts ! We had a big list of things that we had to accomplish before this next Sunday so we had to jump right on them. Among them was to purchase our Mexican vehicle insurance, supplemental health insurance, and put “on vacation” our TV and internet satellite systems. I also had to have the oil changed on the Suzuki and the driver’s side windshield replaced on the coach (a gift from a rock coming off of an on-coming trucks wheel). As of today we’ve accomplished all the above and we both will sleep better because of it… We heard from Sol and Carol this afternoon and it seems that they have just had some of that stuff they call “SNOW”…come on guys, get the hell out of there before it gets too deep and let’s head south.
18 October 2010
After leaving Mesa Verde we headed for “4 Corners”. We are constantly looking for new places and this would be one for us. We followed the “red” roads on our map (that’s all that was available) so we weren’t surprised when the roadway turned to CRAP !!! It was so bad that we tried to get through it by going slow (30-40mph), but that didn’t work, so we took it up to 70. It got a little better so we kept it there until we made it all the way to Bluff, Utah from 4 corners. Oh yes, we passed on “4 Corners”. It turned out to be a total rip-off in the desert… So after turning west from Bluff we headed to Mexican Hat, Utah. I had no idea of what we were going to find at “Mexican Hat” but that’s what we’re on the road for…
_ As it turned out we found this little campground for $20 (full hook-ups)
_and they had a list of “MUST SEE” locations for this area. A couple of them we had heard about, but others… not so much. Well we’re always up to exploring so all we did was park the coach, plug in the power, and off we went with map in hand. Mexican Hat is deep in the red sandstone cliffs
_and is named for the inverted sandstone sombrero just north of town. It also sits on the shores of the San Juan River. We started our “tour” by heading for the Moki Dugway. A “dugway” is a road that is dug out of a hillside and advances to the top at an 11% grade on a gravel base. (sorry, I tossed the photo away...) All this while driving through tight switchback and hanging on the edge of the cliffs for 3 miles while going straight UP !!! The views to The Valley of the Gods and Monument Valley were stunning, the smell from under my arms…not so. Once we got to the top we found the graded road to our next site, Moley Point. My God, what a view and what architecture !!! Amazing views into John’s Canyon…
_Over the centuries the San Juan River has dug a “snake like” route through the canyon on its way to Lake Powell.
_The San Juan covers more than 6 miles while advancing less than 2 toward Lake Powell. Well we went to the top and then we went back to the bottom to head off on another adventure…Valley of the Gods and Monument Valley. We found ourselves back on a graded red dirt pathway and heading out through the sagebrush.
_This route took us through sandstone formations that have been named for their amazing shapes and sizes, but we took it upon ourselves to rename each and every one of them.
_This drive was to take us about 3 hours, but with a stop (to play my flute)
_or two it soon became a little more. Fortunately we had enough fuel, but I have to admit I kept looking at the gage anyway, we didn’t want to call AAA again while in the middle of the Valley.
_17 October 2010 We have found ourselves enjoying so many new and exciting places as we continue to travel. The only problem with this is my keeping up with this journal. Today’s journal will have a lot more pictures and far less script. Today we stop at Mesa Verde National Park. This park is the premier archaeological wonder of America. Known as “The cradle of ancient civilizations” and shows the crumbled villages
_ on rocky ledges sitting high above the floor of the canyons. Some of the sites we saw from a distance across a deep canyon, and then there were others that we were able to hike too,
_climb handmade ladders,
_or squeeze through rock formations to wonder within. In this picture you'll see a "Kiva". As you can see, it's a round structure with a fire-pit in the floor. It did have a roof with a hole in the center for the smoke to exit AND, it held a ladder for those family members to enter. Notice two things, the square hole in front of the pit and the small wall. The hole is to let air from the outside in, and the small wall is to keep it from blowing directly at the fire and creating a problem with the blaze and smoke...pretty neat.
_It’s amazing to think that at the peak of the population here at Mesa Verde there were over 6000 Anasazi people residing here over a 100 year span. It’s also interesting that the life span for the Anasazi was only 35 years, so I guess it must have meant they lived here for 3 generations.
We found a campground at the base this magnificent plateau (see the picture above) and drove the 20 miles up to the top and the Visitor Center/Museum. I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed the fall colors as much as I’ve enjoyed those of the surrounding hills...they are magnificent !!!
_We drove the mesa twice over two days easily felt we could do it many more. My only wish to make this drive better would have been to have my son in laws Porshe Boxter to do it in as the roads were FULL of 15-20 mph turns climbing at a 8 to9 percent grade on a freshly resurfaced roadway…(wishful thinking on my part…). Oh yes, I've found my thing...the Native American flute and I MUST play it while here in this magnificent place and sitting high above the canyons floors below.
_14 October 2010 As we tried to leave the driveway at Sol and Carol’s, we found our tires frozen to the ground… I guess it was time to continue heading south. It’s always hard to say good-bye to friends, but on the other hand, we’ll see them in 2 weeks as we join another couple in heading to Mexico again. Our journey took us west from Steamboat Springs to Craig and then south towards Grand Junction, Colorado. This day will take us about 200 miles and into the Colorado National Monument, which sits high above Grand Junction/Fruita. As we pulled up to the kiosk at the park we were met with a road construction flagger. It seems that the whole park has been getting a new road surface and we’ll be following a lead car all the way up to the Visitor Center/Campground, or about 15 miles. In a way this is “all good” as everyone will have to go slow, and with the steepness of this roadway,
_we wouldn’t have a chance to make it above 25mph towing with the coach. With it being late Friday afternoon when we got up to the campground we were hoping that there would be a spot for us to stay the night. Well we got there early enough, but before dusk the whole campground was full with hikers, bikers, and those of us that just came to see the wonderful sights of nature. I thought you might like to see what our campground looks like from the other side of the canyon…
_After unhooking the car from the coach, we drove over to the visitor center, saw a couple of videos covering the history and beauty of the park, and took a hike down to view the Pipe Organ formation and get a little “flute time” in.
_Then with the sun showing its last sun beams of the day we decided to drive the 23 miles of the Rim Rock Drive. First off I’d like to compliment the bikers that ride the 23 miles from base to summit to base…amazing !!! The rim drive was advertized as having breath taking views and with enough pull-offs for us, we took advantage of it to see all this beauty. One of the stops was to view Independence Monument.
_As we were enjoying this monolith our eyes caught sight of 3 climbers that were just about ready to top-out…another “amazing” !!!
_We watched them for quite awhile but as time and sun were leaving us we decided to head on. As the sun disappeared and darkness arrived we found ourselves pulling into Grand Junction just in time for dinner. Tomorrow we’ll start early and see as much as we can before heading further south.
_13 October 2010 With our last doctor’s appointment behind us we are planning to get back on the road again tomorrow. But, let’s stay with the present… Steamboat Springs has without a doubt, one of the finest, best tasting, Italian restaurants I’ve ever had the chance to eat at !!!! EVERYTHING we ordered last night at Riggio’s was superb and it didn’t cost us an arm and a leg to eat there either. Unfortunately with the economy the way it is, there just wasn’t a full house to enjoy the tastes with us. Now maybe it wasn’t the food after all that made it so wonderful…maybe it was our HAT’S !!!
Boy was it cool last night. It wasn’t only cool but we lost our electricity to run the portable heater with so we just dug our way a little deeper under the blankets and survived to another day. This afternoon we (Carol, Louise and myself) took a hike. Our hike took us to Fish Creek Falls.
_Carol and Sol have shown us a lot of Steamboat Springs and as always the hike to Fish Creek was striking. The falls sit in an area that was once where two glaciers came together. The waters come from Long Lake, which sits far above at an altitude of 9850 feet. The falls start out at 9500’ and fall 2150 feet to the rocks below… Someone had told Carol that they had spotted a black bear there earlier, but we weren’t so lucky. Carol and Sol suggested that we go to a local restaurant tonight that specializes in Asian soups. They also invited some friends of theirs to join us, Kay and John. We had a really good dinner together and really enjoyed the company of John and Kay. It seems that we’ll see them again soon…they’re going down to Puerto Vallarta in November and enjoy their time-share.
_11 October 2010 (pic: Dinosaur NM) A few days ago we found ourselves heading to the hospital in Vernal, not once but twice. It was amazing how many tests that they gave Louise and it’s also amazing that they really didn’t find what her problem was. Yes, she had a lot of pain, and yes it did get a lot better for a couple of days but as far as being “healed”…not. Louise felt that maybe we should head on to Steamboat Springs, Colorado and getting back on the road might just be the answer (and also give her mind something else to focus on). Just after crossing the state border and into Colorado, we made a side trip to Dinosaur National Monument. At this location we were able to visit their visitor center and go through the artifact displays that they have uncovered from the local hills. Then after gathering material and soaking up all the information on the dinosaurs we hustled out to the waiting bus that was going to take us into the “fields of bones”. The bus ride lasted about 10 minutes and took us to the base of the volcanic hills from where our hike was to start.
_The trail wasn’t too long either but short or not, we did find some petrified dinosaur bones embedded into the rock outcroppings.
_(both pic: Thigh Bone)
_Thank God there was a volunteer at the end of one of the trails that took the time to point out the elusive bones, otherwise we may not have found them at all.
_(Pic: Dinosaur Backbone)
After getting back to the coach, we saw that the rain clouds were dropping the rain heavily in the close hills to the west, and coming our way. Well it was lunch time and it didn’t look like we stood a chance of out running the inevitable so we stood our ground and let it come. The rest of the ride to Steamboat Springs was wet, wet, wet, and the clouds were so low that we didn’t see any of the famous Steamboat Mountains as we arrived in town. Fortunately Carol gave us good directions in finding their home so we had no problem getting right to their driveway. Now let’s talk about the “driveway”… I saw that Sol had backed their 5th wheel down their narrow and steep downhill drive so I thought I would be able to follow. Well first of all, I couldn’t park next to their 5th wheel so I had to take another course, park up next to the front porch. This meant to either back down the narrow drive blindly or drive down and make a sharp right while still on a heavy slant. I won’t go into details but we did get it down and set-up, but now let’s wait for getting it out…
_the rest of the afternoon and evening we stayed close, ate a lot, and had a couple of drinks before heading off to bed. I must admit, I was really tired and slept very well. First thing in the morning we had Sol knocking at the door and telling us that the “bagels are hot and fresh so hurry in for breakfast”. Well we were mostly up and ready, so I went over and Louise soon followed. We were sitting down to a breakfast of Lox, Bagels, Cream cheese, Sliced Onion and tomatoes…absolutely wonderful !!! Following breakfast we joined in Sol and Carol’s car and headed off for a tour of Steamboat Springs, and all the time enjoying a sunny sky and a cool day.
_Carol had planned a dinner party for that night so after our tour we headed back to prepare for that. Besides us, Sol and Carol had invited Tom and Kelly, some close friends of theirs and we really had a great evening of fun, dining, and conversation with all. Very early the next morning we made another trip to a hospital, only this time we pretty much knew what the problem was. Unfortunately it took an overnight stay before we got the OK to “check-out”, but we feel confident that all is well now and we can look forward to continuing on with a healthy body.
6 October 2010
So what did you think of the two pictures of the “sea creatures” from yesterdays blog? With the water as flat as glass and the sun giving great reflections, I thought the “water bug” and “sea creature” were really quite interesting. Both of those were taken at Red Fleet State Park, which sits just above the Red Fleet Reservoir. This is the state park that I mentioned earlier about the cost of camping AND charging additionally for the second vehicle…kind of stinks.
Well last night turned out to be a little exciting around here… I mentioned that we received our flu and shingle shots yesterday and we were told that there could be a little discomfort that can be associated with getting the shot. Right after dinner, Louise started getting sick to her stomach. She also had severe pain around her belt line and it extended around to her back. About an hour later she decided to head into bed but that didn’t last too long. Within a few more minutes we were underway to the hospital to see just what she is suffering from. With a lot of tests and 2 ½ hours later we walked out not knowing for sure just what she had or has. The guess is she had a passing of a gallstone, but that isn’t known for sure. Fortunately she is feeling pretty good tonight. About 2 this afternoon we drove way out to a place that was highly recommended to us for a great hike. I wasn’t too sure that she should be going so far out for a hike but she fought me to go. The place we went to is called “Jones Hole”. The area is a “National Fish Hatchery” that is located some 45 miles from Vernal and sits right at the borders of Utah and Colorado. I think you might like to know that the road was just like those that I’ve written about over that last week…constant curves, tremendous heights and even more tremendous drops. The one difference we noticed was instead of 6 or 8% grades, these were 10%. Thank God we were driving the toad instead of the coach. When we finally pulled up to the ledge that overlooked the fish hatchery, we were looking down approximately 2,000 to a lush green crevice that sat between some amazing red sandstone cliffs that are amazingly beautiful. Our hike
_took us deep into the crevice of the red sandstone and we followed the Jones Hole Creek up water until we came upon a small bridge.
_Crossing the water and continuing further downstream for another 100 yards we arrived at a location that housed some old and beautiful pictographs that were left by the Fremont Indians.
_The trail we're hiking today was used as far back as 1000 years. You can almost feel those who were here then...
_Our hike out and return was just under 4 miles and at an altitude of 5,200’ I think Louise did really well despite what her evening was the night before.
6 October 2010
While lying in bed this morning I really thought we would be spending one more day at the Lucerne Campground. After leaving Craters of the Moon we found we were being blown down the road with a tail wind. After leaving Green River we were treated by a side wind that was strong enough to release our door awning and come close to taking it off. Well this morning the wind was so strong that neither Louise or I wanted to get on the road with it, so we just stayed in bed longer hoping that it would blow it’s self out. Fortunately that’s exactly what happened. Just after 10:30 we were all hooked up and heading for that mountain that I told you about yesterday. No matter how high or how low you start out driving up an 8% grade, and you’re driving to as high as 8400 feet, it’s quite a feat. We were fortunate enough not to have but 2 cars pass us during the first 30+ miles of up and down hill. There was a period when we just drove the top ridge of these mountains and all the while thinking “that all that goes up must come down”… well indeed we did get to that end and in doing so, we came upon a tanker that lead the way. During the 10 miles, with 9 20mph switch-backs, and an 8% grade, we put the transmission in 2nd gear and followed him down the hill making a top speed of 10 to 15 mph. At the bottom we found a state park that really looked interesting,
_so we pulled in to see what they offered and for how much... $29 plus another $18 for our toad...sorry. Further down the hill we arrived at our next destination…Vernal, which is known as “Dinosaur Land”.
_It seems that more Dinosaur parts and pieces have been found within an 80 mile circumference of Vernal than anywhere else in the world. Well after finding our campground, hooking up to water and electricity, we headed out to find Smith’s Pharmacy. Last night Louise read about Smith’s in Vernal. It seems that they are offering Shingle shots for $19 each and from what we’d been quoted in Seattle of $240, we couldn’t pass it up. Besides, we could get our flu shots at the same time. Following our shots, we went into Vernal to visit the Dinosaur National Monument (a dinosaur and fossil museum) to get a little education about dinosaurs and the area they apparently called home.
_5 October 2010
As we pulled out of Green River our route was to take us down the west side of the Flaming Gorge Reservoir. The scenery begins with broad rolling vistas of sagebrush and desert and the further south we went we watched the terrain become more rugged with juniper trees, large pine and the yellow leaves of the aspen covering the mountainsides. I should say that before we noticed the rolling vistas and sagebrush, we noticed the steep grade of our new route. Right out of Green River we started our climb and it continued and continued far longer than I would hope. It’s one thing if you can get a running start, but when you start climbing at 8% grade right out of the box and it lasts for over 3 miles you find yourself pushing forward from the driver’s seat to see if it helps. I was amazed at how often we found ourselves climbing to such degrees of grade and then down the other side with the same. Finally we arrived at our turn-off to the Lucerne Marina and Campground. This was going to be our new campground for the night. It only took us about two hours to get here but we really wanted to see all the sights we could around the south end of the gorge. We are but one of TWO campers here and our site sits at the water’s edge and offers a magnificent view right out of our front windshield. Well I guess I should mention that we “aren’t the only campers here…there is the camp host and about 6 to 8 resident pronghorn that make this their home as well. We also had a surprise waiting for us when we arrived…a dead battery in the Suzuki. We’ll have to check out to see just what makes this a problem, maybe it’s a new battery that we’ll be looking for… Fortunately we have two policies that will cover a dead battery or “jumping” for the car or motor home. We chose to call AAA this time and they were just great in their response. The negative for them was that their only affiliate for doing this job for them had to come all the way out from Vernal, Utah. Their drive to get to us took over 2 hours for a ten minute stay and then all they had to do was turn around and head back…a quick $246 for a jump. Well to help build the battery back-up, we took a ride. Just outside of Milan (which is about 3 miles away), we were told about a loop road they call Sheep Creek Canyon Geologic Scenic Drive. This drive was highly recommended so we had no choice but go… For well over an hour we traveled the canyon reading the roadside signs indicating the geological formations of twisted rock and pinnacle formations that surrounded us. They rose hundreds of feet above our heads making us wish we had a Boxer convertible to make this drive even more enjoyable.
_We were told to watch closely for Bighorn Mountain sheep clinging to the steep cliffs, but no such luck. The colors, the layers, and the unbelievable water and wind carvings of the mountains were amazing, we were very impressed. After leaving the lower portion of the drive, we climbed high (8000’) into the hills to our exit from the loop drive. This put us high above the gorge and you can see how it got its name of the “Flaming Gorge”. Another amazing thing that we discovered when we got to the top of loop drive was that we now had an 8% grade to take us back to Milan…that means that tomorrow we will have this drive ahead of us. In the morning we will be driving the coach with the toad behind all the way back up as we head to Vernal and a visit to Dinosaur National Monument. When we returned to Milan we decided, because of the lateness of the day, that we would stop by the “only” restaurant in town and have dinner. One thing that shouldn’t surprise us any longer is the opportunity to meet others that are traveling the world and enjoying the heck out of it at the same time… We met Paul and Lauren who are here in the states for the third time and have traveled all the way from a small village just outside of Liverpool, England. Unfortunately, they are on their last week before flying out of Salt Lake City.