Tuesday, August 25, 2009
On Sunday I drove to Cortez, CO, a 2-hour trip, to explore Mesa Verde National Park. First, I love my Park Pass! Once you are 62, for only $10, you can purchase a lifetime pass to all our national parks! What a great thing and I have used my extensively since arriving out West.
Mesa Verde is not only a national park, but a designated World Heritage site. The pueblos were built and lived in by the' ancient ones during 1200 a.d. These peoples occupied these cities built of sandstone and into the overhangs of high cliffs for approximately 200 years before moving on top of the mesas. They built these cities with only the rudest of tools. As you can see from the pictures, their houses and storage builders were several stories high. They are expertly chinked with wattle, bits of rock and the hard woods of the trees that still grow on these high desert plains, and are still strong and sturdy today. Deep kivas (fire pits) were dug deep into the rock, vented and had curved ceilings which protected the occupants when the rains and snows came.
Getting in and out of the pueblos was, and still is, extremely strenuous. Hand and toe holds were carved out of the rock and ladders were built to access the different levels in the pueblos. It is amazing what these ancient ones could accomplish and do. I signed up to take 2 tours, each guided by a park ranger, down into Cliff Palace and Balcony House. These are just 2 of the dozens of pueblos you see tucked into the overhangs ringing the canyon walls. When they described the 30' ladders (bolted to the rocks but offering no 'catch if you fall off' system and the tiny 12' rock tunnels you must scurry through, feet first, I wondered if I could face my fears of heights and closed-in places and actually do it. But how can you not when offered the opportunity to see up close how these people lived?
I was so happy that it was much cooler in Colorado that day. Large clouds kept the sun from beating down and temperatures rising into the 90's, as they do daily in Moab. A nice breeze was blowing and the sun peaked out enough to make it a perfect day to be scampering over rocks and cliffs. So I locked everything in the Jeep, slung my camera over my neck, took a deep breath and said 'I CAN do this' - and did. And I had a blast! I ended up spending 7 hours touring the park, it's museum, enjoying a picnic lunch and finally heading back to Moab as the sun was setting.
The route to Cortez is the same I will take this Friday when I wheels-up and head to Albuquerque to pick up my friend, Ellen at the airport. I got to drive over the rather steep grades that take you out of Moab; through Monticello where they have literally torn up the entire highway all the way through town; see where I will turn south on the infamous Hwy. 666 out of Cortez that will take me through the Navajo nation reservation and drop me onto I-40 in Gallup, NM. It will be an interesting drive in Winnie, towing the Jeep, and in some places very slow-going. This highway is the main trucker route from Phoenix up to I-70 and Salt Lake City, so there are lots of 'passing lanes' for trucks and RV's to move into while climbing, allowing those who drive 'normal vehicles' to get around us.
Sue, the wonderful owner of Moab Rim Campark, asked me again this morning when I was returning next year. It's so nice to be wanted:) I can't promise her anything, as who knows where or what I will be doing next summer? But if you are ever in this part of the country, and even if you don't own an RV, their little cabins and cottages are the perfect place to stay for a night or more while you explore all the fabulous sites in and around this area. And their gracious hospitality cannot be beat! I will miss them.
Now don't get upset and send emails about me not posting as once I get to Albuquerque, I'm 'on vacation' for a week. Promise to take lots of pictures of Santa Fe and Taos but won't have the time or want to upload them while spending time with Ellen exploring! Once I'm back on the road, I'll share all we have seen and what we have done during the next 10 days.
Until then......take care of each other.
Friday, August 21, 2009
What a glorious place! Jim and Sue, the owners of the campground, let me take off and 'play' and explore whenever I want. Yesterday Sue invited me to go on her morning walk (think hike!) with her friends and all their dogs - 6 labs. Not only did we hike way back and up into the hills, I ended up with a pair of 'dyed' red rock socks. Now they sell T-shirts, etc. out here that have been colored with the red clay dirt for lots of money. I found you only need wear a new pair of white sock with your hiking boots and you got lovely pair you didn't have to pay a penny for! And no, the color doesn't wash out.
Late yesterday afternoon I drove the highly-recommended Manti-LaSal Loop which winds through the rugged Colorado River canyon, over the rolling Castle Valley flats and then high, high, high up into the LaSal mountains. I just loved the little, 2-lane road with switchbacks that were 90 degree turns, no curves, with over 1000 foot drop-offs and no guard rails! I only met a few other cars the entire 3-hour trip, so I hugged the mountain-side! But the views were worth it!
From kayak-ers frolicking in the river, to unbelievable towering rock formations, to a vista that takes your breath away - pictures can't begin to show you just how beautiful it was. But I think what got me the most was driving through the Manti-LaSal National Forest. Located high, high up on top of the mountain range, covered with pinion pines, it is the site of a recent major fire. And there, growing tall and straight amongst the blackened branches of the dead trees was one, lone sunflower. Many people have and can say it much better than me, but to find beauty in the midst of devastation, new life starting where the old had been destroyed - well, it makes you stop and think.
Until next time.....take care of each other.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
I was told that taking Hwy 6 from Provo to Moab was nice, flat and an easy way to get from Point A to Point B. Highway 6 went through a beautiful canyon, up over the top of surrounding mountains, through miles of 2-lane, harrowing, highway construction and finally down onto the deserts dotted with flat-top mesas.
Did I mention that Hwy 6 is also the short-cut used by all the 16-wheelers in Utah to get between I-70 and I-80? But I made it - white knuckles and all - and arrived in the very cool town of Moab, where I planned to stay 3 nights at the
Moab Rim RV Campground. I figured this would be enough time to take in both Arches and Canyonlands National Parks and then head south to Monument Valley and Mesa Verde. But you just never know what can or might happen - and a couple of things have happened that are really cool!
First, the owner here at MRC immediately started talking about perhaps I might like to stay and help them out until I had to be in Albuquerque. They were really interested in what I could do to help up-grade their campground management software, their website and maybe teach the rest of their staff a class in customer service. Jim's wife was visiting their daughter and grandson but she would be back in town before I planned to leave and he really wanted me to meet her. I said thank you - it was really great that they would like me to stay but .......
The second - and you aren't going to believe this one - I've met someone. No, not standing alongside the road or in Moab. Bob & Janie, who had been my 'neighbors' in Cody in July for 2 weeks, had told me many times and lots about their good friend John. He was a widower, played golf, retired, great sense of humor and they thought he would be just perfect for me - and I for him! I didn't think much about it until a week after they got back to KS I got an email from this John, introducing himself. We starting emailing each other, and then actually talking on the phone until he said he thought that we really should meet in person - and he was willing to drive to Moab. A man willing to drive 918 miles one-way to meet me - and what if we didn't even like each other? I said sure, I was willing to take a chance if he was - and to pack his golf clubs!
John arrived on Friday afternoon and just left today. We had a blast! We laughed so much, had so much in common, we climbed rocks, drove miles through Arches, Dead Horse and Canyonlands parks, took pictures at sunrise and sunset, talked for hours and both broke 100 at the Moab Country Club. I found out that Cody the Cat doesn't like anyone else in his/our space but me and was thrilled John was here to run into town to get a big tank of compressed air when we discovered that Winnie's driver's side tire was almost flat, and he got to see me 'stressed' when I had to throw everything quickly in drawers, unhook and drive Winnie into the tire shop on a dicey tire before they closed for the day. (Thank God, only a broken valve and no need for an expensive new tire!) We grocery shopped together, grilled together and the man even sat in the laundromat while I did a couple of loads of dirty clothes in anticipation of departing Moab. John is a big man with a huge, fun personality, a totally bald head, and a very gentle soul. And yes, we've made plans to meet up again on my trip back East and play another round of golf - or two.
And last night, after getting back from the tire shop, Sue, wife of the Jim the owner and 'she who knows all' came over and said please, please, please can you just stay until the 28th! All the free time I want to travel around the State, work a few evening hours and help them out where I can. I realized with John's visit that I had completely blown my Grand Circle/Lake Tahoe/Sacramento itinerary and would never now be able to do all I had planned in the less than 2-weeks I had until I had to be in Albuquerque. So I said 'why not?' John and I went out to breakfast in town. He headed home to KS and I came back to learn the ropes of my 'new job.'
I will now just leave Winnie parked and take off for Monument Valley and Mesa Verde, both easy day-trips. Since I can take 2-3 days off at a time, I'm thinking that I will drive over to the other side of the state and see Bryce & Zion and treat myself to an overnight stay in a hotel!
As you can see from the pictures I've posted, this part of the country is so very different than the Midwest or even Wyoming. It's the very red of the rocks and dirt, the wide-open stretches of land dotted with massive and unusual rock formations, as if thrown down at random by someone with a wild imagination, the heat and wind that brings back memories of every Western movie you've ever seen - most of which were filmed here! Even the golf course winds around massive rocks - making some of the shots you have to make so 'fun!'
Well, it's almost time for me to wander across the campground and work my first 'shift' - from 4 till 7. Tomorrow I'll make plans to drive to Mesa Verde or maybe Monument Valley or play golf again at the local course - we'll see what look like the most fun tomorrow!
Until the next time....take care of each other.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
My time in Cody came to an end on Sunday when the owner of YVI let 3 of his workcampers go - now! I refused to leave until I had my last paycheck in hand - which he wanted to mail to us - not! Won that little battle and after 3 months un-plugged, hooked up the Jeep and off I went to spend my first night in a WalMart parking lot. Everything in Cody was booked, so thought I would see what 'boondocking' (no hookups) was all about. By the time I turned off my light at 10 p.m. there were over 30 rigs in the parking lot with me of every size and make. It was a hoot!
The next morning, Monday, I had Winnie's oil and filter changed and tires checked, then headed to Lander, WY - southwest about 4 hours. I spent the night at the really sweet Pioneer RV Park and had a great time chatting with their work/campers. Learned that I wasn't the first, and sure won't be the last, to get in a situation with a bad boss.
I spent most of Tuesday sightseeing. This is the home of the Arapahoe and Shoshone reservations and where Sacajawea lived out her later years, after leading the Lewis & Clark expedition, and is buried. I went into Sinks Canyon where the mountain snow run-off literally flows down into a huge sink-hole, only to emerge a 1/2 miles down the canyon in a deep pool where these enormous trout live - and get fed by the tourists.
Tuesday evening was spent laying out my route. Since I now had 'free time' I decided to 'go West'. I have always wanted to see the awe-inspiring and totally photogenic national parks of Utah - Arches, Monument Valley (where all the John Ford/John Wayne movies were shot), Mesa Verde, Lake Powell, the north rim of the Grand Canyon, Bryce and Zion. You can make a Grand Circle of this area - and that's what I decided to do.
Today I drove through my first 'big' mountain pass going south out of Lander down to I-80 and into Utah. Tonight I'm in Provo, just a few miles from Salt Lake City and right by the BYU campus in a nice, lakeside park with lots of trees and lots of RV's. Tomorrow I'll drive to Moab and make that my 'home' for 4-5 days while seeing everything there is to see on the East side of the Circle.
The plan is to move south and then back up north and when I finish with Utah, head to Lake Tahoe to visit with friends Suzanne and John, who I met in Illinois when I first started this odyssey. They've agreed to let me park Winnie for the weekend at John's studio and I'll hop in the Jeep and drive over to Sacramento to visit with #1 son Tobin and his lady, Courtney, and see their new home. I'll then turn around and head back to meet my good friend Ellen for our tour of Taos and Santa Fe - before heading to Florida! Does this seem like a lot of traveling? Yep - and maybe I won't get to do it all, but it will be fun trying! Will keep you posted and hopefully lots of great photos to share.
Until next time....take care of each other.
Friday, August 7, 2009
Sunday, August 2, 2009
We found an osprey nest sitting on the tippy-top of a pinnacle in the middle of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. I took a picture of the pinnacle with my zoom and you can see just how close I could get - not very. But the nest is there. One of the other's who took the class had a spot scope and I put my camera's lens over the scope and clicked and you can see the 2 little guys sitting and waiting for mom & dad to return with a nice, big fish for their dinner.
I think it's like anything you do - whether you love it or hate it - you start to count the days when it's over. As of today, I have 28 days remaining in my Wild West adventure.