Monthly Archives: May 2010

How Grand it is

We had a nice stay at North Rim, Arizona, at the Grand Canyon. This visit is a first for both of us, and we’ll look forward to another.

near Bright Angel Point and Grand Lodge

We took a short hike from the campground to the Grand Lodge. The Grand Lodge was another railroad-built North American destination lodge. The railroad companies in Canada and the States built many of these in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

This one burned down in 1932 and they rebuilt in 1937. The Grand lodge is a nicely sized stone building with ponderosa pine ceiling beams. And the Grand Lodge is surrounded by matching buildings for gift shop, food service, and guest cabins.

Grand Lodge, still decorated with last night's snow

We checked out the Grand Lodge, including its famed “surprise” glass-walled room overlooking the canyon. The gift store is nice with roomy aisles and a wide assortment of books, hats, jewlery, gifts and many other things.

We most liked the hike beyond the Lodge to Bright Angel Point. The 1/4 mile paved trail has steep drop-offs on both sides and terminates on a nice platform with grand view of Bright Angel Canyon and of Grand Canyon’s opposite, or south. rim.

Nice snow in North Rim Cmpgrd

We’re camped at the North Rim Campground beside the Grand Canyon. Our facilities are very modest, even if our RVs are not. Still the campground comfort stations have flush toilets, soap and very cold water lavatories, and electrical power at the lavatories. All the roads and campsites are paved and well-marked.

This is a very attractive campground, well laid out amongst the trees. Tenters and RVs are mixed throughout the campground. They fit well together because the campground is so roomy. But the campground has very few level sites and is a big challenge for larger RVs.

Our weather the past several days has included very comfortably temperatures and increasingly windy days. We arrived at North Rim to a high of 52 degrees and at 9pm we already were down to 35. Our low was around 24 degrees Farenheit, the coldest for the caravan. And yes, we had an inch of snow the next morning. This really pretty white coating stuck on everything except the roads.

Point Imperial marker

The roads and trails were clear, and the snow melted away rapidly after sun-up. We drove to Cape Royal for views of the Colorado River and Grand Canyon, then to Point Imperial for the view from the highest point in the entire Grand Canyon Park.

Colorado River running far below us

The river is very distant but clearly visible way down there. This view helps provide perspective on how big this canyon is, ten miles across and 277 river miles long. (see info here)

We’re headed to Zion National Park next. As grand as this Grand Canyon is, warmer weather beckons and we’re ready for it. See you down the road!

Jim and Debbie
locate us here
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©2007-2010 Dreamstreamr

Blown Away by Glen Canyon NRA

Blown away, literally, by today’s winds. Max gusts of 50mph, per the weather guessers — our guess might be higher, based upon the wind tossing hardback books from the table-top to the ground.

Our group ambitiously will attempt a picnic here in little more than an hour. Debbie, Jerry and Ann Hall, Frank and Carol Colligan and I are hosts to our 55 fellow caravanners on the WBCCI SW Adventures Caravan.

We’re not doing anything fancy. We’re going to serve KFC chicken, fixings, and some pie from Safeway. It’s a picnic, after all. Some caravan guides material mentions caravan food competitive spirit. We’re here to help relax those who follow — it’s camping, after all.

Our first two days here were full of fabulous weather — mostly sunny skies, highs in the 70s, lows around 50. Oh, and sunrise is at 0515 hours, Arizona time. Wow, that’s really early. Jim’s waking and staying up, enjoying watching the morning unfold. None of this for Debbie. She’s arising to the clock time. Someone please pull the shades down early, okay?

We visited Antelope Canyon, a very pretty and narrow slot canyon. And we enjoyed a day-long rafting trip down the Colorado River from Glen Canyon Dam to Lees Ferry. Our guide, Rico, is very knowledgeable about the river and its history and entertained us thoroughly with his stories and histories.

Today we enjoyed a “zero day”, no tours, no hiking, nothing until mid-afternoon. Now we’re setting up for the big picnic. This is our only occasion on this caravan to host a meal and we have a fantastic committee with the Halls and Colligans.

Since we lack any kitchen and dining setting and are eating in the park’s picnic area, we easily agreed to picnic food. What’s more picnicky than fried chicken, potatoes and gravy, and cole slaw? Well, homemade ice cream would have iced it just perfectly, but some things are a little out of reach for our caravan.

Glen Canyon NRA has several campgrounds. Our group is tucked into Wahweap Campground near Page and on Lake Powell. Many of our trailers have a very fine view of Lake Powell and the opposite shoreline. Our price for this great setting is five days camping with no utilities.

A little more than half of our group have a little less an overlook. They are sited on concrete pads and provided with full electric, water, and sewer connections. Maybe it’s an even swap. Debbie and I think so. We’re a little more than halfway through our fresh water tank supply (total 40 gallons, used 22 gallons). We’ve had great solar electric power generation to keep our batteries full.

Our main use of batteries has, so far, been in restoring the Dell laptop. Thus far we have reloaded Vista, MS Office suite, Picasa, Coffee Cup, FileZilla, Quicken, and TurboTax. This afternoon we started trying to reload backed up data files from portable hard drives.

We have no idea how much data we’ll restore, or how well it will work. But we do have the cleanest and sparest install we’ve ever seen on any laptop anywhere. Our desktop has exactly one icon, Recycle Bin. That’s it except the quick launch bar at the very bottom screen margin, where each of the above-listed apps has a small icon.

Hopefully we’ll be able to keep it this way. And we’re talking about how and whether to optimize the uses of the laptop. We’re starting over, we can make the rules any way we want, right?

I can’t keep typing — one hand is bracing the laptop screen to keep the wind from folding it over. Sand is driving, off and on, into my face. And I want to go talk with fellow caravanners nearby.

We’re enjoying this big wind country through tomorrow morning, then we’re driving directly into the wind to North Rim. Tomorrow will be Debbie’s and my first opportunity to see the Grand Canyon and we’re excited.

This windy Glen Canyon NRA is perfectly wonderful this time of year on the calm days. And no calm days are in the immediate forecast. We’re blown away from here, and will hope to visit again in calmer times.

Jim and Debbie
locate us here
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©2007-2010 Dreamstreamr

Is an Apple Mac in our immediate future?

Shhh! We aren’t ready for our Dell computer to hear we might be planning it’s obsolescence. Most of our work career depended upon IBM-compatible machines. All our applications, for a very long time, were Microsoft DOS then Windows processes. And we would give this Dell up so easily? Not just yet, but. . .

You may already know where we are, if you follow us — our locate us tag at the bottom of our blogs seems to be pretty reliable. A little less reliable in Indian Country, the APRS system relies upon our finding ham radio digipeaters within range of our radio/antenna. While we have darned good range, every now and then our signal just isn’t heard by the right kind of receiver.

Sometimes you may wonder what we’re doing there when we say we’re here. Gee, sounds kinda like what you wondered when your kids said they were here, and you thought they were some there else. Not exactly like “The Library” in LaCrosse, Wisconsin (and similarly named bars probably in most other college towns, too).

We are here, and through Sunday morning the locator will show us at the edge of beautiful Lake Powell in Page, AZ. We arrived yesterday and have enjoyed a very peaceful setting 3/4 mile from, and approx 100 feet above, the lake’s edge.

Most of the other 62 caravanners are on a Lake Powell boat tour and hike to Rainbow Bridge (someone said, “Tenth Wonder”, but I don’t know). Your faithful reporter walked with Debbie to the resort office/gift shop/marina to meet up with the tour group, then I walked back up the hill to start my BIG project for the day.

Everyone else absent is a blessing for me, right now. I am attempting to salvage certain files from our Dell laptop which three days ago suffered crash-dumped memory. I can attend to this project, catch up a little on emails, do a little housekeeping, and keep an eye on some of our caravanners’ rigs.

The project, searching for a few very important files to save to a portable hard drive, is going slowly. The problem is I must attempt to recover tens of thousands of files so I can cherry pick the Quicken data folders and the most recent four weeks’ picture folders.

Our last back-up was, perhaps, a month ago just after completing taxes and just before this caravan. We will face, if we cannot recover any files, loss of the best pictures and our personal expense entries from our caravan’s first month. The pictures are somewhat replaceable. Oddly, our laptop’s recycle bin had almost 2,000 pictures, mostly from this same caravan.

Our camera allows shooting bracketed f-stop exposures (e.g., selected exposure plus -1 and +1 f-stop). We choose the exposure we like best and trash the other two exposures. Fortunately these extra shots survived the operating system’s crash by hiding out in the recycle bin.

We pulled the recycle bin contents into one of our portable hard drives (not the one with the most recent data backups). This morning we downloaded to another laptop a copy of PC-Tools’ “File Recovery”.

I only want the most recent one month’s pictures plus the Quicken files. This lengthy process is yet another instance of the old adage, it takes less time the second time around. Our favorite examples are the instructions for installing desktop computer internal components, replacing the hitch receiver under your pickup truck, and assembling children’s bicycles.

Invariably, it seems, they say the process can be accomplished in 40 minutes or less. And this may be true. But we are comfortable reporting most people will not approach less than five times this time frame on their first try. And the instructions might not include the time required to first remove the existing component or equipment to prepare for installation.

How lengthy is this recover process? I can’t yet say. Three and one-half hours ago I started running the file recovery utility and it has inventoried over 20,000 files thus far. And it may all be worthwhile if we can re-acquire the desired files.

What’s next? We’ll try to save the dozen folders we’re hunting to the portable hard drive. I’ll shut down the laptop, remove the keyboard and bottom cover, and gently blow compressed air throughout the motherboard and components. We imagine our laptop feels an extra few pounds heavier and needs to have a bunch of dust removed.

Everywhere we’ve been over the past several weeks has been incredibly dusty and windy. The blowing dust and sand we’ve encountered has spread throughout everything in our trailer. No doubt, the laptop has tried to store its share too.

Files recovered (or not), dust removed, machine reassembled, then we hope it again works. If it does, we’ll do low level format on the drives and start over with info from our back-ups. If it doesn’t work, we’ll see if there are any parts we want to salvage for some good future trailer or ham radio project.

Friends on our caravan advised us the laptops’ mean time between failures is three years. Two weeks ago our power supply started acting buggy. I’m pretty sure it is a broken wire in the attachment to the power transformer, and I can take this apart and effect some sort of repair. And now this problem with the User Profile Service not in service?

Will we change our back-up schedule? Darned tooting, at least until
we forget this incident. Some of you remember the old back-up procedures we maintained at work. I vaguely remember keeping six daily sets, three weekly sets, and two or more monthly sets of diskettes for our office’s computer.

We ran eleven completely different sets of diskettes, all labelled, and handled very frequently. How far we’ve fallen — Debbie and I were backing up seasonally and recently increased it to monthly. Now we’ll probably go to weekly.

Does this loss of laptop (and vast amounts of data files) affect us? Notice there aren’t any pictures in this blog (loads much quicker, doesn’t it?). We’re tracking expenses with pencil and paper. We can’t look stuff up (a habit I love). We cannot edit our pictures. And we’re vastly behind blogging. Mostly though, we’re experiencing a little separation anxiety toward our Dell laptop.

We’ve been browsing, very casually, new laptops. Didn’t want to upset our current one, you know. Well that’s out the window now! We’re full-on looking for this machine’s replacement. Our kids and friends use Macs. The appeal has grown in the past several days.

Until then, I’m watching our Dell undergo the PC Tools Fire Recover process (up to 21,850 files and counting). And I’m hoping I will find the few folders we want. I hope I’ll complete the gutting, cleaning, and formatting process sometime this afternoon. And start rebuilding — or find an Apple store down the road somewhere.

We’ll see you down the road, or perhaps in an Apple store!

Jim and Debbie
locate us here
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©2007-2010 Dreamstreamr

The first train of the year

Colorado is cool! We had a really nice visit here, albeit insufficient days again. We spent our first of two days walking all about downtown, visiting the Durango Diner for lunch, visiting the Chevy dealer for an engine oil filter change (have we really driven 3,000 miles already in one month?), and exploring a couple of shops.

Durango Diner is a great choice for bkfast or lunch

Durango Diner is another of Stern’s Road Food recommendations. We trustingly ordered the green chili cheeseburger. What a great sandwich! Immediately we realized we would not be picking this one up with our hands. The sandwich was tasty and the staff were all very friendly and fun. And, we didn’t need to eat again for two days, although we probably found our way to another table the next day anyhow.

This chick's going for a ride

Our second day started early to board the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge train for Silverton, CO. Our entire caravan group seated on two open cars for the three hour ride from Durango to Silverton. Many of us had not ridden a train in a very long while, if ever, so this was an interesting experience. This train line has operated continuously since 1881 between Durango and Silverton, and has seen a lot of history, eh?

The train travels through very pretty country

Another sight from this train is fantastic scenery. Gosh, Colorado is very pretty, and so green after spending a week or two in New Mexico. We like Colorado, at least this part of it. The Animas River is full of snow melt and accompanied us our entire journey. Above 8,000 feet we encountered more frequent snow drifts along the river’s banks. The snow-capped mountains towered high above us, even when we were well above the river’s course.

coal-fired steam locomotive pulls us toward Silverton

The train travels a leisurely 12 to 15 mph as it climbs from Durango to Silverton. We merrily rocked back and forth on the closely-spaced narrow gauge rails. Our positions in the open car allowed us excellent views of the beautiful scenery and of the old coal-fired steam locomotive blasting it’s steam sideways, pouring it’s condensate on the gravel bed, and shooting the sulphurous exhaust skyward. We found ourselves imagining this same trip up these rails 100 years ago (lots of info about this train here).

Trouble in Rockwood -- one car has bad brakes

Our train arrived one car short in Silverton. Our train crew elected to drop off one car on a siding in Rockwood, midway up the tracks between Durango and Silverton. They advised us the car had some sort of brakes problem and their best solution was to drop the car. The train crew completed this unhitching and re-hitching maneuver faster than we can unhitch and hitch our RVs. Pretty slick crew in this company!

And the local band played

Silverton was throbbing with excitement! This is the first train arrival of the year. Not since last fall has the train brought visitors up from the city. New money, shoppers hunting bargains, and all the passengers will expect to find a good meal during their two-hour layover. The entire town turned out for our arrival, many of them in Victorian garb.

Silverton has some cute houses

Fortunately, the weather guessers were wrong again — their forecast was for a high temperature of 31 degrees F in Silverton. Silverton’s weather was instead very pleasant for walking and touring. Debbie and I veered away from the throng of people to walk about the town of Silverton. We walked many blocks of the residential area, finding some fixer-upper specials on sale and a few charming little houses very well kept.

We learned the town only supports 200 people over the winter, and a little over three times as many through the summer, not including up to ten thousand daily visitors during July 4 weekend. What employment opportunities are in Silverton? Mostly catering to the tourist trade, the town supports many wait staff and retail store personnel. And they were plainly glad to see us.

Pickle Bbl is a great dining choice in Silverton

Our meal at Pickle Barrel was delightfully tasty and wholesome. We had an interesting and very good carrot and sweet potato soup, followed by a green salad, and a pair of divine desserts. Debbie’s was a chocolate and peanut butter silk pie, and it was really smooth as silk. Mine is a four-layer chocolate cake with a mousse between the layers and fudge icing on the outside. It is not four layers, but five.

And no, I haven’t lost control of my verb tenses — the cake survives, still in the present tense. Debbie let me sample her pie, and she helped me a little with my cake. And I still brought half of the cake home with me. I’m looking forward to eating it again, and I think I may finish it this time. I’ve never seen a larger, or richer, slice of cake. We would eat at Pickle Barrel again anytime. The food and service were wonderful.

Our train is ready to roll to Durango

We waddled back to the train for our descent to Durango. Some of us nodded off and on as we jostled down the narrow tracks. The day was wonderful, exciting, and satisfying. Our train ride took us from 6500 feet up to 9,300 feet. The weather was glorious all day. Our train car was not left on a siding in the middle of nowhere. We had a very nice walk and a great meal in Silverton. And we returned home safely.

Deb gets a squeeze from Big Al

The D & SNG train ride might have excited us as much as it did Silverton, and there was plenty of excitement in the brisk air. Maybe it just goes with the territory. How much better can things be? Spring is really sprung, festivals are happening in Durango. Silverton celebrated this year’s first day of visitors arriving on the train. Even Big Al Harper, D & SNG’s owner arrived in his private rail car. And we were there.

See you down the road!

Jim and Debbie
locate us here
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©2007-2010 Dreamstreamr

Fast Fwd to Santa Fe, NM

We spent yesterday in Santa Fe, NM, absolutely the artsiest town we’ve visited. The day started cool and sunny, with morning temperatures in the low 50s. The bright sunshine warmed us enough so our trolley tour around the city wasn’t too cool.

Santa Fe trolley tour bus

The trolley tour was a good intro for first-timers to Santa Fe, like us, to get a feel for what’s here. The driver sounded exactly like one of the red bus tour drivers in St Augustine, FL, explaining bits of history and mixing squeaky clean little jokes into his banter. This tour gave us a peek all around the primary sites of Santa Fe, a great start to a day of walking and shopping.

Santa Fe's Plaza

We followed the tour with browsing of the Native Americans’ authentic silver jewelry, and somebody might have another birthday present. Don’t tell her! She picked it and I want it to be a surprise for her. The Puebloans sign up for a lottery for spaces in the vending area on the terrace of the Governors Palace (now a museum) one year ahead. Great exposure to tourists on their way to lunch or just relaxing in this pretty plaza.

La Casa Sena

An army marches on its stomach and we had some serious shopping ahead, so we voted for lunch before marching. One of our group had Santa Fe dining recommendations for La Casa Sena, a very nice restaurant occupying most of a plaza near Santa Fe’s main plaza. The menu has a nice variety, all eight of our group found great choices. Jim’s sampler platter with shrimp, tamale, mango relish, and guacamole might have been the best, Debbie’s chicken quesadillas were excellent, and the chocolate chili soup dessert was divine.

Cathedral Basilica de St Francis Assisi

We entered the old Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi and were immediately greeting by Mr. Chavez. He provided us an explanation of features and history of this pretty church. He told us how fortunate it was, in the early years, the church could not afford to demolish the old 1714 chapel. So it remains, a lovely feature of this church.

wind sculptures, Wiford Gallery, Santa Fe

We probably spent the most time in Wiford’s Gallery. The wind sculptures drew us in from our walk up Canyon Road. The large yard has as many as 100 wind sculptures all rotating various ways. Some were singing as the wind vibrated their tuned strings and the sound resonated from the chamber.

The gallery held even more fascinating art — carved lead crystal, brilliant paintings and beautiful wood furniture and sculptures. We were attracted to a lot of this art work and will book mark Wiford Gallery for some day when we want that special piece.

tree along Acequia Madre

Our walk up Canyon Road was wonderful, browsing lots of shops and galleries. We not so narrowly avoided buying a pair of cowboy boots ($3,650) or so many beautiful art works for the i-House we don’t yet have. We were galleried out and were ready to walk down the hill. We crossed over from Canyon Road to Acequia Madre Rd to walk along the acequia (upscale irrigation ditch). Several trees have self-servingly rooted all along the acequia to drink, drink, drink. It’s so convenient having your water fountain RIGHT THERE, and the water is so good!

wonderfully crafted spiral stair

The legend says the Sisters of the Academy of Our Lady of Light (Loretto) realized they must have steps for the new chapel’s choir loft but couldn’t determine how to arrange the construction. The 22′ ladder height to the loft was too great for the girls to safely climb. Space was at a premium as were funds, and the sisters prayed nine days to St Joseph, patron saint of carpenters, for an answer to this conundrum. And a carpenter knocked on the door and offered to build a staircase. When he completed this wonderful work he disappeared without asking for payment or receiving thanks.

Our touring day almost complete, we retreated to La Fonda Hotel for refreshment and relaxation. La Fonda claims to be on the oldest hotel site in the U.S., dating back to the 1600s. One local told us, “If the Pilgrims had instead arrived in Santa Fe they could have worshiped in San Miguel Mission and enjoyed a hot meal and a bed in La Fonda hotel.”

a very nice watering hole in Santa Fe

We only needed table and chairs for six, and the bar in La Fonda was very nice. Great selection of beverages, great service, and wonderful atmosphere. Lots of shops too — arrive late in the day (the shops are closed) and you can concentrate on drinking instead of shopping.

Today we’re on to Durango, CO, and more adventures with our caravan. See you later!

Jim and Debbie
locate us here
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©2007-2010 Dreamstreamr