Monthly Archives: June 2010

Hunkered down in Gillette, WY

The rain didn’t start until after we arrived and set up yesterday. Last night and all day today we have had rain. A very fine mist at times, a soaking rain others. And it is chilly!

The outdoor temperature at 4 p.m. today is 45 degrees, and we haven’t seen it much higher all day. The low tonight is 42 degrees, tomorrow promises the same conditions as today.

We’re camped in a large grassy campground in the eastern section of the Gillette CamPlex complex. It is a brisk twenty minute walk to the buildings, no shortcut found so far. More exploring in order if/when the weather clears.

Gillette proclaims itself the energy capital of the world. We might, if Homeland Security doesn’t object, receive a tour of one of the large open pit coal mines nearby. We’re looking forward also to exploring the area.

We’ll be here one month, so we’ll really find our way around Gillette and the CamPlex, and might learn our way around this corner of Wyoming as well. We’re looking forward to this time off the road. Except for replacing the trailer’s right rear tire, we don’t have a lot we have to do.

Our first job with the Club is to help the Rally Cashier collect additional fees from folks bringing in unregistered family or friends, or from folks who haven’t paid their registration.

Next week we will add responsibilities in coordinating rally Awards, helping in setting up the rally amateur radio club station, and preparing and presenting two full-timing seminars.

In between we hope we can play some tennis each week, catch up on our reading and relax in what, hopefully, will be nicer weather.

Jim and Debbie
locate us here
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©2007-2010 Dreamstreamr

A little something extra from Rocky Mtn Natl Park

Snow still on the ground June 9!

Debbie and I each, separately at different times, lived in Estes Park apartments in Chapel Hill in the ’70s. And we hardly thought about this yesterday when we came over the Rocky Mountains, through Rocky Mountain National Park, to Estes Park, Colorado.

Western entrance to RMNP

Our entrance to the RMNP on the western slope was unremarkable except for the terrible conditions. The gate booths were unattended and the pavement was missing. Road construction signs warned of heavy trucks and road damage in the Park. One hundred yards after clearing the park entrance gate the pavement resumed and we thought, “That was easy.”

We traveled a couple of miles and started seeing some wildlife observers parked roadside, peering intently through their binoculars and scopes. It was after 9:30 a.m. but at this altitude the outdoor temperature was still under 60F, so the elk were enjoying their breakfast in the meadows just below the road. We’ve watched elk grazing at dusk in Cataloochee in the Smoky Mountains National Park. They weren’t nearly so close to our watching station as these Colorado elk are.

Continental Divide in the Rockies

The road destruction started up again soon after we left the elk. We were last in a queue held by a flagman. He let us go after a short wait and we followed the procession up four or five switchbacks as we climbed Trail Ridge Road, the highest paved road in the USA.

Road destruction was very much evident in the Park

We cleared a switchback and suddenly no one was in front of us but the road was blocked by another flagman and heavy equipment in both lanes. The flagman asked us, “Did you lose your pilot car?” We can only guess the flagmen don’t use very good radios, or aren’t using theirs well enough. Could have been touchy if they had released the downhill traffic to head into us.

Great views from top of RMNP

Onward after a short delay and we finally make it to the peak. Great views, lots of snow on the ground still, and unfortunately we were one half hour early for the peak Visitor Center. Lots more road construction for a few miles and we finally made it to the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center.

buiding design influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright

This visitor center on the eastern slope and near Estes Park is designed by Taliesin Associates, the architectural group founded by Frank Lloyd Wright. The building has the long and low roofline of Wright’s designs, as well as use of lots of glass and local stone. The stone was quarried in the 1800s in an old federal quarry nearby. Lichen and a natural aging provided just the look the designers wanted when the building process started in the mid-1960s. We enjoyed seeing this notable design, functional and really attractive, on our way out of the RMNP.

We cruised through Estes Park slowly. Jim tried to imagine the small town he visited last in 1976 as he hitchhiked across the US on his way to San Diego. The small town grew up a lot in thirty-four years, the watering hole he had enjoyed and the motel he suffered were not apparent yesterday. So it goes with sweet memories — best keep them in your head — memories stay fresher than the real thing sometimes.

Our truck has towed the trailer and carried us in comfort for over 5,000 miles since we left North Carolina early April. We found a Discount Tire to rotate our tires in Loveland, filled up with gas and had a great time visiting King Soopers grocery (a relative of Kroger). Thinking we had taken care of all our business before we head into wild Wyoming, we retired to our nice campground at Boyd Lake State Park in Loveland.

But this morning we found we missed something. Or rather, caught something. Upon starting our journey northward this morning, our tire pressure monitor started alarming immediately. The trailer’s left rear tire was low by over ten psi. We pulled into the next parking lot on our way out of the campground, filled the trailer’s tires all to 65 psi with our portable compressor.

Our tire pressure monitor showed the same tire losing one psi per hour on our drive up to Glendow State Park, a little north of Cheyenne, WY. We jacked up the trailer to remove the leaky tire. Our inspection of the tread showed no nails or screws or obvious leaks. Debbie mixed up a cupful of dish detergent and water, and slowly poured it over the tire while Jim rolled the tire on the ground. We were watching intently for any sign of a leak.

Suddenly we had lots of soap bubbles showing the leak location. The puncture was caused by a piece of wire like used for tying rebar. We used our handy-dandy plugging tool to repair it, moved the spare tire to the trailer’s right rear, refilled the repaired tire, and put it away as a temporary spare. The plug, unfortunately, is too near the tread edge to be reliable. It may work okay as a low-speed spare if we have a blowout before we arrive in Gillette. We’ll replace this plugged tire while we’re in Gillette.

We’ve had really good luck with our trailer over 40,000 miles and truck over 60,000 miles. And we love re-discovering places we visited before, as well as finding new places throughout North America. We’re enjoying this trip tremendously, even with the loss of a tire. No guts, no glory? Our truck and trailer showed a lot of guts yesterday, climbing easily over the pass at almost 12,000 feet elevation.

See you down the road!

Jim and Debbie
locate us here
visit our website

©2007-2010 Dreamstreamr

Granby and Grand Lake, CO

Escaped the Moab heat, running north toward Rocky Mountain National Park. Figured if latitude doesn’t bring cooler temperatures, altitude surely will. We can win either way by following the Colorado River up up up. And Granby Lake offers nice camping and a couple of nearby towns.

Granby Lake, CO, in the morning sunlight

Our first night in Colorado, well south of Granby, was at Rifle Gap State Park. Pretty hot despite being very windy. Fortunately, the Granby Lake area is cooler by at least ten degrees. Granby’s Stillwater Campground sits near the water and offers several loops. Most of the campsites offer good views of Granby Lake.

Tuesday afternoon we drove in and walked up and down the Grand Lake boardwalk. This is a cute small town with a little of everything. We visited a backpacking store, coffee shop, and small grocery store. The backpacking store folks are really helpful and found a 2L replacement drinking water bladder in their storeroom for us.

The Village Hub is a nice local coffee shop with friendly service, an option to use real mugs instead of styro, great coffee (and ice cream and pastry), and nice tables and seating. We were deciding where to sit when another couple, seated on a sofa, asked if they had overheard that we are RVers.

We introduced ourselves to Pat and Don, and Pat told us they travel in a Holiday Rambler. Don added they aren’t full-timers but have traveled all but a couple of months in a year. Debbie asked if those two months weren’t spent working on the house and yard. And, of course, it probably was.

Unlikely as it looks, this is one great steakhouse

Jim was wearing a fun tee-shirt he picked up in Albuquerque at Monte Carlo Liquor and Steak House. Turns out Pat and Don live in Albuquerque, and hadn’t heard of this local restaurant. We had fun laughing at the notion, you hear about something in your own neighborhood when you’re 800 miles away.

Pat and Don finished their coffee and ran out of time so we didn’t talk as long as we all could have. It was fun meeting and talking with these nice Holiday Rambler folks while enjoying our coffee in the Village Hub. Are RVers just the nicest people to meet on the road? Or are the nicest people in Granby and Grand Lake, CO?

Don’t know, need to do more research — see you down the road!

Jim and Debbie
locate us here
visit our website

©2007-2010 Dreamstreamr

How to wrap up a 46-day caravan

I think we could write a book about a seven week caravan. There are so many things to see, and do, and a lot happens to us and to our large group. A lot of what we think is interesting might not be for you. So we try to condense it for easier reading.

How to shorten it? No more prelims, here’s the straight stuff. We’re following our good friends, the Blanchards, advice on posting about the caravan. Lots of pictures. Except we cannot resist throwing words in also. Half as many words, ten times as many pictures, let’s see how this works highlighting parts of the great times we had sightseeing in the Four Corners region of the Southwest:

oldest continuously inhabited place in the USA, Acoma Pueblo

Acoma Pueblo, also known as Sky City Pueblo, is on a mesa over 350 feet above the desert. The Puebloans, after suffering years of attacks from marauding tribes, moved onto this very defendable site. It reportedly worked well against all except the Spanish conquistadores. Our guide treated us to a very informative walking tour of Acoma Pueblo.

Ages 48 to 88, everyone in our caravan segwayed well

The Segway Tour of Old Town in Albuquerque was less a tour and more a lesson on riding Segways. We’re hooked on Segways, but for two concerns: they are still very expensive and we don’t have anywhere to stow them while we travel. This was a fun way for us to get our first glimpse at Old Town. The Segway guides, Sean and Sean, shepherded us across intersections and kept a watchful eye on our maneuvering. They didn’t provide us any narrative and so this did not, for us, replace walking about Old Town.

San Jose de las Gracias Church, Las Trampas, New Mexico is very old and seems authentic. The church was built in the 1700s and appears not to have changed since. The original wood planked floor is still in use, and many of the artifacts and icons are also very old.

Did they do this without ladders, too?

Bandelier National Monument includes a great hiking trail down to the Rio Grande River, cliff dwellings, petroglyphs and pictographs, and adobe villages with large kivas. We could have spent another day exploring and hiking this nice park. The hike through Frijoles Canyon to the river is worth doing again.

How often do you meet a Train Tycoon?

The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Train ride is a real neat treat. We rode in open cars, the genuine article from 125 years ago, for a few hours from Durango to Silverton. Silverton, at around 9,000 feet elevation, was chilly and breezy as we walked around the small residential and business areas. We had a fine lunch in Pickle Barrel, perfect salad, and sweet potato and carrot soup, followed by the hugest chocolate cake (five layers, five pounds, just kidding). Great train ride, great lunch, great day.

This is as close to mudding as we want to go

Canyon del Muerto, Chinle, AZ, is a beautiful place filled with sorrow. The name means Canyon of the Dead. The Spaniards, in the 1800s, trapped dozens of Navajo in the Canyon and killed them all. Ben and Adam Teller’s family business, Antelope House Tours, provided us a very good tour of Canyon del Muerto. The wash was full of water, the banks were steep, and our tour guide/driver Daniel did a fantastic job sharing the history and safely conducting us through the canyon in his Jeep Cherokee.

That's some great engineering!

Cliff Palace at Mesa Verde, the largest cliff dwelling in North America, is a wonder of engineering and execution. It was built around 1200 AD and occupied only until approximately 1300 AD. Many of the walls are intact and the National Park Service attempts to stabilize them with minimal changes.

Our GPS said, SWITCHBACKS!

The real thing was as twisty as the GPS image was

We drove to Garden of the Gods via the Moki Dugway, an old uranium ore haul road from Cedar Mesa. The GPS route map was pretty fantastic, until we realized the road really is arranged just as the GPS shows. These two pictures depict the GPS image and the genuine Moki Dugway routes.

Neat place for photography, but take old camera

Antelope Canyon, near Page, AZ, provides a business opportunity for the Navajo Tribe. Since the Canyon is on Navajo lands the tour companies all must be Navajo. We met our tour in Page where we climbed high up onto the rear of a souped-up Chevy 2500 pickup with the hugest mudding tires you can imagine (our guide told us the tires list at $1,300 each). We cruised a few miles onto the reservation to the Canyon’s entrance and followed our guide inside. He showed us the best picture opportunities, capturing the sun’s rays piercing down through sifting sands from high above. Almost ruined our camera, exposing it to all the wind-blown and falling sands, but caught a few really pretty pictures in Antelope Canyon.

A beautiful and large natural bridge

Rainbow Bridge National Monument is a very impressive structure and the boat ride there was nice. We got to see Lake Powell, a lot more of it than from anywhere else. The little canyon was interesting because it didn’t look like the boat was going to fit, it was a very narrow canyon. We thought we could have reached out from the boat and touched the canyon sides.

We awoke to an inch of snow at North Rim

North Rim of the Grand Canyon, AZ, was one of our chilly stops. The snow started falling while we were asleep. We would have liked even chillier temperatures so the snow could stick around a couple of days, but it melted soon after sunrise. We hiked the Transept Trail from campground to the Grand Lodge, explored in and around the Grand Lodge a little, and visited several viewing lookouts including Cape Royal and Point Imperial.

This is the steepest trail we've ever hiked

Zion National Park in Utah is one of our favorites from this caravan. We could hike for days and days, never hiking the same trail. The mass transit is fantastic, totally eliminating any need to use our truck in the park or nearby Springdale while staying there. The Angels Landing trail was a big challenge for both of us. First we hiked upward four and a half miles. The remaining half mile is along a narrow rock spine and face and hikers are guided by heavy chains anchored into the rock face. We lasted all but the last 1/4 mile of the 1,488 foot hike. Maybe another time, maybe not.

Also while at Zion National Park we met Rob and Jan Wilson. They are on a fun adventure touring fifty national parks. They have calculated this will take over twenty thousand miles and 217 days. They are traveling in a Mercedes Benz Sprinter van outfitted by Airstream. Mercedes is demonstrating this very capable platform can handle whatever they throw at it throughout the U.S. Rob and Jan are really neat people, never had RVed before and are on a whale of an adventure through the end of this year. Look them up at http://www.sprintertour.com/

A great trail ride throughout Bryce Canyon

Bryce Canyon National Park, UT, is best seen walking or on horseback instead of from lookout platforms. Our trail ride into the canyon was fabulous, better than we could have dreamed. Our animals, of course, knew every step of the trail and could hardly have cared whether we were on board or not. This makes the trail ride easier for the riders — just hang on and let the mule or horse pace along behind his buddy.

This is some really old log book, carved in stone!

Capital Reef National Park, in Torrey, UT, is a surprise. It just doesn’t seem like it can offer very much but every turn reveals another significant settler’s cabin or archaeological feature. Or, the Pioneers’ Register in Capitol Gorge. This was the main passage into Capitol Gorge until the 1960s (when the highway was built). The settlers engraved their names in the sandstone above the wagon trail over one-hundred years ago. Isn’t it interesting they carved in cursive?

Can you see little Debbie under the Delicate Arch?

Delicate Arch, Moab, UT, is one of those must-see monuments in Arches National Park. It, and Landscape Arch, and Dark Angel, and Double O, and another dozen or so occupied our hiking energies for two days. We divided our hiking time between Arches NP and Canyonlands NP, where we hiked to the lookout for the Upheaval Dome. Very very interesting.

Our Caravan Finale Folleys are fun for everyone

Our caravan’s last hurrah was at the Sunset Grill in Moab, UT. The food was good, and the entertainment was fantastic. Our caravan’s music makers had practiced for days, and several characters created scripts and worked on their spiels. The result? A fun finale and fitting closing to this successful caravan led by Jay and Elna Thompson and Winston and Carol Montague — Thanks for putting on such a fine caravan!

See you down the road,

Jim and Debbie
locate us here
visit our website

©2007-2010 Dreamstreamr

No thanks, you keep the mud

We’ve had a very difficult time keeping you up-to-date on our caravanning progress. The crash of our laptop was a pretty good excuse for interrupting our posting. Not really, but we just couldn’t bring ourselves to spend writing time without first trying to either restore or replace our primary laptop.

The laptop problems started somewhere about Chinle, AZ, or shortly thereafter. Simple logic allows us to blame for our electronics problems the horrendous dust we daily endured in Chinle. The campground had no utilities, so we were dry camping with only our battery power and the water in our fresh water tank. Not such a bad condition to be batteries only, but we couldn’t run the air conditioner and close up the camper. Therefore we could not keep the insidious dust from inside the camper (and inside everything inside the camper).

Dust everywhere, but so much more

Doesn’t it help to blame something, anything, when things aren’t right? We’re going to blame the Chinle dust. And the Carlsbad dust. And the Albuquerque dust. And the Pojoaque dust. And Antelope Canyon and Bryce Canyon dust. We might as well include them all, they’re every particle present in our RV in the cracks and crevices and drawer boxes and anywhere else dust hides.

And the dust is in our cameras and laptops. Back east the dust would collaborate with moisture to conduct electricity and short-circuit our electronic devices integrated circuitry. But in the American west and southwest the arid climate provides plenty of dust and very little moisture. How can we still blame the dust for our electronics problems? There’s gold out here, and silver and other precious metals. What’s in the ground is in the dust, right?

There you have it. We’re blaming the dust for our inability to maintain an orderly blog during the past six weeks of caravan travels with our Airstream club. The caravan ended three days ago, we’re finally on our own again. We have great Verizon signal. Go figure, we’re in National Forest land on western slope of Rockies near no town. We’re up early and dispensing with our driving by very early afternoon so we have all afternoon and evening to ourselves.

No more excuses, we’re gonna catch up now. Wait a second, I need a refill on my tea cup and you probably do too. Let’s both take a five minute break and meet back here again, okay? Alrighty then, meet you back here in five. I have a lot to share if we’re gonna catch this blog up.

While my tea water is heating I connected the water filter and camper to the hydrant. Might as well save our good Moab fresh water. I already had two water hoses connected to this site’s water hydrant, not much point in putting them away instead of connecting the camper. Why did I have two hoses connected to the hydrant if I wasn’t going to connect the camper, you ask?

Okay, while the tea finishes steeping I can take another minute to tell you about our almost stealing 35 pounds of Colorado mud. Whoops, the timer just went off so I’m gonna take care of that first, then I’ll tell you about nearly stealing mud, then I’ll get to the caravan, maybe. Hold on just a minute while I pour us another cup of tea, I’ll be right back.

I’m back, cup is full, opened another window, the one behind the sofa because I was getting too warm sitting in this unventilated front corner without any circulation. Everything’s just about right so now I’ll get started.

The mud and two hoses? We left Rifle Gap State Park, near Rifle, Colorado, early this morning and headed generally for Rocky Mtn Natl Park. We figured we could easily find any number of state or national campgrounds along the way. We crossed Vail Pass at 10,662 feet six miles northeast of Vail, CO, after a lengthy but easy climb with our truck and trailer. Another hour or less and we arrived at Lake Granby, the second largest storage reservoir in Colorado.

Lake Granby is surrounded on three sides by National Forest campgrounds operated by a division of Thousand Trails. Name ring a bell? They try to sell campsites membership in something like 80 Thousand Trails parks throughout the United States. And, they have some sort of agreement to operate over 200 National Forest campgrounds.

We checked the entrance kiosk maps, determined which campground, and headed across the lake’s dams on a ten mile dirt road to Roaring Forks Campground on the other side of the lake. Two watering trucks and two large motor graders are working on this ten mile access road to the two campgrounds. Good news, the water makes the road far less dusty. The graders are scraping up the rocks and wet dirt and re-organizing it into a smooth road service. Bad news, the very freshly soaked dirt is really mud.

A great campground at any price, we say, as long as it doesn’t cost too much. We see a motor home and a fifth wheel in our destination campground from across the lake. Good sign! One half hour later and after artfully dodging a speeding Thousand Trails camp host truck heading the other way and very carefully passing both motor graders, dragging their huge blades back toward Highway 34, we arrive at the Roaring Forks Campground. It is not open, has been closed since it closed last fall for the cold season.

Yes, there are two RVs encamped therein. We can only guess they belong to the forestry crews cutting out the numerous beetle-attacked dead pines. Who knew? UST Wilderness Management/Thousand Trails/Trails Management Co knows. They’re operating these campgrounds throughout the Arapahoe and Roosevelt National Forest and the White River National Forest in Colorado. These campgrounds in Arapahoe are wholly subcontracted to a subsidiary of Thousand Trails, Inc. We asked a friendly work camper in a nearby campground if he might help send a recommendation up the chain of command.

This should be easy, right? He told us, the concessionaire (Thousand Trails) isn’t allowed by the Forest Service to post hand-written signs on the Information Kiosks. Okay, how about a printed and laminated sign, I thought? I asked him to please relay our displeasure anyhow. And don’t try to go online and find a “contact us” comment line for these subsidiaries — won’t work. Hmm, maybe the remaining two employees at U.S. Forest Service can help?

Yeah, yeah, what about the mud? We found a turnaround by the Roaring Forks gate and returned to the Information Kiosk at the campground road intersection with Highway 34. Nope, no sign advising the closure of the two campgrounds at the other end of the ten-mile dirt road.

Our camper’s front is covered with a hardened mud, the wheel wells and tires are a blob of mud, and the sewer connection and valves aren’t visible for the mud. The truck’s mud flaps are coated two-inches thick in mud (then they filled the excess went to the trailer). The truck’s back bumper and wheel wells are heavily coated in a thick and cementitious mud. I connected two lengths of hose to the hydrant and, using a deck sweep nozzle, rinsed the piles of mud from the camper and truck.

It wouldn’t be right for us to sneak off with all this Colorado dirt. We’re pretty close to our GVWR on the trailer and can’t really carry much extra weight, no matter how valuable. Some of the mud, surely, has valuable minerals and even precious metals in it. Hated to give it up, but had to give it up. What happens in Colorado stays in Colorado, as they say.

What about the Caravan we just finished? I need to take a break, drink my tea while it’s hot, and give you a break. I’m at my 1000 words limit anyway. Look for Part 2 very soon. We really need to catch up on this caravan highlights thing!

Jim and Debbie
locate us here
visit our website

©2007-2010 Dreamstreamr