Saturday, July 31, 2010

Garden of the Gods

The weather here in Monument has sure been strange. We wake to beautiful sunshine and a few white, fluffy clouds. Definitely t shirt and shorts weather! But by late afternoon, the darker clouds start piling up and every evening we get a crazy thunder and lightning storm along with a good rain shower. It cools off considerably and we grab our sweatshirts.

Still that leaves all day to play and sightsee. So off we went to visit the Garden of the Gods. First we stopped at the visitor center and were disappointed. This marvelous 770 acre public park was donated to the city of Colorado Springs in 1909 with the stipulation that it would remain free to the public.

The visitor center is located across the road from the park and is a vision of excess. The prices of everything inside are outrageous beginning with a 14 minute film about the park for $5. We left quickly.

Across the road is the entrance to the Garden of the Gods.

The multicolored rock formations of sandstone are encircled by a narrow road with several parking pullouts which were all full the day we went. It's an incredibly popular park with miles of hiking trails, rock climbing, guided walks and picnic areas.

One of the favorite stops is Balancing Rock. There was no place to park so we weren't able to get a very good picture of this amazing boulder.

We will certainly visit this park again when it is not so busy.

Leaving the park, we wound our way along back roads into the town of Manitou. It's a cute little tourist area that didn't interest us too much but when we saw the signs for the North Pole, we couldn't resist.

Up in the hills on the way to Pikes Peak is Santa's workshop complete with an amusement park and gift shop.

We snapped a couple of shots then headed home.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Breakfast in Bed

Today we took a well deserved day off. I was feeling exceptionally lazy, to the point where Doug brought me coffee and a doughnut in bed. It's been a long time since he was up before me. But it was such a nice treat that I think I will try for it again.

We just spent the day reading and playing on the computers until late afternoon when we went looking for a Verizon store. Doug's phone needed upgrading.

And that was our exciting day.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Moving on to Monument

We were not the least bit unhappy about leaving Blanco, CO. The park was forgettable and the town even more so.

We knew that we had another tall pass to climb so we got an early start. It was only a 165 mile trip to our next stop but lately we never know what to expect.

All went well over the pass, down the other side and through the Colorado countryside. When we hit I-25 we stopped for diesel, then continued north through Pueblo and Colorado Springs.

Colorado Heights RV Resort in Monument was our destination, being a ROD park where we can stay for free. After all of the unexpected expenses the last couple weeks, that's a relief.

Doug settled us in just before the thunderstorm hit and within a couple of hours the sun came back.

This is a very large park that sells memberships. No thanks, not for us. The section we are in is not scenic. And the rvs are parked one on top of each other in long rows with no trees or anything to break the view. The other parts of the park are better, just barely.

Still, we are staying a week (the price is right) and sightseeing and resting.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Great Sand Dunes N.P.

We were both extremely disappointed to discover last night that our Verizon phones worked just fine in Blanca, but they offered zero internet access. We found out just how much we depend on the world wide web!So, first thing this morning, we drove back to Alamosa to the McDonald's. It was a beautiful morning and we sat outside at a picnic table where we were able to log onto McD's free wifi. Thanks Ronald! I sent a quick message to ya'll to let you know we were incommunicado for a while and Doug caught up on his game.

After a quick sandwich, we drove back behind a line of mountains to the Great Sand Dunes N.P.

It's 20 miles from the highway to the visitor center where we got our National Park Passport Book stamped with the official seal, enjoyed the displays and walked a short, interpretive path explaining the formation of the dunes.

The sand dunes cover 30 square miles and at the tallest point rise 750 feet from the valley floor. The shadows from the clouds (it wasn't cold!) made for some great pictures.

We followed the crowds to the entrance to the "play" area but decided that it wasn't our cup of tea. Instead, Doug found out about the Medano Pass primitive road that leads to the back of the dunes.

About a mile into the road we came across this sign which explains why there are very few vehicles and people here. From this point on, only four wheel drive vehicles can proceed. While Doug was letting air out of the tires, down to 15 lbs, a couple of young men came walking out of the area. They had ignored the sign and were stuck in the deep sand less than a quarter mile along the road.

We had no way of towing them out but let them use our phone to call the ranger. They were given the numbers of the local tow companies and after I showed them the above sign (minimum $400 wrecking fee) they decided to figure out how to get the car unstuck themselves. Sure enough, about 10 minutes later they drove out and thanked us profusely.

Now, I was nervous! But there's no talking Doug out of a challenge.

With the Jeep in four wheel drive (low) we proceeded through the sand along the primitive road. About a mile in, we came to the area known as the Sand Pit. Doug kept going, slipping and sliding like in the snow. But the car did it's job and we reached a pullout called Castle Creek.

What a neat place!

We waded across the Medano Creek which was very shallow and were at the base of the dunes. I immediately started to climb but it's so steep and shifty that I kept sinking and sliding back down. There was only one other family there so we felt like we had the place to ourselves.

We decided not to continue along the road since it was getting late and I still wanted to visit Zapata Falls. The car navigated the sandy road back just fine and we headed back to the highway.

The road straight up the mountain to the falls was terrible and when we got to the top, the elevation was 8100 feet. The hike to the falls was half a mile and uphill. We passed. It was hot, hard to breathe and a mile hike just seemed too much. We took pictures and drove back down. Maybe another time.....

No Internet

No internet where we are in Blanco, CO. We'll catch you up in a day or two. Sorry.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Back in Colorado

It was a long day that started out short. We got an early start (for us) from Farmington and planned on a 100 mile drive to Pagosa Springs, CO. The brakes worked great and all was well until we reached the park where we had reservations.

Yuck and double yuck!!! It was poorly maintained, extremely unlevel and just didn't look appealing. So, we decided since it was only 1 pm that we would continue on to the next park 100 miles away in Blanco, CO.

The drive was beautiful with lots of mountains and trees.

We hit the Wolf Creek Pass about a half hour later. It's a steep climb with the summit at 10, 850 feet. That's pretty high for us with the coach overheating the way it has been. Doug decided that we should unhook the car and I would just follow him over the pass.

We started at about 8,000 feet and in a little over 8 miles we climbed to 10,850 feet. Even without the car behind, we stopped twice to keep the coach from overheating in the thin air.

Bingo! We hit the top and found the Continental Divide and rain. It was a nice, easy descent 8 miles down the other side and at the first pullout Doug pulled over and we re-hooked the Jeep.

The east side of the pass produced very different scenery. Instead of trees, we found miles of scrub. Not very pretty. Still the drive was easy and we pulled into Blanca, Co and the Blanca RV Park about 3:30.

It's a tiny park located next to some well worn mobile homes, but we knew that we wanted to see the Great Sand Dunes National Park nearby and for two nights this would work.

Doug set everything up (including the garden) and we spent the rest of the evening relaxing.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Ripped Off by Rocky Mesa Auto & Truck

What a waste of today! We arrived at Rocky Mesa Auto & Truck Service before they even opened. The young man assigned to do our brake fluid change was slower than molasses in January. He kept disappearing for 10 minutes every hour and stood around and visited while he should have been working. Doug put in as many hours as the kid, helping him since it's a two man job. I think the only reason he finished at 5 pm was because it was quitting time.

Then they charged us 7 hours labor for what should have been a 4 hour job! Can you tell I'm angry? What a mistake!

To all of our rving friends......if you ever need work done on your rig in Farmington, NM, do NOT take your business to Rocky Mesa Auto & Truck. They will rip you off!!!!

Anyway, we are back in the park for another night then tomorrow we will get the heck out of this stupid town.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Shiprock, NM

The day dawned very overcast with forecasts of heavy monsoon rains and flash flooding. But it was still warm so we decided to check out the area.

Our first stop was at Discount Tires to get a rear tire on the Jeep repaired. It had a slow leak that was driving Doug crazy and we didn't need it to blow while we were towing it. Nice people and pleasant to deal with.

Then we discovered a store called Fresh For Less. A produce store full of bargains could not be passed by. We restrained ourselves and only bought kiwis, mangoes, bulk pinto beans, asparagus and peaches.

A nearby town, Shiprock, was our next destination having been told by our friend Bill that the flea market was great on weekends. It was a nice, pretty drive and the day got warmer and warmer. The booths were mainly Indian jewelry, food and clothing. But Doug did find a rock and bead truck. He purchased some beautiful blue denim lapis for his wire wrapping projects.

We arrived back at the coach just as the skies turned black. Within minutes, the park filled up with trailers and rvs and the sky opened up. Thunder and lightning kept us inside for the better part of two hours. What a nasty, muggy evening!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Rolling with the Punches

Things don't always go as smooth as we would like, but since we have the time to solve problems without a great deal of stress we're rolling with the punches.

After a quiet night at Farmington Freightliner's back lot, they managed to squeeze us into the shop about lunchtime. The bad news was they work on air brakes, not hydraulic. Still, they were great people to deal with and didn't even charge us for the diagnostics. Highly recommend this shop and people.

So, off we went to a local rv park, Mom and Pop RV Park, to make some phone calls and find someone that can help us.

It isn't a fancy park, pretty much gravel with paved sites and picnic tables. But the power is good and we have water and sewer. Yay!!! I can do laundry again. Plus, if you pay for three nights you get the fourth night free. Works perfectly for our situation.

Our phone calls resulted in a definite maybe on the brake job. We quickly unhooked again and ran over to the Rocky Mesa Auto & Truck Service to have them look at it. We didn't want to sit here all weekend and then find out they couldn't do the job. Hooray! They can do it, hopefully at 7 am Monday morning. We'll be there.

Back at the park, we settled in for the weekend. Doug set up our garden outside. I've already had one strawberry and the plants are looking very healthy. I think they like traveling!

In back of the coach, Doug set up the other part of our garden with the satellite dish. We have two hanging tomato plants. One is full of baby tomatoes and the other is struggling.

It's nice not having to be upset by changes in our travel plans and it gives us a chance to see a little bit of the Farmington, NM area.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Never A Dull Moment

We got a late start leaving the Sleeping Ute RV Park but since we were only going 200 miles it was not a big deal. The weather was nice with just a few sprinkles along the way and when we hit Durango.........the brake pedal went to the floor.

Doug managed to get us to Tarpley RV but they couldn't help us and recommended the Freightliner place in Farmington, NM. So after unhooking the car, I followed Doug as he gingerly made his way 50 miles to Farmington Freightliner.

It was almost five when we pulled in and they were nice enough to let us park behind their building for the night. Using the generator for a few hours, we had a pleasant night.

Here's us in the parking lot along with dump trucks, school buses, a Fedex truck, church buses, rvs and assorted vans and trucks.

To be continued.........

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Silverton, CO

Dear friends of ours, Bill and Wanda, are working in Silverton, Co. way up in the mountains. We have been wanting to visit them and decided that today was the day.

The drive through the San Juan National Forest is incredible. Several times we stopped for photos. At this scenic view pullout we were at 11,000 feet. The altitude certainly feels different.

Road construction and repaving stopped us in several spots along the way and the 100 miles took us two and a half hours. I'm sure glad we didn't bring the coach up and down these narrow, two lane roads.

Coming around the last bend we could see the Victorian mining town of Silverton sitting in a pretty valley.

We spent the day visiting and Bill played tour guide showing us old mines, tram lines with rusty mining buckets hanging from them, destroyed mills and miles of breathtaking scenery. It's like a whole other world there.

We had a good chuckle when we tried to find someplace for lunch. Apparently the town relies on tourist business from the Silverton/Durango train and when the last train leaves about 3 pm the restaurants roll up the sidewalks and lock their doors. After trying several of their favorite places, Bill and Wanda treated us to a delicious lunch at The Pickle Barrel.

Sorry I didn't get more pictures, but I was having such a great time visiting and ooohing and aaahing that I forgot about the camera.

Thanks for a terrific day Bill and Wanda! We can't wait 'til you get back to the sunshine in Arizona.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Mesa Verde N.P.

OK...OK....this is the last post about ruins......I promise.............for a while.

Today we visited the huge National Park called Mesa Verde. It's about 10 miles outside of Cortez, CO and only about 20 miles from where we are parked. The day started with considerable overcast skies but cleared as the day went on.

The visitor center is located 20 miles into the park after driving up steep switchbacks that were being repaved. However, the top of the mesa and the views made the drive worthwhile.

After a quick examination of the displays inside the visitor center (no air conditioning!) we set out with our map to find some cliff dwellings.

The first place we found was the Spruce Tree House dwellings. This is the view from the top of the path before we started down the 1/2 mile trail.

At the end of the trail we were able to wander among the 114 room dwelling that is built into a natural cave measuring 216 feet wide and 89 feet deep. About 100 people lived here 800 years ago and the house has deteriorated very little due to the protection of the overhanging cliff.

One of the kivas (circular religious room) has a ladder that the public can use to climb down 6 feet into the darkened kiva. Doug could hardly wait his turn!

There was so much to see and so many questions to ask the ranger that we spent half the day in just this one exhibit.

With over 4500 archaeological sites in the park, of which 600 are cliff dwellings, it was difficult to decide which way to go next. Some of the places are only accessible by tour guide and that was not an option today. Some of the places required long hikes which again were not an option. So we chose a driving tour called Mesa Top, From Pithouse to Pueblo.

This six mile drive reveals a full range of architecture at Mesa Verde from the earliest pithouses to the latest cliff dwellings. Each stop, approximately every half mile, had a short walk to the site.

While the pithouses were interesting.....

and the pueblos were large........

it was the Cliff Palace that captured our hearts. This is one of the tour guided sites that is definitely on our list next time we visit. I haven't decided if I will do it or not. It involves descending uneven stone steps and climbing five ladders for a 100 ft. vertical climb. Ladders and I don't get along too well but my desire may overcome my fear.

We toured the museum and drove through more of the park and all of a sudden it was 7pm! Time to head back to the coach and put our feet up.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Day to Relax

We needed a down day! There has been so much walking (in the heat) the last three days that all I wanted was to curl up with a good book and relax.

Doug spent some time outside with the metal detector and found about 30 cents along with a ton of garbage. Everytime he goes outside with that detector he attracts guys that are intrigued by what he's doing. A couple of the indians even told him the best place to go.

Then in the late afternoon, we wandered over to the casino. We each got our player cards with a promotional deck of cards and walked around to check out the machines. They seem to specialize in penny machines. We tried a couple of dollars and promptly lost. Those machines are really tight. That was enough.

It sure felt good to just stay home.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Hovenweep National Monument

For those of you that are tired of looking at ancient puebloan pictures, you can skip this blog.

Cause here's where we spent a good part of today! Another Puebloan National Monument.

First stop of the day, however, was at this scenic trailhead called Sand Canyon. It was beautiful landscape with promises of many treasures along the trails. But at 104 degrees we decided not to go hiking.

Instead we continued on to Hovenweep. This park covers over 20 miles of ruins, many of which are in remote areas only accessible by high clearance 4 wheel drive vehicles. We started at the visitor center and were given maps to the Little Ruin Canyon hike.

It was another well paved trail to the overlook of the canyon where we could see several dwellings. First was the Stronghold House perched on the top edge of a steep drop.

Then, peering down into the depths, we could see the Boulder House. It's amazing to think that these structures actually were homes for people.

Even though it was 102 degrees we decided to continue along the path about 1/2 mile further. The entire trail loop is 2 miles which didn't seem doable in the heat. This is Hovenweep Castle. The work that went into building round structures like these is incredible.

There were several more structures that we photographed and marveled over such as the twin towers. By then, the sun had really knocked me for a loop and we hurried back to the air conditioned car.

Remember earlier in the post when I mentioned that most of the ruins were only accessible by a high clearance, 4 wheel drive vehicle? Well, Doug took that as a challenge and off we went in search of Painted Hands and Cutthroat Castle.

Part of the way was highway and then we turned onto a dirt road with lots of good sized boulders. Painted Hands was a small, round dwelling with remnants of hands painted nearby. But it was waaaaay down in a canyon and I was not interested in the long hike involved. So we just took a couple photos and moved on.

The road became much more interesting with deeper ruts and a couple of steep hills. It took us probably 30 minutes to traverse the 2 miles.

We finally arrived at Cutthroat Castle and it required another walk. But only .1 mile. I could handle that.

Unsurprisingly (is that a word?) we were the only ones there and had a great time wandering around the ruins. Each time we rounded a corner we were surprised by another building.

The main part of the "castle" was build on a humongous overhanging ledge and we didn't even see the building underneath until we climbed down into the valley. That's me standing at the top, left of the picture. You can see how large this castle is!

What a fun day! By the time we climbed back to the car and drove home it was after 8 pm again. This exploring is beginning to wear me out.