Summer Travel Map

Monday, August 25, 2008

Some relaxation, then "ouch"!

August 25, 2008
Lake Powell, AZ/UT

We did a pretty good job of relaxing over the last few days, except that yesterday things started to fall apart.

Saturday, we organized and shopped. We started making a list (well, it'll be a list once we actually write it down) of things to do while we're here. I'd like to go ona tour to the Antelope Canyon (a "slot canyon" cut through the sandstone) and identified a couple of places for possible picture making. We also are thinking about a dinner cruise on the lake, and maybe a boat rental for a day. We can also make day trips to the Grand Canyon (North Rim), Zion, Bryce, and Monument Valley, but we've already visited those places so we'll have to see if we want to go back.

One factor will be the weather, more specifically the heat. It was "cooler" yesterday at 95 degrees, and it's supposed to be "warmer" (98/99/99) Wednesday through Friday. We got here a little early; it's supposed to cool off after Labor Day. Maybe this week will be a good time to do the day trips to cooler places.

Yesterday, we didn't have a plan and we over achieved. Geri did a fine job of polishing most of the countertops, and gave Maya Lynn a bath (Merlin's scheduled for today). That's when things started to go downhill. While getting rinsed, Maya tried to do a back-flip in the sink and the faucet head became disconnected from Geri's hand, spraying water all over the place. No problem; it's just water and the floor needs cleaning anyway. A short while later, she was pouring water from the Britta and didn't realise that it had just been filled. Another clean-up project. We laughed about what else could go wrong.

Well, it didn't take long to find out and, unfortunately, it wasn't as funny. I was giving the pups their afternoon walk and stopped to chat with some neighbors. We'd actually met them at the Four Corners Monument, two couples with the same brand coach as us. It turns out that they are leading a caravan through the major southwestern parks starting next week, and ths is their kick-off point. They're part of a group we joined this spring; we're thinking about a "wine country" caravan next year with this club.

Anyway, as we were chatting, the dogs were waiting patiently when all of a sudden, Maya jumped up startled and started licking one of her back paws. She started crying and we figued out pretty quickly that something had bitten her on the paw. The only bugs I remember seeing around the area were ants, but who knows. I had to carry her back to the coach and we started figuring out what to do. Last year, we'd purchased a book on first aid for dogs, and I was sort of glad we had it. The good news was that a section on insect bites was easy to find and had common sense advice (baking soda and water compress, ice to releive swelling). The bad news was that it started out with possibilities that are fatal (recluse spider bites, scorpion attacks, anaphalactic shock, breathing failure, etc.) that I just didn't want to hear about. Who knows what's crawling around out here in the desert?

Once inside, she alternated between furiously licking her paw and limping around on three legs with the offending leg held straight back. It was sad and scary at the same time. We followed the "prescription" (it was time to change the baking soda things in the fridge and freezer anyway) and the compress and ice helped. We also gave her a pill that would reduce itching, and by bedtime, she was better. She woke me up at dawn this morning and wanted to go out, and was walking OK, so I think we're out of the woods on this one.

On the food front, we've decided that it's time to defrost the freezer so we're focusing on eating everything in it. With the heat, it's more effective to cook outside when possible, so that's our strategy, even though that means eating a little later (it starts to cool off around 6:00 PM and we're nicely positioned so our "patio" is in the afternoon shade). On Saturday, we finished up the NY Strips we'd bought and froze back in CT (Costco impulse buy) and yesterday, we made our second batch of Lo Mein, this time with chicken instead of pork (that's what was in the freezer) and peas instead of bean sprouts (sprouts went bad in the fridge). It was still good, and better with the addition of the sesame oil called for in the recipe (we didn't have that on hand for the first batch). This is a pretty flexible recipe, so we'll probably make it often.

Now that we're back in AZ, we can get wine in the grocery stores, so we'll have to stock up. I picked up a few bottles of Sauvignon Blanc and other unoaked whites for apperitif purposes, and we've been working off the selection of value Shiraz and Cabernet blends, with the odd Rioja and Malbec thrown in, that I'd laid in before we left CT. I'm thinking we'll raid the "wine box" and do some shopping while we're back in Phoenix on September 1-3 for Geri's dental work.

Well, that's it for this morning...

Friday, August 22, 2008

So, what time is it anyway???

August 22, 2008
Lake Powell, AZ/UT Border

Today was a travel day and it was a wonderful day for it. We left Durango this morning and were fully ensconced in our new "home" at Lake Powell by mid-afternoon.

Yesterday, I puttered around with the blog and associated pictures (this is the part that can be time consuming) and "ran out of runway" in terms of getting some of the travel preparation dealt with the night before departure. Since we had a relatively easy day of driving, I opted to not worry about it and pick up the slack in the morning. This was a good call, especially since the "ace in the hole" was that we'd gain an hour due to the time change. This is because Arizona doesn't observe Daylight Savings Time.

We reset our departure target from 9:00 to 10:00 AM, and actually beat the target by 40 minutes. We were up at 7:00, got most of the inside stuff done, and then walked the pups. Since we were in a relatively narrow valley, the sun was "up" but not actually shining on us since it was behind the mountains. Man, was it chilly! As soon as the sun crested the mountain, it warmed up considerably.

I packed most of the outside stuff while Geri bought us a take-out breakfast from the park's kitchen. We then wrapped up the prep work and were actually on the road by 9:20. It was a beautiful day for driving, without a cloud in the sky in any direction. We fueled up as planned in Cortez, and stopped for a break at the "4 Corners" monument (the only point in the US where four states actually join). We followed US-160 out of Durango for most of the day, before taking the CO-98 shortcut to Page, and then over the bridge by the Glen Canyon Dam to our stopping spot at "Wahweap". The Glen Canyon Dam is a hydroelectric power plant similar to, but nowhere near as famous as, the Hoover Dam at Lake Mead further downriver.

It's warm here, and will continue to be in the mid-90s for the next few days. We're located in a very new section of the park, with all paved roads and concrete pads. It looks like the power will be good (it darn well should be, with the hydroelectric from the dam and a large coal-fired plant just outside town), so running the A/C shouldn't be an issue. We overlook the extreme southern end of the lake (it stretches for miles from here). We'll get out for some local pictures tomorrow.

One interesting thing is that we're probably 100 yards from the Utah border. We're a little time-confused, since my phone shows one time and Geri's is an hour later. The only thing I can think of is that her phone is picking up a Utah tower (Mountain Daylight Time) and mine is getting Arizona (Mountain Standard Time). So, who knows what time it is? More importantly, who cares - it's nighttime. And I'm done for today!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Scenic Drive to Silverton

August 19-20, 2008
Durango, CO

Yesterday, we took a scenic drive from where we're parked (just a few miles north of Durango) to the old mining town of Silverton. Today, we puttered around the house. Yesterday was much more interesting.
We've actually been to Silverton before, around a year ago, when we made our way west after last summer's adventures. Then, we traveled along I-70 and stayed for a few days in Grand Junction, and one of our day trips was to drive the "Million Dollar Highway" (so named for the value of the silver it carried, or its cost, or some other suitable tall tale), aka US-550, from Grand Junction to Silverton. Unfortunately, one of us (that would be me) pushed for bringing the dogs with us on last year's drive so our out-of-the-car options were limited. This year: "the dogs will be fine for 1/2 day guarding the motorhome".

This year's drive was a lot shorter, about 50 miles as opposed to over 100 from Grand Junction. It was quite a nice days, and we timed it to be able to stop as desired for photo opps and to have lunch in Silverton before our return trip. As it turns out, we had the chance to finish driving the "Million Dollar Highway" this year, as that designation extends all the way to just outside Durango. We made numerous stops for pictures, since there was a new vista around every corner, and the road's pretty twisty. We crossed over two passes (Coal Bank Pass at 10,640 feet and Molas Pass at 10,910 feet) before descending into Silverton.

Silverton only has just over 500 residents, but that's a lot for this area. In fact, it's the only incorporated town in San Juan County, making it the county seat by default. It's also one of the highest towns in the US at just over 9,300 feet (yes, we felt the altitude - we sound like a broken record). The town itself is nestled into a small valley with large peaks on all sides. There's one paved street, no traffic lights or stop signs (plenty of "yield to pedestrians" crosswalks, though), and enough tourist traps to keep anyone busy.

We had lunch at a small Mexican restaurant on the main drag, chosen because Geri saw the sign in the window advertising "George's Famous Margaritas". I was angling for "The Bent Elbow", a burger and beer joint on the back street, but how could I argue? It turns out that George and Lucy Romero started the place in the '60s and it's been family-run ever since. The food was decent if not stellar (remember, we've eaten in the best Mexican restaurants in NYC) and the Margaritas (yes, we had to try them) were 7 on a scale of 10 (10 being mine, of course J). Once Geri found George's name on more than the Margaritas (it was on the door to the loo), we figured other people may have the same opinion. Gotta love places that don't take themselves too seriously!

The drive back was just as nice even though we were backtracking. It's amazing how much more you'd see if you had eyes in the back of your head. The different point-of-view, coupled with a different angle of the sun, made additional stops for pictures necessary. We passed several sets of bicyclists on the return trip (only two on the morning segment), and Dave would have surely been interested in how they were managing the climbs with over 4,000 feet of change (with little amplitude - all "up") in 20 miles or so with no sign of support vehicles. That's hard core, for sure.

Other than the typical mountain vistas, the only other things of note we stopped for were a stray llama and a hot spring. The llama was in a meadow (if you can call it that with a 45° slope) overlooking Coal Bank Pass. I spotted it on the way out but stopped on the way back for better pictures with the telephoto lens (another reason I should have bought that 500mm lens or 1.7/2.0x tele-converter - shoot!). With the longer lens, I could see that it had a halter and lead on it, so it must have escaped from somewhere and was living large on the side of the mountain. Of course, it's probably not the only thing living on the side of the mountain, so we wish it well…

The hot spring was right on the side of the road, and I barely saw it in the morning. I was glad we stopped in the afternoon, though, as the light was much better for pictures. It's called the "Pinkerton Hot Spring" and was apparently named for a local rancher. It's one of several highly-carbonated springs in the area and it's created a mound of travertine about 10' high and 20' around, right along the side of the highway. It was like something you'd see in Yellowstone, and we didn't expect to see it here. I'm surprised that the road construction didn't destroy it, but they certainly made a nice pull-out for travelers to use. The colors in the mound were quite bright, and the patterns reminded me of something from an Impressionist painting - if Impressionists did abstracts, I suppose (OK, so I'm not the art history guy).

Anyway, click here for more pictures from the day trip to Silverton.

After the hot spring, we headed home. From there, the story turns mundane. Second meal of veal parm (second meal is a euphemism for "leftovers", nothing on TV, downloading pictures from the cameras, early to bed. Today, Geri did some more laundry and I gave myself a hair and beard trim. Other than that, we relaxed. We'll probably do more of the same tomorrow, with some shopping and packing in advance of our Friday departure.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Relaxing in Durango

August 12-18, 2008
Durango, CO

The past week has been both relaxing and productive, as we've spent the last week in Durango, CO.

We had a relatively easy driving day on Tuesday, following CO-115 south out of Colorado City and US-50 west (past the Royal Gorge again), to US-160 which brought us right into Durango. The only minor glitch was that I was watching for a fuel stop before we got into our campground, but didn't find one (at least one we could get the rig into and out of). This isn't a big problem, since we have 5/8 of a tank and will be able to find a place during our next driving day, the 21st.

In general, we haven't tried to do a lot, which is OK since it's pleasant and scenic just staying here in the park. We're in a small valley along the Animas River, with red rock mountains of 800-1,000 feet on either side. The Durango-Silverton scenic train goes right past the park several times a day hauling tourists, but we decided to pass on the train. First, it's pretty rustic, with coal-fired steam engines belching smoke and the old open-window wooden cars not exactly the lap of luxury. Second, it's an all-day affair, involving about 9 hours (3 hours to travel the 50 miles to Silverton, 3 hours to walk around there and three hours back).

Geri did some laundry early in our stay here, and will do another batch before we leave. I had some fun upgrading the water pump in the coach, and we've had several nice meals (grilled steaks, low-and-slow ribs, veal parm, and (a first for us) home-made pork lo mein. Geri found a simple (lots of prep work but easy to assemble) lo mein recipe in the Fine Cooking magazine, and it's definitely a keeper.

This park has an open space of a little over an acre that fronts the road (US-550), and they've fenced it off and mowed it for use as a dog run. It's been great to be able to let the pups run loose and they've met some of the other dogs staying here. Unfortunately, many of the other dogs (or their owners) are skittish about playing nice, so sometimes it seems like the dog run is "single threaded", but other than that, it's been great. In the meantime, they've been enjoying their portable pen by our site.

The water pump saga goes back several months, actually over a year. Late last summer, I noticed a small intermittent water leak, and soon determined that it only happened when we were not hooked up to a water supply, only when we were using our on-board water supply. The reason it didn't leak all the time was the difference in pressure. When we're hooked up, I keep our pressure regulated to 40-45 PSI right at the faucet. The pump generates 65 PSI, and the difference apparently was enough to force a small leak. After we got back to Arizona, I tracked the leak down to a plastic fitting where the water pipe connected to the accumulator tank. I tightened it up and all was well - I thought. After we left Connecticut a few weeks ago, I noticed the leak had started again. Unfortunately, this time, tightening the fitting caused it to leak more, not less. That's when I knew it was time to upgrade the water pump - the high end models are variable-speed and don't require the accumulator, and provide more flow (5.7 gallons per minute as opposed to 4.0 GPM).

I bypassed the accumulator while we were in Illinois (the old pump still works without it, just runs a lot more frequently) and bought the new pump at Camping World (the best source for generic RV parts like water pumps) while we were in Colorado Springs. Since it rained every day there, I held off on installation. With the weather so nice here, it made sense to get it done. As soon as I read the directions (yes, some of us do read the directions - at least some of the time), I thought I'd need a trip to the store for electrical parts since the upgraded pump requires a 30 amp relay for switching (the current draw is higher). When I crawled in to check, I was surprised to see the relay already in place! I'm not sure if it was original equipment, or if it was installed as part of some of the warranty work. Either way, I was happy to see it there.

Swapping out the pump was pretty easy, since they use standardized fittings that only go on hand-tight, and they're all roughly the same size. When I went to reconnect the wiring, I realized that the aforementioned relay had been directly "in the line of fire" from the leaking fitting and was heavily corroded. I removed and cleaned it, but couldn't get a reliable operation, so off to Napa Auto Parts I went (I always note the location of Home Depots and Napas on entering town) for a replacement. With a little location adjustment and some contact cleaner, we're back in business. I'll pick up another relay (~$9) as a spare at some point, and I stored the old pump in the "spare parts bin" in the basement. Another $100 in labor saved!

Friday, we took a short scenic drive over to Cortez, a place we'd been to before - a long time ago. Years ago, we started RVing by renting one when I could cobble two weeks of vacation at a time. Our very first trip like this was in the late-80s, and we flew to Phoenix, rented the RV in Mesa, and drove up through the "4-Corners" region with stops at Mesa Verde, Canyonlands, and Arches National Parks. Mesa Verde is just west of the town of Cortez, and we stayed in town - somewhere. Darned if I could remember where, of course, but that's OK. We'll pass through there again when we leave here heading for Lake Powell.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Garden of the Gods -- Are Smiling On Us

August 11, 2008
Colorado Springs, CO

We did some final sightseeing around Colorado Springs, and managed to have some incredible luck with the Range Rover at the same time.

Backing up a bit, the Range Rover came with three years of free scheduled maintenance. Since we bought it in mid-2005, it was due for the final "freebie" this summer. Accordingly, I took it in to the Land Rover dealer near Hartford while we were in Connecticut. They did the service but failed to reset the service indicator (the little "Service Engine Soon" idiot light on the dash. I could tell because every time you start the engine, the dash indicator displays the miles to go until the next service.

So, while we were driving up Pikes Peak, the "Service Engine Soon" light came on. I cursed myself for not having it fixed in CT, but figured I'd just live with it for a while. Just for grins, I checked the navigation system for the nearest dealer and - what do you know - there was one about 5 miles from where we were parked in Colorado Springs. I figured I'd give it a shot, especially when the front end started making a funny noise under acceleration on Sunday afternoon. So, first thing Monday morning, I sped over there when they opened to plead my case for a quick check and reset.

The first thing the service writer asked was if "recall on the front end had been done". Uhhh, what recall is that? Apparently, a new campaign has just begun to replace the front drive shaft and part of the differential. I saw this as a good thing, since these were the parts that failed us in the middle of Yellowstone National Park in the past. So, rather than getting a quick reset, I got a loaner and left, keeping my fingers crossed that they'd be able to finish the work in one day. As it turned out, they did the recall and reset the service indicator, and then got a "check engine" fault when they did the test drive, so they replaced a thermostat as well. Since this was all under warranty, it was a fantastic win for us, as we essentially had zero impact to our travel plans. Of course, when the warranty is up in mid-2009, who knows what will happen…

Anyway, back to the day's adventures. We used the loaner to make a quick tour of the "Garden of the Gods" city park. We'd made a quick pass through the park several days earlier, and wanted to come back when it was sunny (we finally had a sunny day!) for some pictures. The whole park (it's only a couple of square miles in size) reminded us of the "red rock" areas around Sedona in Arizona. We made the loop and got a few shots, although it was relatively difficult to avoid getting other tourists in the photos. One of the most popular features is "Balancing Rock", and you'd be amazed at how parents let their kids climb under the sides of this 30' high boulder. Click here to see some additional photos from the park.

After touring the park (about an hour, tops), we hit the highway and headed south on I-25, then west on US-50 to CaƱon City, where we caught the scenic "Royal Gorge Route" train. The train follows old tracks originally laid during the mining days (passenger service started in 1879), along the path of the Arkansas River. The "Royal Gorge", as it's called, is almost 1,200' deep and relatively narrow, so it was an interesting ride. Along the rim, someone actually built an amusement park that encompasses an aerial tramway and a bridge across the chasm; we stuck with the two-hour train ride. It was pretty long for a scenic railway, with about 15 cars and three engines (two for uphill an one for the return). Apparently, they use different cars for various classes of service and meal options ("gourmet lunch included" in one car, "a la carte" in another; there are 7 classes overall).

We opted to bypass the food but upgraded to the "Vista Dome" car for a better view (and for the air conditioning!). We had reserved seats and a great view. The several "Dome" cars were originally built for the Canadian National railroad, and were used as passenger cars on route across Canada. All along the gorge, we passed river rafters fighting with Class V rapids. On the return trip, I made my way to one of the open cars (not much more than a flatbed car with some handrails) for some pictures (click here for pictures from this trip).

After the train ride, we had a leisurely drive back to Colorado Springs (about an hour), where we did most of the packing for our departure the following day.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Pikes Peak or Bust

August 10, 2008
Colorado Springs, CO

No, we didn't trade in the RV for a smaller model!

We made the trip up to the top of Pikes Peak (no apostrophe), catching a partial break in the weather. We had two choices for the ascent: drive or take the cog railway (actually, there's a third - hiking - but we weren't up for that). I flipped a coin and driving won, which gave us a little more flexibility. This was good since the altitude was still bothering Geri a bit.

The mountain was created through "uplifting", not volcanic activity, and the various layers or rock tilted at angles, some approaching 90°, are evident all over the area. The locals claim that it's the most visited peak in North America and the second-most visited in the world (guess the most - see below); some 500,000 people a year are supposed to reach the top. It's the easternmost peak in Colorado, and ranks 31st out of the 54 peaks over 14,000 feet in the state.

This part of the country was acquired as part of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 and surveyed by Pike in 1806. The term "Pikes Peak or Bust" was coined by gold seekers headed west in the Colorado gold rush circa 1859, since the mountain was a landmark they could see from days away (Conestoga's were lucky to make 15 miles per day). The first weather station on the summit opened in 1873 and the first road (a "carriage road") was built in 1886-1888 (just about the time my father's parents were born). Katherine Lee Bates wrote the words for America the Beautiful after visiting the peak in 1893. The current road was first constructed in 1915 for $500,000; quite a sum for a project driven by tourism as opposed to mining (the typical reason for construction in the mountains).

The drive up the mountain is taken on a 19+ mile toll road that's probably 75% paved and currently operated by the city of Colorado Springs (sorry, no National Park passes accepted!). The unpaved sections are well-maintained, and there was evidence of ongoing maintenance and improvement all along the route.

One of the popular tourist activities is biking on the Pikes Peak road. Dave would be disappointed though, since the biking is all downhill (riders are driven to the top in a van which follows them down for safety).

We stopped at one of several alpine reservoirs for a photo op before heading for the summit. There was a bit of low-gear driving on the way up, and especially on the way down (can't burn up the brakes!), but nothing that required 4-wheel drive. Once at the top, I poked around looking for additional pictures while Geri waited in the car. As it turns out, just after we got there clouds started to descend on the peak, so I had to work quickly. I managed to get a few shots before the clouds closed in completely, and a few more on the way back down. Click here for some additional shots.

Overall, it was a nice outing. In several ways, it reminded us of Haleakala on Maui.

Off to see the Rockies

August 7, 2008 (Sorry for the delayed post…)

Denver, CO

The baseball team, that is, not the mountains.

On Thursday, we packed up early and headed for Denver. I'd bought tickets for a Rockies baseball game from (they resell tickets in a controlled environment). Even though the weather was threatening, we were lucky enough to have variable sunshine for the game. As it turned out, we could have stayed for the second game of a doubleheader, but chose to head back. Denver is about 75 miles from here, and the pups had been alone all day, you know the drill…

We easily found our way to the stadium (I'd driven or rode by there numerous time when I was in Denver for w*rk) and followed the signs until we found the official parking facilities. I'd done some online research and knew that there was close-in disabled parking for $10, so we bypassed all the guys waving flags into the $20 lots on the side streets. Driving into the city was interesting, since I'd never been to the south and come in on I-25. Ask me the shortcuts from the airport (a $50/25 mile cab ride to the northeast of downtown), and I'm your guy. Initially, I took cabs from the airport until I realized that it was less than half the cost to rent a car compared to two cab rides; cabbies taught me the shortcuts.

We found the parking area, and were able to get a spot 2 rows away from one of the stadium entrances - excellent! We had plenty of time, so we meandered toward our seats slowly, getting the flavor of the park. I thought it reminded me most of Camden Yards in Baltimore, although I've heard that it's quite similar to the new park in Philadelphia (we never got to that one when we lived there, unfortunately). As we walked along the concourse, we knew we were in the right general area, but couldn't seem to find signage toward our section, so we asked for help from a guy "guarding" the entrance to an escalator. He pointed us through a set of doors and up another escalator to the "club level" - excellent, again! This level is right over the lower grandstand, and we were just past the home dugout on the first row. Food and drink? No problem; there's a guy who will take your order and credit card, and bring it right to you. Not bad seats for $38!

Even though the Rockies lost to the Nationals (of all teams), we had a pretty good day. In spite of the forecast, we ended up in the sun for most of the game. I should have taken Geri's advice and dressed for warmer weather. We had some rain on the way back to Colorado Springs, and the obligatory thunderstorms in the evening when we were back. No matter, all in all it was a good day...

Here's a short video, too!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Some lagging picture updates

August 8, 2008
Colorado Springs, CO

Here are some picture updates that I've been meaning to post for a while now. Sorry for the delay!

Al's birthday in Connecticut

Our visit with Mike and Susan in Illinois

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Up and at 'em

August 6, 2008
Colorado Springs, CO

After an early night yesterday, we were both up early today. It's strange that we can feel the effects of the time zone changes (we're now in Mountain Time - we crossed in western Kansas even though I'd thought that the time changed at the Colorado border) after driving as opposed to flying, but there you have it. We left the Eastern Time Zone on Thursday and have gained two hours, and everything's off. Of course, it could be the altitude as well.

This morning, the pups got a good walk on a complete circumnavigation of the park. We're staying at a place called Garden of the Gods RV Park, so named because of the local park of the same name, just a few miles north of us. We took a quick ride through the park today and found it to be a miniature version of the Sedona area with lots of red rock formations. We'll stop back later in the week with the camera for some close-ups, maybe when there are fewer tourists (I really don't like taking pictures of landscapes with lots of people in them.

I made a quick run to the local Home Depot today for a more permanent patch for the leaky water pipe and some other hardware. Before we left CT, I fashioned a prototype of a laptop stand that'll allow me to use the computer without monopolizing the dining room table. Version 1.0 was OK but not as stable as I'd wanted (and I can't afford having the laptop take a tumble) so I revised the way it is attached to the wall for v1.1 and it's much better. I'll continue to play around with it until we're back in AZ for the winter, when I'll build V2.0 from maple (to match the coach woodwork) instead of plywood.

This afternoon, we made a trip to the local Camping World store for a few things. Primarily, I wanted to pick up a new water pump since I've bypassed the accumulator tank (where the leak is) and there are variable speed pumps that are quieter, stronger, and demand-sensitive (i.e., don't need the accumulator). I'll swap pumps during the week (the old one will make a good emergency backup, and the fittings are all pretty much standardized) when I get a chance.

Tonight, we made a cod with mushroom recipe, substituting sea bass (frozen and not the greatest), coupled with risotto with mushrooms and peas. It was pretty good but not the best rendition we've ever had. They can't all be home runs, I suppose.

Speaking of home runs (what a clever segue!), tomorrow's plan is to drive up to Denver (about 65 miles) for an afternoon Rockie's baseball game at Coors Field. If the weather holds, it should be fun. I got the tickets a few weeks ago at for a pretty good price. We have tickets to see the Diamondbacks when we're back in Phoenix in early September for Geri's dental work, as well.

The rains came later tonight, starting around 8:15 PM MDT, and it's been coming down pretty heavily since then. Both dogs are hiding out somewhere; they're not in their usual spots. DirecTV is losing the signal and I put the iPod on for some music. We're finishing our wine and it looks like another early night. Of course, I've got a sink full of dishes to do first; better get going...

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

"Pikes Peak or Bust"

August 5, 2008
Colorado Springs, CO

We saw a car pulling a travel trailer in a rest area with this slogan painted on the window. It looked like a family on vacation from New York (based on the license plate). This slogan dates back to the gold rush days, when people used the trails that became US-40 and eventually I-70 to migrate westward. I've never had a particular burning desire to visit Pike's Peak, but this is a good stopping point on our trip west as well. It'll allow us to spend a few days and acclimate to the altitude (over 6,000 feet) before we head to Durango next week.

We rolled into Colorado Springs (in the shadow of Pike's Peak) in the afternoon, just ahead of the daily thunderstorm. Apparently, like a lot of places we visit, geography plays an interesting role in weather. Here, warm air rides up over the mountains, meets with cooler air aloft, and dumps rain on the eastern side, also known as the "front range". We didn't realize how much we'd climbed from the plains in Kansas until we got here, since everything appeared "flat". At times, I could feel the thin air in my breathing, so I knew we'd climbed somewhat. On the other hand, I had it in my mind that Colorado Springs was lower than Denver by 600-800 feet. I had the difference right, just backwards!

The rain didn't start in earnest until after we'd done a "full deployment" (hookups, slides, grills, outside lights, etc.) since we'll be here for a week. It didn't slow us down any since a) we came prepared with dinner already made (thanks, Mike, for the lasagna!) and b) we are road-tired after a couple of days on the move. We'll be calling it an early night...

Monday, August 4, 2008

Baby, it's hot outside!

August 4, 2008
Salina, Kansas

Today was a generally uneventful driving day, and we're at our scheduled overnight stop (another Flying J truck stop). We got an early start and essentially had no traffic all day. It was a short hop down I-55 and the combination of I-270 and MO-370 took us around St Louis and onto I-70 with no problems. Early in the day, we usually check the state of the world according to XM Radio by listening to CNN Headline News and The Weather Channel for a while. What do you know: there's a heat wave! You'd have thunk we were in Phoenix, except it might actually have been a couple of degrees hotter here. We ran the generator and the roof air conditioning most of the day (the dash A/C works up to about 85°F, then it just can't cool off the whole inside of the coach), and every rest stop was like walking into a blast furnace upon opening the door.

The outside sensors on the coach indicated temperatures between 103°F and 106°F, but they're notoriously unreliable because they pick up heat sources from the motorhome itself. It was so hot that we threw an alarm on the tire monitors for high temperature (I have it set to alert me at 160°F), but everything seemed OK. We stopped for the night around 5:30 CDT, a little early but we're where we're supposed to be and there's no advantage to pushing on.

It looks like we'll have a bit of shopping to do when we get to Colorado tomorrow. I put up the satellite dish and it looks like the wireless router is failing - again. We seem to have to replace them at least once a year. I guess they can't handle the vibration, even though they're generally powered off when we're traveling. It shouldn't matter, since there aren't any moving parts. Anyway, we'll have to find a Best Buy in addition to the Home Depot (plumbing parts). And I can't justify carrying a spare since it would vibrate along with the primary as we drive down the road. Darn it!



Did you ever think about doing something different and say "Nah, don't bother", only to have your instinct proven out? Well, when we stopped for the evening, I had a passing thought that I should wait to fuel up in the morning. This would allow me to top off the tank a bit more, accounting for the fuel used by the generator (we'll be running it for the A/C all night). I just went to lower the blinds for the night and - don't you know - the price of diesel dropped 2 cents in the time we've been parked here? Darn it - again!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

A great visit with Mike and Susan

August 3, 2008
Litchfield, IL

We just wrapped up a very nice weekend visit with Geri's oldest son (Michael) and his wife Susan. They live in a small town in west central Illinois, just about an hour from St Louis. We didn't have a line-of-sight for the satellite dish and there wasn't a broadband signal on the cellular modem, so this will get posted when we're connected.

We arrived in Litchfield on Friday afternoon, and had a quiet evening, ordering in local pizza. We parked in front of their house, although recent rains (on the back of a massively rainy spring) left the grassy area a little too soft for my likes. I had visions of us getting stuck like we did several years ago with our previous motorhome in Alabama. Fortunately, everything worked out OK for us (less so for Mike who has some 6" deep ruts to fill) and we were able to move out without incident.

On Saturday, it became pretty hot. We ran the generator for air conditioning part of the day and all night. In the morning, Mike and I made a trip to the local hardware store for some plumbing parts. I put in a bypass for the water system's accumulator tank, where we've developed a leaking fitting in a place that humans can't reach. I'll look for a more permanent repair when we're in Colorado. Afterward, we took a ride down I-55 a few exits to the nearest Italian Deli. We picked up some garlic juice (impulse buy!) and Mike got the materials for a lasagna he wanted to make on Sunday. Once back home, we relaxed for a bit (aka, nappage) before Mike and I made a quick trip to the local package store. We grabbed a few bottles to tide us over, and then the owner served up the "good customer bonus": a shot of home-made hooch based on some sort of root smuggled imported from his home country, Vietnam. It taasted like a cross between root beer and cough medicine but who am I to complain - I like Grappa. Back at the house again, we ended up grilling up some brats and burgers. Many of Susan's extended family members (she grew up here) stopped by and we had a nice time visiting, although perhaps a bit too much wine was consumed (Mike?).

Sunday was supposed to be nice and hot but dawned cloudy. We could see dark clouds and hear thunder off to our west, but we only got a few drops in the morning and the afternoon turned sunny and pleasant. We brought Mike's lasagna to Susan's Mother's for brunch (another family gathering) and then headed to the local lake (Lake Lou Yaeger) where Mike and Susan rent a lot. Apparently, the local government retains ownership of all the land and uses a lottery system to dole out annual leases that often stay in families for generations. Like every lake we've visited with family and friends, the land slopes significantly upwards from the water and the roads in are relatively rustic. They picked up an 80s-vintage travel trailer for $300 (that's living on a budget!) that they park there during the summer, which is enough for the two of them. We hung out for a few hours, enjoying the shade and nice breeze, and "dined" on fresh salami (from the Italian Deli the day before), cheese, and a couple of brews. It was nice and peaceful. We watched a bald eagle circle overhead for almost 30 minutes.

Back at the house/coach, we sipped some red wine and said our goodbyes before calling it an early night (Mike's a truck driver and heads for work around 3:00 AM - ouch!). Tomorrow, we'll head out again, down I-55, around St Louis, and back on I-70 west-bound...