Phannie

Phannie
Photo taken at Winchester Bay, Oregon

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

More Samplings of Santa Fe

At Santa Fe Skies RV Park, Santa Fe, New Mexico...

We have not exactly been setting the world afire here in Santa Fe. We've just been mostly relaxing and cruising the area, enjoying the weather and the scenery. Sandy, of course, has been scoping out a few of the shopping venues, and we've made a run to Wally World for supplies. 

The wifi is good at this park, so I've been researching more RV parks for my "Best of the Best RV Parks" page linked above. (Unfortunately, Santa Fe Skies doesn't make the grade, as you might imagine from my previous post.) 

This research is a slow process, as each park listed must be confirmed to have hard-surfaced streets and pads, in addition to the other requirements listed. Some RV parks publish website photos of their inner roads and sites, and some don't, so sometimes, I have to use Google Earth to try to confirm the hard-surface aspect. However, I've also decided to include on the list some parks that don't necessarily have all their roads and sites hard surfaced but have sites that are otherwise extraordinarily well maintained. (There must be NO DIRT--a pet peeve.) These "almost" parks get an "HM" after their listing, meaning "Honorable Mention." 

A question one might ask is, "So what's the deal with touting the 'best of the best' RV parks, since you have an old rig and some of these parks might not let you in anyway?" Well, that's a good question. First of all, Phannie still gives a pretty good impression, so we haven't been turned away from anywhere yet. If we are, then that park is probably too snooty for us, anyway. But here's the crux of the deal: When we're on the road to get to a destination, we typically try to find inexpensive, basic parks for a one- or two-night stay. When we get to where we'll be staying for a while, we prefer nicer parks with the amenities described in the list, and we haven't found a website that reliably shows these in every state.

I know there are plenty of parks out there that would qualify for this list, but I haven't yet discovered them. If you have suggestions, I would be most grateful to hear about them. Just leave a comment below; I try to answer each one.

Since Santa Fe is supposed to be a foodie town, we've been visiting some of the restaurants that have been suggested or that have good reviews. Here are a few more, along with my opinions, which obviously don't always agree with the published reviews in Yelp or Trip Advisor:

Mariscos La Playa - Expectations were high for this restaurant because of excellent reviews and the half dozen "Best Of Santa Fe" awards adorning the walls. Alas, we were thoroughly unimpressed, mainly due to the frozen, factory-breaded fried shrimp we were served and which we promptly sent back to the kitchen. For shame! Even in a land-locked place like Santa Fe, such a sacrilege is the kiss of death for any hopes of a favorable review. Another nail in the coffin was the fish taco, whose little cubes of fish had the texture and taste of tofu--that being no taste at all. In fact, I'm not sure it wasn't tofu. It would not be fair, however, not to mention a couple of things that were good: The shrimp taco and the shrimp ceviche tostadas. These were fresh, tasty, and the ceviche was plentiful.  

The Original Real Hamburger - Expectations were also high for this joint, which was supposed to be a favorite among the locals. The problem? A disgusting, mealy bun that would have been better used like a Brillo pad to clean cookware. It also had a fixings bar where you can select your own veggies and make the burger yourself. Well, I'm sorry, but I didn't come here to make my own lunch. If I had I would have saved about ten bucks and cooked it myself. On a positive note, the french fries were fresh cut and cooked perfectly. 

Clafoutis - This is a French bakery/cafe that is popular with chicks. This is mainly because they serve quiche, designer sandwiches and prissy salads and, oh yes, the owner, who is French, greets all the customers with "bonjour" and with "au revoir" and "merci" when they leave. This typically sets the girls all a-twitter. They also have some French pastries, only a couple of which we tried and thought they were sort of ho-hum. Of course, that might be slightly unfair, as we're now comparing everything to the Taste of Denmark Bakery in Denver that can have no equal anywhere. Sandy had a ham and asparagus quiche that was quite good. I had French onion soup that was also good. The salad dressing was a house vinaigrette that was way too sour; we added a little honey to the dressing and it was much better. Because of their missteps, Clafoutis cannot be listed on my favorites page.

The Pantry - Basically a small family-run cafe that has great reviews and is also supposedly a favorite of the locals. It has been around on Cerrillos Road forever, so we were expecting a real gem. Alas, it was not to be. We were charged for the chips and salsa (a hanging offense in Texas), and the combination plate (taco, enchilada and chile relleno with rice and beans) wasn't memorable, except for the taco, which was outstanding. The red sauce was more salty than flavorful, and the chile relleno was tough as leather. Even worse, we were aghast to find that the rice and beans were undercooked! How could this be? 

No photos today. I've decided not to post photos of restaurants that do not qualify for my favorites list. If we're not going back there, I don't need to remember what they look like, do I?

Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; please forgive me if I don't appreciate it enough each day.



Monday, August 29, 2016

Settled in at Santa Fe

At Santa Fe Skies RV Park, Santa Fe, New Mexico...

After a pleasant 300-mile drive from Colorado Springs, we are nesting at Santa Fe Skies, an adequate RV Park on the outskirts of town. 


There are good things, bad things and interesting things about this park. 

First, the good things: The office and facilities building is large and well-appointed, and the employees are friendly. The wi-fi service is surprisingly good--a rarity, we have found--so this gives our mi-fi hotspots a bit of a rest. The area is quiet, so we find ourselves almost missing the highway noise and train horns that seem to be prevalent at many RV parks. There is some interesting outdoor "art" placed around the park, some of which is for sale. Here are some samples:

I'm not sure what this depicts; it's made of rebar.

This is a 1949 Diamond Reo Truck

More metal yard art. That's an old gasoline engine on the right.

Now, for the bad: The roads and sites are mostly gravel, but some of the sites need to be re-graveled. Dirt anywhere in an RV park is a pet peeve of mine, and this could stand some more attention here. Now I don't mind parking on a firm grassy area, but dirt can turn instantly into mud, and I don't do mud. 

Creeping dirt--not good.
Another negative was how unlevel the sites are. Our site was the least level of any we have encountered in our eleven years of RVing! This put Phannie's leveling system to the ultimate test; after the leveler's brain thought for a minute, trying to determine if the coach was really that cockeyed, it finally raised the left rear wheels well off the ground, causing me to have to shore up the vacant space with some wooden blocks for appearance's sake. (I removed one of them for the photo.)


There are a couple of interesting things about the park. The owner has installed a large solar power array that supplies more than half the park's electrical power. You can see a good video of an interview with the owner discussing the $1.2 million project here


They did a pretty good job of xeriscaping the place, using native plants and wildflowers that are drought tolerant, as there is no irrigation system.


A couple of friendly birds landed on the satellite dish to welcome us to the park:


For those who keep track, we've tried three eating joints here so far, and here's what we thought of them:

Blake's Lottaburger - An okay burger that will never, ever, be a Whataburger.

Los Potrillos (New Mexican) - Good food, excellent service, but a little pricey for what we got. Can't put it on the favorites list, unfortunately.

The Shed (New Mexican) - A long wait at this touristy gold mine near the old plaza. The crispy taco was the best thing, enchiladas were good and the red sauce spicy (which I like). Perhaps the worst gazpacho and posole I've ever eaten. It'll be easy to forget this one.

Today was a down day, catching up on chores in the bus (I replaced one of the wiper blades), but we took time to enjoy today's sunset as the sun sank behind the anvil head of a line of distant thunderstorms:


Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; please forgive me if I don't appreciate it enough each day.

Friday, August 26, 2016

A Blizzard on Pike's Peak -- in August?

At Colorado Springs KOA, Colorado Springs, Colorado...

It seemed like a good idea: Take Sandy to the top of Pike's Peak for her first time. I made reservations about ten days in advance for the cog railway, which I assumed was the best way to make the trip. I had little to go on to make that assumption, however, since my only other trip to the summit was, let's see, 59 years ago as a kid, and that was riding in my uncle's Dodge.

There is a problem that plagues me when I make reservations so far in advance: Ten days is a long time for an old brain to hold on to information, and when I didn't take the time to recheck the booking, we ended up at the station a day late. At the time our train was supposed to be leaving, Sandy and I were at the luncheon mentioned in the previous post, where we were harassing Ed unmercifully and enjoying every minute.

When we arrived at the railway station after discovering my error, I confessed to being a day late, and the clerk merely put us on a standby list from which we were called for boarding on the 1:20 p.m. train. 

Cog Railway Station at Manitou Springs
Upon boarding, we were surprised by the sardine-can accommodations and finding ourselves in perhaps the most uncomfortable seats ever invented. I mean, these were tiny wooden seats that were possibly salvaged from Nazi torture chambers. There was never a time when we weren't squirming or sliding around as the train rounded curves. The only saving grace was the conductor, who pointed out a number of interesting sights along the way and who had a nice repertoire of jokes that were so bad, they were actually good!

The hard seats became maddeningly uncomfortable by the time we reached the summit, a trip that took much longer than expected--about an hour and a half to go 8 1/2 miles. There was some scenery--mostly trees--during the ascent, but the worst part was at about the 11,500 foot level, above which no vegetation grows. It was at that point that we entered the clouds and a mixture of rain and snow that completely obliterated any view. When we exited the train, the visibility was about 25 feet, and the temperature was 29 degrees in blowing snow. Mind you, this was still in August!

Sandy doesn't take cold too well, 
The bottom line: Our visit to Pike's Peak was a total disaster. Next time, we will be sure of the weather at the top, and we will be traveling by car! Never again on this train from hell.

Ed, Marilyn, Bob and Janet were kind enough to meet us for a farewell luncheon the next day at an excellent Thai restaurant named Na Rai Siam Cuisine. We talked and laughed a lot and, hugging them goodbye, we thought how lucky we were to be able to name these fine folks among our friends.

Back at Phannie, Sandy made an excellent batch of fudge to console us for today's debacle. To offset this decadence, we made a healthy Thai salad with Korean chicken that is one of our mainstay meals.

Santa Fe, here we come!

Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; please forgive me if I don't appreciate it enough each day. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Visiting With Friends in Colorado Springs

At the Colorado Springs KOA, Colorado Springs, Colorado...

In the last post, I opined that I had not heard the last of the mischief by our friends at Mountaindale, for whose cookout we showed up a day early.  I was right; our arrival on the correct day and at the correct time was met with the usual hijinks. Ed was guiding me with hand signals to a place he had left empty for us to park, or so I thought. As we were following his directions, he suddenly motioned for us to bypass the parking place and proceed in the direction of the park exit. Nice, huh? During the waveoff, however, he relented and motioned us into the shady spot he had saved for us. 

As Sandy and I exited the car, the cookout attendees burst into applause and cheering, obviously the kind of faux praise that would be given to an imbecile for having learned to tie his shoes. Needless to say, the theme for the rest of the afternoon was set: Get Mikie! For this sort of thing, they are professionals. They go for a person's soft underbelly like catfish to stink bait. It was okay, though; if it hadn't been my turn in the barrel, it would have been someone else's. Here is a photo of the group, in case any of them are wanted by law enforcement:


From the left: Marilyn, Jesse (with the blue cup on his head), Eddie, Jan, Sandy, Janet, Ginger, Ed and Bob. (Good breeding keeps me from commenting on Marilyn's posture or what may be causing it.)
The next day, we had plans to visit with Phyllis and Vicki, longtime high school friends of Sandy's who now live in Colorado Springs. We had a little time to kill beforehand, so we made a quick round-robin drive to Canon City for a look at the Royal Gorge, which Sandy had not previously seen. Having a bit of acrophobia, she elected not to go across the bridge, but we got a good view without much uneasiness on her part:



On the way back, we drove a little out of the way on highways 9 and 24 to come into Colorado Springs from the west and see the "other" side of Pike's Peak. It was a beautiful drive, which we enjoyed a lot.

Our visit with Phyllis and Vicki included dinner at Kura, a Japanese hibachi restaurant in Colorado Springs that we agreed was the best of its genre we had ever patronized.  It will go on our list of favorite restaurants.


Phyllis, Vicki and Sandy at Kura
It was fun to catch up with these sweet sisters, and we talked and laughed until the place closed. Thanks, ladies, for an enjoyable time.


The next day, we joined our Mountaindale friends again for lunch at the English Dockside seafood restaurant in Old Colorado City. Joining the group this time were two additional couples, Jim and Ellie and Rod and Debbie, nice folks whom we had not met before. 


Still smarting from the ribbing I had previously taken at the cookout, I decided that it was time for a little payback. As Ed has a deserved reputation for choosing restaurants where everyone would meet, only to find them closed, I decided to arrive early and conspire with the restaurant staff to pull off a practical joke. This involved affixing to the restaurant door a sign reading, "Sorry, Closed For Private Luncheon." As our group of friends arrived (all of whom were well aware of Ed's problem with closed restaurants), I asked them to wait with Sandy and me outside the door, pointing at the sign when Ed and Marilyn arrived. Ed's reaction was sort of stunned befuddlement, hardly believing what he was seeing, as he knew that Ginger had made reservations for our group. As soon as it became obvious that he had swallowed the bait, we took down the sign and went inside to our table, much to Ed's relief. 

We weren't quite finished with the harassment, however. We also conspired with the waitress to tell Ed, upon his ordering lunch, that his selection was not available and instead to recommend a "horn fish" entree that the chef was offering as a special. Ed's natural response was to inquire what a "horn fish" was, precipitating several other mentions of the term. Every time "horn fish" was mentioned, Sandy (who was more than willing to become a co-conspirator) would surreptitiously blow a bicycle horn hidden in her purse. Yes, it was all decidedly juvenile, but everyone laughed themselves silly. Ed was the best of sports through it all, but it will probably be time to pick on someone else next time. There will be plenty of targets, as there are many deserving mischief makers in this bunch.

Ed and Marilyn. Ed was the target of today's mischief.
I should mention that Ed is the author of a recent book, "My Journey to the Clouds," the story of his career as a corporate pilot, which he asked me to edit for him, presumably due to my own long career in aviation and a penchant for writing. I was happy to do so, and I had the honor of writing the forward to the book. I'll include that forward below, in hopes that it will entice you to read his inspiring story, available as a Kindle e-book from Amazon, or as a Nook e-book from Barnes & Noble:

It is an old saw among pilots that there are no “old, bold” pilots--meaning, of course, that 

pilots who take unnecessary risks while flying may not be around to collect their Social 

Security benefits. For humans to fly above the earth in a machine is an unnatural state of 

being, and gravity will eventually win out over man’s best attempts to defy it: The 

machine will return its occupants to the ground in one way or another.


This is the story of a man’s quest to fulfill a lifelong desire to become a pilot and, having 

achieved that goal, a recounting of some of his exploits as a corporate jet pilot. It reveals 

not only an impression of a corporate pilot’s career but the nature of the man who 

understood the dichotomy of “old” and “bold” as they pertain to aviation safety.


Growing up in Missouri, Ed Dray was fortunate to be surrounded with the Midwest 

values of God, country, family, honor and hard work, and he had in his DNA another 

attribute essential to becoming an “old” pilot: Common sense. While he does not try to 

thrill the reader with tales of daredevil stunts or narrow escapes from death, he discusses 

the thoughtful yet methodical manner in which he molded his career and in which he 

handled situations while airborne that, through his actions, never made the evening news.


At times funny, the story also reveals a great personal sadness shared by relatively few—

one that never goes away and never fully heals. His faith and the strength of his family is 

tested, but these very things allow him and his devoted wife, Marilyn, to overcome the 

unthinkable.

"My Journey to the Clouds" is suitable for all ages and could be especially inspiring for young people in the final years of their education and making decisions about their careers.

By the way, all but two couples having lunch today are fulltimers. Jim and Ellie were fulltimers for eight years and are now part-timers, and Eddie and Jan are part-timers about to become fulltimers. I think the takeaway from this is that the fulltime RV lifestyle doesn't mean that people necessarily become more isolated. On the contrary, we have met and made friends with scores of like-minded people who have jettisoned the stress, bondage and expense of stick-and-brick house living for the freedom of the road. It's also easier to make friends if you are carefree and stress-free and have a common bond. And so it is for us.

We have one more day in Colorado Springs, then we're off to Santa Fe. Stay tuned!

Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; please forgive me if I don't appreciate it enough each day.


Sunday, August 21, 2016

Piranhas in Colorado Springs!

At Colorado Springs KOA, Colorado Springs, Colorado...

We've stopped here mainly to visit friends, as we've toured most of the sights here already--except for a couple we're going to try to work into the agenda. The next day after our arrival, good friends and fulltimers Ed and Marilyn were kind enough to join us for lunch at Jake and Telly's, an excellent Greek restaurant in old Colorado City. After enjoying our lunch al fresco in the perfect weather, we sat for quite a while catching up since our last visit in the Rio Grande Valley back in February. As we parted, we discussed meeting again at their RV park in a day or two.

After lunch, we stopped at Just Brakes to have Mae's brakes inspected. I had noticed more fading than usual while driving in the mountains, and I anticipated there would be some issues. I was right; the rear brakes were hardly worn at all, as they were out of adjustment, which meant that the front brakes were doing most of the work and the rotors were, indeed worn beyond limits. After new rotors, an adjustment and a brake fluid change, Mae was good as new, and the braking action was noticeably better.

A band of thunderstorms moved through the area during the night ahead of a cool front, leaving behind overnight temperatures in the low 50s; it seemed strange to be running the heaters in both Phannie and Mae in August but boy, could we get used to this! The weather today was beautiful--perfect for what I thought was going to be a cookout, hosted by Ed and Marilyn and joined by a gaggle of other friends whose company we usually enjoy--until today.

You see, Ed sent an email and a text early this morning advising that the cookout was on--for tomorrow, not today. His messages went on to elaborate on the weather forecast and even included the dishes that others were bringing to the soiree. It was a while before I picked up my cell phone and read the messages, admittedly in a just-awakened fog. (Like most normal people, we tend to sleep later than Ed who, for reasons that are unclear, often arises before the sun comes up.) 

I'm not sure if I was wearing my glasses while reading the messages but, it didn't really matter, as they're more or less useless until about 10:00 a.m., before which time there's really not anything worth seeing anyway. (I have support for this: If you recall, early advertisements for Dr. Pepper included the face of a clock with the times 10, 2 and 4 highlighted. I took this to mean that it was improper to drink Dr. Pepper before 10 a.m., a very sensible bit of advice, obviously from experts, that I have embraced with gusto since being retired.) And if it's improper to drink Dr. Pepper before 10 a.m. then, it must be improper to do a lot of other things, like read emails--especially long ones with lots of words, like Ed's. So, I missed the word "tomorrow"; it wasn't my fault, it was Ed's, for giving me way too much information way too early.

And it was with that misinformation that Sandy and I hopped into Mae and began our 20-mile trek out to Mountaindale, an attractive RV Park south of Colorado Springs in a bucolic mountain setting. As usual, we left Phannie so as to arrive at our destination fashionably late. (An entrance not seen by others is an entrance wasted.)

Upon our arrival at Ed and Marilyn's coach, we were unable to make our entrance before the group--because there was no group! Marilyn was lounging outside reading a book and, as we passed by a window, I heard Ed's disembodied voice exclaim excitedly, "Hey, Mike and Sandy!" as if we had just beamed down from a spaceship. 

Clearly, there were no preparations for a cookout, and there we stood, realizing something was amiss, but not fully comprehending until Ed strode outside and said, tactfully, "How nice of you to come by for a visit before our cookout tomorrow."

After it became obvious that we were a day early, we sat, red-faced, and talked for a while. Our hosts, sensing our plight, attempted to make us feel better by recounting an embarrassing misstep of their own in days gone by. In a few minutes, others in our group of friends in the park ambled up and, upon learning of our debacle, were not nearly as charitable. In fact, it was much like a school of piranhas going after a wildebeest that had fallen in a river.

But we didn't mind; it was all in fun and, since I am not above throwing a few verbal jabs myself now and then, it is only fair that I take the ribbing that I was due. It was great merriment, and everyone, including Sandy and me, had a good laugh at my expense. What I also know, however, is that it is not over. There is the real cookout tomorrow, and more piranhas will be attending. 

Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; please forgive me if I don't appreciate it enough each day.


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Last Days in Denver

At Dakota Ridge RV Park, Golden, Colorado...

We have really enjoyed the cool weather and all that the Denver area has to offer. We call the weather cool here in comparison to Texas, as it is usually at least 20 degrees cooler here. To the Denver natives, however, any time the temperature gets to 90 degrees, they pretty well freak out. Several locals we've met, upon finding out that we are visitors, actually apologized for the "hot" 90-degree weather, saying that this is an unusually hot summer. We just smile and think, "You don't know what hot weather is..."

When we spend a couple of weeks or more at a place, as we have in Denver, we don't try to see everything at once. Some days are spent doing everyday errands like grocery shopping or getting the car serviced. On some days, we don't do much of anything but be a drain on society. Toward the end of our stay, however, we visited a few more places worthy of mention. 

First was Denver's Union Station, the grand train depot built in 1881 for $525,000. After a fire in 1894, it was rebuilt, and its current facade was completed in 1914. The railroads were largely responsible for Denver's growth into a large city, landlocked as it is and, at one point during WWII, there were no fewer than 80 passenger trains a day arriving here. Nowadays, besides being a downtown terminal for Denver's light rail system, only Amtrak's California Zephyr maintains a daily schedule. In 2014 ,the terminal was completely refurbished, adding a hotel, restaurants and shops, at a cost of $54 million. Here are a couple of photos:




The sconces along the upper walls are original to the building; the huge chandeliers are copies of the originals. We love these old train depots, and we like to imagine what they must have been like at the zenith of the popularity of train travel in the U. S. 

We also took in the Denver Museum of Natural History and Science, a massive three-story edifice that housed some very nice exhibits, our favorite being the gem and mineral section. The enormous building housed not only the museum and special exhibits, it also contained an IMAX theater and a planetarium. Even with these extra features occupying the building, there still seemed to be a good deal of underused space. While it seems a bit ungracious, considering the excess all around us, we have to admit that we enjoyed the Albuquerque museums much more. Even the planetarium here was a bit of a bomb, showing nothing but animations in the depicted journey among the planets.


The Denver Museum of Natural History and Science
This exhibit alone would have been worth the price of admission.
We have some new foodie places to review for you. One was the Denver Biscuit Company, one of three food and beverage venues under one roof in a building on East Colfax Avenue. The sign outside says, "Atomic Cowboy." Inside is the Denver Biscuit Company, Sully's Pizza and the Atomic Cowboy Bar. The biscuit place was featured on "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives," and that could be part of the reason it is so popular; we waited for 45 minutes before being shown to a table.

Open only for breakfast and lunch, the place specializes, of course, in, well, biscuits. But not just any biscuits; these things are piled high with whatever you want, but the menu sets forth some righteous combinations. I had the Franklin, consisting of a biscuit, the two halves separating fried chicken, cheese, bacon, sausage gravy and a fried egg. We could easily have split it, but we didn't realize how large the servings would be. Sandy had a biscuit club, consisting of chicken, bacon, cheese, lettuce and tomato with a chipotle mayo aioli. These things were so large that they had to be deconstructed in order to eat them. To make matters worse, we ordered a biscuit cinnamon roll to go. There; I've said it, and I'm not proud of it. 





As far as the food goes, the biscuit conglomerations were good, but the breading on the chicken cutlets was a bit heavy. The cinnamon roll was only fair, as it was overcooked and a bit too dense for our liking. This place was good for perhaps a one-time shot to see what can be done with a biscuit, and it wasn't bad for people watching. To that end, witness a couple seated at the bar nearby:



I asked Sandy if part of the young girl's dress was missing, and she informed me that a visible bra is considered fashionable in some circles today. Well, this is the first circle in which I have noticed this, so I figure I may have a circle deficit of some kind.

There were mostly young folks in the place, including the gentleman in the photo above accompanying the young lady with the exposed bra, and I couldn't help but notice that he was sporting an interesting haircut. I asked Sandy if I should get my hair done like that, and she replied that it probably wouldn't be a good idea this side of an asylum. The only thing holding me back right now, in my way of thinking, would be my gray hair (I could dye it), but I'm not sure what I would do about the gap that would be sort of noticeable in the vicinity of my bald spot. Oh, well, there goes my chance to be hip, I guess.

Here's another visual: We were sitting on bar stools at an elevated round table, a pose that requires a bit of stamina to park comfortably our lower extremities and the remanufactured parts thereof. Contortions of this type are not usually associated with senior citizens, and we probably looked as out of place as we felt.

Another thing that took some getting used to in Colorado was the preponderance of marijuana shops that have popped up everywhere with names like Rocky Mountain High and Herban Underground, to name a couple we saw. Although we haven't seen anyone smoking what we would think is a joint, it's still a bit jarring to think there is so much demand for a mind-altering drug that is legal. But then I'm a neanderthal, I guess; we're so euphoric about having a life to live that it's difficult to understand why that mental state would need to be altered. And yes, I'm aware that our circumstances are not shared by all, but the miracle of life itself is something to celebrate. I don't think many people realize what a gift their life is nor do they comprehend the magnitude of the improbability that they should exist at all.  And as far as our own blessings go, it was not due to our sitting around and smoking marijuana that helped us achieve the lifestyle we enjoy today. But, I digress.

The bottom line on the Denver Biscuit Company is this: I'm not sorry we went, but we probably won't go again. Oh yes, I almost forgot--it was pretty expensive. It won't, therefore, go on our list of favorite restaurants.

We also had a nice lunch with friends Dave and Martha Jo at the Sherpa House Restaurant in Golden. Good Indian-style food and even better company. Thank you, guys, for your friendship and your guidance in visiting the area.


Dave and Martha Jo
Okay, foodies: Here's another neat place we patronized on South Broadway:




Yes, the name of the ice cream shop says it all: Sweet Action. They have lots of unusual homemade ice cream flavors, my choice of which was peanut butter and jelly (strawberry preserves, actually). Oh my, was it good. Sandy had Chocolate Whoopie Pie that she proclaimed to be divine. The most unusual flavor I saw was Olathe Corn. I can't imagine what that would be like. 

We stopped by the Taste of Denmark bakery again. We have given this place our official designation as the best bakery in the U. S. (Not because we've visited them all, but because none could possibly be better.) You've already seen photos of some of their offerings, and I'll leave you with a couple more:


Almond shortbread ring and cranberry scone

This multigrain bread is the best I have ever tasted, bar none. Notice how much is missing!
Since I'm on a roll, I'll mention one more mom and pop eatery that makes our list of favorite restaurants, and that is the Chowder Room.


This tiny place does one thing extremely well, as you might imagine: Chowder. They had three kinds available, of which I had the New England version, which was delicious. Sandy had a shrimp po-boy that was just as good. In my creeping dementia, I forgot to take a photo of the food. We went here during happy hour, so we got a discount off food that was already reasonably priced. I'm only sorry we didn't find this place earlier; I would like to have tried the other chowders.

Tomorrow we're off to Colorado Springs and more adventures. Stick around!

Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; please forgive me if I don't appreciate it enough each day.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Denver: Touring the City and a Drive in the Mountains

At Dakota Ridge RV Park, Golden, Colorado...

We've spent a few low-impact days getting to know Denver and the surrounding area a little better. We had dinner with friends Dave and Martha Jo in their lovely townhouse in Littleton, a suburb of Denver. They clued us in to some things to see and places to eat, so we've been doing some of that. We checked out Boulder and two nearby state parks, Chatfield and Cherry Creek. These are very nice parks, each with more than a hundred RV sites with full hookups. These are very popular, however, and reservations need to be made well in advance. Campers can stay no longer than two weeks, then they must move on. (They can move to another state park, however, for another two weeks, and so on.)

We also drove into the mountains to Idaho Springs, stopping at the Denver KOA West campground to pick up a small telescope that I had ordered. Seeing all the myriad of stars, as we have in the clear night skies in the mountains, has piqued my interest in stargazing. This is what led me to buy a basic telescope to see what I can see beyond merely my bespectacled eyes.

We also took highway 74 from I-70 to Evergreen and Morrison, a really beautiful drive, and we stopped at the Switchback Smokehouse near Evergreen for a late lunch. Very good BBQ, but a little pricey, we thought. However, our table beside the clear mountain stream was worth the slight extra cost:



Switchback Smokehouse
We've been using some of our time to do some necessary errands, like getting prescriptions filled and making Wal-Mart runs. Sandy also got a haircut and, with all that activity, we had to take an afternoon nap.

We had to run the heater a bit this morning, as it was 56 outside. We thought of our friends sweltering back in Texas and decided not to report this to them. Death threats are already piling up.

Tomorrow we play musical campsites, as we have to move Phannie a couple of rows due to someone else's longstanding reservation for our current spot. This is a hassle for sure, but I'm not sure what will change unless some more RV parks are built in the area. 

On August 18, we'll be leaving for Colorado Springs for a week to see some sights and visit friends. So far, we haven't been able to think about going back to Texas next month; I'm pretty sure we're in denial. 

Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; please forgive me if I don't appreciate it enough each day.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Red Rocks and More Good Eats

At South Park RV Park, Denver, Colorado...

We drove a short distance to the quaint little town of Morrison today, perhaps most noted for its proximity to the Red Rocks Ampitheater. This remarkable theater is formed within an outcropping of slabs of red sandstone rocks pushed up eons go when the Rockies were being formed. At one point, the giant slabs of rock form a semicircle in which stadium seats were built to hold nearly 10,000 people. The picturesque enclosure provides not only a uniquely beautiful outdoor experience but outstanding acoustics as well. It has been ranked the number one outdoor concert venue in the world for decades. Here are a few photos:






Inside the visitor center was a complete list of all the artists who have performed at Red Rocks, and it includes all the greats, as far back as the 1940s. There are even records of performances there as early as 1906 when it was a completely natural area. It is thought that the Ute Indians used it in a similar fashion before that. It struck me that I was familiar with very few of the artists who have appeared there since about 1970. I suppose that dates me terribly, but I consider myself incredibly lucky to have grown up with music that actually had memorable lyrics and melodies. What passes for music today is little more than noise, in my opinion.

After checking out the theater, we decided to stop in at The Cow Restaurant, recommended to us by much-appreciated reader Debbie Boyd.  Perched on a creek bank right on the main drag, the eatery wasn't all that much to look at from the outside, but this was a place where the owners put a righteous spin on classic dishes. I ordered fish and chips, and Sandy ordered a hamburger with onion rings. 
The Cow Restaurant
Everything was very good, and the service was outstanding. Here's a photo of the fish (I substituted green chile pork stew for the chips). The fish pieces were huge, perfectly fresh and fried to perfection. 



The stew was very spicy, just as I like it. Yes, this place definitely goes on our list of favorites, linked above in Favorite Restaurants.

We made yet another stop at the Taste of Denmark Bakery (this place should be illegal) and picked up a loaf of cranberry walnut bread. I almost didn't want to include a photo of one of the warm slices with melted butter, but I think I have a slightly sadistic streak. So here it is, with no apologies:



After this little tour, we thought it would be a good idea to rest up for our move to this RV park. So, we settled into the recliners and, sure enough, we were able to force a little nap. (Precious little force was used, I might add.)

During my awake periods, I did a little planning for our eventual meandering trip back to Texas in September. Yes, I know it will still be hot there, but I have no choice; we have a wedding to attend. Otherwise, we would be staying away until the first norther. This frenzy of planning required making reservations at RV parks well ahead of time, something I hadn't really done prior to having been burned here in Denver by the hoards of travelers and the scarcity of RV parks we've encountered.

Napping and trip planning being as arduous as it was, we decided we might be hungry again. Wishing to have a light supper after our big lunch at The Cow (not to mention the warm bread and butter as a snack), we drove to J's Noodles Star Thai restaurant on South Federal Boulevard. This highly-recommended place was nestled in a shopping strip with the patrons jammed into a tiny space that held no more than ten tables. 

We shared a chicken and stir-fried vegetable dish that was incredibly good, and Star Thai will definitely go on our favorites list. We could easily have eaten an entree' apiece, but sharing this light and tasty dish made us feel a bit better about the lunch and the bread we ate earlier.




Now one could easily infer from this blog that all we do is eat out, and you'd be more correct than not, but we try to limit eating out to once a day. (We're not always successful.) We've talked before about our meal habits and, for us, finding good local restaurants is part of the fun of being retired and traveling. And, since we keep track of the really good ones, we can look them up in the Favorite Restaurants page here in the blog if we forget. If you happen to make use of this list, I hope your experience is as good as ours.

South Federal Boulevard in Denver took us into a very diverse neighborhood that has very many little mom and pop eateries like Star Thai; you will not find any big chain restaurants here. But it has been our experience that some of the best and least expensive food can be found in neighborhoods like this. We plan to try some more we have spotted along the way.

Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; please forgive me if I don't appreciate it enough each day.


Thursday, August 4, 2016

Musical Chairs, Er, RV Parks, and a Rare Foodie Find in Denver

At Dakota Ridge RV Park, Golden, Colorado...

We are in the midst of the RV park derby that I mentioned in the last post. We arrived at Dakota Ridge in Golden for only three nights, having had only four nights' availability at the KOA Denver West. After this short stay here, we have to move to South Park in Denver for two nights, then back to Dakota Ridge for five nights. Such is the lot of those who don't make reservations well in advance for popular destinations like this that have a shortage of RV parks. This is definitely a hassle and something that we have rarely encountered before.

We couldn't really begin exploring the area without nourishment, so we had lunch at a local fish and chips place that wasn't memorable, then we happened upon the first real foodie find since we left Albuquerque: A bakery named Taste of Denmark. This is one of those shops run by local artisans whose pride in their craft is obvious. The display cases had a surprising variety of fresh baked goods, as is obvious from the following photos:




Let me assure you that these offerings are so far superior to anything available in a supermarket, it's not worth mentioning. This is old world skill that we have rarely seen duplicated.

Here is an almond bear claw that was in the process of  being devoured before it even left the store. It was just as good as it looks:


If you are anywhere near Denver (this store is actually in the Lakewood suburb) and don't go here, I have to question your sanity. Oh yes, and the prices are surprisingly reasonable! 

Yes, it goes on our list of favorite restaurants. (I can call it a restaurant if I want to; it's my list.)

Dinner was at the Szechuan Restaurant on 6th Avenue. This was well reviewed in Yelp and lived up to our expectations. The food was very tasty, very fresh, with generous portions--well suited for a listing in our favorite restaurants. Sandy and I had an appetizer and split a single entree, and we still had leftovers.



Tomorrow we meet Bubba for dinner. He happens to be in town on business, and we're going to try a cajun restaurant. I think Sandy is going to do some shopping for the grands. How unlike her!

Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; please forgive me if I don't appreciate it enough each day.