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Besides enjoying the beauty of Colorado, there have been a few downsides and missteps that seem to happen on most trips. It's only appropriate to toss these into the narrative, as they can sometimes be instructive and even funny.
The first surprise happened on highway 94 coming into Colorado Springs. We would ordinarily have taken a different route, but U.S. 50 was closed at one point, requiring a re-routing. Highway 94 is not really a highway; it is a paved rub board. Some of you young-uns probably don't know what a rub board is; if you don't, ask somebody old. What it means is that the road was rough; every joint in each section of the pavement provided a bone-jarring jolt, and I was beginning to wonder if something was wrong with Phannie's air suspension. Making things worse was a strong headwind. Soon after turning onto the highway, we heard a strange fluttering sound on Phannie's roof right above our heads. We had no idea what made the sound, and there was no shoulder on the road to pull off and take a look. After about ten more miles of the fluttering sound and Phannie's galloping down the road, we heard a loud metallic bang above us, and the fluttering sound stopped. Since we were still in no place to pull over and take a look, I drove for about ten more miles before finally finding a vacant parking lot in a tiny town along the route. After stopping, I stepped out and walked about 50 feet away so I could see everything on Phannie's roof. I instantly noticed that the large round dome housing the old Kingdome satellite dish was missing! The dome I'm talking about can be seen in the photo below:
Yes, it was missing...as in completely gone! I knew then that the dome's departure from the roof was the origin of the loud sound we heard above our heads, but there wasn't much I could do at this point. I walked back and took a good look at Mae, hooked behind us, fearing the dome may have struck the car as it departed the roof. It hadn't, thankfully; she didn't suffer a scratch. But I was not about to climb on top of the coach to see what else might have been damaged. With my arthritic and unsteady knees, there would be a good chance that something much larger than the dome would fall off the roof--yours truly. Besides, Sandy would appear outside with a pistol if she thought I might get an idea to climb up on the roof. One way or the other, I would probably be a goner.
Wise enough to know my limitations--not to mention my fear of flying lead--I climbed back into the driver's seat and motored ahead. Being able to see if anything was amiss on the roof would have to wait.
As soon as we arrived in Colorado Springs, I asked the park hostess for recommendations of a mobile tech, to which she responded with a couple of business cards. Not wishing to wait, in case of rain, I called the number on the first card and got no answer. I called the number on the other one, and it was answered right away. Then I described the problem, to which the guy on the other end said, "WHAT did you say blew off your coach?" When he was convinced I wasn't joking, he told me he would be at Phannie's site in about a half hour.
He arrived when he said he would, and I crossed my fingers as he climbed onto the roof and strode to where the dome had vanished. He looked around for a few minutes and then hollered, "You are one lucky guy!" He said it appeared that when the dome flew off, it made a clean break from the roof, leaving only a few screw holes and no tears in the roof. He said he could see that the dome struck a glancing blow on the middle air conditioner housing and that was probably what deflected it to the side and away from the car. Thankfully, the air conditioner wasn't damaged. He patched up the screw holes, and that was that. He didn't even charge me anything beyond the cost of the service call.
The reality is that the dome's blowing off did me a favor, as I had the dealership disconnect it 11 years ago when we bought Phannie. Knowing the Kingdome was ancient technology, I had a Direct TV Trav'ler dish installed, along with new Samsung digital TVs. I didn't bother to have the old dome removed because I figured it would be a big, expensive job, and it wasn't hurting anything where it was. Little did I know that it would be removed for me by driving into a headwind on a rough Colorado road 11 years later!
I also didn't know this would only be the first of some unusual circumstances as we entered Colorado. On our way to Golden from Estes Park, with Larry and Carolyn behind us, I passed several vehicles going the opposite direction on the two-lane road. Suddenly, we saw a large stone kicked up by one of the opposing vehicles--I couldn't tell which one--, and the trajectory of the rock was on a beeline for Phannie's huge windshield. Sure enough, it made a loud "BANG" on the lower driver's side. I knew immediately this was not something that could be patched, as it began right away to radiate cracks around the main strike area:
I was almost sick, thinking about the 11 years and more than 100,000 miles during which we had avoided a cracked windshield. Why couldn't we have made it a little longer? When we settled into our spot at Dakota Ridge RV Park in Golden, I called in an insurance claim and we agreed to put the replacement project on hold until after our trip ended at the end of August. The location of the fracture doesn't impair my vision, but I'm just hopeful that we can make it to the end of our trip before the whole windshield spiderwebs on us. We'll see.
Unfortunately, we still weren't through with the surprises. Bear in mind that Dakota Ridge is the nicest and most expensive RV park in the Denver area. We have always enjoyed a nice, quiet stay there in the past. Imagine our surprise when hard metal rock music started up at about 8000 decibels across the street from our park at nightfall! Not only that, but a cacophony of loud motorcycles were incessantly racing up and down Colfax Avenue in front of our park! It seems that, since our last visit here, somebody opened up a huge biker bar with a sound stage that acts as a megaphone for the "music." I couldn't believe it! And neither could Larry and Carolyn, whose rig was parked closer to the street than ours. Bear in mind that we had told them how nice Dakota Ridge was and how we knew they would enjoy their stay. They didn't, and neither did we. In fact, they left early for their side trip to the Dakotas, and I can't say I blamed them. Here's a photo of the biker bar, named the Dirty Dog Saloon:
See the sound stage in the back? The noise coming from that thing was worse than standing beside a jet engine at full power. Not only that, but motorcycles came and went in droves all night, each rider gunning the motor to see if he could drown out the band.
I was literally dumbstruck! How could this be, I wondered, across the street from Dakota Ridge, the premier RV park in an area that has way too few RV parks of any kind. Those who know me well are aware of my utter disdain for this kind of noise--it can't be called music--that must have originated in hell itself. Being an old-school musician myself, I am of the opinion that music reached its zenith of style, lyrics and melody in the 1940s, and that little music worthy of being called such has been written since around 1970. It was the first time ever that arson crossed my mind.
Then I thought better of it; we'll only be here a few days. Just after ten o'clock in the evening, the noise from the band suddenly stopped, but that didn't stop the motorcycles from blasting up and down the street. Even that noise eventually subsided, and I was able to sleep, although I still dreamed about seeing the Dirty Dog going up in flames.
My first action the next morning, of course, was to march briskly to the office to see if they noticed anything a little unusual the previous evening--you know, something like an atom bomb detonating in their driveway? The clerks on duty, to my utter amazement, seemed quite indifferent, as if I were the first to complain. Finally, one of them said, "Yeah, sometimes they get a little noisy over there, but I think that's only about four nights around the weekends."
I was dumbfounded. There were several million-dollar motorhomes in this park, and I don't think their owners would be very tolerant of this nightmare, and neither would any of the others, for that matter; I was pretty sure I was probably about number 25,986 to lodge a complaint. Then it occurred to me that a certain reality was at play here: Dakota Ridge probably can't do anything about it. There are undoubtedly laws on the books about disturbing the peace, and these had to have been violated by those 5,000-watt amplifiers. However, Colorado is not Texas; it is a liberal state with a liberal government, and pretty much anything goes here, I guess. Marijuana is legal and, I suppose if you are high enough, nothing much bothers you. If this were Texas, the only thing left of the Dirty Dog would be a vacant lot with tumbleweeds on it. About the only thing I can do, in this case, is to warn others in the reviews I'll be leaving. I'll never come back, of course, as long as the Dirty Dog is there, and I did make that point clear to Dakota Ridge.
As Larry and Carolyn had left early (who could blame them?), we did a little touring. I rather like the old train stations that graced the large cities in the era of train travel. Denver has one, named Union Station, but only the exterior has been preserved largely as it was:
While the interior of the terminal still has an air of its original grandeur, it is devoted mostly to a hotel with modern decor and shops that seems incongruous with its original use. Still, they get credit for preserving what they did.
Denver also has the Forney Transportation Museum, and that sounded like a stop I would enjoy, having been involved with transportation all my life. (Besides flying airplanes and regulating them, I also owned a trucking company at one time.) So, we decided to hunt down the Forney Museum, with the aid of Siri on my cell phone. The GPS function led us to the right place downtown, but we weren't really paying attention when we drove into the parking lot. We got out of the car and walked into a very modern building, whose interior sported a large glass counter, behind which stood a rather startled young man. I noticed a strange odor, and so did Sandy. The clerk finally said, "Um, can I help you?"
Seeing nothing that resembled a museum, I said, "Let me guess; this isn't the Forney Museum, is it?"
The young man said, "Well, no, that's in the back of the parking lot. But we would like to show you around while you're here. You happen to be in the first recreational marijuana store in the nation."
I looked at Sandy, and she looked at me, her eyes as big as saucers. "Well, I think we'll just move along to the museum; sorry for the confusion." He made another push for us to look around, but it fell on deaf ears as we rushed outside, each of us opening a side of the double doors.
Afterward, we laughed about it, wondering what our friends or pastor (Robert Jeffress, also a Fox News contributor) would have thought if someone had taken our photo in there. It was also a rather sad realization that we're not as observant as we used to be, as the sign out front clearly revealed what kind of store it was:
Getting old isn't easy, folks.
I did a quick tour of the museum, which was a little below average, but it did have some interesting old cars that I coveted and a full-size Big Boy locomotive--the largest ever built--this one number 4005. The locomotive is so large--with 16 drive wheels--that I couldn't get all of it in a photograph, so I'll include a photo of a Big Boy in the Ford Museum in Dearborn:
If you are interested in statistics, there were 25 Big Boys built for the Union Pacific Railroad by the American Locomotive Company between 1941 and 1945. They were and still are the largest ever built. Only eight remain in museums, and only one of the eight, restored by Union Pacific, is still operating. (You can see it on YouTube.) The locomotive and its tender weighed 1,300,000 pounds. The tender carried 25,000 gallons of water and 25 tons of coal to feed the engine, which was capable of 7,000 horsepower. The engines were built to haul freight over the Wasatch Mountains to Cheyenne and Laramie, Wyoming. The last revenue run occurred in 1959. These behemoths have always been fascinating to me--a testament to the engineering and manufacturing that produced such a complex machine of that time. One can only imagine the maintenance demands of such a locomotive. Here are a couple of photos of number 4005 in the Denver museum:
Above is the front of engine 4005 in Denver; as you can see, it is not well situated for a side shot showing the enormity of it.
Above is the mid-section of Big Boy 4005 in Denver. This locomotive was involved in a wreck in Wyoming caused by an error made by a switchman. The engine rolled over on its left side and, if you look closely, you can see some of the dents caused during that accident.
Above is 4005's cab. We couldn't go in because of the Covid mess, but I can't even count all the valves with which the crewmen had to deal.
There were other interesting things in the museum, but I found especially appealing this beautiful 1957 Dodge in all its finned glory:
One of the increasing habits of aging, I think, is reminiscing about the "good ole days." I suppose this is especially true now, given what a mess 2020 has turned out to be. I often find myself longing to be in my teens again, when cars had style and were readily identifiable from each other. I find today's cars particularly boring, because you have to see the nameplate to know what make they are. Such was not the case in 1957, for example. I knew every car at a glance, and it was such a big deal when we were able to go down to the car dealers' showrooms to see the new models every September. At least, though, I have those memories, and they will be unknown by today's young, who have their heads buried in their cell phones or watching TV. I'm glad I was born when I was.
There is more to see in Denver, of course, but that has been covered in other blog posts. So, I will end this post with a shot of the city taken from Lookout Mountain near Golden, Colorado. It has been nice to have a break here from the Texas heat. The temperatures have mostly been in the seventies during the day since we've been here.
Our next stop will be an overnight in Casper, Wyoming on our way to Cody--our base for visiting Yellowstone, this time from the eastern side. We'll be there for a couple of weeks, so we should have some more photos and stories to tell, so stick around!
Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life;
please forgive me if I fail to appreciate it each day as I should.
We don't stop playing because we get old; we get old because we stop playing.
---George Bernard Shaw
"I get up every morning, and I just don't let the old man in." ---Clint Eastwood