Photo taken near Monument Valley, Utah

Monday, July 26, 2021

Cool Colorado With Friends

 At Dolores River Campground, Dolores, Colorado...

The first couple of weeks in July that we spent at our Hondo, Texas place was a reminder that we were more than a month overdue for our usual departure from the oven that Texas becomes in the summer. While it wasn't as hot as usual, the heat coupled with the humidity made for very unpleasant days, wherein we were trapped inside but grateful for Willis Carrier's invention of the modern air conditioner in 1902. Being there with friends Richard and Karen was a delightful distraction; however, they must stay in Hondo all summer. There is no doubt they will enjoy their big, spanking new fifth wheel to keep them comfortable and cool.

Our 1,000-mile journey from Hondo to Dolores went without a hitch, thanks to good old Phannie. We try to keep the legs to about 300 miles a day now, especially in the badlands through which we traveled--well, they're not really BAD, they're just, uh, not what you would call scenic. We have tried driving 200 miles a day, but that seems too slow (unless we're in scenic territory), and we've tried 500 miles a day--once. We're getting too old for that kind of abuse. Three hundred-ish seems about right.

Once we approached Cortez, Colorado, the San Juan mountains began coming into view, and we knew we were not far away from a very pleasant remainder of the summer. We continued ten miles past Cortez to the little town of Dolores which, at nearly 7,000 feet elevation, we knew the heat and humidity we left would have a hard time finding us:

Dolores is a tiny town--so tiny it has only one bank and one small grocery store and, of course, the old train depot you see above, the cutout showing the town's elevation of 6957 feet. (I hate to tell you this, my dear family and friends back home, but we often have to use the heater in Phannie on cold mornings; it sometimes gets down into the fifties.) In a drive through the back streets of Dolores--which doesn't take very long--we see flowers like these. I don't know what they are, but they appear to be growing wild. It's a pretty little place.

We spent a day sightseeing, the six of us friends riding with Bubba driving over to Ridgway to eat a scrumptious breakfast at Kate's Place. It's Limoncello pancakes were possibly the best we've ever eaten. Everything we had was good enough to place it in the "Best Restaurants" list on this blog. Here are the six of us at Kate's--way too full, I'm afraid, but the weather was fabulous:

L to R: LouAnn, Bubba, Me, Sandy, Jackie and Steve outside Janet's

We were lucky to meet up with these good friends this summer. While LouAnn and Bubba will be here only for the week, Steve and Jackie will be our traveling partners for the rest of the summer. Are we lucky or what?

We enjoyed Ridgway, an old Colorado town wherein a lot of the old buildings have been preserved like this old firehouse that has become a boutique. Luckily, the owner retained its historic look of the early 1900s. Note the old fire truck parked outside:

Traveling to Ridgway, this is the kind of scenery that is so emblematic of the San Juan Skyway, the highway on which we were driving:

We also drove through Ouray, "The Switzerland of America," as it's called. We agree:

Having toured most of Colorado now, we are convinced the west side of the Rockies has the edge on sheer beauty and scenery. 

Retracing our route somewhat to get back to our campgrounds and, by now, hungry again, Bubba insisted that we stop at this place in tiny Rico, Colorado. The town is so small, it makes Dolores look like a metropolis:

To me, although this historic old 1892 building in Rico seen above was interesting, it looked like a biker joint/pool hall inside. However, Bubba insisted that the food was excellent; this is typical of Bubba, who apparently thinks getting mugged is okay if you can get a good meal afterward.  (Don't write me letters; I'm joking about bikers, pool players and as always, Bubba. Most of them, except Bubba, are fine people. (Yes, I'm joking again.) I admit to putting up a significant protest since we had the girls with us but, as usual, Bubba ignored it. It was fortunate that he did, because the food was, indeed, superb. We had hamburgers so good they would make you cry. And yes, believe it or not, this funky little joint made the "Best Restaurant" list. That's two in one day--something that rarely happens. Oh yes, and there was no mugging, just a friendly game of pool going on inside.

Well, that's probably enough adventure to recount in one post. We had a great day, with good friends, good food and a million laughs. At a sudden moment of curiosity, I pulled out my cell phone and took a look at the temperatures back in Texas. I could only shake my head as, by this point, we really needed a jacket here in Colorado. Such was not the case in Texas.

So goes the end of a great day. I know it's a trite expression, but we wish you could be here.

We leave you with the view above, looking south from Dolores toward Ute Mountain in the distance on the right. I just love it when the day ends with a scene like this.

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

Monday, July 19, 2021

Next, It's My Turn for the Scalpel, So We Are Gonna Be Rolling Until Then

At Hat Creek RV Park, Big Spring, Texas...

I can just hear you now..."Big Spring?" What are they doing there?  Okay, I have been seriously lagging in posting lately, but there hasn't been much going on. As I mentioned before, we had been at our place in Hondo for several weeks while Sandy recovered from the last of four surgeries. She is almost fully back to normal now, thankfully, except for a bit of partial nerve numbness that the surgeon said would eventually go away.  While we were in Hondo, we enjoyed the company of friends Richard and Karen, who recently acquired a sparkling new RV to replace the one lost in the terrible hailstorm described a couple posts back. 

Karen had mentioned that she would like to be able to cook really good fried rice. This seemed a bit coincidental, as I fancy myself as somewhat of an expert in cooking this dish. Never wishing to pass up an opportunity for self-aggrandizement (which is, hopefully, recognized as merely an act), I volunteered my services in rendering the best version I could, as long as I could use her beautiful new propane stove--which works a bit better than our induction unit for cooking things that require a lot of heat. One evening, we traipsed over to their new rig with all the ingredients needed, and the general opinion afterward was that I had outdone myself. This was one of two skillets full of the yummy stuff:

Okay, okay. I know that fried rice is easy to make, if you do it simply. It's also an especially good way to get rid of leftover stuff in your fridge. However, I have developed--through an untold number of versions--a combination of ingredients, technique and seasonings that I think most will agree has no equal. And I didn't even have a wok this time!  Share the recipe?  I haven't written it down, and I'm not sure I could, since I mainly just do it by sight, smell and taste. One tip, however, will always be true: Make sure you cook the rice using less water than the usual 1:2 ratio. In other words, if the instructions on the bag call for two cups of rice and four cups of water, use only three cups of water. This will give you firm grains of rice instead of mushy ones and allow better absorption of the seasonings and sauces during cooking. Finally, make sure the cooked rice is thoroughly cooled before cooking. I often cook the rice a day ahead and leave it in the fridge overnight before starting the fried rice. Never, ever use those boil-in-a bag minute-rice things. That is such a travesty, it's probably illegal. I do use a rice cooker; it makes things so much easier.

Another accomplishment this time was to bring everything from paid storage to our cabin in the park. This is the first time in over five years that we have all our personal keepsakes with us in our own digs. Even these will be thinned out over time, as we continue to open containers and ruminate over the contents.

I have enjoyed my new Kawai electric piano immensely. It will never be the same as my Kawai grand piano that is still in storage, but it was so good to sharpen my technique again with this one.

Things are slowly improving in the park after the hailstorm disaster. All of our repairs which, thankfully, were relatively minor, have been completed, but others are awaiting insurance settlements, and some occupants just walked away. This will not bode well for their resale funds, if there are any to be had for them after the park makes the needed repairs.

One of the things that was essential when we decided to buy into the Hondo Escapees park was that the building on the lot (which is large by RV park standards), would be small, and it is at 12x24 plus a 9-foot porch. Even so, it will still require minimal upkeep. I was reminded during this visit that even the smallest structures and yard still need attention. The yard is entirely covered with aggregate, but weeds still appear now and then. It has to be cleaned, and there's always some little thing that needs to be fixed. The fact that one can live there for almost nothing makes those tasks a little easier, however. The rapid increase in home prices, building materials and taxes these days makes the deal we have even sweeter. If we need to take a break from small-town living, our proximity to San Antonio makes that quite easy. 

Oh, I see I have digressed. Let's get back to Big Spring, Texas. We have left our compound at Hondo for a whole series of trips before my first knee replacement on November 4th. Big Spring was our first stop on our way to Colorado, where we will be with friends for the rest of the summer. It is way too hot in Hondo--and most everywhere else in Texas--during the summer, and we are very late in our usual escape to cooler climes. 

I think I'll keep you in suspense about our fall itinerary after Colorado, but a lot of it has to do with other friends with whom we love to travel. I confess there may even be some desire on my part to keep my mind off what's going to happen to my poor knees in a few months. These trips are not easy for me, either; I move slowly and try to find ways to minimize the pain involved in setting up and breaking down camp. Walking, thankfully, is not much of a problem yet, so perhaps I will not be too much of a drag if we're in a group.

Since we haven't been on the road too much during all of Sandy's medical issues, we were astounded today at how many RVs are out there. I wish I had counted them, but they seemed about equal to the number of trucks on the highways. Also, there is a certain strangeness to this RV park, where perhaps the better part of a hundred RVs are parked tonight. That strange thing is this: out of all those RVs, only one of them is a motorhome--ours. I know Phannie feels conspicuously out of place, but I'm beginning to realize that the meteoric rise in RV sales must be much more in towables than motorhomes, and the obvious reason, of course, is the difference in cost.

One of the places we're headed for sure in September is Red Bay, where Phannie is going to get some new flooring. This faithful old girl could use a little dressing-up inside, but I'm not sure we could ever give up a rig that has been so dependable and trouble-free over all these years. (I hope I haven't jinxed myself with that remark.)

I will have more frequent posts for the next few months, so you can keep up with our  adventures, which will come to a screeching halt from November through spring, as I get new knees and recover from those surgeries. 

Oh yes, I almost forgot. I'm going to include a favorite photo from some of our earlier travels--this time from Colorado, which I think is quite appropriate. I snapped this just outside Silverton, Colorado in late September. The fall color was just beginning. It must have been stunning a little later.

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