Photo taken near Monument Valley, Utah

Friday, August 27, 2021

Saying Goodbye to Gunnison and Good Friends

 At the Gunnison KOA, Gunnison, Colorado...

It has been all too short.  Knowing that we're leaving this beautiful and cool place and the friends with whom we've been traveling has dampened our spirits--even a fascinating visit to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park was not much of a perk-up.

Nevertheless, I must include some photos of this park, which we've not visited before and didn't know entirely what to expect. First of all, these photos probably afford the least adequate sampling of the sights to which one has access in person.  It is, of course, a canyon, much less immense than the Grand Canyon, but completely different in the sheer rock cleavage through which the Gunnison River flows.

It is a place where my jealousy was complete of those whose young limbs carry them through trails where the elderly dare not go. We will not be able to see the sights they see, but our views were more than satisfactory. The nearly black vertical stone walls rise about a half-mile from the river below--twice as deep as Royal Gorge. It is said to be a part of the Gunnison Uplift--as geologists know it, and the park information dates it back 1.8 billion years or, roughly, the geologic age of my knees.

One thing is for sure: we will be returning to see more of this, poorly represented by these photos:

If you look closely in the photo above, you can see the Gunnison River, which is running very shallow due to the long drought in the west.

In the photos above and below, the striations in the rocks are very interesting. 

The photo above was a purposely overexposed so that the striations on the far rocks and the colorful lichen on the near rocks would be more evident.  Speaking of striations, how about those in the photo below, located at one of the turnouts named "Painted Rock." You can also see the Gunnison River from a better viewpoint.

Okay, I know what you're thinking:  Rocks, rocks, rocks. Well, I think the incredible diversity of the formations of the area offers even a non-rock hound a small taste of what eye-popping views can be had here. We even found out that there is an entirely different part of the park that we didn't even see. It is also one of the best areas ever for star-gazing, due to the high elevation and absence of ground lighting. For these reasons and more, we vow to return.

I'll leave you with the last photo I took at the park, showing the northwest exit of the Gunnison as it leaves the canyon heading westward to Grand Junction, where in empties into the Colorado River. The smoke-caused haze in the background didn't diminish much the beauty of this magical place:

We are also sad to say goodbye to some of the best traveling partners ever.  Here are Steve, Jackie and their French bulldog, Jill, at our Gunnison RV site.  You never know, but you may find us here again one of these summers.

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

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Good Grief! It's Time to Catch Up

 At Gunnison KOA, Gunnison, Colorado...

At the beginning of summer, you may recall that we were delayed about a month in our usual escape from the Texas heat because Sandy had the nerve to require a bunch of surgeries. I thought briefly about proposing that the surgeons go along with us at our usual departure time and do the operations en route, but I figured that bumps in the road and mountain curves might give them a little trouble. It would probably not be helpful to slice opon the wrong thing...just sayin'.  However, I guess I could park on the side of the road if they came to a critical part...

Now, for you literalists out there, that was a joke; everyone knows that surgeons don't do stuff like that. I didn't think about checking with veterinarians, though; they might have enjoyed a little mountain scenery. (When Sandy reads this, she will have even more reason to institutionalize me, if the last post weren't enough.)

Okay, that's enough silliness. When we began this trip back in July, our mission, among others, was to find a scenic place at high (and cool) elevation where we could return each summer. I suppose we have been subconsciously doing this for years, but we still hadn't found the right place. Jackie and Steve met up with us in Dolores, Colorado, a small town in southwestern Colorado about ten miles from Cortez. Its elevation is nearly 7,000 feet, which would meet the "cool" criterion, and nearby Cortez is large enough to provide some civilization. Dolores's only suitable RV Park--the Dolores River Campground--was very nice, but too far out of town for reliable cell phone service; so, scratch Dolores.

Cortez was also a contender, and they have a very nice RV park that would be quite suitable, but its elevation is only about 6,000 feet, which would be a the low end of a coolish altitude. Cortez is less than an hour's drive from larger and very touristy Durango, which is at about the same elevation. The problem there was the monthly rentals of RV spaces--$2,100 versus about $600 at Cortez. We don't mind paying a little more for places we really like, but that seemed ridiculous. A plus in Dolores was that we were near good friends Bubba and LouAnn, who spend a part of each summer in Priest Gulch, only 20 miles or so from Dolores. We had a great time visiting with them.

While in the area, we took a little side trip to Mesa Verde National Park, which Steve and Jackie had never visited. We were more than happy to make the trip again, as the drive to the cliff dwellings is quite scenic. Unfortunately, the main area of the cliff dwellings was closed for repairs, but we saw enough for our friends to enjoy the visit:

We had planned to move on to our next destination, Montrose, where we could again access the beautiful towns of Ridgway, Telluride and Ouray--places we had visited from Dolores, but just didn't spend enough time there. 

Before leaving Dolores, we suddenly thought of a detour that needed to be made: In our conversations with Jackie and Steve, we learned they had never seen Four Corners or Monument Valley, so we insisted that we go there, because they would probably never be closer to those iconic locations. So, ever easy-going and agreeable, they followed us, driving westward into the Utah desert and the heat that awaited us. But this would last only for a short time; we had seen both places before, so we imagined ourselves as efficient tour guides, about which Steve and Jackie seemed happy. That enabled us to see the important sights fairly quickly, so we could then retreat back to the cool Colorado mountains.

Because of our previous visits, we have a number of photos a long way back in the blog, but I'm going to try to include some here that are a bit different. You'll have to bear with me, as there will be a number of these, and some folks get a bit antsy if you post too many. However, we may not come this way again either, and we are including these mostly for ourselves and our record of travels.

Before we get started with Monument Valley, let's talk a bit about Four Corners. Its distinction, of course, is that it is the approximate point on the earth (there is some disagreement among geologists about the exactness of the site's location, but they are probably the only ones who care) where the states of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah meet--thusly forming "four corners." It is a place where you can literally touch the ground in all four states, using your hands and feet. We, of course, were much too dignified to get down on all fours to do that (not to mention that we would need to summon EMS to get us up). With our physical limitations in mind, we decided that each of us would merely stand in a different state:

In the photo, Steve is standing in Arizona, Jackie is in New Mexico, Sandy is in Colorado, and I am in Utah. Is it a bit cheesy? Well, perhaps, but almost everyone knows about Four Corners, so it would be unthinkable for Jackie and Steve, who have traveled as much as they have, to admit they had never been there. It's sort of like being a Texan and saying you've never ridden a horse. 

Since our last visit, the monument site has been massively upgraded. It is located on Indian land, and the Indians sell various trinkets around the perimeter. Nowadays, what used to be tents are now rows of brick sales stalls.

Okay, let's go forward to Monument Valley, made famous by Director John Ford, who shot many western movies here in the 1950s and 60s, many starring John Wayne. Who hasn't seen one of the westerns with the huge monuments in the background? We parked at Goulding's RV Park, as usual, and took a tour provided by the Goulding complex. Following are a series of photos, all of which are somewhat different from the earlier ones in this blog. Here's one I didn't have in previous posts. It's the cabin used by John Wayne when making all those movies. Gotta admire such simple requirements of a movie star of his fame:

In regard to the photo above, I spent a good deal of time going back through thousands of photos to find this original of Highway 163 leading from Mexican Hat to Monument Valley. This one looks so much better than the one I edited and posted years ago, that I decided to replace it, too. However, my photography skills are inadequate to capture this iconic scene as it should. I wish my brother-in-law, Rick, a skilled photographer, could have been there to do it justice.

It was essential, of course, to pose Sandy at perhaps the most well-known view in Monument Valley, with the East and West Mittens and Castle Rock in the background.

No matter which way you look, one has to be amazed at the grandeur of the monuments and the immenseness of the territory they cover:

To me, one of the rocks below resembles the stately head of an Indian.

The monument below is named Elephant Butte. It takes a little imagination, but you can sorta make out his trunk on the right side of the rock.

The next one is named Snoopy Rock. It's a little easier to see the dog's face on this one:

How about this one? Easy to see Jesus standing on the rock blessing the monuments:

The next photo was taken at John Ford's Point. It is said to have been Ford's favorite area to do filming. I wish you could see the whole panorama around the rock jutting out where Steve and Jackie are standing; it is breathtaking. No wonder it was John Ford's favorite filming location. The three vertical rocks in the upper left corner are known as the three sisters. I'm betting that one of them doesn't get along all that well with the other two:

I really like the immense vastness depicted in the photo below. It was taken from the viewing deck outside The View Restaurant at the Navajo Tribal Center. The restaurant, unfortunately, was closed at the time of our visit.

The photo below is named Camel Rock; it gets its name from the two humps on its back:

And now, for perhaps the most photographed view in Monument Valley, taken from the viewing platform at the Navajo Tribal Center:

And so ends our visit to Monument Valley, Steve and Jackie seemed thrilled to have seen it in person, which is really the only way to appreciate the grandeur of the place. I will leave you with this photo of a rock formation near Mexican Hat, Utah (mentioned earlier), from which the town gets its name:

Conditions were not ideal for photography on this trip, but considering the haze of the smoke from the fires in the western U. S., they turned about about as well as could be expected.

From Monument Valley, we drove to Montrose, where we revisited Ridgeway, Telluride, Ouray and Silverton. We just couldn't get enough of the scenery around those places. I won't include photos from these locations, as they appear elsewhere in the blog (just search for the cities). I've got to try to conserve some space, because this post is getting pretty long as it is. I should have tried to catch up our trip a little sooner.

Now we've made it to Gunnison, Colorado which, at 8,000 feet elevation, is the coolest spot yet. Get a load of the temperature a little after noon today. The outside temp is the one on the left:

I'll have another update from here as we explore the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, but our time in this cool fairyland is growing short. We will soon be heading back to Texas, and I can assure you the temperature will be nothing like it is in Gunnison. Yes, Gunnison may be a contender in our quest; who knows?

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

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Sometimes You're the Bug, Sometimes You're the Windshield

 At Dolores River Campground, Dolores, Colorado...

I guess I will get the tale of this fiasco out of the way, as our dear traveling friend, Jackie, has probably already posted it on Facebook for all the world to see.

I didn't start the day thinking that I would be the subject of utter humiliation and the fiendish delight of, well, who knows how many others. It wouldn't have been so bad, except everyone who has a cell phone has a camera, and no idiotic event--especially with me as the victim--ever goes unrecorded.

It all began very innocently. I needed to take Mae to the nearest Honda dealer for an oil change and checkup, for which I made an appointment in Farmington, New Mexico--just over the Colorado border. For Sandy, the prospect of going to another city means only one thing: a new shopping opportunity. I am also aware, through experience, that our friend Jackie shares a similar rush at the thought of a new territory to mark with her credit cards. It was no surprise then, that Jackie and Steve, well, mostly Jackie, asked to tag along. That was more than okay with us, for it would make a rather long (one hour) trip much more enjoyable. 

This is when I became entangled in my first debacle of the day, although I didn't realize that a far more egregious one had already occurred, unknown to me or anyone else at the time. But more on that one later. 

Just before leaving Phannie, I decided to take our garbage bag to the dumpster, which lay some fifty feet away. Ever mindful of the need for efficiency (not to mention my abhorrence at the thought of having to make a few extra steps), I also grabbed in the same hand the case strap of my small, but quite expensive, Canon camera. I intended to drop it off at the car on my way to the dumpster.

Now, you may not realize this yet, but the accumulation of age is generally not friendly to one's short-term memory. I have certainly been aware of it for a while, even though this is my first time to grow old. On more than a few occasions, I have forgotten the name of someone standing in front of me whom I know as well as I know myself. This also extends to confusing the names of my wife and daughter--people whom I also know very well. These things are not easily finessed, and stumbling past the faux pas is usually painfully awkward.

And so it was that I passed by the car and, without stopping, made a beeline to the dumpster with trash bag and camera strap firmly gripped in my fist; I was certainly paying no attention to the item I shouldn't be clutching at this point. Instead, I was looking around and admiring the beautiful blue sky and enjoying the mild temperature. I was totally oblivious to the fact that my careful planning to avoid extra steps had already gone awry before the passage of even a single minute, due to my short-term memory failure.

Reaching the dumpster, which was, mercifully, almost empty, I lifted the lid and tossed in the items I had been carrying, paying little attention to the extra 'thump' as one too many items fell onto the bare bottom of the container.

By this time, the other riders had begun to congregate around Mae and, as I opened the driver's door, I somehow had the presence of mind to notice that my camera bag was not in its regular spot in front of the driver's seat. "This is odd," I thought, as it then dawned on me that I had a plan to drop it off on my way to the dumpster. It was at this point that I slowly turned to look at the dumpster that I had just left. Not wishing to confirm my suspicion quite yet, I made a hurried dash back up Phannie's steps--the extra steps my plan was to avoid in the first place. I was almost completely aware that the camera bag would not be there and, of course, it wasn't. It was a slow walk that I made back down the stairs to confront my friends and aware of the confession I had to make.  At the same time, I was wondering how I would retrieve the camera, as I couldn't possibly reach the bottom of the dumpster. 

After announcing my suspicion about the location of the camera, I shuffled back toward the dumpster, not unaware of the quite audible giggles behind me. Looking over the edge, I spotted it immediately and began thinking of a way to retrieve it without doing a dumpster-dive for all the other RVers to witness. Given the percentage of my agility--which may be a negative number as far as I know--my ability to get from outside the dumpster to the inside would require bringing in some kind of hydraulic lift--a noisy occurrence that would undoubtedly attract ALL of the occupants of the campground to bear witness. If only I had a cyanide capsule, I thought.

Then, I remembered that the camera bag had a strap that formed a small loop, and I began to think where I could find something with a hook! Alas, I had given up fishing eons ago, realizing that my consuming them in a restaurant was a far superior use of my time and the money I would inevitably spend on boredom therapy.

It was at this point that our traveling partner and tireless tinkerer, Steve, produced a steel rod about five feet long with a hook on the end--used to deploy and retract the awnings on his coach. I could have hugged him, but he was a Marine, and I have a low pain threshold.

With great relief, I took the rod and, after about ten attempts, I hooked the loop on the camera bag's strap and pulled it up and out of the dumpster. Witness below my efforts, with Steve's help, to snag this catch which, in the photo, is in my left hand:

In the photo below, Steve and I are returning from the dumpster, victorious, and I couldn't help but be thankful that no crowd had assembled to watch this clown show.  It may be hard to see, but I am holding the camera bag, and Steve is holding the rod with the hook. Note the smiles on our faces:

However, this was only the beginning of a daylong embarrassment that you haven't yet noticed in these photos; I'll reveal it shortly.

After retrieving the camera, we hopped into Mae and had an uneventful drive to Farmington, NM, a nice-sized town with perhaps the most unappealing topography I've seen. I won't say anything more that's derogatory, because it may be home to some reader, and I am loathe to disparage anyone's home town. However, Melloy Honda was ready for Mae, and the service rep, Brandon, was perhaps the friendliest, most thorough I had ever met at a Honda service center. (Mae is always serviced at the dealer because she is special--just like Phannie.) I asked if someone could take the ladies to a nearby shopping center, and they happily did so, leaving Steve and me sitting at a table in the waiting room.

 After the oil was changed and their usual lengthy checkout completed (the service people found a nail in one of Mae's tires and patched it for free), I happened to look down at my feet. Steve and I had been sitting on taller-than-normal chairs at a high table, and perhaps because of this, I hadn't taken notice of the lower part of my extremities. Once I glanced down, I noticed this:

Horrified, I stood up, saying nothing, but surveying the waiting room to see if any of the other patrons were looking or pointing at my mismatched shoes. If they had been, they now had turned back to whatever they were doing, and I knew that Steve, Sandy and Jackie hadn't noticed, because the fun they would have had with me would already have been brutal. I finally determined that I was probably the only person of all I had encountered who noticed the mismatched shoes. 

It would not have been hard for me to make this mistake, by the way; I keep two pairs of shoes at Phannie's entrance, so as not to track dirt back into the coach. I had merely stepped into a wrong shoe upon my departure earlier in the day before the dumpster diving incident. If you look carefully at those photos, you will notice that my shoes are not the same.

I decided the best thing to do was to walk unsuspiciously to the bathroom and think. Then it occurred to me that my trying to walk unsuspiciously would probably attract more attention than merely walking there normally; so, that's what I did. This period of introspection in the restroom proved to be fruitless because there was obviously nothing I could do to remedy the situation. I couldn't walk through the dealership in my socks or barefoot; that would look equally strange. I obviously could not produce another shoe, nor could I wrap one of my feet in a bandage, as I had none of those, either. It quickly became apparent that I would just have to walk back to my seat and suffer whatever consequences were to befall me. And then, another surprise!

Shortly after I reseated myself, Sandy and Jackie returned from their shopping trip and joined Steve and me at the table. At this point, no one had yet noticed the mismatched shoes--not even Sandy, who is incredibly observant--to the extent that she could spot an extra nose hair on a chihuahua. She always checks me over before we go out, so that people won't think she is with some homeless person. But not this time. Finally, the waiting room emptied, except for the four of us. At that point, I stood up, backed away from the table, and expressed my shock at the total failure of their usual powers of observation. I had to ask, "Do you notice anything unusual about my attire?"

They checked me over for a second and then looked at my shoes, at which point they all collapsed in laughter, and that's when I became the windshield for the rest of the trip. I noticed that when we left the dealership, they were already seated in the car as I was paying the bill. Then, when we stopped at a really good Thai restaurant for dinner, they bolted from the car and went inside before I had even turned off the ignition. Some friends, I thought. 

Upon entering the restaurant, I noticed they had seated themselves in a dark corner, at a table with a low-hanging tablecloth, and I was instructed to keep my feet out of view at all times, which I would have done anyway.

I am relating this episode because, well, it was funny, something we will always remember, and the story of it will be told for the rest of my time on earth. Perhaps more importantly, it is a reminder to avoid taking ourselves too seriously and that laughter is, indeed, the best medicine. However, I will always wonder if I would have completely gotten away with this if I had just kept my mouth shut. I guess we'll never know.

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


Saturday, August 7, 2021

More on our Summer Escape

 At Dolores River Campground, Dolores, Colorado...

It's hard to believe we're in our sixth year of this nomadic lifestyle--moving about the country as we like, following the sun or running away from it...moving from one beautiful or interesting place at our whim and staying as long as we wish. The odd thing is that it now seems normal, and the thought of being tethered to a single place again--while it may cross our minds from time to time, it has little appeal. We know, of course, that day will come, but we try not to think about it. 

Yes, I know...buying the place in Hondo seems like we're moving in that direction, but we consider that a home base--a place where we keep our stuff and where we will likely spend more time in the winter as the limitations of age creep upon us. One thing we've noticed is that we don't travel at a breakneck speed as at the beginning. We tend to go somewhere we like and stay there for perhaps a month or more at a time. There are a couple reasons for this: 1) We've already seen most of the things on our bucket list, and 2) spending a long time at a destination allows us to thoroughly investigate all the area has to offer.

This summer is a good example; Dolores, Colorado is a tiny town, yet it is close to some of the most beautiful areas of the country.  A big plus is that we have escaped the oven-like summer in Texas and wake up most mornings to a temperature like this:

Yes, it's 56 degrees outside as we warm up the coach inside with the furnace. The temperature on the warmest days may reach the mid-eighties, but the humidity is very low. 

There is only one problem with our campground--which is the best Dolores has to offer--and that is that it is too far from town, thereby making cell phone operation unreliable--a big no-no for us. The cell towers are on the opposite end of town, and that seems to be the issue. It would have been nice if they had been placed midtown--then we would have no reception problems.

For that reason, we will probably move to an RV park nearer to Cortez (about 10 miles away) next summer. That will solve all our connectivity problems.  Unfortunately, we wont have access to the Dolores River, as depicted below at our current campground:

This cold, clear mountain stream is something we could enjoy for hours. The rest of the world seems far away.

The setting sun forces us to return to our rigs, as it is getting too cool to be outside without a jacket.

Fortunately, traveling with good friends Jackie and Steve, we frequently have some sort of activity going, or it could be nothing more than sitting out beside the coach enjoying the company. They, like other friends with whom we travel, are so flexible and easy-going, adding to the enjoyment:

Occasionally, we have the good fortune to run across other friends during our travel, and sure enough, Don and Linda, members of the Tiffin RV club to which we all belong, came by to see us. We had a nice visit with them and many laughs to boot:

One of our side trips involved a visit to Telluride, which we accessed via the steep gondola ride from nearby Mountain Village. This is always a fun and unusual way to get down to this old mining town that has become a haven for the rich and famous. Among the residents and/or landowners are Tom Cruise, Oprah Winfrey, Keven Costner and Ralph Lauren:

Tiny Dolores could seem like anything but a destination place, but its proximity to Cortez and the magnificent San Juan mountains makes it a perfect spot to find things to do or to do nothing. For example, on Wednesdays, we can go to the farmers' market on the town square, where you can find a little of everything among the vendors:

There are also days that we call "down" days, wherein we just relax and perhaps do a few chores. Steve's and Jackie's coach is parked next door to Phannie, and Steve is forever cleaning or piddling with it, making me, of course, look bad, as I view inactivity as a a sort of, well, activity. 

In order not to appear totally indolent, I decided to polish Phannie's headlight lenses. As you know, these appear to get filmy over years of sun exposure, and I had had a polishing kit for some time, waiting for the inspiration to use it. Steve's endless fussing with his coach became the catalyst. I have a couple of before-and-after photos that show this effort turned out pretty well.  This is not a very good comparison, but I forgot to take a "before" photo before I polished the lens, so I had to find this one from last year and blow it up:

Here's the way it looked after using the Sylvania kit I bought from Amazon for about twenty bucks:

Pretty cool, huh?  Here's what the kit looks like and yes, it takes a little work; I had to take the rest of the day off to recover. But guess who ordered a kit of his own?  Yep, busy bee Steve; just watching him is wearing me out.

No, those are not stock headlamps. I had these installed when we began fulltiming, thinking they made Phannie seem a little less dated. They work well, too.

Well, that's about enough for today. This is beginning to seem a little like work, and you know how I feel about that!  I'll leave you with another magnificent sunset looking west from near Dolores. I never get tired of these, and I intend to save as many as possible for that time when I will only be able to remember them through photos:

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