Photo taken near Monument Valley, Utah

Thursday, July 14, 2022

Gunnison for the Summer

 At Palisades RV Park, Gunnison, Colorado...

We had really begun to enjoy our nearly month-long stay in Cortez, especially when Steve and Jackie joined us at our wonderful West View RV Park. But it was time to make tracks for our "gig" in Gunnison, first with a stop in Grand Junction for Phannie's annual service. We had an appointment with Inland Truck there, and they were super-accommodating, as have been all the Inland facilities we've used around the Southwest. Luckily, the shop was directly across the street from Junction West, our RV park, so we didn't have to get up too early to make our 0900 appointment. Here's Phannie--all finished at Inland and ready to go:

By the way, for you techies out there, Phannie has a Caterpillar C7 engine, an upgrade of the legendary 3126, used in countless pieces of construction equipment across the world. Upgrading the 3126, Caterpillar built 300,000 C7 engines, which were used mainly in over-the-road trucks and RVs. It has an expected service life of 500,000 miles before overhaul, which means--knock on wood--that Phannie's engine will outlive me. It does have a weakness, however: It insists on having clean oil and clean fuel, something about which I am obsessive, following the manufacturer's service specs religiously. Perhaps that's the reason--along with a fuel additive that I've mentioned before--that the engine has performed flawlessly for 120,000 miles now. And I delight in the fact that I've never had to buy a single drop of DEF.

When the EPA requirements became really onerous in 2010, Caterpillar decided it could not build their over-the-road engines and still retain their near-bulletproof reputation, so they simply stopped building them, concentrating on engines for construction equipment that is not subject to the same EPA emission standards.

Okay, let's get back to our trip to Gunnison. Highway 491 from Cortez to Moab was vey scenic--especially around Moab, one of our favorite places. However, from Moab to Grand Junction, including an endless hour on I-70, was a different story. To call it wasteland would be way too generous. 

Grand Junction is a bustling place with lots of new construction (and places to shop, which thrilled Sandy). However, it is just too danged HOT in the summer--like 100 degrees hot! I couldn't wait for Inland to finish their work so we could get to higher ground and cooler temperatures.

On U. S. 50 between Montrose and Gunnison, the highway is reduced to one lane due to an apparent washout some time ago. We were at a standstill for about an hour while a single stream of vehicles took turns each way through the construction zone. The highway was leading ever upward, however, and we noticed the outside air temperature gauge decreasing steadily with the rise in altitude. We stopped for lunch at the top of a pass just west of Gunnison. At 8,300 feet, the fresh mountain air was exhilarating! 

It wasn't long until we had descended to the Gunnison River Valley, where U. S. 50 snaked along the beautiful shore of Lake Fork, formed by a dam of the river.  Here is a photo of Lake Fork and the point where the Gunnison river empties into it:

Farther east, the rocky Gunnison canyon provides great views:

Arriving at Palisades in Gunnison:

Here is a layout of the park; it's a relatively small park, and most of the residents stay here all summer. There is almost always a waiting list for reservations.

We check in at the office:

Manager Sherri is at the desk, holding up a chocolate bar (baiting the hook, I'm sure).

We snuggle in beside two fivers:

View from the rear of our campsite; note that Starlink is up and running:

Friendly deer run past our campsite!

Below is a summer resident's site where his dining table is enclosed in a tent.  We soon found out why--mosquitoes!  We didn't have to contend with these pests at Cortez because of the drier climate and ever-present wind, which is usually calm here in Gunnison. We just make adjustments, however; the park sprays frequently, and we use insect repellent and bug zappers, so there really isn't much of a problem.

Some of the summer-long residents do a nice job of decorating their sites:

Since we're going to be here for the summer, we have kept an eye out for a small propane grill that will be easy to transport and set up. We spotted one while we were in Cortez, and it looked perfect, especially since we're not "power" users. So we ordered one and, so far, are very happy with it. The legs fold in, and it winds up being no larger than a small suitcase!

So, to try it out, we had burgers for brunch (we don't really eat breakfast, for reasons that I really don't see any need to divulge):

As is common here in the mountains, a rain shower frequently passes through, cooling things down:

It's almost criminal to show you the temperature as I am writing this during that shower: 

 The grounds around the park are very well kept with manicured grass and flowers everywhere:

We took an early evening drive around the area to get the lay of the land, and found some handsome photos to share. This first one is overlooking Gunnison from the south. In the mountains in the background lies Crested Butte:

Looking west, we couldn't help but be mesmerized by the mountain sunset:

The moon was nearly full this night, so we got this photo that we liked:

Driving back through town, Gunnison is a little sleepy as the moon looks on:

Arriving back at the park, the gazebo is all illuminated, waiting for friends to sit and chat in the cool evening:

I mentioned earlier that I had a "gig" up here. Well, I will be playing the piano on occasions, in addition to doing some photography, both for which I will be fairly well compensated.  I'll have to include a video of one of these sessions in another post.

Stay well and stay cool, y'all!

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

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

Sunday, July 3, 2022

"And That Has Made All The Difference"

 At West View RV Resort, Dolores, Colorado...

Many will recognize the title of this post to be an abridgement of Robert Frost's famous quotation: 

Two roads diverged in a wood and I - I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.

To further illustrate the overall themes of this post, I must include a snippet from the lyrics of Frank Sinatra's iconic song, "My Way" (the tune composed by Claude Francois):

Regrets, I've had a few but, then again, too few to mention...

You may have noticed that my posts of late have begun to point toward this blog's eventual conclusion, not that I'm contemplating it by any means, but perhaps because I have many more years behind me than those ahead. This month marks the 17th year of the publication of Phannie and Mae, and it is entirely appropriate, I think, to look in the rearview mirror and reflect upon the path we have traveled.

Having extra time on my hands among the idyllic mountain settings of Colorado affords a perfect opportunity to reminisce about having taken the road "less traveled by" and its having resulted in regrets "too few to mention."

An unknown butte in the foreground with Ute Mountain in the distance.
(Photo taken near Mancos, Colorado.)

You see, we believe we have enjoyed the best of both worlds--having spent most of our years working, raising a family in a nice home and being involved in a community that included friends, family and church activities. Then, in preparation for retirement, we decided RV travel would be a good way to visit all the places we had longed to go when we were no longer tethered by our responsibilities. And so we did--and it has "made all the difference," as has been faithfully recounted from day one in the hundreds of posts and countless photos in this blog. And we ain't done yet!

As we sit outside with friends Jackie and Steve, sipping a cold beverage and feeling a bit too cool in the high country breeze, we can't help but think of family and friends back in the cauldron that is Texas in the summer and how unthinkable it would be for them to need a jacket in mid-afternoon. We would, indeed, feel a bit guilty had we not worked hard to enjoy this privilege. 

From time to time, we question ourselves as to whether we miss having a regular house, and the answer inevitably comes back with a shudder. No! The reasons have been stated in previous posts, and nothing has changed. When we are forced to hang up the keys, we will be looking for something small and simple in a 55+ neighborhood. You will recall from previous posts that we have a hybrid of that now in Ranchito Hondo.

For those who wonder if we get bored when we go to Colorado for months at a time, we just say, "Are you kidding?" We have arrived at the age when simple pleasures matter most. These include being with good friends, talking with our family members, shopping for and sending trinkets and souvenirs to the grandkids, playing games, exploring, having potlucks and, most of all, remembering all the good times and good friends we have met along the way and wishing they could be with us. It also doesn't hurt that we are enjoying some of the most beautiful scenery and weather imaginable.

This brings me to what is perhaps the more important of the two pearls of wisdom expressed above by Messrs. Frost and Sinatra:  Regrets...too few to mention. One thing I have always thought would be a tragedy is to arrive at my sunset years regretting things I wished I had done. I can testify to the incomprehensible blessing of our having no regrets for having taken the path that has made all the difference.

If you find yourself wondering what kinds of things we do during our escape to southwestern Colorado, I have to tell you that relaxing is a mainstay. Here are a few photos of places and activities we also enjoy:

Steve proudly holds up his baby-back ribs, having outdone himself with his smoker.
So good!

A rainbow ends on Phannie's roof! No pot of gold was found, unfortunately.

Historic Durango is only an hour's drive away and, on another day, we were able to have lunch al fresco downtown at the Thai Kitchen. The weather was absolutely perfect--79 degrees, no wind, and no pesky insects. We lingered for quite a while, not wanting to leave:

On yet another day, we just had to make a visit to the Dolores farmers' market, held in a lovely park in the town center:

I scored a big bag of freshly-picked salad greens that were so good. (We had already used half the bag when I took this photo.):

Jackie purchased a couple of greeting cards made by a local crafter using something called  'quilling,' an amazingly intricate and laborious technique of which I had never heard. Impressive, huh? I don't know if she'll be able to bring herself to send them to someone:

Another trip to Durango required a visit to Honeyville, a specialty factory that deals in everything imaginable having to do with honey, as well as homemade jellies, preserves and other goodies. I was especially fond of the honey peanut brittle--perhaps my favorite candy of all time.

Sandy's making friends with the honey bear at Honeyville.

Having spare time to putter with Phannie, I installed a couple of cameras on the outside, so we won't be quite so oblivious as to what's going on when we're away or when all the shades are down at night. The video shows up on the cell phone wherever we are, and this is made possible through our constant wi-fi service via Starlink. The cameras are wireless and are easily detachable when we are ready to travel:

I thought you might like to get a flavor of what the first few weeks of our stay in the mountains was like. We will be leaving Cortez in a few days for Grand Junction, where Phannie will get her annual service. After that, we will proceed higher in the mountains to cool Gunnison for the rest of the summer. Stay tuned!

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

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