Biking around Silver, New Mexico - Sept 30, 2009

We stayed in Silver City for the day. Randy walked over to Daylight Doughnuts to get our breakfast, and then we went bike riding. We biked to the Information center where Randy learned about a good local museum that we could bike to. It is in a Victorian-style house with a 3rd-story cupola. Through the years this building has been a private residence, a fire station, and is now a museum. The museum is quite good. It includes information, pictures, and artifacts from all stages of the city’s past, including the Mimbres Indians (famous for their black and white pottery and for disappearing without a trace), cowboys and cattle drives into town, silver and copper mines, and mining towns such as Tyrone. Billy the Kid spent a couple of his childhood years here, so there is a replica of a cabin similar to what he lived in, but he wasn’t here long, so that’s about it.

I suggested we do one of the “walking tours” on our bikes. It turns out that that particular walking tour (to see old, original adobe homes in the area) is in an area that makes San Francisco look like a flat plain! I simply couldn’t bike up the last hill so I had to walk it. I wasn’t impressed with the one or two adobe houses I saw, but I couldn’t read the map and bike at the same time so I probably didn’t give it a fair chance. Walking would have been better.

Then we biked over to the Western college to look at their museum. The main museum section was about the Mimbres Indians with lots of their pottery (they didn’t leave much else behind). Upstairs was a historical look (via photographs and comments) of the college history and a room with artifacts about Silver City’s participation in the Korean War.

When we came out of the museum, my bike’s front tire was completely flat. Randy put some air in it so we could get to a nearby bike shop, a few blocks away. We found out that they have things here they call “goat heads”. Yep – goat heads. They are a lot like sand burrs, but they are a tiny bit bigger and a whole lot tougher. They can – and do – puncture bike tires. Easily. A guy at the bike shop put some sealant called Tru Goo in the tire and aired it up, and that was enough to get me back home. If that doesn’t work, we’ll have to get a new tube. Randy bought a new bike computer to replace the one that was ruined in the rain during the Tour De Donut, and while they were putting it on Randy’s bike, we walked next door to have lunch at the Curious Kumquat. Randy and the owner/chef talked shop for quite awhile. The owner is interested in new culinary techniques such as molecular gastronomy.

Back at the Silver City RV Park, we met with Julie, who owns the park, and talked about the possibility of Work-camping here next winter. The Work-camping responsibility includes the storage area next door. The park is small, tree-shaded and well kept. We could spend a nice winter here.

Silver City - Sept 29, 2009

For breakfast Randy fixed omelets with his home-made smoked salmon, capers, cream cheese and sliced onions – what a great breakfast!

Then we left Truth or Consequences and headed for Silver City. Along the way we stopped at the little town of Hatch, which is apparently famous for its chili pepper. The pepper harvest has already started because some stores had their roofs covered with chili peppers, drying in the morning sun. We stopped at a couple to look around and then bought a ristra (a string of chilies) of regular red peppers and a wreath of hotter piquin peppers, all for $25. Randy will use all the peppers for cooking, but if he doesn’t use the entire wreath, I plan to use it as our Christmas wreath this year.
We checked into the RV park at Silver City, New Mexico – this is a small park but comfortable and nicely situated in town. We went to Jalisco Café for a late lunch of a quesadilla appetizer and a combination plate of red chili enchilada, chicken tacos, rice and beans. After a short nap we walked around a bit, but we were still really tired so we called it an early night.

Leaving Albuquerue - Sept 28, 2009

We had the continental breakfast again at the main building. Then we drove out to see the Golden Crown Bakery but unfortunately it was closed on Monday. So we drove over to the old Albuquerque area and went sightseeing there. There are several interesting shops, including a chili shop where Randy got some information about the local chilies. On the way back to the RV park we stopped at a Mexican grocery store and bought a few kitchen items, including a couple of flat pans and a wooden tortilla roller and board. The tortilla dough ball is placed on the board, which is a little larger than the average tortilla, and the roller is used to roll the dough to the correct shape and thickness. Then it was time to go back and pack up the RV. We drove it over to a nearby park where the propane price was very reasonable and filled up our propane tank. We drove about 150 miles to the town of Truth or Consequences and stopped at the RJ RV park. There are several hot springs in this town so we went to see some, but we didn’t see one we wanted so we called it a night.

The State Fair in Albuquerque - Sept 27, 2009

In the morning we went over to the main building at the RV park for their continental breakfast and talked to some folks about Work-camping at Legacy RV parks like this one. This is a very nice park and seems well organized, so we plan on checking out other RV parks managed Legacy.  And we chatted with a retired Colonel who told us a bit about his service, and he shared his grandfather’s advice of the 6 Ps: “Prior planning prevents piss-poor performance” – still good advice!  

We only had one full day in Albuquerque, so we decided to go to the New Mexico State Fair. When we got in line to buy entrance tickets, the lady in line in front of us brought 4 tickets for her family and got a free ticket. She gave the free ticket to me, so Randy only had to buy one ticket – a nice start to the day! 
There were several performance shows at the fair. There were some performing pigs; apparently these are famous pigs, and one was on the Tonight show a few years ago. They did things like push toys with their snouts and pick up balls to put them in a hoop – that sort of thing. They were cute, but I enjoyed the “Dock Dogs” more. There were about 9 dogs that have been trained (to varying degrees of success) to take a running leap off a dock into a large pool to retrieve a toy. One young dog didn’t think that was a good idea, and she balked at the edge of the dock every time. Even her handler thought that was funny! The “show” was actually a competition to see which dog could retrieve the toy the fastest. 
The 7 Marcon Tigers of India also performed, and they were wonderful to see. They were several colors - standard gold and black, white with black stripes, all white, and gold with red stripes. Because it was a hot day they were a bit laid back, but they were so beautiful. This group does actions that are based on normal tiger behavior, so they don’t do things like jump thru flaming hoops. They do other types of actions on command, such as lie down in a row, roll over, sit up - that sort of thing. They were all born in captivity, and they seem content and very healthy.
Next were the Daredevils, and these folks are really pretty good. Two acrobats climbed tall poles (probably 20 feet tall) and performed balancing tricks, including making the poles sway enough so they could switch poles with each other. 
There was also a man who walked inside, then outside, a large wheel that was counterbalanced so it turned in the air like a Ferris wheel. Another man drove a motorcycle on a high wire with two acrobats hanging onto a counter-balance bar underneath the bike, and they all did handstands while the motorcycle was running on the wire. For the last act, two motorcyclists raced around inside a 14 foot steel cage. 

And there was a street performer on a unicycle who was really entertaining and funny – he got as big a crowd as the major acts did.

We just have to have some fair food, so Randy and I shared a big double cheeseburger and a roasted corn on the cob, then we walked thru the Midway and vendor booths. One shop was selling wax impressions of hands and roses, which was pretty cool.  The last show we saw was 3 Indian boys doing Hopi traditional dances. They looked like they were about 10, 9 and 5 years old. An adult beat a drum and chanted, and the boys danced to the beat. It may not have been what they intended, but they were really cute! 
At the end of the day we came back to the RV park and got in the hot tub to relax. We both miss our hot tub!

Almost to the top of Pike's Peak - Sept 25, 2009

This morning Pike’s Peak was clearly visible. Our reservation was at 2:40 so we drove out to visit Old Colorado Springs. That was a good decision – the town is full of interesting shops, and is very attractive. The first art store we stopped in is a cooperative of 19 artists. They rotate managing the shop, and had a really nice variety of excellent work. Unfortunately we don’t have much room in the RV for additional art. We also stopped by a leather store, The Crafty Cow, to buy the advertised 25 cent sodas, and decided to buy a couple of hand-made bowls that can be used for cereal, soup, etc. We have been talking about getting some bowls this size, and these are beautiful – one is white and blue and the other is white and red. At the Army Surplus store I simply had to buy an army-green gas mask bag. I figure I can use it today to carry our binoculars and gloves. For lunch we stopped at Bon Tom Café and got a pancake/egg/bacon plate, and a chili relleno plate. Then we went to the Honey Shop and bought some great local honey.

A little after 1:00 we headed back to Manito and stopped at the Ute Chief mineral spring fountain. That has the best mineral water in town, and we filled a couple of jugs. While we were waiting to board the train we looked at one of the old steam engines – pretty neat engineering! They have another one that they are restoring to be able to run. 
We learned that the train would not go all the way to the peak because of blowing snow (it was dry and sunny at the base but the peak is a different climate), but they did expect to get to 13,000 feet, so we decided to take the trip anyway. On the train we were assigned to some pretty good seats. For the first third of the trip the terrain was a combination of forest and huge granite rocks. The rocks here are Pike’s granite and are very porous. There were some of cliff formations, some huge boulders the size of a train car, and some formations that almost looked like granite waterfalls. There was a “town” along the way of one person, who lives there Monday thru Friday to maintain the area, and lives 60 miles away on the weekends. 
As the train climbed up, you could see all of Colorado Springs below, and a large reservoir. The track incline increased to 25%, and the terrain changed to all forest, sloping down the mountain side from the track. Then we crossed the tundra line, where trees won’t grow. The only building up that high was a stone worker’s building, by the side of the track. The terrain was rocky ground with a few hardy, low mossy plants that spread out about 3 inches in 100 years. That is why old tracks are still visible. We could see another mountain range 100 miles away. We also saw 4 bighorn sheep. These were female, so they didn’t have the big, curved horns. 
There are marmots here also, sunning themselves on the rocks. 

We reached a spot where the snow had been shoveled off the track, and the snowdrift was as high as the train window, but just on one side.
To the left we could see the mountain range of the Continental Divide. But between 12,000 and 13,000 feet, the train was not allowed to go any further.  So we went back the way it came. They have an engine on both ends of the train so they don’t have to turn it around.  It was sort of a shame that we couldn't go that last little bit, to the top, but it was a great trip, anyway.

Driving up Pike's Peak - awesome! Sept 24, 2009

We’re scheduled to take the train ride up Pike’s Peak tomorrow, but we decided to drive up today. The weather cleared a bit and there is a road that goes all the way up. When we got to the road entrance we learned that because of the recent snows, only the first 10 miles were open, so they were only charging half price. We decided to go ahead and drive up as far as we could. The road up was a bit steep, but not treacherous. There are some places where the road widens out to allow cars to stop for the view, but not very many. However, it was a wonderful drive. The first couple of miles provided a great view of the plains below – already we were high enough to see for miles. The next couple of miles were different terrain. There are big grey rocks that seemed to be out of place with their surroundings - just sitting on top of the land, not part of it. They looked like giants, crouched behind the trees - as if, when we leave, they would stand up and go about their own business. 

The next few miles there was some snow on the ground and the trees. Among the Ponderosa Pine and Spruce Pine there are beautiful, straight Aspen. With their white bark and golden leaves, Aspen seem to light up the forest where ever they are. 
We stopped by a reservoir and walked around it a bit. Pike’s Peak was still above us, covered in clouds.  The view changed again in the last couple of miles. From the road we could see the entire side of the mountain across the valley. Snow was on every tree and there were millions of trees, so the whole view was full of vertical white and dark slashes. 
We had to stop shortly past the mile 9 marker. There was a place to park the car so we got out and walked a bit. The snow was deeper there and it was very quiet. 
The weather was warming up a bit so the snow was falling out of the trees with soft thumps, all around us. The snow that was still on the trees was in small clusters among the branches, like cotton balls in the field. I kept trying, but I couldn’t get a picture that captured the feeling of that steel-gray sky behind those snow-covered trees.
We made it up to 10,000 feet, but at that point we had to head back at that point. On the road down there were several signs reminding drivers to downshift instead of riding the brakes, because hot brakes can slip. In the summer that would probably be a greater risk that it is now. Somewhere about halfway back Randy found a dirt (mud) road that went back into the forest to another reservoir. There were no buildings around it (that we could see) so it was even prettier than the first one. 
How do you follow a trip like that? Well, we headed back to Manito to see what the trains looked like, that would take us back up the mountain tomorrow! Today the trains only made it up 14 miles but they hope to go further tomorrow. We filled a bottle of water from one of the mineral springs and got a turkey sandwich at the Colorado Custer shop. 

Next we went to the Air Force base. Randy had to show some ID to get in, then he drove about 6 miles to get to the Visitor Center. We parked and walked over to the Cadet Chapel. That is an amazing building. It is built in a modern design and has 17 “steeples” in a row that form the roofline. 
Inside the main Protestant chapel there is a cool blue light everywhere from the rows of stained glass that are part of the walls and roof. 
In the front is a tall cross with the crossbeam made of an airplane propeller, and in the back over the entrance is a huge organ. Elsewhere in the building are Catholic, Jewish and Buddhist chapels. Just before I entered the chapel, three jets roared overhead and past – too fast for a picture, and so loud I could feel it. When we came out of the chapel we could see 2 gliders in the process of being released from their leader planes. We went back to the Visitor Center and watched a short video about Cadets, where we learned that these gliders are used to teach cadets how to fly. 

On the way home the clouds lifted and the summit of Pike’s Peak was visible for the first time since we arrived. But shortly after it started to rain again. 

More Beautiful Red Rocks - Sept 23, 2009

Finished packing the RV and hit the road. The snow stopped overnight, but started again as we left town. Apparently it wanted to come with us because it snowed or rained almost all the way to Colorado Springs. To break up the monotony we stopped at a large outlet mall where Randy got a few shirts and I picked up some beading supplies. When we got to Colorado Springs, we checked into Golden Eagle RV Ranch. It’s out in the boondocks, but it has full hookups.

We decided to visit the Garden of the gods today. I can’t describe how beautiful it is. Where we entered, the road goes between two big red rocks, one of which is balanced rather precariously on another rock. 
Further inside the park there more than a dozen huge, almost vertical, slabs of red rock. They look like ancient castle walls, or city ruins, and their silhouettes form fantastical shapes. 
Other places giant stones are stacked on top of each other. And in the background is the cloud–covered shape of Pike’s Peak. It is really, really beautiful.

Eventually we left there, and there was still a lot of daylight left so we drove to Manito. It’s a touristic little town build up around mineral springs. There are several small fountains or taps set up that dispense mineral water, each one from a different source. Some are inside a store and some are outside, but all are free, and each one tastes different. The first one we tasted was very strong and bitter, so the storekeeper gave us a free sample of fudge to clear the taste out – that was worth drinking the water! We tried a few more - some weren’t too bad, and a couple were pretty good. While we were looking for springs, we were also checking out some of the shops. One kitchen store was having an end-of-season sale, and Randy bought a set of 5 copper pans for a good price. 

We had heard from one storekeeper back in Red Rocks that tonight would be the last night that the 7 Falls would be lit this season, so we drove out there. But 7 Falls is privately owned so you have to pay to see it, and it was closed for the night anyway. So we just called it a day and headed back home.

Amazing Red Rocks - Sept 22, 2009

Didn’t worry about getting up early today – the only thing on the schedule was to visit Red Rock park and start packing.  There is a dusting of snow at our site, and it’s snowing on and off.  The weather is cold and the ground is a mess, so Randy carries the dogs out to their “spot” – how’s that for spoiling them? 
When we got to Red Rock Park, I wanted Randy to stop the car so I could take some pictures of those beautiful rocks, right when we turned off the road. He suggested we got further into the park, and as we turned the corner we saw the actual park. Amazingly beautiful! We have been to Sedona, and this is just a beautiful. The rocks are huge - these massive slabs jutting out of the ground. They’re very layered and some are in strange forms. 
We walked up to the amphitheater, and it’s very cool. The stage is pretty normal but the but the seating fans out from the stage and each row is really elevated so everyone has a good view of the stage. And the best thing is that on each side of the seating area are huge, towering monoliths of those red rocks. They say the acoustics are phenomenal. We walked thru the information section and learned that a lot of folks have played here, from opera stars, the Beatles, Ella Fitzgerald, Moody Blues, Blues Traveler, James Taylor, Willie Nelson, and a bunch of others. I would love to hear a concert here! We drove around the rest of the park – it is just so beautiful! I would recommend this to anyone. When we got back to the entrance we decided to go into the gift shop. And as we were walking up to the gift shop (from a trail behind it), a couple of deer stepped out into the path. It was a doe and her half-grown fawn. We were careful to be quiet as we tried to get closer to them, but apparently we didn’t need to worry about that. They moved to the grassy area right behind the gift shop and started grazing. Several folks came around to see them, and we got within 10 feet. The fawn moved away a few feet, but the doe just kept grazing. I heard a nearby delivery man say this is so common that he hardly even notices them!
As an anticlimax, we drove to Denver for a late lunch. We wanted to have fried chicken at the Rocky Mountain Dinner because someone at Food Network recommended their fried chicken, but it turns out they don’t serve the fried chicken at lunch, so we just got some nachos. We walked around a bit…what is the deal with that huge, 3-story blue bear looking into the office building? 

The Denver Mint - Sept 21, 2009

Woke up to a gentle snowfall, coming down in big fluffy flakes. The temp was exactly 32, so it wasn’t unbearably cold, but it was cold enough for extra layers. Randy fixed oatmeal, then we headed out to the Denver Mills mall. It rained along the drive to Denver, but Denver was dry. We found a good vegetarian cookbook, and a book about candle and soap making. Randy got a few more things for the kitchen, then we drove to the Denver Mint, to make sure we could find it for our 2:00 reservation. We went back to the 16th Street Mall and had lunch at the Denver Hard Rock – one sandwich with fries and slaw. We are getting better about not over-ordering. 

We walked back to the Mint and took the tour. They weren’t making coins in the area we got to tour, so we listened to the tour guide. About half the coins they make are pennies, because people keep pennies and don’t put them back in circulation. It costs about 1.7 cents to make a penny, but they cannot stop making them without an act of Congress. At this point it’s more cost effective to buy the blanks than to make them, so they get the copper-coated zinc blanks from another factory, and press them at the Mint. The coins are washed in soap, water and cream of tartar to clean them before pressing. The Mint actually sells the coins to the US government. It costs about 28 cents to make a dollar coin, so they gain 72 cents on every silver dollar they make. They don’t sell the pennies or nickels, but they sell every other coin. They use the money to pay their expenses, such as maintenance, utilities, salaries, etc. Every year there is money left over after paying the Mint expenses and they turn that over to a branch of the government to make a payment on the National debt. Last year they paid a little over a billion dollars on the debt.
Afterwards we walked back to the 16th Street Mall and rode the bus to the end of the line. Nearby we discovered that Denver has an underground bus depot and light rail station. We walked up 16th and stopped in a few stores, such as the Overland sheepskin store, an upscale grocery store and several souvenir shops. Along the way we stopped for coffee, soda and a small banana-caramel bunt cake. At one street corner is a tall tower from the turn of the century that used to be the bell tower for a big Denver department store. 

We came back to the RV and found it was still snowing. Randy drove us up to look at the buffalo herd and the local forest in the snow – very beautiful! The buffalo don’t seem to mind the snow, so they continued grazing while those huge flakes drifted down and settled on them.

An Amazing Hot Springs - Sept 20, 2009

Randy fixed crepes for breakfast. We were going to drive into Denver, but on impulse we went the opposite direction to see what was out there. We ended up in Idaho Springs. It’s a small town that makes a living off the tourists, but it’s really nice. Very clean with cute stores and buildings, and the mountains are right in the houses’ back yards. We checked out the Information Center , which had an interesting display of old cameras and photos, and artifacts from gold miners; Idaho Springs was the site of a large gold strike. Then we went to the Indian Hot Springs. They have several hot spring options, including in caves; we’ve never been in a hot tub in a cave, so we took that one. The lobby is built over the caves so you go downstairs. There are separate areas for men and woman because everyone is supposed to go in nude. There are several baths in the cave, each about 10 x 4. Most of them were really, really hot but there was one that wasn’t quite so hot – probably about 105. Bathers are supposed to get into it to get acclimated to the high temperatures, then move to a hotter one, but I stayed in it. Afterwards we walked around Idaho Springs and got a burger and onion rings at the Main Street restaurant. We checked out a few stores, then took a short walk to see a big water wheel that was hand-built by one of the original gold miners. It still turns as it is fed water from a flume. Then we went back to the Indian Hot Springs for another soak. When we were finally ready to go, we drove out the other side of Idaho Springs towards Echo Lake, about 15 miles away in the mountains. The lake wasn’t anything special, but the drive there was spectacular. The aspens were starting to turn golden, and the road offered some magnificent views of the Arapaho National Forrest.
Some of the mountains were high enough to have snow on their peaks, although there isn’t snow anywhere else. The temperature did drop, though – to 41 degrees. We drove down the mountains another way, making a big loop to bring us back to Golden. Along the way we saw an elk doe and her nursing fawn, and then a small family of elk with a male who had huge antlers. A bit further one was a whole herd of elks. I can’t describe an elk bugle - it sounds a little bit like whale songs, but more intense.

We stopped at a store for some groceries, then came home to relax, and Randy made crab lasagna. A terrific wind roared thru the campgrounds around 10 pm. The camp hosts said a storm was due in.

Just goofing off - Sept 19, 2009

Got up around 9 am today. Randy fixed waffles with homemade banana-nut syrup and fresh whipped cream – it was wonderful! We straightened up the Jeep a little, watched PBS, and generally relaxed. In the afternoon we drove around Golden, almost to Denver. Got a few groceries and headed back home to Randy’s chicken chili and watch some movies.

Making candy at Hammond! Sept 18, 2009

This morning we went to Boulder, to replace 3 tabletops for Doyle Hale. The tops weren’t pre-drilled so it took a bit longer than expected, but Randy finished the job in about 30 minutes. We came back to Denver to take a tour through the Hammond Candy factory. 
This past spring when we went to the Candy Expo in Chicago, Randy talked to one of the Hammond representatives who suggested we come out and take a behind-the-scenes tour of the candy factory. The factory has relocated a couple of times during its history but they still make candy the old-fashioned way and most of their machines are from the late 1800s. To start one batch of candy they mix enough corn syrup and sugar to make 77 pounds. This is cooked and split into separate sections that will be colored individually. For example, to make candy canes, about 2/3 of the mix is colored dark red (for the center) and the rest is split into 2 chunks, one colored dark red and the other not colored. The two small chunks are individually put on pulling machines. The machine has prongs on 2 separate wheels that catch and pull the candy, like taffy. The candy that is not colored turns pure white as air is mixed into it, and the other one turns from dark red to a shiny cherry-red. To get it off the pulling machine, the candy maker smacks the candy that is on the prongs with a hammer and because the metal is cooler than the candy, the candy breaks off at that point, even though the candy is still soft.

The cherry-red candy is then put on a worktable that has a row of burners on the far edge. Those burners keep the candy at 220 degrees while it is being worked. The candy maker works the chunk until it forms two 24” by 8” rectangles. Randy helped the guy who was making a batch of this, and it’s really hard work! The candy is very heavy and hot and requires a lot of work to form, but it needs to be worked somewhat gently, plus the candy maker has to be careful not to work it too much. And all this work takes place near those burners, so it’s hot work, too. The white candy is worked the same way, except that it is formed into two 24” by 4” rectangles. Then the white rectangles are put next to the red ones, alternating. This forms a striped “jacket” to go around the center of the candy cane. Randy was really pretty good at this, even though he’d never done it before.

The large chunk of dark red candy is destined to be the center. It is also put on the pulling machine, but just long enough for Randy to pour a cup of cherry flavoring on it, to be worked into it. The center of a candy cane is where most of the flavor it.

Randy helped put the candy jacket around the candy center, then they lifted the whole thing (77 pounds) and put it into another machine, into a long tray that turns. As tray turns, the candy maker starts pulling the candy out towards the end of the tray, rolling it into a smaller and smaller strand. When it is the right thickness for a candy cane, another person cuts pieces off with shears and scoots them along a tabletop to the next person. That person pulls the end of the piece into a hook shape, and the candy cane is complete. Randy cut the candy and we both tried to shape canes. It’s harder than it looks, to get it the right thickness, the right length, and the right shape. 

They make the colors of the candy cane jackets different for each flavor, so an experienced candy maker can tell at a glance what a candy cane’s flavor is. For example, cherry candy canes have one white stripe between larger red stripes, while cranberry candy canes have two white stripes with a green strip between them, between the larger red stripes.

Another section in the candy factory makes candy apples – small white centers (a little larger than a golf ball) with red candy wrapped around it, and a wooden stick pushed in while the candy is still soft. Randy and I wrapped some of those, too. They do look like small candy apples, but I don’t know how anyone eats a solid chunk of candy like that!

When we were done with the tour, they gave us all of the candy we made (they could hardly sell it!) plus a large bag of broken candy, as well as some samples of other kinds of candy such as peppermint sticks with chocolate centers and marshmallows covered in caramel. They also gave us a sample of hiker’s fudge – dark chocolate fudge wrapped in wax. The idea is that wax keeps the chocolate from melting, so the hiker can just peel off some wax, have a bite of fudge, and cover the rest back up. I suppose some folks eat one bite of fudge, but it seems unnecessary to me…just eat the whole thing, and then you don’t have to worry about re-wrapping it!

We had lunch at Sam’s 3 in Denver, which was recommended by Food Network – roasted chicken with 2 sides. Then we walked around Denver a bit. We found the 16th Street mall, which is 16th street blocked off from traffic for several blocks to form a walking area with stores on both sides.

Back at the RV park we took the dogs for a walk up the road to a Buffalo ranch and pet a buffalo calf thru the fence. We found elk tracks along the road, quit close to the RV park – the tracks were bigger than the palm of my hand. Afterwards we worked on getting the TV and PC hooked up, but that isn’t working right. So we had dinner and watched a couple of movies.

Coors and the Mountains - Sept 17, 2009

No bears came into the park last night, so we got up late. Randy didn’t sleep well because he still has sinus problems and was coughing most of the night. But he made great oatmeal for breakfast. We decided to see some of Golden today so we drove around. There is a buffalo ranch very near the RV Park. We only saw a half dozen buffalo, but there is supposed to be a whole herd. We went to Wal-Mart to get some cash, then to Camping world where we got some wheel covers. We looked at some 5th wheel RVs in the lot next to Camping world – the Cardinal RVs are great, but they are a bit pricy. There was a new RV that is a combination of a 5th wheel and a popup – it has a popup on the back half of the RV roof. Next we found a fresh fruit market and got a few things, including some fresh, perfect peaches that we ate right there, outside the store. Next stop – the Coors tour. The Coors building is very plain from the outside. Inside it’s nice, but not as fancy as Budwieser. 
The tour was self-guided and there were helpful folks at every stop. Coors provided a sample cup at one stop, and 3 beers at the end. I still don’t care for beer. When we went back to the parking lot, a Coors employee was offering city maps and recommendations for lunch. We took her suggestion and Randy got a pastrami sandwich and I got a meatball sandwich, both with chips, drink and dessert. We walked around downtown Golden – it’s a pretty town, and there is a section of older homes that are still (mostly) being taken care of. There is also a park with old log cabin buildings that were moved there from a nearby farm. The weather was perfect – maybe 70 degrees and sunny.

We drove to Lookout Mountain, where Buffalo Bill is buried, along with his wife. The view from Lookout Mountain is amazing – on one side you can easily see Denver and on the other side the ranges of blue mountains go on and on. 
Afterwards we drove to Boetttcher “mansion” on the mountain – it’s big and it’s probably elegant inside, but outside is stucco and wood beams, which doesn’t fit my definition of a mansion. It was closed for a private party so we didn’t get inside. On the ride back we passed a huge elk with a big antler rack, with a doe and 2 young elks (not babies, but not as big as the doe). They crossed the road behind us and trotted off into the fields. Just a few moments later as we drove on, we saw another doe with two young ones. They stayed by the side of the road, even when Randy drove back so we could get a better look. They are really large and beautiful. 
When we got home, we didn’t feel like a big dinner so we had leftovers and fruit. I made our reservations for the Denver Mint tour on Monday. I don’t care much for going to the RV park bathroom after dark... I kept shining the flashlight around, looking for the eye-shine of a bear. After seeing the elk so close, I can easily believe a bear would be near, too.

An Interesting Park in Golden Colorado - Sept 16, 2009

We were on the road shortly after 8 am to drive to Golden, Colorado. It was a long drive without much scenery. Some views were good, but it was mostly flat.  We wanted to spend some time in the Denver area and we planned on staying at a state park, but when we called we learned they did not have any open sites. So I called a few places to find an RV park with a site that could take a 38-foot RV from Wednesday through the weekend, and wasn’t too pricey. Any one of those 3 criteria knocked out several options, so when I found Chief Hosa Park in Golden, Colorado for about $30 a night, I took it. We drove to thru Denver on Interstate 70, which was busy but not traffic-laden since we were going thru it around 2:30 in the afternoon. We drove on to Golden, which has an elevation of 7,700 feet. Our RV has a good diesel engine and a willing attitude, but I don’t think she likes mountains very much. She cruised into the Denver area at 65 mph but on the other side of Denver when we started up the mountains, she slowed down to 45. Oh well, that wasn’t really a problem because the big trucks were going about the same speed. Eventually we turned into Chief Hosa Park. We discovered that it is the oldest RV Park in the Denver area. There are several interesting aspects of this park…

(1) When we paid at the gate, the manager handed us a pamphlet about bears….what to do when you meet a bear, how to avoid attracting them, that sort of thing. Oddly enough, I haven’t had to worry about attracting bears before. My cat Missy started sitting in the window watching everything in sight – I think she wants to see a bear, but I hope she is disappointed!

(2) These sites were not really made for 38’ rigs. We had to back into our site, and it was sort of like fitting a size 16 lady into a size 12 stretch pants – we got the job done but it’s a tight fit and there isn’t much room left. To get all the way in we backed up into the site pretty far. Since the site isn’t very level to begin with and a lot steeper at the edge, we were nowhere near level. We were also tilting strongly to the left, so we set the jacks down to level the RV. When the level indicator said we were pretty level, we stopped, but 30 seconds later we were listing to the right. We went thru that routine about 4 times. Something seems to be different out here….I think it’s the air. 

(3) Water….. After we made the reservation we found out that although we can hook up to water, there is no way to attach a sewer line. So, of course, we want to avoid using more water in the RV than necessary. Since this park has showers, it should be OK to use those. Randy found out it costs a quarter to take a shower. Not a lot of money, but that is a little something they forgot to tell us at the office!

(4) The air. Or rather, the lack of air. When God made this country, He made it very beautiful but He didn’t add much air. I couldn’t figure out why I suddenly wasn’t feeling well until Randy mentioned that it was harder to breath up here. We were planning to bike ride a lot, but I don’t think that is likely to happen. Just walking seems to be a challenge at this point!

But off in the distance is the soft blue haze of the Rockies. And it’s quiet as it can be here. So if the bears stay away and I learn to breathe better, this will be a wonderful week!

The Santa Fe Trail into Dodge - Sept 15, 2009

Randy paid $10 to get the RV tires aired up. Then we drove to see the Santa Fe Trail tracks, west of Dodge City. The tracks are lightly visible, and are in the high plains. 
You can see for about 20 miles around – the view is probably close to how it looked in the 1800s.
We went to nearby Cimarron and walked thru an old building that used to be a hotel, a brothel and a health sanatorium. Upstairs are several rooms on both sides of the hall that fit the description of both hotel and brothel. A few rooms are converted to bathrooms with old-fashioned tubs. The building has pressed tin ceilings and high cove molding.

In Dodge, we walked around to see the town. The original famous Front Street had burned down twice and was replaced with brick in the 1890s, which was still in the cowboy era. But in the 1970s the Front Street structures were torn down, and there is very little left of old Dodge. According to several folks, there was a lot of dissention to the decision to tear down the buildings, but it was done anyway. The old train station restored, and there is a statue of Wyatt Earp across from it.
We went to Carnegie Center for the Arts – a very cool building. The main section is a round brick structure, with stained glass windows upstairs. 
We had lunch at Cuppa Jo-nes, and then drove around town some more. We drove past the small House of Stone which was closed for the season, and stopped in the Episcopal Church built in the 1890s. It is the oldest Dodge church still in use. It’s a small building and very well taken care of.

There is a gaudy tourist trap built around the original “Boot Hill”. We learned from local folks that the Boot Hill cemetery there is empty. The bodies were moved twice, ending up in the corner of a large cemetery. Over 30 bodies were put in unmarked graves, and we were told that the local government won’t allow any marker, even a generic one that indicates there someone is buried there.

Back at the RV Park we talked to the camp hosts awhile, then talked to some folks camping here. They suggested we try Empire Blue Cross for health insurance. Later we re-set the tire pressure gauges and hooked up the Jeep, and Randy fixed beef and potatoes for dinner.

Heading into Dodge - Sept 14, 2009

Tina fixed waffles for breakfast and we hooked up the RV in the rain. Drove to Dodge City, Kansas. It’s a small town with not much preserved from the old days, but there is a very cool train station. Randy fixed spaghetti for dinner while I balanced Quicken and looked up some insurance info.

Relaxing in Oklahoma - Sept 13, 2009

Tina fixed breakfast, then went to Sam’s and Wal-Mart. Took a nap and Randy cooked ribs and fruit upside-down cake while I cleaned the RV. After dinner Randy and I played a card game called Phases with Erica and Garrett. 

Visiting with Tina and Garrett - Sept 12, 2009

Garrett made breakfast for us, then drove us over into Texas to a large flea market that occurs once a month. They said it almost never rained around their place, but it rained all day. Around 2:00 Tina and Garrett bought us lunch at a Mexican restaurant. We drove over to Erica’s house to see Erica and the kids. Still raining when we got back to Tina’s.

Oklahoma - Sept 11, 2009

We left Tulsa and went to visit Tina and Garrett Trueblood, near Marlow OK. Their daughter Erica came over with her little girl Britney. Randy cooked steaks for dinner. Erica’s husband Nathan came over after dinner – he’s an Oklahoma Highway Patrol officer, and very nice. Randy had a cold, so we called it a night by 9.

First look at Tulsa - Sept 10, 2009

It rained last night, and rained on and off all day. We decided to drive to downtown Tulsa and walk around. There are a lot of buildings with Art Deco details in the downtown area. A man who was cleaning the sidewalk in front of the Trinity Episcopalian church let us in to see it. There are gorgeous stained glass windows everywhere, and excellent wood carving. Afterwards we walked to the Mid-Continent Tower – a very tall, white building. The inside was really lovely, with marble walls and art-deco influence in the elevators and lobby, and in the underground tunnel between the building and the parking lot were old photos of Tulsa in the late 1800’s. We went into another building and found a store that frames and sells Indian art. The manager was very friendly and shared some info about the history of Indian art in Oklahoma. According to him, about 30 tribes were moved to AZ (now there are 39 because some sub-divided) and each one kept its own culture. Some of the tribes did not (and do not) get along very well with the tribe who was located next to them. In the 1920s a man picked 5 Indian artists and thru training and publicity, started the Indian art movement. Until then, Indians did not paint on paper. Now each tribe has it’s own style, and it’s own famous painters.
For a snack, we went to the Coney Island hot dog place. They opened in early 1900s and still use school desks as tables. Then we drove out to see the Oral Roberts university and prayer tower. Oral Roberts has his name all over the place, which is an odd way for a preacher to act, as far as we are concerned. We had lunch at Arnold’s Old Fashioned Hamburgers, which was recommended by our camp host. It was pretty good, but not as good as the White Barn used to be.

Bass Pro is always fun - Sept 9, 2009

Got a fairly early start around 9 am and drove to Springfield Mo. Stopped at Bass Pro Shop where Randy bought some chest waders, to be prepared for his next trout fishing experience. We had a lot of ground to cover so we had lunch on the road. Got some fuel at ($2.35/g) at Loves in Tulsa, but the tank wasn’t filled completely so we bought more fuel for 2.39; then the gas cap on the other side of the RV wasn’t on all the way, so some spilled out. Drove on to Cherry Hill RV park in Tulsa. Parked the RV and drove the Jeep out to buy some shrimp for dinner.
Back at the RV we took a nap and I did some ironing, and then we washed the RV.

Trout Fishing - Sept 8, 2009

9/08/09 Randy started fishing around 7:30. I joined him and sat on the bank sketching. After awhile we came back and he cooked breakfast outside – French toast, bacon and eggs. By then it was already 11:00, so breakfast was really brunch! We biked over 3 miles together and stopped at the store for ice and a few other fishing items. Randy fished again while I read a bit and took another short bike ride. After awhile Randy came back and practiced tying knots with the fishing line. Then we biked back to a spot we had seen before and Randy caught a beautiful trout with the fly rod and a wet fly. They didn’t bite more at that spot so we biked back and walked to a closer spot, where Randy caught another trout with a regular fishing rod, using the salmon eggs. So for dinner we had fresh trout, corn on the cob and refried beans – and it was all wonderful!

Gettring Started - Sept 7, 2009

09/07/09 We said goodbye to our neighbors Jo, and Ed and Ann, and to George and Lynn, who own the park. Lynn gave Randy a bonus in appreciation of all the extra work he did. They are really going to miss him! We drove out 44 thru the hills of southern Missouri. The tire pressure system worked because it went off when one of the tire sensors became loose. We went to Bennett Springs, near Lebanon. There is a trout hatchery here so we biked around a bit to check out some fishing spots. Randy got a fishing license and will try to catch dinner tomorrow. Later I biked to the store to buy salmon eggs for bait (it’s about a mile, round trip). Randy and I talked about the future – it’s a little scary right now. We had hoped (and worked) to have more cash at retirement, but the economy ran into problems. We’ll be OK – we’ll have some new experiences and keep an open mind towards the future.