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The Road to Ouray

July 26, 2018 - We left Durango and headed north on the San Juan Skyway.  This was a 223 mile mountain tour taking in the picturesque towns of Silverton, Ouray, Telluride, and several small Colorado towns worth slowing down for.  We knew it would be a fun drive snaking along the side of the mountain on roads with no guardrails (for snow plowing) and sheer drop offs.  

I can’t recall the number of pull outs we stopped at to take photos of the wonderful vistas and scenery along the drive.  As we approached Silverton we were delightfully surprised by the sudden appearance of Silverton far below and over the cliff we drove along.  At the bottom we had to stop off and drive through the preserved downtown section of this historic and remarkable town.  With time on our hands we easily found a place to park Chappy and hopped out for a walking tour down Greene Street.  We saw that most of the parking places in town was occupied by a side by side all terrain vehicle some which definitely had space age shapes and sounds.  There were several shops and restaurants one Greene as well as on Blair, one block south.  There were quite a few people on the streets and the town felt very alive.  Suddenly, we saw a stagecoach with horses.  Chase also saw them and he almost went into a conniption.  We whisked him away quickly and walked in the opposite direction.  It was time to move on anyway to get on to our destination.  On we went through Red Mountain Pass to Ouray.  

Coming into Ouray we encountered the road going down to one lane.  When it was time for us to go through the construction area it was apparent the other lane had given loose and fell down the hill during the last rock slide.  Not surprising for we were going through an area against the mountain with narrow lanes and no guardrails!  

We arrived at the J+J+1+1 campground which was within walking distance to the main street downtown area.  We got hooked up and took Chase out for a poop and pee run then put the little guy down in front of the TV tuned in to the PBS station and snuck out to see the town.  After a while you can’t remember which little Colorado town is more charming and Ouray certainly was.  It was surrounded on all sides with high mountain walls some seeming vertical for hundreds of feet. The architecture on the main street was late 19th and early 20th century and there were plenty of places to shop and eat.  



Into Blue Spruce at Vellecito Reservoir

July 23rd, 2018 - The weather was perfect as we loaded in at Creede for the quick trip over to Blue Spruce where two of our old friends from Dallas were with David’s sister.  We were to meet another couple from Denver who come to this park every year and just kind of hang out and and have food feasts.  We were in for three nights.  It was fun getting to know new people and we had the privilege of one special lady who bears her soul in her music.  Our time there was fun and entertaining and we realized developing friendships like these was what it was all about.  There is so much more entertainment and drama in the three days at Blue Spruce that it only bears repeating at campfires with each other or another appropriate occasion.  

I got to fly my drone a little along a creek that flowed into Vellecito Reservoir and took some good pics of the reservoir from a few miles up the canyon.  I didn’t try to film the campground as it was a little windy in the canyon and I couldn’t keep the aircraft in sight.  Everyone enjoyed the flight particularly the technical guys in the group. 

We’re awful about being social so we awkwardly left on the final day and exchanged emails and well wishes all the while relishing in the fun we had with these new friends and old friends.  

  

Weekend in Creede

July 21st and 22nd 2018 - Today the drive into Creede was mountainous and as exciting as the previous days.  We drove past the waterfalls and the beautiful lush bottom lands which were rich with runoff from the mountains.  When we left Leadville we continued on in the White River National forest and eventually entered a large valley between Great Sand Dunes National Park and the Rio Grande Forest for a long straight line drive with mountains on both sides to a county road which took us west to Del Norte.  Here we picked up 160 to South Fork and the Rio Grande River.  At South Fork we pick up the Silver Thread Scenic Byway which runs along the Rio Grande all the way up to Creede.  

The town was just as we left it two months prior.  The only difference was that a  few more businesses had awoke from their winter slumber and summer had arrived and the town was in full swing.  We checked into the Mountain Views at Rivers Edge RV resort and claimed a spot next to a fellow from Fort Worth in a triple axle fifth wheel.  Once we unloaded our site things we feasted on some barbecue we picked up in town.  

With several hours of daylight left we decided to drive up The Silver Thread Scenic Byway about 27 miles to Clear Creek Falls.  By the time we got there a mountain storm had started to develop leaving behind quite a bit of small pea sized hail where we parked.  We waded over and got a very good view of the falls and took lots of pictures.  Then we headed on back to camp to settle in for the evening. 

The next morning we got up and James fixed a tasty breakfast.  When clean up was finished we drove over to Creede and found the town bustling with activity.  There was a sculpture art show going on and all the shops were open.  We did the grand tour and visited many of the shops but regretted to make arrangements to attend a play at one of the playhouses.  When our feet grew tired we hopped in Chappy and drove past town a little ways to the old structures left from the silver mining days.  

There was hardly any activity going on and the three or four folks coming into this area were only passing through to drive the Bachelor’s Loop which we did on our previous visit.  We stopped here so I could fly my drone.  I launched and the 400 ft. altitude seemed barely off the ground as the towering mountains surrounding us were much higher.  I flew around a little on a battery that had about 53% power and landed to put in a fresh one.  I got some good pics and vids and the second battery announced it was low on charge.  I wanted to get just a few more pics so I stayed up a minute or so longer then told the drone to land.  I tried to make it land in a different spot other that  the GPS coordinate where it took off.  The extra time it took caused the drone to take command and it almost slammed into the side of the mountain while positioning itself for an emergency landing.  Fortunately I was able to move it over and get it on the ground.  Whew!

From the silver mines we drove back up the Silver Thread Scenic Byway to seek out the headwaters of the Rio Grande River.  We had driven by a sign pointing to the headwaters of this almost 2000 mile long river and we wanted to see where it begins.  The drive was half the way to the falls we had visited the day before.  Then another 12 miles on an unpaved road and up a narrow canyon to the Rio Grande Reservoir.  We encountered a small storm as we entered the canyon giving Chappy some cool looking off road dirt.  The reservoir was beautiful and the walls of the canyons bore the scars of fires and floods.  But everything together with the large lakes from mountain run off forming the headwaters for a river that would flow all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.  Now we have to make ourselves prepared to go see it at the other end.  We spent some time photographing the headwaters and then headed back to Creede for our last evening in this special place.  It was comfortable.  


Trail Ridge Road to Leadville

July 20th, 2018 - Up early this morning for the long anticipated drive across the Rocky Mountains and Trail Ridge Road.  In our trip 30 years ago we traveled the road to the Continental Divide.  This time we will drive all the way to the other side of the national park into Grand Lake and on across Copper Mountain to Leadville, a historic mining town.  The drive was very pleasant with plenty of opportunities to stop and encounter breath taking views and take lots of pics.  

As we drove into Leadville we were pleasantly surprised by the original mining town look down main street where there were shops and restaurants in 19th century buildings which originally housed saloons and the opera house.  Just outside of town was our destination park for the night Sugar Loafin’ RV park.  The park was nice and was a mix of tent campers and RV’s mixed amongst each other.  Next door to us was a young family in a trailer and on the other side was a cab over camper from New Hampshire.  They seemed a little taken by the campground but fit in well. 

The next morning we got up and walked up and down the main street in Leadville and then moved on to our next destination which was our favorite Creede.  

Estes Park Day 2

July 19, 2018 - The plan for today was to explore Estes Park and see how close we could get to the Stanley Hotel.  We hooked Chase up and headed in search of a parking space for Chappy.  We found a space at the visitor’s center where we could back in and overhang a grassy area but we had to back in a "pull in" parking space which meant coming in backwards.  After waiting for the lane to clear we popped in and hooked up the hound and headed for town.  

Estes Park is but a tourist destination.  There were lots of different shops of various kinds and lots of people coming in and out.  For this crowd there were also plenty of restaurants and places to grab a treat.  Chase enjoyed walking down the sidewalks and he would get excited if he saw a chipmunk or another dog.  Many of the shop owners had a bowl of water outside for visiting pets and Chase had to stop at every single one of them.  Our stroll took us down the shady side of the street and we were grateful for that since the weather was a little on the warm side.  Locals told us it was unusually warm.  We popped in and out of a few stores with one holding the dog while the other shopped.  We walked on down the sunny side of the street and then set out to see if we could get up to the Stanley.  We followed a sidewalk which seemed to go in the general direction and when we got close everything ended with no obvious route leading to the old hotel.  we then headed toward a trail system which appeared to lead to an interesting old relic of a stone cabin.  when we found the trail head it was clearly marked “No Dogs”.  At this point we turned and started heading back to Chappy.  We did not get to spend much time in Estes Park when we were there 30 years ago (and I’m sure it has changed quite a bit since then) so we checked that one off the bucket list and decided to have some lunch.  

We drove back into the national park where just inside was an area the longhorn sheep came down from the mountain to graze and waller in the muddy marsh.  We found a good spot there and opened up for some lunch.  Afterwards, we drove back into Estes Park and stopped for fuel and a few things at the store.  It was still pretty early so we drove north a little way and turned on Devil’s Gulch Road.  The name was intriguing enough to see what Devil’s Gulch was all about.  The drive took us through some very nice properties and after a short drive we were met with signs warning of steep switchbacks and a road that led down into the gulch.  It was fun and Chappy really enjoyed it. We drove way on down into the gulch past a fast moving stream and after several miles we turned around and headed back up the gulch towards camp.  We had found a road leading back to Mary’s Lake from downtown and we took it for a change of scenery.  

I had met a couple earlier in the day Polly and John, who were from Las Cruces New Mexico and who had a Sprinter van similar to ours.  When I saw them later in the evening I invited them over and when they arrived they saw our shade situation and asked if we’d like to come over to their campsite which was well shaded.  We obliged and had a nice visit.  They were retired from teaching in military schools in Europe and they were well traveled.  Polly was a talker and loved to talk about herself and her husband.  We used the Chase excuse to leave early and bid our adieus and headed back to our site for another cocktail before dinner.  

Estes Park

July 18, 2018 - The drive from Limon to Estes Park was nice and easy.  The topography was still flat but the land started taking on some bumpiness and hilliness to it hinting that mountains were not too far ahead.  A few miles out of Denver we began to see the mountains through the misty skies.  Rather than drive through the middle of town we took the bypass around Denver and admired the skyline from a distance.  Before we knew it we were snaking our way through a gulch and heading into Estes Park.  Destination: Campground at Mary’s Lake.   

The campground was nice enough and our spot was on a corner with the van facing due west.  It was in the lower 80’s.  We took Chase for a walk around the RV park and were just in awe at the scenery surrounding Mary’s Lake and Estes Park.  There were beautiful homes on the mountainsides around us and we even found a home that was so well blended with the environment that it could not be seen by the naked eye at first.  We had what looked like two young families next door from Texas.  They were on our blind side so we never saw them much.  We were basically on a corner so the the only other adjoining neighbors we had were behind us camping in tents.  In front of us was a tent area and kind of a parking lot / mixed use area.  We were easy in and easy out so once we set up our outdoor room we looked to go explore.  

It was still early in the day so we headed to Rocky Mountain National Park.  Our plan was to drive the “tourist” loop which climbed up into the Rockies with several vista points where one could pull off and marvel at the scenery.   We entered the park at the Fall River entrance station and drove up into the mountain.   We had visited here 30 years earlier when we flew into Denver and rented a Jeep to tour the countryside.  Thats another story.  We stopped at all the pull-outs and took pics and panoramas and videos.  On our previous trip here we could take only limited photos for the cost of processing was preventative.  Now we’ll have hundreds.  This time we decided to take a side trip up to Bear Lake which was a winding road that ran past a couple lakes and some campgrounds within the park. Unfortunately this part of the park is very popular and before we even turned to go to Bear Lake there were signs informing travelers the Bear Lake parking lot was full.   We kept going anyway for other’s always some place Chappy will fit.  Not this time.  We just drove through and headed back the way we came stopping at all the vista points we came upon.  The drive up from Limon and the mountain climbing made Chappy and everybody else a little jet lagged so we drove on back to Estes Park and completed the “tourist” loop of the adventure.  

By the time we got back to the campground it was late afternoon and a few hours away from sunset.  The sun was bearing straight down on the front of our van and the tall vehicle offered no shade whatsoever except at the rear doors which faced another campsite.  We got a few channels on the TV so we went inside and watched the wall until it cooled then fixed dinner and called it an adventurous day.

Into Colorado

July 17, 2018 - The drive from Dodge City to Colorado was pretty uneventful.  It was another 270 mile run across the wide open plains of Kansas on into Colorado on which the last 100 miles or so was interstate.  When we crossed the state line we meant to say “Toto we’re not in Kansas anymore” but we sailed on past forgetting to say the phrase.  

As we rolled into Limon KOA we got in line with two other RVs and one fell in behind us to register for the night.  Inside were two ladies processing everyone as they arrived and the wait was short and sweet.  We pulled into our assigned spot and plugged in then I took the Kid to the dog park for a visit.  As usual he sniffed everything and peed in the same place about 10 times.  

As we got settled in you could see a pretty good sized storm brewing off to the west.  It looked far enough away and the radar showed it to be diminishing so we didn’t worry much about it. We were on the open prairie about 90 miles east of Denver and the mountains so there was not much scenery besides the distant storm.  We sat out and watched the people arrive one by one.  Big rigs and small rigs and tents and trailers they filed in.  Then came a small toyota pickup with New York Plates and inside were Bernie and Mary Lou.  They pulled up in the site next to ours and began to unload a tent and a cooler from the back of the truck where also sat a bicycle made for two.  Bernie started putting up the tent and Mary Lou un packed the items they’d need for the evening.  I spoke to Bernie to be friendly and he spoke back telling me about how they’d been on the road for two months camping in this small tent of theirs and had been all the way to Oregon and were on their way back home to up state New York.  They were nice enough people but they sure liked to talk about themselves.  

I had some corn to shuck and as we watched the radar it kept looking like some rain may come our way so I got along with the shucking.  When I went to throw the corn husks in the garbage there was Bernie laying out their tent and he said “Im either crazy or I’m getting things done” all the while assuring me he had a plan.  I went back to shave the corn and then went inside to prep for dinner  which was fried corn and heating up one of the hamburger steaks from the night before.  

We were ready for the evening and decided to have a well earned cocktail in “our” common area.  meanwhile here comes Bernie and Mary Lou offering beer.  We showed them our drinks and thanked them and they visited for a few minutes asking if we knew where a store was as they needed to go out to pick something up for dinner.  James immediately looked up on his phone and told them where to go for groceries.  

About fifteen minutes after Bernie and Mary Lou left the skies opened up over the campground and gave us a good dousing.  A little while after the squall had passed Bernie and Mary Lou came driving up and assessed the situation.  He pulled the tent back together while she checked everything else out  and they were good for the evening! 

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Dodge City Kansas

July 16, 2018 - The Sonic was only 2.8 miles in the wrong direction but it was a tradition.  We love their breakfast burritos and they are just enough to get you down the road.  Today’s journey is 272 miles to an old west town famous for the TV show Gunsmoke and Marshall Matt Dillon.  In actuality it was a wild west town back in the day known for the Santa Fe Trail and once home to Bat Masterson and  Wyatt Earp as lawmen and lots of indian activity.  

On the route to Dodge City was the Kansas town of Medicine Lodge.  This is where in 1867 the USA signed treaties with the Kiowa, Comanche, Plains Apache, Southern Cheyenne, and Southern Arapaho.  This put an end to indian uprisings for the most part and the town remained famous for the treaties and still celebrates the event today.  A 

The drive to Dodge City was again on all two lane highways across northern Oklahoma and into Kansas.  The heat was still with us and we were smart enough to start the generator as the heat peaked in the afternoon and run the rooftop air conditioning in addition to the vehicle dash unit.  This made a cool environment upon arrival.  We did a quick drive through town and drove down Wyatt Earp  Boulevard then on to our campsite at Fort Dodge RV Resort.  

The campground was pretty new and it was well laid out within walking distance to downtown and Boot Hill.  A landscaping crew was set up right next to our campsite with two zero turn mowers and a push mower, none of which were operating.  The crew was two men and one woman and they were all three sitting in one of the campground shelters with the two riding mowers.  Finally the woman set out on one of the riders and started mowing while the other two sat in the shade.  When they did get out from under the shelter they would walk right through our campsite as if they were in charge of the place.  We walked Chase around and got him drained and emptied and went back inside the camper and waited for evening when it might be a bit cooler.  

Storms were popping up all around Dodge City making for some interesting views of the clouds and such.  The outflow from the storms sent a cool breeze through the campground so we lowered all the shades in the van and locked Chase inside so we could walk to Front Street and see Dodge.  We strolled past a zoo and a waterpark which were all part of the Fort Dodge development our campsite was in and crossed the RR tracks into town.  We first came upon Boot Hill, the commercial version which required an entry fee.  We skipped that for it looked like a make shift collection store fronts meant to imitate the frontier town.  We walked to Front Street and along the covered sidewalks past restaurants and gift shops and up a few side streets to find a normal looking town.  There were a few older buildings which we took pics of and the old train station which was interesting.  We then headed back to the camper to check on the kid.  He was fine and rested when we returned.  

We had picked up some strips on our last stop and some pre-pressed hamburgers and James cooked them all so we’d have some things for the next two nights.  They’ll keep nicely in the fridge.  The strips were good and we watched some television and called it an evening. 

The next morning we found our favorite Sonic breakfast and took a quick driving tour of town then we got the hell out of Dodge!  

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On the Road Again

July 15, 2018 - After a few weeks at home things got a little boring and to be honest we just got too damn Hot!  Off we go to cooler Colorado!  James had polished and shined Chappy and the inside was ready to go.  We headed out with a destination of Stillwater, Oklahoma for our first night on the road.  The itinerary called for two long haul days (we consider anything over 200 miles a long haul) and we were pretty sure the heat would follow us to at least the first three stopovers before we get to Estes Park.  The drive to Stillwater took us up highway 75 for a little while then we hit the two lane highways running through the Oklahoma countryside.  

As we rolled into Stillwater we had a desire for Long John Silvers which was held over from the last adventure.  We pulled into the parking lot and it was empty as if the place were closed so I parked to go investigate when we both saw a Freddies across the street.  We had a leftover desire for a Freddies custard shake as well and it immediately over powered the Long John Silver desire.  Moments later we were miserable and it lasted pretty much the rest of the evening. 

 We drove around some and discovered Oklahoma State University campus and checked it out.  It was impressive but a little monochromatic as every single building old and new was built with the same brick.  Even the agriculture barn.  School was out so there was no football practice to watch or swim meet to attend.  We headed out to Sunset Ridge RV Park on the west side of town.  

I had called for appointments everywhere except this first night because I knew nobody in their right mind would be camping out in 100 degree weather.  When I called the lady said I’d better go ahead and reserve so I went along.  She emailed our assigned site number and said she had to go pick her kid up at School.  When we pulled in the park there was only two sites open, everything else was occupied.  Good thing I called as two other rigs pulled in and had to keep going.  

We pulled in and plugged up and went inside and it was still hot.  Our Freddies treat and the heat combined were almost intolerable.  It was going to be an all night air conditioner night.  Ugh.  At least we could pick up a little TV so we settled in and suffered by going to bed with no dinner!  We couldn’t eat a thing.  

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Copper Breaks State Park

May 25, 26, 2018 - The drive to Copper Breaks was pleasant and scenic enough.  This part of the panhandle has interesting terrain ranging from open ranges to interesting mini mountains with escarpments and little canyons.  And just as interesting are the little towns you drive through.  

We had some extra time so we stopped at Caprock Canyons State Park and did a full drive through.  We had stopped there years ago but did not go into the park so this time we were seeing new stuff.  Right inside the entrance we encountered a herd of bison coming down a trail.  Chase was excited and wanted to go play with them.  Caprock was a lot like Palo Duro Canyon probably because they are close together but the color in Caprock Canyon seemed to be a deeper red.  There were a few hoodoo type formations and plenty of steep cliffs with the white bands striping the red rock as in Palo Duro.  The heat continued here so we didn’t do any hiking and soon got back on our route.  

At Quanah we needed to turn south but decided to tour the town first.  It is located between Childress and Vernon on Highway 287.  We found the usual turn of the 20th century downtown area with interesting buildings and architecture.  

Copper Breaks was about 13 miles south of Quanah and as we got closer we noticed the flat topography appeared to buckle up a little creating the “Copper Breaks” after which the park was named.  Green tints indicating copper deposits can bee seen throughout the park.  We had a good campsite and each one had a strange pyramid shaped shelter over the picnic table made from structural steel.  We got all set up and it began to spit rain a little.  We watched and judged everyone coming into the campground after 3 p.m. which is the time we think everyone should be at the campground in order to have a good experience.  It was pretty hot and muggy outside so we stayed in and watched television and read.  James decided to go take a shower and when he went out I watched as he walked out of sight and noticed a dark sky to the west of us.  I went back inside pulled the local radar up on my phone to see we were in the direct path!  Not only was the blob heading for us very red, there were two direction of travel boxes and they intersected right where we were!  I waited for James to get back and gave him an update as I pulled up the radar to show him.  A few minutes later it looked a little worse and we decided we’d better put our shoes on in case something happened.  The wind was rocking the van a little and all I could think of was the two 45’ long fifth wheels between us and the storm could come crashing into us if a tornado shows up.  The van started rocking a little more and I put Chase’s harness on and attached the leash while holding on tight.  We determined if it got any worse we should go strap ourselves into the front seats.  Fortunately things started calming down a little and in a little while we could go outside.  The skies were still very much alive with activity and we got some good pics.  

The next morning we drove on through the rest of the park and then headed back to the route to home.  A quick stop at Sonic got us fuel for the trip and we looked ahead to a four hour ride home.  As we cruised through Saint Jo we discussed the possibility of stopping at the meat market in Meunster for a couple ribeyes.  Majority ruled and that we did.  We pulled in the driveway and there before us was a month’s worth of grass growth but still it was good to be home.  

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