The Swan Song Trip

We thought as we prepared for this Summer 2021 RV trip that it might very well be our last.  With a house in a fun 55 plus community, and now a cabin in the mountains, we just are no longer interested in being gone for months at a time.    As the trip progressed, we became more and more comfortable with the idea of this being the swan song trip.

It was fitting that we spent our last couple weeks with family. We visited our cousins Marilyn and Lynn in Wyoming, something we’ve done several times over the years. Who knew how many times we’d pass through Wyoming!

We had smokey skies for our tour along the Wind River Range but still enjoyed ourselves.  

We followed it up with a trip to the Museum of the Mountain Man.

We got our grandson and spent five days at Henry’s Lake State Park, the only Idaho park we had never visited before.  We missed out for years. It is a great park!

He experienced his first leech! I’m glad Randy was on leech duty!

We went kayaking a couple times.

We watched the visiting moose for several days.

We enjoyed a dinner show at the Yellowstone Playhouse Theater in Island Park.

Of course, we took our grandson to Yellowstone National Park and he enjoyed the bison….

and the stinky mud pots!

We went to Boise for a few days, seeing more family and friends, and then went on to Sumpter, Oregon for our family reunion camping trip.  It was good to all be together again after missing for the COVID year.

We had planned a few more weeks on this trip but our water problems in Arizona flared up again and it was just time to go home.

And it is also just time to let this era of our lives go. 

Allow me to look back.

This was our first night in our new 2012 Montana Fifth Wheel in March 2012.  Of course it was at Three Island Crossing State Park in Glenn’s Ferry, Idaho. We went there so many times while we were still working for spring and fall weekends.

We lived full time in the Montana from 2014 to 2019 and this blog is mostly about those years.

Our last night in the Montana was at the Ely KOA in Ely, Nevada, August 8, 2021.

Throughout our RVing years, 2004 – 2021, I journaled each stay.  That was true for this trailer and our earlier Laredo.  For the Laredo I kept a running “cost per night” with that first night costing $22,000!  Over the years, at an average of 30 nights per year, our costs in the Laredo got below $100 per night. (Those calculations never included campground fees – just the trailer cost.) I stopped doing that calculation when we bought our Montana but still kept the journal.  It is fun to sit down and read both journals.

Today we took our beloved Montana to a consignment lot.  It was bittersweet but we are in agreement that it is time.   We are grateful that we are in agreement!

And what of finishing the map?     And what of the blog?

We carefully removed the map and mounted it in our hall.   

The plan is still to finish the map as we travel.  Our rule has been that we had to spend the night in a state to get the sticker and it is possible we will amend that going forward.   We hope to fly in, rent a car, and experience areas in much the same way we did in the trailer.   We enjoy historic hotels so we will likely add that to the mix.

And the blog…. we’ll see.  We hope to travel nationally and internationally, and perhaps the writing bug will bite as I learn things in new places.  Handy Randy has been making modifications in the cabin – so perhaps that will show up too.

And if the writing bug doesn’t bite again, we thank you most sincerely for caring about us and our RV travels.

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Doin’ Denver

Despite miserable traffic between Colorado Springs and Denver, we finally rolled into Cherry Creek State Park.  This is an amazing park right in the heart of Denver with a very large lake, swimming beaches, hiking and biking trails, camping and probably other things we weren’t aware of.

Our primary purpose in coming to Denver was to visit Coors Field for a two game series between the Mariners and the Rockies.

We arrived early for our first game as we weren’t sure where to park. Why not watch batting practice and wander around a new (to us) ballpark?  We learned that the row of purple seats is the true “mile high” designation.   Fortunately our seats weren’t that high!

The Mariners have a wide range of uniform options and colors and I was quite disappointed to see they wore their “road grays” for both games.

We were joined for the second game by Minnesota friends Eric and Micah who flew to Denver to join us.  Eric and I are baseball buddies and have text messages going forth at any time of the day or night.   Randy and I went to a game at Target Field (Minneapolis) a few years ago so this was a second installment.  Hopefully we’ll figure out another game and location in a couple years.

Randy and I did enjoy a couple other activities in Denver besides baseball!  Read on for Airplanes and our Food Tour!

We went to the Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum.  We learned that when Lowry Air Force Base closed in 1994, two large hangars and multiple aircraft were donated to the group that formed this museum.   One of the hangars were sold to have the money to refit the second for the museum.  There are approximately 40 aircraft in residence.

An RB-52 aircraft provides the wow factor at the entrance.  RB is the designation for B-52s that were fitted for reconnaissance.  This particular plane was retired from active duty in 1966, was used as a training plane until 1975, and then served as a static display until being transferred to the museum in 1994.

The F-14A TOMCAT goes from 0-150 mph in 300 feet.

This is one of only four B-1A LANCERs ever built.  This plane could fly 1450 mph which makes individual personnel ejections impossible.  It has an ejection pod.

Originally owned and designed for speed records by Craig Breedlove, Steve Fosset purchased, modified and renamed the vehicle Sonic-Arrow II.  He was hoping to break Breedlove’s land record of 763 mph but was killed in 2007 before making the attempt.

And in lighter fare – We did another food tour!  We look for them because we always have interesting food, a bit of city tour, and interesting fellow participants.

Our tour guide Zoe spoke to us in front of my personal favorite from the tour.

We had delicious empanadas with a wine pairing.  They were so good, some of our fellow tour participants bought more. 

We were a group of eight tourists and Randy and I were the only ones from the western US.   That meant we were the only ones who already knew about fry bread.  

But even we were surprised at a new application – fry bread taco and margaritas!

We also enjoyed pizza, pork stew, and ice cream at various establishments on our four hour tour.  If you haven’t yet discovered Food Tours – why not?  We’ll join you!

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Cruisin’ Towards Denver

For those of you who think we are STILL in Cañon City – we aren’t.  We loved it there but we did move on.  I’m just very tardy in getting back to the blog – something I hope to remedy in the next couple weeks.

We cruised through Pueblo and Colorado Springs and found parking for our trailer in two residential areas as we stopped to see family friends.   

We saw Nannette in Pueblo but failed to take a picture!  We enjoyed visiting and she treated us to lunch at the renown Pass Key Restaurant for Italian Sausage Sandwiches.  We’d eat there again!  Thank you Nannette.

A little further along, we saw family friend, Jan, in Colorado Springs. We enjoyed visiting with her! One of the things we value about RV travel is being able to see people we otherwise would not.

Near Colorado Springs, Randy and I went to a chuckwagon dinner show at Flying W Ranch. We’ve been to shows like this all over the west and enjoy them. The Flying W was unique in two ways:

First, it was very, very strange to be in a space with so many people.  It was a bit of Covid culture shock!

Before “so many people” came, Randy enjoyed chatting with one of our table-mates.   He had worked for the railroad for many years, serving as an engineer on the same route day after day, year after year.  He said the only variety was the occasional animal sighting.  He scoffed at the idea that working on the railroad was one of those “romantic” jobs.

The lines were very efficient as we got our dinner of ribs, chicken, baked potato, applesauce, roll, beans and chocolate cake.  It was traditional fare for this type of venue and was very tasty.

The second reason the Flying W Ranch experience was unique was its history. Chuckwagon dinner shows began on the ranch in 1953. It was the second longest running venue of its type in the world. Until 2012…

The Flying W Ranch was completely destroyed in the Waldo Canyon Fire that began June 23, 2012. The founders’ daughter, who currently runs the operation, spoke about watching the fire come near but being assured by the fire captain that they would be able to save the ranch’s central property. Then she watched as fire fighters had to pull out for a higher priority site. She watched her family’s legacy burn down.

Not sounding bitter at all, she spoke of the work, dedication, and process of rising from the ashes.

The new facility opened in 2020 and it is beautiful. There are activities and shops to explore prior to the dinner show event. We’d recommend the Chuckwagon and Western Show regardless, but especially after all they’ve been through!

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A Gold Mine, Literally and Figuratively

We routed through Cañon City, Colorado because there were quite a few things listed there on our “To Do” travel document.  When we arrived at the RV Park, they gave us a “Checklist for Adventure” containing 25 activities that were local or nearby. There was some over-lap with my list but not total.  It seemed the Cañon City area was a relative gold mine of things to do!

We experienced eight of the 25 activities on the RV park list and this is my fourth (and last) blog from the Cañon City area!

Number 24 on their list was “Cripple Creek – Gold Rush Town.”  We set out on a beautiful sixty minute mountain drive to Cripple Creek. Our priorities were the train, the gold mine and the wandering donkeys.

We arrived at the Cripple Creek and Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad for a 45 minute journey through a gold mine landscape.   

They have four historic locomotives, three were built in Europe and one in Pennsylvania.  Two were used in mining operations in Mexico, one was used on a South African sugar plantation and one’s previous use is unknown.  Yet, they all ended up in Cripple Creek, Colorado.  

During the gold rush days, there were 500 mines within 12 square miles.

The remnants are everywhere.

The former owner of this cabin, Bob Womack, struck gold after many years of trying.  He celebrated with drink and gaming and sold his stake for a few hundred dollars.  He lost out on millions of dollars of gold.  Such foolishness.

The locomotive operated was coal fired so we had a breeze of coal dust throughout. 

After our train ride we went to the Mollie Kathleen Mine for a tour.  Mollie Kathleen filed her mine claim circa 1890 and the good old boys objected.  Women weren’t allowed to file mine claims!  Her husband, a mine lawyer, smoothed things along and she ran a very successful mine.

Today that mine has been turned into a tour, descending 1000 feet in these very small elevator cages.  Notice the sign.   It is apparent we have been spending time with our seven year old grandson when I see I am including a reference to farting.

Gold in this area isn’t found or retrieved along rivers and streams.  Only one percent of gold worldwide is found in nuggets, and 99% of those are less than a pinhead in size.  

The mines here are looking for seams containing the gold within the rock.  Once identified, the rock is exploded apart and taken to the surface for processing. In this picture the dark purple seam is the gold.

Our excellent guide showed us how, over many years, the process became more efficient and safe. Most of the innovations were made by the minors themselves, rather than engineers or management. 

One worker who didn’t work out as a mine worker was Jack Dempsey.  He may have had the ability to become Heavy Weight Champion of the World but he couldn’t cut it in the mines as a hand mucker (that person who moves out the heavy rocks after an explosion).  

One of the efficiency steps was to take donkeys into the mine to do the heavy ore carrying.  At some point President Teddy Roosevelt was shown the mine and the donkeys and he determined that this was no life for a living creature.  He mandated that they be taken above ground for at least one hour a day. (My feelings about Teddy Roosevelt get complicated the more I learn about him – but for this moment in time, I appreciate him.)

The mine owners determined that using of donkeys under those conditions was not longer efficient and they developed a rail system.  The donkeys were taken to the surface and let loose to fend for themselves.

Magnesium sulphate, more commonly known as Epsom salts, are common in the shafts.

The system of sounds, still used all over the world, was developed in the Colorado gold mines.

Gold mining has changed over the years and is now done above ground. The current mine in Cripple Creek, operated by Newmont, is huge.   It is one of the largest gold mines in North America and it is believed that only a quarter of the gold has been retrieved.  Silver and platinum are also mined.  

This region of Colorado is the fifth largest mining district in the world.

Once we were done learning about the mines we turned back towards town and had a view from above. Cripple Creek, population about 1000, seems to have a lot of infrastructure.

It seemed odd to see such a large crane in the middle of town!   We were told a new parking garage and casino-hotel was being built.  Casino’s are the second business in Cripple Creek!

We walked around town a bit looking for a quiet (non Casino) place for dinner and for the resident donkeys which roam the streets from May to October.  These are believed to be descendants of the mining donkeys. They are penned and cared for during the winter months.

In our only real disappointment of the entire Cañon City area, we did not see the donkeys.  This was the best we could manage.

We had a bonus event at the Butte Theater, put on by the Thin Air Theater Company.  We saw a wonderful production of Gentlemen Prefer Blonds.  It was outstanding, especially considering it is a small town company!

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Cañon City: Opposite Ends of the Street

The Holy Cross Abbey and the Colorado Territorial Prison are on opposite ends of the Royal Gorge Boulevard in Cañon City.   We went to the Abbey first.  It is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Benedictine monks were the originators and caretakers of the Holy Cross Abbey which began in 1924.  It had three purposes:  to serve as a Boy’s School, a Boys camp, and a Seminary for young men desiring to pursue a life dedicated to God.

The building was completed in 1926.  Despite using prison labor for construction, there were significant cost overruns and other Benedictine Abbeys helped out financially.

The first floor, where the highest ranking monks and public rooms were located, is still viewable by self guided tour.

Because this was primarily a teaching facility, the chapel is not elaborate.

The Abbey school operated from 1926 to 1985 and included boarders and day students.  Capacity was 250 students and it operated at, or near, capacity for most of those years.

From 1985 to 2005 the Abbey still served as a monastery.   We were told that the upper floors never had heat.

The campus was sold to an investment company in 2007 for $11 million and operates as a special events center for weddings, meetings, retreats etc.   The Sister’s House (you know those nuns who did a lot of the work) is available on Airbnb.

There are vineyards on the grounds and we went to the Abbey Winery.   For $8 they offer samples of 13 wines.   We only chose to sample six because we already know we are wine simpletons and only like the sweet stuff!

We did buy a few bottles.

Did you notice in the Abbey description that prisoners were used to build the abbey?  That was a theme we saw over and over in Cañon City and you may have picked up on it in our previous blogs.   

The Colorado Territorial Correctional Facility was built (by its own prisoners) in 1871 as part of the federal system.  “Old Max” was deeded to Colorado when it became a state in 1876.  (Did you know Colorado is called the Centennial State?)

When it was the state’s maximum security prison, it held up to 2000 prisoners.  Now it is a medium security prison and is currently holding 1100.  This prison also holds those suffering with dementia and other long term medical conditions.

In addition, we were told it serves as an intake center for all prisoner’s who are then dispersed throughout the state.

This picture shows the older section of the prison and the old deputy warden’s house.

The Prison Museum is housed in the former Women’s Prison, adjacent to Old Max.  While walking around outside we could hear announcements and instructions being given in the  main prison.  The woman’s prison was built in 1935 and do you think they used labor next door?  They seemed to be used everywhere else!

This is the gas chamber that was used at Old Max.  

There is quite the list of notorious prisoners, riots and wardens attached to Old Max and many of their stories are highlighted within the former cells.

This is what a woman prisoner’s cell would have looked like in the early days.  The prisoner’s sewed their own uniforms.

A cell in the later days looked more like this.

There are many displays of contraband weapons and items confiscated from prisoners but I thought this one was bittersweet – a chess set made of toilet paper.  Hard to see how that could have been dangerous to guards or fellow prisoners….

Given the number of times we read or heard “prisoners were used in building this…” throughout Cañon City, we had visions of chain gangs utilized throughout the area.   Given that background, I thought the cell highlighting current educational opportunities and work opportunities through Colorado Correctional Industries was especially interesting.

Almost all prisoners are employed in some capacity.  Old Max was the facility that began making Colorado license plates over one hundred years ago and they still make two million annually.

A side note:  Colorado’s white mountains on the green background license plate design is seventy years old and they claim it is the second oldest still in use in the U.S.   Ten minutes of research seemed to give the oldest design award to Deleware but I wouldn’t bet my house on it.  I also found that Idaho was the first state to put a slogan on their license plate:  Famous Potatoes, in 1928.   This feels like a rabbit hole I could fall into and I’m not willing to go there.

Besides license plates, Colorado Correctional Industries “employees” also make furniture, highway signs, flags, trash dumpsters and tables for state parks, and single and double beds.  They run a dairy farm, pig farm, green house, and do other agricultural farming.   They have a print shop, a metal shop, a sewing shop, an automotive shop and also build Old Max Chopper Motorcycles.   They run dog training programs and Colorado’s Wild Horse and Burro Program.  It seems far more promising than being free labor for Cañon City’s elite.    

Prison museums are always sobering, but I’m glad this visit included something positive!

Now, what are they ever going to do with this guy?!?

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Cañon City: Down the Arkansas River

After seeing the gorge from on high, our next plan was to travel through it by rail and by raft. 

The Royal Gorge is eight miles long and the first recorded Europeans that saw the gorge was in 1806. By 1878 the gorge was the focus of a bitter battle between the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad and the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad. The company that built a rail line through the gorge would benefit from the mining industry so prevalent in the area. The gorge is narrow and not large enough for two lines. That battle was eventually won by the Denver and Rio Grande.

Many years later, it is the Royal Gorge Route that operates the line through the gorge.

We look for these old trains when we travel and always enjoy them.

We had seats in the dome car that included a variety of lunch options.  We had excellent burgers with fresh potato chips.

We rode out from Cañon City and then through the gorge next to the Arkansas River. This river begins in Colorado and makes its way through Kansas, Oklahoma and Arkansas before joining the Mississippi River.   We had never heard of the Arkansas River before….but we aren’t as familiar with rivers that go east as we are with those that go west.

Aside from the natural beauty, we saw remnants of an abandoned water pipeline that follows the train route on the south side of the river for eight miles.   It carried Cañon City’s water supply for 70 years.

It was built by territorial prisoners and we were told 96 of them died in the process.  The pipeline was made of redwood and wrapped like barrels.

This was the caretaker’s cottage, about midway through the gorge.  We were told he walked the entire pipeline everyday to do inspections.

Overtime, some sections had been reinforced with concrete.

The obvious question to me was why? Since the river flowed the same route, why go to the trouble to make an adjacent pipeline? The answer had something to do with the high alkaline levels in the river and running the water through the pipeline solved that problem.

In the winter of 1974, the pipeline froze and Cañon City was without water for three weeks.  They sought a different solution for their water needs after that.

There are colorful yurts and airstreams rentals available along the river.

We saw the bridge from the train.

It rained during much of our train ride and we sympathized with the rafters.  We were rafting the next day and hoped for better weather!

At the end of our ten mile journey, the train reversed and went back the same way, just in reverse. With the gradual decline in grade, the engine was now our brake.

The next day we had perfect weather for an afternoon raft trip! We traversed the very same route we had the day before but this time on the water.

We were in a raft with a family of four and our guide Brian.   He told us that this river is in the top three for number of rafters in the US.  

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In the background you can see the bridge and the gondolas crossing the gorge.    Also in this picture you can see a person in a blue kayak.  He was the company photographer and the action shots are his. Unfortunately these are just pictures of pictures so don’t show his true talent.

Our guide, Brian, kept us busy with instructions to stroke Forward 2, or Back 1.    We went over class 2, class 3 and class 4 rapids at 900 CFS (cubic feet per second).  They run the river when the CFS is between 200 and 3400.

It was plenty of fun at 900 CFS! I can’t imagine 3400!

Randy is in blue in the front and I am immediately behind him.   He was supposed to shield me from more water than he did!  We were all wet in the end but it was a marvelous afternoon.  

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Cañon City: The Views From On High

We found ways to experience the views from on high in Cañon City, Colorado!

We traveled the Skyline Road, a  2.6 mile single lane road sitting atop a razor edge mountain top above Cañon City.

We enjoyed the novelty of this one way road, without guardrails, with non existent shoulders, and a view that drops to the depths on at least one and sometimes both sides.  It is not a road for the timid!

Skyline Road was built in 1905 by sixty inmates at the nearby territorial prison.  Sentences were reduced by 10 days for each month a prisoner worked on the road.

This dinosaur display sits where ankylosaurus footprints were found in 1999. 

The tracks are just to the left of the bone in the middle! There are a series along the wall.

We also saw the views from on high at the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park.  The bridge was built by 80 men over seven months in 1929 as a tourism site. 

Businessman and bridge builder Lon Piper saw the Royal Gorge in 1928 and had a vision for tourists to enjoy the views from the middle of the gorge, not just on either side.  The Royal Gorge bridge was the world’s highest suspension bridge for over 70 years and is still America’s highest suspension bridge, 

The bridge’s length is 1,260 feet with a width of 18 feet.

There are 2,100 strands in each cable and 4100 cables, weighing 300 tons.

There are 1,292 planks on the bridge deck and 250 are replaced annually.

Standing on the bridge you are 956 feet above the Arkansas River.   We could see the train tracks and the rafts – both of which we will be enjoying later in the week!

There is much to do in the park including activities and amusements for kids, adults and very adventurous adults.  We were just adults.  

When Randy asked me if I wanted to ride the zip line chairs across the gorge, I said I could be talked into it.  I don’t think he expected that answer but ultimately, we decided against it.

We saw the resident big horn sheep a few times.

We watched a short movie on the history of the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park in the theater.  

A 2013 forest fire destroyed nearly all park building and facilities on both sides of the gorge.  The bridge survived nearly unscathed.  One hundred planks were burned and most of those were repurposed for the walls of the new visitor center.   Demoltion and rebuild began almost immediately and the park reopened 14 months later.

After walking across the gorge on the bridge, we rode back across on the gondola.  

The views from on high are stunning!

We weren’t quite so high on the classic Royal Gorge Zip Lines but high enough for my purposes.   We rode 9 lines and hiked 3/4 of a mile in between.  

We chose not to take our camera or phones and to rely on their photographer.  We then chose not to purchase their photos and thus, we give them some free advertising to use them.  The company did great so we don’t mind advertising for them.

I didn’t usually take time to enjoy the views from on high while zipping, being focused on the landing site and the guide’s instructions to brake.  

Randy enjoyed the zip lines more than I did but I enjoy most museums more than he does so that is fair.

Cañon City has been awesome so far! Looking forward to more!

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Randy’s Gadgets Save the Day

Our summer RV trip began in Flagstaff.  It is only two hours from home but now that we are sporadic RVers, we have learned to make our first stop close by. That way we can go back for forgotten items or get parts for whatever broke while not in use.

We have stayed in Flagstaff a couple times and not been impressed with any of the parks.  This time we stayed at the Flagstaff KOA and it is a relative winner.   We were pleased with our site.

We set up and were feeling good about having what we needed and everything working.  We were even regretting not going a little further down the road.

What’s that you say?  Nice site but where is the truck??

So, Randy is a gadget guy – just in case you didn’t know.   He has apps on his phone to monitor our solar power, our home heating and air conditioning, our irrigation system and our water use.    (I have been known to roll my eyes a bit – especially when the water use app was new and he asked me if I got up during the night to use the restroom.)

However, at this moment in time ….Alert, alert, alert!!  The water use app was warning that we had used a gallon a minute for the last two hours.  That is bad on so many levels!!! As far as we knew there should have been no water being used.

The irrigation system app said irrigation was not operating but that was the only water that could have been running.  For the first time ever, we had done what thousands of people do all over Sun City Grand when leaving for months at a time – we turned off the water to the house.

Randy called two friends and asked them to go over and see if they could find a leak as soon as possible.  Most of the people in our neighborhood are gone for the summer, and we didn’t have contact info for those we knew were still around.

Randy headed home.  While he was enroute, our friends found the flood near the irrigation valve box.  They turned off all water to our lot to stop the massive leak.

Randy made it home a couple hours later and he and our neighbor did a temporary repair. It required new parts and turning the water back on to the house.  Hopefully all will be well while we are gone.   Our neighbor will keep an eye on it while Randy monitors his phone apps.  He drove back to Flagstaff that evening. That camp close to home idea worked again.

The next day we headed to Durango, Colorado.  We vacationed near there a couple years ago and enjoyed the primary attraction – The Durango Silverton Narrow Gauge Railway.  I wrote about its history and our trip on the railway.  Click the link to read it. Plan B:  Colorado!

This time we opted for a history tour of downtown Durango.   We learned about the mines, the immigrants, the sporting women and those that tried to make Durango a reputable city.

This is the Slater Hotel, named for one of its two developers.  They had a falling out and Slater built a second hotel immediately next door- the shorter part on the left.  Over time the hotels were joined as one and operate under the Slater name.  It is reportedly haunted.

“Reportedly haunted” is a theme in downtown Durango!  We didn’t take the ghost tour but got quite a few mentions anyway.

This historic eating and drinking establishment maintains a shrine for its resident ghost at the top center section of the bar.

A former resident of Durango is Jack Dempsey.  He lived in the area in the early 1900s and went on to be Heavy Weight Champion of the World in 1919. This is our tour guide in front of the Dempsey mural.

We learned about the tunnel system underneath the current sidewalks.  Walkways and a variety of businesses (some more legal than others) operated in the depths.  The covers used to have glass inserts.  The color shining through the glass indicated whether the business below was operating.

We ate lunch at the Olde Tymers Cafe, formerly the S. G. Wall Drugstore.  The interior decor features some old time shelving, bottles, and supplies.

For dessert we went to Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory.  The business started at this site in Durango in 1981 and is now international.

Our campsite in Durango was at the Oasis RV Resort.  We recommend it.  

There was a gathering of Vintage look trailers and we enjoyed them.  Most were red, and many appeared to be owned by solo women travelers.

Next, we traveled a few hours east to Alamosa, Colorado and the nearby Great Sand Dunes National Park. The dunes are the tallest in North America at 750 feet and extend 30 miles in length.

The sand deposits came from nearby mountain erosion and were brought to the site by water passage from the east and prevailing winds from the southwest.  It is believed the dunes formed over 400,000 years ago.   

The dunes are in constant motion between the prevailing winds and storm winds that come through mountain passes to the east.  They form “chinese wall” features.

The area is huge.  We walked from the parking lot to the dune site that was most accessible.   

We were impressed by those hiking to the top but did not aspire to that level of greatness.  Although, I bet the view was stunning!   

We enjoyed watching those who had sand boards or sleds have their few seconds of fun before lugging the boards back up the hill again.

Stop number three was in the books.  Next up is Canon City, Colorado and another old steam train!

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A New Home for the Rocking Chairs

Two backstories preface this post: First, I was miserable in the Phoenix heat last summer and started scheming to never do it again. My first idea was to buy some land near Flagstaff and put our trailer on it like a summer cabin. That didn’t work because of zoning restrictions. The RV parks that are open for seasonal rentals have long waitlists and just weren’t very appealing. I started working with a realtor to consider buying an actual cabin, but Randy was not enthusiastic. He didn’t want two homes to maintain, especially one that involved winter at 7000 feet.

There was White Mountain Vacation Village with RV Lots for sale in Show Low, in the White Mountains, about three hours east of Phoenix, but Randy thought that was too far for quick trips.   The best plan seemed to just be gone in the summer as much as we could, either in the trailer or by renting a hotel, home or cabin short term.  

Second story: My parents bought these two rocking chairs for about $25 in Panama in the late 1970s. Randy and I acquired them about fifteen years ago and they were among the few things that transitioned from the house into the trailer when we started full time RVing.

in 2017, one of them got crunched by the RV slide after rocking and rolling on a Nevada road trip. We took it to Boise and Randy and our friend Darrell repaired it.   The chairs were a bit of a pain, always having to velcro them down to anchors in the carpet when we traveled, but it wasn’t a big deal.   You know…family heirlooms and all.

Then we got the new floor in the trailer. It is nice. I like it a lot but there was no way to anchor down the rocking chairs.

This is what I did to protect the chairs and the back window: Exercise pad down first and then the chairs nested together with blankets and bungee cords….not quick or fun.

The extra work got me thinking about a stationary sleeper sofa instead.  An easy idea but a challenging feat as we had space limitations and a very narrow entry door, eliminating almost all household and most RV models.   

I found a sleeper sofa online that would work.  It was on clearance through Camping World and wasn’t available anywhere in Arizona.  I couldn’t order it to be delivered to home because we weren’t there.  I found one in Albuquerque and bought it without ever seeing or sitting on the sofa when they agreed to hold it until we came through Albuquerque three weeks later.

 

We got the sofa about a week before the end of our trip so it wasn’t a huge deal to have it and the chairs. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with the rocking chairs once we got them home…but they were going.  

We tried putting the rocking chairs in the crew cab but they wouldn’t fit.    

We couldn’t fit them safely in the back of the truck with the hitch and all that other stuff.

So,  they stayed on our bed until we needed in it.   It worked – short term.

We enjoyed our trip very much but were ready to go home.  Randy would have driven straight there if I had suggested it but we had one last stop on the itinerary.  It was Show Low, in the White Mountains, about three hours east of Phoenix.   Ding, ding, ding, ding….

I had wanted to drive to Show Low just to look at White Mountain Vacation Village but with COVID we didn’t do it.   I wanted to see if we would be interested in pursuing an RV lot there. If so we needed to be prepared because they came up for sale very infrequently.

The White Mountains are forested beauty at 6500 feet and a stark contrast to the desert we live in.  The population swells in the summer as people like me escape the heat.   We liked the area very much and spent a day exploring several RV and park model communities. All of a sudden we weren’t just looking at potential RV lots, we were looking at park model “cabins” and Randy was fully on board.  The contrast between our two best choices were stark: leasing or owning the land, and partial or full year access.

Within 24 hours we had purchased a fully furnished 2005 park model on a lot we own in White Mountain Vacation Village, in Show Low, in the White Mountains, about three hours east of Phoenix.    We have year round access just in case we are interested in experiencing cold and snow for a few days.

The previous owners moved to a larger place within the village and are very willing to help us learn about the cabin and the area.

It has been fun to plan cabin modifications but, given everything else we have planned for the summer, it may be awhile.

The nicest feature is this great deck but the whole thing is turn-key ready. Maintenance is minimal. We have a wooded corner lot with lots of aspens.

The storage shed comes complete with tools and electricity.

The biggest hurdle to buying our “cabin” was deciding if it made any sense to do so while we still have the trailer or whether we were ready to be done RVing.  In the end we decided to try and have it all.  We plan to keep the trailer for a year or two or three but we can sense the end coming.   In the meantime, we’ll enjoy our cabin knowing that our time there will grow in coming years.

It is just 3 hours up the road….and a very pretty road it is transitioning from city, to desert, to forest.

And when we get there…….we’ll find our cabin and our chairs. We bought a cabin for our chairs! They look very nice in their new home.

There is one other aspect to this story. Randy and I are usually very low key about celebrating birthdays, anniversaries and holidays. We usually go out to eat, or do a special activity, but we aren’t big with gifts. But, we committed to purchase the cabin on our 41st anniversary. Randy says he bought me a cabin. I say I bought him a deck. Happy Anniversary to us!

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Handy Randy – Volume 432

Those of you who have been following this blog for awhile know that Randy is able to fix most things in the trailer. In fact, he thinks the ability to troubleshoot and fix things should be qualifications for owning an RV.   He gets frustrated when he has to hodgepodge things together if our location limits supplies but he usually gets it done.

On this trip he had to figure out why we had gouges in our brand new floor  The answer was two metal protrusions barely sticking through on our kitchen slide-out.   We’ll get the planks replaced after we are sure it is no longer an issue when we take another trip later this summer.

The next Handy Randy project was figuring out what was going on with our SplendideWasher Dryer Combo.  We had poor drying, flashing light sequences, and even obnoxious noises when it wasn’t in use! We resorted to turning the electricity off at the breaker box.

We’d never had this much drama with the unit before but we had seen poor drying and lesser light sequences. I did the intensive cleaning procedure that had always worked before without good result. Randy repeated it when he found a modified version online.  Again, no change.

While living on the road, having that washer-dryer in the trailer was required as far as I was concerned.  But now that we are part timers,  I was already thinking about whether we would replace it at a cost of around $1500. Given 2020, it may not be possible to get one.  Like everything in an RV, the machines are much more expensive than home units.

Handy Randy kept digging around thinking he might get by with just replacing the electronics.  He finally found someone describing a solidified lint mass way down in the bowels of the machine that caused similar symptoms. 

So,  he took the dang thing out of the closet (after removing the closet door) and took it apart.

Sure enough, he found this disgusting mat of lint the size of a dead rat.  No wonder the machine was acting crazy.  We have no answer as to why this bizarre behavior wasn’t demonstrated when we last time used the trailer but was now. Perhaps being idle for awhile allowed that lint to settle and solidify.

Disgusting!

Even though he was able to fix the combo unit this time, it was enough work that he didn’t want to do it again.   He believed a contributing factor to the problem was restricted air flow at the vent because of the placement of the original hole.

Way back in 2015 we had the washer-dryer combo installed at a Good Sam Rally.  At that time Randy had been uncertain about cutting holes in the side of the trailer without knowing for sure what he was doing.

Unfortunately that hole was about eight inches off the optimal venting site requiring this adaption. It worked, mostly, but lint build up has always been an issue.

Randy decided to cut a new hole to vent more directly.  He was glad to find the needed parts in this small New Mexico town.

All done! The left vent is capped and no longer functional. The one on the right is open and works great! The washer-dryer combo and I are happy again. It was another successful Handy Randy repair! Well done husband!

When the work was done we visited the Mineral Museum at New Mexico Tech in Socorro.  We were impressed with the breadth and depth of their displays focusing not only on New Mexico and Western minerals and gems but it also included specimens from around the world.

Minerals and gem stones is not a world we live in, but we were impressed.  If you do live in that world, you’d probably love it!

We routed through Socorro to go to the Very Large Array, about an hour west.  Unfortunately it was still COVID closed and we only saw the array from the road.  Another time….

We had one final stop in New Mexico –  but just for lunch and pie.  Pie Town had been on our “to do” list for years but we just hadn’t been through on Highway 60.

After COVID, It felt so very strange to be in a small cafe with other people, especially when lots of people came in to purchase pies.   Pie Town has some history as the restaurant has been operating since 1927.

New Mexico burgers (with chilis of course) were very good and we left with small Key Lime and Southern Peach pies.   We won’t go out of our way but if we find ourselves on Highway 60 again, we’d stop for pie, just like everyone else.

After almost six weeks on the road, we came back into Arizona.  We had a great trip but were very ready to be home.  Along the way Randy came to the understanding that he really didn’t want to go full time again.

We had one more stop that was important to me.  Randy would have been happy to skip it but it turned out to be a big deal. It will be a little while before I write about it because some things need to settle out, but a big thing is coming in the next blog.

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