Monday, June 30, 2014

Juneless Jim's Road Trip Summary and Observations

Honey, I'm Home!  Again!  So far in 2014, I've spent 7 weeks at home.  For the other 19 weeks, I've been traveling.  About 18,000 miles so far this year and its only July 1st.  The June Road Trip was 28 days and 6,500 miles.  This Blog Entry  shows where I went.  Some of the trip stats are as follows.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Southern Colorado's Varied Landscape

I’ve heard it said that if you don’t want to see anything interesting along the road, then take the interstate.  On this trip thru Colorado, we avoided the interstates and instead traversed southern Colorado taking the “blue highways” – the scenic back roads.  While we didn’t linger long at any one place, we got to see some of the beautiful scenery that makes Colorado so spectacular.

On our westerly trek, we traveled on Routes 50, 10, and 160 crossing the most southern parts of Colorado.  From the Kansas border to Walsenburg, it’s gently rolling treeless grass land.  It’s cattle country, much like southwest Kansas.  Passing thru Lamar to La Junta, we saw several small feed lots. It’s also a very Hispanic area.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Moab Revisited

In 1997, I took my family on a week long vacation to Moab.  At that time, it was the mountain biking capital of the world and we came to bike, hike, and visit the National Parks.  It was a very memorable vacation and a place that I wanted to return to.

Today, Cav and I returned as the last stop on our Grand Circle tour.  The town's changed a little. Its got a little more sprawl, but it still has its small town charm.  The outdoors sports have also expanded to include ATV's, Jeep touring, zip lines, rock climbing, and even road biking.  Back in the 90's mountain bikers where everywhere.  Now there appears to be as many ATV's as mountain bikes.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Capital Reef National Park - A Hidden Gem

As we left Ruby’s Campground at Bruce Canyon, Helga (that’s what I call my GPS because she’s part of my German built RV) wanted me to turn left and take Rt 89 (a faster route) over to Capital Reef National Park.  But, I wanted to turn right and take Rt 12, one of Utah’s scenic byways.   Most of the time I get my way as it was this time.  Helga readily adjusted to the change and routed me over Rt 12 which was technically shorter but slower because of the terrain.  Rt 12 is one of Utah's scenic byways and it did not disappoint.  What a lovely road.  

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Bryce Canyon - On the Grand Circle Tour

We've continued our trip now following the Grand Circle tour of National Parks.  Its a route starting in Utah where you drive in a big counter clockwise circle seeing several National Parks including Arches, Canyonlands, Mesa Verde, Monument Valley, Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce, and Capital Reef.  Its a very popular route especially for an RV trip.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Page, Arizona - Highly Recommended

RT 98 on the way to Page
Continuing our westward trek, Cav and I left Monument Valley and headed west to Page, AZ.  Page is on the northern border of Arizona above the Grand Canyon. It never held any interest to me other that several of my blog readers highly recommended it as a place to see.  The things recommended were Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, Marble Canyon, Navajo Bridge, Rainbow Bridge, and Lake Powell.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Monument Valley - An Awesome Place

We left the green mesas of Colorado and drove southwest into Arizona.  It was quite a dramatic landscape change.  We left green topped mesa's and some green valley's to almost desert like conditions outside of Cortez, CO.  It's a pretty desolate road to Four Corners. We had to stop at the Navajo Tribal Park and do a photo op. Where else can you place your body in four states simultaneously?

Cav wanted to ride along Rt 160 down into Arizona.  This was the route Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper rode in the movie Easy Rider. Its sparse, lonesome, and beautiful.

At Kayenta, we took Rt 163 northeast up to Monument Valley. All I can say is wow.  Just north of Monument Valley towards Mexican Hat on Rt 163, is where Forrest Gump stopped running ("I'm awful tired, I think I'll go home").

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Mesa Verde National Park - Where the Ancient Ones Lived

Green mesa's
About 40 miles west of Durango is Mesa Verde National Park.  Mesa Verde means green mesa and it is very aptly named.  This is a huge national park encompassing 81 square miles.  Its main attractions are archaeological sites.  There are over 4,500 sites and about 600 cliff dwellings.  

We arrived in the late morning and were able to spend the afternoon visiting several sites.   The park encompasses several mesas that pitch up abruptly from Rt 160.  The mesas gently slope south with several deep canyon cutting thru the mesas.  It’s in these canyons where the cliff dwellings are.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Durango, Colorado - Rocky Mountain High

After all the RV issues and long drives to dealerships, I decided to settle in for a couple of days and enjoy Durango.  What a nice western town.   Its nestled in the narrow Animas Valley at the foot of the San Juan Mountains. This is an out of the way place that's several hundred miles from any big city. An old mining town that got started in the late 1800's, it's now a hip laid back place to live with a college and a big tourist destination.

The center of town has many of the historic buildings restored with boutiques, eateries, bars, hotels, and souvenir shops.  The town has done well managing the tourist demands.  All the franchise chains are on the outskirts and the main road skirts around the town center, so the central town maintains its historic charm.  Its got a nice mostly free transit system for getting around and central parking area.  Rafting, mountain biking, 4 wheeling, skiing and the Durango-Silverton Railroad are the big draws.  Here are some pictures of the down town area,

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Making the Best of the Unexpected

A rotten tooth, severe t-storms, tornado warnings, high winds, and now the RV’s check engine light keeps coming on.  I’m beginning to think this trip might be cursed.   So far, we’ve had to delay the trip and change our route to dodge storms.  Now the RV is acting up.  

My rig is a brand new 2014 Winnebago built on the Mercedes Benz chassis.  It’s got 11,000 incident free miles, up until Friday when the Check Engine Light (CEL) came on.  I’ve worked on gas cars and trucks most of my life but this diesel is new to me.  I’m 2,000 miles from home, so this light puts a knot in my stomach.   The manual says it could be something with the emission system malfunctioning and that I’ve got 500 miles before the vehicle may start to shut things down.  Great. I’m in the middle of “nowhere” Kansas, 200-300 miles to the nearest dealer.  That’s the thing about a Benz, it’s got a unique diagnostic system and codes that can only be worked on by a service dealer with the proper computer system.  Local repair shops can’t work on it.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Dodge City - Queen of the Cowtowns

"It's nice to have some good weather", I said to my son, Cav at mid day.  "Yeah we didn't have to dodge any twisters today", was his response.  We're in Dodge City, Kansas and last night was a little scarier than the prior nights with severe storm warnings.  Tornado warnings came out at 4:30 pm with reports of golf ball sized hail and 80 mph winds just a couple of towns away.  NOAA was telling people in mobile homes to seek shelter.  The wind came up and the trees were leaning sideways.  I got the bug out bag ready.

A very low green gray fast moving shelf cloud came down the road near the RV park going about 30 mph.  A shelf cloud is a low wedge shaped cloud that plows thru the air and the eddy's formed in its wake are what help form tornado's.  Seeing that cloud was enough to send Cav running to the camp office for shelter (said he was responsible for preserving the family name as a lone survivor).  I hung with the camper, rain coat on and ready to bolt, looking for a funnel cloud.  Luckily it did not happen and the storm passed in about 15 mins.  But it was enough to make a soul need a drink to calm the nerves.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Following the Sante Fe Trail

The Sante Fe Trail was one of the major travel routes between Mexico and the United States.  The southern part of the trail was pioneered by a Frenchman named Pedro Vial in 1792.  The full trail was established in 1821 and it stretched from Franklin, MO to Sante Fe, NM.  Unlike the other western trails, the Sante Fe trail was a two way trail carrying goods between Mexico and Missouri.  It was used for almost 60 years until the railroad made it obsolete.

A significant portion of the trail traverses Kansas and there’s a highway route that lets you follow much of it across Kansas.  We got off the Interstate at Emporia, KS and took Routes 50, 150, and 56 to connect with the trail outside the town of McPherson.  Before we got there, we made a stop at the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve.  This is a 10,000 acre preserve established by the National Park Service in 1996 that preserves one of the last undeveloped stands of tallgrass prairie in the US.  It looks just like it did from prehistoric times.  It even has a buffalo herd.  Prairie grass stretched from Kansas to Colorado and the entire width of the US.  Tallgrass started on the eastern most edge of the area to central Kansas.  From there to Colorado, the shortgrass took over.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Sleepless in Missouri

Cav at Finger Lakes State Park, Missouri
This is a footnote to my last post.  We spent day three driving across Missouri.  We spent the night at a nice state park campground (Finger Lakes State Park).  That night we had severe thunderstorm warnings prior to going to bed.  Like I do most nights, I got woken up in the middle of the night to go to the bath room because of my colitis.  It’s become a routine and part of that routine has me sitting on the toilet reading the news and weather on my cell phone.   

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Juneless Jim’s Road Trip is Underway

After much planning and some unanticipated delays, the June road trip now underway.  I had to push off the start of the trip by about a week due to an unforeseen dental issue that couldn’t wait.  At my regular 6 month check-up (which was 3 days before the start of my trip) an x-ray showed some serious decay below the gum and bone in one of my upper molars.  My dentist was doubtful that tooth could be saved and was concerned it could cause me problems.  He suggested I have the tooth extracted before my trip so it wouldn't cause me any problems and it would have time to heal while I was away until I could have either a bridge or implant put in.