Thursday, April 27, 2023

California, Denver and moving East!


We have generally visited Zoë's home in Palo Alto, CA in the fall so it was a nice shock to see the hills around their area green! We did several walks in the Arastradero Preserve just above the city.

We had a bit of a challenge backing into our small site at Ridgeline RV Park in Denver but the suggestion of our neighbor Rick solved the problem. It was a back in site but we were able to drive through as it was on a corner and flat. I've been cooking down the refrigerator so we went out to dinner at an excellent restaurant not far away, Smokin Fins in Littleton (very pretty little downtown). On Monday we drove to the airport early and parked in a Long Term Economy Lot, grabbed a shuttle and checked in. Although it was very crowded we found a good place for breakfast. It was a bit late getting to the gate though so we were forced to check in our carry-on bags. It's only a 2 hour flight to San Francisco and after picking up our rental car, we were on our way. By that time it was well past lunch so we stopped at a fast food Chinese place before continuing to Zoë's. 

Chris, their foreign exchange student from 
Denmark and our grandson, Tommy

George, Tommy and Zoë (Tommy loves to 
show off his height)

George made dinner our first night and then each night another person has responsibility. They have a Danish foreign exchange student staying the year with them, Chris, who is at high school with their younger son Tommy. So Zoë only has dinner duty two nights a week, which she loves. And I took one of them for her, chicken schnitzel, which is a family favorite. Saturday night we celebrated my birthday and our anniversary (44 years). Scott made his famous Oreo ice cream cake - yummy! 

Heather's Birthday cake that Scott made

During the week we went on a hike everyday and sometimes a walk around their lovely neighborhood as well. Chris is on the lacrosse team and we attended our first lacrosse game one night. Then on Sunday Scott, Zoë, and I drove up to Merced to visit our grandson Nick who is a sophomore at the University of California there. We visited his very spacious apartment, met his roommate and took him out for dinner. It was a great time but a long day driving, 2.5 hours each way. Monday we flew back to Denver, picked up the truck and drove back to Baby. But this was my actual birthday so we went out to dinner again at Smokin Fins as we'd liked it so much. And our waiter arranged a complimentary dessert with candles. Terrific end to the week. 

Scott & Zoë on the trail.

One of our hikes was at the Foothills Reserve
also above Palo Alto

Every where we saw California poppies in bloom

Celebrating my birthday at Smokin' Fin

Next morning we were off early and headed east. It was a long boring day on Interstate 70 to a KOA at Wakeeney where we had a nice level drive through not far from the highway. Off again early it was another boring day to Walnut Grove RV Park near Kansas City. We had planned to see the WWI Museum the next morning but it was not to be! When we arrived, I noticed that the lights were out on our refrigerator. After Scott investigated the connections inside and out, he was stumped. But the office gave us several people to call and a bag of ice for a temporary fix. For a change, the service men were very responsive. The first man spent quite a bit of time with Scott over the phone eliminating many possible problems but couldn't come over. The second person not only spent time with Scott on the phone, but picked up the necessary part in the morning, came over and fixed it. Hooray! But that meant we got a late start and we got to our next KOA in Granite City, near St. Louis, later than we like. 

Having dinner at the KOA Granite City outside!

Part of the line up for the pods to the top of the
Gateway Arch 

Scott enters the tiny pod

Inside and trying to be brave!

We stayed here two nights and spent the day in between touring the Gateway Arch National Park in the morning and the Busch Brewing Experience in the afternoon. Between them we had some excellent BBQ at downtown Smoke N Bones. We could see (and admire) the arch as we drove into the city along the river. It's set in a park right on the waterfront. We felt it was a different combination of National Park and Private Enterprise. There were Park Rangers and a nice museum exhibit but the ride to the top and the movie cost money. The former was difficult for me but I did it. I'm claustrophobic so when faced with entering a tiny pod for 4 people and riding up to the top inside the arch, I almost panicked. Another large gentleman near us did: "No way, I'm getting in that' he said and bolted. The nice couple we shared it with helped by chatting away and keeping me occupied. The views from the top were great and I'm glad I did it - but not again. 

It's a small area at the top for viewing and the 
windows were long and narrow. Here's the view
on the city side of the old Capitol.

And on the other side of the river.

The arch itself, right on the river banks. 

The Brewery Tour was fun, but the main interest for us was the history and the beautiful buildings on the campus, not the beer. Bud is not a beer we'd ever buy or order. But we did drink most of the samples they offered during the visit! And they now own many other breweries so we had a chance to try two craft type beers as well. One was Big Wave from the Kona Brewing Company - pretty good. 

Scott and Heather on tour

One of the famous Clydesdale Busch horses

The buildings at the Brewery campus were 
beautiful and hardly looked like beer factories!

Here's one of them for example.

The next morning Scott had an appointment nearby to get the oil changed on our truck and what good luck again. They checked a few other things and found we had a nest in our air filter from some creature who had moved in, probably while we were in California. That could have caused some big problems! Next we headed east again, this time to two one night stands: Tipsaw Recreation Area in St. Croix (!) Indiana and then the Outpost RV Park in Salt Lick, Kentucky. The former was very nice and the very helpful hosts gave us a better site and led us to it. We drove down to see the lake on our way out and walked around the campground as well. The second was very spacious and welcoming although the lake is far away and we didn't even see it. Through all this we've been traveling with the cold weather. Everyone told us, "It was 80 last week." We had freezing temperatures at night and highs in the high 40's during the day. So that's all for now folks - on to West Virginia next.

Tipsaw Recreation Area - view from Baby
The Outpost RV Park - our site
At Chris' lacrosse game - notice the different tolerance's for the cold - Zoë and I are bundled up, George has a light fleece and Tommy is in a t-shirt and shorts!
Scott took this from the top of the hill at Arastradero Reserve with his telescope lens. That's San Francisco Bay in the distance over the city of Palo Alto.

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Colorado National Monument

You can see a section of the Rim Rock Road below

Another view of the canyon from the trail along the rim from the Visitor's Center

We left early from Moab as it was a four hour drive to Fruita, Colorado where we had reservations at the James M. Robb State Park and wanted to spend the afternoon exploring the Colorado National Monument nearby. The following day was a long one over the Rockies to Denver so this was our only chance to spend time at this beautiful spot. The famous 23 mile long Rim Rock Drive was designed in 1932 and constructed almost entirely with manual labor from the WPA, the CCC and the Public Works Administration. At its height, the project employed more than 800 men and included three tunnels.

We walked along the Rim Trail from the Visitor's Center admiring not only the view but the Pinyon and Juniper trees. Many look like large Bonsai. Pinyon trees have been known to live 800 to 1000 and there are many old ones here in the Park.

I am not sitting on the edge of the cliff but a wall near it. Again it was sunny but had a high around 48 degrees.

This is an area of desert land high on the Colorado Plateau (the highest point in the park is 7,028 ft.) with pinyon and juniper forests. There is a wide range of wildlife including golden eagles, desert bighorn sheep and coyotes. Rock climbing is a big draw here and we saw several people up on the top of both Independence Monument and a smaller version closer to us - amazing! 

I spotted these climbers during our
hike. We yelled over our 

Scott took a close up. This is a smaller version of 
the famous Independence Monument below.

Here's a view from the other side
of the canyon of Independence
Monument. Several climbers can
be seen at the top!

The father of the park was John Otto who arrived in 1906 and fell in love with the area. He wrote, "I came here last year and found theses canyons and they felt like the heart of the world to me. I'm going to stay and promote this place, because if should be a national park." He did in fact do this. He was the Monument's first custodian, in which capacity he earned one dollar per month until leaving the post in 1929. He knew every inch of the park and carved a number of trails including the way up the Independence Monument, which he was the first to summit. He married Beatrice Famham on June 20, 1911 at a rustic alter in what is known as Wedding Canyon. Unfortunately the bride did not understand the living conditions he preferred and she left him only days later.

Here's a picture of their wedding and her 
explanation of why she had to leave.

We did the length of the road, ending up in Grand Junction and circling back to our campsite. The weather had turned warm enough to enjoy our drinks outside. There was a lovely sunset too. The next day we were off by 8:30 AM and had beautiful weather to cross the Rockies on Highway 70. This is a marvel of construction as well with one long tunnel dedicated to President Eisenhower and lots of gorgeous views over the mountains and down at the river. 

This view while having lunch ranks with the most
scenic we've experienced. 

We're leaving Baby at the Ridgeline at River Run, a 55+ Community (and RV park) while we fly to Palo Alto California to visit our daughter Zoë, son-in-law George and our two grandsons, Nick and Tommy.  We'll be back in a week and start east again. 

Scott would love to do a book on
the fabulous trees we've seen on our

Our site at the James M. Robb State Park at 
Fruita, CO

Lunch spot on the highway going over the Rockies

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

A Hair-raising Experience in Canyonlands

This is a professional shot of the top section of the Shafer Road at Canyonlands. 
We had a hair raising experience back country driving in Canyonlands. It put the recent trip in the snow and flooding up from Sedona in the shade and made jumping out of a plane easy peasy (which I did to celebrate my 75th birthday). Yes, I know we promised to be more careful, but the Ranger at the Visitor's Center recommended the Shafer Road and then the Potash one (after asking about our vehicle) and once we started, there was no going back! Literally, as it was so narrow that planning was necessary if another vehicle was spotted coming the opposite direction to allow two cars to pass each other and luckily we were the ones smashed up against the side of the canyon (most of the time). The planning was all our's too, as etiquette demands that the downward vehicle pull off for the upward one. There wasn't a place to turn around until we were at the bottom of the first descent and we sure weren't going back up it. Then the Potash road turned into stream beds at times and we hit bottom (actually I think it was mostly the steps we had installed and the trailer hitch) several times. And it took 2 hours to get through both of them. My hands were cramped from clenching the wheel.
This is my own photo taken from the top of the viewing spot. The section of the road I could see well, here at the top looked pretty good. But it turns out it got much narrower and the edge of the road often dropped straight down. 

This is someone else's photo of the Potash Road, which was wider, longer and much rougher, often in dried up stream beds. We did not take photos during our trip.

"A very famous point of the trail is the Thelma and Louise Point, where they filmed the famous scene in "Thelma & Louise" when they jumped their car off the edge and into the canyon. The final scene is not the Grand Canyon. The view is one of the most photographed scenic vistas in the world. Towering 2,000 feet above the Colorado River, the overlook provides a breathtaking panorama of Canyonlands' sculpted pinnacles and buttes." (taken from a description of the Potash Road online) And this one: "For sections of this road, the surface is a rough worn slickrock and when you drive over it, your entire vehicle will vibrate and rattle like crazy. I would not want to drive my own vehicle on this road!"
View from the Grand View Point trail

Climbing the steep steps on the trail. What a job building this. Most of the work in the parks were done by the CCC back in the 1940's

I'm a bit clautrophobic but have no fear of heights. Nevertheless I don't go nearer than about 5 feet from the edge. That still makes many people nervous and I sure do when I see some crazy, mostly young men, get right to the edge to have their photo taken!

We've been taking a lunch with us and enjoying it at the many picnic spots

Frankly it's hard to take a bad photo and hard to choose which ones to include

We loved looking at the Green River as many years ago we did a rafting trip down it with Scott's brother Brent and his then partner Katie. 

And last of all, a shot that a kind person took for us. You can see that it was cold, even if sunny. 

But we did have some lovely hikes and views before undertaking this exploit. There are 3 sections of the park: Island in the Sky, The Needles and The Maze. We only had time to do the first one. Our first hike was the White Rim Overlook Trail, 1.6 miles along the canyon rim - easy and gorgeous. Then we did the Upheaval Dome second overlook, 1.2 miles but more vertical feet. The upheaval dome is an enigmatic geological structure that has been variously interpreted as a meteorite impact structure or a salt dome.

That's it for this post - next the Colorado National Monument!


Monday, April 10, 2023

Arches National Park

Courthouse Towers

We enjoyed Arches National Park over two days. The first one we spent 5 hours hiking and trying some off road experiences. The second day we came in for most of the afternoon following a morning exploring the bike path along the Colorado River. There was a day in-between, which we spent at Canyonlands and my next blog post will cover that. Arches now requites timed entry planned in advance. Over a month ago we learned this and signed up for 3 days entering at Noon (the first time available on those days). This has been done to resolve problems with overcrowding at the trail heads and view sites (and extensive lines entering the park). It seemed to work well. 

Balance Rock

One of the windows arches, I think Turret

The trails often had stone steps and were easy
to follow, but often steep (I only mind the ups)

I think this is the North and South Windows.

View Sites and Trailheads branch off from the main road throughout the park. We stopped first at Courthouse Towers and Balance Rock where we did a short hikes. Then we did some longer hikes at the Windows Section to see the North & South Windows and Turret Arch. Finally we were on to the Delicate Arch where there were 3 choices. We did the first viewpoint and then up (and up steeply) to the second viewpoint.

It's impossible not to see figures in the stone pillars and mesas. These three women in their long skirts are marching along the cliffs

And here we saw Nefertiti in the center left!

That finished off our hiking for the day so we tried three 4 wheel drive roads. The first was a short bumpy one down the Cache Valley - not bad. The second, a long road down the Salt Valley, was really fairly easy, a lot like a dirt road in Vermont. Buoyed by this success we tried a "rough road" (the Eye of the Whale rod) which they recommended you only do north/south, which was the direction we headed. It quickly turned into a very narrow heavily rutted road, at that point in a deep ditch. There was no place to turn around and then - two jeeps approached us from the opposite direction! Yiech! They stopped and we realized that the downhill vehicle is responsible for getting out of the way. This meant crawling the truck up the side of the ditch. The first jeep pulled up to us and the driver was just inches away from me (we had pulled in our rear view mirrors). He informed us that they had had to turn around due to impossible conditions. He recommended a place a little further down where we could turn around. We did, just barely. What a relief to exit that road! Reading the descriptions of the road later we found that that beginning section was the hardest and if we'd gotten through that, the rest would have been doable. 

That's Scott climbing up the steep trail at Delicate Arch

This was the easy off road trail, down Salt Valley, that led us to try the harder one

The bike path along the Colorado. As you can see it was quite cool early in the morning.

We've been seeing the Colorado all along our trip through Arizona, Utah and now Colorado

Our second day we started off exploring the bike path down the Colorado River on our e-bikes. This is a paved easy bike trail, very scenic. It was perfect for us as we're still a bit nervous on our bikes. Both of us have had falls and are now very careful. Then we went back into Arches for another drive through the park and a hike to the Double Arches in the Window Section. This was a lovely route and finished off the day for us. 

Double Arch

Closer up you can just make out the tiny figures in the center. It gives you an idea of the size here.

We've been enjoying the great restaurant selections in Moab as well. We had breakfast at the Moab Café - excellent, lunch at the Proper Brewery, also great, and dinner at Antica Forma. This last one was unusually authentic Italian. The bread and salad was outstanding as was Scott's pizza. But my linguine with clam sauce could have been served to me in Italy - tons of baby clams and perfect al dente linguine. To me the tip off is not being offered cheese. In Italy cheese is never served with seafood. The owner came over to us to talk and surprisingly, he isn't Italian. But the chef is. My post on Canyonlands will be coming out soon. Big excitement there!