Colorado Trip Fall 1999

Hi all,

Well, we are at it again.  We left this morning (Monday, Sept 6) on our Fall trip.  I know, it's not Fall yet, but it will be before we get home.  Our Spring trip was delayed and  became mostly a Summer trip.  So on the average our two trips are right where they are supposed to be!

We were invited to join the Escondido Senior Anglers for a week long trip to June Lake, in the Sierras.  As that is an area we have wanted to see, we accepted.  We were even promised that we did not have to fish!  We will leave there several days before the rest of the group does and head east across Nevada through Eli and see Great Basin National Park.  Then near the border of Utah and Colorado we will see Dinosaur National Monument.  We will then head to near Grand Junction, CO to Cedaredge, CO to visit some long time friends, John and Barbara Cairns.  John and I worked together starting when I first joined Librascope in 1961.

We will then head south through Durango to Mesa Verde National Park and on to Forest Lakes, AZ where we will spend several days with Keith and Virg Scholl.  From there we will head to Prescott, AZ and visit our good friends Gene and Betty Wilkison.  From there - home.  Estimated total time of the trip will be about 3 1/2 weeks.

STANDARD DISCLAIMER:  If for any reason, you would just as soon not receive these trip reports, drop me an email and I'll pull your name from the list immediately upon receipt.

Monday, September 6

We were up this morning at 5:15 (ugh!) to be able to head down to the motorhome around 6:00.  After getting things there squared away, we drove it down to San Pasqual Valley Road and parked along the edge.  I then walked back home and got the Saturn, which already had my bike securely mounted to the bike rack on the trunk.  I drove it down and hooked up to the motorhome and we got to the K-mart parking lot by about 6:40 for a scheduled 7:00 departure with 5 other RVs.  This is about half the total who are going (the ones who were brave enough to caravan together).

Caravanning with 6 RV's is, to say the least, interesting.  It can be very frustrating at times, but it is an experience!  Our group consisted of 3 class A motorhomes, 2 class C motorhomes, and 1 truck and fifth-wheel trailer combo.  Two of us with class A's are towing cars (ours is the Saturn, his is a Jeep Grand Cherokee).

We had a couple of minor problems in the group.  The leader discovered his CB didn't work, so he had no communication with the rest of us.  He pulled off and was going to follow the group, but we talked him into pulling into the group so both ends would have communication.  One of the other motorhomes had a badly calibrated speedometer and we went very slowly while they led.  Shortly another RV with a better speedometer led and we got closer to 55 and the line of traffic behind us shortened somewhat.  Driving up on Labor Day meant a lot of cars on the road, but most of them were heading in the opposite direction.

After 280 miles of driving we reached today's destination, Tuttle Creek Campground, just out of Lone Pine.  It is a BLM campground and has no fees, but they do accept donations.  We gave them a small donation to help keep the camp free.  There are no hook ups at all here, so we get a chance to try out our fairly new golf cart house batteries for a night.  I am also getting a chance to really try out the digital amp and voltmeters I designed and built to help monitor the batteries.

I rode my bike a little around the campground, partly through soft sand and gravel, and all up and down hill.  Boy, am I out of shape!  Maybe by the end of this trip I will have firmed up a few of my muscles somewhat.

Tomorrow we drive about 120 miles to our campground near June Lake.

Tuesday, September 7

We broke camp and pulled out in line this morning right at the scheduled time of 8:30.  There are now only 5 of us, as one of the couples and their friend decided they would do better with hookups, so proceeded to Bishop last night.

We had a very uneventful drive today, thank heavens!.  We all stopped in Bishop to fuel up and pick up any last minute items at K-Mart.  Regular gas was 1.719 a gallon.  We lucked out with diesel being "only" 1.499.  One of the fellows driving a motorhome smelled amonia last night when he opened his refrigerator, and found it is not cooling.  This is bad!  It means the cooling unit has corroded through somewhere and is losing the refrigerant.  He bought a large ice chest and a bunch of ice at K-Mart.

The grade out of Bishop is quite a pull!  It took us to slightly over 8000 feet.  We were all concerned for the motorhome pulling the Jeep Grand Cherokee, as he had been running hotter than normal anyway, and he was pulling a very heavy load for his Chevy 454 engine.  He had no problems, however.  As we neared the top of the grade, one of the men called on the CB and said that it was Weldon and he was stopping to see if he could help.  As we came around a curve we saw a travel trailer and truck stopped at the edge of the road with a CHP officer behind with his lights flashing.  A couple of the rigs stopped and the rest of us kept going to a pull-out at the top of the grade.  When the others arrived they said the tow truck pulled in, so they left.  It turned out that they had what appeared to be vapor lock, and a mechanic earlier in the day had done several things, but apparently not successfully.  They still have problems climbing grades, but otherwise are OK.

Our camp is beautiful, among the Pines.  We are close to June Lake, but cannot see it from our site.  We are nestled in among about 6 trees and should be well shaded all day.  I cranked up the satellite antenna, saying "No way!" to myself, and promptly got a 75% signal.  I must have hit a lucky hole!

I unpacked Betty's scooter and unracked my bike.  I counted up, and we have 6 wheeled vehicles along on this trip! - Betty's 2 wheelchairs, her scooter, my bike, the motorhome, and the Saturn.  Not bad for a party of two, is it?  Betty's scooter should work a lot better as I bought a new set of batteries for it just before leaving.  The old ones would no longer hold a charge even overnight.

This afternoon we drove the Saturn around the local area a bit.  We took highway 158 for its full loop of about 20 miles around several lakes.  We drove through the town of June Lake and explored several nearby campgrounds.  Then it was back to camp to prepare for tonight's salad and dessert potluck.

Tomorrow we will do some more serious exploring.

Wednesday, September 8

Today was Yosemite!

We got a later start than we had planned, and got away around 10:30.  We figured about a 90 mile drive over Tioga Pass and down to Yosemite Village.  After filling up the Saturn in Lee Vining (at 1.899) we headed up highway 120.  It was a beautiful drive, past a number of mountain lakes, through vegetation that ranged from pure desert to pure mountain.  We stopped briefly at Tenaya Lake to enjoy the scenery.  Across the highway on one of the large rock domes were several rock climbers dotting the sheer side of the rock way above us.  There is a lot of rock climbing in this area, but I'll keep my feet firmly planted on horizontal surfaces, thank you!

We continued across the pass until we reached the park boundary right at the summit, just a few feet short of 10,000 ft. altitude.  We headed down over 5000 feet to the valley floor.  We stopped at Camp Curry and looked around a bit, then headed into the village.  We stopped at Lower Yosemite falls and could see the marks on the rock where the water runs, when there is any.  It was totally dry!  It has been almost 20 years since we have been here, and this is the latest in the year.  This is the first time we have seen it totally dry.

Bridalveil Fall, on the other hand, was gorgeous!  There was just enough water falling to be almost totally controlled by the wind.  Sometimes the water would just plummet straight down the face of the mountain.  Sometimes it would stop falling all together and blow as a mist straight sideways.  Then some of the water would overcome the wind and you would see spikes of water dropping out of the bottom of the veil.  It was really neat watching all the different variations.  The wind is obviously quite turbulent up there, as sometimes the veil would blow right, and sometimes left.  It was much more interesting than when it is really full of water.

At the village, we pulled into a huge parking lot, and finally found a space.  Looking around, we could not see any clues about where the village stores were.  Deciding I did not want to wander aimlessly pushing Betty's wheelchair, we pulled out and found the village stores, and another parking lot right alongside, that actually had more empty spaces than the distant one.

We explored the general store, the sports store, and the snack shop, where we got our obligatory ice cream cones!

After the village we drove out to Mirror Lake (with our handicap placard we were allowed to drive it) only to see a totally dry dirt flat!  It was hard to picture the lake with its beautiful reflections as we looked over the dirt and rocks.

We then drove part way out the South Entrance road (Hwy 41) to the end of the tunnel.  The view from this spot it about the most beautiful and spectacular view I have ever seen.  You look over the valley and its lush vegetation toward El Capitan and Half Dome.  We always stop here to enjoy the view.

It was now getting late enough that we were sure we would not make tonight's pot luck.  Oh well . .  I'll take Yosemite any day!

We headed back over Tioga Pass.  The traffic was quite a bit lighter than this morning.  The only problem we had was a Gulf Stream Sun Voyager motorhome, somewhat newer than ours, towing a Jeep with a canoe on the roof and about 4 bicycles on the back.  We found ourselves behind them for about 20 miles of upgrades.  We passed several very good turnouts, but he just kept going.  We finally passed him just before the summit.

We got back in camp just as the pot luck was disbanding.

It was a very good day!

September 9, 1999

Today is the day we have all been waiting for (haven't we?)  It is 9/9/99.  How is your 9's party going Jim?

I just walked down to the office and they said I could plug in to their phone line, so hopefully I can get this out this afternoon!

I truly was able to send episode #1 at the office this afternoon.

Today we went to Mono Lake.  It is a very interesting place.  I have been hearing about Mono Lake for years, but have never known much about it.  

We went to the Visitor's Center first.  They had a 20 minute video explaining the ecological importance of the lake, explaining that the salinity of the lake is about 3 times as high as the Pacific Ocean, and that the alkalinity is almost 1000 times as high.  It also showed how the tufa was generated.  These are limestone structures that are somewhat spire like towers with irregular shapes and sizes, up to about 15 feet tall.  They are generated underwater around springs bubbling up from the bottom of the lake.  Very soft calcium carbonate crystals form due to the salinity and the pH of the water.  When the lake conditions are just right the crystals survive and over time tend to harden somewhat.  There are several areas of the lake where these structures now stand above the water, along with other areas where the structures are now rising from dry ground.

The outer perimeter of the lake is covered with flies and fly larvae.  This turns out to be very important for the survival of the brine shrimp, which are the only fish in the lake.  The brine shrimp are harvested commercially to supply food for tropical fish.

After decades of progressively lower levels due to too much water being shipped to those "terrible Southern Californians", the lake has now risen over 10 feet in the last several years.  The rise is expected to continue slowly.

There were also a number of displays in the Visitor's Center.  We got to see replica tufa up close, we saw live brine shrimp as well as plastic models many, many times life size, along with many other displays.

Next we drove several miles to South Tufa.  After driving a short gravel road we came upon a path to the edge of the lake.  Along the sides of the path were some very extensive tufa structures.  We were able to get a very good look from up close.  The paved path ended a ways from the lake, so I went down without Betty.  The shore line was just lined with tiny flys.  As I walked up to the shore, there was a grey cloud of flys for several feet each way.  From here I was able to see several more tufa structures in the water, but near the shore.

We headed back to camp where I had promised Herb (class A motorhome towing Jeep Grand Cherokee) to help him find why his rig would not start.  It would merely click when the key was turned to start.  We checked the obvious relays and fuses under the hood with no faults found.  I finally crawled under and discovered the battery cable which attaches to the starter was very loose.  I tightened the terminal nut at least two turns and all is well.

Tonight was our "dinner out" night.  We went to a restaurant in the town of June Lake and had a very good meal.

Tomorrow we head to Mammoth Lakes and Devil's Postpile.

Friday, September 10

For the last several days we have been using Betty's small wheeled wheelchair (her companion chair).  She likes this chair around home, but when we travel the large balloon tires of her other chair work out much better.  Each day so far, we have forgotten to change chairs.  This morning I pulled her large chair out from one of our storage compartments and discovered both tires were soft.  This is not a problem as with air brakes we have a supply of compressed air.  I carry a coiled hose and tire chucks, etc.  I pulled out the hose, and it was in two pieces!  The brittle plastic had snapped.  About 30 minutes later I had succeeded in removing the fitting from the shorter half, heating the end of the longer half in our toaster to soften it enough to press the fitting in, and putting the quick connect fittings on to that.  I now had a shorter, but usable air hose.  While I had the setup in place, I pumped up her wheelchair tires, her scooter tires, and my bicycle tires.

We headed toward Mammoth Lakes, about 25 miles south of here.  As we entered the area we came to a visitor's center and ranger station.  We stopped and saw a video on the area.  They ran the video just for us on a TV near the corner of the room.  Right next to the TV was a seismograph monitoring sensors several miles away.  As we watched, two ladies, one a ranger, came and started changing the paper on the seismograph.  As they removed the old paper, one of them said "Wow! look at this!"  There were several recent traces showing activity.  One was about magnitude 3 within the last 20 minutes.  Another was longer ago, but was a very strange low frequency shake that lasted almost 4 minutes.  It was interesting to watch their reactions, even though we never found what was different about the one event.  The fact that there were earthquakes was not surprising.  They have a number of them every day.  Magnitude 3 is less common, but not at all rare.

In the gift shop, Betty added to her bear collection with a small Smokey Bear.  He is going to be in charge of her other bears to help keep them in line.

We drove through the town of Mammoth Lakes and headed toward Devil's Postpile National Monument (elev 7600 feet).  The ranger had said that one edge was visible from the parking lot, but that a hike was required to really see it.  We drove the 17 miles to the parking lots.  It was a real challenge to find a spot.  During
the Summer season, most people must ride busses to get here.  Now that the busses have stopped for the season, fewer people, but many more cars are here.

There was no sign of the formations from the parking area.  I left Betty in the car and hiked the .4 mile trail.  Until I was within several hundred feet of the site, there was no way to view it at all.

The Devil's Postpile is a group of symmetrical basaltic columns over 60 feet tall, remnants of a basalt flow worn smooth by ice flows (this is from the brochure).  What this means is there are many of these hexagonal columns high on a cliff.  Each is several feet across, and tight against its neighbors.  Below the formation is a huge pile of broken columns which have fractured and fallen over the eons, mostly during earthquakes.  The last columns fell in the early 80's.  There was a magnitude 6 earthquake, and several of the columns broke off and added to the pile of debris.

During our driving in the area, we encountered many lakes.  They are all beautiful, but the strangest of the group was Horseshoe Lake.  At one end of the lake the trees were all bare and pale in color.  We wondered at first if maybe the lake had been much higher and killed the trees, but looking across at the other shore the trees looked normal right down to the water line.

On the other side of the parking lot were large signs warning about CO2 danger.  On our way home, we again stopped by the visitor's center to ask about these situations.  The CO2 is coming from underground, caused, they believe, by underground magma fairly close to the surface.  In periods of very still air, the concentration of CO2 builds up and is the cause of the death of the trees.  Also there has been a human fatality.  A hiker fell into a hole and could not climb out.  He suffocated due to the heavy CO2 displacing the oxygen in the air.

On our way back, we stopped in town and picked up some supplies.  We even walked by the ice cream cone counter at Rite Aid without stopping!  We did stop at a Subway shop and had delicious pastrami sandwiches.

Today is our last day here at June lake, so I put the bike and rack on the Saturn, packed Betty's scooter back in its compartment, and got ready for a morning departure to Ely, NV.

Saturday, September 11

We got up fairly promptly this morning.  I started by moving the Saturn over near the office.  After securing everything we said goodbye to the Senior Anglers and drove up front to have our propane tank filled.  I then pulled out and hooked up the Saturn and we headed for Ely, NV.

The first part of today's drive was on SR120 over the mountains to the east.  It was not a high speed road, with areas of numerous turns and up and down grades.  Compared to the long drive needed to avoid it, it was great!  After a while, we crossed the border into Nevada.  We drove a couple hundred miles of about the most "nothing" I have ever driven.  It was basically flatland with sagebrush as far as you could see.  There were no trees or other vegetation.  This road makes I-5 to Northern California look interesting!

We had identified two different parks in Ely.  The first was associated with a Holiday Inn and its casino.  It had 22 spaces with full hookups and all were occupied.  It turned out that instead of the $9 listed in our guides, they were offered free for the first two days.  Pulling in at 4:00 PM doesn't make it with free camping, a casino, and a weekend!  We went another mile down the road and got a space in a Good Sam RV park.

After parking, I cranked up the satellite dish and could only get a signal strength of about 40.  I usually get over 70.  I went outside and found there is a small tree that the dish is pointing directly through.  Oh well, 40 is great!

I went for a ride on my bicycle around the park and surrounding area.  So far, I have ridden some every day.  Betty and I then drove around town before returning to the motorhome for dinner.

Tomorrow we head to Great Basin National Park.  We will try to stay in the park and dry camp.

Sunday, September 12

We slept in this morning, as we have only about 70 miles to go today.  I secured the bike on the Saturn, dumped the tanks (first time this trip).  I guess we can go as long as 6 days without dumping!  I filled the water tank and cleaned the windshield.  I went into the office and he let me use his phone line to upload the church webpage updates, and get my email.  I didn't sent this, as it is for only one day so far.

We pulled out of our space, hooked up the Saturn, and headed east, a little after 10:00 AM.

Today's drive made up for our experience yesterday with Nevada roads.  We drove through some very pretty scenery.  Along one section there were large bushes just covered with yellow wildflowers almost continuously along both sides of the highway, with lush trees and vegetation in the background.  Really nice!

We did a lot of climbing and descending again today, but the motorhome just settled in and chugged along without a single groan of complaint.  We arrived at our campground, just outside of Baker, NV in the Great Basin National Park just after 12:00.  The first site we selected was so far from level that I didn't think I could level using all the blocks I carry.  There was a nice site just across the way that was much better.  I still had to block the left wheels and use blocks under one front leveler, but we got it nearly level.

We drove out to the Great Basin Visitor's Center, and after riding up a wheelchair elevator to get in we talked to a ranger about the cave tours.  Lehman Caves are located right at the visitor's center (actually vise-versa).  They listed a price for the Golden Access cardholders, so we asked if there were any accessible tours.  They have one that takes you to a single room and back out.  We watched a short film on the caves while the ranger checked to see if we could get a private tour right away, or if we would have to come back at 4:00 for the first available tour.

When we came out from the film, the ranger came over and said "Well, are you ready?"  We said we hadn't bought our tickets yet, and that our jackets were in the car.  He said we wouldn't need jackets for the short tour, and that we could worry about the tickets later.  We went.

After walking down a tunnel blasted through the rock we passed the natural entrance about 50 feet above us.  Early cave visitors entered there and had an almost vertical climb down.  We continued a couple hundred more feet and were in a comparatively small room with more beautiful structures and ornaments than we have ever seen in such concentration.  We spent about 20 minutes there as the ranger explained facts and details about the cave and its history.  He lit a candle lantern like the early cave explorers, turned out the lights and let us see what they had been able to see.  Lehman was never able to see the beauty of the caves he discovered on his ranch, as he could only dimly see a small area at a time.

Then, of course, the ranger blew out the candle, and let us see what dark really looks like.  It is dark!

The ranger told of Lehman's early days selling tours of the caves.  He started out giving guided tours, but then essentially sold admission.  For an extra dollar, Lehman guaranteed that if you were not back out within 24 hours, he would personally come in and look for you.

We left the cave to avoid the onslaught of the 2:00 tour which was due in about 5 minutes.  As we left we passed through the waiting crowd of about 25 people.

As we re-entered the visitor's center, we thanked the ranger for our private tour and started toward the counter to buy our tickets.  He said there was no charge!

Next we drove the Saturn up the road to Wheeler Peak.  It is a 12 mile drive up to the end of the road, climbing from about 7000 feet to over 10,000.  There are several overlooks and a couple more campgrounds as you go up the road.  We checked them all out and got some great pictures (I hope) of the aspens turning color as we got over about 9500 feet.  Wheeler Peak is over 13,000 feet and is just across a small valley from the end of the road.  The Wheeler Peak campground, at the very end of the road, is the prettiest of the bunch, with many yellow leaved aspens.  A number of the sites were large enough for rigs larger than ours.  The only problem is getting there!  Just above our campground, the road is labeled "Not recommended for RV's and trailers over 24 feet in length".  Also, I would not be too keen on pulling that grade with our rig- up or down!  It was listed as 8% the whole way.

Returning to camp, I discovered a creek just across the road which we have been able to hear.  It is about 8 feet across and is running quite swiftly.  Most of the streambed is large boulders that the water is bouncing and tumbling down.

Tomorrow we head to the Capitol Reef National Park area in Utah.

Monday, September 13

Since we are only a few miles from the Utah state line, and the associated change to Mountain Daylight time, we set our clocks ahead an hour last night.  Not wanting to lose an hour of sleep, I went to bed two hours early and gained an hour!

We pulled out of our camp before 9:00 Utah time (8:00 local).  We did a lot of climbing, reaching over 8300 feet.  The problem was as soon as we gained some altitude, we immediately dropped back down again.

We drove through some beautiful country with a mix of desert and mountain vegetation.  For quite a distance there were pinion pines right down to the road on the right, and sagebrush on the left.  Strange as it seems, the median was split 50/50.

About half way through today's drive, we got on I-15, the first interstate highway we have been on since about the first hour of our trip.  (That was I-15 also!)

We pulled into our planned RV park, behind a whole line of rental RV's.  The park was full!  We went less than a mile down the road and pulled into the other park we had identified and questioned if it was still in business.  It was totally empty!  We checked in and unhooked the Saturn.  It was before 3:00.  We figured we still had plenty of time to see Capitol Reef National Park.

The park is only about 6 miles from camp.  We stopped at the visitor's center and talked to the ranger about the best things to see.  We saw a short video on the history of the park.  We then drove the scenic drive.  The surroundings were gorgeous.  This is a geologist's paradise.

The park was named for reef-like cliffs, topped by white sandstone formations resembling the US capitol.  We saw numerous formations such as The Castle, Chimney Rock, the Egyptian Temple, and numerous gorges.  There are excellent examples of the many layers of the earth created over the eons.  In one area we saw numerous examples of Pre-Columbian Indian petroglyphs on the canyon walls.

On our way back we looked at the campgrounds in the park.  They were in beautiful surroundings, but were full.  We stopped at a small take-out food shop on our way home and got dinner.

In the morning we hope to explore Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.  It runs north of Lake Powell and east of Bryce Canyon.  We will probably get as far as the city of Escalante.

I am hoping I can connect in the office in the morning to send this.

Tuesday, September 14

I neglected to tell you of our experience with some deer on the road yesterday.  We were driving on SR24 shortly after crossing into Utah.  As I was driving, admiring the scenery, a deer darted across the road about 50 feet ahead of us.  I did a near-maximum-deceleration maneuver (I hit the brakes HARD).  As we looked around for other deer, we saw about 15 of them to the right of the road.  As we crawled along, each of them also darted across in front of us by ones and twos.  They were very skitterish and some of them looked like they would reverse direction and cross back, but none did.  It was a beautiful sight and a scary experience.

We were planning to get up fairly early and head out exploring this morning.  As tonight's park has a 2:00 check-in time with no early arrivals, we figured to leave about 12:00 for the drive of a little over 100 miles.

Last night we had a lot of wind.  It was very reminiscent of some wind we had years ago house boating on Lake Powell (which is not far to our south).  It would be quiet, then all of a sudden the wind would blow like fury for a while, then it would be calm again.

During the night we had some fairly heavy showers.  This is the first rain we have had on this trip.  In the morning I looked out to a low gray overcast with some wind and showers.  We turned over and went back to sleep.

As we were deciding whether to stay over a day to wait out the storm, or to continue on to Green River, it started to clear.  By noon, we had broken clouds with lots of blue sky.  We decided to go on and had excellent weather the whole way.

The drive today was gorgeous!  We passed through mile after mile of mesas and rock formations.  Some were like you see on auto commercials; some looked like Roadrunner and Wiley Coyote would come around the corner any moment.

The colors ranged from the very pastel to the very vivid.  Some were brighter than any we've seen at the Painted Desert.  We enjoyed today's drive!

We are in our first Passport America park of the trip.  We are just a couple hundred feet from the Green River in the town of Green River, UT.  After getting set up, I unstrapped my bike and went for a ride around the park.  This turned out to be a major mistake!  On my way back I stopped at the office to look around their camp store a little.  When I came out, my rear tire was flat.  I walked the bike home and looked at the tires.  There were literally dozens of small hard nut-like items, securely attached to the tires by little sharp thorns.  I started pulling them out of the front wheel, which was still firm, and each time I pulled one there was a "psst".

Thirteen dollars later at the Car Quest (and hardware) store I had 2 puncture resistant tubes.  It took me over an hour to change the tubes.  Most of my time was spent pulling all the thorns from the tires.  Now that it is all back together, I will test drive it somewhere else!

Tomorrow we head to Dinosaur National Monument in Colorado.

You got episode #4 sooner than I had planned.  I usually try to send every several days, but I had only done one day this time.  I needed to send a couple of email messages and I inadvertently sent the report also.

Wednesday, September 15

We pulled out before 9:00 en route for Dinosaur, CO, about 180 miles.  Shortly we were on a two lane highway which after a while turned into a number of tight turns and switchbacks.  The posted limit was 25 with numerous "Slow to 15" curves.  We peaked out at about 8300 feet and started down the other side of the mountain.  The progress was slow and sure.  

Shortly after we were allowed back to highway speeds we encountered a Construction ahead sign.  We drove 3.71 miles (according to their sign) of very rough dirt road with 3 separate flag men.  We had to wait at each of them.  Finally we got to the end and the rest of the drive was a piece of cake.

The climbs, descents, and sharp turns were no problem, but we have already selected a different route back due to the construction.

We checked into the second Passport America park in a row getting the associated half price.  We plan to be here for two nights.

We drove over to one of the Dinosaur National Monument visitor centers and saw a short slide show.  The monument consists of two major areas:  the Canyon Country, and the Dinosaur Quarry.  Today we drove the scenic drive through the Canyon Country.  This was a 31 mile drive with a number of overlooks.  The views from the overlooks were spectacular!  

Tomorrow we plan to see the Dinosaur Quarry which is the only place in the park where actual dinosaur bones can be seen.

Thursday, September 16

We started the day by heading across the state line to Utah to the Dinosaur Quarry.  This is a location where in 1909, Earl Douglass, a paleontologist from the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh, PA, found 8 tail bones of a Brontosaurus in exact position showing from the top of a ridge.  These were the first of thousands of bones, including several nearly complete skeletons that Douglass and his crew dug from this single ridge.

After the area was made a national monument, the removal of bones gradually was stopped.  The scientists determined that they were basically down to the bottom layer of bones, and the decision was made to not remove any additional bones.  They continue to work to expose bones and show them to the public.  A building has been built around the site.  It is a very interesting display, with literally hundreds of dinosaur bones exposed on the side of the cliff.  

We heard a talk by a ranger who showed us a very unique find from a nearby dig.  It is a nearly complete skeleton in excellent condition.  It is of a totally new species, never before seen or identified.  The skull was the only missing item.  Scientists went back to the site, and within 1 day, located half the skull in near perfect condition.  Fortunately the half skull was the left side (not a front or rear, top or bottom) and the missing half could be assumed to be a mirror image.  

We next drove another 30 or 40 miles to the Flaming Gorge Dam and Reservoir.  This is a beautiful area where a dam across the Green River formed a lake over 90 miles long with over 300 miles of shoreline.  The lake supports all types of recreation including rental houseboats.  We watched a couple of videos at the visitor center about the development of the area and a tour of the dam.

At the recommendation of the volunteer in the visitor center, we next headed to the Sheep Creek loop.  As we dropped down into a valley, the beauty around us almost overwhelmed us.  The sheer cliffs, the vegetation, the river - they were all perfect!  As we continued we went through an area where the rock walls were almost vertical on both sides of us.  It was a great drive!

The road to and from this area had an area where there were grades up to 9% and had 10 switchbacks.  The highway sign would give a speed (15 to 25 mph) and tell how many more switchbacks were ahead.  The views from some of the pull offs were spectacular, one showing the reservoir in one direction and the road we had just driven in all its switch-backing glory in the other.

On our way home we stopped in Vernal, UT to pick up supplies.  We saw a Pizza Hut and decided to have dinner as it was around 6:00.  I had my favorite, the Meat Lover's Pizza, and Betty had spaghetti and meatballs.  Her sauce contained several full size meatballs, plus hundreds of small Italian sausage pieces.  We enjoyed dinner, and brought home enough for several more dinners.

Tomorrow we move to Delta, CO.

Friday, September 17

We pulled out this morning for Delta, CO, about a 200 mile drive.  We took a route that was about 50 miles longer than the way we came in to Dinosaur, but between wanting to see new territory, and NOT wanting to repeat the 3.71 mile construction zone, this was the logical choice.

We had a good drive, mostly on 2 lane road without much in the way of tight turns or serious grades.  We pulled into the Flying A RV Park and Motel in Delta around 2:00.  We have a really nice spot right along the bank of the Gunneson River.  It is about 50 feet wide and fairly rapid at this point.  We should be here for 3 nights.  We will be seeing our long time friends, Barbara and John Cairns on Sunday afternoon.

Tomorrow we will do some exploring in the area.

Saturday, September 18

Today we toured two areas.  This morning we headed to the Grand Mesa.  We headed up the mountain, passing right through Cedaredge, where our friends live, and on up to the mesa.  The view of the valley as we climbed was spectacular.  We stopped at the Grand Mesa Visitor Center, then we explored the surrounding areas, including a number of the lakes.  We found several overlooks where the views were even better than the initial ones.  

After lunch, we headed toward the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Monument.  On the way (almost), however, we passed by the Russell Stover Candy Factory, and their factory outlet.  Talk about a couple of kids in a candy store . . .  They had samples of many of their products - not the tiny cut up pieces you get as samples sometimes at Costco, but full size whole pieces.  It was downright dangerous!  We did buy a number of things for gifts and . . .

We then continued on to the canyon.  This is a dramatic gorge, carved out by the Gunnison River.  It is not the largest, deepest, narrowest, or steepest walled canyon in the US, but it combines all these qualities to be unique.  It is very dramatic!  

We stopped at the visitor center and saw a video on the exploration of the canyon. It was very rugged and took a number of expeditions over several years before the entire canyon had been explored.  After they finally explored the end of the canyon, they located the spot to build a tunnel to divert water for irrigation in the Uncompahgre Valley.  The tunnel was built between 1905 and 1909.  It was an engineering masterpiece, extending 6 miles through solid rock.  

We drove to several of the viewpoints afterward, and saw dramatic views of the narrow, high, steep walls of the canyon.  You can clearly hear the roar of the river from over 2000 feet above it.

Sunday, September 19

We woke up this morning to solid overcast skies.  I slept through it, but Betty says it rained during the night.  Shortly after getting up, it was raining again.  We left for our morning exploration in a light rain that had almost stopped.  By the time we got a few miles out of town, it had stopped, and within another hour we were seeing spots of blue sky, and even the sun once or twice.

Our drive today took us to the south of here through Ouray, and part way up the road through the Red Mountain Pass.  From just above Ouray we could see freshly snow covered peaks on the higher levels.  The road was very curvy and steep.  The terrain dropped almost straight down just off the edge of the road.  It was a LONG ways down, too.  We decided to not go to the top which is over 11,000 feet as we needed to get back before too long.

We did decide to use a different route with the motorhome in the morning.  The new route only gets to something over 10,000 feet over the pass.

We got a cell phone voice mail message from John and Barbara Cairns about 3:20 that they were home from their run to Grand Junction Airport, and to head over when we can.  We were on the road in about 15 minutes.

We had a marvelous visit with them.  They have built a beautiful home on 6 acres.  They are leaving much of it in its natural state.  The whole house is very nicely done and quite spacious, but the part I like best is the 1300 square foot basement.  John has his woodworking tools, a large workbench, and a lot of storage space.  He has put in a dust collection system and an air purifier to keep the air clean no matter what work he is doing.

We went out to dinner and then back to their home.  We had several hours to try and catch up.  It is a tall order to catch up on over 30 years in a few hours.

We thoroughly enjoyed the evening!

Tomorrow morning we leave for the Cortez, CO/Mesa Verde area.

Monday, September 20

We broke camp and were on the road this morning before 9:00.  We only had about 160 miles to go, but they were not to be particularly easy ones.  It was all 2 lane road, as have been most of the roads this trip.  We turned off onto highway 62 and started to climb.  We started at around 6000 feet and first peaked at about 9500 feet.  We then descended for a while, then near Telluride we started to climb again, this time to about 10,200 feet!  The drop on the other side was quite gentle with no sharp turns or really steep grades.

We pulled into Cortez, CO around 12:30 and set up camp.  Our campground was somewhat disappointing, with many long term "junky" units.  Oh well, it's only for overnight.

We headed out to see Mesa Verde National Park.  Once entering the park, it is quite a drive to the visitor center (15 miles).  This is a very interesting building.  It is round, two stories tall, on the canyon side of the road.  The parking lot is on the other side of the road with a tunnel under the road and two long ramps up to the parking lot.  There was really fairly little here.  Postcards were down the road a few hundred yards at the gift store, the orientation video was 4 miles down the road at the museum.

At the museum we found a very helpful ranger.  He went over the map in detail suggesting the several stops that would give us the most for the least effort.  The drives have a lot of stops and he realized that it is not practical to get Betty and her wheelchair out at each of them.  He then escorted us down to the auditorium where he was about to start the next running of the video.  We learned about the various types of cliff dwellings, and the progression of the people over the hundreds of years they inhabited the area.

We toured the museum as best we could, considering all the steps it had been built with.  They had one aluminum tread plate ramp that the ranger offered to move from place to place (if I would help), but we settled for the rooms we could reach via different entrances or by going up or down one step.

After going down the path behind the museum to see the Spruce Tree House, across the canyon, we drove around a 6 mile loop of viewpoints.  Stopping at all the places the ranger suggested, plus several others, we got quite good views of a number of the better ruins, as well as several up close.  It was really interesting.

Upon getting back to the campground, we discovered a tour bus parked in the space next to ours.  It was a Mercedes bus with 24 seats up front, and a raised section with a drop down side comprising the back half of the bus.  This is the sleeping area.  There are 24 German tourists with it.  They set up numerous tables along the side of the bus for meals.  I had a large audience as I put my bike back on the Saturn, and then hooked the Saturn up to the motorhome.

It's sad to realize that this is the end of our sightseeing for this trip.  Our joy is that the balance of the trip is to be spent visiting with our good friends, first the Scholls and then the Wilkisons.

Tomorrow we head for Forest Lakes to stay in the Scholls' driveway.

Tuesday, September 21

We could hear the German tourists next door getting their breakfast around 7:00 this morning, fairly quietly.  I was up in time to get some videotape of the bus just after they closed up the extensions to the bedroom area.  I went around to the driver's side and could see the sleeping arrangement.  There are 27 small windows on the side of the bedroom section in 3 "stories".  There are obviously sleeping cubicles for each passenger and crew member.

At just 8:00, the bus pulled out, and we all waved goodbye.

I then dumped our tanks and we pulled out.  We had a good drive to Forest Lakes, driving south out of Colorado, down to Gallup, NM, then west into Arizona.

After about a 300 mile drive, we arrived at the Scholl's around 2:00 (after backing off our clocks an hour for the time change)

We will be here for several days, then move on to Prescott, AZ to visit our friends Gene and Betty Wilkison.  We should be home on Wednesday, Sept. 29.

This will be my last report until we get home.

Till then,

I'm sorry for the double transmission of #6.  I have no idea how that happened.  A couple of days after sending #6 I was checking my email and the computer locked up.  The only thing I can figure is that somehow the queued/sent flag got reset and the file got sent again.

September 21 through 25

We spent several totally enjoyable days with Virg and Keith (and the dogs, Maggie and Honey).  We ate far too much, and it was all delicious (especially the desserts!).  

We were able to get a couple of projects done.  We installed a new marine radio in their 21 foot Bayliner boat, the Shaggy Dog.  A number of years ago, we spent 5 marvelous vacations on Lake Powell houseboating with Shaggy Dog towed behind the houseboat.  It was what really allowed us to explore the areas, as well as having the great fun of cruising in a fast, comfortable boat.  Keith is heading back to Lake Powell shortly with a couple of good friends from Vista.

We also figured out how to install a new vent in the fresh water system of their motorhome.  For some reason the manufacturer vented the water tank on the top of the tank and took the hoses down.  Keith has been losing water when making right turns as the water sloshes to the side of the tank and right out the vent lines.

We drilled a hole through the floor inside a cupboard and into the compartment where the tank is located, and another one through the outside wall of the motorhome just above.  Keith had found a small vent fitting which we installed in the wall hole with the hose running down through the floor.  When he finishes connecting the hose, the tank will be vented well above the level of the water and should have no more water loss problems.

The project I am most satisfied with however was on our front air conditioner.  We have had a squeaky rattle somewhere behind us as we drove.  Earlier this trip in NV, we drove short stretches with Betty sitting at the dinette, the couch, and the bucket chair.  The sound always seemed to be coming from somewhere else.  We finally determined that the only place that fit all the observations was the air conditioner.  I pulled the bottom part off a couple of weeks ago and tightened the main mounting bolts, and noted a slight improvement, but not a cure.

On Friday, I climbed to the roof and removed the outside cover.  I heard some familiar squeaks as I pulled the cover off.  Looking closely at the air conditioner, I noted a line fully across the front of the unit where the metal had been polished to almost a mirror surface.  I covered that area and any other similar ones with duct tape (what else?) and reassembled everything.

On our drive over to Prescott, we did not hear a single squeak or rattle from the unit!

September 25 through 29

We had a good (and rattle-free) ride over to Prescott.  We had called ahead to our favorite RV park in Prescott, Point of Rocks Campground, and found they were fully booked over the weekend.  We reserved the last 3 nights and asked them to keep us on a list for Saturday night.  At Camp Verde, we called again and found they had done some juggling and we had a nice site for all 4 nights.

We spent a very enjoyable 3+ days with our long time good friends, Gene and Betty Wilkison.  During this time we reminisced, looked at pictures, fixed several things on their computer, fixed Betty's treadmill, and showed the videos we have taken during our last two trips.  

We enjoyed Betty's excellent cooking (she made a batch of awesome cupcakes!).  Monday morning, Gene took me out to their RC flying field and flew his latest model, a beautiful biplane with a 4 cycle engine.  It is great!  I had a marvelous time helping him in the "pits" and watching him fly.

As with all good things, this visit has come to an end, and we leave here in the morning heading for home.

Wednesday, September 29

We had a very pleasant trip home.  We left Prescott around 6:30 AM and headed down the grade.  My very least favorite section of highway 89, where there is a very steep downgrade with hairpin curves calling for maximum speeds of 15 to 25 miles per hour, just did not seem as bad after some of the roads we drove on this trip.

We stopped in Ehrenburg, AZ, just on the AZ side of the CA/AZ border, at Flying J to fuel up and grab a bite to eat.  There in the parking lot was our Mercedes camping/tour bus complete with German tourists!  They pulled out of the lot a few minutes later and headed west.

We pulled into our driveway a few minutes before 4:00 PM and by 5:00 I had dumped, parked, and partially unloaded the motorhome.

We love traveling, but it's good to be home!

Some statistics:

On this trip we were gone about 3 1/2 weeks - 24 days to be exact.  Of these we enjoyed all or most of 24 days.

We traveled 2481 miles in the motorhome, and another 1157 miles in the Saturn.  I have no odometer on my bicycle, so I guess I can claim anything I like for that!

We had no mechanical difficulties with either the motorhome or the Saturn.  I had two flat tires on the bicycle, after riding through some "puncture thorns".

We drove through 6 states, CA, NV, UT, CO, NM, AZ.  We were within a couple of miles of Wyoming, but did not quite make it.

We had marvelous visits with 3 couples, all of whom have been friends for over 35 years!

I received 113 email messages on the road.  Of these 44 were junk mail, 25 were from lists I subscribe to, and 44 were personal messages.  I sent 6 trip reports (plus this seventh one, sent from home) to a mailing list of about 30 friends and relatives, plus I sent a number of personal messages.  I had less trouble connecting at campgrounds on this trip than on any previous trip.  Almost all the campgrounds allowed me to connect to their phone line in the office.  This is a great trend!

Thanks for traveling with us and helping us to enjoy our travels.  Knowing that I am in contact with you as we travel makes our trip that much more enjoyable!

With continuing love,

Betty and Dick Mason