Arizona and Utah Trip with the Ramblin' Recs - Fall 2000

Hi friends and relatives (who are friends also),

We are about to head out on our first "significant" trip of the year.  We have been on many short trips since our last "reported" trip to Colorado last Fall.  

In October '99 we went with the Ramblin' Recs, our church RV group, to Coronado Island for several days.  The highlight of that trip was a tour of the John C. Stennis aircraft carrier, the second largest in the world.  (The Harry S. Truman was made to the same plans, but 6 inches longer!)  We also, one evening, rode the ferry across the bay and had dinner at Anthony's.  That was a lot of fun.

In December we drove to Prescott, AZ (this really doesn't count, as we merely drove our car) to visit our friends, Betty and Gene Wilkison, to help them with some computer problems - and to have a free steak dinner on my Betty's birthday at the Dry Gulch Steak House.  We also drove over to Sedona and saw the magnificent Christmas lights at the Los Abragados Resort.  Each year they invite many, many individuals and organizations to decorate the grounds.  They all try to outdo each other.  It was gorgeous!

In January we went to an FMCA (Family Motor Coach Assn.) rally in Quartzsite, AZ.  We had always been curious about all the fuss over Quartzsite and thought this would be a good way to find out.  Every year in January and February the population of the town swells from about 2000 to about 250,000 with RVers from all over the country flocking there.  There are massive swap meets and several special shows and exhibits, and traffic you wouldn't believe!  If you ever want to buy solar cell systems, that is definitely the place to do it.  There are many fixed dealers and also a number of "floating" ones at the swap meets.  It was a fun experience, and now we can say we have done it, with no real need to repeat.

In February, we went with the Ramblin Recs to Tucson for about a week.  On our way there we stopped for the night at Ajo, AZ and visited our good friend, Dick Vetter.  From there we went to the Pima County Fairground for a several night stay.  While there we toured the Pima Air and Space Museum, the Biosphere, and had dinner at a local (? - Tucson covers a lot of miles) Barbecue house where the Sons of the Pioneers were playing.  A lot of fun.

In March we drove to Atascadero to visit our son David and family.  We then headed to Pomona for an international convention of the FMCA.  We were one of 4,937 motorhomes there!  Of this number, 1377 were exhibition coaches with the balance of us parked in the huge fair parking lot.  I rode my bicycle and Betty drove her battery powered scooter while there.  There were exhibits of every possible RV related product, along with some totally unrelated.  I attended several seminars each day and we both had a great time.  I also found we could successfully dry-camp for 5 nights with only moderate generator use.

In April we went with the Ramblin Recs to Agua Caliente County Park for several nights.  This is an annual trip for this group.

In May we went up to the kid's again to visit them and to attend a 50th anniversary celebration of the Wesley Foundation in San Luis Obispo, as well as an open house of the Wesley House (off campus housing), where I was a "charter member", and David was one of two first second-generation members.

In June we made another trip to Arizona to visit our good friends Keith and Virgilee Scholl in Forest Lakes, and then the Wilkisons in Prescott, where we just happened to be during my birthday.  Another free steak dinner at the Dry Gulch!

We seemed to have missed July somehow, but in August we drove to Atascadero, picked up David and our granddaughters, Kylie and Rebecca, and headed to the Sacramento area to attend the wedding of our grandniece, Sarah to John.  David and the girls rode the train home, while Betty and I headed west.  We spent an evening and had a delicious dinner with Teresa (we know her as Tiny) and Duane Rustad.  Tiny was Betty's maid of honor, and Duane was another charter Wesley House member.  Bob and Carol McMains joined us for dinner.  Bob was another Wesley House member while I was there.  

We then headed to Graton, just north of Sebastopol where we visited yet another charter Wesley House member, Frank Mayhew.  I grew up with Frank in our church, Robertson Community Methodist Church in W. LA.  It was he who convinced me to live at Wesley House, which started at the same time I started at Cal Poly.  Frank and Kathie have an absolutely gorgeous house which they ran as a Bed and Breakfast for a number of years prior to officially retiring earlier this year.  

Built in the late 1800's it sits on over 5 acres of groves and beautifully landscaped gardens.  We totally enjoyed our visit and Frank's hospitality, letting us park our motorhome behind their home.  Our only regret was that Kathie had previously made a commitment, and was not there during our visit.

Now we are ready to cover northern Arizona and southern Utah with the Ramblin Recs.  We plan to leave the group a little early and visit our friends in Arizona.  Guess what?  We will be in Prescott for Gene's birthday - another steak dinner!  

We leave this Monday 10/9 and will be home around the end of October.  I am going to try to send trip reports as we go, however I have no idea of the Internet connectivity along the way.  I usually manage to find a hook-up somehow.

If you would just as soon not receive these reports, please drop me an email and I will take your name off this distribution.

We are looking forward to traveling with you during this trip.

Hi all,

Monday Oct. 9

We started our trip with the Ramblin Recs this morning.  This is the RV camping group from our church, the First United Methodist Church of Escondido.  The group usually camps several times a year at a nearby county or other public park for about 4 nights.  This trip is by far our most ambitious - 18 days, visiting the Grand Canyon Caverns, the Grand Canyon, Page, AZ (Lake Powell), Bryce Canyon National Park, Escalante, UT, Zion National Park, and Valley of Fire State Park.  Various activities are planned at each location.  Betty and I will leave the group at Escalante and head to Forest Lakes to visit our friends, the Scholls, then to Prescott to visit our friends the Wilkisons.  We should be home about Oct. 30, several days after the balance of the group.

All together there are 8 rigs with 16 people planning to attend this trip. So far we have 7 rigs with 14 people.  The other couple hopes to join us in a couple of days after clearing a medical problem.

The cast of characters:
         Merle and Alden Avery
         Marty and Dick Brown
         Jean and Norm Johnson
         Ruth and Floyd Lamb
         Emily and Ben Long
         Betty and Dick Mason
         Margo and Jim Rogers
 and when they can join us:
         Evelyn and Gene Collett

The rigs consist of two trucks and 5th wheel trailers, 2 class A motorhomes, and 4 class C motorhomes.

The Lambs invited people to meet them at the local IHOP for breakfast at 7:00 AM, then on toward Needles, our overnight stop for tonight.  Only the Browns took them up on that offer.  We had all we could do to get ready, load Betty and Muff (our cat), and drive down to the road below our street.  There is a spot half a block or so down this road where we can park the motorhome, while I walk back to our house and get the Saturn.  I then drive it down and hook up down on a much more level area than anywhere our property offers.  We finally got on the road at about 8:25.

During our 6 1/2 hour drive to Needles, we passed the Lambs and Browns, who were traveling together, we pulled into a rest stop where the Longs were having lunch, and pulled into another rest stop where I spotted the Lamb's trailer.  I parked and went over to say hi.  As I approached where I had seen them, I could just see a couple of small spots on the highway heading east, which I was able to identify as the Lambs and the Browns.

When we pulled into the campground to register, I stopped behind the Lambs and the Browns.  Before I finished registering, the Longs pulled in behind us.  The Rogers were here shortly later, and the Averys were here by a little after 6, which was very good as Merle had a dentist apppt. this AM and they didn't leave until half past noon.  The Johnsons had been holding back to accompany the Colletts.   When the doctor said it would take a couple of days to get results on Gene Collett, the Johnsons headed this way and were here around 7:30.

As Betty is in the latter healing stages from a broken arm (a splint instead of her previous cast), we are going to limit our activities somewhat.  In the morning the rest of the group is heading to the Grand Canyon Caverns, then on to the Grand Canyon and we will head directly to the Grand Canyon.  It is about 125 miles between the caverns and the canyon.

Tuesday, October 10

I was up around 7:00, and saw the others off to the caverns around 7:30 or so.  I took care of a few chores around the motorhome, including going to the office to pay for the Johnsons who had arrived after the do-it-yourself envelopes were all gone.

We were away by just before 9:00.  It was quite a windy ride all day today with mostly a gusty quartering cross wind - the worst kind!  We didn't have any problems, but I had to stay on the steering wheel constantly to keep centered in my lane.  We had a few very light sprinkles, requiring only a couple swipes of the wipers total, but we drove a number of places where there had obviously been rain not too long before.

We arrived at the Mather Campground around 2:00, and as instructed by the phone clerk to whom we had given our reservations, I stated I was the first of 7 rigs, and that we would like to park close to each other.  The ranger assigned me my spot and said he would try to get the others in the adjacent spots in that loop.  Around 3:30 we saw the Browns drive past our spot and disappear around a bend.  We waited and waited, and no one else went by. Finally I got on my bike and rode around the loop.  All the way on the other side I spotted the Browns, and about 4 or 5 spots later, the Lambs. It turns out that we are scattered all around 3 different loops!  So much for planning!

Shortly after we got settled, we spotted a couple of deer walking across our road about 2 sites ahead of us.  A few minutes later, in the other direction, we spotted a buck about 50 feet away.  Several hours later, Floyd came over to our rig to discuss several things and pointed out 4 large bucks in about the same spot, one with 10 point antlers.

It sprinkled for a few minutes at a time a number of times since we arrived, and it is COLD!  After having to run our air conditioner half the night at Needles, it was a shock to have  temperatures in the 40's, with wind and rain.  For the most part we stayed in and were quite comfortable. I have to wonder how some tent campers across the road are enjoying it.

Wednesday, October 11

I set our furnace for 52 degrees overnight, and it was coming on every 25 minutes for a few minutes early this morning.  The overnight low was 32.2, and we had a major snow storm last night!  Well, some people might call it a dusting, but to us having snow on the picnic table and our car was major!  It is now 9:30 AM, and I'm afraid all the snow is gone.  The clouds have been thinning since I got up, and now I will officially declare them to be "scattered" (less than 50%).  It hasn't rained since around dawn.  There is a lot of sunshine filtering through the pine trees and it feels good!

We are still waiting to see how the conditions look this evening before deciding whether to postpone tonight's scheduled pot luck dinner.

In the last half hour the clouds have almost cleared entirely.  There are only a few to be found!  Alll Riiiggghhhttt!

It's now almost 6:00.  We had a great day!  The sun was warm and there were no clouds except for a few, low on the horizon, however there is a cold breeze blowing.  We headed out in the Saturn and went to the general store and the Visitors Center where we obtained a handicap pass to allow us to drive in the "Shuttle Bus Only" areas.  It included the gate code to open the access gates to the West Rim Drive.  We went to every turnout and overlook in the park, first doing the West Rim Drive, then driving over to the East Rim Drive and going about 26 miles out it, doing all the turnouts on our way back.  That put them on the right - I don't like left turns!

I took over 60 pictures today on my digital camera.  It's great to be able to shoot away and not worry about the film cost!  We also had 2 near misses today!  As we were returning from the end of the West Rim Drive doing the prescribed 25 mph., a small doe darted out in front of us.  I slammed on the brakes, locking the wheels even at that speed.  She passed in front of our bumper less than 3 feet away!  Later as we were heading out the West Rim Drive we were about to pass a road on our right and a car coming the other direction decided at the last minute to take it.  Totally oblivious of us, he swung a quick left turn in front of us.  Again panic braking, but no screech this time.  He passed about 10 feet in front of us, and looked very startled when he realized what he had (or almost had) done.   Upon returning, we met with several other group members and decided to have a "progressive dinner potluck".  Betty and I will sit this one out - ours is the only RV here that she can get in and out of (using her chair lift).

Right now I have started the generator to help recharge the batteries after last night's furnace usage, and to prepare for tonight's furnace needs, as well as for running the microwave to fix dinner.  It is expected to get about 5 degrees colder tonight - no cloud cover.  I am also taping the presidential debate from satellite so several other members can view it.  I have rigged up an inverter setup that lets me do that with a minimum of power consumption, as I will not be running the genny the whole time.

The campground tomorrow at Lake Powell is supposed to have a modem hookup, so I will try to send this tomorrow afternoon.

Thursday, October 12

We slept in this morning, waiting for things to warm up.  It was 26.4 degrees outside last night (and not too much warmer inside!).  At about 8:30 I jumped out of bed and started the generator.  Legal times to run it in the morning are 7:00 to 9:00.  As cold as it was, I wanted to run the block heater on our diesel engine at least an hour before trying to start it.  I ran it for the half hour I had left, then started the engine.  It took quite a long time to start with lots of half hearted tries.  Finally it jumped to life!  Whew!

We had decided to leave about 10:00, as we only had 138 miles to go today. After doing all the get-ready things, we left right on schedule.  We were the last of our group to leave.

It was a smooth ride.  There was no wind to speak of and the skies were beautiful, with a ring of small cumulus clouds around us.  We drove straight through to the campground, figuring we would be the 4th or 5th to arrive.  We were the first!  It is a nice campground overlooking Lake Powell.  We can see the lake from our motorhome, even if it is a fairly small patch.  A walk of a couple hundred feet, and we are looking over the total western end.  It is beautiful!  Of course we already knew that, having houseboated on the lake for 6 years in the late 80's and early 90's.  It is a very special place for us.

After arriving, I went over to the office to sent report #1 as the campground directories say we have modem access here.  The lady said I would have to go to the lodge for that, but that I should see the other lady who was supposed to have explained about the shuttles.  This lady said they were not busy, and plugged me into her credit card verification line. Two minutes later I was done.  Next time I will probably have to ride the shuttle or drive my car to the lodge.

About half an hour after we arrived, in pulled the Lambs, followed shortly by the Browns, and the Rogers.  A few minutes later in pulled the Colletts!  We did not know whether they would even be able to come, but Gene got clearance from his doctor, and here they are!  Over the next hour, everyone else arrived.  Unlike the campground at Grand Canyon, we are all parked in a group.  

We have access to an area in a large rec. hall every night, and in checking that out we discovered the other end of the hall is the employee's cafeteria (also open to RV park campers).  They serve dinner for $4.00 plus $0.50 each for the salad bar and dessert.  Most of us ate there tonight and had chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes and gravy, vegetables, and a beverage, plus salad.  Well worth the money!

We adjourned to the rec. hall end where Floyd gave us a brief talk on the geology of the area.  We then played dominoes and cards.

Tomorrow we take the Antelope Canyon tour.

Friday, October 13

I'm going to ignore that this is Friday the 13th!

I started the day with a bicycle ride around the park, marveling at the view from the edge of the campground.  We overlook both the Waweap and the Stateline marinas, Castle Rock, and a very large area of the lake.  Even though we see so much of the lake, it is still only a small portion of it. The lake is about 200 miles long with over 1900 miles of shoreline!  

A little while later it was time to leave for our Antelope Canyon tour. Two Suburban vans picked us up at the campground.  There were 13 of us going.  They drove us into town (Page) where we paid for our tours at their office, then headed out the few miles to the canyon.

Antelope Canyon is located on the Navajo reservation, and is run by Navajos.  Our tour company has a contract with them and pays a yearly fee plus $5.00 a head for their customers.  The vans took us past the ticket booths, across a mile or two of dirt (very fine sand) road, right to the entrance to the canyon.  We saw vehicles from two competitors of our tour company.  Both were either pickup trucks or 4 x 4's with the passengers riding on open seats in the back.  I liked our Suburbans!

This is a "slot canyon", cut through the rock by the action of the occasional flood waters which result from distant thunderstorms.  They flood several times a year, for maybe a total of 2 hours a year on the average.  This has resulted in a very deep cut of approximately the same width for its entire depth.  The Grand Canyon was cut as a slot canyon. The river etched its way down as a constant width cut.  It was the action of the elements which then started eroding the sides above the water level.  Landslides, grinding of the walls by airborne grit particles, and the effects of rain and freezing all contributed to the gradual failures of sections of the side walls resulting in the very wide, very beautiful Grand Canyon.

For reasons I am unclear about, the slot canyons fail to start this erosion process on the side walls and remain basically parallel (on the average, but certainly not at any specific point).

Antelope Canyon is spectacularly beautiful, consisting of a slot about 120 feet deep with a width of typically 4 to 6 feet, with occasional spots at maybe several times that.  It is about 1/4 mile long.  The two ends of the canyon are sheer walls of stone, with the floor of the canyon about at the ground level, making entrance very easy.

Its walls meander and swirl with an amazing variety of colors and textures caused by the varying angles and amount of sunlight that penetrates the canyon, and the different flow patterns of water during the flood times. Areas of the canyon are almost totally dark with no visible sky, and sidewalls illuminated only way above you.  Other areas are very brightly lighted with several large patches of sky visible.  We could notice a difference in the coloration just from the time we walked in until we walked out, due to the moving angle of the sun.  One area had several splotches of direct sunlight on our way out, that had not existed on our way in.  This in turn illuminated several other walls with a whole new color scheme.  Our guide pointed out that all the rock was basically the same color, but that the varying illumination created the wide spectrum encompassing light browns, yellows, pinks, reds, and all the colors in between.

While we were outside the canyon after passing through it, our guide demonstrated a characteristic of the sand that makes the water flow so well for such long distances.  He poured a small amount of water on the fine, loose sand and it formed a crust about 1/2 inch thick.  He was then able to pick up the crust and it held together quite well, leaving dry sand below it.  He said it would remain that way most of the day.  The drying process was very slow.  It is this crust that allows the water to pass over with very little soaking, erosion, or slowing of the water.

This canyon is unique among the many slot canyons in the area due to its flat floor.  It is a common trait of slot canyons to have large steps in the level as the water flows through.  Usually these steps are 10 feet or more of sheer drop, numerous places through the canyon.  The level floor here makes it accessible to us common folk. 

We were delivered back to the campground about 2 1/4 hours after we left.

I went into the motorhome and copied the memory card from my digital camera to my laptop, and gave Betty a slide show of the 45 pictures I shot today. At the Grand Canyon, I shot 75.  I love my camera - NO FILM!  I can shoot all the pictures I want and keep only the  best ones.  It costs no more to shoot a lot than a little, and the card can hold about 100 shots before I need to transfer them, or change the memory card.

Betty won't let me take my digital camera for Monday's float trip down the Colorado (I don't know why - she knows I'm careful and that nothing could go wrong!)  While we were shopping today, we bought a waterproof disposable camera.  It is good for 17 feet under water.  Betty will let me take that one.

Betty and I then went into town and bought the last minute supplies for tonight's "bring your own meat" barbeque dinner, as well as a birthday cake for the 3 ladies having birthdays during this trip.  Merle, Jean, and Marty are our birthday girls!

Evelyn and Gene presented tonight's program in the rec hall, consisting of group singing and story telling.  Games followed.

Tomorrow we tour the Glen Canyon Dam, the structure which formed Lake Powell.

Saturday, October 14 We will be heading to the Visitor Center in about an hour for the dam tour.  I think I'll stop by the lodge on our way back and try to send this.

Saturday, October 14

We took a tour of the Glen Canyon Dam this morning.  By making a reservation for this free tour, we got our own private tour.  We started around the scale model of the entire lake and the surrounding areas.  Our guide pointed out a lot of features in this area.  There are more national parks and monuments in this area than anywhere else.  She listed and pointed out about a dozen!  These included, but were not limited to: Grand Canyon, Glen Canyon, Bryce, Zion, Canyonlands, Cedar Breaks, Arches, Capital Reef, and Monument Valley.

The construction of the dam was started in 1956, and took 8 years to complete, and then took almost 17 years to fill completely.  The resulting lake, Lake Powell is 186 miles long, with 1960 miles of shoreline - more than the shoreline of the east coast.

When the construction reached the point of pouring concrete, the pour took over 3 years of round-the-clock continuous work.  They built an ice plant nearby and used ice to pre-cooled all the aggregate and they mixed the concrete with ice water to keep the concrete from setting too fast.  As it was poured, miles of aluminum tubing were cast in it through which they pumped ice water.  This all kept the concrete from overheating and slowed the curing to provide a maximum strength result.

The dam is 1560 feet long, 710 feet high, and 300 feet thick at the base. At full pool, the water is 560 feet deep at the dam.  There was enough concrete used to build a four lane highway from Phoenix to Chicago!

Our guide was a very knowledgeable Navajo girl who is working here for a year before continuing her schooling at the University of Utah.

She first took us out onto the top of the dam, where on the lake side we could look a short distance down to the water, and on the downstream side we were looking over 550 feet down to the Colorado River.  A short distance downstream were a number of the river rafts we will be riding on Monday.  

Looking over the lake, we could see a security barrier they constructed just after the Oklahoma City bombing.  This is much farther from the dam, and much more secure than the floats and line they used to have to warn boats not to approach the dam.  It looks like they are a series of heavy timbers (telephone poles?) running the full width of the lake.  The security is much tighter in general.  There are no longer any unattended tours.  If someone has to return from a tour early for any reason, the whole tour is held until an escort arrives to take the person out.  There are no bags of any kind allowed on the tour.  This includes purses, camera bags, fanny packs, etc.  Cameras are OK, but no cases. 

From the top of the dam, we descended to the bottom interior of the dam. We were shown a typical inspection tunnel.  There are miles of these tunnels throughout the dam.  She said that now that we saw one, we have seen them all!  They are all identical.

When we went outside from the dam, on the downstream side, we were looking down on a large grass lawn between the dam and the generating plant.  When they built the generating station, the penstocks, which carry the water from the bottom of the dam to the generator turbines, were buried in gravel to minimize vibration.  On a tour of the newly opened dam by Lady Bird Johnson, she saw the gravel area and said they should plant flowers there. The engineers evaluated that suggestion and came up with Bermuda grass as an ideal solution.  This kept the gravel in place during storms, keeping debris out of the turbine ventilating grills, and actually cooled the gravel by 10 degrees.  This added 6 months to the life of the generator brushes.  The area is appealing for playing football or soccer, except there are large manhole structures to allow access to the penstocks for inspection.  There is also a catch channel around the edge of this grass area to drain away any seepage from the dam or the base rock at the ends. There is about 2000 gallons per minute caught by this basin.  We then went on to the turbine generator room.  There are 8 huge General Electric generators.  We could see the shaft of the nearest one.  It really seemed to be turning quite slowly, only a few revolutions a second.  The generators produce electricity at 13,800 volts.  The transformers just outside step this up to 230,000 and 345,000 volts for the high tension transmission.  This is all inconceivable to me!  On the outside of the turbine room we were standing in front of the loudly humming transformers looking downstream at the Colorado River, and Monday's raft route.

After the tour we went back to the Visitor's Center and saw a slide presentation on the Glen Canyon area, and made our obligatory purchases from the gift shop.

A very interesting morning!

Betty and I toured Page before coming home.  It is really quite a nice town.  It was totally master planned prior to any construction.  Sixteen square miles of Navajo land was traded for land elsewhere and the town was built to house the dam workers.  The area is about 1/8 developed and growing, but not too fast.  In the last 20 years the population has about doubled.

On our way home, we stopped at a Sonic drive in, and had lunch delivered by a real car hop.

Tonight, before dinner I went to the lodge to try my Internet connection. I am impressed!  They have a room set aside just for Internet use.  There is one pay-access computer console at $4.00 for 15 minutes.  Then there are 6 cubicles, each with a chair, about 2 1/2 feet of counter space with isolation walls at each end, an electrical outlet, a phone jack, and an Ethernet DATA JACK!  I brought my ethernet card on the trip, but it was in my other case.  Next time I will try the fast, free connection. (My 1-800 number access costs me $0.15 a minute)

Tonight, 8 of us went out to an excellent Italian restaurant and had a great meal.

Sunday, October 15

Eleven of us managed to get up in time to attend the 9:00 service at the Page Community United Methodist Church.  Their pastor, Evelyn Roberts, met us at the door and warmly greeted us.  When we asked her if she knew our pastor, Faith Conklin, she replied "Oh my yes!  I go to school each summer and she is one of my professors".  Later, early in the service she asked if there were any visitors, laughed and introduced us.  She then told about Faith being her teacher, and said that Faith was even sending out inspection teams to check up on her.

After church, the 11 of us went out to brunch and had over our fill!

The rest of the day was spent doing some exploring of the local area, driving through a housing development, and just plain relaxing.

I am going over to the lodge now to see if the data line really works.  

(Added at lodge)  No joy.  I cannot connect using the high speed port. Back to the phone line!

Monday, October 16

This morning I dug through my computer service suitcase which I brought in case I might need anything to help my friends in Arizona with their computers.  I found a CD of miscellaneous programs and one was a shareware photo editor with a 30 day free trial period!  After installing it I was able to learn enough about the program to fix the worst of the pictures.  I lightened the picture of the dam and I cropped the picture of us at church so maybe the faces are now a little more visible.  These corrected pictures are now posted in place of the old ones (if I remembered to upload them!) Sorry about the missing pictures last time!

Today was our raft trip from just below the dam to Lee's Ferry, a distance of about 15 river miles.  Fourteen of us were picked up at the campground a little after 10:30 and driven into Page.  We boarded a bus there for the ride to the raft launch site.

We drove a couple of miles toward the dam, but turned off well before reaching it.  We went through an electric gate and drove down a road to a tunnel.  The tunnel is 2 miles long and drops at an 8% grade.  Every 1/4 mile or so there is a side tunnel to the left out the cliff.  This provides a little light and some ventilation.  Our driver indicated that the tunnel was wide enough for two busses to pass, but you had better grease at least one of them.  If the up bound bus parked with his side mirror in one of the side tunnels, they might even not touch each other.  At the end of the tunnel we were almost down to the river level, and directly under the 700 foot high bridge across the canyon.  Because we were under the bridge, we were required to wear hard hats.

We walked down a ramp to the boat dock where we turned in our hard hats and boarded a raft.  The 14 of us got on one raft with one other family of a mother, father, two girls of about 5 and 8, and a grandmother.  It was so refreshing in this day and age to have children say "please", "thank you", "excuse me", etc.  They were really cute.

The rafts consist of 4 rubber pontoons about 3 feet in diameter and 18 feet long.  They are strapped together, 2 on each side with a box type structure in between.  There are padded seats around the edges of this box and the pilot's console in the rear.  There is a tread-plate front for boarding. It is powered by a Mercury 135 hp outboard.  The inner pontoons are located under the seats of the box, so you can slide outward from the seat to the top of the outer pontoon to ride.  Most of us did this.  There was one caveat:  at high speeds water was forced up between the pontoons, creating a river that flowed back and off the rear.  One of us was sitting in this channel when it occurred, and I was caught with my left foot there.  Water was suddenly up to almost my ankle.

The driver said that in about 150 trips he has led, only one person has ever fallen overboard.  This was a young girl who was surprised by the sudden bounce as they went over a boat wake.  She was wearing her life jacket (all under 12 must) and they pulled her aboard in about 10 seconds. It is important to get anyone out of the water quickly, as it is about 42 degrees year round.  As the turbines draw their water from the bottom of the lake, it is this water that proceeds downstream.  The top of the lake can be in the mid 80's, and the bottom is still 42. 

The trip was wonderful!  We sometimes putted slowly, sometimes just floated with the engine off, and sometimes went quite fast, on a full plane. Enroute we were under cliffs that started at about 700 feet high.  As we progressed, the cliffs got higher and higher, reaching over 1500 feet.  The cliffs had the typical desert varnish that so typifies the Lake Powell region.  

Our driver constantly pointed out features of the surrounding terrain, the vegetation, and the wildlife.  He pointed out several Osprey and a number of Great Blue Herons.  We were tracking an Osprey directly ahead of the boat, when he swooped down to the river and came up with quite a large fish.  How he flew with that load, I don't know, but he made it to a large rock well up the bank.

We stopped about half way at a small beach and walked about 1/4 mile back to some ancient petroglyphs.  We also stopped at a rock, about 10 feet across, where he nosed the boat up tight and let several people clamber up the rock to take a picture of the raft and its occupants.

We pulled into Lee's Ferry after about 3 hours, and after seeing the last remnants of a sunken steam boat.

We sadly left our boat and headed back up to our bus, which had driven to meet us.  The distance back to the starting point is only about 8 miles as the crow flies.  Unfortunately, we are not crows.  (Actually, I think, fortunately).  The way the roads run, it is a full 1 hour bus ride back. About half way back, we started up the long grade from the junction of highways 89 and 89A.  We reached the crest and just started down, and the driver said we had a problem:  He had lost water pressure and the engine just shut down!  I wasn't sure what he meant by water pressure, but it turns out there is a pressure sensor on the radiator water.  A hose sprung a leak and he lost his coolant.  Apparently the water pressure was an earlier indication of his lost coolant then was the temperature.  The bottom line is that we coasted down hill for 13 miles!  It is a very long downgrade, loosing about 2000 feet of altitude in this distance.  We pulled into a wide spot of the road just under the Burger King in Page.  It took about 45 minutes for vans and pickups to shuttle the passengers to their destinations.  We were about the last to go.  A 14 passenger van picked us all up at the bus and took us directly to the campground.

Quite an adventure!

We had our potluck dinner tonight, pretty much on schedule (just an hour after returning to camp).  I ate too much!

After dinner we met in the rec hall where we changed our schedule for the next couple of stops.  3 of the rigs are going to skip camping at Bryce due to the cold and altitude (and the dry camping) and continue directly to Escalante.  The others will spend just one night in Bryce then to Escalante.  This will move the main schedule up by one day for the balance of the trip.  We will now stay the full time at Escalante instead of leaving a day early.  This keeps our schedules with our friends in Arizona the same.

I cannot post any new pictures this time, as I cannot figure out how to plug in the disposable camera to my computer.  I took a camera rated for up to 17 feet underwater, and I didn't even get it wet!  Hopefully we can get it developed tomorrow before we leave for Escalante.  You still won't be able to see them, as I don't even have a photo scanner with me!

I am going to send this, even though it is only covering one day, as the facilities at the lodge are so nice.  We are supposed to have a modem hookup in Escalante also, but who knows what it will be?

Tuesday, October 17

Today was the day for us to head to Escalante, along with 2 other rigs. The remaining 5 were heading to Bryce Canyon.

We had a number of unfinished items, so we got up early and headed into town by 8:30.  We first went to Walmart to try and get the film from my disposable camera developed.  The host said they had processing, but it was 4 day!  He suggested we go to Foto Quick next to the Safeway.  They have 1 hour processing.  I left the camera there and we drove out past Antelope Canyon to the new Antelope Point boat launch ramp.  It must be a very shallow ramp, as the lake is only a few feet below the 15 feet under full pool that they attempt to keep it, and the ramp was closed due to low water!  There is a huge gravel parking lot there and it looks like a good access to the lake from the north-east part of Page.

We then went to the John Wesley Powell Museum in Page.  It was closed on Saturday and Sunday, so this was our last chance.  It chronicled Powell's early explorations of the Colorado River.  He was the first to successfully navigate the Colorado through the Glen Canyon and Grand Canyon areas.

On this 1869 trip they started with 10 men and several boats from Green River, Wyoming.  About a month into the trip, already having lost one boat and most of their provisions to the rapids, one of his men came to him and said "I've already had more excitement than a man deserves in a lifetime. I'm leaving."  He made it safely out and history later lost track of him. Later 3 more men, including Powell's brother, left the party and were ultimately killed by Indians.  Ironically, two days after the 3 left the party, Powell and his remaining men reached the mouth of the Virgin River and found settlers fishing on the river's edge.  The journey was over.

From the museum, we returned to pick up my float trip pictures.  They came out amazingly well for being from a "throw-away" camera!

We then stopped at a view point on highway 89 we had driven past several times, but not stopped at.  From here we went to the Visitor's Center where I bought a book on Hole in the Rock, a place where amazingly the early Mormon settlers were able to drive their wagons down a narrow crevice in the canyon wall and down a very steep canyon to the river level, 3/4 mile down.  We examined this several times with binoculars when we were houseboating on Lake Powell, and marveled each time, not only that they could do it, but that they did it without losing a life, a wagon or a head of livestock!

I then stopped at the lodge to retrieve my email and send out volume 4. This is where I encountered the problem and sent #4 3 times.

As we were running late, I stopped in the office to let them know we would not be out by check-out time.  It was OK.  The Lambs were just pulling out as we drove in.  We finally left by 11:50 and had a smooth drive to Escalante.

Enroute we passed the Johnsons eating lunch in a shady pull off.  Later, after stopping in Kanab to refuel, we pulled into a rest stop and there were the Johnsons and the Browns.  We left separately, but a little later we came upon the Browns and traveled with them until they turned off at Bryce.

We got to camp and were greeted by Gene Collett.  They had arrived about an hour earlier.  

I just finished taping the presidential debate #3 for the folks who wanted to see it, but were dry camping at Bryce.  I had done the same on #2 at the Grand Canyon.

Wednesday, October 18

We slept-in this morning.  I got up around 8:30 did some chores around the motorhome, and Betty and I discussed where to go today.  We waited to discuss it with the Colletts, as we planned to take them along.  By now it was quarter to ten and I realized we needed to set the clocks up an hour for Utah time.  What a bummer - it was now quarter to eleven!  The morning was almost gone!

Gene and Evelyn came over and we discussed our options.  We decided to head over to Boulder, UT and see some sights in that area.  Gene decided to stay here.

It was a wonderful trip!  We got a little out of Escalante and the terrain turned to huge boulders that looked like sand dunes.  A short while later a panorama opened up of mesas and canyons, covered with differing types of vegetation, for almost as far as you could see.

When we reached Boulder, we found the Anasazi Indian Village State Park and went in.  Their museum showed artifacts from around 1050 AD when the area was inhabited by the Anasazi Indians.  Out behind the museum building were excavated ruins on display.  There are many more ruins they discovered, then re-buried to preserve them.  In all there are over 100 rooms in the various ruins here.

We then took the Burr Trail Scenic Backway for about 35 miles.  This road winds through some of the most beautiful scenery we have ever seen.  There are sandstone cliffs, spectacular canyons, and vivid-almost iridescent yellow trees in their full fall colors.  One stretch of the road is along a very narrow ridge, just the road width, with fairly steep drop-off on both sides, and unlimited scenery both ways.  It was spectacular!

We kept questioning ourselves on how far to go on this road.  If we went the full 66 miles (or 75 miles per a sign), we would have been at Bullfrog Marina on Lake Powell.  We thought of going there for an ice cream cone, but decided against it.  Actually we had a good reason for turning around where we did.  As we left the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and entered Capitol Reef National Park, the road turned from blacktop to dirt.  We turned around there.  Our poor little low clearance Saturn doesn't do well on dirt roads.

On our way home we pulled off into a small campground below the road. There was a creek running through it and many of the gorgeous vivid yellow trees - I think they were Cottonwoods.

As we pulled back into camp, there were all the rest of our group.  We are together again!

The office people said I could go there to plug in my computer, so I think I will do that first thing tomorrow. 

Thursday, October 19

Today, most of the group drove on Hell's Backbone Road.  This is a gravel and dirt road which  makes a loop connecting Escalante with highway 12, 3 miles west of Boulder.  It is one of the most dramatic stretches of road in the country, as it travels along a ridge with a sheer drop on both sides. Hell's Backbone Bridge spans a crevasse on a narrow ridge no wider than the bridge itself.  It passes a campground and circles the Box Death Hollow Wilderness Area.  All who made the trip raved about it.  They all had a good time.

Betty and I drove back to Bryce Canyon today.  We skipped camping there the night before last as it was dry camping and we did not want to face weather in the low 20's.  Betty got quite cold in the Grand Canyon where it got to 26+ degrees.

It was about 50 miles from here to the entrance of Bryce.  We headed to the Visitor Center, after waiting for a flagman on the way in.  There is construction on the roads throughout the park, with 10 or 15 minute waits common.

At the Visitor Center we viewed a film of the area.  It explained the geology of the area,  and the forces which wear the rock so unevenly. Wind, water, freezing, and earthquakes all have contributed to the creation of such a beautiful area.  It is one of the fastest changing areas.

We drove all the way through the park to the end overview.  It was well worth the effort!  The views were all spectacular, and all had differing characteristics to them.  It was certainly not the "If you've seen one rock, you've seen them all" syndrome.

We then worked our way back stopping at any turnouts we had not stopped at on the way out.

As we were leaving the park, we remembered that tonight was a "dinner out" night, and we were not sure what time that was.  Our car clock said about 3:30 - but it was California time!  It was really 4:30 and we had over an hour's drive back home.  We hoped that dinner was not at 5:30.  Upon arriving home, we were told it was 7:00.  Lots of time to spare!

We ate at a little restaurant just a couple of doors from the campground. They set up the back room for us.  I had a Southwestern dinner combination plate (not a Mexican combination)  It had a soft taco, a beef enchilada, and a quesadilla, rice and beans.  It was delicious!

We had been going to eat across the street at another restaurant until we found their dinners ranged from $15 to $32.  The most expensive meal where we ate was $15, and ours were much less.

After dinner we all met briefly in the laundry room and took a group photo.  This was our last chance as the Averys are leaving early tomorrow to head east to visit friends and family.  This picture will be posted along with others from today's Bryce visit.  See the link at the end of this email.

Friday, Oct 20

Today Norm and Jean Johnson and I went to Hole in the Rock.  I have seen this a number of times from Lake Powell back when we went houseboating, 6 years in a row.  Today we saw it from the top side, as well as from most of its length within.

Hole in the Rock is where in 1879, the Mormons took 80 wagons and about 250 men, women, and children, plus hundreds of loose livestock and horses down from the top of the mesa to cross the Colorado River, through an impassible notch in the rocks.  They spent a month and a half preparing the 3/4 mile road through the notch, including hand chiseling portions of the rock to make it wide enough for the wagons, and packing the rocks with dirt and vegetation to make a roadway.  In one area they chiseled a ledge on one edge to support the wheels on that side.  They also cut holes on one side, pressed poles into them, and built supports for one side of wheels on these.  To cross the river, they prefabricated a ferry and transported it along with the wagons down through the notch.  To take a wagon down, the wheels were chained to lock them, and men and horses were used to hold back on the wagon as it slid down the road.

These resourceful pioneers were hand picked and directed by Brigham Young to sell all their possessions that could not be held in a wagon, and make their way to Bluff, Utah.  Any unmarried men were to marry before the trip.

The Johnsons have a Jeep Wrangler and do a lot off road driving.  They planned a trip out Hole in the Rock road which is a dirt road leaving the highway about 5 miles from our campground.  It covers about 56 miles with conditions ranging from excellent (~45 mph) to areas of technical 4 wheel driving in granny-low.

On the way out, we made several stops.  The first was at Devil's Garden, a series of rock towers almost forming arches between their enlarged tops.  I have posted a picture of these structures.

We also stopped at a small hut on a former cattle holding area.  The front door was off the building, but there was a wood burning stove, a chair, and a rope ladder leading up to a loft.  Outside were the remains of cattle pens and a loading ramp.  There was a lot of Loco Weed around the area, and on the way home we spotted two dead cows nearby.  We don't know if they got into the poisonous plants or not.

We then stopped at Dance Hall Rock.  This is a very large amphitheater with a fairly flat large floor in front, all carved naturally from a huge rock.

From here, the road got "interesting"!  There were steep up and down grades, sections where we were driving on large flat (or rounded) rocks, severe up and down steps over individual rocks, or naturally shaped jagged sections of rocks.

After about 4 hours of driving, we approached Hole in the Rock.  From up here you see a notch of 30 or 40 feet high, and quite wide.  It's easy to say, what's the big deal about getting wagons through that?  As we walked up to the actual opening we could look down, steeply down, and see very narrow passage.  The average angle down has to be close to 45 degrees.  We climbed down about 100 feet, found several good seats, and ate our lunch.

After lunch we did some exploring and immediately came upon a drop of about 6 feet that looked like the end of our descent.  Norm looked more closely, and before we knew it he was down.  If Norm can do it, so can we, right? Jean and I made it down just fine also.  We proceeded down about 80% of the length, then common sense got the better of us, and we headed back up.

It was an exhilarating experience!

The ride home was also very slow going in places.  Every once in a while we would see a section of the road and say "Did we really drive up that?"  We did!

The trip took longer than any of us had figured, over 10 hours!  When we drove in, after dark, Floyd came out and said he was going to give us another 45 minutes before calling the Boy Scouts!

This morning, the Averys left around 7:00, to head east where they are visiting some friends, then their son, Brian, and his family.  About an hour later, the Colletts left for Zion, where they will meet the remaining rigs tomorrow.  Shortly later, the Rogers and the Browns also left for Zion.  The Browns are just staying the night and then heading for a two or three day drive home, making a couple of stops along the way.  The rest are rejoining the group at Zion.

The schedule for the balance of the trip for the remaining 5 rigs is: Saturday, Oct 21 - Move to Zion National Park Sunday, Oct 22 - Explore Zion N.P. Monday, Oct 23 - Travel to Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada Tuesday, Oct 24 - Explore Valley of Fire Wednesday, Oct 25 - Travel home or ?, end of trip.

Tomorrow we leave the rest of the group and head for Flagstaff, our planned overnight stop on the way to the Scholls', and any further reports will be on what Betty and I do after leaving the Ramblin Recs.

Saturday, Oct 21

I did the get-ready-to-leave things this morning, we said goodbye to the 3 remaining couples, and headed out about 8:45.  It was cloudy and windy.  We had a smooth trip to Kanab, where we fueled and filled our propane.  There were periodic sprinkles along the way.

As we approached Flagstaff, our planned stop, it started to rain harder, and we could see it snowing near the top of the San Francisco Peaks.  We decided to continue on another 35 miles or so to the campground at Meteor Crater Road.  It is lower (aka warmer) and cheaper than the campground in Flagstaff.  We drove out of the rain fairly quickly as we left Flagstaff, drove to and parked in a very clean secure campsite.  It was quite windy at first, but that has died down.  We have had essentially no rain.

Tomorrow we have a fairly short drive to the Scholls'.

Sunday, October 22

Last night is rained lightly, off and on, all night.  We did not hurry our departure as we only had about a 2 to 2 1/2 hour drive to the Scholls'.

It sprinkled periodically as we drove, not getting heavy until we were within about 20 miles of Forest Lakes.

We arrived and set up the motorhome in the Scholls' driveway and went in. It rained off and on all evening.  Keith and I discussed the tasks we will undertake during our visit.  This is going to be an easy one!  We will make a few changes on his computers, talk about, but not do, some plumbing changes, and maybe practice some welding on his MIG welder.

We will remain here until Thursday morning when we will move to our other dear friends', Betty and Gene Wilkison who live in Prescott, AZ.  When we visit them, we usually stay in an RV park called Point of Rocks.  That's where we plan to stay this time.

We will be leaving the Wilkisons for home on Monday, Oct 30.

As the remainder of our trip will be mostly personal visiting (and a steak dinner at the Dry Gulch Steak House on Gene's birthday), this will be my last report of this trip until we get home, where I will probably do a short wrap-up.

Sunday, October 29

We are home!  We shortened our trip by one day due to the weather forecasts.
We had a really good visit with Keith and Virgilee Scholl in Forest Lakes, AZ.  They are on the Mogollon Rim at about 7600 feet elevation.  We had a relaxing, but productive time together.  It rained and even snowed a little the first couple of days, then it was beautiful!

On Thursday, after having 3+ wonderful days together, we left the Scholls and headed for Prescott, AZ where Gene and Betty Wilkison live.  We pulled into the campground at around 1:00 and had a little time, as both Gene and Betty had appointments that afternoon.  We went out highway 69 a short distance and got a Costco fix.  We hadn't been in a Costco for about 3 weeks and were having withdrawal symptoms!

Looking at the weather forecast on the Weather Channel, we decided that it made much more sense to drive home on Sunday when the entire trip would be in clear weather, than to wait until Monday when the entire route was showing rain, and California was showing high winds.

Even with the shortened visit at the Wilkison's, we had a great time.  We went to the Dry Gulch Steak House on Friday to celebrate Gene's birthday (his steak was free!), and did a lot of visiting and catching up.  We did inside chores on the first day when it was raining, and outside ones on the second when it was not.

We left camp this morning pretty close to "first light" at 6:30 Arizona time.  They do not go on Daylight Saving time, so there was no clock change.

There are definite advantages to leaving early on a Sunday morning!  We did not even have to slow down for the dreaded left turn onto Hwy 69.  There was no oncoming traffic.  We made all the signals through Prescott, Prescott Valley, and Dewey.  In fact we didn't miss a signal until we reached Escondido!  (Actually, I think Dewey had the last signal we drove through, until many hours later in Escondido.)

I'm sure you all have been reading about the devastating floods in Wendon and Salome AZ.  Guess where our normal route takes us?  Right! Through Wendon and Salome!  I checked the road condition on the Internet and both highways 71 and 60 were closed in that area.  This meant our trip home would have to be to the east to I-17, due south to the outskirts of Phoenix, drive around Phoenix on the brand new Loop 101, and then west on I-10.  Our normal route angles to the southwest and is almost 100 miles shorter!  Now that we had 480 miles to cover instead of 380, we decided we needed to start as early as possible!

It really was a very smooth drive. Traffic was light until the latter parts of the trip, and the weather was great.  We did have a couple of sprinkles later on in the drive, and we had rather nasty winds for a few miles around Palm Springs (what else is new?).

West of Phoenix, and before we came to Hwy. 60 (where we would originally have entered I-10) we drove through a stretch where the desert on both sides of I-10 were in standing water.  This was not just a few puddles, it was continuous for as far as we could see on both sides of the road.  The Arizona desert is now the Arizona Swamp!  After a couple miles of this the road started to rise, and the water vanished.

We don't usually travel on Sundays, so maybe it is normal.  We saw literally hundreds of cars, trucks, RV's, and trailers loaded with dirt bikes, ATV's, dune buggies, and other forms of "Desert Rippers".  We are used to seeing a lot of boats and personal watercraft, but the number of these off-road vehicles was astounding!

I was quite fortunate on this trip in the number of places I found to plug in my modem and send reports, upload pictures, and receive your email.  It wasn't until I reached the Scholls' that the unthinkable happened!  The @Home dial-up service, the service I use while traveling, went down for FIVE DAYS!  This is absolute dereliction of duty on their part!  I need to find a back-up to their service!  (I'm not ready to give up my cable modem for anything!  So I guess changing altogether is not an option.)  I was able to read my mail using Keith and Gene's computers, so I wasn't completely out of touch, and did get your emails - thanks!   We are very happy that we were able to send you these reports, and hope it gave you somewhat of a feeling of "being there".  I enjoy doing these reports, not only to share with you, but also to create a written diary of our travels so we can go back and relive our enjoyable times (we skip the other kind).

Some of the statistics for this trip are:

We spent a total of 12 days with our friends in the Ramblin Recs, then left and spent another 9 days traveling to and from and visiting our friends in Arizona.

I received 142 emails on the road, (before @home crashed), about half of which were junk mail.

I sent a total of 39 emails, including 8 trip reports, (counting this one, but only counting #4 once!  I seem to have sent that one FIVE TIMES!  Sorry!)

We drove a total of 1936 miles in the motorhome pulling the Saturn. We drove an additional several hundred miles in the Saturn.

We stayed in 5 campgrounds, plus in the Scholls' driveway.  The rest of the Ramblin Recs stayed in 7 campgrounds.

We nearly froze our bottoms off, really only once.  (Then we sorta learned how to handle the cold, then we moved to warmer areas!)

We fueled up 8 times for a total of 227.3 gallons of diesel fuel, for an average of about 9.7 mpg.  (You can't really do the math here, as we started about half a tank down, and finished full.)

We drove in 3 states, California, Arizona, and Utah.  The Ramblin Recs also entered Nevada after we left them.

I posted 37 pictures on the web for all to see.  That was a fun experience!

Of the 21 total days we were gone, we enjoyed all 21!

Thanks so much for traveling with us.  We hope you enjoyed it a fraction as much as we did.

Thanks again, 
Betty and Dick