Monday, April 27, 2009

4/27/09 Hey - it's been snowing here! Today we are in Colorado Springs and we woke up to snow flurries, darn it! There is a good possibility that it will warm up later today, the road will be clear, and we can head into Denver. This is such a surprise after yesterday when we arrived here and it was sunny. So pleasant, in fact, that we set up at the Elks Lodge and went for a hike in the Garden of the Gods Park. This is a beautiful park which is on land donated by the Perkins family who stipulated that it always be available free to the public.

The very colorful red rocks stick out of the ground and are a nice contrast to the green plants and trees, and a striking foreground to snow-covered Pike's Peak which rises to the west.

There is a nice area of cement sidewalks weaving in and out of the major area of red rocks which was full of families enjoying the sunny day, as well as other trails which are steeper and more primitive.

We did the hike to the Siamese Twins formation.

When we were in Cortez, CO, a few days ago, we did a 236 mile scenic drive from Cortez, to Durango, Silverton, Ouray, and Telluride through gorgeous mountainous areas where there was still lots of snow.

The mountain town of Silverton was very scenic and also colorfully painted:

The town of Ouray calls itself "The Switzerland of America" and is in a bowl:

The main attraction here besides the scenery and historic places (due to mining), is the hot springs complex. The pools looked inviting but we resisted due to time constraints. Just outside of town there was a small herd of yaks. They are well suited to this temperature, with their long hair:

Telluride is a very expensive ski resort town, which also has almost non-stop festivals in the summer in order to attract visitors. Currently they are tearing up the main street to put in new pipes or something and the whole area is a mess. As we walked down the street and passed some real estate listings, we noticed that there was not one that was under one million dollars! And these are fairly small houses or condos - usually under 1000 sq. ft. It does look like it would be a convenient place to ski, as all you have to do is carry your skis a couple of blocks to the ski lifts, right on the edge of town.
The day after the scenic drive, we wanted a hike so we decided to make maximum use of our Golden Age Pass which gets us into National Parks free, and we went to Mesa Verde National Park. The entrance is only about 10 miles outside of Cortez but then it is about 20 miles to the actual sites. We visited here about 25 years ago with the kids. We are learning that we have now reached the age where we can revisit places we have been in the past because we don't remember everything about the previous visit!! After viewing the informative video at the museum, we took the trail to Spruce House, one of the most easily accessible pueblos.

This is the only site where you can wander through on your own and get close to the housing areas. There are three other sites where the National Park Service leads hikes, and the cost is $3 per person and you have to stop at the Farview Visitor Center on the drive in to pay and sign up for a time because they can only take so many people on the top of each hour. Here is Elaine at Spruce House.

There are many ceremonial areas dug into the site, which are called kivas. At Spruce House you can climb down into one, and here is Mary doing that:

Then we drove the loop road and stopped at several overlooks to see the other sites. At one stop we looked into a canyon where we could see about 12 pueblos scattered all across the opposite canyon wall. Here is a picture of Cliff Palace, one of the sites where there are ranger-led tours:

Here is a closeup of Cliff Palace:

On our last night in Cortez, Elaine's niece, Darlene, and her husband, Ray, had Joyce and Don, Elaine and me over for a very delicious dinner and another fun evening filled with reminiscing and "catching up". They have a delightful home and we appreciated all the trouble they went to for a great meal and some fabulous wines. Thanks Ray & Darlene!!
Guess what. The sun has now come out and it looks like we might be able to complete our drive into Denver. So I will end this and let you know in a few days about our long-anticipated visit with my twin sister, Marsha.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

4/22/09 Hello from Cortez, Colorado. Besides the fact that this was kind of on our way to Denver, this is the home of Elaine's former sister-in-law and her daughter and husband. Recently Elaine's kids asked about their Aunt Joyce, their Dad's sister, whom they used to see periodically when they were young and Joyce & Don lived in Southern California. Elaine had to admit that no one had been in touch with each other for quite a few years, so she decided to look them up if we were in the area. Elaine called Joyce and she was excited that we would be coming and bringing news and contact information about the rest of the family. Yesterday, we arrived here, got set up at the Elks Lodge, where there is one electrical hookup and a great view of the snow capped mountains in the distance, and then went up to Joyce & Don's house which is located about 1/2 mile away. Here is a picture of the snow-capped mountains which is their front yard view:

They built a new house, with their backyard right on the golf course, three years ago. It is gorgeous and here are a few pictures of it:

Joyce in her new kitchen:

The colorful living room:

Joyce had a delicious dinner ready for us and we shared it with her husband, Don, her daughter, Darlene, and Darlene's husband, Ray. Here are some pictures of these happy couples:
Joyce and Don:

Darlene & Ray:

Tonight we are reciprocating by having them over for a homemade pizza dinner in our RV.
Prior to coming here, we were at Meteor Crater RV Park to have a visit with Frank Pease. Elaine and I worked with him at Lake Kachess two summers ago. Right after we arrived there, Carole and Dick Schneider called to say they would be joining us because they were on their way to Albuquerque. Then Mike & Marilyn decided that they would come up there too, in between doctor visits in Phoenix. So we had a nice little gathering of friends every night for Happy Hour and dinner. Here is a picture of me with Carole, Dick & Frank the night we all ate in their new Winnebago Adventurer:

Frank works at the Meteor Crater site and he got us all into the museum and crater for free. Thanks Frank!! This was quite a saving, because the entry fee for adults is $15 each! The crater is privately owned by the family of a guy who investigated it early on and then purchased the land. But they do not keep the money that is made after expenses are paid; they donate it for further research, such as to the geology department of the local University.
Meteor Crater is about 2 1/2 miles in circumference and 550 feet deep. It was created about 50,000 years ago when a meteor of a fairly small size (about 150 feet) hit the earth going so fast that it created this huge crater:

Besides the museum, where there is an interesting film, and many creative exhibits, there is a large rock shop, gift shop, and a Subway sandwich shop. There are viewing platforms, and also each hour a one mile guided hike along the rim trail.
Here is a picture of us on the Crater Hike:

On another day, Carole, Dick, Elaine and I explored the nearby Walnut Canyon National Monument. This is a canyon where the Zuni Indians used the many sheltered spaces under the ledges to live, by bricking in walls and raising crops on the mesas, during the time period of about 1100 to 1250 AD. There were 250 steps on the trail that took us down to the site, but it was a beautiful sunny day and we enjoyed the hike. Here are a few pictures:
A view of the canyon cliff with homes in it:

Dick, Carole & Elaine on the Island Trail down to the homesteads:

Carole in front of one of the houses:

Mary & Elaine In A Doorway:

After that we drove into Flagstaff for lunch, a quick drive around the old historic downtown, which is felled with wonderful stone block buildings, and a few hours in the Museum at Northern Arizona University. The exhibits here concentrate on the culture of the local indigenous peoples with a few dinosaur skeletons discovered locally as well. We were especially impressed with some of the jewelry:

On Frank's day off, Carole, Elaine and I went hiking with him at Buffalo Park in Flagstaff, as well as visiting some parks and also a natural foods store, where we ate in the deli for lunch.

Frank was doing great and it was such a delight to have three days of visits with him and also share him with our good friends.
The next few days here in Cortez will probably find us doing some day trips to the nearby attractions. We have already visited Mesa Verde National Park, so we will try some new sites, perhaps heading towards Monument Valley. No matter what we do, we will be heading for Denver on Sunday as we have a planned visit with my twin, Marsha, starting Monday. Thank goodness the weather has improved and we are having sunny days and clear roads!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

4/15/09 Today we are camped at Beaver Creek Forest Service campground, with Mike & Marilyn again, not far from Sedona, AZ. It is VERY WINDY, so we are sitting tight except for driving in the car to nearby Cliff Castle Casino for the discount senior lunch. Getting as old as we are definitely has its difficulties, but also some advantages, such as senior discounts and camping for half price using the Golden Age Pass. We have to use these perks quickly before someone in charge gets the idea to eliminate them. Elaine is very happy because she finally was old enough in January to get this pass and now she is using it. This is a fairly nice little campground with only 12 sites and right on Beaver Creek. The first night we were here, Elaine went over to the campground hosts to give them some lemons from her aunt's tree in Tucson, and they gave her 2 nice trout which Jerry had caught in the creek right here. Then he, and his wife, Greta, joined us several afternoons at our Happy Hour campfire.
Here is a picture of the creek area:

Just about 1/2 mile from here there is a Sinagua Indian petroglyph site called the V bar V Heritage Site. There used to be a big ranch here but way back on the property are some red rock cliffs with flat rock faces where there are good petroglyphs. Here are a few of the pictures.

The interesting thing about this site is that the sun comes through a notch in the nearby rocks and hits the drawings at different places depending on the time of the year. So when the sun hits certain drawings at the various seasons, the drawings tell them when to plant, harvest, etc.
Another day we went with Mike & Marilyn to drive through Oak Creek Village and Sedona to see some of the very impressive red rock formations. It is always amazing to approach the area and it is fairly flat and boring and then up pops some of the monoliths, such as Bell Rock, or Cathedral Rock, and you are just bowled over with the grandeur of it all.
Here are a couple of the pictures we took on that drive:
Mike & Marilyn

Yesterday Elaine and I drove over there again and took a 4 mile hike which started on one side of Cathedral Rock, went along Oak Creek part of the way, and went around to the other side of Cathedral Rock where some people were climbing up it. We decided to skip the climbing up part because we were already a bit tired and didn’t want to have a fall. It was a somewhat windy day, which worked in our favor because it helped keep us cool as we hiked. At a spot near Oak Creek, someone had hung a big swing and it was really fun to try it out for a few minutes. Here are a few of the pictures from the hike.
Mary & Cathedral Rocks

Elaine On The Oak Creek Swing

Monday we four drove through Cottonwood, Jerome, and over to Prescott to visit our old friends, Art & Sammie Wilson. They used to be members of Park Sierra and have now purchased a place in a mobile home park in Prescott, and have sold their RV. It was fun to see that they are doing very well physically, have done a wonderful job of fixing up their new home, and are so happy with Prescott. They showed us all around and we saw that Prescott is a charming place, especially in the old town. There has been lots of growth there too, so every major store is also there, plus a huge Veteran’s Hospital, and many other facilities for retired people. We had a delicious pizza lunch at a place called Bill’s Pizza, right across from the old courthouse building in the main square. The pizza might be the best I have ever had, and there were lots of good beer choices too, plus homemade root beer. If you are ever in Prescott, eat here!! Then we had Key Lime pie at Sammie’s – yum. Art has been spending 2 days a week doing volunteer work, driving people to medical appointments for the Red Cross and also the Veterans Admin. Sammie is taking a gardening class and also helps feed some elderly shut-in people at their mobile home park. Such great friends and wonderful people, and always full of laughs and fun.

Mary Holds Art & Sammie's Dog, Abby

It will be sad to leave Mike & Marilyn again but they have to head for Phoenix for a medical appointment and we are going to head north. I am trying to see my sister, Marsha, in Denver on our way to Illinois to see Elaine’s family. Normally by now the weather would be very Spring-like and warm. But we are finding that every few days it seems like another big storm goes through here and dumps more snow in areas we have to drive through on the way to Denver. In fact, there is a 70% chance of snow there again this weekend! While we are waiting for better weather, we are heading over to Meteor Crater to visit our friend, Frank Pease, who was one of the camp hosts with us at Lake Kachess 2 summers ago.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

4/8/09 Hello from Tucson. We are here visiting Elaine's sister, Penny, and her Aunt Marion. Luckily, Aunt Marion has a big yard and we are happily parked here with all the infrastructure we need and lots of nice warm weather. We have been washing everything: ourselves, rig, clothes, car, after all those weeks on the desert. Penny comes over nearly every day for dinner and a visit, and last night, she had us all over for a spaghetti feed. Here is a picture of the 3 of them in Penny's living room:

On our way here, from Yuma, we stopped briefly at the Painted Rocks Petroglyph Site. It was not nearly as interesting for us as it might be for others, since we have visited quite a few of these sites in other countries, such as Chile, in the Atacama Desert. There was a large rock-covered hill and most of the rocks had petroglyphs carved on them, some from very ancient times (7500BC) and some by more recent indigenous tribes such as the Ho'Okum (1450AD). Here are a couple of the rocks:

Being in Yuma enabled us to find some time to visit with friends who were still in the area, such as Carol & Ron Leonard. Here is a picture of them in front of their new casita, which they just finished building and are now in the process of doing the finishing work.

We often stay on their property when we are in Sacramento and always enjoy the brief times we are able to be together. Here is a little yard ornament which they had up and which I thought was priceless:

If you can't read the small print, here is what it says: We get along in our RV cause we don't have room to disagree."
Our friend, Eileen Cooper, also came out for dinner one night, and we were having so much fun that I forgot to take any pictures. Another couple we always try to see if they are anywhere nearby is our dear friends, Lee & Susie Blattner. They have a site at the SKP park in Yuma and they were staying there. But we managed to get together at their place for dinner and travel talk one night, and again at our campsite at Lake Mittrey. Here they are with Elaine, at Happy Hour:

Unfortunately, all the visits weren't just fun social interactions. We got a call from our friend, Maria Roberts, that Bruce had died on April 1 of cancer. Although they both looked and felt wonderful when they attended our wedding in late October, he had started having pain in December. They decided to buy a mobile home at a park in Yuma and he was being diagnosed and treated at the local medical center. She has now put their bus up for sale and will live in Yuma. They had been together for 40 years and lived in their big green bus for more than 20 years. They became our good friends on the drive back from the Panama Canal in 2004, and we have had many happy times with them ever since. He was a wonderful man and we will greatly miss him. Here is a picture of them with us at our wedding:

One of the best parts of staying in the desert and also at Lake Mittrey, was spending time with Mike & Marilyn Harrison. It is comfortable to be with them and they are always warm and gracious when our friends are visiting. It was hard leaving them last Sunday but we know we will be seeing them again, perhaps sooner than anyone thinks!
Now that the weather is starting to get warmer a little further north, we are going to be heading that way starting Friday. I think this will be a trip that we improvise as we go along! Our ultimate goal is to be in Newfoundland for July & August, with visits in Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan on the way. It has been a long time since we have traveled cross country here in the USA, so we are looking forward to seeing things we haven't before, as well as having visits with family and friends who happen to be on our route. If there is something fantastic that you have seen or done that you think we shouldn't miss, please e-mail us and tell us about it.