Friday, May 15, 2009

May 15, 2009

Return to Kansas

We left Colorado Springs at 8am and headed due east.  They say that US 50 through Nevada is the loneliest road in the world.  I have a second option.  Colorado 94 is straight as an arrow on compass bearing 90 degrees for over 150 miles.  Some ups and downs but no turns.   An occasional dirt road branching off to a distant ranch but no towns and no services the entire way.  We passed three vehicles the whole stretch.  It is good road just lonely.  Just before the state line it joins a larger highway and we had company on the road again.

We were a bit disappointed that we were unable to reach the summit of Pikes Peak.  We will try again but we did want to hit a least one summit on our trip.  Our route took us near Mt. Sunflower, the highest point in Kansas.  This was our chance.  Just inside the state border we headed north on a dirt road.  Eleven miles later we reached our goal.  The pictures document our success.


Yes!  The carbus is sitting on top of the highest point in Kansas.


These are the vast plains below Mt. Sunflower.


I did say we were in Kansas.  That means one thing – WIND.  Note Sue’s hair.

This is a weather rock (look it up if you don’t know what that is) on top of Mt Sunflower.You can’t see it in the picture but it is not just moving, it is swinging.

The item at the top of the pole on the right is a windsock.  It is almost totally shredded away.

After getting back to the highway we fought 30mph crosswinds for 60 miles and then called it a day.  It is still very windy.  Things could be worse.  We are watching a nonstop weather advisory on TV.  Wichita is in the middle of a very bad storm.  Weather radar shows very little green.  Some yellow.  Mostly orange and RED.  Tornado warning for the area for the next two hours.  Numerous funnel clouds seen.  Golf ball sized hail.  We will take the wind and wait a few days to visit Wichita.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

May 14, 2009

Suey and Tour of West Denver

We left late for us and drove the GV to Littleton, CO.  We had not seen my cousin Suey in a long time and were looking forward to spending some time with her.  I had a special piece of memorabilia to give her and more to share with her and her family.  Seeing her was as if there had not been any time in between.   After some short catching up and introduction to some software it was off on the tour.   She gave us a broad tour of the hills west of Denver.  We saw much of Golden including the massive Coors Brewing facility.  This area is very picturesque. Everywhere you are the mountains are right there close and clear.  We drove up a scenic road to the top of the first set of hills/mountains between the plains and the Rockies. 

The white on the horizon is the Continental Divide


From there it is a clear view to Denver and beyond.  Guess what is up there.  The grave of Buffalo Bill Cody. 

Bill is on the left, wife on right.

DSC00973 There is a museum about him there also.  Suey and I share a special connection with a little known event in his life.  We spoke with the woman at the entrance desk and asked if she knew anything about the event.  She pulled out a binder and looked up names and dates in no time.  Fun to share a small piece of history with such a famous person. 

More scenic driving and we were at Red Rock Park and Amphitheater.  This is a natural stone formation that has great natural acoustics.   It has been used for performances for over 100 years.  Without damaging the beauty or acoustics of the spot it has been developed into a massive amphitheater.  It is impossible to describe it.  We took pictures but even several pictures would not begin to encompass this place.  DSC00986

DSC00988  It must seat thousands.  Anyone who is anyone in music has performed here and I’m sure others are standing line to do so. 

More viewing of sights and other things in the area and then lunch at the country club near Sueys home. 

Great day.  Sorry it had to end.

Suey,  THANK YOU.  Thank you for spending your day with us.  Thank you for the great tour.  (I’m sure you have several others in your bag of tricks).  Thank you for showing us places we never would have found on our own.  Thank you for lunch.  (Next one’s on us) Thank you for you.  Wish we had spent more time together over the years.  The next time will not be as far off and we will not play golf or bridge or games,  :) .


On the way back to Colorado Springs we stopped at the Air Force Academy.  It was late and we only had time for very quick tourist thing.  We will have to come back here.DSC00992 DSC00989 DSC00990

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

May 13, 2009

      Pikes Peak and Garden of the Gods

Our RV was parked in a park that is right on the way to both these spots. 

First off, Pikes Peak.  We got to the gate a bit early and had to wait about a half hour.  When we get to toll booth we are told that the last mile of the road has not been plowed yet so we can only do first 18 miles of road and will not make it to top. (Only 13,800’ instead of 14,100)  Bummer. We aren’t going to wait around for several weeks while they finish plowing so up we go to see what we can. As with driving in heavy wind this road requires constant driving attention.  The road is wide enough but there is pretty much no shoulder and beyond the no shoulder is a drop of several thousand feet in many places.   Lots of switchbacks and once it starts climbing the road never levels.  Pretty cool engineering actually.  Sue got to do the looking and picture taking.  The view from (near) the summit is awesome.

Don’t know that I would be inspired to write a poem/song but it is something.  Sorry we could not get all the way up but now we have a reason to return and maybe take the cog railway instead.  The trip back down requires as much or more attention.  I just put the Grand Vitara in 4WD Low and pretty much coasted down.  Tried it for a while in 2WD low gear and still had to use brakes a lot.  People in regular cars must do a number on their brakes.

The Garden of the Gods is on the way back to Colorado Springs from Pikes Peak.  Awesome red rock formations that you get very close to (but don’t touch). Great for sightseeing tourists but also a very nice local park for local residents.  Lots of hiking and biking trails.  Another place to return to with more time allotted.  Normally we don’t do gift shops or at least do not spend much time in them.  The Garden of the Gods Gift Shop is different.  It is huge.  But done in rooms and alcoves so it seems like a series of smaller shops.  There is the typical tourist junk but also many areas of very nice things by local and Native American artists.  If you are looking for a type of craft/art it is there and the prices are among the most reasonable we’d seen.

Balanced Rock and tourist

Pikes Peak – we made it to top of the dark spot just right of the summit.

More Garden of the Gods

Both spots in one photo.

May 12, 2009

Albuquerque to Colorado Springs

Got up early and went to Sam’s Club to gas up and get a few things.  Then on to Colorado.  After Santa Fe the road was new to us.  Prettier.  Trees. Some turns.  Cooler.  One other thing that we had had before but not as long or as much – WIND!  This was a long day.  Drove over 400 miles.  At least the last 200 of it was steady cross winds with strong gusts.  Both hands on the wheel and steady concentration the whole time.  Pretty tiring.  Glad we got it done though.  Gave us a full day here to sightsee and a day to spend with Suey in Littleton before we head east.

May 11, 2009

Cottonwood to Albuquerque


We did all our sightseeing earlier and had been on all these roads earlier so this was just a long, hot, dry day.  Pretty boring really but had to be done.

May 10, 2009

Devils’ Bridge, Red Rock Loop, Jerome

Had read about Devils’ Bridge hike in RV-Dreams blog and we needed to do some walking so off we went.  Trailhead for this hike is north of Sedona at end of a dirt road.  The road is pretty rough.  It is just passable with conventional car but more fun in four wheel drive.  :)

Hike is an easy uphill climb of less than a mile.  The landmark is not much to look at but serves as a nice destination for a short hike.  Lots of people have signed the register.

On the way out we were passed by a hummer tour vehicle.  Big open hummer outfitted with six or eight bucket seats and a canopy top.  See the red rocks in style.  Of course there is also the helicopter tour approach.

The red rock loop passed by a number of red rock formations but was rather short.

After lunch we drove up to Jerome.  Old mining town built literally on the side of a steep mountain.  Narrow streets with stores and homes on each side stair step up the mountain side for five or six levels connected by hairpin turns. The town os over a thousand feet above the valley below.  The views are spectacular.  The mining is pretty much gone and the town is now an artist colony.  I mean really artsy.  Most of the buildings are very old and preserved or restored.  There is one old church, a new fire station, and old hotel and a new one (with a view that goes on forever), and most of the rest of the buildings are restaurants or filled with stranger art.  The town has fewer than 500 residents and they claim it is visited by over two million people a year. 

Sunday, May 10, 2009

May 9, 2009

Big loop

Another day of sightseeing.  From Cottonwood we went north to Flagstaff and then over to Walnut Canyon.  More cliff dwellings.  The difference here is that instead of one or two ruins the canyon walls are covered with them.  Over 400 have been identified. 

DSC01534 DSC01533

From Walnut Canyon it was north to Sunset Crater and Wapatki ruins.  Sunset Crater is the area around an old volcano.  Similar to volcanic areas of Northern California and Oregon. 


Wapatki is again ruins of a similar style to cliff dwellings and also mesa top dwellings.  Difference here is different type of land and different culture of builders.  There are a number of similarities between different ruins in different locations that point to mixing or assimilation of different cultures.

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We returned back to Cottonwood through Oak Creek Canyon.  Pretty spectacular from the top and very pretty to drive through.  In the fall the colors must be outstanding.



May 8, 2009

Phoenix to Cottonwood, National Monuments, Dinner with friends

We left Phoenix about 9:00am and arrived in Cottonwood around noon.  We parked the carbus at Dead Horse Ranch State Park and turned on the A/C.  After lunch we headed out on a small loop to see three national monuments.

First stop was Montezuma Castle.  It is not a castle and had nothing to do with Montezuma but that is what early discoverers called it and it stuck.  What it is is another cliff dwelling.  each one is unique and amazing what people created with no tools halfway up the side of a cliff.


Second stop was Montezuma Well.  It is not a well and also had nothing to do with Montezuma.  It is a large spring feed pool inside a sink hole.  The sink hole has a natural drain spot through the rock so there is constant circulation of the pool.  The early peoples channeled the outflow to irrigate their crops.  Again, doing something with nothing.


Last stop was Tuzigoot NM.  This is a ruins built on top of a knoll in the middle of a very fertile valley that is farmed still today.

Portion of ruins


Interior view showing construction of roof.  Some of the beams are original.


Lots of water and good land here.


After our tour we returned to the carbus to clean up and took a short drive to the home of Ken and Kathy Ritchie to visit and have a very nice dinner.  Ken and Kathy moved to Arizona three years ago after being lifelong Californians.  They have a lovely house that both of them have put much effort into making it a special place.  It was a nice evening of talk and reminiscing.  Would be nice to be able to do it more often.