Friday, June 5, 2009

June 5, 2009

Colorado National Monument

Short travel day.  A little over two hours.  In Grand Junction we parked the carbus and did some sight seeing.  First was a hike around Dinosaur Hill.  A large nearly intact dinosaur was unearthed here nearly 100 years ago.  It has been on display in Chicago almost that long.

Local resident on Dinosaur Hill

Most of the afternoon was devoted to touring through Colorado National Monument.  Rim drive with vistas of stunning red rock canyons and eroded formations.

Picture of picture taken on a better day from a better vantage point


Overcast day made it difficult to get good pictures.  Don’t know what Sue is pointing out.

See the window rock in picture on the left?  Picture on the right is same rock from a little different vantage point.

After the drive we found a post office and mailed a modified shirt to Sue’s friend Portia.

Last thing of day was a wine tasting.  This area has lots of wineries including one that specializes in Meads and fruit wines.  So you all will be a bit more educated, Mead wines are made from honey not grapes.  They can be blended with juices from fruits or berries for different flavors.  In addition to lots of grapes the Grand Junction valley also grows fruits, especially peaches which we were too early for obviously.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

June 4, 2009

Continental Divide (again), John Denver Sanctuary, Maroon Bells

We left about 8:15 and headed north – and up.  You know you are going up if the river next to the road is flowing downhill and it is going the opposite direction you are.  The climb was pretty gentle but it was relentless.  Eventually we went through Leadville, CO.  Welcome sign said elev. 10200’.  Decent sized town and gas was cheaper than Pueblo which is a huge city on two major highways.  Leadville is right about tree line.  Don’t know why people live there.  Our climb was not over.  Several miles north of Leadville we crossed the Continental Divide at Tennessee Pass.  10424’ above sea level.  There is a monument there to the Tenth Mountain Division which trained there and was very influential in many conflicts in the Alps in WWII.

 20090604 1 to Basalt-42 20090604 1 to Basalt-43

From there we headed down, and down, and down.  Road not bad but more twisty and steeper.  Glad we came the way we did.  We joined I-70 in about 20 miles and kept going down for another 30 miles.  Part of that went through Glenwood Canyon.  Amazing feat of roadway engineering  and very scenic. At Glenwood Springs we headed southeast and started climbing again slowly.  We parked the carbus at a campground in Basalt and drove 20 more miles to Aspen.  Basically an upscale resort town.  I would guess that most of the people who work there live elsewhere.  The major road to town has a carpool lane that is active in the morning for traffic into Aspen and active in the afternoon for traffic leaving Aspen.

Our goal in Aspen was to visit the John Denver Sanctuary.  We located it without too much trouble, took pictures and contemplated for a short while and then headed out of town.

Sue read about a scenic area called The Maroon Bells.  Not far out of Aspen so we headed that way.  It has been called the most photographed area in Colorado and that probably is true.  We got there on a bit of an off day (breezy, scattered clouds) and it still was outstanding.  We hiked, took lots of pictures, and then headed back to carbus to rest, edit, and compose.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

June 3, 2009

Gooseberry Patch

Long drive through western Kansas and eastern Colorado.  In Pueblo we went to Sam’s and got gas and a few groceries.  Then west to Penrose, CO. home of an excellent restaurant called The Gooseberry Patch.  We happen to have a small connection to the spot – the proprietors are our daughter-in-laws’ parents – but even without the bias this is a great place to eat.  DSC01806 People actually frame their trips and vacations around stopping here for a meal.  If you are in south central Colorado make an effort to go through Penrose and stop at the Gooseberry Patch.  You won’t be disappointed.  There is also a geocache in the front yard.  What could be better?  Good food, nice conversation, and a cache.  We have a connection to the cache too.  Our son, Ken, placed it.  Had to find it :).  We did.  Pretty clever though.

From Penrose we headed west on a very scenic highway to Buena Vista, CO.  We are parked in a campground with an outstanding view of the Rocky Mountains.

DSC01859 DSC01822

June 2, 2009

Travel and Nostalgia

We left the lovely Iola Elks lake after 8:00 and headed east.  Only real goal for the day other than travel was Wichita, the place we spent the first four years of our marriage.  We got there in late morning and quickly located our first home.  We lived in a basement apartment under a house in a quiet older neighborhood.  It is all still there.  Same quiet neighborhood, same house unchanged except for some landscaping.  We parked the carbus and took a few pictures and then did a bit of reminiscing. 

Front of house.  Appears to be occupied by family with small kids.


This is back of house.  Entrance to our basement apartment was around corner just to right of small window in center of picture.

Pink spot is window in door to basement.

Ground level windows were what we had for light.   As you can see we were pretty much under ground.  During tornado warnings our landlords would visit :).



When we lived there, there was a Dairy Queen four and a half blocks away.  When Sue was pregnant with Ken, several times a week we would walk by the DQ as part of the exercise thing.  We would each get a small cone to eat on our way home.  It has been over 40 years but the little Dairy Queen is still there.  We walked the few blocks, took some pictures, and each got a cone to eat as we walked back.


The older parts of Wichita are pretty much the same but the city has grown a great deal and is very busy.  There used to be one cross town highway and some county roads leading north and south.  Now there are three or four freeways and several expressways crisscrossing the city.  We found a Sam’s Club, got gas, and got outa Dodge.  Actually we headed toward Dodge (City).  As we headed west the sky got darker and darker.  For a while it looked like we would go around the weather but about ten miles east of Dodge City it hit.  Rain so heavy that wipers don’t work and streets are flooded in minutes.  We pulled over for a few minutes and then crept along as things lightened up some.  We had rain and wind for the next two hours.  When we reached the campground we were totally out of any rain and almost had clearing skies.  The camp owner was actually hoping that it would rain as they had not had any for some time.  He got his wish, it is raining now.

June 1, 2009

George Washington Carver, Precious Moments, Fort Scott

We left Branson taking back roads.  Actually pretty fun.  Have to stay alert in a carbus but the roads are neat.  Narrow roads that follow the ridges and once in a while go down into a holler and up to another ridge.  Lots of little farms and tiny towns.  Real Ozark feel instead of speeding along on a four lane highway.

First stop, George Washington Carver National Monument.  Picture a little tiny town on a narrow little road in the middle of nowhere.  Now go two miles outside that town on an even more narrow road and turn onto basically a paved wide path.  Another mile and you reach the entrance.  Suddenly things open up.  A manicured park in the middle of a forest.  Lots of parking for even the largest of rigs as well as cars.  The visitors center is outstanding. 

Carvr visitor center

Many displays and much information on George Washington Carver from birth to early adulthood.  There is a lot on his adult life also.  A recent addition to the center added a number of rooms with many hands on exhibits. 


There is even a full sized college science lab from his time.  There is a trail that goes by the cabin where he was born and winds through the woods.  Very peaceful.  Would be a great place for a young boy to grow.  We were glad we made the effort to find this place.

Local inhabitant.

  snake sunning himself on rock--no sun

Trail and bridge across small stream



Williams pond 

George Washington Carver’s owner lived here.


A few miles (literally) up the road and down another little road, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, is the Precious Moments Chapel complex. 

Another park in the middle of the woods with an even larger parking lot.  Gift shop, restaurant, museum, vast grounds, and of course the chapel all dedicated to and themed by Precious Moments images and figures.  The whole site is the culmination of a dream by the creator of the Precious Moments artwork.  The chapel tour alone took nearly forty minutes of description of the stories behind the artwork that covers the inside of the chapel.  I can’t describe all we saw.  A web search might help to explain some of it.

the three artists Cha;pel front picture


These last two are for Hank, Dan, and Liz.  We think of you.


Last stop was Fort Scott NHS.  The fort which had many uses over more than a century has been restored and almost all of it is open to give visitors a glimpse of life of the military men and their families who lived here.

officer's dining for guests DSC01521 Hospital dragoons bunks

Note the flag.  Does something look different?

May 31, 2009

Geocaching, Fish Hatchery, Table Rock Lake, Wine Tasting

We really are not into watching old performers entertain for a huge price so we went in search of the cheap stuff.  VERY hard to find in Branson.  Do a web search on cheap or free Branson.  It’s all about the money in one form or another here. 

I looked up a few geocaches and we started our day with those.  We were not disappointed.  Several interesting spots or good views or both.

Between my fingers is a geocache we found in a cemetery.  Yes, that is a cache not much larger than a pencil eraser.  We have seen a couple more of these.

magnetic cache, on a fence post

Forty foot observation tower on top of a knob where we found a cache.  Great views of Branson from the top.


Next stop Table Rock Lake Dam and Visitors center.  Great views and lots of information.  Below the dam is a fish hatchery.  Rainbow Trout.  Non native (think California Sierras) but raised here to stock one lake.  There were some very big fish there. 


Our way back from the hatchery happened to pass by the Stone Mountain Winery.  This Branson branch of the main winery located near St. Louis ages sherry and bottles two types of spumonti (sp?).  Not sure why they do those functions at the remote site but it does give it a reason to call itself a winery instead of just a store.  We took the tour.  The movie was ten minutes.  The functional part (how to bottle and cork sparkling wine) was less than ten minutes.  The wine tasting was nearly 30 minutes long.  We tasted over twenty different wines with constant banter from our guide.  Best wine tasting I have ever been on by far.  Some of the wines really appealed to us for taste or character but there is only so much room in the carbus so we passed. 

May 30, 2009

Silver Dollar City

silver dollar city sign

A bit of nostalgia.  Last time we were in Silver Dollar City there was a cave, and above it there was a small city of Ozark craftsperson's demonstrating and selling their crafts.  That was it.  It was a fun day seeing the cave and watching locals demonstrate various crafts and everyday skills from years past.  Today things are different.  The cave is still there and the tour is great.  One humongous cave.  The first room you enter (by an endless series of stairs – actually only 600) is huge.  Picture below shows stair tower used to enter cave.  Only a small part of underground is in picture.

  They once had six hot air balloons inflated in it and none of them touched each other or the cave walls or ceiling.  There are formations but not as many as many caves. 

Several active rivers and falls inside the cave are fun to see.  Left picture is top of one fall, right picture is bottom of same fall.  Color of lights changes.  This fall is about 20’ high.  Two days earlier this chamber was completely filled with water.


Above ground is different.  The craftsmen are still there but you have to look to find them.  They are scattered among the many shops selling Ozark crafts and art.  These are scattered among the many food shops and vendors.  The whole thing is in and around rides and entertainment.  Several stages with live entertainment and rides and fun stuff for all ages. 

Train ‘robbers’.  Note greenery.  The whole Ozarks area is like that.

robbers and conductor

Everything from fast roller coasters to huge swings to water rides of many types to rides and fun stuff for very small people.  The whole thing is in and around Ozark flora, most of it natural or induced natural. 

olden times

I think it is a better presentation than Disneyland or Disney World.  The atmosphere is fresh and clean without trying to be something different and the stores, although there are many, sell store specific  items.  There is not a Silver Dollar City logo everywhere you look (how many mouse ears did you see in the last minute ?).

We went for the experience so we did it all (almost).  We passed on the two jerkiest coasters but did do one that had us upside down most of the time and we did ALL the water rides.

wildfire upside down ride

We were SOAKED much of the day.  We came prepared with zip lock bags for cameras and wallets.  The day was warm and we dried pretty quickly.  We actually missed some of the native demo stuff because we were busy doing rides.  It was a fun day. Not like we remembered but still fun.