Saturday, September 4, 2021

Colorado Beauty Cut Even More When We Get Another Shocking Call

 September 2 - 4, 2021
Fruita, Colorado

Thursday's drive south from Vernal, Utah, to Fruita, Colorado, is 130 miles of two-lane road. From pitted, bumpy and very narrow to newly paved and comfortably wide, it's beautiful most of the way. Towering colorful canyons with amazing rock formations lead into pine forest covered mountains.

About that mountain.....Douglas Pass is 7% grade on both sides with a speed limit of 25 mph, and 15 mph switchback turns. It's also one of the narrow sections of the road. But there is very little other traffic, and it is stunning (and you're going slow enough to really see it!). I'm not nervous up or down, but it always feels good to get to the bottom :-) Not sure I'd want to drive it from south to north as that is a LOT more steep uphill. Actually, we drop elevation all the way to I-70 just west of Fruita. 

Still going down, looking back up at the road - it's a lot further "up there" than it looks here!

Monument RV Park is easy to find, and we get set up on our level all-gravel 50 amp FHU site. Basic city park with few trees and close neighbors, it's perfect for our needs this holiday weekend. As I always try to get the holidays covered first, I made this reservation nine months ago!

Late lunch at Cattleman's Grill in Loma is tasty, even having to fight the flies for our meal. The restaurant and bar share the building with the livestock auction facility so it's not hard to guess where the little pests are coming from.

We've heard about the scenic drives in the area, and with our Colorado time cut short we want to take advantage of what we can see here. Friday morning we take the Historic Rim Rock Drive, 23 miles of grand views ranked high on the country's "most beautiful" lists. 

The only "history" we encounter is a reference to the cattle trail that was the original route to the canyon's rim, and the building of the road itself. I continue to be amazed and appreciative of the roads built just so we have access to these gorgeous natural wonders. 

The 23 mile road travels up, over and through some of the most beautiful canyons we've ever seen. And we've seen a lot!

Independence Monument to the right is a beauty. A fellow traveler at the pull out tells us there are climbers near the top.

With full zoom I find them on this ledge preparing to reach the summit.

First up assists his partner for the last step.

Which one of us is calling the helicopter? 

Interesting formations along the roadside.

Red stripes brush along the canyon walls.

Upper Utte Canyon where the dark clouds drop light rain.

A bright burst along the trail.

Canyon walls on all sides.

Erosion creates a variety of gallery pieces.

Grand Junction has a cute historic downtown, but very little parking that we can find. We do find a tasty lunch at Main Street Cafe, but the sprinkles felt earlier become a pretty good rain so we miss a stroll through the restored area. 

The main reason we kept Fruita on our route (although the anticipated natural beauty is a strong second) before returning to California is to see a dear friend from high school. Terri and I were buddies my senior year, and have only seen each other at one reunion over the many years since. She is here with her mom and youngest brother and his wife. Our first meeting is for dinner at nearby El Tapatio, including their good friends Eddie and Kelly who also live in the area. We enjoy a lively evening and very good meals. Good margaritas too! Afterwards Terri and mom Lois come to visit our little home for more visiting. While I fail to get pics, we are going to their home for Sunday brunch where I'm sure to remember!

Saturday morning we get a slow start for Grand Mesa. The lower route takes us through golden formations along a shallow running creek. As we climb we're in thick pines and hardwoods. Long distance views show how high we're climbing - at one point we're level with the high clouds on the other side of the valley. Just past 10,000 feet I'm feeling the elevation in a not-good way. When the road narrows and continues to climb I turn around. Not having fun, not feeling good, not going any further. Little did we know at this point that feeling funky was the least of bad things happening elsewhere. That would once again cause a major change in our plans.

A small lake, part of the recreational area.

Still some smoke in the valley, but certainly better than previous stops.

The green is so lush!

Taking a little break on the way down my phone pings that I have service again. And a voice mail. From Jeff back in Tombstone. Call, it's an emergency.

Horrible things go through a mother's mind, but at least he was able to leave a message. When he answers my call he sounds good. Whew! 

"An SUV crashed into the house" is NOT what I'm expecting to hear! Learning that no one was hurt is not only amazing but a huge relief. Police and fire are there, utilities are turned off, he has all the information from the driver, the neighbors are a big help. He's calm and in control and that makes me feel the same way. We all laugh about the absurdity. 

I see a new fireplace in our future.

Glad Jeff's car was on the other side of the garage - still got a few dents from that flying door :-(

Of course we'll head home in the morning.

The afternoon is spent cancelling all the reservations I finalized two days ago. It's becoming second nature.

I'm bummed to tell Terri we can't do brunch on Sunday. No pics after all :-(

Our summer isn't wrapping up the way we planned, not even the way we re-planned - but having a flexible life style is a blessing as are our family and friends. 


Wednesday, September 1, 2021

The End of a Generation, Finding Peace in Nature, Changing Our Route

 August 30 - September 2, 2021
Vernal, Utah

When Bill's mother passed in June we also lost her sister Nancy the same week. It was a hard time for a very close family. The youngest sister Kathy was naturally devastated, but in good spirits when we saw her for the memorial in Fresno, California. 

Kathy had major surgery two weeks ago, and Monday lost her battle to recover. We all suspect she just missed her dear sisters too much to continue any longer without them. Bill adored her and this second loss so soon after Mom is pretty rough. 

The older generation is all gone now - twins Kathy and George, Nancy and Bill's mom Anne.

I'm especially glad we're in Vernal because it has some of the most beautiful places to lose ourselves in nature - and dinosaurs!

We spend a wonderful day in Dinosaur National Monument, stopping to enjoy the bone quarry and then a few hours among the rocks and valleys. 

The bone quarry is incredible with 500+ bones discovered and remaining in situ inside a lovely two-story building. The dinosaur stories told here are wonderful, answering many questions, raising others.

I take a lot of photos under slightly muted skies.

And when I get home I accidently delete every one of them! Noooooo! I suppose it was just a matter of time that I'd make that mistake, but I'm sick with the loss. 

We're here a couple more days - we'll have to go back!

Tuesday starts with windshield repair on site, and a quick grocery run at the very nice Smith's across the street. Last time we were here we needed a quick repair as well (computer update done at the Cummins shop), and while we never want to need it, knowing we can get fast and friendly service makes this little town even more appealing! 

Thanks Paul - no more chips and a clean windshield!

With the memorial service scheduled for the 25th in Fresno, California, we have a few options. I opt to reroute us back to SoCal after our next stop which means we won't need to return there in November as planned. It saves us making an extra drive from Tombstone to Valencia and back (my least favorite route in the country).

Reservations are cancelled and new ones made. Appointments are rescheduled. We'll return to Tombstone four days later than planned.

A storm is expected Wednesday, so Tuesday we spend a few hours exploring Red Cloud Loop, Taylor Mountain Road, and Dry Fork Canyon. The blue skies help to lift our spirits - just in time for the clouds to roll in :-)

I wish every place had these wonderful maps and information on day trips in the area. 

Red Cloud Loop

A few meadows break up the miles of pine and aspen forest.

Taylor Mountain Road is a surprise with lots of wide open space.

The Aspen forest glows green.

Down Taylor Mountain Road we find more color.

The cliffs at Dry Fork Canyon are stunning.

Don't know when it fell, or what stopped it, but I get out from under it quickly!

Our final day we're happy to see the anticipated rain. It's forecast to end mid-day, but hangs around until after 5:00. We still spend the afternoon back at Dinosaur National Monument. Sadly the section of the park with the petroglyphs and Josie's Ranch is closed this time. We also don't return to the bone quarry. Now I'm really bummed I deleted those photos :-(

The rain enhances some colors while muting others.

Slow moving clouds change the landscape.

Rock varnish on the cliffs over Green River.

Green layers above the dark purple and red.

Turtle Rock

Red dirt road to Blue Mountain - we're in four-wheel-drive low to get through the slippery mud.

This visit to Vernal confirms what we thought last time - it's a special place with lots to do and see. The people are especially friendly and helpful. Every service we need is here although it could use better eateries. Next time we'll come for a few weeks!!

Gotta love a place with a pink dinosaur!

Although we'll change our route to return south next week, we have one more stop we want to make to catch up with one of my best friends from high school (no, we still haven't seen all of them yet!).

Sunday, August 29, 2021

A Few Quickies Getting to Utah

 August 26-29, 2021
Pocatello, Idaho - Cokeville, Rock Springs, Wyoming

Our departure day from Henry's Lake SP starts with a wonderful surprise! After looking for Moose in our travels over the last week, a large cow is wandering the field below our campsite :-) By the time I get outside she's got her head down eating, but it's such a treat to see her that close. 

Maggie shared her great shot of the cow across the pond from their site.

We're all out to see her.

I also forgot to include that on our way to Ennis for dinner Bill saw a black bear up on the mountain. We turned around and all of us got to see him on the way into the bushes. So cool!

150 smoky miles take us to Cowboy RV Park in Pocatello for a one night stop. One of three we'll do to reposition further south. It's a busy stop getting the Jeep a much needed bath, and a stock-up grocery run at a nice size Albertson's. Our next surprise is finding my favorite Dutch pancake (they call it German here) at Elmer's nearby - so yummy with lemon and butter.

So much yum!

Jim and Maggie are also staying here a couple days so we plan for a final dinner out. We get the best surprise when we're joined by another high school friend (Jimmy found out she was here and invited her to join us)!! Kathy is a new solo full-timer who's back in her home area to participate in a body building competition - wow! Delicious Italian at Cafe Tuscany, with more fun conversation wraps up this quick stop. 

Kathy, Jim, Maggie, Jodee and Bill

Friday morning we head south on Hwy 30 over a couple 6200 foot passes, through acres of wheat and other crops, and unfortunately under smoky haze all the way into Wyoming. Our stop is in tiny Cokeville at the Hideaway Motel right on the highway. Three 50 AMP FHU level dirt sites are in the back of the property next to a nice grass park. 

A volleyball tournament nearby brings a busload of high school girls to join us. They're good neighbors.

Across the road is the Golden Buckle Grill, a surprisingly upgraded eatery where we enjoy Navajo Tacos. The rest of our short stay we chill indoors.

Rare for us, we make a stop on our travel day. Fossil Butte National Monument is a treat for fossil/geology geeks like us. Four RV parking spaces in the small parking lot give us access to the nice visitors' center. Well done videos and a huge collection of fossils collected in the monument.

This timeline railing shows how insignificant our time on earth has been!

Can't wrap my head around these numbers.

A small and beautiful video room.

Many of the fossils are pieces of art.

We've seen many fossils around the country, but I don't remember any like this. They have a large display of predatory interaction.

Displays include the very small

to the very large!

Fossil Butte

Fossil Lake

There is also a five mile drive to the top of the butte, but we opt not to unhook the Jeep to check it out this time. If you're in the area, this is a wonderful stop just 3 miles off the highway.

Like many places in the last six weeks, we wake on departure day to blue skies, and find ourselves in the smoke by the time we get to our next stop. This is not the prettiest part of Wyoming, and for most of our Saturday drive the skies and landscape are the same color. Unfortunately the drive includes miles of road construction. Despite the posted reduced speed limit, most big rigs are doing the maximum of 70, kicking up the loose gravel in every direction. Before we get to the end of it we have THREE chips in our (6 months old) windshield! I am not happy.

We arrive at the Rock Springs Walmart and find the last spot along the back of the parking lot. This is a busy, chaotic place. I saw a sushi restaurant sign on the highway, and am confidant this will improve my cranky mood.

A couple yummy sushi rolls at Saporo, and a nice nap, and I'm back to my usual sweet self. We run the genny and the AC for a couple hours, read, people watch, play games, and with the large slide out we get a decent night's sleep.

Every place we've left behind since mid-July gets clear skies after we leave. And the places ahead of us that are clear get smoky as we arrive. Hard not to take it personal! Checking the air quality map Sunday morning I find the trend continues. 

With an earlier-than-usual start of 8:30, we take our time along Hwy 191 through part of Flaming Gorge into Vernal, Utah. Until we drop into the valley, we're blessed with blue skies over the beautiful gorge. It's a nice drive with a few 9% grades - including ten 20 mph switchbacks coming down to Flaming Gorge Lake. 

Little Osprey Island in Flaming Gorge Lake.

The first dam I've driven the motorhome over.

Vernal is a repeat stop with so much to see. Being able to see it is the challenge this time. Arriving at Fossil Valley RV Park is like being welcomed home. The owner's son (can't believe I forgot his name) is delightful and makes us feel like we're his favorite guests! He takes us to a spot he's sure will accommodate our satellite, with lots of beautiful shade trees. Level gravel with a strip of grass, 50 AMP FHU's and zero view :-) - we love it here!

Feels good to slow down again.......

Ten months old and taking a few steps, Elliott is growing up way tooooo fast!