Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Moab Area

We only had a short time with our WIN friends before they moved on, but we'll catch up again soon. Here are a couple of things we did with them.

A very small group consisting of Phil, Al, and Ron braved the rapids at Big Bend campground - rated somewhere between class 1/2 to class 2, depending who you talk to. They put in at 'Takeout Point' - is that allowed? I asked them to paddle upstream a little so I could get this lovely picture. Thanks, guys.

Then Diana and I drove to Big Bend to catch them coming through the rapids. I got a bit sidetracked by this Monarch(?) butterfly on the rabbitbrush.

But soon the guys zipped around the bend and hit the rough water. I took a video of Phil and it looked like a bucking bronco. Unfortunately it was too long and I don't know how to cut it down, so instead I captured these frames from the video. I like how you can't even see the kayak here.

And here it's completely out of the water.

Later we took a short hike up Mill Creek to view a waterfall. Is this it? No, I see some concrete.

More pretty red cliffs along the trail.

Well that's as far as Diana and I went. We didn't have the details on this hike - it seems there are several stream crossings and instead of taking off our shoes and socks and putting them back on several times, we just sent the others on ahead.

Ron did a good job of recording the rest of the trip. Here is the destination waterfall where the locals jump off into the pool.

Peter seems to be trying to decide if he wants to risk it.

Peter did jump off the cliff, but Ron missed it. However he did catch this local making the big leap. . . or was it the pretty girl in the bikini that caught his attention?

Here let me help the guys out there see her a little closer.

On Sunday, the WINs moved on and Ron took the car to Salt Lake City to visit his son. I stayed with the RV at the Elks in downtown Moab and felt like one of the healthy locals biking around town. The only drawback was how hot it was. Today it cooled off, Ron arrived back, and we're leaving tomorrow. Oh well, we'll be back.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Back in the Warm

Both literally and figuratively. It had been so cold the last few days in the Denver area that we were running our little electric heater full time just to keep up. Of course as soon as we left it warmed up and will be 80 tomorrow. We wanted to get over the Continental Divide and to Moab, Utah, to meet up with our WIN friends. On Thursday, we made our move.

Going up the eastern side of Rockies, we passed some snow-covered mountains, but only experienced a few flurries near the top.

But when we exited the Eisenhower tunnel on the west side, it was pretty scary!

Fortunately it didn't last long. When we stopped at the Edwards rest area, we admired this homemade RV. It even had lots of solar panels . . .

And a very cute porch.

Interstate 70 between Denver and Grand Junction is a beautiful drive through different climates and terrains. Here we are heading down into Glenwood Canyon following the Colorado River.

This section of the interstate was built after much discussion on how to retain the beauty of the canyon. Many dollars later, the result is truly impressive.

Continuing west, the land becomes drier with picturesque cliffs.

Finally we made it to Moab and visited with our friends who are parked at Gold Bar CG right along the river and among these gorgeous red cliffs.

Since we only made it for the end of the WIN gathering, some of the group had already left. But here are pictures of most of those remaining. I always say, "If you ever need a pick-me-up, just drive into a WIN gathering." Hugs, laughter, and warmth all around.

Sorry about all the drive-by shots and especially the dead bug smears on the windows. Just ignore them.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Family Time

For the past several days we've been near Denver spending time with Ron's daughter Kim and her family. Luckily we took advantage of the perfect weather over the weekend because the last few days have been c-c-cold. We even had to postpone our exit over the Rockies due to snow in the mountains. But that just gave us a little more time to enjoy the family and have some work done on the car.

On Saturday we attended one of Adam's (Ron's grandson) soccer games. I have to admit I was so fascinated by the game that I forgot to take pictures. Of course I would have needed a better camera with a telephoto lens most of the time. And since Adam is the fastest runner I think I've ever seen, I doubt I could have kept up with him.

Then on Sunday we watched Shannon (Ron's granddaughter) and her gymnastics class. Being a totally uncoordinated person, it's amazing to me what these little girls can do. Here's Shannon doing her thing on the balance beam. Her favorite is the bar.

Then Kim took us to the 6th annual Festival Italiano. Despite the threatening clouds, there was quite a turnout.

There was a Frank Sinatra impersonator. If you closed your eyes, you'd swear it was Old Blue Eyes himself.

Kim snapped this of me and Pinocchio Ron.

We spotted these signs advertising Little Feet wine. What do they mean 'stomped here?'

Wow! It's an I Love Lucy episode with kids. But is it sanitary?

Oh, thanks heaven, they clean their feet first. Or at least have them walk through a bucket of water.

And here's the finished product. We understand the fermentation process takes care of any toe jam.

Kim seems to like it.

And Ron looks happy.

And me? What a shame, I'm allergic to red wine.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Rocky Mountain NP

I know this is a huge jump from our last post in North Dakota. We zoomed right by the scenic South Dakota Black Hills since we had just been there last August. Ditto for the unique Devil's Tower in Wyoming. It was getting a little too cool at night for us.

We used freecampgrounds.com for several overnight stops along the way. I even added a couple of spots to the website. But on our way south on US 85 in Wyoming, I suggested we hit one of the National Forest campgrounds. It was supposed to be five miles east of Four Corners, just inside the National Forest border. Brenda will sympathize with Ron when I say he might never listen to me again. I should have checked my Topo program first. He was okay with it being a dirt/maybe some gravel road, and even when it narrowed to about a lane and a half, but there was a downhill section with hairpin turns that I later calculated to be a 14% grade. Yikes! We never made it as far as the campground and just parked for the night in a pull off area. But just look how beautiful it was!

Ron even helped out the local beavers with some repair work.

Needless to say, we didn't hook up in the morning and I drove the car out.

Continuing south, we made it to the Moose Lodge in Longmont, CO, on Thursday and went to check out the Devil's Backbone. This unusual geological feature is located just west of Loveland and should be photographed in the morning like our friend Lloyd did recently. Since we were there in the afternoon, the rocks were in shadow, but the clouds in this picture look pretty devilish, don't you think?

This is a better look at the 'backbone' - a line of rock that extends for miles along the top of the ridge. Interesting.

This spot is called The Keyhole . . .

Which we passed through to get a shot on the sunny side.

But I promised Rocky Mountain NP, and on Friday we loaded our water, trail bars, hiking sticks and ourselves in the car and drove to the park. I was very excited because we were doing another of my favorite hikes - this one to Dream Lake. Once in the park, you take the shuttle bus to Bear Lake at 9475 feet and hike up. We were lucky enough to be there at a good time for the autumn aspen color.

Some of the trees had already dropped their leaves and some were still green, but there were a lot of really pretty ones.

The well-maintained trail travels through the woods for the first .5 mile to Nymph Lake, then opens up for the rest of the hike.

We stopped for the obligatory photo at this overlook.

And after the next .6 mile we reached spectacular Dream Lake.

I think this is one of the prettiest spots I've ever seen.

I guess it too would be better as a morning shot, but by the time we drove to the park and hiked the 1.1 miles, it was afternoon.

We then went the last .7 mile to Emerald Lake which lies just at the base of the mountains in the previous pictures. Although it's too close for a good picture, it's a lovely spot for lunch and the water really is a beautiful green.

As you can imagine, this is a popular hike, but it's not as easy as it sounds. Although it's only 1.8 miles (3.6 round trip,) it's at about 10000 feet and air is scarce. The trail also has a 600' elevation gain. I think they should hand out little oxygen tanks to the flatlanders like us.

After making our way back down (which was sure a lot easier,) we stopped at Moraine Park on our way out of the park. At this time of the year, the elk are bugling and the alpha males are gathering their harems. We didn't see any fights, but I'm sure they're doing that too.

Here's a lone male who didn't make the cut.

We counted 14 cows in this bull elk's herd. He sure was keeping careful watch over his ladies. (The picture's terrible, I know, but they were about a mile away.)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Here it is!

In my last post, I promised to reveal the greatest roadside attraction you never heard of. I have always said that all a town needs is a hook and tourists will come. Traveling throughout this marvelous country, Ron and I have discovered unbelievable creativity in the little towns we visit. From the king-of-all tourist traps, the Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD, to the dead horned toad in Eastland, TX, I love them all. From the silly to the sublime, from tiny to huge, I love American ingenuity. Well, get ready to be wowed by a hook on a grand scale born from the creative genius of one man determined to save his town.

This roadside attraction is actually a series of wonderful scrap metal sculptures along a 32-mile stretch of road from exit 72 off I94 south to the town of Regent, ND. I won't post pictures of them all, because you might think you don't need to see them yourself and you would be wrong. They are truly mind boggling.

The first can be seen from I94, but you need to see it up close to appreciate it. Get off the highway and take the dirt road up to the site. (By the way, as Ron can testify, each sculpture has a parking lot big enough to easily turn around a 30-foot RV towing a car.) Geese in Flight was completed in 2001 and was awarded a Guinness World Records Certificate for being the world's largest metal sculpture. It stands 110 ft. tall, 154 ft. wide, and weighs 157,659 lbs.

Each location also has little touches that makes it even more special. At Geese in Flight, the road in is lined with flying geese.

As you take the road south to Regent you pass a total of eight awe-inspiring sculptures. My favorite was Fisherman's Dream.

Completed in 2006, this is one of the newest additions. The 70 ft. rainbow trout is surrounded by various other 30 ft. fish and water plants. All are made out of tin, three dimensional, and realistically painted. Please click on the picture for a better view. (BTW, this parking lot is slightly smaller than the rest and, although Ron had no problem, a 40-foot RV with a car might have a little trouble turning around. However we heard it's due to be expanded.)

Ron's favorite was Pheasants on the Prairie. The rooster stands 40 ft. high and 70 ft. long. See Ron standing next to his foot?

This wooden stagecoach was part of the Teddy Rides Again display. The sun was wrong for a good picture of Teddy's sculpture, but I caught a quick ride on the stagecoach.

The sun was also wrong for a good picture of the Tin Family, but here is Mrs. Tin anyway. I especially loved her barbed-wire hair. In high humidity, I know just how she feels. And the augers for earrings are just priceless.

Tin Family was the first sculpture completed along the Enchanted Highway. (Yes, that's actually its name - it's even on the state map.) Completed in 1991 and built of used farm equipment, the family ranges from the 23 ft. tall son to the 45 ft. tall father. The mother here is 44 ft.

Ron claims he was checking out her support structure. Hummm.

When we arrived in Regent, we happily entered the Enchanted Highway Gift Shop looking for ice cream. We found it and it was delicious, but we also found Gary Greff who is the creator and mastermind of the whole project.

Gary is a retired high school teacher and principal who moved back to his hometown and had a vision to stimulate the economy of tiny Regent. He is wonderfully enthusiastic and obviously creative. Although he gets lots of help from the locals, he is plainly the driving force. He told us he has a total of 11 sculptures planned and is currently constructing number 9. Be sure to visit the Enchanted Highway if you are in southwestern North Dakota.