Saturday, October 04, 2014

Nitwit Alert!

Boy, when I screw up it's pretty amazing!  I mean I really manage to screw up royally! 

Anyway, in an attempt to protect the privacy of our friends in Colorado Springs I totally forgot to mention a wonderful experience traveling on the Manitou and Pike's Peak Railway!  I've gotta say it was a great trip.  The railway is a cog railway built in the late 1880's and while it has been moderized, it's still pretty amazing.  The trip starts in the town of Manitou Springs which is, itself, pretty interesting.  Easy to get lost in as well because we managed that really well.  We didn't feel too bad though because our GPS was lost as well.  You are starting at something over 6,600 feet (2,000+ M) so at first you are clunking along in the woods. 

Because it was built so long ago you have times when you are just in a really narrow canyon and other times where you are hanging onto the side of the mountain with reasonable drop-offs on the other side.  We were on the first train of the day and had two cars.  Coming down we met another train going up and they had three cars.  Each car has two diesel engines for power (if not speed!).  You get assigned seats when you buy your tickets and I think some people didn't get to sit with the rest of their party but we two did get to sit together.  Our seats were facing downhill so we went backwards up the mountain and facing forward going down.  The seats are rather small wooden seats; kind of slippery too!  You have three facing forward sharing footspace with three facing backwards.  You get to know your seatmates!  On the mountain side of the aisle is a group of two and two.  We got to sit with two guys who were taking the train up and were going to hike down.  The other two were going to pick up rented bikes at the top and bike down.  How we got with such an athletic group I'll never know.  They did make the trip more interesting though talking about their local experiences.  Trees started to thin out and we started seeing some views.  This is looking back down towards the east.

After a bit we broke out above the tree line and the views got bigger.
Off to the southwest we could see the Sangre de Christo Mountains and a gold mine where they have ripped the top off a mountain.  Finally after about 90 minutes we made it to the top.  Top is 14,115 ft (4,302 M) if you believe their website.  The conductor claimed that new GPS measurements had recently added a few feet but who knows what the next measurement will show!  Anyway, the air is really thin up there!  Just walking around made us both feel really light-headed.  I'm sure glad we weren't either biking or hiking down because my balance was definitely OFF.  There is a large gift shop and snack bar on top which was a nice place to get in out of the weather.  This was September 9 and it was just freezing at the top with wind chill taking the feeling-temp to 25F (-4C).  I've no idea who these kids were but I like that they clambered down to this show-off place so I could get a shot of them.
Needless to say there were steep drops all around.  They were tough to photograph though.  I kept trying but don't have much to show.  This one was an almost vertical drop down into a bowl with a rim on the other side then another drop.  I was surprised that there were not many railings but I guess if you fall off a mountain it's your problem.  Some other poor schmuck will have to figure out how to get the remains - if any.

  Our conductor who offered some guide type talk claimed that 90-some percent of the rails were still the same.  She didn't mention the 'cog' because I'm sure that gets LOTS of wear.  Naturally I had to get a photo of that!

The train has pull-up windows that were down for part of our trip but about half way up we closed the windows.  You start getting reflections of people in your photos but you stop shivering.  I guess it's a fair trade.   Here's one of the cars of our train waiting for us to get our sightseeing done and go on back down.

Going down was much like going up though the perspective is different.  Once into the trees I got to see an old cabin someone built; I suppose it was a prospector but it was definitely someone who liked his/her privacy!

It was almost an anti-climax to land back at the station.  They had a VERY interesting way to get out of the parking lot; I'm glad that F-250 isn't about six inches longer!  We had purchased two bottles of water to take with us on the trip.  We finished one when we were on the top of the mountain and I screwed the top back on just out of habit.  It shows a bit of the reason we were feeling light-headed while on top.
Air pressure at the station in Manitou Springs was crushing that empty bottle with the Peak air pressure inside.  Cool! 

Thanks for stopping by.  Next time I'll try to get these things in order!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

More travel

My last post ended up with us visiting friends in Colorado Springs.  I'm not sharing any photos for two reasons:  privacy AND I was too dumb to take any!  Grrrr!  Haven't seen those folks in three years and then to not take any photos is practically criminal. 

Well, enough whining.  We left Colorado Springs and headed south in I-25 ending up in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  Santa Fe in a nice town.  The park we stayed in was in town on a main street so the bus was just outside the gate.  Seniors get to ride all day for $1 - $2 for you younger folks.  It was a great deal since parking isn't real plentiful.  The name of the system is Santa Fe Trails.  Here is the bus stop sign.

Pretty cool huh.  Until you look closer!
Whoever cast this concrete was having a little trouble with spelling!  They had the E first and had to fill in the bottom bar then chisel out a part for the F that needed to be an E.  LOL  What a hoot.  I can't spell to save my ass but I'm pretty sure I could get FE right. 

Once in town we enjoyed some of the museums and art galleries.  We didn't buy anything; they seemed to have a really good stock of $8-10,000 paintings.  Oddly, I didn't value them at quite that.  We also visited the cathedral and the Loretto Chapel.  The Chapel is fairly small but is known for a spiral staircase that has no visible means of support.  Here's a photo of the staircase.

The only disturbing thing is that we were charged $3 each entry fee to visit the Chapel.  Visiting the Cathedral was free.  What a rip-off.  So that's my $6 photo-of-the-day. 

While in Santa Fe we made a day trip to Taos.  It seemed to me to be another town full of galleries looking for customers.  We did actually buy a small vase but that was it ($25).  The high spot of the day for me was the views of the Rio Grande River and it's canyon.  I didn't take any photo of the canyon worth sharing but we did see this guy and his dog enjoying a day on the river!

That gets us through Santa Fe and Taos.  We have one more really great place to visit but I'll  leave that for another day.  Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Home Again

We arrived home again a couple days early as usual.  Once we get within about a day's drive "Dobbin smells the barn" and we head for home.  However to go back a couple weeks I've got some photos I'd love to share. 

We left North Dakota impressed.  The state was much more beautiful than we were expecting and, of course, the vibrancy that is a result of the oil boom was pretty cool.  One thing I didn't get a photo of was the huge fields of sunflowers that are being grown.  Of cousre I know all that sunflower oil has to come from somewhere but, jeez, some of those fields were at least several hundred acres.  Very amazing! 

We left Dickenson, ND and headed for Newcastle, WY to spend the night.  There we made a major error and stayed at one of the worse places ever:  it was a small park associated with and behind a motel.  Just getting in was a hassle since the whole thing is built on the side of a hill.  Access to sites was limited by overgrown trees and about a third of the sites were closed off with traffic cones anyway.  Needless to say they weren't level!  Lousy sites with a busy road on one side and a train on the other.  They didn't move many trains in the night but in the morning and evening there was literally one every 10 minutes.  The odd thing is that they still haven't charged our credit card!  Who knows! 

The photo shows the hookups for FOUR rigs:  ours, one either backed up to our rig or pulled up right behind (if it was a Class C!) and two more in spaces 6 and 8.  Thank goodness there weren't other rigs trying to stay that night.  We carry two sets of leveling planks:  a 2 inch one and a 4 inch one:  we needed the 4's here.

The next night we stopped in Loveland, CO.  Amazingly enough we found another park with problems.  The sites around the outside of the park were all wide, deep and nicely treed.  The ones inside were short, perpindicular to the road and narrow.  Our living room slide was lless than 18 inches (.5m)  from our neighbor's bedroom slide.  Thank goodness that the guy knew how to park his rig. 

The stay at Loveland was prompted by a desire to visit Rocky Mountain National Park.  We aren't real fond of roads with drop-offs so avoided the higher parts of the park.  We know that we miss a lot but the stress of traveling the roads overcomes the enjoyment.  The lower elevations were beautiful though.  Even the lower elevations were 8,500 feet (2,600 m) so it's not like the air wasn't a trifle thin. 

We stopped in Estes Park for a meal at "Smokin Dave's" bbq place.  HIGHLY recommended!  We split a 3 meat platter with ribs, pulled pork and brisket with two sides.  Everything was excellent.  Driving back down to Loveland we were in the canyon created by the Big Thompson River:  very impressive.

After Loveland we took a short trip down I-25 to Colorado Springs to visit friends.  We haven't seen these folks since 2011 so it was time.  To our amazement, the trip through Denver was pretty simple.  Turns out it was just our day:  we were south-bound; the north-bound folks got treated to a miles long backup.  "Sometimes you are the windshield and sometimes you are the bug."

I'll do more on our trip later.  That's all for now.  Thanks for stopping by.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Travel finally!

We've been moving on.  After escaping Utah without accident, we moved on into Idaho and Montana.  This was mostly Interstate driving as we were really trying to get a few miles up the road.  All these states are fixing roads because, after all, doing so in winter isn't much of an option.  In Montana I noticed something kind of funny.  They are working on some bridges and typically close one lane, reduce the speed limit and get to work.  We came over this ridge and saw work going on down in the valley.  They reduce the speed limit to 55 mph; I've always figured that I'd be an idiot to get a speeding ticket while towing 8,000 lb of trailer so I'm pretty sure to be below whatever the limit might be.  Well, this time there were three or four white vehicles and one black one way at the end.  I was doing about 52 mph and guess what, the black vehicle was a police car!  The guys behind me who had been probably cursing were now probably pretty happy.  That was a nice ending.  Then it happened again the next day!  These cops are having just way too much fun. 

Our objective on this trip was to visit Theodore Roosevelt National Park in western North Dakota.  It was a great place!  We stayed in the town of Medora, North Dakota.  It's pretty much a tourist trap for folks staying at the park.   We stayed at the Red Trails Camp Ground; nice enough place but average.  We had lunch in one place that was great; then we had dinner at a place one of the locals recommended that was worse than awful.  Amazing.

The national park is divided into a North and a South portion.  We only visited the South.  There is a 36 mile drive going around the park; fantastic views all over the place.  There are hiking trails all over the place but we didn't do well with them.  We tried two and each started with a bunch of steps carved out of a hillside.  We flatlanders just didn't want to do that.  They brag about the number of buffalo; we only saw them at a distance until nearly the end of the loop when we rounded a corner and there was a big bull dining on grass in the ditch.  We were so shocked we didn't even get a photo.  They brag about wild horses; didn't see a one.  They 'brag' about having lots of prarrie dogs; well they sure have them!  We also got to visit the Painted Staircase area:  it's got some great overviews of the park.

Here's a buffalo - far away and showing us his ass!

It's a tough place even for a tree.

Here is an overview of what much of the park looks like.  It was taken from the Painted Canyon ranger area.

Anyway, we moved on to Dickenson, ND.  Dickenson is living the oil boom.  Shale oil workers and money are making the town exciting.  There is lots of building; the restaurants and service industry people are doing well.  It all makes us folks who live in the slow growing areas envious.  I guess the oil industry can inject a lot of money in an area. 

From Dickenson we took a quick trip on the Interstate to check out Bismark, ND - the state capital.  It was weird.  First of all, it was Labor Day so everything was closed.  Secondly, the state capital building was strange:  it looks like an office building!  So we ended up having lunch at Pizza Hut just because there wasn't anywhere else but McDonalds.  

We'll be moving south now.  More info later!  Have a good one.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Gone Walkaway....

Ok, we wandered off finally.  Photos:  oh hell no!  Not trying to make lots of miles but landed in Leeds, UT for our first time. The Leed's park is a nice little place off the highway; we have been here before; didn't go to the Zion Park just because we'd been at the park before.  Drove on to Salt Lake City today.  Nice quite drive until.....

We were in Salt Lake City coming off I-15 coming onto Westbound I-80 and it was just crazy.  First of all I must admit that my wife and I have different ideas about what happened.  I'm kind of supporting her version but that's because I was busy at the time.  Let's face it, I'm driving and I don't have the universal view.  Here's the deal.

While we were coming off I-15 towards I-80 Westbound we saw an accident.  My wife says that a vehicle ran up onto the INSIDE of the curve, turned over and stuff flew out.  I don't know, I was too busy avoiding the guy in front of us who moved over into our lane.  Happily, there wasn't anyone in the lane to our right so I was able to escape him.  I was also able to escape a LOT of sharp rock that the rolling vehicle had tossed into our lane.  We called 911 and reported the wreck but we didn't really want to park a 50+ foor rig on the side of the road and block things up even more! 

So now we are in Salt Lake City and headed north.  We'll update you from time to time.  Hope there aren't any more accidents!  Take care.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Dummy Alert!

Oh boy, did we do a dumb thing the other day.  We have the trailer out of it's shed and next to the house because we are doing a little work on it - the new bathroom sink.  So we opened the awning to keep the morning sun off the side so it would be cooler.  So far so good but then comes the dumb moment:  we left the awning out and came into the house.  You know what happens next:  the wind comes up and suddenly I hear this whacking sound.  The awning was doing it's best to try to rip itself to bits.  I ran out and grabbed it but it was too much for me.  Happily my wife heard it as well so she followed me out after a minute or two.

We tried flipping the lever to roll it up but it was jammed and wouldn't roll up.  Finally I had the bright idea to release the awning legs from the side of the trailer and just let the awning hang down against the side of the trailer.  My wife couldn't get her end of the awning to release but I managed it and that released all the strain from the 'roll up' lever and we managed to get the awning rolled up.  Damn, that was a near thing!  We've been running around in trailers for almost 15 years that's too long to be making a rookie screwup.

We do have a new sink though.  It looks good and hopefully we'll get the plumbing done later this afternoon.  My wife is the family plumber; all I do is hand her the tools.  I won't be taking any photos of that! Here's a photo of the old sink propped up in the cutout for the new one.

And here is the new sink happily installed.  What a difference!

My computer is officially screwed up.  My battery icon gives me a message that says "6% available (plugged in, not charging)".  It's almost exactly 5 years old and when I took the battery out, it's leaking.  It's just a bad deal.  I checked out batteries online and they are running about $30.  I checked out the ones at the local BatteriesPlus store in Las Vegas:  $100.  Hmmmm.  Guess I'll be buying online again.  On the other hand, there is a nice Toshiba Click 2 advertised for $530.  It's small but maybe I could get used to it.  We'll see what happens.  Stay tuned!

Thanks for stopping by.  Have a good one. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Jeez, I'm getting worse!

Ok, I haven't updated the blog in over three weeks.  In my defense, it's been pretty dull around here!  This is our 'monsoon' season so we've had several storms blow through leaving their usual .002 inch of rain.  That ain't much even in millimeters.  The mountains between here and Vegas catch all the rain and they have had some flooding.  We got a little mud on the roadway but not a lot.  We did have one really cool storm in the night with a lot of lightning hitting the desert floor.  Pretty unusual and totally beyond my ability as a photographer but it was cool.  You'll just have to take my word for it.

These days excitement is defined by stuff like having a guy come and powerwash our tile.  Well, at least it is expensive if not exciting.  He suggested we should be sure the gap between the tile and the baseboard is sealed so I spent two wonderful days crawling around with the caulking gun and a tube of silicone.  Then there were the two days laying around groaning about the crawling around.  Gotta tell you 65+ year old guys who are overweight just really don't like crawling very much especially on a hard surface like tile.  I used a pad but couldn't stay on it the whole time and my knees knew.

My wife had a birthday recently and we celebrated by going into Las Vegas for Dim Sum.  We went to a place called Ping Pang Pong in the Gold Coast Casino.  It is pretty well rated and got a good mention in some national magazine (like Travel and Leisure but don't quote me on that).  Two of the other Dim Sum restaurants in Vegas have been closed by the health department within the last two months so we just kind of knocked them out of consideration without hesitation.  Anyway, I was pretty surprised because the place was really quite small.    I've never had Dim Sum before but thought the food was pretty good.  Carts are brought around with various little plates on them.  You get like three dumplings on a plate.  Plates are between $2.50 and $7 at this place and there are a few things that are more.  We got some bbq pork that was a quite large serving for $9.  There were a few things that I didn't like.  First it was so noisy that I couldn't hear the cart ladies nor could my wife so we ended up with a few things we wouldn't have ordered.  (There was way too much shrimp for someone like me with a shellfish allergy.)  Secondly, the cart ladies all circled around at once so we ended up getting lots of food on the table whereas had we gone a little slower it would have been a better experience and the food would have been warmer.  I suppose that is our fault though; they didn't twist our arms to take food!  Finally, and perhaps the largest complaint is that we were standing in line outside the place for a full 30 minutes.  We had read in reviews about the wait but we were hoping that mid-week at 1 p.m. it wouldn't be quite so bad.  It was.  I think next time I might try someplace less popular.

This morning I'm waiting for a guy from DIGIS, our internet provider.  They use some kind of radio signal to get to our house so we have an antenna, much like a DirectTV dish, for the internet.  They put a new one on a couple weeks ago so we have quite good service. (Ping is 61ms; download speed 10.94 mbps, upload is 1.98 mbps for those who know about such numbers.  They are claiming that when the installation is right and their tower gets upgraded next week we should see 15 mbps download.  We'll see.)  Unfortunately they used 4 lag screws to hold the dish on and two have already fallen out.  Not exactly a wonderful installation so they have to come back and fix it.  Not something that's worth taking photos of either! 

Our staghorn cactus is trying to have a flower.  It's not quite open yet but I need to get a photo when I can.  The flower doesn't stay around very long.
If it sticks around and I can get better photos I'll do so. 

Anyway, that's life in the slow lane.  We'll do something crazy soon, I promise.  Until then, thanks for stopping by.