Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Here we go!

After spending the past few weeks in northern Arizona and southeaster Utah searching for new adjectives to describe what we saw it was time to begin our dash for Sioux Falls, SD.  We had a lovely, delightful time in Moab with our friends......let me just say once again that having a circle of friends you hook up with on the road is one of the things that is so attractive about the nomadic life.  Being able to meet up with David, Denise, John and Patty was the frosting on the nomadic cake.

Our first task of the day was to drop the trailer and drive the coach over to Chip's Grand Tire Pros to have the right rear inside tire replaced......why is it always the inside tire?  Why?  We arrived at Chip's a little after 8:30 and within 20 minutes they were at work removing first the outside wheel, then the inside wheel......there are 10 lug nuts that hold the outside tire to the hub, and then 10 more that hold the inside tire in place.  Out of 20 lug nuts there is always, and I mean ALWAYS, one stubborn nut that will not come off easily.  After a little gentle persuasion from a shop hammer the nut gave up and came off.  As it turns out the tire was in worse condition than I suspected.  Once it was off and you could see the inside part of the tread more clearly you could see a lot of "cupping" and unusual wear.....all signs of something going wrong internally in that tire.  Fortunately for our wallet the other three still look pristine.  These rear tires are just approaching the 5.5 year mark.  Typically you can get 5-6 years out of a set of RV tires so one failing at this point with over 43,000 miles on it does not surprise me.  I was hoping we could make it to October before we replaced all 4, and we may yet make it on the last 3.  As I said, the tread looks great.....no evidence of any unusual wear patterns.  We were out the door by 9:40 after paying our $428 bill (included labor, disposal, and 3, or 4 other odd taxes Utah charges).....the tire only cost $385 of that total....not a bad deal.

We were back to the park just before 10, and on our way by 10:12 (according to TLE) after hooking up the trailer and inserting the VW back in its travel space.  From there it was 30 miles north to I-70 and then another 138 east to Rifle, CO.  

We are so glad we got out of Moab relatively early as there were high winds forecast for the afternoon, and we wanted to be well on our way east where the winds were forecast to be less fierce.  Nonetheless, we did encounter a heavy side wind from the south as we left the Rest Area in Fruita, CO.  Added to that was road construction which limited us to one lane of travel for much of the remaining 59 miles into Rifle.

We exited the Interstate just 11 miles later to take on $100 worth of fuel at the local Safeway fuel station where we got 10 cents off the 25 gallons we took on.  Getting in and out of that station was a little tricky but it all worked out in the end.....we were in no hurry.  With that additional 25 gallons I think we can comfortably get over the Rockies before we fill completely up. I didn't want to start the climb with a full 180 gallons on board....I think we have about 75 right now.  

We arrived in Rifle around 2 pm, and found a spot to park on the east side of the parking lot for the night at the Walmart Supercenter on Airport Road.  A very nice Walmart, but a tight parking lot.  Fortunately there were only two other RV's there for the night when the sun set.


Once we were parked we decided to walk over to the local Starbucks for coffee and a bagel, and just unwind after our 168 mile trek.  The outside temps were quite balmy in the mid 70's and there was still a stiff wind coming from the south, but it's all good......the entire day was without event, and that is pretty much what we hope for each day when we are moving.

Around 5 pm we walked over to the Rib City Grill, just another block, or 2 past Starbucks for dinner.  TLE and I split a combo order of St. Louis Ribs and Baby Back Ribs as well as an appetizer of fried okra.....that is the only way I will eat okra....never eat it boiled....NEVER!  It was just the right amount for us.  Of course there was a Fat Tire Ale draft for me.....a small one!

We were in bed by 10 pm with plans to be up by 5:30 to get breakfast at Starbucks and be on the road before 7 so we can do our climb over the three Rocky Mountain passes between us and Denver while it is cool.  I am writing this blog entry from that Starbucks

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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Arches

Well, Monday was just an amazing day.  Every time we think we have seen it all, and it can't get any better, it does.  But, before I get to that let me update you on the right, rear, inside tire issue.  I got a call back from Good Sam ERS Monday morning advising they had found a mobile tire service, but they were not local......they were 100 miles away in Cortez, CO.  The price of the tire was in line, but the Good Sam ERS guy advised I would have to pay for the return trip....they would pay only one way.  Ultimately my costs using their mobile guy would be upwards of $760.  That was not what I was expecting, so I declined and sought out my own local solution.  I found a local tire shop right here in Moab....only a mile away from our current location.....where I will take the coach Tuesday morning to have the tire replaced.....cost is $440, including labor and disposal charges. We'll drop the trailer here at the park and pick it up on our way out of town as we head north to I-70.

By the time that was resolved, and we had moved our coach to site #44 it was after 10, so we got together with David, Denise, John and Patty and headed over to Arches National Park to spend the day searching for new adjectives to describe what we saw.  I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.


 Left to right: Moi, TLE, David and Denise

 Twin windows



 




Delicate Arch (on the left)



 It was in the high 80's this day, but in the distance
you can see 12,000+ foot mountains with fresh snow


David and Denise rode with us in the VW all day as we traversed around the park.  John and Patty have a couple of mopeds they rode with their little dog Bayley.  We met up with them at "Devil's Garden" for lunch, and then continued our tour.   There a few long hikes we would like to take in the future when we come back.....and we will come back.....there is still Bryce, Zion, Capitol Reef, and much, much more to see, not to mention all the mountain bike opportunities.  There was not enough time this time around to see and do everything, but I think we certainly got a good taste of Moab and its surrounds.

Speaking of "good taste"......around 5 we all drove into downtown Moab to have dinner and a couple of brews at "Moab Brewing Company".  Several of our friends who have been here before said we had to check it out, and we were not disappointed.  TLE and I had a couple of seasonal Chocolate Porters, and they were very, very good.  I had the fish tacos, which I highly recommend.  You get three tacos along with their veggee chili.....yum!  Yelp only gives them 3.5 stars, and I am mystified by that.  We all agreed this was at least a 4, if not a 4.5 star place......great service, ambiance, brews and food! The place is enormous, and was packed.  You can see why many feel it is the best place in town.

After a great meal and brews, and a lot of interesting conversation, we decided to take a walk around the downtown area and hear are a couple of things I saw.....


In case you have difficulty reading this (I took the picture through a window) it says "If a man speaks in the desert, and there is no woman around to hear him, is he still wrong?"  I really got a kick out of that......by the way Denise, TLE and Patty all said "YES!"


I actually found two more license plates (Arkansas and Georgia) for my collection in a little gift shop.  At one point we walked by a restaurant with al fresco dining and saw this tree sculpture (above) with a gas flame coming out of it....thought is was pretty cool.

That was our day, and what a splendid day it was......Tuesday we move on north and east into Colorado.....we hope to be in Sioux Falls by Saturday. We'll pretty much be moving every single day now for the next 5 days and probably utilizing a number of Walmarts, Lowe's, Cracker Barrels as we go.

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Monday, April 21, 2014

Moab Easter

Another place we have not been before is Moab.......this place seems to be the ultimate outdoorsman's paradise.  Sunday we were pulling up anchor to head north once again into new territory for us.  I was up early Sunday with the cold temperatures.....got down to 30 Saturday night.....but by the time I had finished the blog for Saturday TLE was up and we were beginning to finish putting things away so we could roll our wheels.

Around 9 am I started the big generator so I could run the block heater for the big Detroit.....it takes about 45 minutes of heating the block before I can start the engine when it has been this cold.  Right on schedule at 9:45 the DD rumbled to life and we were on our way north. 

Our total travel distance was only 68 miles, and we knew we would be descending over that distance a little over 3,000' in elevation, but as with most things in life it was not a straight line down......we would go down, then up, then down then up.  The scenery all along the route north is breath taking as you would expect.

We had avoided getting to Moab earlier than Sunday as all last week there was a large festival in progress with thousands of out of towners clogging up the parks, and downtown area.  Sunday was also Easter Sunday.

Arrived in Moab at Portal RV Resort (located on the north end of town) around 11:30, quickly checked in, got set up in our site (#29) and waited for our friends to arrive.  We didn't know they had arrived the night before and that their sites were right across from us.  They were away from the park on a day trip over to Dead Horse State Park.

I mentioned before that we have hooked up with David and Denise numerous times over the past 5 years, and just love spending time with them.  This time they were traveling with Denise's sister (Patty) and her husband (John) who also have a class B RV.

We drove the VW back into town to pick up some firewood for our anticipated evening fire, an just as we returned we saw our friends backing their spot right across from us.  The rest of the afternoon and evening was spent catching up, drinking a little vino, and eating a wonderful meal that everyone contributed something to.  It also happened to be Denise's birthday so we sang happy birthday to her as we wiled away the evening hours laughing and giggling.

  Our surroundings for the next two days


 David & Denise's Sprinter Class B on left
John and Patty's Dodge Class B on right

One of the things that comes along with living full time on the road is that things break, or wear out from time to time.  On our way north from Blanding we stopped in a Rest Area to go to the bathroom about 17 miles from Moab.  As I usually do I got out my infrared temperature "gun" and checked all the tires.  I discovered, much to my dismay, that the right rear inside tire on the Newell is starting to show cupping marks, and signs of tread separation.  This tire was running over 20 degrees warmer that the other three on the rear of the coach, and that was a sign to me that something is going wrong with that tire.  It is really important to catch these things before they get to the point where the tire explodes and causes damage to the other tire, or to the coach.   These tires are 5.5 years old and have about 40,000 miles on them.....as you can see, the tread is still very deep.  The other three tires appear to be normal at this point, but I will be watching them like a hawk over the next few weeks as we work our way to Lake Tahoe.  As a result I contacted Good Sam's ERS department and made arrangements to have someone from a local tire company come out with a replacement tire Monday morning.

You can see in the picture where I have circled one of the problem areas in the tread....it is hard to see by there are several spots like this.

This is one of those things you just stop and deal with, and that is what we shall do.  I'm always grateful that I find these things before they become a catastrophic failure and result in really big damage and dollar outlays.

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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Kool and Kitschy

I started off Saturday watching some English Premier soccer....Cardiff vs. Stoke which ended in a 1-1 tie.....each goal was the result of a penalty kick.  This is one of the things I am loving about retirement......I have time to watch soccer......okay, I "watched" a lot of soccer as a center referee for a few decades, but never really had time to sit down on a Saturday and watch English Premier, or any other professional matches for that matter.  I still miss being out on the pitch on a Saturday morning running with the young bucks, but I also like not having to get up at 5 am in order to be on the pitch for an 8 am match.

Even though it only got down to 43 degrees Friday night it still takes a while for it to warm up at 7,145' elevation, but eventually it did and we decided to drive into Blanding to spend a few hours "junking" and touring a couple of local museums.  There was still a hint of rain here and there, and we didn't want to do anything that might take us more than a 100 feet from shelter.

We found two thrift stores and even though kind of small, they both had quality items in stock.   Ultimately TLE was the only one who came away with anything......a couple more paperbacks.  I'm not sure where she is storing all the books she has bought lately, but there still seems to be room on her side of the bed for a few more books.  Me, I prefer to read books on my Kindle.....it takes up very little space.  There was a great set of Lynx golf clubs which I could have had for the paltry sum of $75 (probably worth close to $400), but I resisted the temptation.....I don't play enough golf to justify a set of clubs......yet.  I used to play golf a lot in my 20's and 30's, but when we got involved in youth soccer there was really no time for golf anymore.  Someday I will get back into it, just not now.

From there we headed for a couple of local museums, but on our way stopped off to browse through the local TruValue Hardware store......I love local hardware stores.....they even had free popcorn that we munched on as we walked around the store.

Next up was the Edge of Cedars State Park which features an ancient example of Puebloan life back around 1,000 AD.  It is actually a very cool museum.  I had no idea how advanced the pueblo culture was in this "four corners" area.  Some of the settlements actually had improved roads connecting them.  This is actually a very cool museum, and I would highly recommend it as a stop if you are in the area.



They have re-constructed a 1,000 year old Kiva that you can climb down a ladder and experience a little of what it might have been like to live in those times......they were apparently a short of stature people.




The admission price for the museum and grounds if $5 per adult.....a fair price for what they had to offer.  We actually spent quite a bit of time in the museum part of the park.

Next up was the Dinosaur Museum, which did have some interesting fossils, but seemed to be devoted more to the movie industry's depiction of dinosaurs.  However, the admission price was only $2.50 for seniors, so we took a flyer and went in.....they had a few cool dinosaur skeletons, and some petrified tree trunks, but beyond that it was just a little too"kitschy" for me.


By the time we finished it was closing in on 12:30 and we were both getting hungry.  TLE found a cool little hamburger place with good reviews called Patio Drive In.  They earn a 4 star rating from Yelp on 10 reviews, 4 stars from Urban Spoon on 23 reviews, and 4.5 stars from Trip Advisor on 16 reviews.  That seems about right to us.....the hamburgers were delicious.

They have outdoor dining, but it was 
toooo cold to sit outside this day
We sat right back there in the corner

We got back home around 1:30 and settled in for the afternoon to read.  I, of course, took a nap, but made significant progress on the book I am reading......before I knew it was 4:30, and the day was ebbing quickly.  I needed to straighten up the trailer for re-insertion of the VW on Sunday morning and decided to do it while it was still kind of "warm".

Around 7 I snapped this great picture of the sun setting and a little rain falling in the distance.  


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Saturday, April 19, 2014

Fifth Saturday

You have to take a day off once in a while, even if you are on a perpetual site seeing tour.  We have to remind ourselves on occasion that we are not on vacation......just living on the road.  We sometimes feel like kids in a candy store, especially when we find ourselves in an area like southeast Utah.  So, as you can probably guess by now we took a vacation from our "vacation" on this 5th Saturday.  

Taking a day off means different things for TLE and I.....for TLE it means mostly ready a good book, or two.  For me it means doing something with my hands.  This Friday, for me, it meant cleaning the exterior of all our windows in the coach....there are 11 windows in our coach counting the two piece windshield, which I count as two.  We knew rain was coming in later in that evening, but I would rather have my windows get wet when they are clean, otherwise the dirt and dust that is on them streaks and then makes them look even worse.

While I was at it I wiped down the VW which was quite dusty from our 10 mile dirt road drive out to Muley Point on Thursday.  Once again my theory is the same for our car.....would rather it rain on a clean car, than on a dirty car....water is easy to wipe off, muddy dirt is quite another thing.

Once those housekeeping chores were done I got my mountain bike ready to ride.....right were you turn into our campground the paved road ends, but continues on as a dirt road.  I've wanted to explore that road ever since we got here.  Our elevation here in Devil's Canyon campground is around 7,145' according to my Garmin Edge bike computer.  I rode uphill for  a little over 2.5 miles before stopping to turn around.  I had gained almost 500' elevation in that distance.  The dirt road has a lot of sandy spots over that 2.5 mile stretch which made it quite a work out for me, especially at over 7,600'.  The downhill back to camp was my reward....I think I topped 25 mph at one point.

Our altimeter reads a tad higher than 7,145', but it's close

We both spent the rest of the afternoon reading.....for me there were a couple of interspersed naps.  Around 5 TLE served me some pollo asada street tacos, which made me weak in the knees as they always do.  Around 7 we started a fire in the portable fireplace and watched a somewhat cloudy sunset, and the approach of the storm front we were expecting.  It's funny, sometimes we will sit by the fire chatting like a couple of magpies, and other times like last night we will just sit quietly enjoying each others presence making occasional comments, but pretty much just being quiet.  

Around 9 we turned on the TV to watch "Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares", and were in bed by 11 pm awaiting the arrival of the forecast rain.  Around 1:30 am I woke up to hear that lovely rain on the aluminum roof that I love so much.....we have not had rain for a long, long time.

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Friday, April 18, 2014

A bridge too far?

Thursday morning it was sooooo cold!  I got up around 6 am to turn on all three gas heaters, and then quickly jumped back into bed.  How cold was it?  It was so cold I thought my feet were going to stick to the floor kind of cold.  It was don't put anything metallic near your lips or it might stick to them kind of cold.  The inside temperature was 46 degrees.....about the coldest we have ever experienced inside without heaters on.  Normally we are able to maintain a 20 degree differential between outside temps and inside temps without using our heaters, so that would mean it must have gotten colder than the forecast 30 degrees.

We had it in our minds to drive over to Natural Bridges National Park which was about 45 miles from our camp, but we were not budging an inch until it warmed up to at least 40!  Around 10 am it reached 40 degrees.....I guess that is one of the hazards of camping over 7,000' so early in the season.  At any rate we were on our way to see what we could see Thursday a little after 10 am.

One side trip almost everyone we met had almost insisted we take was SR 261 down to Muley Point Overlook.  Two days before we had been at the base of this overlook when we drove into Valley of the Gods, but didn't want to drive the 5 mile switchback dirt road to the top, and then another 5 mile dirt road to the overlook.  By coming down to Muley Point from the north on 261 we drove a little further, but it was all pavement until the beginning of the dirt road out to Muley Point, but was worth it.  The views were gigantic, and long.

Standing on the edge of Muley Point Overlook

 What we saw.....

I'm amazed TLE got this close to get this 
picture....it is a long ways down!

Surprisingly, for such a heavily used dirt road, the road out to Muley Point Overlook was in good condition, and we averaged about 26 mph.....there were only a couple of mildly rough sections.  The other surprising thing was we were actually getting a cell signal out here in the middle of no where.  As I pulled my phone out of my pocket to take some pictures I noticed I had an e-mail from very good friends David and Denise.  We first met David and Denise at our Austin, TX Newell mini rally back in April of 2009, and had an immediate connection.  We have since met up with them in Creede, CO (2009), Santa Fe, NM (2010), Denver, CO (2012), and Spearfish, SD (2013).  The e-mail said they would be in Moab, UT Sunday and Monday and would we be able to hook up with them?  That's exactly where we plan to be Sunday and Monday!  As if things couldn't get any better!  I replied that we would meet them in Moab Sunday afternoon!  Miss Serendipity I'm beginning to think you like us more than a little.....

From Muley Point we next headed back to SR 95 and up to Natural Bridges.  I knew just from the name of the park that there must be more than one "natural bridge", but I had no idea there were actually 3, and that you could hike to the base of each of them if you chose to do so.  The actual distance for each of the three hikes is not great, but the elevation loss and gain is significant.....at least for the two of us.   Total elevation loss and gain for all three hikes was about 700' for each trail.

Once again our Golden Age pass paid dividends once again granting us free admission to the park.  Once you leave the visitor's center you turn on to a one way 9 mile paved road that takes you to each of the vista points, and trailheads for each natural bridge.    

The first natural bridge you come to is "Sipapu", which means "place of emergence" in the Hopi language.  Just past that vista point is a picnic area.....by this time it was after 12 pm and we were both getting hungry.  We stopped there and ate our lunch before continuing on to the Sipapu trailhead.


Then it was time to start hiking.  The round trip distance for the trail down to Sipapu was about 1.2 miles.  There were numerous stairways they had built, along with handrails here and there, plus three ladders you had to negotiate to get to the bottom.  

 2nd of 3 ladders

1st ladder


Almost to the bottom


It took us a little over an hour to do this first hike, and it was strenuous, but it was nothing compared to the hike down to Kachina natural bridge....the next one up....this hike was 1.4 miles round trip.  There was only one short ladder, but there were hundreds of sandstone steps with a lot of hair pin turns that kind of leave you hanging out in space, or so it seemed......a lot of high consequence places......if you fall the consequences are deadly.



Kachina natural bridge

The final bridge, Owachomo (rock mound in Hopi) for me anyway, was the most spectacular of the three....the round trip hike was only .4 miles, but after the prior two hikes out the canyon our tanks were on empty as we climbed back up for the third time.  Nevertheless, we loved this bridge the most.

Owachomo natural bridge 


Still smiling before we start our hike out

The hike back to the top from Owachomo was a grind and seemed much longer that the advertised .2 miles.  "What a day!" we both repeated over and over again as we drove the almost 50 miles home.  In all we covered over 150 miles, but it was well worth it.  We are so grateful for our little VW Bug that gets such great mileage, and drives so well!

We arrived back home totally spent energy wise.....the first thing we did was change clothes, grab a couple of cold ones and enjoy the view....a great way to wind down after such an amazing day.

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Thursday, April 17, 2014

"The Devil you say!"

Only 11 days as of Wednesday morning until we will need to be in Sioux Falls, SD, so we've only got 3, or 4 more days here in southeast Utah's Canyonlands before we need to be motivating onward.   We set a high bar for ourselves this day and moved north 31 miles......we don't sound very motivated do we........of course I know you want to hear the rest of the story, so here goes.

With such a short distance to travel we saw no need to blast out of Bluff at the crack of dawn so we lazed around until about 10 am, then walked over to "Comb Ridge Coffee" for coffee and breakfast.  On the way we passed by a couple of old trucks.

 I really like old trucks....the stories these trucks could tell!

Yelp gives Comb Ridge Coffee 4.5 stars on 20 reviews and we would have to agree......they hand pour hot water through the freshly ground coffee beans into your pre-heated cup, and it is a large cup.  They use all fresh ingredients in their food preparation.....I had the "Boat Launcher" which consisted of two pieces of home made multi grain bread, scrambled eggs, ham and potatoes.  What a pleasant surprise!


 After that gastronomical interlude we strolled back to our coach, put the car in the trailer and thus began our "long" drive north through Blanding up to Devil's Canyon Campground, which happens to be a US Forest campground, which means we only pay one half of the daily $10 fee.  The campground is located at just over 7,200' elevation......close to 3,000' higher than Bluff.  Along with that 3,000' increase in elevation comes much cooler temperatures.



US 191 north of Bluff is in excellent condition and is, as I like to say, "as smooth as a baby's butt"......just after you leave Bluff the road begins to climb quickly, and within a few minutes you are up on top of those bluffs I took pictures of yesterday.

As we cruised through Blanding we saw a couple of RV parks that were quite attractive, but resisted the urge to camp in town, and continued on the extra 8 miles to our destination, and are we ever glad we did.  We left the high desert behind in Blanding and continued our elevation gain topping out in an actual forest just as we turned into the campground.  This is a popular campground, and just re-opened for the summer season a week ago.  The view back toward Blanding is long and beautiful.  We were able to snag a nice pull through spot (#2) that fit our 62' perfectly.....it was just 11:30 am, but we decided to take a day off from site seeing and just take at easy.......

Hmmmmm, that didn't last long......we have pretty decent Verizon service here, and 3 bars of 3G, but for some reason my phone kept dropping an important call I was trying to make, so we decided to drive back into Blanding so I could take care of business.  Once our business was completed, we decided to drive back north past Devil's Canyon Campground to the next town, Monticello, just to check it out.....it was only another 10 miles.  Both Blanding and Monticello are nice towns, but not the charm of Bluff.

By the time we got home it was closing in on 3:30, but now that we are in a state that observes "Daylight Savings Time" the sun goes down later.  We spent the rest of the afternoon reading, and listening to an XM radio station called "Classic Vinyl" (channel 26), which I am coming to like a lot.

Around a quarter to 6 I got our BBQ out, and got it warming up so I could grill a couple of filets, plus some pollo asada we had bought a few days ago at the Safeway.  The pollo asada is for street tacos Thursday, but the steaks were for Wednesday night.  TLE prepared a nice salad, grilled onions and mushrooms for the sides......we chased this great meal with a bottle of Pinot Noir.


But wait, there's more......I also got out the portable fireplace for a fire later that evening so we could watch the sun set, and what a lovely fire it was.....there was some Scotch consumed, and a couple of cigars.


Around a quarter to 9 we headed inside to watch TV for a couple of hours, and then hit the hay about 11.....the overnight temperatures got down to 30 degrees, so there were a couple extra blankets on the bed.  When I got up at 6 am this morning to turn the heaters on it was 46 degrees inside the coach........

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