Tuesday, September 21, 2010

September 21, 2010 On Our Way Home

At 10 AM, we left the campground in Manitou Springs and started on our trip home. We went south on I 25 and near Pueblo, Colorado turned east on highway 50 toward Kansas. The miles and miles of farmland lay before us. Corn, wheat, barley, squash, onions, pumpkins and sunflowers are grown. We past the time talking about what we had done and seen in the last few days and both came to the conclusion that our best days were the day it snowed in Montana and the day we went to Pikes Peak and Royal Gorge.
Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma and on into Texas. We finally stopped in the small town of Perryton and had an ice cream cone.
Theres only about 900 miles to go.

September 20, 2010 The Summit

Our plans for the day was to ride the Cog Railway up to the summit of Pikes Peak. We had reservations for 1:20 but we got there pretty early and were able to reschedule for the 12:00 trip. The Cog Railway has been operating on Pikes Peak since the late 1800’s and is a train that that takes you to the top. It takes about an hour to get there but is well worth the ride. The conductor gives information about the railway and its history and also points out areas of interest on the way up. Today it was considerably cooler at the summit than it was at the train depot, 83 versus mid thirties. The wind was ferocious. Its somewhat more difficult to get enough air at 14,115 feet. We had to do everything in a kind of slow motion.

We had enough time to get a hot drink and to try the worlds famous Pikes Peak Doughnuts. They say you cannot duplicate the recipe and get the same taste due to the high altitude. You can also get flavored oxygen. No…I did not have to get the oxygen.

On the return trip we saw a few mountain goats and a couple of marmots.

We are planning to start back home tomorrow so we still needed to go to Royal Gorge Bridge so we had to hustle. The gorge is over an hour away and it was getting late. We arrived in time to have a nice visit. The park stays open until dusk. Much of the businesses there had already closed for the season. Seems like most everything closes after school starts and before the weather turns really cold. That was OK with us. We came to see the bridge and it was worth the visit. The Royal Gorge Bridge is a suspension bridge over the gorge and is more than 1000 feet above the Arkansas River. Believe me…that’s way up there. You have an option of walking or driving across the bridge and we decided to walk. When vehicles crossed, the bridge actually heaved and the wind made it shake. It has wooden planks for the road and some are at least 2 inches apart and some are loose so it’s a little spooky. I found myself being very careful when walking even though I knew it was safe.

On the other side of the bridge is a zoo, of sorts. There are mountain goats, elk, donkeys, cows and best of all, buffalo. There is also a white buffalo. The Indians say a white buffalo is good luck. There is also an old western town and since we were the only two people there we got to act kind of silly. We got in the jail, climbed on a big giant chair and got in a coffin and acted like we were dead. We had a good time.

The walk back across the bridge was more windy and beautiful. The sun was setting and the rocks of the canyon took on a red glow. On the way out there was a group of deer grazing near the edge of the woods. We watched until more cars were coming.

Tomorrow we will start our trip back home. It’s been fun but you know.. There’s no place like home.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Pikes Peak

Sept 19, 2010

We managed to get an earlier start this morning. It was pretty foggy but cleared not long after we started. We had stayed at Glendo, Wyoming and had about two hundred miles to go to get to Pikes Peak. The temperature was in the low 40’s and even with my gloves I thought my fingers would freeze. By the time we had driven one hundred miles I had to get Randy to pull over and let me change clothes. We finally got to Colorado Springs and found The Garden Of The Gods Campground. It’s a large RV park and they have an escort in a golf cart that leads you to your space and helps get your camper lined up properly for the electric, water and sewer hook ups.. We decided to go for a drive up Pikes Peak and see it for ourselves. The entry fee to go on the mountain is $12.00 per person. There signs everywhere telling you to use low gears and “Hot brakes are failed brakes”. They also have signs about how to cool your vehicle if it overheats.
Every mile you go there is a sign telling you how far you’ve gone and about different types of animals that live there, such as, bears, bobcats, elk, etc. Most of the road is paved but a part of it is dirt, there are not any guard rails. The road is curved and has more of those nail biting turns. I got a few nice photos and just after we past the 11,000 foot mark, Randy noticed an odor coming from the truck. He pulled over and raised the hood and the smoke poured out. I notices a drip trail behind the truck and upon closer examination we discovered it was the transmission. We had not checked the transmission fluid since before we started the trip . The dipstick now read zero. A big fat nothing and we are at 11,000 feet. We let the truck cool for a bit and Randy found quart container of transmission fluid in the tool box. Bad news: it only had about a third of a quart. That’s all we could do. He put it in and we rode back down the mountain in first gear. I was so afraid the brakes would give out. The way back down is steep and even in first gear, you speed up so you are forced to use the brakes. But we did fine and made it to a store and bought transmission fluid. Luckily, no damage to the truck. Our poor truck has been put through the ringer. It has pulled the camper a lot of miles up and down, and we neglected to check the fluid. We didn’t get to make it to the summit but tomorrow we plan on riding the Cog Railroad up to the top.
As we were coming back down the mountain we stopped at a little gift shop that is near a brake check point. We stopped to see if they might have transmission fluid but they didn’t. While we were there a red fox came out into the parking lot. I think he just wanted to cross the street but the people there kept getting in his way and he finally returned to the woods. I have never seen a fox this close. He was about 10 feet away. Very cool.

September 18th, 2010

We were so tired after our run from the snow yesterday that we were lazy and didn't get back on the road until after nine. It was cold too, and that kept us inside with warm coffee. So we got a late start and headed south through Wyoming. Hunting season has started here and the hunters were everywhere. Their game is Pronghorn Antelope. They graze, in groups, in the wide open fields and a lot of them are near the fences. Easy to kill. They just stand there and wait for the bullet. I kept thinking that the very ones that I am shooting with my camera are the ones they are killing. We saw several trucks and hunters pulled over on the side of the road, one hunter was actually cleaning the antelope right next to the road and his truck. I thought it was illegal to shoot them from the road. In such a vast landscape I'm sure the lawmen are few and far between.
We managed to drive a little over three hundred miles, not very good. We found an RV just off of I 25 and settled in. We were the only campers at this one.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Oh My God, It's Snowing September 17, 2010

Oh My God. It’s Snowing September 17, 2010

The first words out of my mouth this morning was, “Randy..it’s snowing. I hadn’t expected snow. Yesterday two rangers has assured us there was no snow coming. If we’d known we would have left yesterday. It was snowing and still snowing and more to come. Our Mississippi tires, street tread will not handle snow, much less mountains and snow. We closed the slide out to keep the snow from accumulating and got the camper nice and warm, had coffee (you know you can’t do anything without coffee) and then started packing up our stuff. Finally, a ranger came by and Randy stopped him. When he came back in he said, “I have good news and bad news, the bad news is that it’s going to snow all day. The good news is that the roads are not frozen so if we go now we might make it out.” You’ve never seen these two fat asses move so fast to get packed up. I wanted to stay, it was wonderful, but I knew deep down that if we got snowed in and the food ran out, I would have to eat Randy. So, we went. Sure enough the roads were not frozen and Randy drove us out of the park without any trouble. It continued to snow for the next 200 miles then changed to a light rain. By the time we reached Moore, Montana the roads were pretty mostly dry. We made to Greybull, Wyoming and found a small RV Park.

September 16, 2010 Rain And Wind

We were awakened to the sound of rain and wind and I had killed the camper battery with my camera and computer. Last night I had shot a time-lapse of the sky as the sun went down and the stars arose. It had taken over 500 shots with exposures lasting up to 30 seconds. That killed the battery. It was cold, in the 30’s and the heater wasn’t working so Randy cranked the truck and recharged the camper battery. We decided to add a second battery, so, we drove to Browning, a small town on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. Luckily there was a NAPA auto parts place there.
It rained for most of the day and the park rangers have assured us that we are only getting rain, nothing else. Later in the day Randy spotted mountain goats on the mountain nearest to us. They are amazing, They live on the very edge. There were 7 all together. 2 were babies. They climbed higher and higher and finally disappeared into the fog covering the top of the mountain.

September 15, 2010 Going To The Sun Road

We got an early start this morning, after a healthy breakfast of Dunkin Sticks and coffee. We headed for Highway 2, around the lower part of the park. The leaves are changing and many trees are a bight shade if yellow. Most of the highway is outside of the park and some skirts through the edges of the park. We took our time and enjoyed the ride, got some pics of mountain goats, walked a couple of short trails, and looked at more of the most beautiful scenery in the country. West Glacier is a small community on the western side of the park. Lunch was at a small restaurant just before the entrance. Going To The Sun Road crosses the middle part of Glacier National Park through the mountains. Construction on the road started in the late 1800’s and has been a continual effort since. Snow, avalanches and rock slides have damages the road every year requiring the all year, every year repair. Currently, construction crews work on stone guard rails along the edge of the road. There is a 6 to 8 % grade going to the top at Logan’s Pass. We arrived at Logan’s Pass and found a parking spot, went to the visitors center and walked a short way to the trailhead behind the center. The trail leads up the remaining mountain to a glacier where you can touch and walk on it. It is about a 2 mile hike up there so we decided not to go. We have both seen and touched ice before. We instead, sat and watched the people go by and enjoyed the cool crisp air. I was surprised not to see goats at this elevation. As we were leaving the parking lot Randy spotted a ram on the mountain across the road. We stopped and got several pics and watched him until he disappeared into the woods. The decent was spectacular in indescribable beauty. Beauty, however, does not replace the fear of falling off on that road. It’s truly a nail biter. The truck door now has permanent fingernail marks in it. The 2 roads described in these writings will forever be imprinted in my memory. That night we watched the stars come out over the mountains.