Sunday, May 27, 2012

WDM, IA - Wax On, Wax Off or Mr. Miyagi was Right

We’ve been home almost two weeks now and, though I haven’t written in my blog, our days have been very full. Or maybe that why I haven’t written. In the meantime we have:

1. Cleaned the RV inside and out. When we’re in a campground, we wish we had a much larger RV like this tag-axle 45’er with 4 huge slides.
When we are washing and waxing it, we wish we had a teardrop RV like this cute little model. Wouldn’t the RV below be a breeze to wash and wax?
of course, Gary’s been thinking of a small 2-seater sports car. Ha, ha, fat chance.

Of course, we first need to clean the RV and, having driven through Nebraska and Iowa during the planting season, we’ve gotten a bit dirty and a bit buggy. I drew the short straw and here I an trying valiantly to get the bugs off the front of the RV.

My technique is to get them really wet first. Yecch. Here’s Gary doing the top half of the RV. I came along right after him and cleaned the bottom half. Then we learned that Mr. Miyagi was right: wax on, wax off is the correct technique.
2.  completely cleaned our home although I am always amazed at how little dust accumulates during the 9 months we are gone. We get more dust when we are here. Hmmm. I put sheets over all of our upholstered furniture and rugs and they are all washed and stowed now.

3.  been up to Fort Dodge to see Gary’s father and my brother who are both are hale and hearty. I also met with some high school friends. That’s Val on the left who lives in Fort Dodge and Mary and Sherron live in Arizona. Mary and Sherron come out to Iowa on Memorial Day to tour, to visit old friends (obviously I’m one of the ‘old’ friends - ha ha) and to put flowers on their parents’ graves.
4.  spent time on the front yard refurbishing our landscaping. Seems that the hostas we put out 2 years ago are bunny buffets. We noticed last year how popular our restaurant was in the neighborhood and I tried every type of spray that I could. We’ve used some stuff that reeks that I have been told is coyote urine. How in the world does anyone get enough to fill a bottle of this stuff, much less all the bottles in Lowes in Des Moines, much less all the bottles in all the stores in the USA - I don’t even want to imagine this process. On the other hand, I haven’t found that this works too well - probably because we have Iowa bunnies who have never met a coyote close enough to be afraid of them.

Our theory is that we put out some small-leafed variegated hostas and these seem to be the ones that are munched on the most. Tasty little morsels for the bunnies. When I pulled into our driveway for for the first time this spring, I was so disappointed. We had worked so hard on the planting and landscaping and it looked so weedy and so munched on. It was sad. Slowly but surely, I’ve been weeding and raking and trying to perk it up. I bought some black netting and some little 4” long green plastic nails and placed netting all over the hostas, trying to preserve what we have. so far it seems to have done a decent job but those bunnies are clever little animals and will probably find a way to gnaw through the plastic netting.

5. spent time trying to catch up on our bookkeeping and other little reports and things. I use an RV campground review site for our trip planning and then, in return, write a lot of reviews myself. I’m behind about reivews and have now caught up. I actually have 45 reviews on this site now.

6. visited Fort Dodge and also put out some flowers on our parents’ graves. It had gotten a bit late in the day and we found ourselves in the dark, on a windy hill, trying to wire the flowers in the vases so they wouldn’t blow away. And, you can see by the angle of the flowers on the right that the wind was making a mighty effort.


As you can see, we’ve been gainfully employed, making up for all the time we played this winter.

WDM, IA - A Lollipop Loop With the Highs and Lows

Today it’s as hot as ‘Billie Blue Blazes’ - well, at least that’s what my mother used to say. I find myself, every now and again, saying something, slapping my forehead and saying: ‘you sound just like your mother.’ I suppose there’s a really good reason for that. She had some other phrases like:

        ‘flubbed the dub’

        ‘mell of a hess’ (and that’s about as far into swearing as she would go)

        ‘I’m not as dumb as I look’ (this obviously begs for a smart answer and who better to give it than me? my retort to that was: ‘Thank God’ - and I said that out loud only once.)

        ‘that just shows to go you’

However, back to the main idea. Yes, it was pretty hot out so Gary and I hunkered down in the lower level. I was working on our pictures from the last days of our trip while Gary was summarizing some of the data from out trip.

        12,540 miles traveled both in the Jeep and the RV

         5,431miles traveled in the RV

         249 nights camped which is our longest trip ever

         35 separate stops where we spent at least 1 night

        We’ve got a lot of other stats but they get really boring. Everyone wants to know how many miles we get to the gallon with our RV. Well, remember, it’s 35’ long and is towing a 4000-lb Jeep. We’re about 30,000 lbs altogether and get about 8 mpg. Doesn’t sound too good does it? Well, you also need to remember that we spent no money on gas when we were in the Phoenix area for 2 months or in San Diego for 1 month or in San Francisco for 1 month. Now, you can do the math using the total miles we traveled, the mileage we get and come out with about 678 gallons of diesel for the trip. At $4.00 a gallon average, that’s $2751 for gas for the RV for 9 months. I read that the average for gas per family is $4000 a year so we’re within the average.

Here’s a cool map of our trip. If this were a hiking trail, it would be called a ‘lollipop loop.’ We like loops which mean that we don’t just turn around and go back the same way we hiked in.
And, here’s a cool chart showing the elevations at which we drove in the RV. On the left is West Des Moines and on the right is again West Des Moines since we began and ended in the same place. What a coincidence. Our lowest elevation was in Death Valley when we were at -228’. Our highest elevation was 12,575’ when we were crossing the Rockies near Vail, Colorado.
Gary uses his IPhone as we walk along with an app he bought to track our travels. At the end of the day, we know how far we went, what elevation we attained and various other statistics. He then plots them on a map so we can see where we’ve gone. Here are 2 views of the walks we took in San Francisco. The first map is of the main city itself and we sure did cover lots of those streets. The map makes it look as if we’re drunk as skunks the way it weaves around. Never fear - that’s just the way the map goes. Or maybe we look like we’re mice in a maze. The second map is of the whole city and you can see our walk around Golden Gate Park and Golden Gate Bridge and the coastline at the top of the map and to the left. We’re both due for a new pair of shoes.

The other question we get asked most often is: ‘What place do you like the best?’ Well, that’s hard to answer. We like them all. We’re pretty easy to please and can just about always find something about a place that warrants a stay. Even Deming, NM, where the wind blows constantly and where the signs along the interstate say: ‘Caution: Dust Storms May Exist’ has a neat museum and a cool walking path. Yep, we like them all. But - there are so many places yet to discover and to like. Have I already begun to plan our next trip? Does a skunk have stripes?

What I don’t have a chart of is how much we learned, how much fun we had and how many neat people we met on our trip. It’s like the old charge card ad: ‘Priceless.’

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Brush, CO to Kearney, NE - Last Night on the Road.

Here we are sitting in a Walmart parking lot, out on the edge, near the road. Cheap and pretty handy since I bought some strawberries and some bananas in the store after I had asked permission to stay here.

We pass lots of other RV’s on the road going places. RV’s have such interesting names. We see ones named Razor, Cosmic, Wolf, Ultrasport - pretty edgy names. Ours is called a Simba, pretty tame. Gary, who imagines himself as ‘dangerous’ is happy that it’s called Simba’ and not Tabby’.

We listen to our Sirius as we drive along, usually to Channel 26, Classic Rock. However, we like to try other stations and types of music. Today, getting bored, I decided we’d start at the top and go down the channels, listening to 2 songs on each channel. Of course, undefined is how long 2 songs had to be: if we heard only 2 lines of a song, did it count? Well, it’s our game, our rules. We started with ‘Bluegrass.’ Now, I can listen to Bluegrass for about 2 songs and that is all I needed here. Next was ‘Rocking Country Rebels’ followed by ‘New Country’, ’90’s Country’ and ‘Classic Country’ and here is where our liberty to apply the rules as we wanted came in. 2 lines of a country song was enough to qualify so we listened to 2 lines of one song and 2 lines of another. Well, the rules got much broader when Patsy Cline came on. Who can cut ‘I Fall to Pieces’? You can’t cut Patsy. I also enjoy some of Brooks and Dunn so ‘Boot Scoot Boogie’ got a full play.

Then, the rules broke down entirely when we got to the next section: Dance and Electronic. What kind of music is ‘Progressive House, Trance and Electro’ music? What in the world is Electro music? (Is that what you vacuum to?) And, if you know, you don’t need to tell me because I don’t need to know. It will forever remain as a number on my dial that I twirl by on my way to another number.

We also had a bit of trouble with Hip-Hop section. Those 2 lines of a song got mighty short when we hit this section. Then we hit the Rock section, more our type of music. We listened to complete songs in ‘Heavy Metal’ though it is not our favorite, and complete songs of ’80’s Hair Bands’. Though we hated to admit that we liked ‘Mellow Rock’ we did. But, it’s back to 26, Classic Rock.

We started with channel 61 and have worked our way down to 24 when we stopped in Kearney. We will finish tomorrow with the rest. Have we found some new stations that we liked and will listen to in the future? Sure. We’ve mostly found stations that we will twirl by.

We got Sirius in the Jeep when we got it and already had a portable Sirius player which we use in the RV, our home and the old Jeep. Now we have two and I wanted to renew them but put them on the same account for a discount. Currently we have the ‘Family’ channel package which leaves off Howard Stern and some of the comedy stations. I was displeased to learn that my choice of the ‘Family’ channels discount package cost more than a ‘regular’ package discount which includes Howard Stern. Being cheap, this means that I now have Howard Stern on my radio. Yechh.

We visit most of the Interstate Visitor Centers because there is a wealth of information about each state there. The Colorado one was marvelous and we picked up lots of ideas for a future trip. Here is the Nebraska one with several monuments to the Pony Express which passed through this area.
I like this plaque which lists names of actual Pony Express riders.
They had an example of the mochila which was thrown over the saddle. Here are the 4 pouches in which the letters were carried.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Brush, CO - Smashing the Bar-be-que

This part of our journey, between Great Basin NP in Utah and West Des Moines, IA actually took 5 days, with 1 of them spent in a small town in northeast Colorado, called Brush. Here is a small city campground with electric hook-ups and a dump and potable water faucet. Just what we need after 3 days on the road, looking forward to 2 more. We’ve spent time here before and usually we use this campground to spend 2 nights in to rest.

We hooked up, had dinner and relaxed in the evening. The next morning, we packed our computers into our bags along with my IPad and Gary’s IPhone and hiked up to the local restaurant for breakfast. With our computers, it was a bit of a heavier hike than usual but the breakfast was as good as it was when we ate at this same restaurant on our way out in the fall. Of course, since the portions were huge, I had some breakfast left over - but how to carry them now along to the library in my computer bag? Hmmm.

Then to the library where we hooked up and got all the computer updates possible.

The library was a very nice small town library, one we have enjoyed before. Very light, open, comfy and they have tables with electricity and free wi-fi. We could also hear the small baby coo as its mother used the library computers and watch the little girl color as her father tried to learn how to use a computer to order something for his wife. Nothing like a small town library.

Before we left, we gave a donation to the library and told them how much we had appreciated it.

On the way home, we were walking down the main street when I remembered where the ice cream store was. Sure enough, down the block, around the corner and there was a sign on the sidewalk with a picture of an ice cream cone on it. Gary wonders how I remember these things. Silly man, does he need to ask? Actually, the owner had taken a hiatus from September, when we had been there first, to May, when we’re visiting now. Good ice cream.

Back in the campground, we were amidst about 6 or 7 other campers who were part of a group which was holding a rally in the county fairground next door over the next weekend. Actually, when we arrived in the campground, we parked out side it and walked in to check out the campsite we wanted. A guy had seen us approach, walked over and pointed out a campsite near where he was standing, ‘nice site here’ he said.

‘No, we want to use this one’ I said and walked over to the site we had used in the fall and liked. It was shaded by some tall trees which also blocked any wind that blew up on the prairie here. Well, now, 1 day later, I see what he was doing. The site he pointed out had no services and was treeless. I think he wanted to save the site we actually wanted for some others in the group and have us take this poorer site. Too bad.

About 6:00 that evening, another RV wove in. And, when I say ‘wove’ I mean that it was rolling all over the parking lot. First to the left and then to the right. Who is driving this thing and is that person drunk? At one point, they began to back up - towards us. Whew, missed us but then they veered all the way to the left of the road to try to get into another spot. There, they again began to back up. Now, when Gary backs up or when anyone else in an RV backs up, they usually have a spotter in back to guide them. I stand in back, directly in Gary’s vision in the rear view mirror and use the signals we’ve decided on for direction. Well, there were two people in this RV and no one was guiding them. They backed up and, SMASH, sure enough, they hit a barbecue on a metal pedestal about 6” in diameter.

They pulled forward, stopped, got out and began to walk the 2 dogs. Hey, what about the barbecue? What about damage to your RV? Nope, they began to walk the dogs. Then they looked at the damage. One of the two tried to pull the barbecue back into position. Yeah, right.

To make it a short story, neither seemed to be the least bit concerned that they had damaged some city property and didn’t seem to be doing anything about it. Nor did anyone else in the group that they were in, the rally group. Finally, Gary got out with his IPhone to take a picture of the damage. That got them interested and they said that they would contact the city about the damage. I took a picture through the front window of him, walking back with his phone with the picture. (Looks like Gary’s pretty blurry - either he moved or I did.) And, look at that metal bar-be-que. It wasn’t just a love tap from that RV.
And, they did contact the city. We saw a city crew in the morning out to look at the angled barbecue.

Back to the RV to relax. That’s what we’re staying in Brush for 2 nights for. Sometimes I think we move to fast, that we try to do and see too much. But, then we’re 65 and want to see it all.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Green River, UT to Brush, CO - On the Road

We’re on the road again on our way to Eagle, CO, a small town right on Interstate 70. What this town has is a large gravel parking lot which is used by truck drivers and RV’ers to overnight. There are no hook-ups, just a quiet place to pull off the road, rest for the night before moving. on. I wish more towns would see the benefit of this, especially since we spent some money in town the next morning.

When I was in my freshman year in college, I began majoring in civil engineering with the goal of working on road systems in the US. Heavens know how I came up with this. I lived in Iowa and probably never saw a highway larger than 169 through Fort Dodge where we lived. But that was my goal - until I hit Calculus and I hit this my first quarter in college. What twisted mind invented calculus and who cares what the area covered by cone described by the equation a3 + b3 = c2 which is rotating on an axis is? I sure didn’t and my grades showed this. Unfortunately, I started in calculus 110, then moved to calc 111 and then into calc 112. Each course was 5, count them 5, credits. I couldn’t move down to Math 101 since I was already in Math 110. Trapped I was. ‘Luckily’ I ‘got’ to take physics at the same time. College was killing me.

Finally I analyzed the situation, realized that I was acing two subjects, history and p.e. and decided to switch to History with a minor in teaching. Whew.

But, just because I didn’t major in civil engineering doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate a neat highway system. I most certainly do and Interstate 70 is one of those marvels of highway construction. It goes through beautiful territory in Utah but its path through Colorado is a thing of beauty itself. I especially like the section around Grand Junction where the highway follows the winding curves of the river as it snakes through the canyon between the mountains.

You look at the breadth of the canyon and marvel at the force of the river which carved this. Sometimes you feel like the metal ball in a pinball machine, weaving in and out of the canyons.
Here, because the canyon is too narrow for a full-width 4-lane interstate AND a railroad AND the river, it was built on two levels: one heading west and the other heading east. When you are heading west, you are on the top level and it is more difficult to see the engineering. Heading east puts you on the bottom level and you can see the river, the railroad tracks and the upper level above you. There is actually a 30- mile bike trail also which you can see to the right of the roadway in the picture below.
And, look at this, the upper 2 lanes got a tunnel while we on the eastbound lower level skirted around the cliff edge. And, of course, look at how much of the cliff they had to dynamite off to get the road through. (Gary was reading this over my shoulder and was surprised that there was a tunnel for the other two lanes. I guess he keeps his eyes on the lanes we’re in.)
My favorite is the truck ramps which crop up where there is a steep downhill grade. This one looks like it ends at the cliff edge. However, the idea is that the sand on the ramp is so deep and has so little traction that the truck tires will be mired and stopped in the sand long before the truck comes close to hitting the rock. At least, that’s the theory.
Look at the thin layers in this rock. What mighty forces crushed them all together?
And, finally we’re stopped for the night, in back of another RV alongside the trucks in Eagle, CO.
In the morning we cruised up to the local convenience store along a bike path and bought some coffee and some donuts for the journey to Brush, CO.

Back on Interstate 70 again on our way to Denver, we passed over the highest point of our journey, at over 12,000’ near Vail, CO

and through the Eisenhower Tunnel.
What a marvel of engineering Interstate 70 is. Finally we were through the mountains and on our way down the steep grades towards Denver. There are several signs along this long steep grade which state:



It is a lo-o-o-ong grade down into Denver and the DOT is alerting truckers (and RV’ers) that there is still more to go and that they should still be in a lower gear to slow their speed. We took their advice and stayed in a lower gear until we saw Denver and the flatlands ahead of us.

By the way, Denver has crappy roads through it. They were awful, bumpy, full of potholes and quite roly-poly until we got through Denver proper. Then they evened out and we had a much smoother journey.

We arrived at Brush, CO about 3:30 in the afternoon and found the site we had had in the fall when we passed through, set up the RV and relaxed for a while.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Baker, NV to Green River, UT - WOW

Again, it’s ‘Frappez la rue, Jacques’ and we’re off. Ah, but first a stop at the Lectrolux for some coffee and I can download the new book I’ve got on loan through our library onto my I Pad. That done, we next hit the VC for the Park so I can exchange my ‘medium’ t-shirt which fits like a parachute for a ‘medium’ which actually is a medium. Ah, now I think we’re really on our way. Our goal is Green River, UT where there is a Conoco station with a truck parking area surrounding it. We think we’ll find a nice quiet spot for RV’s off to the side.

We finished route 50 through Nevada, the Loneliest Highway, as Life Magazine said in 1986. We didn’t find it so lonely, rather it was sparsely inhabited but not lonely. We loved the geography, we had some great experiences and met an awful lot of people who call this area home. We enjoyed exploring the towns along the way and thought they had lots to offer a traveler. Here is a map of route 50 across Nevada. Obviously, if you want to get across NV, this is the shortest way and also the least traveled. I would definitely take this route again.
We were very intrigued by the Range and Basin geography. Since Nevada is the most mountainous state in the US, and the mountains range from NNE to SSW, we knew we’d be climbing up and descending a lot. But it was fun to twist and turn through the slots as we climbed to the summit and then again as we descended.

At the bottom, we had the basin in front of us spreading for miles across the land before it hit the next range which we then climbed. We kept looking for Forrest Gump running along the road.
Up and over the Range, down and through the Basin. All across Nevada along route 50. On the map above the ranges are in green and the basins are the white strips between them. However, this map does not do Nevada justice since there are ever so many more ranges and basins than shown here.

When we’ve taken Interstate 80 across Nevada, we traveled north of the Range and Basin geography along the yellow line in the map above and we weren’t as aware of the mountains and the basins. Route 50 goes through the middle and we were very aware of them.

We also enjoyed the small museums and towns people we spoke with as we traveled. Each was proud of her or his town which had suffered through boom and bust for the last hundred years. Look at the huge museum that we visited in Fallon, the beautifully redone buildings and museum in Eureka, the small park with the labyrinth and art work in Ely and the community spirit of small Baker in fighting Las Vegas over their water rights.

Yes, we have enjoyed traveling across Nevada and would certainly do it again.

After we left NV on our journey back to Iowa, we stopped in Delta, UT to see the Topaz Museum. I’m sure that all of you know about the Japanese detention camps in America during WWII. Not the best chapter in American History but it is a chapter and maybe we can learn from it. One of the Japanese detention camps, called Topaz, was in Delta, UT and there is a museum there along with some restored barracks. We pulled in, circled the block and spotted a ‘do’ at a local tire company. Hot dogs, hamburgers, music, all the works, even a huge gorilla. Well, maybe later but museum first.

Unfortunately the museum is in the process of moving to a new building and wasn’t open. That left time for the hamburgers. Now, of course, none of you would ever think that Nancy and Gary would lust after hamburgers cooked over a grill. Well, it that’s what you think , you’re wrong. Usually we eat Morningstar Black Bean Burgers but we do like a good hamburger. We don’t get them often and today it’s karma. It was meant to be. It’s destiny. Whatever you call it, I heard that hamburger calling my name in harmony with the mustard, ketchup and pickle relish.
A stop at the local grocery store for milk after our lunch and we were on our way. We have never traveled through this part of Utah but remember how beautiful it was when we traveled through to Moab last year. This just confirmed our memories. We were traveling over the San Raphael Swell and the views to the south were gorgeous. Every ‘view’ stop had scenes that were more beautiful than the last. And the westbound lane had vistas as awesome as ours in the eastbound lane

We stopped at each and every one and just marveled at what nature had wrought. Look at these colors, look at these escarpments, look at the cliffs and valleys. WOW. Interstate 70 goes across what is called the San Raphael Swell, where the earth heaved up and we can see all of the layers that formed the crust in this one spot. A sign at one of the view ahead said it was as if the arc of the rainbow were sliced off at the top and we could see all the colors arrayed before us.

The last view area was the best. It showed how they had the cut through the mountains for Interstate 70.
Now, I suppose I should be appalled at the scar left on the land by Interstate 70. However, I understand how important the Interstate system is to America and realize that we can’t always leave everything pristine. Not only does Interstate 70 help in interstate commerce and in uniting the country, it also helps us get around much better. It also helps get people out to see the beauty of this country. Isn't that ironic: we destroy some of the beauty so that people can get out to see the beauty that’s left.

None the less, what an engineering feat to get this highway through here. Above to the left is a picture showing what the land looked like before they really began to make the cut. This picture was taken looking up the cut to the west. Here is what it looks like now and my picture was taken looking down the cut to the east. Also look at the curve they had to put into the highway to get the roadway down as far as they needed it to go to get through the cut.

Utah is one long geology lesson and imagine how helpful Google maps and satellite views are to geologists. They used to have to go up in airplanes to get the big picture. Now, they just log onto Google.

We saw others on their way through Utah, enjoying the beauty as we were. Here’s a family group. Gary and I recommend traveling by RV through the US and the best way to do so without the upfront expense is to rent one. We see these all over.
And, here we are ‘resting’ in a rest area.
We finally pulled out of the Raphael Swell area of Utah, into the flatter section where the town of Green River is. In the fall of 2010, we pulled into Green River and turned south to get to Moab. This year, we pulled off the highway into a large gravel lot next to a Conoco Truck stop for the evening. Not the most beautiful ‘campground’ but it had a large enough space for us, was fairly quiet and, with the lights and everyone else around, was pretty secure.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Baker, NV - Cave and Arch

We’ve got several adventures planned for today and we’re up at 6:00 so that we can be at the NP Visitor Center by 8:00 to get out tickets for the Lehman Caves. We wanted the 9:00 tour and took a chance that if we got there at 8:00 we’d still be able to get tickets.

But, first, we noticed an older, vintage RV pulling into our ‘campground.’ Oh, good, we’ve got neighbors. Well, not quite. They pulled up to the gas station in front, then pulled into the campground and sat for a while. We got out of our RV to talk with them to see if they had any questions about the campground. Nope, they wanted to buy gas but didn’t have a credit card. We told them that was no problem, we had a credit card and we could use ours. They were thrilled since they weren’t sure they’d make it to the next gas station. So, Gary walked over to the gas pumps, put in his card, they filled the tank and they reimbursed us.

We tooled on up to the VC to buy our tickets and, while I was buying the tickets inside Gary was waiting outside drinking his coffee. That’s when a car limped into the parking lot with grease oozing out onto the ground and a burning smell. Gary went over to see if he could help. Long story short - he got out a BIG flashlight he uses for roadside emergencies, checked the car over and told them it probably was the grease around the differential. The Superintendent of the Park, Andy Ferguson, no relation, came over and told them that the nearest service station was in Ely, about 100 miles down the road and they could use the pay phone to call them.
We really are out in the back of beyond 70 miles from the nearest service and no cell coverage - but there is a pay phone. The couple called the ‘local’ service station and the service station guy confirmed both Gary’s diagnosis and that they could drive slowly and carefully back to Ely for service - rather than having a service or tow truck come here to Baker. Ouch. Luckily, it’s only 70 miles down the road.

Gary’s done well today and it’s only 9:00. He must have stayed at a Holiday Inn Express. Then the guy next to us in the parking lot, after hearing my story of our day, remarked that he might not want to be next to us since everyone around us is in trouble. Hmmm.

Before we took the cave tour we were asked several questions about our recent cave experiences. If we had been in caves within the last year, we could not wear any clothing that we had worn there nor carry anything which we had had in the cave. This is because of the recent outbreak of what is called the white-nose syndrome which has caused the deaths of more than a million bats.

Yeah, yeah, I know, who wants a bat around. BUT - they are very important. They represent about 20% of all classified mammal species worldwide, with about 1,240 bat species. (Imagine, 1 out of every 5 classified mammals is a bat.) Now, I know that bats are ugly creatures and I’m not excited when I see a bat flying around above me at night. However, the old myth about bats getting tangled in hair is certainly nonsense. Bats use their ears to detect all around them and miss all but insects in flight. An experiment was conducted in 1790 in which blind bats were put into a room with silk threads strung across it. They were able to fly through the room and never touch the silk strings.

And, here’s the best part: most are insectivores which means they eat bundles of insects each and every night. There is a Mexican free-tail bat colony with 1,500,000 bats in it in Austin, TX which lives below the Congress Bridge. At night it is a great tourist pastime to gather there to watch them fly out from under the bridge into the night to capture about 10,000 - 30,000 lbs of insects, insects which will not bother the citizens of Austin any more. The largest occupied artificial bat roost in the world, which is in Florida, holds 300,000 bats which can eat upwards of 2.5 billion bugs (2500 lbs) PER NIGHT.

Thus the white nose syndrome is a problem and those who manage caves where bats live are very cautious about who and what gets into their caves. We were also asked not to wear backpacks nor camera bags or anything else which dangled so that we would not break any of the cave formations. We were also told several times not to touch any of the formations because the oils in our skin would affect their growth. And, wouldn’t you know it - the guy in front of me touched one to show his wife something on it. I looked at him and with my authoritarian teacher voice told him not to touch the formations.

The cave tour was amazing. We’ve taken cave tours before but never in a cave with this many formations. And, it is a live cave, the formations are still growing. In fact, I got a ‘cave kiss’ which means that a formation actually dripped on me. That’s good luck and, looking back, I did have good luck and a great day.
The cave was discovered by Absalom Lehman when he was out on his ranch one day looking for cattle. the story was that his horse stumbled into the cave and was falling along with Absalom when Absalom roped a juniper tree nearby, wrapped his legs around his horse and kept them both from falling in. They stayed that way for 3 days until his ranch hands found them. Well, that’s the story that the newspaper told to generate some excitement around the discovery of the cave. Unfortunately, Lehman was bowlegged from that day on. Fortunately he made a fortune on the cave.

He charged $1.00 for 24 hours in the cave. But his customers had to use cans with candles in them for light, crawl in through a narrow opening and be able to find their way out. I hope they took more than one candle. Of course, the rule was: ‘if you can break it, you can take it’ and we could see the damage that was caused by all of his customers. But, since it is a live cave, each of these formations that had been broken off was growing back. You can even see the new drips on the bottoms of the severed formations. However, it takes 100 years for a formation to grow 1” so it will take a long time to repair the damage. If you look closely at the bottom of some of these formations, you can see the new drips ready to either drop or solidify in place.
We saw stalactites and stalagmites and stalactites (here are both just about to touch in the middle)
shields with large formations dripping from them,
popcorn and many other formations. This truly was one of the best cave tours we’ve been on since there were loads of formations and the guide gave us lots to time to enjoy and take pictures of them. Usually we’re rushed along so fast that we don’t have time to appreciate them nor to take many pictures.

As we were going back up the tunnel to the opening, which was a metal door, the guide asked us if any of us had experienced an earthquake. He then asked what we might think an earthquake might sound and feel like underground. He then talked a bit about them and their effect underground, turned out the light and - banged on the metal door with his closed fist. Wow, an echo through the tunnel and we could all actually feel the reverberation of his pounding on the door. What a demonstration.

We then hit the gift shop / restaurant for a coffee and a roll. Here we met a young woman about 18 or 19 who was waiting on us in the NP gift shop and restaurant. She lives in Gandy, UT which she described as a 2-ranch town. Sure enough, I looked it up on Google and it IS a 2-ranch town. One of the ranches has one green irrigation circle and the other, her grandparents ranch, has 3 green circles. Her graduating class had 10 in it and, when she was looking for ads to put into the graduation yearbook, she came to the NP and, in the course of the conversation heard there was a job, applied and got it. Now, this job is 45 miles from where she lives on the ranch in Gandy with her parents on her grandparents farm. By the way, her parents have other jobs since you can’t support 5 people on a ranch. Not even one with 3 green irrigation circles.

She went to college in Salt Lake City and was so happy to come back home because SLC is way too big for her. She likes the size of Gandy and she likes her solitude. She says that she used to be shy around adults but this job has helped her with that and now she’s much more self-confident and can talk with anyone. Neat conversation and we applaud a young person who knows what she’s about.

Our next adventure was to drive 13 miles down the paved road and 14 miles down a four-wheel drive, high-clearance road where we were reaching out of the car window pushing tree branches away from the car so they wouldn’t scratch it. Just when we thought we were in the middle of nowhere, we saw another road branching off to - somewhere else in the middle of nowhere. Then we saw this abandoned home with 3 windows and a door. It must have been a nice home at one time but is abandoned now.
We also saw a sign. Now that sounds pretty common and not at all unusual. But this sign was in the middle of nowhere and sometimes we love to see signs in the middle of nowhere. Seeing a sign is a good sign - it means that we’re on the right trail or the right road or, if the sign points the opposite direction from the one you are going, at least you know you need to put your car or you legs into reverse. A sign is knowledge, an indication of another human presence. We love signs.
We took this road to the trail head parking lot for a trail with a huge arch at the end. The last person who had signed the trail register was here 4 days ago. The trail went inexorably upward, through switchback after switchback for 1 mile, then along an almost level section for a while until we saw this.
What a magnificent arch. And, there was a bench here - someone carried a bench up here?
Well, there is a question about whether this is an arch or a natural bridge. An arch is caused by wind and rain, ice and other natural events. A natural bridge is caused by a river. Geologists do not know if this is a natural bridge or an arch but call it an arch since it is so high above the river.

We then scrambled down the trail to the river, and up the other side to see the arch from the back. Here we could actually frame the whole arch in one photo. What a magnificent arch. We stopped for a while, admired the arch and then wended our way back down the trail (easier than going up) since we knew that Terry in the Lectrolux Cafe was having pizza tonight.

Don’t ask if this was a dirt road with cattle along it. We love the out of the way spots but, ooh, the dust and dirt. We spotted a new calf and, as I was getting out to take a picture, he mother and calf started running away from me. When they thought they were at a safe distance and with other cows for safety, they all turned to give us the eye.

However, before dinner we had one last stop: at the only place the Rangers told us about where there were pictographs. And, they didn’t tell us about these until I asked specifically about them. Locations of pictographs and petroglyphs are often hard to learn. The first picture is of a more recent rock carving over the red ink of a pictograph. The second is the typical triangle person of a Fremont pictograph. There are probably considerably more around here but only in the caves and the caves are off limits because this is the time when the baby bats are growing. They are not able to feed themselves until almost adult when their wings are fully grown and often caves are shut off to visitors when the baby bats are growing to adult. Whew. 

We took our computers to the restaurant to check e-mail and I actually got several days of my blog out. The pizza was ok and I won’t have dishes to do tonight.

Home, tired and ready to rock and roll tomorrow. We've been going since 7:00 this morning and we're tired. 

Oops, I had thought I’d do dishes tomorrow night since we had so few but Gary reminded me that this was the last night we were going to be hooked up to city water so I did them at 10:30.

Now, time for bed.