Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Blanding, UT - Fun in Blanding

Our next stop was Blanding, UT. The last time we were in this area was when the government was shut down in 2013 and our trip down to Phantom Ranch in the Grand Canyon was cancelled. As a Plan B, we stayed in Blanding, UT and explored in this area. We enjoyed this part of Utah then so decided that, if we wanted a short trip after working in our house this summer, this would be fun. Blanding? Who in the world comes to Blanding? Well, judging by the campground here, lots of people do. RV’s have been rolling and out ever since we came. And, truly, there are lots of things to see and do here. As you know, Blanding is central to Hovenweep, the Natural Bridges NP, Arches and Canyonlands NP’s, a new Monument (soon to be changed) is Bear’s Ears, a cool overlook called Goosenecks, a wonderful drive through the Valley of the Gods, the Moki Dugway cut out of the side of a vertical cliff and other things. But, not a gastronomical center. Bluff, a bit further south has the restaurants. Blanding has the stores, Bluff has the restaurants.

        There are grocery stores in many of these small towns but, if you’re a picky eater, you might have some problems. You want what kind of cereal? What kind of peanut butter? What kind of bread? On the other hand, I’ve always been surprised at how much they do have and we can always fill our refrigerator. This morning I went in for some bagels and English muffins - none to be had and actually, lots of the shelves in the bread section were empty and in the milk section, and the yogurt section and probably other sections of the store. Big weekend. This afternoon, we went in and they were full. Wow, the Western Family Delivery Man had emptied his truck.

        We, of course, come for the hiking and there is lots around here, especially to see petroglyphs, pictographs and ancient cliff dwellings. We took a South Mule Cyn hike yesterday which, when we could find the trail (which has been somewhat washed out by all the rains and the small pools that hadn’t dried up yet) took us by a spectacular cliff dwelling called the House of Fire. It is accessible from the trail but it looks as if most of it is intact and not ravaged by vandals. At certain times of the day, the cliff walls above turn yellow and orange. Beautiful. This dwelling was build between 900 and 1400 AD.


The last time we were here, in 2013, we got on the trail at the same time as a busload of tourists. Oof-da. Today there were just a few other intrepid hikers: several from Europe, others from Vermont and Oregon. Here’s a picture up close to show you the careful artistic construction. No wonder this house is still intact after so many years.


Note the large flat rocks over and below the windows. So much fun to see things like this and try to imagine the lives of the people who lived here. What did they think? What were their amusements? Many of these dwellings are on high ledges and we’ve always wondered how kids played around here. As we were walking away from one dwelling, we met 2 young men with 3 young boys. And, sure enough, one of the young men echoed our thoughts when we remarked how scary it would be to let your kids play on these high cliffs.

        We also like to see all the petroglyphs and pictographs. Here’s on we saw on a nearby wall, etched into the black ‘desert patina.’


And, that’s what we’ve been doing these days. We got the biggest projects in our house done and it’s time to play. We’ll be on the road for the next 6 weeks and back on the 29th of Oct..

We head to Hanksville, UT on Thursday. Tomorrow another hike.

Blanding, UT - Monument Valley and Goosenecks

We have finished lots of work on the Park Model home we bought in June and now are on the road taking a 2-month trip through orthern AZ and southen UT. We first stopped in Flagstaff to visit some friends we’ve known for a long time. We actually went to High School with one of them. Both have had some recent health issues and are looking forward to 2018. We had lunch with them and then went over to their home for more chatting. It’s been a while since we’ve seen them and lots has happened. It was nice to get together to share recent news and it was as if we had seen each other last week.

When we left them in Flagstaff, we headed up to Monument Valley. where we stayed for 3 nights and two days. Beautiful setting. We had seen the museum before when we visited here in 2013 but toured it again. Phoebe (Mike) and Harry Goulding sure built a comfortable existence out here in the middle of what I might call nowhere back in the 40’s. I liked the kitchen with the wash tub on the counter, the phone on the wall (I actually used one of these when I worked at a camp on Catalina Island off California back in the 1960’s), the kettle and the iron on the stove, and the fresh veggies on the counter. She must have had quite a garden.


Beautiful setting. Below is our RV with the red rock cliffs around us.


And, the view from our RV was this. Luckily we had 2 nights with no RV next to us. On the 3rd night we got a tiny little tent camper which didn’t block our view. Sweet.


But, we were there to see the Valley itself. The first day we took an all-day tour and the second day we took a hike around one of the most famous structures: the West Mitten. Most of the tour was great but we did learn that an all-day tour was a bit too much. My butt got tired from sitting and I just got tired of being on a tour. Even the two 20 somethings on our tour weren’t talking at the end of it. They were bushed too (they did Arches one day, Monument Valley the second and were heading on to Grand Canyon for a third day. No wonder they were tired). Must be kids.


On our hike we saw some wild mustangs who were looking for a shady place to stand beside a sheltered cliff in a wash. Not too much shade, but better than none. Our guide told us that there were plenty of wild mustangs around and if we wanted to take one home, we were welcome. Here’s a rope. Just a joke, of course, but we did see several as we toured.


On the afternoon tour though what the tour operators call Mystery Valley we saw this cliff dwelling high up on a steep wall. Imagine climbing this daily to get to your house - without vibram-soled hiking boots.


As we drove out of Monument Valley we stopped at iconic MM 13 where Forrest Gump stopped running. We were not the only ones stopped here to take the picture. There were quite a few others standing in the road dodging the cars going to and from the Valley. Every time a car came close, they rushed for the side of the road.


Next we stayed in Goosenecks State Park in southern Utah with its view of the San Juan River 1200’ below. The river curves so much and so sharply that it travels 5 miles but only goes 1 1/2 miles west. ‘Deepest entrenched meander in North America.’


At night, we could see every star in the heavens. The Milky Way went from horizon to horizon. There were no lights around here, just dark sky. I even recognized some constellations. Though it was just a rocky dirt parking lot, it was a glamorous place to stay.

Of course, when I heard that there was a trail down to the River, I put it on our schedule. Silly me. Here’s the view from the top with that brown ribbon the San Juan at the bottom. Look at that canyon wall. How in the world are we going to get down that cliff? Originally, they built the trail in 1894 to be a road by which they could get gold down to the river for easier transport to other areas. The first horse with a load died and no pack animal ever completed the round trip. And, soon, the mines played out. Some of the sections on the trail were quite bouldered and steep and I can see how a horse or mule would have trouble, especially laden as they were.


But, here is Gary, standing next to the San Juan River. We made it. Oops, now we have to get up back to the top. As the old saying has it: ‘ down in optional, up is mandatory.’ Lots of rafts cruise down this part of the river but we saw none today. I was looking for the Starbucks raft and the Coldstone Raft. Not a chance. Funny, we were not the only two hiking here today. Another couple accompanied us. 4 certifiable nut cakes.


We also traveled up the Moki Dugway, a road carved into the side of the cliffs so that logging companies could get their logs from the top of the cliff where they were to the bottom where the people who wanted them were. This sign greets you at the bottom and you can see the cliff you’re going to climb.


It’s a well graded dirt road and wider than you might imagine. The last time we were here, we saw two Class C motor homes and a 40’ Class A motor home climb up. Not what we would do but the motor home owner says he goes everywhere in his motorhome and doesn’t need to tow.


Our GPS showed the route thus. Looks like a praying duck to me. Praying he’s going to get down safely.


We drove up, took a sandy dirt road to Muley Point with its view over 3 states and then back down Moki Dugway and back to our RV to ready it for travel tomorrow.

On to Blanding, UT.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Altoona, IA - On the Move

Back in 2001 we helped Cathy and Tom move to their new home, the one that was to be their last home. But it was a corner lot with lots of trees and took lots of mowing, shoveling, raking and maintenance. It was time for a townhome and we got a text message in mid-March with a picture of their home with a SOLD sign in front. And, the closing is 4/14. Hmmm - 3 weeks to go. And, they have no place to go. Not yet. They looked at lots of townhomes and lots of apartments since they might have to rent for a while.

On 3/17, they had found a new house and their offer had been accepted but with a closing date of 4/14 on both houses. The pressure is on. They told us that getting up at 4 am and starting to pack was not unusual.

We got back here on 4/4, took a day off to relax, a day to do errands and asked what we could do. We had our Jeep and they had two SUV’s that were just perfect for taking loads over to their new home. We helped them take apart Tom’s workbench.


We packed, loaded and moved everything in this room but the furniture.


We took load after load of boxes and plastic tubs over to their new home (I think we’re making grooves in the road.) Some loads were lighter. Here I am with Tom’s stuffed pheasant.


The current owner said they could use the third garage and one of the lower level bedrooms to pile their stuff in.


Boy, did we fill that third garage.


These are the only pictures of the move that we have since we were all so busy. I helped Cathy take some stuff to the Salvation Army and to Habitat for Humanity and make some other errands. We also got an Invisi-brake from Tom from the RV he sold several years ago and we gave them a queen sized Mission style bed. Even trade but Tom had an easier time putting his bed together than Gary had putting the brake together. We have most of the parts but still need a new car kit and another part. Probably best to get it installed in Mesa.

Our Even Brake is still good - if it’s above 49 degrees but below that it needs to get warmed up to start. Not a good brake. And much bigger than the Invisi-brake. A good trade for all.


Finally, they closed, were in and we visited them in their new home.


Gary celebrated by tossing a rubber hammer into the air and catching it.


Meanwhile, during all this, Gary, Cathy and I attended a funeral and put the spring flowers on Cathy’s and Gary’s parents’ graves. It’s in a country cemetery and we have never been there when the wind wasn’t howling around.


You can see in back of them where their aunt Marian is going to be buried.

Funerals are such sad affairs but we do get to meet lots of Gary’s cousins that we might otherwise not get to see.


Gary also fought the good fight against a bird that had built a nest in our slide cover. We looked up one day and noticed little bits of straw and dried grass sticking out. Hmmm. Not the wind. Must be a bird. Gary got out the ladder and moved before there were any eggs in the nest.


The next morning we heard lots of little cheeping around. Sure enough, the original nest builders had brought in a full construction crew and they had not only remade the original nest but had made it into an apartment house. Then they sat out side our window chirping their defiance.

On the other hand, even though we had cool weather for the move, we also had some cold weather and some heavy rains. Note that the ‘feels like’ temperature is 29 degrees. And, even though the forecast was for 39 degrees, it was only 35. Wind was at 15 mph. The next few days don’t look much better.


In our memories, April in Iowa was sunny, warm with flowers and trees all budding and leafing out. So much for our old memories.


Note that in all the pictures above that there is not even a hint of sunshine.

‘You’ll feel better when it quits hurting.’


Monday, May 1, 2017

Altoona, IA - Cars, Trucks and Amps

And, now it’s May 1, May Day, and I’m writing the first blog entry I’ve written since we got back to Iowa. I’m so far behind. In fact, one of the entries I wrote today was about a hike we took on March 27th. What gives? Have I been sleeping this whole time? Eating at Panera? No, we’ve been busy. These two old retired people have been busier than we were when we had jobs. But, that’s the story I hear from every retired person. The difference is that we’re not getting paid to be busy now.

One of the reasons we came back was because the closing on our new home was June 1 and we wanted time to make some changes in it before the fall came and we had some guests. (Oh, boy, summer in Mesa, AZ) Another was that Gary’s sister and brother-in-law, Cathy and Tom, were moving in early April and we thought we could help them. Then, we wanted to help my brother, Jack, buy a new truck and change his electrical system from fuses to breakers. It’s always easier to have someone else’s opinions on big purchases like those. (Not that he listens to us much but we thought we’d give our opinions.) Finally, we had to empty our storage unit so that we could take what we still wanted down to our new home in Mesa.

I’ve got some pictures of what we’ve been doing. First, here’s my brother’s electrical system. The house was build sometime in the 1940’s and it still had fuses. My brother took some pictures to show us his system. (He loves to take pictures with his new iPad.) Here’s one box.
And, here’s the box that was installed for his dryer later.
Do these look old or do they look old? But the problem is that the wires in the house are 20 Amp and my brother has installed all 30 Amp fuses. Well, he wanted to avoid having to replace them when he had his TV on while he was drying his clothes, running the AC and heating some coffee in the microwave while the refrigerator was on and he was running on his treadmill. You see the problem here. 30 Amp fuses on 20 Amp wires just tends to burn and melt the insulation on the wires and cause fires. No big problem, right?

Time to update. And, update he did. Shiny, new, up-to-date. BUT - the house still has 20Amp wires.
He found himself running downstairs when the breaker tripped. ‘No problem’ says Jack. I will just put in 30 Amp breakers. But now, you’ve got 30 Amp breakers on 20 Amp wires. Hmmm. Gary worked with him to track which fuses matched which switches and made a slight change. But that still did not work so it looks as if Jack and Gary need to look at it a bit more. But - maybe Jack can’t run everything at once like he wants. We can’t run two small electric heaters, the Keurig and my hairdryer while the refrigerator and the hot water heater are going. Something has to give. Welcome to the real world, Jack.

Then a new truck. His old truck is a 1997 model and needs rust work every spring. Still runs well but the rust is keeping him busy. Well, how about a new truck? Maybe not new - but how about a 2014 model?

Sure, he says. He found 2 in Fort Dodge, IA where he lives. And, since he seldom drives out side the city limits, he probably should buy local. And, he found one he liked. Since he had telegraphed to everyone and his brother that he wanted this one at Shimkat Motors, it made the negotiations a bit harder but we got the price down and got a bed liner to boot. Jack then maneuvered to get two caps not just one.

Funny - when we were with the ‘negotiator’ he told me that I looked like my mother who worked for the Bureau of Labor Statistics back in the 80’s and come into the dealership every month to check prices. Meanwhile Gary was talking with a guy who was in the Men’s Civic Glee Club with several of Gary’s uncles and had a picture on his office wall of them all in the Glee Club. Small town.

And, here’s Jack with his old truck. We’ve heard that Shimkat is asking $7000 for it - more than he paid many years and many miles ago. But, not how shiny and waxed he kept it.
and with his new one. Note the new RAM hat.

Speaking of vehicles. Gary looked out our front window one morning and saw this. Leaking so fast that, even after we moved it, we’ve got a new drip within 5 minutes.
Oops. Cripes this is the problem we dealt with last year - leaking water pump.
So we took it in and found that last year we had leaking seals and this time we have a leaking pump. Of course. Check the two rusty sections above.

Poorer by a bunch. Maybe we won’t eat out for the next month. Nah, not eating out won’t come close to the cost of the water pump.

And, that’s part of what we’ve been doing. Now to Cathy’s and Tom’s big move.

‘You generally learn the value of money from the lack of it.’

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Altoona, IA - Back to Iowa

And, finally our abbreviated winter trip is over and we’re on our way back to Iowa for April and May, only to return to Mesa in late May for the June 1 closing on the park model we bought.

Lots of billboards along I10 in southern AZ advertising for ‘THE THING.’ We’ve seen them many times, have we ever stopped? Nope. Never. Not once. Where’s Lady Bird when we need her? And, boy, does that comment, age me.
We’re more interested in the wonderful views that we see all along the road.
But, then there’s another trading post with its billboards. How many ‘styles’ of t-shirts are there? Do t-shirts have ‘styles?’
But, we’re driving straight through and our next stop is in New Mexico.
Is this the biggest pistachio in the world?
OMG. Look, it’s snow. I didn’t think we had driven this far north. But it was an awesome drive weaving through the rolling hills not knowing what spectacular view awaited us around the next curve and over the next hill.
Beautiful views on every side. Green hills set off by the craggy stone peaks in the background.
Interesting art.
But nature paints its own beauty.
These mountains form the backdrop for Las Cruces, New Mexico. I’ll bet there’s some cool hiking around here.
In Las Cruces we veered northeast, heading towards Kansas City. It’s a shorter route than taking I10 and I20 across New Mexico and south through Texas to I35 (we want to go north, not south) and heading north there. But, when we turned off, most stayed right on I10, even those with Iowa and Minnesota plates. Much of the route we take is 4-lane but we do get onto several 2-lane roads this way. Most of these are good to drive and we don’t meet many others on them. Lots easier to drive than the Interstates.

We cross the panhandle of Texas and stay at a campground in Dalhart, TX.
Texas has lots of windmills, almost as many as Iowa. Well, I don’t know the actual numbers but I’ll bet that Iowa has more.
Lots of agriculture through here. You can see the green irrigated circles but you can also see several brown patches. Guess what those are. Hamburgers and steaks. Ha, ha.
These feed lots are huge and take quite a while to drive by.
Snow yesterday and see the temps today on the weather chart for Dalhart, TX below. 39 degrees and it feels like 33 with the wind. Why, oh, why, are we heading north so soon? Note that Dalhart, where we stayed overnight is expecting rain all day on Tuesday with a temperature low of 30 degrees.

Sounds like snow to me - we’d better be moving on. We had through of staying an extra day here but saw the weather and decided to move on, ahead of the storm that’s moving across the plains.
Next we cross the panhandle of Oklahoma. While rte 54 is 2 lanes in Texas and Kansas, it’s a nice smooth 4-lane divided highway through Oklahoma. I guess they want us tourists to enjoy the ride.
Then into Kansas where we’ll stop for the night north of Wichita.
They use the old Native American technique of burning the prairie grasses every year. Here’s a swath that is still smoldering. Kansas is hazy from the smoke in the early spring. In some places we could actually see flames.
Hmmm, must be lunch time in the rest area. I think we’re not the only ones headed north.
We were passed by this RV along the road. Notice anything wrong? I made a sign on a piece of paper that said in big bold letters: ‘ANTENNA’ so that if we could pass it, we could tell him that he has a problem. He was really moving along and we could never catch up. I hope he doesn't meet a short bridge.
We checked the weather forecast and the radar and knew we’d better get up and on the road early in the morning to avoid this little storm that is going to slide across rte 35 between Kansas City, MO and Wichita, KS. We clipped the northwest corner of Missouri, around Kansas City and headed further north towards Iowa.
If you look closely at the blue dot above Kansas City you can see that we made it through the city but the storm is nipping at our heels as it moves north and we kept on keeping on.
And, then we saw this sign. Oh, wow. Des Moines, we’re almost home.
Lots of flashing red lights, cars backed up. Looks like a traffic jam and some problems on the road.
And this is what we saw as we passed it. The cab door is open and we hope the driver got out.
And, here’s a real welcoming sign.
Only an hour left before we hit Altoona, IA outside of Des Moines and the campsite that is waiting for us.

‘Remember, half the people you meet are below average.’