DAYS 33 and 34
Scenic 12, the road from Bryce Canyon National Park to Capitol Reef National Park, has been described as one of the top 10 scenic drives in the country. Whoever said that is right. Again, beauty around every hairpin curve, and on the right and left of every incline and steep descent.
Our first stop was Kodachrome State Park. With so much beauty to see in the National Parks a side trip to a small state park might seem unusual—but if you get a chance, check out this place.
We drove through the park, and then stopped so Rick could walk the Nature Trail. Dogs are permitted on this trail, but we were worried about taking them—rattlesnakes. However, Rick made the loop and found that the vegetation was set back a bit from the trail, so he walked it again, this time with Linda, Tybee and Zoe. We had the trail and the beauty of the natural rock formations to ourselves. True, total paradise.
Linda and the dogs then waited in the RV while Rick set out to do the Angels Palace Trail. The brochure said the trail was easy to moderate. The brochure lied! There were steep climbs, rock climbing (well, scrambling up rock inclines), and then a leisurely stroll on a finger of rock that had long drop-offs to either side. When you see the picture you’ll know it. The park service advises hikers to stay at least ten feet from the edge of drop-offs because the rock is loose and prone to giving way. The narrow trail Rick walked was about three feet across, total. Not reassuring!
After Kodachrome we went through Escalante, UT, and found a great little natural foods store where we bought organic vegetables, vegan mayo, and other vegan items we never thought we would find in the middle of nowhere. Escalante was a cool little town and again, for a moment, we told ourselves that we could live there.
We also went through Boulder (UT, not CO). It also had an organic market—who would have thought! It was a nice little town, too.
We had planned to stay just one night at Thousand Lakes RV Park, but we liked it the moment we pulled in. We altered our plans and added an extra night here and cut a night from our next destination. Our original plan had us going on to Capitol Reef National Park after we checked in, but since we had added an extra day we decided to go to Capitol Reef National Park the following day. That decision would turn out to be a big mistake.
We had a campfire the first night. The campground was generous with the amount of wood in bundles they sold, so after we enjoyed vegan marshmallows for the second time on this trip, Rick stay up with the fire for another hour before it died out.
Rick took Zoe for a two mile run early on our second day here. You know those inclines we’ve talked about? Driving them in the Viva is tough enough—try running up them! Zoe’s extra legs gave her an advantage, but Rick finished the run at the same time Zoe did. The leash on Zoe was probably a factor.
With great anticipation we headed for Capitol Reef. We took photos at the park entrance, as we like to do, then we headed for the turn-off to the Scenic Drive (not to be confused with Scenic 12, the road we drove to get here).
Remember that bad decision we mentioned earlier? Well, the Scenic Drive was barricaded closed. We drove on to the Visitor Center, which was also barricaded. We learned from a harried Park Ranger (harried because she was dealing with a bunch of disappointed people) that the Park was resealing the asphalt on the Scenic Drive and in the Visitors Center. They do it one day each year, and today was the day! Ahh…(won’t finish this sentence). There was a possibility the road would reopen within a couple of hours—she said to check back.
So. we chose to make the best of it and continued driving on Route 24. The park is still very beautiful from this road, with many sights to see and sites to stop and explore.
We saw fruit orchards dating from the 1800s, when the Mormons settled here, along with ancient farm equipment in the fields. We saw an old Mormon schoolhouse and the first Mormon home in the area. We got a fairly close view of Petroglyphs dating from 600 - 1200 A.D. And as is typical everywhere we drive in Utah, we saw beautiful rock formations and topography.
We reached the end of the park and turned around. When we went past the Visitors Center again, we saw a hot sticky road—no way was it ready for traffic. We later learned that the oil trucks were several hours late in arriving, and the closed roads would not be open again until tomorrow.
We made it back to the campground just before threatening weather moved in. There was lightning and thunder in the distance, but it took a couple of hours for the winds and rain to reach us.
We spent the rest of the evening taking the dogs for a walk and catching up on this blog. An early day tomorrow, with a slim chance of still going on the Scenic Drive in Capitol Reef.
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DAYS 29, 30, 31 and 32
Almost everyone we’ve met on the road, when sharing travel experiences, has said we must go to Bryce Canyon. It was already on our itinerary, but because so many people have marveled about it we couldn’t wait to get here.
The drive to Bryce Canyon was beautiful (beautiful being a word that has been used so many times on this trip that it might be losing its impact—but it is the proper word). We got a taste of the hoodoos to come. Hoodoos are rock formations that often have a resemblance to human figures. They were formed over thousands of years by erosion caused by rain and freeze/thaw cycles. The ones you see in Bryce Canyon now will eventually erode to nothingness, while new hoodoos will be formed to take their places. As Paul Simon sang in “Loves Me Like A Rock” (so appropriate out here), hoodoo you think you’re foolin’?
Ruby’s Inn has an interesting history. It was originally built by Reuben (Ruby) and Minnie Syrett in 1919. It has survived land grabs, relocations, a devastating fire, and bad financial years. It is thriving today, and still owned by descendants of Ruby and Millie. One note for any beer-drinking friends who might want to stay at this campground someday. You can only get 3.2% beer here (Ohio friends of a certain age will remember 3.2% beer), so you might want to stock up. 6% beer is sold only in state and package stores, and they are few and far between. Of course it’s not that we had any interest in drinking beer—we just provided this information as a public service to those who might have an interest.
We were assigned a nice spot with shade. Based on our experience in Las Vegas, shade has become very important to us. We were going to kick back and chill for the rest of the day, but the hoodoos were calling. There is a free shuttle service to Bryce Canyon with a stop just in front of our campground. Linda went first and rode non-stop in a round trip back to where she got on. Rick then went next. We had the same driver—a great lady who moved here from Salt Lake City. The shuttle does not go deep into the park—cars and RVs can drive the length of the park, so the shuttle goes maybe a third of the way. The views from the shuttle are mostly of trees—you have to hike to the rim to see the real sights—but we did get one glorious look of the canyon at Bryce Point.
A refrigerator update: good news, on Friday morning it was down to 42 degrees. It just wasn’t cooling at all in Las Vegas, and barely cooling in Zion, so we didn’t know if it was due to the 100 degree temperatures, or if something was malfunctioning. Fingers crossed—it appears that all is well, and it just doesn’t work that well when it’s extremely hot. We did some web research, and found many people having similar problems in hot environments. Time will tell.
Friday was the day for our individual hikes. Linda went first. She took the shuttle to Bryce Point and walked the Rim Trail to Sunrise Point. Along the way she took the Queen’s Garden Trail. Rick took the same route in the afternoon, but added the Navajo Trail loop. Hoodoos are amazing to see from a distance, but up close—wow! The hikes involved steep ascents and descents—the descents obviously being much easier—and we were both ready to relax at the end of the day.
On Saturday we were both scheduled to take the free 3.5 hour bus tour provided by the National Park Service, Rick in the morning and Linda in the afternoon. Before his tour Rick took Zoe for a 2 mile run. She loved it, as she had so much pent-up energy to release.
The bus tour takes you all the way to the end of the park. Our driver was a 75-year-old man named Spike. He was great, and he knew Bryce Canyon inside and out—how it was formed, what the future holds, the plants, the animals, the history, local lore, everything—and it was so enjoyable. The bus made many stops, each providing unbelievable views.
Linda went in the afternoon, and unfortunately the skies opened and the rains came. It also cooled down quickly. The bus made the same stops, but Linda had to stay on the bus at most of them due to the heavy rain. She wasn’t going to get wet—hoodoo you think you’re dealing with here!
We had interesting(?) neighbors arrive on Saturday. They were in a rental RV (tip: buy stock in 1-800-RV4-RENT or El Monte RV. Almost every other RV we see is a rental, and almost always belongs to one of those two companies). Anyway, these people were in a 1-800 rental. It took the guy about 20 minutes to park the RV. It was a pull-through site, and he pulled through and circled back at least three times. He finally got the RV where he wanted it. About an hour later Rick went out to take photos of the Viva, which he does at almost every campground. He looked at the neighboring RV and saw liquid streaming from the sewer pipe onto the ground, which is never a good thing. He quickly knocked on the door and alerted the woman who answered. She said her husband wasn’t home and she didn’t know what to do. We went to the side of the RV just as her husband came back from wherever he had been (thankfully, Rick thought). He was talking on a cell phone and didn’t seem that concerned. We checked a few minutes later and the liquid was no longer streaming. Hopefully it was just a sewer discharge pipe cover that wasn’t fully secured and a partially open gray water valve—which is bad enough. We hated to think of the other possibilities. A short time later we heard the neighboring RV start up. They drove off, leaving the sewer hose and and freshwater hose on the ground. The freshwater hose was connected to the campground water supply at one end, but the other end was open to the air…and bugs and dirt and whatever. And a sewer hose connected to the site dump at one end and open to the air at the other—gross. They came back within the hour and parked in the opposite direction this time, all the way to the front of their space. Who knows why. They hooked up again and thankfully nothing was leaking this time. The next morning they were gone very early, and we were glad.
Sunday morning—after Rick ran Zoe 2 miles again and Linda did laundry, we spent the day reliving the beautiful sights we saw here, and relaxing before hitting the road again tomorrow.
One quick note about the photos—we have nearly 1,800 pictures so far, including over 400 we took here. There is no way we can share all of them on this website, which is probably your preference. But once we get back, we’re having everyone over to watch our home movies! (okay, maybe not!)
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DAYS 26, 27 and 28
We’re back! To Zion, that is.
If you’ve been following this blog, you know that we were here a few days ago, and returned after cutting our time in Las Vegas from three days to one due to the high temperatures. It hovered around 100 degrees here in Zion (which IS better than 109 or more in Las Vegas), but it cooled down at night and we could sleep with the AC off and the windows open.
We love this campground. The setting is amazing. The sites are roomy enough. It’s a 10 minute walk to the entrance to Zion National Park. Springdale is a great little town. We’ll say it again—we love this campground.
On Linda’s day to hike in Zion, she chose trails along the Virgin River. She was struck by the natural beauty of the river, the rock formations, and all the plants and flowers that were growing along the riverbanks. Much different from the more desert locales where we have been. She climbed to one of the Emerald Pools to see the cascading waterfalls and the plants and flowers that grew from the rocks over the falls.
Rick’s hike took him along a steep, strenuous path with many switchbacks and drop-offs (cliffs!). The climb was difficult but the views were worth it. The descent was much, much easier. With every hike he’s slowly learning a lesson that age is creeping up on him.
The dogs got long evening walks here. A special treat for Zoe was buying her a cold bottle of water each night near the entrance to the park. By the third night she started wagging her tail and getting excited when Linda went to the store for the water. She knew what was coming! Tybee enjoyed the water, too, but not like Zoe.
Final words on Zion National Park—it’s lovely.
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As we were getting close to Las Vegas, we made the decision to drive the Viva down the heart of The Strip on Las Vegas Boulevard. What could be more natural than Viva (in) Las Vegas!
Rick was a little concerned about traffic, but it wasn’t that bad. That it was Sunday morning probably helped.
We found the campground just south of The Strip. It was a huge campground, with lots of amenities that we later found we wouldn’t be able to enjoy. We also planned to stay here three nights, but knew quickly that plan would fall by the wayside. Why, you ask?
Well, the best laid plans…we didn’t count on the temperature reaching 109 degrees in the afternoon and not moving downward for hours. The right side of the RV took the full brunt of the blazing sun. The wind was too strong for the awning, so no help there. Our refrigerator gave up the struggle of trying to keep its cool. We were headed for problems.
We didn’t see any spots with much shade. The space next to us was vacant, and beyond that space was a large class A motorhome. Linda went to the office to see if we could move to the vacant space next to us, and we were given permission. We moved, and were able to park in the large shadow of the Class A. That helped somewhat, but the refrigerator wasn’t cooling, the dogs couldn’t go outside, and we knew we would be even more miserable the next two days when the temperature hit 111 degrees or more. So the decision was made to stay just one night in Las Vegas, and return to Zion Canyon Campground. The daytime temps there were just over 100 degrees, but at least there was shade and some overnight relief.
Rick had never been to Las Vegas. He was going to go see The Strip at night, check out CSI: The Experience, see the art exhibits and the fountains at The Bellagio, ride the World’s Largest Ferris Wheel, etc. Those things were now off the board.
Not all was lost—there was a major, major highlight during this trip. When Rick was a kid, he worked at Hinkles Donuts in Russells Point. That was in the ’60s, when the lake was still in full glory and Hinkles made and sold thousands of donuts a day. Rick became a pretty good donut maker, thanks to the guidance and support of Park Miller. Park was several years older, and Rick looked up to him as a big brother. It was Park who shared his album collection at the donut shop, which introduced Rick to some great bands and began his lifetime love of music and songwriting.
After Hinkles, Rick lost track of Park through the years. In 2001, when Rick released a CD of songs he had written, he wanted to find Park and give him a CD. With the help of the internet, he was able to eventually locate an address for Park in Nevada and send him a CD.
Linda got to meet Park when he flew to Ohio to visit family at Thanksgiving one year. He was getting in late the night before, and we insisted that he stay with us before driving to Lima the next day. We exchanged Christmas cards and occasional emails for years, and through those contacts we got to know Park’s wife, Lois, but we had never met her in person. Until this trip.
Park and Lois stopped by the campground at 7:00 p.m., when the temperature had cooled perhaps a degree. After relaxing inside the Viva, we went down to sit by the pool. Park and Lois are wonderful people, and it felt like we had known Lois forever. They have been to almost everyplace we are going to visit, and they shared lots of tips. They also told us about places we should see that weren’t on our list. It was a treat to listen to their journeys and adventures.
After we told them that we were cutting our three night stay to one night due to the heat wave, they generously volunteered to drive us up The Strip to see the lights at night. As we said earlier, Linda had been to Las Vegas before and will be coming back with her high school girlfriends in October, so she insisted that I go while she stayed with Zoe and Tybee. We didn’t want to leave them alone in case the AC would go out—they would roast in minutes!
So Rick went with Park and Lois, and got the Grand Tour. It was fantastic! Lois has lived in Las Vegas for many years and worked in the casinos in the “good old days,” when Las Vegas was controlled by…well, you know the history. She talked about all of the changes, the new buildings, the renovated buildings, the buildings that were long gone. She talked about the people and the legends. It was an insider’s tour, and it was wonderful.
The time to say goodbye came far too soon, but Park and Lois left with a standing invitation to visit us in Florida whenever they can. The Dora Canal is not Las Vegas, but it has its own beauty and stories, and we will show it to them when they come to visit.
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We took our old friend 89A (and also 89) on our route to our next campground in Springdale, Utah. Before reaching the campground, we drove through Zion National Park.
We’re running out of original ways to describe the beauty that we see. It was far out, man! Okay, maybe that doesn’t work. Let’s just say it was beautiful.
We weren’t able to pull over—not many pullouts large enough for RVs, and the ones that were large enough were already occupied—thus not many photo opportunities. We will return later in the week to tour the park on a shuttle, so good photos should follow.
We went through two tunnels on our trip through Zion. RVers have to pay $15 to drive through the second tunnel, The tunnel is not tall enough on the sides, so RVs have to drive down the middle of the road. That requires two-way traffic to be halted while RVs drive one-way through the tunnel—thus the $15 fee for Rangers to monitor and control traffic at both ends.
Springdale was a cute little town, and the Zion Canyon Campground was in a lovely setting. It was very hot, so we stayed inside and Rick watched the 3rd round of the U.S. Open. Later, after it cooled down, the dogs got a really long walk.
The next morning Linda took a photo of several deer standing at the campground exit—which is right in downtown Springdale. Not sure where they were headed, but we were headed to Las Vegas!
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DAYS 22 and 23
Before breaking camp and saying goodbye to the Grand Canyon, we had a final visit by several elk. We saw two young ones for the first time, and as Rick was unhooking from utilities another female elk circled the Viva. She actually looked in the dinette window and was almost nose to nose with Zoe. Zoe didn’t know what to do—she didn’t bark, she just wagged her tail and watched until the elk wandered off.
As we were leaving, we saw the Grand Canyon from a different perspective. The Colorado River was much closer, and the colors in the canyon seemed more vivid. Maybe it was the angle of the sun and the time of day. Beautiful.
Another scenic drive on 89A through the Painted Desert. Our destination was Kaibab Camper Village, which reminded us of Pendaries RV Resort—both were rustic, surround by pine trees, and short of amenities, but good places to get some rest from the road. Oh, we forgot to include “remote,” especially when describing Kaibab Camper Village. No wifi, no cable or even local over-the-air TV, and no cell phone service. We couldn’t upload to this website while at the Grand Canyon, and we couldn’t here, either. Hopefully the next stop will have wifi, but if not, we’ll have to wait until Sunday and Las Vegas.
We were pleased to see three separate dog walk areas listed on the campground map. That’s very unusual! However, when we checked out the dog walk areas, they were simply gates to a road outside the campground. Guess you could say their dog walk areas extend for miles!
The spaces here were tight and narrow. We didn’t have any trouble getting the Viva in place, but some of the bigger rigs, especially the 5th-wheel RVers, have to really work at backing in between the trees.
The dogs got a long walk after we hooked up, then we had dinner and settled in for a quiet night of rest. We couldn’t check the weather (again, no internet), so we asked the campground manager who said the highs are 80s, the overnight lows in the 40s. Good sleeping weather!
We turned the heat on late Thursday night and went back to sleep dreaming of Florida.
On the way to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon on Friday the Viva’s odometer hit 10,000 miles. It’s hard to believe we’ve had the Viva just over a year and already have that many miles.
Not too far from the campground we saw the remnants of the 2006 wildfire that scorched a large portion of the Kaibab National Forest here. The devastation stretched for perhaps ten miles, on both sides of the road. Thousands of dead trees, now more like charcoal, stood like wooden skeletons, while thousands more had fallen to the ground. There was new growth, but it will take decades for the forest to return to a pristine state. Sad.
It was another winding road with steep inclines and declines. There was only one line of vehicles entering the park, but there was also only one Ranger at the booth, so the wait was almost as long as we experienced at the South Rim.
We found a great parking spot for the Viva not far from the main lodge. It was shaded and right next to the walking path along the rim.
Linda went to check out the lodge, then after she came back Rick hit the trail first. The North Rim was much more wooded than the South Rim, but it had the same dangerous drop-offs. As with the South Rim, the views were breathtaking.
Rick took the path to Bright Angel Point, a long finger of rock cliff extending into the canyon. The path was narrow and consisted of stone and crushed gravel. There was no danger as long as you remained on the path, but like so many places in the Grand Canyon, just a few feet off the path and you’re over the edge. It was amazing to see so many parents with young children who let them walk the path without holding onto them. And then there were daredevils here as well, who sat on the edges of cliffs and dangled their legs over the abyss. It was scary just to see them.
When Rick returned to the Viva he told Linda she needed to check out the path to Bright Angel Point. He never thought she would do it, but she walked all the way to the end and had her picture taken there. Very brave of her! She also saw the daredevils on the edge, and had the same feelings as Rick when she saw young kids on the path not being held in some way by their parents.
At some point the beauty and the views and the sense of danger just all blended together and seemed the same around every bend. That told us it was time to move on, but we will be forever thankful that we got to experience this true Wonder of the World for five glorious days.
We returned to our camp to find we had new neighbors next door. Last night two women, perhaps an elderly mother and her middle-aged daughter, were camping next to us. They had a Boston terrier. The new neighbors also had a Boston terrier that looked identical to the previous one. We talked to the new couple and found out they were from Orlando. They have been to Mount Dora several times. Once again, small world!
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DAYS 19, 20 and 21
We set out early Monday morning and again traveled 89A, the winding, mountain road, this time north from Sedona. Traffic wasn’t nearly as bad as it was when we were southbound on Saturday and thousands of people were looking for weekend recreational activities. Regardless of traffic, though, mountain hairpin turns without guardrails always make driving interesting.
The scenery was beautiful, which describes just about each place we go out here. If Rick took every picture that he thought presented itself, we’d be lucky to drive ten miles in an hour, if that far.
There were five or six entrance lanes into Grand Canyon National Park and each lane was backed up, but the lines moved steadily. One benefit of Linda’s advanced age of (you fill in the blank) is that she qualified for a Lifetime National Parks Pass—pay $10 one time and enter any national park for free.
We stopped by the General Store and Market, and then checked in and found our site. We got lucky—we were at the end of a row, so we had campers just on one side of us, and there was a grassy triangle with shade trees on the other side. We couldn’t have asked for a better spot in this park.
After hooking up and getting settled, Rick set out on foot to see the Grand Canyon. Linda thought there was no way he couldn’t find a giant hole in the ground, but he returned about 30 minutes later to look at the map another time. Then he set out again.
Wow! Just wow! Seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time is truly a spiritual experience. It overwhelms the senses. Hey, not even Walt Disney could have created something so…so grand.
Rick returned to the Viva to get Linda and the dogs, then we all went to view the canyon from the Visitors Center. Linda had been to the Grand Canyon one time in the ’70s, but it was just for an overnight stay on a road trip to Las Vegas. She would have three glorious days to see it this time.
Rick ran a mile and a half, then the rest of Monday was spent relaxing and occasionally watching a large female elk wander among the RVs. The ranger told us that several females had recently given birth and were more aggressive while protecting their young. We didn’t see any babies the first day.
We had decided that Tuesday we would take separate half-day trips to the canyon while the other stayed with the dogs. We would both start at the Visitors Center and walk eastward to the end of the trail. Linda went in the morning and Rick in the afternoon (after getting in a three mile run). Linda took the shuttle directly to Yaki Point at the eastern end of the rim. She arrived so early in the morning that she was the only one there until the next shuttle arrived 15 minutes later. Considering how many people visit the Grand Canyon, it was a special moment to have Yaki Point to herself. On her walk back, she saw a young Japanese couple dressed in a black tux and a formal gown, standing near the edge taking their own pictures using a tripod. It was a surreal sight, considering the setting.
All of the photos of the canyon we posted are a mixture of what we each took. Rick likes to think he takes the best photos with his Nikon D80, but in reality some of the best shots in our entire photo collection were taken by Linda with her point and shoot Canon. It’s a Grand Canon!
The trail to the east of the Visitors Center is blacktopped and lined with large stones, and at most observation points there is a waist-high rail. However, the Park Service has kept the Canyon in a natural state as much as possible while still allowing public access, which means there are countless places where you could walk right up and then over the edge—and the fall is thousands and thousand of feet. People die here every year by taking risks and doing something stupid.
And speaking of stupid, Rick saw a prime example of stupid on his canyon walk on Tuesday afternoon. There was a middle-aged man with three teenage girls. At least one was his daughter because she called him “Dad.” Their voices carried, so much of their conversation could be heard. The man was leading them onto a long cliff that jutted over the canyon. They were climbing up, down and around huge rocks. One girl was terrified, but the man kept encouraging her to continue. Each of them was only one slip of a foot away from certain death. It was truly crazy to watch. But somehow they walked all the way to the point, stopped to pose for pictures, then made it back again. You can see them in several of the photos for this post.
They weren’t the only ones tempting death. It was common to see people sitting and dangling their legs over a ledge, or people standing on the edge posing for a photo. A step backwards and it’s all over.
Wednesday was a strenuous day for both of us. Rick was up by 4:15 and at Mather Point to see the sunrise over the Grand Canyon. Rick had walked eastward from that point the day before, so he wanted to go westward this time to complete an entire South Rim Trail walk. After several miles the pavement ended and the natural path began. This part of the trail was so much different from the trail east of the Visitors Center. There were far fewer handrail barriers. In many places the trail was only several feet from the edge. There were rocks and ruts and tree stumps in the path. That part of the rim trail is not heavily traveled, and someone could actually slip, fall and die not by intentionally risking death, but by simply by tripping on something too close to the edge. Rick returned around noon, dehydrated and totally spent after walking for seven hours.
Linda set out for her walk under a blazing sun. She walked for several miles, caught a shuttle to the next stop, and walked again. She, too, was dehydrated and dead tired by the time she made it back to the Viva. Sleep came easily for both of us on Wednesday night.
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DAYS 17 and 18
Bob and Nadine, our new friends who were camping next to us at Lake Powell, advised us to take the interstate down to Sedona instead of the winding, twisting, turning Route 89A. Well, we’re looking for adventure, not interstate driving, so we opted for 89A.
We were behind a couple on a motorcycle for at least 20 miles, and they were going very slow. Traffic was strung out behind us, but no one could pass due to the inclines, declines and hairpin turns. It was harrowing at times, a phrase we’ve used before and will likely use again in the future on this trip. In some spots if you went over the edge, it was a long, long way down. Going over the edge was certainly in play, as there were no guardrails in those spots to stop you.
The scenery was breathtaking—again, a term that will be worn out in our travel blogs, because there is so much beauty out here. Rick could only see it in small doses as he had to keep his eyes on the road.
We passed Slide Rock State Park, outside Sedona, and traffic was especially heavy there. Cars were parked on both sides of the road for several hundred yards before and after the entrance, and there was a lengthy line of cars in the right turn lane trying to get into the park. Must be a very popular place.
There was a road closure which added to our travel time, but we finally reached Rancho Sedona RV Park after driving through lovely downtown Sedona. We were here in 2002 when we came out to watch Ohio State beat Miami to win the National Championship. And again, we could live here. It reminded us of Mount Dora…or maybe Mount Dora on steroids.
The campground offered large, level sides with concrete pads and lots—repeat, lots—of shade trees. Very nice setting. And finally, a dog park for Tybee and Zoe. Zoe couldn’t wait to run around and burn off some energy, and Tybee got to sniff all he wanted.
On our second day here, Rick ran two miles and was painfully reminded that running hills at this altitude is not as easy as running near sea level in Florida. Linda caught up the laundry, Rick swept and cleaned the interior of the Viva, we restocked our pantry and refrigerator, and we found a local pizza shop that made a tasty vegan pizza. Wonderful!
In the afternoon we enjoyed a great visit with Cheri and her spouse, Susie. We worked with Cheri beginning in the early 1980s, and have been friends with her and Susie seemingly forever. We were flattered that they would make the long drive up from near Phoenix just to see us. They are staying young by enjoying retirement just as much as we are. Time flew by too quickly, and they had to head back home, but we will get to see them again near the end of our trip, when all of us will be in Columbus at the same time. Looking forward to that!
We have decent wifi here and the blog is up to date for once. Time to call it a night. Tomorrow morning we unhook and head to the Grand Canyon!
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It was a short drive from Page-Lake Powell Campground to Wahweap Lower RV Lake Powell Campground, as both campgrounds are in Page, Arizona.
We’ve said this before, but this time we really mean it—we could have stayed at this campground a long, long time. It’s on Lake Powell, which was created in the 1960s when the Glen Canyon Dam was completed on the Colorado River and Glen Canyon was flooded. The lake is 186 miles long and 25 miles wide at its widest point. Its maximum depth is close to 600 feet—won’t be touching bottom here! Obviously, it’s a huge lake. There was a marina just across from the campground, with scores of very large, expensive boats docked there. There were a number of huge mesas that provided a lovely background to Lake Powell. Just a wonderful setting.
We quickly made friends with the couples camping on either side of us. Dave and Bridgette were from Memphis, and Bob and Nadine were from Salt Lake City.
Bob and Nadine were surprised to learn that we’re from Mount Dora, as they have visited our little town several times. Bob has a brother who lives in Tavares, the next town over from Mount Dora.
AMAZING COINCIDENCE ALERT! Bob and Nadine told us that they had met a couple from our development who were RVing last year. They couldn’t remember their names. We thought it might be John and Millie, who are friends from our neighborhood and RVers who traveled a lot. In fact, they were currently on the road, having left three days after we did. We sent them a text to see if perhaps they were the couple who had met Bob and Nadine. We also asked them where they currently were. They didn’t remember meeting a Bob and Nadine, so it probably wasn’t them—but they said they had just arrived at Lake Powell Campground that afternoon—WHICH WAS WHERE WE WERE! We asked their site number, and they were in the loop just across from us, about a five minute walk away! We went over to say howdy and also met their daughter and granddaughter who were traveling with them. What are the odds that we would be in the same place at the same time! But had we not met Bob and Nadine, we wouldn’t have texted John and Millie so we wouldn’t have known they were there.
We took the dogs for a long walk, and then enjoyed a sunset that seemed to take forever—no complaints. Most parts of Arizona don’t observe Daylight Saving Time, so first light came very early the next morning. The dogs got another walk, Rick ran 2 miles, we stopped by John and Millie’s RV for a photo, and then it was time to head to Sedona. We vowed to return to Lake Powell sometime, and spent at least a week as we loved it here.
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It was hard to say goodbye to Goulding’s Campground and the beautiful Monument Valley. Fortunately, it was a slow goodbye because we could see the monuments for miles as we drove away.
Our destination was Page, Arizona, the Page-Lake Powell Campground, and Antelope Canyon. It was an easy, scenic drive, spoiled only by the sight of a towering coal-fired power generating plant as we approached Page.
The Page-Lake Powell Campground had a massive sandstone mesa as a backdrop. The grounds were almost entirely gravel, but there was a shade tree on every site. No dog park, but they had a nature trail that Tybee and Zoe walked several times. We didn’t take advantage of the indoor pool, but Rick did go for a two mile run.
The Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon is a slot canyon. Slot canyons are formed by rushing water and are always much deeper than they are wide. Because of litter, graffiti, and other damage, beginning in 1997 the Navajo Nation restricted access to Antelope Canyon to guided tours only. Linda toured the Upper Canyon the day we arrived. Rick toured the Lower Canyon on our second day.
Once below ground level, the passageways were winding and very narrow, often just wide enough for one person. We both had Navajo guides who explained the history of the canyon and added lots of local color. Tour groups consisted of 20 - 30 people, and the tours took about 75 minutes. Plenty of opportunities to take photos—the photos linked below are from both tours—but, like so many places we’ve visited on this trip, photos do not do justice to what nature has created.
On our way to our next campground we stopped by the Glen Canyon Dam. We’re much more interested in natural wonders, but the dam was damn impressive!
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DAYS 13 and 14
Monument Valley—where to begin, where to begin…
The logical starting point would be the drive from Durango to Monument Valley, which included a trip through the Mesa Verde National Park and a side visit to The Four Corners.
The Mesa Verde suggested to us a southwestern version of The Badlands. The two areas don’t look the same, of course, but there was an unworldliness about both places, and both are so different from their surrounding areas.
The Viva had to strain a little to climb to the higher elevations. Once at altitude, the panoramas were spectacular, and capturing them was far beyond our cameras and abilities as photographers. We didn’t have time to tour the cliff dwellings, so we drove as far into the Mesa Verde as our schedule allowed, and then found a spot to turn around for the descent back to a more reassuring altitude.
We had heard there wasn’t much to see at The Four Corners, but we couldn’t miss our only opportunity to stand in four different states at one time—Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah. The parking lot was a mud pit and we had to wait in line for our turn at “the spot,” but it was all fun and well worth driving out of our way a few miles.
And then…Monument Valley. Words and even pictures can’t impart the magnificent beauty of the “monuments.” Nature definitely created a masterpiece here. If you’ve ever seen a western directed by John Ford, you’ve seen part of Monument Valley.
We were in land that has been inhabited for centuries by the Navajo Nation, and we felt a sense of reverence for the earth and all of its gifts everywhere we went.
We arrived at Goulding’s Campground and couldn’t believe the setting. Again, words fail us here—just check out the photos, which capture only part of what it was like to camp there.
Rick enjoyed a quick swim in the indoor pool, and then we took the dogs for a walk and a tour of the campground. The back section was filled with matching rental RVs, perhaps 14 in all. We learned that they had been rented by a group of travelers from Germany. What a great way to see the USA!
It rained heavily overnight our first night, but the campground drained fairly well. Other places we have stayed would have been a sea of mud.
We both had booked three-and-a-half hour tours of Monument Valley for the next day, Linda in the morning and Rick in the afternoon (for anyone who is jumping into our blog at this point, we do things separately so one of us is always in the RV with the dogs.
The tour vehicles have an enclosed cab for the driver, and the passengers sit in the back on benches—four benches on each side of the center aisle, with two passengers to each bench. The passenger area has a roof on top, but the plastic sides roll up so it’s an open air feeling.
Linda’s tour was mostly full. The roads on the tour were not paved—or really improved in any way—and the overnight deluge and resulting mud had made them almost impassible. It was so bad that those roads were closed for the day right after Linda’s tour slogged through.
Rick was scheduled for the 3:45 p.m. tour. He had to take a different tour (to Mystery Valley) than Linda because of the road closures. Also, they stopped adding people to the afternoon tour, perhaps fearing that any additional weight could cause the tour vehicle to get stuck in the mud. As a result, there were only five people on Rick’s tour.
Our tours had similarities and differences. We both had Navajo tour guides. We both stopped to visit a hogan, which is the traditional dwelling of the Navajo people, and a couple of gift shops and the Scenic View center. We were on different roads so we saw different monuments close up, but we saw many of the same monuments, too, because you can see them for miles. Both tour guides made frequent stops to provide photo opportunities and to provide information about the different monuments. At the beginning of Linda’s tour the monuments were shrouded in fog. Rick had clear skies all afternoon.
The Navajo guide on Linda’s tour played a Navajo drum and sang songs. He asked for a volunteer and Linda joined him in a traditional Navajo dance.
Because there were only five people on Rick’s tour (and one member was an older lady who never left the tour vehicle), his group had an opportunity that is likely rarely offered. One of the early stops was at the base of a steep, sloping sandstone wall. At the top of the wall was a large opening, like a room. Our guide asked if any of us wanted to climb to the top. We all thought he was kidding, but he wasn’t. Being the only guy on the tour, Rick couldn’t back down. The guide convinced the three younger women (in their early 30s, maybe) to give it a try, too.
Well, let’s just say that it was VERY challenging, and actually amazing that the guide would even suggest such a climb. The sandstone had handholds and footholds, but the sand was slippery and if you started to slide there would be no stopping until you went all the way to the bottom. The guide gave a helping hand to the ladies, and also pointed out the best route up the slope. We learned that instead of leaning into the slope and crawling, it was easier to stand upright and walk. Totally counter-intuitive, but it worked. Going back down wasn’t easier—perhaps it was harder—but we all made it safely. We actually did this at two more monuments. At one of the monuments, after we had made it to the open “room” at the top, we noticed that our guide, Mike, was not around. Then we heard him calling out to us. There was a large arch towering over the open area where we were, and Mike had gone to the back and climbed all the way to the top of the arch. Crazy!
We both had wonderful times, and would highly recommend the Goulding’s tour of Monument Valley if you are ever lucky enough to be in the area. We are so glad that we were.
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DAYS 10, 11 and 12
Back into the Carson National Forest, and more mountain driving. Mix in a little rain, and call it a challenging drive.
The highlight of the first day was crossing over the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge about ten miles north of Taos. Rick had to stop and walk across it, of course, to take photos and shoot some video. It was very windy, and the bridge was noticeably shaking, especially when a semi went buzzing by. Despite skydiving on seven occasions (jumping out of the plane at 13,000 feet), Rick thought it was a bit of a harrowing experience. It was also unsettling to see a suicide hotline phone in the middle of the span—more than a few people have jumped to their deaths from the bridge.
A close second in the highlight department of day one, and also just north of Taos, was driving by the Earthship community. These futuristic houses are “green,” off-the-grid, self-sustaining dwellings with no need for conventional utilities. Their construction materials are unusual—mostly reconstituted trash—but they certainly don’t look trashy, nor are they inexpensive. As with several places we have seen on this trip, we immediately wanted to move there.
We washed the Viva on the outskirts of Durango, then pulled into our campground in the middle of a pouring rain. We hooked up and then huddled inside as we watched about twenty college students put up tents about 50 yards away. We might have done something like that when we were younger, but these days we’ll take the RV, thank you.
We both scheduled rides on the Durango to Silverton narrow gauge train. The tracks were between us and the college kids, so we had a great view of the trains when they went by. They are vintage, coal-fired steam locomotives—the real deal.
The cable TV wasn’t working here and the wifi was very spotty, but the setting was lovely.
Linda went for her train ride on Sunday while Rick stayed with the dogs. He was able to find an over the air station and watch the final round of The Memorial Tournament. Rick took his train ride on Monday.
We both found the train rides to be outstanding—we highly recommend if you’re ever in this part of the country. The scenery is breathtaking as you wind through the mountains on the 45 mile trip to Silverton. The old train cars rock and roll on the narrow gauge track, and the steam whistle reminded us of days long past. The train stopped several times to take on water for the steam engine, which was a pretty cool thing to see. And speaking of cool, there was still plenty of snow in the mountains.
Silverton was charming—a little town living in both the past and the present. There is a layover of about two hours before the train heads back to Durango. Linda stopped for a local beer at Grumpy’s and enjoyed the guy playing an old piano. Rick went there the next day for the same local beer, but this time a young woman was at the piano. She was very talented.
To get from the campground to the train station we took the Durango trolley. It ran continuously for most of the day, and stopped at our campground every twenty minutes. If you’re in an RV, it’s very easy to get around Durango without having to unhook and drive yourself.
After driving over 2,200 miles in ten days, it was nice to have a little break from the road, and the train trips to Silverton were a fantastic bonus.
Next stop, Monument Valley.
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We took a scenic route to Taos, with steep and winding mountain grades that the Viva handled with no problems. We passed through the Carson National Forest, and along the way we also drove through several little villages that were essentially ghost towns now. We wondered what they were like decades ago, when all of the boarded up and decaying buildings were new and bustling with people and activity.
We went through Taos last year but didn’t have time to stop. We vowed to return, and today was the day. Despite an art show this weekend that already had the downtown area filled with people, we were able to find a parking spot on a side street.
We walked around for about an hour, then stopped for lunch at Bella’s Mexican Grill. Our waiter, Trotsky, told us that the chef uses local produce and makes everything from scratch. We’re vegans, but that didn’t present a problem as we enjoyed the best vegetable fajitas we’ve ever tasted. If you like Mexican food and you’re anywhere near Taos, you must check this place out. Be sure to ask for Trotsky—he is great.
The GPS gave us incorrect information and we took a wrong turn on the way to the RV park, but we finally found it. There are 92 sites here, and each site is numbered and named. We were assigned Site 35, which is called “Blackfoot.” J.D. Blackfoot was the president of Sisapa Records when I worked there. He’s also one of my favorite recording artists of all-time (the double CD “Co-Dependent Dysfunctional You” is a masterpiece), a friend, and my cowriter for the song “Open For Business,” which was on J.D.’s “I Hate To Say Goodbye” CD. Out of 92 sites, we get Blackfoot. Appropriate!
The RV park is unbelievable—level, cement pads, private little areas with picnic tables, full hook-ups, and mountains in the background. Paradise! We’re off to Durango tomorrow morning, but we wish we could spend a week here.
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Before dawn we were awakened by the sound of vehicles driving by our campsite. We looked out and saw a police car and an emergency squad—not sure what that was about.
After a final visit to the dog park, we set off for Roswell. The scenery kept getting better along the way, with seemingly endless stretches of lush green meadows dotted with yellow flowers, and snow-capped mountains in the distance. New Mexico truly is a beautiful state. We did learn the importance of watching the gas gauge on that stretch of highway, though, as there were no gas stations after Roswell for about sixty miles.
Rick couldn’t go to Roswell without touring the International UFO Museum & Research Center. If you’ve never heard of “The Roswell Incident,” search for it on the web. The museum was fascinating and gave voluminous, detailed information about the crash, aftermath, and coverup. Yes, coverup. If you’re a skeptic, a visit to the museum will likely change your mind. There are far too many eyewitness accounts that simply can’t be dismissed. We are not alone in the universe!
Roswell certainly capitalizes upon its most famous asset—there are UFO signs and light-hearted references to the 1947 event throughout the downtown area. We wanted to spend more time there, but we still had many miles to drive.
Our next stop was the Pendaries RV Resort. We had no idea what to expect, and we were pleasantly surprised when we arrived. The park is situated on a gentle hill covered with pine trees. Our site was level, private, and had full hookups. We took a couple of walks around the campground, and Tybee was feeling much better. We’ll see if we get a full night’s sleep tonight. It will be cool for a change—the overnight low will be 48 degrees.
Total miles for this trip, to date: 1,997 miles
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DAYS 6 and 7
More issues overnight Monday. Tybee, poor little guy, developed a case of the runs. He had to go in the middle of the night about six times, and each time Rick, poor old guy, had to get up and take him out.
We checked the level in our propane tank and it was empty. It was still one-quarter full when we went to bed the night before, so we knew we had a propane leak. Not a good feeling. We both had to take cold showers, which we do not recommend.
The KOA manager was very helpful and gave us the number for a local guy who could probably fix our propane issue on-site before we left. We thought everything would be fine until we called the RV serviceman—he said was on a fishing vacation and wouldn’t be back until the end of the week. Not good. He steered us to Family RV Center in Sweetwater, an RV service center that might be able to help us.
We arrived and immediately a technician named Steve came out. He got under the Viva and quickly diagnosed our problem as a bad propane gas regulator—it was leaking. Unfortunately, they didn’t work on motorhomes, only travel trailers, so they couldn’t fix it for us.
We were getting a sinking feeling that our problem might be bigger and harder to fix than we first thought. No propane means no cooking on the stove and no hot water. We crossed our fingers and hoped our luck would change.
We drove 308 miles to Carlsbad, New Mexico. Just an FYI, if you have a burning desire to see the beauty of this part of west Texas, don’t waste your time. Unless, of course, you are mesmerized by endless miles of oil rigs, wind turbines, power lines and towers, and vast stretches of dull scenery. After reading that, if you still have that burning desire, then go for it.
Linda called the Carlsbad RV Service Center, explained our dire straights, and was told that we could stop by and they would try to help us. They did have the regulator in stock, and asked if perhaps we wanted to install it ourselves. Yeah, right!
We got there and almost before we could turn off the engine, a technician named Mike was outside and ready to check out our problems. As usual, our problems would be greater than originally expected. The regulator they had in stock wasn’t the right one for us, as we needed an adjustable regulator. Mike said he didn’t think he had one, and our hopes began to sink again. But he came back out with the proper regulator in hand. The RV Gods were looking out for us!
But of course, nothing is easy. Mike had the hardest time getting the old regulator off because when it was originally installed the bolts were overtightened and the nuts were rounded.
At various times we had up to three techs working on the Viva. After the new regulator was installed, we were good as new, or probably better.
We were expecting a huge bill, and would have gladly paid it, but the charge was more than reasonable. We gave Mike a nice tip for how hard he had worked. As we were paying and checking out, we learned that two appointments that afternoon had cancelled—otherwise they wouldn’t have been able to help us today. Thank you again, RV Gods!
Exhausted from the day, and the heat which reached 105 degrees, we pulled into the Carlsbad KOA and hooked up. All systems go, including the water heater. We took the dogs to the dog park, and it was an outstanding area. There were two separate sections, with dog houses, tunnels, teeter-totters, etc. Very clean, manicured, and well kept.
Rick found enough energy to take a swim in the pool, then it was off to bed. Tybee didn’t have any problems all day, but nighttime was a different story—more bowel problems.
Wednesday morning we set out for Carlsbad Caverns. The drive was beautiful. We arrived just after 10 o’clock, and Linda went first on the tour. We took turns so one of us was always with the dogs in the air-conditioned (generator running) Viva.
We both absolutely loved Carlsbad Caverns. Rick took a few pictures, but photos simply cannot capture the beauty of the caverns (full disclosure—he could have taken great photos in The Big Room that would have captured the beauty, but he had Linda’s camera with him and the battery died. Each blamed the other). If you ever get the chance, you need to visit this amazing National Park.
The temperature climbed above 100 degrees again—for a few minutes the Viva showed the outside temp at 105. Back at the KOA we caught up on laundry and the dogs got to go to the dog park again.
A spectacular moon tonight—we sat outside and watched it rise over the campground. A perfect ending to a wonderful day—and this really was the start of our Great Western Adventure!
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Into every life a little rain must fall. And compared to some situations, this was just a single raindrop, which still didn’t make it any less annoying as we were dealing with it.
333 miles to Abilene, TX, and the Abilene KOA. All went well as we were hooking up, until…no hot water. The tankless water heater would not light. We tried all the normal troubleshooting methods without success. We were hot, tired, and figured we would deal with it the next morning.
This KOA had a small but well manicured and well appointed dog play area. Tybee and Zoe loved it, and raced about. Zoe learned to go through the dog tunnels and dog house. There was a basketball court, and Rick proved that he still has NBA basketball skills.
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