July 21, 2017

GOOD HEALTH, GREAT FRIENDS, AND FUN TIMES BACK IN COLORADO

“It’s better to burn out than to rust.”  Neil Young

Carol writes:  Since we started the full-time lifestyle on the road a little over two years ago, we have come back to Colorado every spring for checkups with our medical providers.  I had a sneaky feeling that scheduling an entire year’s worth of medical appointments within a 3-week period would turn out to be lunacy…and for us this year, it was!  Note to self:  We shall not do it that way next year!  But, thankfully, no major health issues cropped up, and by the end of June we felt like we had been given:

Blessing #1—Good health that would allow us freedom for another year on the road.

Air Force Academy Chapel




Our monthlong stay at the Air Force Academy family campground was a nostalgic one, as this setting had been part of our “big backyard” for over 25 years.  Between appointments, we got lots of miles on our trackers while hiking on Academy grounds.  







Near the iconic cadet chapel, this newish display, which to us appeared to symbolize the tail fin of a plane, was most impressive in style and design, and complimentary to that of the chapel.


Blessing #2—The chance to get together with good friends and catch up on each other’s busy lives.  A meal with good friends Maria and Dick, at our favorite Mexican restaurant at Monument’s La Fiesta,


was as delicious, as always.  An outdoor live music concert in Monument’s Limbach Park 








with Maria and Dick put a nice touch on our last week back in the ole former hometown.


Likewise, dinner at Red Lobster with Bob & Corrie and Dan & Susan was a memorable time with special friends...  (Who has this group photo on their phone?)

We did some spring cleaning while in the Springs by taking the opportunity to reorganize our storage compartments and transfer a carload of unnecessary “stuff” to our storage unit.



And for those who are familiar with our former Highview homestead, we couldn’t resist another drive-by to get a look at that monster garage that now occupies much of the front yard.  Not exactly an improvement in our opinion…  


GUNNISON, COLORADO

Unpleasant medical concerns aside, it was now time to head up into the mountains to get a healthy dose of an outstanding Colorado summer.  We found a convenient KOA Campground on the outskirts of Gunnison.


Interesting events go on around a campground over the Fourth of July weekend, such as daily morning hot-air balloon ascents like this one that mysteriously touched down very near our campsite.


Surfers in wet suits on the nearby Gunnison River were a first for us.


We found the nighttime astronomy show at the Gunnison Valley Observatory mildly interesting with views of Jupiter and its moons through the 30-inch telescope, 


in addition to our first-ever view of Saturn through a smaller telescope.





Hiking up to the Dillon Pinnacles 







with its view overlooking Blue Mesa Reservoir reminded us why we fell in love with the Colorado high country.


On another hike up to Lost Lake 


we delighted in fields of fabulous Colorado wildflowers in full bloom, surrounded by majestic mountain views.


We had heard reports that snowfall in the mountains had been particularly good this past winter, and the profusion of wildflowers that we saw was certainly evidence of that.  We have never seen such spectacular meadows of yellow mule ears and blue lupins.



For true lovers of the Colorado high country, 4-wheeling is the way to go.  Our Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk did just fine for the level of difficulty we felt comfortable attempting.


A visit to the old mining community of Tincup was an adventure from the very outset when we ran into a cattle drive right along the road!



In addition to jeep 4-wheelers, it was obvious that ATV enthusiasts play a big part in the success of Tincup’s summer economy.






Over one hundred-year-old picture-perfect buildings made interesting photography easy…






Leaving Tincup over 12,000 ft Cumberland Pass provided spectacular vistas

and photogenic mining ruins


so much a part of central Colorado, and gave us an opportunity to snap some fresh Facebook profile pics.



One of our favorite side trips from base camp in Gunnison was the charming hippie ski town of Crested Butte, which had its fair share of trendy yoga studios,


beautifully restored historic buildings, like stately City Hall,


and nicely revived residences.


We hiked part of a perimeter trail around the town, which continues to thrive as a premier ski resort at the base of Mt. Crested Butte.


And, of course, there were those fields of wildflowers which provided foreground to the million-dollar views for some of Crested Butte’s uber-wealthy residents,


plus more opportunities for vanity shots of our own.


Wow!  That was a busy two weeks!  It felt great to be back in Colorado with all that fantastic hiking and towering mountain scenery.  We felt more than satisfied with all of our adventures to date in the opening chapter of our much-anticipated Colorado summer.

“The farther one gets into the wilderness, the greater is the attraction of its lonely freedom.”  President Theodore Roosevelt







  












June 24, 2017

ON THE "WINDY PLAINS" NEAR AMARILLO

“Manage the sail; the wind will take care of itself.”  Unknown Author

Carol writes:  After spending the last 6 weeks traveling across the very large state of Texas, we gained an appreciation for why Texas can be so windy!  The Lone Star State is known for its wide open spaces, with few geographic contours for hundreds of miles to stop the wind once it gets started.  This results in a windy tunnel effect which is all the more magnified in the Texas Panhandle.  At the southernmost region of Tornado Alley, we paused for a week in Amarillo, Texas,  


for an opportunity to get together with our daughter over the Memorial Day weekend before our final push into Colorado Springs for our annual medley of medical checkups. 

For the casual tourist there isn’t a whole lot to do in Amarillo.  Maybe that’s the reason why on many a road trip we had always passed through Amarillo but had never taken the opportunity to spend the night.  However, our feeling has always been that the full-time lifestyle is all about embracing the detours…

It turned out that the greater Amarillo locale around Lake Meredith National Recreation Area was indeed worth a second look at Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument, one of our lesser known and more sparsely visited national monuments


The only means of seeing the flint sites was by means of what turned out to be a very informative ranger-led hike to the bluff above.  Some 13,000 years ago, Paleo Indians quarried exquisite, beautifully banded, very hard Alibates flint





which breaks into predictable patterns when struck, making it ideal for fashioning superior spear points that were used to hunt big game, such as prehistoric mammoths and bison.  On a bluff above the monument there were remains of masonry structures of the Antelope Creek people, who lived in this area along the Canadian River 


from 1200 and 1450 and traded their prized flint with other peoples.



Hands down, the crown of the greater Amarillo area would be Palo Duro Canyon, a jewel of a canyon which at 120 miles long claims to be the second largest canyon in the country, second only to the Grand Canyon.  Our plan was to spend the day hiking in Palo Duro Canyon State Park with our daughter, who had frequently hiked its trails and had a good recommendation for the trail she thought we would like. 




The past week, a spring heat wave had settled over the Panhandle and so we knew to anticipate high heat that was sure to be radiating through the canyon.  We took dire warnings seriously—slathered on sunscreen, wore hats, and hiked with plenty of food and lots of water.


Oh, it was so thrilling to be back out West where the  Lighthouse Trail scenery was spectacular


and hiking was nourishing for the soul.


Our trail led to the iconic Lighthouse rock formation, 


a backdrop perfectly created for great pictures!












Our 6-mile roundtrip hike in nearly 100-degree heat, with the sun nearly directly overhead, probably stretched the limits of my ability, but it was well worth it to me for precious family time.


One of the fluffier things Amarillo is best known for is the quirky “Cadillac Ranch,” a 1974 work of art consisting of a collection of old Cadillacs buried nose-down on Route 66 west of Amarillo.




It was obvious that visitors were highly encouraged to bring lots of spray paint which they could use to “graffiti-away” to their heart’s content!  I didn’t quite understand the appeal, and I especially didn’t appreciate the accumulating trash dump of empty spray cans on an unlucky farmer’s field.


We rounded out our stay in Amarillo with a day trip to Clovis, New Mexico, for one more visit with daughter Megan.  







Mother/daughter pedicures









and Mexican food at a local restaurant made for a very special family day together.  To round out our day on the windy plains, a blinding dust storm, preceding a violent thunderstorm that sent the cows stampeding in the pasture along the deserted Texas road back to Amarillo, topped out our authentic Panhandle experience. 




“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.”  Robert Brault