Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Resting the rig a bit

We arrived in Salt Lake City -- where we still have a house -- on Saturday.   Our daughter, SIL and two grand children live here while we are on the road.  And the six of us -- plus three dogs and a cat -- live together when we're at home base a couple of times a year.  It's a little tight (and I'm sure the kids would say it gets even tighter as the days go by) but has worked well for three years.

We are not sure where we are going next, but we will be going.  While in SLC we'll continue to post, although not as often.  But check back because another trip is coming soon.

On the way to Salt Lake City from our last stop in Green River, Utah: the Carbon County, Utah, area -- named for nearby major coal deposits.
Mountains near Spanish Fork Canyon in Utah.  Means we're getting closer to home.
View from our front yard and kitchen window: Mount Olympus, which at 9,026 feet is visible from almost anywhere in the Salt Lake Valley.  Jim and I comment on beautiful views wherever we go, and we've seen some amazing ones.  But we also have a great view right here at home. 
View on our front patio:  Grandson Marshall and granddaughter Mia.  When on the road, I miss this view the most.
Marshall and bubbles.
And a new and frequent view in our back yard: One of two peacocks that volunteered to live in our neighborhood as of about a month ago.  Noisy, not especially fastidious, but very beautiful

Monday, May 12, 2014

Green River, Utah

We got back to Salt Lake City in time to celebrate Mother's Day with our daughter, SIL and two grandchildren.  But right before that we made a stop at Green River State Park in Green River, Utah, about 180 miles southeast of Salt Lake City and just 50 miles northwest of Moab. The town is named for the 730-mile-long Green River, which flows through the town and is the largest tributary of the Colorado River.

The town is small -- less than 1,000 people -- and looks a little sad.  But a lot of river runners put in nearby, so maybe it will be more happening of a place in a few weeks.  As for the park:  It’s lovely.  Big Cottonwood trees, large camping spaces, very well maintained and next to a golf course if you are into that.  We’re not, but it’s pretty. Green River State Park does not have hiking trails, exhibits or other places to explore.  It's more of a place for families to make s'mores with the kids, stop over on the way to somewhere else, or to leave a tent while rafting the Green. For us, it's a great spot for a night or two. 

The town, which started as a river crossing for the US mail, has a history of boom and bust.  It boomed in the 1880s when the railroad went through (Amtrak, which we took a trip on back in 2006, still stops here), saw an early 1900s oil boom, a later uranium boom, then a population spike when the military had a nearby missile launch site. Currently Green River is in non-boom mode.

We explored local country roads, visited the John Wesley Powell Rivers Museum, and ate at Ray’s Tavern (the highest "Trip Advisor" rated local restaurant). The museum was nicely done and had a great movie about Powell's 1869 trip down the Colorado and Green Rivers (they put in at Green River, Utah.)

Train trestle over the Green River, as seen from the campground's boat launch. Butch Cassidy hid out in canyons near the river after a Colorado bank robbery in 1889.

That's our rig to the left at Green River State Park.  The folks to the right were from North Carolina and heading back east after a six-week trip. The campground was pretty empty when we got here but fills up fast and completely on the weekends.
The Book Cliff Mountains near Green River.
Green River, Utah, is famous for the locally grown melons and celebrates "Melon Days" every September.  The white spots at the bottom of the photos are plant protectors for melon seedlings so they aren't damaged by spring frosts and wind.
Bev with what we are assuming is a "parade melon."
The only photo I took inside the John Wesley Powell River Museum. It's not Powell, but an animatronic-talking-Robin-Williams-look-alike early explorer.
A Tesla electric supercharger station (where people with Tesla-brand electric cars can plug in) is located in the John Wesley Powell Rivers Museum parking lot.  I read where Blanding, Moab and Richfield, Utah, also have charging stations. They will "fill up" car batteries in 30 to 60 minutes.
Bev and Jim at Green River's Ray's Tavern.  Good burgers and they have all the Uinta micro brews.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Doing Laundry in Moab, Utah

We're in Moab, Utah -- gateway to Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Dead Horse Point State Park and stunning red rock scenery.

And what have we done?  Went to a brew pub, ate breakfast out, did our laundry, washed the tow car and the rig.

In our defense, we're on the home stretch of this leg of our ongoing RV travels; in a few days we'll stop at our home base in Salt Lake City and take a short adventure hiatus. Could be we're on adventure overload. Plus, we've been to Moab several times before.

So we got reservations at a downtown Moab RV park and decided to spend time in town. Besides chores and a few meals out, we put in at least six miles walking up and down Main Street, poking around the shops.  We've also watched the all-terrain vehicles, jeeps, motorcycles, bikes with fat tires and trucks with huge wheels cruise Main Street. If there is a city-with-the-most-muscle-vehicles-per-capita contest, Moab is a contender.
We're at Canyonlands RV Park, almost right across the street from the Moab Brewery.   Last time we were in Moab, we thought about staying here but didn't see the entrance. This time we asked for directions and were told to drive in "between the Texaco and the swimming pool."  They really pack them in here, but the staff is nice, there are lots of trees, and if you want an RV place downtown, it's a good choice.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Jim, Bev and the Antiquities Act

Visitors to the lands of ancient cliff dwellers are to leave the area as is, and laws prohibit anyone from removing or disturbing artifacts.

But what do you do when you come across ancient pottery that's sitting on a garbage can?

We were walking the half-mile paved trail to the Escalante Pueblo at the Anasazi Heritage Center in Dolores, Colorado -- a museum about ancestral Puebloan people -- when Jim saw a large shard of pottery on top of one of the museum's bear-proof trash cans.  It was damp on one edge as if it had been recently pulled from the ground.  Thinking that it could fall and break, Jim put it on the ground near the trash can.

When we came back from the pueblo, it was still there.

So we gave the shard to a woman at the museum, who said she'd never had anything like that happen before in her 17 years as a volunteer. The volunteer gave the shard to Michael Williams, an Anasazi Heritage Center exhibit specialist, who approached me (Bev) while I was stamping our National Parks Passports and Jim was back in the car with Cooper.

I explained where Jim found it, and that if it had originally been on the ground we would not have picked it up.  Mr. Williams told me he was sure the shard was piece of 12th or 13th century coiled pottery. He also said what we did "was a hard call" and that we "probably did the right thing." His concern was that the Anasazi Heritage Center would not know the piece's  provenance: in other words, its origin or history of ownership.    

So what would have been the better thing?  Leave it on the trash can to get broken or pocketed? Maybe one of us could have guarded the trash can while the other person reported what we'd found to the museum -- but that seemed silly because the shard obviously had not been sitting on a trash can for nine centuries.

Anyway -- we think we did the right thing.  
Jim holding the pottery shard. At first we thought maybe the shard was a replica an interpretive ranger accidentally left on the trash can. Then we noticed the damp edge at the upper left and guessed that a visitor removed the shard from the pueblo, thought better of it and left it where someone would find it. But we don't know.
The Escalante Pueblo, where ancient native Americans lived during the 12the century.  We were walking to this pueblo when Jim found a pottery shard. The pueblo is named for  Silvestre VĂ©lez de Escalante, a Franciscan priest who explored the area in 1776.  Another of Escalante's namesakes is southern Utah's Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, which became a national monument in 1996.  

The Anasazi Heritage Center in Dolores, Colorado, is an archaeological museum  with over 3 million artifacts once used by regional native people. Many of the items were found and documented when the nearby Delores River was dammed to create the McPhee Reservoir. The reservoir is named for a town submerged by the reservoir.
Some of the pottery seen inside the Anasazi Heritage Center.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Mesa Verde National Park near Cortez, Colorado

Mesa Verde National Park in southwest Colorado was the home to ancestral Puebloan Indian people who lived there from AD 600 to 1300.

The park has 600 preserved cliff dwellings, 5,000 architectural sites, a museum, a brand new visitors center and a lot of hiking trails. And more. It's the largest archaeological preserve in the United States.

After the Indians left Mesa Verde, the cliff dwelling sat silent. In 1776 the ruins were mentioned in a journal of Spanish explorers Domingues and Escalante, who were seeking a way from Santa Fe to California; they thought the dwellings looked similar to ones being used further south. But a local pioneer family named Wetherell is credited with "discovering" the dwellings in 1888 (probably because they were told about them by an Indian friend). People began to take baskets, pottery and other items from the pueblo but the American Antiquities Act -- signed by Teddy Roosevelt in1906 -- made that illegal.  That same year, Roosevelt made Mesa Verde a national park. 

We went to the visitors center, did several short hikes (including one that took us to a fire lookout at the highest point in Mesa Verde -- 8,572 feet); hiked the 2.4 mile Petroglyph Point Trail, visited the Spruce Tree House (the best preserved cliff dwelling in the park), and watched the movie a the museum.  We haven't taken many hikes since we got the kayaks, so it was a great day.
Mesa Verde National Park is just eight miles from Cortez, Colorado -- where we saw this sign at a smoke shop apparently tired of people asking for legal Colorado wacky tobaccy. 
Mesa Verde's new visitors center opened a year ago.  That's Colorado's La Plata Mountains reflected in the windows.
Mesa Verde is prone to lightning and in the summer can receive up to 100 lightning strikes in an hour, said a display at the Visitors' Center.  Major fires burned over half of the park between 1998 and 2003.
Close to Mesa Verde's Museum, we saw a gopher snake that appeared to be headed for the road...

...a park ranger picked up the snake, posed for a few photos, and then took it to the other side of the asphalt.  Rangers at the park were great -- one of them asked us if we'd "found everything we needed" like we were at the grocery store check out -- except she really meant it.
Jim after walking through a crevice in the sandstone at Mesa Verde's Petroglyph Point Trail.  The loop trail was 2.4 miles but took us about two hours because some careful foot placement was needed here and there. Plus, we kept reading info in the 36-stop trail guide book.
Bev about to go down some steps on the Petroglyh Point Trail.
Ancient Puebloans had no metal tools, so they made axe heads out of hard stones.   They sharpened the harder stones on sandstone and these grooves are the result.
The largest group of petroglyphs (above Bev's head) on thePetroglyph Trail.  
After our Petroglyph  Trail hike, we went to the Spruce Tree House, where ancestral Puebloan people lived about 1200 AD to 1280 A.D.
Closer up view of Spruce Tree House dwellings where as may as 90 people lived at a time.  The dark soot at the top was deposited centuries ago by small fires used for light, cooking and warmth. 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

From El Paso, TX, to Cortez, CO

I had an “here’s what we've done since El Paso” post planned in my head.  But when we saw an an RV on fire near Gallup, New Mexico, that draft was quickly replaced with RV fire photos.

So finally -- here’s some of what we've done since El Paso.  

---Stayed a couple of nights in Albuquerque at the Kirtland Air Force Base Military RV Fam Camp.  We can’t visit Albuquerque without seeing Anne, my (Bev’s) junior high/high school/Girl Scout friend from Wellington, Ohio. Anne moved from Wellington to Foxboro, MA, when we were sophomores, but we've kept in touch. My throat hurt the next day from talking and laughing so much.

---Visited the Albuquerque Museum of Art and History (thanks to Anne, who had extra tickets she won via a radio call-in contest because she knew Maria Callas was from Greece. Seriously.) The museum is near ABQ’s Old Town and Jim was sure we’d been before.  As for me, I had absolutely no recollection of ever going inside that building. No surprise there.  Either way, the museum has changing exhibits, so it worked for both of us.

--- Did our usual pub crawl (if one pub can be called a crawl) and visited ABQ’s Marble Brewery.  We’d stopped there last year but left because it was beyond standing room only.  This time we got a table and the beer was good (Jim had the Marble IPA; I had the Marble Oatmeal Stout). They had no food other than chips and dips, so we bought hot dogs topped with cream cheese from a nearby food truck.  I feel a diet coming on. 

--- Drove 140 miles to the USA Campground in Gallup, NM, (very nice private campground, by the way) where we chatted with fellow Lazy Daze owners Nancy and Terry of California who were parked across from our rig. Then we drove to town, bought wine, beer and chocolate and that was dinner.  As I said, I feel a diet coming on.  Or at least a vegetable. 

--- Drove another 140 miles to a campground in Cortez, Colorado, and are looking forward to visiting Mesa Verde National Park.
Bev and Anne -- friends from 40+ years ago in Wellington, Ohio -- at Monroe's restaurant in Albuquerque.  Anne is a retired grade school teacher who volunteers as a tutor and at a food bank.  She also takes lots of classes; the day after we met she was headed with a group for one of the Albuquerque area's Indian pueblos to see a tribal feast celebration. 
Jim (that's him at the left, not the guy at the right in case anyone is wondering) walks through the Albuquerque Museum of Art and History's exhibit of pieces done by New Mexican artists.  We also saw "Behind Closed Doors: Art in the Spanish American Home 1492-1898" that featured portraits commissioned to demonstrate a homeowners wealth, and African-American art done on paper.
Also at the ABQ Museum was a collection about Vivian Vantz called "Everybody's Neighbor."  Vance -- originally form Kansas but who had a home in Albuquerque and whose parents and siblings moved there -- was best known as Ethel Mertz from "I Love Lucy."  Apparently we just missed Vance's youngest sister Lou Anne, who often comes to the museum to talk with visitors.
Stainless Steel is the New Porcelain:  We don't usually run toilet photos, but Jim says he thinks the new restroom/showers at the Kirtland Air Force Base RV Fam Camp was built by the New Mexico Department of Corrections.  We don't usually talk a lot about toilets either, but this one sparked a couple conversations.

Conversation 1:  
Bev:  I'd hate to sit on that thing when the temperatures are below freezing.
Jim:  Don't stick your tongue on it, either, even if you get triple dog-dared.
Conversation 2:
Bev:  When I took a shower, I looked around and thought "This must be what it's like to be in prison."
Jim:  Were you taking a shower by yourself?
Bev:  Well, yeah.
Jim:  Then that's not what it's like in prison.

One of the "they-seem-to-spring-up-in-the-middle-of-nowhere" rock formations between Gallup, NM and Cortez, CO.

Friday, May 2, 2014

RV Fire Near Gallup, New Mexico

Today we saw something we hope we don't see again:  An RV fire.

We have no idea how the fire started and can't find anything about it on the news yet.  But here's what we know:

Today at about noon we were driving west on I-40 toward Gallup, New Mexico, when we saw dark smoke in the distance.  Then a police car -- lights flashing and siren blaring -- zoomed by us, stopped in the middle of highway and began to divert traffic. We were the second vehicle going west to be diverted off I-40 and onto old Route 66, which parallels I-40.

As we got closer, we saw that the truck towing the fifth wheel was disconnected from the rig, as was a motor scooter that appeared to have been at the back of the fifth wheel.  A few items -- I think one was a rug -- were on the ground at the side of the road. If the RV owners had time to do that, we are assuming all people and any animals are OK.  We certainly hope so.

Not sure why this happened or other details, but our thoughts are with these folks.
From the freeway sign, you can see that the RV fire happened just shy of 12 miles east of Gallup, NM.    Bev took these photos at about noon today.
As we continued west on Route 66, we started to see the line of vehicles that were closer to the RV and did not get diverted from I-40.
To the left is the scooter on a trailer.  We think it was at the back of the fifth wheel, and that someone had time to disconnect it.   To the far right is a white pick up truck we think was pulling the rig.  Wearing a white T-shirt and towards the middle of the fifth-wheel is a man who may have been in the truck towing the RV.  A woman was further to the right and may have been in the truck as well.
As we drove by the flames, I was worried about an explosion -- but I think any explosions that were going to happen had already occurred. I took this photo from the passenger seat through the driver's side window -- that's an outline of Jim (who was driving) at the far left.