Thursday, August 29, 2013

Canyonlands–The Needles

Although Canyonlands National Park is not all that massive, the main access roads are quite far apart.  It was 35 miles north, west, and south from our campground to the visitor’s center for Island In The Sky.  The visitor’s center for The Needles was south, west, north and west a total of 75 miles from the campground.  But then it isn’t easy building access roads into a land of canyons.

Along the way was an impressive arch right along the main highway, Wilson Arch and a petroglyph wall with 2,000 years of etchings called Newspaper Rock.


100_8359Whereas we were on a mesa looking down into two levels of canyons at Island In The Sky, we were on the intermediate level at The Needles.  You are looking up at mesas and mountains in the distance and also looking down into the lower levels of the canyons.

100_8344So why is this district known as the The Needles?  Because of these formations where their softer rock has eroded away leaving these harder “needles” still standing.



Our favorite formation in this district was one called Wooden Shoe Arch.  There were also a lot of formations that looked liked mushrooms or stacks of pancakes.


100_8401We took a couple of shorter hikes and were eyeing some of the longer trails, but we had to cut our trip a bit short as the sky became very threatening.  You don’t want to be caught hiking in a canyon during a thunderstorm.  And for that matter, the roads are no place to be either as they don’t always go to the expense of building bridges.  They just let the water in the washes run over the roads.

The Road To Potash

Rolling in to Moab, we saw a road sign that read “Potash  -–>”.  Gary commented at the time that potash is a component of fertilizer.  We were looking at some local guide books about things to do beyond the national parks and one suggestion was to drive the canyon roads along the Colorado River and one of the suggested drives was the road to Potash.

100_8286So off we went to visit Potash.  It was a different drive than the others we had taken.  This time we were right at the level of the Colorado River rather than a few thousand feet above it as we had been in Canyonlands.  There had been rain and the river was very muddy and somewhat red like the majority of the rocks around here.


We saw on the maps that there is an area of petroglyphs on that road. 


We also found a neat arch that was a vertical one – Jug Handle Arch.


And there was a waterfall with water that really was as red as the rocks.


At the end of the state road, we arrived at Potash.  But there was no town there as we expected.  Potash was just a few big buildings and a rail car loading facility for a potash mining operation.  We drove a  bit until the pavement stopped and the road became a jeep only trail.  This was one of those times that we wished we had a high-clearance four-wheel-drive vehicle as our “toad” as on up that jeep trail were the evaporation ponds for the potash mine as well as Thelma and Louise Point.  Yes, the over-the-cliff ending was filmed in the Moab area.  We visited a small museum dedicated to all the films that have had scenes shot in the area, and there have been a bunch of them.  It seems Hollywood directors also like these amazing sights.  It has been a favorite location for Westerns including several starring John Wayne.


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Canyonlands National Park–Island In The Sky

100_8181When we were at Arches NP, we were up on a high plateau, but still looking up at arches, fins, and other rock formations.  Not far away at the Island In The Sky district of Canyonlands NP we were back up on a high plateau, but this time we were mainly looking down into vast expanses of canyons.

Canyonlands was created by the erosion from two large rivers that drain a large section of the Rocky Mountains – the Green River and the Colorado River.  The two rivers join together in the park for the Colorado River’s run on down through the Grand Canyon and beyond.


100_8206Canyonlands has three major districts.  The Island In The Sky district reduces down to just a neck of land between the erosion fields of the two rivers.  The Needles district, which we also visited, is down in an intermediate level of the canyon floors.  The Maze district on the west side of the rivers is some of the remotest lands in the country.  Butch Cassidy and his gangs used to hang out in that area as they felt no lawmen would ever follow into these canyons and risk never finding their way out.

100_8188Gary had not visited Canyonlands but has been to the Grand Canyon.  He says I won’t see anything like the expanse of these canyons there.  And by the way, we passed on the jeep path down to the next level of the canyon.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Arches National Park

A quick summary – what a picture-taking mecca.  I knew almost nothing of this Park.  At one point in our trip planning, I asked, “what are we going to do there?”  Gary had visited there 38 years ago and assured me it would be well worth the trip.  It was!  The picture below right is of Delicate Arch, featured on the license plate of the State of Utah.


Arches reminded me a little bit of Garden of the Gods back in Colorado Springs, but on a super massive scale.  In the case of Garden of the Gods, the eruption of the Rocky Mountains has caused nearby rock lying horizontally under the ground to thrust up vertically.  In the case of Arches, a huge ancient salt bed left behind from an inland sea provided the base.  Subsequently layer upon layer of sediment had turned to soft rock (sandstone)  on top of the salt bed.  And then through erosions of various manners and upward thrusts from the shifting salt were created these amazing formations.   Below left are The Three Gossips and at the right is Balanced Rock.


And then there are the Petrified Dunes and the Ham Rock


The Arches erode from rock formations that are known as “fins”.  As the fins formed from the various layers of sediments, sometimes it is the bottom layer that has eroded away leaving the top layer of harder rock in place, creating the arches.


We are way behind in cleaning up and posting our photo albums, but for Arches we had to make an exception and get this album posted. Just click on the following link:

Saturday, August 24, 2013

On To Moab

100_8162Mid this week, we left the Salt Lake area and headed southeast 260 miles to the small town of Moab.  It is our first stop of several in this region that will take us to a number of National Parks including Arches, Canyonlands, Mesa Verde, Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon, Zion, and the Grand Canyon.  Now how is this for a backdrop to our campsite here in Moab?


100_8166One of the first things we did here was to go a Park and buy a new National Park/Federal Lands Pass.  Gary had a somewhat momentous birthday this week.  Let’s just say that the Department of the Interior now officially recognizes him as a senior.  And with that recognition comes the opportunity to purchase a Senior Parks Pass.  The non-senior version costs $80 a year.  The senior one costs $10 for life.  The senior one also provides for half off camping on federal lands.  We still had a few months left on our regular  annual pass, but we bought the senior one as soon as we could.  We figured a federal government that would spitefully shut down White House tours when they had a trillion dollars of other choices just to try to say that they shouldn’t have to make the smallest of budget reductions might well move to take away this senior parks benefit.  And maybe they will even though we have already purchased the card, but we thought it best to quickly grab one while we had the chance.  But we did get in our White House tour last year before they shut them down.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Salt Lake City

100_7991We did more in the City than just go to one baseball game.  Actually, we made several trips in and around Salt Lake City.  We had visited the area once around 20 years ago on a ski vacation and already had seen several of the sites, but we took most of them in again.  The most known natural landmark is Great Salt Lake.  It was more than a little disappointing.  The level of the lake is so low that it is more than a quarter mile walk out from the historic shoreline to the current one.  The lake level is so low for a couple reasons.  One is that in the 90s it had been rising and rising and was a threat to flood the City so they started pumping water out of the lake and recovering salt from it.  And second, with the growth of the City, there is more irrigation going on and therefore less water entering the lake.  But it is not all that useful of a lake anyway as its salinity is several times greater than even the oceans.  So why do we have a picture of a bride and groom walking toward the lake?  Did we renew our vows?  Nope.  For whatever reason this couple was having their picture taken on the old lake bed and out at the shore.

And the most famous man-made landmark must be Temple Square.  SLC is the home of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, more often referred to as the Mormons.  The Salt Lake Mormon Temple was built in the late 1800s and is shown below left.  The granite blocks were cut by hand in a canyon out in the mountains and were hauled at first by mule cart into the City.  A rail line was later built to transport the stones.  The other picture below is from inside the Tabernacle where the famous choir performs.


100_7988Salt Lake City is also the Capitol of Utah and home of State Government.  SLC hosted the 2002 Winter Olympics.  We drove out one day through one of the canyons to a couple of the ski areas.  And we passed through a high-end shopping center in the downtown area and enjoyed some tasty eating establishments.


080613120902Utah has some interesting laws about alcohol.  Any beverage with alcohol greater than 4% must be purchased in a state-run store and there aren’t that many of them.  Restaurants and bars can only serve draft beer that is 4% alcohol or less.  Stronger beers can beer served from bottles but only if you are eating food.  But in spite of the many restrictions, there are a number of small breweries in the area some of which are putting out some creative brews within the 4% limit.  We ran across the brew in the picture at one brewpub.  Apparently the locals can have a bit self depreciating humor about some of their history.

100_7975-001But we did spend considerable time back at our RV Park enjoying the pool, relaxing, and appreciating another mountainous backdrop to our campsite.

Monday, August 19, 2013

My New (To Me) Bicycle

Two years of constant exposure to the elements had taken a toll on my bicycle.  Not to mention that it was an older used bike when we bought it at a garage sale a few years ago.  We are not big bicyclers, but it is very handy to have bikes at times for tooling around the campground, riding into a nearby town, on the occasional rails to trails path, or even on a hard-packed beach.

Gary had started looking online at bicycle reviews and at manufacturers’ websites.  We stopped in a few bike shops and test rode a couple models.  I was about ready to think I was going to get a brand new bike.  But new wasn’t in the cards.  I did get a major upgrade in used quality however.  This time, I was upgraded from a garage sale bike to a Craigslist bike!.  And this one cost more than ten times more than what the last one cost.

100_7974What did I get?  It is a Specialized Expedition Sport with twenty one speeds.  I certainly don’t need 21 speeds, but in order to have gearing that will get me up a hill a whole lot easier, it is necessary to have them.  My old bike only had five speeds and on much of any kind of hill I found myself off the bike walking it up.  I am not keen to walk hills or ride hills and I sure don’t need to be walking my bike up hills.

The bike appears to be in great condition with very little use.  It is largely made out of aluminum so hopefully it will weather a little better than the old one which was largely made of steel.  Even at a Craigslist price, we bought it for about 25% of the price of a new one.  With all the sun, rain, salt and dust that we exposure our stuff to, it really does make good sense to buy used.   Now if only Gary could find a good buy on a “new” one for himself.

Friday, August 16, 2013

We Deserved A Break Today

081313164611We wrote that we needed to do some cleaning while we were here in the Salt Lake area.  I spent a good part of two days cleaning the inside of the motor home, washing down all the wordwork, shampooing the carpet, and other interior deep cleaning.  Gary washed the car and ordered up some parts and accessories we needed.  Then we moved on to the exterior.  When we were in Denver, we got a quote for washing and waxing the motor home – about $500.  Gary thought about it, but then simply refused to pay that much.  The last time we washed it was in South Dakota, we then had too much sun to wax it.  So we did the waxing at this stop.  The motor home is 40 feet long.  It is 12 1/2 feet high, and it is 8 1/2 feet wide.  That represents a lot of waxing.  We broke it down into three days of effort.  We washed and waxed one half of it the first day, then washed and waxed another half the second, but the two halves really weren’t true halves so we finished it up on the third day.  All of the waxing was done by hand.  We don’t have a polisher and we feel one really wouldn’t save that much time anyway.  At least the wax went on and off easily.  Now check out that luster off one of the cargo doors.

2013-08-15_16-13-19_515So today I said we are taking the day off and going to the water park.  We are camped at a combination water park and campground.  One of the pools is open to guests of the campground but you have to pay to go to the larger park.  Today we enjoyed the lazy river, shown here with my favorite tuber, and their couple of water slides in the 99 degree temperatures.  It was a very relaxing and refreshing day and a welcome change from all that cleaning.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Bees Knees

How do we turn this title into baseball?  The Salt Lake City Bees baseball team of course.  Utah is known as the beehive state.  At one time, the area was referred to Deseret, which apparently according to the Book of Mormon is an ancient word for honey bee.  And during the migration from the Midwest to Utah, some Mormons reportedly brought along swarms of bees.  The backdrop for the Bees stadium is the Wasatch range of mountains – a spectacular setting for a ballpark.  The Bees are the AAA affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels.  They have the best record in the Pacific Coast League.  The ballpark is almost as nice as the outfield view.  There is just one thing missing – fans.  It was a small crowd in spite of a two-for-one promotion that we took advantage of.  We think we might know the reason.  In most minor league parks they make it a really fun event.  In the best parks, there are fan-centric activities every half inning – contests, give-aways, entertainment, etc.  The vibe of this park was boring – minimal activities.  Even the mascot, a giant bee, of course,  was rarely seen and doing very little to rev up the fans.  At least we had the view.


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

How Does Google Do It?


100_7926Have you ever wondered how Google gets those street view pictures of a house or a business that they show when you call up an address?  Well, here you go.  The mystery has been unraveled.

Just click the picture for a larger view.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Our Second Anniversary of Full Timing

Two years ago, we sold our condo ad moved into our motor home and it has been our one and only home since.



Here are a few of our year two statistics in comparison with year one:

                                                               Year Two           Year One

Motor Home Miles                                        6,846                 8,037

Car Miles                                                   18,476               17,463

States Visited (Excluding Repeats)                     9                      27

Longest Stay (Weeks)                                        4                     16

We stayed true to our planning and traveled in a fairly tight north/south loop moving south from far western New York State to Texas, north up to Montana and back down to Utah as the extremes of this year’s travel. We didn’t travel in nearly as many states but they were a lot bigger ones. This past Christmas, our son bought us an annual Federal Parks Pass. We have used it this year to the tune of $190 of avoided park fees.

In our first year, we spent our winter largely at one spot in Florida as we had previously traveled a lot in Florida. For our winter in Texas, we moved around quite a bit only staying still for as much as a month once in Port Aransas on the Gulf Coast.

100_6143We labeled our first year “the cities and seafood tour” as we traveled the east coast from Florida to the northern end of Nova Scotia. This year could probably be labeled “mountains, mountains and more mountains” as we traveled up the east side of the Rockies from the Rio Grande to the northern border and then started back down the west side of the Rockies.

We have one more big loop to do, down to Arizona, up to the Pacific Northwest and down the Pacific Coast to Southern California. Exactly what we do after that has yet to be determined. We have talked about a slower pace that might include some work camping positions.

But one thing for sure, it has been a fascinating two years to date for us and Alley.


Thursday, August 8, 2013

On to Idaho and Utah

100_7950We spent a week in Jackson Hole/Grand Tetons and then were on our way.  Our destination was the Salt Lake City, Utah area.  It was going to be a it over 300 miles, somewhat beyond our 200 to 250 miles per day max.  So we spent a night in an RV park in Idaho, behind an Indian Casino.  It was a very easy in/out site where we didn’t have to unhook the car and it made for two easy days of travel rather than one longer one.  There were no table games at this casino so the poker pro did not get the chance to refresh his “skills”.  Our route out of Jackson followed the Snake River which kept up out of mountain passes.  We had very pretty views of the river all along our route.  And we saw many a potato field in Idaho and some lava flows as well..

100_7969The second day we arrived at our RV Park in Kaysville, Utah.  We will spend two full weeks here.  We need a little down time from our recent travels and  to spend long enough in one spot to have our mail forwarded, do a little cleaning and maintenance, and access some of the stores and activities a larger city offers.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

A Local Food Delicacy

100_7971One of our email followers recently wrote and noted that we hadn’t reported on any local food delicacies lately.  He was right.  We hadn’t reported on food much since talking about New Mexico peppers back in May.  We really don’t remember anything uniquely Colorado food-wise.  But as we moved into South Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming, there has been some range food to savor.  Shown at the right are some Buffalo and Elk jerky sticks that Gary bought in Jackson, Wyoming.  Quite a few restaurants in this region have Buffalo and some Elk on the menu. Personally, I wouldn’t give two cents for these packages of jerky that Gary bought.  But he seems to like them and he paid a lot more than two cents.  For those looking for a unique taste experience, here is the Jackson Hole Buffalo Meat Company where you can order up all kinds of range meat gift packs

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Grand Tetons

100_7901We have seen a lot of mountains this year, including many beautiful peaks and mountain ranges.  So when Gary told me that we were about to see the most spectacular range of mountains in the country, I was more than a bit incredulous.  But as you drive down from Yellowstone to Jackson and get your many views of the Teton Range, you nearly gasp at their awesome beauty.

This mountain range was created by vertical movements along the plates of a fault line.  The plate on the mountain side erupted up and the plate of the valley below pushed down an equal amount.  As such, there aren’t the typical foothills leading up the the base of the mountains so the vertical faces are some of the tallest in the Rockies – the mountains just rise up out of the valley.  And in geological terms, these are some of the youngest mountains in the Rockies meaning that that are much rougher looking as nature hasn’t had the time to wear them down smoother.



The setting at the base of the mountains is beautiful as well with the Snake River flowing right past the full range of the mountains.  There are lakes, trees and meadows.  Nice place for a picnic, eh?


100_7941We camped in the town of Jackson.  It was the most expensive of our full timing adventures with a daily rate of over $60.  But the campground was full every night so they really could command that kind of a price.  The only consolation was that the other campground where we could have stayed wanted $89 a night.  At least we were right in the town and could ride our bikes to the town square.  At each corner of the Square there is an arch made of Elk Antlers (we are not sure who that other guy is that joined our picture).  Jackson Valley or Jackson Hole as it is know is the home of a National Elk Refuge where thousands of Elk come down from the mountains to winter and to shed their annual growth of antlers.

100_7944The town Square is also the home of the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar where the bar stools are all genuine horse saddles and there are Silver Dollars embedded into the top of the bar.  Every visitor to Jackson it seems goes in for a picture sitting at the bar in the saddle.  We were no exception.



100_7936-001We also visited the largest of Jackson Hole’s ski areas.  This mountain range also provides for a ski hill with one of the largest vertical drops in the US at over 4,000 feet on one of the smaller peaks in the range.  For the summertime, they have fitted one of their chair lifts with bike carriers so that mountain bikers can take their bikes up the hill and ride trails down.