The drive home and random thoughts on Colorado.

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They consider this a shady full hook up site at Green River, Utah, KOA.

 

If it’s July and you’re in Colorado there’s no way to get home to San Diego without suffering in the heat.  We chose the I-70 to I-15 route.  From Steamboat Springs to Green River it was six and half hours.  Green River to Vegas, eight and half hours, but we stopped often to take in the beauty of the San Rafael Swell.  Then Vegas to home, six hours.

 

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Green River

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One of the most interesting trails I’ve ridden. Named after the Athena missile which was based here in the early days of the cold war.  It’s a 5.5 mile loop.

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An overlook of the Green River on the Athena Trail

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You can see the trail going through the crazy moonscape like terrain.

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There was also a stretch of rock to ride.

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Seems like the kind of place “we” would launch missiles from in the 1960s.

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These are concrete tent pads from the old missile base.

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One of our stops on I-70 after Green River. We love this scenery.

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Another stop, Amelia just had to walk the rock.

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Our not so lovely site at the KOA Sam’s Town in Vegas. 104 degrees when we arrived.

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Miserable Vegas heat, so the girls were standing under the AC. It’s hard to cool off the Airstream when it’s 96 degrees inside when you turn on the AC. It took hours just to get the inside to 84 degrees.

 

 

Some random notes and thoughts on our trip and Colorado:

The trip was 33 days long and we drove 3,390 miles. The Mountain passes in Colorado are beautiful but stressful when towing. It was the first time we’d been in second gear going down a steep grade, and we did it often.

Texans love Colorado.  There are a lot of Subarus.  Every town we passed through sold pot. There’s actually a place called Stoner, Colorado.  Unlike previous trips, I brought my fishing pole, but never used it.

In all the years we’ve been together we’ve never grilled hot dogs, until this trip!  They were quite tasty.  We drove through six states: California, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Nevada.  All this talk about our infrastructure being in poor shape is true.  The roads were horrible, even the Interstates.

I had no idea so much coal is being mined in Colorado.  In 2018, Colorado was ranked the 10th highest coal producing state.

There are a lot of rivers and they are all beautiful.

Duh, we know there are mountains, but geez the cell service was horrible.  It makes it difficult to work while on the road.

People love their campfires.  It was 85 degrees and they were lighting them.

 

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View from a trail on Emerald Mountain in Steamboat Springs

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Phlox in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

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Fleabane Daisy in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

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There’s a trail in Salida called Chicken Dinner and it has nothing to do with being a winner.  It’s named after a popular candy bar introduced in the 1920s, that had nothing to do with chicken or dinner.  It was a chocolate nut roll.  Some folks consider it the first nutrition bar.  This is a genuine metal sign that came off the truck that used to sell them in the area, or some story like that.

 

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New mile markers at Phil’s World

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Rattlesnake Sandmat in Prescott

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It’s not all go, go, go.  The Puggle needs quality cuddle time.

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The Great Sand Dunes National Park is magical.

 

 

 

 

Steamboat Springs: July 2-7, 2019

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Swamp Park Trail, a few miles outside of town.

 

Before we left on this trip our friend, Dennis, gave us a quick summary of his top spots to visit for mountain biking in Colorado.  I would say his description of Steamboat Springs was spot on.

“Off the charts beautiful, great climbing trails, not much fun technical downhill stuff though.”

That pretty much sums it up.

The town was super crowded, but that’s to be expected during a major holiday week.

 

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Eagle Soaring RV Park, Site #16.  Eight miles west of Steamboat. Just another ho hum spot, but thankful for the full hook ups. We needed to run the AC every afternoon.

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Getting the RV Park ready for the 4th.

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This dude was spraying the heck out of everything, hopefully not with DDT, but whatever he was using worked. There were minimal mosquitoes.

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Sorry for the poor picture.  I absolutely love the artwork.

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This is the first one of these parking meter like things we’ve seen, makes sense.

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Just like the RAT (trails at Ridgway), Emerald Mountain had directions for four different rides. We did this one.

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Lupine Trail

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Start of Morning Gloria

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Mid way up Morning Gloria

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We didn’t do Root Canal, but I had to take a picture.

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We hit two breweries in town, Butcherknife and Storm Peak.  Both were just okay.  Storm Peak had a bunch of customers on the patio and inside smoking pot.  That was interesting.

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Yampa River runs through town.

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We did the famous Alpine Slide one afternoon.  You ride a chairlift to the start.  First time in years either of us have been on a chairlift.

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There’s two tracks that run side by side.  I can’t believe it, but Amelia beat me to the finish line.

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“I’m ready to go home and chase lizards in my backyard.”

 

Ute Lodge, Middle of Nowhere Colorado: June 29-July 2, 2019

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Our dear friend, Dianni, and her family were heading home to Fort Collins after a long stay in Corvallis, Oregon. They picked this spot for our three-day rendezvous. It’s also cool that they know the owners, Mona and Karl. It’s always insightful listening to owners of a business. For them it’s definitely a lifestyle choice.

The Ute Lodge is between Meeker and the Flat Tops Wilderness. It’s isolated and a totally different camping experience: kind of like boon docking with full hook ups. It’s a large property with eight cabins, eleven RV sites, and a yurt two miles up a 4×4 fire road. They also have a pond, horses, pigs, laying hens, twenty-seven chicks, of which only one will be a laying hen while the other twenty-six will be used for meat, and finally, there is zero cell service.

It has been years since we’ve seen Dianni in person, so we had a lot of catching up to do, especially her and Amelia. The two of them are kindred spirits. So there were many meaningful conversations and a lot of socializing. It was quite a treat to see her and particularly interesting to see what characteristics and traits her two kids inherited and learned from each of their parents.

It was hard saying goodbye. It’s too bad we all don’t live closer to each other. One of the most heart breaking and tender moments of our entire trip was when Dianni started crying when saying goodbye to Sara. I’m tearing up a little writing about it.

 

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Colorado Columbines

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Site #6

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The view from our site

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Amelia feeding Junebug, a 5 week old filly.

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Sara was quite fascinated with the pigs.

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Trappers Lake, about a 30 minute drive from Ute Lodge.

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Tony, flyfisherman extraordinaire

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Dianni & Amelia in the Flat Tops Wilderness

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One-eyed sphinx moth

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Leo, Amelia, Dianni, and Jasmine prepping dinner

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The three ladies in the Aspen Cabin

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Occasionally you see some white lupine.

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Myself, Amelia, Tony, and Dianni on Papoose Creek trail, right from the campground

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Jasmine and Dianni

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On Monday morning I went for a drive looking for cell service to check in for work.  The white faced cow did not want to move.

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Sara looking for her mom

 

Sig Alert! Sig Alert!

We encountered a 30 minute delay on County Road 8 when leaving Ute Lodge.  Three large groups of sheep were being herded eleven miles to National Forest Land.  It was a highlight for us city folk.  Sara was going bonkers.  Of course with sheep comes sheep shit and it was all over the road and now up inside all of our wheel wells and on the front of the Airstream. I’m betting it’s still there when we get home.

 

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Baa baa!

 

 

 

Ridgway State Park: June 24-29, 2019

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Ridgway State Park is conveniently located between Montrose and Ouray. When we arrived the lady at the entrance gate was super chatty. She told us the state parks only allow 3.2% beer, but they are not really enforcing it, wink, wink, just be careful. Noticing our bikes she also told us about the RAT Trails, but more on that later.

Colorado is finally evolving with their liquor laws. It always struck me as strange that you can buy weed legally (and I guess now shrooms in Denver), but you couldn’t get a real beer in the grocery store. As of January 1st that law finally changed. Now all the supermarkets are advertising real beer for sale. Sadly though the selection isn’t that great, too bad, Colorado has a lot of good breweries. Maybe they are all struggling with the distribution. It’s silly the state parks are still stuck in the 3.2% era.

The campground was exceptional: full hook ups, affordable, and plenty of space between sites. I’d rate it 4.5 out of 5. The minor negatives are too close to the 550 Highway and not enough shade. It hit 90 degrees a couple of days and we had to turn on the AC. The other bummer, the state parks charge an $8 per day use fee, on top of the camping fee. But if you are a resident, for $40 you can buy an annual pass, non-resident is $80.

The RAT trails are amazing! Another great trail system on BLM land. At the main trailhead sign it had directions for putting together different rides and travel directions for the trails. What a great idea. Hopefully more biking areas start doing the same. It was fast, flowing single-track. A little reminiscent of Phil’s World. All the trail names were rat themed. If you can’t have fun, then what can you do? Unfortunately there wasn’t a Socrates or Ben trail. They need to get building, because certainly those two famous rats deserve their own trail.

We put on our tourist hats and did a couple of day outings with Sara. One was to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. It’s dramatic, not too well known, extremely steep, narrow, and quite different from the Grand Canyon. Our pictures really don’t do it justice.

Then one evening we drove up the Million Dollar Highway from Ouray, past Red Mountain Summit, almost to Silverton. As advertised, it was steep, plenty of S curves, no guardrails, terrifying, and at the same time beautiful. I don’t think we’d ever tow on it. On the way back we stopped at Red Mountain Brewery for dinner and beer. The little town of Ouray has three breweries, but only Red Mountain allowed dogs, and only on the patio.

More often than not, I celebrate my birthday on the road. I’m pretty sure I turned twelve in Elko, Nevada. This year I turned fifty-nine at Ridgway State Park, Colorado.

 

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Site 236

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Geez, finally

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View from Rat Trailhead

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RAT is Ridgway Area Trails

 

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Rat Trap Trail

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Ridgway Reservoir

Another one bites the dust.  Amelia said it’s time to get rid of my 25 year old Dipsea shirt from 1994.

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Black Canyon of the Gunnison

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One of the many overlooks

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The Painted Wall, at 2,300 feet it’s the highest cliff in Colorado

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Old Juniper with Painted Wall in the background

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A viewing platform on the Million Dollar Highway, Amelia is looking down on a raging waterfall.

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There’s a Red Mountain #1, #2, and #3. This is #3.

Remember the TV Series McCloud?  This is one mile north of Ridgway.

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Uncompahgre River, don’t ask us to pronounce it.

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Kind of a decent sunset

Salida: June 16-24, 2019

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Salida is a cool little town. My first impression was: it’s like a beach community because of all the people riding around on their townies and beach cruisers. It has a different, better vibe than most mountain towns. The Arkansas River is the center of attention and all the activities that go with it. Mountain biking is also big. The town has a population of around 5,300 and three bike shops!

Way back in December of 2014 we met a couple at Catalina State Park in Arizona from Salida, Tim and Lisa. Of course Amelia has kept in touch with Lisa. The first thing we did in Salida was visit her at their house. Amelia really wanted to see her work studio and figure out when we could meet up with them. One of the memorable lines from Lisa was, “The deer aren’t cute. They are pests.” We certainly saw a lot of them, especially where there was green grass and shade. It was so common we didn’t even bother to take any pictures. I guess the cuteness wears off when they are tearing up your yard.

Our first two rides were unguided with us relying on the Trailforks app and a bike shop map. It seemed like all we did was climb and go the wrong direction. We did not have as much fun as we were expecting. I kept saying I’m going to reserve judgment until the end of the trip, but I certainly wasn’t seeing the goods our friends in San Diego had been hyping. Then I hooked up with Tim for a Saturday ride. Wow, nothing like having a local guide you around. The hype was real. This place is fun! On Sunday Amelia joined Tim and me for a shuttle ride. I drew a little blood, but the route was awesome. Thank you Tim!

Originally we booked five nights at Mt Shavano KOA, ten miles west of Salida. What a dump. You’d think we’d be happy because it was virtually empty, but the emptiness gave the park a creepy feel. After three nights we bailed and went to Four Season RV Park on the east side of Salida.

What’s a trip in the mountains without unhitching or hitching up at least once in a deluge? That’s what we experienced when we unhitched at Four Seasons. We got soaking wet, but we were happy to be out of Charlie Manson’s campground. (That’s what I was calling the KOA. Amelia didn’t like me saying that). And we had a nice view of the Arkansas River twenty yards from our bedroom window.

The one ride we really wanted to do, the Monarch Crest, was not open. There’s still too much snow at 11,000-12,000 feet. Oh well…

 

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The KOA. It looks nice in the picture, but it wasn’t.

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Cool butterfly donation box at one of the Methodist Mountain Trailheads.  

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The landmark S-Mountain

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You gotta love a Big Lebowski reference.

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Amelia on one of the exposed trails.

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Nice little brewery. We met Lisa and Tim here on Friday night.

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Get off the table!  On Saturday while I was riding with Tim, Amelia was getting the Airstream ready for our short drive to Four Seasons.  So the table was cleared off of the usual stuff like fruit bowl and flower vase.  When she got out of the shower, there was the Puggle.  There’s no denying her the morning sun.

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Four Seasons RV Park. Close quarters but better than Charlie’s campground!

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Our view of the Arkansas River. 

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This pest didn’t make it through the winter. Now he’s a greeter at a trail intersection.

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Tim and Amelia on the Sand Dune Trail

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Looking towards Monarch Pass

Great Sand Dunes National Park: June 16-19, 2019

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Stunning

 

We love sand dunes.  There’s just something about being on them.  It’s a different sensation than any other outdoor experience.  And it’s a super workout trudging uphill with the reward of running down them.

We were here in 2000 for just a few hours with our friend Dianni.  That was before it became a national park; back then it was a national monument.  I’m pretty sure it wasn’t as crowded in 2000.  If you want to attract large crowds all you have to do is attach national park at the end of a name!

The unusual thing about this national park was we didn’t see a single Euro or Asian.  How strange.  I’m guessing 75% of the visitors were Coloradoans.

There’s a main dune access area where all the families go to pretend they are at the beach and to climb the lower dunes and sled.  What an awesome thing for families to do. There’s also a primitive area 4 miles north, of which 1.5 miles is a 4×4 recommended dirt road.  There are no crowds, but if you do happen to see someone the dunes are so expansive you never have to cross paths.

The most amazing thing is this time of the year Medano Creek pulses with rhythmic waves called surge flow.  I was calling them mini tsunamis.  The creek would be calm, then out of nowhere you could hear, then see a surge coming. The surge occurs when the antidunes in the creek bed break.

And now a little humor.  It’s so entertaining observing the going ons of a campground.  I have no doubt our fellow campers get a kick out of us.  My favorite observation this stop was when a wife stuck her head out of their fifth-wheel and yelled, “Honey fire up the generator I need to use the microwave.”

 

 

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Pinyon Flats Campground site 17

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Surge flow on Medano Creek and Mt. Herard in the background.

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Nothing like a wide open expanse of sand dunes to make one feel small

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This brazen mule deer was coming right at Amelia and me while we were sitting outside.  Sara was in the Airstream having a conniption fit.  So I leashed her up and brought her out.  She’s a big talker while in her Airstream, but she didn’t say boo when face to face with the deer.

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Medano Creek looking downstream from the main dune access area

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Early bird gets the worm. On our second day we got up early and went to the main dune area so we could hike up to High Dune.  When we came down the crowds were forming like a summer day in Pacific Beach.

 

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Crazy scene: families setting up for the day with chairs, blankets, water toys, and implements for digging in the sand.  Just families having fun.

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Folks streaming in as we were leaving.

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Campground sunset

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Amelia trying to follow my footsteps

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Our deepest crossing

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Narrowleaf Penstemon

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Early evening after a thundershower

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Solitude

Pagosa Riverside Campground: June 14-16, 2019

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It was an above ground pool.  I haven’t seen one of those in years.

Our friend, Needles, gave us the hot tip about Pagosa Riverside Campground. It’s just a few miles east of Pagosa Springs. He said as long as you get a riverfront spot it’s a good stop. So we made reservations months in advance and got one. He was right. It was a good two-night stop.

The weather was perfect for sitting in front of the Airstream under the awning. It’s quite relaxing listening to and watching the San Juan River flow. Because of the big snowmelt it was running high and fast. Occasionally some rafters would float by, we would wave and they would wave back. That was how we spent most of our time.

When not doing that we putzed around the Airstream and did chores like checking all the screws inside to see if any of them had loosened. Real exciting stuff.

The only time we left the campground was to go into town with Sara and walk the Riverwalk Loop. We didn’t spend the money to soak in any of the famous hot springs. Commercialized crowded hot springs aren’t really our scene, though I’m sure it probably would’ve felt great.

 

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Relaxing

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And walking Sara

Little libraries used to be the cool thing, now it’s bee hotels!

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This dark ominous cloud amazingly enough only produced a few sprinkles.

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The Mother Spring. It sources all of Pagosa’s hot springs. Guinness Book of World Records claims this is the deepest hot springs aquifer in the world, at least 1,002 feet deep.

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One of the hot springs resorts.

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Occasionally the vibrations of the road will strip a screw and it needs to be repaired. Jam wood glue and toothpicks into the hole. Let dry over night, snap off the toothpicks, file smooth, then replace the screw. Problem solved.

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One of the fun things about traveling is sampling the local beer. I rate this one 6.5 out of 10, but the name an 11!

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Morning sun on the San Juan

Cortez, Colorado: June 11-14, 2019

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Phil’s World, a singlespeeder’s paradise

 

From Prescott it took us seven plus hours to arrive at the KOA in Cortez.  Amelia is enamored with the brothers that own KOA Cortez and they are enamored with her.  It’s quite a little mutual admiration society.   And why not, all three have the same personalities: friendly, always greeting people, waving, and smiling.  The two brothers, Shawn and Bernie, run the best campground we’ve ever visited.  I had no doubt they would remember Amelia.

While Amelia went to the office to see her guys and check in, I was walking Sara around. I just had the sense something was different.  Amelia finally came out of the office with a disappointed look on her face.  The brothers had just sold the campground; escrow had closed over Memorial Day weekend.  We hope they got a bundle.  They really did a terrific job building up the business.  We miss them.  Hopefully the new owners can maintain the high standards.

Phil’s World is our favorite mountain bike ride.  I refer to it as singlespeed paradise.  I could go on and on with flowery adjectives and probably bore all the non riders to death.  Well, our favorite place just got better.  They’ve added more trails!  It’s a long haul from San Diego but we’ve got to figure out how to get a group of friends out here.

Up next uncharted territory!  How exciting 🙂

 

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Site 24 KOA Cortez

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Amelia on Lemonhead trail with Sleeping Ute Mountain in the background.

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Smooth Spreading Four O’Clocks dotted the landscape.

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Glow

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Female Cabbage White Butterfly on a Sunflower

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Scarlet Globemallow

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They are big on bones at Phil’s World.

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Sego Lily

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Wow, brand new trailhead, brand new trails, with more new trails to come!

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What a great use of BLM land!

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Amelia on the new Highline Trail

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Amelia said it’s time to get rid of this t-shirt.  What the heck it’s a perfectly good shirt for biking.

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We hit one brewery in Cortez: Wild Edge Brewing Collective.  Their IPA’s weren’t quite up to San Diego standards, but Amelia loved their sour beer, Razzmatazz, so much so she got herself a 32oz Can’teen to go.

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Sara goes absolute nuts over soft serve ice cream.  We had a nice lunch at Burger Boy.

 

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Evening light on Mesa Verde

 

 

Prescott, Arizona: June 7-11, 2019

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Sara’s bliss. Seventy-eight degrees, fifty-five miles per hour, eyes squinting, ears flapping and nose working overtime.

Prescott, the first stop on our big summer of ’19 trip.  The majority of our time will be spent in Colorado.  Prescott is about half way.  It took us eight hours.  The boss has put her foot down and said, “Never again will we drive that long.”

That’s probably a good idea. We were pretty tired when we arrived, so tired we got ourselves into a tight spot with a tree while trying to back into our site.  It was nearly a disaster.

The first three days the weather was in the mid 80s, which is manageable.  Our last day it was over 90.  No bueno.  The Airstream feels like a cave with all the windows closed, blinds down, and the noisy AC cranking.

We did three rides.  The first two rides we’ve done before, which helps eliminate the bickering on the trail about directions.  There’ll be plenty of time for that when we hit all the new places in Colorado.

The third ride was a new area called Spence Basin.  A fellow mountain biker in the campground gave us the tip.  He even gave us an updated map and laid out a trail by trail course for us, but we still managed to get turned around which led to some quality bickering.  Spence Basin was super fun.  If you mountain bike, put it on your list.

And remember kids, Prescott rhymes with Biscuit.

 

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Point of Rocks RV Campground site #54.  Same spot we had two years ago.

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The old girl swaying in the morning sun.

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Goodding’s Verbena lining the Badger Mountain Trail

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Some old guy I’ve never seen before trying to help us fix the drawer under one of the kitchen seats.  He couldn’t help us.  It’ll be one of those things that gets addressed when we are back in town.

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Finally someone saying something about the fake service animals.

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On the Pipeline Trail some clever person put little figurines of three people, a park bench, trees, and shrubs inside a broken portion of the pipe.

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West Side Story in Spence Basin

 

 

 

 

Ha, ha, ha, Russ T. Fender Trail in Spence Basin

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Tatanka Trail, guess where?  Spence Basin!  We really enjoyed it.

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New Mexico Locust

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Our last day it was ninety-one shitty degrees with eleven percent humidity.  At least the biking clothes dried super quick.

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Once the afternoon chores were done Amelia treated herself to an ice cold Tecate with salt and lime.

Hurricane: April 12-16, 2019

 

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Our girl

 

The more days that pass after a trip the harder I find it to write about it.  Right after Hurricane we went down to Cabo for a wedding.  And just one week later my perspective of the Hurricane trip has changed.

Two weeks before the trip our sweet little Puggle Sara was diagnosed with Transitional Cell Carcinoma.  She has a small cancerous mass in her bladder.  She’s probably 10 years old, so we decided against any invasive surgery and/or chemo, instead she’s taking an NSAID, Piroxicam, and Misoprostol to protect her stomach lining.  Piroxicam can sometimes slow down the growth, and in some instances reduce the size of the mass.  It’s hard for the vet to guess how much time she has left.  It could be six months, or more or less.  So this trip was very melancholic.  We were also struggling with the thought of leaving Sara for the first time ever when we went to Cabo.  She’s never been without at least one of us.  It all probably sounds silly if you have kids.

We were joined in Hurricane by our friend Michelle and her dad Jim.  We stayed at WillowWind RV Park and they were across the street at a new hotel.  It’s always a blast riding out there.  We had dinners together at the Airstream, told stories, Amelia and Michelle reminisced about all the girls they used to ride with, and we all learned a little more about each other.

A couple of noteworthy things occurred on the trail.

On day one, before Michelle and her dad arrived we rode Gooseberry Mesa.  Immediately we ran into a bunch of people wearing bib numbers and walking.  What the heck?  We’ve only ever seen bikes on the awesome Gooseberry rock.  We asked one of them.  It was a 50K run.  How strange seeing people not on bikes.  And they were always coming directly at us.

On day three, we rode the J.E.M. trail, a super fun, one direction, downhill single track with wide open vistas, and beautiful scenery.  It’s a grinning ear to ear, hauling ass trail.  The kind of trail you relive as you fall asleep on the day you rode it.

So I’m flying down the trail and in the distance I see a large group of riders.  As I get closer I can see that they are coming towards me!  Hello! One way downhill!  There were three families, some trying to ride and others pushing their bikes.  I slow down so I won’t send them all flying like bowling pins.  Then a mom says, “Please be careful, there’s a little five year old girl coming.”

Good God, why aren’t you people at Disneyland?  I know I sound like a sourpuss, but what the hell are these people doing?  It’s totally dangerous going the wrong way on a one way trail.

If you really want to hear a rant ask Amelia about all the new cheater lines on the Hurricane Rim Trail.  That really burns her up.

 

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Site 122.  WillowWind is looking more and more like a Motor Coach Resort.  There were many of these big $$$ rigs like the one next to us.

 

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New singletrack signage

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Gooseberry Mesa

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Three of the 50K walkers in the background

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Trail marker art

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Michelle and her dad Jim at Churchrocks

 

 

Who’s who?  These girls have great form.

 

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Michelle and Amelia, Little Creek Mesa

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The amazing rock of Little Creek Mesa

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Fremont’s Barberry Bush

 

We saw a lot of trees in town with Western Tent Caterpillar infestation.

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How about them Canadians, eh?  What a great license plate.

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I think this is the first time we’ve seen Clear Gas Ethanol-Free, whatever that is.

 

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Gould Trail