We beamed ourselves into Roswell, NM (actually, it was a long, mostly boring drive from Colorado). New Mexico is an agricultural and farming state, so lots of fields and pasture land that goes on for mile, after mile, after mile – you get the picture! We are staying at the Red Barm RV Park which is next to a huge agricultural field, feels like a farm, but without the animals. The lady that runs the place, Lee, is so friendly and has really created a homey, welcoming place to stay. Joel had voted the restroom facilities to be the nicest on the trip and she gives a senior discount at age 50! This is the first time I have qualified for a senior discount and I think I am feeling a bit conflicted. I love saving money, but don’t want to be old!
Anyway, as you can see, one of the first things we did was visit the International UFO museum. Joel loved it and we bought an alien to bring home 👽 with us. We found so many fun alien-themed shops, we now have a new window sticker on the back of the truck (we aren’t really vehicle sticker type people, but this one was too funny to miss).
As for the dogs, they got an out-of-this-world bath and haircut at a local groomers. They were less than thrilled about it, but like any Mom, I made them pose for “after” pictures…..awwww aren’t they cute? 🐩
We drove up to Cripple Creek today which is tucked away in the Colorado Rockies. The fall colors were in full bloom and we could not have picked a better time to go. The drive was so beautiful and took about 60 minutes from Colorado Springs. We visited the Mollie Kathleen Mine which is a gold mining operation founded by Mollie Kathleen in September 1891. She was the first woman in this area to find “surface gold” which was in a piece of ore she picked up while out on a walk. Because miners were very superstitious and believed a woman inside a mine was bad luck, Mollie turned the operation over to her son. The mine continued to produce gold up until 1961.
The mine was originally built to harvest gold out of ore, but later found other precious minerals, some of which are now in the Smithsonian. The white stuff covering the walls in the upper corner picture is epsom salt, a naturally occurring formation as a result of water runoff over the minerals. In order to access the mine we tightly squeezed into the original mine shaft elevators where we descended 1,000 feet. Once we were in the mining shafts, we had an opportunity to view original mining equipment from the early days to the present. I can tell you, mining was a tough business and they had kids as young as 10 years old working, no such thing as OSHA back in the early days!
We also had a chance to ride in an air powered train which was originally pulled by donkeys (1,000 feet under ground, so they left them down there) until President Roosevelt visited the mine and deemed this treatment to be cruel (hello?!?!) and demanded they stop. The mining company set the donkeys free in the town and descendants of the original mine donkeys still roam the streets today.
We topped the day off with a prime rib dinner at one of the many casinos in town. At $5.99, we were not expecting much, but it was an excellent meal and you could add a lobster tail for an additional $10 – yes please!
We were really looking forward to riding the Royal Gorge Railroad and it did not disappoint! A 2 hour train ride along the Arkansas River (as it flows through Colorado), the train winds its way along sheer granite walls towering hundreds of feet straight up. It also travels over a “floating bridge” on tracks suspended by cables over the river. While traversing the floating bridge, the whole train sways from side to side.
There are three ticket levels, Coach, Club or Vista Dome, the latter is the only way to go, as the views are way better and more comfortable seating. They also have open air cars that you can go out on to really get a full view of the gorge. There is a full bar and food service, Joel really liked the chocolate fudge tort which was like eating a piece of fudge more than cake. On our way back to the campground we couldn’t resist climbing on the roadside “wildlife.”
We got lucky on our trip to Pueblo, CO and happened to be here the weekend of the Chile and Frijoles Festival, which happens to be a big deal around here. The Chile and Frijoles Festival is a giant street fair with huge metal bins of roasting chile peppers along with every other possible use of chiles. We bought jalapeño pepper jelly (great with cream cheese and crackers), chile pepper goat cheese, a giant sausage dog with roasted chile peppers and a big bag of chile peppers to bring home. I think we are pretty set in the chile pepper department around here!
Yesterday we visited the Ghost Town Wild West Museum in Colorado Springs, which is an 1800’s style old west ghost town. The museum itself is located in an old train station and train car round-about (an old brick building with large arched openings that once housed train engines) which now houses a microbrewery. The museum had a lot to see and we enjoyed a movie about how Colorado was populated in the 1850’s during the Pike’s Peak gold rush.
One thing I will say about our travels so far is that people are so nice!!! Seriously, so many total strangers have struck up friendly conversations with us or gone out of their way to provide directions, suggestions for places to eat, things to do, etc. It has totally renewed my faith in humanity. However, even with all the niceness, cheap gas, less traffic, and excellent weather that we have enjoyed so far, I can’t imagine living anywhere other than Southern California, it has my heart as home.
When I was a little girl I saw a Wyoming postcard of two men carrying a giant 5 foot long grasshopper. This was before photoshop days, so I thought it was real! Ever since then, I have wanted to travel to Wyoming to see the amazing sights and now I have finally had my chance. No giant grasshoppers, but the buffalo, wild gazelle, and cowboy country atmosphere did not disappoint. It is hard to put into words how majestic the buffalo are and when you get up close and personal, even more so.
We stayed at the Terry Bison Ranch and they have the second largest herd of buffalo (Ted Turner has the first) with over 2,000 head. You can book a train ride out into the expansive prairie where they range, and for some reason we waffled on whether or not we wanted to go. Luckily, we decided to do it because we had the most amazing experience hand feeding these otherwise wild buffalo. It is definitely bucket list worthy!
While visiting the Ranch, I fell in love with this 4-month old horse, his name is S’more and his mom is Marshmallow – he was so sweet!
The weather was unseasonably hot, so we found ourselves lazing about until mid-day, when we were finally motivated to get moving. Of the restaurants we visited, Sanford’s was the most memorable. The whole place is covered, every square inch, in vintage memorabilia modeled to look like a junk yard after the Sanford and Son tv show. The place was started by a couple of guys after they graduated high school, and it’s a pretty big place with a large food and drink menu. Joel and I both opted for burgers, which were huge and delicious!
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Belle managed to dig a half empty bag of marshmallows out of the trash and ate the whole thing. We never would have known except after we returned from dinner, we snuggled into bed to watch a movie when barf-o-rama-2016 started! Of course first up was all over our comforter, then as the night progressed, she managed to hit just about every blanket we own…. uggghhhh! I froze for the rest of the night and spent the better part of the next day at the laundrymat. Oh the glamour of travel!!
Hello again, we have spent the last week in Salt Lake City and the surrounding areas (Perry and Honeyville). The area is very beautiful, with gorgeous mountains surrounding downtown Salt Lake City which is nice and flat; excellent for bike riding. As we were driving in from Reno, the flat barren desert landscape turned into expansive salt fields. I really wanted to pull over and try licking the ground – it was so strange!
While visiting downtown, we went to the Hogle Zoo and the Natural History Museum. Coming from San Diego, I am a bit of a zoo snob, however, this zoo was a pleasant surprise and we really enjoyed our day. We especially liked the bats and porcupines which seemed very sociable as long as you don’t get on the wrong end of those quills. Joel wanted me to get the porcupine quill earrings at the gift shop…ummm, I didn’t like them that much (yes, they were as tacky as you are imagining right now). Seriously, he really thought I would wear porcupine quills?? Needless to say, I’m getting a little nervous about what Santa Joel might have for me under the tree this year – yikes!!
Moving on, after a week in SLC, we met up with a vintage trailer group called Tin Can Tourists in Honeyville, UT. The campground was beautiful and the group was a lot of fun. One of the things we enjoyed most was Crystal Hot Springs, a natural hot spring with the highest mineral content in the world (their claim). We floated around for an afternoon and I left feeling so relaxed, it was wonderful!
We did have a rough night the last night of our stay. Lulu woke us up at 3 am with the thunder down under (no polite way to say this), and being in a small trailer this news, or rather smell, travels fast! Joel was first up swearing a blue streak and waking up the entire campground as we evacuated ship for a clean up. Luckily, the nightly freight train came thundering through laying on its horn at the same time to help drown him out. Belle used the diversion to take off and search the campground for goodies left on the ground. This is how I found myself running around at 4 am in my undies and tennis shoes with a flashlight whisper yelling Belle’s name and wondering why the heck do I have dogs?!?!?
We initially decided to go to Reno because Salt Lake City was too far from Yosemite to drive in one shot. Towing the trailer we top out around 65 mph, plus the pups need a stop every 3 or 4 hours. Reno isn’t much to see in the daylight, much like Vegas, the nightime lights make it look a lot nicer.
Reno hotels are cheap, so we ended up booking a room at Harrahs (dog friendly) and putting the truck and trailer in their overflow lot 4 blocks away, which turned out to be a blighted area filled with boarded up hotels and vacant lots. The latter made it hard to sleep and we were constantly making the trek to check on our stuff. Thinking it would be a nice change, I booked 3 nights, making the reservation before we actually got there. Had I waited, I would have discovered that one night was more than enough!
After being in Yosemite for a week, it was a huge treat to have reliable cell service, wifi and even cable tv (a first since the trip started). However, I have been trying to shake a chest cold and the heavy smoke in all the indoor areas was not helpful 😕. It did pay off to play at the casinos, Joel had his best ever winnings at the blackjack tables and I didn’t put too much into the slot machines.
We spent our days bike riding and had a scary encounter while riding along a quiet residential street. As usual, Belle and Lulu were in their doggie trailer behind Joel’s bike when a pit bull appeared out of nowhere growling and running straight for the dogs. Luckily, we had a slight downhill advantage, I was yelling “peddle faster” as Joel and I were both racing as fast as we could go. The pit bull couldn’t keep up and gave up after a few minutes, but it sure got our hearts racing! We were pretty happy when it was time to head out for Salt Lake City, bye Reno!
Yes, you read that right! Joel planned a day trip for us to visit Moaning Caverns. I really didn’t know what to expect as we headed out, but was excited for Joel to take the lead in planning the day. After about an hour drive we came to Sonora and were thrilled to find the biggest little town we have visited in the Yosemite area so far. So many great vintage shops, bakeries, restaurants that I thought I had died and went to heaven!
One of the coolest shops was Legends which is an ice cream sundae bar, bookshop and old mine shaft rolled all into one – crazy place! Above is a gorgeous antique bar where you can saddle up for an ice cream sundae or slice of blackberry pie (yes please!). Below is a book store and remnants of an old mining shaft which was really interesting and unexpected.
We had such fun in Sonora, it was hard to move along to our originally planned destination. We (okay me) grudgingly headed back on the road another half hour to Moaning Caverns. With my heart back in Sonora, I was not prepared for the amazing incredible adventure that lay ahead. We were about to descend 165 feet (16.5 stories) straight down into what felt like the center of the earth!
I consider myself pretty adventurous, but my knees were literally knocking as we started down 65 feet of steep wooden steps to the first platform. Looking down from there, it was seriously crazy to believe that we were now about to descend the remaining 100 feet down an iron spiral staircase that was built from a World War I battleship. I couldn’t chicken-out in front of Joel, but I also could not look down, not even once. I held a death grip, seriously thinking this is it, what if there is an earthquake, OMG I am going to die!!! We finally made it to the bottom and it was spectacular!!! The rock formations, amazing history of the miners who first discovered the cavern and bravery of the men who made it possible for us to experience this bucket-list worthy place. Wow, Joel really knocked it out of the park on this one.
Okay, so I am trying to keep a positive note on this blog, as there is already so much negativity in this world. However, just posting nice pics may be giving the wrong impression that we have set off into this new charmed life. Not so! Everyday problems still have a way of catching up, so I thought I would take this opportunity for a little reality check.
We have been traveling just about two and a half weeks so far. In this time, plenty of things have gone wrong, or at least not as planned. First off, when we left the weather was topping off at around 100 degrees in Orange County. We had a reservation to stay at a park near our home, but decided on a last minute change to see if we could find something cooler at the beach.
We drove about 5 miles down the road to pick up a few groceries. When I opened the trailer door to put them away, I discovered that the closet and refrigerator latches had not held and everything was thrown all over the place – our food, condiments, toiletries, clothing had been thrown everywhere – it was a huge mess! We had about a one hour clean-up and a trip back to the store to buy stronger latches and tension bars.
After first checking at Dana Point (a no go with no vacancies), we lucked out at San Clemente. We had a bit of a late start, so we were eager to get camp set-up and make some dinner. Joel began by connecting the electric and water hook-ups. Next we were trying to figure out how to open the awning when I saw a flood of water pouring out of the trailer. OMG!! We opened the door to find at least an inch of water and rising! I yelled for Joel to turn the water off as I went inside to see where it was coming from – everywhere! We grabbed every towel we had and started mopping up.
After we got most of the water cleaned up, we headed out for something to eat and see if we could find a decent Internet connection. Unfortunately, we headed the wrong direction on the I-5 and ended up having to drive 22 miles all the way to Oceanside, the first available off ramp. Now it’s 9 pm on a Sunday and we haven’t eaten all day. We found a greasy spoon and proceeded to watch YouTube videos to discover we hooked the water supply to the flush-out connection with all the tanks closed, thus causing them to overfill and back up into the trailer. Our first night we went to bed exhausted and frustrated.
The next day we took all the dirty wet towels and headed to the laundry mat. Again, we got a late start, but had enough time to get a few loads done by closing; except the cleaning crew showed up early and kicked us out, wet towels and all.
Once we got back to our campsite we discovered we had been kicked out of our space, another party had reserved it on-line. We packed up and had to move to a dry camping (no hookups) location. The next morning Joel decided to take a shower in the Airstream bathroom. However, after a few minutes in, water was once again flooding the trailer. He had to make a quick and soapy exit and, once again, every towel we had was soaked during the clean-up.
Next up was Morro Bay. However, a 4 hour detour to the Airstream dealer to fix the shower put us on the road at 5 pm, just in time for LA’s infamous traffic – which did not disappoint. After several hours of driving, we pulled off for a bite to eat. That was when we heard the most ear splitting screech coming from the trailer hitch. Apparently, it needs to be greased – all the time – something we figured out after yet another call to AAA (our first being the day we brought the trailer home and couldn’t get it off the hitch). Ugghhh!
After Morro Bay was Alameda County Fairgrounds in the SF Bay Area. I made reservations about 2 months earlier and had paid in full at that time, so we thought we were all set right? Wrong! On our third day of a planned ten day stay, we were once again getting kicked out of our spot! WTF?!?! This time we were informed that their computer accidentally double booked our space and it had been rented out a year ago for the biggest car show on the west coast. There was nothing (truly nothing) available in a 100 mile radius.
Following much discussion with the manager, he found us a spot in the “long term” area (read this as the “carney” area where the fair workers stay). Ummmm yeah, it was as bad as you are imaging right now. When we weren’t being woken up all night by an ornery donkey kicking his stall at perfectly timed intervals (just long enough for you to fall back asleep), we were overcome by the sewer smell right next to our front door – literally inches away. You can’t make this stuff up – seriously! When we were first planning this trip I never calculated staying in carneyville next to an ornery donkey as a possible “what could go wrong” scenario. Silly me.
Yosemite is so beautiful that it is even more heartbreaking to see the ravages of the ongoing California drought. As we were driving into the Valley, there were groves and groves of burned out forests. The areas that were missed by fires had many dead trees mixed in with the few hearty drought survivors. It’s very hot and dry and more than any other place we have visited so far, the lack of rain has really taken a toll. The urban areas are irrigated which I think tends to insulate us from how bad the problem really is. We haven’t seen much wildlife, the sole mule deer I snapped a pic of just as we were leaving and some squirrels were all we spotted after a whole day in the Valley. We are staying at a campground about 40 miles away, so we have to drive into Yosemite Valley.
While visiting, we really enjoyed a short film about John Muir and how a 3 day camping trip he spent with President Roosevelt resulted in Yosemite being designated as the first national park in history. It’s amazing the foresight they had to save such a beautiful resource and how this started the national park system that other countries later followed. So thankful for people like John Muir, President Roosevelt and so many others that truly care about our wonderful country. I hope that we can follow in their footsteps and save these national treasures for generations to come. It’s truly awe inspiring!