Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Pikes Peak or Bust

Pikes Peak from Crystal Creek Reservoir
Notice the switchbacks and the clouds moving in.
Looking down at the switchbacks.
The cog railroad nears the top.
Colorado Springs and the plains below.
View of the Rockies from the top.
We (the CRV) made it.
Cripple Creek
Old mine derrick

Yesterday we went to new heights driving the Pikes Peak Highway 19 miles to the top, 14110 feet above sea level. The peak, called America's mountain, is the eastern most of Colorado's 54 fourteeners. It has inspired people from gold seekers heading west with "Pikes Peak or Bust" painted on their wagons to Katharine Bates who wrote "America the Beautiful" after visiting the summit in 1894. The first road to the top was completed in 1888 and it is still the home of the second oldest race in the US, which was just held last week, the Pikes Peak Hill Climb. Another way to the top is via the Pikes Peak Cog Railway that runs from Manitou Springs to the summit. You can also climb to the top on Barr Trail, the path of a marathon that is run to the top and back down each year. The road travels through four climate zones and the top is above the tree line. The temperature was 75 at the bottom and only 45 at the top. The drive offers wonderful scenery all the way up but we were disappointed at not being able to see farther from the summit because of the smog on the plains and smoke from the distant fires to the west over the Rockies. We went early in the morning because almost every afternoon the summit becomes covered with clouds. We also drove to Cripple Creek, another mining town that is a National Historical District which has been turned into a gambling town. We started our visit at the Pikes Peak Heritage Center which gives an excellent overview of the areas history from dinosaurs to the more than 500 mines that produced more than 22,400,000 ounces of gold. The town is well preserved with the old facades looking much as they did over 100 years ago while housing modern casinos, restaurants and hotels on the inside. You can also tour other museums, a gold mine, ride on the narrow gauge Cripple Creek & Victor Railroad and of course lose your money in a casino. The surrounding hills still show evidence of the mining era with piles of mine waste and old mine derricks dotting the hillsides.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Garden and Gorge

Four bucks and a doe at our campsite.
Garden of the Gods with Pikes Peak in the background.
Cheyenne Mountain
A young man looks on in amazement as Nanc holds up Balanced Rock.
More Garden of the Gods
World's Steepest Incline Railway
Looking down the incline at the rafts on the river.
World's Highest Skycoaster World's Highest Suspension Bridge
Royal Gorge Railway
Unusual bridge on the Rio Grande Railroad.
Where are the Fiddles?

We are now staying at the Mountaindale RV Resort south of Colorado Springs. It is located in the foothills of the Rockies and there is a lot of wildlife including deer and a bear with two cubs that visited our neighbors one night at midnight. We failed to see them because that is well past our bedtime. One day we went to the Garden of the Gods, a FREE park in Colorado Springs. The park has many unusual rock formations including Balanced Rock. It also has great trails for walking and biking. The park was given to the city by Charles Elliot Perkins the head of the Burlington Railroad with the stipulation that it remain free to the public. From Colorado Springs you can see Pikes Peak as well as Cheyenne Mountain, the home of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).While here we visited Canon City home of the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park. This is a park of superlatives with the world's highest suspension bridge, world's longest single span aerial tram, world's steepest incline railway and the world's highest skycoaster. The bridge was built 1053 feet above the Arkansas River in 1929 and the other attractions have been added over the years. In addition, there is a theater, a wildlife park, waterclock, petting zoo and mountain man encampment. All are included in the price of admission except the skycoaster which soars out over the gorge wall 1200 feet above the river below. (Un)fortunately we were saved from riding the skycoaster and tram by a lightening and hail storm. You can also view the gorge via a train trip along the old Rio Grande Railroad tracks or from a raft trip down the river. Because the gorge is so narrow here there is a very unusual bridge along its wall. It hangs from two upside down V-shaped beams that are attached to each side of the gorge. On another day we attended the Fiddlers Along the Arkansas Festival in Canon City but were disappointed when they only had a couple not so great guitar players.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Happy Anniversary to Us

Today marks exactly one year (527040 minutes) that we have been on the road. Just a few stats on the year:
Motorhome Miles..........................10,666
Average Miles Per Day.........................29.14
Average Trip........................................142.21
Gallons of Diesel Fuel......................1375.21
Average Cost Per Gallon........................3.80
CRV Miles.......................................11,792
Bicycle Miles.......................................405
Camp Sites.............................................75
Average Nights in Each..........................4.9
Number of Frosty Nights.......................5
Number of States..................................23
National Parks & Monuments.............30+
Blog Posts............................................105
Days of Exercise (Jim).......................200
Days of Exercise (Nanc).....................243
Number of haircuts (Jim)......................0
Number of Old and New Friends.....Priceless

The numbers don't come close to telling the real story of this fantastic lifestyle. The new people we have met and the new places we have seen are beyond our wildest expectations. On several occasions we have run into people we have met previously in our travels. We have visited with old friends and family and have had friends stay with us. We have spent at least 85 days with our old friends and family members. We hope this continues because we enjoy sharing our experiences with others and keeping up with what is going on in their lives. In most of these cases we have gotten to spend much more time together than we did when we were living in our sticks and bricks house. We already have so many memories that we have to go back and read our blog entries and personal journals and look at the over 6000 pictures (love that digital photography) we have taken as a reminder of places and people we have seen and met. We still cannot pick one place or one thing that has been the best because if we are disappointed in a location we just move on and, really, each place has been a new and exciting experience that we would not change except maybe to stay a little longer.

While it has been great overall not everything has been a bed of roses. We have had motorhome repairs and expenses we did not count on, we still have not been able to sell our house and as everyone knows the price of fuel which was $2.84 last August increased to $4.77 for the last fill up. It is a real shock when you pay over $500 for one tank of fuel. One compensation we have made is eating more meals in and dining out less. This has been great because Nanc has always loved to cook and has been waiting for years to have the time to try new recipes. Many of the things that haven't gone as planned are really no different than the problems everyone faces so we plan on continuing to travel for as long as we can. We are very comfortable living in our beautiful Dutch Star and there is something to be said about getting up in the morning and having to look outside to see where we are.

As we begin our second year we are planning to spend the next couple of weeks in Colorado before starting a slow trek back toward Wash Pa. We will visit Nebraska and Iowa, two states neither of us have ever visited. In September we are going to the Gypsy Journal Rally in Celina, Ohio where we will be meeting some other members of the full timing class of 2007 and Nanc will take a hands on driving class. We will then be in Washington for three weeks before heading south. We plan to spend some time at Betty's RV Park in Cajun country before wintering in south Texas. In the spring we will attend a get-together of the class of 2007 near San Antonio and then head west. We are going to the Four Corners region and the Grand Canyon. We are then going to the Northwest to spend more time in an area we passed through to quickly this year. For the winter of 09/10 we plan to stay in Arizona. We will then have spent winters in each of the most popular snowbird locales so we can decide where we will spend our future winters. One change we will be making is to increase the average number of nights we stay in a campground. Other than our month on the Outer Banks we rarely stayed longer than two weeks in one place. This should reduce the amount of fuel we need.

One thing we have not done is put a counter on the blog. While it is a personal log of our travels that we often look at we have no idea who reads it or how often someone looks at it. We know some people have had trouble putting in comments but it would be great if everyone who reads this would make a comment or send an email to let us know who is out there looking in on us. We would really love to hear from all of you and we are glad you are interested in our travels.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Colorado High Country

Judy and Bill on Matt and Danielle's deck. What a great view.
Danielle and Matt
Mountain Protester! Written on the flag is "Made in China"
Some of the abandon buildings in Central City.

New casinos squeezed into the canyon in Blackhawk.
Elk crossing near Estes Park.
Hiking in the high country.
Columbine near a snow melt waterfalls.

We are now at the Dory Hills Campground near Central City in the Colorado high country, elevation 9230 feet. While here we spent a great week with Nanc's sister and brother-in-law, Judy and Bill, who are here for a month visiting Bill's daughter, Danielle and her husband Matthew. They have a beautiful mountain home in Rollinsville not far from where we are camped. Nearby Nederland, an old mining town, is now the home to many members of the 60's counter culture. It is a quaint little town with many interesting shops and restaurants. We visited Central City and Blackhawk, two towns that have several casinos. Central City, another old mining town, that is listed on the national historical registry has several small casinos operating in old restored buildings while keeping their historical integrity. At one time there were 23 casinos in the small town, but in nearby Blackhawk several large new casinos have been built and many of the Central City buildings are once again empty. We also visited Boulder where there was a large crafts festival on one of the main downtown streets and Estes Park the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park. We have really enjoyed the weather in the high country with the temperatures being much cooler then Denver and Boulder and deep blue skies highlighting the soaring mountains. We hiked in the national forests and saw a lot of flora and fauna. At over 10,000 feet, where we hiked to the Continental Divide, there are still big patches of snow and the spring flowers are just now in bloom.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Yah Mon, No Problem

Our play area at Starfish Trelawny
Fun in the Caribbean Sea
Pool Pool
Fun in the sun
We took over the kids slide
Jo & Terry
Amanda, Brittany, Liz & Rachel
Jason & Caroline
Dave & Jackie
Bill & Kim
Jim & Nanc
John & Patrice
The bride takes one last unmarried swing
Mr. & Mrs. John Yanni

After spending a fabulous week at the Starfish Trelawny Resort in Falmouth, Jamaica for the Yanni-Becton wedding we are at the Buffalo Hills Campground in Sterling, Colorado. We left the RV near here at the Pawnee Valley Preserve, a ranch owned by Curt Pilkington, a friend of my brother. For the last couple of days we did a weeks worth of laundry, refilled with groceries and worked on the RV. Although we are fortunate enough to travel all the time we are really not on a vacation where someone else makes the bed, cooks your meals and allows you to just kickback all day. We had great time with all our friends who attended the wedding. We spent everyday at the pool or in the Caribbean Sea soaking up the sun while enjoying the large variety of drinks and wonderful meals prepared by the friendly staff at the resort and listening to great entertainment nightly. We were able to catch up on what has been going on in everyone's lives and laughed so much our cheeks hurt. When you see them ask John about being dumped by Big Mabel, Bill about the announcement he made and Dave which floor his room was on.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Escaping with Escapees at Escapade

Attendees in the Cam-Plex
Ours has the white roof.
Class of 2007
The new RV with veranda that Nanc wanted, but $800,000 was not in our budget.
Practicing what I learned at the mine.
Mud volleyball on the 4th.

We are nearing the end of our stay in Gillette, WY with the Escapees RV group and have had a wonderful time. This was the 48th Escapade and the 30th anniversary of Escapees but only our second Escapade. There were over 1000 RVs and more than 2000 people in attendance. We went on a HOP (previous blog) before the start of the rally and met many new people including Norm Payne, a fulltimer since 1999 whose web site I used extensively while preparing to go on the road. We also talked to Mark Nemeth who coordinated the Boot Camp we attend last year and discovered he is a master brewer who makes a great tasting beer. At the rally we attended several useful seminars on all aspects of fulltiming. We also hooked up with the Class of 2007, many of whom we met in Goshen, IN last year and had a potluck dinner with about 40 people who started fulltiming in 2007. We had camped beside Lanny and Lois Swanson in Bozeman and discovered they had also been at RV Boot Camp last year and were in charge of morning coffee at the Escapade this year. We volunteered to lend a hand and got up at 5 AM for three days to dispense coffee and donuts and meet and greet. The evening entertainment was excellent with a country group called Chugwater Band one evening and singer comedian Jimmy Travis another evening. They had some RVs for sale and we found one we really thought about buying. On the Fourth of July we went to the local parade in which the Escapees had a float and also went to the community park where they had free hot dogs and many activities. The fireworks were at the Cam-Plex where we are parked so we had front row seats. We will be leaving here on Sunday heading to Denver then flying to Jamaica for the Yanni - Becton wedding. It's a hard life but someone has to do it.