After a harried schedule of loading for a brief tour of the Durango Colorado area, we began our run north out of Albuquerque on I-25, turning off 20 miles at Bernalillo onto the well maintained 4 lane highway across the New Mexico portion of the Navajo Reservation.. hwy 550 (formerly 44) to Farmington New Mexico. A ‘basement’ compartment door opened on the coach, loosing one favored shoe south of Cuba NM.
After one hour plus of driving, we stopped at the ‘Circle K’ in Cuba NM, purchasing a pack of sodas and ate our Kentucky Fried Chicken we had acquired while passing through Bernalillo NM, 20 miles north of ABQ NM.
Progressing north for another hour and a half, we turn west at Bloomfield and head for Farmington to refuel and stay at the remote quiet end of Sam’s Club parking lot near Walmart, where we often stay for the evening on trips through that busy little ‘Four Corners’ (Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona) city on the edge of the Navajo reservation.
A nice quiet night and a morning of roaming the city for collectible and resale worthy ‘whatevers’ in charity thrift stores, closed our visit at noon, with our departure toward Durango Colorado. Aztec NM to the east of Farmington, is where we rejoin hwy 550 north over the Cedar Hill mesa above the Animas River into Durango Colo, a short hour north.
As we crawled down the last hill into the valley approach south of Durango, a neglected pickup truck with trailer, had stopped and the driver was begging for someone to nimbly pull around traffic (that left us out) to give his battery a quick boost to restart. We turned east toward Bayfield Colorado in an attempt to get around the blocked intersection. Wrong move, Murphy’s Law took longer than waiting in the traffic jam for his truck to be restarted.
Winding the rig through busy, touristy little narrow gauge ‘train town’ Durango https://www.google.com/search?q=durango+colorado&client=firefox-a&hs=tJO&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&channel=fflb&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=kuUzUt_lKoTnqQHXy4H4Ag&ved=0CG4QsAQ&biw=1360&bih=610&dpr=1 and north to the Alpen Rose RV park, was like revisiting an old acquaintance and looking for changes.
A nights rest and the morning encouraged us back into Durango for some exploration of businesses of interest and a quiet celebration of our 45th wedding anniversary, with lunch at the historic Strater Hotel, Diamond Belle Saloon http://www.diamondbelle.com/ where the young, leggy ‘bar girls’ wear net stockings :>).
New developments are always noted in the bustling ‘train town’ of Durango. Of course they must stringently meet ‘The Code of the West’ to add any additional structures, which the locals despise. Returning to Alpen Rose for the night and riding the RV bicycle around the park as evening ritual, consumed the rest of the daylight as the last narrow gauge train of the day returning from Silverton, blew it’s steam whistle and rumbled past the park.
The following day was touring in the ‘Toad’, north to Ouray Colorado https://www.google.com/search?q=ouray+colorado&client=firefox-a&hs=yZi&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&channel=fflb&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=dt8zUuzpOIjTqQGhjoDgCQ&ved=0CGgQsAQ&biw=1360&bih=610&dpr=1 an hour and a half away, ‘Switzerland of America’.
The tour is mountainous magnificent. Peaks soar upwards through the clouds and old mining claims, along Red Mountain’s ‘edgy’ highway (Million Dollar Highway) pavement north of Silverton to Ouray, where a slight steering mistake while traversing the northbound lane, can immediately send you plummeting a thousand feet into the canyon below.
Several pullouts beckon photography skills to capture the unmatched and rugged mountain scenery. Some of the richest mines ever discovered in America are along this route from Durango through Silverton and on into Ouray. Many are detailed in roadside turnout signage along the highway. Summer is touring and outdoor adventure, Winter is skiing for Rocky Mountain southern range Colorado visitors. The tourism industry keeps Colorado booming long many years after the mines have quieted down. Winter becomes avalanche time in the Rockies.
Roadside memorials mark the demise of many victims from the roaring snow slides, all too common along these mountainside hugging highways engineered by designers with skillful imaginations. Snowplow drivers add to the total of victims often lost, bodies not found until the summer melt. Special detachments of highway maintenance crews keep the slides from surprising unwary drivers. Crews explode charges (a Howitzer) to force them to slide, before becoming a deadly danger. Concrete snow sheds over the highway, protect the drivers along common slide areas.
Jeeps can be rented. Alternately tour guides can be your docents in their mountain tour vehicles, to explore and tell the fascinating stories of the mines of the past. Choices are numerous, including the notorious (2004, family of four went over the edge) ‘Black Bear’ Road over the Black Bear pass http://www.visittelluride.com/things-to-do/trails-huts/black-bear-pass to Telluride.
Mountain bicycles with iron riders rule the trails in many areas. Hikers, campers and trekkers also come from around the world to spend time in these mountains. The world famous narrow gauge railroads, such as the Durango to Silverton, still are maintained for the enjoyment of tourists year around (Christmas Polar Express included).
Meandering around ‘Ouray’ (named after Indian Chief) with a nice lunch and a bit of shopping for gifts, is our pastime before returning over the passes and back down to Silverton (home of the ‘highest’ Harley Davidson shop), where we purchased a few other western gifts for family.
The narrow gauge train (two per day) turns around for it’s return to Durango. Silverton also hosted the extremely fast racers of international downhill skiing a few years ago. A historic Victorian hotel on the main street, graciously served diners using actual ‘silver’ ware….. until the losses became unsustainable. Human nature…
Returning to Durango and Alpen Rose RV for the night, is welcomed after the miles of twisting mountain pass highways. Altitude ‘enhances’ headaches in some people. Temperatures were in the low 50’s, so no color changes were seen in the leaves on this trip. Soon that will reverse and the fall colors will explode across the southern mountains.
Riding the bicycle around the RV park is a ritual in exercise to maintain some semblance of health after eating larger than average lunches found in little mountain town sandwich shops. We have on occasion, enjoyed the evening at the nearby Bar-D, with it’s own little gift and art shops. The talented Bar-D Wranglers entertain with western themed music and a great evening show, after a filling and tasty ‘chuck wagon’ meal, served by the entertainers surprisingly quickly, in spite of a winding line of reservation guests.
The next day was a tour of the lakes and dams above Durango. Lemon Reservoir was where we once saw the annual sheep herding (thousands) during forest grazing. Sheep herders camp wagons and all. This time Lemon Reservoir was low from the cyclical summer drought.
Not low enough to prevent an obviously intoxicated Jeep Grand Cherokee driver from exploring the edges of the lake the night before. The nice vehicle was hopelessly stuck in muddy water, hopefully awaiting an expensive tow before the reservoir rises drastically with the next rain, which is predicted within hours. The winter snowfall also eventually fills the reservoirs fast, as spring melt floods down out of the mountains.
The extensive forest fire damage from a few years ago, is diminishing as the ‘afterburn’ greenery sprouts from the mountainsides. Soon the ‘Quakies’ (aspen trees) will cover the countless miles of mountain forest burn areas. Pines follow the Aspens by generations of healing. We ate Codfish and fries at a local lounge (‘Shanks’) on Vallecito Reservoir, before heading back down the mountain into Durango and turning back north through the valley toward Alpen Rose RV Park.
The next day was back into Durango to check out the charity thrift stores for discarded treasures. Animal Humane (busy) and the Methodist Thrift, both charity shops, seem to be the most donated too, of the few locals.
Of course a bite of local sandwich shops cuisine, keeps our hunger satisfied during lunch away from the coach. Wife located a reproduction Victorian vintage chair, and I an automated LED sign, at one little private shop. The ‘Toad’ Honda is now crowded with the chair on top of my bicycle, ending any evening rides.
Morning after a night of heavy rainfall (great sleeping), we prepared for leaving, dumped the holding tanks of five days accumulation (internal tank rinse works again, after the previously documented, reverse ‘purging’ of the little sprinkler head).
The coach power supply is a Xantrex inverter/charger that maintains the battery bank (four, six volt golf cart batteries connected in series/parallel to provide 12 volts at a high amperage) while plugged into shore power. I noted the little LED battery monitor (Walmart lighter plug-in) read 12.1 volts.
Unusual to see that low reading while Xantrex was humming on shore power. Connected the auxiliary battery charger and restored voltage overnight. Xantrex website had a detailed troubleshooting guide. Suggested disconnect of shore power and battery bank, to restore default charge settings. Morning disconnect was perfect time. It worked. All is normal again.
Plan is then travel 56 scenic miles east from Durango to next RV camp, overnight followed by a day of exploring the local Pagosa Springs scene after an evening of relaxation at the Blanco River RV Resort, 9 miles to the south of Pagosa Springs. Small park, not enough trails for bicycle riding.
Driving the toad back into Pagosa Springs after breakfast in the coach, was great scenic touring of the mountain valleys of southern Colorado. Each direction offers breath taking views of cloud crested mountains interspersed with meadows, cows and tall Ponderosa Pines.
Famous ‘Wolf Creek Pass’ (world class skiing slopes) is just to the east and is referred to in song and trucking stories http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c_Qkdd1pU6c Anyone can understand why so many prominent public figures quietly own property, or find time to relax in this southern Colorado San Juan mountains range area. Everything, including fuel costs are usually higher in tourist towns, due to their remote locations. $3.75 per gallon was common.
Retirees seem to be happy here. A large golf course west of town amid surrounding upscale homes, attracts investors and real estate brokers. The area’s vintage ranches and historic natural geological formations are abundant. The hot springs from which the area draws notoriety, is a feature enjoyed by all that stay in the upscale hotels and condos on the geothermal sites along the river banks.
Native American Indians knew and took advantage of these bubbling hot springs long before white man settled the area. Kayaking, rafting are the main summer river sports, as fishing. Hiking, biking similar to, but not as popular and crowded as Durango, keeps the streets, including forest access mountain trails active.
Numerous surrounding resorts and camps attract outdoors oriented people year around, with only the toughest withstanding the harsh winters. Cyclic rainfall provides seasonal rushes of water and flooding to most of Colorado (as noted elsewhere).
This year following a prolonged drought, has returned the cyclical roaring floods (including other natural anomalies) to many areas that were previously uninhabited. Problem is the development of population centers on those slopes and floodplain watershed lowlands where natural floods once raged freely. People (‘News’, Talking Heads) always seem shocked in disbelief that such a natural occurrence happens.
Downtown Pagosa Springs has a series of volcanic hot water vents located close to the the public parking and shops. Following our hobby instincts, we browsed the two most active charity thrift shops, finding one nice but neglected, aluminum Huffy bicycle to restore. I now have two disassembled bicycles stuffed into the back of the ‘toad’. Both are vying for space with the Victorian styled chair from the little Durango rummage shop.
Lunch at a popular roadside restaurant, hot roast beef smothered in gravy with mashed potatoes (I added ‘Chulula’ hot sauce), including a large hamburger and fries, gave us a nice break and leftovers for later this evening. Interesting gift shops with endless selections of western themed (Wolves, Eagles, Deer, Buffalo) items are numerous in western tourist towns. I like weaponry, knives and guns :>)
Antique shops are mostly of the ‘mall’ variety, with a collective of dealers supporting the rent and maintenance. Prices are relatively high in many of these touristy areas. We found Pagosa Springs shops to be following that business plan of seasonal survival.
The attraction of unique western themed art and collectibles (including attractive, well made items imported from China) is not surprising, due to the fantastic scenic mountains that draw tourism and especially seasonal Hunters (primarily Elk and Deer) from many parts of the USA and around the world.
Entertaining to see the Elk and Deer running through the settled areas to avoid the hunters in the surrounding forests. They seem to know exactly when ‘opening day’ begins the hunt. That is when they are trotting back and forth, weaving among the traffic on the highways and streets where no shooting is allowed. Laying down to wait out the season in yards of homes, is a common ploy to disrupt the plans of the hunters.
Hunters spend unimaginable fortunes in associated costs, fees and equipment to ‘Draw’ a permit to take their one Elk. Most hunters are unsuccessful in the ‘take’, but provide great memories of the ‘hunt’. The hunters costs associated, collectively being the supporting fund to maintain and proliferate the state’s flourishing herds of wildlife. Without the avid financial support of hunters and weapons equipment/supplies industry, including the powerful NRA and other wildlife/nature recreation promoting groups, there would be no abundance of wildlife.
The familiar sound of the bugle type Elk calls sold to hunters, is often heard, as the hunters practice blowing the loud calls (grunts and whistling squeals) while walking around town. Bow Hunting season is not quite as popular, due to highly elevated skill levels required to get close enough to actually insert an arrow in the exact placement required to ‘down’ an Elk or Deer. We are fortunate to have avid and generous hunting friends. The meat is excellent and they are excited to do all of the labor and pay for the costs associated. :>)
Rain fell again today after a prolonged cyclical summer drought across the western states. Rainfall, though somewhat troublesome to some, is extremely appreciated to keep the forests and mountains green. Back in camp, we had to tilt the coach to the right, using it’s powered leveling jack under the left rear quadrant.
The heavy rainfall causes the water from the roof running down the extended bedroom slide out, to wick back under the flawed design, flat bottomed ‘slide out’ box, soaking the inside carpet…. if not tilted out lower in that direction. The living room slide, on the opposite side, has an exterior wall design (drip edge) that prevents the run-off water from accomplishing that damaging effect. Even Holiday Rambler makes errors in engineering.
This evening is our last in this Colorado trip’s RV camping, before heading home to Albuquerque in the morning after eight days on the road.
We were told by the friendly RV camp’s owners, to try the Dulce NM route through the Jicarilla (‘J’ pronounced ‘H’) Indian Reservation on our return to Albuquerque.
The drive south out of Colorado was punctuated by countless ‘Magpies’, black and white crow like birds, and was extremely pleasant and scenic as she mentioned (lots of cows and Ponderosa Pine meadows). Dulce route saved us about 36 miles difference from the regular Santa Fe route we had planned south through Chama New Mexico (another active touristy narrow gauge ‘train town’).
The added benefit was a traditional and delicious Indian Taco, freshly made by the Indian family at one of the roadside stands in tiny Jicarilla reservation town of Dulce NM. A freshly made, circular 10″ ‘Frybread’, covered in pinto beans, lettuce, cheese and ‘red chile’ marinated beef. Our shared desert was a square fruit pie (apple, cherry or prune) and a little bag of thick cinnamon dusted Indian cookies (sometimes called ‘Biscuitchitos’).
Crossing the desolate and beautiful Jicarilla Reservation with it’s forests and Ponderosa meadows, we eventually merged back south onto scenic hwy 550 north of Cuba NM. We futilely watched for my lost shoe, after proceeding south through the town of Cuba and into ‘traficky’ Bernalillo (north of ABQ NM) where the ‘Warrior’, a modern, Indian owned (casino) fuel station had $3.15 per gallon regular. Now the 75 gallon fuel tank is filled and ready for the next voyage.
We returned back home another 20 miles south on I-25 to unload provisions/clothing and restore the coach to ‘travel ready’ status for storage in the back yard. A vigorous wash and wax, using Eagle One products (Soap/wax followed by ‘Nano’ Spray Wax) is required to restore the finish to a preserved state, withstanding the brutal effects of the sun’s UV in the southwest for another six months.
The seasonal and cyclical rainfall is flooding many parts of Colorado and New Mexico as noted on the ‘news’ this evening. Rio Rancho south of Bernalillo is one of the favorite flooding areas due to prolific home construction among the historic massive dry washes and arroyos.
The historically cycling Rio Grande is running high once again Roaring after years of low levels. Low levels that caused endless ‘hand wringing’ and prodigious allocations of tax dollars to support ‘Save the Silvery Minnow’ …activists. Today the activists are quiet, except for ‘hand wringing’ about flooding. The billion dollar ‘Silvery Minnow’ of the Rio Grande (not even a native species) survives once again. Possibly the activists are planning to force the gullible tax ‘Payers’ to finance yet another Rio Grande ‘Silvery Minnow’ rescue…. from flooding?.
The vast, dry washes and arroyos (where many illogical builders and city planners construct home developments) are naturally running as raging torrents of water, after this last seasonal drought. Of course the ‘News’ is always in crisis mode, so ‘Flooding’ is their favorite ‘News’ for the time being. Historic? Biblical Proportions? No wander that ‘Journalism’ is a dead end, financially deficit college degree, among the soft ‘Social Studies’ so prominent among society today.
All in all, a great little trip to just get away from day to day ‘news’ for a bit. Not a long and adventurous travel of thousands of miles. Only a short time away away from the tedium of everyday life. Home yard grass is green from the days of rain. Home bed sure looks good for the night. All is well.
Enjoy life in the USA, “One Nation Under God”. The Greatest Nation ever recorded in history.