Sunday, 31 August 2008

Day Twenty - Thursday, 10 July - Part I

Bill’s Road Book

Day 18, 10 July: 250 miles, 4.5 hours

Hwy 12: 15 miles to Hillsdale, turn left on US 89

US 89: 21 miles to Long Valley – turn right onto Hwy 14

Hwy 14: 42 miles to Junction, Cedar City – Enter on East Center Street, turn left onto South Main Street (Hwy 130) to join I-15 South

I-15: 60 miles to Arizona border; 30 miles to Nevada Border, 80 miles to LasVegas

Total estimated distance: 3,542 miles (actual, 3,585 miles, 15 miles inside the ‘free’ mileage limit)

So now the race really was on...Helen and Martin were off to get their marriage license (and shirt) in Vegas. This was our last day of the holiday in the US. Bill would be on the plane headed home when his daughter was getting married -- her choice -- but Auntie Jane would be available to help the bride get ready on the day. Helen had expressed some concern about still fitting into her wedding dress, yummy American food being what it is and Martin certainly not being diet-minded. Jane was a little nervous about having sole responsibility for shoe-horning Helen into the dress, but it turned out all their worries were unnecessary.

The rest of us who were not getting married the next day set about seeing Bryce Canyon. Chris dropped Bob, Bill and me at a starting point and we went for what we thought would be a leisurely stroll on the Queen's Garden trail.

But first, both the guys had to whip out their respective video cameras. Each had a witty, original narrative to accompany their films. Bob: "This is the last day and here we are at Bryce Canyon..." Bill: "This is the last day and here we are at Bryce Canyon..." My camera batteries were dead, but I had Bill's newly found still camera, and so I joined them in the ritual. Shelley: "This is the last day and here we are at Bryce Canyon..."

We had a time deadline as Chris was going to return for us in an hour. We also had 250 miles to drive and our aim was to return the RV that afternoon before the rental place shut at 5pm. However, thinking that we did have an hour, I was stopping to take pictures, even though I've seen Bryce several times and already have one or two (million) shots. Bill got annoyed with me, saying we'd never make it back around the loop at this pace. I'd thought we were doing an out-and-back route, but not wanting to be late when Chris arrived, I got serious about the walk, though I was wearing flip flop sandals. When Bob and I expressed concern about the route, Bill assured us that the signs indicated it was a loop and I stopped some other tourists -- turns out they were French -- and they also said it was a loop; we could make it longer if we wished by linking into another trail. We thought not...

Guess what? If you didn't do the longer route, it was NOT a loop and we had to hurry back to meet Chris. That was one of my two exercise periods in this holiday (the other was running for a train, which we missed). It was hot and arid and up hill. My lungs were unhappy with the dry air and I was really thirsty. I made it to the top 20 minutes late.

But Bryce Canyon is spectacularly beautiful. (Click pictures to enlarge).

Saturday, 30 August 2008

Day Nineteen - Wednesday, 9 July - Part II

As mentioned previously, Bill had provided The Tourists with a more interesting route to the one for the RV. What he didn't realise was that Rhiannon wanted to see the Grand Canyon, seeing as how she'd joined the party in Albuquerque when as it was headed east, which meant she'd missed seeing it. Martin tried to tell her that Black Canyon was in some ways much preferable (on a more sensible scale) and I tried to tell her that when Bill and I live in Salt Lake City she and Simon could come across any time and go see it.

Nope, she wanted to see the Grand Canyon now. And why not? It was only about 350 miles out of the way.

We did invite Jane to stay in the RV with us, but she went along with Chris, Simon and Rhiannon to the North Rim. Boy, did she regret it. Turns out she got the job of navigator and so was on duty for the whole day, while others in the car got to nap.

Thankfully, Jane and Chris had a nice comfy hotel room at Ruby's Inn. The youngsters had opted for teepees and just got back in time to find out where they were located before registration closed.

Martin and Helen returned last. They had taken Bill's prescribed tour, but it turned out to be even rougher than Bill described. They had a flat tire and Martin said what with the sharp corners and rough terrain it cross his mind to wonder if Bill was trying to rid himself of an almost-son-in-law. He was so shook up he bought a six pack of bottled beer at the grocery store at Ruby's Inn. He shared them around, but we all agreed it was not drinkable. I wondered if it was a Mormon thing, selling disgusting beer to dissuade people from drinking. I was sorry to pour it out; I could have used it to trap slugs. No, even they would have avoided this dirty water stuff.

And so, another day...

But wait! There are still beds to make -- on the ground -- in the teepees!

Hmmm, I heard it was really cold and the ground was hard...

and someone wimped out...

Looks like it was Helen, the softie.

But they did look fun from the outside, anyhow.

Friday, 29 August 2008

Day Nineteen - Wednesday, 9 July - Part I

Bill’s Road Book

Day 17: July 9, 333 miles, 7 hours (cars). Note 7 – 411 miles, 8 hours (RV)

US 160: 10 miles to Cortez - Jct 491 turn left; 20 miles - fork right, keep on 160; 18 miles – turn rough onto Hwy 41
Hwy 41:
10 miles to Utah Border
Hwy 262:
17 miles to Montezuma Creek: After 90 right, turn left on Hwy 163 (Trading Post road)
Hwy 163:
12 miles to Bluff – straight on, keep on Hwy 163; 20 miles to Mexican Hat; 20 miles to Arizona Border; 24 miles to Kayenta (Monument Pass, 5,200 feet)
Hwy 160:
42 miles to Jct Hwy 98, turn right onto Hwy 160
Hwy 98:
66 miles to Page – turn right;
US 89:
11 miles to Utah Border – turn right onto US 89; 8 miles to Cottonwood; 40 miles to Canyon Road (Turn Right past Big Water)


Alternate route for RV:
Hwy 160:
64 miles to Kanab
Hwy 98:
18 miles to Mount Carmel – turn right.
US 89:
23 miles to Junction – turn right; 21 miles to Long Valley – 15 miles to Junction – turn right; Hillsdale – turn right


Hwy 12: 15 miles to Cannonville, Bryce Canyon National Park – turn left into Ruby’s Inn

Note 7 Cottonwood Canyon Road

No, this is not Shelley’s house in Salt Lake City. It is a road on the map but then so was a road to Rainbow Arch that we tried to go down from Page on our last trip. We ended up in the middle of the Navajo Reservation. If it’s a dirt road we can send the cars down it to tell the people at Ruby’s that we will be late and we will have to take the RV another 70 miles around by road. Might be fun though!!

We had a fairly uneventful journey through southern Utah and a corner of Arizona. As in Texas, there is a lot of nothing in that part of Utah,

but eventually you find yourself in a landscape that is truly bizarre; I always feel as though I must be on the moon or something.

There are all manner of ridges

and swirls

and then there is Mexican Hat rock.

Some of the formations remind me of hands and fingers

others look like breasts.

I was frustrated with not being able to capture the amazing colour of Lake Powell. The contrast between the blue green water and the red stone formations always gets me.

With a stop for spot of dueling cameras,

we finally pulled into Ruby's Inn and found our parking spot in no time. Since were were nearing the end of the vacation, I made an enormous rice casserole, trying to use up the groceries, but no one else showed up for dinner. We had just finished washing dishes and putting everything away when one contingent of The Tourists arrived. The other was still MIA.

Sunday, 24 August 2008

Day Eighteen - Tuesday, 8 July - Part III

Now, what makes Mesa Verde so cool? It was the home of some ancient people called the Anasazi's, ancestors of the modern Puebloes.

They were cliff dwellers, though no one knows exactly why or what happened to them. It is believed that they farmed the land on top of the mesas, but didn't find it safe to live there. Very curious. They obviously didn't mind heights, or maybe there was just a natural selection process involved, huh?

I think Cliff Palace and Balcony House are great names for a home. I believe this is Balcony House here. Click on the link above for a little education and views of the awesome Cliff Palace.

(I don't see a tail, but I believe this is a rock squirrel, the main carrier of plague -- yes, black death -- in the Four Corners area. We used to catch, anesthetize and comb these lovely little critters when doing plague investigations. I used to wonder if after they woke up and ran away, did they tell their family and friends they'd been captured by aliens?)

Those were all Simon's pictures. I'm sure you recognised his style.

Did I mention that by now we all had a fine collection of bug bites? Some itchy, some not. Bob won the grand prize for numbers -- I counted at least 65, thankfully not all of them terribly itchy ones. I took this picture not to blog, but to show him his own back. He was amazed, and I'm afraid he may have itched a bit more for having seen it!

The man who showed us where to park pointed out we had a nice view of the Sleeping Ute . I thought an absence of telephone wires would have improved the view, but there you go. The Sleeping Ute's head is at the right, then his folded arms. You can imagine his knees and just barely see the little peak they say is his toes.

I never did make out what was the purpose of the teepee in the car park, but the Brits found it mildly interesting, particularly as the youngsters were going to sleep in one the next night -- oh, yes, they were.

The local jack rabbits seemed to like cutting across the car park. Perhaps they found munchies there around the charcoal grills.

Saturday, 23 August 2008

Day Eighteen - Tuesday, 8 July - Part II

So, after we did the Black Canyon thing, Bill, Bob and I returned to the RV and carried on down to Mesa Verde. This was the third or fourth time I'd been here, can't remember if it was the second or third time for Bill. This should tell you what an amazing place it is.

But first we had to get there.

Through some more mountain passes.

Bill was driving, Bob was praying

and I tried to snap some pictures to capture just how much I hated those roads.

But we did get to Mesa Verde, in the late afternoon. In fact we arrived at the Visitors' center just in time to be told we couldn't do a guided tour as they were all booked up for the rest of the day. I think Bob may have been a little relieved as there was ladder climbing involved and since Bill and I had seen it before it wasn't an awful disappointment. Fortunately, we later learned, The Tourists were able to get there sooner and do the whole dash (Simon's pictures will follow). While we were there, I tried to take pictures of this magnificent mountain lion, but the glass case defeated me.

I love the part of the part where they say "If you are fortunate enough to see a mountain lion, please respect its space". (Click on the picture for a readable view.)

Given that he's about a third bigger than me, and very well armed, I don't think I'd have any problem doing that.

We left the Visitors' Centre and drove the 15 miles down to the museum to look at what was on offer at that stage. As soon as we arrived, Bill realised he'd misplaced his video camera and was visibly shaken about it. I was fighting down panic. I don't think Bob could even believe it.

I suggested Bill ask someone at the desk to phone the Visitors' Center to see if it had been turned in, and do it soon as it was close to 5pm when I was certain the Center would shut. The staff were sympathetic, but no it hadn't been turned in. They sent Bill to the Park Rangers' office to file a report. Meantime, Bob and I went down to the Spruce Tree House as instructed, but my heart wasn't in it.

We were all tired. Bob said if it was all the same to me, he wasn't bothered about walking all the way down, as we would just have to walk all the way up again. I was grieving for all of Bill's filming he'd done the last two weeks. We went back up to the RV and turned it inside out, just in case. We found Bill's still camera which had been missing for the majority holiday, so there was at least that positive. I was beginning to get annoyed, seeing as how I'd bought both the still and the video cameras as birthday or Christmas gifts and now that I'd retired was less in a position to replace them, though fortunately, they probably would be covered by insurance. I tried to reassure myself that people who have the money to go to Mesa Verde might already have video cameras and perhaps more likely to turn it in as lost.

Bill came back from the Park Rangers' office looking really depressed. He wanted to drive back to the Visitors' Center to check the mens' toilet; he thought that might have been where he left it. I was frantic to get there, thinking now that the Visitors' Center was closed, it would be harder for someone to turn the camera in. I was thinking that Bill might at least have copies of the videos Bob had taken and Bill remarked that he still had the whole first tape, and would have only lost a portion of a second tape. We were trying to find some comfort; when Bill came back with his camera and a BIG smile we all shouted with joy and relief!

Friday, 22 August 2008

Day Eighteen - Tuesday, 8 July - Part I

Bill’s Road Book
July 8, 204 miles, 5 hours, Note 6
US 50:
66 miles to Montrose, turn left onto Hwy 550

Hwy 550: 55 miles to Red Mountain Pass – south; 10 miles to Molas Divide (11,000 feet); 10 miles to Coal Bank Hill (11,000 feet); 30 miles to Pass (10,650 feet), 33 miles to Durango – turn right onto Hwy 160
Hwy 160:
Mesa Verde

Note 6 Mesa Verde
There is a huge campsite at Mesa Verde and they say you don’t have to book as it never gets full. I don’t know how long it will take us to get there over the three 11000 ft high passes from Montrose. Hope to make it in time to have a look around one of the Pueblos before they close at 17:30. We might not get there or we may be able to get a bit further that day

Right, before we head to Mesa Verde, I need to show you around Gunnison. Well, actually around the Black Canyon, which is near Gunnison, the town. Even before that it has to be said that we were well impressed with the RV park and the cabin,

complete with fishing pond and fountain,


library and laundry.

To be fair most RV parks had good showers and laundry facilities, but this is the only place I washed clothes and read magazines! It was wonderfully relaxing, isn't that bizarre?

Now to the scenery.

The main thing I recall about this day was that we were up and at it looking around a bit sharpish as we needed to be in a car and Martin and Helen were anxious to get said car to Las Vegas, because they needed to get a wedding license and Martin needed a new shirt. We'd been carrying Helen's wedding dress around in one of the RV closets, so she was all set. This trip was supposed to have been about celebrating Bill's 60th year in the world, not about them getting married, but you know how youngsters are these days...

I'd been to Black Canyon years ago -- 1983, I believe, for a family reunion when I was married to first husband. I run across those pictures occasionally and if you're lucky I will share some one day just to prove I really was young once. Anyhow, I didn't really mind not spending ages looking around, though the views were just as stunning as they were *cough* 25 years ago.

And we can't leave without showing you some of Simon's wildlife shots:

And, I think a rather interesting photo of Simon himself, taken the day before.