Tuesday, September 8, 2015


Abandoned Mine
Heading to and from Littleton we cross over the Vail Pass Summit (elevation 10,662 ft.) and the Eisenhower – Edwin C. Johnson Memorial Tunnel (elevation 11,013 ft.)  Highway 70 is challenging, steep, winding and bumpy. The trip to Littleton is uneventful, the trip back not…

Eisenhower-Johnson Memorial Tunnel
Under the Continental Divide

Serious Curves and a steep Runaway Truck Ramp

They really mean this!

Vail Ski Runs

Just past Vail, right before the off ramp to the town of Avon we hear a loud clang bang and Dave looses power.  Fortunately we can get to the off ramp, pull over and push the On-Star button.  The On-Star rep runs a diagnostic, but it shows nothing wrong.  They call the closest GMC dealer in Glenwood Springs, but they can’t get Dave in until the middle of September. The GMC dealer back near Denver (just around the corner from Camping World) can take us, so they connect us with a towing service. Because of our remote location we were not given a time frame, only that it would be awhile.  We also have to make additional arrangements to have Dimples towed.  Fortunately we have cell service so we start to research.  While I’m working Dimples logistics, Chris pops the hood and looks to see if he can see what’s wrong. 

The hose to the turbo has come off.  As an experiment, he zip ties the hose back on and starts up the truck.  It runs!  We call and cancel the tow truck and look for an auto parts store to get some hose clamps to replace the zip ties.  There’s one about a mile away.  We head around the corner and right there is a Home Depot.  We pull in & Chris buys a couple of hose clamps and installs them in the parking lot.  Once back on the road, we call the GMC dealer in Grand Junction, where Dave had his last service, and get an appointment for the next Monday morning. Excellent! We have a reservation at the James M Robb Colorado River State Park Fruita Campground until Tuesday and it’s all down hill from here… This should work out just fine.

We get to Fruita late afternoon and have a nice spot with full hookups near the laundry room.  With a sick truck we don’t venture too far.  We take the time to empty out the truck, do some housekeeping & laundry.  Not all that fun. We talk about the things we missed on our last two trips to the area.  We have not gone wine tasting (SHOCKING!) and this is a premier Colorado wine region.

The Two River’s Winery is just down the road not too far. No steep hills to tax Dave.  They have a nice tasting room with free tastings.  We try all of their vintages.  Their Chardonnay is quite nice, buttery with a hint of oak and ready to drink now. Their Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon are both bold and flavorful but a bit rough around the edges.  If we had a cellar these would definitely be stored for a bit.  The Vintner’s Blend (60% Syrah-40% Cab) is a good choice for immediate drinking with time to breathe and maybe the Vinotemp. Their ruby port has good body and flavor.  A big plus here is their prices that run from $12 - $16. (Excellent quality to cost ratio.)

Monday morning Dave goes into the shop.  That afternoon we get the call.  Dave’s turbo is blown and needs to be replaced.  Fortunately this is covered under warranty, they have the part in stock and the diesel mechanic can work Dave into his schedule, if we can leave him until the end of the week. One Problem: Our reservation is up tomorrow and the tag on our campsite tells us that it is reserved for the rest of the week.  We need to move Dimples, so the dealer sends a shuttle to pick us up to collect Dave.  We check in the visitor center and the park is 100% booked through the upcoming Labor Day Weekend. 

Fortunately the Monument RV Resort across the road can accommodate us.  So Monday night we get Dave and pack everything up so we’re ready to move bright and early the next morning.  We’re checked in and unhitched by 8:30AM; Chris gets Dave to the dealer before 9:00 and returns in a loaner car before 9:30.  The loaner is a cute little Chevy Cruz, it gets us around, but it’s no Dave.

The weather is sketchy with a series of heavy thunderstorms.  It’s a perfect excuse to catch a movie or two.  A Walk In The Woods has just been released.  We enjoy seeing the scenes that were filmed up at Amicolola last year.  It’s always interesting to see the finished product when you know what was going on behind the camera.  We also catch Ant Man – for mindless fantasy entertainment you can hardly go wrong with the Marvel franchise.
By the end of the week Dave has his new turbo. It’s Labor Day weekend and we know how difficult it is to find camping spots over holidays so we stay in Fruita until Tuesday.  This gives us a chance to test drive Dave a bit.  We also celebrate Chris birthday and the 5-year anniversary of the great traffic jam that changed our lives.

The chef at No Coast Sushi remembers us when we sit at the sushi bar.  After a brief rundown of our summer, we start with a bottle of Haiku Sake and proceed to order our favorite appetizer, the Shishito Peppers: deep fried, salted & tossed in a spicy sesame sauce with bonito flakes and a trio of exotic nontraditional rolls.  (Technically all of their rolls are non-traditional as they use black rice seasoned without dashi – so vegans can partake.) Our first roll: the daily special is one of our chef’s creations.  Smoked mackerel (the sustainable alternative to smoked eel) topped with slices of Palisade peaches. The peaches are a sweet counterpoint to the salty mackerel and would please mackerel fans… unfortunately no mackerel fans here. It’s not horrible but would definitely be better with eel. The Tai influenced, Coconut Curry Lobster Roll:  fried yam, lobster, Roma tomatoes and basil with a coconut curry sauce is a real treat for the taste buds.  BUT H.I.C. is probably one of the most delicious sushi rolls ever!  Smoked Oysters, soft shell crab, avocado and cream cheese with eel and dynamite sauce. Dinner is finished with an order of green tea ice cream (with a request for sliced lemon wedges) and a fresh house made peach sorbet.
No Coast Sushi Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

By Tuesday morning, Dave is running great, he’s all packed up and hooked to Dimples… time to hit the road..

Tuesday, August 25, 2015


A Drop from Rifle Falls
Dropping your IPad on the power connector while plugged in is bad, doing this when we’re 300 miles away from the nearest Apple Store is also not so good… but buying Apple Care Plus at the time of purchase guarantees a replacement (even if dropped) for a modest fee, not so bad.

We check the Colorado State Park reservation system and find a spot in Chatfield State Park, close to the Aspen Grove Apple Store in the Denver suburb of Littleton.  Working backwards, we book five days at Rifle Falls State Park and one night back in Ridgway. Then we call the Apple Store and set up an appointment to swap out the IPad.  (This is too much like work… argh!)

A nice pull through
along the creek
After an overnight in Ridgway, we arrive at Rifle Falls State Park.  This is a tiny 13-space campground and is very popular.  When we check in, the campground host tells us that we only got our space because of a cancellation and we probably booked within the hour of cancellation.  WOO HOO Lucky us.

The campsites are along the main park road, so there’s some foot and vehicle traffic during the day but the nights are really quiet. The sites have water and electric. The closest dump station is down the road at Rifle Gap State Park.  It is an easy walk to the falls and hiking trails from our spot, so Dave gets to park it while we’re here.

One of these falls
is not like the others

Rifle Falls is one of the few triple falls in the country and the only one in Colorado but this is not a natural occurrence.   The original falls fell in a single, wide arch over the limestone cliffs.  In 1910 the town of Rifle built a hydroelectric plant, which changed the flow of Rifle Creek into three separate falls. One of which, flows out of a large metal pipe.  So the falls may not be natural; but they are nevertheless, stunningly beautiful, a rainforest oasis in the high desert.

Caves and alcoves dot the limestone cliffs around and behind the falls. There are hiking trails to the top of the falls, with a walkway along the cliff edge over the falls.  A loop off this trail winds across a meadow with artificial fishponds that are stocked and open to fishing. These ponds are part of the Rifle Falls Fish Hatchery.

Trout ready to be planted
There is a trail from the bottom of the falls to the fish hatchery.  We hike to the hatchery from the ponds and return on the Hatchery Trail.  When we get there the hatchery office is locked, so we just walk around and check out all of the trout in the tanks. And read the displays about how the fish are planted: pumped out of trucks, dumped out of planes and back-packed into inaccessible lakes and streams.

View from the Ledge
Behind Rifle Falls
After five days in this park, we’ve pretty much seen it all and hiked every trail. (Some more than once.) Now it’s off to Littleton.  Chatfield State Park is on a high grassy plateau.  Besides being just outside of Denver, the park boasts a 1,450 surface acre lake for fishing and water sports, 26 miles of trails, picnic areas, a balloon & remote control model plane area and horse back riding. The RV campground has full hookups and free WIFI. (No wonder we could only find one spot for a couple of days this time of year!)

We take care of business at the Apple store – New IPad for Chris .  We also visit the nearby Camping World and pick up a few supplies.  Now it’s back to Fruita and start thinking about heading southwest.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015


Yep… in Colorado
Moving further south in western Colorado we stay at the Priest Gulch Campground on the Dolores River.  The high altitude here means lower temperatures.  Most of the folks here are “seasonals” from Arizona and Texas who return summer after summer to escape the heat.  But there are few spots that can be rented for a shorter term.  Our spot across the river backs up to a mountain forest.  We have full hookups, the WIFI is pretty good, and there’s a nice laundry facility. It is also centrally located between Cortez in the Four Corners area and the ski areas of Mountain Village and Telluride.

Kiva at the Anasazi
Heritage Center
We visit the Anasazi Heritage Center in Dolores.  This is also the visitor center for the Canyon of the Ancients National Monument.  They have a nice little museum with artifacts and theories about the Ancestral Puebloan culture. Up the hill behind the visitor center overlooking the Dolores River Reservoir, are remains of an Ancestral Puebloan Village.  From the top of the hill we have a 360° view of the surrounding area.  We see Sleeping Ute Mountain, the San Juan Peaks, the towns of Dolores and Cortez, the river, high desert and farmland.

Dolores River Reservoir
The Depot in Dolores serves up fast food fare.  They write up your order on a paper bag.  Fill it up and let you decide to eat in or take out. Don’t know how the burgers taste but they look and smell pretty savory.  Both times we eat here its The Green Chile Philly. A killer sandwich with a toasted roll filled with tender chopped beef smothered with cheese and roasted green chilies. (Better than any Philly we’ve had in Philly.)
Depot Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Great Kiva
Great Kiva
In the Canyon of the Ancients NM we visit the Lowry Pueblo.  This is the site of two exceptional Kivas.  The Painted Kiva still retains traces of the original painted plaster. When first excavated this kiva had a beautiful painted mural on the wall.  Efforts to preserve this mural in place failed.  A small section of the mural was removed and is on display at the Anasazi Heritage Center. A modern steel roof protects what’s left of the mural, but today it is just bits of plaster clinging tenaciously to the rock walls.  The Great Kiva is 47 ft in diameter and one of the largest kiva’s found in the area.  Modern Pueblo people identify the structures in the bottom of the kiva as representing winter people and summer people.

We also drive over to Hovenweep National Monument and stop in the visitor center to watch the informational video and check out the occupancy levels of the campground. (In case we want to head here next.) 

A free public gondola connects the towns of Mountain Village and Telluride.  It runs from 7:00AM to midnight daily.  The system is dog friendly and paw prints mark the cars available for folks traveling with their canine companions. Mountain Village has a large public paid-parking garage near the gondola terminal; it’s convenient and only $7 for all day parking.  This is the green way to travel: paying for fuel and driving for 20 minutes to cover 8 miles vs. parking and riding for 13 minutes on a free solar powered gondola.

Mountain Village and Telluride are bastions of wealth.  The economy is based on high-end tourism. Houses here cost in the millions so it’s no surprise that the towns have their own gondola system to move residents and tourists between the towns and up the mountains to the ski trails that double as hiking and mountain biking trails in the summer.

Telluride still retains the feel of a gold rush mining town with colorful Victorian houses, red brick buildings and clapboard storefronts.  The shops are mostly high end.  Bars, breweries, restaurants, galleries and boutiques fill the business district.  No cheesy plastic bags for customers, even the Ace Hardware provides heavy paper tote bag to haul the few maintenance supplies we pick up. Telluride is also known as a top foodie town. Unfortunately we only have time to make one stop.  We grab a couple of pints on tap and an order of eggplant fries, (panko crusted, fried to perfection and dusted with savory herbs) at the Black Iron Kitchen and Bar. The beer is cold, the fries are tasty the service fast & friendly, and the ambiance welcoming. 
Black Iron Kitchen and Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Mountain Village is more of the bedroom community with resorts, vacation homes and condos.  Guests of the Mountain Village Resort can play the Telluride Mountain Village Golf course.  A 18-hole 71-par, 6,739 yard course tucked within the highest concentration of 13,000 and 14,000 foot peaks in the United States.

With the relatively short distances between the Four Corners and the San Juan Mountains, and lots to see and do, this is a great area to escape from the summer heat.