Sunday, July 26, 2015

Return to the Rockies

I've always loved Colorado's Rocky Mountains - but who wouldn't? I've spent most of my time here in the winter and everyone always said the same thing: you need to see it in the summer.

The view out my window.

I left Durango yesterday morning and traveled north along the Million Dollar Highway – US 550. The drive from Durango to Silverton is simply stunning.

The GDB gets close to camp.

After a week on the road, I was thrilled to finally arrive at this first stop on the 2015 Summer-Fall Adventure.

It’s also thrilling to, once again, join the caravan from the Pacific Northwest Summer and the Southwestern Desert Winter. Suzanne, Debbie, Jim & Gayle, and Chris are here. Along with Ouray residents Mark & Bobbie.

Ouray is known as the Switzerland of America. And yes, the topography is very much like the Alps.
Our view to the west.

And to the north.

As if the setting isn't inducement enough, the temperature is 68 degrees as I write this.


In other news, Rupert and Elliot take me and Debbie for a walk near camp today.

Rupert has a game where he runs up a hill, digs in the dirt to dislodge rocks, and then chases the rocks back down the hill. It’s stupid and genius at the same time.

The End!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Aztec Ruins National Monument

I was absolutely filled with glee while driving from Farmington to Durango and watching the temperature drop 6 degrees in the matter of a few miles.

More glee followed at my first peek of the mountains.

Not a great likeness, but for a solo traveler, the photo ops while driving are scarce. If you value your life, that is. The remarkable thing is that the mountains appeared right around the bend from this sign. 

Well played, Colorado!

Aztec Ruins NM

Before leaving NM, I stopped to visit the Aztec Ruins National Monument. 

Web Photo
The 900-year-old site was constructed by the Pueblo people in about 30 years - the span of a generation. Amazing when you consider that, without the help of pack animals, the timber and rock building materials came from sites up to 50 miles away.  

It's surprising how many structures still exist, well-preserved since excavations began in the late 1800s. Some 400 rooms were built, up to 3-stories high. An impressive achievement.

The restored Great Kiva is stunning and is used today for ceremonies by various Native peoples.

Web Photo

No one knows why the Pueblo people left some 200 years later. But the descendants of the ancestral people maintain that the ruins have never been abandoned. 

Because the spirits of the ancestors remain.


I'm spending the night in this mountainous former railroad town in order to stock up on provisions. This will be the last Wal-Mart run for a while. Also made time to get the GDB’s oil changed (she's been such a good girl). 

Wow, is Durango ever crowded! When I can see beyond and through the masses though, I imagine it's pretty idyllic. 

I suppose it's a result of the summer season, but it’s just mobs everywhere you go. (And yes, I know I am one of the mob). The town has some cute spots but it’s hard even to get a good photo of historic downtown Durango without a tourist shop in the foreground. (And yes, I know I am one of the tourists).

And, like many tourist towns, there are enforced no-overnight-RV-parking ordinances, and that makes me cranky. 

I'm looking forward to leaving the heat and the hordes behind tomorrow as I continue up, up, and away.

Also looking forward to joining the caravan!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Gettin' There

Greetings from Route 66!

I'm overnighting outside Albuquerque at this cute little rv park that displays the appropriate amount of kitschiness for its iconic location.

Web Photos

It's good to be back on the blog. Between the 300-plus mile days and a heavier-than-usual teaching load, I’ve had to stay away from Blogland.

After a sad goodbye to John and little Doris on Sunday, I hit the road. The story of the trip thus far has been:

The route: Memphis-Little Rock-Oklahoma City-Amarillo-Albuquerque. The goal: to outrun the heat as quickly as possible. Temperatures have been in the high-90s and low-100s and my poor little 3 cubic-foot fridge has struggled to keep its cool.

Not good.

I'm a bedside nurse again and my patient has a fever! I’ve been treating the lower compartment like an old-fashioned ice box during the day just to keep the temps in the 40's.  

As I write this at 6 PM, it's 98 degrees. Fortunately, I’ll be almost doubling my elevation over the next 2 days as I head north and up, up, up. I'm really ready to leave campgrounds behind too as I'd much much rather be boondocking. 

The folks back home have it rough too. This is my friend Jamie’s take on how the oppressive heat makes her feel. 

So, it's been a lot of this 

and this. 

There was a bit of drama on Monday as I was motoring along I-40 across - naturally - a long stretch between populated areas, I hear a weird repetitious tap-tap-tap followed by a grinding sound under the hood. Uh-oh.

This gets louder and more concerning, so I set the GPS for the closest Chevy dealer - some 30 miles away. Suddenly, about 5 miles from the exit, I hear a thud from under the van and the noise completely stops. 

The nice Chevrolet service manager at Sallisaw, OK looked her over and couldn’t see any problem under the hood or under the van. We figure it must have been road debris. 

After dodging that bullet, I decided the Good Deal Bus needed a spa day! 

Below, the guys at Blue Beacon Truck Wash in Oklahoma City work on a car as I await my turn. 

YES! A place big enough to drive a truck through (literally) and a team of people to do the work quickly. I was happy with the results and the final bill - $24.95. This included washing the undercarriage and applying RainX to all the windows. 

I am so looking forward to some Rocky Mountain Lows. Temps, that is. 

Stay tuned!

Saturday, July 11, 2015


Next week, I leave on my Colorado-Utah Summer-Fall trip!

Web Photo

It looks like maybe the wildflower will still be blooming in the Rockies. If so, I'd consider myself double-lucky as I was in the Texas Hill Country during the peak this spring.

Still working on some projects before my departure. Oh, the joys of home ownership!

That's Trent, our chimney sweep, replacing the chimney's rusted chase pan. I do not envy him working on the roof in this 106-degree heat index.

You know, I didn’t even know what a chase pan was until a few weeks ago. Now we are paying $365 for one. Well, half of one anyway - we share a chimney with our neighbor.

Ain't it gorgeous?

Top Hat does a good job; Trent's dad installed a fireplace for us in our old house.

Their work van’s chassis is exactly the same as my GDB – a Chevrolet 3500 ExpressVan. It always amazes me to see a sister Chevy juxtaposed with mine. One would hardly suspect they are identical vehicles. One a working van, the other a pampered palace of pure pleasure!

I have a mercifully short to-do list remaining. One task has been on the list for months – to wash the GDB. After those winter months in the desert with only one washing, it needs it. But it’s just been too brutally hot!

In other news, John and Doris spend some quality time.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

John Speaks

Well, after 5 years of blogging and 35 years of marriage, Kim finally asked me to say a few words.

Wedding Day

(Even after all these years of marriage, Kim still introduces me as her first husband). 

Once upon a time, I had her convinced that I looked like Brad Pitt. Then she got these glasses.

As you probably know already, I enjoy golf and cooking.  Kim tolerates both of these hobbies - especially the cooking. I mean, the girl can really pack it away!

Speaking of golf.  Oh, we weren't?  Well anyway ... one of my fondest golf memories was a round at McCahey’s Point in Ireland. I was paired with a couple of older Irish gents who initially called me Mr. Raines. Then John. Then Johnny. 

On the back nine, I shanked a 5-iron, got upset, and started to throw the offending club. Then one of the old guys puts a hand on my shoulder and says softly: Johnny, golf is like sex. You don’t have to be good at it to enjoy it. 

I’ve always remembered that and, since then, have never gotten angry on the course.

In case any of you are curious about Mister Kimbo Polo, here’s a helpful FAQ.

Q: What do you do while Kim is away?
A:  Try new recipes, take care of Doris, and play golf.

Q: What do you do while Kim is home? 
A: Try new recipes, take of Doris, and play golf.

Q: Do you plan to travel in the future?
A: Answer cloudy, ask again later.

Q: How do you feel about your wife being gone for months at a time? 
A: I miss her, of course. But I know she is having a blast, and that makes me happy.

Q: Do you really look like Brad Pitt? 
A: No, not at all. Brad Pitt looks like me.

Q: When will you retire? 
A: January! When that happens, I’ll have nothing to do ... and I can’t wait to get started!

Q: Anything else you'd like to say? 
A: Yeah. Hey - all you guys out there - BACK OFF! She’s taken!!!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Greetings from the Surface of the Sun!

Aside from the insufferable heat, there’s little to blog about.  As usual, we've been doing a lot of this.

And this.  

A perfect Happy Hour calls for a Perfect Manhattan.  Don't forget the cherry!

We anticipate that this wicked heat wave will pass soon so the usual stifling swamp conditions can return. Staying inside with the doors firmly sealed and the A/C blasting is the only solution. Here, I'm doing a welfare-check on the poor hibiscus from the climate-controlled comfort of the living room. 

Be afraid.  Very afraid.

On a positive note, there is one good thing about summer in the Deep South. The best tomatoes on planet Earth!

Last week John discovered Asian ground bean sauce.  

Holy Moly, is it good!  Add it to stir fry for a depth of flavor that will blow your mind.  We've tried it with both beef and chicken so far.

My favorite chef.

In an effort to keep the house cool, I made cowboy potatoes for our weekend grill. Remember this old camping recipe?  

Place sliced spuds and onion on a sheet of aluminum foil.  Top with some thin slices of butter, salt, pepper, and rosemary.  

Wrap tightly in the foil and cook on the grill for about 20 minutes, until the potatoes are tender.

Great with a side of stir-fried garlic beans and grilled rib-eye.  

BTW, for new folks who come here to read a blog about a girl who travels the U.S. in her camper van …. stay tuned.  I’ll be leaving in less than 3 weeks for a grand Summer/Fall adventure. 

Ahhhh, it feels 20 degrees cooler just looking at that web photo!