Monday, May 31, 2010

Many Thanks and "What Is ROD?"

Our current location:  Moab, Utah

We were treated to this wonderful scene along Hwy. 50, west of Blue Mesa Ranch, on our way to Utah.  Wow, who wouldn't think this was a beautiful sight to behold?

I would like to say Thank You to all who sent their Happy Birthday wishes to me.  Birthdays are good.  We're going to get them anyway, so we may as well just enjoy them!   Unfortunately, I began feeling ill Saturday afternoon and we decided to head out of Gunnison one day early and drive to Moab.  I think the very high altitude we'd been living with for over a week had finally gotten to me.  Breathing was difficult and sleep also became difficult.  Today is now much better at about 5,000 feet in elevation. 

In a recent comment about my RV Park Review for Blue Mesa, Sue and Doug asked the question, "What is ROD?"  I apologize for not making clear what type of program I was writing about.  I get to typing out my thoughts and fail to remember that everyone isn't on the same page as I am.  Sorry, Sue and Doug!

ROD...Resorts of an affiliate campground membership program.  We purchased a camping membership program back in 2001 through K/M Resorts in Washington state.  That entitled us to stay at each K/M resort for up to 2 weeks FREE.  We are free to go from park to park in that system.  There are 8 or 9 parks in the K/M system.  Later we upgraded our plan to include Coast to Coast and Resorts of Distinction parks.  We pay $180.00 per year dues (fixed amount) for the ROD parks.  We can then stay at any park in that system for up to 7 days in a row for FREE.  We are allowed to go to each park in the peak-season twice in a calender year.  Supposedly, we may be able to extend our time at a park in the off-season, but we haven't had that opportunity yet.  There are ROD parks in over 25 states and 2 in Canada.  For instance there are 17 parks in California and 20 in Washington. 

Sometimes when we go to an ROD park they may charge $2.00 a night extra for WiFi and sometimes they do not.  There are a few parks that do not give the ROD members full hook-ups.  Personally, we have only had that happen to us once.  Most of the time we get the same service as any other camper.  Since we bought into a campground membership program several years ago, we now try to use them as often as possible.   It helps to save in our rent budget for the month.  We are trying to put those RV parks to use for us as fulltimers.

We arrived in Moab, Utah early Sunday afternoon.  We will only be here for 3 nights and then we'll be moving on again.  More adventures along Highway 50.  In a few days we'll be traveling through Nevada on the part they call "the lonliest road in Ameica."

Hope everyone had a nice weekend.

Until next long for now!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

People Can Change

Our current location: Gunnison, Colorado

Things around us can change, circumstances can change, our dreams can change and our outlook on things can change.  All of those changes have happend to us over the past 11 years.  Some for the better and some not, but changed they are!

We are sitting here in our motorhome this weekend just doing nothing particular.  We've been tearing around the country the past 2 weeks doing a lot of sightseeing and touring and we have finally worn down.  This altitude of 7,700 feet has probably contributed to that as well.  We are enjoying this down time and it has got me reflecting on how Bruce and I have changed our attitudes regarding RV travel since we began doing it in 1988. 

Back in the day we were vacationers.  We still had kids in high school so we were firmly planted in our stix-n-bricks home down there in Orange County, California.  On vacations we'd pick several places to travel to in the RV and they were mostly geared to keeping our daughter happy to be stuck with Mom and Dad in a motorhome of all things!  Our son was old enough to stay home, and he was working part-time at Disneyland during that time.   Then when both the kids were grown up enough to stay home we took off on RV trips alone or we'd take Bruce's Mom along with us.  We had also moved up to Olympia, Washington by this time.

We liked to see most anything.  We were just happy to be able to go.  However, we didn't really enjoy those dry, dusty, look for miles and miles and see nothing places.  We'd hurry through those spots as fast as we could so we could get to someplace more beautiful.  We didn't appreciate places with barren hills and sagebrush scattered around.  Cactus?  Fuhgeddaboutit.  This is where we have probably changed the most over the years, especially these past 11 years.

Since being able to become fulltime RVer's in 2008 we have been very aware of our blessings in that regard.  We take nothing for granted anymore.   These grateful hearts have opened our eyes to the beauty of the entire world around us.  Even those sagebrushy places!   We try to look at our surroundings, no matter what they may be, with our eyes of appreciation..  Here in Gunnison it is dry and warm and the wind blows a bit everyday.  The nearby hills are multi shades of beige, yellow and tan and the sagebrush is plentiful.  Yet, it is so beautiful with the contrast of the blue sky against those hills.  We haven't been in a hurry to quickly "get out of  
Dodge" anymore.  We are soaking in this beautiful landscape and savoring our time here.  Who knows if we'll come back to this area.  There are a whole bunch of places to see.

We look at maps now to find new adventures, and we aren't looking for those beautiful places.  The beautiful places are everywhere we want to be.  The highway of life is just like this road sign....full of turns and curves.  We are appreciating every turn this road is taking us on.  We can't wait to see what is around the bend or in the next town. 

Today happens to be my 59th Birthday.  I could have a bad attitude about seeing the big 6-0 lurking around the next bend in the road, but I choose to appreciate the fact that I have reached this 59th Birthday.  Some don't.  I am also looking forward to being an RV fulltimer through my entire 60's and into my 70's if we're given the opportunity.   Maxine has the right idea when she says, "attitude is everything."  I hope all of you are seeing your opportunities with eyes of appreciation.  Have a great day...I will!

Until next long for now!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

RV PARK REVIEW: Blue Mesa Ranch in Gunnison, Colorado

This RV park is another in the group of Western Horizon Resorts.  This is our first visit to Blue Mesa Recreational Ranch  located 12 miles west of Gunnison, Colorado.  We chose it because we are traveling along Highway 50 and it is one of our ROD membership parks and we can stay for FREE.  Free is always good.  We are very happy with our decision to stop here and spend 6 wonderful days.   (click on photos for a larger view)

Blue Mesa is also an AOR affiliate park and it is listed in the Trailer Life Directory for the general public to locate and use.  The public price listed in the Trailer Life Directory is $40.00 per night.  There are 280 RV sites with full hook-ups, 30 amp electric only.  RV's up to 45 feet can be accommodated.  When we arrived we were met at the security gate by a very friendly woman.  She had our reservation all prepared and gave us a suggestion for a site but then told us to "just go on up and see it you like it.  If not pick another empty space and come back and tell me."  We took the one next to what she suggested as it was more level.  The sites here are a bit of a mixed bag for longer RV's.  We noticed some that really sloped down in the front.  Fortunately, we found one that was just great.

Each site has a paved patio with a picnic table.  We were happy, plus we had a nice view out our dining room window of Blue Mesa Lake across Hwy. 50 from the park.   The park has paved interior roads that are in excellent condition.  They are wide enough to back in a big rig without difficulty.   We took a site in the upper level without trees so we could be sure our satellite would function.  The lower level sites have some trees around the sites.

As usual, once we got settled I took my camera for a walk to check out the facilities here.  I found a beautiful clubhouse where the main park activities are held.   This building has a nice area with long tables for the potlucks and the meals that are sold on weekends plus games for resort guests.  There is also an indoor pool and spa here. 

Up in the area where our RV is parked there is an adult center.  In here are some pool tables, a small trading library and an outdoor pool with nice patio chairs to sit on.  There is also a small, but clean, laundry room.  The restrooms are located near the laundry and I inspected the ladies room and it was clean as a whistle.

Our AT&T wireless card will not work all.  The park provides great WiFi service for $2.00 per day so we opted to buy that.  The only problem with it is that it has an online usage limit.  What is it?  That is the problem as the nice lady checking us in didn't know and neither did the man that worked after her.  It would be nice to know that information. 

This is a park that has something for everyone:  country store with snacks and drinks, playground, shuffleboard, horseshoes, basketball, mini-golf, fishing pond for children, riding stables, rental cabins, and hiking trails.  We would certainly stay at this park again, we are well pleased.

We have stayed at 6 other Western Horizon Resorts in the past 3 years.  Most of them we visited prior to blogging or writing RV Park Reviews:

1.  Colorado River Oasis in Ehrenberg, AZ  (review on blog - Jan. 6, 2010)
2.  Casa Grande in Casa Grande, AZ
3.  Ridgeview in Bullhead City, AZ
4.  Valley Vista in Benson, AZ (review on blog - March 30, 2010)
5.  Indian Waters in Indio, CA
6.  White Oaks in Monticello, IN

Each of the parks listed above were great parks for us and we will stay at each of them again on future trips to those areas. 

Until next long for now!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park -- Awesome!

Our current location:  Gunnison, Colorado

Thursday we drove west for about 50 miles to get to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.  This is a newer member of our National Park system, being established in 1999.   It had been declared a National Monument back in 1933.  You enter the park via Hwy. 347 which is right off of Hwy. 50.  We got into the park FREE because Bruce has the America the Beautiful Senior Pass.

This entry point takes you to the South Rim.  (You can access the North Rim from Hwy. 92)  We started at the park's Visitor Center.  They have a great overlook that will give you a nice view of what you have in store for you as you tour the park.  Access to the park is mainly from the paved 7 mile road that travels the distance from the entry gate to High Point where the road ends.  If you are a hiker you can get a permit at the Visitor Center. 

The Gunnison River runs through the canyon.  It is a very fast moving river and Park Rangers suggest only the most experienced kayakers ride these rapids.  Rafters are discouraged from attempting to travel on this river at all.  This river has been flowing through the Black Canyon for millions of years.  It has the force to move a 700 lb. boulder down stream.  The river drops in elevation an average of 96 feet per mile.

There are 11 view points, not counting the Visitor Center, along this paved road.  Some of them are handicapped accessible, but not all.  The park map gives you that information.  The view point/overlook paths range in length from 100 yards to over 1,400 yards at High Point.  The elevation in the park is over 8,000 feet and walking out on all of these paths was "breathtaking".   We are used to living at sea level!

Path to an overlook and me at another overlook just enjoying this wonderful place.

The Black Canyon gets it's name because it is so deep and narrow that very little sunlight will reach the canyon floor.  The granite walls are dark-colored and the early explorers back in 1873 found it to be a bit foreboding.  The canyon walls in some places have sheer drops from the rim to the bottom.    We could see a few cars over on the North Rim.  There is no bridge from one side to the other.  If you want to see both rims, you need to drive all the way over to it.

This is the Painted Wall section of the Black Canyon.  We are looking over at the North Rim.

We drove to the end of the road and ate our picnic lunch there.  We pulled out our chairs and set them up so we could enjoy the scenery while we ate.  Sure beats sitting at Denney's or something!

We also saw a great looking tree called a Utah Juniper.  There were some wildflowers in bloom as well.

This park covers 30,000 acres of land.  The entire canyon extends for 48 miles.  The National Park area is 14 miles.  It is just one more beautiful and amazing thing to see here in Colorado.

Until next long for now!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Crested Butte and Kebler Pass

I would like to welcome a new "Follower" to my RV blog with a big THANK YOU to Jessica.  I appreciate that you are taking some time to follow up on our adventures as fulltime RVer's.  I hope you enjoy it.

Wednesday we took a trip north of Gunnison to the town of Crested Butte.  It was only 28 miles to the little resort town, but a wonderful drive with more fantastic scenery.  We had seen a defined scenic byway loop on a map that looked interesting.  It would involve 32 miles on a dirt road.

Crested Butte (elevation 8,908 feet) is a former supply town and a coal-mining camp.  We parked along Elk Avenue which has the main concentration of shops and cafes.  It was a great little town and we spent a few minutes walking along the street doing some window shopping.  We made a stop at the Chamber of Commerce to see what information they had about the Kebler Pass road conditions.  The Kebler Pass is on the 32 mile stretch of dirt road.  The man told us the road had just been opened 2 days prior to our asking and that it was OK to travel on.  We were good to go.

The man at the Chamber of Commerce gave us directions on how to get to the Kebler Pass road and we found it without problems.    The dirt road began almost immediately.  The road was in great condition and we traveled about 10 miles before coming to the pass, which has elevation of 10,007 feet.  There was still a lot of snow up there, although it was old and dingy looking.

We passed several cars going the opposite direction as this road connects Highway 133 to Highway 135.  We were in no hurry as we just drove along enjoying more beautiful scenery in this great state of Colorado.  Once we had crested the pass and gone just a couple of miles the terrain experienced some changes.  We began to see a lot more of the aspen trees, still without many leaves.  There were miles and miles of these nice looking trees.

As we got closer to Hwy. 133, the trees were all leafed out and we saw meadows of green grass.  We even saw a flock of wild turkeys.  They didn't like our car stopping so I could get a photo and they tried to run off into the trees.  They were really quite large.  Might be great on your Thanksgiving table.

Once we got to Hwy. 133 we made a turn to the south to reconnect with Hwy. 50.  This was another nice drive and we passed many ranches and some coal mining operations.  After about an hour we made a turn on Hwy. 92, which would get us closer to our RV park.  At this point we began traveling along part of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.   We will be visiting this National Park on another day.  We also passed another beautiful canyon with what I think is still the Gunnison River running through it.

We connected with Hwy. 50 at the west end of the Blue Mesa Lake.  It is the largest lake in Colorado.  We turned east to our Blue Mesa RV Park and about 15 miles later we were there.  It was a long day but we had so much fun driving on this West Elk Loop Scenic Byway.  We have a couple of more scenic drives lined up for the next couple of days.  Then we will prepare to leave Colorado next Monday.

Until next long for now!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Hwy. 50 -- Canon City, Colorado to Gunnison, Colorado ~ Monarch Pass

Tuesday morning it was time to leave Canon City to continue our journey West along Highway 50.  We have reservations in Gunnison for 6 nights.  It will only be about a 110-mile drive but it will be a slow one.  We will be going over Monarch Pass on this leg of the trip.  As we began the drive out of Canon City, we could enjoy views of more beautiful snow covered peaks.  The Arkansas River traveled along with us for quite a while.  This portion of Hwy. 50 is an easy drive through some canyons and ranch land.

We saw so many rafters on the Arkansas River.  There were many areas for launching the rafts for their guided trip down the river for up to 45 miles.  Here where the rapids were biggest the canyon narrowed and the walls rose steeply above us. 

We got to the town of Salida and made a pit stop for Annie at the local Walmart.  Salida may be an interesting town to visit, but we had no time for that.  Just a short 5 miles further west and we came upon the small town of Poncha Springs.  Poncha Springs is the town I tracked on the MSN Weather website getting information on snow/rain/road conditions getting to Monarch Pass.  I've been checking in with them for over a month seeing how fast spring was arriving and if the road was free of deep snow.  Going West Poncha Springs is the closest town to the pass.

Once we left Poncha Springs the landscape turned more Alpine and we began a slow steady climb to the top of the pass in the Rocky Mountains.   I had purchased the Mountain Directory West after reading Al's blog. He uses it when the Bayfield Bunch travel from Ontario, Canada to the Southwest in the winter.  Thanks for the tip, Al.  We knew exactly what to expect on the Monarch Pass after reading this directory.

Bruce took it slow.  We were in no hurry.  There were several curves going up, but nothing major.  Actually, Hwy. 50 through the mountains in West Virginia seemed worse than this part.  We began to climb higher and higher and saw old snow off the road.  Finally we saw the large parking area for checking brakes before your descent down the other side.  There was a small cafe and gift shop so we parked and went inside. 

Outside I took a couple of quick photos.  There was still a lot of snow up here.  The sign on the cafe notes the elevation and the fact that we are straddling the Continental Divide.   It was a crisp, clear day with a few puffy clouds.  The elevation as noted is 11,312 feet and is the highest point on the entire Hwy. 50 route.  The annual snowfall here is 30 feet.

Once we took a quick peek at the shop and cafe we were on our way down the mountain on the western side.  This was a 6.4% grade over 9 miles.  Again, Bruce took it slow and steady.  Using the engine brake rather than the brake pedal most of the time helped. 

Once we had gotten off the pass completely the road opened up to meadows and cattle ranch lands.  We pulled off the highway at a turn-out to fix lunch.  We were able to enjoy another fantastic view of Colorado from our window.   

Once we finished our lunch and Annie had a walk, we were on our way to the final destination of Gunnison.  It was a good, safe and successful day.  What more could you want?

Until next long for now!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Going To Prison

I would like to welcome my newest set of "Followers" and they are Mark and Chris.  THANK YOU very much for joining my group.  I hope you find something worthwhile when you read my posts, and please leave a comment from time to time to let me know what you think.  Much appreciated.

We went to prison on Monday in Canon City, Colorado.  It was actually the Museum of Colorado Prisons and it was right in town.  This was a most interesting museum and they had so many artifacts and displays that covered 130 years of prison history in this region.  The museum itself is housed in the original women's prison that was built in 1935.  Adjacent to the museum is the Colorado Territorial Correctional Facility that was opened in 1871 and is still a functioning prison today.  The guard tower was above the museum parking lot and we could see the guards inside.  We could also hear some voices from over the very high block wall and those could have been from some of the prisoners in the exercise yard.

The museum was opened in 1988.  We were able to enjoy a self-guided tour using the MP3 players provided with our admission price of $6.00.  Before entering the museum building you can visit the gas chamber that is in the area outside the front door. 

Once we returned to the indoor exhibits, we were able to walk through a cell block hallway.  They had many displays and there was audio narration via the MP3 player.  Each cell was done featuring a different theme relating to prison history or life.  One of them featured many of the histories of the various women inmates which detailed their life of crime.  Mug shots were on the wall, too.

There were stories of the various prison wardens and guards that worked at the prison.  Displays of confiscated weapons, disciplinary paraphernalia and uniforms of both inmates and prison staff were shown.  One cell was done to show what a typical women's cell would look like.  There were 2 women per cell and there sure wasn't much room to move around in there.  Guess that is why they call it "prison". 

We talked to one of the employees at the prison before leaving and she told us that there are 14 Federal and Colorado State Prisons in Fremont County.  That includes the "super-max" Federal Prison that holds the Unabomber, Ramzi Yousef (World Trade Center bombing) and the Oklahoma City bomber accomplice among many other "worst of the worst" criminals.  The prison industry is the primary source of employment for the people of Canon City.  It was sure another interesting place we have seen on our tour along Hwy. 50.  Note:  I am not certain about handicap accessibility here.  There were many steps to enter the building and I did not see a wheelchair entry. 

After our prison tour, we drove a short distance to the Skyline Drive.  This is just west of the city limits.  Skyline Drive is a 3-mile one-way road that gives you some great views of the area.  You drive across the top of an 800 foot hill.  It was quite the thrill ride!  This paved, scenic road is free to experience.  It is narrow and steep so no RV's are allowed.

We had an enjoyable 3 days here in the Canon City area.  Today we are driving to Gunnison for another enjoyable visit in a Colorado town. 

Until next long for now!