Saturday, September 24, 2016

Back in Tucson After a Long Trip

Wednesday 8/31 Tucson to Chicago

Taxi to airport and flight to Chicago. Joan picked us up at airport in spite of having a bad cold! Stopped to eat and at her house late. 

Thursday 9/1 Tinley Park

At Joan’s, prepping for road trip. Got Jeep loaded up and ready to go in the morning.

Friday 9/2 Burlington, IA

Left Joan's about 9:30. Nancy is being a good sport and agreed to traveling with the door top halves off and rear window out!  Nice drive on two lane roads, light traffic, but it took a bit longer than I had planned. Arrived in Burlington around five. Very nice room in Squirrel's Nest B&B on bluff on North side of town, with great view from 3rd floor room out over the Mississippi. (The pic showing the peaked roofline above the deck railing was our room!)

Here is a pic of Nancy on the balcony outside our room:

Walked downtown, 8/10s of a mile to The Drake for dinner, good pizza. During dinner we searched for a place to stay Saturday. Places I had scoped out as tentative were all booked! Not only Labor Day weekend, but we neglected to account for the Nebraska State Fair in Grand Island which has places booked all around Western Iowa and Eastern Nebraska. Nancy decided to look at AirBnB and found a place in Omaha, a bit out of our way, but doable. 

During night a down-bound river tow lit up our room with it's searchlight reflecting off the water!

Saturday 9/3 Omaha, NE

Lovely breakfast and on the road just after nine. Dropped down to IA Rt 2 and headed West on the two lane highway. Stopped in Centerville for lunch at The Garage on the town square. Excellent burger and soup. 

When we made the reservation in Omaha I estimated we would arrive about 5 PM, we pulled into our hosts driveway at 4:56! 

Dinner at Enzo's Italian, recommended by our host, quite good. Back at the AirBnB (Private Room Bath Near Airport - Downtown) we sat in our private sitting room and used his excellent WiFi to plan for the rest of the week. We had thought about staying at The Springs Resort and Spa in Pagosa Springs, but the only rooms available were all between $300 and $700 a night! So we turned to AirBnB again and made reservations for the rest of the week. 

Planning on two days in Pagosa Springs with a one day pass to the springs and spa, a lot cheaper! Then three days in Lake City for our Jeep tours, and then up to Denver for a few days with the peeps. 

Sunday 9/4 McCook, NE

Breakfast at Harold's Koffe House, again recommended by our host, excellent! Then on the road a little after 9. Good thing we closed up the Jeep last evening as it rained during the night. Cool and overcast this morning so we stayed closed up and jumped on I-80 towards Lincoln. Decided to continue on to Hastings where we could catch US 34, but about half way there the traffic had gotten crazy, probably folks going to the state fair, so we got off at York. Stopped at WalMart to get bathing suits for the hot springs, then dropped south and headed West on 34. No traffic and dead straight for miles and miles. Stopped at a Wendy's in Hastings for lunch and then on to McCook. Arrived a bit after 3 at the Cobblestone Inn. Just a regular medium priced hotel, but new and very nice. In the high 60's and overcast most of the day, but it was sunny and 89 by the time we got to McCook. 

Dinner at A Taste of Texas bar-b-que. good ribs, but the sauce was nothing to write home about, pretty bland.  

We are feeling a bit disoriented these days, and with good reason. In the last 22 days we have slept in a different place on 20 of those nights! On the 14 day cruise the ship was moving all but one of those nights. We have traveled over 8,500 miles in that time on planes, ships, boats, trains, and cars! And we are still on the road!

Monday 9/5 Coolidge, KS

Took our time getting going, easy trip today and we gain a hour going into the Mountain Time Zone. Flat and straight roads across Western Nebraska and 154 miles South in Kansas to Coolidge. Stopped at a Wendy's in Goodland, KS for lunch and ran into a WalMart. I got to thinking that if we are to do some 4WD only roads in Colorado we should have something more than just cell phones to communicate with. Thought I might grab a hand held CB, but the only one they had was a Cobra Compact. I bought that one as it is exactly what I had planned on installing in the Jeep in the future. Also got a magnetic antenna in case we need to use the CB on this trip. When I actually install it in the Jeep I will mount an antenna on the spare tire bracket.

Trail City B&B in Coolidge, KS is a cute place with four rooms, a delightful hostess and very comfortable. We are the only guests tonight so we have the place to ourselves, hostess lives across the street. 

The building is a former saloon/whorehouse that was moved from Trail City 2 miles to the West of Coolidge. Trail City was a wide open cow town in "no man's land”, a three mile wide inadvertent gap that was left when the border between Kansas and Colorado was drawn. In the late 19th century Kansas passed a law preventing Texas cattle from entering the state due to disease issues. Herds coming North from Texas then used the “no man’s land” for cattle drives. Trail City was located where the cattle trail crossed the Nebraska river, as well as the railroad, and it was the first place on the trail where the cowboys drew their pay. It was also known as "the hell hole of Kansas”.

Coolidge is the "family town" where the owners of the bars in Trail City lived. According to a local history, some cow hands signed onto the drives just to experience Trail City!

No place for dinner in Coolidge, Monday evening and the only restaurant in town is only open Wednesday through Sunday! Plus is is Labor Day! We doubled back to Syracuse, 14 miles, where the only places open were Mexican and bar-b-que. Got a couple of burgers to go at Porky’s Parlor. Would not recommend this place. Stopped and bought a cold beer and took it all back to Trail City B&B. After eating I cleaned most of the bugs off the front of the Jeep. We killed A LOT of grasshoppers and other bugs the last couple of days!

Tuesday 9/6 Pagosa Springs, CO

Wonderful breakfast at Trail City B&B! Homemade French toast on homemade bread with fruit and bacon - delicious! Had to clean off the Jeep again in the AM, rain during the night had a lot of dirt in it. 

Hit the road at 9 AM - just seems to be the time we always get going. Just down the road a few miles into Colorado we saw the sign for the National Monument at Camp Amache, the Japanese interment camp at Grenada, CO. Interesting signage and photos in an open air setting at location of camp that housed over 7,000 American citizens during WW II, a serious stain on our country's history of civil liberties!

Stopped at 7th Street Deli in Walsenburg, CO for an excellent lunch, thanks again Yelp! We used Yelp a lot on this trip to find eateries and it worked well. Then on to Pagosa Springs. The AirBnB "Cozy Downtown Getaway" is most definitely "cozy!" Small room with bath and barely room for luggage. Off street parking though and it is a short walk from the main drag, albeit up a pretty steep hill with no sidewalks! Oh well, it's quiet with a comfy bed and a good location. No A/C, but it is in the mountains and already quite cool at night. 

Checked out Tequila's Mexican for dinner, but did not like the menu. Ended up at The Lost Cajun. Pretty good catfish, huge portion, and Nancy really liked the crawfish etouffee.

After dinner we walked over to The Springs Resort to check things, then back to our room. 

Wednesday 9/7 Pogosa Springs

Two nights in the same place, a rare treat, even if it is in a tiny room! The room is actually well appointed and fairly comfortable. Lack of chairs is the only complaint.

Headed into town for breakfast and there was a small doe standing in the street and a fawn in the bushes. Last evening we saw a fawn no bigger than a dog crossing the main drag. Breakfast at Pagosa Bakery and then off to The Springs Resort for a day in the hot springs. 

Quite a nice place, not crowded at all, 25 different sized and shaped pools with temps ranging from 98 to 114 (!) we stuck to the ones right around 100 degrees. 

Very relaxing morning, good conversation with some of the people in the pools. Took a break and went to Rif-Raf Brewery for lunch. Walked down the street to the San Juan Forest ranger station and picked up a good map of the Alpine Loop off road trails. 

Spent most of the afternoon back at the hot springs, then stopped in Tequila's Grille for a drink. No friendlier today than they were yesterday! Only went there because they have a balcony overlooking the springs across the river. They were reluctant about seating us on the balcony for just a drink, hostess seems to be in pre-Labor Day mode still! Place was almost empty, no more than a half dozen tables filled.

Back at our room we spent some time planning our route for the next three days. Original thought was to take our time getting to Lake City tomorrow, check the place out and do part of the Alpine Loop on Friday. Then we decided we wanted to see Silverton and Ouray as well. 

Ouray is only 20 miles from Lake City as the crow flies, 136 miles by road!!! After some back and forth we decided to get going early in the morning and go to Silverton. From there we will take the Alpine Loop route over Engineers Pass into Lake City. Friday we can do the other part of the Loop and then go to Ouray by road on Saturday. The connection to Ourary from the Alpine Loop is rated "difficult," more than we want to tackle at this point in our off road career! The other routes are all rated "moderate" or "easy."

Discovered today that there is a whole other section of the Springs to the West, the "upper" town! Lots of eateries there. A lady at the hot springs told Nancy that Wolfe Brewing Co. had good pizza, so we went out there. She was right, excellent pizza and good beer!

Thursday 9/8 Silverton to Lake City via Engineers Pass

Walked down the hill to The Rose for breakfast and hit the road at 8:50. Drive to Durango was pretty but nothing to write home about. The drive from there to Silverton however, was fantastic! Steady climb most of the way and spectacular views. 

Arrived in Silverton about 11:30, drove through Main Street to check it out. Tiny little town, lots of ATVs (or as they are called here OHV, off highway vehicle) and Jeep Wranglers. When we pulled into the only gas station there were four other Wranglers at the pumps! Gassed up, stopped at small grocery for sandwiches, and headed out onto the Alpine Loop. 14 miles of dirt road before the actual trail and I had made the mistake of taking out the back window along with the door windows! Jeep full of dust! Oops! Stopped and put the window back in. Fortunately the vinyl window bag caught most of the dust in the back. 

Stopped at Animas Forks to eat our lunch, you could see four or five Jeeps at a time spread out across the mountain side to the East slowly climbing up the switchbacks.

Beautiful trip over Engineers Pass, mostly Wranglers with a good number of ATVs and a few bikes. Amazing mountain views all the way up to the top of the pass, 12,800 feet! 

60 degrees with a cold wind up there. A lot of narrow roads with switchbacks and steep drop offs, at one point climbing up a rock on a switchback there was nothing but sky in front of the hood!  Speaking of sky, it was an absolutely gorgeous day! Talk about lucky! Mid 60's and bright sunshine, not a cloud in the sky. 

Looking back on the road we just traveled. Just look at that sky!

Went through an area where the were several thousand sheep grazing, had to wait while some crossed the road. Also saw a couple of sheep dogs with the sheep. Ruins of mines and mining towns all along the way. Coming down the East side of he pass was not as steep,and rocky as the West side, glad we went in this direction. Most of the East side was through pine forest and along a river. Part of it it through a pretty spectacular canyon with towering cliffs on both sides. 

Finally made it through to Lake City, 4 hours and 8 minutes from Silverton, 35.3 miles! Four wheel drive low most of the way across and the Jeep got 11 MPG. Averaged 8.6 MPH. 

Had a bit of difficulty finding the AirBnB (Charming Studio in Heart of Town), Google Maps placed the address in the wrong place, it is actually on North Gunnison Ave, even though the address is South.

Checked out a couple of places to eat, first choice turned out to be closed so we ended up at Packer Saloon and Cannibal Grille. Not named for the football team, but after the leader of a small group who got caught in the valley North of here by a winter storm. He was convicted of cannibalism, notorious story in Colorado! Broncos playing football so we had to sit outside, but it was a nice evening and pretty good food. 

Rustic would be a good description of our accommodations, but they have done a lot to fix the little place up and make it comfortable considering what they started with. Several comfortable chairs and Dish Network on TV.

Friday 9/9 Lake City

39 degrees this morning! Of course we are over 8,000 feet in the mountains, but still! Of course all we packed were warm weather clothes and two light sweaters! Joan saved us again though when she insisted that we take a couple of zip up hoodies from her house. 

Walked a block over to the main drag and had breakfast at San Juan Coffee Company. Really good, fresh baked blueberry muffins!

We both wanted to see Ouray, but although it is less than 20 miles from Lake City there are only two routes: a four hour trip back across Engineer Pass and then a "difficult" rated 4 WD section into Ouray; or 136 miles by road around through Montrose! A bit over 2-1/2 hours, which is the way we went. 

Spectacular scenery going North out of Lake City through the canyon of the Lake Fork of the Gunnison River. Also very pretty between Montrose and Ouray. Downtown Ouray is very pretty with mountains all around. Had lunch at Roast and Toast, looking for something different than the same old beer and burgers. OK lunch but nothing great. Back to Lake City by a little after five. 

Back in Lake City we went to The Climb for an excellent dinner. When the owner brought our whiskey neat with a side glass of ice we knew we were in the right place! An outstanding meal as well. A bit amazing to find this caliber place in a tiny town like Lake City.

Saturday 9/10 Lake City

Drove to Lake City Bakery, a little bakery just on the North edge of town. Just like yesterday at San Juan Coffee, we were served immediately when we walked and there were at least a half dozen people on line, actually outside the tiny shop, behind us! Timing is everything!

Mid-morning we drove about 15 miles North of town to a Forest Service road we had spotted yesterday. Looking at the DeLorme Gazetteer we could see that he road actually went all the way through to US 50 West of the Blue Lake Reservoir. We saw a sign for the "Lake City cutoff" yesterday, but nothing showed on the state highway map. Turned out to be a fairly rough one lane dirt road. Sign at the start said 27 miles to US 50! Also 11 miles to Blue Creek campground.

We drove 6 miles up the road to the turnoff to the campground, that took 49 minutes. Road climbed steeply for the entire 6 miles. Spectacular views of the mountains and valley all the way up and near the top we were driving through a dense aspen forest. Very pretty all the way along.  

On the way back into town we decided to try Bruno's Restaurant & Grille for lunch. Good choice! Excellent burger and filet of sole. French chef and his wife run the place, very friendly and she is a pastry chef. Even though it was a big lunch we glanced at the desert menu and could not resist the dark chocolate mousse cake! Which turned out to be huge! Good thing we split it! If you are counting this makes two 5 star restaurants in Lake City! Who knew?

Back in town we walked over to a craft fair being held in the city park. Some really nice stuff and we bought three glazed pottery solar powered luminaries for the new house. Visited the very nice Hinsdale County Museum. Lots of interesting displays and exhibits including a restored Denver & Rio Grand RR caboose, last remaining piece of rolling stock from the narrow gauge RR. Nancy up in the brakeman's cupola:

Hopped back in the Jeep and took a short drive South of town and did a loop around Lake San Cristobal, the second largest natural lake in the state. Once again really spectacular scenery! This little mountain town is in a beautiful setting, with mountains all around. Not as dramatic as. Ouray, but just as pretty. 

Coming back into town we stopped at at Elkhorn Liquors and picked up a bottle of wine, little store with a nice selection. Then we stopped at High Country Market and bought sandwiches and a salad for dinner back in our room. 

Sunday 9/11 Denver. 

On the road just before nine. Uneventful trip into Denver, beautiful scenery all the way up over Monarch Pass. Traffic picked up as we approached Denver. Stopped at an IHOP on the outskirts for lunch and got to Emily's house about 2 PM. Picked up the keys to Connie's, Connie and Laurie not home from their trip to Oregon. Nancy did laundry while I washed the Jeep, dusty and dirty from our off road adventures. Ordered a pizza so it would be here when C & L got home 

Monday 9/12 Denver

Quiet morning, Nancy and Laurie went to pick up the twins from nursery school at Noon, I picked up some lunch and we spent the afternoon at the Britt's. Cooled of to the 70's today, was 90 when we got here yesterday. We had just perfect weather all of the time that we were in the San Juan mountains last week. Perfectly clear skies and temps in the 60's and 70's all the time we were there. 

Kids are really growing, Miles has become a little boy and you can carry on a brief conversation with Hillary and Oliver. The boys spent quite a bit of time crawling all over the Jeep. 

Back to C & L's for dinner and relaxed. 

Tuesday 9/13 Denver

Nice to just relax in a comfortable place with family, does seem a little odd not to be going back to our trailer in Cherry Creek every night. It will be good to get home next week though, getting a bit tired of living out of a suitcase!

Saturday 9/17 Ojo Caliente, NM

 After a nice, quiet week with the family we hit the road again. Left Connie and Laurie’s a little after Nine, fair amount of traffic getting out of Denver and into the mountains. At the foot of Kenosha Pass there was a sign saying "Stopped traffic at top of pass". No idea what that was about, but at the top there must have been 150 or more cars parked at the trailhead! Sure enough, we came to a complete stop while the folks in front of us looked for places to park!

Traffic slowly dissipated as we got further south, by the time we turned onto Colorado 17 through the San Luis valley we were all alone. Stopped in Alamosa for lunch and arrived in Ojo Caliente, NM about 3:30. Our room at Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs and Spa is in the"old hotel", small, no shower or TV (you shower in the bath house in the hot springs area). Not much for $189, but if you factor in two days access to the hot springs and spa it is not too pricy. Spent a couple of hours soaking in various hot spring pools, soda, Lithia, iron, arsenic (!), etc.  Nancy took a mud bath while I just soaked.

Not as fancy as The Springs Resort in Pagosa Springs, but it feels more authentic. A lot older as well. Once again a beautiful sunny day, in the mid-70's by the time we got here. 

Had a drink at the bar just down the hall from our room, beer and wine only, then an outstanding dinner in the Artesian Restaurant. Sat outside by the fire ring for a while, checked out the gift shop and then to bed

Sunday 9/18 Santa Fe

Up fairly early and breakfast in restaurant, then over to the hot springs and soaked in various pools for a couple of hours. No crowds at all! Late in the morning Nancy had a facial, I loaded the car and sat and relaxed on the veranda of the hotel. Once again just a spectacular day! Low 50's this AM, but warming up quickly, 75 degrees by Noon and a brilliant blue sky with nary a cloud!

Went up to Taos, across the Rio Grand gorge bridge, a pretty spectacular canyon. Stopped at the Taos Diner on the way in to town for lunch. Good choice! Old fashioned diner with friendly, fast service and good food. Did not have one, but the burgers looked especially good. 

We were not impressed with Taos, maybe we missed the best part, but we just drove straight through. A lot of stop and go traffic. Took the "High Road to Taos" scenic route South to Santa Fe. Truly a "high road" with spectacular views most of the way along.

Got to The AirBnB (Eastside Downtown Suite) right at 4PM. Very nice and right in town, walking distance to the main square. Called Lilia, our friend from Desert Trails. Lilia came and met us, we stopped at La Posada, right around the corner from our room. Then walked through the main square to the Blue Corn Cafe for a very good meal. 

Or AirBnB is very nice and right in town. 

Monday 9/19 Silver City, NM

Breakfast in our room since our hostess supplied the fixings, hit the road a little after 9:30. South on state highways across both I-25 and I-40 to US 60 West. Good road, pretty day with high clouds and very light traffic. Had to jump on I-25 for 90 miles as here was no other alternative. Headed West on NM 152 to Silver City. Beautiful drive with spectacular scenery and a very twisty road up over the mountains through Gila National Forest. Beautiful canyons and vistas where you can see forever!

Had dinner at Buckhorn Saloon and Opera House in Pinos Altos, 15 miles North of Silver City, right on the Continental Divide at 7,000 feet! Another great find courtesy of Yelp!  From the outside it looks almost abandoned, inside it is lovely with the best service I have see in years, a diverse menu and excellent food. We over indulged, big time! What the hey, our latest dinner on the road for this trip.

Staying at the EconoLodge in Silver City. 

Tuesday 9/20 Tucson (yeah!)

On the road at 9 AM, drove through downtown Silver City just to look. Then headed West toward AZ. Into Gila National Forest again and then Apache National Forest. Absolutely incredible scenery once again, almost into Safford where we ran north in a valley to Globe and then turned south towards Tucson. Into town about 2:30, of course traffic got thick as soon as we hit Oro Valley. Cut over to La Encantada, Nancy found there was a Queen Creek Olive Oil store there. We had planned to swing North to Apache Junction to stop at Queen Creek, stopping here saved us about three hours on the road!

Stopped at Beyond Bread mid-afternoon and had lunch, taking home half for dinner. Stopped and checked out the house, dry wall going in, everything looks great! Pleased to see the interior walls are all insulated. Everything in good shape when we got back to Desert Trails

Our final total for the trips since August 14th ... just over 11,000 miles on planes, a ship, a train, and including the last 3,200 miles in the Jeep!

Wednesday 9/21 Tucson

Took it easy in the AM, then ran in to BK Tacos for lunch and a stop at the grocery store. Back home I washed the Jeep once the shadows lengthened, then we cooked brats on the grille for dinner. Dusk comes early here this time of year, Arizona stays on Standard time, so we are on the same time as California and it starts to get dark around 6:30. Cover I ordered for Jeep showed up today, bought an inexpensive one as I just want to protect the it from dust and sun until we have a garage later in the winter.

Thursday 9/22 Tucson

In the morning I took some stuff to the storage locker, swung by the truck to get a few things. Measured the bike rack on the Jeep to determine the length of extension needed to clear the spare tire. Took the back seat out of the Jeep (a bit of a struggle) and put it in storage. 

We headed into town late the morning and had lunch at Cafe Roma. Also stocked up on some frozen lasagna and various kinds of ravioli. After lunch we drove up to Tucson Trailer on Miracle Mile to order the extension, then stopped at Albertson’s to get pizza for Sunday.

Stopped by the house and picked up mail. The LED lights I ordered for the Jeep arrived.

Friday 9/23 Tucson

After Breakfast I went over to the storage lot to get tools out of the truck. Discovered the solar charger was not working. Batteries still up and investigation showed that a critter (mouse?) had chewed off the connection from the solar controller to the batteries! No sign of any other damage or any infestation thankfully. Fixed that and headed home.

Spent the rest of the morning installing LED spot lights from Inspired Engineering in place of the OEM fog lights on the Jeep. No need for fog lights in Tucson and it seems like a very simple way to install brighter lights without cluttering up the outside of the Jeep. We’ll see how they look tonight!

Lights look really good here in the park, really bright! Might need to aim them a bit higher (not an easy proposition), but I will wait and see how they work out in the current configuration.

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