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Vacation 2006 Page 2

San Juan Scenic Byway, Mesa Verde, Four Corners, Wupatki, Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, Death Valley, Meteor Crater

Jenetta Loggan

 

Click on any photograph to enlarge the image then click one more time to see more detail

Monday, June 5:

          I slept really well and didn't get up until 8:00 AM. After breakfast, we prepared the RV to go to Cortez.  After driving the million dollar highway from Ouray to Durango we only had one comment..."no way are we going to pull our RV over that baby"!!  So we had to travel back through Ridgway, past Telluride, then turn due south over Lizard Head pass.  This is the West side of San Juan Scenic Byway and we can attest to the "scenic" part!!  After Ridgway there is a little pull up Dallas Divide (8,970 feet) and then the big one up to Lizard Head Pass (10,222 feet).  Just to remind you we pull a 30 foot Durango fifth wheel with a 6.0 liter truck.  Although Lizard Head Pass sounds ominous it is less of a climb than the Ouray Silverton highway, a whole lot wider and has no tunnels.  We stopped at a gorgeous scenic turnout called the Ophir Loop overlook near Lizard Head and took photos of Mt. Wilson, Mt. Bernard, and Sunshine Mt.  Be sure and dig out your binoculars at this spot.  This is an absolutely beautiful ride down the mountain from Lizard Head.  It is a relatively gentle grade down the mountain and as you go along the landscape changes from pine forest to a more high plains scenery.  Be sure to pullover and wade in one of the mountain streams located on the left side of the road.  We stopped just south of the Pass for lunch in the RV.  We saw a mother and little girl playing Frisbee with their dog, a border collie, who looked like Trooper, our dog on the farm.  Deanna and I waded in the creek and it was like ice water.  Brrr!  We picked up pretty rocks and some pine cones and talked to a Ranger who was checking on the fishing conditions.  We went on through Rico and began to come out of the mountains.  The pine trees began to be shorter and wider and there was more level ground.  When we came to Stoner we were almost completely out of the mountains.  Just north of Dolores, we met up with a cattle drive.  There were cowboys on horses and cattle with calves.  One rider had to race around to get the calves back in line as they were scared of the traffic.  They even had a chuck wagon pulled by horses along with them.  They acted like it was completely normal to have a cattle drive running down the road.  The mountains had turned into mesas by the time we reached Cortez.  We drove south to Towaoc (Toy-awk) and stopped at the Sleeping Ute RV Park at the Ute Mountain Casino.  This RV park has the biggest selection of cable TV channels we had ever seen!  And... the rates were very reasonable.  Clean place with level and easily accessible sites and a really nice staff.

Ophir Loop turnout

Click on this to see the mountain names

Freeze your toes!

A mothers love

 

         Towaoc makes a great central location if you plan on going to Mesa Verde and could give you a good starting point to visit Four Corners or the Canyon Lands and Durango is just down the road.  There is a legend about the Sleeping Ute warrior that the mountain is named for.  It looks like an Indian lying down with his arms across his chest and his feet sticking up at the end.  We went in to Cortez to the hospital so Dave could have his blood tested and they faxed the results to his doctor in Bartlesville.  The people were all so nice and friendly, it made you glad to be there.  Dave and Deanna barbecued chicken for supper, also had corn on the cob, salad, and lemonade.  Yummy!!!  After supper, Deanna and I did laundry at the park facility while Dave rested in the RV.  We got back to the RV about 9:00 PM and I did the dishes while Deanna put away the clothes we had washed.  Dave and Deanna walked over to the casino for about a half hour.  Deanna won $4.00 and Dave lost $5.00.  They had fun and came back about the time I got out of the shower and dressed.

Tues., June 6:

          After breakfast, we drove to Mesa Verde to see the pueblo ruins.  We had to stop at Wal-Mart first, so reached Mesa Verde about 10:30.  Mesa Verde is really interesting and a surprise when you discover the layout.  Here is an adobe map.  The whole thing is on top a mesa that from the air looks like a bunch of fingers going out to the north.  As you drive along the scenic drive there will be pullouts for you to park.  Then the ruin you will be looking out will be across the canyon.  On some occasions you will look across the canyon to see another group of people at a turnout looking at a ruin just below you.  But above all... be sure and stop at the visitors center.  They not only have lots of literature they have ranger guided tours available and they are cheap.  Like $3 per person.  And these ranger guided tours are the best things since Wheaties.  These rangers at Mesa Verde are absolutely full of facts and stories. Also be sure to bring a set of binoculars, you will get a much better views of the ruins.  There is an RV park here too but the last time I checked there was no reservations allowed, just first come first serve.  The road winding up to the top passes through a tunnel and winds up a pretty steep grade.  We stopped at Montezuma Valley at an overlook close to the top for some picture taking, then drove to the Geologic Overlook and the Far View Visitor's Center.  We stopped at the Far View Community and took photos of dwelling ruins, kivas, and towers.  We had the best Indian tacos for lunch at Spruce Tree Terrace that we had ever eaten then walked the Spruce Canyon Trail and took pictures of the ruins, talked to a Ranger who gave us a lot of information about the ruins that we didn't know.  We then drove on to Mesa Top Loop, Pit House overlook, Mesa Top Sites, and Sun Point View. We saw a large burned out area and took pictures at each place we stopped.  The weather began to get cool, rainy and began to lightening so we went back to camp.  On the way down from the mesa we got a real life experience with forest fires.  We saw a lightening strike out in front of us and when we rounded one of the corners there was a fire going where the lightening had struck and a park ranger already monitoring it.  After supper, Deanna and I swam in the pool while Dave rested.  Deanna and I did dishes after our swim, then watched TV until bedtime.

Wednesday, June 7:

          We decided to return to the Mesa Verde National Park after breakfast as there was a tram tour we wanted to take.  We got there at 10:35 and got our tickets for the tour.  We drove to Step House, ate the lunch we had packed, then got on the tram to go to Long House.  Deanna and I walked all the trail at Long House with the guide and group we went with.  Dave started down the trail with us, then saw how steep the trail was, so he returned to the shelter at the top of the tour stop to wait for us.  We saw up close the cliff dwellings and kivas, and the guide told us about the ancient civilization and how they lived in the area.  Deanna and I were able to climb down a ladder into one of the kivas and it was really neat.  It got a little rainy with lightening popping around us so our guide had us stay close under the cliffs until it stopped.  She said she didn't want anyone to get struck by lightning.  We hiked back up the trail where Dave waited for us, got on the tram and stopped at Kodak House and Long House overlook.  Dave could see where we had been as another group was hiking the same area. When we got back to Step House, Dave and Deanna bought some books at the shop.  We left there and drove back up the Weatherill Mesa Road to Sun Point where we had left off yesterday.  We stopped at Sun Temple opposite Sun Point and Cliff Palace overview.  We went on to Cliff Canyon and saw many more cliff dwellings.  We used the binoculars and cameras to scan the canyon.  There were dwellings in every little nook up and down the canyon.  This was really a great place to visit and a full two days would be just about enough to see the whole thing.  When we came back from the Mesa we still had that same question.  Why the heck did they climb up to 8,000 feet to set up housekeeping?  Was it a defensive issue?  Were they being threatened by some tribe in the plain below?  Was food on the plains getting scarce and the Mesa was still untouched?  We headed for camp about 4:45 and passed several more overlooks but didn't stop.  We were all getting tired. When we got back to camp, Dave and Deanna grilled hamburgers, while I set out condiments, plates, Kool-Aid, etc.  What a good supper!! We will leave in the morning for Arizona.

Wide views of Long  House.  Click on the bottom picture, then click on the picture one more time to expand it out.  Now you can see the whole trail and people touring the dwellings.

The sleeping Ute

Spruce Tree House

Inside a Kiva

Cliff Canyon overlook

Where the old road went

Far View

Spruce Tree House

Cliff Canyon

 

Thursday, June 8:

          Dave decided to get his blood tested again before leaving as it was way too thin the first time.  He had to quit his Coumadin for a day and eat lots of green veggies.  They went back into Cortez after breakfast to get his blood tests done.  I stayed at camp, did dishes and prepared as much as I could in the camper so we could leave when they got back.  We got up to rain and it was still drizzling when we left at 11:00 AM.  We were assured by the locals that all this rain was unusual and that it would quit shortly.  We drove in and out of it all the way to Flagstaff.  A record no doubt. We stopped at a service station to air the RV tires and reached Four Corners, New Mexico at 11:50 AM.  Ah yessss.. now days you have to pay a fee to get in.  Not much, just enough that you would expect at least a gravel parking lot.  It had been raining here too and had such high winds that some of the booth awnings had been damaged.  There were lots of muddy red puddles to wade through and the parking lot was very muddy in general.  The Four Corners monument has become quite commercialized over the years.  We took lots of pictures and bought gifts from the Navajo Indians who had lots of booths there.  I bought 2 butterfly hair clips, a necklace, and a ring. We learned while we there that the four corners originally weren't planned to meet at an equal point on the map.  The surveyors deliberately changed the lines to meet at the "Four Corners".  We ate lunch while we were parked there and left about 1:00 PM heading southwest on highway 160.  We entered Arizona after about 5 minutes of driving and drove through the Navajo reservation.  We saw lots of red sand and rocks; Indian Hogan's; and cliffs with natural arches.  There were hardly any trees anywhere, really barren looking with just a few scrubby looking pines, shrubs and lots of rock.  We had never seen T-Posts driven in the rock!  We turned North at Kayenta for a very scenic route to the edge of Monument Valley.  Much to our surprise there were ranches in the valley, horses and quite a lot of sheep out in the road.  We didn't go very far into Monument Valley since we were so short on time.  As we got further south we picked up the heavy rain again with lots of lightning and thunder.  Thankfully, it stopped about 5:00 PM and the sun came out.  We got to our RV Park (the J and H Park on highway 89) at Flagstaff about 7:15.  This was a great little park and costs about $35 per night including tax.  I would give it all 10's.  We showered, ate supper, and went to bed about 9:30.

Navajo Hogan

J and H RV Park

Monument Valley

 

Friday, June 9:

It's a cool 57 degrees this morning after all that rain yesterday. It looks like it will be sunny today, though. We all slept in which is unusual for me. We didn't leave camp until 10:30AM and had to get gas before we went out to explore. We had seen some signs and maps with an old volcano and Indian ruins that we had never seen so off we went north on highway 89 to find our way to Sunset Crater. Be sure you have plenty of gas when you go on this route and you will be able to take the road all the way around to the Wupatki Indian ruins. We visited Sunset Crater Volcano first and Deanna bought a booklet about the Volcano at the visitors center. The volcano was pretty impressive with some significant lava flows. We took pictures at the Bonito Lava Flow on Loop Road and Cinder Hills overlook. From the overlook on the north of Sunset Crater you can see the plains below and the Painted Desert We also found out that the whole area has many volcanoes visible from the scenic overlooks and there are signs of lava even at the Wupatki ruins. There are several Indian ruins just off the road and are really impressive. The first in line was Wukoki and the next was Wupatki.  How the heck did these people live in such an arid area? Do you suppose they are related to the people who populated the Mesa Verde area? We also drove by the Citadel, Nakariku, Lamaki and Box Canyon dwellings but didn't stop at those because we needed to find a place to eat. We ate lunch at Grey Mountain, then started for Grand Canyon. The first overlook we stopped at had a bunch of little flying insects that did bite or bother you, they just clung to anything that they could. We drove on to Grand Canyon Village and rode the tram to Hermits Rest. We made several stops along the way. What beautiful scenery!! Our clocks were off by 2 hours so we reset them. Going through so many time changes had really got us goofed up. We went back to Flagstaff and ate supper at IHOP, then went to the RV.

Wukoki

Hikers on the trail

Wupatki Panorama

All three linked together

Wukoki

Wukoki

Sunset Crater

Wukoki

Hermits Rest

Saturday, June 10:

After breakfast, Dave and Deanna went to gas up the truck. We are leaving today for Las Vegas. I did the dishes and got myself ready to go. We left camp at 9:30 and drove through mountains called Grand Wash Cliffs. There were rocks and more rocks. The temperature is getting warmer the farther west we go. The Black Mountains are on the left and the White Mountains are on the right. We stopped in Kingman for gas and rest room break, then lunched at Subway. We headed north on highway 93 to cross Hoover Dam. We were stopped for inspection by soldiers before we were allowed to cross the dam. We drove on to Las Vegas and stopped at the Wal-Mart before going on to our RV Park. After setting up camp, we went into town to the Stardust and had supper. We then found a parking garage at the Paris Casino and rode the elevator to the top of the Eiffel Tower which is 540 feet high. The lights below were so beautiful, but I was so dizzy as I had not taken my Dramamine. Our picture was taken before we went up in the tower and when we came down we looked it over and bought two copies. We walked around the hotel/casino and found a beautiful fountain. A worker volunteered to take our picture in front of it with Deanna's camera. What a nice guy!! We then went back to camp as were pretty tired. We stayed at the Sam's Town Casino RV Park and it is about the best you can get for the money. It cost us about $22 a night tax included. We of course went in to the Sam's Town for a little gambling too.

Sunday, June 11:

We decided to go to Death Valley after breakfast. The highway was really good. We passed a prison, Creech Air Force Base at Indian Springs, where gas was #3.99 a gallon, Fort Amargosa and lots of cactus. We crossed into California at 11:45.We took pictures of Manley Peak in Death Valley, then stopped at a National Parks information kiosk for some literature. We then went on to Zabrinski Point and climbed to the top. What a climb!! Really fantastic scenery. There were a lot more mountains there than I had imagined. I always thought Death Valley would be flat with lots of sand and dunes. There were also some ancient volcanoes with lava rocks all around. We stopped at Furnace Creek and took pictures of the 49 Gateway Memorial and an old Borax wagon. We stopped at the visitor's center and ate our lunch, then saw a film about Death Valley; also bought some pins and used the rest room. We drove back toward Zabrinski Point to reach Artist's Palette and took pictures of the salt flats, mountains, and valleys. We went through Shoshone Junction, Pahrump, then headed back to Vegas. It was 113 degrees in Death Valley. The Rangers said it gets anywhere between 115 and 120 degrees in summer. We had to stop and rest a lot when walking around. It was 103 degrees in Las Vegas when we got back. At camp, Dave grilled steaks and we had a good supper. Deanna and I did laundry after that, then Dave and Deanna went to the recreation area to watch a light show. I stayed in the RV and watched TV til they came back.

Monday, June 12:

After breakfast, we found the Diagnostic Center for Dave to have his blood work done. They said it would be at least 40 minutes so we decided not to wait. We drove into town, found a parking garage at MGM and explored several shops. We went to the M&M store and bought candy, then went to the Coca Cola store. We ate lunch at Wendy's, then went to the Bellagio to see the water show. Inside was a Conservatory that was very interesting. There were all kinds of displays, plants, railroads, etc. and we must have walked for blocks and blocks inside the same building. We went back to camp and Dave grilled pork chops for supper. I couldn't wait to get my shoes off! After supper, we went over to Sam's Casino as the kids wanted me to see the light and water show they had seen the night before. It had a western theme and also an animated bear, wolf, eagle, owl, and 4 beavers. It was really cute. We went back to the RV, changed clothes, and went to the Venetian for a gondola ride. Our boat person was a girl named Danielle. She sang 3 songs in Italian as she poled us around the canal. I remarked that the last song sounded like a love song, so Deanna asked for a little translation. She said it was about a mothers love for her children and how the children loved their parents. She said she sang it especially for me as Deanna had called me "mom". She had a beautiful voice and we naturally complimented her on it As we left, we could hear her singing to some other folks. We went back to camp and crashed about 11:00 PM.

Ceiling at Bellagio

Tuesday, June 13:

After breakfast, Dave suggested pulling out and heading for home. That will take 3 days. He and Deanna mapped out a route on the computer. We left about 10:45 AM. We saw men working on cell phone towers that are shaped like palm trees. We had to cross Hoover Dam again, so had to stop for inspection. The wind had picked up and was really getting strong. We stopped in Kingman, Arizona for gas and rest room break, then again about 3:15 for lunch in the RV. Deanna called the RV Park at Meteor Crater for a place to park for the night. I dozed a little in the truck. We got to the Meteor Crater RV Park and rested some before starting supper. The RV park was really nice with a gas station and Subway restaurant in the convenience store. We had left over pork chops, chicken, and steak to choose from. After supper, we decided to "chill out" and rest for the evening. Dave is getting tired enough to make mistakes, like turning too sharply and scraping a pickups bumper. He put a small dent in the RV but didn't damage the pickup. We went to bed fairly early.

Wed., June 14:

We drove out to the meteor crater after breakfast. Dave opened his truck door and the wind caught it and slammed it into the bumper of the car next to us. It put a dent in the door of the truck. We looked at all the exhibits, visited the gift shop, then walked out to the observation area to take pictures of the crater. It is extremely windy!! When we got back to camp, we got ready to pull out. We had to stop for gas in Winslow which was $3.17 a gallon. We drove past the Petrified Forest, the Painted Desert, and saw dinosaurs and tepees along the road. We ate our lunch outside the Petrified Forest entrance in the RV, When we came into New Mexico we saw trains and more trains, some cedars and pine trees, sagebrush and cactus. We could drive for miles and not see a single house. The land is so flat and barren. I don't think I would want to live here. We stopped at a visitor's center for maps and rest room break. We got held up for about 10 minutes by slow traffic and could never figure out why. There was no accident or anything. We saw lots of lava formations and dust devils on both sides of the road. We got to the Enchanted Trails RV Park at Albuquerque about 6:00 PM. We ate supper after setting up and watched TV for the evening.

     

Thursday, June 15:

The winds are really strong and are predicted to reach 50 miles per hour today. We decided to pull up stakes and head for home, so we all prepared to leave after breakfast. I need to be home by Friday as I have another trip planned for Saturday. I will go with the AARP group to Overland Park to see a play. We left at 10:35 AM and headed for Amarillo, Texas. East of Albuquerque are the Sandia Mountains and we saw a cross on one of them. The overpasses and median walls are decorated in south western style. Really nice!! Denise called about 2:00 PM to tell us their pastor had passed away that morning. Robin was with him when it happened. We stopped for lunch in the RV outside Newkirk then stopped at Tucumcari for gas. When we crossed into Texas, it was even windier than in New Mexico. In New Mexico, we had seen a Fed Ex truck that had burned on the highway and in Texas, another one had overturned. Traffic was backed up for blocks, but we were on the opposite side of the highway so it didn't slow us down. We reached the Fort Amarillo RV Park and got set up by suppertime. After supper, Deanna and I went to the pool to swim. We had a great time and I showered and washed my hair while there. When we got back to the RV we washed dishes and sorted out my dirty laundry and put them in a plastic bag so I could take them home to wash. We'll probably get home sometime tomorrow.

Friday, June 16:

We had a continental breakfast at the RV Park, then got ready to leave camp. We stopped for gas, then drove on to the huge cross outside of Groom, Texas. We drove into the parking area and got out to take pictures. There are the 12 stations of the cross, the crucifixion, and the empty tomb with an angel inside. Beautiful art work!! There is also a separate building with a replica of the Shroud of Turin. The park is dedicated to all the babies lost by abortion. It is a really moving structure. We went on to Clinton, Oklahoma where we stopped for gas and ate lunch at a really nice restaurant. There was a huge wind farm outside Clinton and several others in the process of being built. We passed through Oklahoma City and took the toll road to Tulsa. We stopped at Stroud for restroom break and ice cream at McDonald's. We were slowed down by road construction north east of Stroud about a half hour. We had to stop for gas again north of Tulsa and reached Bartlesville about 7:00 PM. I got all my stuff together and got home about 8:30 PM. Boy, was I glad to see this old house!! Sam had mowed the yard and it looked really good to me.

 

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