RV ADVENTURES
APRIL and MAY 2010

By early April we were anticipating resuming our rv adventures , and started making plans for what we wanted to see in each state we would visit.

Watching the desert come to life in the spring is a joy. By May 1, the graceful Palo Verde and the mesquite trees were covered with small yellow flowers; prickly pears were sporting translucent, tender new pads, their edges crowded with buds that opened as pale yellow, pinky gold, or bright yellow flowers; chollas bloomed dark red, pink, orange, or yellow; the giant saguaros had long-necked buds on the tops of all their arms, as well as on the main trunk. Some were just starting to open; soon they all would be crowned with white as the profusion of buds burst open. Spring in the desert is surely an rv adventure to be savored.

Prickly Pear at Tohono Chul Gardens, Tucson

Prickly Pear at Tohono Chul Gardens

Robert finished up his three months of cardiac rehab in great shape and we moved out of the apartment the last week of April, renting a 5x5 storage unit which we soon filled, then shifting all that and more into an 8x5 unit. Robert emptied his RV and sold it to a dealer in town; I emptied out some compartments in Mehitabel so there would be more space for him during our summer of rv adventures.

We finally finished bringing the last of our belongings, Bijou the Wonder Cat and her litterbox over to the RV, moved it out of storage at Desert Trails RV Park, then turned in our keys at the apartment. We were both excited, ready for rv adventures to begin again.

Spring in the Desert - Tucson, AZ

On May 4, we hit the road just before 10 am – it was already 88 degrees! We drove through Tucson, then up SR 79 to US 60, then US 60/77 to Show Low – 235 miles, a long day of driving through beautiful desert, then mountain passes. The cliffs and colors between Globe and Show Low reminded me of Grand Canyon. There was yucca blooming on the hills and patches of Indian paintbrush on the roadside. The Salt River raced far below us.

The next day, we continued on our way, stopping at Petrified Forest National Park on I-40. We had lunch at Fred Harvey’s next to the Visitor Center (I had a chili burger which sounded good but wasn’t), then drove out to Blue Mesa, taking photos of the amazing, colorful geological things in the Painted Desert (part of the park) along the way. The balance of the drive, north on US-191 up to Chinle, AZ, was tough – high winds and lots of big hills.

Although we were down to one rig for this rv adventure, we still had two cars. I drove Mehitabel, towing my Corolla, while Robert drove his Highlander. The nice part of this is that we never have to unhook and rehook my car, since we have his to drive around in. The not so nice part is that he’s not with me to talk with and share the driving.

Spider Rock in Canyon de Chelly

We spent five days at the Cottonwood Campground at Canyon de Chelly. There were no fees at all here – something to do with the fact that all this area is Navajo Reservation land. The canyon is spectacular – there really are no words to describe the beauty and grandeur. The floor of it is some 500-700’ below brilliant rusty-red cliffs, with a creek and vibrant lime green cottonwoods winding through the middle of the canyon, and a few Navajo farms scattered about. We saw small bands of sheep far below and watched ravens, sleek and glossy, soaring on the thermals.

Dust storms are a regular event in these parts – we drove through one coming into town – visibility suddenly shrinking to about 100’. A fine grit soon covered surfaces in the RV. Dusting and vacuuming is definitely part of an rv adventure! We got two radio stations here and no TV at all. The nearby Thunderbird Motel had wifi, so I was able to connect to the internet through that – lucky for me, because my wireless card was no use at all.

One day we hiked down to White House Ruins – it took us ½ hour to hike the 500’ down to the bottom, where we wandered around, watching kids splashing in the creek, and had our lunch. It took us a full hour for the hike back up, as we had to stop every 50’ or so to catch our breath. The elevation is about 6000’ there. A truly wonderful hike, and the only one we were able to do on our own – you’re required to have a Navajo guide for any other entries into the canyon.

Weaving aTwo Grey Hills Rug

The next day we went to Ganado, about 30 miles south of Chinle, to Hubbell Trading Post, for the Navajo rug auction. One day, when my rv adventures are over, I would love to buy one of those beautiful rugs – they are truly works of art. I especially love the Two Grey Hills patterns. The Trading Post has been here for more than 100 years, the oldest continuously operating trading post in the Navajo nation.

Our last night at Cottonwood Campground, we were surrounded by Airstream travel trailers – some kind of group gathering – quite something to see. I guess they were having a special rv adventure.

 RV Adventures in and around Colorado 

On May 10, we drove up to Sundance RV Park, on US-160, in Cortez, CO. It wasn’t a bad drive at all, mostly flat, through a very strange landscape. Red rock rises out of the ground and is whittled by wind and rain into weird spires and needles. One looked just like a termite mound from Africa.

We spent two nights at Sundance, a small, very nice park with the cleanest laundry and restroom area we’d ever seen, plus it was walking distance to the CO Visitor Center, restaurants, and shopping.

On the 13th, we moved on the final 10 miles to Mesa Verde National Park where we spent five days and guess what? On the second day, the Airstream Group all started coming in. We met the owner of one, who gave me his card, with the slogan, “Chasing 75 degrees.” He said he hadn’t been too successful at that. It was chilly at Mesa Verde, the park had just opened a couple days ago, and we even had spitting snow a couple of times.

Spruce Tree House at Mesa Verde NPSpruce Tree House at Mesa Verde

Buds were just coming out on the trees – the scenery was still quite stark, but the views were awe-inspiring. The highest lookout is at 8,572’ – snow covered mountains to the north and east, Shiprock in NM to the southwest. Supposedly, you can see all four states in the Four Corners area: CO, UT, NM & AZ, but I couldn’t tell where one ended and the other began.

We did much driving and some hiking (and puffing) during our rv adventure in Mesa Verde, saw lots of mule deer, several magpies, and many, many cliff dwellings. One day we drove west about 50 miles to Hovenweep National Monument, just over the border in Utah. An amazing place, with ruins of towers on the edges of cliffs, out in the middle of miles and miles of sagebrush. Those early people were great craftsmen/masons. It was a lovely day, warm for a change, and, of course, we were dressed for cooler weather – oh, well. We drove back on 10 over to 491 – incredible green farmland on this route, with tractors out turning the red soil in some fields, long irrigation piping systems watering the green crops in others, and Abajo Peak, covered with snow, in the distance.

We stopped for an early dinner in Cortez, at Nero’s, where I had the best salmon I had ever tasted: from Scotland, covered with peppercorns, marinated or basted with molasses and orange juice concentrate, resting on a bed of orzo with dried cherries, and covered with wilted spinach. It was totally yummy. I had two glasses of a local red wine – also yummy!

On the 16th, we drove up to Dolores, to the Anasazi Heritage Center, an incredible museum – you could easily spend a whole day, even two, going through it. We had our sandwiches, then hiked ½ mile up to a point overlooking MacPhee Lake and the ruins of a pueblo. We saw a myrtle warbler, a black-headed grosbeak, and an eagle soaring over the lake, then a canyon towhee when we got back to camp. Note to self: buy a new bird book – my two were 40 and 60 years old!

Red Mountain Pass on the Million Dollar Highway

Million Dollar Hwy - Red Mountain Pass

The next day we drove the 36 miles to Cottonwood Campground in Durango – boy, I loved those short trips on my rv adventures! The following day we took the car and drove the passes to Silverton & Ouray – a chilly and overcast day, but a gorgeous drive nevertheless. We had seen the leaves open during the last week in Cortez and Mesa Verde – there were no leaves at all on the aspens up there in the San Juan Mountains, just bare branches, lots of snow and huge spruces. We had lunch at Grumpy’s Saloon in Silverton (delicious chili), then drove Red Mountain Pass to Ouray. There were a few snowflakes flying on the way up; more snow and blowing harder as we came back through the pass. I had made this drive by myself, back in 2001 – a white-knuckle journey, with my eyes glued to the road – so I enjoyed being able to look around this time while Robert drove.

We left Durango on the 19th and drove US-160 over Wolf Creek Pass (10,850’ – a tough drive) to a Wal-Mart in Alamosa, a smallish town in the middle of a big flat plain surrounded by snow-capped mountains in every direction. From Durango to Alamosa is most definitely horse country – every pasture along the way had at least a few beauties grazing.

The next morning, we left Wal-Mart and headed for Pueblo, taking a short detour up to Great Sand Dunes Nat’l Park for a bit, (Star Dune, at 750’, is the tallest in North America), then back on US160, over La Veta Pass (9,413’), joining I-25 in Walsenburg, and overnighted at a KOA campground just north of Pueblo. It was a very nice campground, but too close to the highway - this seems to be true of every KOA campground I've ever stayed at.

From Pueblo we journeyed to Loveland, CO, where we stayed in a Wal-Mart parking lot overnight, and I discovered the next morning that I had forgotten to turn the key off “Acc” in my car, so my battery was dead. I bought jumper cables at the Wal-Mart - this was not the first time I had forgotten to check my car at the end of an rv adventure - and I supposed it wouldn't be my last.

Mt. Herard in the Sangre de Christo Mountains

Mt. Herard in the Sangre de Christo Mountains
Great Sand Dunes National Park

May 22nd was the most grueling drive of all as we decided to go the full distance to Hart Ranch up in Rapid City, SD – about 360 miles. We took I-25 up to Cheyenne, then went east on I-80 to Kimball, Nebraska, then north on NE-71, through Scottsbluff – a very pretty area with sculptured sandstone cliffs. There were vicious gusting winds the whole way – I truly thought Mehitabel might capsize a couple of times. We finally reached Hart Ranch about 5:45pm, after 8.5 hours of driving. It was a very tiring rv adventure - way too far to drive an RV in one day -

There must be a better way to get to Rapid City, to say nothing of a better time of year. Last year, about two weeks earlier, we had gone through Cheyenne, continued north on US-85 to Mule Creek Junction, then headed east on US-18 into SD. It, too, was a horrendously windy drive.

I spent a good part of the next day washing my very filthy RV. Robert left Monday morning for MN, to visit with family and take care of some business. I took time off from rv adventures, at least the traveling part, staying put to catch up on computer work, read, do some painting and wash and wax the car and RV. At least that was the plan – as I write this I’ve got 2/3 of the car waxed. When he returned, we would do a little fishing here in SD, then continue the journey West.

The weather was very typically Rapid City – warm and humid one day, the next about 20 degrees cooler, mostly cloudy and very windy. I stopped by the pool on the 30th to see when I could start coming over at 7:30am to swim. Unfortunately, the pool heater had died, so the water temperature was dropping. They didn’t know when it would be fixed, so I guessed I’d have to keep walking for awhile.

Poppies on 4th Avenue - Tucson, AZ

Spring in Tucson - Poppies on 4th Avenue

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