Saturday, July 29, 2017

Colorado - Estes Park - 2nd stop

Estes Park

Colorado has been full of surprises for us, all good ones so far. Estes Park is just minutes from the entrance to the Rocky Mountain National Park. The drive there took us through Denver where we spotted the Mile High Stadium and we were treated to mountain views in every direction. Even in the rain it was beautiful.

We arrived here on July 3. 2017. Driving through downtown Estes Park as we headed to Spruce Lake Campground reminded us of driving in Traverse City, MI. Wall to wall tourists.
The campground is just on the west side of town with beautiful views of the mountains and a fast moving creek running through it. This is a large campground with just over 100 sites.
The sites are wide but fairly short, we saw a number of people having difficulties backing into some of the sites. There is a picnic table and ours had full hook-ups. We paid $66.49 a night with our Good Sam discount, the highest we have ever paid. There is a pool, fishing pond, swimming pool and a play ground. The WiFi did not work at all even though the signal was at the back of our RV. Our Verizon signal was strong and our MiFi worked well.

Moraine Park
Rocky Mountain National Park offered spectacular mountain views. Les has been here before, but this was the first time for Nancy. She has seen pictures and heard people rave about these mountains but nothing can prepare you for the beauty that awaits you. Ranges that tower over 12,000 feet, covered in snow in some places and grass, flowers and trees in other places, To see wildflowers at 10,000+ feet was pretty amazing.
Proudre Lake 
The first day through the park we drove Trail Ridge Road so we could determine if the RV could handle the trip to our next stop. There are five switchbacks in a row but they are not super tight curves. As it turned out we didn't need to worry about that - more on that in the tip.

This trip of course gave us mountain views but also Elk, lakes, valleys and lava cliffs.
Lake Irene

Kawuneedhe Valley
"Valley of the Coyote"

Cloud Reflection
Lava Cliffs

As you can imagine the drive was up and down and around a number of curves. Nancy did surprisingly well, she only sat in the back seat for a short time, which gives Mielikki a great view out the front window.

There are many over looks to stop at and enjoy the views.

Bear Lake
It took three tries to get to Bear Lake, there were so many people in the park that this road was closed. Our third attempt was at 7:30 at night after a rain storm.
Sprague Lake

Our perseverance paid off, as each stop had very few people and Nancy was able to get the picture she had been dreaming about, plus there was a full moon to light our way home. 

Bear Lake
Sunset reflecting on the mountains. 
Boulder was about a half hour away and we enjoyed a stroll through Pearl Street Mall.
While most of the shops are pretty high-end, and we don't really do "shopping" very well we enjoyed the atmosphere of the place and some Ben and Jerry's ice cream.
It is a three block long walking mall.
The road is closed to traffic and they have filled the promenade with art sculptures, flower gardens, plenty of places to sit and people watch along with playscapes for the kids.

You can also be entertained by local artists. Music, magic shows and a juggler on a unicycle. This part reminded us of the street artists in Asheville.

One of the art pieces was a giant water wall. There were plants laying along the bottom for you to play with and create your own art. The RedFox sign made us think of our friend Anne Fox, as this is her nickname.

Roadside oddities in the area ran the gambit from Mork and Mindy's house to Muffler Men.
Lyons is a cute little artsy town east of Estes Park. There we found a banjo player, giant bear, random sculptures and really cool newspaper boxes.

In Boulder we found Mork and Mindy's house, or the one used in the show. Oh how we loved that show.

Heading north out of Boulder we found Chainsaw Indians, in Niwot.

The Muffler Man lives in Longmount and now holds a pitch fork. We had hoped to find the largest Sticker Ball but the office was closed. We left one of Nancy's drawings in hope they would add it, but alas we never heard from them.

A cameraman was waiting for us in Loveland along with a giant Adirondack chair, the Statue of Liberty and murals.

At last we can cross off another Peter "Wolf" Toth Indian from our list. This one in Loveland now sits on private property after being moved from its original location by the lake. It is surrounded by a herd of cows so we couldn't get close. It is nice to see that they are trying to keep it preserved. This is the 31st carving and was carved out of Cottonwood in 1979. It stands 37-feet tall and is titled Redman.

The highlight of our stop was seeing Gabi Aelabouni. Eons ago Nancy worked as the receptionist at Antioch Lutheran Church in Farmington Hills, MI. Each year a new intern came to work at the church. One year it was Gabi. He arrived on the day of the big East Coast Black-Out and had to move in with no electricity. He came full of The Spirit and full of life, with a smile that would light up the darkest room. He has since preached in Chicago and now works for the ELCA Synod. He lives in Fort Collins with his wife and three kids.
He arranged a tour of the New Belgium Brewery (now we really have to tour the one in Asheville when we are back). Gabi and Nancy enjoyed the tour while Les kept Mielikki company in the picnic area. It is a beautiful brewery with touches of art every where. The tanks are surrounded by mosaic tiles and the ceiling is beautiful wood.
There are chandeliers made from bottles and cans along with informative art work. We got to sample some delicious sours, aged in wine barrels. There was even a touch of Asheville, with a sticker from Bruisin' Ales.

It was so wonderful seeing him and catching up with each other. Of course these visits are never long enough so we will just have to come back. While in Fort Collins we also checked out the Horsetooth Reservoir. A beautiful recreation area.

Up next is a one night stop in Kremmling and then onto Rangely.

Till we meet again...

Happy Trails to You!

Tips and things we have learned along the way
~ Check your tires - every stop!
A flat tire, or a tire blow out is always a bad thing to have happen. In an RV the consequences can be deadly. If a tire blows while driving it can and has caused RV's to roll - it doesn't take much imagination to figure out how devastating that would be. Les checks our tires at every stop.
He checks the tire pressure (thanks to our portable air compressor we can take care of low tires easily), he also checks for cracks and wear. This time he found two cracks in one of the rear tires. So off to a tire place in Longmount we went on the morning we left. This delayed our departure and put us an hour in the wrong direction but we sure didn't want to cross the Rocky's with a bad tire.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Colorado - Pueblo - 1st stop


Colorado at last! June 27, 2017 was our arrival date in Pueblo West, which of course is just west of Pueblo. The drive was pretty well a straight shot down Hwy 50 from our last stop. It seemed strange as we drove through miles of prairies that we would be at the mountains in just a few short hours.

We stayed at the Haggards RV Campground. It sits in the valley with a beautiful view of the mountains to the west and north. There are over 60 sites, a mix from no hook ups to full hook ups. Sites are all gravel, a few have a bit of grass. They are level and ours, B4 had full hook ups with 50 amp.

The water is well water, so we used bottle water for drinking. The bathrooms and laundry were clean, as is the entire park.
There is a huge fenced pet area, that Mielikki loved.The walking path around the perimeter of the park was also great for walking the dog. They have two small decks from which you can enjoy the view and Nancy found a Click Beetle on a morning walk.
We paid $28.00 a night with a Military discount.

There is so much to do that we couldn't get it all in, which is usually the case.
Bishop's Castle was very interesting. Jim Bishop has spent over 60 years
building his dream.
In 1959 when he was just 15 he paid $450.00 for a two and a half acre parcel of land surrounded by the San Isabel National Forests.
Beautiful iron work
There is even a fire breathing dragon
He earned the money mowing lawns, on a paper route, and working with his father in the family owned iron works business. His parents had to sign the papers as he wasn't old enough to do so. Jim and his father camped on the property for years and built a small cabin.

It was during the building of the cabin that the idea of the castle was born. There is a gift shop where we each found a new hat!
You can have a custom made stained glass window installed in the Great Hall, where many people have been married. Jim's whole story can be read on the website.
The Great Hall

We found another town by the name of Florence. Not only is the town called Florence but one of the buildings is called Wilson Block, plus there is an antique store with the name of Fox Den.

We drove through the town on the way to the castle and came back at the end of the day to check out the Florence Brewing Company.
It was the perfect day to do so as it would have been Nancy's dads 100th birthday. Both he and her mom loved a good cold beer.
The old sewing machine was the best as Nancy's
mom was a seamstress and worked for Singer. 
The brewery is in the old newspaper office and what a great place. It is your typical neighborhood bar, but with really good beer. We enjoyed a flight of their 8 different beers and Nancy liked all of them, even the IPA and Les like seven of them, which is unheard of. It is also dog friendly which we love and Mielikki made a few new friends on our two visits there.
Lucy was waiting for a bite of pizza ~~ Mielikki getting her picture taken for the Colorado Brew Dogs and Ranger is as timid as our dog
Pikes Peak is of course what brought us to this area. 14,115 feet to the summit makes it the highest mountain peak in the lower 48 that is easily accessible.

The original plan was to take the cog railway so that Les could enjoy the views and Nancy might not be so freaked out. Well, that didn't happen as you need to purchase tickets all most a month in advance. So we drove to the top, and yes Nancy freaked out!

Sitting in the
backseat helps, so that is where she sat. The view from under the headrest was surprisingly good and she was still able to get some nice pictures. Except for when Mielikki sat up and blocked the view! As you can imagine the road twists and curves a lot and in many places it appears that you will just drive off the edge.

These two bikers were at about 11,000 feet! 

Each turn in the road gives you another great sight to see. Amazing rock formations, snow, and lakes.

It truly is an amazing place, the views are spectacular. We were fortunate that we had a fairly clear day. The clouds were slowly moving in as we were heading back down.

 When you reach the top there is a large parking lot, a gift shop and restaurant along with views that can't even be described. It was pretty chilly so we were glad we had our sweatshirts with us.

We stopped at a couple of overlooks on the way down. The high altitude didn't really bother us at the top, but heading up a slope around 10,000-feet probably wasn't the best idea. The views and the ladybug did make it worth it.

We have run into the legend of Big Foot in other places on our travels, we have yet to actually run into him - not sure if that is good or bad!

Kissing camels
The Garden of the Gods, in Colorado Springs has to be the most amazing city park we have ever been to. Wow, wow, wow! Searching a Thesaurus will not give you enough descriptive words to describe this place.
The Visitor Center offers a movie that explains how these incredible rock formations were formed, along with a gift shop and cafe.
The park is free and you can drive through it, bike through it or hike through it. The majority of the paths are also handicap accessible. Coming here after Pikes Peak and still being effected by the altitude we chose to drive it. We did walked one of the shorter paths and got to watch a rock climber. This is a place that requires more than one day to fully explore.

Downtown Pueblo was about 10 miles east of the campground.

We spent a day enjoying the Riverwalk and finding some murals and roadside oddities.

The Riverwalk is about 2-miles long with three loops. There are restaurants with patio seating, hotels and lots of artwork along the way. Garden sections and flowers are everywhere and they even have a pet drinking fountain!

On our list of exploring we had planned to go to the Royal Gorge, but after reading all the information we decided that the cost to get in would be wasted on Nancy, as there is no way she could get out on that bridge.
Instead we checked out CaƱon City where we found some
dinosaurs, the "Coolest store in the Universe" and a beautiful Abbey.

Then we drove up to Cripple Creek. Yes, the one from the song, and when they say "Up on Cripple Creek" they mean it as it is at an altitude of 9,500 feet.
It was a long and winding road to get there and we saw a turtle crossing the mountains. 

The old gold mining town is now mostly all casinos, along with shops and eateries. The old buildings have been restored and it really is a cute little town.

The brothel that was once a thriving business is now a museum. There is a train ride you can take and a history museum to explore. Lots of ghost signs and the trolley stops look like old trolley cars. 

On the way into to town we stopped in Four Mile at a small store and found a working phone booth with a phone book!

We found a campground we might want to stay in the next time back. If we come in the RV we will NOT take Shelf Road. This is the road we took out of town.

First, it is all gravel and dirt, second it is very narrow in places, third there are some pretty steep drop offs, which you all know Nancy loves so much. The upside of all of that is the insane beauty you see along the way.

One of the best stops of the trip was a visit with Nancy's cousin Shirley and her husband Lee. Shirley was Nancy's dad's niece. They live in a beautiful house north of Colorado Springs on a hill that overlooks the mountains and the city. We enjoyed a delicious meal and great conversation. We hadn't seen each other since Nancy's dad passed away in 2001. This really is one of the things we have enjoyed about our travels, meeting up with family and friends we haven't seen for awhile.

Next up is Estes Park where we will explore more of the Rocky Mountains, Boulder, Fort Collins and more.

Till we meet again...

Happy Trails to You!

Tips and things we have learned along the way.
~ Sorry no tip this time
Seeing we are so far behind in posting blogs due to lack of internet we will not take the time for a tip - other than to say don't let yourself get so far behind!! LOL Go make it a great day.