Pikes Peak Views

In yesterday’s post, I wrote I hadn’t been sick in more than three years. I also stated that after a rough afternoon and night I was feeling much better. Well, it’s all relative. When you’re really down for the count, being able to stand up without nausea and joint pain feels pretty good. Reality set in – I was feeling better, but I wasn’t good.

Once I realized how weak I still felt, I knew I had to take it easy and recover completely. The weather was threatening anyway, so I wasn’t too keen on unloading the Spyder and heading out anywhere. Besides, as foggy as I was feeling, I didn’t think riding the Spyder in traffic made much sense.

As I said, the weather looked threatening. I’ve been wanting to capture a photo of Pikes Peak to the west of us, but we’ve only had a few brief periods where it’s visible.

Pike's Peak obscured by clouds yesterday morning

Pikes Peak obscured by clouds yesterday morning

Donna had a haircut appointment at a salon downtown – about three miles away. Even though there was heavy cloud cover and we heard a few cracks of thunder, she decided to walk there. She wanted to stay ahead of the rain which we were sure was coming and left around 12:30pm for her 2pm appointment. She made it there with dry feet and hair 40 minutes early for her appointment. So she wandered around the downtown area and into a few shops.

After two hours with the hair stylist, she took the bus north on Nevada Avenue up to Trader Joe’s to do some shopping. She did a fair amount of shopping and had to take an Uber ride back to the Elk’s Lodge to get all of the bags of groceries home. While she was out, the skies actually cleared – well, really it was the overcast ceiling rising to a higher altitude and exposing Pikes Peak. It wasn’t exactly clear skies.

Higher overcast ceiling reveals Pike's Peak

Higher overcast ceiling reveals Pikes Peak

Meanwhile I had talked to an insurance adjuster who was coming out to assess the damage on our coach from the suicidal buck. He said he would arrive in the afternoon and would call me when he was on his way here. I spent the afternoon reading and napping and waited for the call.

Donna came home around 5:30pm. I waited around until 6:15pm – no call. We walked to the lodge for their taco Tuesday and had tacos. I had a glass of IPA but wasn’t really up for it. I left after 25 minutes and Donna stayed to visit with Kim the bartender.

I never heard from the insurance guy. I went to bed early again and was out by 8pm. After I had another fitful night, we woke to clear skies this morning.

Clear view of Pike's Peak

Clear view of Pikes Peak

I heard from the insurance guy this morning. He was apologetic and said he was out without his assignment sheet yesterday and made several stops by memory but completely forgot about my case. He’s supposed to show up around 4pm today.

The forecast today looks good – a 15% chance of rain throughout the day if the weather guessers have it right. I think I’ll finally unload the Spyder. Tomorrow we’ll hit the dump station here and fill the fresh water tank before we move on to the Hotel Elegante where we’ll dry camp and meet up with Brad and Jessica Rice. We’ll be crewing for them in this weekend’s hot air balloon event – the Labor Day Lift-off.

The Streak Ends

It’s been a little rough for me here in Colorado Springs. I was hoping we could ride the Spyder out to the Garden of the Gods and hit Trader Joe’s on the way back yesterday. I’ve been wanting to get a photo of the snow on Pike’s Peak, but the top of the mountain has been obscured by clouds most of the time.

Donna went out and ran the Templeton Gap and Pike’s Peak Greenway Trail yesterday morning. Both trails run alongside the Monument River and are just a half mile from the Elks Lodge RV Park. When she came back, we stood outside and talked to our neighbors, then came in for lunch in preparation for heading out. I knew we would have more thunderstorms in the afternoon, but I was hoping to get ahead of them. No such luck.

It started raining around 1pm. By 1:30pm, the rain was pouring down and numerous hail stones came with it. It wasn’t very windy and the hail was about the size of a pea – maybe more like a chick pea. I didn’t think damage would be an issue unless the hail got bigger or high winds whipped it around. The hail stopped about 2pm, but it continue to rain in spurts. There was a lot of flooding in the streets and our smartphones were shrieking with severe weather warnings.

We're in the center of a nasty storm

Us in the center of a nasty storm

Around 3pm, there was a small break in the precipitation. I put on a microfiber jacket with a hoodie and walked half a mile to the store. I was feeling cooped up and wanted some fresh air. I also wanted resupply with some beer.

We’ve been on the road a little over three years – that’s more than 1,100 nights. During that time I’ve never slept anywhere but in our RV. Also, during that time Donna and I have never been sick – not even a cold. I’ve had a few allergy bouts, but no real illness. That’s not true for me anymore.

On the walk back from the store, I started perspiring and had to open my jacket. By the time I got into the coach, I was sweating profusely. I felt slightly nauseous, bloated and started to have sharp pains in my joints. I laid down on the sofa and read, but I was definitely feeling punky.

We had planned to go to the Elk’s Lodge for their slider night dinner, but I wasn’t up to eating in public. Donna went and brought the sliders home. I managed to eat them, but I was feeling greater discomfort all the time. By 7:30pm, I was dozing on the sofa and got up to go to bed.

I was shivering uncontrollably and the pain in my shoulders, elbows, and hips was very sharp. My legs were aching too. I couldn’t get comfortable and fever set in. It wasn’t a fun night. Between the joint pain and nausea, I barely got any sleep. Sometime around 4am, the fever broke and I was finally able to sleep.

I’m feeling much better this morning, we’ll see how much activity I’m up for. So far, seeing the sights around Colorado Springs has been a bust.

Stealth Parking in Denver

I didn’t post over the weekend, so I have some catching up to do. Friday was our last full day in Greeley, Colorado. We decided to take our chances on getting caught out by an afternoon thundershower and rode the Spyder into town. Our first stop was the WeldWerks Brewery on the corner of 8th Avenue and 5th Street. It’s a very nice taproom and the beer is brewed on site.

I started with a West Coast-style IPA, then followed up with an IPA called Juicy Bits which is a little sweeter, almost fruity. Donna had an apricot gose, then had a five-ounce pour of a beer called Berlinerita. Berliner is a beer style, in this case lime was added thus the ‘rita name.

Donna's little Berlinerita next to a full size glass

Donna’s little Berlinerita next to a full size glass

At WeldWerks they have something I haven’t seen before – they call it a crowler. If you’ve been to brew pubs, you’re probably familiar with growlers, which are usually 32- to 64-ounce refillable glass jugs. The crowler is a 32-ounce can of beer canned on site – it isn’t refillable though. This was a very popular take-out item!

WeldWerks crowler

WeldWerks crowler

After trying a couple of beers, we moved a few blocks away to Santeramo’s Italian Restaurant on the corner of 10th Avenue and 13th Street. This is a family-owned restaurant opened by second-generation immigrants, Lawrence and June Santeramo. Lawrence died in 1968 and June kept the restaurant going until she retired in 1987 and then the restaurant closed. A son and grandson bought the original building in the 2008 and reopened the place. It’s an old house on the corner. The ambiance was casual and very homey. The service was great and we enjoyed the food – Donna had lasagna with a big meatball and I had linguini with marinara and Italian sausage. The pasta was made in-house.

Donna enjoyed the lasagna

Donna enjoyed the lasagna

On Saturday morning, we made a quick run into town again for the Farmers’ Market next to the Chamber of Commerce on 7th Avenue. We bought some honey, elk sausages and Cajun andouille sausages. We also had Philly cheesesteak-style breakfast sandwiches made with thin sliced steak, cheese and eggs on a soft hoagie roll.

We came back to the RV park, I loaded the Spyder and dumped our tanks. I also filled the freshwater tank – that’s how we like to roll – fresh water full, holding tanks empty. We exited the park just after 11am.

Our first destination was the Blue Beacon Truck and RV Wash in Denver. There are only two Blue Beacons in Colorado. We were badly in need of a wash. The thundershowers while we were set up in a dirt/gravel site splashed dirt up the sides of the coach. Runoff from the roof also left streaks. I had a coupon from FMCA for a free Rain-X treatment at Blue Beacon, so we went there by driving down US85 to I-70. Getting in and out of the place was a little tricky. It’s in a lot behind a Pilot/Flying J Travel Center. You have to drive through the travel center and follow signs to find the entry to the wash bay. I figured it out without too much trouble. But when we left, I made two laps of the travel center lot trying to find the exit. The signage pointed me back to the Blue Beacon. Donna asked a trucker walking by and he explained we had to exit next to the Blue Beacon under the elevated freeway onto an access road. It looked like the entrance to a warehouse to me, but it worked.

Our next stop in Denver was an area called Englewood where Donna’s friend, Ann Koerner, lives with her husband Jim. We planned to park in front of her house for the night so Donna and Ann could spend some time catching up. The last time she saw Ann was in 2006 when we visited her in Santa Barbara while we were touring on our motorcycles.

Ann lives on a fairly wide street and there was plenty of room to park without blocking her or her neighbor’s driveway. Her neighbor is an RVer and didn’t have any problem with us spending the night there. Some people refer to street camping as stealth parking. But we aren’t exactly stealthy at 64 feet long. Getting us level wasn’t entirely possible with the slope and road crown, but I got it close enough. I waited until after dark to put out the passenger side bedroom slide. I left the other slides in – they would have extended into the road too much. The passenger side bedroom slide allows us enough room to walk around the foot of the bed, which is oriented east-west in the bedroom.

Traffic cones out to prevent anyone from accidentally walking into the bedroom slide

Traffic cones on sidewalk to prevent anyone from accidentally walking into the bedroom slide

Ann made a delicious grilled lemon-chicken dinner for us with a fresh salad from her garden, corn on the cob, quinoa salad, roasted broccolini and brownies. Thanks, Ann!

On Sunday morning, Ann and Donna loaded their bicycles in Ann’s SUV and went to the South Platte River Trail for a bike ride. Meanwhile I watched the Formula One race from Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium. There was a horrific high-speed crash at the Eau Rouge corner that Kevin Magnussen thankfully walked away from. Later I caught the first half of the Chargers – Vikings game before it was time for us to move on.

We headed south on I-25. The portion of I-25 from Cheyenne, Wyoming to Puebla, Colorado runs just east of the Rocky Mountain Front Range. As we drove along heading south, towering mountains were on our right side and endless plains to the horizon on our left. We had a few slow-downs where I-25 squeezes down from four lanes to three, then to two. The high point between Denver and Colorado Springs is Monument Summit – also called Black Forest Divide Pass at more than 7,300 feet above sea level.

We arrived at the Elks Lodge in Colorado Springs a little after 3pm. This Elks Lodge has RV sites with hook-ups for Elks members and also allows dry camping. I checked in at the lodge and found all of the first-come first-served RV sites were occupied. We joined a few other rigs in the back of the parking lot and we are dry-camped with them. To the west of we see fresh snow on Pikes Peak.

A thundershower arrived in the evening and grew to a large storm after dark. The street behind us flowed like a river and the parking lot had a couple of inches of standing water as it came down faster than it could drain. Our smartphones had severe weather alerts beeping. Lucky for us, it didn’t get very windy and there wasn’t any hail involved. Late afternoon passing thundershowers are common in this area at this time of year. We’ll have to do our sightseeing and shopping earlier in the day to avoid them.

Today we have partly cloudy skies and expect a high temperature in the mid-70s. Although we’re at an elevation of over 6,100 feet above sea level, the overnight low will be in the mid-50s. Perfect for us.

 

Rodeo Mystery

It seems like we’ve had our share of wet weather in the second half of summer. Rain found us here in Greeley, Colorado first thing Wednesday morning. Showers continued on and off all day long. We decided to forego Wednesday’s senior rodeo and hoped we could catch the second day of the event on Thursday. I shouldn’t complain too much about the weather – I heard that US212 was closed yesterday where it enters Wyoming from Montana due to snow!

Donna used the time indoors on Wednesday to catch up on a couple of proposals she’s writing. I finished another novel – The Hit by David Baldacci. It was a thriller with a decent plot and held my interest, but sometimes these authors make mis-statements that peeve me. Early in the story, Baldacci writes about a long-range sniper shot. He claims that the bullet actually increases its kinetic energy over the distance of the shot. What? The kinetic energy of the projectile is a product of mass and velocity. The bullet doesn’t gain mass as it flies along and velocity begins to decay almost immediately due to aerodynamic drag. Kinetic energy is continually reduced over the entire flight path of the bullet. It’s a small thing, but how does a best-selling author get away with such a statement? End of rant.

On Thursday morning, we had a few high, thin clouds and the weather looked promising. Donna wanted to go for a long bike ride. I wanted to check out the rodeo. So Donna headed out on her bicycle and I rode the Spyder to Island Grove Regional Park on the north side of Greeley to the Pro Rodeo Arena. Donna met me there on her bicycle. But, there wasn’t a rodeo – in fact, the arena had bulldozers converting it to a motocross track for an event.

When I read about the National Senior Professional Rodeo Association (NSPRA) event in Greeley, I assumed it would be held at the Pro Rodeo Arena. I looked it up again on my smartphone and found sketchy directions to a rodeo arena northeast of town on the NSPRA site. In fact, I think this was the old Greeley Rodeo Arena where I rode a bull in 1976.

Donna continued her bike ride – she wanted to ride the Poudre River Trail to the town of Windsor. It’s about a 20-mile ride on a paved trail heading west from Greeley. I was on a mission to find the rodeo. After a few false turns, I finally found my way to the area where the NSPRA site said the arena was. Except I was looking at corn fields. I got my phone out again and looked up another page on the site with a map to the arena. It showed the arena in the cornfield I was looking at. Something was clearly wrong here. It’s a rural area, so I couldn’t ask anyone for directions. I rode the Spyder a few miles in every direction looking for an arena, cars or a sign – anything that might mean a rodeo was going on. No luck.

I gave up and rode about 15 miles west from the location to Windsor. I met Donna at Sol De Jalisco Mexican Restaurant for lunch. We locked up her bicycle and went inside. The food was outstanding and the service was good. I’d definitely recommend this place if you’re ever in the area and have a hankering for Mexican cuisine.

After lunch, Donna got back on her bike to make the 20-mile ride back. On my way back, I stopped at a liquor store near Greeley RV Park. I had gone there on Tuesday and asked about Blue Ice vodka. Blue Ice is a potato vodka made in Idaho and is one of my favorites for martinis. They ordered it for me and told me I could pick it up on Thursday. I was standing there holding the bottle when another customer looked at me, then looked at the bottle, then looked at me again. He said, “I get it, you’re Heisenberg, right?” If you watched the series Breaking Bad, you’ll know what he was talking about. With my shaved head and goatee, I’ve been told I look like the character Walter White aka Heisenberg. Heisenberg cooked a special crystal meth called Blue Ice.

This makes a nice martini

This makes a nice martini

Donna made it home about an hour after I arrived. We planned to go to the WeldWerks brewery in Greeley around 4pm. I looked at the weather radar app and saw a thunderstorm approaching from the west. We decided to head over earlier to beat the storm and were getting ready to leave at 3:30pm when the rain started. Looking at the radar app again, it looked like we would have rain for the next couple of hours. That nixed our plan – neither of us wanted to ride into town during a thunderstorm. We had a quiet evening.

Today we had a few rain drops early but it’s sunny with a few clouds at 10am. The forecast looks promising with the high temperature reaching the mid-70s and a slight chance of a passing shower later. Maybe we can make it to the Weldwerks brewery this afternoon. Meanwhile I need to organize the trailer and begin preparations for the road. We’ll pull out of here tomorrow.

 

Poudre River Trail

The first white men to explore some of the places in and around the Rocky Mountains were fur trappers. Many of them were French and gave French names to places such as rivers, lakes and trading posts. This being the wild west, the pronunciation of these French names were often changed from the proper French name to something else altogether.

Donna went for a bike ride yesterday. She’s been looking forward to riding the Poudre River Trail. Donna studied French in high school and college, so she pronounced the Cache la Poudre River with a proper French accent. I told her it’s locally pronounced Poo-der. While riding what she thought might be the beginning of the trail, she stopped to ask a couple of women if this was the trail to Windsor. They weren’t sure about that but they did say that it was the Poo-der River Trail.

Here are a few pictures of informative kiosks and views from the trail. The paved trail is multi-use for hiking and biking and runs from Greeley to Windsor. A short ride through Windsor will get you to another trail and you can ride to Fort Collins.

8_23PRT1

8_23PRT2

8_23PRT3

8_23PRT4

8_23PRT5

You can see the river water level is quite low – not unusual for this time of year.

While Donna was out on her ride, I rode the Spyder to King Soopers to buy a rack of babyback ribs. I set up the Treager wood pellet fired smoker/grill and prepped the ribs. I always remove the tough, thin membrane from the bone side of the ribs first. The membrane can be tough and chewy – also it blocks the spices in the rub from contact with the meat. I dry rubbed the ribs with a mixture of two parts Pappy’s Choice seasoning and one part Lambert’s Sweet Rub O’Mine.

It was hot out and unusually humid again. The temperature was in the upper 80s when I fired up the Traeger. After the first half hour, I lowered the temperature setting on the Traeger and went inside to read a book. I checked the grill a couple of times without opening the lid by peering through the smoke vents. I also stirred the wood pellets in the hopper to keep them feeding smoothly through the auger.

The wind kicked up during the cook and the outside temperature dropped. When I estimated about 30 minutes of cooking time remaining, I decided to raise the temperature setting of the Traeger to compensate for the cooling effect of the wind. In the end, I wish I hadn’t done that. The ribs were slightly overcooked and not as moist as I would have liked. I’m also going to modify my rub to a 3:2 ratio of Pappy’s to Lambert’s to reduce the salt content.

Rack of ribs hot off the Traeger

Rack of ribs hot off the Traeger

Meanwhile, Donna prepared a potato salad and steamed green beans for a complete meal.

A yummy meal

A yummy meal

The windy conditions persisted well into the night. This morning we woke to the sound of rain drops on the roof of our coach. The weather almanac shows an inch of rain for the month to date in Greeley – but that usually comes in the form of an afternoon thundershower. Overcast skies and rain in the morning seems unusual to me for this time of year.

We had planned to go to a National Senior Professional Rodeo Association event this morning, but the rain shower put a damper on that plan. Senior professionals are pro rodeo cowboys over 40 years old. They compete in age groups of 40 and over, 50 and over and 60 and over. The event continues tomorrow at the Greeley Pro Rodeo Arena, so maybe we’ll attend tomorrow. I rode in a rodeo once – it was held right here in Greeley – I wrote about that in this post.

The temperature is supposed to be cooler for the next few days with highs in the upper 70s. Sounds good to me.

 

 

Back Roads to Greeley

After four nights in the Sierra Trading Post lot, we pulled out yesterday. We’ve been dry-camped for six nights straight and were getting a little concerned about our fresh water supply. We didn’t plan to dry camp this long and didn’t make water conservation a priority at first. Having said that, our time on the road has made water conservation habitual. We use much less water than we ever did when we were in a sticks-and-bricks home. We can usually make our fresh water tank last a week if we try.

Our first stop was the Pilot/Flying J travel center two miles down Campstool Road. We put about 30 hours on the generator while we were off the grid, plus we traveled over 300 miles since I last filled the tank. After fueling up, I drove us past the I-80 on-ramp and continued down Campstool Road. We were headed for Greeley, Colorado and I wanted to hit US85 for the drive south instead of taking I-80 to I-25. I didn’t activate Nally – our Rand-McNally RV GPS – until I was well down the road so she wouldn’t direct me onto the interstate.

I made a mistake though. I missed a turn and drove too far down the road. When Nally was activated, I was directed east and crossed the state line into Colorado at Hereford – well east of our intended route. Oh well, we just went with the flow and enjoyed the high plains grassland. There were large ranches and a few clusters of huge new homes. I surmised the homes were recently built during the oil boom which is now in more of bust cycle. Obviously some people in the Cheyenne area are doing well judging by the homes and this – I saw a cowboy park his Ferrari F360 at Sierra Trading Post.

Ferrari F360 Modena in the Sierra Trading Post lot

Ferrari F360 Modena in the Sierra Trading Post lot

Our route had us zig-zagging down quiet county roads. In the first 40 miles of our drive, we only saw four other vehicles. Some of the road surfaces were horrible and Ozark the cat lost her breakfast in her crate. She’s only been carsick a couple of times and it’s always been when we were pounding down a rough road. We also encountered a stoppage at a road construction site which had traffic following a pilot car down a single lane for about three miles. We weren’t held up too long though.

We arrived at the Greeley RV Park around 12:30pm. The check-in was very efficient – they had taken our information over the phone when I reserved the site and they knew our rig was long. They had a pull-through site for us and the woman told me to pull as far forward as possible and not to worry if our trailer extended a couple of feet past the rear of the site.

The sites here are relatively narrow, but we were easily lined up in the level gravel site. I hooked up our power, water and sewer and dumped the holding tanks. I’ll need to refill our fresh water tank – but first I needed to do some research. I saw a warning posted in the park office stating that the nitrate level of the water supply was higher than the 10ppm federally mandated maximum. The water here has a nitrate level of 11.3ppm.

Nitrates can seep into ground water from a few sources. It can be due to runoff from decomposing plants or chemical fertilizers or it can come from excessive amounts of livestock manure. Once nitrate is in the groundwater, it’s very difficult to remove it. It takes a special filtration process – our sediment filter and activated carbon filtration doesn’t remove it. The good news is, this level of nitrate isn’t especially dangerous unless it’s ingested by a baby under six months old. This is due to the bacteria in an infants digestive tract that can convert nitrate into nitrite and interfere with it’s ability to carry oxygen in the bloodstream. After about six months of age, acids form in the digestive system and nitrite is no longer formed.

I unloaded the Spyder and put an orange warning cone at the rear of the trailer which is hanging into the road.

Trailer extends past the rear of the site

Trailer extends past the rear of the site

The trailer shouldn’t be a problem – we saw a few sites with cars parked in the rear that also extend past the rear site border. Donna and I hopped on the Spyder and rode into town to take a look at the grocery store. King Soopers is the grocery chain in the area, they’re an affiliate of Kroger. The King Soopers here in Greeley is a large, well-stocked store and the prices look reasonable.

It was unusually humid here yesterday and the temperature reached the upper 80s. Thankfully we have a 50 amp service and ran both roof air conditioners. Today we expect the temperature to reach the upper 80s again but the humidity won’t be a factor – the forecast calls for a more normal level below 20%. There’s also a 20% chance of a thundershower this afternoon. I told Donna that when I lived in Longmont about 20 miles south of here, we had a thundershower just about every afternoon in August. The clouds would build over the Rocky Mountains to the west, then arrive over town around 5pm. It would pour down rain with lightning and thunder for about 15 minutes before it blew out east over the plains. Within 20 minutes, everything would be dry with clear skies. I’m wondering if we can expect the same pattern here.

 

*Just so you know, if you follow one of my links to Amazon and decide to make a purchase, you pay the same price as usual and  I’ll earn a few pennies for the referral. It’ll go into the beer fund. Thanks!

Christmas in August

A cold front was pushing down from the north on Friday. After exploring a few options, we decided the best bet was to stay put and hunker down for the day. The wind picked up in the afternoon, but most of the thunderstorm activity was to the south of us – we could see lightning and hear the thunder but we only had one squall here at Sierra Trading Post.

It was good day to kick back and read a book, so that’s what I did. Satelite TV reception was spotty in the afternoon due to the heavy storm clouds blocking the southern sky. The temperature dropped dramatically.

Screenshot of weather conditions on my smartphone at 7:46pm

Screenshot of weather conditions on my smartphone at 7:46pm

I couldn’t think of anything better to do, so I opened a bottle of Flanders Black Ale that I picked up when I visited the Deschutes Brewery. This is a limited release – you won’t find it in stores. It’s a bourbon barrel-aged black ale with brett bacteria.

Black Flanders Ale

Flanders Black Ale

It was strong at 10.5% ABV with very complex flavors and a sour finish. I thought it was delicious. I poured a taster for Donna and she agreed. It was also expensive at about a dollar an ounce! When the storm clouds thinned out, we watched some coverage of the Rio Olympics.

We rose to sunny skies Saturday morning. It was still cool out but the forecast called for temperatures in the 70s by the afternoon. We wanted to get out so we rode the Spyder downtown to the depot at the south end of Capitol Avenue. They have a farmers’ market there on Saturdays from 7am to 1pm beginning on the first weekend of August and running through the first weekend in October.

Farmers' market

Farmers’ market

It was a fairly large market with local produce sourced from Wyoming, Colorado and Nebraska.

Depot plaza

Depot plaza

The entrance to the depot plaza which is the site for the market has sculptures of cowboy boots flanking either side.

Boot on the right

Boot on the right

Another boot on the left

Another boot on the left

We walked through the marketplace and Donna bought fennel and squash while I bought coarse grain habanero mustard – we sampled it and it was very tasty while not overly hot.

There was an art exhibit in the train depot that houses a gift shop and museum. The fee to enter the museum was $8 – we passed on it. We also checked out the Accomplice brew pub but it was too early to sample brews.

As we headed back to the Spyder, we saw a western wear shop called The Wrangler which is also a Boot Barn store. Donna’s been wanting me to buy cowboy boots to wear with jeans when we go out. When I’m not wearing flip-flops, I usually wear running shoes or cross-trainers.

I humored her and we went inside for a look. I haven’t worn cowboy boots since I was a kid. I posted about those cowboy boots here. For some reason, I imagined cowboy boots would be uncomfortable to wear. After browsing around for a while, I found a pair I liked and tried them on. They were a little tight around my forefoot and a little loose at the heel. I looked for a different size. I tried a larger boot, but it was loose. That’s when a store clerk came over to offer assistance.

I told him how the first boot fit. He told me that it sounded like a perfect fit – they should always feel a little tight behind the ball of your foot and have a little space at the heel. He said the leather would stretch and conform to my forefoot after walking in them and breaking them in. They were actually quite comfortable. The brand name was Ariat.

Donna made it Christmas in August and bought the boots for me. I also picked up some leather conditioner.

On the way back to the Spyder, we stopped at a used book store and found a couple of books for a dollar each. Donna asked the guy there for a recommendation for lunch. He told us we should go back toward the depot and try The Albany restaurant. It’s been family-owned since 1942. We dropped our stuff in the Spyder trunk and I donned my new cowboy boots to start the break-in process.

My new Ariat boots

My new Ariat boots

We had a nice lunch and the service was good. After we came home, Donna went for a walk. She ended up walking a few miles east, then came back and stopped at the coach before walking west to pick up a few things at Walmart, logging a total of 6.6 miles for the day. I watched the qualifying for this weekend’s Moto GP race in the Czech Republic.

Today’s weather looks good – clear skies with the temperature expected to reach the low 80s and not as windy as the previous few days. We’ll hang out here at Sierra Trading Post one more night before we move on to Colorado tomorrow.

Sierra Trading Post

We had a late start leaving Laramie – we pulled out of the Cavalryman’s parking lot around 11am. Our route took us east on I-80 for about nine miles up a steep grade. We were at an elevation of about 7,200 feet above sea level in Laramie. By the time we pulled off I-80 at Happy Jack Road (WY210), we were over 8,600 feet above sea level.

The terrain changed drastically as we climbed into the Laramie range of the Rocky Mountains. We were surrounded by coniferous forest now instead of the high plains grassland and sage brush as we drove through the Happy Jack Recreation Area.

WY210 took us through a section of Medicine Bow National Forest before we came through the Curt Gowdy State Park area at Granite Lake. This is beautiful country with stunning views of forest, open meadows and huge rock formations. WY210 – also known as Happy Jack Road and the Sand Creek Massacre Trail – is a relatively narrow, two-lane road through this area. I was wishing for a turnout so I could stop and take a few photos, but it never materialized.

East of Curt Gowdy State Park, we dropped down to an elevation of about 6,400 feet above sea level and we were in high plains grassland again. We saw a few antelope which favor this terrain over forest.

By the way, the Curt Gowdy State Park is named after a Wyoming native. Curt Gowdy was born in Green River and grew up in Cheyenne. He was the announcer for the Boston Red Sox in the 1950s and moved on to national television sports announcing first for ABC in 1960, then NBC in 1965. He covered many different sporting events and was called “the broadcaster of everything.” His career continued into the mid-1980s.

The detour from I-80 onto WY210 added about 10 miles to our trip but was well worth it. The scenery was spectacular. We eventually rejoined I-80 a few miles west of Cheyenne near the junction of I-25. Our destination was the Sierra Trading Post outlet and fulfillment center in Cheyenne. They have a large parking lot with RV and truck parking in marked stalls 100 feet long.

We checked in with the woman at the counter in the fulfillment center. She took down our information – name, coach description and plate number and an emergency phone contact. She said the information would be passed on to security and the lot is patrolled 24/7. We were welcome to stay through the weekend if we wanted, no charge.

Donna and I then walked over to the outlet store and saw a few things we would want to purchase before we leave. We could see heavy clouds to the southwest and we had a few raindrops on the windshield earlier. We came back to the coach for lunch. Donna wanted to go back to the outlet and shop. I needed to get the Spyder out and ride over to Petco – about four miles away – to get cat food. We were nearly out of cat food and Ozark likes the brand I find at Petco.

I knew I was taking a chance of getting caught out in a thunderstorm, but I quickly unloaded the Spyder and headed out around 1:30pm. Donna went back to the Sierra Trading Post outlet. I didn’t waste any time at Petco and returned just as a few raindrops were falling. I loaded the Spyder back in the trailer and came inside before the skies opened up.

We had a massive thunderstorm approaching. I had to pull the living room slide back in as the wind really kicked up. By 3pm, it was raining hard and there were lightning strikes all around us. Donna was still in the outlet. I sent her a text telling her to stay in the store until the storm passed. She was happy to do that as she was in her element trying on clothes and shoes.

The storm finally moved on to the east around 5pm – but Donna didn’t finish shopping until 6pm! I had the living room slide back out by then. Donna reheated some jambalaya she made in the crockpot two days ago and we watched TV until bedtime.

This morning, it’s cloudy and the high temperature is only supposed to reach 66 degrees. Another thunderstorm is predicted for the afternoon. We’re undecided at this point on whether we should stay put or move on. We have to hit an RV park soon – I’ll need to refill the fresh water and dump our tanks. Either way, I’ll hit the outlet and pick up a couple of shirts and shorts I saw yesterday that were real bargains.

The Virginian

Although we enjoyed the relative solitude of dispersed camping on public land, we decided to pull out from Rim Lake Wednesday morning. The weather forecast called for rain and that could leave us in a position of having to drive a large, heavy rig down muddy dirt roads.

We thought it would be best to move on to Laramie. Instead of droning along I-80 for 100 miles, we opted to take US30 through Medicine Bow. This route added about 25 miles to the trip but it was more interesting and easy driving. Traffic was so light on US30, we only saw a handful of cars during the first 60 miles before we stopped in Medicine Bow.

I know I’m dating myself, but I asked Donna if she remembered the old western serial from the ’60s called The Virginian. The setting for the show was Medicine Bow in the late 1800s. We pulled into a large parking lot by a small general store and Donna made lunch for us. Medicine Bow has a population of about 300 people. It has the Virginian Hotel and RV park, a store, two bars, an ice cream shop and a museum.

Medicine Bow Museum

Medicine Bow Museum

We walked across the street to the museum after lunch. There’s an old log cabin in front – the actual museum is in a house toward the rear of the property. Donna spied what appeared to be an early RV – it was actually sheepherders quarters.

Sheep herders mobile quarters

Sheepherders mobile quarters

Sheep ranching came to Wyoming in the mid-1800s. Beef prices were at an all-time high then, so investing in a sheep ranch was risky. However, sheep produced wool, mutton and lamb meat. The high demand for wool during the civil war made sheep ranching profitable. For the next 100 years, Basque immigrants were brought in to tend to the sheep. This was a lonely and hard job. The sheepherders would move with the flock, keeping them on fresh grazing land. They lived in tiny portable housing with no running water or electricity. In the early years, there was friction between cattle ranchers and sheep ranchers – mostly over grazing rights on public land.

In the 1980s, ranchers were having a hard time finding Basque immigrants willing to do the job. They turned to South America where sheepherders from Chile or Peru were willing to emigrate and take the job. A New York Times article from 2009 stated that sheepherders still lived in very primitive conditions and worked 24/7 for a monthly pay of $750. They didn’t have much in the way of expenses though – food was provided and they had shelter, although most were still without running water or electricity. The current situation is mostly unchanged save for the decline in numbers of sheep on the range.

The museum itself is a self-guided step back in time. The house has every room filled with artifacts and trinkets from the late 1800s to the 1960s. Donna found high-quality dress leather shoes from a century ago and remarked on how small the women must have been. The shoes and boots were tiny as was a dress on a mannequin that must have had an 18-inch waist.

We continued on US30/287 and saw dark clouds and rainfall to the southwest. I think we made the right choice to move on. We hit a few stray rain drops, but not much – the road remained dry.

We drove through Laramie south of I-80 past the fairgrounds to the Cavalryman Steakhouse. They have a large parking lot in back and Donna heard that they would allow overnight parking. We pulled in and parked around 2:30pm. The steakhouse doesn’t open until 4pm. We saw people going in and out of the building though, so we walked over toward it. A guy came out and got in his car. He drove up to us and told us they would open for dinner at 4pm. We asked about overnight parking in our rig and he said we were fine right where we parked. He was one of the managers.

Awhile later, Donna received an e-mail from Kathy Crabtree – we met Kathy and her husband Ray in San Diego last year and hooked up with them again this year in Portland. They were on their way from Portland to Ohio in their car and were eastbound on I-80 about an hour out of Laramie. Donna replied and told them where we were. The stopped by the steakhouse about an hour later and we chatted for about twenty minutes before they had to continue their road trip. They had reservations at a motel in North Platte, Nebraska another 270 miles east on I-80. Cars on this part of I-80 travel at 80mph – so they had another three and half hours of driving time.

We went to the Cavalryman Steakhouse for dinner around 5pm. They were well staffed and the service was great. Donna had a prime rib dinner while I had an open-face steak sandwich with garlic mashed potatoes. The food was excellent.

Today we’ll move another 50 miles east to Cheyenne as we inch our way to Colorado. We may spend a couple of days in Cheyenne so we can get some shopping done, then we plan to go to Greeley, Colorado from there.

Across the Divide

On Monday morning, Donna saw that UPS tracking indicated the delivery of her new laptop would arrive by 8pm. I was hoping it would be well before before 8pm because the Sweetwater Fairgrounds office closes at 5pm and they would take the delivery.

I went to the office and told them we expected a delivery and asked when UPS usually delivers – I was told between noon and 3pm. I paid for another night here to be sure we could get her laptop. I then made a run to town on the Spyder to pay for the diagnostic fee and retrieve her bad hard drive and also pick up a few necessities.

Around 4pm, I asked Donna to check the status of her laptop delivery – the woman in the office said she would call me when UPS delivered, but I hadn’t heard from her. The UPS tracking showed “Delivered and handed to local resident Adams.” What?

I went to the fairground office and the office manager Erika said that UPS dropped everything back in their shop since they delivered some large boxes. She led me back to the workshop area and there it was – Donna’s new laptop. I have to say, the office staff at Sweetwater Fairgrounds and Events Complex are some of the nicest people you’ll ever encounter.

Fairgrounds building

Fairgrounds building

They do a great job of keeping the area around the events center clean and well-landscaped.

Nice Flowers by the office

Nice flowers by the office

More flowers honoring the sheriff's department

More flowers honoring the sheriff’s department

However, the RV area is nothing more than a large gravel lot with 1200 hook-ups. The caretaker doesn’t seem to do much. Donna and I slept poorly most nights as we had issues with barking dogs early in the morning and long-term residents heading out to their workaday lives. The barking dogs were especially bothersome. A couple in a site near us had three dogs and it seems that they thought it was okay to just let the dogs out in the morning around 6am to do their business. The dogs would bark constantly as they ran around loose for what seemed like an eternity. Then the caretaker’s dogs would join in the barkfest.

Donna spent most of Monday evening getting her laptop configured. Of course this meant using a lot of data on our Verizon plan, but what can you do? I have to mention that Verizon’s coverage is incredible – it’s rare for us not to have a usable Internet connection.

Donna defrosted some grass-fed lamb rib chops we bought from the rancher in Portland and made lamb chops with a red wine, rosemary and garlic pan sauce. As usual, I’m dining first-class.

Lamb chops with red wine, rosemary and garlic pan sauce

Lamb chops with red wine, rosemary and garlic pan sauce

We were watching the Rio Olympics on TV when dogs started barking non-stop near our coach after 9pm. I looked out the window and sure enough, our neighbor with the three dogs had let them out. I walked over to his site and knocked on the door. He and his wife were totally oblivious to the barking dogs running loose. It wasn’t a pleasant exchange.

We got a late start Tuesday morning. It was 11am by the time we pulled out. I had to circle back before we left the grounds when I realized I left our jack pads behind. Our first stop was the Pilot/Flying J at I-80. We took on 45 gallons of fuel at $2.42/gallon. I wanted to have a full tank as we weren’t sure of where we’ll stop for the night and how much generator run-time we might have in the next couple of days.

We stopped at the Love’s travel center in Wamsutter for lunch. It was a crowded truck stop with back-in spaces. I had to jockey back-and-forth a few times to get us into a parking lane, but no harm done. Over lunch, Donna and I discussed our options for the night. We decided to hit a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) site south of Rawlins at Teton Reservoir.

Heading eastward on I-80 we crossed the continental divide twice. The continental divide is a hydrological divide where watersheds drain either westward to the Pacific Ocean or eastward to the Gulf of Mexico or Atlantic. In southern Wyoming we encountered the Great Divide Basin. This is a region where none of the water falling to the ground drains into any ocean. We were at 7,000 feet above sea level at that point.

We pulled off I-80 at Rawlins and headed for the BLM site. On the way, we passed a sign for Rim Lake which also turned out to be BLM public land. The road we were on turned to gravel five miles before Teton Lake and I stopped in a turn-out. I was leery of continuing to Teton Reservoir. The road surface looked okay at that point, but there was no guarantee of its condition further on and being able to turn around. We made a several-point turn-around and came back to the Rim Lake turn-off.

It was a gravel/dirt road that took us a couple of miles to the small lake. On the way, we spied a few pronghorn antelope. That’s Wyoming – you’re likely to see more pronghorns than people in many areas. This is not a bad thing.

We found a level spot that I can easily exit from and we set up for the night.

Our quiet space

Our quiet space

Our Rim Lake view

Rim Lake view

A few cars and pickup trucks came through the area in the afternoon but didn’t stay long. Three bicyclists rode in around 7pm and set up tents for an overnight stop. They were far enough away from us that we couldn’t hear them. We heard a pack of coyotes howling after dark and the gusty winds woke me a few times in the night. But it’s nice to be away from it all and only waking to the sounds of nature instead barking dogs and vehicles early in the morning.

The weather forecast for today looks good – sunny and mid 80s. We’re debating about moving to Teton Reservoir and staying overnight there. I’d like to check it out, but there’s a 50% chance of rain by tomorrow and we’ll be five miles down a dirt road that could become muddy. Also, it’s not likely that we would have internet at Teton Reservoir. Our other option is to head to Laramie where we won’t have any worries about mud. We’re in no hurry, so we’ll decide later this morning.