Day 2 - December 28, 2009: The day brought dangerous winter driving as we crawled through at a mere 80 kms through Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa and into Nebraska
. There were at least 30 cars rolled over into the ditches in a consortium of various positions. Our last night through Nebraska brought on temperatures of –25C (-10F). With all our concerns, it being the first time with the Westy, we decided it best to wake every 2 hours and run the engine. It was a restless night and chillingly cold outside but snug as bugs were we in our camper with our Propex heater. For those of you who don’t know our ordeal with sourcing, installing and fixing this after-market propane heater, it was nice to see it finally cranking out heat when we needed it most. We’d like to thank Frank Condelli of Alamonte, Ontario for his help in getting us sorted at the 11th hour before leaving on our trip.
Day 3 - December 29, 2009: We pushed on against headwinds through the plains and into Colorado. We stopped in at local gas station to fill up and visit the restrooms. Lea saw the tallest cowboy in the world. He was literally at least 7 ft tall, sporting a large handlebar moustache, boots, spurs and all! He even tipped his hat as he jingled past her. Later we stopped in at a Love’s (truck stop) for a shower, which we discovered to be quite nice with a large shower, personal washroom, towel service and all for the grand price of $9.
Day 4 - December 30, 2009: We headed further southwest through Denver and Colorado Springs
. The elevation through here was 9,400 ft which proved to be extremely challenging for our tiny 4 cylinder, 2.1 litre engine and of course, Roger’s nerves. However the Wetsy made it through despite the thinner air and the challenge of traffic through the pass and we made it to our first destination Great Sand Dunes National Park. This National Park is known for its extensive sand dune fields that rise to heights over 700 ft. with a backdrop of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in the San Luis Valley. We wasted no time in gearing up and heading into the Sand Dunes. The 2-hour hike to the 600 ft dune summit proved to be more challenging than expected with soft sand, high altitude and two out of shape Canucks. Nonetheless we prevailed at the summit and enjoyed the one small step for anyone else and one giant leap for us too. Quickly after the climb we found a prime campsite with a view of the Dunes and Mountains in the backdrop and enjoyed some BBQ and down time. We later joined the one other camper in the entire park, John from Wyoming, who was camping in a tent with his dog Melissa. We enjoyed his company and that of his campfire, while sipping on some anti-freeze (aka Crown Royal). We then retired only to be woken up by a massive herd of white-tailed deer grooming our car. Grooming you say? They licked the salty Westy like it was a vanilla Westy! Clearly at this elevation and this time of year, they must have been after the road salt that accumulated on Etien. It was surreal waking up to hearing the sounds of wildlife licking and antlers rattling the side of Etien.
Day 5 - December 31, 2009: After waking and watching the moon set over the Dunes we continued on the road to Mesa Verde National Park through the San Juan Mountain range. This World Heritage Site preserves the unique and early cliff dwellings of the Anasazi people who lived in this area from 550-1300 AD
. During this time of year much of the park is closed due to difficult access but we were fortunate enough to be able to drive the 45 minute hairpin, icy roads to the elevation of 8,400 ft. The tense drive was well worth it. The area was surreal and magnificent - the photos do not do the dwellings and surrounding areas justice. We were pressed for time trying to see all we could before the sun set and we had to face the same difficult drive down the winding wintery road. We thought we'd spend New Year's Eve in Hovenweep National Monument in the Valley of the Ancients and headed immediately there. We finally arrived late to what seemed like nowhere in a desolate campground and hastily BBQ our steaks in the -16C weather in the dark. We popped the champagne and celebrated 2010 on Toronto time. With no service in the park we were unable to contact friends and family so after our dinner and champagne and few drinks on Roger's part, we settled into what should have been a flawless night. Unfortunately at approximately 1:40 a.m. I woke up and noticed the heater had extinguished. We ran out of propane! It was a chilly night in the camper and Roger was not happy about the fact that the adapter fittings for just this event were not compatible.
Day 6 - New Year's Day: Brrrrr! Our sleeping bags were great so we suffered less than the rest of the items in the camper which were nearly frozen. We had a bacon and eggs breakfast and with bellies full, we headed on to our hike to view the other Anasazi ruins in the area. It was a beautiful sunny and warm winter day. We are now hunckered down in a motel in Cortez, Colorado since everything is closed for New Year's Day prohibiting us from getting any propane. This is the last outpost for some time until we are into Las Vegas.
Next update in a week!
Day 1 - December 27, 2009: Since our last entry, we’ve covered a great distance, starting with a flawless exit from Canada followed by an interesting border crossing in Sarnia. Our border official who looked like he just passed puberty proceeded to interrogate us and call in a "possible 78" which we assumed could only mean smuggling of drugs seeing how we were traveling in a hippie VW Bus heading for California. Not only was he unable to locate the engine or understand what a “Westy” is he also could not comprehend how we could have 7 weeks off to travel and why we chose to go in the dead of winter. After a full search of the vehicle and a number of seemingly stupid questions, and a 1-1/2 hour delay, we were finally on our way. We spent the night at a truck stop somewhere in Michigan. The Westy was comfortable and we were pleased with the set up.