Trip Start Jun 25, 2006
Trip End Nov 01, 2006

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Flag of United States  , Colorado
Saturday, July 15, 2006

We saw the rodeo parade in Vernal, anticlimactic, but skipped the actual rodeo, and drove about 200 miles to Pinedale, Wyoming. We are now about 70 miles south of Jackson, so tomorrow we will drive to the Grand Tetons National Park, find a campsite and do the parks for a week or so. Since access to the internet is so sporadic, I decided to send off another report so the travel itinerary will be caught up.

After our flat tire experience, we entered Colorado just before the July 4th weekend. From past experience we knew the campgrounds would be full, so we did a two-day stop south of Pueblo to do laundry and play golf and then headed west through the famous 14,000-feet high mountains towards Durango. We ended up taking a forlorn, desolate campsite along the highway just to get settled. The alternative was cheek-to-cheek camping in the campgrounds. Perhaps we were too conservative (see photo).

Nearby was the Great Sand Dunes National Park, 55 square miles of sand with dunes 750 feet high created by the force of the wind pummeling rocks against the base of the Sangre de Christo mountains (named "Blood of Christ" because a Spanish priest in the 1500s saw a blood-red sunset as he was dying.) The next day we did a bike ride across the Colorado Plateau, which is as flat as the Eastern Shore near Chesapeake Bay. For a few days we thought we had a mild bug, as we had no energy, had headaches, and were short of breath. We realized it was a matter of adjusting to the altitude of 8000 feet.

After a couple of days we re-hitched the trailer, but in the process learned that our electric trailer hitch was not working-the motor worked, but the post was disconnected. Since it was the holiday weekend, I stopped to pick up a scissors jack and jack stands to get us through a few days. Then we continued west towards Durango, across mountain passes that climbed to almost 11,000 feet. The Avalanche chugged and downshifted and we made it through, though at times there was an impatient lineup of cars and trailers in the rearview mirror. The locals think nothing of careening through these passes with huge trailers at 70 mph, but not this chicken little.

We arrived in Durango in time to have a July 4th dinner with Michelle, our friend from San Miguelle de Allende in Mexico, and her three kids. Michelle, you will recall, was the gal who put her kids (ages 11, 9 and 4) on a bus from Brownsville, Texas for an overnight trip to SMA, where they did a Spanish immersion thing for two months. We thought it was crazy, brave, and inspirational. The returned by bus and now are home in Durango, and she reports that the kids refuse to speak Spanish. We had elk for dinner, then took a walk along the river in Durango, a mining and railroad town that still has a feel of the old West. The downtown is vibrant and there is an active college, outdoorsy feel that we enjoyed. Of course, it usually gets a lot of snow.

The next day we headed north, up the Western Slope of the Rocky Mountains, and soon were climbing the Molas Pass at 10,900 feet. It was a teeth-clenching, hair-raising, fingernail-biting, white-knuckles experience as we negotiated the trailer up the winding curves and then back down the steep slopes, downshifting and staying away from the gigantic drop-offs. We have no pictures, as there was no good turnoff, and, besides, I could probably not hold the camera steady. We forged ahead, stopping into the Ute Indian Museum, and then all the way to the Crawford State Park, next to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. We ended up staying there five nights. Turns out that Crawford, about 300 people, is the home of British rock singer Joe Cocker.

The Black Canyon is a new national park, one of those designated by President Clinton in his last days. It is a rugged gash of a canyon, cut through by the river, which is 1000 feet wide at the top and only 40 feet wide at the bottom. We drove along the rim, meeting two separate couples from Arkansas, and then tried to hike, but got rained out. We decided to use the time to do laundry, get cleaned up, and get the trailer post fixed. While we were in cell range I called to make an appointment with a RV repair guy about 30 miles away and then we went back to unhitch the trailer. Even though we had used the makeshift jack system successfully before, this time we screwed up. The ground was sandy and the jack was too short, so we needed to place it on rocks. We didn't go thorough all of the steps, and suddenly the trailer shifted and took a nose dive into the ground. Not exactly a panic, but we had our work cut out for us. Just then a trailer neighbor walked over and asked if he could help. Then he pulled out a super 12-ton jack, a bunch of boards, and together we walked the jack up and got everything stabilized. Once again we were saved by the kindness of strangers. He mentioned that the same thing had happened to him one time with his much bigger rig, which I think was his way of making us feel better. Now we know how-and why-to use the support feet and new wheel chocks-to stabilize all of the time. The next day I replaced the electric jack with a crank jack, so we are back in business. Another lesson learned.

We replenished food, did five loads of laundry, watched some movies on HBO (more on the Airstream experience later) and used the rainy weekend to recuperate. On Monday we got up early and did a 3-mile hike to look over the precipice of the canyon (no guardrails), hooked up and headed north to Utah, through the Vernal dinosaur land, and then to Wyoming.

Now you are caught up with the itinerary. More deep thoughts and observations later-and hopefully photos in the Tetons and Yellowstone.
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cgar103150 on

Crackin' Me Up
Love the entry and the pixs, especially the 3 little cowboys. Although I am not sure 'conservative' is the right word in regards to the picture of your camp site, course I can relate to cheek to cheek situation and totally understand your decision.

Have fun & I look forward to your next entry. Have to admit the mishaps are cracking me up (sorry).

jeannec on

Gone Western on Us?
I agree pics are great, but my favorite is Marshall in a cowboy hat. Marshall, I love how you get so into whatever you are doing!

eberkowitz on

Glad you've resumed dispatches from the road
Just back from 9 long days on the road myself and delighted you're back at it -- The blog has been much missed! How many jacks (borrowed or bought) and jack mishaps are you up to now? Sounds like you're having a great time and looks like beautiful country from the pics. Be careful up there and keep writing!
XO Ellen and Dave

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