Garden of the Gods

We had been told about the Garden of the Gods by a friend who suggested we stop by and take a look as long as we were traveling nearby.  For that reason we are camped at the Garden of the Gods RV resort in Colorado Springs and yesterday we took a short drive to see them.

View of the Garden of the Gods Visitor Center
View of the Garden of the Gods from the Visitor Center

The Garden of the Gods is an outcropping of ancient sandstone that had originally been laid down around 300 million years ago.  The rise of the Rocky mountains (that’s Pike’s Peak covered by clouds in the background) turned the sandstone layers on their side and weathering and erosion have done the rest.

Sandstone leaves
Sandstone leaves or fingers

They reminded us strongly of Arches National Park in Utah which had similar layers of sandstone also turned on its side.  Like Arches, there were several fingers or leaves of sandstone.

GotG_06
More layered sandstone standing on edge

Continue reading Garden of the Gods

Great Sands National Monument

We are staying at a RV park in Alamosa, Colorado so that we could visit the Great Sands National Monument.  You can actually see the Great Sands from our RV park even though it is over 15 miles away.

Great_Sands_from_the_road

The sand is eroded from the surrounding mountains and is carried to the valley below by streams and rivers in the late Spring and early Summer when the snow melts.  The prevailing winds (from the southwest) then tend to blow the sand back up against the base of the mountains.  From the the road and from the Visitor Center all you can see is the front of the dunes, which are several hundred feet high.  If you could look at the dunes from above you’d be able to see that they are at least 15 miles wide and 5 miles deep.

Great_Sands_View_Down_The_Valley

There were no wheelchair accessible paths of any kind and the parking lot for the picnic area near the dunes was full and cars were parked along the road up to a half mile away. We followed this dirt road for a while, driving through two streams with water up to the bottom of our doors until we got to this sign:

Great_Sand_Medano_Pass_Road_Sign

and then we turned around.

The Great Sands Dunes are very impressive and it would have been nice to have better access but after all it is sand that moves around a fair amount from year to year, and any boardwalks would probably either get buried or end up leading nowhere.  There were a number of scenic pullouts along the road so we got a good look at Great Sand Dunes from a number of different angles.  It was a nice day with blue skies, a light breeze and occasional clouds and we both think it was well worth the trip.

We’d give the Visitor Center a B+ for handicap accessibility.  Of the three doorways that were supposed to open electrically only two worked and then only in one direction.  Other than that there were an adequate number of handicap parking spots and the handicap bathroom was easy for Susan to get in and out by herself.

Taos Pueblo

We visited the Taos Pueblo on our last full day in Taos.  It was built around 900 AD and claims to be the oldest continuously inhabited town (village?) in North America.

Taos_Pueblo_1

We had visited the Millicent Rogers museum several days before and one room had nothing but drawings and paintings of the Pueblo by a number of different artists.  We took a group tour of the Pueblo with a local resident who showed us something of the history of the place.

Taos_Pueblo_2

It’s not clear how many members of the Red Willow tribe still inhabit the Pueblo.  We passed a number of more modern homes within the boundary of the reservation while driving to the Pueblo.  Most of the ground-level rooms at the Pueblo seem to be mostly artist studios, souvenir shops and small eateries.

There are very few places like the Taos Pueblo and that, I think, made it worth a trip.  It was a pretty day with mostly blue skies and a light breeze and we enjoyed our visit.  We’d give it a C for handicap accessibility.  With a bit of effort I was able to get Susan’s wheelchair just about everywhere you could walk, but it was a bumpy ride for her.

Susan’s new hat

We went shopping at a nearby Wally-world for a variety of odds-and-ends but also partly because Susan wanted a new hat.  We couldn’t find a mirror for her to see how she looked in it so I took a photo with my smartphone and showed her that intead.

Susans_New_Hat_2015_05_26

So many times I try real hard to get photos to come out right and they end up coming out blurred or too dark or too light.  This time I just snapped a quick photo and it came out real well.  Go figure.

Rio Grand Gorge, Taos, New Mexico

We are staying at an RV park near Taos, New Mexico and arrived here late yesterday.  Our trip here from Alamagordo wasn’t a lot of fun and I’ve told Susan to give me a whack if I ever suggest taking the “scenic” route in our motor home again.  Several times now I’ve looked at the map and said, well we can go that way but doesn’t this route look interesting?  Each time I’ve said that we’ve run into problems.  This time our first problem was that they had closed NM Route 219 and we had to make a 30 mile detour.  Our second problem was that NM Route 518 may have looked “scenic” but from the moment we left Las Vegas (New Mexico, not Nevada) it went straight up the mountainside, with lots of switchbacks.  At around 9000 feet altitude our motor home’s engine decided it was low on coolant (it wasn’t) and shut itself down.  Three times in a row.  I finally called our emergency service and after doing some fault checking we figured out we had plenty of coolant.  I think it was just the fact that we were over 9000 feet up (the pass was at 9400 feet) and had been climbing non-stop.  When the engine had cooled enough we made it over the pass and didn’t have any more problems.  That doesn’t mean the road was any better since it still took us over an hour to drive the 30 remaining miles to Taos.  No more scenic routes in the motor home.

Anyway, the bridge over the Rio Grand River is on the list of local attractions and is only about 4 miles from our RV park.  We took a trip over there this afternoon.  From the direction we came (from the north side heading south) you don’t see the bridge or the gorge until you are right on top of them.

Bridge over the Rio Grand
Bridge over the Rio Grand

The gorge under the bridge is several hundred feet down.  A long ways, but probably not enough for base jumping and even if you did there are no trails down to the Rio Grand River near the bridge.

Rio Grand gorge west of the bridge
Rio Grand gorge west of the bridge

Continue reading Rio Grand Gorge, Taos, New Mexico

Scenic drive from Alamogordo to Cloudcroft on Highway 82

State Highway 82 travels from Alamogordo east into the Sacramento Mountains.  As soon as we got on Highway 82 we started climbing and we climbed all the way to Cloudcroft which is about 20 miles away and about 4500 feet higher.  It is at an elevation of 8650 feet and at least 20 degree cooler than Alamogordo.

The only way to Cloudcroft used to be by train over a rail line that was originally built in the late 1800’s to haul lumber.  The rail line was shut down in 1947 mostly because most of trees had been logged off but also because there was now a road.

One of the few remaining railroad trestles
One of the few remaining railroad trestles

The rail line criss-crossed the canyon many times and there were originally a couple dozen trestles, all built with lumber from the local forests.  Most of the trestles have since decayed and disappeared but this one was recently re-built.

Cloudcroft as a town isn’t anything special.  It is a place for people from Alamogordo to escape the summer heat and to ski in the winter.  It is therefore a touristy place with a lot of restaurants, motels and lodges.  The views along the way were very nice and it was interesting going from complete desert to pine forest along the way.

View of the Tularosa valley and White Sands from near Cloudcroft
View of the Tularosa valley and White Sands from near Cloudcroft
View of Tularosa Valley and White Sands from about half way to Cloudcroft
View of Tularosa Valley and White Sands from about half way to Cloudcroft

There was a cliff about half way up to Cloudcroft and we saw about a half a dozen rock climbers on it.

Rock climber
Rock climber

It was an interesting scenic drive that would have been improved by a few more scenic turn-offs.  There were a number of interesting sights along the way but no place to stop and take a look.   There were two well-built scenic turn-off’s that had handicap parking and sidewalk cuts. One had a view platform hanging off the side of the mountain that I took Susan out to, although since she’s not all that fond of heights, she wasn’t all that thrilled that I had.   It wasn’t a long drive, only about 20 miles, but it was still an interesting side trip.

 

White Sands Missile Range Museum and Missile Park

The base for the White Sands Missile Range (WSMR) is off of Highway 70 about a third of the way from Las Cruces to Alamogordo.  There is a small museum and a larger outdoor display of missiles there that although not hidden, is not highly advertised either.

We are staying at an RV park in Alamogordo and drove to the museum yesterday.  The Tularosa Valley that the WSMR and the White Sands National Monument are located in is very flat and the route for highway 70 was designed when somebody placed a ruler on the map and drew a straight line.  The WSMR base is on the back side of the Organ Mountains from Las Cruces and the view of them is quite spectacular.

The Museum itself is rather small and contains mostly old equipment and memorabilia from the 1950’s and 1960’s.

Missile control panel from the 1950's
Missile control panel from the 1950’s
Missile control and tracking system from the 1960's
Missile control and tracking system from the 1960’s
Tracking Telescope

Of course, what good is a missile range without a warning device?

WSMR_Museum_06_Missile_Mishap_Crash_Alarm

Continue reading White Sands Missile Range Museum and Missile Park

Replacing our tow dolly fenders

The fenders on our tow dolly are mostly plastic, go figure.  The left fender on our tow dolly had been badly damaged when we blew a tire last fall in Texas and I had to use a lot of duct tape to get it to hold together long enough for us to get to Arizona.  The right fender wasn’t as badly damaged but the front lights were hanging on with duct tape.

Blown tire on our tow dolly

A couple of weeks ago I ordered new fenders from an RV place in Tucson and they came in last week.  It’s been in the upper 80’s and low 90’s lately but today there are scattered clouds and a nice breeze so I thought it would be a good day to replace the fenders.

Fenders_off

I already knew I had to remove the tires to get at the bolts holding the fenders in place so I borrowed the jack from the Transit.  Fortunately I have a couple sets of really large socket wrenches (I bought them just before we moved into our motor home and I’m not sure what I was expecting to do with them, but they really came in handy today) so I was able to get all the nuts and bolts off the old fenders and then back on the new fenders relatively easily.

Fenders_On

Replacing the fenders cost more than I would’ve liked (a bit over $400 with shipping and tax) but we really couldn’t drive around with the old fenders any more.  This was the last major thing I need to do before we leave for the summer.  Still a lot of small cleaning-up and putting-away jobs but we’ll probably save those for our last couple of days before we hit the road.

Prickly Pear Flowers

It is late spring and the cactus have started to bloom.  It’s been a couple of years since we last went to the eastern side of the Saguaro National Park so we thought it would be a good time to go again.

Saguaro_Park_East_01_Prickly_Pear_Flowers

In the park it was mostly the prickly pear cactus that was flowering.

Saguaro_Park_East_02_Prickly_Pear_FlowersAnd even there, they had just started blooming and there were a lot of flow buds that hadn’t opened yet.

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We hitched our Transit

We tow our Ford Transit on a car dolly behind our motor home (it can’t be flat-towed).  I usually look for RV parks that have pull-through sites so we don’t have to unhook our dolly.  Over the last year or two however, we stayed at some RV parks where the sites were either all back-in or too short to leave our dolly attached.  There have also been a couple RV parks were I had to take the car and dolly off the motor home a distance away from our site and then somehow drag the dolly the rest of the way by hand.  The car dolly weighs around 750 pounds and trying to get it uphill or through gravel can be real hard work.

Anyway, I had an epiphany a short time ago and tried to think if there was a reason we couldn’t put a tow hitch on the Transit and use it to move the tow dolly around when we had to.  I checked with a local installer and they actually had tow hitch kits designed specifically for the Transit (go figure, the manual says you really aren’t supposed to tow anything with a Transit) and yesterday I had them install it.

Transit_Trailer_Hitch_2015-04-23

Theoretically, the trailer hitch is rated for towing up 3500 pounds but I’d never try that with the Transit, and since there is so much room inside the Transit anyway, I’m not sure why we’d need a trailer in the first place.  But what it will do is make it much, much easier for us to drop the Transit and the tow dolly off a distance away from our site and then use the Transit to move the dolly wherever it needs to go.