Locomotives in waiting

About 12 miles west of Benson, on the south side of Interstate 10, there is a spur line of the railroad.  I’ve never been sure what reason it has for being there since is nothing on that side of the highway but some ranches.

About mid-December I noticed while coming back from Tucson that there were a bunch of locomotives parked there.  It wasn’t until after a couple more trips that I realized just how many of them are parked there.

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Here are the first of the locomotives you can see from the highway.

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A little further along you can start to see how many of them there are.

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It’s only when I got up on an overpass and looked back that I started to get some idea of how many are there.  Each dot in that line in the middle of the photo is a locomotive.

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Looking off in the distance the other way.  Both the dark line and the yellow line are locomotives.

How many of them are there?  Certainly over a hundred and maybe as many as two hundred.  Why are they there?  They’ve been there for at least a month now and I haven’t got the slightest idea.  They could be obsolete and have been “put out to pasture” but they don’t really look any different than the locomotives we see pulling trains on the rail lines next to Interstate 10 every day.   We also haven’t noticed any fewer trains coming through Benson.  One of those little mysteries.

Scenic Park Cabins

We stayed at the Scenic Park Campground in South Sioux City, NE, which is on the Missouri River.  It is a city park that is immaculately maintained and was a pleasure to stay in.  The park has four “cabins” for rent.

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Three of the four cabins

The cabins are several years old and we were told that they were art projects from the Architectural Schools at the University of Iowa in Sioux City.  They were located just across from our camping site and looked very interesting.

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Cabin 4

They were all made from either found materials or what you would be able to find in a Home Depot or Lowes.

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Cabin 2

There was nothing earth-shattering about them but they were all fun-looking projects.

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Sioux City Museum

We were staying at a city park in South Sioux City, Nebraska which is just across the Missouri River from Sioux City, Iowa.  When I checked to see what was worth seeing nearby, the Sioux City Museum was at the top of several different lists so we took a short trip to see it.

The museum isn’t very large but it is very eclectic and they packed an awful lot of things in a very small space.  Since Sioux City is mostly known for its stockyards and meat packing industry and although they’re mostly gone an entire corner of the museum was devoted to them.

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There have been several large fires in the past so there were several fire department exhibits.

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Fort Niobrara Wildlife Refuge

We had stayed at a campground in Valentine, Nebraska and took a tour of the area.  We found the Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge nearby and it had a gravel loop drive that we took.

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What makes this wildlife refuge different is that several different ecosystems converge here and it has elements of prairie, Rocky Mountain and boreal ecosystems.

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The Niobrara River runs through the wildlife refuge and the forested areas were mostly around it.

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But most of the areas away from the river were prairie and included several prairie dog towns.

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There was a large parking lot next to the river and many people kayak and canoe on it. There was also a picnic area, a handicap accessible boat launch (which unfortunately wouldn’t have worked for Susan) and a couple of hiking trails.  There was a fair amount packed into a small area and it a pleasant surprise to find.

We’d give a B for handicap accessibility.  On the plus side it had handicap accessible bathrooms in a couple locations but on the minus side there were no handicap accessible trails of any kind and we had to make do with what we could see from the car.

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.

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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.

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More layered sandstone standing on edge

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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