Dolores River Canyon

We are currently parked at a RV campground in Cortez, Colorado.  The Dolores River is nearby and originates in the Rockies.  Route 145 follows the Dolores River Canyon, and eventually all the way to Telluride.  Route 145 is at about 6400 feet altitude as you pass through the town of Dolores and rises steadily thereafter.  The canyon starts off relatively broad with shallow slopes that are sparsely populated with small trees but relatively quickly the rocks underneath start to show and the trees get taller.

The river was still fairly wide at this point.

As we continued to travel north on Route 145 the canyon narrowed and the walls got steeper.  Most notably the color of the rocks changed to red.

The trees became mostly pine and spruce and became tall enough that it was hard to see the walls of the canyon.  We still saw a lot of exposed rock and were able to find a few places to turn off and get a look at it.

We finally turned around at about 8200 feet of altitude, in part because it was getting dark and cloudy.  Overall it was an interesting and scenic drive and we’re glad we made it.

We passed several RV parks along the way and some looked inviting, at least for a short stay.  Trees would probably block our satellite dish and we were getting 1 bar of 1x cell coverage so we probably wouldn’t be able to stay too long (I still work on-line, remember?).

 

Mount Blanca

Mount Blanca. 14,344 feet high.  Still a small amount of snow and it’s the middle of July. Seen along Highway 160 while we were driving from Pueblo to South Fork, Colorado.

We took Highway 160 because it was the most direct route from Interstate 25 to Cortez, Colorado.  In retrospect we probably should have taken a more southerly route even if it was longer.  Route 160 reaches 9600 feet altitude before we reached Mount Blanca and Fort Garland.  We stayed in a campground near South Fork, at an altitude of 8400 feet.  The next day after we left the campground to head for Cortez we climbed to 10,800 feet  before we reached the pass.  It was slow driving up to the pass and necessarily slow driving down (7% grade! and the downhill speed limit posted for our motor home was 25 mph!).

I’ve told Susan to whack me upside the head if I ever suggest a “scenic route” for the motor home.  I thought we were taking the most direct route and although I looked at it relatively closely I didn’t realize just how high up we’d get while traveling it.

We broke down and we had to be towed

We were driving from Limon, Colorado to Fort Collins and had taken some back roads partly because there was an expensive toll road coming up we wanted to avoid and partly because we’d been driving exclusively on Interstate 70 since Missouri.

We got to Fort Lupton and got an error message on the motor home’s dashboard display that basically said stop the engine immediately.  I found a spot to pull over and the engine stopped before I could stop it.  We were blocking a business’s driveway and after a couple of minutes of sitting I was able to start the engine back up and limp into the back of their property.  I called Freightliner and they thought it was a coolant level problem.  I had some coolant and added it to the reservoir and we waited a half hour before we started the engine again.

Everything seemed okay so we pulled back out on the road only to find that the top speed we were able to reach was only 30 MPH.  I pulled over again as soon as there was an open spot and then looked up the closest Freightliner facility, which was Transwest in Brighton, Colorado.  I thought we could limp over there since it didn’t seem that far on Google maps (Google maps lied!).  We continued down the road but our top speed kept dropping until we were down to about 5 MPH.  Fortunately we were right next to a park with a large parking lot and we pulled in there and made arrangements for the motor home to be towed.

It took a couple of hour before the tow truck arrived, and a half hour of work for the driver to get our motor home attached.

It was an involved process that included him having to remove the drive shaft, lift and lower the front of the motor home a couple times to get the right adapters in place, remove the rear rock guard and put on some directional signals on the rear.

We then drove to the Transwest facility which turned out to be closer to 12 miles away, where the driver then spent another half hour unhooking us.

We spent Thursday night in the parking lot, and the next day they re-attached the drive shaft (it needed to be torqued so the tow truck driver couldn’t do it) and we backed up in front one the repair bays.  On Friday they identified what appeared to be the main problem and that was our Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF) had failed.  They ordered a new one, but we had to wait over the weekend, until a new one was delivered on Monday.  Fortunately they let us live in our motor home over the weekend and it turned out to be the longest period we’ve dry-camped in it.  They replaced the DPF on Monday and it looked like we were good to go, but as we started to drive away again our max speed dropped to 30 MPH, so we returned.

They came out and ran diagnostics again and found that the pressure sensor for the DPF had failed, and they replaced it on the spot.  I again tried to leave, but still found our top speed limited to 30 MPH and returned again.  This time there was nothing in the computer diagnostics and it wasn’t until we tried revving the engine with the brake on that one of the techs noticed what was wrong.  There is an air intake tube that runs to a vent near the top of the motor home.  The air intake tube had fallen down and the end was being blocked and starving the engine of air. They re-attached the tube and strapped it in place so it wouldn’t fall down again and finally, we had speed back and were able to leave.

Fortunately on Saturday we were able to drive to Berthoud to visit our friends, Tom and Kathy, who were the reason we were in the area to begin with.  On Sunday, Tom and Kathy drove to us and took us on a tour of the region.  So despite the problems we had with our motor home, we were still able to have a good time.

Gateway Arch, St. Louis, Missouri

We’re camped in St. Simon, Missouri, about a 20 mile drive to St. Louis.  On Tuesday we drove into town to see the Gateway Arch.  They were doing a lot of road work and for this reason the usual directions to it didn’t work.  It took us a while to get next to it and then to find parking and then to walk over to it.

The Arch is right next to the Mississippi River and is very dramatic.  We first came up to it from the northern side (after huffing and puffing to get Susan’s wheelchair up a very steep hill on a cobblestone road).

It was more dramatic up close.

And dramatic looking up from the center towards the sky.

The visitor center was undergoing renovation and the museum associated with the Gateway Arch was closed so other than walking around and under the arch there wasn’t much for us to do.  There is an observation deck across the top of the arch and a tram/elevator that gets you there.  Neither Susan nor I are terribly fond of heights so we turned that down.

Despite the fact that there were ramps down to the waterfront I’d have to give it a C- at best for handicap accessibility.  The ramps were steep and there were no pauses along the way. Without assistance there’s no way that anybody in a wheelchair could get from the waterfront to the Arch by themselves.  Ditto on getting down.  Because of the renovations there were no restrooms, only porta potties, and there was at least one handicap accessible one, so I’ll give them some kudos for that.

The Gateway arch is very dramatic and worth a visit if you’re in the area.  Once the renovations are done it’ll probably be worth a visit even more.  We’re not sorry we went and I certainly got my share of exercise for the day getting Susan to and from it.  One recommendation is to locate the Gateway Arch on a map first so you have a good idea where you’re going and not to depend so much on the signage since the signage is misleading.

I will also add that we saw this sign several times while driving and trying to find the base of the Gateway Arch.

We didn’t actually see anybody “aggressively begging” in St. Louis while we were driving through it, but this is a phenomenon we see all over the country (although more in the southern cities in the winter than otherwise).  During the winter In Tucson it’s hard to drive any distance without seeing somebody or several somebodies at an intersection with signs asking for money.  I can’t say whether there really are more people who are truly down and out or whether this has become an accepted a way for some of them to eke out a living.

I’ve had mixed experiences with this.  In particular when commuting in Boston there were several “beggars” who had staked out their particular territories and I remember one who “owned” a spot in the Back Bay T station pulling out his IPhone once and chatting with somebody about his weekend party plans.  A nurse friend of ours who worked with the disadvantaged in San Francisco said that 95% of the men and 90% of the women panhandling have a drug habit and whatever you give them goes to support that habit.  I can’t say whether or not that’s true, although it’s certainly plausible, but I will say that if and when a person drops off the financial edge into poverty and homelessness for whatever reason there is no easy way back.  I don’t have any kind of an answer for this phenomenon and can only comment that it appears to be occurring across the country in all of the cities that we’ve visited.

 

Carnegie Museum of Art and Architecture, the Art part

As I already mentioned, we didn’t realize that the Carnegie Museum of Art shared the same building(s) as the Museum of Natural History so we weren’t really prepared for it.  The Museum of Art has pretty much the entire second floor of the Museum complex.  What was immediately striking, were the art nouveau murals around the second floor lobby we saw as soon as we got off the elevator.

A couple of the murals around the lobby on the second floor
Another mural around the second floor lobby
Another mural from around the second floor lobby
Wall of murals from around the second floor lobby

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Carnegie Museum of Art and Architecture, the architecture part

When we came to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History we didn’t know that it shared a building (buildings?) withe the Carnegie Museum of Art and Architecture.  We had already gone through the Natural History museum by the time the fire alarm sounded and we had to evacuate so afterwards we went through at least part of the Museum of Art and Architecture.

The arrangement is a little odd, since the Museum of Architecture is mostly on the same floor as the Museum of Natural History.  It also isn’t so much about architecture but about architectural elements across the ages.

Medieval Frieze from a church

There was some attempt to place the exhibits in chronological order but there were also several doors you can enter from so where you start in history is somewhat left to chance.

Medieval Balcony from a church

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Carnegie Museum of Natural History

We are camped at an RV park in New Stanton, Pennsylvania, about 30 miles away from Pittsburgh.  We drove in to Pittsburgh on Thursday to see the Carnegie Museum of Natural History.  Not surprisingly, they had “museum quality” fossils.

Triassic Crocodilan

They were mostly arranged with painted backdrops with a lot of attention paid to natural poses.

Diplodicus stalked by a carnivore

Many of them were dinosaurs that were popular (so to speak) when I was growing up.  I remember having about a half a dozen or so molded plastic models of them.

Stegosaurus
Protoceratops

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Harriet’s 60th

One of the main reasons we drove to New England was to attend Susan’s younger sister, Harriet’s 60th birthday get-together.  It’s been a year and a half since we last saw Susan’s family so it was good to see them all in one place.

Harriet with her two sons, Rob (left) and Paul (right).
Susan’ siblings. Paul, Mark, Harriet and Neal with Susan.
Susan and Mark

The get-together was held at Alta Strada restaurant, at the Foxwoods resort/casino in Connecticut.  The food and service were excellent, but it was very noisy which made it hard to talk with anybody.  We ran into Mark about a half hour early and he gave Susan $5 to spend on a slot machine. She won a couple extra rounds but the money ran out pretty quickly and if hadn’t been that Mark gave her the seed money she wouldn’t have done it in the first place.  Although we’ve been to many resort/casinos we’re always there because of a show or a restaurant and neither of us are gamblers (nor do we really understand the urge at all).

Rachel visits

We’re in an RV campground in Clinton, Connecticut.  Rachel and Scott were delivering one of Scott’s nephews to a college orientation in Hartford, Connecticut.  Since she was about an hour’s drive away she drove down to see us.

Rachel
Rachel and Susan
Rachel and Richard

We are always glad to see her and it was good to hear that she and Scott are doing well. With any luck, we might see her again this year depending when (and if) we make it to Oregon.

American Antique Car Association (AACA) Museum

The American Antique Car Association museum is located on the way into Hershey, Pennsylvania, just off of Route 39.  We visited it today and wandered around for a couple of hours.  There are three floors but the largest and most complete exhibits are on the first floor.  The 2nd floor had a lot less space devoted to exhibits and was almost entirely motorcycles.  The ground (basement?) floor was mostly buses and motorcycles but had been partially cleared out for an upcoming weekend event.

1908 Zimmerman Surrey

The layout of exhibits was a little strange in that it was only partly chronological.   In a couple of instances there was a theme, like the iconic cars from the 1960’s.

But in other instances there were 1970’s muscle cars next to 1920’s runabouts.  Most eras were well represented however, with many of the cars that embodied the times.

1924 Stevens-Duryea Runabout

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