Thursday, June 30, 2011

ROAD TRIP - @ Silverton - Around Town

We are in Silverton, CO - "God's Country"!

Besides being a top tourist town Silverton is a mecca for the off-road community, featuring some of the most breathtakingly beautiful and challenging alpine roads and trails as well as being a favorite for folks looking for a small town, Fourth of July celebration.

We will talk about the off-roading in future posts, for now I leave you with a few photos from around town.

Last Train to Durango!
Old Dirtbikes - Popular Silverton Transportation
Old Cabin display off of Blair Street
Our camp at the Red Mountain RV Park
Looking north on Green Steet
Cold draft, local brew at 5%

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

ROAD TRIP - Taos, NM to Silverton, CO

On our way to God's Country!

Out of Taos, we took Highway 68/285 north, up to Antonito, CO then left to Chama, NM on Highway 64/17.

The north leg is a great road, easy to drive and with great scenery. Next time through, a stop will be scheduled to check out the sustainable-dwelling hobbyists and their structures at Earth Ship.  You have heard me lambaste the "Dirt Worshipers" in the past in this Blog but, let me be clear that I admire any type of technical ingenuity and the dwellings at Earth Ship are pretty much the top of that class.

You can find more about Earth Ship, HERE.

The leg west of Antonito really starts to put you in beautiful country as the road parallels the Conejo River. This area had a lot of Fly Fisherman at work on a Monday! We will be back to check this out. The highway starts climbing like a Cable Car in San Francisco. My guess is that the Monsterhome steamed up a 8-10% grade on that route topping off at La Manga Pass, over 10,000' feet up.

I love my Lowrance IWay!
 
On this grade was an intrepid and very fit soul peddling to the top!


Find out more about Colorado, Highway 17 HERE.

At the summit we intersect the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railway. Much the same livery runs this railroad as does the Durango and Silverton, NG RR.

At the Osier, CO yard.

The Cumbres and Toltec operation claims to be America;s Highest & Longest Coal Fired, Steam Operation, Narrow-Gauge Railroad. You can find more about the RR here:

Cumbres & Toltec Website
Wikipedia Page

CHAMA, NM

The route down into Caham, NM was much more gradual and just as beautiful. Chama is a cool little town with a lot of history and some "genuine characters".  I will be back to this locale again for a longer stay. A few photos of the rail yard and around town.


An old Rotary Snowplow
The old station in Chama, NM
There were a few vehicles adorned with stickers in political
statement. This one is a good read!
The best sticker of all!
It's 4x4 country. This old M38 as seen in Chama is very cool!
Onward to Durango and then Silverton.

Out of Chama, we head west again and then north to Pagossa Springs, CO via Highway 84. This is an easy road with light traffic. Once in Pagossa Springs we take Highway 160 west to Durango. I hate this road ! It's a winding, sometimes narrow, two lane road with tons of traffic. I'd rather deal with the old, Interstate Highway intersections in El Paso, TX than this route.

Once in Durango, we head north on Highway 550. This road is simply superb up to the San Juan County line where it narrows a bit and then even more right before you descend into Silverton. Take your time here, make sure your rig is not overloaded. Make sure your brakes are top notch and be rested and alert before you take this route.

It is truly spectacular scenery on this route through God's Country with Silverton as a place that we come back to time and time again like a second home.

You can find out more about the Highway, Durango and Silverton as follows:

Highway 550
Durango, CO - Official Website
Silverton, CO - Offical Website
Silverton Standard - On-line Newspaper

Monday, June 27, 2011

ROAD TRIP - @ Taos, NM

There are many reasons why Taos is one of our favorite destinations. We now visit every other year. There is excellent dining, great natural scenery and history. The town is also very laid back with a tinge of simplicity and most people here have a little dirt on their shoes, i.e. without the pretentious air of Santa Fe.

Most folks that visit hit the Town Square and the Taos Pueblo. We like to roam about the edges. The following photos cover some of that scene.







I also have a few photos of the Pueblo in my Face Book Album. You can see those HERE.

RV PARK REVIEW - TAOS VALLEY RV PARK

I give this park a 7 of 10. It is close enough to old Taos. The spaces are not too tight, the facilities are super clean. The downside is the expensive price of $45 a night for a 50amp pull through and again a non-existent Wi-Fi service. Fortunately, my Verizon 3G service was adequate.

More on this park can be found here:

Taos Valley RV Park
RV Park Review - Taos, NM

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We are off to our main destination of Silverton, CO today. We will be there for a week to 10 days.  Stay tuned!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

ROAD TRIP - Dodge City, KS to Taos, NM

Wow! What a contrast in roads on this leg. From the straight, "over the horizon roads" of the plains to the mountain roads up into Eagles Nest, NM and down to Taos.

We left Dodge and back tracked a bit on highway 56, west to Sublette, KS. This highway is near perfect. it is a wide, two lane road with large shoulder areas. One of the well kept little town along this route is Montezuma, KS. Like so many we passed through, the Grain elevators are on the north side of the road and the town on the south.

Montezuma, KS
We kept on going straight on Highway 56 at Sublette heading directly for the corner of the state and into Oklahoma. The road west of Sublette was fine but nearly as nice as what we had just traveled. Once in Oklahoma, the road narrowed and the shoulder area disappeared. Still and easy road that is mostly straight and easy to navigate with mild crosswinds.

Oklahoma Roads - Highway 56
On into New Mexico. The crosswinds became very strong yet, still not an issue for the stability of our rig which is based on a  Class 8 Semi-Truck chassis.  We stopped in Clayton, NM for fuel at $3.88 a gallons and a quick lunch. Staying on 56, we met up with Interstate 25 in Springer, NM and jogged up a bit then due west on NM Highway 58 to Cimarron, NM. Now that road is narrow, bumpy and a good challenge in the very high crosswinds we encountered. Once in to Cimarron we headed due west on Highway 64 up and into THE Sangre de Cristo Mountains and Eagles Nest, NM.  This is where the contrast took effect. Highway 64 is a great mountain road and easy in any RV with an experienced driver. I enjoyed the drive!

EAGLES NEST, NM

Eagles Nest is in a beautiful valley at @ 9000' elevation. The people are friendly and the fishing in the nearby streams and the lake itself are reported to be "epic".

Eagles Nest, NM History Page

Eagles Nest Lake from Mt Baldy.

South of Eagles Nest is the Angel Fire ski community. Angel Fire is a big operation with an airport that can easily accommodate a small passenger jet or the Gulfstreams of the vacation home owners. We drove on past as places like this fit my rule of "bad and or challenging roads = good people", "Airports for Biz Jets = bad people". Or, at least people I don't care to be around.

Highway 64 took us up out of the valley and then down into Taos. The people on the highway were very courteous to our 65' long travel train and I again enjoyed the mountain road.

Today's route
Our route so far, this trip.
We are in Taos now. This is our second visit in a few years. Taos is a mix of people that I will talk about in the next Blog entry. It's time to relax now!

Friday, June 24, 2011

ROAD TRIP - Amarillo, TX to Dodge City, KS

Gettin' out of Dodge... EARLY!

We came to Dodge City for the western heritage. Past the Boot Hill Museum, there isn't anything else to see in town. Even that attraction is a restoration of the old part of town and not even close to being on par with the locales of Virginia City NV, Tombstone AZ or Silverton CO.  Add the predicted high temp of 107 degrees on Sunday and there is no reason to stay.... We'll be heading to Taos Saturday before noon and likely abbreviate that stay for a day as we run to the cool weather of the Colorado High Country in Silverton.

I find happiness on rural, two lane roads of America!
Don't mind the bugs on the windshield..

I will say that the drive from Amarillo to Dodge was enjoyable. The small and slightly larger towns of Kansas are very well kept in all respects. The nicest small town we have seen this trip was Liberal Kansas. Ya, I know... the town name could be better but it's far from what the name belies as it even has a Haliburton office. The town also appeared to be void of Old Hippies, Dirt Worshipping Eco-Freaks and all their trappings such as neo-Hippie Hostels,  Tie-Dye T-shirt shops, Dumpster Diver Co-ops and what these lazy loons call "The Vortex of the Harmonic Convergence" <---WTF IS THAT!!  ....Anywaze. good on you people of Liberal KS, you have a nice town.

Seen on the side of the road in Liberal, KS USA.. a very nice BBQ Smoker outfit.
Hippie Towns don't have such things as "Smoked Tofu" is not the rage.

RV PARK REVIEW - GUNSMOKE TRAV-L-PARK

I give this older park an 8 of 10. It is spacious, well kept, has very friendly staff, the 50amp spot for a party of 5 was $30 a night and the old pool is in great shape offering a nice cool dip after a hot days on the plains.

I did not use the free WiFi as my Verizon 3g service was perfect, as usual.

You can find more on the park at these links:
Gunsmoke Trav-L-Park
RV Park reviews for Dodge City, KS

Thursday, June 23, 2011

ROAD TRIP - Carlsbad Caverns NP - Amarillo, TX

Our most eastern stop on the trip is Dodge City, KS. A good halfway stop is Amarillo, TX where just east of town on I-40 you can find nice RV parks, well equipped Truck Stop-o-ramas and The Big Texan Steakhouse.

Leaving east out of Carlsbad, NM it is evident that the energy industry and the towns that serve same are doing well. Unlike most locales in The Obamination, towns such as Hobbs, NM are teaming with activity and business. The same extends over into Texas where governor Perry can boast a 4% unemployment rate, the very best in the nation.

Leading into the panhandle of Texas, the roads are very good and the land very flat. North of Lubbock, I was scanning my Lowrance GPS for a nearby lunchtime, Rest Stop when I drove right past what I was looking for. This was a good omen because the next exit led to the small, rural town of Hale Center and  The Hale County Farm and Ranch Museum right next to the Interstate. 

HALE COUNTY FARM AND RANCH MUSEUM


The museum is free of charge yet any person of integrity will leave a donation. The displays cover the equipment, homes and business of the area dating into the early 20th century. Much of the equipment is as it was found with decades of weather to make an artistic patina.  Other displays consist of perfectly restored farm equipment and tools. There is an entire early 20th century, farm home where a couple raised nine children. A few highlights are as follows.

The weathered equipment and vehicles
make for a photographers paradise!
1930's era Beauty Salon display. YIKES!
Perfectly restored tractors.
This was considered to be a "Potable TV" from the late 1940's!
A great, local TV station story about the The Hale County Museum can be found HERE .

ALSO: The staff mentioned that RV's can park overnight, for free at the museum lot.

CADILLAC RANCH

Everyone has heard of the Cadillac ranch, just west of Amarillo on I-40. We stopped in to leave our mark and with that, we have a few photos to share with you.


You are encouraged to bring a spray can and make your own graffiti on the old wrecks. So many people have done this that the paint is over an inch and half thick on the cars. The sad part is that many sloppy people leave the empty cans behind. Bring your own can, along with a trash bag to cart out the empty cans you find.

A side of one car where the paint layers have been cut away.
AMARILLO

This town reminds me of one of the semi-bad areas of Los Angeles. There is much decay, much poverty, many empty buildings and much that people simply do not care about. On a high note, the Amarillo Ranch RV Park and some well equipped Trucks Stops along with the Big Texan Steakhouse are all at the same exit off of I-40 just east of town.

We tanked up at TA, stayed at the Amarillo Ranch RV Park and hit the buffet at the Big Texan for breakfast the next morning. The Big Texan is a good value in both food and entertainment especially for the kids.

You can find more about the Big Texan HERE


RV PARK REVIEW - AMARILLO RANCH RV PARK

I give this park a 8 of 10. The park is spacious, the staff is extremely friendly, the facilities clean and the indoor pool was a very refreshing extra after a hot day on the road. I did not use the free Wi-Fi as my Verizon 3g service was top notch, as usual.

More info for the park can be found as follows:

Amarillo Ranch RV Park
Amarillo Area RV Park Reviews

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

ROAD TRIP - @ Carlsbad Caverns, NM

Not much to post for this leg. The wife and youngin's are at the caves and I am in the Monsterhome catching up on business, work and such.

This is not picturesque country by any means. It is mostly flat, flat and then flat again, covered by a mixture of cacti, prairie grass and rocks. I can't imagine why any settler stopped here to stay a century and half ago.

There is a substantial amount of business at hand though. The oil and gas industry seems prosperous. The oil and gas industry is active with lots of rigs being tended to by the roughnecks. I imagine this is only possible because the environmentalists do not see some controlling or sentimental value in the vast, flat expenses of New Mexico and Texas. Nah, they'd rather inflict their "hall monitor BS" and mismanage our forests first, turning them into tinder boxes and then, burnt out wastelands.

I hiked up to the old castle and cell phone towers above White's City for my morning sojourn. Like I said, flat, flat and more flat.


The history of White's City, Jim White and the Carlsbad Caverns can be found here:

Jim White
Cavern Pictures
Psrk Info

White's City is a mix of mostly dilapidated old Hotels, a semi occupied store complex and the RV park. Many buildings are uninhabitable and on the last leg.

The old Pueblo Inn waiting for the bulldozer
RV PARK REVIEW: WHITE'S CITY

The RV Park is the most convienient park to the caverns by a long mile. The nearest competitor is a good 12 miles up the road into Carlsbad and is likely as questionable as this one.

Until recently, the park has seen some bad days, falling into the same despair as the Pueblo Inn. About 2 years ago, new owners took over and started fixing things up. There is now 50 amp service and a good amount of the park plumbing has been replaced. The showers and bathrooms are looking better with new tile but all in all, the place has a ways to go.

I did not try the free WiFi service as the park sits under the shadows of both an AT&T and Verizon Wireless towers. AT&T offered 2G access and Verizon, offered 3G with superb service and speed.

I rate the park a 5 of 10 and that is mostly based on the effort of the new owners to get things a bit better.

More info on the park can be found here:

Carlsbad, RV Park Reviews

The next leg takes up into the Texas Panhandle with a stop in Amarillo.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

ROAD TRIP - Tombstone, AZ to Carlsbad Caverns, NM

A long day on good roads.. Except the path through El Paso, TX. I'll avoid that one from now on. Just too many people in too little a space and a long, long path of stop lights on US 180 out of town.

Our route today.
Our route so far.
US 180 east of El Paso travels a true area of Texas Outback. There is one hell of a lot of dirt between light bulbs out there.

Straight as an arrow into the horizon and beyond.
Tomorrow the family will visit the caverns and I will conduct business from the Monsterhome. Thank you Verizon Wireless.

We are settled into the old RV park at White's City at the gate of the Carlsbad Caverns National Park. The RV park has a number of good updates. I'll have a review tomorrow.

Monday, June 20, 2011

ROAD TRIP - In Tombstone, AZ

We spent the day in Tombstone, AZ. Did the OK Corral show as well as the tour of the Bird Cage Theater.

OK CORRAL SHOOTOUT 

Doc Holiday
The shootout show is worth the $10 admission which includes a tour of various western artifacts as well as a Diorama and History movie. The actual shootout is well done by the actors, especially with Doc Holiday's poetic discourse. Of all the actors, he was the most into his role.

BOOT HILL


A visit to Boot Hill is part of the fare in Tombstone. here lies the remains of Old Man Clanton, father to the Clanton boys that died at the OK Corral.

DOWNTOWN TOMBSTONE


Mid day on Allen Street, Tombstone, AZ.


Early evening, sunset light on Allen Street. This shot looks up the historic street that bustled with life 140 years ago. The buildings are well preserved and filled with various saloons and gift stores.



We had a nice Pizza and cold beer lunch at Big Nose Kate's Saloon. The food was good and the service outstanding. The owner visited our table and had our teenagers and 9 year old pose with various, period attire around the Saloon for free. That's great hospitality!

RV PARK REVIEW

Wells Fargo RV Park.

You can find more about this park at the following links:

Wells Fargo RV Park Home Page
RV Park Reviews

Overall I give this Park a 3 of 10. All it has really going for it is the close proximity to the main tourist area of Tombstone and clean restrooms and showers. The staff was very bossy and the price was ridiculous at $49 a night! Add a very poor quality, non-secured Wi-Fi service as status quo.

TOMORROW

We are heading to Carlsbad Caverns for our second visit to this attraction. It's a 450 mile haul that dips into Texas before returning back to New Mexico.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

ROAD TRIP - Wickenburg, AZ to Tombstone, AZ



Hot and Windy!  Arizona is suffering through a very windy period that is the devil's hand on the local wildfires.

The Monument Fire burning into Hereford and Sierra Vista, AZ

The Monument fire remains out of control and has burned over 50 homes or business buildings in Hereford, AZ, With the strong winds there is no hope to stop the advancement.

PIMA AIR & SPACE MUSEUM

Instead of fighting the strong cross winds without rest on Interstate 10m we stopped off at the Pima Air & Space Museum south of Tuscon, AZ. The museum has the largest display of aircraft of any private museum in the world. Here are a dew select photos that depict some of the best of the collection.

A nicely preserved B-29 Bomber
B24 Liberator, Nose Art
B36 Perspective. A very rare bird!
More info on the Pima Air & Space Museum can be found HERE .

TOMBSTONE

We arrived in the late afternoon and settled into the Wells Fargo RV Park. The jury is *well out* on this place. I will make my comments after our second day here, tomorrow.

We were able to score a superb dinner at The Depot and Johnny Ringo's Bar. See my comment and others at Yelp.com

We will be in town all day tomorrow before heading out to Carlsbad, NM. I leave you with this photo of the early, Arizona evening sun casting shadows and warm light down old, Allen Street.