June 20, 2021 Austin NV

It is time to head home. The heat wave makes it difficult to enjoy camping right now. Last night I was looking for a place where we could cover a good deal of distance towards home and end up somewhere with a reasonable high temperature. Along the route Austin is at a high point, and the high here was projected to be a relatively chilly 91 degrees. So today we are in our second Austin of the trip the much less known Austin Nevada.

As we were loading Scout up it was 111 degrees at 9:45 am. Our poor refrigerator has been putting up a good fight but has been steadily losing ground. Despite us doing everything we could I guess the interior temperature of Scout was around 125 degrees at times. We moved as much of our food as possible into the room, but we still had to throw a couple of things out. The good news as we sit here in Austin at a mere 88 degrees the refrigerator is recovering and things are getting cold again.

When we were at the Tiger rally we had told Kathy Howe that we had come from Austin. She told us about a great forest service campground just outside Austin and told us we should stay there next time we were there. Later it came out we were talking about Austin Texas, and she was talking about Austin Nevada. But Kathy is right the campground outside Austin Nevada is awesome. Thanks Kathy for the tip.

June 19, 2021 Las Vegas NV

Alex wanted to take us around town and show us some sites today. He has been in Las Vegas for 7 years now which pretty much makes him a long term resident in this very transient town. I arranged to meet him at the security gate of the Air Force Base to sponsor him. The last time we tried to get a guest on this base it was a mess, and we failed due to the complexity. I was expecting to have to fill out a bunch of paper work and told him to meet me at the visitors center. Alex and I arrived at the same time and I heard the Airmen guarding the gate telling him the visitors center was closed. I asked the Airmen what I needed to do to get him on the base and he replied, just get in the car with him, sir! What a change a few years makes.

In the Fremont Street area they have this zip line that runs the length of the strip. Some how this young guy got hung up half way and a maintenance guy had to zip out to help him. This must happen relatively frequently as the maintenance guy was quite good at hooking him up and dragging him to the platform.

Despite covid three new casinos have opened in Las Vegas in the last six months. Alex wanted to show us one of them in the Fremont area of town. Ton and I are not gamblers, we enjoy watching the people in the casinos. As usual we were not disappointed, the people watching was superb.

Ton and I enjoy people watching in the casinos. I hope the government is right about vaccinated people not needing masks, as I estimate that less than 10% of the people wore masks. This also means that most of the unvaccinated people were not wearing them either.

Alex also took us to the arena where the Knights play as he shares season tickets with a few friends. Ton was intrigued with the Hersheys Chocolate store and we ended up walking out with a bag full of chocolate bars. Our chore for the rest of the day was to try to keep them from melting in the 112 degree heat, we kind of succeeded.

Alex treating me to a fathers day round at Able Baker brewery. I thought I was smiling, it must be the heat!

Ton and Alex had been cooking up a fathers day outing which was the real reason for going out today. We started out at a very good brewery called Able Baker brewing. The brewery is named after the first two nuclear bombs set off in the Nevada desert. The government used to test nuclear bombs about 70 miles outside of Las Vegas. When a test was scheduled people would gather outside to watch, presumably they made sure the wind was blowing away from town to keep the radioactivity down. Both scarier and simpler times. We ended the day with a delicious Mexican meal in the arts district, which is the old downtown of Las Vegas before the casinos came in the 1950’s

June 18, 2021 Las Vegas NV

We shifted hotels this morning. Vegas is back as hotel availability for the weekend was very limited and the prices were high. Luckily we can stay at the temporary lodging at the Air Force Base. The Air Force has nice facilities compared to the other services and our room here is just as nice as the hotel we spent the last two nights in.

Alex had to work, and today was field day, which includes being able to dunk your teacher so he would have to go home and change out of his wet clothes. We agreed to meet at the same brewery where we had done trivia as their parking lot was very Scout friendly. Also, the beer is good.

Our main purpose was to watch the local hockey team on television. Alex is a die hard Golden Knights fan and lives and dies by their performance. Tonight was the third game of the play off series with Montreal. The Knights dominated the whole game, but Montreal’s goalie kept them in the game, with less than 2 minutes to go the Knights were leading 2-1 and seemed to have the game in the bag. Unfortunately, the Knights goalie committed a giant blunder and allowed the tying goal much to the dismay of Alex and all of the other fans in the bar. Montreal than came out in overtime and quickly scored the winning goal. It was a heartbreaking night for Alex and most of Las Vegas.

During the drive over the thermometer on Scout registered 118 degrees.

June 17, 2021 Las Vegas NV

This one is going to be short and sweet. We spent the day in our room avoiding the heat. We only left once to run to the Costco nearby to see if they had a couple of things we were looking for. At 2pm it was 116 degrees.

Alex joined us when work was over and we headed to a Korean restaurant nearby. The food was delicious and inexpensive. We all ate too much before heading back to the room to watch some TV. We did decide to extend our stay for a couple of days to spend some more time with Alex, so tomorrow we will be shifting to the Air Force Base because the temperatures are not expected to improve.

June 16, 2021 Las Vegas NV

We woke up early after a good nights sleep despite the heat. The southwest is undergoing an unprecedented heat wave. Not only are the high temperatures extreme, but the over night lows are setting records for how high they are. Because of that we booked a hotel for our stay in Las Vegas to see our son Alex.

Right after we left Cedar City we realized that Las Vegas was in the Pacific time zone and it was an hour earlier. To kill some time Ton recommended a stop at the Costco in St. George Utah. After killing about an hour we were off to Las Vegas. When we arrived at the hotel it was 116 degrees Fahrenheit, so we felt good about our choice to pick a hotel.

Alex joined us after school. He is teaching summer school this year to try to help kids overcome the negative effects of Covid. He invited us to join him for trivia night at a local pub with a group of teachers. Ton and I had fun watching the local hockey team in the playoffs and trying to contribute to the trivia contest. Alex’s team won and we felt like we contributed enough to make a difference.

When we left the pub at 10pm it was still 107 degrees, which is incredible.

June 15 2021 Cedar City UT

We were both up early and were on the road before 9am. I slept pretty well last night despite the heat, possibly because I was tired from all of the activity at the Rally.

The agricultural area following the Colorado River.

The begining of our drive was thru a valley irrigated by the Colorado River. It is always a little surreal to see the intense green of the agriculture along the river as you travel thru a vast desert. Right before the Utah line we left the Colorado River valley and were treated to a couple of hundred miles of spectacular Utah vistas.

One of the many amazing views along I-70 in eastern Utah.

As we were driving thru Utah we were discussing the difference between the views in Utah and in Colorado. Both states are justly famous for their natural beauty, and though they are next to each other the difference couldn’t be starker. Colorado is about green snow capped mountains stretching off forever. Utah is about rugged desert mountains with erosion carved pinnacles. After some discussion we both agreed that we preferred Utah.

A man made waterfall above Cedar City designed in the 20’s to reduce the silt in the river.

Tonight we are at a campground in a canyon above Cedar City. When we arrived the outside temperature in Scout showed 104 degrees so we wimped out and are staying in a commercial campground and running our AC.

These teens were beating in the heat by swimming in the pond below the waterfall.

After things cooled down we took a short walk to a man made waterfall near the campground. It is also apparently the local swimming hole as a bunch of teens were cooling off in the water. It was still in the high 80’s so we headed back to Scout to rest for the evening.

June 14, 2021 Colorado National Monument CO

We got off to a very late start as no one wanted to be the first to leave. After multiple good byes and vows to visit each other in the near future, everyone but us were off to Leadville for a couple of days rest after an eventful weekend. We were tempted to stay another night but need to be in Las Vegas on Wednesday to see our son Alex.

The drive over to the Colorado National Monument was relatively short and uneventful. The west is undergoing record heat and when we arrived at the monument there were red flag warnings as even at 7000 feet the temperatures were 100 degrees.

4th of July pinnacle. This is a popular rock climbing route. The tradition is to climb the rock on the 4th and plant an American Flag each year.

The rim drive around the monument was very pretty. We are spoiled for natural beauty in the west, and the park service delivers so many wonderful places that we tend to almost take them for granted. The signage in the pull outs explaining the formation of all of the different types of rock formation as well as the history of the area was as always very well done and enhanced the natural beauty of the area. If you are in the area it is definitely worth a visit, even if it is only a hour or two diversion off of the interstate.

A view from near the campground.

We arrived at the campground around 5pm and it was 98 degrees with a little light wind. We had not reserved a site so we were left with one without much shade. We opened all of the windows, turned on the fantastic fan and sat real still trying not to sweat. The good thing about the desert is that as soon as the sun sets the temperature drops pretty fast. So by the time we are going to sleep the temperature inside should be bearable.

June 13, 2021 Camp Hale CO

The first thing in the morning I saw Ovi and asked him if he had gotten his therapeutic massage at the waterfall. He laughed and said he got in to about his knees and the water was so cold that his feet and legs felt like thousands of needles were sticking him so no. He did get a good run in though.

Today Fred, Rick and Kathy were teaching classes again, and Ovi continued his Tiger consulting business, so once again I felt inferior. One couple did want to talk to me about our approach to RV’ing in Europe so I did not feel completely useless.

The three musketeers of Colorado looking for mischief.

The three musketeers continued having a great time when they were not busy showing off their Tigers. Kathy was of course the busiest of the three as she is well known in Tiger circles.

The day ended with us all on the spur of the moment gathering at Denise and Fred’s truck for some Sangria, and wine. Travel tales were being told, as well as stories of our checkered past. Denise announced that we needed to eat before the effects of the altitude and the alcohol incapacitated us. She said she had the beginning of fajitas, Ton and Cory kicked in some more ingredients, everyone got to work (everyone being Denise, Fred, Ton and Cory, the rest of us guarded the wine) and in about a half hour fajitas were served. Thanks Denise it was a memorable meal and a wonderful evening.

June 12, 2021 Camp Hale CO

A big part of the Tiger Rally are classes to help Tiger owners improve their RV’s. Today Rick and Denise gave a presentation on their travels in Europe over 5 1/2 years in their Tiger. Fred gave a class on how to improve the electrical systems on the Tigers and the basics of RV electrical systems. Meanwhile Ovi’s extraordinary talent gained thru years of refurbishing sailboats was in high demand. He ran from Tiger to Tiger showing owners how to practically improve their systems, and frequently pitching in and fixing something.

A group gathered for one of the many classes at the Tiger Rally.

Ton and Cory spent a lot of the day continuing to develop their friendship and setting off on tours of other Tigers, as well as showing people around their Tigers. At first they were both reluctant to have people in their Tigers and by the end of the day were happily giving tours to whoever showed up.

The beautiful waterfall near the Tiger Rally. Ovi swore standing under it would be medically beneficial as long as you can stand immersion in 35 degree water!

In the afternoon Ovi took a well deserved break to go on a hike with Ton and Cory and me to a waterfall we had heard about. The distance was unclear as everyone had a different opinion, but after a 40 minute hike with a decent climb we came upon the waterfall and it was beautiful and more impressive than I expected.

Rick and Kathy’s heater had died during the previous night and Ovi and another attendee named Garret decided to pitch in and see if they could help Rick get it working. Despite several hours of intense work it appears that the problem is electronic and not fixable in a field even by people of their talents.

While Rick, Ovi and Garret where tackling the heater, and I was standing around admiring them and feeling useless, Kathy, Cory, and Ton had repaired to Scout where they continued to forge their friendship. They had a wonderful time together and at the end of the night Kathy declared them the three musketeers. When Ovi and I went over to break them up because we were cold, they almost threw us out, but finally after vowing to find Sally in the morning (an inside joke that caused howls of laughter between them) everyone headed to their Tiger to get some sleep. Like Rick said if things never go wrong you do not have good stories to tell later.

June 11, 2021 Camp Hale CO

We had some time before we could arrive at Camp Hale for the Tiger Rally, so we arranged to meet Rick and Kathy at the Safeway in Leadville at noon and headed into town to check things out.

The main street in Leadville with two Tigers parked and contributing to the local economy.

We wanted to spend a little more time walking the main street as Leadville is a charming town, and we felt it deserved some more of our attention. Ton was working her way up the street peaking into little shops with me in tow when we came upon Melanzana Outdoor Clothing. We stuck our head in to see what it was all about and were surprised to see that not only was it a store, but also the manufacturing site for the company. Ton is now the proud owner of a hoodie and a very nice running jacket manufactured in Leadville.

Rick and Kathy Howell posing in front of their extremely well traveled Tiger La Tortuga.

After a quick run thru Safeway to top off the fridge we followed Rick and Kathy out to Camp Hale to join the rally. We were very fortunate to be able to join up with Rick and Kathy as they were one of our main inspirations for our purchase of Scout and traveling around Europe in Francois. They have visited 5 continents and over 65 countries in their Tiger RV. Their blog, travelintortuga.com is a great read and I admire the guts and the perseverance they show as they navigate around the world. They kindly took us under their wing for this weekend and we really appreciate it.

The Tiger Rally is an annual gathering of owners of RV’s like Scout. Tigers have been produced since the late 80’s and the rally promised to have examples of nearly every type of Tiger ever produced. I was interested to see the different variations of the Tiger and to meet people who are traveling in ways similar to ourselves.

Cory and Ovi new friends we met at the Tiger Rally.

After we arrived at the rally and picked a place Rick came over and told Ton and me he wanted to introduce us to a couple he had been corresponding with over the last couple of months who he thought we would like. Cory and Ovi are sailors who have been traveling the world for years by boat. Their boat is currently in Montenegro, and like us they can’t get to it because of Covid. Cory and Ton immediately hit it off like long lost friends. Ovi and I also found we had similar views on traveling and life. Rick was absolutely right that we like them, so once again we owe Rick and Kathy for introducing us to new friends.

June 9-10 Leadville CO

We spent the 9th preparing to get back on the road. In the morning we went out to fill Scouts refrigerator and made another Costco run. Tak and To continued their great hospitality by taking us out to a last dinner at a Korean restaurant as well as visiting another brewery.

Thank you Tak and To for a wonderful visit to Colorado.

Today we were up pretty early as it was time to head out from Tak and To’s place. They have been incredible hosts and we really appreciate them putting us up and showing us Colorado Springs. It was a great visit.

US-24 may not be an official scenic highway, but Ton thought it was very scenic.

After we left we took a beautiful drive from Colorado Springs to Leadville on US-24. The road from Colorado Springs to Buena Vista is not officially a scenic highway, but Ton said while it may not be an official scenic highway, it was a scenic highway in her books. At one point there are 5 14,000 foot plus mountains in front of you and it is spectacular. The road from Buena Vista to Leadville is an official scenic highway and we enjoyed it immensely, though Ton wasn’t as sure it was as scenic as the earlier parts of the road.

There are 5 14,000 foot peaks that make for great vistas.

Our purpose in arriving in Leadville so early were to meet two other couples. Rick and Kathy Howe have taken a Tiger RV over 5 continents and have visited 65 countries. They are one of the inspirations for our current travels. Fred and Denise Cook helped us when we were deciding on purchasing Scout and we have gotten many ideas for technical improvements to our RV’s from them.

The old hotel in Leadville. It is an interesting old gold mining town that has a cool vibe to it.

After hooking up in Leadville we headed out for lunch at a Cuban Restaurant. The food was good and we began what would turn out to be a fun afternoon of exchanging ideas for improving our trucks and travel stories.

Parked up for the night on BLM land above Leadville. The truck on the right belongs to Fred and Denise.

After lunch we decided to convoy out to the country above Leadville and find a place to boondock for the night together. The three of us parked together and then spent the rest of the afternoon sharing experiences traveling. It was fascinating to hear Rick and Kathy’s stories of traveling around Africa and Europe. Fred is a former US Ambassador who served throughout the world and he and Denise also have very interesting stories of there travels throughout Latin America and Africa.

The wildflowers were out in force where we parked.

We finished the day with a dinner. The final highlight was singing Fred happy birthday and sharing some cake before turning in for the night.

June 7-8, 2021 Colorado Springs CO

I decided to lump two days into one for this post. On the 7th we spent a lot of the day shopping, and being lazy around Tak and To’s house. We did have a nice late lunch at a very good German restaurant, and finished the day at very good brewery for a round.

I am babysitting Timber while he wonders where his owners are off to.

We had a big day planned for the 8th as To was really excited to take us to Pikes Peak. It is the most famous landmark in Colorado Springs and maybe Colorado.

Climbing to the viewpoint at 12,700 feet.

Pikes Peak is a 14,000 foot mountain that overlooks Colorado Springs. It is famous for having a road to the top of the mountain. It is one of the highest roads in North America. They are working on the last stretch of road so we could only go to the 12,700 foot mark but that is plenty high enough as the air was quite thin.

A view of the road and some of the switchbacks.

The road as you can imagine is quite steep and there are multiple switchbacks particularly after you rise above the treeline. The road is also used by bicyclists though we saw only one group going up. Several tours take bicyclists to the top and have them ride down where they can reach some pretty high speeds. There is an automotive race called the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb where the current record for covering the 20 kilometers is 7 minutes and 57 seconds set by a VW electric car in 2018. It is considered the most dangerous automotive race in North America because in addition to the elevation change you have to negotiate 156 turns most of which have no guard rails if you miss the turn.

Looking to the top of Pikes Peak from the brake temperature checkpoint, that conveniently has a gift shop you can spend money in while waiting for your brakes to cool down.

We took a much more leisurely pace going up and down. After about 3 miles coming down, you have to go thru a check point where they check the temperature of your breaks and if it exceeds 300 degrees you have to pull over and let them cool off before you can continue going down. To did a good job of using his low gear and we passed the check easily.

The entrance to the Broadmoor hotel.

After a lunch at the bottom of Pikes Peak we headed over to the Broadmoor hotel which is one of the great hotels of the American west. When we pulled up to the hotel the security guard was frankly a jerk, but we went in anyway. The place is immense and luxurious. Timber particularly enjoyed himself as there was a lot of grass to run on, a big pond to attempt to pull To into, and lots of nice people to interact with.

One of the several room towers at the Broadmoor. The height of luxury.

Ton and I enjoyed a quick walk around the grounds. The grounds are immense and well manicured. Our days of thinking of staying at a place like this are over. But once in a while it is fun to hobnob with the rich.

Looking towards the pool.

We finished the day with a trip to Costco where Ton and I felt like we were back in our proper element!

June 6, 2021 Colorado Springs CO

We had a nice quiet day. The morning was spent taking care of some chores including giving Scout a bath to try to knock a couple of thousand miles of bugs off of the front of Scout. After about 20 minutes and $20 in a car wash I declared it good enough.

In the afternoon we went to a local lake to take a walk. About half way thru the walk we saw a large thunderstorm bearing down on us and got back to the car just as it hit. The volume of rain from the storm was indeed impressive and made the ride home a bit of adventure as the roads were flooding.

The highlight of the day was a group watch of the US-Mexico final of the Nations league. It was a wild 3-2 victory that had just about everything you could wish in a soccer game. By the time it ended everyone was ready for bed.

June 5, 2021 Colorado Springs CO

The last few days have been focused on Canyons. So when Tak and To suggested we visit the Royal Gorge we were up for it. The Royal Gorge is formed by the Arkansas River and is about 1200 feet deep but very narrow, in some places as narrow as 50 feet at the base and only 300 feet across at the top. The local town has developed a tourist spot at one of the more scenic spots. It is pretty comprehensive with relatively mild attractions like a tramway and a very high suspension bridge, to thrill seeking attractions such as a zip line across the canyon and a human catapult that shoots you out into the canyon on giant rubber bands.

The suspension bridge across the Royal Gorge. A sightseeing train runs on the track below next to the Arkansas River.

We opted for the mild attraction of the tramway and a walk across the bridge. The tramway took about three minutes to cross the gorge, but it was enough for me as I am not too fond of heights. Ton was too focused on taking pictures to get nervous, and was a little surprised when we got to the end.

The tramway near the center of the gorge.

Once on the other side we watched the more adventurous people do the zip line across. You are strapped onto a carrier in a sitting position, and after you are released you go across the canyon at a pretty good speed. The other ride for the adventurous is a catapult that shoots you out into the canyon. It will hold two people, and everyone who took the ride screamed. Our favorite line from the day was hearing a girls voice telling the person next to her to “open your eyes” as they bounced back and forth over a 1000 foot canyon on a giant rubberband.

The giant catapult that launches people out over the Royal Gorge. Definitely not for the faint of heart.

We recrossed the gorge on the decidedly unexciting suspension bridge. But it was enough for us, as it had a little bit of movement, and the floor of the bridge was wooden planks, with occasional small gaps that you could look down into the gorge thru. It was plenty of excitement for us. It is one of the highest suspension bridges in North America and the views of the gorge were spectacular.

The suspension bridge across Royal Gorge.

After the excitement of Royal Gorge we headed out for a nice lunch at a Catholic Abby nearby that also produced wine. Getting in was a little complicated by Covid Rules, but once in we had a nice relaxing lunch while enjoying the monks wine. In Thailand when you donate food or money to a monk it is called “making merit”, so today we decided that by purchasing the monks product we were supporting the monks and it counted as “making merit”.

The product of Holy Cross Abby.

Later we joined Tak and To as they took Timber the labradoodle to a local dog park. Being dog lovers, but not owners we enjoyed watching the dogs play with each other. Timber took his fun a little too far when he found a large mud puddle and decided that was more fun than other dogs. By the time To coaxed him out of the puddle he was thoroughly soaked and a little muddy, but quite happy and obviously proud of himself.

June 4, 2021 Colorado Springs CO

Tak and To began our day touring Colorado Springs by taking us to the Garden of the Gods City Park. It has been a park in the city since 1909. It has some great spire formations caused by erosion of the red rocks in the area. Ton had a great time taking pictures and catching up with Tak. To and I also caught up mostly on sports and life in Colorado Springs.

Looking thru a couple of natural doors to Colorado Springs.

I have to admit that I didn’t know how big Colorado Springs was. The area is over 500,000 people and To was telling me that as the city has grown and Denver has expanded that the two cities now are almost connected. Like Portland it is a very young and outdoors oriented city.

The park was pretty busy today. To says it gets much busier during the tourist season.

Our lunch stop was a converted elementary school that now features a brewery, distillery, and a couple of restaurants. They are still asking that people wear masks inside, but it is not being enforced. I think we are at a transition period wear mask wearing is optional and few businesses or government agencies are enforcing mask rules even where they exist. The beer was excellent and we had Detroit Style Pizza that was quite good.

Our last stop was in the downtown area at a warehouse building that had been converted to several small restaurants and one large brewery. Tak opted for a small desert from a bakery in the building, and we all opted for one more beer at the brewery. To told me that this area was quite run down in the past, but had recently gentrified. The local soccer team which is in the second division just opened their new stadium in this area. The combination of the new restaurants and the stadium had resulted in the area now being an attractive place to live for younger people.

After that we headed home to check on the kids and the dog. Tak and To have a new Goldendoodle dog. He is quite energetic and I enjoy playing with him. So Timber and I spent the rest of the day entertaining each other while Ton and Tak continued to catch up.

June 3, 2021 Colorado Springs CO

We started our day by heading over to the Cadillac Ranch near Amarillo. The Cadillac Ranch is a work of art that was placed near the old Route 66 in the late 60’s by what one of the local websites described as a group of displaced hippies from California. It is a bunch of 1950’s Cadillacs half buried in a field and has been a landmark for the Amarillo area since it was finished. The cars in the field are the original cars. We were not sure what to expect as we drove to the location. We expected a tourist trap, but were pleasantly surprised that it was pretty much what it was in the beginning. You pulled over on the shoulder of the road and walked out into a field to the Cadillacs. No tourist trap, no one charging you, just a bunch of people experiencing the art. You are now encouraged to bring a can of spray paint with you so that you can personally contribute to the work, so the area around the cars is littered with spray paint cans. We thought that was untidy until we realized that people were leaving partially full cans of paint so others could use them. Someone in Amarillo is doing a bumper business selling paint cans.

The recent rain had made all but one Cadillac unreachable due to mud.

Our next stop was Colorado Springs, we were cruising along backroads in the panhandle of Texas when Scouts dashboard lit up like a Christmas Tree with warnings about the stability system, the ABS braking system, and the tow braking, basically anything to do with stopping the truck had supposedly failed. Despite the dire looking dashboard there did not seem to be anything wrong with the brakes on Scout. Ton googled the closest Chevrolet dealer as I drove along looking at all the various warnings. Luckily there was a dealer in the next town we were coming to which was only 5 minutes away. When we arrived I described the problem and the service manager grabbed a portable diagnostic machine, he also warned me that he was booked solid for a week. He ran the diagnostic and said it looked like the ABS system had an electrical problem which triggered the cascade of warnings. When he restarted Scout the ABS appeared to be functioning normal and it may have just been a quick glitch in the computer that caused the warnings. He pronounced Scout safe to drive to Colorado Springs and said we may not see the warnings ever again. We drove another 200 miles that day and did not get any new warnings so hopefully it was just a glitch.

As we crossed into Colorado we saw our first bear crossing road warning. Ton wondered if it was really a problem. Unfortunately a few miles down the road we realized it was, as we saw a freshly killed black bear on the side of the road, and a fairly heavily damaged car on the shoulder being attended to by a State Trooper.

We have now arrived at our friends Tak and To’s house another set of old friends from Portland that we have not seen since before Covid. We are looking forward to spending a few days with them exploring Southern Colorado.

June 2, 2021 Palo Duro SP TX

Watching this storm roll in was pretty cool. Particularly since it did not turn out to be as bad as it looked.

Our day got off to a later start than planned due to the weather. When I went out for the first time the skies were blue all around us and I thought we would have a nice day to travel. After I brewed the morning coffee I went outside to begin breaking down the water and electricity and the sky to the north west was really ominous. Dark billowing clouds were down to ground level and moving fast towards us. I stood outside mesmerized for a few minutes watching the storm approach. Our neighbors stuck their heads outside looked at the storm approaching, shrugged and said “Texas” and went back inside. I also decided that was a good indication for me to go in Scout too. It was a pretty good storm but fortunately blew thru in about a half an hour so we were not too delayed.

Our first stop the Big Texan. A very touristy restaurant.

Our destination for today was Amarillo in the panhandle of Texas. We had two stops in mind for Amarillo, the Big Texan Steak House, and Palo Duro State Park which bills itself as the Grand Canyon of Texas.

This guy finished his 72oz steak with 14 minutes to spare.

We had stopped at The Big Texan on a previous trip traveling from east to west, and we both had fond memories of it as a fun place. It is a real tourist destination. The draw is a 72oz steak challenge. If you can eat the 72oz steak, a salad, and a side dish in one hour you get the steak for free. Those who take on the challenge are put on a stage and introduced to the restaurant before the clock starts. While we were there one guy succeeded in finishing the meal in 44 minutes, though he did not look like he particularly enjoyed the experience. By the way if you fail to finish, the steak costs you $72. Ton and I enjoyed our much smaller steaks and had enough left over to have another meal later.

A pavillion at Palo Duro State with the canyon wall in the background.

The main attraction for the day was Palo Duro State Park. Palo Duro Canyon is the second longest canyon in the US after the Grand Canyon. It stretches over 120 miles following the Prarie Dog Town Fork (a cool if long name) of the Red River. It is not nearly as deep as the Grand Canyon but quite beautiful. The state park is located near Amarillo. When we checked in they told us all of the hiking trails were closed due to the recent heavy rains. The campground was nice but we could see the effect of the rains with some campsites with standing water, and others showing signs where water had flashed across the site.

All of the rain has the cactus flowers blooming.

We took a drive along the loop road in the canyon, and there were some nice views. It is about 800 to 1000 feet from the canyon floor where we were to the top, it was pretty but not super impressive compared to the Grand Canyon and the Snake River Canyon on the Oregon/Idaho border which are both much deeper.

The one place we could get off the road was a short walk to a cave.

We settled in for the night and had a conversation with our neighbors who had lived in the Portland area for 30 years before retiring to Texas to be with their daughters. As it turns out one of the daughter is now moving back to Oregon for work so they told us they would be going back to visit soon.

June 1, 2021 Abilene TX

We reluctantly left our friends Pae and Supachai today. Every time we visit them we have a great time and they are wonderful hosts. Supachai proudly told us that during our 3 days visiting Austin we walked over 50,000 steps. So we burned off a good portion of all of the food we ate.

We are now heading north towards Colorado so that we can visit more friends in Colorado Springs. We picked Abilene because I remember it from some westerns and it had an Air Force base to stay on. The drive was entirely backroads from Bees Cave so we enjoyed watching the land change from the hills around Austin to the flat prarie of the Texas panhandle.

Dyess Air Force base is the home of the B-1 bomber.

After arriving a little early at the Air Force base we killed some time doing some grocery shopping and splurged on some high tech beer coozies made by Yeti. We saw their headquarters in Austin and they are famous for making world class insulated containers. The “coldster” coozie is supposed to keep an open beer cold for over an hour in 100 degree heat. We will give a product report later.

A good sized coyote looking for something to eat. He wasn’t at all interested or intimidated by me.

Near the end of the day I asked Ton if she wanted to go down and look at the airplane display on the base. They had about 30 different airplanes on display from WWII to the present. They have a mix of very common airplanes as well as some rare aircraft. She passed because she wanted to relax, so I went by myself. The airplanes were nice but I was also treated to a wildlife display of Coyotes and wild Turkeys. Except for the mosquitos it was an interesting walk.

One of the coyotes was stalking these turkeys when I walked up and spooked him off.

May 30, 2021 Austin TX

Today was a relaxing day exploring Austin with our friends Pae and Supachai. We began by visiting the original Whole Foods store in downtown Austin. While Ton knew that Whole Foods was from Austin I did not. They had a huge hot food bar there which became brunch for us. The food is trendy and aimed at a much lower demographic than us. I spent about 10 minutes looking for a plain orange juice. I found Kombucha, Keto, and a lot of mixtures of juices from plants that didn’t sound very good to me, though I was assured they were very good for me. I finally gave up on orange juice and settled for water.

Part of the holiday crowd on Lake Lady Bird.

Part of Pae and Supachai’s weekend routine is a walk around Lady Bird Lake in downtown Austin. The Lake is a prominent green space in downtown formed by damming part of the Colorado River. It is a really nice urban space and both the walkways along the lake and the lake itself are very well used for exercise and recreation by the people of Austin. We covered about 5 miles watching families swimming in the lake, dodging bicyclists and joggers, and observing groups of kayakers and paddle borders going up and down the lake. Ton and Pae lagged behind most of the time as they chatted and caught up on life. Supachai and I are always amazed how long they can talk without running out of things to say.

A Quiddich game in the central park in Austin. Part of the “Keep Austin Weird” campaign.

Finding a place for lunch was difficult as both locals and tourists were out in force. We ended up in a trendy hamburger place where we had to wait in line for 45 minutes to get our seat in a packed restaurant. As I said yesterday in Austin people are trying to return to normal. Hopefully, it is not too soon.

No social distancing at the swimming hole.

The rest of the day was spent shopping for some groceries to stock Scout and our friends fridge. We arrived home just in time for me to watch the Timbers get crushed by Philadelphia 3-0.

May 31, 2021 Austin TX

Austin is a vibrant young city and we have enjoyed our stay here. The economy is largely driven by tech companies who are setting up second campuses here because of the cost of housing in California. Supachai commented that he and Pae are often the oldest people in the restaurants they go to, since Ton and I are slightly older than them we have been looking for someone who looks older than us, so far without success.

A part of the riverfront trail in Austin. It was quite busy, and greener than we expected in Texas.

Pae and Supachai wanted to show us some more sites downtown and a couple of more restaurants. As we were arriving downtown traffic was being diverted away from the main street and was quite backed up. As today is Memorial Day we suspected some special event was taking place on the street. Supachai said he knew a place we could park and have a nice walk downtown. We covered another stretch of the river walk downtown, this time on a stretch that was largely on a platform above the river.

Not a famous soldier, or a cowboy, but Stevie Ray Vaughn a great guitarist from Austin.

As we walked Pae and Supachai discussed where to have lunch and could not come to an agreement on a single restaurant. So they compromised by telling us we were going to have two light lunches at two of their favorite places. So to make up for eating two lunches we walked a little further and came to the cause of the traffic jam earlier. Today was the Austin Triathlon and we found the finish line.

Pae and Supachai and a giant Mimosa. Thanks for your hospitality.

Our first lunch was at a famous fried chicken place called Gus’ Fried Chicken. The chicken was excellent and worth the 45 minute wait to get in. Second lunch took place about an hour later at a German style beer hall on Rainey Street which is an area of the city known for restaurants and food carts. Ton and I split a bratwurst. We were definitely the oldest people in the extensive beer hall.

The highest point in Austin county.

Our tour of Austin was not complete we went to Mt. Austin which is the highest point in Austin County at 760 feet. The view of the Colorado River and the expensive houses along the river was nice and expansive.

This peacock put on a full display for the tourists.

The final stop of the tour was a beautiful gardens near Mt. Austin. The highlight was a flock of peacocks in the garden. As we got in the car Supachai announced there was one more stop, we were going to pick up Chinese take out for dinner.

This peacock in the tree and another on the roof of a house taught me that peacocks can fly.

It was another great day for Ton and me.