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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We finished the day with a trip to Costco where Ton and I felt like we were back in our proper element!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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 where 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.
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.
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.
We started out by returning to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison to take the road down into the canyon. We had skipped this road the previous day because it was late, and it looked like it was going to rain. The road into the canyon is paved the whole way but quite steep at 16 degrees. (A steep grade on an interstate is considered to be 6 degrees.) It turned out not to be too bad and Scout had no problems. The bottom was quite beautiful. The road comes out at the entrance to the 5 mile diversion tunnel that was built to move water from the Gunnison to the valley for farming. From the base of the canyon it is fun to look up to the top and imagine the early explorers who came down to see what was at the bottom. Those were men. After another trip along the rim road we headed out towards Monument Valley.
This time we took the San Juan Scenic byway thru Ouray and Silverton. Our original plan was to stop and walk around Silverton, but when we got to the visitors center the hostesses were the most unfriendly we had ever run into in a visitors center, apparently they were having some sort of dispute with the manager and had no time to help us. We decided to skip Silverton. The scenic byway ends in Durango, and the change in scenery is incredible. Up to Durango you are driving in the Rockies with trees and a very green environment, and within ten miles you are in high Desert brown and red without trees and large vistas with Rocky outcroppings.
We arrived at Monument Valley late, but headed over to the visitors center for sunset. We were a little disappointed because there were thunder storms in the area so Ton did not get the pictures she was hoping for, but some of them are still nice.
Today we drove the West Elk Scenic Highways to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. We had to hustle out of Aspen in the morning to beat the bicycle race. We drove along the Elk Scenic Highway passing a bunch of State Troopers and support vehicles for the race.
After a couple of hours of driving we arrived at the sign for the North Rim of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP. The drive in was on some county roads with the last 6 miles on dirt roads. As we got near the park entrance there was still nothing that would hint at how spectacular the views were. The Canyon is only about a half mile wide but varies between 1500 and 2000 feet deep. At the bottom is the Gunnison River which rips along at a pretty good rate. The North Rim is pretty lightly visited so the overlooks were pretty basic, and you could approach the rim of the Canyon with almost no protection. Ton got over her fear of heights and got some good pictures. After spending a couple of hours at the North Rim we went back to the Elk Scenic Highway and headed to the more developed South Rim. The last 30 miles of the Elk follows the Black Canyon and reminded Ton of the Pacific Coast Highway near Big Sur if you change the Pacific Ocean to the River and Mountains of Colorado.
When we got near the South Rim we decided we needed to stock up with some food, and Diesel Exhaust Fluid in Montrose. We also needed good internet so we decided to stay in a campground in town. When we checked in the guy told us this valley only averaged 7” of rain per year. When we were done checking in we headed out to the visitors center at the South Rim, and of course it rained. So we drove the rim road and headed back to town. By the time we got to town it was raining buckets! They probably got 1” of their 7” of rain for the year.
We got up early and headed to the Trail Ridge. The bulk of this road is above the tree line and the top of the pass is over 11,000 feet. The visitors center at the top is very nice and completely off the grid. They get their electricity from a generator, and water from a dam near by. Most winters it is buried to its’ roof in snow. Ton went to the store where interestingly most of the staff was college students from China, (and one from Macedonia) who were there working on their English.
After completing the Trail we decided to push on southwest towards Gunnison. Ton suggested we take the Rocky Mountain Scenic Byway. The last 40 miles may have been more spectacular than the National Park with multiple 14,000 foot mountains and signs every couple of miles forbidding vehicles over 35 feet. The peak of the drive was Independence Pass here slightly over 12,000 feet and was our third time passing the Continental Divide today. Our original plan was to push on past Aspen after doing a drive thru to see how the other half lives. But when we got to Aspen we discovered that the only road out of town going west was closed for a couple of hours, after wandering around Aspen a couple of times looking for an escape to the west we decided to double back to Difficult Campground a Forest Service Campground we had passed coming into Aspen where we got the final spot for the night.
Today we started heading west again and stopped at Rocky Mountain National Park. The drive from Ft. Collins to the park was bumper to bumper the entire 30 miles so Ron was pessimistic by the time we arrived at the park about getting a campsite. Rocky Mountain NP is only about an hour from the Denver Metro area so it is well loved, but there were plenty of campsites. We arrived in the early afternoon and decided to save the highlight of the park the Trail Ridge for tomorrow. We headed over to Bear Lake and despite signs every couple miles saying that the parking lot was full we pressed on. When we got there a Ranger stopped us and asked several questions about Scout and how it handled on the highway, it was the first Tiger she had seen, she then asked the important question which was how long we were and when I told her just over 20 feet she waved us on and told us to enjoy our day as we would fit in the parking lot.
Later we attended a Ranger talk and turned in early with plans to get up and head over the hill to the Alpine road.