Wednesday, July 13, 2011

An Abrupt Ending

Crawfordville, FL

Just want to do a quick wrap up on the trip. Yes, we are still supposed to be on the road but family matters intervened and we had to make a beeline for home.

On Tuesday, July 5, Shelley's Dad had a tumble at home and by Thursday July 7 he was in so much pain he could not get out of bed so he was off to the hospital. We were still in Colorado but luckily Shelley's brother Tom was in Florida so he immediately headed for Tallahassee to be with Dad.

We hit the road Thursday mid-morning and arrived home on Saturday. As it turned out Dad's pain was caused by gout that was totally out of control but the fall caused him to break his elbow. So – Dad was in the hospital until Monday, July 11 and is now spending a few days in a rehab hospital. His spirits are great and his pain is under control and we think he will get the splint off of his arm on Friday and start rehab on it then.

The very worse thing about coming home has been the humidity – unbearable. Actually the worst thing is the fact that all the flower beds are overflowing with waist high weeds (I cannot even see the azalea bushes) and I have to go out and work in the humidity. For example – as I write this – sitting INSIDE in the nice air conditioned house – it is 94 degrees outside but with the humidity the heat index is 111. Yesterday while pulling weeds I saw a snake – black snake I think – I hope... That was the end of weed pulling for a day or 2. Maybe with the dogs back (we have our 2 and Dad's 2) the snake will leave.

Until next time – Happy Trails

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Independence Day, 2011

Cañon City, Colorado
We are “camped” in the driveway of Shelley's Aunt Ann. Aunt Ann is Shelley's Dad's older sister. We had a wonderful Independence Day cookout attended by: from Cañon City: Aunt Ann, her daughter Deanna, Deanna's partner Bill (the grill master) and their daughter Katie; Aunt Ann's daughter Candice and her daughter Darlene. Aunt Ann's son Art, his wife Honey and their daughters Ciara and Savanna. From Oklahoma City: Aunt Ann's niece DeAnn and her friend Becky. From Bellevue, WA: Aunt Ann's Daughter Cheryl and her granddaughter Michaela; From Crawfordville, FL: Shelley, Monte, Chief and Casey. And if I've left anyone out – my apologies.

We laughed, ate, laughed, drank, laughed some more and in general had a wonderful time.

Life is Very Good Indeed!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Colorado Week 2

More Time With Friends and Family

What a great (almost) week. Except for one incident this was a fun week. On Monday we moved from Greeley to the driveway of Barbie and Chris Hallstrom's home in Centennial, CO. Shelley and Barbie have known each other since childhood – actually infanthood back in Oklahoma City.

On Tuesday Barbie and Chris' air conditioner was on on the blink so while Monte stayed at the house to be Chris' assistant in helping to fix the A/C – Shelley went to downtown Denver to meet nephew James for lunch. James is the son of Shelley's brother Tom. James works for IPCommerce in the heart of downtown Denver. James claimed to know of a very good BBQ place within walking distance of his office and since we are both lovers of Q, that is where we went for lunch. I was very skeptical that BBQ in downtown Denver in a restaurant that is below ground level could be good but much to my delight – the pulled pork sandwiches topped with coleslaw were excellent – great smoked flavor. We had a short but great visit and it was nice to see that James is doing so well. Unfortunately, I forgot to drag out the here is a slightly dated photo of he and I.

Remember last week when we were in Greeley with Art Richardson? Well, his oldest daughter Heather lives in Denver and has an 18 month old yellow lab whose name is Oly. Heather is Shelley's first cousin once removed. So, later that same afternoon while Chris and Monte labored on the A/C and Barbie was hard at work in her basement office, Shelley and Chief (no, Casey did not get to go) headed off to the dog park to meet Heather and Oly. We had a great time. The dogs got to know each other and a bunch of other dogs and Heather introduced me to her friend Ricky. The highlight was when a great dane drooled all over Oly who immediately rolled in the dirt and then ran under the picnic table to wipe the slime and dirt all over me. Dogs – gotta love 'em. By the way – Oly is named for Heather's favorite camera an Olympus. And if you are ever in need of a photographer in the Denver area please check this link: Heather Richardson Photography

Next up was Wednesday morning – bright and early – like 6:15 early Barbie and Shelley were off to the airport to pick up Barbie's mom, Jerry. Jerry was Shelley's Mom's best buddy for many many many metric years and it is always a joy to get to spend time with her. The rest of Wednesday was pretty quiet. Barbie and Shelley ran to Best Buy and Barbie bought a Roku Box so Shelley spent some time hooking that up and then while everyone else worked, Shelley and Jerry watched the series The State Within on Netflix. If you have never seen it – I highly recommend it.
Thursday was our day to really play. And by play I mean gamble. We headed west to Black Hawk, CO where there are many many casinos. Barbie and Jerry played blackjack while Monte and Shelley played the penny slots. Shelley was the only loser on the day and Barbie was the big winner. We all had fun – just some had more fun than others...

Friday morning rolled around and when Shelley went in the house for coffee she noticed that Jeremy's (Barbie's son) car door was ajar. So when Jeremy came in for coffee she told him and he checked the car and said everything was okay. Shelley figured that he just had not shut it hard enough the night before. A little while later Jerry wanted to make a quick run to the outlet mall so Shelley went out to her car to set up the GPS and – you guessed it – the car door was not shut tight. Items missing were the Tomtom GPS with its cords and mount, the iPhone charging cords and in inverter. The one night we forget to lock the car and – some crappy little thief has to target the neighborhood. Live and learn!  Maybe I should be happy that the car was unlocked therefore the window was not smashed in.

Other than the sniveling, thieving, criminals in Colorado – we are still having a great time and are headed for Canon City, CO for more family time. (Canon is pronounced Canyon but I don't know how to put a ~ over the n).

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Our First Week in Colorado

Time With Family 
Greely and Estes Park, Colorado

Since we escaped the wicked weather of Nebraska we have been in Greeley, CO. Our first couple of days here were just some “down time” for us. Get caught up on some chores and not do much but sit around the RV and be thankful for amazingly nice weather.

On Friday morning, Shelley's brother Tom rode up from his home in Broomfield, CO on his Triumph Tiger motorcycle. We had a short but very nice visit. After lunch Tom had to get home to get ready to fly to Florida on Saturday. He is a busy busy man with many irons in the fire. Please check out his latest venture “Be A Samaratin.” This is so very worthwhile and can save literally thousands of lives. In a nutshell, their goal is to prevent Sudden Cardiac Death by having portable defibrillators in as many public places as possible and for people to actually be able to locate these devices and use them in time to save someone's life.

On Friday evening, the reason for our visit to Greeley arrived. Shelley's cousin Art, wife Honey and daughters Ciara and Savanna arrived with their motorhome at the RV park. They live in Canon City, CO but travel just about every weekend from March to August as Ciara is on a tournament fastpitch softball team.

 We have been wanting to see her and her teammates on the Colorado Springs Thunder play for some time and this year the timing was perfect for us to catch one of her tournaments. The team plays in the 14U bracket – meaning no player may be over 14 years of age.

I won't go in to lots of detail – let's just suffice it to say that for a team that was nationally ranked this was not a bright shining moment. But, we had a great time and are very glad we came.

Art, Honey and the girls are also in to geocaching and I will be writing more about that when we get to Oklahoma City in a few weeks. If you don't know what geocaching is – you have some time to Google it so when I tell you this great story you will know what I'm talking about. Or just check this link Geocaching This is going to be an important story I hope - so remember it!  Our hope is to be able to tie in Greeley, CO, Oklahoma City and the Czech Republic.

Since the team took an early out from the tournament on Sunday we had some time to fill and headed over to Estes Park for lunch. We have camped in the Estes Park area a few times and love the area.

We just happened to catch the Scandinavian Midsummer Festival.

We were also able to locate the webcam on Elkhorn Ave, the main drag of Estes Park and using our iPhones take pictures of ourselves while the webcam was taking out picture (did that make any sense?)

 That brings our time in Greeley to an end.  More Colorado yet to come!  So stay tuned.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Bailey Yard – Largest Rail Yard In The World

North Platte, Nebraska
Eighty very windy, gusty, blustery, blow the RV around the road, miles west of Elm Creek, (site of the tornado), is North Platte Nebraska – home to the Union Pacific's Bailey Yard. So – no we did not have enough sense to just get on out of Nebraska. We just had to visit the Golden Spike Tower from which we could view the Bailey Yard.

The Bailey Yard covers 2,850 acres, is over 8 miles in length and 2 miles wide. The yard has 315 miles of track and every day handles, are you ready for this, 12,000 – 15,000 rail cars. The yard includes a locomotive fueling and servicing center that handles more than 8,500 locomotives per month and pumps 14 million gallons of fuel each month, a locomotive repair shop that can repair 750 locomotives monthly and a car repair facility that handles around 50 cars daily.

The yard has two humps which handle about 4,000 cars daily. These humps are amazing. Both are mounds of dirt about 25 feet high and as rail cars move on to the hump they are uncoupled and they roll down either the east or west bound hump and a computer routes them on to one of 114 “bowl tracks” to be united with trains going to one of dozens of destinations. This is a controlled free-fall kind of operation and fascinating to watch these rail cars moving, for appearances sake, all on their own.

There are 18 receiving and 16 departure tracks. It boggles the mind trying to figure out how anything ever gets where it is supposed to go.

The town of North Platte is bounded on the north by the North Platte River and on the south by – you guessed it – the South Platte River. Currently the North Platte is in flood stage. We were supposed to camp at the Buffalo Bill Ranch but it was closed due to flooding (at least they had an excuse which is more than we can say for the Buffalo Bill Museum back in Le Clair, Iowa. I've sworn off Bill Cody for the rest of this trip). While we were gawking at the river I spoke with an elderly gentleman who has lived here all his life and was taking pictures of the river. He said that he has seen the South Platte flood many times but never before the North Platte.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The (Terrifying) World of Nebraska Weather

Elm Creek, Nebraska June 20, 2011
Early morning June 20, about 1:30 we were awakened by a super strong storm moving through the area. We turned on the weather radio and did not hear any tornado warnings nor were the tornado sirens sounding so we just watched the storm from the RV. It is amazing what you can see when it is pitch black outside but being on the prairie with massive amounts of lightning and no trees or buildings to block the view we could see the sheets of rain and the trees bending over – and the motorhome was bouncing around pretty violently in the gusts of wind - you get the picture. There was minimal hail which was a big concern but we made it through safe and sound.

During the early part of the day on the 20th we went to the Great Platte River Road Archway Museum – (see previous post.) The weather was what I think of as typical weather for the plains – cloudy and winds of 20-30 miles an hour with higher gusts but it was not storming. At lunch time we were in Kearney and when we saw two vehicles that look like this we should have taken the hint.

Late in the afternoon we were back at the RV in Sunny Meadows Campground. The weather was deteriorating rapidly and we were glued to the TV watching weather reports when I said to Monte “is that a siren I hear?” Right then a tractor-trailer stopped across the highway from us and we figured he was not stopping for the heck of it so I jumped up, looked out the windshield did not see anything so opened the door and stepped out and just about pooped my pants when I saw a tornado forming and heading for the ground – now we could hear the sirens. We shoved our feet in to some shoes, grabbed our cameras (go figure), put leashes on the dogs and hauled ass for the storm shelter. By the time we got outside – maybe 20 seconds from when I first saw the tornado, it had disappeared but there was another one and we could not tell which way it was going. We must have been quite the sight – trying to run to the shelter, control the dogs, and take pictures.

After we got to the shelter we could tell that it was moving away from us and I took some video of it. Look closely at the ground and you can clearly see a debris cloud.

As it turned out there were 23 confirmed tornadoes in the area with that front.

I'll take a good old Florida hurricane any day...

The Great Platte River Road Archway

Kearney, Nebraska
On our past travels on I-80 passing by Kearney Nebraska we had seen this large building spanning the Interstate but did not know what it was. This time, before we got here we researched the structure and found that it is a museum and so decided to set up camp close by and pay it a visit.

What a jewel we found. We are constantly amazed at the quality of small museums throughout the U.S. The owners of this one have done a bang-up job. Upon entry we were greeted by a “mountain man” who directed us to the ticket office and told us a little of what to expect.

After receiving our head sets, as this is a self guided audio tour, we were on our way up the longest escalator in the state of Nebraska.

Once upstairs we wandered through 150 years of history. Most of the museum is dedicated to the years 1843 to 1869 when nearly half a million pioneers rode and walked the trails to the West Coast.

The story is told through the audio tour, dioramas, and mini-movies. The museum pays tribute to the pioneers, trappers, traders, Native Americans, pony express riders, the telegraph, the coming of trains, then Highway 30 the Lincoln Highway, America's first transcontinental road and I-80 the nations first interstate.

It appears that this museum is not very well attended as there is no close exit from the Interstate. It is not readily apparent how to get to the building (why we have never stopped before) so I think that many people who might stop just keep on traveling the Great River Road and pass it by. If you are ever in this area we highly recommend stopping here.