Saturday, September 18, 2010

Back in AZ

I got up this morning at the truck stop in Casa Blanca NM and the lot had filled up with trucks over night. That’s a lot of trucks.  I pulled out and headed west on I-40 continuing the climb in elevation until I hit the Continental Divide, east of Gallup, at around 7260 feet.  The drive across here is pretty nice until into AZ and then it is pretty drab.

I saw a group of Harley riders go by me on I-40 and based on British flags on each bike and a trailing mini-van I believe it was one of those guided tours.

I headed south on 87 from Winslow AZ to my planned campground at Clints Well.  I planned to stay at this cool high country campground for a few weeks until it cooled off down in the valley.  I goofed, however, and missed my turn off of 87.  Unfortunately, 87 is a typical mountain road with no pull offs much less a place to turn around a motor home pulling a car.  When I reached the turn for Camp Verde and still was unsuccessful, I decided just to head to Camp Verde and plan B.

So, I’m at a campground near Camp Verde where unfortunately it is 25 degrees warmer (because it is 3600 feet lower) than what I had hoped for.  Oh well, at least it’s cooler than Phoenix.  I’ll stay here a couple of weeks.

Friday, September 17, 2010

On the move

On Sunday Sept 12 Ann flew to Phoenix and I drove south to Monument, CO to a campground that was a little cheaper and to start my way out of the big city.  It was only about 50 miles but it was up hill all the way.  I stayed in Monument until Friday the 17th.

NM just south of Raton
It's Friday the 17th and I had fun once again watching the elevation on my GPS as I drove all day.  I pulled out of the campground at Monument , CO and headed south on I-25.  Over the last 2 weeks I drove the entire length of I-25 in CO and it turns out that where I was parked at Monument I was at the highest elevation (7360) along that route except right at the NM border.  Now I know why the campground is called “Colorado Heights”.  As I drove south through Colorado Springs and Pueblo the elevation continually dropped and turned back into prairie.  Elevation leveled out around 4700 feet and then a gradual climb began again into Trinidad.  Leaving Trinidad going south is all up hill until just as you hit the New Mexico boarder (at Raton pass) where you are at about 7800 feet and then coast down the NM side into Raton.

NM south of Raton-6400 ft
New Mexico is then more high elevation grassy prairie until south of Las Vegas where the highway turns around the mountains and heads west to Santa Fe.  From Raton to Las Vegas the elevation hung in there between 6000 and 6400 feet.  The drive from Las Vegas to Santa Fe is beautiful through the mountains and up over another 7500 foot pass.

About 20 east of Santa Fe
Santa Fe is at about the same elevation as Flagstaff but the similarities end there.   The drive from Santa Fe south to Albuquerque is down hill through very rough, rocky terrain with a view of mountains far to the west. 

Antrak running along I-40
I headed west on I-40 at Albuquerque which starts with long, steady climb back up to around 5800 feet.  Initially you drive through very arid, uninteresting country but within 40 miles it becomes very pretty with colorful buttes, cliffs and canyons.  I decided to stop at Casa Blanca after 450 miles today.  Not a lot by car, but it’s plenty by 40 ft motorhome.  I’m parked way in the back of the lot at a truck stop where I shall spend the night.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Drive to Denver

Our next journey leg began on Tuesday when we left the campground near Black Hawk and headed south.  We repeated the drive down the east side of the Black Hills on 79 and across 18 through Hot Springs again.  West of Hot Springs the hills gave way to more prairie land and some down right nasty, dry terrain full of rocky ravines and almost no vegetation for a while.  As we got into Wyoming it turned into mile upon mile of high elevation prairie at an elevation averaging around 4500 feet.  We decided to stop for the night at an RV park near Glendo, WY.

We headed out Tuesday to more high elevation prairie.  The 100 miles from Glendo to Cheyenne on I-25 just kept climbing gradually until we reached 6400 feet, still prairie as far as you could see but now with mountains far to the west.  Cheyenne being the capital of Wyoming meant a visit to the Capital building was in order.  We parked the motor home at a truck stop, unhooked the car, and drove into town.  It was a very nice old building built in the 1880s and recently refurbished so it was immaculate.

As we headed south out of Cheyenne the elevation gradually went down until it leveled out around 5100 feet which was consistent then on to Denver.  Once into Colorado the Rockies were on our right all the way into Denver.  The drive was pretty flat and the road was horrible.  Colorado needs to invest in some road work here.  We arrived in Denver and made our way through traffic to the oasis called Cherry Creek State Park right in the middle of the metro area.  We’ll stay here until Sunday visiting with Angela and Jake and chilling.  Ann will fly back to Phoenix Sunday (12th).

Friday, September 10, 2010

Labor Day Weekend

We had a great weekend in the Badlands and Black Hills of South Dakota.  It began Saturday with me picking Ann up at the Rapid City airport.  We headed out from the airport to Badlands National Park where we took the loop through the park.  It is understandable how it got its name from being difficult to travel through or live in.  It was quite interesting how the prairie abruptly changes into the rock formations.  The formations are all a bland grey color from volcanic ash.
Badlands National Park
Badlands National Park

Since the end of the loop ended at the city Wall, home of Wall Drug, we decided to go ahead and check it out.  It is the ultimate gift shop, if you are interested in such a thing, extending a full block long.  From here we headed back “home” and called it a day.

Sunday morning we got up and headed to Mount Rushmore.  I liked it more than I thought I would.  The old movie on its creation was really cool.  We next headed out on the scenic Iron Mountain Road through the black hills toward Custer State Park.  This was a very slow, curvy, pretty drive that included tunnels, pig tail bridges and whatever it took to wind through the hills.  We stopped for a picnic lunch and climbed until we could take some pictures of Mt Rushmore way back across the hills.  Custer State Park was also very pretty with more prairie openness.  We got our first look at Pronghorn Antelope here but learned the rest of the weekend that they are everywhere.
Mount Rushmore
Deadwood SD

The weather forecast for Monday was not good and we wanted to have nice weather to visit Lead and Deadwood so we took off back north, past our RV park, to visit these historic mining towns.  Lead was very sleepy and reminded us a lot of Bisbee AZ or Hancock MI as it was built on the steep hills.  Deadwood was far from sleepy as it was full of casinos and does a lot of advertising (successfully) to attract tourism.  Both towns had nice old buildings (by American standards) and were fun to walk around.  Deadwood is where Wild Bill Hickok was killed and buried so we wrapped it up by doing the touristy thing and went to the cemetery to see his grave along with Calamity Jane’s and a few other famous people.

We woke up Monday to a cold, raw wind as predicted.  However, the overnight rain had stopped and by 9 the clouds were breaking up.  We decided to drive back south to Wind Cave National park with a stop at the Crazy Horse Memorial along the way.  As we drove, the sky cleared nicely although the cold wind continued to blow with gusts of 40 mph.  We took a cave tour (no wind in there) and learned how this cave was formed differently than most other caves and thus had unique formations.  When we left Wind Cave we decided to check out the town of Hot Springs which had a lot of nice old sandstone buildings.  We saw the turn for “The Mammoth Site” so we did a spontaneous stop there to see one of the largest concentrations of mammoth bones found anywhere.  It was impressive.  At this point we headed back to Rapid City for dinner.
Wind Cave National Park
The Mammoth Site