Wednesday, May 29, 2013

We're not quite dead yet!

Wow, it's been an entire week since I last posted an update here, and I know you people have been eager for more. Another note about weeks: it's one week before I head back home, which means soon Grandpa's going to be doing these again. Anyway, back on to what's been going on.

Thursday, May 23

Today we left Page, Arizona, and headed to Pipe Springs National Monument. From there we disconnected and took the towed sixty miles down a dirt road to Toroweap, then to the Grand Canyon.

Really, all the Grand Canyon has going for it at this point is that it's big. I guess I'm just too tired of seeing big rocks and canyons in the desert. After that we headed to Zion National Park. It was crowded. For two thousand miles (or so) all the parks we've seen have been mostly empty. But there at Zion, they had been going strong for an entire month. We found somewhere to camp that night and spent the next day in the park.

Friday, May 24

After we got out of the RV park, we parked in the visitor's center parking lot and rode the bus around the canyon. Because of all the traffic, it's much more efficient to keep cars off the road and instead have people only ride the buses. That's fine with me; it made for a lot less traffic inside the park. We hiked a bit and saw everything to see there, then headed on.

We stayed that night in the FamCamp at Nellis Air Force Base. We asked the attendant what we could do in that town, then followed their suggestion and went to the Tournament of Kings dinner show in the Excalibur Casino. Oh, I guess I should of mentioned: Nellis is in Las Vegas, Nevada. The show had things like knights riding horses, swordfighting, joustion, stuff like that. We had a really good time there. (No pictures allowed during the show though. They hadn't been invented yet.) The only part I didn't like was having to walk through the casino floor itself to get to the theater. Too much cigarette smoke.

We spent the night there in Nellis, then went to go see the Hoover Dam the next day.

Saturday, May 25

We took a guided tour of the dam, which included seeing the generator room and the pipes that transport something like ninety-thousand cubic feet of water a second to turn the generators. The generator room was eight stories tall and six-hundred-and-fifty feet long, with eight generators, each of which was seven stories tall, although only the top thirty feet of them were above the floor.

After that, we went back to Nellis, washed our sheets and towels, and slept there that night.

Sunday, May 26

After waking up, dumping the sewage tank, hooking up the towed, disconnecting, and all that stuff, we headed out, going, yet again, west. We followed the road we were on right through Death Valley. We went to the lowest spot in the United States, and started going up a long, steep hill to get out of the valley. It was hot enough that coming up that hill, we had vapor lock, which Grandpa explained to me was basically the gas boiling in the tanks. So we turned off the motorhome, set up the awning, and waited an hour or so for it to cool down enough to keep going. After that, we went maybe a thousand feet before more vapor lock. We waited a while longer, and decided to disconnect our towed vehicle. I drove that behind Grandpa for sixty miles, stopping every once in a while to let the engine cool off or for the gas to cool down, until it was late enough in the day and at a high enough altitude that it was cool enough to not worry about that anymore. We found a campsite and camped there for the night.

Monday, May 27

We got up that morning and drove two hundred miles to Yosemite National Park, then seventy miles through the park, then another fifty miles (or more!) to a campsite that wasn't full. Memorial Day weekend is their busiest weekend, and Yosemite is one of the top most-visited national parks in the country. There were a lot of people there. We got out a few places and looked around, but there were just too many people, and we went ahead and moved on.

That night, at the restaurant we ate at, the lady cleaning tables asked me if I was looking for a summer job. I had to tell her that if I was looking for a job, it would be back home in Georgia. Kinda hard working somewhere when you live almost three thousand miles away.

Tuesday, May 28

We did mostly traveling yesterday, and all of it was to George and Ruth Beckman's house, where they let us hook up and stay. We socialized for a while, and they showed us their house and yard. It's really green here, which is welcome after weeks of desert. :) They fed us dinner, which was the best vegetables we've had since we left. They just don't know how to cook vegetables in the restaurants here. :)

Wednesday, May 29

Today we decided to stay at the Beckman's for another night, so we went to the car wash and washed the motorhome for the first time this trip. We'll stay here again tonight and tomorrow head out again -- destination, west!


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Internet! Finally! Now I can catch up on all the stuff I follow, and you can get more, um... "expert" advice from Grandpa! It also means more pictures!

So, we've been going through Colorado the last few days, and Verizon must not like that state very much, because we had no service for most of our time there. We started off on the 19th by leaving Bayfield and stopping in Durango for a few hours and riding the scenic train up to Silverton. The train was started to haul silver, but the view was better than the silver! In fact, it's only recently that silver mines have started getting refurbished to start mining again, and for now Silverton is just a tourist town. It's also a high tourist town. Durango is about 6500 feet above sea level, and after the three hour, forty-two mile train ride to Silverton, we had gained 2800 feet, which put us at 9300 feet above sea level. That was high enough for the tempture to drop so low that it started snowing. In the middle of May. I guess they haven't heard of this wonderful thing known as "Spring!"

Grandpa decided that he didn't like that at all, and we soon went to get lunch out of the snow, which stopped soon after. As soon as we finished, guess what? It started snowing again! Anyway, we braved through it, and saw all the sites the town had to see, which weren't many.

We got some souvenirs, and some fudge, then headed back down the mountain on the bus. We decided that  there wasn't enough to see in Durango to justify staying for any longer, so we headed to our next destination, Mesa Verde, with a stop along the way at Four Corners.

 It was too late to see anything in the park, so we set up and slept there. The next day, we fount that it was full of steep mesas and old houses built into the rock, and after I went on a guided tour and both of us went on a self guided tour, we decided that we knew about the same as the rangers there. That's not an insult to them, by the way, it's just that there are so few facts about them that anyone knows.

It was twenty miles from the park to the campground, so with all the twisty roads, it takes about forty-five minutes to get to the important stuff. When we had finished seeing everything, we went to dinner nearby. It was at a "county kitchen," so we hoped it would have some good, homemade southern food. Their roast beef and gravy was alright, but we didn't like the lack of sweet tea or black eyed peas. Anyway, we needed to get a few things at the local Walmart, and after doing that, we headed back to the campground.

We got up the next morning and headed to Monument Valley. It was less of a valley and more of several-mesas-together-that-looked-like-a-valley-between-them. After going on the seventeen mile dirt road around most of the park, we decided that we had seen enough big rocks in the middle of the desert. Besides that, our backsides hurt too much to consider doing it again!

We stayed in the closest thing to a town they had there, which was the original Indian trading post, except grown much bigger, and complete with its own fire station and medical center. It had wifi, but the signal was so horrible that we could hardly do anything on it. I think the hotspot itself was in the hotel on the other side of the mesa.

So today, we mostly traveled. Not much to see, except more big desert rocks. After going many miles through basically nothing, we made it to Page, Arizona. If you look at the map, nearby Lake Powell and Powell Dam are on the Colorado River, which means we're getting closer to the Grand Canyon! That's where we'll be heading tomorrow. We spent most of the afternoon getting ready, since as far as we can tell, there's not much in the was of campsites along our route for the next couple of hundred miles. That probably also means not much Internet, so our next post will come again in a few days, and with plenty of pictures!

If that post is as long as this one, then Grandpa might have to do it. :D


Saturday, May 18, 2013

I, Dennis, will be posting again tonight, and this time there will be cake pictures!

So, I'll start by posting about yesterday, the 17th. We only traveled to Bandelier NM, but once we got there, we hiked on their trails and saw the caves once occupied by the native Americans. They did not carve out new caves; instead, they used the abundant natural caves and smoothed them out. The caves were formed by volcanic activity long before any humans got there, and the lava seemed to form "bubbles" in the rock. As the river (well, more of a stream, really) wore away the rock into steep cliffs, it exposed some of the bubbles and opened them up for human use.

As you can see from he picture above, they had some of the caves open for you to climb into. (Sorry for my scrunched up face! The sun was in my eyes, and I couldn't pull back into the shade, or else you wouldn't be able to see me.) There were several caves that we could go into, including one that was maybe ten feet across, tall enough for me to stand in, and apparently used in religious ceremonies. Of course, caves being as they are, it was kinda hard to get a good picture of it.

The above video helps to show some sense of scale, if you can keep up with my wild camera swings. :) The park had a mile long loop trail running alongside the cliff and the caves. There was another mile long trail to the "Alcove House" where there was a large alcove in the cliff that the natives built houses inside of. The houses are long gone, and even the circle structure is a reconstruction. Grandpa decided not to hike the extra mile and said he would wait at a bench where the trail to the Alcove House split from the main loop. I joked that if it got too hot (since there wasn't too much shade) that he could go back and sit inside the big cave.

The alcove was a bit too large to fit in one picture, or even three stitched together like the one above. You also couldn't get a good picture of it from the ground, although you could get a good picture of what you had to climb to get to the alcove in the first place.

When I came back from the Alcove House, Grandpa wasn't sitting on the bench I had left him on. I first thought that he took my suggestion to go back to the cave seriously, then I noticed there was plenty of shade over that bench. My fears were compounded when I discovered that he wasn't in the cave either. I wondered if he had decided to hike to the Alcove House alone. I hadn't seen him on the way back, but there was at least one other trail from the main loop to the Alcove House. Now, normally when you get lost or separated, you should stay in one place, since it's a lot easier to find someone who's standing still as compared to someone who's hiking into the place you just looked. However, looking at the trail map, I saw that there were three potential ways to get back to the motorhome: the main loop that I was on, a trail that lead at least five miles down the canyon, and from there I had no idea where the trail went, or a one-and-a-half mile trip up the cliff sides (using the trail and stairs, of course) to the RV campground. Based on the fact that he didn't even want to hike one measly extra mile on mostly flat trails to the Alcove House, I decided that Grandpa had followed the main loop trail back to the visitor's center. And if I was wrong, well, that where he had parked the motorhome, so he had to come back there eventually!

It turns out he had decided that I had spent too much time on the trail and had gone back to the visitor's center to organize a search party. The reason, he said, was that he had been told by the park staff that it took about two hours to hike both the main loop and the trail to the Alcove House. I looked at my watch... and it hadn't been more than two-and-a-half hours since we had parked the GMC. *shrug* All's well that ends well, right?

So, after spending the night at Bandelier, we went to Los Alamos this morning. It turns out that the route we took actually took us through the secure part of the town where the laboratories are, so Grandpa had to show photo ID just to get into town! Once we came out through the gates on the other side of the labs, we found the museum, and found that it open at 10:00. It was 9:20. Oh well, we thought, we'll just go to the museum about the history of Los Alamos. So we found a parking lot that we could get out of and walked to the museum. It was going to be easy, since it was just a block down the street.

Or so we thought. Los Alamos was originally a boy's camp, and the main building of the camp still stood. All the signs, as far as we could tell, pointed to it being the museum, but there was nothing museum-like about the interior. We walked around inside for a minute, then decided to go outside and find help, since there was no one inside. We walked out the side opposite the one we came in, and lo and behold, there was the history museum! Not even in the building we thought it was in. We walked over to it, and the sign said that it opened at 9:30. Despite it being 9:36, it was still locked. We looked at the sign again, and noticed that it said "Tue - Fri 9:30-5:00, Sat - Mon 11:00-5:00." We had shown up to the science museum half an hour early, and the history museum an hour-and-a-half early! We decided to walk back to the science museum and find a place to sit down.

There were a few people waiting outside for it to open, including a volunteer from the Albuquerque science museum. He had noticed the GMC both in Albuquerque and here, and even more astounding, he had a GMC of his own! He and Grandpa exchanged contact information, since he didn't yet belong to the cult of GMC. That reminds me, I'd better remind Grandpa to send him the information he promised!

Once we finally got in, the museum itself was very good, probably the best one yet. It was pretty up to date, too. Did you know that most of the scientific instruments on the Mars Curiosity rover were made in Los Alamos?

That's a picture of a model of the ChemCam, an instrument that zaps a rock with a laser and then sees what colors flash out, and can use that to figure out what the rock is made of. Here's a neat fact: Curiosity is powered by a nuclear battery. That's correct, a battery powered by the same technology that kept the world a press of a button away from destruction for forty years was sent to another planet. Reading about all that impressive technology that we have managed to sent millions of miles away onto an entire other planet, and the fact we haven't all killed each other yet, never ceases to amaze me.

The rest of the day was mostly riding. I think today we went the furthest this week: two hundred miles. We're camping in Bayfield, Colorado tonight, and if we get up early enough tomorrow, we'll go catch the scenic train to Silverton.

Finally for tonight, we're sorry that we haven't been updating as recently in the past few days. Verizon doesn't seem to like these mountains too much, but the campground here has high-speed WiFi that we're taking advantage of -- or else I would've never been able to upload that video above! That's all for tonight, and let's hope that we camp somewhere with good Internet tomorrow night, too.