Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Back to P-town

After a long 2-day drive, we returned to Peoria yesterday around 5:30 pm. The boys were real troopers and handled the drive well. We played cards, watched movies, read and listened to music. Dave drove the entire way and never tired. The boys were so happy to be home - back with their "stuff" and back in their own beds at night.

Today we got through all our mail, delivered some gifts and managed to make sure everything was put away. Matt spent the afternoon with his buddies, playing baseball. Ashton re-wired our boat trailer (as per Uncle Doug's instructions) and was thrilled with his success. He also learned his 9.5 horse boat motor was repaired while we were gone and he convinced Dave to take him to pick it up.

Thankfully, we missed the miserable heat and humidity (109 heat index) on Monday and the terrible storm that followed that evening. Also, we appreciated my dad coming over to mow on Tuesday. What a nice thing to do!

I have to work all day on Thurs and Fri this week (a professional development seminar), so was happy to have today to pull things together. Dave spent last night on the phone planning his work activities for the next few days.

Guess we're back in the saddle again - to coin a phrase from the West. What a great trip we had - from zip lines to hummer rides, visiting old friends (Sam) to new friends (The Rices), enjoying gourmet dinners and pizza suppers, visiting national parks and state parks ... Thanks to everyone for your phone calls and for reading our blog. I hope you found it fun to hear all about our adventures. Special thanks to Kevin Rice for providing the photos of Sand Dunes Nat'l Park and their home in Del Norte. His great photos were a nice change from my googled pictures!

Now, the scrapbooking begins!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Miles and Miles of ... Sand?!?!?!

What a GREAT day we had today! Matt, Mary, Chris and I slept in while Dave and Kevin hiked up the hill next to their house. They found some neat rocks and enjoyed the hike. After breakfast, Kevin took us over to their neighbor's home and we had a nice visit with them. The Goldens are a couple in their 80's who are transplanted Texans. They built a neat log cabin home in Del Norte 35 years ago and are a very interesting couple. They have a large garden and shared some of their vegetables with us.

While we were visiting, Mary packed a picnic lunch and had the van ready to go for our trip to San Dunes National Park. On the way there, we passed the Rio Grande River and also saw some mountains that are famous for climbing. Many expert climbers come here to practice.

We could see the Dunes from a distance and, after 45 min, came upon the 30 square miles of sand dunes. It was absolutely spectacular! We were surprised to learn that the Dunes were 12,000 to 1 million years old. It's hard to believe something this unique exists in America! Just learning about their formation was so very interesting. The sand originated from the San Juan Mountains more than 65 miles to the west. Wind and water moved the grains of sand and the wind, primarily, was responsible for building the Dunes that gathered toward the low curve of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The sand piled up at the base of the mountains and the Dunes were formed.

We had a nice breeze as we ate in the shade, then the boys headed to the dunes. Later, we found them building a dam across this little trickle of water. They must have worked on it for 2 hours. Dave and I hiked to the first dune (approx 1 mi), then climbed it (2 steps forward, 1 step back). It was a pretty windy day, so the sand was whipping around and hitting our legs. We felt like those people in old movies climbing and climbing, not knowing where an oasis would be. The wind even blew away our footprints so we couldn't see where we'd been.

We've definitely learned that those of us who live at low elevations have a really tough time climbing and hiking at these higher altitudes. The sand dunes started at 8200 ft and went up to over 9000 ft. Climbing one dune was enough for us! The scenery was fabulous, but we decided not to go on.

Later in the afternoon, we ran into a woman who, believe it or not lost the key to her rental car "somewhere" in the dunes! She was a bit worried, to say the least. Mary, Kevin, Dave and I all started to search, but no luck. Matt wanted to walk up to the first dune, so I decided to go with him. On the way up, we asked about the key and found someone who spoke to a woman further up the dunes that had found the key. Now, it's no easy task to catch up with someone on these dunes. It's slow going and almost impossible. Matt took off running and eventually found the woman. Lucky for us, she'd sat down for a short break. I couldn't even see where Matt had gone - he was up over one dune and down another. He came running back carrying the key and was soooooo excited. We made the hike back to the entry of the park and found the woman - a 6th grade Science and Math teacher from Tulsa. As you can imagine, she was very appreciative. I told Matt it was his good deed for the day.

Temps were dropping and we were all getting a bit chilly. We decided to drive back to Del Norte via Alamosa. Kevin drove us by the main hospital where he works along with his office. He's a Physiatrist and on staff at two hospitals in the area. Mary also works at the same hospital in the Laboratory. Next we drove by Chris' school - Alamosa High.

In Monte Vista, we stopped by a little hole-in-the-wall place for dinner, "Fernandez Taqueria." It was a Mexican restaurant / Laundromat that was run by the same guy. Great food - we all loved it!

Home for a little basketball on the driveway, showers and bed. We leave tomorrow on our long journey home. Hope to get a long day in tomorrow - decided to go as far as we could before stopping, so no hotel reservations.

This is BEAUTIFUL country - a laid back lifestyle - great weather. Mary and Kevin have been great hosts, and it's been fun spending time with them. We've had a terrific trip, but must get back to Peoria. All good things must come to an end!
I hope this blog has been a neat way to keep everyone in touch with the details of our trip. See you all soon!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Technology's problems

I wanted to include a photo of Kevin and Mary's home in my last posting, but couldn't figure out how to do it. So, here it is ... They have been kind enough to give Dave and me their Master Suite on the upper level (see the 2 windows at the top?) We are enjoying being with them and, of course, Chris and Ashton are having a great time being together again. Off to the Sand Dunes National Park tomorrow!

Del Norte - Home of The Rices

an old silver mine in Creede, Co

This morning we finished packing up the house and then went out for breakfast at Pura Vida on Lake Vallecito. We then drove 2 hours on Rt. 160 toward Del Norte. On our drive, we noticed we'd driven 2000 mi since leaving Salt Lake City - making our total approx 3500 mi so far! We drove through Pagosa Springs and I thought about Dan Fogelberg - Pagosa was his home out West. I could see why he lived here - it is absolutely beautiful. Chris had us stop to view Treasure Falls and we made a 1/2 mi hike up the hill to view the beautiful falls and feel the cool mist coming from them. After leaving the falls, we headed up Wolf Creek Pass - elevation 11344! Fabulous views from the top, but we couldn't help think about how difficult it would be to get through this pass on wintry days. At the top, we drove over the Continental Divide and then headed downhill toward Del Norte. It was great to see the Rice's new home in Colorado(pictured below). Nice views - only a couple of neighbors. They drove us to Creede and we toured this quaint town, pop 300. Neat restaurants, shops, a theatre and a few bars. It is an old silver mining town - we even drove up the slot canyon to the old mines. The boys made a rock path across the Rio Grande (it starts in this area) and joked about crossing the river and becoming a Mexican. I'm including a photo of an old silver mine in Creede. They're hoping to begin mining there again someday soon. Mary told us that some people wanted to get the railroad going again, but people from Creede shot at the train and exploded dynamite on the tracks as they tried to run the train again! Very neat old town - former residents included the guy who killed Jesse James (Robert Ford) and Bat Masterson. Had dinner in Creede - sat outside and enjoyed a Mexican meal. Returned to Kevin and Mary's for a nice, relaxing evening of sharing
pictures, posting on the blog and many laughs!

Durango - Day 6

Quiet day today (8/1). Dave and Ash got up early and went fishing on Lake Vallecito. Dave caught a small mouthed bass, but no luck for Ash. Everyone else slept in and enjoyed the peace and quiet. When the returned, we watched TV and I did some laundry. Dave took Ashton, Chris and Matt fishing and swimming at the lake. I cleaned up the kitchen and picked up the house in anticipation of leaving on Saturday.

The boys returned and made their lunch - once again a kitchen to clean up as they made a gourmet lunch of hot dogs, Cheetos, baked beans and chicken noodle soup! yeegads! We all went to Virginia's Steak House for dinner on the lake and had an excellent meal. Dave took Ash and Chris fishing one last time. Matt called his friend Nick to catch up. I did a bit more laundry, then read and watched TV.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Durango - Day 4

Lake Vallecito in the morning

I'm not sure I'll get back to a computer until we get to the Rice's house over the weekend, so will get a quick post together about today. Lazy morning, showers, breakfast and then a trip into town. Dave dropped me off at the library and I think I've been blogging for over an hour now! I'm going to walk into the downtown area and do some shopping while they continue fishing on the Animas River that goes around the town of Durango. Beautiful day here today - low 80's and sunny. Tomorrow is our last full day here before we pack up on Saturday morning and head to Alamosa to stay with Mary and Kevin for a couple of nights.
We've loved the cool nights, windows open and clear mountain air. Last night we stood on the balcony and were amazed at the many stars in the sky. It is so dark here and you can see stars as far as you can see. We could even see the Milky Way Galaxy. The photo you see here is one of Lake Vallecito - the lake we overlook from our balcony. Ending our trip with a week of R&R in Durango was a great idea ... we enjoyed several days of down time.

Durango - Day 3

Another day of R&R was in store today, 7/30. Kevin, Mary and I slept in. Eventually, Dave and Kevin spent some time reading until Mary and I surfaced. The guys took the boys fishing, Mary read and I worked on our expense sheet. I can't say our trip was anyway near the $950+ my parents spent to take us out West 40 years ago (1968), but we are under budget, so that's a good thing! I think we surpassed their total amount within the first 4 days!

In the afternoon, we all played Cranium and then headed to a restaurant on the lake for dinner. Mary and Kevin headed for home (Alamosa) and left Chris with us. I baked cookies for the boys and Dave and I played gin rummy before bed. All in all, a quiet day.