Thursday, May 31, 2012

Dinosaurs and Lemonade

To get to Dinosaur National Monument at Vernal Utah from Fruita Colorado requires a climb of close to 5000 feet up and over Douglas Pass. Climbing the sometimes grade of eight per cent, it was a long slow climb. With gravity in charge on the down hill side, it was a matter of exhaust brakes and low gear to get back to range land.

That journey was the Friday of Memorial day weekend and choices for RV parking were limited. Ended up in downtown Vernal at an RV park. It was while parking and setting up that I discovered that Silver Slug's reverse wasn't working too well. Planned to deal with that later.

Off to Dinosaur National Monument on Saturday. Holiday weekend meant the place was crawling with the "I love dinosaurs" kids.

 What they loved were the dinosaur toys -- not the bones of the dinosaur. The history education of dinosaurs wasn't going over real well with the kiddie set. Not so sure about the parents or the grand parents. They may have suppressed their thought as they looked at the quarry wall of dinosaur bones.

While on that day of exploration, I assured myself that I did have a transmission problem. Reverse gear is where the issue was noticed. Easy enough to address. Always park so no reverse is required. Nice fantasy, but I decided on a more practical solution. I would get the transmission replaced.

Replacing transmissions is nothing new to me. The first was about 140,000. Number two made it about 50,000. The current transmission was almost 50,000. Checked my records for that last transmission install. Turns out it was three years and one week ago; one week past the three year warranty.

First thing on Tuesday after the holiday weekend, I headed to the Ford dealership in Vernal. The earliest they could get me in was the following week. Next stop was at Craig's Pitt Stop in Vernal. Mike (one of the co-owners) said they were booked for the next week. Explained the problem to Mike about RV towing and the history of transmissions. He suggested I upgrade to a larger transmission cooler when I replaced the transmission. How come that large cooler was never mentioned before.

Rather than hanging around Vernal for two weeks, I asked Mike about heading to Rock Springs to have the work done there. No guarantees, but he felt I could make the trip; take it easy and use a pull out when available.

Pull outs would have been great, but with moderate grades and across the Flaming Gorge dam, I arrived in Rock Springs intact -- but stressed.

Lots of things are beyond my control. A transmission failure is one. That will cause a 10 to 14 day layover in Rock Springs. After parked at an RV campground, my first visit was the Ford dealership to make all the arrangements for the transmission and a transmission cooler upgrade. Bring in Silver Slug next Tuesday.

Time to "make lemonade out of lemons" for this layover. Internet searches and soon I found the exploring that can be done in the area. What I've found so far is a lot of driving. Probably can handle that. Just need to remember that reverse gear doesn't work too well.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Traveling Commune

It all started with Mobile Kodger's invite to a community caravan. Soon Boonie found himself with that community of roving RV campers. Many predicted he wouldn't last. That included me. Mark from the Box Canyon posted his thoughts of the travelers in Cocooned.

Following the initial posts, there were subsequent posts. Numerous comments appeared from all points of view on the subject of community, caravans, boon docking, introversion, needing space, need for social interaction, rooted existence in sticks and bricks, etc.

The original posts -- and comments -- point out a common theme we all share: we are individuals with with our own needs and wants and beliefs of what will make us happy.

I was born an introvert: doing my own thing. I am quite content -- and happy -- to live a life apart from the "rest of the herd". However, there are times that there is a need for social interaction just to re-affirm my part of the human species. A visit to a nearby Starbucks will fill that need -- even if I talk to no one.

However, the Starbucks stores are not located in those remote places of rocky natural beauty in the Southwest US. A loosely connected group of RV travelers is appealing to me. Drop in from time to time. An occasional hiking partner would be great.

Hanging with a group of people chatting thoughts and ideas about different subjects is attractive. Firmly held beliefs can be challenged. I would like it. However, after a couple of sessions, this introvert would have to leave the group to the extroverts who need the company of other people.

Unfortunately, 2012 is not the year for me to make those sporadic visits to the "mobile commune" as they travel NM. My drivers license expires on my upcoming birthday in July. That requires a pilgrimage** to South Dakota to have a mug shot taken for the renewed drivers license. Returning from the far north, I will spend a couple of months on Colorado's Front Range with friends, family, doctor and dentist before returning to the Southwest.

That return to the Southwest may mean travel through New Mexico to meet up with the mobile commune. If not, perhaps 2013 travels might be a better fit. Hoping that the loosely connected RV commune may still exist in 2013. ;-)

** A pilgrimage is not easy. A route must be selected. It is an ordeal with some suffering. There will be the occasional "pot hole" along the way. Travel will be more stressful than usual since I've never been along this chosen route in previous travels. More planning is required -- with alternate plans at the ready. Truly it is a pilgrimage.

Friday, May 25, 2012

More Moab Photos

Before leaving Moab, Jim passed along some photos from his collections. No decent smile on the person in most of those photos. That would be me. However, a rear shot does not require a smile. This is one taken by Jim as I am taking a photo of Delicate Arch.

Another time Jim asked me to pose overlooking Canyonlands. This one found me smiling -- and -- not talking. A rarity.

Good job Jim. Thanks for the photos. Proves I was there. Or was that some Photoshop reworking of a photo. ;-)

Monday, May 21, 2012

Colorful Lizard

Looks like some kid lost his toy while out hiking. Whoa. Not a toy. It moved fast across my path.

This variety of collared lizard sure doesn't blend into the brown colors of his environment. Quite noticeable. Colorful right down to his yellow claws and reddish nose. Probably makes him very attractive to the female lizard.

Colorful or collared. No matter. It was a great find on today's hike.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

In Search Of Electricity

On the road and heading in a northerly direction. Not the railroad, but Utah highway 128 along the Colorado River to Fruita Colorado.

After almost three weeks of hiking every day (thanks to Jim), I am in better shape than the day I arrived. The shorts are looser. That's a good thing. Wonder if I can keep it that way.

However, it was time to move on. With predicted temps in the 90s this coming week, it was time to leave Moab. "Wimp factor" took over. Dry camping without electricity for almost three weeks meant no air conditioning at days end when inside temps get into the low/mid 80s. With more high temps predicted, it was time to hitch up to continue the pilgrimage (north) to South Dakota. The first stop after less than a 100 miles was at Fruita Colorado at the state park -- and electricity. Fruita predictions are for the same 90 degree temps. Looks like I will have to be out for some early hiking.

While in Moab and without electricity from the grid, I used stored solar energy. Plenty of sunshine to recharge the batteries every day. However, my usual habit was staring at the computer (with big screen monitor) far into the evening hours. That had to change to avoid drawing the battery voltage too low. Years ago I was told that these AGM batteries couldn't handle deep cycling like flooded batteries. Don't know if that is fact, so I just manage usage to keep the voltage reading above 12.4 when I quit my evening computer staring.

Found it quite easy to change my evening habits. Less time staring at the computer (without the monitor) and more time reading books or the downloaded eBooks on the iPad. Actually managed to finish two books.

Now with electricity from the grid this evening, I am back to my profligate ways staring at the computer monitor to create this blog entry.

My name is Lloyd and I am addicted to electricity.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Break From Rocks

Flora and fauna also make up the beauty of the Canyonlands area. Forgetting about the scenic value of rock panoramas, here are a few photos of the living specimens found in my hikes.

A desert garden of wild flowers:

Jim rests in the shade of an old juniper:

The animal life is mostly lizards:

How about a bee taking a pollen bath in a prickly pear blossom:

Natural bonsai trees abound. With a trunk diameter of a six inches, the tree is no taller than me.

The rare waterfall in the Canyonlands area was found near Ken's Lake.

Canyonlands' flora and fauna also deserve recognition. It isn't all about rocks.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Made Just A Dent

A dent in what you ask. That would be the number of arches in Arches National Park. There are over 2000 documented arches in the park. Those arches range in size from a three-foot opening to Landscape Arch measuring 306 feet across.

Took lots of hiking to see a few of the 2000 in the park. There are many more outside Arches in the Canyonlands area. Hiking in and out of the park, here are more photos of arches.

Double Arch

Broken Arch

Turret Arch

The Windows

Corona Arch

Corona Arch is located outside the park along the Colorado River on BLM land. As we approached the arch, we saw people atop the arch preparing the rappel. Caught one of the trio making the rappel to the base of the arch.

On the many hikes over these past days, there were many more arches seen. In these hikes, I saw only a small portion of the arches; a small dent in the list of the arches in the Canyonlands area.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Rite Of Passage

Back to Arches National Park at sunset to see Delicate Arch. We were not alone. There was a gallery of photographers with some very expensive equipment. Each was taking photos as the sun dropped to the horizon behind us. With each passing minute, the reds of the rock became more intense. It was a magical time.

The "rite of passage" is to have a photo of yourself standing or seated in the Delicate Arch. Everyone seemed to understand the process. They would move into place for the photo-op as a friend captured the moment. There were couples. There were groups. There were families. All capturing their moment beneath the arch.

Standing beneath the arch, Jim took the photo. Far as I am concerned, the arch stands alone. No co-starring role for me.

Delicate Arch is most unusual in that it stands alone without other rock structures close by. The marvels of aeons of water and wind erosion have created an unparalleled piece of art.

No bucket list in my life, but a rite of passage will do just fine. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Scenic Rocky Tour

With Jim leading and driving, Karen and Wandrin Lloyd were given a tour of Canyonlands country. Fantastic rock scenery that could be found on many post cards. However, seeing it in a 180 degree three dimensional view with sun and wind, the senses are subject to overload. "Wow" is the word I used way too often as I marveled at the scenic vistas. The only thing I can provide here is a two dimensional photo. The reader will have to imagine the other sensations of being there.

Moab's red rock scenery has been used for movies and commercials for decades. The Moab tourist center internet site identifies many of those Moab movie locations. A gallery of locally made movies can be found at a museum at Red Cliffs Ranch.

This photo is the location on the Colorado River used for the scene as Thelma and Louise drove over the edge of the canyon to end the movie.

Continuing along the canyon edge, a jet boat was spotted in the distance on the Colorado River.

Soon we were traveling in Canyonlands on unpaved bumpy one lane trails/roads with pull outs.

Stopping to take photos at many points along the route, there was scenery. Also photo ops of local flora sending down deep roots to survive on very little moisture.

As our tour climbed from the river, we followed the Shafer trail. It truly was a trail at one time as a rancher moved cattle from summer pastures atop the canyon edge to the winter pasture and warmth closer to the river. The trail has been widened to accommodate vehicles wider than a cow. Today the trail is bumpy and one lane with wider spots suitable for pullouts. The road is best for high clearance vehicles with a good suspension.

Looking back after a beautiful and scenic rocky tour.

The story of my life -- a wandering path.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

More Arches Per Minute

Jim was the leader to Arches National Park. Tom and I were the followers. An area favorite for Jim is the Devil's Garden. It was a great hike with great views, and lots of arches. Three arches are shared in this post.

Landscape Arch

Partition Arch

Double "O" Arch

It's not all about arches. The junipers and pine that make a home in this rock garden also provide photo ops.

As we hiked along (including scary spots for Wandrin Lloyd), I managed to capture over 150 photos. That does slow down the hike a bit.

As we walked along, we were met and passed by other hikers. Appears many of the visitors to the park are on a tight time schedule. Some of them seemed to be running from arch to arch. The observation inspired a comment to Jim and Tom, "More arches per minute".

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Travel Flexibility

"A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving." ~ Lao Tzu

Before hitching up at Cottonwood, I made tentative plans for travel on the way to Moab. My preference is to travel 100-150 miles between stops. That plan worked the first day when I stopped at The Cameron Trading Post in Cameron, AZ. That was about 100 miles.

The plan for the next day was about another 125 miles distant where I would dry camp at Monument Valley. Always a good place to stop with great rock scenery. Arriving at the entry gate to pay the $5 entry fee, I was informed that I would not be allowed to camp in the park. Not even dry camping as I had always done in the past. Bunch of motorcycles right behind me waiting to pay their entry fee. Time to move along without questions.

Pulled into the parking lot at the Tribal Park and headed out with the camera to take some photos of Monument Valley scenery.

It was a gang of people taking photos. People watching is fun. A bus of Japanese tourists were pointing their cameras at the scenery or taking photos of each other in the scenery. Those tourists are to the left rear of the photo.

Closer to the camera and to the center right are the group of Harley Davidson motorcycles riders. They were a club from Marseille France. There were about twenty cycles. Some had two riders. Many only had one. Didn't see anyone posing for the cameras held by the Harley riders.

No doubt my readers already know what scenic view was being captured, but just in case there may be some question. Here is the scenery known as the mittens.

After a few more photos of the scenery and rock formations, I went inside to the information desk. How come there was no camping. A full hook up RV park was going to be developed on the site. They would be starting the construction in about two months and it would be mid 2014 before completion. Have to wonder why they didn't continue to collect camping fees until the construction crews were on site. I didn't ask that question. These guys were the messengers. Da rules is da rules.

Headed outside for a few more photos and found this guy who was oblivious of the scenery and tourists.

Then it was time to make some decisions about travel and where to park at the end of the day. Since I had traveled and explored the southeastern part of Utah before, I knew where the parking options were. The first thought was Sand Island near Bluff. 45 miles later I was passing through the Sand Island campground and found a single space open. Not an attractive location, I decided that it was only another 30 miles to Blanding to an RV park.

Plans are one thing. Execution is another. Flexibility is good.