Saturday, September 16, 2017

Colorado Springs --- Homeward Bound

The Wine-sipping Patios at Grape Creek Vineyard near Fredericksburg, TX

Roger here...  Ho-o-meward bound.  I wish I was homeward bound.  Actually, we are.  In fact we should be back at Retama Village when you read this.  

As I mentioned in the last post, our final week at Colorado Springs was not the best.  We continually worried about our daughter and granddaughter, who evacuated Ft. Myers, Florida to escape Hurricane Irma.  They weathered the storm with my brother and sister-in-law in The Villages Florida, south of Ocala, where the eye of the storm passed directly overhead.  They are fine.  Their apartment in Ft. Myers is fine, but they are still without electricity six days later and don't know about the status of their jobs.  Our worries have abated.  We now have new, but lesser ones.  Such is life.

We tried to add some interest to our drive back to extreme south Texas.  It helped to take our minds off our kids.

Amarillo, Texas...  We skipped our first scheduled stop in Capulin, New Mexico and drove all the way to Amarillo, Texas.  We knew we would have good Verizon telephone coverage and good cable TV to follow the hurricane.  Our stop was at the Oasis RV Resort.  We had been there before and knew it would be a good nesting spot for three nights to "ride out the hurricane" in spirit with our daughter and granddaughter.

The Cadillac Ranch was just down the street.  We had driven past this iconic spot, but had never stopped.  We thought it would be a good diversion.  It was.

Look at this lady allowing her son to vandalize a Cadillac!

A silly diversion, but a diversion nonetheless.  Most people recognize this series of Cadillacs buried nose-first in a field, known as the Cadillac Ranch.  Onlookers have been carrying cans of spray paint to graffiti-up the cars for years.  Dianne rummaged through a pile of discarded cans to find a can of partially used red paint so that I could join the fun.  

Nothing that I sprayed showed up.  I am obviously not a graffiti artist :-).   My good friend, Greg, saw this picture and said, "Arrest this man!" 

This car has seen better days....

Our other Amarillo diversion involved eating.  Specifically, eating at a "Man v. Food" restaurant serving comfort food. 

Youngblood's Cafe is located next to a stock yard.  We both enjoyed chicken-fried steak with homemade mashed potatoes, green beans, and yeast rolls.  Certainly not a normal food choice for us, but very tasty on this rare occasion.

The green beans tasted like they came straight from my late mom's kitchen.

Leaving Amarillo, we drove four hours to Big Spring, Texas for a nondescript overnight stop, and then four more hours to Kerrville, Texas in the Hill Country.

Kerrville and Fredericksburg Texas...

A frequent stop on our way into or out of south Texas is the Buckhorn Lake RV Resort a few miles outside of Kerrville in the Texas Hill Country.  Our stays here never disappoint. 

We spent two nights here so that we could visit the Fredericksburg area for a full day.  Our first stop was at the gardening wonderland known as Wildseed Unlimited.  Of course, we bought a couple of unique items for our yard --- then we were hungry.

This must be the entrance.
 We had heard nothing but good things about the food at the eclectic Alamo Springs Cafe located in the middle of nowhere, ten miles from Fredericksburg.  We intended to stop here after watching an evening flight of the bats from Tunnel State Park with Jay and Nancy last year, but we were tired.  Not stopping was a mistake.

This is a very different place.  No one greeted us when we walked in, so we walked past the lunchtime diners and found a table outside in a rustic setting --- in reality, the entire place is in a rustic setting.

This walnut tree seems to be growing through the roof.

I went back inside to see if we needed to let anyone know we were there.  A friendly guy who appeared to be the owner saw me in my confused state and greeted me with, "First time here?"  When I said yes, he told me to get a beer from the fridge and find a place to sit.  I like the vibe of this place. I got two Shiner Bocks, took them to our table and decided to enjoy the ambience.  My friend from inside soon appeared telling us that Becky would be right with us.  He piqued my interest by suggesting that the famous Cover Burger (cover of Texas Monthly Magazine) was the best thing on the menu.

As it turns out, it was not only the best thing on the menu, but according to Texas Monthly, it was the best burger in the entire state.  So, I ordered it.  I must say that this burger is the best I have ever had in any state.  Seriously.  It was grilled perfectly and covered with grilled onions, melted cheese, tomato, lettuce and avocado and served on a jalapeno bun.  It melted in my mouth.  It was delicious.  Due to the fact that I was not tempted by all the other fried things on the menu (fries, onion rings, grilled/stuffed avocado, etc.), I actually was able to eat the entire burger without being overly full.  Half-way through the meal Becky dropped by the table and said, "How y'all doin, Angels?"  You can't beat the genuinely friendly people of Texas. 

Dianne had..... (and "had" is the correct verb) a bacon, egg, cheese sandwich on Texas toast with lettuce and tomato.

It was AWESOME!  -- D.

We will be returning to this place.

After lunch we paid a visit to our favorite Hill Country winery, Grape Creek Vineyards, before driving back to the motor home.

Tuscany in Texas

We skipped the tasting that we have done many times before and purchased two glasses of Dianne's favorite wine ---Bellissimo, a red blend.  We sauntered to the garden patios where we sipped wine in an idyllic setting.  We also bought a bottle to take with us and two really cool stemless wine glasses. They remind us of Yeti products in many ways (including the price).  Now, we are all set for the Retama Village happy hours that we have been missing while traveling.

Happy Camper
We will be taking a hiatus from blog writing while we are at our home in Retama Village, but stay tuned.  In a few weeks we are taking the motorhome west for an amazing (to us) event.

Don't have a photograph of this, but imagine this pet picture of the day:   When we drove through Mission and approached our home in Retama Village, Bandido was so excited to be home he started crying!   They have been enjoying our patio no longer having to be tied up while outside.  Charlie the cat is also enjoying the back yard.   Still mighty hot down here, but evenings on our patio are delightful!

Monday, September 11, 2017

Colorado Springs --- Last days with Chuck and Cindy

We intended to publish this a few days ago; however, worry about our daughter, granddaughter, brother and sister-in-law in Florida occupied our thoughts.  Thankfully, everyone is safe.  Our daughter will probably be driving back to Ft. Myers today, hopefully to find a dry apartment and a return to her life.  We are now on our way back to the Rio Grande Valley.  We are in Amarillo TX right now.  We just now realized that we are several days late in publishing this post.  It has been a long week.

Helen Hunt Falls

Roger here...  Chuck and Cindy began their long trip back to Indiana today.  This post marks the last days of their visit.  We are looking forward to seeing them again in the future.  We know it will happen, just not sure where or when.

Breaking news... It was reported last night that the well-known misbehaving dog, Bandido, crashed through the screen house in site 28 yet again.  Sources report that the escape played out when three deer walked by the motor home while the humans were playing spades at the picnic table.  Witnesses claim that Bandido ran after the deer with incredible speed and was overtaking them when they jumped up a rock wall to safety.  Dianne says that she has never seen Bandido run faster.  A search for the escaped dog found him lounging on the deck next to the office, wagging his tail with a smug look on his face.  The photo below shows Sophie and Tequila surveying the damage.

Wow, look at him go!

The most recent damage to the delicate cloth screens have put an end to the screen house capers.  The photo below shows Roger paying his respects to the screen house while interring it in its final resting place.  Sad.

Gold Camp Road Hike....  We enjoyed one last hike with the Gemmers and our doggies up in the mountains.  We started at Helen Hunt Falls where we lingered for a bit.  Two little girls fawned over the three dogs.  Tequila licked them in the face.

The view  from the   bridge at the top of the falls gives a new 

After the falls, we drove up about a mile to Gold Camp Road.  We wanted to walk along this easy and scenic trail until we decided to turn around and head back to the car.  

Our half-way point found us at North Cheyenne Canon Creek, a fresh water source for Colorado Springs.

Back at the Campground....  I took pictures of yet another form of the wildlife that wanders through our campground.  These wild turkeys were walking along the nearby road.  Bandido was walking with me on a leash.  He did not seem to notice them :-).

At the end of the day, Chuck built a campfire for us to enjoy during their last evening at Mountaindale.  

Dianne and I decided to open a bottle of wine for happy hour.  We wanted to display it in a device that mutual friends, Audrey and Pat, gave us.  Unfortunately, I was not able to pound it into the ground through the rocks.  Chuck had the brilliant solution --- sink the spike into one of our potted geraniums.  

After happy hour we decided to forgo eating in the damaged screen house in lieu of dinner around the campfire.

Goodbye Chuck and Cindy and Sophie.  Have  a safe drive home.

We will be at Mountaindale for another week before our five-day drive back to our home in extreme south Texas.  We intend to enjoy the great weather at this high altitude and maybe have another adventure or two.

Pet Picture of the Day...  Bandido likes to hop onto rocks.  This picture was taken on the Gold Camp Road trail.  I think he is looking a little too pleased with himself.  

King of the Hill

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Colorado Springs --- Train Ride and Sojourn to Gold Country

Dianne enjoys the views from the open car on the Royal Gorge Railroad

Roger here....  It took some time to write this post due to all the pictures that we took.  It was an enjoyable task deciding which ones to include.  Hope you enjoy them. Don't miss the Pet Pictures of the Day at the end of the post.  

Campground Events....

We continue to have fun playing Spades and Mexican Train with Chuck and Cindy during the campground times when we are not cooking, eating, and walking dogs.  Alas, our screen house zipper broke during one of our card games trapping us inside for a short while.  The screen house is continuing to make its case for a permanent home in Colorado.  

The wildlife, especially the bears, are always on our minds after dark.  Chuck has been wrapping cable around his mini-fridge, covering it, sealing the door shut and then latching it it to the steps of his rig.  To me, it seemed very animal-proof. He topped off the bear protection with a padlock.  Evidently, the bears found the key to the padlock. 

Mama bear and her two cubs decided to have a frat-style party.  Chuck and Cindy watched the entire fiasco from inside the safety of their fifth wheel.  The party lasted throughout the night.  At one point there was a cub fight over a tub of margarine.  Then one of the cubs drank an entire gallon of milk followed by a nap under the picnic table. Chuck and Cindy's loud outside music (to scare them off) added to the party atmosphere.  After drinking all the beer and drinking all contents in the bloody mary jug, all three bears climbed the large tree in the campsite to sleep it off.  Since Chuck and Cindy are parked adjacent to us, Dianne and I had a partial view of the festivities from our motor home.  We saw one of the cubs climb up the tree.  Bandido voiced his displeasure.  After a trip to Wal-Mart, Chuck and Cindy now have a brand new mini-fridge.

Toga Party Time

The Royal Gorge Train....  Cindy made the reservations for this memorable two-hour train ride.  What fun!

We arrived at the Canon City Train Depot 45 minutes early to pick up the tickets and check things out.

A gigantic aspen tree graced the boarding area.  This was a big tree!

We located the vista dome car that would be our home for two hours as we slowly rolled through the Royal Gorge Canyon.

Before boarding
time Dianne made sure that I took pictures of all that she expected
me to photograph.  

"Did you get a picture of....?"

All Aboard! We met the young man who would be taking care of us and pointing out points of interest.  Drinks and nachos were served.  We were all settled in and ready to roll.

Soon after passing by the depot we gazed at the first views of the canyon and the Arkansas River.

Where there are rapids......
... there are rafters.  We passed by several adventurous paddlers along the route.

Views of the ruins of this water pipe (made of California redwood slats and metal) accompanied us for much of the trip.  Long ago the gravity-powered flow of water in the pipe brought fresh water to Canon City.

Get ready for the spectacular views up ahead as the gorge narrows and the iconic swinging bridge comes into view....

We were allowed to walk to an open car throughout the trip.  I took this picture at the end of the first half of the trip from the open car.  The canyon opened up and the river widened.  An interesting tidbit... the engines did not run on the return trip.  A quick nudge push the train back toward Canon City.  Gravity took care of the rest.

Another interesting tidbit (no pictures), the train did stop on the return trip to pick up an injured rafter (nothing serious).

Phantom Canon Road.... The seven of us enjoyed an all-day drive on Phantom Canyon Road in Chuck's truck.  Well, six of us enjoyed it.  Chuck had the task of driving on the twisty, mountain-hugging dirt road.

Phantom Canon Road connected Canon City to the gold mines of Cripple Creek back in the day.  It was a railroad route.  Today it is an amazingly
 scenic, out-of-the-way drive for high-clearance vehicles.  

Rock-face on one side.  Cliff-side drop on the other.

The narrow dirt road is well-maintained --- only a few short washboard areas...

However, non-stop diligence on the part of the driver was essential.

There were so many unique features along the road, one of which included  the tunnel below.

Since this is mostly BLM land, free camping is available in individual spots along the way.  These folks have a great spot on a sandy beach next to a stream surrounded by the rocky cliffs of the canyon.  

Uh Oh! Chuck found another tunnel.

It is always fun to see the views on the other side.

As we climbed to an eventual altitude of 9,710 feet, the landscape changed.  Pine trees began to dominate the forests.

Groves of Aspen popped up.

Before rising above the tree line we stopped at the bridge pictured below to stretch our legs, breathe in the invigorating air, drink some water, and scarf down energy bars.

It was a pleasant stop.  We walked to the bridge from the truck. The views from the bridge were amazing.  

The bridge itself was a remnant of the past.  It was the only steel railroad bridge on Phantom Canyon Road that still exits.

As the trees became sparse and the plant life became grassy, the views became panoramic.

As we began to descend from almost 10,000 feet, the former boom town of Victor appeared.  This once thriving gold mining town now...

... has a population of only 40+ people.  Some of the buildings are still occupied.  Many are vacant.

This intriguing semi-ghost town has character.  It would have been fun to explore had we had more time.  I suspect that Cripple Creek might have been like this before it was overrun with casinos.

Victor was surrounded by strip mines.  When the mines below ground yielded all their gold, the town's population diminished and the strip mining began.  

The gold mining town of Cripple Creek was only a short drive away, but the top-of-the-mountain vistas did not diminish.

The road was paved during the short drive between Victor and Cripple Creek --- back to civilization.  

Cripple Creek did not appeal that much to me.  It was overrun with Disney-esque buildings that were beautiful, but in a way artificial.  Most of them were casinos.  We did not get out of the truck.  I suspect it would be an attraction for gamblers.  Don't misinterpret me, I am not a prude regarding recreational gambling; however, I actually preferred the authenticity of nearby Victor.  The streetscape was very nice, nonetheless. 

At this point we were hungry.  There were no dog-friendly restaurants with outdoor decks, so we drove on to Florrisant, where we were still unable to locate a restaurant with outdoor seating where we could take the dogs.  Nearing Colorado Springs we found a Sonic Drive-In in Woodland Park where we could eat in the truck.  We love Sonic, so the wait was worthwhile.  Forty minutes later, after a long fun day in the truck, we were back at our digs at Mountaindale.

Canon City River Walk...  On an earlier visit to Canon City, we discovered the trailhead for a maintained walk along the Arkansas River.  We returned with the dogs.

After some confusion about which way we should walk on the trail, we found our way to a cool bridge and began our short trek.  

The trail itself was nice, and the views of the river were great....

... however, much of the trail was in an industrial area that was not all that scenic. We retraced our steps to explore 
another section of the trail and found a surprise.

Through the trees we glimpsed an interesting mansion from the trail. We left the trail to check it out.  The plaque on the outside of the gilded iron fence was a magnet that attracted my genealogically-addicted wife.  Dianne's maiden name is Robison.

We walked all the way around the mansion. It occupied an entire block.  It is now an event center, and a nice looking one, at that.  This fountain graced the front of the mansion.

is an interest of mine.  This place is well-maintained.
I need to learn more about its history.

Dianne insisted that Bandido and I linger in front of the carriage house for a picture.

We stopped at the Cup and Cone for ice cream on the way out of town.  We then stopped at the Holy Cross Abbey Winery where I sat at a peaceful picnic table with the dogs while Chuck and Cindy sampled the wine and someone made a few non- alcoholic purchases in the wine gift shop.

Chuck and Cindy will be leaving soon, but we will have one more posting before their departure.  

Pet Pictures of the Day....  Sophie had a great time driving the truck along the very narrow Phantom Canon Road!


Bandido did not think it was so much fun.

"Let me outta this truck!"