Friday, November 25, 2011

Days 141 - 143 and 150 - 158: Lee & Patti's, Our Home Away from Home

After Mesa Verde and before heading to the Wilson's we spent a few days at Lee & Patti's (Angie's Grandmother and Mom) place in Pueblo West, CO.

Their place has really become our home away from home. We started the trip here back in late June so it's fitting that we see them on our way back to Austin. We've literally made a circle, a really zig zaggety circle...

Angie and her Mom spending some quality time together in the kitchen.
A real kitchen is probably what Angie misses most about living in a van.

LeTigre got a much needed bath and some other maintenance, including an oil change and a new power steering hose since she'd sprung a leak on the way into town.
She's running great!

Lee treated us to dinner at her favorite local Asian restaurant, the "Tea Palace".
Food was great, my fortune, not so much...

Ahhhh, nothing like a rousing game of Scrabble.
This is a competitive sport around here.

After a few restful days with Lee and Patti, we stayed with Jim, Gemma, Jack, and Alice in Longmont for several days (full circle again, see previous entry) before picking up Angie's brother, Vince, at the Denver airport.
On the way out of town we went to check out some 100 million year old dinosaur tracks west of the city.

The tracks were discovered during a road building project.  The tracks were pretty popular so the road was closed to car traffic and turned into a hike and bike trail.

"Dinosaur Ridge"
The tracks are regularly colored in with charcoal to make them easier to see.

Once we were back at Lee & Patti's, Vince and I took a couple of day trips to see some nearby sights.

"Bishop's Castle" is one of our favorites.  It's a short drive into the nearby "Wet Mountains".
Jim Bishop started building it in 1969 and has been working on it, alone, ever since.

There're a lot of signs around the property that give some clues to Bishop's political persuasions, or non-political persuasions, but this one pretty much sums it up.

Here's his website if you want to know more or just google "Bishops Castle".

Some aspects of the castle are truly beautiful...

...and others just terrifying.
The spires seem to sway a bit when you're at the top.  Oh, and that's a fire breathing dragon's head in the center!

Vince and I survived Bishop's Castle (again!) so the next day we all ('cept for Lee and Kipper) drove up to Colorado Springs to see Garden of the Gods.  Angie and I have been twice before but we never get tired of the red rock formations.

Just west of Colorado Springs is the town of Manitou Springs and the Pikes Peak Cog Railway that takes visitors to the top of Pike's Peak.  Lee took Angie and me to the Peak in her car on a previous visit but the road was closed this time around so we rode the train up.

Yep, you read that right.

Money well spent! (Thanks Lee)
The train ride is about 3 hours round trip with a half hour or so at the summit.

30 minutes was plenty of time, trust me.

We had a beautiful clear day and could see clear into Kansas!

A small herd of big horn sheep grazing near the summit.
I have no idea what they find to eat up there!

Another day trip Vince and I did together was up to the town of Alma.
This is the "Al-Mart store" in downtown Alma.

We did a really cool (cold actually, at 11,000 feet) hike that featured some creepy but awesome mining ruins...

...and some 1,000 year old Bristlecone Pines.
A previous hiker added some trail directions on this particular bristlecone:

"Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.  Live the life you've always imagined."
"The Beginning is always today."
"Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."
"Of all the paths you take in life make sure a few of them are dirt."

Vince and I made it back to civilization and were rewarded with this onThanksgiving morning!

Kipper spent the morning gutting his favorite stuffed chew-toy (Thanks Deb).

Angie and Patti hard at work preparing Thanksgiving supper (Kipper assists).

Then we feasted and it was delicious!

Angie and I have a lot to be thankful for every Thanksgiving but this year is especially poignant due to all the hospitality and amazing generosity that's been extended to us, during the planning and since embarking on our adventure.  We extend a huge THANK YOU to our family, friends (old and new), and absolute strangers that have been so wonderful to us.
Y'all have our gratitude!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Days 144 - 148: Back to the Land of Beer and Honey Mead

We reached Lee and Patti's in Pueblo West (we'll get back to that...) and spent a few days with them before heading to the Denver area.  Angie's brother, Vince, would be flying into Denver on the 19th to spend Thanksgiving in Colorado and ride back to Austin with us.

Hmmm, what to do until then???

Go to the Wilson's in Longmont, of course!

And hang out in their kitchen eating and drinking beer!
This is fitting because we visited over the 4th of July, at the start of the trip, so this  brings us full circle!

Our dogs Alice and Kipper got to rekindle their little summer romance.  This is a rare moment of calm.  They spent most of their time rough housing and chewing on each other's faces...

Jim took us on a hike up Sugerloaf Mountain one day.  Gemma's at work, bummer.

It was windy!  This is a timer shot of us nearly getting blown off the mountain.
The views were spectacular.  The cities of Boulder, Longmont, and Denver to the east and the majestic Rockies to the west.

Deja vu, been here before!

After the hike we refueled at Boulder Beer Brewery on micro brew and green chili cheese fries.  One of Jim's favorite spots, we spent some time here last visit too.

Another great dinner.  Gemma spoiled us with a homemade curry dish.
Note Angie is already in her pjammies, prepped for the "True Blood" marathon after dinner.  Gemma caught us up on the entire third season.


Sushi and Vietnamese for lunch the next day at "Ocean Sushi."  Yummm

That night we drove over to nearby Lyons, CO to check out a band that Jim knows.
This arcade full of really cool vintage pinball machines was next door to the venue.

Oskar Blues, another brewpub.  This is the Lyons location where we saw the band, there's another in Longmont.

The "J. Shogren Band" from Centenial WY.
Very cool Americana, Country, Blues type stuff.
J. Shogren is a Nobel Prize-winning economist who works for the King of Sweden when he's not rocking out.
No joke.

They had a full house including a wedding party that dropped in!

Kipper and Alice tired from playing all day.
Alice would be waiting at the bedroom door every morning for Kipper...
and then chew on his face.

Thanks Gemma, Jim, Jack, and Alice for a great visit!
Come see us in Austin soon!

Happy Thanksgiving!

We have so much to be thankful for this year!
Best wishes to all our family and friends (old and new!) for a great Thanksgiving holiday.
We're spending it with Angie's Mom (Patti), Grandmother (Lee), and brother (Vince) in
Pueblo West, Colorado.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Love, Greg, Angie, and Kipper

Monday, November 14, 2011

Day 140: Mesa Verde National Park

After a great time with the Maloolys in Flagstaff, it was time to start heading towards Lee & Patti's in Pueblo West, CO.

Mesa Verde National Park, in the southwestern corner of Colorado, was on the way.
We spent the night in the nearby town of Cortez and visited the park the following morning.

Mesa Verde has some very well preserved cliff dwellings and other Pueblo ruins.
These are about 1,000 years old, built by ancestors of the Pueblo people.

A lot of the cliff dwellings are closed to visitors this time of year but we did get to go on a Ranger-led tour of "Spruce Tree House".

Corn was a dietary staple and these stones were used for grinding it.

 Angie and I are standing inside a restored "kiva," a room used for gathering and rituals.

Another kiva without it's roof.

After touring Spruce Tree House, we went on a hike to some nearby petroglyphs.

Most of the recent snowfall had melted but we encountered some that the sun hadn't reached.

More cliff ruins along the trail.  These probably weren't living quarters, maybe grain storage?  According to the Ranger on our tour of Spruce Tree House, there's a lot of debate among archeologists about why the cliff dwellings were built.  Since the inhabitants were farmers, the cliff dwellings don't make much sense because they're located away from the fields on the mesa.  One theory is that the dwellings were used for stashing grain and mostly occupied in the winter when the fields didn't need tending.  There are lots of other ruins on the surface of the mesa that imply most of the population lived there.

Beautiful views along the trail which was perched on the edge of a cliff.

Petroglyph's carved in sandstone.  No spacemen this time...

 Fun with the camera timer!

The trail looped back on the rim of the mesa, above the cliff dwelling.

There are dozens of ruins in these natural alcoves.
This is the largest and probably the most famous ruin in Mesa Verde NP, called "Cliff Palace".  Unfortunately, it was closed to tours when we were there so we could only see it from a distance.

Once we left Mesa Verde, we resumed our route to Lee & Patti's.
Along the way, LeTigre's odometer flipped for the second time!
She's got the old fashioned 5 digit odometer so that's actually
199,999.9 thousand miles!

200,000 miles!

I'll be doing a blog entry dedicated to LeTigre once we're back home for the holidays.
We've personally driven about 12,000 miles with her, so far, and have become quite attached.  She's definitely the "little van that could".