Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Travel to Colorado

July 18 to July 24:

We left Lake Georgetown on Tuesday morning headed to Lubbock, Texas. Lubbock is where I attended college (1972-1977) and I have only been back to the Texas Tech campus once since I graduated. We had a nice day to travel and arrived at our campground, Loop 289 RV Park, in the late afternoon. We were assigned a pull through site and got set up for our three day stay.

Loop 289 RV Park
This is a small RV Park with a number of long term residents. We found the park to be nice with full hookups and shopping located nearby (the park is right off the loop that goes around Lubbock). The RV park was located next to a Gander Mountain Store that was having a "going out of business" sale with prices marked down 50-80%. We took advantage of the sale to purchase some shoes and clothing. There was just a few days left before they closed and the selection was very limited, but we did find a few things in our sizes.

New pair of shoes for Connie.
We spent the two days in Lubbock visiting the Texas Tech campus along with the seeing the city. The campus had changed so much that I did not recognize most of it. The size of the campus has doubled and a number of new buildings have been added to the school. Also the medical school has greatly expanded and now occupies a large space next to the main campus.

We drove out to MacKenzie Park to see the prairie dog town. This small community of prairie dogs has been located here since the park opened in 1935. In most places the prairie dogs were eliminated as pests, but here they were allowed to survive next to the golf course in the park.

The next day we visited the National Ranching Heritage Museum which is located on the Texas Tech campus. The National Ranching Heritage Center is a museum and outdoor park with 49 historic structures dating back to the 1700's. In addition to the 19-acre historical park, the NRHC has 42 life-size bronze steer sculptures and a 44,000-square-foot museum with seven galleries featuring art exhibits, photography and artifacts that capture historical and contemporary Western life.

We also visited the Silent Wings Museum which is a history of the glider pilots and planes used during World War II. The army air force base in Lubbock was one of the places the pilots trained during the war. A group of former glider pilots started a small museum in the Dallas-Fort Worth area in the 1980's and it was relocated to old Lubbock airport (once it shut down) in 2003. It was a very interesting museum and gave a history of this part of the war I knew very little about. The glider planes were able to carry a squad of men fully packed or a Jeep with a tow vehicle. Most of the glider planes were only used one time since the landing was a "controlled crash".

One of the glider planes used during WWII

Inside of the glider

 On Friday morning we left Lubbock and headed to Capulin, New Mexico for two days. Capulin is a town of 66 people (according to 2010 census) located about halfway between Clayton and Raton. We arrived at the Capulin RV Park early in the afternoon and got set up for our short stay here.

The town is located at 6600 feet in elevation so the temperatures were quite mild compared to our days in Texas. The park office sold grass fed Angus beef raised by a local rancher. Connie bought us a couple of steaks that we cooked for our dinner one night. It was so tender that you could almost cut it with a fork.

On Saturday we visited the Capulin Volcano National Monument which is located a couple of miles outside of town. We were fortunate to have a clear day for our trip to the top of the volcano. The last eruption of the volcano was about 55-60,000 years ago. I did not realize that there are at least 7 volcanoes located in this northeastern part of New Mexico. We stopped by the Visitor's Center to get our pass along with information about the park then drove to the parking lot near the top of the mountain. The top of the volcano is 8,182 feet in elevation and on a clear day you can see for 100 miles. We walked the loop trail (about 1.5 miles) around the rim of the volcano and then walked the carter vent trail (another 0.5 mile). The views from the loop trail were spectacular with it being a clear day.

Overhead picture of volcano from the park brochure.


Crater Vent Trail

On Sunday morning we left early to make the drive to Lissa and Scott Oklers house near Castle Rock, Colorado. They have 30 acres of land and offered to let us spend the night at their place on our trip north. Lissa and Connie were roommates in the Dallas area back in the 1980's and the last time they had seen one another was about 22 years ago. We pulled into their driveway and then made the tight drive down a gravel lane to their barn where were able to hook up to 20 amp electricity. The afternoon was warm but the nights are cool, so we did not have to run our A/C's while we were there. We had a great visit with Lissa and Scott along with their kids (now in their 20's). They served us elk steaks Sunday evening from a hunt that Scott and one of his sons had killed last winter. Monday morning Lissa fixed us coffee and breakfast and we visited for several hours before getting on the road again to continue our trip north.

Lissa and Scott

Scott, Lissa and Connie

Lissa in front of their house

Barn where we parked the motor home. It was a slow drive backing up the motor home and turning it around to leave.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Back to Texas - Family Emergency

June 16 to July 18:

After making the decision to head back to Texas with the news of Connie's niece Lisa Aragon worsening condition, we left around 11:00 AM on Wednesday morning to drive as far as we could. I was "under the weather" so Connie drove most of the day. She made comments that evening about how beautiful the drive along Highway 30 in Idaho was (I sleep through this part of the trip). We made it as far as Rawlins, Wyoming where we spend the night at the Western Hills RV Park. We set up as the sun was setting, ate a quick meal, and then on to bed. The next morning I was feeling a little bit better and we split the driving between us. We made it to Dumas, Texas where we pulled into the Dumas RV Park for the evening. After another quick overnight stay we were on the road again the next morning. Connie called all of the  parks in the area to see if they had any spots open, but all of them were booked for the time period that we needed them. Our friends Brooks and Heidi Ivey graciously opened their extra bedroom to us for as long as we needed it. We made it to their house in Cedar Park, Texas where I dropped Connie off. I drove the motor home and Jeep on to Rosanky where we keep the rig parked at my dad's ranch while we stay in the Austin area. My dad has put in a second 50 amp connection so we are able to have full hookups while at the ranch.

Connie spent the next few days at the hospital with Lisa. Lisa was in a coma and was not able to communicate with anyone. Connie and her sister, Debbie, would be at the hospital during the day while Lisa's boyfriend would spend the night at the hospital. As the days passed Lisa's body began to shut down and the family had to make a decision about when to take her off life support. The decision was made to keep her on the machines until her daughter was able to make it down from Fort Worth to see her mom. Once this occurred, the machines were removed and Lisa passed quickly from this life. She was 41 - much too young to be gone.

Lisa Hodges Aragon 1976-2017

In the days that followed Connie helped her sister, Debbie, make the arrangements with the funeral home for Lisa's cremation, arrange a memorial service for her and started the process of going through her possessions. Most of her stuff was in a storage facility and everything had to be gone through and decisions made about what to do with it (what to keep, what to give away and what to donate).

Connie with her cousins Alan & Donna along with sister Debbie (far right)
Once this was all accomplished, we spent a few days at Brooks and Heidi's house before heading out to the ranch in Rosanky for a few days. We did manage to have a "Happy Hour" one evening to see several of our friends during our stay at the Iveys.

After spending some time with my dad, we made a quick trip to San Antonio to see our good friends, Fran and Mal Vaughan. Coming back to Rosanky, we drove the rig to Jim Hogg Park on Lake Georgetown where we spent a week with temperatures near and above 100 degrees. We were able to spend a couple of days in the lake to cool off from the heat. Rhonda and Russell Herrington came out for a visit and spend the day with us in the park.

Our site at Jim Hogg Park on Lake Georgetown

On July 18th, we packed up the rig and headed north again to escape the Texas summer.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Yellowstone - Northeast Idaho

May 30 to June 14:

Tuesday morning (May 30th) we traveled north from Salt Lake City to Island Park, Idaho which is located near the west entrance to Yellowstone National Park. As we pulled into our new RV park, Valley View RV Park, it started to sleet. After checking in with the office we waited until the sleet stopped and then proceeded to our site and got set up what we thought would be a month here. A few hours later that day we were joined by David & Cindy Potts and a few days later by Rich & Brenda Cochran and Joe & Cindy LaRocca.

During our time here we spend several days visiting Yellowstone National Park. We also toured the area around Island Park, Idaho taking a couple of trips down one of the forks of the Snake River (once in our kayak and once in a raft), visiting some water falls in the area along with enjoying the company of our fellow RV'ers. We experienced all kinds of weather during our stay here including the sleet when we arrived, snow, rain and some beautiful sunsets (it would still be light at 10 PM). We played several games of Jokers and Marbles with all 8 of us joining in which made for interesting teams of guys vs. girls (the girls won).

Yellowstone is a large national park with several different areas within the park that contain the "tourist attractions" that most people visit. You will do a lot of driving inside the park to get from one area to the next. We visited most of the attractions except for the area near the south entrance during our short stay here. Here a couple of photos from our time in the park:

We visited Mesa Falls near Island Park one day with our group. We were able to stand right next to the falls on a platform to get up close to the river.

We drove to the top of a mountain close to our park which was over 10,000 feet in elevation at the top. We could see there was something on top of the mountain from our RV park and discovered it was an FAA installation and antennas.


Our group also did some kayaking and rafting down one of the forks of the Snake River near Island Park. It was about a 2.5 to 3 hour float down the river from where we put in to the exit point. During our float we saw lots of trout in the water and a mother elk and two babies along the river bank.

Near Island Park there was a restaurant called Connie's Place that we "had" to visit. The entire group went one evening and enjoyed a nice meal at the place.

On Monday, June 12th, we received word that Connie's niece, Lisa Aragon, had been admitted to the hospital in Round Rock, Texas and was in the ICU. We were uncertain of what the prognosis was and monitored the situation for a couple of days. Wednesday morning we heard that Lisa had gone into a coma and decided we needed to head back to Texas to be with her and her mom, Connie's sister Debbie.  So we quickly loaded up everything and started the long trip back to Round Rock.

If you want to see additional photos, click HERE

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Two Weeks in Salt Lake City

May 16 to May 30:

On Tuesday morning we finishing packing up The Duchess and pulled out of our campground in Glendale UT around 7:30 AM. We had a drive of about 300 miles north to our next location in North Salt Lake UT. We had a smooth drive along I-15 stopping for lunch and also to fill up the motorhome along the way. We arrived in the early afternoon and got everything hooked up and set up for the next couple of weeks we will be spending here at the Pony Express RV Resort. The campground has paved roads and concrete pads with grass in between each site. The only strange thing is the location of the sewer connection which is at the end of the site near the road.

We are meeting our friends, David and Cindy Potts, here in Salt Lake City. They arrived the same day as us and are located in the site next to us. David & Cindy have a 43 foot New Horizons 5th wheel that they purchased new in 2015. Cindy is still working remotely until the end of May, so she is limited during the week depending on her work schedule.

We spent the first couple of days getting caught up with the Potts, doing some grocery shopping, trying to sort through all of the pictures we had taken in southern Utah and working on this blog. Since we are in a big city we took advantage of the shopping to visit a Trader Joe's and Costco along with a large local grocery store called Smith's Marketplace. On Wednesday (5/17) we had rain in the morning, sunshine in the afternoon and then some snow flurries late in the day.

Friday afternoon David, Connie and I visited the Utah State Capitol and took a tour that lasted about 45 minutes. The capitol building is located at the base of the mountains and overlooks Salt Lake City. There was a high school choral group singing songs in area below the rotunda and we listened to them for a few minutes while waiting on the tour to start. Being late on a Friday we were the only ones on the tour.

We stopped in a one of the local breweries, Squatters, and had a sampling of several of their brews. Each of us had to order two beers to sample since Utah has a law that says you can only be served two drinks at one time (once you finish those two you can order two more). Strange rule! We were not impressed with the brews as they did not have much flavor.

Saturday (with Cindy not working) the four of us took a trip out to Antelope Island State Park. Antelope Island is the largest of the ten islands located on the Great Salt Lake and the entire island makes up the park. We stopped at the Visitor's Center and were warned about the "biting bugs" on the island whose bites look like lice bites. We saw several people wearing netting over their heads so all of us sprayed on bug repellent. We visited the beach and one of the "points" on the island. I tasted the water which is 4-6 times saltier than the ocean.

We then took the 11 mile drive along the edge of the island to the Fielding Garr Ranch. This was originally established as one of the Mormon Tithing Ranches with livestock including cattle and sheep. There was a large barn on the property where the sheep shearing took place. We ate lunch, visited with one of the volunteers who told us the history of the ranch and then took a brief tour of the  property. Today there are no cattle or sheep on the island. There are 700 American Bison that roam the island and are cared for by the park staff and volunteers. The bison located here have some of the purest genes are the off spring are sold for a lot of money to improve other bison herds around the country. This park in the only state park in Utah that is a money making operation.

Sunday it rained so we stayed around the RV park. Monday we spent the day cleaning our vehicles. I took the Jeep to a car wash and then waxed it. We used a mild soap solution (very little Dawn with warm water) to wash off the road dirt from the motorhome.

On Tuesday, Carl and Pam Manganaro, arrived in our campground. They had been in Heber City UT attending the wedding of Carl's son last week-end and make the short drive north to join the Potts and us. After Carl & Pam got set up the four of us visited The Temple Square. This is home to the largest Church of Later Day Saints temple, their Tabernacle and Assembly Hall. There are two Visitor Centers, Joseph Smith Office Building, the Family Ancestry Building (home to one of the largest genealogy collections in the world) and the Church Headquarters Buildings. We also visited the Beehive House where Brigham Young lived along with his third wife and his children with her. The Mormons practiced polygamy during the 19th century and Brigham had over 25 wives and numerous children. The Beehive House was his "headquarters" where he entertained and welcomed guests and dignitaries as both the head of the church and for a while the governor of Utah.


On Wednesday Pam, Carl, Connie and I traveled to Brighton UT along the Big Cottonwood Creek. The creek was full of water from the snow melt and flowing rapidly. We were hoping to take the road from Brighton to Park City, but it was still closed from the winter snows. So we drove back down to Salt Lake City and then around the mountains to Park City. Park City is home to the Sundance Film Festival and has become quite the tourist town. We ate lunch at the High West Distillery (very good food). Connie, Carl and Pam had drinks made from their distilled products and were impressed with how good they tasted. After lunch we spent a couple of hours walking around the town.

On Thursday Carl, David and I played golf at the Eaglewood Golf Course located about 15 minutes away from our campground. It was a very nice course located above the city with a "senior rate" for green fees of $22. While we played golf, Connie and Cindy went shopping. Later in the afternoon we rode our bikes along the Jordan River Trail which runs along the river just outside the RV park.

On Friday afternoon all of us visited the Red Butte Gardens which are located on the campus of The University of Utah. The gardens are located at the base of the Wasatch Mountains and have a combination of plantings from roses, native desert plants, formal gardens and plants used for medicinal purposes. At with all gardens not all of the plants were in bloom during our visit.

Saturday and Sunday were more days for grocery shopping, laundry and getting ready to move. We tried to stock up on groceries since we will not be near any large towns for a while.

On Monday the six of us traveled up to Alta UT which is home to two ski areas. We were going to hike some of the trails but there is still several feet of snow on the ground (there were several people skiing/snowboarding). So we ended up walking the summer road to the top of the Alta Ski Area which was about a 5 mile hike with a gain in elevation of 1,000 feet. We ate lunch at the top and then hiked back down the road. Great weather with clear skies and warm temperatures.

Monday night we dumped the tanks, pulled up the water hoses and got The Duchess ready to leave early in the morning for our trip north to Idaho. We had a great time in the Salt Lake City area and could see ourselves returning to this region again. We learned a new game while we were there called Jokers and Marbles which Connie enjoyed way too much (she won every game). So glad we could be with friends and hang out together for a while.