More from Santa Fe

After Hyde Memorial State Park we moved to Iska’s place, just outside Santa Fe. She and her boyfriend Larry have a lovely adobe home in the country there, with room for Riley and I to park for a few days.

Parked at Iska's place

Parked at Iska’s place

It was so nice there.  Iska has a big corral with a garden in half of it and also keeps bees in the other half.  I really enjoyed learning about what she was growing and why.  Plus, what it takes to be a beekeeper.

The garden

The garden  (Early morning, facing east, not a good exposure.  Oh, well…)

One of her friends, Kate, that tends the bees and garden with her was there, checking on everything.  She was an expert guest on the Albuquerque NPR station for a show about bees a couple of days earlier.  I was able to pull it up online and listen.  It’s interesting what a cooperative community a beehive is.

The Bee Side

The Bee Side

This gives the bees a handy water source.

This gives the bees a handy water source.  (Can you tell there is water here?  Kate had just filled it up with water, over the rocks.)  It’s a bee-bath!

Iska and I enjoy some of the same activities.  Like making salves and lotions.  We exchanged little pots of concoctions like kids just back from the candy store.  Also, she showed me how to make pesto with garlic scapes from her garden, and I picked mint leaves then dried them to make mint tea.  Always nice to learn new ideas and recipes.

It was a bit hot in Santa Fe (and in my RV), getting up to the low 90’s.  But, the house was always nice and cool.  Even without air conditioning.  The adobe construction keeps it at a very nice temp.  And the east facing porch was a great spot (with a bit of a breeze) to sit and read.  Especially when I was doing my laundry.  How great was that?  I got to do laundry in nice machines in a house, not at the laundromat.  Thanks Iska!  What a treat!

Santa Fe has lots of cool things going on in the summer, including a free concert series at the Plaza.  We went down to the Plaza to hear The Wheeler Brothers, an Austin band.  I hadn’t heard of them, but really enjoyed the music.

Wheeler Brothers at the Santa Fe Bandstand

Wheeler Brothers at the Santa Fe Bandstand

Me with Iska and Larry

Me with Iska and Larry at the Santa Fe Plaza

Crowd

Iska and Larry like to dance, and they had lots of opportunity with this band.

They have free concerts at the Bandstand almost every night throughout the summer.  Maybe we will catch another concert.  I’m heading back to Iska’s tomorrow, after leaving Storrie Lake State Park, where Riley and I have been for the last 2 weeks.  We have been here with Barbara and Annie.  They have been better bloggers than me, and have posted more regularly.  I will try to catch up here in the next few days.  I’m really looking forward to spending more time with Iska and Larry.  I had just the best time with them when we were there!

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Albuquerque and the Balloon Fiesta

Last year I skipped the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta.  I was in New Mexico, at Bluewater State Park, but hadn’t made camping reservations with the Lazy Daze group, so skipped the area.  When it was over I went to Elephant Butte State Park, where I camped with Christine and Andy, then to Caballo Lake State Park, and had a great time with CB, Randy, Tish, Carol, Myrna, Laurie and Christine.  (Really, it’s Chris, “Vermont Chris” as we call her, but I will call her Christine to differentiate from Chris of my recent posts.)  Last year they had all spent a couple of weeks at Sandia Casino and Resort watching the balloons for free!  The casino lets RV’ers camp there and it’s on a hill not far from the balloon park, so they could see the balloons from there.  After hearing what a great time they had, I made it part of my travel plans.

Anyway, I got to the casino late in the afternoon on October 1st, after having my scooter service done in Santa Fe.  I wanted to get there well ahead of the Fiesta start date of Oct. 5th, since I had heard the place fills up and wanted to be able to get a spot near my friends.  Carol and Christine were already there when I arrived and I was able to get a spot nearby. A security truck was making patrols through the parking lot, registering rigs and passing out a welcome letter.  I got my window sticker and info on services at the casino and hotel. They really treat RV’ers well at Sandia.  Of course, they rely on a certain percentage of the visitors leaving some of their cash in the casino, so it’s a win-win.

Sunset over Sandia Peak

My spot at sunset

Right away I met Pat and Buddy, friends that Carol had made there last year.  Super fantastic folks.  We all made plans to go to the buffet for lunch the next day.  It’s $5 on Wednesdays for seniors (anyone over 50) with a casino player’s card, so I made sure to get my card right away.  And what a fantastic buffet they have.  Wow!  We all loved it.

I was able to get the scooter unloaded off of the carrier by myself.  Making progress with that.  Gravity is my friend, so it’s easier to get it down than loading it up, but my goal is to be able to load and unload by myself.  Anyway, we all hung out and visited for a few days, ran errands, etc.  I wish I had been able to take a picture of all of the rigs parked at Sandia.  There must have been a few hundred. It was PACKED!

On Saturday the 5th I woke around 3:00 AM when I started hearing helicopters overhead.  I looked out the hatch above my bed, but didn’t see anything.  Eventually I got up a little before dawn to see the balloons going up.  The helicopters and small planes would fly around every morning during Fiesta.  I got used to it and it didn’t wake me up later on.  There were so many balloons, I couldn’t believe how many there were.

Balloons - Day 1

Balloons – Day 1

Balloons over the Arroyo

Balloons over the Arroyo

The arroyo (in the photo above) between the golf course and our parking lot was a great spot for playing with the dogs.  We weren’t allowed on the golf course, but at about 6:00 PM Christine and I would take Riley and her dog Edna down to the arroyo and let them chase balls and run off some energy.  We had a morning walk area on the other side of the parking lot to a natural area were the dogs could sniff and wander.  Sandia was a nice area for dogs, and there were lots of other dogs for Riley to meet.  He loves making new friends!

I hadn’t made reservations with the Lazy Daze group, but when we were camped at Abiquiu with John and Linda (organizer for the group at BF), she mentioned there were a couple of unexpected cancellations and might be spaces available if I wanted to come over for a couple of days. The Lazy Daze group was at the Balloon Fiesta Park RV camping site, down close to where the balloons take off. So, I arranged to move over for Wednesday-Friday.  There weren’t any balloons on Thursday morning due to weather. I woke Friday late, about 7AM, and opened the hatch above my bed to see the balloons all over above our site.  I quickly got dressed and headed out with my camera.

Balloons over the Lazy Daze site

Balloons over the Lazy Daze site

Wow!  Many cool balloons

Wow! Many cool balloons

There was something about the weather that morning and the balloons were coming back down very quickly.  Especially the large special shape balloons.  Some of them were landing very close to us.

Balloons Landing

Balloons Landing

Caution - cow crossing

Need one of those ‘caution – cow crossing’ signs right about here

I ended up staying an extra day, until Saturday.  On Friday evening I went with Jimbo, Kathy and her brother to the “Glowdeo”.  Just after sunset the balloons stay on the ground, the pilots fire up the gas and they light up.  Very cool, but it was too dark already to get good pictures.  Jimbo got better pictures earlier in the week.

Glow1

At the Glowdeo

On Saturday morning I got up early, early, like 5:00 AM early.  I wanted to go to the field to wander amongst the balloons as they are inflated and take off.  What a sight!  It was cool being down in the middle of several balloons being filled with hot air, and all the people down there doing the same thing. I could not believe how many people were there.  It wasn’t even light yet and there were masses of people.  Tons of people had made a real effort to be vertical well before dawn.  Amazing.  It was nice to be able to walk to the field.  The traffic on the way to the park was terrible!

Arrival

Approaching the early balloons

Amongst

In the middle of the balloons

Excited riders.  It costs a few hundred dollars to ride, but look how happy they are!

Excited riders. It costs a few hundred dollars to ride, but look how happy they are!

The take-off coordinators are called Zebras, since they wear black and white outfits.  Their job is to coordinate the departures and control the crowds.  They clear a cone-shaped area, based on wind direction, where the balloon is expected to travel as it rises.  Some of these folks are dressed more elaborately than others.  I tried to get a picture of this guy with a zebra shirt, zebra jacket and large zebra hat.  He was the best dressed.  Zebras move fast and this was the best picture I was able to get:

Zebras

Zebras

I also visited the midway, which was huge.  Lots of food and stuff for sale, which I didn’t need, but I got an official 2013 Balloon Fiesta pin.

Later that day I turtled up and moved back to Sandia, stopping at the Giant Conoco station on Alameda that has a free dump station.  Things were winding down at the casino.  A lot of RVs had headed out already.  It was a lot less packed than the prior weekend.  All of my friends were still there, but were each leaving within the next few days.  I was planning to stay a while more, since I had an appointment on Thursday at an Albuquerque Ford shop, Statkus Engines.  I was having an alignment problem and Statkus is known to be a good shop. Over the next few days I got some shopping and errands done (stocked up at Trader Joe’s) and finally did some gambling in the casino.  I didn’t hit big, but turned the $25 free-play money they give into $25 in my pocket.  It was super windy one day and that evening we had a weird super-glowy sunset.  Like something out of an alien movie.

Crazy Albuquerque Sunset

Crazy Albuquerque Sunset

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Keeping Cool in Leadville

After Wolford Campground Riley and I headed to Leadville, where there were some forest camping spots not too far from the town.  Chris took a side trip back to Hot Sulphur Springs for a couple of days, where he had good fishing right next to the campground.  I went ahead and scouted out a place for us so we could have a good campsite well before the Labor Day weekend.  Arriving on Wednesday, 8/28, the first place I checked was a good spot, so I set up camp.  It was just about 4 miles straight west from town off county road 4, very close to Turquoise Lake.  Although we didn’t have direct mountain views from our site due to the dense forest, the views were good just down the forest road where I would walk Riley.

Walking with Riley

Walking with Riley, towards Mt. Massive

This next shot includes Mt. Elbert, the highest point in Colorado, at 14,439 feet.  It doesn’t look that high, but Leadville sits at 10,000 feet, so it just looks like an average mountain from there.

Mt. Elbert and Mt. Massive

Mt. Elbert on the left and Mt. Massive to the right

I hadn’t used the scooter since leaving Denver, since there just wasn’t anyplace worth scooting to in Hot Sulphur Springs or on Rabbit Ears Pass.  But, we did unload it in Leadville.  I needed to run to the post office a few times for a package of mail my folks had collected/forwarded for me, and for my new license with the motorcycle endorsement.  Texas Department of Public Safety would only mail to me out of state.  If you give an in-state address (my folks place where my mail goes) they say you must be in TX and should just go to any DPS site and get the license.  After going around and around with the guy I had them send it to general delivery in Leadville.  Then when it finally came, just after Labor Day, it was wrong.  They hadn’t actually put the motorcycle endorsement on it.  Figures!  So they had to remake/resend it to my next stop in Salida.  Fun times. 😦  Anyway, I got to ride the scooter to town a few times, so that was good.

Leadville

Leadville

We hiked a bit at Turquoise Lake.  Hike isn’t really the word, it was more like a stroll.  There is a mostly level trail that goes right along the shoreline most of the way around the lake.  We did part of it one day, then started mid-way on another day and walked another section.  Such a beautiful lake.  This was another spot where I couldn’t stop taking pictures.

Turquoise Lake

Turquoise Lake, looking south to Mt. Massive and Mt. Elbert

Turquoise Lake2

Looking West

Chris and Riley on the Turquoise Lake Trail

Chris and Riley on the Turquoise Lake Trail

One day I saw a post from Glenn (ToSimplify.net) pop up in my Feeddler and the title was “Leadville”.  I had been following his travels for about 3-4 years, since I first started researching RVing.  (I was envious that he got to hang near the Grand Canyon with my friends Bob, Randy, CB, Laurie and others on his way east from LA.)  So, when I saw he was in town I sent him an email pointing out the great boondocking spot we had, with many great sites right along our forest road in case he needed a hang spot.  A few hours later Glenn drove up in his new “Go almost anywhere adventure rig” that he built himself!

Glenn

Glenn with his new go-anywhere rig

It was really fun visiting with him for a couple of days in the forest.  That rig is so well done, such great design and craftsmanship by Glenn.  He chronicled the whole process on his blog, so if anyone wants to strip down a VW Vanagon and build a new home on wheels, that’s the place to read all about it.

Next we headed for Salida, where we had camped in late June/early July, just before I headed to Denver.  We really liked the town and the camping was right on the Arkansas River, where Chris could fish close by.  It was quite cloudy/rainy in Leadville, being so close to the mountains.  In Salida we figured it would be sunnier – I needed more sun for my solar panel and new batteries.  Will select some pics and write about Salida soon.

Back to the Mountains

After Denver we went west on I-70 to pick up Hwy 40 past Idaho Springs and head north.  It’s a pretty steady climb to Idaho Springs, and then Hwy 40 zig-zags up to Berthoud Pass at 11,307 ft. elevation.  That’s a tough climb.  We were heading to Hot Sulphur Springs where we would meet Chris at the city’s Pioneer Park.  They have campsites in the park, right on the Colorado River.  We spent 2 days there and Chris had a good time fly-fishing right near our site.  It was a great spot, except for the train tracks next door.  Lots of trains, lots of train horns, including overnight.  Other than that it was a nice little spot.  Tiny little town, nice to walk around it in the evening.

Colorado River at Hot Sulphur Springs

Colorado River next to our campground at Hot Sulphur Springs

Next we were going to a spot that Chris had heard of called Rabbit Ears Pass.  It’s on Hwy 40 on the way to Steamboat Springs.  I checked the Escapees Days End directory and saw a few listings for the pass area.  Looking at Google Maps, there seemed to be  a couple of good boondocking spots right at the top of the pass.  We pulled in and really liked the site.  We were back in the forest, yay!  It’s at about 9,700 feet elevation, so the weather was very nice and cool.

Rabbit Ears Site

Rabbit Ears Site, Routt National Forest

By the way, while in Golden we were packed in like Sardines at the Golden Terrace RV “Resort”.  But, my neighbors were all just great, and the other residents I met at the dog run were really nice.  Again, glad to have a site for a month for $500, no complaints, but it was good to be back in the forest with no one around.

Golden Terrace RV "Resort"

Neighbors (L-R) Jerry, Jay, Jim and Carol were all super nice.

There was a trail-head just across the highway from our site and it took us to the Rabbit Ears Trail, which we hiked part way.  Then, on another day, we drove to the trail-head and hiked the full trail.  It gets pretty steep near the top.  The views up there were great!

Rabbit Ears

Rabbit Ears

Rabbit Ears View South

Rabbit Ears View South

Rabbit Ears View East

Rabbit Ears View East

One of the rabbit 'ears' up close.

One of the rabbit ‘ears’ up close.

    - "Riley, you stand by Chris for a picture."     - "No, I want to stand over there by you."

“Riley, you stand by Chris for a picture.”
 “No, I want to stand over there by you.”

While we were at Rabbit Ears the USA Pro Challenge cycling race came through.  Rabbit Ears Pass was a ‘King of the Mountain’ site for the riders to earn points.  We could see it from our site, but we took our chairs out by the road and sat with another couple that had parked there to watch the race.

Rabbit Ears King of the Mountain site

Rabbit Ears King of the Mountain stage from our spot

It was a great viewing site as the riders came over the hill and started the descent into Steamboat Springs.  Jens Voigt had built up a major lead up the mountain and he was first past us.  He would later lose the lead as the Peleton caught up to him within a mile or 2 of the end of the stage.

Here comes the leader, Jens Voigt.  And the camera person, and lots of support vehicles.

Here comes the leader, Jens Voigt.  Plus the camera person, and lots of support vehicles.

The Peleton goes whizzing by.

Later the Peleton went whizzing by.

It was really cool to be so close to the action of the race.  I had never seen a bike race in person.  The number of support vehicles that precede and follow the race was phenomenal.  The couple we watched with (they were from Florida) followed cycling and were able to tell us who was who and what was what during the race.  It was nice sitting with folks who could answer our newbie questions.

One day we had a visit from our friends John and Linda.  We had met them at the Lazy Daze gathering in Quartzsite in January.  They were on their way back to Colorado Springs from a trip to Grand Tetons National Park.  Their route back home took them pretty close to us so they swung by and spent a night at our spot.  It was so good to visit with them again.  The day they came I was working on changing out my house batteries, which were about 6 years old and not really holding a charge anymore.  So, Chris and John took them out and I drove Chris’ truck to the Napa in Steamboat Springs for a couple of new 6 volt golf cart batteries.  Then the guys hooked them up. Linda took a picture in the middle of it and she posted it on her blog, Adventures with Sadie. Our visiting got cut short by rain in the evening, and the next morning it was very foggy when they were about to leave.  But, I still got a pic before they took off.  Looking forward to visiting with them again in Abiquiu, NM later this month, and at the Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque in October.

Chris, John, Linda

Chris, John, Linda

View from my site with low clouds

View from my site with low clouds

The next morning was Saturday, so we went in to Steamboat Springs to go to the Farmer’s Market and stroll the town.

Steamboat Springs Farmer's Market, next to the courthouse lawn

Steamboat Springs Farmer’s Market

It’s a really pretty town.  They must have strict ordinances about buildings, even the McDonald’s looked like a ski chalet.  There were some very nice statues around town.  I liked the ones of Abe Lincoln, Benjamin Franklin and Mark Twain. at the benches on one corner.

Bench Statues

Bench Statues

Mark Twain

Mark Twain, with Tom Sawyer and Rebecca

View down the main street, toward the ski mountain.

Lincoln Street and ski runs shown on the mountain

Lincoln Avenue and ski runs shown on the mountain

While camped at Hot Sulphur Springs and Rabbit Ears Pass I/we did some work on the rig.  We (97% Chris) changed my water pump, which was starting to fail.  I hung an IKEA LED light above my back window like I did in my prior RV, and another of the same light above my dinette (I love that light fixture.)  I put in a gooseneck faucet in the kitchen, same fixture as my dad and I put in the last rig.  Mostly I was able to do it myself with Chris supervising and checking my work.

Next we wanted to go to Leadville.  I had found a couple of possible forest sites west and southwest of town and, at 10,000 feet elevation, should be cool enough.  On the way we stopped at Wolford Campground near Kremmling.  I needed to get a full charge on my new batteries (my 85 watt solar panel wasn’t cutting it) and needed a plug in site.  The Wolford site was better than a cramped RV park.  Chris did a little fishing in the lake, but he prefers fly fishing in rivers.

Wolford Reservoir

Wolford Reservoir.  Chris is there – a dot along the shore towards the right side.

Will write about our visit to Leadville next.

Is this a perfect site or what?

Is this a perfect site or what?

Mohave and visiting

Picking up where I left off last time, Chris and I had decided to have a meetup midway between us (I was south of Barstow, CA and he was at Alamo Lake, east of Parker, AZ.)  We decided on Goffs, near the Mohave National Preserve.  I figured we would be able to find a site to camp at, since there are BLM wilderness areas nearby, Mohave allows ‘roadside camping’, and they have a couple of traditional campgrounds.  So, on Tuesday 3/19 Riley and I headed off through Barstow, where we dumped tanks and did some grocery shopping.  When we got to Goffs and met up with Chris we headed up Lanfair Road, one of the lesser used roads in the Mohave Preserve.  Most of the visitor stuff is in the middle, off Essex Rd.  We found an old mining road, where there are a few sites that have been used for camping previously.  We set up there and had a fantastic location – perfect climate at about 3000 elevation, not much road noise due to few autos traveling on that road, and great hiking among the network of old mining roads.

Mohave Site

Mohave Site, just off Lanfair Road (the dirt road on the left there)

Each morning we would head out for a hike.  There were so many roads branching off and hills to climb.  We always had someplace we wanted to visit the next day.  One day we hiked up to a high rock outcropping and could see some type of structure off in the distance.  We decided to hike there the next day.

Mohave View with homestead

Mohave View with structure in the distance (the brown bit near the right side of the picture, about midway down)

It turned out to be an old homestead.  There was a crumbling wooden house structure and a foundation from a separate building.  Like a mini ghost town.

Homestead 1

The old homestead

Also, there was a car.  We call it the ghost car.  It looked like a truck, but on closer inspection it was originally a sedan.  They had cut the roof off over the back to make a truck out of it.

Chris and the "ghost car"

Chris and the “ghost car”

Ghost Car

Ghost Car

Anyway, we had a good time in the desert – visiting, hiking, cooking, just hanging.  We didn’t see much in the way of wildlife, just some bunnies, a few birds and a couple of impressive lizards.  We heard coyotes, but never saw them.  Lots of desert plants blooming in March.

Lizard1

Lizard1

Lizard2

Lizard2

Barrel Cactus

Barrel Cactus

Desert Bloom

Desert Bloom

Desert Bloom 2

Desert Bloom 2

Old mining roads make good trails.  Vegetation is slowly overtaking, but you can still make out the path.

Old mining roads make good trails. Vegetation is slowly overtaking, but you can still make out the path.

At about this time my folks were on a road trip to Las Vegas and I thought maybe we could meet up somewhere and have a visit on their way back home since I was so close.  I emailed the suggestion and they arranged to stop in Laughlin, NV for a couple of days, March 27-28.  They got reservations at the Riverside Casino which has an RV park, so I got a site there.  Chris and I headed over on the 27th.  He was going to get a site at Katherine Landing at the southern end of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, on Lake Mohave.  Also, he has family in nearby Bullhead City, so would be able to work in a visit or two while there.

I met up with my folks on Wednesday just after pulling into the RV park.  It was so, so good to see them.  We got to visit a bit, then we got them checked into their room.  They were going to check out the casino and see how was the video poker.  I headed back to check on Riley and finish getting myself settled.  When I got back to the casino my mom had already hit a Royal Flush and won $1000.  Yay!  Then she forced me to take $100 to gamble with.  I hung with them at the bar and enjoyed playing the poker machines.  They had to remind me how to play at first.  Once I got the hang I did OK, only going through $40 over the 2 evenings.  We enjoyed dinners at the casino cafe, and Chris joined us for breakfast on Thursday morning.  I can’t believe I never thought to have one of the waitstaff take a picture of us for the blog.  Darn!!

On Friday they headed back to Texas and I moved over to Katherine Landing where Chris was set up.  He was fishing on the lake with his kayak. There are a lot of power boats on the lake.  It has a marina and gets very busy.  Not great for fishing, unfortunately.

Katherine Landing Campground

Katherine Landing Campground.  Large Oleanders between sites provide some separation, but not much shade.

Mohave Lake and marina, from the Fisherman Trail

Mohave Lake and marina, from the Fisherman Trail

Ski Cove, then end of the Fisherman Trail

Ski Cove, the end of the Fisherman Trail

Chris and Riley at Katherine Landing info station after a hike

Chris and Riley at Katherine Landing info station after a hike

More desert blooms, at Katherine Landing:

Beaver Tail in bloom

Beaver Tail in bloom

Blooming cholla

Blooming Cholla

I had originally planned to stay a day or 2 at Katherine Landing before heading back to CA.  But, I ended up staying longer to hang with Chris.  Probably would have stayed even longer, but it got unbearably hot, up to about 90.  Without hookups and no AC, it was really uncomfortable. We drove around the surrounding BLM land looking for a place with higher elevation but couldn’t find anything suitable.  So, we headed out on Thursday, April 4th.  Chris was going to make his way to Prescott, AZ and his sister’s place, and I headed to Lake Isabella, CA.  It’s at at the southern tip of the Sequoia National Forest and about 3000 feet elevation, so much cooler.  That’s next….