Wednesday, July 29, 2009

July 29

We updated the blog for the past several days and then went to the Pumphouse brewpub in Longmont and the Twisted Pine brewpub in Boulder for some beers. After that we went to the Cannon Mine Coffee Shop in Lafayette where we met Kevin, Anne-Alex, Hallie and Maddie. It was open microphone night, and Maddie and Hallie sang some songs. Kevin accompanied Maddie on guitar, and Hallie played her own guitar.

July 28

We continued east on highway 14 alongside the Cache la Poudre River. We stopped at a laundromat in Ft. Collins and washed all our dirty clothes. We went on to Longmont, Colorado where we set up the trailer at St. Vrain State Park. We took showers (finally) and then went to the new Tasty Weasel taproom at Oskar Blues Brewery (makers of Dale’s Pale Ale). Carolyn had a pint of whisky barrel cask-conditioned TenFidy (a “titanic, immensely viscous stout loaded with neck-deep flavors” – 10% ABV, 85 IBU’s), and I had a pint of Gordon (“a velvet M-80 double red ale with a gooey aroma and sticky mouthfeel" – 8% ABV, 60 IBU’s). Then we went to Left Hand Brewing where we met the head brewer, Ro Guenzel. He took us on a private tour of the brewery. Then we drove to my neice Anne-Alex’s house in Erie where we had dinner with her, her husband Kevin and their daughters Hallie and Maddie.

July 27

We hooked up the trailer and headed toward Colorado. On the way out of the Medicine Bow National Forest we did a short hike to Lake Marie Falls. We drove to the Mountain Park Campground in Roosevelt National Forest about 25 miles west of Ft. Collins on the Cache la Poudre River. There are several Forest Service campgrounds along the river but we chose this one because it had a bathroom with showers. After we got the trailer parked and set up we went to the bathroom to take showers only to find that the showers were out of order. Bummer.

July 26

We got up to gorgeous sunny weather. We decided to move to a more picturesque campground higher up the road – the Brooklyn Lake Campground. We scored a prime space next to the lake. We went on another 3 mile hike to Lost Lake. When we returned we played dominoes at our picnic table. After dinner a couple in a trailer next to us invited us over to their campfire and we ended up playing dominoes again with them in their trailer.

July 25

We drove through two nearby campgrounds to check them out. We stopped at Libby Flats observation point where you had a good view of the snowy range mountains. We went on a short hike on the miner’s cabin trail. Then we hiked the 3.6 mile Lakes Trail. It went through some beautiful country – snowy mountains and lakes with beautiful flowers in bloom. I carried a picnic lunch in my backpack for to eat at the end of the trail as we enjoyed the scenery. Just as we got there it started to rain – much lightning which was frightening on the treeless 11,000 foot summit. We high tailed it back wearing our Wal-Mart ponchos and had the picnic lunch in the car. It rained the rest of the day.

July 24

We drove to Laramie, Wyoming and went through the Wyoming Territorial Prison. Butch Cassidy was imprisoned here from 1894 to 1896. Then we drove the scenic Snowy Range Highway in Medicine Bow National Forest and set up the trailer in the Nash Fork Campground.

July 23

We left Scottsbluff and drove to Fort Laramie National Historic Site in eastern Wyoming. This was initially a trading post in the early 1800’s which became a U.S. Army fort. The Plains Indian War started here when 30 soldiers were massacred when they tried to arrest an Indian for stealing a cow. Much of the fort’s buildings are still standing and they have been filled with period furnishings. One of the buildings called “Old Bedlam” is the oldest building in Wyoming. We stayed in the city RV park in Wheatland, Wyoming.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

July 22

We drove south to Agate Fossil Beds National Monument. In this area rich fossil deposits were found of mammals from the Miocene Era -- about 20 million years ago. The monument's museum collection also contains more than 500 Plains Indian artifacts. However, most of these were not on display because the museum was about to be remodeled. We drove on to Scotts Bluff National Monument. This large bluff on the south bank of the North Platte River was a landmark on the Oregon Trail. It was the first large rock formation along the river where the Great Plains gave way to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. We took a shuttle bus to the top of the bluff and took some pictures. Then we drove to the nearby Chimney Rock, another distinctive rock formation on the Oregon Trail. The Pony Express route also came through here. We stayed at the Riverside Campground run by the city of Scottsbluff, next to the city zoo.

July 21

Since we finally had cell phone and internet access we spent the morning on the computer paying bills, checking email, reconciling bank accounts, etc. Then we hooked up the trailer and drove by Fort Robinson where Chief Crazy Horse was imprisoned and murdered. We went on down the road to Harrison, Nebraska where we set up the trailer at the town RV park. It had water and electricity and was next to the municipal swimming pool which had hot showers. There were only two spaces and donations were appreciated – we donated $5. We took a little drive around the countryside and had a beer in a local bar.

Monday, July 20, 2009

July 20

We got up early and drove to the Minuteman Missile National Historic Park Headquarters just outside Badlands National Park. We got there at 7:30 A.M. and were first in line to get on the waiting list for a tour of the Delta One missile command center and Delta Nine missile silo. These are part of 450 Minuteman ICBM facilities that were decommissioned under the START Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty signed by George Bush Sr. and Mikhail Gorbachov. The installations we saw were made into a Cold War museum while all of the rest were destroyed. We went into one of the control centers where men were prepared to launch ICBM’s when given the proper commands which could reach their targets in Russia in 30 minutes with thermonuclear warheads. The U.S. still has hundreds of such sites but now they have updated Minuteman 3’s which carry three warheads. The current sites require four separate keys to be engaged simultaneously to initiate a launch instead of just two. In the 1960’s my brother John worked in a plant that made the solid fuel rocket propellant for the Minuteman missiles.

We drove to Crawford, Nebraska and set up the trailer in the city park. We had electricity, and it was free!

July 18 & 19

We left Hot Springs and drove to the Cedar Pass campground of Badlands National Park near Interior, South Dakota. We went to the visitors center to get oriented and then went on several short hikes in the park. We also drove the park’s scenic loop. Unlike most national parks it is OK to get off established trails. In fact people are allowed to go anywhere in the park and climb all over the formations. The place is full of highly eroded hills consisting mainly of crumbly bentonite (the stuff kitty litter is made of) that look like miniature alp-like mountains. We also drove to nearby the nearby town of Wall which has an old 1930’s drug store that has expanded into a major tourist trap.

Friday, July 17, 2009

July 17

We left Wind Cave National Park and drove 10 miles to the town of Hot Springs where we set up at an RV park. We needed to recharge the Casita’s battery after 6 days of camping without electricity. There was a stream behind our campsite which had sheep wandering by. We went to the local library to get internet access so we could finally get the blog up to date. We have had almost no cell or internet data service with T-Mobile up here. When we get back to Houston we are going to dump T-Mobile and switch to Verizon.

July 16

We got up early and drove scenic Iron Mountain Road from our camp to Mount Rushmore. We left the trailer at camp because there were more tunnels, some of which were designed to show views of Mount Rushmore as you drove through them. The road was very windy and had three “pigtail” loops. We went back to camp, hooked up and drove to the Elk Mountain campground at Wind Cave National Park. On the way we saw more antelope, buffalo and prairie dogs. After setting up the trailer we went on a tour of the cave. It has some unique “box” formations caused by gypsum flowing through cracks in the limestone, hardening into calcite, and then being exposed when carbonic acid ate away the surrounding limestone. These formations are very fragile -- about as strong as potato chips.