Sunday, November 11, 2007

Off the Road Again

The road trip is over and I'm back to the workaday world but oh, what a road trip it was. I don't think there was any way it could have turned out bad because both Guitar and I were ever so ready for anything that would take us on the road.

The stars aligned just right on this past Thursday and Guitar and I were able to sneak out of town at about 3 pm headed south on Interstate 25. Our goal was to make it to Lathrop State Park just outside of Walsenburg, CO. Not much to do on the trip down other than to explore Walsenburg after dark before we went to the park.

Walsenburg is a town of only about 4000 so you might
think that there wouldn't be much to occupy us, but then you wouldn't understand that it doesn't take much to occupy Guitar and myself. "After dark", is the perfect time to hunt old neon signs and it's surprising what you can find in a small town. As a matter of fact some of our best finds come from small towns and this trip was to reinforce that. We found a number of great neon signs but the one I liked the most is the one to the left...Aly's Fireside Cafe. Just love the martini glass!

After about an hour of searching and finding three or four "keepers" we headed to Lathrop State Park, fixed a dinner of home made vegetable soup...expertly microwaved by Guitar, and settled in for the night. We were quite a ways from the lights of Walsenburg and had a wonderful night sky to look at. I spotted two shooting stars before we retired for the night.

We were up early Friday morning to find out that we had an incredible view of the Spanish Peaks of the Sangre de Cristo mountain range. The Indians called these two mountains, Wahatoya, which means "breasts of the world" and you can
certainly see why in the picture above. A little more exploration of the park and we headed south for Trinidad, about 50 miles to the the crow flies...

Our trip to
Trinidad was a lot more than 50 miles, as we were determined to explore everything away from the interstate that we could. In doing this we found the old highway that served as the main north-south route long before the interstate. The picture at the top of this post shows a section of this road. It looks to be an early 1930's concrete road that is just barely two lanes wide. The width wasn't a problem as we did not see another car on this road for quite a number of miles.

The tractor in the picture above, was just one of a bunch of old cars, trucks and tractors sitting in a field behind a ranch house on this old road. The tractor was a Fordson model F which was produced between 1918 and 1928. A great find!

A couple more miles down the road was Ludlow, CO, the site of the Ludlow coal massacre, a very sorrowful event in which over twenty women and children were killed when the Colorado National Guard attacked a camp of strikers and their families. There's not a lot there today except a monument erected by the United Mine Workers of America, but that was enough for Guitar and I to contemplate and agree that we're both glad that this country has progressed in the area of labor relations.

We made it to Trinidad at about noon and proceeded to be surprised by this little jewel of a town. Not a big town by any means. Population about 7,000 tops but with a wonderfully intact and vibrant downtown area. It seems as if preservat
ion and restoration have hit this corner of Colorado and it's a great thing to see.

We spent a couple of hours exploring and taking pictures of
old signs....we actually did it twice because after we set up camp and had some dinner we went back into Trinidad to catch some of the signs when they were lit up. The bad news was that the museum we wanted to see the most, the A.R. Mitchell Museum was closed. Looking at the bright side, this gives us a reason to return to this great little town.

Saturday morning we were onc
e again, up early, ready to explore historical sites and whatever oddities came our way. Before we left the camp however we had a visit from a herd of deer that leisurely browsed their way past the camper....and by the way, this campground wasn't too shabby either. A great view of Fisher's Peak from Trinidad Lake State Park and we had the park almost all to ourselves!

A disappointment was that we were unable to find the grave site of Uncle Dick Wooten. Oh, we found the graveyard easy enough. The Catholic Cemetery of Trinidad is still in operation...
and that was the problem. There were a LOT of "deceased" in this place and there was no one around to help us find Uncle Dick's resting place, even though we knew the plot number. We marked that down as another reason to return to Trinidad.

Perhaps the highlight of the trip to me was exploring Morley, CO. It took a little "doin'" to get there but the trouble was worth it. This old coal mining ghost town breathed it's last gasp in the 1950's and the coal company tore down most of the buildings but the foundations remain. The centerpiece of the town is the remains of the old Catholic church on the hill above the town. It is very much photographed, painted and otherwise recorded and Guitar and I were not about to break the custom. I don't know how many shots I took but as far as I'm concerned they all turned out great!

I think we spent a couple of hours looking aroun
d and trying to imagine the people, the families, the babies, the marriages and the funerals that once made this a real place, just like the towns that you and I live in.

I had wanted to find and drive the old Raton Pass road from this point down into Raton, NM but we found out that the road now belongs to a development company and is private...closed to the public. Even Uncle Dick Wooton's ranch is closed off to the public. There was nothing Guitar and I could do, so we got back on I-25 and drove down into Raton for our last night on the road.

The official records say that Raton has about the same population as Trinidad but it sure seemed smaller to me. Smaller or not, it had it's own gems of neon signs. Guitar and I decided to stay at a commercial KOA campground this last night because he was having a problem with the water pump on the camper...and because the KOA location gave us easy access to the town.

We occupied the last of this day in hunting down some great old signs and browsing in a few antique shops.

One of the shops was owned and operated by a sprightly 88 year old woman who entertained us with stories of the history of the old store, the background of some of h
er wares and countless other things. I think we spent well over an hour in that one store. The woman told us that she was a graduate of Johns Hopkins, had been a nurse in WW II, came ashore shortly after D Day and was in Holland during Battle of the Bulge!

Amazingly enough, after we left this store we went into a western clothing store and spoke with the proprietor of that store....who was an army veteran of WW II who served in the Pacific.....The Greatest Generation is alive and well in Raton, New Mexico!

Sunday morning came way too soon. It's hard to believe that three days went by so quick. Guitar and I had about as much fun as you can, and still be legal. Three days of poking around back roads, looking at the obscure. Three days of non-homogenized America. Three days of road trip. It would have been nice to just keep heading south to Las
Vegas, NM and over to Canyon de Chelly. Oh well, that freedom will have to wait for another 628 days.

As Guitar and I were getting ready to leave I spotted what I am going to call a good omen. The god of Road Trip sent a sign to us that we will soon be as free as birds....or balloons. Free to drift wherever we choose.....

Thanks for visiting.

1 comment:

Jay River said...

I hope you took a look at Canyon De Chelly while in the area.

For some detailed history on Canyon De Chelly, this film clip will give you some information. This clip is an excerpt from Edward S. Curtis's observations of CdC in 1911. It's part of a much larger film.
Canyon De Chelly:
Link:Film Clip


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