Sunday, July 29, 2007

A Circular Event

It's been a while since the circle got together in full force. Almost two months. I'm thinkin' that our Moab trip was the last time all six of us were together so Saturday it was time to "turn" the circle.

This entire day was planned by the ladies of the circle. The Bride, Pic-E and K worked hard in coming up with something to occupy us for the entire day....Well, it was even better than that. They planned the day so that there was a morning activity and then a couple of hours for a break and then we resumed our get together in the evening.

The morning's activity was a visit to the Museum of Nature & Science to see the Titanic Artifact exhibit and then see the IMax showing of "Ghosts of the Abyss". I had never been to this museum so I was particularly interested in going there. It took us a couple of hours to see just the Titanic exhibit and the IMax film. There is a lot more to see in the museum so I'm putting this on the "rainy day" or "winter day" list and for sure I'll be back.

A couple of hours of mind expanding activities will put the "hunger" on anyone so the circle was more than ready for lunch. K suggested we go to Annie's Cafe and I readily agreed as I hadn't been there and had never even heard of this place....Write this one down folks if you're looking for comfort food in a 1950's style atmosphere. A great little place with a knockout soda fountain menu. I don't even remember what I had to eat, but I'll never forget the butterscotch malt! Whoa! Makes you want to "saang"! Next time I go there I'm not gonna waste room on sandwiches and stuff, I'm gonna have TWO malts.

By the time we finished a leisurely lunch and conversation it was almost 2pm so we all decided to take a break and meet again for dinner at 6pm. I'm all over this kind of schedule because this allows me to squeeze in a nap....which I did. So far the day is a big success...Oh, in all of this I did not have a clue as to what was planned. You see, this was kind of my birthday "adven
ture" since the circle hadn't been able to get together since that august date. The dinner destination, too, was totally unknown to me.

Six o'clock rolled around and Too Tall and K appeared at our door to drive to dinner. Too Tall and K have a new "ride" and it will seat six so he volunteered to drive so that we could all go in the same car. (There is another story in this that I'll post about later!).

We picked up Guitar and Pic-E and headed for dinner at Cafe Prague in the little foothills town of Morrison. Morrison isn't really a "mountain" town but it's higher up than most of the Denver suburbs and sits in the mouth of a canyon leading up to the mountains. A picturesque little spot. As the name indicates Cafe Prague is a Czech restaurant that also serves European fare. Certainly not your run of the mill American place.

As a group we, the circle, have no problem keep ourselves entertained and having a good time where ever we are and so it was with this night. A great restaurant, good friends and good

For me, this has been a fantastic weekend. The Emmer made it over the hump and got her drivers license. I had a whole day with the circle and saw things I hadn't seen before....had a great dinner....even squeezed in a nap!

After we dropped Guitar and Pic-E off at their home, The Bride and I sat in the "way back" of Too Tall's new ride and I was instructing The Bride on some of the basics of retirement....I think she's a quick study too...

Thanks for visiting.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Driving Miss Emily

Dawn broke cloudy and cool. A pleasant change from the oppressing heat of the past few days...but was this a sign? If so, what did the sign mean....cloudy is maybe not a good sign....not oppressively hot could be a good sign?????

Today was the day that The Emmer was going to attempt her driving test for the third time. Signs could be an important thing on this important day! Was it a sign? What did it mean?

The Emmer has the skills to drive. She understands the rules of the road. She is however, terrible at tests. Once her confidence is shaken, she crumbles. She knows this and understands this but hasn't been able to shake this trait. Can she hold it together enough today to pass the driving test? If she can't she has to start all over again and do both the wri
tten and the driving test. We...The Emmer, The Bride and myself, "his-self", have been working at this for almost eight years now.

Dang it, I want it to be a good sign. I want The Emmer to have her driving license. I want her to have the freedom that having a driver's license gives.

We leave the house at about 9am with The Emmer driving, towards the licensing office. The Emmer is asking a few road rules questions just to be sure everything is clear. She is nervous. Anyone can tell she is nervous. The closer we get to the licensing office the more erratic her driving becomes.

I'm doing everything in my power to calm her down. She can do this thing I say. They are not out to trick you or make it hard for you. All you have to do is stay calm. When the tester tells you to do something, repeat it in your mind first. If you don't understand ask her to repeat it. It will take 20 minutes...max...You've done a lot harder things for a lot longer. You can do this thing!

State Driver's Licensing Offices are not pleasant places. They are not designed to calm anyone down. I must not understand the system. There must be an office where the "regular" people go because this one seems to be reserved for the dregs of society. I don't see one normal person here......Calm down I tell myself, you'll spook The Emmer.

After an interminable wait, it's The Emmer's turn. I walk away. I have no more influence. It's out of my hands now.....Hang in there Emmer...You can do this thing!

I have been in very serious situations where time seemed to slow to a crawl. Strangely, this was not one of those times. It seemed like The Emmer had just pulled out of the parking lot and was back immediately! The sinking feeling in my gut............oh, that's not good at all.....I couldn't see into the car from where I stood but I imagined The Emmer was crying after all why was it taking so long for them to get out of the car?

Finally, I saw the doors of the car open slowly, The Emmer looked around to find me and when she finally saw me standing half a block away.....smiled and screamed "DAD, I PASSED!". She continued screaming "DAD, I PASSED!" as she ran across the parking lot, past all the retards, low lifes and dregs waiting their turn. She got to me and hugged me tight.....I'm a father and life is good!!!

Congratulations, Emmer!

Thanks for visiting.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Recent Read

Sagebrush Soldier - Private William Earl Smith's View of the Sioux War of 1876 by Sherry L. Smith the great granddaughter of Private Smith was a fascinating read. Readers know that I like history and especially western history. My preference in reading history is first person historical narrative. It's hard to get any more "up close and personal" than that.

While this book is not quite a true first person historical narrative it still uses much of the journal kept by William Smith as well as some material from Colonel Richard Dodge and General George Crook's journals as well. This provides a very interesting view of the actual events. Most military journals that are published are done by officers and their "take" on things is decidedly different from that of an enlisted man. Having Private Smith's description of events from the "ground level" brings a realism to the story that provides for riveting reading.

This campaign culminated in the Dull Knife battle just five months after Custer met his demise at the Little Big Horn. The loss of life on either side was not great but the Northern Cheyenne tribes lost almost all of their belongings...horses, tents, food, clothing in the dead of Wyoming winter. This was a blow from which they would never recover.

At one point in the battle, Private Smith enters a tent to find an old squaw clutching a buffalo robe. Smith unsuccessfully tries to snatch it from her but can't and cannot bring himself to kill her. Later he goes back to the tent to find that someone else did not have his scruples and shot the squaw for the blanket.

The book is only 150 pages and I devoured it in about two sittings. If you're into western history, military history or Indian history I can heartily recommend this book.
Thanks for visiting.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Summer Signs

The forecast it for the temperatures to be at or above 100 degrees today so if I was to do anything outside at all it had to be in the early morning. After dropping The Emmer off at work I called Guitar, who is also a "morning" person.

We decided to take a ride and see if we could discover some more old neon signs to add to our collection. Early morning is a great time to do this sort of thing as many of the great old signs are in not so great old areas of town and the fewer people on the street, the better. By 7:30 am we were driving down one of the old commercial "drags" of the Denver Metro area. We did indeed
bag a few new signs.

When you're out seeking weird or kitsch, you never know what you'll find...and a lot of the time it just find
s you. So it was this morning. Both of us spotted the sign for the "Hanger Bar" which wasn't that great but the flag next to it made a pretty good picture so I quickly pulled into the parking lot and when I looked into the lot, lo and behold..."Guitar!, Look at that car???"

Guitar was as intrigued as I was and as we got up close to it we found it to be a Crosley. Now, I knew Crosley as a maker of radios, air conditioners and all kinds of electronic equipment but cars...? As we walked around it marveling, the owner came out of the back of the bar. He'd been cleaning up from last night.

He said it was a 1950 Crosley that he's owned since he was 15 years old. To be charitable that had to be at LEAST 45-50 years ago. Anyway he told us all about the car. Six gallon gas tank...but that would take you 300 miles. He said it would do 70 mph but it was a scary thing!

Guitar and I were patting ourselves on the back for discovering a cool thing when this guy says, "If you think that's neat, you ought to see the the B-17 inside the bar." "B-17??" we say almost together...."Yeah, there's one made of beer cans inside the bar." he says.

The Weird Gods are smiling on us today!!!

Sure enough, inside the bar was a very large model of a WWII B-17 done in beer cans. Some of the cans in the "sculpture" looked to be collector items on their own. Seems like when Stapleton was the airport in Denver a lot of the airport folks made this bar a regular stop. A lot of the airport folks were WWII veterans so there was a lot of Air Force memorabilia in the bar.

Stapleton closed down as the Denver airport over ten years ago...and it looked like the glory days of this bar were over long before that. But kitsch knows no age. In fact it's tough to be new and have any kind of real kitsch....kinda like wine.

By this time Guitar and I had used up the morning. It was getting hot and we both decided it was a good day to find a cool room in the house and chill so we ended our adventure for this day.

Thanks for visiting.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Wild Life---NOT

Saturday night and I'm sittin' here thinking about the wild life...well, maybe not "wild life", that stuff is behind me now, but wildlife. Not only wildlife but just being back out in "The World".

When I was in VietNam, everything outside of that place was referred to as "The World". I kinda have that feeling about my career now. I realize that one phase of my life is rapidly winding do
wn and things in my career that once seemed really important....don't anymore. I'm really looking forward to getting back to "The World". The World is filled with things I have rushed by for 35 years. Things that I wanted to know about and to do. Things that had to be relegated to a very low priority because of the "career" thing. It won't be all that long now, before that ole priority list gets turned upside down!

"What's got into his-self" you say? Ah, I don't know? I think I read too many full-timing RV blogs today. Some of my favorites are "Tioga & George", "Our Odyssey", "Nick's Blog", "Len's Travels", and "RV Boondocking the Good Life". There are tons of others as well but all of them get me to thinkin' and dreamin'.

I doubt if The Bride and I will ever do full-timing, but I can certainly see myself taking extended trips several times a year. Seeing as how The Brid
e still has that "career" thing she kind of expects me to explore long as it's "wildlife" and not "wild life".....if you catch my drift.

Dang, if this didn't turn into a stream of consciousness thing. I originally intended to post some "fauna" kind of stuff that #4 and I saw on our trip. Well, here they are.


And my favorite from this trip.....................

Thanks for visiting.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Heads Will Roll!

I mentioned that I had a special experience while #4 and I were in Ft. Garland and I did. It had to do with my love of Western history in general and the history of mountain men in particular.

One of the lesser known but certainly not lesser in deeds was Thomas Tate Tobin. Tobin was born in Missouri in 1823 and went west with his half brother Charles Autobees in 1837. Tobin “ran” with all the famous names of mountain man lore, Jim Bridger, “Uncle” Dick Wooten, Jerimiah Johnson, Charlie Bent and others. He was one of only two men to survive the Indian attack on Turley’s Mill in the Taos area during the Indian revolt of 1847.

One of his most well know exploits was to track down the infamous Espinoza brothers in 1863, kill them, behead them and then dump their heads in the middle of the commandants office at Ft. Garland as proof that he had exterminated the outlaws.

Tobin’s daughter, Pascuala married Kit Carson’s son, William (pictured on left). One day in 1888 after a bout of drinking "Billy" beat up his wife Pascuala. Tobin set out to kill Billy and got shot himself in the altercation. At 61 years of age odds were poor that Tom Tobin would survive his wounds but it would take more that that to put an end to a tough old mountain man. Not only did he survive but he and Billy patched up their relationship. Billy died the next year when a horse kicked him in the leg, set off his pistol and shot him.

As an old man Tobin was pretty close to destitute and when he died he was buried without a headstone not far from Ft. Garland. An anonymous admirer placed a headstone on the grave some years later.

James E. Perkins, in his book Tom Tobin: Frontiersman described the grave site as just off Hwy 160 west of Ft. Garland. He said it was visible from the road.I have been fascinated by the story of Tom Tobin and have looked for the grave site for a number of years without success.

While #4 and I were at Ft. Garland, the museum director happened to be there and I asked him if he knew the location of the grave. He was very familiar with Tom and his grave site. Unfortunately it was on private land…Fortunately he had the number of the corporate ranch and a contact name. He also said that the owners were very accommodating to people that wanted to visit the cemetery.

I quickly got on the phone and made arrangements with the ranch administrator to get to the cemetery. The cemetery is only visible from the public highway if you’ve been there and know exactly where to look and even then you can’t see headstones from the road only the high wire fence that surrounds the cemetery.

I followed a ranch hand about a mile and a half off the road on sandy tracks…it might be able to be called a trail but certainly not a road. At any rate I finally got to the ancient cemetery that held the bodily remains of one of America’s least known but in my mind one of the most fascinating figures, Thomas Tate Tobin.

It was a special event for me. You will note in the picture that Tobin’s name is spelled Toben. It is an error. His anonymous benefactor apparently couldn’t spell very well but this only makes the story more interesting to me.

Check out the links in this post and if you want to read the story of a REAL American frontiersman…a story that sounds too fantastic to be true but is, read Perkins’ book.

Thanks for visiting.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Day #6 For #4

Well, I guess the party is over for this trip. Time to pack up and head on home. Before we do however there are several more things I want to do. First, I have been meaning for years to take a picture of the drive-in theater sign in Buena Vista. This one isn't as fancy as the Movie Manor I visited the other day but it's still a neat thing to see an operating drive-in. Since it was on our way through Buena Vista it only took a couple of minutes to get the picture.

Next stop was Fairplay and the Colorado Mountain Hat Company to get a tune up for my hat. We got there just as Smitty was opening up and #4 was amazed. Being from a large city in the Southeast "cowboy" hats were not his thing, but a custom Fedora? Smitty just happened to have a couple of styles on display and before you could say Fedora, #4 was under the conforminator to get fitted. He's gonna look sharp in the city when he gets his custom hat in about 12 weeks!

I got my hat tuned up while all this was going on and it was time to head on down the road.

One more stop before we got home...Coney Island Hot Dog stand in Bailey, CO. I've described this place to you in earlier posts and #4 wanted to stop there for lunch. I didn't have a problem with that at all so it was hot dogs and onion rings for lunch. We got there a little before noon but there was already a line outside. That doesn't necessarily mean a long wait however because the inside is so small not many people can fit in at one time.

#4 sprung for lunch and I grabbed one of the two tables inside. Even though it was a gorgeous day outside, I had to let #4 soak up the ambiance of
eating inside.

After lunch we couldn't postpone the goin' home part any more and were back at the house by 2pm. We spent the rest of the day relaxing and looking at pictures from the trip.

First thing Saturday morning, I drove #4 to the airport and we said our good-byes. I had a blast on the trip and I'm pretty sure he did too. The both of us got to act like brothers again and I'm thankful for that.

Who knows, maybe we'll do a repeat next year?

Thanks for visiting.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Day #5 for #4

Both #4 and myself have now become accustomed to the solitude and isolation of the previous four days. The KOA in Alamosa did for us what we wanted it to do....but we had to accept constant traffic on the nearby road and being just feet away from other RVs. It's time to "blow this joint" and return to the mountains for our final night.

Cottonwood Lake was our final nights destination. About 120 miles to the north to Buena Vista and then west up to the mountains. This is the campground that my family camped in many times in the mid 1960's. In the picture to the right you can see the blue and white Shasta trailer pulled by a red Pontiac Starchief station wagon that Mom and Dad "educated" us with. The picture was taken in the same campground that #4 and I would now occupy for the night some 40 years later. I don't know about #4, but I got a might misty eyed just thinking about it.

I also had to remind #4, that while he slept in the relative comfort of the trailer those many years ago, I slept in a surplus army pup tent that you can see in the picture at the top.

True to form now, we arrived about lunch....had some....and went exploring. Well, exploring doesn't really fit in this case because I am well acquainted with the area. What I did was to show #4 the sights and the place to start was the top of Cottonwood Pass.

e threatening clouds could not make the view any less spectacular...or the wild flowers any less stunning. We spent considerable time taking pictures and soaking up the beauty.

On the way back down to the campground we stopped to chat with a young lady that was painting pictures of the same flowers #4 and I
were expending electrons on with the digital camera. Seems like we weren't the only ones struck by the magnificence of the area.

Back at the campground, I decided to try my luck at fishing in my old "honey hole". I've got to tell you that I haven't fished for over 10 years now. Can't really tell you why but I haven't. Two years ago I started buying fishing licenses again but still haven't actually wet a line until this day, July 12th, my 60th bir

The magic of Cottonwood Lake continues to tug at me, as by the time I made my 3rd cast, I caught a beautiful little brown trout. Sorry, but there are no pictures. You'll just have to believe this old fisherman. I not only caught one but I caught two and lost two more in the hour or so before it started raining.

The rain finally made me quit and go back to the trailer. It was getting late anyway so #4 and I fixed dinner and chatted for the last night out. Pioneer hours took over and we were in bed at dark resigned to the fact that the adventure was pretty much over....for this time.

Thanks for visiting.

Day #4 for #4

On day four it was decided that we would camp in a KOA in Alamosa, CO. This afforded us the opportunity to get to the internet, make telephone calls, replenish our water supply and get some supplies.

This strategy also allowed me to show #4, both the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Fort Garland. Great Sand Dunes has only reached National Park status within the last couple of years but it has been a magical place for eons.

Imagine 30 square miles of sand dunes, some that are 650 feet tall, pushed up against 13,000 foot tall mountains. You really can't visualize it. You have to see it to believe it.

Just to get an idea, look at #4 in the picture on the right. Under his outstretched arm is a speck. That speck is a person. Click on the picture to get a better view and look at the specks to the right of #4's head....those are people too!

Before we
got to this magical place, I got to get my kitsch fix for the day....Not too far west of Alamosa lies the little town of Monte Vista. If you ever get the urge to see a drive-in movie but don't want to do it in the cramped quarters of an automobile, Monte Vista is the place for you! Monte Vista is the home of the Movie Manor a Best Western motel with it's own drive-in theater. All of the rooms have a view of the screen and you can tune in the sound in your room.....If you want to go the old fashioned way and watch from your car, you can do that too.

After we explored the Great Sand Dunes we headed for Ft. Garland, an old restored cavalry post about 16 miles east of the
Dunes. Frequent readers will remember that I love western history and this place is special to me. When we complete this trip I'll do a special post to tell you about the special thing that I was able to do while visiting Ft. Garland. I will tell you that we spent an hour or two looking the old fort over and seeing all of the displays.

Finishing up this tour we headed back to Bivouac for dinner. Day #5 will take us to Cottonwood Lake.

Thanks for visiting.

Day #3 for #4

#4 has now seen two pretty different sides of Colorado...time to move on and show him some more mountain landscape. This day we're headed to Rio Grande Reservoir deep in the San Juan mountains south of Lake City, Colorado. Lake City is famous for being the site of Alfred Packer's famous cannibal dinner.

It's a very scenic drive from the Black Canyon to our chosen campsite. A lot of the drive is high on a rim overlooking deep valleys with a twisting road. Aspen, pine and fir trees provide a scent that equals the smell of the best of foods.

Keeping to our established routine we got to the campsite right at noon, had a leisurely lunch and set out to explore. The picture at the top is not too far from the campsite. We saw deer, marmot, all kinds of colorful birds and of course hummingbirds. Hummingbirds fascinate #4. When he saw the feeder I brought along, he thought maybe we'd the trip. He was not prepared for 5 or 6 or 8 all at one time at the feeder. The one pictured here was waiting his turn at the feeder.

Since part of this trip is a training exercise for both #4 and myself we spent some time training on the water pump. Even though Bivouac carries her own water you just never know and being stranded somewhere with just a water pump can spell disaster unless you have the training to use one.

#4 had a good technique but I just didn't have the heart to tell him that if you don't use a just don't get it!

My original plan was to stay at this campground for two nights but after going over things with #4 we decided to move down to Alamosa for the next night so that we could get to the internet, phone coverage and pick up a few supplies.

Still on pioneer time we were in bed at dark, thinking about what might come the next day.

Thanks for visiting.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Day #2 for #4

I’m thinking that #4 is a quick study. He seems to be picking up on this camping stuff without much difficulty. I’ve even got him keeping “pioneer” hours….up at light - to bed at dark.

Monday morning we were headed to Black Canyon of the Gunnison. I can’t believe that in my years in Colorado, I had never been there. Most people go to the south rim of the canyon because that’s where the visitor’s center is. I had determined however that the more primitive north rim would be our destination. It was a terrific choice. The campground we stayed at had only 13 camp sites and only about 5 were occupied. We could see across the canyon to the campground on the other side and it was jammed.

The weather was a bit warmer than it was on Sunday mainly because we lost about 1000 feet in elevation between Sunday’s camp site and at the canyon. We set up camp at about noon, had a leisurely lunch and set out to explore.

What an absolutely fantastic place. I can only
describe it as a “personal size” Grand Canyon. It’s not very wide at all. You can clearly cars and people on the other side. But deep………Wow! At one point it’s 2772 feet deep! That’s over a half mile…straight down. The viewing areas are right on the rim so you can look straight to the bottom….if you dare. It can make you dizzy. Pictures really don’t do it justice but I took a ton anyway.

After seeing the sights we "
retired" back to camp to chill out. Dang it if #4 isn't about up to catch up to me in relaxing technique. Dinner consisted of home made meatloaf that The Bride sent along with us, pasta salad and tomato and cucumber salad.

Tuesday is back to the mountains at Rio Grande reservoir at an altitude of 9300 ft.....

Thanks for visiting.


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