Thursday, July 31, 2008

When You're Hot, You're Hot

That was the title of a 1972 Jerry Reed hit that aptly describes the current weather in the Denver area. We now have had 18 days of 90+ degree days. That ties the previous record achieved in 1901 and we have at least 5 more 90+ days ahead, it looks like.

I gotta get out of town to the mountains!

There is another Circle The Wagons trip planned for next weekend and I have already decided to leave a day early on Thrusday and come home a day later on Tuesday. Unfortunately this is another trip The Bride will miss because of her school work load. The good news is that she is down to two more weeks for these two classes and th
en hopefully it will be clear sailing for her.

My plan is to leave here on Thursday and head to the mountains by way of Fairplay, Buena Vista, Poncha Springs and spend the night at Monarch Park Campground. This campground is at 10,500' elevation so I'll definitely be out of the 90 degree weather. The picture to the left is a picture of the campground that I snatched from the internet.

Friday I'll proceed to Ridgeway State Park, where I'll meet up with the rest of The Circle. It's at a little lower altitude (7000') so it won't be as cool as Monarch but it should still be pleasant. The Circle will enjoy the area until Monday when we'll break up and head back home. Guitar and I plan to circle back through Gunnison and up Taylor Canyon where we'll spend the night before going across the backside of Cottonwood Pass and back to the Denver metro area.

That's my plan....and I'm stickin to it!

Thanks for visiting.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Witness Tree

One final post about the Circle The Wagons trip last weekend. While we were in Mineral Basin pretty close to the end of the road, we stopped to take some pictures. While looking around I spotted the tree in the picture above. The Forest Service sign on the tree says it's against the law to tamper with a "Witness Tree". I had no clue what this meant.

Guitar, who has worked in the oil and gas industry for years enlightened us all. A Witness Tree is a tree that has been blazed to draw attention to itself. The little sign above the "Attention" sign indicates that there is a corner post for a mining claim located in a certain direction and distance away from the tree. When a surveyor puts a stake into the ground it is most times not very visible. A large tree that has been blazed is much more visible and serve
s to let people know that a mining claim is close by. This particular mining claim was established in 1980 according to the placard above the sign. We were able to find the surveyor's stakes from the directions on the placard. There was no sign that any real mining had occurred on the claim.

Today the tree is in pretty bad shape and I suspect that within a few years this tree will fall prey to the elements and a new tree will have to be selected to "witness" this claim.

Here's some interesting facts about mining claims in Colorado.

Thanks for visiting.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Aspen Graffiti

As if I don't have enough "hobbies" right now.....Several months ago the monthly Colorado Historical Society magazine had an article about aspen graffiti carved by sheep herders in Colorado in the early part of the 1900's. Seems these guys had a LOT of time on their hands and carving pictures in aspen trees helped pass the time. Some of the carvings were pretty pornographic and some sentimental.

That article sparked an interest in the subject and on my last couple of trips to Cottonwood Lake I started looking for aspen graffiti and taking photos of some of them. The first thing I learned is that there is way more carving initials and names than carving of any type of picture. So finding a picture is a coup. The next coolest thing is finding the oldest date. After about two months of observing my oldest date is 1965....That's forty years ago and coincidentally it's the average life span of an aspen tree so if I find any older than that I'll really have hit the jackpot.

The most unusual discovery on this last trip was Joe and Gloria Torres. If nothing, Joe is/was persistent. I found his declarations of love for Gloria on numerous trees with dates from 1969 to 1993!

Amazing, but there is a big gap in the 1970's. Did I miss those? Nothing since 1993. Where is Joe? What about Gloria? I guess I'll have to go back and explore some more.

Here's a few more including a communal tree which has served several generations of carvers.

Thanks for visiting.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Major Mountain Fix

The Circle arrived back home yesterday afternoon after an outstanding trip to the mountains. It was unusual for me to return on a Sunday with all the work a day peons, but that's what the rest of The Circle is. Being the nice guy that I am I returned with them and was reminded why I don't do that unless I have to.

I left town on Thursda
y and got to the campsite just outside of Buena Vista at about noon. The campsite was already pretty full but I managed to get two sites that would hold all three of our RVs.

Thursday afternoon it rained pretty hard for 2 or 3 hours so I used the time to finish up a book I had b
een reading. The rain caused things to cool down quite a bit and I had to resort to a light jacket to keep comfortable. Wearing a jacket in July makes me smile!

The rest of The Circle arrived mid day on Friday and spent the afternoon getting set up and enjoying the clean mountain air. While all this was going on Guitar and I slipped away to do some exploring up Cottonwood Canyon. I have been going to this campground for 45 years now but I had never explored up the canyon. I can't
believe I have been missing this for 45 years!! Guitar and I decided that this would be an ideal excursion for the full Circle on Saturday.

Friday night Guitar acted as chef and cooked up some wonderful steaks and we had a great dinner. The only thing that was missing to make things perfect was The Bride. The Bride had to stay in town to do school work, as I mentioned in my last post.

Saturday morning the temperature was 40 degrees when I got up abou
t 6 am but it quickly warmed up into the 70's once the sun peeked over the mountains. A perfect day for a trip into Mineral Basin. I can't think up enough superlatives to describe our day. Mineral Basin is....a basin or a bowl surrounded by beautiful mountains. The basin itself is just below timber line and most of the mountains surrounding it are 13,000 feet or taller. To make things even more spectacular, the wildflowers were all in bloom. I'll just let some pictures do the talking....

Saturday night K acted as che
f and we dined sumptuously on fresh ham, mashed potatoes and a variety of other sides. This really hit the spot after our day in the mountains.

Sunday morning K and Too Tall - Two Timing took a kayak ride on Cottonwood Lake while Guitar, Pic-E and myself explored another old mining road right above the campground. Noontime came all too soon and we had to head back to the city.

I'm not sure how we're going to be able to top this trip. It was one of those perfect things where everything just fell into place.....but we're sure going to try.

Thanks for visiting.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


It's a hot and busy week. Tomorrow I'm leaving for Cottonwood Lake and a weekend of mountain fix. The rest of The Circle, minus The Bride, will come up on Friday for a Circle The Wagons event.

The Bride is taking two night classes this school term. The classes are five weeks long and meet once a week for 4 hours. Because the classes are compact they really pile the work on and she just doesn't have the time to do anything else than go to work and do homework. She is on track to get her degree this December. I don't know how she does it but I'm very proud of her.

This past Saturday The Circle got together for dinner and an outdoor concert. I mentioned in a previous post that we had tickets to see Baxter Black. I've been wanting to see him for some time and this was a great opportunity. A bluegrass band, Southern Exposure, was the opening act. They are a local band but I had never heard of them before. They were very good. The concert was held at Arvada Center at their outdoor venue. This is a great little venue. I don't think it will hold more than about 800 people so it's pretty intimate....not a bad seat in the house. The weather cooperated just fine with temps in the upper 70's once the sun set and a light cooling breeze.

Stay tuned for the weekend report....gotta run.

Thanks for visiting.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Happy Birthday Father & Son

As mentioned in my last post, today is my 61st birthday. Happy Birthday to me. Tomorrow is my father's 90th birthday. Happy Birthday to you Dad. The picture above was taken about 12 years ago.

My family has packed a lot of birthdays into the month of July. My father's mother's birthday was July 10, mine July 12, my Dad's July 13 and my Dad's father July 14. Must be something special about November too...hmmm.

For those whippersnappers out there I thought it might be instructive to show you what the cost of living was 1947 when I was born.

How Much things cost in 1947

Average Cost of new house $6,600.00.
Average wages per year $2,850.00 .
Cost of a gallon of Gas 15 cents .
Average Cost of a new car $1,300.00.
Loaf of Bread 13 cents .
United States Postage Stamp 3 cents.
Mens Sweater $8.50 .
Bulova Mens Watch $52.50.

A number of notable events happened in 1947 including the following:

The CIA was established.
Jackie Robinson became the first black to play in Major League Baseball.
The Polaroid Land camera was demonstrated (Remember film kids?)
The U.S. Air Force was created as a separate branch of the armed services.
The Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered.
Princess Elizabeth married the Duke of Edinburgh at Westminster Abbey, London.
A UFO reportedly crashed at Roswell, NM
Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier in the Bell X-1 jet.
Howdy Doody premiered on television (One of my favorites!)

What about 1918? If you look at history only two thing of import transpired. World War I was raging across Europe and a great man was born into abject poverty in Newark, NJ. This child born in 1918 struggled, fought and clawed his way through life. In compensation for the lack of worldly things this child was born to, God endowed him with character and love. That's the only way he could have survived. This child became a self made man. Not in wealth but in all the really important things of life. Love, family and friends. He fathered four other lives, raised them, loved them, educated them and provided a rock solid moral compass for them. Tomorrow this man will be 90 years old. Today and forever this man will be my Father.

Happy Birthday Dad!!!!

Thanks for visiting.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Road Trip

One of my daily blog reads is Brian over at "RV Boondocking the Good Life". A week or so ago he mentioned wanting to ride Fall River Road in Rocky Mountain National Park. Brian had done this before and declared that it was a spectacular drive. I have known about this road for some time but had for some reason never explored it. Brian's post brought this possibility back to the top of my list. A couple of days ago I decided to make a day trip to do just that.

Today was the day and in true retiree fashion I decided to start the journey at about 8:30 am, right at the tail end of the morning rush. I was super excited because Rocky Mountain National Park is a real gem...and a huge one at that. My "mountain fix" quotient was also running miserably low and need some adjustment. I have been to RMNP a number of times and it is undoubtedly something very special. The thought of exploring someplace new in the park had me giggling like a little girl.

Fall River Road is the original road into
RMNP and was completed in 1920. It's a dirt road that is narrow and twisty and steep in some areas. The speed limit on this road is 15 mph but I don't think anyone even considers going faster because to do so would mean you couldn't look at the incredible beauty all around (hard to enjoy scenery whilst plummeting thousands of feet off that narrow road into the valley below).

I picked today, Wednesday, for this trip because I reasoned that even though it was high tourist season, it was mid week and the road had only opened last week. There surely wouldn't be too many people on this road mid week? The start of my trip seem to confirm my logic. I breezed through the west side of the Denver metro area and headed up through Golden, CO and the Leftist Republic of Boulder. Traffic was light, the weather was good.

As I expected, once I got to the gateway to RMNP, Estes Park, things got more active after all this is a premier destination in the middle of July. I did not however, expect what I ran into on this one way, dirt, narrow, twisty, steep road.........
Traffic jam!!!!!!!!!

Incredible, there seemed to be very little traffic right until I got to the one way, narrow, twisty, steep road and then all of a sudden WHAM! I was b
ehind a line of I don't know how many cars....because the road was so narrow and twisty, I could only see about 8 cars ahead. Yes, you heard me, I could see 8 cars ahead of me and about the same behind me.

The scenery was indeed spectacular but it was really hard to enjoy while driving in a caravan. This caravan included cars from just about everywhere in the US. I saw plates from Missouri, Arkansas, Georgia, Oklahoma. Those are states whose drivers are considered by Coloradans to be "flatlanders". Flatlanders are not someone you want to be behind while driving in the mountains, especially on dirt, narrow, twisty, steep roads! This road is narrow enough and the hair pin turns are tight enough that if your not used to driving these types of can't negotiate the hair pin turn and have to back up and give it another go. That happened on 5 or 6 different turns....4 or 5 cars had to stop, back up and turn again.

My original plan was to take at least half a day doing this relatively short road. I wanted to stop at every pullout and look, take pictures and commune. Just about every pullout though was jammed with cars. People would stop and wait for people to get to their cars and pull out so they could have their parking place.....all the time blocking the who knows how many cars behind them.

I wasn't more than a mile into the road when it became clear that I should just cut my losses and get back up to Trail Ridge Road as soon as possible. It was incredibly beautiful but surreal at the same time. Imagine slapping the main street of any busy metropolitan area into a rustic wilderness and that's what I had today.

After about an hour "commute" I arrived at the junction with Trail Ridge Road. Trail Ridge Road is the "new" road in the park. It traverses the spine of the Rockies reaching an altitude of 12,183 feet. After driving both I think the raw power of the scenery on Trail Ridge makes it more to my liking. It was crowded too, but because it's more modern, wider and paved it didn't seem as crowded. That is until you tried to pull off the road. Just about all the parking areas were full or almost full.

I did find a few places that were not totally jammed and was able to get out of the car and adjust my mountain fix meter a bit. I kept trying to take some good pictures to post and then when I got home I realized that what I needed for this post was to take pictures of the hordes of people on either side and behind me that I studiously framed out of all of these pictures. THAT, really would have been and enlightenment to the reader.

Anyhow, I enjoyed this beautiful creation called the Rocky Mountains as best I could and headed back home. Somewhere just on the north side of the Leftist Republic of Boulder I spied an interesting thing. Seems as if a developer has created a high density development called the Holiday Neighborhood on the site of an old drive-in movie theater called the Holiday. As part of the development the sign for the drive in was saved and restored....a unique and commendable thing.

The drive back home was pretty hot with a lot more traffic than I experienced on the way up. Now that I sit in the comfort of home I'm thinking that this trip didn't really restore my mountain fix meter the way I wanted so maybe I'll have to head off to one of my special places next week. Before I do however, The Circle is scheduled to see Baxter Black, the premier cowboy poet, in concert this Saturday and I am looking forward to it. Coincidentally, Saturday happens to be my 61st birthday. More on that in a future post.

Thanks for visiting.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Bad Computers and Good Computers

It's amazing how much computers influence our lives. Today I'm dealing with two very different computer issues.

The first issue (Bad Computer) is one that I fear will send me the last little bit of the way to a babbling, spittle drooling, eye twitching, neurotic foot tapping, simpering, whimpering.....well, you get the idea. This computer issue involves the engine computer in my 1999 Suzuki, Grand Vitara. It's an issue that has been going on for about four months now and may just continue until this vehicle ends up on the scrap pile.

About four months ago after driving to a nearby store, I returned to the car and started it up. The engine started but ran like it was missing one cylinder. The engine shook coughed and had almost no power at all. I had a sinking feeling but thought if I could only get back home I could deal with the problem more easily. I made it home but the whole way the "Service Engine Soon!!!" light flashed in my face and I had visions of the engine either exploding or dropping out of the car onto the highway. After getting home I considered my options and just to be sure I really had a problem I went out to the garage and restarted the car. The "Service Engine Soon !!!" light was still on but the engine ran close to normal so I decided to take it to my local mechanic. The mechanic did a diagnostic check (That will be $60.00 please) and found nothing. When they started the engine prior to the check the service light was NOT on.

To sooth the pain they said if I could get it over to them the next time this happened and the engine was still running like it was missing a cylinder they would do another diagnostic check and not charge me for it.....You know where I'm going with this don't you? The problem repeated itself two more times over a period of about 3 months. Each time I struggled to get the car to my mechanic only to find that the diagnostic test revealed nothing. The local mechanic finally said that I would be best in taking it to the Suzuki dealer (In other words, get lost!) as it was almost certainly an engine computer problem. Since the problem always corrected itself in a relatively short period of time I just lived with it until last week. The Bride was driving the car when it had one of these seizures. By the time she got back home she had the look about her that I described in the second paragraph of this post and suggested, strongly, that I find some way to resolve the problem.

This morning I took the vehicle to the Suzuki dealership and explained the problem hoping they would say, "Oh yeah, we know about that. It's the fritzle fratzle and it will cost you about 5 cents to fix." Instead they told me that if the "Service Engine Soon You Idiot!!) light was not on and the problem wasn't actually occurring when they inspected the engine, they really couldn't do anything. They would be glad to run a $110 diagnostic test (Note to His-self: Thank the local mechanic for not gouging you another $50 for the test) but they could categorically say that it would show nothing and it probably was a engine computer problem of some sort.

So.....I guess I'll have to live with this problem until something breaks so bad that they will be able to figure out what the problem is....Problem is for me, that probably means the engine will have to quit completely somewhere and with my luck it will be in a VERY inconvenient place. BAAAAD Computer.

To balance things off here's a Good Computer issue. I have two computers that I use both of which are pretty important to me. I have a laptop that I use everyday and that I take with me on my trips. I also have a desktop that The Bride uses on a regular basis and that runs our home finance program. I have been living ever so on the edge because I have never backed up either computer. I have backed up the data for the home finance program but that is the only backup I have ever done. I know, I know, that is a very dangerous thing and I have been extremely lucky. Well, today I decided to buy and external hard drive and do the right thing by backing up both computers.

Most of the office supply stores were advertising a 500GB external hard drive this week for $99. That's large enough to back up both of my computers on the same drive and at $99 it's a deal. Everything is plug and play and very easy. So, in the time it has taken me to write this post, I have backed up both computers and now I have eliminated one of those nagging fears I've been carrying around for quite a while........had to make room for the Bad Computer, car blowing up fear.

Thanks for visiting.

Friday, July 4, 2008

A Cappella Fireworks


If you get past the first hurdle and know what a cappella means, does that mean fireworks alone? No, I don't think so....

A nice little semi Circle event was held last night that included a concert by The Nylons and a fireworks show at a nice little venue close by called Hudson Gardens. Too Tall - Two Timing and K. are away in Breckenridge, Co so the semi Circle consisted of The Bride and me, his-self, Guitar and Pic-E. Some of Guitar's relatives were in town for a wedding and they accompanied us as well.

The Nylons is a four person a cappella group. That means singing but no band. If you want to talk about musical talent try listening to one person or a group singing for over an hour and a half with no band, no background music, no nothing excep
t their own voices.

Ah yes, back to the 50's and the 60's groups like The Belmonts, The Starlights, The Persuasions, The Platters.... Great music with great voices.

The Nylons did themselves proud. This Canadian group was not used to the altitude and their type of singing requires huge lung power so they really worked hard to belt out the 20 or so songs they performed. One of their signature songs is a cover of The Tokens 1961 hit version of The Lion Sleeps Tonight. It certainly was one of my favorites. They not only sang the song but provided all of the background jungle noise of birds and animals. If you didn't know they were actually doing it you would have sworn that it was electronic background recordings.

They also sang Up On The Roof, originally recorded by The Drifters and taught me something about the song. I had no idea that it was co-written by Carole King? I wouldn't have guessed that in a million years. I was so skeptical that I googled it this morning...did I think they didn't know wha
t they were talking about? I don't know I just wanted 2nd party verification. I got it and I am now a more informed individual.

Anyway it was a great outdoor concert on a very pleasant July 3rd evening and what could be more appropriate than after the concert to enjoy a fireworks show.

This is a pretty small venue so we were up close an personal to the fireworks. By the end of the display everyone smelled like gunpowder and we had to brush the dust off our shoulders.

Today I plan to chill and not go out if I don't have to...It's a retired guy thing. Why go out among the heathen hordes if I don't have to. The Bride and The Emmer, on the other hand are going to a Rockies baseball game this evening. They will take the light rail train downtown in late afternoon, get something to eat and then go to the ball field. This is one of The Emmer's favorite things so she will have a memorable 4th as well. There will be a fireworks display at the field after the game. If I walk about a block to the green area between a couple developments, I'll be able to see not only that display but several others in the area all at the same time!

I don't do politics on this blog but I would like my readers to consider the meaning of the 4th of July. In these times when everything seems to be going to hell in a handbasket consider the history of this great nation. We have been in much more terrible circumstances in the past....many times in the past. This nation has the unique gift of unparalleled freedom. That's our trump card. That's why we will endure. Things may change. Things may never be the same. Things will most likely be better once we work our way through the current challenges. Like Mark Twain the reports of our demise are premature.

Thanks for visiting.


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