Days of Good Decisions

For folks who travel thousands of miles every year in a pickup with a camper in tow, we really aren’t good at spending hours at a time on the road. By the time we hit Palo Duro State Park, near Amarillo, we were more than ready to stretch out for a few days. This is our third time in this park, and it’s obviously the charm – we finally scored a campsite in the Mesquite campground at the southern end of this massive canyon. 20171216_1634481615310199.jpgOther than the ‘rustic’ (translate: horrible) state of the bathrooms, this is a fantastic campground. Bonus? Of the roughly 25 sites, not more than five or six were occupied. The silence at night was complete – a few yipping coyotes and roaring wind were the only sounds.

Pleasant daytime temps (in the low 60s) prompted us to hike on Day 2. We decided that a stroll to the Canyon rim was in order. It’s laughable that we really didn’t see that we were in no shape for a hike of this length (about ten miles). But, it was so worth the aching legs. The Can20171221_101541225290091.jpgThat’s a lot of footsteps for our first hike in months. But, it was Mission Accomplished, as the goal was to stretch our legs for the day.

Day 3 was a maintenance chore day for John, and a bike day for me. I explored a few of the CCC-era stone cabins that can be rented there. They are exquisitely sited, and would make an excellent weekend retreat for non-campers.20171218_1137002114958094.jpg

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I really wanted to cycle to the top of the Canyon (the entrance station), a steady upward grade for about six miles, followed by a mile or so of 10% grade.  I don’t mind telling you that it kicked my ass! (but I did ride the entire way). I arrived at the Visitor’s Center gasping for breath, but one old geezer did compliment me on my achievement of cycling up the grade. They had passed me about halfway up the Canyon road in their RV.

 

My reward at the top was a visit to the Texas longhorns that are housed at the Park. Although these perhaps are not the largest, most impressive longhorns in the Texas herd, they are still quite astonishing to see.20171221_1018191056158901.jpgAfter three nights, we were ready to hit the road again, in our quest to get to Las Vegas for Christmas. But, before leaving the area, I wanted to make a stop at Cadillac Ranch, where about ten 60’s era Cadillacs are buried nose-first into the Texas prairie. At some point in the lifespan of this iconic attraction, it was determined that it was futile to prevent vandals from spray-painting the cars. Today, it’s allowed – even encouraged. I was anxious to leave a sign of peace and hope to the world from the Crankshaws (quit your sniggering). We purchased a can of sparkly gold spray paint, and headed out to try our hand at tagging. Who knew it was so hard? Spray painting in 20mph winds isn’t easy, and (apparently) I have no artistic ability.20171219_094931440678259.jpg My first try at painting a gold Christmas tree was a flop. So, I decided just to paint a sweet gold heart. FLOP! 20171219_0949041969897322.jpgOh well, we had fun, and I made one young woman very happy when I handed her my nearly full can of gold paint to go with the blue she already had.

Hours later, we arrived at Bluewater Lake State Park (NM) for a one-night stay. Man, it was cold up there! A gradual climb to 7300′ went largely unnoticed until we got to the top, and it was bitingly crisp. Being on the eastern end of the time zone, and near the winter solstice, it was nearly dark by 4:30! We sat outside in the dusk and bitterly cold dry wind before admitting defeat and retreating inside for the evening. 20171219_1706131831860055.jpgThis time, we were the only campers in the entire State Park. The decent bathrooms and warm showers we had hoped for didn’t materialize – the bathrooms were all locked, except for one pit toilet all the way across the campground. Oh well.

Our plan for the next day was to overnight in Flagstaff, a distance of only 225 miles, then travel on to Boulder Beach (near Vegas) for a few nights before showing up at my sister’s house. But, the weather forecast for Flagstaff was brutal – 50mph winds, blowing snow, and temps dipping down to 10 degrees. That is NOT good camping weather. We can camp below freezing temps without having to winterize our water system, but that combination of wind and weather wouldn’t allow that. Plus, our big fear was that I-40 would be shut down for weather reasons, and we could be stranded in Flagstaff. So, we decided to make a run for a lower elevation. We got off to an early start, and passed through Flagstaff around noon. Boulder Beach was another 225 miles, but the weather was still awful there – warmer, but 30+mph winds. So, we called my sister, gave her a bit of warning that we’d be landing on her doorstep that afternoon, and powered through the miles to Vegas. Headwinds reduced our fuel efficiency to a ridiculous number (less than 8), and we were numbed by the strain of all those hard miles.

But, there’s a happy ending. The rest of the family arrives on the 23rd and 24th, and we’ll all be together for only the second time ever. We’re happy with our decision not to camp – the first night here, we had wind gusts of 60mph. The dust from the desert was awful – visibility was severely impaired, and it was just generally miserable to be outside.

Hope your holidays are bright and warm.

 

 

19 thoughts on “Days of Good Decisions

  1. Glad your travels were safe, even thought they didn’t work out quite the way you planned. Now I want to paint those Caddies too! I have no artistic talent either and am so impressed with the people who do!

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  2. Now I know why you did not call so I could drive up from Phoenix and visit with ya’ll in Flagstaff. Too bad you arrived on the one day when the winds were terrible. The snow in the wind was fleeting and melted very quickly. Last night Flagstaff received its first snowfall (one inch?) that was still on the ground the next morning (this morning). But I-40 can be icy for many miles on both sides of Flagstaff when conditions cause the highway to ice over during the night. At such times, the ice might burn off by around noon. Come back some day when the weather is better and we can do some sight-seeing together.

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    • I’m glad the weather turned out not to be too horrible, but we sure didn’t want to think about sitting for a few hours on I-40 in the cold and snow.

      We’ll catch up with you down the road somewhere.

      Merry Christmas.

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    • Hi Mary. I don’t think there’s too much that’s really admirable about my cycling. Pretty sure that I don’t earn many style points in the process, either. But, it’s one thing John and I really love, and I hope we’ll continue to cycle as long as we can stand and walk. We met in our local cycling club, so it’s a bond that’s especially important to us.

      Merry Christmas. Hope you have happy holidays.

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  3. Bob and I are also camping. What a coincidence! Except we are house sitting at Becky and Steves in Byron center. Heated floors and shower with a zillion jets, like a car wash for humans. Barron moved from Vegas to Byron center, no difference here, so he is round the corner in Railside. I too am a couch potato enjoying your blog. Gotta hit the gym and walk the links when I get back to NC.
    Merry Christmas , safe travels to all
    Pat

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    • Hey Pat! I had heard you were roughing it in Byron Center. Life is hard sometimes, isn’t it? Love your car wash analogy – so fitting.

      Don’t know if we’ll be over your way in NC in April on our way home, but we’ll see you two somewhere along the line, I’m sure.

      Merry Christmas. Hope Santa brings you a load of snow. Nice to have your whole family in one spot for the holidays, isn’t it? Been a few years for that, if I remember right.

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  4. We’re happy that you have arrived safe and sound at your family’s holiday gathering. Have fun! As usual, your travelogue has left us feeling excited about exploring new places and guilty about our couch potato status (but I did shovel the snow off the walkways after dinner last night, lol).

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    • Hi Catherine and Jay. We’re not exactly tearing ourselves up with physical activity, these days. I really have to stretch to make the blog sound like we have at least come kind of physical activity. So happy to finally be ‘out West’ so that we don’t have to face the long days on the road.

      Merry Christmas. See you soon.

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  5. It’s good to hear that things are going reasonably well (except for the restrooms) and that you’re having a good time punishing your bodies with hikes and rides that are too long! ;)

    You’ve missed the worst of the weather, both on your trip and here at home, I hope that the rest of the winter goes as well for you.

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    • Hi Jerry. Guess I’m one of those people who always see the glass as half-full. There is always something for me to complain about. But, would it be believable if it were just all gorgeous campgrounds and photos of John and me (both incredibly fit, of course) hiking without gasping for breath and complaining about sore bodies? I doubt it!

      Last I heard in Michigan, your snow had all melted away, too. Christmas without snow is always a bit of a let down for me. I remember long cold afternoons with my poor Dad having to haul my sisters and me over to Johnson Park to sled down the big hill. Now, when I pass that hill, it sure doesn’t look so intimidating.

      Hope your work life becomes more manageable after the holidays. Always looking forward to your new photo adventures.

      Happy holidays.

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