Travels With Dick and Judy

Follow us in our trials, triumphs and tribulations, while on the road in our motor home "The Liberty Belle". We chose to forsake the conventional lifestyle in our 3,000+ square-foot home to move into a 40-foot Winnebago Ultimate Freedom. Travel with us as we take you on the road with us in our new lifestyle.
I may grow older, but I'll never grow up!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Our first 12 days at Estes Park!

After settling into our site at the Estes Park Campground at Mary’s Lake, Dick and I had the next 10 days to check out the area before our volunteer camp host training on May 10th and 11th.

On Wednesday, May 2nd, we took our first drive since 2004 over Highway 34 from Estes Park to Loveland – following the Big Thompson River.  Almost immediately, traffic was stopped by a herd of big horn sheep on the roadway.  We made our way along the river to Loveland and, naturally, WalMart for Dick’s out-of-state fishing license, new frames for my glasses (mine broke our first day here and were still under warranty) and a few groceries.  At least WalMart is one-stop shopping - and only about 40 miles and a 1-hour drive from Estes Park!  Then, I got to do my favorite job – wash and dry clothes while we waited for our part to arrive to fix our on-board washer/dryer.  Upon returning to the campground, we saw a herd of elk pass our RV; however, it was too dark and rainy for pictures.  There will be another time, I am sure!


Big Thompson River on Highway 34
 Wednesday morning, May 3rd, we completed setting up our site while our co-hosts Chuck and Michele also set up.  Water to the campground was finally turned on, although not drinkable, just in time for Dick and I to shower for dinner (as of yesterday, it is now drinkable, too)!  Once more, we drove to Loveland to meet our new friends Roger and Barb (who we met at Raton Pass and were spending a few days in this area before moving on farther east).  We met at the Golden Corral for dinner with all the other old folks – before 4 p.m.  Yes, we are now part of that crowd!  On the return trip, we detoured by Carter Lake to locate the site for our training.  As we drove through Estes Park, we had to stop for elk on the road in the downtown area.  A word of warning to visitors:  Bring allergy meds and sunscreen!  We have taken our daily allergy meds, but I totally sunburned my face and lips by not having sunscreen on.  That will not happen again!

Roger and Barb

After only being able to get 2 local TV channels – one being the shopping network and the other airing Jerry Springer and who knows what else – Dick and I decided to “bite the bullet” and get Direct TV.  So that’s basically what we did last Friday, May 4th.  Finally, after more phone calls to both Direct TV and UPS, we received our equipment late yesterday afternoon.  As of this posting, Dick has successfully installed our Direct TV - after 10 hours of getting misinformation on the phone!  It also helped that our neighbors on either side have Direct TV, so he had “experts” in the neighborhood who initially assisted him.  Now for the clean-up!  Last Friday evening was beautiful with deer walking through our campground and a full moon!

On Saturday, May 5th, we took our first drive into Rocky Mountain National Park and stopped first at the Moraine Park Visitor Center – where I bought 2 pins (1 of an elk and 1 of a big horn sheep) to add to my teddy bear.  Oh, I probably haven’t mentioned that yet.  Our friend Martha told me that a great way to save pins we collect (instead of on a hat that might be lost) is to put them on a stuffed animal, so I have my teddy bear – and I plan to make him a vest (once I figure out how to cut it) to add more pins.  Here is “Teddy”!

After leaving Moraine Park, we drove through another section of the park and stopped for our first picnic alongside a stream that we picnicked at years ago with Mike – when it was freezing.  We took a few pictures and visited with fellow picnickers and, then, moved on – seeing elk at rest and beautiful mountain views.

Dick at Moraine Park Visitor Center

The following day (Sunday, May 6th), we greeted our temporary fellow campers, Dave and Janice from the Houston/Clear Lake area, who will be moving in the next few days to the Estes Park Campground at East Portal – once the water is turned on.  We then headed out on another sightseeing venture – up Highway 7 to Longs Peak Road, where the temperature was 45 degrees, and back down to Allenspark, where we stopped on the side street to fill our water bottles from the spring-fed pump.  Once back on Highway 7, we saw our first snow flurries since arriving in Colorado.  As we returned to Estes Park, the temperature reached a low of 37 degrees.

Dave and Janice arriving at campground

Janice - happy to be here

Spring Water

Snow flurries!

View from Highway 7 of Estes Park

We took a break and stopped at one of the downtown Estes parks, which include immaculate public bathrooms, and encountered 2 elk, one of whom was very territorial and would charge anyone who stepped on the grassy area.

Dick and I then went to the Wapiti Pub for a bite, sharing an appetizer platter, and had a leisurely walk along the river.  For anyone visiting the area, pick up a free 2012 Estes Park Menu Guide, with suggestions of places to eat, as well as discount coupons.

Wapiti Pub

On Monday morning (May 7th), we awoke to snow on the ground, took some pictures and, then, played “catch up” and I washed clothes - again.

Chuck aiming snowball at me!

Tuesday, May 8th, we decided to take another day of “sightseeing”, heading down Devil’s Gulch along the Big Thompson River, which has always been one of our favorite drives.  Before reaching the turn off, we passed a herd of elk in a field on the left side of the road, which then crossed behind us to the right side of the road.  Great picture moment!  For some extracurricular reading, Google “The Big Thompson Disaster”, which was a tragic flash flood on July 31, 1976 – about 6 weeks after we vacationed in the park with my then 16-year-old brother Jim and our son Mike, then almost 8 years old (and I was 7 months pregnant with Michelle).  We had a favorite rock store in the canyon that was washed away, together with the owners.  Needless to say, the area has changed drastically over the years.  Once back on Highway 34 at Drake (headed toward Loveland), we stopped at the Colorado Cherry Company for free samples of cider and purchased 2 bottles, as well.


Colorado Cherry Company

After another detour to our training location – in hopes of meeting Ranger CJ Cullins, who had left by the time we got there – we headed toward Boulder through the country.  We had just reached an area with cell phone coverage when Dick received a call from John, a former co-worker in Kemah, Texas.  John was in Colorado on business and wanted to stop by for a visit.  We changed direction and headed back to Estes Park – since this was our first visitor from home.  Following John’s visit, neither Dick nor I felt like fixing dinner, so we went to Smokin’ Dave’s BBQ – not Texas barbeque, but not bad.

John and Dick - visiting

At Smokin' Dave's BBQ
Wednesday was another day around camp in anticipation of training on Thursday and Friday.  Thursday, May 10th, we traveled over Highway 34 toward Loveland and turned off on the road to Carter Lake for training at the Bison Visitor Center with all of the Larimer County volunteer camp hosts.  We were welcomed by Ranger CJ Cullins and, then, received additional training from Ranger Jim Hawkins.  We met some great people, and were treated to breakfast, snacks and lunch.  About 12:30 p.m., the 6 couples from the Estes Park Campgrounds – Mary’s Lake, East Portal and Hermit Park – were excused until further training in Estes on Friday, May 11th.

Chuck and Michele at training
Ranger Jim Hawkins

Dick and Judy at Bison Visitor Center for training

Yesterday, the 6 couples from the Estes Park area met Ranger Vic Wilcox at the local golf club for our second day of training – where we learned exactly what we are expected to do as volunteers.  Basically, we are the “friendly faces” of the campground.  Each couple – Chuck and Michele and Dick and I – will work 4 days on and 4 days off (with the flexibility of trading days when needed).  After “duties” are completed – placing/removing post pad markers (telling who is arriving and leaving each campsite), cleaning fire grates and campsites, assisting visitors to campsites, etc. – we are “on duty” but can stay at our RV unless needed by the camp store or a camper.  If anyone causes trouble, we are to walk away and call a ranger or 911.  As they said, 98% of all campers are NOT going to cause trouble, but we have to know how to handle the other 2%.  Our campground opens on May 15th so we’ll have more to write after a few days of being on duty.

While in training yesterday, it began to snow again and continued heavily once we got back to the campground.  I know this was an early Mother’s Day gift to me – especially since I only had a few snow flurries on my birthday in February!  My cousin Sandra in Lake Charles, Louisiana asked me to make a snowball for her and here it is, together with other snow pictures.

Snowing at golf club during training

Light pole with Texas flag (from Mike and April) -
during snowfall!

Snowball for my cousin Sandra

View from front door of RV
View in front of RV

View behind RV

Today, the snow has melted and it is raining, and we’ve found that the weather here changes almost as quickly as it does back home.  According to one of the rangers, it is because we are so close to the Continental Divide.

I wanted to post this past week’s activities before starting our volunteer position and, hopefully, we will see bear, elk and/or moose in our campground for more picture moments - all of which we have been told we should see while here.

We are excited that Mike, April, Colby and Ben will be arriving next Saturday for a few days, and we have arranged our schedule to be off while they are here.

I want to wish all the Moms a very happy Mother’s Day and wish Mike and April a very happy 6th wedding anniversary tomorrow!  Dick has told me I will get my washer fixed (now that the part has arrived and Direct TV has been installed), which is a great gift for me!!

Thanks for stopping by and see ya!  ~Judy~

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Where Has The Time Gone?

Sorry about the time lag since our last post, but it has been really busy with our preparation and move from Waco to Estes Park. 
We thought that we would be escaping the hellish winds we had been experiencing for the last several months at Reynolds Creek but, as it turns out, the wind gusts here at Mary’s Lake are just as bad, although a lot cooler and more pleasant.  We spent a pleasant two weeks between Houston and Lake Charles and got a chance to visit with old classmates during Judy’s semi-annual class reunion.  While at our son’s house in Tomball, just outside of Houston, I was able to mount the baseplate on the Nitro, which enabled us to tow it behind Belle.  You can catch up on all of that with Judy’s last update to our blog.

We picked up the motorhome on Monday, April 23rd, and promptly drove over to Reynolds Creek Campground for the night before our departure.

Here I was just before "shoving off".  I was saying a silent prayer that everything with the toad would go off as "hoped for".
The next morning, we set out on the first leg of our trip and stopped at the Wally World in Sweetwater, Texas to spend the night.  The next evening put us in Canyon, Texas - just south of Amarillo - with the anticipation of camping at and touring Palo Duro Canyon.  When we arrived, we were told the campground was closed to the public for President George W’s “Wounded Warriors” bike ride through the canyon that was to take up the next several days.  Oh, well, better luck next time!  Instead, we toured the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum.  As large museums go, I rated it as a so-so to pretty O.K.  Nothing to get excited about.
AS I said...
Just so-so...

Judy had fun, so it was good!

While we were at the Palo Duro Canyon RV Park (a typical tourist RV park with a fair share of “permanent” residents, a rude owner and no amenities), the plug on our 50-Amp power cable began to arc and I wasted no time replacing it.  There went another $150.  Oh well, with a house, there would have been a number of repairs to be made.

With that done, we set out through Amarillo and Dalhart toward Raton Pass (pronounced “Rat”, as in rodent, and “on” with a long “o” - hence Rat-┼Źn) in New Mexico, passing the extinct volcanic fields featuring Mt. Capulin National Monument.  Since we had visited it years ago (1976?), we opted to pass on a second visit and get on to Raton Pass. 

We finally reached the pass, despite the heavy cross winds the whole way, and decided on the Cedar Rail RV Park at the very top of the pass.  The vistas were fantastic and we chose a pull thru site

This is the view of the terrain, South and east of the pass, that we drove through

We keep telling oourselves we have to take more "Turon" pictures
Some of the braver souls opted for back-ins that left the rear of their RVs perched out over a cliff.  NOT ME!
That's a thirty foot drop-off he's perched over,with his wheels less than a foot away!

First thing the next morning, we took a drive over to Sugarite State Park.   This is a beautiful park with three lakes and plenty of big trout.  Last year, the park had been devastated by forest fires and the evidence was all around.
Afterwards, we toured historic Downtown Raton.  We spent over two hours visiting with the director of the Old Pass Gallery, Ray.  A very interesting and knowledgeable guy, especially on the area.  The gallery featured not only art and jewelry, but some very unusual furniture pieces that featured natural stone inlays.
Judy visiting with Ray, the Gallery Director
Another "Touron"

These tables feature hand-made stone inlay

After our visit, we decided it was time for lunch and we sought out the recommended “Enchanted Grounds Expresso Bar” for a quick sandwich.
I ordered a Creme Soda  and got actual vanilla
creme and soda!

Judy had learned earlier that one of her former classmate’s families, who owned the Lake Charles American Press, also owned the local newspaper in Raton.  Judy, always the loyal friend, had to seek the office out and naturally buy a souvenir paper.

The owners of Cedar Rail RV Park, Mike and Rhonda Taillon, were super friendly, courteous and helpful, suggesting an evening drive off exit 450 along Highway 555 that, after 30 miles, the pavement ended at Ted Turner’s Ranch.      Along the way, much to our surprise and delight, we spotted Pronghorn antelope, Elk (Judy saw them first), Mule deer, and our favorite, a black bear that was really a brown/cinnamon color.
We had to stop counting the elk we spotted.

He watched us closely, then ran off into the forest
If you plan on visiting the area anytime, please contact Mike and Rhonda.  They made our brief stay very pleasant.

While we were at Cedar Rail, we had the good fortune to create the beginnings of a really good friendship with Roger and Barb Heaver from Illinois, long-time full-timers in their 5th wheel.

After leaving Cedar Rail RV Park, we (me with a death grip on the wheel still battling crosswinds) traveled up I-25 to the town of Castle Rock and spent the night at the local Walmart.  Walmarts are convenient to say the least, but we realized that, if the weather is hot and you have to run the generator for A/C, they are not cheaper than a campground, especially with today’s price on diesel fuel!
Dad-Gum these cross-winds
Namesake for the town of Castle Rock

The next morning, we made our way just a short way up past Denver to a quiet little park just off the freeway.  Yes, I said quiet.  At St. Vrain State Park near Longmont, we could see the hustle and bustle of the highway, but the noise never reached the campsite.  We were assigned a pad right on one of their beautiful ponds and, within a half hour, were greeted with the sight of both Bald Eagles and Golden Eagles. 

Our nation's symbol soaring free!

Golden Eagle with Long' Peak about 40 miles in background
Golden Eagle Soaring past our RV

The park was also a residence for a fairly large accumulation of Canada Geese and Blue Herons.

Canadian Goose Nesting
Great scenery from my window


Gotta get some speed to get airborn
Blue Heron out my window


Tuesday morning, was the first time to check into our new campground that was to be our home for the next five months.  As we set out on our drive through Longmont and Lyons, the anticipation and anxiety of driving Highway 36 into Estes Park began to grow.  Despite the winding mountain road with steep drop-offs (that locals seem to not even notice), I was able to make the drive without incident, and the site of Estes Lake and the town below us was a welcome sight.
The welcome Scene of Estes Lake

As an aside, for those that are not familiar with my phobia, I have an extreme (almost laughable, but not to me) fear of heights.  When I had to replace the TV antenna atop our RV at about 12 feet off the ground, I almost never made it down.  A few years ago, I had to pull over on Trail Ridge Road and let my son drive before I totally froze behind the wheel at 5 miles an hour.  As he drove down from the heights, I sat slumped down in the passenger seat with my cap over my eyes looking at the floorboards, arms crossed, heart pounding.  Before we left on this trip, I went to my doctor for a prescription of anxiety/panic meds, just in case.  At this point, however, it seems I probably won’t need them.  But they are there…just in case.

Thanks to the modern age of telephones and “Navigation”, we made it through the town and over to Mary’s Lake.  We were the first volunteers to arrive, so we had first choice on a site.

Yep!  This is it!
Happy I don't have to work the store

We picked the inside site of two that were designated, hoping that the other RV, once it arrived, would block at least part of the wind from that direction (south), and future campers would do the same from the other side (east).
Now, we have four volunteers in the park: two of us who will be Camp Hosts here, and two who will be Camp Hosts at Mary’s Lake Campground at East Portal, which is next to the YMCA Camp and adjacent to the National Park.
Strange as it may seem, one of the couples for East Portal, Dave and Janice, showed up in the middle of the week, and yelled from the level above us:  “We hear one of you guys are from Texas”.  When we acknowledged, they replied, “So are we!”  “What part”?, we asked.  “Houston,” they replied.  We came back with, “So are we.  What part of Houston was your home?”  To our astonishment, they said “Clear Lake”!  It is indeed a small world.

Liberty Belle is now settled in and looking forward to the next five months.
Home sweet home 'till October!

More is soon to follow.  Thanx for coming to visit.