Sunday, January 31, 2010

Seeing Differently

"Life is like a rainbow. You need both the sun and the rain to make its colors appear."
     -  wolfdyke

Circular Rainbow
(color intensified with photoshop)

For the first time, I had a chance to see a circular rainbow from my airplane window on the way from Denver to Cedar Rapids today.  We were above the cloud as we approached CR.  The sun was on the opposite side of the airplane from my seat, projecting the rainbow on my side.

Rainbows can only be seen with the sun from behind you, and generally appear as a semicircle, with the lower portion hidden behind the horizon of the earth.  If you were on a sufficiently high position, all rainbows would in fact appear circular.  Complete circular rainbows can be seen under the right conditions, for example  when viewing the mists from above a large waterfall early or late in the day. As above, circular rainbows can also be seen from an airplane when it flies over clouds. 

Wiki discorse on Rainbows:

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Durango - Bet on a Free Stay

When traveling in an RV, you always have your home along, but not your lot/land, so a place to park for the night is always needed.  We almost always have found RV resorts/parks and state/national parks available as needed with minimal advance planning.  In a pinch one could, and many do, simply park in the local Wall Mart parking lot - Wall Mart officially sanctions the practice.
Something Barbara and I have found recently is the trend for the newer Casinos to incorporate RV parks with full hookups as part of the casino grounds.  The new Indian casinos are usually close to a major population center (they need the customers.)  They have pretty much always allowed dry camping, but somehow setting up in the middle of a casino parking lot was never our style.  However, as you see our rig pictured above, when they have a nicely equipped RV park, it's free (if you don't gamble), and you have access to the restaurants and all of the amenities of the hotel as desired, then it can be the best option for the traveling RVer.  This casino was just outside Durango.

In addition to being the starting point for a journey on the Durango-Silverton railway trip, there is a fairly nice train museum there.  Here Bll ponders the assorted valves and switches required to manage this historic steam engine.

As Bill said, "what boy growing up in our generation did not want to make a journey from the caboose of a train?"  I share his sentiment.
The origins of both the car and the word are surrounded as much by legend as by fact. One popular version dates the word back to a derivation of the Dutch word "kombuis," which referred to a ship's galley. Use of cabooses began in the 1830s, when railroads housed trainmen in shanties built onto boxcars or flatcars.
The caboose served several functions, one of which was as an office for the conductor. A printed "waybill" followed every freight car from its origin to destination. The conductor kept the paperwork in the caboose.
The caboose also carried a brakeman and a flagman. In the days before automatic air brakes the engineer signaled the caboose with his whistle when he wanted to slow down or stop. The brakeman then would climb out and make his way forward, twisting the brakewheels atop the cars with a stout club. Another brakeman riding the engine would work his way toward the rear. Once the train was stopped, the flagman would descend from the caboose and walk back to a safe distance with lanterns, flags and other warning devices to stop any approaching trains.
Once under way, the trainmen would sit up in the cupola and watch for smoke or other signs of trouble from overheated wheel journals (called hotboxes).
The addition of the cupola – the lookout post atop the car – is attributed to a conductor who discovered in 1863 that he could see his train much better if he sat atop boxes and peered through the hole in the roof of his boxcar.

This was the first chance either of us had ever had to inspect the interior of a caboose with its original cabinetry and fittings intact.
It was common for railroads to assign a caboose to a conductor for his exclusive use. Conductors took great pride in their cars, despite the caboose's many derogatory nicknames, including crummy, doghouse, bone-breaker, snake wagon and hearse.
The men decorated their car interiors with many homey touches, including curtains and family photos. Some of the most important additions were ingredients for cooking meals that became a part of American folklore. Augmented with such comforting features, the caboose served as a home away from the trainmen's home terminals.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Barbara at it again!

Art vs Technique #2
(click to enlarge)

As I have discussed in the past (, I know the technology of digital photography, but it is Barbara who has the eye.  This is her view of the mountains between Ouray and Silverton.  To provide some perspective, the trees are full sized, probably ~50 feet at least.

Look around . . . a surprise usually awaits

Olathe, Colorado
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Left click on any picture to enlarge

Uncompahgre River RV Park was a quite nice place, well taken care of, with very pleasant host/owners. Campground is definitely for 55+ and most of the campers were there for the season. Coffee every morning at 9:30 and drinks at 4:00pm. Everyone was very friendly.  Most of the "campers" are seasonal and return every year, a testament to the owners. A large community garden, started and maintained by the campers - across the road behind our rig in the picture above, serves not only the park, but also the senior center in town.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP was about an hour from Olathe.  Smaller than the Grand Canyon, but it is equally spectacular in it's own way.

 Dana looking back from a lookout point below the visitor's center.

No, that's not what we are doing!

Before we left Olathe for the short move to Ouray, we drove a short distance out of town to a dairy where twice weekly they divert some milk to make "artisan" cheese (  The cheese was indeed wonderful, but on the way to the dairy, we passed an orchard with "pick your own" peaches . . . and we did!

The surprise at the orchard was their small winery (Mountain View Winery -  It was 9:30 in the morning, but we decided to try the wine anyway.   Ash Mesa, a blend of chardonnay grapes and apples was a particularly good production (yes, really!)

We stopped at Olathe to see the Gunnison Canyon, but almost anywhere on our travels, when we take the time to look around, there are almost always some smaller, but still worthwhile experiences that await the curious searcher.

Colorado: Aspen-Leadville Loop

A day-trip from Glenwood Springs through Aspen and Leadville, looping back via I-70

 After a nice drive from Glenwood springs, we arrived in Aspen.  Like so many of the well-known Colorado mountain villages, Aspen's original central area is a combination of original mining town architecture and affluent granola ambiance.

 The first order of business was to exercise the animals and wander the downtown.  There was a fair-sized street market of which we took advantage.

 There is a free gondola service from the "old" town to the modern Mountain Village above Aspen from which the high slopes are available.  From the gondola, you can look back and see how the original town sits in the upper reaches of a large canyon.

 Back down and before heading out, we stopped for a quick lunch with a lot of sun.

 Shortly out of Aspen, Hwy 82 is little more than a small country road with no shoulders and little clearance on the sides.  Once out of the canyon and approaching the treeline, it opens up.  We passed numerous mining relics like this stamping mill remains in what is left of the mining town of Independence.  The Saturn Vue (our tow car for the motorhome) has been a workhorse for us;  very sad the brand has been dropped.

 Finally the road crested at Independence Pass and, after a break we enjoyed the drive through Balltown and Leadville (lunch and touring the historic local architecture) back to Glenwood Springs.

As the sun approached the horizon, we returned to Glenwood Springs just in time for a quick tour of Linwood Pioneer Cemetery, on Jasper Mountain, above the town.  When visiting this historic cemetery you should have your walking shoes on as there are no vehicles allowed on the winding road to the cemetery. 
Established in 1886, Linwood contains the graves of the pioneers of Glenwood Springs. Its most infamous resident is John Henry “Doc” Holliday.  Harvey Logan, alias “Kid Curry” was also buried in Linwood after committing suicide following a train robbery in 1904 near Parachute. Logan had been, for a while, a member of Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid’s gang. Exploring this historic graveyard would optimally require a guide, or at least a guide book, and a fair amount of time, neither of which we had.

John "Doc" Holliday of course is famous for his role in the gunfight at the OK Corral.  In some respects, John Henry Holliday's reputation was as illusory as the cure he sought. Stricken with tuberculosis at 21, the aspiring dentist came west in 1873 and roamed from Dallas to Dodge City to Tombstone, drinking and gambling hard at every stop (so much for health concerns). After shooting up a few barrooms and dispatching a rival card-shark, Doc Holliday gained renown as a prolific killer and brilliant marksman. In reality he committed perhaps four or five murders, and his wheezing and boozing made him an erratic shot. But this much was true: he was hot-tempered and reckless, a dangerous man. And a dying one. By 1887, when he moved into the Hotel Glenwood, his ravaged lungs were beyond saving. He expired within a few weeks.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Walk your dogs . . . We'll walk our yaks.

You will not see things like this in the lobby of your hotel. 

(Click Picture to enlarge)

 Bill and Dana with local yak breeders/ranchers
One evening in Ouray  (our two rigs in the background), a couple came down the road taking a Tibetan yak and her baby out for a stroll and stopped to talk and let us interact with the yaks.  They had recently started a yak breeding operation on a ranch near us, and were getting their yaks used to being around strange things and (strange?) people.  These were very gentle animals.  Their natural habitat is the high elevations in Tibet, so they are a natural animal for the high, cold Colorado mountains.  They are efficient protein producers if raised for meat, have high-quality meat, and have a fine wool with a mosaic surface on the fiber that is smooth and non-itchy.  I think this is their operation - and blog -

History of the domestic yak (I knew all of you would really be interested!):  The wild Yak (bos mutus) is found in the Himalayan Mountains of Tibet and surroundings at elevations of 14,000 feet. In fact the wild Yak (bos mutus) cannot live below 12,000 feet elevation for any length of time. But during these occasions, the wild Yak bulls interbreed with various cattle breeds surrounding their native Himalayan Mountain terrain. These cross calf heifers crossed back several times to the wild Yak. These multigenerational crosses became the domesticated Yak (bos grunniens). The Yak was originally domesticated in Tibet thousands of years ago and has supplied the indigenous people of these mountainous regions with most of their daily needs including meat, milk, butter, cheese, wool, fiber, leather, fuel, and packing/trekking/travel requirements. The versatile animal is an integral part of the lives of the Tibetan natives and substantially adds to the renowned health and longevity of these people.
If you still thirst for information -

Friday, January 15, 2010


Another Stop on our RV trip in Colorado Last Fall

(Click on a picture to enlarge it)
In southwest CO east of Durango, near the junction of Hwys 160 and 150 is a rock formation generally known as "Chimney Rock." On 4,100 acres of San Juan National Forest land, which in turn is surrounded by the Southern Ute Indian Reservation, it is in southwestern Colorado near the junction of Hwys 160 & 151.

In order to better manage the architectural exploration of the remnants of early residents of this area, Chimney Rock was designated an Archaeological Area and National Historic Site in 1970.

The site was home to the ancestors of the modern Pueblo Indians ~1,000 years ago and is of great spiritual significance to these tribes. Their ancestors built over 200 homes and ceremonial buildings high above the valley floor, probably to be near the sacred twin rock pinnacles.

The Great House at Chimney Rock sits at the top of this thin, high mesa and is accessible only by a steep-walled narrow causeway of rock.

At the end of the first ridge, is a view of the formation from an unused Fire Tower built before satellite cameras and infra-red monitoring was possible.

As in my previous blog about connections, here is another one . . . this site is related to the community around Chaco Canyon, a New Mexico site that Karen, Matt, and I have previously explored.

This is a movie of the Great House, built on a wide spot at the top of the mesa, constructed directly upon bare sandstone bedrock, so the tons of rock and adobe had to be carried up to the site. The Great House dates from the 11th century and is linked architecturally to the Great Kiva, a Chacoan "community center" found below the mesa. (The background voice is the guide answering a question about the fire lookout tower.)

The population of Chimney Rock seems to have expanded during the time when the Ancestral Puebloans had moved to the high mesa top, following a decline in the resident farming community and probably is attributed to immigration of Chacoans.
It is believed that Chimney Rock became part of the larger Chacoan regional community during the time when Chaco Canyon became a ceremonial center to unify a dispersed population through pilgrimage festivals and ceremonial rituals. The festivals would have been related to the re-distribution of goods (corn, timber, pottery, meat, etc.) and the ceremonial rituals related to worship of the Sun and Moon. Chimney Rock itself could have been an occasional host to these festivals with its Chacoan Great House Pueblo serving as focus.

The Ancestral Puebloans moved away from the Chimney Rock villages and the valleys in the 1100's. No later buildings or artifacts have been found. Maybe the weather at this location became too cold and dry, enemies became too persistent, or resources and farming areas became depleted. For whatever reason or combination of reasons, the area was deserted by the prehistoric farming-based populations until the area's resettlement by colonists from Mexico in the 1700's.