Friday, August 28, 2015

2015 Colorado Caching – Final

There was a cache at a cemetery near the inn that we thought we could get first off and have Kiowa County but we couldn’t find it.  So we headed east on Highway 96 for about nine miles and then turned north on a gravel road.  We found one out in the sage aptly named “Sage and Yucca” that hadn’t been logged in six months.  We turned around and went back crossing Highway 96 and continuing south on County Road 49 where we found one at a place where a multitude of very old cars had been seemingly dumped in a ditch.  County Road 49 turned into County Road 8 when we left Kiowa County and were back in Prowers County.  At Lamar it changed to US 287 where we traveled south all the way to just past Springfield then turning west on Highway 160.  As it turned out we made a big mistake in not getting gas in Springfield but there were a couple of towns ahead well within our range so we didn’t stop.  

We stopped at a fairly good sized cemetery outside of Pritchett for our Baca County cache.  Pritchett would be a good place to gas up but there was no station there.  The next town was Kim which would be our last chance.  I have an app called “Gas Buddy” that gives the price and location of the nearest gas stations and I was relieved to see that there was one in Kim.  We picked up another cache a short ways down the road also in Baca County.

Just a few miles before reaching Kim we crossed the line into Las Animas County and found a cache at the Highway 109 intersection.  We also noticed a sign that said Highway 160 that we had planned on taking all the way to Trinidad was closed.  If we hadn’t picked up that cache at the intersection we would have been out of luck for Las Animas County.  However, as we did have the cache we saw we could now take Hwy 109 up to La Junta and actually shorten our journey a bit. 

Lee Ray - the good Samaritan
But first things first.  We did not have enough gas to make it to any town except Kim.  We zipped into the tiny town of Kim and did indeed find one single gas pump.  However, it was closed on the weekend.  Guess what day it was?  That’s right – Saturday.  There appeared to be only two or three businesses in town and the only one open was a kind of tire shop/garage.  We met the owner, Lee Ray Jackson, who had just depleted his spare gas.  Without even asking he immediately offered to siphon gas from one of his vehicles, which he did.  What a guy!

With gas to go we headed back to the intersection and turned north toward La Junta.  As this was an unplanned route we had no caches lined up.  Nevertheless, it was a good motorcycling road with little traffic.  At La Junta we were back on the route we had traveled the day before for about ten or twelve miles.  When we got to Rocky Ford we picked up another cache for Otero County called “Yippee ki yay!”.  It was a micro on the support of a big metal cowboy attached to the side of a building.  I  was looking up telling Yancey I didn’t see anything and it was because he had it in his hand.

We were back on an unplanned route heading northwest on Highway 50 which follows the Arkansas River.  As mentioned, this new route was going to shorten our journey a bit.  The only problem was that it was going to bypass all but one of the caches I had lined up for El Paso County.  We hit Interstate 25 just north of Pueblo about where that one cache was supposed to be – only it wasn’t there.  iPhones to the rescue.  We both have a Geocaching app on our phones and we located a cache just across the Interstate less than a quarter mile away.

Mission accomplished (except for logging the final).  Unfortunately, we got into terrible traffic as far south of Denver as Colorado Springs.  Finally Yancey had had it and got on a toll road.  It added about ten miles to our journey but was much faster.  We got into Yancey’s well before supper and now all I had left was to find and log the final cache in order to get credit for the “64 County Challenge” cache.  It was located about 40 miles west and I decided I would try it the next morning and take Kathy and the dogs with me in the truck.

Climbing to the Final
There she is
Kathy and I got an early start the next morning and the traffic wasn’t too bad.  Most of these state county final caches are pretty straight forward and easy.  Arizona was an exception and so was this one.  We eventually ended up at a golf course at Evergreen.  The coordinates put the cache on the other side of the golf course.  It was too early for golfers and there were some rough dirt roads winding through the course.  We took one of these and winded our way to the other side.  I climbed up a fairly steep hill and eventually found the cache amongst some big boulders.
Victory at last
Kathy heading down from Final
Just before we got back down I heard a horn honking down at my truck.  Soon I was there to find a very irate grounds keeper telling me I was trespassing on private property and that my truck could not be taken out till that night.  I told him that wasn’t going to happen and he eventually calmed down enough to allow me to leave.  He had never heard of Geocaching and knew nothing about the cache up the hill.  There may have been trails to access it from the other side of the mountain but we had no knowledge of that.  Naturally Kathy was super upset and I wasn’t exactly sitting on cloud 9 myself.  In our defense, there were no signs or anything to tell us we couldn’t drive on those roads.  The incident did manage to ruin what should have been a very triumphant moment.


Yancey’s Uncle Bob Sharp was arriving at noon so we stayed to see him before leaving a little after lunch.  We drove to Rock Springs arriving in the late afternoon.  We had dinner at Dickie’s BBQ, one of my favorite places to eat.  Our motel was very old and kind of a dump.  There was a good place to exercise the dogs nearby so it wasn’t all bad.  We had breakfast at a Subway the next morning and drove all the way home which was about 760 miles.  It was a long day but not too bad, probably because we stopped a few times to walk around.  The motorcycle part of the trip covered 2,200 miles with a couple of days over 400.  They were all long days (over 12 hours) because of stopping to get the required caches.  Another state crossed off the list and a lot of good memories doing it.  M/W



Thursday, August 27, 2015

LITTLE TUDOR UPDATE: LIGHT FIXTURE REFURBISHED


Photo 1 -- Before
*Photo 2

Daughter Hallie and her husband Nick recently finished refurbishing a light fixture for their bedroom. Hallie writes:
 
"Tired of not having a nice light fixture in our nice, new bedroom, I woke up one morning with inspiration to refurbish this stamped aluminum fixture that is likely original to the house. I began boiling the small pieces in an old pot that we do not use for cooking in order to peel the old paint off. I believe I would have lost interest in this project that required much time, attention, patience and precision, but these requirements appeal to Nick who basically took over without my needing to give up or ask for help. He proceeded to strip the larger piece while I found replacement parts for the sockets and wiring online. After the light was painted, Nick decided it needed some painting detail to really "pop", so he bought acrylic paint and carefully painted the gold detail before spray coating a protective finish on the whole thing. It's lovely!"
 
*Photo 2: Paint stripped--it's actually silver in color. The finial piece turned out to be copper.

Photo 3 -- finished

Photo 4 -- to show finial

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

SMOKE CANCELS PLANS



Mike and I loaded up the Dakota and headed to the farm yesterday (Tuesday, Aug.26) intending to stay a few days, but the smoke from regional wildfires was so dense that we immediately realized we should return to town. We agreed that calling a neighbor for a smoke report could have saved us some effort, but on the other hand, we had to see it for ourselves.
Westerly from the grove over N. field

From grove toward Plank's
Meanwhile, since we were there, we watered, and the opportunity to do that was worth the trip to me. The pond is low but Mike ascertained that the cistern still holds plenty of water. The little apple tree, bare root stock planted in May, is stressed. I'm not sure it will make it. The sweet cherry tree is still doing well. The pear tree is old and struggling, but I picked a few pears which are now cooling in the fridge.

A few small tomatoes were ripe for picking. They’re quite small and the skins are tough but they taste good. The summer squash had no ready fruit but are blooming and setting on. Surprisingly, the ever-bearing strawberries are flourishing. I picked a cup of ripe berries and there will be more. We had strawberry shortcake for supper last night. (I know this is all sorta boring, but you just can't imagine how pleased I am that the garden survived my 2 1/2 week absence during the heat.)
Toward Little Canyon



Mike wanted to practice with his Remington 12-gauge pump, so I pulled clay pigeons for him from the second story of the barn out over June’s field. Then we jumped back in the pick-up and drove home through dense smoke on Russell Ridge.
 
Back in town, the smoke has cleared in Critchfield gulch, though haziness lingers. KW

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

2015 Colorado Caching – Part 4

We had a relaxed rest day and went to a place called the Family Farm to eat and celebrate Kelly’s 40th birthday.  It was a fun and unique place complete with farm animals on premises.  We got to pet and feed the goats.  When we returned Kelly’s sister and mother were there with a birthday cake.

In late afternoon when I was inspecting my bike I noticed that my rear tire was quite worn.  I should have gotten a lot more miles out of it but I didn’t discover until I had returned home that it wasn’t the brand I thought I had on it (Continental ContiMotion) but instead a Shinko Advance.  By this time it was too late to get anything done in Denver.  The tire might have lasted the trip but I didn’t want to chance it and get caught in the middle of nowhere with a tire out.  I located a shop in Castle Rock south of Denver that we would be going through the next day that had a good tire at a reasonable price.

We got an early start the next morning trying to beat the Denver traffic because we had to get a cache in Denver County which is pretty much downtown.  The traffic wasn’t too bad, at least for Denver, and we found the cache without much trouble.  We wanted to be first in line at the bike shop so we didn’t take time to find any more caches in the county.

We found the shop a little after 8:00 and were first in line.  The service department didn’t open until 9:00 so we had a little wait.  We were another half hour actually getting in the shop after they opened and it was after 10:00 before we were back on the road.  Well, at least I would make the rest of the trip with peace of mind concerning the tire.

One of several desert caches 
After getting the new tire we set out east on Highway 86 toward Limon.  We were crossing counties we had done the previous year because we had to get to the far southeast part of the state for territory we hadn’t covered.  We stopped for an Elbert County cache before Limon just for a break and then shortly after turning south on Highway 71 at Limon we stopped for a Lincoln County cache and had a roadside lunch in the shade.

John W Rawlings Museum

As we proceeded down Hwy 71 we were soon in new counties the first of which was Crowley.  We got a couple roadside caches in that county before stopping in Rocky Ford to get one for Otero County.  At Rocky Ford we turned east on Highway 50 stopping in Las Animas bagging a cache at John W. Rawlings Heritage Center and Museum for Bent County. 

 

As the usual afternoon storm began, only this time accompanied by high wind and hail, we deviated from our planned route and headed straight into Lamar instead of making an out and back trip out to John Martin Reservoir and Kiowa County.  We stopped at the museum in Lamar and got a cache for Prowers County.  Then we found a nearby gas station with an overhang and took a break waiting out the storm at a table in the convenience store.

 


After the storm had abated we headed north on Highway to the little town of Eads.  I had chosen this little place to stay because of the reputation of a new motel there.  As improbable as it may seem, this little town of about 700 people had the grand Cobblestone Inn.  In talking to some locals later we found that some of the local farmers had all sold oil leases in one year and needed something to do with the money to avoid some taxes.  About 25 of them pooled their income and built this inn.  It wasn’t really a motel as it had no outside entrances but it was strictly first class.  They served the best breakfast there of anywhere we stayed as well.
Cobblestone Inn

 

Monday, August 24, 2015

DOGGIE TALES ON SMOKY DAYS



Over the weekend our valley filled with smoke from regional wildfires. Nevertheless, the dogs and I walked twice a day, and sometimes I carried the camera. The pictures here were taken Sunday, Aug. 23.

Mike left early Friday (Aug. 21) to attend the memorial service for his mother in Camden, Arkansas. He met sons Murray and Yancey at the Little Rock airport and they drove from there to Camden.

But – that isn’t my story. I stayed behind to take care of the dogs. And no one knows better than Bess and Nellie that I’m really not a dog disciplinarian. With a few whimpers, a push of the snout, or a soulful look, I can be had. We walked twice a day. We ate more than that. And I became adept at eating out of many dishes so that both dogs got a fair share of the lickings.

Walking the dogs has practically become a two-person event because Nellie lags behind while Bess is up ahead. It may surprise you to know that I am the fast walker and keep Bess in sight while Mike walks more slowly behind with Nellie. Especially on the return, Nellie slows way down, but we notice that if we put a leash on her, she steps right along.

Well, the other day as we were on the return side of our walk, Bess spied a jogger with dog up ahead and she was there! She took off running, and I whistled for her – an exercise in futility. After she and the stranger greeted, she continued running on down the road instead of coming back to me. Whistling was useless. As I continued at Nellie's moderate pace, I couldn’t imagine what was going through Bess’ dog mind to make her run like that, but then it occurred to me that we seldom blow the whistle during our walks. We whistle for her at the back door. I realized that the whistle drew a mind-picture of the house and that was likely where I would find her. Sure enough! When I got home, there she was. “Why did you want me to come here,” she seemed to ask. I commended her for coming home. I mean – what can you do?

That wasn’t as upsetting as what happened with Nellie. She and Bess went out Friday night after supper. Bess came back; Nellie didn’t. I assumed she would be right along and didn’t worry. Some minutes later, the phone rang. “Do you have a white shorthair,” the caller asked. “She’s in my back yard.” The man was really a neighbor located across the field from us, but in order to expedite matters, I drove there. As he escorted Nellie through the gate of his fenced yard, she took took off running across the street and into another back yard. From there she disappeared. I realized she was upset and just didn’t recognize me. I drove back home, got the leash, and headed out on foot. As luck would have it I found her half a block away and had no trouble getting her home. I should have kenneled her at that point, but I didn’t have the heart.

Then we had another adventure Sunday morning. As usual, Bess was a bit ahead while Nellie lagged behind. Lagging is one thing, but she wasn’t coming at all, so I turned back to “encourage” her. I saw her struggling somewhat in the middle of a weed patch, so I approached her to see what the trouble was. She was in a patch of puncture weeds. She would try to chew them out, but when she put her foot back down, she just picked up more. I had no choice but to pick her up and carry her out of that area. She hates to be carried, but it had to be done, and I was grateful I could do it. Once I cleared her feet of the puncture weeds, I discovered the soles of my shoes were just a solid mass of them.

Don’t you think I deserve a reward, though? I was thinking of adding Maryellen Larkin to my staff. KW



Sunday, August 23, 2015

2015 Colorado Caching – Part 3

The next morning we headed north on Highway 550 toward Montrose.  We stopped a short ways out of town in a little camping area where Yancey found one called “The Squirrel Stash”.  We didn’t stop again until we were east of Montrose on Highway 50.  When we turned east at Montrose the sun was right in my eyes and I had trouble reading my GPS.  Consequently, it took quite a while getting through town due to some missed turns.  We picked up some more along Highway 50. Along this stretch a dude tried to show me he could drive his Volvo better than I could ride my Triumph on the twisty hilly road.  After a little back and forth he relented.  I had gotten quite a ways in front of Yancey on this stretch so I stopped and waited at a roadside geocache.  It was shady and he zoomed right past me.  As soon as I got the cache I started after him but I knew I could never catch him.  After a short distance I got stopped at a road construction site.  I tried to call Yancey and as luck would have it he had stopped and climbed a hill to take some pictures just a little ways down the road so we quickly got back together.

Our planned route called for us turning south on Highway 149 west of Gunnison but due to fuel concerns we went on it to Gunnison to fuel up.  We then retraced back to 149.  Highway 149 was a very scenic route in high desert country with almost no traffic.  At South Fork we veered southwest on Highway 160.  We stopped a little ways past South Fork to pick up one in Rio Grande County.  I was relived because we were crossing the corner of Rio Grande County and I was concerned about being able to find one of only two I had lined up.  I believe it was just down the road that we stopped for a sardine lunch and the banks of the beautiful Rio Grande River.

Pagosa Springs
Working the combo
Teen Tribute
We continued south on 160 and went over Wolf Creek Pass and even stopped in downtown Pagosa Springs.  I got a kick out of that but Yancey had never heard of the C.J. McCall song “Wolf Creek Pass”.  What a city slicker!  We picked up an Archuleta County cache there at an Eagle Scout project in a park.  We left 160 for Highway 84 heading south to New Mexico.  It was beautiful country that Yancey particularly liked.  We just made a little loop in New Mexico and stopped for one cache called “All Aboard” on Highway 17 after we had turned back north.  It was a rather clever one that required you to figure out a combination on a lock to access the cache.  There was a little operating railroad there for tourists.
Railway in Chama, NM

We continued north back into Colorado and stopped at a 10,000 foot pass to get a cache that required a hike up the mountain side.  It was a beautiful view and I gave it a Favorite point.  Again it was late when we got in to Alamosa.  Every day we had been on the road in excess of 12 hours.  We stayed at another Super 8 in Alamosa and went to a Mexican restaurant recommended by the clerk at the motel.  It wasn’t up to Yancey’s standards (he’s a real Mexican food aficionado) but I thought it was good.  The only problem is that we got the buffet and as often happens in that situation I ate so much I was uncomfortable.

Saquache County is featured in Dayton Duncan’s book “Miles From Nowhere” that is about communities that are as isolated now as they were in frontier days.  Alamosa is just a few miles south of the Saquache-Alamosa county line.  I had located two caches about 35 miles north of Alamosa that I had hoped we could get with an up and back trip after we arrived at Alamosa.  However, it was just too late.  So we decided we would leave before breakfast the next morning, get the caches and come back for breakfast.  We were on the road before six heading across the sage brush and desert country.  The first cache was a micro sized one just off the highway.  Unfortunately we couldn’t find it.  I’m pretty sure it was gone.  Now I was really worried – just one more chance.  We continued north to the little community of Moffat and I was tremendously relieved when we found the cache at an old historic church there.  As planned, we zipped back down to the Super 8 for a nice breakfast.

Veterans' Memorial
After breakfast we headed east on Highway 160 toward Walsenburg.  We took a side trip on a very washboardy gravel road to get a “Veterans’ Memorial” cache for Costilla CountyOur first cache for Huerfano County was also down a gravel road but we elected to hike rather than ride this one.  The coordinates were off and we almost gave up before finally locating it.  We found one more for this county which was a kind of memorial for a teenager who had been killed.  At this spot we had an interaction with a state patrolwoman who pulled up on the shoulder apparently to meet another patrolman who showed up shortly.  Colorado must give their cops good training in PR because she was exceptionally cordial as was the patrolman we encountered on our trip the year before.


Before reaching Walsenburg we turned northwest on Highway 69 toward Silver Cliff.  This was hot desert country with little traffic.  At Silver Cliff we turned east on Highway 96 and attempted six caches between there and Florence finding only three.  Florence is where the Supermax Prison complex is and it is HUGE.  It’s where they house the baddest of the bad.  I had just read a Tom Clancy novel that told about the place.

We were now on the home stretch for this leg of our mission lacing only El Paso County as we headed toward Colorado Springs.  We managed two caches for that county – one at a lone grave on a steep hillside and the other at a pet cemetery.

Now the fun began.  We got on Interstate 25 and even Yancey said it was about the worst traffic he had ever seen.  It seemed to go for hours – speed up and then slam on the brakes and crawl for a while.  Finally as we got into Denver Yancey put us on some kind of expressway legal for motorcycles and we flew past those poor miserable souls on the regular Interstate.  It was good to get back to Thornton far a day’s rest.