Monthly Archives: September 2018

Steam Trains and Cliff Dwellings

We hadn’t initially planned to stop here in Durango, Colorado – but it’s worked out beautifully! Our RV park is a deal, and we’ve been having a great time here with our RV friends Dennis and Kim.

Durango is home to the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, a perfectly maintained 1880’s era coal-fired steam train. The four of us booked tickets for the 8 am Durango/Silverton round trip journey. Seated in the car just behind the engine, we had a beautiful view of steep canyons and mountainsides that aren’t accessible by car. Puffing along at a brisk pace of 12 mph, it gave you a feel for what railroad travel must have been like back in the day. Seeing the steam billowing, getting peppered by cinders (if you opened your window) – it was like traveling back in time. Traversing the cars and between-car platforms on the pitching/swaying train back to the snack bar car was an adventure in itself! I hadn’t thought about the need for water for these old steam trains – we stopped twice on the 4 hour outbound trip just to take on water. After our break in Silverton for lunch, we boarded the train for the 4 hour return trip. It was a long time to be sitting on the train, but so fascinating!

About 45 minutes west of Durango lies the Mesa Verde National Park. This park protects nearly 5000 known archeological sites (including 600 cliff dwellings) of the Ancestral Pueblo people. Established in 1906, it was the first Park to preserve cultural sites, rather than grand landscapes. The cliffs are literally peppered with cliff dwellings, but to get up close and personal with the dwellings, you have to book a tour.

We arrived bright and early, just after the visitor center opened, and managed to snag tickets for 2 tours ($5 per person for each tour) for Cliff Palace and Balcony House. The fact that the dwellings are IN a CLIFF, means you have to somehow descend the cliff, tour the site, and then ascend the cliff, usually by steep steps and ladders. Our Balcony House tour involved ascending 4 ladders (one was 33 feet high!), navigating steep winding rock steps, and crawling through a tunnel that was about 18 inches wide and 30 inches high. Never fear, there are other archeological sites to view that aren’t quite so adventurous!

We also saw a surprising amount of wildlife on the mesa top. A coyote crossed the road in front of us, looking back curiously before heading on his way. A flock of turkeys gobbled on the plain. A mule deer buck sauntered across the road, followed closely by a doe. He seemed unfazed, but she looked at us, startled, before bunny hopping into the bush. A herd of wild horses trotted briskly across the road, the  looked back at us tourists sagely before sedately continuing single file down the slope. I wish I got some photos, but they were always too quick! All in all, a very interesting and unique Park to visit.

Another day, the four of us mounted our Harleys and headed on a loop up through the mountains. We encountered a few rain showers here and there, but the fall-tinged scenery was spectacular. The aspen trees looked like golden lamps, lighting the mountainside. An absolutely gorgeous ride in wonderful company.

For an unplanned stop, this place has been just awesome! Next, we’re on our way to Santa Fe!  (I’m a poet and don’t know-it)

Campground Review: Sky Ute Casino Resort, Ignacio, CO

095Campground Review Summary

  • Name: Sky Ute Casino Resort
  • Dates of stay: September 21-25, 2018
  • Location: 14324 Hwy 172 North, Ignacio, Colorado 81137
  • Type of campground: Private / Indian casino
  • Cost: $20.08/night (Passport America rate)
  • Additional fees: none
  • Stay limit: none
  • Accepts mail / packages: did not ask
  • Cell reception: ATT fair
  • Website:
  • Pros: inexpensive, great amenities and location
  • Cons: sloped site

Full Review

This was a last-minute add-on park, and it turned out just great! This is the first casino RV park that we’ve stayed in, and it has proven to be a wonderful choice.

The RV park is relatively new, with 24 tidy asphalt pull-through, full hook up spaces. The RV parking spot is narrow, but navigable, even for big rigs. It is long enough for our bus, and a paved parking space for our truck is provided. The site also includes a concrete patio equipped with charcoal grill, picnic table and our own private garbage can.

Cable TV is not provided, but our satellite TV has a clear view of the sky along and we can also pull in a number of over the air channels. Wifi is also included, but we haven’t tried it. Our ATT signal is adequate, but slow at times.

Check-in operates a little differently than most places. Upon arrival, the camp host shows you to your space. Once pulled in, you then need to go to the hotel desk to complete check in and payment. There you are also given card keys which grant access to the hotel’s pool area amenities. The campground does not have a separate bath house, all of the facilities are in the hotel building.

It’s a few minutes walk over to the pool area, but it is worth it! The indoor pool includes a small lazy-river feature as well as a large hot tub. The showers, bathroom, coin laundry, and a very nice exercise room are also accessed in this area. It is all beautiful, immaculately clean and the resort even provides towels!! I truly feel like I’m staying in a resort, not a campground.

The casino is just a short stroll away, with its gaming and restaurant amenities. Ignacio is about a 20 minute drive to Durango and an hour from the Mesa Verde National Park, making it a decent home base for touring the area. The best part is the price! Normally $39 per night, the resort accepts Passport America for up to 7 nights, making the RV park a real bargain at $20/night with tax. I think that’s the least expensive park we’ve stayed in so far. Considering the amenities – it’s quite a deal!

There is only one negative, and that is the slope of the site. Attempting to level the bus using our jacks lifted our front tires completely off the ground, so we abandoned the effort and are just living with the slight slope during our stay. We could have placed blocks under our wheels to help level the bus, and would do that if we came back. Otherwise, the place is fantastic.

Sky Ute Casino RV Resort is definitely on our list for a repeat visit! Casino RV parks are now firmly on our radar as we make future plans.

Bottom Line: Great amenities at a bargain price. Will be back!

Canyonlands and Arches National Parks

Moving eastward along the Colorado Plateau, we’re still in sculptured sandstone-land. However, Canyonlands and Arches National Parks do have their own unique features.

Canyonlands National Park is surprisingly large, with three distinct districts:  Island in the Sky, the Needles, and the Maze. Island in the Sky features hikes and look-out points high on the rim of a huge canyon. In fact, you can look down upon a “canyon within a canyon”, carved by the Green River far below. The Needles takes you to lower ground, at the rim of the lower canyon. The Maze is inaccessible, except by 4 wheel drive vehicle.  The Island in the Sky is the most spectacular section, in my opinion. On one end is a crater which had two possible explanations:  a collapsed salt dome or meteor impact. Based on visual inspection, Jeff judged it to be a collapsed salt dome, while I rooted for meteor because that was just so much cooler. Later, Wikipedia disclosed that a study had been done and concluded it was, in fact, a meteor impact crater. HA!

Arches National Park features, well, arches. A gigantic underground salt dome pushed the earth up eons ago, fracturing the surface rock. Water intrusion dissolved and ultimately collapsed the salt dome, leaving ribs (fins) of sandstone on the edges that are thin enough for erosion to readily create holes, caves and arches. In fact, Arches National Park has the highest concentration of natural arches found anywhere in the world. The arches are just transient formations, as inexorable erosion forces form them and eventually destroy them.

Interesting features can be found outside of the parks as well – petroglyphs and dinosaur tracks! “Newspaper Rock”, found a few miles outside Moab, features an unusually dense collection of petroglyphs. Although you can clearly discern human and animal figures, no one living knows exactly what they’re meant to convey.

Not all arches are in the National Park either. We hiked to Corona Arch, off of Potash Road outside of Moab. That hike had some features that I wasn’t QUITE ready for, including cliff side walking (holding to a cable), climbing a ladder, traversing steeply slanting sandstone next to a deep drop off, and pulling myself up a rock face with a cable. I only cried a little, but I made it! (And then had to go back!) The arch WAS spectacular, though.


We had the fun of exploring some of this area with our new RV friends, Dennis and Kim. Also from Florida, we met in the Yellowstone area and found our travel itinerary was almost identical to ours, at least for the next few stops.  They also have a Harley and enjoy the outdoors, so we had some fun here and also have plans to meet up again down the road!

Moab is definitely a tourist-y town and is quite the busy place. I can understand why, since it’s an outdoor mecca for rock climbing, hiking, mountain biking and 4-wheeling. The downside is crowded trail heads, nonstop traffic, and sold-out RV parks! Moab is a blast, but is a place that you definitely want to book well in advance.

Next up:  Durango, Colorado!

Campground Review: The Portal RV Resort, Moab UT

023Campground Review Summary

  • Name: The Portal RV Resort
  • Dates of stay: September 13-20, 2018
  • Location: 1261 North Highway 191
  • Type of campground: Private / Independent
  • Cost: $82/night
  • Additional fees: none
  • Stay limit: none
  • Accepts mail / packages: yes
  • Cell reception: ATT OK reception
  • Website:
  • Pros: Great amenities and location
  • Cons: expensive

Full Review

After Archview RV resort screwed up our reservation, we had to scramble to make alternate arrangements in the Moab area. Luckily we were able find last minute availability at this very nice resort, just outside of town. The facility consists of two parts: a campground side and a “resort” side.  The campground side has typical gravel sites and hookups, while the resort side, which we booked into, consists of privately-owned RV concrete sites and casitas.

021The Resort concrete RV pads are gi-normous and beautifully landscaped. It has to be the largest paved pad we’ve had so far. The full hookups work great, and the cable TV is crystal clear and includes dozens of channels. Wifi is provided, but we are too far away from the office for the signal to be usable. Our ATT signal is adequate, and our satellite TV works fine here. Our site happened to come with a picnic table and benches, these amenities vary according to what the owner provides.

We just happened to land right across from the resort-side pool and bath house, which are restricted to resort guests only. The bathroom and showers – OMG! They rank right up there with Best Bathroom Ever, with gorgeous sinks and large tumbled stone showers. I feel like I’m at a spa facility. The pool and hot tub are nicely functional and rarely busy. The campground side has a pool under construction which should be completed this season. Other amenities include a small gym, playground, fenced dog run, koi pond, swimming pond, and clubhouse.

The location is great – just outside of Moab and convenient to Arches and Canyonlands National Parks as well as all of the mountain bike and 4-wheeling trails. The amenities are fabulous and the setting is beautiful. The only downside is the price. The base price is $71.50/night plus $10.50/night in taxes! As far as I can tell, they don’t participate in any of the discount programs either.  It is one of the most expensive resorts we’ve stayed at, but sometimes you get what you pay for. We looked at other RV resorts in the area, and this one was the nicest by far — and frankly, they weren’t all that much cheaper.

Bottom Line: Expensive, but I’ll pay it to get the awesome location and amenities.

A Trio of Parks: Zion, Bryce Canyon, and Cedar Breaks

Located in the southwestern corner of Utah, the three parks of Zion, Bryce Canyon, and Cedar Breaks have much in common. The area’s layer-cake geology was built up over eons as marshes, desert and sea laid down multicolored siltstone, sandstone and limestone. Thrust skyward by earth’s internal forces, the resulting Colorado Plateau was then eroded and sliced by the forces of wind, water and ice into bowls, steep canyons, and fantastical shapes.

The Mormons who settled and shaped the culture of this area are also responsible for the Parks’ names. Zion, named for the Biblical land; Bryce after Ebenezer Bryce who homesteaded the area; and Cedar Breaks, named by settlers who couldn’t tell the difference between juniper bushes and cedar. OK, it was an honest mistake, but the name stuck. This area is still predominantly Mormon and is also ground zero for the infamous FLDS sect/cult. The headquarters of the FLDS is located only about a half hour from our Hurricane, UT campground. Although the sect has been divided and scattered because of recent events, female members in their characteristic ankle-length prairie dresses and long braided tresses were regularly spotted in the local Wal-Mart. I can only imagine what it would be like to grow up in such a repressed, fear-based society — but I digress.

Each park also has its unique differences. The primary feature of Zion National Park is a wide water-carved canyon, still being shaped by the Virgin River flowing through it. The water source creates an oasis effect where wildlife abounds. The tall canyon walls create shade and retains a measure of coolness in the slot canyons. Traversing around the canyon through a long tunnel pops you out into an area with carved sandstone walls and cliffs. You can even see God’s chisel marks.

In Zion, you travel the valley floor, looking up at cliffs 2000 feet high. In Bryce Canyon National Park, you start at the rim of a vast bowl, looking down on the park’s famous hoodoos. One spectacular trail that we hiked wound down to and through the hoodoos, along a verdant valley floor, through a slot canyon, and then back up a dozen steep switchbacks to the rim. So beautiful, it is now one of my all time favorite trails! The colorful hoodoos spark the imagination — you can see castles, people, and all sorts of structures and animal figures in the sculptured rock. Driving along the rim provides additional overlooks, one populated by an unkindness of ravens, caw-ing for attention. (Yes, that’s what it’s called!) We only had one day here, but it is definitely a place we want to spend more time in.

Lesser known Cedar Breaks National Monument boasts another spectacular, carved amphitheater of multicolor sandstone and limestone. The highest of the three parks at over 10,000 feet altitude, we drove through alpine meadows, already fall-tinged by September frosts before reaching the half-mile deep bowl. It has fewer trails, but one takes you along the rim of the bowl to an overlook and some great specimens of the oldest living tree – the bristlecone pine. Yeah, I had never heard of it either. The oldest known bristlecone pines are 5,000 years old, making it the oldest living organism of any species! This modestly sized, twisted and gnarled tree somehow scrabbles a living out of harsh conditions where other species don’t survive. When part of the tree dies, it focuses its energies on the living part, so it can continue to thrive. There seems to be lesson in there for us, somewhere. Sequoia trees may be stunningly impressive, but these unprepossessing trees have my respect for sheer tenacity.

There is more to see in this corner of Utah, so we plan to return — in a cooler season!

Next up:  Moab, Canyonlands and Arches National Parks!

Campground Review: Willow Wind RV Park, Hurricane Utah

043Campground Review Summary

  • Name: Willow Wind RV Park
  • Dates of stay: September 5-11, 2018
  • Location: 80 South 1150 West, Hurricane, Utah 84737
  • Type of campground: Private / Independent
  • Cost: $47.96 / night (with Good Sam discount)
  • Additional fees: none
  • Stay limit: none
  • Accepts mail / packages: NO
  • Cell reception: ATT adequate
  • Website:
  • Pros: nice amenities and sites, good location
  • Cons: moderately pricey

Full Review

This park is in a great location, right in the small town of Hurricane, UT and near Zion National Park. With its shady sites and beautifully kept amenities, it’s a little oasis spot. The campground is moderately large, with 185 sites plus tent camping area and three teepees for rent.

Our back-in concrete space (#172) was solid, reasonably level and easy to get into due to a large parking/staging area right in front of our spot. Other locations may be a little trickier for a large rig to get into. There is an intrusive concrete ditch in the road right in front of the office which is a bit annoying, but can be avoided after getting the rig parked by using the other entrance/exit.  The site wasn’t quite long enough to park our toad, but we used the aforementioned parking area, which was convenient enough. Our site was neatly landscaped with grass and trees, some of the other (newer) sites have mostly gravel between sites. No picnic table is provided.

50 amp electric, water and sewer connections worked fine, although we did experience a short water outage due to a broken main. It was fixed within a few hours, so no real inconvenience. The provided cable TV worked perfectly, with 40+ clear channels. That was good because, although our site was considered “satellite-friendly”, we couldn’t get a satellite lock due to trees. Considering that it was hot during our stay (highs in the upper 90’s – 100), I’ll take the shade over satellite TV! A wifi code was provided, but I primarily used our own internet connection. Jeff used the campground wifi and said it worked well.

It should be noted that this is one of the few campgrounds that do NOT accept mail. Campers are directed to forward mail to general delivery at the nearby post office and pick it up there. FedEx and UPS will deliver directly to your site, so long as the site number noted on the address.

The park landscaping and amenities are immaculately kept. The clubhouse is beautiful with lounge space downstairs and an upstairs loft with pool table. There are two bathhouses, one a traditional type, and the other (nearest the office) has individual bathroom units equipped with shower, toilet and sink. I love those, it’s like showering in a home bathroom. All were bright, tiled, modern, and climate controlled. There are two coin laundry facilities and a fitness room equipped with weight machine, recumbent bicycle, elliptical and a treadmill.  A pool would be nice, but we rarely find pools in desert environment campgrounds.

The cost was a little higher than we like, but not out of line when you consider the quality of the site and amenities. Being in town, Walmart, shopping, restaurants, and a movie theater are located conveniently nearby. Zion is only about a half hour away and Bryce Canyon National Park is within day trip distance, about 2.5 hours away. If you’re into ATV-ing, there are miles of trails within 30 minutes. Jeff tells me that several world class mountain bike trails are within 30-45 minutes drive away. This has quickly become one of his favorite biking spots, so I expect we’ll return to the area —  when it’s cooler!

Bottom Line: Great sites, beautifully-maintained grounds and amenities, at a price that’s not outrageous.

You just gotta roll with it sometimes ….

1932982You know that both Jeff and I are planners. We carefully research and choreograph our travels well in advance. That works great …. until it doesn’t.

You may remember our recent tire issue that was caused by an alignment problem with our motorhome’s front end. Needing to address that issue as soon as practical, we booked an appointment with a shop in Idaho Falls, located conveniently on the way from West Yellowstone to our next stop. We packed up the night before and left at dawn to arrive at the shop for our appointment, only to discover that the shop’s alignment rack was down. Waiting on parts. Maybe fixed later that day, maybe not. Not wanting to just wait around for some unspecified time frame, we elected to head on and deal with the alignment later.

It’s actually not all that easy to find a place that DOES motorhome alignments. Car shops can’t do it, and semi-truck places don’t want to. Even authorized Spartan chassis repair facilities don’t usually do alignments. After much internet searching, we found a chain (GCR) that actually services both trucks and RVs.  And they had a shop not too far from our current location. Cool! We called and made an appointment for next week. In order to give us more time for travel logistics, we decided to push out our Moab resort’s check in by one day. So Jeff called the campground to adjust our reservation and that’s when the fun really began.

Now, we booked this reservation 6 months ago, and had difficulty finding availability then. It’s a very popular time in Moab. We made a deposit and had a confirmation number. But, as we discovered, the campground intelligently booked us into a 35 foot space for a 43 foot motorhome. Not cool. And, so sorry, the big spaces are all booked up. Nothing we can do. REALLY not cool! So, we quickly went into damage control mode, attempting to find someplace to live for that 2 week span. I really detest when something upsets my carefully plotted schedule!!

Jeff started calling around while I hit the internet. After several calls, he managed to find an 8 night stay at a much nicer, albeit pricey, resort closer to town. I looked farther along our route and found a very nice full hook up casino campground near Durango Colorado, for the bargain price of $19.50/night! We’ll end up spending less time in Moab, but will have a few days to explore a different area. We booked nicer campgrounds, for a combined cost less than we would have paid at the first place. So there!

And, it was really a blessing in disguise. What if we had arrived at Moab next week, and discovered the problem then? We would have had nowhere to go! Having some notice allowed us to make the necessary adjustments.

It all works out in the end.


Haiku, by Pumpkin

It has been a while since I graced you with my creative prowess. My human translates.

Moving Day

Moving day today

Hustle, bustle, pack up, go!

I ride on mom’s lap.


Arrive at new place.

Different sights, sounds, smells and tastes,

Waft through my window.


Campground Review: Yellowstone Grizzly RV Park, West Yellowstone, MT


Campground Review Summary

  • Name: Yellowstone Grizzly RV Park & Cabins
  • Dates of stay: August 27 – September 3, 2018
  • Location: 210 S. Electric Street, West Yellowstone, MT 59758
  • Type of campground: Private / Independent
  • Cost: $78.18 / night (with Good Sam Discount!)
  • Additional fees: none
  • Stay limit: none
  • Accepts mail / packages: yes
  • Cell reception: ATT decent reception
  • Website:
  • Pros: Location, nice sites
  • Cons: cost

Full Review

This campground ranks up there with one of the most expensive we’ve ever stayed at. But you know what they say about real estate – location, location, location! Located in the town of West Yellowstone, within blocks of the west entrance to Yellowstone Park, you can’t beat the convenience.

The campground is quite large, with over 300 sites. The check-in desk had three clerks to handle the traffic. Our gravel FHU pull-through site was level, easy to get into, and long enough for our toad and motorcycle. We lucked into an “end” site, so had a nice buffer space on our hookup side. The site also had a paved patio with picnic table.

Our site was satellite friendly, so we didn’t try the provided cable TV. We also pulled in several over the air TV channels.  Being in town, our ATT signal was adequate. A wifi code was provided, but we were too far away for their signal to be usable.

Campground amenities weren’t plushy, but they were modern and clean. They included six bath houses, four with coin laundry facilities. Each bath house only had two showers and toilets each (men/women), so peak times could mean a wait for the facilities at such a large and busy park. The campground also has a playground, pet walk areas, dump station, and small camp store. No pool or fancy amenities, just the basics done well.

The best part is the convenient location. We could walk into town and enjoy sightseeing, dining and shopping. Entry into Yellowstone was less than 5 minutes away.  But you certainly pay for convenience at nearly $80/night, WITH a Good Sam discount!

Bottom Line: Expensive campground, but I’ll pay for the convenience.

Incomparable Yellowstone National Park

The world’s first National Park, Yellowstone is a place like no other. With its incredible beauty, abundant wildlife, and unique geothermal features – Yellowstone is simply a “must see” on anyone’s bucket list.

We stayed at a campground right in the town of West Yellowstone, which was super convenient for accessing the Park and town. We could walk downtown and enjoy browsing the shops and sightseeing. We toured the Yellowstone Historic Center, and took in two movies at the IMAX theater. As posted earlier, we ate at the famed taco bus, and took in a play. But the highlight of our stay was the National Park.

059We have visited YNP twice before, so enjoyed revisiting some of the highlights: Old Faithful, the Canyon, Mammoth Springs, and Hayden Valley. We also had the opportunity to explore some areas that we hadn’t previously, such as Norris geyser basin and Yellowstone Lake.

The geothermal features are always fascinating to me. Geysers splutter, roar and spit water and steam high into the air. Mud pots plop and burp multi-colored goo. And hot springs burble serenely, creating inviting (but deadly) clear blue pools. There are so many colors and configurations, I could watch them all day. It connects me somehow to the center of the earth itself.

Animal spotting is inevitable. While just driving the park roads, you’ll see elk,  lumbering bison and a variety of bird life. If you are fortunate enough to spot an animal carcass, you may see a whole feeding drama play out.

In the Hayden Valley, we happened across just such a spot. A buffalo carcass was located across the river, but close enough to observe bears feeding. We watched as a scarred old warrior of a grizzly bear sat in possession of the carcass while a larger (but younger) male grizzly circled hopefully around. At the same time, a coyote edged closer, also circling the food source, but never quite daring to snatch a bite. At one point, the coyote did a number 2 right in front of the old bear. I’m not sure if he was attempting to claim territory or just expressing an opinion. The younger bear eventually wandered a bit too close, and the old bear charged him off. The younger bear backed off, sitting down heavily in the grass, rejected and dejected. The coyote also eventually gave up, wandering away to disappear into the meadow. It was clear that the old grizzly had no intention of giving up his food supply to anyone!


The roadside crowd with its binoculars and telephoto lenses took on a sports arena vibe – who would win the food struggle? The audience watched every move, cheering on the players, debriefing every play. We eventually moved on to other sights, but this was as good as any game on TV!

This wasn’t our first visit to Yellowstone, and it most definitely won’t be our last!