Great Sand Dunes National Park and Reserve

Saturday, June 25, 2022

Saturday, June 25, 2022

50 degrees as dawn. Maybe a high of 65. 

I didn’t know what to expect when I booked Great Sand Dunes other than there were massive sand dunes with a stream running along the edge. But we are here to see national parks and monuments and this is the first one on our way west. 

I booked three nights at Great Sand Dunes Oasis RV Park. I knew we would need a break from four days of driving. In another location, it might be described as a gravel parking lot, but it sits on a plateau overlooking the massive San Luis Valley, a high elevation desert at 7,694’. They have it all – RV campground, cabins, lodge, gas station, store and a restaurant. 

It is certainly a strange thing to find massive sand dunes in the Rocky Mountains. There is a massive wall of mountains that are in a curve. Winds are quite intense here. The prevailing westerly winds blow across the valley floor, pushing sand up against this mountain catcher’s mitt. They shift, flow and yet the measurements of the peaks haven’t changed much in 140 years.

Also unique is having three streams run past the dunes. As the stream hits the sand, it seeps into the sand and goes underground just past the dunes. 

Martha fixed a great breakfast of sauteed peppers, onions and tomatoes with a splash of vinegar, coriander and cumin. She made wells and cracked eggs into them. Yum!

We went to the Visitor’s Center, a pretty adobe building. It is a nice store with some interesting books. The views form most Visitor’s Centers are great, and this was no exception. It is perfectly located. 

Totally unprepared for the day, we walked across the stream, which consists of ribbons of water an inch or two deep, Martha in her Keens and me in my hiking shoes. With wind blowing from the East (a storm wind), we plodded up the dunes to a level I felt was sufficient and watched others sliding down the dunes on boards designed for the purpose. Others climbed to the very top – 750’. With elevations at 8ooo’, we felt the effects, heart racing, breathing impaired and slightly dizzy.

We drove through the park campgrounds, which were nice, but I like our spot better. It’s a weekend, so every site was taken. There is a dirt road going through Medano Pass. I talked to a man at the Visitor’s Center, who was putting air back into his Jeep tires after coming across the pass this morning. I asked if my truck would make it, and said, “about half way.” My GMC is not an off-road vehicle, although it has four wheel drive. I only drove up it a short distance before realizing this would not be a good idea.

We did drive to a small parking lot where there is a 2.5 up-and-back hike to a view point. Again, the altitude affected us. The views at the top were rather spectacular. 

After lunch clouds and rains came, so we enjoyed a quiet afternoon. Martha mad an innovative dinner using the last of the rotisserie chicken. She essentially made a chicken pot pie with out the pie crust, but put it over a nice crusty bread. It was excellent.

In the night, the winds blew like crazy. I had my window open, and the sounds kept waking me up. I had my blanket on and was still cold, but after closing the window, it got stuffy, so I opened it again. By morning, the winds had stopped. I now understand how these sand dunes get built up and rearranged!

Dodge City to Great Sand Dunes National Park

Friday, June 24, 2022

There are three routes to Great Sand Dunes National Park. We took 56 southwest to 160 because I had never traveled it. This was the last big travel day getting to the southwest for our extended tour.

As we drove through working communities of Ensign, Montezuma, Hickok and Ulysses, we drove through serious farm land, land that had to be watered to make it work. Huge windmills covered the area for miles. As we drove on, there was also oil production. A train line went between the towns, loading grain from gigantic silos. The road was also busy with tractor trailers. The communities were more like corporate work areas.

The further west we went, the drier it got. We saw abandoned homesteads, small, stone structures. If Rt. 50 through Arizona and Nevada is appropriately named The Loneliest Road, Rt. 160 to Trinidad might come in second. As the land became drier, even if land was given to people, they couldn’t make it work.

We stopped in the rather abandoned town for a bathroom break. Fortunately, I checked the refrigerator temperature. It was 44 degrees. The gas was not lit, so I turned the refrigerator off, switched propane tanks and turned it back on with no effect. I turned on the gas stove, but the flame was very weak. I know the tanks have propane, but now all kinds of thoughts ran through my head. Did the mice chew up my gas line?

In the small town of Kim, we spotted a big propane tank. Stopping to ask if they did refills, a gentleman said no, but the man across the street sometimes does. Looking across the road, I saw a small, house-type propane tank. I went across and knocked on the door. A gentleman with hearing aids came to the door. “No”, he said, “We used to run the propane business across the street for 30 years, but the new owners don’t do refills.” I told him I thought we had propane, but the flame is weak. He said, “Drive the rig over here. You can turn around in the yard, and I’ll fill it for you.”

Bud was his name, and he is the epitome of a midwest or western gentleman. He also has a camper and appreciates the travel and issues you can have. As he filled the not-so-empty tank, we talked about Kim. There was a pretty stone building across the street that was built by the WPA and is now used by Colorado Highway people.

We thanked Bud profusely, and offered $30 for propane and peace of mind. He took the $10 and refused the $20. 

I loved driving 160 and all it’s changing scenery. I almost hit a big, strong antelope that jumped in front of us, but then jumped back to the side of the road. The speed limit is 65 and I was going 70, so it wouldn’t have been good. I just got a glimpse of him, but I have a vivid picture of him. Best to have a full tank of gas, water and snacks when driving this road. However, if you get in trouble, there are good people to help. 

We stopped for lunch in Trinidad, then turned north on I-25 for 35 minutes to Walsenburg and turned west on 160 again. Pulling into Great Sand Dunes Oasis RV Park, I was a little nervous. When I called to make a reservation, a young man seemed a bit detached. There was no credit card transaction, and they don’t send confirmation emails. We did have a confirmation number. Thankfully, all was well and we proceeded to our campsite. 

It was 3:00, so I had two or three hours to work on our plumbing issue. I am now pretty familiar with taking it all apart, so I removed the faucet with the attached water lines and tried to blow them out with our air compressor. No dice. I tried flushing with water with no luck. I then pushed a wire up the hose, but it wouldn’t go through the faucet. Maybe I’ll just buy a new faucet in Moab, but we still don’t know if the problem is in the faucet or further down the line. Maybe I’ll connect a hose to the cold water line, run it out the door and turn on the water pump. If that runs strong, I’ll put it on the hot water line. If that runs strong, I’ll go buy a new faucet or get someone to take the lines off of this one.

We sat watching the views and the sun go down from our plateau campground overlooking the valley and Great Sand Dunes. It’s so unique to see huge sand dunes up against the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, the southern section of the Rockies.

Columbia, Missouri to Dodge City, Kansas

Thursday, June 23, 2022

We got a record 7:00 start from Cedar Creek Resort and RV Park. This is an OK travel campground with a big lake for swimming or fishing. They have pull-through sites that are level, but with an unusual quirk of putting two campers in these long sites. The second person has to back in, and you have to leave enough room, but it works, and it is a travel campground with good showers.

It was an hour drive to Kansas City, where the traffic became heavy. We turned onto I-435 going to the south side of Kansas City, which seemed to be a nicer city than St. Louis. Then onto I-35 southwest toward Wichita. It was pretty busy, and I was relieved to turn onto Rt. 50, one of my favorite highways. It’s quieter, nicely paved with a speed limit of 65 and pretty countryside. 

We stopped for lunch at a historical marker that described these beautiful grasslands. We took a 20-minute nap before heading back out. The further west we went, the hotter it got. By the time we got to Gunsmoke Campground in Dodge City, it had cooled down to 98 degrees from 102. It was hot!

After a little vegetation, we went downtown to see the sights, taking a self-driving tour. I think the highlight would have been the museum, but we didn’t have a lot of time. Of course there is a lot of history, especially early with Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, Doc Holliday and others. It was a big place for the cattle drives. All of this starts after the Civil War, but I’m sure there is a lot of history before that. 

Beginning to tire, we went to Kate’s Restaurant on the south side of the train tracks. There were pictures on the walls of all the history. Not doubt the floors were originals. We had a good meal, and the staff was very nice.

Lexington, Kentucky to Columbia, Missouri

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Kentucky Horse Park Campground

Heading west on I64, it was an hour to Louisville, where traffic was rather frantic. It seems to be the case in most big cities, but it makes pulling a trailer nerve-wracking. That said, downtown Louisville is very pretty, and the Ohio River had great color.

Once we crossed the river, we were in Indiana, crossing the bottom of the state. Traffic was still busy, but we stopped at the only rest stop in Indiana – on 64 anyway. Then into Indiana, where there were beautiful farmlands. So we started in Virginia and have traveled across West Virginia, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois and then Missouri. 

Crossing the great Mississippi into Missouri, I64 merges with I70 at Wentzville just west of St. Louis. We passed Lake of the Ozarks, and my old stomping grounds at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. So many memories, education and fun in one year! Still dating, Martha and I would meet in St. Louis and have a big time in the big city.

We finally arrived at Cedar Creek Campground, just east of Columbia, Mo. It was a dusty road going in. This is mostly a travel campground, where we could still hear the interstate traffic. It was 95 degrees and hot, but I was having a problem. The galley faucet only dribbled water. The bathroom faucet worked fine. The toiled flushed fine. It was only 3:30, so I dove into the project. 

First I removed the strainer on the faucet, which was full of little, brown stuff, but that didn’t fix it. On Martha’s suggestion, I removed the under-the-sink water filter and bypassed it. Still only a dribble of water. removing the filter, I was surprised to see seeds! Mice could only cause this problem. Were they in the trailer? 

I had recently had a new fresh water tank installed at Airstream of Virginia. How could this be? Thinking back, I had bought the water tank from the Mother Ship, the Airstream home in Jackson, Ohio. I was surprised to find it unboxed and dirty, but apparently, that is the way they ship them. Thinking I would do the job, I had it sitting out at the RV storage lot for maybe six weeks before I contracted Airstream of Virginia to do the work. With holes in the tank for connections, Mice would have loved their new food storage place. 

Disconnecting lines, I think I have narrowed it down to the relatively short faucet lines. I took the faucet off, but couldn’t see how to disconnect the lines from the Moen faucet. It was getting late and it could take a couple more hours to sort this out, so I put it all back together and poured a glass of wine. 

The next morning I did some searching on the internet for directions. I got some ideas, but couldn’t really see how to disconnect the water lines where they go up into the faucet. I think I will disconnect the lines under the sink, then remove the faucet with the lines attached and see if I can blow them out or flush with water.

Heading to The Southwest

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

We are starting a trip to the American southwest. It will take four 7-hour days to get to the first of many national parks and monuments. There are also some great state parks, and the more I study the area, the more interesting things I find. Karen and the kids will be joining us for two weeks starting July 1st.

The first drive was to Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington. During my eventing days, I spent a lot of memorable days there. The campground is very nice and has all the amenities. We took a walk around the equestrian area. There have been so many additions, I hardly recognized it. Hard to believe it has been 30 years since I rode here at the peak of my eventing days. My wonderful thoroughbred, Passion, and I placed sixth at the preliminary level, missing an easy, little jump that could have put us in the top four. Passion wasn’t crazy about dressage, and I was rather unschooled in it, so we were in last place after dressage. To finish 6th after that beginning was pretty cool.

Some people were unloading their gear from some very elegant horse trucks. We stopped to talk, and they told us there was a carriage competition starting Thursday. They had a perfectly matched team of four horses. Peeking into the truck, we drooled at a gorgeous, large carriage. It would be so much fun to see this competition. I’ll have to watch their schedule, as they host lots of events, the biggest being the Rolex International 3-day Event.

Approaching the stadium is a very cool statue of the great Bruce Davidson, an incredible 3-day rider. He was Eventing Association’s Rider of the Year in 1975 and then for 14 consecutive years! 

Jumping into water or over a steep drop, Bruce gives a great release of the reins and balances for the landing

Walking through the inside of the beautiful stadium, I felt like I was at the Horseshoe at Ohio State – well not really that big. There was a walk of fame with pictures and stories of some of the legends of jumping and 3-day events. So many great stories, horses and riders! I could have read them all, and we didn’t even go into the museum! We’ll have to come back!

Abingdon, Virginia Farmer’s Market

Saturday, May14, 2022

One of the highlights of the Virginia Airstream Club’s Silver in The Streets rally is the farmer’s market at the end of Remsburg Drive. It is one of my favorite farmer’s markets. Seemingly small, there is a lot of good stuff. One guy is so well-know for his strawberries, they are usually sold out within an hour. Some people order in advance. Martha was right there at 8:00 and there was a line behind her. People were buying cases! As I watched the show, a young boy standing in line told me there is a great bakery on the other side. “Is that your bakery?” I asked. He nodded and smiled. I went over and bought a few things and told the ladies of the little salesman. I think his name is William. They just raised their eyebrows and continued their busy orders.

Since we were traveling, we had to pass up lots of beautiful produce. A cider shop had all their varieties out. There was a great coffee stall with a line of people. A woodworker displayed butcher-block tables and cutting boards. At 8:15, the place was hopping. I spotted Martha talking to a man who made pork rinds. Behind her was William talking to a lady. I walked behind, listening to his great pitch. He was so nonchalant and engaging – the perfect salesman at 9 years old.

From 10-12:00 we had an open house, where anyone from town can come look through Airstreams. I was surprised by the turnout. Lots of people were asking questions and going through trailers. During breaks in the action, I went into other Airstreams. It’s a great opportunity to see how people do things. Mindy had a great solution for shoes, which are often stacked by the door. Pat McLemore did some great things with pictures. He has a similar solar system, also done by Lew Farber. I liked Jeff’s bedspreads.

In the evening we went with Gary and Lynn Brink to dinner at the Tavern, which started as a tavern in 1779. It is one of the oldest buildings west of the Blue Ridge. It has served as post office, bank, bakery, antique shop, hospital and once again, a tavern. Maybe I was still in New Orleans mode, but I ordered Jambalaya in Abingdon, Va! It was excellent! Everyone enjoyed their dish in a very pleasant, outdoor, environment.

The only available time for seating was 5:00
Martha ordered soft-shell crabs, also excellent

Then on to the Barter Theater to see “Kentucky Spring”. From https://bartertheatre.com/history/

June 10, 1933

Barter Theatre opened its doors, proclaiming “With vegetables you cannot sell, you can buy a good laugh.” The price of admission was 40 cents or an equivalent amount of produce. Four out of five theatregoers paid their way with vegetables, dairy products and livestock.
To the surprise of many, all the seats for the first show were filled. The concept of trading “ham for Hamlet” caught on quickly. At the end of the first season, the Barter Company cleared $4.35 in cash, two barrels of jelly, and a collective weight gain of over 300 pounds.
Today, at least one performance a year celebrates Barter’s history by accepting donations for Feeding America Southwest Virginia. Barter Days happen in the month of June as a birthday celebration for Barter Theatre, and we will list those performance times on our Ways to Save page.

The theater is in great condition. We have been to another play across the street, a smaller, intimate venue. It was a very enjoyable play, receiving a standing ovation at the end. I hope to be back for many more. Maybe I can coordinate with Cadence’s softball games.

Abingdon, VA

Friday, May 13, 2022

18 Airstreams lined Remsburg Drive in downtown Abingdon for a Silver in The Streets Rally. Coffee and breakfast sandwiches brought everyone out on the street on a beautiful morning. It’s interesting to see how other Airstreamers do things. I enjoyed talking with Bruce Campbell and seeing how he had setup his bikes in the back of his truck.

Peter Davey has a great truck-top tent by IKamper, so I checked that out. It would be great for fishing the backcountry of British Columbia or Montana. He has also recently installed an impressive solar system.

We walked one block to the new Visitor’s Center, once a beautiful brick home, and now so nicely restored. A nice young lady gave us some history and advice on where to go and what to see.

One of the great attractions to Abingdon is the Virginia Creeper Trail, a wonderful rails-to-trails that follows beautiful Laurel Creek. The usual ride is from White Top Laurel down to Damascus or Abingdon, but Martha is getting ready to walk the El Camino Trail in Spain, so she opted for an out and back from Abingdon. It’s a beautiful trail that we have walked and ridden a number of times. My bike got a tune-up after this ride, and the technician advised me to clean the braking part of the wheels, as my brake pads had worn a lot. The cinder of this kind of trail will surely collect on it, especially in the rains we got.

That evening, after a shower and some rest, we walked two blocks too Greeko’s Grill and Cafe for a greek salad with chicken. Then to Anthony’s Deserts for some home-made ice cream.

Silver in The Streets, Abingdon, Va

May 12-15

Virginia Airstream Club hosted a rally in one of my favorite towns, Abingdon, Virginia for three nights. In an agreement with the town, we parked 18 Airstreams on Remsburg Drive, one street down from Lee Highway, or Rt. 11, which is the main street of Abingdon. It is easy walking access to restaurants, shops and the Barter Theater, a great venue.

Arriving Thursday, we went to see a high school softball game where our friend, Amanda Rose’s daughter was playing short stop. Amanda was working and she would be a bit late. We found the field in Bristol, pausing at the top of a hill above the field to try to determine the best spot to sit. We opted for a small bleacher on the third base line that was not quite filled. I am not used to doing sports photography, but I took a 70-200 lens on my Nikon D850. As Mark had told me, I set it to Auto ISO and Auto white balance and put it on shutter priority. I took a few pictures standing up in the bleachers to test my settings. I got a couple of Chad, Amanda’s husband and the assistant coach. Mothers and family were obviously wondering who we were. Martha asked the lady next to her if a young girl behind the bleachers was Ainsley Rose, Amanda’s youngest. She said yes, and Martha told her our story. Well the whole bleacher got the story, and all smiled. Soon we were right in the conversation and felt at home. Well, maybe right at home 60 years ago when all was right with the world.

The players were introduced from each side, and it was readily apparent the opposing team was a lot bigger. We were informed they were high school, but Cadence’s team was an 8th grade team. We were asked to stand for the national anthem. Every person stood, put their hand over their hearts and sang along facing the flag. I couldn’t help looking around. Even the younger kids behind the bleachers were doing the same. Brought a tear to my eye.

A heavy-set grandfather in front of us said the game was five innings, but it was a double-header, or two games. Sheez, I thought. This is going to go past my bedtime! At all breaks, music was played over the loudspeakers, and Cadence danced. Others sang along while they warmed up. As the game started, we could see Cadence was a very good athlete. Short stop is where the best athletes play, and she did a great job. She also seemed to be their best hitter, almost making a home run on her first time up. She hit a taller part of the fence. A couple of yards to the right and it would have been a home run.

Almost a home run
Chad and Cadence

The visiting team won handily in the first game. The break gave us a chance to talk with Amanda, who talked about living in Charlottesville for a while, and maybe the kids needed a bigger city. I said, “How can you beat this?! A place where all the kids hug each other and hang on the fence talking to their moms, where they sing the national anthem, and Cadence’s father is assistant coach; where Cadence also plays basketball, where her sister plays with her friends behind the bleachers; where a mother goes into the dugout to give her diabetic daughter something to eat, where the coach comes over to the fence to greet the families. There is no amount of money to replace this!”

The second game was a thriller where the home team jumped out to a 5-0 lead, but lost by a run in the last inning. The competitiveness of these girls was amazing. Sliding into bases, digging up grounders, their pigtails getting dirty. They didn’t care. It was so fun! By the end of the game, I realized Cadence is a gifted athlete with great form, balance, eyes and concentration.

Of course they were all distraught at such a close loss, It was also the last game of the year, so they were all crying and hugging, while Amanda handed out home-made cookies. Partly, they were sad they wouldn’t be together as school would be out. As Amanda said, “They’re girls with hormones. What do you expect?” If it wasn’t four hours, I’d drive down for all the games next year!

Ainsley wanted a hug too.

New Fresh Water Tank

May 9, 2022

Last summer, while fishing in the Smokies, my fresh water tank started leaking. All the Airstream dealers were busy and booked for months, so I ordered the tank and a new pan, thinking I would do it myself. Finally I made an appointment at Airstream of Virginia in Ashland, VA. Driving up, I could see it was a busy place. Lots of Airstreams were parked in a lot to the right and a bunch were parked in front of the service doors. Inside I talked to a very nice lady, Lauren Holman, who said it might be three weeks before I could pick it up! Whaaat?? She said they are selling a lot of Airstreams, but they haven’t expanded the service center. It is also very hard to find technicians, and when they do find them, they have to go to Ohio for training.

A peek into the busy service area
I had to go look at all the new models
Perhaps we should provide a Virginia Airstream Club newsletter!

When I went to pick up the Airstream, I met a gentleman and his wife with a very cool truck. He told me their names, but now I can’t remember. They were very nice in showing me around their Dodge Ram 3500 diesel dually with a 115 gallon gas tank on the flatbed and a 55 gallon underneath. He has a generator and battery on the back, but I didn’t want to sound too stupid in asking what he used those for. Certainly they can be used to charge the trailer batteries, or the truck batteries. Their job is hauling trailers all around and across the country. They haul 5th wheelers and all kinds of trailers, but they love pulling Airstreams best. They have a bed in the back, so one of them can sleep while the other drives. After someone ran into them last year, they had some back issues, so they installed air-cushion seats, wrapped in leather at $2100 each. They let me sit in the driver’s seat, and man was it comfortable. Then the wife turned on the vibrator and I thought I had gone to heaven. They use a Rand McNally GPS due to the size of some big trailers they haul. He changes the oil every two weeks, and they have 740,000 miles on it. They hope it will make a million miles. While we were talking, a salesman came out and put a “sold” sign on the Airstream they had just brought in. I hope we cross paths again, as I know they have a bunch of stories to tell, but we both had to get down the road.

Now those are comfortable seats!

World War II Museum, New Orleans

Friday, May 6, 2022

Ed Brownfield told me not to miss the World War Ii Museum. Then several other people told me the same thing. On a rainy morning, Mark and I decided to go, and we were not disappointed. But be sure to get fueled up before you go.

“We have faith that future generations will know that here, in the middle of the twentieth century, there came a time when men of good will found a way to unite, and produce, and fight to destroy the forces of ignorance, and intolerance, and slavery, and war.” Franklin Roosevelt
Makes you feel you are in the middle of the scene

The World War II Museum is a great place where you walk through history, following the arrows through the war, in rooms set up to make you feel like you are in the war, on the beach or on a ship. Like most museums, you can’t take it all in. Like Ed said, you have to come back many times.

Lunch was at Port of Call on the corner of Esplande and Dauphine, known for their hamburgers and steaks. We waited for 45 minutes, but it sure was good.

The walk back was good. Walking in New Orleans is always good. Well, I go to bed early, so I don’t see the city in the middle of the night.

My thanks to Mark for all the planning, scouting, teaching and expertise. Great job Mark!

error: Content is protected !!