Monday, April 30, 2012

Douglas KOA, Douglas, Wyoming

 
We’re staying at the Douglas KOA for one night as we work our way north. We’re not here long enough to enjoy the facilities, but the campground is very nice with a few pull-thru sites, in fact, we didn’t need to unhook the truck & rig. There is a small, fully enclosed, grass dog park, as well as a book exchange, laundry outdoor pool, miniature golf, etc…. typical KOA amenities. The staff is very nice – in fact, when we checked-in and asked if we could post a flyer for our Mail-in RV Shade Restringing Services, the woman asked if we had time to restring a shade of hers. Of course we had time! :-)  As we get farther north, the weather is definitely getting colder – it’s so cold right now, it feels like snow! (And it’s expected to get down to 32-degrees tonight, so it’s a possibility!)
Easy and affordable - no matter where you are! 

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Olympic Training Center, Colorado Springs, Colorado

We planned to Pikes Peak today, but when we got to the toll, we were told that the road was closed past mile 13, due to poor road conditions. Since our goal was to go to the top, we changed our plans and decided to see what the Olympic Training Center was like. A one-time Air Force base, instead of demolishing the buildings, the campus became housing, dining, and practice facilities for many of the USA’s Olympic athletes – swimmers, shooters, weight trainers, and a few more.

There are free tours given on the top of the hour, and since we were there a good 40-minutes ahead of the next tour, we spent some time looking around the Hall of Fame, gift shop, and various displays.  The tour started with a movie showing some scenes from the most recent Olympic Games and foreshadowing the 2012 Olympics this upcoming summer.  The tour guide showed us the wall of business supporters (the USA is one of the few countries that does not offer government financial support for its Olympians), medical facilities, training facilities, shooting range, and the swimming pool.  We went into most of the facilities, except the housing/dining area, where hundreds of athletes choose to live for 3-6 years while in training.


So…….our thoughts….it was okay. The facilities are beautiful and well-maintained. Flags from every nation that participates in the Olympics are on display, as well as photos, iron sculptures depicting the sports, and visuals showing how high the high-dive board is, how narrow the balance beam, etc….  What wasn’t that great was the Hall of Fame – it was quite sparse, the movie could have been a lot better, and our tour guide was quite blasé and lacked passion for his work. 

 Should you go if in the area? Sure, it’s free and there were some interesting components, but put it on the bottom of your “must see in Colorado Springs” list. Oh, check out the photos below – fulltime RV living has made Suzanne quite strong and Brad figures he can still watch TV while sitting in a bobsled.

Easy and affordable - no matter where you are! 

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Manitou Springs, near Colorado Springs, Colorado


 
After visiting Garden of the Gods Park, a great stop is nearby Manitou Springs, literally about a 5-minute drive. It’s a small, quaint town with lots of shops, restaurants, and a small river running through the town. Many of the store fronts are the original facades from the late 1800’s when the town was established, as well as eleven naturally carbonated mineral spring fountains that run freely for all of those who wish to enjoy the benefits of the healing waters. Free parking can be found along the streets. If you’re a shopper, one can easily spend half- to a whole day here. 



Friday, April 27, 2012

Garden of the Gods, near Colorado Springs, Colorado

Gardenof the Gods is a free park just a few minutes drive from Colorado Springs.  The park is quite lovely ~ it’s made of sandstone rock formations with Pikes Peak as its backdrop.  After stopping at the Visitor’s Center and looking through their displays and shop (there is a 14-minute movie on the making of the formations, but we did not watch it), we drove the short distance to the central garden area and enjoyed walking along the paved walkways looking at the sandstone formations, watching a few rock climbers, and admiring the fact that this was, and always will be, free. (The family who donated the land specified that this park would always remain free of charge to all visitors.) After meandering the garden, we continued on the drive around the rest of the park, where one can see Balanced Rock. 
 
 Besides the paved walking trail, there are numerous other hiking trails along the park, all of which allow leashed dogs.  There are also a few off-road roads for mountain biking, as well as picnic areas and free nature programs. This is definitely a “must do” when in the area ~ plan to spend from ½ hour to ½ a day, depending on what you like to do. 
Easy and affordable - no matter where you are! 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Denver Mint, Denver, Colorado

 
  • Have you ever wondered where US coins are made? 
  • Or how the quarters you dropped into a soda machine are made to be consistently the same?
  • Or why does the US government have to constantly make coins? 
  • Do you know where a third of the US gold reserves are located? 
  • Has the US Mint ever made foreign coins? 
  • What is the oldest federal police force? 
Well we learned to the answers to all these questions and more on the tour of the Denver Mint today. The 30 minute tour starts by a brief security orientation given by one of the US Mint Police officers. Each person goes through a metal detector and passes their metal objects (keys, coins, phones etc.) through an x-ray type machine. This is much like the security check points at airports but we were told their equipment was much more sensitive. After passing through security, we all waited in a small foyer that had interesting information displays about coins and the Mint. 

Once all the people were checked in, we proceeded upstairs and watched a short video that provided a high level overview of the US Mints history and their function in our country. The tour guide then led us into an observation room where we could watch the coin stamping machines actually make thousands of US coins. The Guide explained the entire manufacturing process from how the dies are made that are used to stamp out a particular coin, quality control checks and balances, and the one failed attempt by an employee to steal (back in 1920), and about the building’s construction. Next we were led to another observation room where uncirculated Sets are made. Unfortunately the machines weren’t running that day. Lastly we were led out of the main entrance of the building. 

During the tour, the Guide answered any question that people had about the Mint or the coin manufacturing process in general. Our guide was extremely knowledgeable and provided a very enthusiastic, informative, and fun tour. Even the armed police officers that accompanied the group answered questions and were very nice. Even though the tour was 30 minutes long, it was an informative and interesting experience that most people would enjoy. 

Oh, were you wondering about the answers to the questions? 
  • US coins are made are made in Denver & Philadelphia. 
  • Quarters you dropped into a soda machine are made to be consistently the same by sampling a few coins every 10-15 minutes – if one coin doesn’t meet standards, then the whole batch is destroyed and the metal re-used in the next batch. 
  • The US government has to constantly make coins because they are needed for commerce and people tend to collect and hoard coins for a variety of reasons. 
  • A third of the US gold reserves are located in the basements of the Denver Mint. 
  • The US Mint made foreign coins for many years, for countries such as Mexico, China, Israel, etc…..
  • The oldest federal police force is the police force of the US Mint.

Finally, what was most interesting, is that the US Mint is a business onto itself – it makes a profit on making coins.

Easy and affordable - no matter where you are!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Foot of the Rockies RV Resort, Colorado Springs, Colorado

 
Foot of the Rockies RV Resort is a city RV park located on the edge of a multi-tiered hill overlooking downtown Colorado Springs. The resort’s roads are paved with large gravel sites. Our sewer connection was in the back of the site near the electric pedestal so we were glad we had a long hose. Not all sites are setup this way however.

The resort offers a small laundry facility, enclosed dog park with large cement pipes as fun obstacles; the staff is extremely dog friendly and very helpful. We were welcomed as we drove into the park. The office will accept forwarded mail, just call ahead to make arrangements first.  This park is conveniently located to stores, area attractions and access to Interstate 25.

As expected, there is no state park feel to this park; after all it is in the city with the typical city noises and lights. There are many year round residents at this park, so at first glance one might question staying here. But everyone has been very friendly and welcoming. We still scratch our heads though about the use of the word “Resort” in the name of the park. There really aren’t any amenities here that would support the word – it’s just a name. We felt safe and comfortable here, and would stay here again if we were visiting Colorado Springs again.


Easy and affordable - no matter where you are! 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Exploring Santa Fe, New Mexico

 
We visited Santa Fe in the early 1990’s when we were dating and on a long road trip – back then we were tent campers! (Very different now in a 38’ fifth wheel!) We were looking forward to going to the downtown area again while in the area, but first had a big shade repair job to do (five shade restringing for one rig), so we didn’t get out until 2pm-ish. Our feelings about the downtown are mixed – we have fond memories of really liking the area – finding it quaint and charming, however it is not that way now. Although there are still some great restaurants and art galleries, stores to shop and Native American jewelry to purchase (photo above), there was a plethora of “cruising” cars and motorcycles – young kids (nope, we’re not getting old – they were high school/college age) going around and around Santa Fe Plaza (the downtown area) with music blaring, revving motors, stopping anywhere, etc… Even the big blue postal boxes have graffiti spray painted all over them. So though Santa Fe was once delightful,  now not-so-much, which was disappointing.



Monday, April 23, 2012

Santa Fe Skies RV Park, Santa Fe, New Mexico

 
Santa Fe Skies RV Park is a nice park overall, large sites, many pull-throughs, a bit expensive ($40/night back-in; $43 pull-through) situated just south of the Santa Fe tourist attractions, about 10 miles. The people in the office are nice, there is free WiFi, and a fully-enclosed off-leash dog area (although dirt, nor grass or rock). We’ll stay here a couple nights while we enjoy some of the many attractions of Santa Fe. Stay tuned!!

Here’s a cool thing ~ we were outside wrapping-up a blind repair conversation and suddenly a woman came by and recognized us (and Zoey, of course) from the blog! It was Debbie of Debbie & Scott (www.greatescapefromnj.blogspot.com). We chatted a bit, but we had t go to a shade repair job, so we’ll connect more with them later. Small world!!!

 Easy and affordable - no matter where you are!


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Caballo Lake RV Park, Caballo, New Mexico

 
We stayed here one night on our way north. It’s in general a nice park, close to Caballo Lake (about ½ mile to the lake through BLM land). It’s very basic – full hook-ups, all pull-through sites, free WiFi (which works), and, well, that’s about it. It is clean and well-maintained, but there are no facilities at all – not even an office – the woman who owns and manages the park lives in her house on the premise. Basically, it’s a giant gravel paring lot with pull-through hook-up RV sites. At 4:30 every night there is Happy Hour (BYOB) on her patio. We would stay here again if just passing through, but not as a destination. 
HAPPY EARTH DAY!!

RV Blind and Shade Restringing Mail-In Service ~  Easy and affordable - no matter where you are!


Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Catwalk, Whitewater Canyon, New Mexico

 
About an hour drive from Silver City is Whitewater Canyon with the famous Catwalk ~ a 2.2 mile round trip hike that leads hikers through the canyon following a now unused metal pipeline which onetime supplied water to the nearby mining town of Whitewater. We took the drive today (not the most exciting) and enjoyed the walk/hike.  To be honest, for us, although it was an interesting hike and we enjoyed it, it was not worth the 2-hour round-trip drive – we’ve done similar walks/hikes, so it simply was not unique for us. That being said, many people we passed along the way were in awe of the hike, so if it’s not something you’ve done before, this would be interesting.  The hike is rated easy in the beginning, then moderately strenuous towards the end ~ we found it on the easier side, but then again, we’re big hikers – this was definitely a challenge for some of the people we met on the trail.


RV Blind and Shade Restringing Mail-In Service ~  Easy and affordable - no matter where you are!





Friday, April 20, 2012

Exploring the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument in New Mexico

The Gila Cliff Dwellings were built in the 1280s by the Mogollon people and later abandoned in the early 1300s. More than 40 archeological sites are protected within the National Monument with these dwellings being the most spectacular and accessible.

The dwellings are high above the canyon floor in southeastern facing caves. The Mogollon chose 5 interconnecting caves to build their dwellings. There are 42 rooms in all with some two stories high. These dwellings are believed to have supported 8-10 families.

There is a one mile moderate loop trail starting from the Contact Center parking area that takes you right to the dwellings. It starts at the bottom of a small narrow side canyon and eventually climbs up the side of the canyon and leads you directly to the dwellings. There is a path that allows you to actually go inside the largest cave and see the rooms up close. From here one can image fires burning in the back of the caves (evident by soot covered ceilings) and the food contained in pottery stored in the various small rooms. These ancestral people raised beans, corn and squash to supplement the natural food and animals found in the surrounding area around the dwelling.

There is also a replica ladder that you can use to climb down to the main trail giving a small feel as to what these people went through to get access to their homes.  In addition, when we were there a ranger was present answering questions about the construct of the dwellings and the people. A Ranger guided tour is offered daily and meets at the first cave at 1pm. The trail continues by looping around the backside of the caves then down into the main valley floor to the parking area.

Experts don’t really know why the Mogollon people lived here for such a short period of time – maybe severe drought, illness or some other reasons. Can you image how much hard work was required to build these dwellings and in such a short period of time all the while performing their basic life duties to survive – crazy by today’s standards that’s for sure. 

There is a Visitor Center one mile from the dwellings. This is a great place to become educated about the wildlife in area and about the ancestral people that once inhabited the dwellings and area. There are displays of ancient artifacts including pottery, stone tools and hunting weapons.

This is a great place see some beautiful country and experience an ancient cliff dwelling up close. We were glad we made the drive and took the time to explore.

To get there:
Take the Mountain Spirits National Scenic Byway (or NM HWY 15) for 42 miles from Silver City. The road is very curvy with several really sharp turns so plan on 1.5 to 2 hours of travel time one way. This route takes you through beautiful canyons to the top of mountains offering grand views of the surrounding Gila National Forest. The drive alone is worth the trek.
One last note - dogs are not allowed on the trails in the National Monument. We learned its ok to leave your dog in your car (unlike other National Monuments or Parks) or if it’s too hot, free kennels are provided at the Contact Center.

Enjoy!!
Easy and affordable - no matter where you are!


Thursday, April 19, 2012

City of Rocks State Park, New Mexico


We decided to stay in Silver City as it’s central to all of the things we wanted to do while in the area, however central does not necessarily mean close.  About 45-minutes south is the City of Rocks State Park, which we have heard is fabulous, so we went.  Well, okay, interesting, sure, but fabulous ~ no. The theory is that there was a volcanic eruption 180 miles away in Albuquerque many years ago (obviously), and these rocks were tossed the distance, and thus are an interesting site to see. The cool part is there is camping among the rocks, and we can see how people after a long week at work, wanting to get away from the hustle-and-bustle of life, would enjoy hanging out here for a weekend. But besides just hanging out, there is little to do – a bit a walking among the formations, but that was about it.  There is a Visitor’s Center, but it was closed. If you’re passing by on route 180 and want to see the City of Rocks, sure, go 3 miles out of your way.  But a 45-minute drive – nah.


Easy and affordable - no matter where you are!



Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Rose Valley RV Ranch, Silver City, New Mexico

 
We have made it to New Mexico! (And it only took eight months!)  We are staying at Rose Valley RV Ranch in Silver City while we explore the surrounding area of the Gila National Forest.  The campground is quite spacious with a decent amount of privacy between the sites, in part due to the privacy “walls” built, which also help to keep the wind down – always nice!  There are restrooms and laundry, a small exercise room and a decent book exchange.  The staff is friendly, the place is clean, and the views out our back window pretty cool!

RV Blind and Shade Restringing Mail-In Service ~  Easy and affordable - no matter where you are!





Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Justin’s Diamond J RV Park, Tucson, Arizona

 

We spent one night at Justin’s Diamond J RV Park and one night was enough. Although there were very good reviews online (we like to use www.rvparkreviews.com to check-out potential parks), this was not a park to our liking. The office was closed the entire time we were there, and payment was on the honor system. Although fellow RV’ers were nice and helpful, the surrounding area wasn’t so great – we heard barking dogs, screaming children, a neighbor father screaming at the children, roosters cock-a-doodle-ing, etc… all day - you get the picture. That being said, it was a clean park and some sites (for long-time residents) have beautiful views of the mountains. Oh yeah, forgot the mention the sounds of the shooting range two-miles away as well. :-)

RV Blind and Shade Restringing Mail-In Service ~  Easy and affordable - no matter where you are!


Monday, April 16, 2012

Safety at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Arizona

We’ve left Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, but wanted to say something about safety there. We’ve met people who refuse to go there, concerned with drug trafficking in the park and the issue with people illegal crossing the border between Mexico and the United States. As far as drug trafficking, yes, it is a problem in the park and in 2002 a park ranger, Kris Eggle (for whom the visitor’s center is named) was killed in the line of duty in pursuit of drug traffickers. The park took swift action and closed much of the backcountry to visitors, however drug trafficking from Mexico is real and happening, although not in the campground and areas where visitors frequent. The same goes for illegal immigrants into the US – they, too, tend to stay away form the popular areas, for fear of being caught. That being said, the first day we arrived, once we had set-up and eaten lunch, we took the short drive (1 ½ miles) to the visitor’s center. One the way back, not twenty-minute later, we drove by 3-4 rangers handcuffing what seemed to be an illegal entrant – the sirens of border patrol quickly coming.

Even with all this going on, we felt safe here and would come back again. More photos of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument have ben posted to our Picasa photo page ~ enjoy!

 

****As you may know, we launched Brad’s Blind & Shade Repair for RV’ers earlier this year.  Well, we’re excited to report that it’s been very successful and we’ve already expanded our services! Introducing: RV Blind and Shade Restringing Mail-In Service!  That’s right, from anywhere you are, we can restring your RV shades. Click HERE for more information.****


Sunday, April 15, 2012

Flora of Organ Pipe National Monument, Arizona

Just thought we’d post the requisite photos of flowers. Enjoy! 
 
 

****As you may know, we launched Brad’s Blind & Shade Repair for RV’ers earlier this year. Well, we’re excited to report that it’s been very successful and we’ve already expanded our services! Introducing: RV Blind and Shade Restringing Mail-In Service! That’s right, from anywhere you are, we can restring your RV shades. Click HERE for more information.****


Saturday, April 14, 2012

Ajo Mountain Drive, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Arizona

 
Organ Pipe Cactus National Park has two gravel road drives, the longer of which is the 21-mile Ajo Mountain Drive we did this today.  The Ajo Mountain Drive takes about two hours, not including taking two possible hikes and enjoying a picnic. We picked up the Ajo Mountain Drive Guide at the Visitor’s Center, which nicely outlines the drive with numbered stops along the way. Note – be sure you follow the numbers with the small organ pipe cactus picture – there are brown signs with number as well, which we can only surmise was connected with a previous guide numbering.

So here are some interesting things we learned today:
  • The saguaro cactus grows as high as 50’, can weigh up to several tons and can live up to 200 years. At Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, the cacti first flower at around 65 years of age, and their first arms begin at about 90 years of age. Since water is so scarce here, some saguaros may never have arm growth.
  • The prickly pear cactus adapts to the desert sun by keeping its pads straight up, thus avoiding the harsh noon sun.
  • The ocotillo aren’t part of the cactus family – they’re actually members of the candlewood family.
 
****As you may know, we launched Brad’s Blind & Shade Repair for RV’ers earlier this year. Well, we’re excited to report that it’s been very successful and we’ve already expanded our services! Introducing: RV Blind and Shade Restringing Mail-In Service! That’s right, from anywhere you are, we can restring your RV shades. Click HERE for more information.****

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