On the Road Adventures

Thursday, July 26, 2012

July 26 Blanding, UT

We moved to Blanding today.  It’s about 70 miles south of Moab and is a good staging point for a number of scenic areas and ancient pueblo ruins.  We made our first stop at the local visitor center to stock up on brochures and maps, and then went to Edge of the Cedars museum.  It is on the site of one of the Anasazi pueblos and has a nice collection of pottery, as well as a partly reconstructed house and kiva.

  190 Edge of Cedars pueblo

We were allowed to go down into the kiva.  We’ve been in kivas at Mesa Verde but always on a tour with dozens of other people crowded in with us.  It was nice to have the space to ourselves.  There was more of a feel of mystery. 

191 Edge of Cedars kiva 192 in kiva

This is a re-creation of a celestial calendar carved into the
rocks at one of the ruins nearby. 
194 Celestial calendar

July 25, Moab, Utah

We left Ogden on Monday and spent the night at Green River.  Tuesday we came on down to Moab, got set up and took a nice drive along the Colorado River through red sandstone country.

136 Rough Country 132 overlook to Arches

Today we re-created a moment in my history.  The backstory goes thus:  My father was fairly directionally competent, and he never hesitated to ask for directions, but he didn’t just ask for the bare bones directions.  He always wanted to know if there was a different road to get where he wanted to go.  His favorite road was one he hadn’t driven on yet.  This lead to a number of “adventures” in our travels, especially since he usually managed to forget at least one key piece of information.  The most memorable mis-direction was the short cut to Brussels, where he drove all the way into a farmer’s barn, blissfully confident that the road would come out the other side of the barn and take us to Brussels.  Somewhere there’s a Flemish farmer still telling that story.

The adventure in question, though, happened in 1966.  Father was stationed in Salt Lake City and I was going to the university there.  Canyonlands had been designated as a new National Park just a couple of years before, so we all decided we needed to see it, so the three of us set off for Moab in the Ford pick-up truck.  We made our way out to the new park, which had virtually no infrastructure at all, took in the spectacular views and Father asked the ranger his favorite question:  is there another way back to Moab?  The ranger told his there was – just take that road back up the way a bit and we’d end up back in town.  The catch was, the road had been carved out of the face of the cliffs decades before as a way to move cattle from the valley floor to the mesa tops and it was a series of hair-pin, hair-raising turns, dropping 1,500’ in less than a mile.  If he told Father that, he neglected to share the information with my mother.  At the first switch-back, Mother and I had to trade places because she couldn’t stand being on the outside edge, and she covered her eyes and just kept repeating, “at least we’ll all die together.”  But we defied fate and made it safely down to the valley floor.

In 2007, Gerry and I were on our first trip in our new motorhome and we came to Moab.  Out on the Canyonlands rim I told this story to one of the rangers, who laughed and said the road was called Schafer Trail and we could see it from an overlook.  Sure enough, there were all those switchbacks below us, but we decided the road was too rough for our shiny new Honda CRV, so I took a few photos and we traveled on

152 from above     

      Shafer Trail switchbacks from the overlook on Island in the Sky, Canyonlands National Park

But now here we are in Moab again, and we agreed that we wanted to make the trek down Schafer trail just for the experience.  We rented a jeep, hereafter referred to as OJ for Orange Jeep, and set out to discover if the journey was as harrowing as I remembered.

137 G T and Jeep Ready for adventure!

143 French touristThe first stop after a good, bumpy bit of road was to check out Gemini Bridges.  This is a crazy French tourist who got a lot closer to the edge than I was going to!
On to Canyonlands and the drive down memory lane.  First we checked out the overlook again.
That straight line in the middle of the photo of the valley floor is the lower part of Shafer trail.  All we have to do is get down there.

                  154 Road looks good

              159 Dropoffs

             See the line just below the vegetation?  Yes, that’s the road.  Think the picture above as far as a road with no edge at all on the left, and then picture it about half that width.  But it was still nice and smooth and not all that scary. 

165 sitchbacks start

No problems at all with those hairpin turns.  The road might have been narrow, but it was graded, mostly, and not a bad trip at all.  Here we have reached the first plateau and are looking back at that section in the center of the photo.  That’s where the road runs back and forth.  It’s almost impossible to see that there are four switchbacks through that piece of cliff!

173 trail and debris

that stretch of road that is the white line below the red
no where to go but onward.  We went on to the over-
look of the Colorado River and Musselman Arch, (which is actually more of a slab over the edges of a notch) and then bounced back to rejoin the Shafer Trail and head back to Moab.

178 Mussleman arch

These are the Walking Rocks.  Harder sandstone caps the very soft lower layer, so the rocks below wear away first, making a very Disney-esque landscape.
151 Valley floor

The first part of the road looks fine.  What’s the problem?

Now things are getting a little more interesting.  It looks like we’re going to drive off into space from here.

160 there is a road

I’m standing a few feet from the left bumper of OJ, looking down at the beginning of the switchbacks.  I suspect that first one was the place where Mother and I switched places so she could cover her eyes and I could be the bratty kid who hung out the window looking straight down and describing the drop.

171 can you see the road

When we got to the bottom of the cliffs, we took a detour off the Shafer Trail to go out for a way on the White Rim Trail.  This is a hundred mile loop that is strictly high clearance 4-wheel drive “road” that goes through the middle plateau of the park.  Oh, yeah,  THIS was the road I remembered.  Creeping along in the lowest gear, getting thrown back, forth, up, down, left right.  I may not have been afraid we were going to die, but there were a couple of moments when I wondered if this was a good idea.  Since we were on
cliff and above all the broken white rubble, there was

176 CO river valley

180 Walking Rocks

Sunday, July 22, 2012

July 22, 2012

Ogden, Utah – It’s been a bit warm here the last few days, so we did indoor things Thursday and Friday.  Thursday was back to the Family History Library, where, in the last 20 minutes of our stay, after a few long hours of dead ends, I connected to a link that took me from the name of one of my Great Grandmother to her mother’s name to a family tree that unfolded like a flower.  All of a sudden, I had pictures of her mother, headstones in cemeteries and a family line that goes back to England and Scotland in the 1500s.  Now I need to follow up on all this treasure!

http://trees.ancestryinstitution.com/tree/36433645/photo/hrPHHIYDjb8JRBc301qSK20B4jqoFTK0iBhr9aIivrHO2YhrA4RKOnChTNLdT9jS/600 This is Matilda Mabe, my great-great-
Grandmother, born in 1846, died in 1923 at the age of 77. 


Friday we went to see Batman Rising.  Was it really necessary to make the fight scenes so interminable?  I dozed off during one of them and when I woke up, it was still going on.  Or maybe it was another one, but evidently I didn’t miss anything in between.

Yesterday we decided to drive up to Promontory Summit where the Union Pacific coming from the east and Central Pacific rail lines coming from California met and the final spike was driven on May 10, 1869.   (The original date planned for the event was May 8, but the Union Pacific crews, who hadn’t been paid in two months, chained the UP Chairman’s train to the track so it couldn’t move until he coughed up the back pay.  Then, as rumor had it, he went on a drunk as was so hung over that he missed the ceremony anyway. 

The Jupiter is the engine from the Central Pacific.  Volunteers re-enacted the final driving of the golden spike, giving excerpts of the actual speeches that were made on that day.

The trip from East coast to West had taken 3 months by steam liner around South America.  The joining of the rails turned the trip into a 2 week journey.
119 Cen Pac dignitaries
120 UP dignitaries
Engine 119 of the Union Pacific represented the eastern half of the railroad.  Bret Harte wrote a poem about the event, What the Engines Said, which begins:
    What was it the Engines said,
     Pilots touching – head to head
     Facing on a single track
     Half a world behind each back?

Because each competing railroad was getting money from Congress to lay rail, the two lines actually met one another farther east, but they just kept laying rail for another 200 miles, sometimes following the same grade within a few dozen feet of the other line, so there are places where you can see cuts for both tracks right next to one another.  Finally, President Grant told them they had to pick a spot and stop, or he’d pick it for them.  The unspoken threat being that neither company would like his decision.  We drove out on one of the tracks and these are the cuts for both lines.
123 double cut

After we got done at Promontory Summit we drove on out to the northern end of the Great Salt Lake, where an artist named Robert Smithson  created an artwork called The Spiral Jetty in 1970.  It is a coil of black basalt rocks from the hills beside the lake that is 1,500 feet long and 15 feet wide.  When the lake is a little lower, it is easy to see the whole spiral, but the lake is about 6 inches too high right now so the whole spiral really isn’t visible.  It is still a very impressive sight.  There was an artist named Amy there when we pulled up.  She’d been there several days filming the jetty in different light.  I look forward to seeing her You-Tube video when she’s finished.

129 Spiral Jetty    130 Amy filming jetty
Spiral jetty in the reddish water of the north end of the lake                            Amy and her inspiration

                                                  127 Pelicans

                                        Pelicans making their own spiral in the sky as they catch a thermal


Thursday, July 19, 2012

July 18, 2012, Salt Lake City

We’re still in Salt Lake City, through the weekend now.  We just kept finding things that were interesting, and since we have no schedule, we extended our stay here.  Tuesday we spent a few hours in the Mormon church’s Family History Library.  I never expect to find much there, seeing as my ancestors all seemed to be the kind of people who, when the census takers showed up, said, “It’s getting to crowded here.”  And they’d pick up and move a little farther west.  For some reason which I do not at all remember, the only hard bit of data I had prior to my grandparents was about my mother’s father’s grandfather, John H Stephens, who died at Front Royal, VA on Sept 28, 1861.  So I asked the docent if there was any chance to find out at least what his unit was.  She wasn’t very confident, seeing that there were a lot of John H Stephens from North Carolina but she had access to a site where the pay records had been compiled for the Confederate soldiers, and as she was saying how remote the chance was to find out anything about him, there he popped up.  There was all sorts of information about him, poor man, mostly because he was killed so early in the war so there was a lot of correspondence about his estate of $69 due him when he died.   I now have copies of all that information, and we plan another trip to the Library to see what other nuggets might come to light.

The goal yesterday was to see if we could find the road up to a radar site on a mountain top to the east of us.

97 Back of Wasatch  We didn’t find the road, or maybe we did but it was closed, so we just enjoyed a nice ride and picnic lunch.                                   99 Waterfall

The Mission for today was to visit the new Museum of Natural History at the University of Utah, my old alma mater.  We drove around the campus a little.  I recognized almost nothing.  The new museum is up in the hills where we used to go rock hunting.  They have done a spectacular job of putting the museum together.  It covers geology, paleontology, biology and ethnology in a pleasant, orderly and very approachable fashion.   There were hands-on areas for kids in every section.  I’m sorry we didn’t go there last year when we were here.  Indy and MIcah, you would love it!  Here are some photos from the museum.

100 Museum mosaicThis beautiful window was like a mosaic of themes from the museum.  It’s stunning and the photo doesn’t do it justice in the least!

  103 Big lizardHere’s one of the medium dinosaurs on display.  There was a whole section on an area in Southern Utah where they have found thousands of very complete dinosaurs.  Their staging of the dinos was quite striking.  Check out that little predator trying to take a chunk out of the monster big guy whose head is up at the very top right corner of the photo.

                                                                  108 ouch

Here are the Wasatch Mountains that I used to see from my window when I was a student here, about the same time as the dinosaurs, it seems.

                                                                     110 Wasatch Mts

Sunday, July 15, 2012

July 14, 2012

Thursday was a long day for us – we violated the 2:30 rule:  stop by 2:30 or when we hit 230 miles, whichever comes first.  We got to Ogden, Utah at the height of rush hour, also a rule violation for us, but given that there were two traffic incidents along the way that had us sitting dead still for extended periods of time, it was unavoidable.  But now we’re all set up at the Hill Air Force Base famcamp until the middle of next week.   We have a view of the Wasatch Mountains behind us, and with a little walk, we can see down to the Great Salt Lake.  Turns out we were guilty of good timing after all, because the local community was putting on a military appreciation picnic for the base at the little park right next to the famcamp, so they fed us brisket and salads and ice cream for dinner, all for free!                                            

  93 Hill afb famcamp                                                   94 mts

Every time we’ve come through here, Gerry has wanted to see the train museum in Ogden, so that was the trip for today.  As train museums go, it’s a small one, but they have some interesting information about building the trestle across the north end of the Great Salt Lake.  Of more interest to me (I admit to having a short attention span for trains) were the painted horses outside the museum.  Last year we saw lots of painted buffalo on our trip through Utah and Wyoming, and the theme this year seems to be horses, so this is for you, Indiana.  These are the horses we saw in our tour through downtown Ogden.

80 Union Station              79 Mustang Sally          81 Iron Horse

  Spumoni Pony                                                               Mustang Sally                                                      Iron Horse

83           84 All American pony                  85 Patriot

              A Cut Above                                                 All American                                                                 Patriot

87 P-51 Mustang          89 Carousel Horse             90 Indian Summer

          War Horse – P-51 Mustang                               Carousel Horse                                                              Indian Summer

91 Trigger Happy   Trigger Happy                 We had fun walking through the streets of town to track all all the pretty painted ponies.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

July 12, 2012

We are in the thriving metropolis of Caldwell, Idaho.  Well, maybe it isn’t thriving, and maybe it isn’t a metropolis, but it is definitely Caldwell.  And it’s hot.




Thankfully the a/c in Cleo is working, even though it’s struggling against the 100 degree temperature outside.


We did find a delightful little Mexican restaurant in town.  It is a little hole-in-the-wall place where Mamma did the cooking, the smiling daughters took the orders and bused the tables, and we were the only ones who’s primary language was English.  Great food! 


Tomorrow we’re on the way to Ogden, Utah for the weekend.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

July 11, 2012

We are in eastern Oregon at the small town of Boardman, right on the Columbia River.   It’s one of our favorite places to camp, and Gypsy loves it because there is a lot of wading and chasing sticks in the water.  She is kind of like a really good paint brush – load her up with water and she drips for an hour, but it’s cool on her belly!



We’ve had an strenuous 3 weeks since we rolled into Hillsboro with Indy on June 19.  Maggie, Shane and Micah flew in the next day and we all enjoyed a rather frantic 4 days of catching up with friends and relatives, and then the Orens all went home because Indy had an International Cooking Camp starting on Monday.  She has the greatest series of camps lined up for the summer.  In the first one, they learned how to make their own pasta so now she wants a pasta machine.  Yes, she’s 6, and making her own pasta. 

After they left, we tackled Liz’s kitchen.  A year ago they did some remodeling, much needed, and instead of just moving the cabinets, she decided that it would be great to paint them.  HGTV has much to answer for.  When they say that kind of project takes a weekend, they lie.  Lie, lie, lie.  So we became the elves who showed up in the morning after Liz and Josh went to work, and we painted shelves, drawers and cabinet doors.  It was actually about a 10 day project, not a two day one.  But we got it finished and the doors all hung and Liz finally has a finished kitchen!  Only took a year.


It wasn’t all hard labor.  We went wine tasting a couple of times, once on a wine trolley with Ger’s cousin, Andrea and some of her family and co workers.  The trolley ride was fun until the end of the day, when the driver was ready to go home and, rather like a barn-sour horse at the end of the ride, we went galloping back to the drop-off point.  It resembled Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride with traffic.  A more relaxed trip was the next weekend to Liz and Josh’s favorite winery for lunch and lots of good samples.

IMG_1832                            IMG_0071


Now we’ve just been enjoying 3 day of doing not much of anything except reading and taking the dog for walks.  Tomorrow we’re heading in the general direction of Boise, Idaho.