Monday, April 25, 2011


Dear Friends and Family:

When we learned that Mike and family were going to fly to Denver to visit Jeff and family on the first weekend of Jason's spring break, we decided we'd like to be there, too.  Also decided that it would be convenient to drive Tuzigoot and park at Chatfield State Park, not too far from where Jeff lives. 

We left home on Th, 4/14, and drove as far as a KOA campground in Fountain, CO, just south of Colorado Springs.  Main feature of the journey was very strong winds, generally cross-winds from the west.  Some of you may recall that when we went to Florida in December 2008 we got buffeted by winds so strong that they threatened to rip a vent cover off the top of Tuzigoot.  I climbed up on the roof in the gale and managed to ducttape the cover down.  Well, now the tape was pretty well gone and the vent cover had never been fixed or replaced (procrastination?) so Susie said, You'd better stop or that cover is going to go.  Pulled over in Wagon Mound, climbed on top and ducttaped it down again.  Should be good for another two years or so.

It was a cold night in Fountain.  I had turned on the furnace as well as a couple of electric space-heaters when we went to bed, but it was really cold when I got up.  The furnaces wouldn't come on and apparently hadn't all night.  After imagining all sorts of problems, it finally occurred to me: Maybe I didn't turn the gas on.  That was the problem.  Duh!  The furnaces had run briefly the night before because there was some gas in the lines. Susie suspects that I don't run the furnace because I'd rather use the campground's electricity than our gas -- my cheap version of alternative energy sources.  She was ready with an ultimatum about Turn the Furnace ON, but I quickly explained it was not intentional, only my goof-up.    

Got to Chatfield in late morning, another windy drive, hooked up water and electricity but did not open the slide-outs because of the wind, and went to meet Mandi for lunch.  She and Susie had a shopping afternoon planned.  I went on to Paul and Mandi's place for the afternoon.  The four of us had dinner and then Susie and I went to the airport to pick up Mike, Karen, and Jason.  After dropping them off at Jeff's, we went back to Tuzi where we found that the electricity was not on and the batteries had nearly run down - I had left the furnaces set to run if it got cold enough and they apparently had, and that had been what drained the batteries.  Applying my lesson learned the previous night, I thought, Hmm, I wonder if I flipped the electricity breaker switch on when I hooked up.  Nope.  Problem solved and we soon had heat, lights, and TV.  Maybe we should camp in a tent.  'Twould be simpler.  Maybe I need more than a mental checklist.

 Next morning the three cousins: Jason, Malia, and Macy had a good chance to play -- this was the first time Mike's had seen Macy.  That's one of two large Easter bunnies we took to the girls.

Mid-morning, all of us except Susie, Valerie, and Macy headed for Dinosaur Ridge on the west side of Denver - near Red Rocks.  Lots of dinosaur footprints and various fossils along about a two-mile round trip walk.  Some shots:

Can you say Bye-bye, Susie?

 Apparently, some dinosaurs walked through a tar pit before leaving these footprints in what was then soil.  

(Actually, it was spring clean-up day at the park and park personnel were touching up the paint that helps visitors see the footprints.)

Rest stop.

 I have a nephew, Kevin, who lives in Castle Rock, just a few miles south of where Jeff lives in Highlands Ranch.  Kevin is the son of  Judy's sister, Jan.  He and his wife have three children.  We had talked to Jan and told her we were coming to Denver and she and her husband, Aubrey, drove from their home in Butler, MO, with their fifth-wheel RV, to meet us all.  Kevin's wife, Kelly, reserved a room at a Tomato Cafe and this grand mix of cousins, children, in-laws, step-siblings (Mandi and Paul came), parents, and step-parents got together for a couple of hours of catching up and getting acquainted - particularly the young-uns.  A fine time was had by all.

Jan and Aubrey had also parked at Chatfield and on Sunday morning the four of us went to breakfast.  We always enjoy the chance to spend some time with them.  Here they are with their rig.

Most of the rest of the day was devoted to letting the three young cousins play, but some of us went out for a round of miniature golf in late afternoon.  Also, Valerie and Jeff kept us well-fed from their kitchen throughout a great weekend.

Next morning we started home, but rather than zip down I-25 (been there, done that, many times) we decided to go home via the Great Sand Dunes National Park, near Alamosa, CO (lots of pictures and geological info at the website).  We had planned to stay at a KOA in Alamosa, but we didn't know that it was open only from May-September.  The only alternative in town was a primitive RV park with six or eight sites. We had to take the last site and it had only a 20 amp outlet - we'd really be roughing it now.  Also, we couldn't get ABC TV over the air, so Susie didn't get to watch Dancing with the Stars.  Talk about primitive.  Thank goodness it was on the DVR at home waiting for us the next day.

Next morning I noticed that the other residents  were draining their campers' waste water tank(s) right out on the ground.  That's not the way KOA does it.  I hoped it was only gray water, not sewage, but I didn't go close enough to check. 

Adams State College is in Alamosa and that is where grandson Andrew Hinkle will be going to college this fall on a soccer scholarship.  One reason we took this route was to check out Alamosa RV parks if we decided to drive Tuzi up for a soccer weekend next fall.  Oh, well.  Lots of motels, though.  Andrew asked us to check out their new soccer field, so we took a drive through the campus.  Nice, larger than we thought it would be.  Found the soccer field: green with white lines, occupied by lacrosse players at the time.

Tuesday morning we drove out to the Dunes.  Still cold and windy, but the sun was shining.  It's interesting how the dunes preserve themselves.  The prevailing westerlies push sand up the dunes; the spring run-off washes sand down off the dunes and when things dry out, the wind sends the sand back up the dunes.  Over and over. Wind like we experienced brings in more sand from the San Luis Valley and maybe Arizona and Utah. 

Here are some pictures:

That's Crestone Peak in these pictures, elevation 14,294 ft.  One of our favorite CO towns, Westcliffe, home to the High Mountain Bluegrass Festival, is on the other side of that mountain range - the Sangre de Cristos. 

The sand is dark and firmly packed this time of year due to the winter's snows.

We had thought we would spend a couple of nights in Alamosa and see some of the other sights in and around the great San Luis Valley - there's an alligator farm out there, for one thing, and the oldest church in CO - but the campground situation and the windy weather made us decide to head on home Tuesday.  We  left Alamosa about noon and got home in early evening. 

One more picture of the Easterling cousins.  It's hard to catch Macy at the right time, what with the digital delay and her activeness.  She's doing well, is very loving and friendly.  And Malia is a good big sister.  Macy's repaired upper lip looks great.  When she's six or so, she will have surgery to build her an upper gum and implant teeth. 

Oh, one more thing: We drove Mike and family to the airport early Monday morning.  Later in the day we got a text message from them.  Their plane had made two attempts to land at San Diego (which is where they were going - that's the good news).  There was heavy fog and when the plane popped through the fog, it was not properly lined up with the runway, so they got waved off.  I would have thought instrumentation would assure a good line-up.  Anyhow, after those two attempts, they had to fly to Los Angeles for fuel and then made a successful return flight to San Diego.   

That's the news here for now.  We're going to spend a lot of June and July Tuzigootin' around CO and who knows where else.  We'll be in touch.

Susie and Rob